Monday, November 2, 2015

A track from a live show @ Uncommon Ground

I'm planning a few more shows with shifting band members for a few more live iterations of HUSK. This was recorded by my brother, Rob Littwin, at Uncommon Ground on October 2nd. Matthew Coglianese on Bass, Alex Atchley on Drums and myself on Guitar and vox.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

HUSK studio album in process #5

                                                        photos by Matthew Gregory Hollis

Other than one last song, I have all the tracks from the album, in very scratch form, up on my soundcloud now! This is mostly thanks to my brother, Robby, for believing in me and making the pilgrimage from the suburbs once a week to patiently record all these songs and smile and nod while I talk crazy and pee every hour.. I wish there was an explanation...dont have one...

I have been paying him in food (scraps from my fridge) and free metropolis drink cards that Ive accumulated from drinking....a lot....of coffee these last few months. Its less that I want caffeine and more that I love things that taste like earth/dirt. hot things. dirt things. acidic things. things that you can put cream in. All good.


Ok. So. Some of these are meandery as hell and have a lot of gibberish lyrics right now....but it feels good to just get them out there and listen/take notes compulsively and kick my ass to make these rewrites for a more polished album.

I thought I just wanted a trio but I keep hearing orchestration on some of these tracks! I hope I can snag some of my buddies and convince them that its okay to work for free for me because art.  Terrible terrible.

TANGENT 2: My friend and fellow composer, Dom, just sent me a text saying "HUSK= sexy desolation" haha! v. true DimmyDom. The world is ending and all anyone wants to do is get intimate.

ok so here's the link:

TANGENT 3: October has been weird. Im use to being crazy busy with many projects and..... well, Im in this weird place that I made...on purpose...a more reflective, quiet space to plan what comes next and its driving me crazy a little. I'm really restless. That is all.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

HUSK studio album in progress #4

                                                   photo by Matthew Gregory Hollis

My brother Robby has been coming over and helping me record these scratch tracks in my living room. He is the most patient and supportive big brother a girl could ask for.

First half of the scratch tracks for the new album. Not super happy with these, honestly. It is the first time I am playing them with a click track and having an earbud in one ear with the metronome blocked off a lot of my sensory resonance so I couldn't quite feel my voice/was prolly pushing.

Maybe I will rerecord some of these without a click......

Having said that - man Im just feeling like I want these songs wrapped already. Im feeling like I'm starting a new cycle in life and want to write a new album already! haha. seriously. its an illness. amazing tho.

I played a fun live gig with the full trio recently with full arrangements of all the songs on the album - I will upload a version of that soon-waiting to fix my computer so I can separate those trax.

I did a photoshoot with Matthew Gregory Hollis recently along the lake path that I walk EVERYDAY and walked everyday while I was writing these songs. That space is a sacred space for me and has been a consistent source of comfort and inspiration through this metamorphosis. I'm pretty sure the escape to the lake is what kept me sane this summer.

There is never anyone at this part of the lake and we were pretty discreet but someone still called the cops on me at this shoot.....cause I took my shirt off....are you fucking kidding me? W/e...Worth it. These shots rock. Matthew Hollis is a genie!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Not to express an opinion, but to seek a presence and pray for a spirit

A snippet from mass today that resonated with my feelings on the creation process and the duties of the artist... ..................................................................................................................... "For we come to this sacred table, not because we must but because we may; not to testify that we are righteous, but that we sincerely love and desire; not because we are strong but because we are weak; not because we have claim on heaven's rewards but because we, in our frailty, stand in need of constant mercy and help; not to express an opinion, but to seek a presence and pray for a spirit" ........................................................................................................................ As a composer and performer I have often been urged to "tell my story". Well meaning professors have urged me to discover "what it is I have to say" and deliver said message via music/art/etc... This never sat well with me. The strong desire to create and engage has always been strong in me-consumed me even-but the impetus was never, ever related to expressing opinions... Opinions are far too weak of a force to ever contend with the magnitude that is creative life. Neither have I ever felt I have "something to say". ever. I dont experience this as a negative statement. My life is experiential. I have felt desire. I have used art to invoke experiences that the spark of desire suggest exist just beyond what I currently understand. The process of creating and performing is much more an invocation to new experience, more rarely an expression of my current experience, and NEVER an opinion... Anyway, "We come to this sacred table not to express an opinion, but to seek a presence and pray for a spirit" sums up what I believe my duty as an artist to be. thought I'd share. Would love to hear your thoughts on this - feel free to prove me wrong n stuff.

