Artistic notes from Red


Below you will find a stream of artistic consciousness from Denise Randall. Much of what you will read below are thoughts and feelings about her music, her musical team for her opera Fanahy Hira, and her own humanities background, her influences and inspirations, her family, and a conclusion.

 

 

Introduction

First and foremost,  I need to make clear that I am very much in the student phase of my musical career.

I am enrolled in NEC as a Continuing Ed Student in the Professional Certificate program of study Led by David Zoffer focusing on jazz, blues, and classical opera voice to prepare my voice as my main instrument.  It's an excellent place to learn and prepare for my presence on world stages with my music.  

My song concepts , song structure, lyrics, melodies , rhythmic feel lead this process of the music you'll hear , but, the sophistication and refinement of the chord progressions and performance on instruments is credited to my team of expert virtuoso musicians headed by Craig and Dave who have thankfully agreed to work with me!   Thanks to my hubby Rod, I can pay for this expert team's involvement! Thank the Lord for these and all blessings.  It takes a village to make musicians.  Thank you Bonnie for choosing to be a leader in the creation of great music by promoting musicians of all levels!  We thank you sincerely for this critical support! 

When our musical Hira Project team makes up music , we are usually on the same page somehow. Even though we have very different upbringings.  I recently discovered Dave and I both have grandparents who may have shared a country farm lifestyle similar to that of my  sharecropper newly freed family. Everyone could be kin folk there.  That common cultural background probably accounts for much shared values synergy I believe .   

I don't know about Craig's family lifestyle too much ,  though I had the pleasure of spending party time with them .  I believe they were immigrants from the Ukraine. I never forget Craig's surprise and delight when my daughter Jenell and I recorded a duet of Carole of the Bells, a Ukrainian classic favorite melody.  We adore the harmonies and rhythms there. My first great classical teacher was Lillya  Shvetsova who is also Ukrainian.    One dance choreographer I'm working with Jenya is also Ukranian!  I think a history of political vulnerability to dominant ruling cultures is another common experience that black Americans share with oppressed folk everywhere. Perhaps that plays some part in why we work so well together. 

Plus, our team had seriously studied and loves the soulful jazz, blues and rhythm n blues music of  black culture as I love classical, some rock, country and folk music from their historic communities.  It's a melting pot of ideas that we are free to incorporate in to song. We all tend to adore some of the same artists.  The result, stylistically my music is all over the place but we get a kick making special magical moments and like all serious musicians, all of us are evolving rapidly. 

It's one world to me and it's important to me be free to express my often whimsical exploration of musical direction which Craig has so supported.  He's a sure footed guide to bring each song to professional standards. Craig makes all Tower Production clients feel right at home at his home studio.   I have thoroughly enjoyed the collegiate collaboration in the studio work. 

Our gifted Dave Ramsay, pianist and keyboard specialist works with me at Craig's home studio weekly . He's one of the secret weapons within all our music!  He's also a contemporary blues and rock guitarist and acts as a great drum programmer .  It's fun to watch Craig and Dave do their thing.   I bring music concepts and over all direction for each song with words if it's lyrical and initial rhythms and story ideas .  I'm full of things I'd like to see where they lead and I'm perpetually learning.  Craig and Dave have the imagination and virtuoso chops to help us see and create something amazing together.   

 

Our Process

We are a three headed monster down there in studio bouncing ideas, lyrics, midi voices, tracks , computer problems, and eating lots of good healthy food to help us get this tedium of recording instrument tracks accomplished .   We've been together recording since 2006.  

When working on my songs, sometimes the song arrives almost in its entirety on the first construction. Other times It's not always what we like immediately but with trial of something else, eventually, we get to something beautiful.  Then we are all happy we went down that path and we all learn something new together!     

My faith and love of studying a plurality of wisdom from world religious teaching inspires some of my songs. 

