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Jennifer Grassman

Recording Artist + Author + Mommy

Month

March 2014

The Writer’s Block Weekday Hack: How To Schedule Blog Topics & Get Inspired Again!

A Girl Writing, by Henriette Browne (1829–1901)

There are lots of very good writers out there, but even for the GREAT writers, getting ideas for what to write about is often the greatest hurdle. Well I’m going to try a little experiment. I’m going to assign a general topic that I often write about anyway, or that I feel knowledgeable enough to write about, to each day of the week.

Here are my topics:

Monday – Music Monday*
On Monday I’ll write about my own music, or the music of another recording artist I admire. I may also write about songwriting, from compositional structure to lyrics.

Tuesday – How-To Tuesday
On Tuesday I’ll write how-to blogs around topics I’m interested in or specialize in such as social media, public relations, marketing, or random life-hacks I find on Pintrest that aid me in my calling as a work-at-home-mom. That’s what you’re reading right now!

Wednesday – Writing Wednesday*
On Wednesday I’ll write a poem, a short story, or publish some song lyrics I recently wrote. Maybe I’ll review a book I’ve recently read, or interview an independent author I admire! Continue reading “The Writer’s Block Weekday Hack: How To Schedule Blog Topics & Get Inspired Again!”

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Reclusive Artist Kate Bush Announces First Live Concert Series Since 1979

Photograph: Trevor Leighton/PR

THE GUARDIAN || After a 35-year absence, the singer makes her long-awaited live return with 15 London dates for her Before the Dawn series. Kate Bush will play her first series of shows since 1979, performing August and September in the UK.

Bush will play 15 shows at London’s Eventim Apollo starting 26 August as part of her Before the Dawn series of shows. Announcing the news on her website on Friday, the singer said: “I hope you will be able to join us and I look forward to seeing you there.” Continue reading “Reclusive Artist Kate Bush Announces First Live Concert Series Since 1979”

Beautiful Irish & Celtic Music for Saint Patrick’s Day & #MusicMonday

In honor of Saint Patrick’s Day, and of course Twitter’s weekly #MusicMonday trend, here are some of my very favorite Irish and Celtic songs from some of the most beautiful and talented folk artists:

May It Be, from The Lord Of The Rings Soundtrack, by Ireland’s own Enya:

Loreena McKennitt presents Bonnie Portmore, which is a traditional Irish lament for the decimation of forests in Northern Ireland:

Moya Brennan, sister of Enya, is an Irish singer with an angelic voice. This is Hear My Prayer:

How can I leave out Scarborough Fair by yours truly?

The Bedlam Boys have arranged the traditional song, The Queen of All Argyle, which has a quaint Celtic melody:

This is by far my favorite song from Celtic Woman. It’s called, The Voice:

The Barnsley Nightingale, Kate Rusby, covers this exquisitely tragic ballad, I Am Stretched On Your Grave. It’s actually the song that first got me hooked on her music:

Another gorgeous track from The Lord Of The Rings, here’s Into The West by Annie Lennox:

And of course, one of my favorite Irish songs by a rather famous little Irish band. As their lead singer says, “Sing this with me. This is 40.”

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Be sure and share your favorite Irish and Celtic songs in the comments below.

The Highwayman: When Incredible Poetry & Exquisite Music Combine (Alfred Noyes & Loreena McKennitt)

As I mentioned in a recent review of Loreena McKennitt‘s new The Journey So Far ‘best of’ album, I missed seeing The Highwayman included in the track listing. Well, now you can hear why! Below I’ve including The Highwayman as well as Alfred Noyes’ original poem of tragic romance. Happy #MusicMonday!

Download The Highwayman MP3 via Amazon

The Highwayman
Alfred Noyes (1880-1958)

PART ONE

I
THE wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees,
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
Riding—riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

II
He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin;
They fitted with never a wrinkle: his boots were up to the thigh!
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

III
Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard,
And he tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred;
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

IV
And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened; his face was white and peaked;
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
The landlord’s red-lipped daughter,
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

V
“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

VI
He rose upright in the stirrups; he scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair i’ the casement! His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(Oh, sweet, black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonliglt, and galloped away to the West.

PART TWO

I
He did not come in the dawning; he did not come at noon;
And out o’ the tawny sunset, before the rise o’ the moon,
When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
Marching—marching—
King George’s men came matching, up to the old inn-door.