Friday, September 18, 2015

HUSK studio album in Process #3

New Process Recordings 

I am prepping for a live show with a small trio at Uncommon Ground here in Chicago where we will play all the tracks from this album in the works. Click on the link to hear some new stuff. I have a lot to say but Im also just fucking exhausted from doing all the gigs and all the rehearsals and barely sleeping. So I will just leave you with these tracks for now and come back with words. <3 nbsp="" p="">

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

HUSK studio album in process #2

(much easier than making youtube vids)

As my obsession with the life cycle and mythology/symbolism of moths continues, I find myself particularly drawn to the brown lunar moth. I got to see one of these beauties in person on my recent trip to the Philippines up in the mountains in Baguio and it was truly majestic. I was climbing out of a van really late at night,  stumbling up the stairs to the hotel and resting under the stair light, taking up nearly an entire step, was a huge, brown luna moth. A breath taking meeting. 

Moths, the symbol of transformation. A nocturnal, ultra sensitive clairvoyant who can find light in darkness and navigate by night using their inner knowing. The greatest symbol of metamorphosis in the natural world.

not making this up: (awesome sources!)

3 months of steady purge has me relating very intrinsically to this transformative creature.
A series of traumatic events have led me to weave a solid cocoon, die to everything I know, liquify, reform and... well I haven't gotten past that yet.. so TBA!

Rebuilding a self, a mythology/belief system after something comes along that levels everything you knew, makes way for reflection and contemplation on habits and rituals you never knew you had.
Picking up the pieces to build a new structure, allows for all these pregnant hesitations and flashbacks as you, more carefully, place each piece of a new life..... It is so very complentative

slightly nonsequitor insteresting fact...moth gestation period is wayyyy longer than their life span....

is HUSK the human cocoon?

WHY HUSK? Husk to me feels like hardened layers built up around a sensitive subject. Husk is the human cocoon. Maybe not visible by most eyes, but perhaps certain people will recognize...enjoy husk as relating to voice as well, since I am a singer and my voice and soul and emotions are all tightly woven/linked/bonded, I like this link to the cry/shout/wail of metamorphosis

Dictionary says:

• HUSKY (adjective)
  The adjective HUSKY has 2 senses:

1. muscular and heavily built
2. deep and harsh sounding as if from shouting or illness or emotion

WATCH THEM METAMORPHOSIZE in my handpicked youtube vid selection! IT IS THE COOLEST THING EVER!!!

only need first minute or so:


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Process Showing - Bombyx Mori

One thing I learned from working with dancers this last year is the beauty of "in process" showings. From my experience, this concept is completely lost on musicians. In conservatory, us composers were required to share parts of our -in process compositions- in class to receive feedback from other composition students, but never, would we ever share this material in front of a general public. The "in the works" messyness of a work in progress is often just opening yourself to pointless criticism from people who don't have the composing/making experience to hear what is good raw material-where it is going, what it's potential is and what to say that would be helpful feedback for a composer.

That being said, I think it is helpful to know/see and hear peoples works in progress. Even if it makes all involved uncomfortable and confused. It makes us less perfectionist centered, it helps us realize how long a good piece of work takes to shape-even after its initial structural/bare-bones map or skeleton is created. It helps us view our art as a craft that is not instantaneous, even though there may be moments of inspired improvisation.

So here are two first takes of tracks that I think will be on my album: (These will be rearranged, probably reharmonized in many places and rerecorded. I will be adding other instruments and back up vocals- lush harmonies- orchestration etc.)

Most of my writing comes out of the ether. There is a lot of sitting in silence, messing around with chord colors on guitar until words come, that seemingly make no sense...then slowly stringing the right ones in some sort of order that feels right - followed by lots of crying...then a feeling of complete depletion..collapse..waking up the next morning feeling like Ive been hit by a truck...