I was raised as a Christian amongst black baptists and episcopalians and I learned spiritual teachings by public radio broadcast of non denominational services of St. John the Devine . I also learned by suffering the challenges of raising kids,  to have great respect for the teachings of other forms of spiritual worship like Buddhism because they really present good soothing advise for the many forms of human suffering.  

A. Anger and Confusion

B. I Wish I Knew What Was true

C. Mourning (morning) After

D. Cave of Shame

E. Spiritual of The Middle Passage

F. Love and Faith Towards Freedom- Hira's plee to Triae that Nonviolent protest is the best method long term, to effect a more transformational trust and improved fairness and compassion to a brutalized minority.

 

My love of Latin rhythm and Latin dance music permeates my music.  

A. Overture 2 and 3. 

B. Tavern Song- renamed Midsummer Colors - last all band jam in Regent Theatre July 23,2016  concert

C. Ships hold Fight Song

D .  Jazz version To Love Me renamed Ocean Dune for the Midsummer Colors concert at the Regent Theatre

E. No One Time- the song that inspired the story

F. Love and Faith Towards Freedom with its Brazilian kettle drum inspired end vamp

 

My Storytelling favorite theme is "Love"

To be in love with love: that's me! 

A. No One time -Most highly arranged completed  musical song to date that is recorded songs to sample:. 

It's the reason I wrote the love story of Hira and Triae to put it in some story context .  

This song revealed to me that my musical instincts and construction ideas could actually work when supported by great musicians and singers ! I could actually aspire to create musical theater! That was a thrilling moment in this journey. 

I wrote it at a time that my dad was suffering lung desease and  he also suffered a lifetime of anger about injustice to blacks.   He was getting close to death.  He was so angry inside.  So I sought some means to refocus that bad habit thinking.  He used to tell us stories . But breathing was hard for him so I just had to entertain him with something fun for him! 

So when I visited him, I began to tell him funny stories instead.   It took me two weeks on Hira and I wove a romp together inspired by some of his and my mothers relative's lives during slavery.  That story he loved and laughed and he thought it profound ! Well that was enough encouragement for me to get to work making the story come alive in song and dance.   

So in some ways my musical's natural first audience is for those black elderly who suffered so much indignation to how they were treated and need some humor and compelling characters to take them away into their imagination.   But I designed it to be relevant for a general multi ethnic audience as well.   It's designed tenderly for sensitive people of all ages. 

Ironically, my first request to bring my  Hira excerpt show anywhere came from a local nursing home whose elderly scouts thought our show would be appreciated for their residents! I hit my first target audience and I'm delighted they trust me to bring some pure fun. Hira music therapy! 

  • We've The Right To Love
  • No One time
  • Lovers shared dream
  • Valiha -Hira's Madagascar scene "children's bedtime story " which is a Love song called Valiha of my favorite childhood dog named Cognac. She was my pearl of a girl! 
  • Love So Strong- a narrator's song for the Hira musical

 

Dance and loving learning anything set in music as a focus of my music: 

It started writing dance music by making a song in studio with Craig's help of my first song and dance choreography dance to in a student show with DAC student dancers.  It was a trio of one adult and two of different heights .  The singing went "There's a feeling here inside... J'ai raison quelque chose en moi ...Etc It was a minor song to the French translation of a Wiz song.   I want to learn French so I used the lyric language approach and made up a song alternating between English and French phrases.  

I loved the process of putting melody to syllables which are so rhythmic naturally.  Spoken word is literally music to my ears.  So my music has lots of lyrics because it's lyrical and musical! And you can really learn something if it's made into a melody!  It's the same with my musical.  Concepts and story woven into melody.  I'd like to always do some more lyric language teaching music.  

Songs we've done explicitly for dancers or Ice dancers: Get em moving baby! 

  • Spanish Tavern Romp! Renamed Midsummer Colors
  • Bird dance
  • Menace of Hidden Hunter's
  • Lovers shared dream ( ice dance)
  • Cradle of the waves
  • Love and Faith Towards Freedom

 

Categorizing my Music in Different Ways

Musical theater songs involving multiple perspectives like opera characters. 

