Hogeveen Hallelujah

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The past six months have been busy for me – starting a new job with Newton Aviation as an Aircraft Maintenance Apprentice, moving three times, planning a wedding, and finding a new place to live in Edmonton, Alberta, where I will be living with my wife for the next few years. However, I still love making music as much as I ever have, and I managed to find time to work together with my roommate, a young up-and-coming artist named William Hogeveen. His voice has an amazing range and is comparable to Ron Sexsmith in timbre – he uses a similar vibrato style. As soon as I heard it, I knew a recording session was in order.

We put together a beautiful and passionate cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah, recorded at home in the dank basement of an old duplex on the North Shore in Kamloops. This song does a great job of showcasing his vocal potential, and was also an opportunity for him to get a feel for music production. I played drums and accordion, and I did the mixing and mastering for him. This is definitely my new favourite version of this iconic song:

If you like the song, please click the link to download! He would definitely appreciate the support, and the download is free. You can also follow him on Youtube.

Snowflakes

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I wrote this song from a poem written by my sister, Rebecca. Her words in this piece always remind me of the old jazz classics, so I felt I had to give it a shot and put her work to music. This was my first successful attempt at composing the music after the lyrics were already completed.

After trying to sing the song myself and having mixed results, my friend Michelle Stephen suggested we try it with a female vocalist. She graciously lent her voice to this, and I am quite pleased with how it turned out.

Jessica Wong has created an adorable image to accompany this track, and I cannot help but smile every time I see it. She perfectly captures the aesthetic of light-hearted innocence and joy, full of the longing expectation we experience during the season of Advent. You can see more of her work on her website.

I am so grateful to all my friends and family who have helped me out with this project. Your feedback and encouragement has been invaluable, and I could not have made this happen without you. A special thank-you to my sister Rebecca for writing such a well-crafted poem, to Michelle Stephen for singing so beautifully, and especially to Jessica Wong for creating such a wonderful image to accompany this track.

Lyrics:

Stilted, jilted
Slightly wilted
Wavering on the spot
Look up…

Coldness tickles
Wetness trickles
Softly blurring the world as I…
Breathe in…

Filled, and now stilled
Building tension
Brimming with joy
Look down…

The world, lighter
The trees are brighter
A heart is settled again…
Sigh out…

This one has been several years in the making; it is packed with sonic gems and built to withstand replays for years to come. I hope this song can find it’s way onto your Christmas playlist to help you put aside the cares of the winter and take time to relax and enjoy the beauty around you, whatever season you are in. To download the track free, just enter $0 into the purchase line at Checkout. You can then enter your email address at which you will receive your download link.

Face of the Refugee

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I wrote this song first as an instrumental blues groove, but as I learned more about the ongoing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, a call to action regarding these events seemed to fit with the tone of the music. I was especially moved by the story of Alan Kurdi, and how he represented the millions of Syrian migrants fleeing civil war, risking everything to better their circumstances.

As Canadians, we often forget how many of our parents and grandparents first came to Canada as refugees and immigrants seeking to better our circumstances in the same way that these migrants are seeking asylum. We have in common the same desire of giving our children a safe and prosperous future. To ignore them is to turn our backs on our own history.

When we can see them as individual people with hopes, dreams, brilliant ideas, and children to care for, we can no longer simply see them as numbers in a dismal statistic. As you see their faces and hear their cries echoing over the waves, I hope that you will allow the sadness that tugs at your heart to motivate you towards compassion.

Please enjoy this music, wherever you come from.

This article by Ann Voskamp also influenced my songwriting process.

I am so grateful to all my friends and family who have helped me out with this project. Your feedback and encouragement has been invaluable, and I could not have made this happen without you.

Lyrics:

Hear our cries rebounding o’er the waves
We flee the scourge
Just to drown
Under this deluge

Tell yourself that you can’t help me
Tell yourself that we’re just numbers now

I have no choice
But pay them as they charge
Much as that wavering craft
Will fail me

Tell yourself that you can’t help me
Tell yourself that we’re just numbers
No one
Wants us
But they can’t stop us
We must get out

Once you were here
A refugee
On distant shores
Once you were me
Stood in these shoes
Desired this same hope
For your children
Yet you…

Tell yourself that you can’t help me
Tell yourself that we’re just numbers
No one
Wants us
But they can’t stop us now…

His face a tragic woe implored
His lifeless body laid
To frame your failure
Yet you…

Tell yourself that you can’t help me
You tell yourself that we’re just numbers
No one
Wants us
But they can’t stop us
We must get out

Open your heart and
Let that sorrow
Build in you
The strength to break in
Drive out the dark with love
Know your soul does plead

But don’t tell yourself
That you can’t help us
Tell yourself
We’re not just numbers
See our faces
You can’t keep us out

Rather than paying me for the song, an alternative I would suggest in light of the subject matter is to donate instead to one of dozens of organizations that work with refugees. Some suggestions include:

United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR)
Mennonite Central Commitee (MCC)
Migrant Offshore Aid Station

To download the track free, just enter $0 into the purchase line at Checkout. You can then enter your email address at which you will receive your download link.

