Immaculate Misconceptions – About the Songs

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Immaculate Misconceptions – About the Songs

Image by Jeremy dePrisco

Immaculate Misconceptions consists of the following tracks:

1. Immaculate Misconceptions 1:51
2. Transition 0:45
3. Our Town 2:29
4. Hard Day Comin’ 3:16
5. Minor Organ 0:49
6. Usher Chant 2:14
7. Mother Taught Me 1:56
8. Tempest 6:13
9. Sister 2:46
10. Shadow Box 2:36
11. Chaos Factory 4:05
12. Incidental Madness 0:14
13. Chindra’s Lament 2:25
14. Questions That I Ask 3:12

During the writing process, I kept notes about how things were going. Here’s some highlights: 12/17/05 – I know what Steve is trying to say with this play, but I am forced to consider what I’ll be saying with the music for the play. Will it complement the play or stand on its own? 1/7/06 – My work has always addressed religious dogma in some way or another. However, I have questioned the clarity of this material from time to time. With this play, I was able to allow Steve’s play to speak for itself about the experiences and questionable occurrences of such an isolated religious education, while still adding some of my own observations.

3/4/06 – At some points the songs came to me like images – sometimes stills, at other times movies. 3/5/06 – Despite my initial interest in moving away from political-topical songs, I seemed to go headlong into such material. This was, thankfully, balanced by the amount of more ambiguous material inspired by my poetic interests (Sufi, Hafiz, Rumi, Yeats). Had my time been spent solely on political material, I think I would have grown discontent with this project…

I’m grateful to Steve for asking me to be involved in this project. I still consider my music to be only a small part of the overall play, and while I am pleased with how it turned out, the experience up to the play is what I will treasure the most. The general approach was one of throwing stuff at the wall to see if it would stick. In some cases it didn’t. But in many cases it did. I could see my topical writing informed by my rhetorical studies and much more grounded than it used to be. I could also see more room for literary references where perhaps in the past they would seem forced.

Immaculate Misconceptions – This was based on a piece of instrumental music. Born out of the desire to have something somewhat catchy as a title theme, I added some simple lyrics and Steve made some suggestions. We toyed with the idea of bringing the theme back during the play, but this turned out to be a piece that I played only for pre-show.

Transition – During the writing process for the play, I ended up with a ton of small transition pieces that were either composed on the guitar (such as this one) or on the computer using MIDI instruments or loops.

Our Town – Attention! This song is *not* about Bloomsburg! It is, however, about a mix of potential towns such as York (Steve’s home town) and my childhood home town of Hazleton. Steve’s play addresses the race riots in York, and I see the same type of potential in Hazleton these days with the mayor’s hard-nosed approach to the new face of the city.

Hard Day Comin’ – Steve wanted something like a Bob Dylan song here. My friends know that I really don’t have a lot of Bob Dylan in me, and I usually try to separate myself from that genre nowadays. But it wasn’t too hard to come up with something. I just tried to come up with lyrics that had the same type of sentiment, and at the same time reflected my own view of current events. I’ve purposely left the lyrics open to interpretation, and there are several ways this song can be taken, none of which is exactly “correct”.

Minor Organ – Another transition piece with pipe organ and darbuka (not a loop, but a real drum). This is where I saw the song collection going in a darker direction, so I wanted to set the tone for that.

Usher Chant – This song was derived directly from my first entrance in the play where Steve talks about the similarities between Catholic church services and theatre. The original draft of this song was a bit more laid back with some falsetto parts, but I decided to make this heavier. The short solo is a fretless bass.

Mother Taught Me – This piece was inspired by the play, but was not used in the production. Reading about Steve’s religious experiences made me think about my own. This is one idea that turned into almost a chant. One version of this piece turned out to be a round, but this version is just straight up. Though the words do not change, each time the lyrics are sung I think a slightly different meaning can be derived.

Tempest – This song came about in a strange way in late 2004 while I was actually trying to get away from topical songs. I suspect it is the product of being knee-deep in Sufi poetry for most of the year. The song also features some lyric fragments and inspiration from JoAnne Growney’s poem “View from the Moon” which was published several years ago in CARVER, a BU literary magazine that no longer exists. While JoAnne was still living in Bloomsburg, we had the opportunity to collaborate for the multi-disciplinary Compassion Moves project.

Since that time, we shared some pieces together and Tempest was a result. The song is purposely fragmentary and more an image painting than a true lyric. I thought parts of JoAnne’s poem, also somewhat fragmentary in nature, added to the sentiment that I was trying to express. But different people may come away with different meanings.

Our collaboration was sadly cut short when my schedule became very crazy and she moved to MD, but we still try to share things via the web. As Steve’s play has shown, the web can be a sufficient medium for collaboration, so it’s possible we’ll see more pieces like this. To learn more about JoAnne and her poetrymath and other hybrid ventures, visit http://joannegrowney.com.