  • A Love So Strong - it's a narrator's song
  • Triae's Tavern Song- Sum of The Ancestors
  • Fight Tango
  • Triae's Lament
  • Ships Hold
  • Menace of The Hidden Hunter's
  • Mourning After
  • Meet Evil
  • Captain Country- need to rename this! 
  • Spiritual
  • Souls Passing
  • They Throw Us Away

Songs that connect the world to our common African tribal heritage.                                               

I'm into reading lately about our ancient medieval period of African kingdoms.    One of my slave ancestors were French speaking and therefore possibly from Madagascar or Senegal. Others were traced to proud Temne people out of what is now Sierra Leone.  Who knows where else in Africa we came from. I want to explore over time a wealth of African musical traditions. 

  • Tall Tale  
  • African Voices. 
  • Calypso. 
  • Menace of the Hidden Hunter's 

For the Love of the Blues!

I like exploring blues ideas . 

A. Bright like fire

B. Longing for a Better World

Cabaret songs for small combos about town.

I'm in the process of preparing as a singer 30 songs to be accompanied by a pianist for gigging. I recognized a few years ago that I need new songs all the time as idea pops up. Many ideas are not part of the Hira musical.  I'm thinking about a intimate audience as I work these out with Craig and Dave.  These two songs are streamed melody driven songs conceived in a single effort while driving . I record as I drive a lot. Here, every instrument is built to support that melody. 

  • If you must go there
  • Floating on a cloud
  • Standards of the jazz greats

Social commentary of a progressive liberal agenda in support of gay rights

A. We've The right to love

Tribute Songs of meaning to me.

A. Because You Loved Me- Celine Dion always dedicated to my dad RAB who saved my life when he adopted me. 

B. Requiem For A Father by Craig Hlady for his father and is our first scene song in Hira.

C. Grateful Are We Your Children. This is a tribute song to Yoko Kawashima Watkins who teaches families everywhere to honor your parents! She wrote a great story of courage ,sacrifice and redemption during the Korean War with Japan. So far from the bamboo grove.  I went home and wrote the song after hearing her speak at my kids school.  I presented it and she played it with her musician freinds and wrote me a beautiful haiku with a engravers stamp about me and her being spirits united in our separate  journeys.  

 

My music is so clearly a product of many different communities of support. 

Together, you Bonnie and I were brought together many years ago through the friendship of Our beautiful daughters Chandra and Jenell as 3rd graders at Fay School a private elite New England prep school  .  We have had the privilege and the headaches of raising brilliant black children and often takin a back seat with our avocations helping them find their footing.  I quit being an architect to better raise my children when my middle child hit preschool.  That brilliant child had academic difficulties so much so I was compelled to leave being an up and coming designer of institutional architecture to support that child and problem solve through his hurdles. That's when I reached out to so many gurus and religions for help.  Those were hard times and we worked like graduate students all of us for years and years! But we made it through! 

I'm so glad I did.  My boy went into excel in science thru robotics and aerospace engineering rocket science beyond our wildest dreams! My kids, They are all doing great in part because of that sacrifice that I believed would help us solve our kids academic , athletic, and social challenges .   I let go that architectural career path because music called at me.  My son's learning to read challenge gave me time to watch myself thrive in the study of dance with my oldest daughter and begin to move naturally towards music creation. I am happiest dancing.   

I'm clearly a product of an ecosystem of support and a love of science and the arts from generations as far as preslavery!   I hear the dreams of my ancestors and my life is a reflection of their vision.  I have always been nurtured and lucky to have been a part of a great Davis , Brown, Jones and Randall families. That's true for everyone here in this room. I think about that blessing a lot . Ive got to thank a higher creative power than all of this world of people.  That's God to me. 

Here at my side is my husband Rod Randall and my friend Bonnie Johnson without whose continued support this showing of music would not even be possible.  