II
They said no word to the landlord, they drank his ale instead,
But they gagged his daughter and bound her to the foot of her narrow bed;
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

III
They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest;
They had bound a musket beside her, with the barrel beneath her breast!
“Now, keep good watch!” and they kissed her.
She heard the dead man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

IV
She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years,
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

V
The tip of one finger touched it; she strove no more for the rest!
Up, she stood up to attention, with the barrel beneath her breast,
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins in the moonlight throbbed to her love’s refrain .

VI
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horse-hoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot, tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding,
Riding, riding!
The red-coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still!

VII
Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer! Her face was like a light!
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

VIII
He turned; he spurred to the West; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own red blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

IX
Back, he spurred like a madman, shrieking a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high!
Blood-red were his spurs i’ the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat,
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.

* * * * * *

X
And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
Riding—riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

XI
Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard;
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred;
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

I Don’t Have Fans, I Have a Listenership: The Complexities of an Artistic Demographic

Water color “Library Cat” by Craig Roffler. Click the image to read his blog.

I’ve never liked calling the people who love my music “fans.” That three-letter-word makes me think of those screaming hordes of ditsy girls who swooned over The Beatles. Fans buy stuff even if it’s crummy. Fans have crushes on celebrities they’ll probably never meet. Fans quote artists even if the quote is completely asinine. Fans get their butts autographed.

Niki Minaj has fans. Justin Beiber has fans. Even Grumpy Cat has fans. Fans are fanatics, and their fanaticism is often fleeting. My listeners are not fans. While very dedicated in a thoughtful and appreciative way, they hold me to a higher standard of artistic integrity, and I respect that.

When I was sixteen I used to dream about going on whirlwind tours performing in front of thousands of people at venues across the globe. Now that I’m “grown up,” I’d much rather sit at home with my cats, listening to Celtic music, and writing songs or reading a good book. I watch PBS Masterpiece shows, own a Kindle, occasionally scrapbook, and when my toddler wants a drink, she asks for, “Tea?”

My listeners are the same way. The majority of them blog regularly, love animals, sip wine, read books (if not write them), and know who I’m quoting when I say, “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”

Yes, my music does sound a bit like Tori Amos’, Vienna Teng’s, Loreena McKennitt’s, or Sarah McLachlan’s, but my listeners aren’t necessarily listeners of those artists too. In fact, they may listen to everything from Handel’s Messiah to Blind Guardian. Why? Because they’re not “fans” in the pop culture sense of the word. They are purveyors of interesting things. They are discerning art collectors of an assortment of items from printed literature to replica LOTR swords. They are self-educators hungry to experience and learn about new things. They want to know what beer from Holland tastes like, and how to eat with chopsticks. They like rainy days, rescuing stray cats, volunteering in artistic endeavors, and attending the Renaissance Fair and Comic Con in full costume.

They are often creators themselves.

And that, my friends, is what an artistic demographic looks like. It isn’t cookie-cutter. It isn’t an audience you can reach by promoting “radio-ready” songs on Clear Channel or plastering your logo on a cheap junior’s department clothing line. It’s something new. Something different. Something beautifully messy and complex … and I love it!

Loreena McKennitt Releases New ‘Best Of’ Album: The Journey So Far

One of my favorite artists of all time, Loreena McKennitt, has released a “best of” double album. Honestly, picking which songs to include must have been a difficult task, because absolutely all of her works are masterpieces. Most of my very favorites are on here, including The Bonny Swans, The Lady of Shalott, Mummers Dance, and All Souls Night.

A good number of the songs are live versions, which in Loreena’s case is a good thing, because the concert hall is where she truly shines the brightest. Don’t get me wrong – her studio recordings are fabulous – but something happens when she’s on stage that no studio can capture. I got to see her perform at Jones Hall once and was without a doubt the very best, most beautiful, and most inspiring live performance I’ve ever attended. I cannot wait until she tours again!

One song I’m sad to see not included on The Journey So Far is The Highwayman. Based on Alfred Noyes’ romantic and tragic poem, I’ve always found that song absolutely addictive, and one of Loreena’s Top 5 in my opinion. Still, The Journey So Far is a ‘best of’ album chock full of musical brilliance, and every track on it is exquisite, so I shouldn’t complain! Instead, I’ll just encourage you to buy it, and also get The Book of Secrets which includes The Highwayman among other marvelous pieces.

Loreena McKennitt’s Official Website

Jason and I with Loreena McKennitt following her performance at Jones Hall in Houston.