New Single on Bandcamp

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I like to spend my Christmas break making recordings in my home studio. So I took this song, written just a few weeks ago for one of my UBC courses, and built some sound textures and vocal harmonies around it. This is the first time I decided to include some toms, which gave it a pretty driving rhythm in the second half of the song. If you would like to read more about why I wrote this song, check out my previous blog post and video here.

Enjoy!

New Song – I am the Other’s Other

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I just finished writing this song, and I wanted to get it out there and share it with all of you without having to do a lot of fancy production. So here it is – just voice and mandolin at home in the studio.

I wrote this song as a final project for one of my UBC courses, which dealt with issues of policy and social justice in the educational system. We spent many hours discussing Aboriginal education in BC, and the extent to which policy is helpful to teachers. Often these documents seems so disconnected from the issues facing those working in the field, and this song has helped me to bridge this gap:

Step back and consider
Your role in this place
Where did you learn it?
Were your eyes trained to see?
Your awareness was built there
By your family tree

Were you always this selfless?
Though selfless you seem
Is that part consistent?
Or is it what you became?
He sees all the pieces
Now set them in frame

I am the Other’s “Other”
But am I free to just be me?

Step into this story
Cast off from your fears
Although they defend you
They wall off your mind
The folder is open
Take courage, declare

I am the Other’s “Other”
But am I free to just be me?

Fly out, see past your disguise
Your spirit is tied to your eyes

Give them tools for their choices
So that choice may be free
When they walk out your door
Their hope they foresee
When they walk out your door
Their hope they do see
~

A change in our ideology around Aboriginal issues in BC, and change for the people, where equal opportunities are given to everyone, is only one part in a cycle, and it is somewhat dependent on a similar change in policy. Public opinion and policy are very interdependent, and each affects the other. However, it is often the case that policy changes at a much slower rate than public opinion, since few people tend to do anything until something becomes a really big issue. As well, changing the opinions of voting adults is no easy task, and often the only way to really make a change is by influencing elementary students, instilling a new ideology in them; when they grow older, they will be able to make a difference from a place of real ideological stability.

Conversely, it is nearly impossible to teach a new ideology if the resources available to teachers are out of date, and do not yet reflect the new re-written history and trends in academic literature. For example, it often takes years for the ideas about history to filter down to elementary history textbooks, and these long-out-of-date textbooks remain in use well after conventional knowledge of a subject has progressed. This is why it takes decades for deeply ingrained systemic issues to be solved, even if scholars have already created a dialogue of change. Real, lasting change requires a re-education of the population, and this needs to be done from the ground upwards. As teachers, we are the ones who really hold in our hands the responsibility to anticipate what will be important in 20 years, and try to teach children accordingly, while doing our best to keep resources current with academia.

This song works with the topic of positionality, and takes into consideration my own background, including the foundation my parents gave to me culturally, socially, and academically. One of the main things taught to me by my parents, which is counter to my own personality, is an increased ability to be selfless – this was explicitly taught to me by my parents, and it has increased with maturity. The idea of the “other’s other” references the fact that, from the point of view of a minority group (non white, etc.), I am the other – not them, and the song asks the question: to what extent does being an “other” restrict freedom?

For a non-aboriginal person to bring content into the classroom, it often requires being able to walk a very thin line in order to appease Aboriginal groups. When dealing with issues that are so close to home, it can be tricky, and sometimes legally confusing, to teach something that shows respect for the land and people, and avoid doing things in a way that does not show respect. As an outsider, there are sometimes a lot of seemingly minute details to consider, which may be very important to the Aboriginal group, but which may seem trivial to the teacher. An example of this may be giving a gift to an Elder who is invited to come and speak to a class; many teachers may not be aware that this is important.

Rather than taking the risk of doing things that cause disrespect, teachers choose instead the position of the “perfect stranger”, as defined by Susan Dion in “Disrupting Molded Images: Identities, responsibilities and relationships—teachers and indigenous subject material”, and simply avoid the issue completely. There is not really enough support in the system, or from the administration, to encourage teachers to be bold and walk this line with confidence. If they fall off either side, they will be penalized or criticized, so why take the risk? If there was a stronger culture of safety around taking these sorts of risks, it would be easier for teachers to try out new, more experimental types of curriculum, including curriculum about Aboriginal culture in BC.