We as a team of musicians are equally indebted to the work still recorded of Bob Miranda who passed a couple years back and retired singer Diane Vinnicombe who presently needs to focus outside of music to raise her kid still.  Her Pocahontas voice is still my muse for my Main character Hira in my musical Fanahy Hira.  When she's available there's always a song for her to interpret.  We now have myself under serious voice training at NEC growing into singing professionally and two already trained professionals the powerful Dee Dee Martin and the lilting voice of Lydia Harrell who has replaced Diane for the voice of Hira.  

Larry Vaughn my talented nephew is someone who I've mentored towards music since he was a teen and whom I'm delighted and grateful for him being my standard bearer for a lovely male singing! I'm committed to him as my family co musician !  Hopefully we can work on the world's stages our lifetimes! When he can't get free to sing my songs, I employ the great talent of Jeff Ramsey also at Berklee.

The Yale Community involvement in the creation of Hira.

I've been recording the voices of student leaders of Yale's black gospel choir and  Breath of Life singers .   The Denise choir where I sing all parts is then replaced by their rich mix of voices.  Eno is from Tanzania has a unique breathy spicy deep voice of her culture and Prestin is Trinadadian a rising brilliant rhythm and blues voice . Emma shows steady vibrant clarity as a soprano and Audry speaks  a beauty with a mesmerizing Mali voice in spoken dialogue for me.   I've captured their talents as my  first choir and I hope to continue recording with them this winter. 

 

Looking at Fears to build courage

Speaking of debilitating and paralyzingly terror, growing up black in nj and nc world's wasn't easy.   Being black anywhere in America is tough.  Our fragility as a urban people is full of real fear and full of depression related to the overwhelming cascading problems of lack of financial resources many in my black at risk community faces daily.   

We fear losing our sanity and exploding destructive individuals, corrupt  police and the harsh injustice system as it is applied to black folk. As women we fear terror wielding pimps who'd use barbarism to force girls into prostitution. Even in the classroom we know our path to jobs is not easy because of how uncomfortable employers are with our community's problems. We fear corporate glass ceilings and being thought unworthy of friendship or respect of work colleagues who are uncomfortable with our blackness.  

We fear early death because medical institutions don't grant us medicine or care the same way as for other cultures. For example, If we are poor and uneducated and have diabetes , we can't afford the daily medicine and hospitals won't provide enough. We just die with no medicine.  All over the country diabetics adults loose their paltry jobs because they have to go to the hospital for medicine when they run out of medicine with no insurance they can afford.   It's about $700 for a months medicine.  If you don't have a rich family, you just die with family unable to really help.

We fear the contempt by more affluent cultures of many countries are all around but are afraid to be associated with powerless largely uneducated people . We are afraid that others don't be freind us or our children of any age amongst their children because we are somehow unworthy.   The tentacles of despair of the ghetto reach into every home black and white.   How could it not.   

I'd sit for years in my parents attic worrying about the well documented daily injustice in the court system for us, the regular abuse of power and cruelty of a few bad police, the impotence of politicians to fix teetering educational  systems lacking adequate support.  The lack of even a grocery store in walking distance to poor neighborhoods is a reality. No car , no money and no healthy food nearby. I heard daily the despair and frustrations of the progressive lawyer and church leaders of three faith's who live their work lives in the trenches battling mean self serving politicians  who put their hard nosed mean henchmen in powerful control.  

I grew up knowing I could either focus as a fighter for justice or contribute to the struggle by healing the  suffering itself.  I don't want to fight.  So I make healing music through incorporating  healing ideas and in the future hopefully riveting visuals that carry those ideas into the heart. By visual art I'm gonna focus on integrating dance because no other art is as interesting to me other than music.  