 

April 2014 National Poetry Month Blog Challenge

April is National Poetry Month! Painting: Claude Monet's Water Lillies
April is National Poetry Month! Painting: Claude Monet’s Water Lillies

Last year I decided to challenge myself to write and blog an original poem every day during April, which is National Poetry Month. Around April 3, 2013, my computer hard drive died. Completely. I lost about six months of work, and my computer was shipped off to the manufacturer for repairs.

So … that rather squashed my 2013 National Poetry Month Challenge.

This year, I’m getting a head start on writing, and I’m being extra paranoid about saving my work in multiple places.

Comment below to suggest poem topics … simple is best! It could be anything from “an old oak tree” to “my first cup of coffee on Monday morning.”

GO!

Vienna Teng, Gravity Music Video & Lyrics

This is one of my very favorite songs from beautiful pianist, vocalist, and singer / songwriter, Vienna Teng. Below the video you’ll find the lyrics. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Gravity, Lyrics & Music by Vienna Teng

Hey love,
Is that the name you’re meant to have…
for me to call.
Look love,
they’ve given up believing,
they’ve turned aside our stories of the gentle fall

But don’t you believe them.
Don’t you drink their poison too.
These are the scars that words have carved
on me.

Hey love,
that’s the name we’ve long held back
from the core of truth

So don’t turn away now…
I am turning in revolution.
These are the scars that silence carved
on me.

This is the same place.
No, not the same place
This is the same place, love.
No, not the same place we’ve been before.

Hey love,
I am a constant satellite
of your blazing sun.
My love,
I obey your law of gravity.
This is the fate you’ve carved on me…
Your law of gravity…
This is the fate you’ve carved on me…
On me.

Press Release: Classical Guitarist Jason Lee Greenberg Releases Progressive Metal Album, Orisonata

Composer and classical guitarist Jason Lee Greenberg features recording artist Jennifer Grassman, classical saxophonist Todd Oxford, and jazz pianist Pamela York, on new Orisonata metal album.

Classical guitarist and composer, Jason Lee Greenberg, announces the release of his debut album, Orisonata, which he recorded with his wife, award winning songwriter, pianist, and vocalist, Jennifer Grassman. The couple have been writing and recording tracks for the album off and on for the past six years, and enlisted producer MD Thompson of Ivory Tower Productions of Houston in 2013 to record, engineer, and complete the project.

“This album has been a long time in the works,” said Greenberg. “The closing ballad, The Muses, is a song Jennifer and I wrote on our honeymoon in Colorado nearly eight years ago. A few of the other songs, such as Oath Breaker, I performed live with my band Eden’s Twilight. All of the pieces are original compositions, and I was honored to have classical saxophonist, Todd Oxford, and jazz pianist, Pamela York, guest on the album. They’re both internationally acclaimed touring artists, and really gave the album a very unique flair. Progressive metal is all about reinventing, innovating, and creating. I feel that with Orisonata, we’ve created something fresh and never-before-heard in the metal world.”

The album features seven songs, clocking over 50 minutes worth of music. Many of the songs, such as Journey To The Center Of The Earth, Unholy Creation, andThe Great Baptism, are based on literature. Others, such as The Muses and Robin Hood are based on legend and ancient mythology.

“Each song on the album has a distinct musical character,” said Grassman. “When Jason asked me to write lyrics to a few of his songs, I was honestly very challenged. I needed to come up with words and a storyline that complemented and emphasized the emotion and personality of the composition. Journey To The Center Of The Earth and The Great Baptism are two I’m particularly proud of.”

So far, the album as had a soft release on CD Baby and www.Orisonata.com, but will shortly be available through Amazon, Spotify, and other major retailers.

ABOUT ORISONATA:
Orisonata is a progressive metal project by Jason Lee Greenberg. For its debut album, also titled Orisonata, Greenberg composed seven original songs on which he plays electric, classical, bass guitars, drums, and most keyboards. Guest artists on Orisonata include Greenberg’s wife, Jennifer Grassman, who has been commended by Tori Amos for her charity work, as well as President George W. Bush for her patriotic song dedicated to US troops. Other artists on Orisonata include internationally acclaimed classical saxophonist Todd Oxford, and award winning jazz pianist Pamela York. In his free time, Greenberg enjoys playing video games and donating his weekends to play classical guitar for patients at Texas Children’s Hospital. More Info: www.Orisonata.com

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