That being said, I was, retrospectively,  inspired by the life cycle of moths, specifically the larva "bombyx mori" stage. Coming out of a long two years of insane extroverted energy thrown out into the world to create four mainstage productions of my own as well as a few for others as a freelance performer, left me feeling pretty depleted from all the moth-like bashing against the light until certain death (metaphorical-kind of).  I have been feeling the intense need, not only as an individual human, but as a part of our society and larger consciousness to return to a more introverted, nourishing, complentative, reflective space as a more sustainable way of life and a way to experience more depth in thought and creation.


ok, more later


I have been researching moth symbolism recently. Here is some information pulled from (feel free to share your moth info in the comment-I will read!):

Moth Medicine

*The Secret Language Of Signs/Denise Lynn:
Moth will beat themselves against a light until they die. Do you have perseverance beyond reason? Do you keep working at something without ever achieving your desired results? Look at the situation fronm a different perspective and know that you can attain those results without striving so hard. Moths eat holes in clothes in dark closets. Is something being eaten away without your awareness?

*Ted Andrews in Anmial Speak recommends one study Butterfly Medicine to understand the stages of growth and development of Moth.

*Animal-Wise/Ted Andrews:
Keynote: Sexual activity, fertility, increased relationships.
When moths persist in flying around you, a letter will shortly be coming your way bringing important news. The size of the moth often determines the size of the letter and the importance of the news. This and many other superstitions exist around moths and their closest relatives, the butterflies.

The actual difference between moths and butterflies is not always clear and are relatively minor. Butterflies re diurnal, and most moths are nocturnal and because of this, they rely on different senses. The moth cannot rely on its sight, but has a highly developed sense of smell, which it uses at night. Most butterflies have clubbed antennae, and most moth antennae are feathery and threadlike.

Like their cousins the butterflies, moths also go through metamorphosis. Moths spin cocoons while butterflies create a naked chrysalis. The cocoon is a more sheltered, outer covering. This can often indicate a need to be more sheltered in our creative transforming activities and relationships when the moth is the messenger.

There are many thousands of moths throughout the owrld and they each have their own unique abilities and qualities. If you can identify the specific species of moth, it will be easier to become more clear in interpreting the meaning.

All moths have unique defenses. Some are able to emit sounds that confuse the echolocation of bats. Some are bad tasting. Several make clicking noises to warn their predators, while others flash bright colors to startle off predators.

Unlike butterflies, most moths are active at night. Durin gthe day, they find a place to hide and sleep. Around dusk they begin to awaken and look for food. As they feed, they come fully awake and they spend the night feeding and flying about. The male spends most of each night looking for a female to mate with. As dawn approaches, they seek out a safe place to sleep until night comes again, and the search for food and mating can be continued.

The female moth raises her abdomen to protrude a pair of glands and released from them a scent known as phermone. She flaps her wings to send the scent out into the air to attract males. For many years, scientists were unable to prove that such a scent existed. It is found in such tiny amounts that scientists had to collect the secretions of a half million moths in order to amass and amount as small as twelve milligrams.

Moths are able to find each other by following a scent trail over great distances. Because they are active at night, they need this scent to find a mate. Moth totems and messengers usually indicate an awakening sense of smell. It will be the fragrance of the opposite sex that will most attract and discourage. Trusting in one's own outer and inner sense of smell will be important in relationships--sexual or otherwise.

*Mary Summer Rain/On Dreams:
Moth constitutes a destructive belief; one that will appear to lead into the "light" yet will result in eventual harm.

*Encyclopedia of Signs, Omens, and Superstitions by Zolar:
In Yorkshire, white moths flying at night are believed to be the souls of the departed; hence, it is unlucky to kill them. contrariwise, should a black moth fly into your house, it is said someone in the house will die. Some traditions hold that death will occur within one month, while others extend it to a year. Among some country folk, a moth entering a house indicates an important letter will arrive the next day.

*Spirits of the Earth/Bobby Lake-Thom:
Moths are messengers from the spirit world, telling us that a ghost is around. I realize that moths are attracted by light and fire, but once again one must study the behavior of the moth to determine if it has gone out of its way and normal pattern to communicate a message. For example, if it lands on your shoulder, ear, or head and keeps following you, it is a messenger from a ghost. A good ghost will give you a warm feeling; a bad ghost will feel cold and eerie, and perhaps pester you. To get rid of it, use the smudge purification ritual and ask the good spirits to take it away.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Ragdale Residency

For the past two weeks I have been in residency at Ragdale (the late, great Howard Shaw's compound) composing songs for a new album (tentatively entitled HUSK) and working on my first musical (I got three songs into an adaptation of Monica Byrne's "What Every Girl Should Know" only to realize there wasn't nearly enough action to build a musical - now looking at Jose Rivera's "Marisol"- stay tuned.)