How can you separate the beauty of the muse in David Bowes China girl from the riviting melody and driving rhythm. You can't when it's perfect.  So that's what I want to do.  I want to make music perfectly integrated with dancers visuals.  For that I'll need great beautiful interesting dancers of all ages.   That's where I'm going.  I'm talking now with several professional choreographers of different styles. Caitland Trainor ensemble a modern dance of NY . Eve Costerelli my flamenco muse and Jenna Of Ilta dance in MA specializing in ballroom dance technique.  Maureen McAnulty a great local dance choreographer and dancer. Janelle Guilchrist of Boston with her improv dancers .My parent school is DAC under Guidance of Greg Saulnier and the founder and my dance mentor the great Karen Edison .  These people are visionaries in their own works impacting hundreds of careers. 

The fortunate talented 10th affluent blacks like my family . They grew up poor of money but they were either self educated or schooled by institutions like Hampton or Fordham and schools whose worthy mission was to elevate the impoverished masses by training those highly motivated and courageous students of faith. 

 

Some influencers and inspirations.

And we had great music to support us. Puccini Opera, Handel 's messiah, and The Spinners, the O Jay's and Mile Davis, Black Ivory, The Yellow Jackets, The Beatles, and Dione Warwick singing Bert Bacharach. I remember  going with Thulani my poet aunt to hear the jazz ensemble of Chicago sun ra, cecil Taylor and Aretha, Cher , Fred estate , Gene Kelly, Shirley mclane , Lucille Ball, folk influences of Glen Cambell, Stevie Nicks, Bob Marley, Nina Simone , Ray Charles , Patty Loveless. Dolly Parton and Fleeteood Mac, Brian Adams and many more . 

 

Family

I'm needed as mom to my 3 children, wife to my husband , daughter to my mom, sister to my brother, aunt to my nephew, and freind to my sisters and extended family community.  

My Jenell in Los Angeles becoming a production designer with a foot in music creation and performance herself, comedy writing, and movie producing.  She's my sapling and when I'm gone,  watch her and you'll see my and the female ancestors immortality.  

Ian my aerospace engineer son daily gives me joy, pride and significance too .  

My youngest trainee is my Soleil the graphic artist storyteller and writer of story whose actually showing mastery of drawing skills at 13.  It's amazing being mom and witness to these young uns! 

As a wife to Rod Randall who lovingly supports most , if not all of my musical aspirations I'm indebted.    It's not easy mentoring everyone so I hope when he looks back at all his creations, I hope he feels satisfaction and the pride of authorship on all our achievements . We are forever indebted to his love and support for us. All of our band is supported by his hard all night long work at the computer table.  As a wife and codependent , I always feel responsible for both our happiness.  

As daughter to my mother , the great Jennie Davis Brown of the black city of Newark NJ and who is equally at home in the elite town of Montclair, I'm indebted .  She never tires of supporting and creating programs for the black poor. 

 

In conclusion

I have been tryin to be an integrated part of something much bigger than ourselves.  This music creation thing.  My music comes out of all of what I've told already. 

Love of music, dance, musicianship, virtuosity. My admiration for aural history and I adore a round table of lawyers and theologians musing and amusing themselves with streams of references and deep dives into encounters of historical or even just human significance.  

My interests in sociology and anthropology combined with my animal instinct of the desires and fears of human beings makes me interested in storytelling.  For me, Real people and their truth is stranger and more fascinating than fiction often.  I use mythology like many producers of plays and literature to make my messages to the world delightfully digestible.  I don't want to be preachy! The death Nell for entertainment. 

Essentially I'm not that complicated really. I just want to be needed in music and to belong to communities that I admire. I just desire but intensely desire to captivate the hearts of those lucky capable individuals like me looking for some joy to ease life's burdens and frustrations.  I strive to become one like my beautiful ensemble encircling and supporting this goal.  

I hope it inspires other simple folk like myself to get out of their comfort zone and work on the hard to learn,  tedious academic stuff like music , science, history, sports, dance, philosophy you name it! .

 

Love and a prayer for a fragil troubled human community,  

Denise "Red" Randall