Sister – Every once in a while my sense of humor takes a bizarre turn and I come up with something that makes people wonder. Here’s one such song. All I can say is that it is a story song that sort of relates to the play, though these characters don’t directly appear. After Tempest, I really wanted to get things out of the dark, so I think this works pretty well. For the play, I did this as a pre-show song. I had a lot of fun with the drum loops and live percussion.

Shadow Box – This piece resulted from images that Steve conjures up in the play, and my own experiences with a Catholic Priest. The Lord is looking for his shroud, crown and Holy Grail. What does that mean? I don’t know. I tried to incorporate some rather random images… the man behind the curtain is a rather obvious Wizard of Oz reference I guess. In a way I think this song might be making fun of songs like American Pie which have been analyzed to death (something that Steve highlights in his play.) So if listeners can figure this one out, let me know and I’ll post your thoughts here! Rhetorical analysis welcome.

Chaos Factory – I wrote most of the verses for this song shortly after seeing the animated movie Robots. Of course this has a slightly harder edge, but I wanted to keep some of the quirkiness by using non-traditional percussion. The song was separate from the play, but late in the production process Steve said he could use a few lines.

The original idea was to use harsh industrial loops, which I could easily make or purchase, but due to time constraints I opted for voice percussion. The intro is composed of birds from our back yard, my lawn mower and our dehumidifier recorded with a Minidisc recorder. The clanky percussion is the Wrench/Pipe Gamelan that I collected from Lowes and my toolbox. After hearing the first draft, Audra said it sounded too pretty. I agreed, so I played down that element in this mix.

This is probably my favorite piece in the collection. I envision a reprise of this song on an upcoming release where I will record it with a different set of instruments. The subject matter is a combination of current politics, my feelings on bureaucracy, my father’s experience in factories and general post-modern angst.

Incidental Madness – Another transition piece to get us ready for the last few songs.

Chindra’s Lament – Listeners may wonder why I included a song inspired by Buddhism in a collection of songs that were otherwise designed for a play commenting on Catholicism. The themes that Steve addressed in the play (dogma, misinformation, bureaucracy, control, freedom, education, intellectual development) go way beyond Catholicism, or Christianity for that matter. That was probably the most valuable insight that I gained from working on this project.

Chindra’s Lament is based directly on a section of the dhyana (meditation) lectures delivered by Grand Master Chih-i Of Tien-tai Mountain Monastery, called The Ten Heads. It can be found in a number of works and on the web. I first read it last year in the Buddhist Bible, a collection of writings that make up the closest thing to a bible that Buddhism actually has (there really is no such thing as a Buddhist bible in the same sense as other faiths).

Last year I was prompted to review the Awakening of Faith after starting a Shasta Abbey dharma tape series on the subject. The dharma tapes referred heavily to the Buddhist Bible, which I had kept around as a reference for years prior and decided to read as I was listening to the tapes. That’s how I came across The Ten Heads. The “second head” is: Censorship Over Desires Arising From The Senses:

The Senses Second is the censorship over the desires arising from the use of the ears, among which we mention, musical sounds from harp, twelve-string lute, and instruments using silk, bamboo, metal, stone, etc., and from the voices of dancing and singing girls, reciting, praising, etc. No sooner do we, disciples of Buddha, hear these sweet sounds than our hearts are stained and our minds entangled and we are led into evil acts. Such was the fact in the case of the five hundred disciples who lived in a monastery in the Himalayas when they heard the songs sung by a girl named Chindra. They lost their devotion to the practice of Dhyana and became delirious with exciting desires. By all such causes and conditions may we know that sounds are the source of wickedness and guilt!

I was intrigued by the message here, especially considering that I am a musician. I made a note to come back some time to write a song about this as a form of defiance I suppose. Besides, Chindra was crying to be heard.

The word Dhyana repeated at the middle and end of the song means meditation, and ironically sounds a lot like “Dianna” Steve’s wife’s name.

Questions That I Ask – This was written throughout the pre-production process and then finished on the spot during the recording process and almost didn’t end up on the CD. I’m not going to say too much about this one because I think the meaning fairly obvious, though some may be surprised at my approach. While working on this song on 2/4/06, at 8:26 pm there was a lightning strike near our house in which I could see the blue light in the studio, followed by a loud BOOM. The power stayed on, and no one was harmed.

Listeners will also find a special treat at the end of the disk… another Schrum/dePrisco collaboration that is best left as a surprise for those that purchase the disk.


About Author

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jjdeprisco

Owner of Pepperhead Studios, guitarist in Fricknadorable, and Electro-acoustic sound designer/experimenter.