Working through where I came from, what I am learning in my coursework, and what I want to bring to my students in the future is valuable; I am now aware of what I know and what I do not know. I now have a much clearer idea of how to go about making a change in the thinking of my students, so that when they graduate, they do not have that same fear, and no longer see themselves as a “perfect stranger” to Aboriginal peoples. I want them to have confidence when they address these issues, and not shy away learning about difficult parts of our history. It is our responsibility as teachers to equip students with the tools to make choices and create their own freedom.

Fort Madeline Digital Album Release

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The EP is finally here!! I am so excited!! You can listen to it and download it here in its entirety:

This album is written to the artist, as an exhortation to persevere. It is a bildungsroman of sorts, as it chronicles my own journey as an artist over the last few years. The story begins with “Fort Madeline”, where the lead character sets out on a journey to find a contribution to present to the world. The Bach Prelude then portrays the first few stages of that journey, which are full of pleasant surprises and enjoyable discoveries. However, the character then becomes overly self-confident, and runs into trouble, at which point he realizes several key flaws within his own personality that need addressing, most notably how his words often contain meanings he did not anticipate. The song “Your Words Forget Their Names” describes this stage, and “The Struggle” expresses his convoluted path during this time. The Moonlight Sonata speaks to the patient endurance of his soul, since it doesn’t allow him to take any shortcuts. “Distance, My Foe” explains the character’s determination to succeed in his goals and the drive to return to Fort Madeline despite how far he still needs to travel. Finally, “Moments of Halcyon Age” is the song he sings while he is on the road – it reminds him to hope for the future, and to enjoy the key moments along the way which give his life eternal significance.

For more information on each specific song and the symbolism therein, please click on an individual track and read the description.

I am so grateful to all my friends and family who have helped me out with this project:

Arran Baird – your mixing advice and your rock-solid bass guitar playing really made a difference. Looking forward to more projects in the future!

Christine Wu – your cello part in “Distance, My Foe” is arguably the emotional climax of the album. Thank you for playing so passionately and skillfully!

Dave & Brenda Sanden – You are my parents. Therefore, I complain about you far more than I should and thank you far less than I ought. Would I be even remotely successful without you? Nope, not a chance. Thank you for raising me to love music along with so many other things.

Jamie Smith – Thank you so much for lending your amazing skills as an artist, and for being willing to partner with me in this project! The painting is absolutely phenomenal, and I am so glad I decided to call you up and ask for help. Great music is made complete by great album artwork, and the image you have have created is stunning – I could not have wished for any better.

Joan Keay – Your decade of piano instruction gave me the tools to do this project. I love Bach because of you.

Joel Krahn – that snare drum in Fort Madeline really pops!

John Sanden – Your critique is useful because you are right. Having such high standards for your work has helped me increase my own. Thanks, brotha’.

Kris Barns – Your have the ears of a master! Thank you so much for listening to my mix and giving me your thoughts and criticism – your opinion is always appreciated (whether I chose to follow it or not).

Kristen Chan – Your violin playing makes me so happy every time I hear it! Thank you for being patient with me as I learned the process of creating a score for a studio musician – you performed it masterfully.

Natalie Cheung – You sing beautifully. I am so pleased you were able to lend your voice to this project!

Nathan Ehret – Thank you, my friend, for putting up with late-night recording sessions, countless unfinished mix-down iterations, and a constant stream of musical commentary and updates, which you graciously endured for the whole trajectory of this project. I would have given up long ago without your continuous daily encouragement.

Rebecca Sanden – Your confidence in my work is such an encouragement – thanks, Becky.

To those who I have not listed – thank you! Your patience and support are greatly appreciated, and your encouragement is no less appreciated just because your name is not here.

The artwork for this album has been created by an amazing Vancouver artist, Jamie Smith. Please check out her work and support her art!

Physical CDs, with more artwork by Jamie Smith, will be available in August.

Fort Madeline EP release announcement

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This video is a section of track 3, “Your Words Forget Their Names” featuring Arran Baird on bass guitar. I’m playing everything else – mandolin, vocals, accordion, organ, accordion, djembe, and cymbals. Everything was recorded and mixed in my bedroom studio.

This was the very last tracking session for the album, so I thought I would send out this snippet to celebrate. My new 7-track EP, Fort Madeline, which is also the name of the album single, is set to be released on July 21st 2014 on Bandcamp.

Physical CDs, with artwork by Jamie Smith, will be available shortly after in August.

Thanks so much to everyone who’s helped me out on this project – it’s been a long road, and I really appreciate your support.

Check back here on July 21st to download the new album!