It's been great. The home is built on a beautiful prairie that I get to spend a lot of time in; My room has everything I could possibly need (keyboard/bathroom/patio/lots of light/lots of work space etc) and the other artists in residence are wonderful people-mostly writers (novelists, poets) who are always up for helping me weave more effective narratives around my work and help me understand what it is that I am trying to say. I sort of verbal vomit then they repeat back to me, in full sentences, what I might be trying to say. It's a wonderful, magical translation system.

I've played silly songwriting games getting me to write as many as 8 songs in two hours and have spent three days editing one line of a song... Ive read a lot about the dirty 30s (my desired setting for the post apocalyptic world the main character in my concept album will live in-more on that later!) and watched hours of musicals and documentaries on musicals. Ive listened to a dozen new songwriters and sightread work from my favorite composers (my current binder is a bizarre combo of Debussy, Copeland, Tori Amos and Sam Cooke).

I have unwound from the tightly coiled, bloated ball of stress-which is the form I arrived in- into a more meditative, less anxious, clearer thinker who is not in a constant fight or flight mode (but still with the normal anxieties of "I just want a finished product of something so I can have something to share/sell and see the fruits of my labor and ring the bell and feel the relaxing pride of a devoted worker bee whose mission has been accomplished!"-alas no amount of finished product has ever made me feel this way.... But I still hope!

This residency has been a hibernation for licking wounds in many ways. Straight out of school (as if school wasn't enough of a tsunami) I threw myself into the roles of performer/producer and composer, running a company and dreaming up large scale projects and blasting the world with my biggest-craziest dreams to decimate any thoughts that would follow me out of conservatory of not being good enough/smart enough/talented enough to do blah blah blah -snore but true-. 

Although I accomplished many of my goals, I was often so far over my head that.... I don't even know... So many bashings and hard knocks. So much miscommunication filling up the cracks of an insanely busy career that lead to tragically broken relationships with people I love and care about... Just because I was not available to put silly rumors to rest or comfort people when they were scared that they had followed me onto a race track or be still long enough to hear my own guidance system teach me how to protect myself against the many many many attacks that artists who put themselves out there-to lead and to be part of the conversation-receive. 

I was certainly not prepared for the last two years but I don't think anyone is ever prepared and I don't intend to spend the rest of my life waiting until I'm ready...

Anyhow, as this residency comes to an end, I cant help but think that gratitude doesn't even begin to cover it. So many people were involved in me being here, now, "chicken scratching for my mortality" (long live JONI!), reading, score study, writing, recording into the night, discussing art and the humanities, building large scale dreams of lyrical narrative that could open up new worlds of feeling and compassion of myself to myself, of myself for my people and of my people for myself and on and on. As a performer and composer, I face myself every day-its a stark, terrifying feeling. There is no where to hide when your escapist form of storytelling depends on being entirely present and staring intensely at your soul, your feelings, your intentions and beliefs until you collapse from overwhelm. That being said, it's a beautiful privilege and I wouldn't trade it for the world. 

Im going through my songs today and mercilessly editing and trashing nonworkable material as I slowly form the concept around my album and create a rough draft playlist. So far Im going with a songwriter who lives in post apocalyptic Chicago and is relearning how to negotiate boundaries with her people and environment. Must word vomit more on my fellow fiction writers to help me fill out this concept. 

Oh how I have missed narrative! Who are we without a story?

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Friday, February 27, 2015

Tech week is around the corner

Tech week begins on Monday for Faces of Eurydice! I woke up at 3am today with racing thoughts of how to fix all of the gaps, flat lining solos and narrative blocks. I didnt have enough energy to act on any of them so I sat in the bathtub and watched Teal Swan videos on youtube and tried to put myself back to sleep.

This afternoon I am turning, what I see as the main song, into a duet to give it the life it needs. Im contemplating adding in some reharmonization and modulations for more effective reach..

Figuring out how to set up the sporadic sound flashes for the "Hell Sequences" is a big puzzle. Still haven't figure that out. Spent my time creating a pop song collage that ended up getting cut and kicking myself for not putting that time into the "Hell Sequences" now.

Still pushing to reach our indiegogo campaign goal and create a production schedule of tech week.

I am grateful for this learning curve but I will be happy to go back to being a composer and performer after this show and take a break from producing.

GET YOUR TICKETS to Faces of Eurydice!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Help fund my new opera!

My Youtube Channel

I've started to upload videos of my recent performances on Youtube! Check it out!