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Bob Elliott
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Bob Elliott

2/10/2009 8:41:09 PM

Layers of Time (2)
So I had to dig into the Tascam 244 4 tracks. I was looking for some polyrhythmic thing I did with a friend because I think we want to revive a project we started 20 years ago.

And I'm going through all these four tracks, dumping some onto the digital recorder I use. Tons of material. And I get a little sad. I don't know why...

But it is often said an artist and scientist's best work is in their twenties. That can be worrisome for some to think about. But I can tell anyone that wonders, it's not always true.

There is no way anyone could dig through my layers of musical time and decide I had stronger magic then than now. I had something...but I couldn't control it. On so many levels starting and centering on singing and running through lyrics to recording to equipment, to whatever...

I had this thing and I couldn't reach it.

I didn't begin to reach it in a way I wanted to get out to everyone until I was about 34, and even then I had much climbing to do. The first cd I put out that I'd still give out I was 37.

I think the most consistently good thing I did was the last one put out when I was 44. I'm 46 now and I think for certain the one I'm on now will beat the previous ones.

And that is really so nice to know. You don't need to be in your twenties, though you could. You probably could be most any age. That's what I always wanted to be true, all along even when I was young I never liked the idea of a "creative age." I wanted to continue growing til death or at least until say the last few when I could lay back and check it all out.

Staggering amount of four track tapes. Don't know if I want to look back much and revive. Something sad in that process. Not out of today's ideas, so why open that box now, anyway?

My tip for growth that I learned over all this time? Try to play songs alone on one instrument while singing. Do a lot of that. It will pull you into the next level for whatever you want to do. That's the best tip I know for growth.

Keep changing, right? I will.

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2/10/2009 9:18:33 PM

Like you, I have a good part of my life on Tascam cassette tapes. A lot of songs that are even better than anything I've ever released, because at the time I said I'm saving the ultimate recording of these songs for when I go into a studio for the first time in my life or something. Worth looking at but my studio is a wreck due to boxes and boxes of books that filled it up when my childhood house was sold, so the immediate (my current musical work) is just more convenient to me. However I was doing some recording on a fairly new song last night and concluded that I'm absolutely better than I ever was. I don't think if you have a musical vitality you can get worse. I think songwriting and ease of knowing what you can do and how to do it only improves. If you use it that is. If you aren't active you could regress back to point zero, like my piano playing. I took lessons for years, it was really my best instrument. But I basically stopped playing when I got into guitar many years ago. Just recently I started playing piano again and it would probably take me easily a year of constant playing to get back in the ballpark of where I left off with it.

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Bob Elliott

2/10/2009 9:29:54 PM

Thanks, Scott. I was getting ready to delete the post...feeling it's kinda stupid or something...

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The Man With No Band

2/10/2009 9:39:24 PM

Man Bob ... your writing is intriguing ... never stupid ...

I do believe that one definitely gets better musically as they go along ... case in point ... I don't think Neil Young has lost a thing ...

Keep doin' what you do man .... change and all .... some of us DO appreciate it

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2/10/2009 9:44:16 PM

It's an interesting subject to me. I discuss this sort of thing often with my current songwriting partner. I believe at some point the world may notice that a pretty substantial percentage of the best songs are being written and performed by those who are considered too old to be allowed in the mainstream. This is one difference between the world of art and the world of music. Often the greatest painters were 50 and 60 and then there was Grandma Moses. heh Culture doesn't really permit public acknowledgment of the fact that vital new music is being created by those who are older than 25, unless the artist is a famous name act already. It's a serious flaw in the world of music, one almost worthy of a movement.

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Steve Ison

2/11/2009 1:37:46 AM

Wonderful post Bob..Like Sam said,your blogs are always intriguing..
I've definitely more free with my songwriting now than when i was in my 20s.By a long way

But i've worked hard on getting freer with my songwriting-Exploring weird changes and different structures..Staying open..Being in love with the spirit in the music-Always looking for the magic and the strange...
Like you i plan to keep getting better and freer..But i know it means staying open and learning.And not getting rigid,self satisfied and solidified like i hear many older artists get..

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Richard Scotti

2/11/2009 5:35:06 AM ---- Updated 2/11/2009 5:43:10 AM

This is a very nteresting topic, one that I try not to think about but since it was brought up here, I feel like I should take a stab at pulling together my thoughts on the subject as it has been in the back of mind for years. I have old songs in every format: stereo cassettes of mixes, 4 trk cassettes, 8 trk cassettes, mulit track ADATS, Stereo mixes on DAT tapes, 2" tape, 1/4" reel to reel tape all containing songs which will probably never see the light of day.

I never listen to the stuff anymore all though a few times I tried and it always blows my mind. It's like going through a picture album and seeing yourself in so many different ways throughout the years and remembering all the good and bad memories that went with each picture or in this case each song.

The triumphs were great and the failures were painful. It's a mixed bag, but one thing I can say with certainty is that analog was much better than digital. It's kind of heartbreaking to listen to it as compared to today's CD's. My dream is that someday, someone will invent a digital recording that perfectly emulates the warmth, richness and punch of analog. I know there presently ways to "warm up" the digital sound but it's not the same. So much of my style back then depended on the analog sound. It was like a different universe.

But now we're all stuck with the present technology and I do the best I can to make things sound as good as possible. Then there is the issue of the songs themselves which opens up another all area of thought for me that is difficult.

Who was I when I wrote those songs? How did I do it? How did I find so many great people who I played with so well? It's all a blur to me. How did I write so many strange songs, or songs so great I could never in a million years capture the same essence of those songs today or recreate the same magic that I captured at that particular time. Some songs are so good and yet they might have some obvious flaw that I didn't notice at the time, like a great song with a bad bridge, or a great lyric with one terrible verse or a guitar solo with some wrong notes. It makes me want to re-record these songs and give them the advantage of my present knowledge and skill set and recreate those songs without the mistakes but it's ike trying to go back in time to prevent the Kennedy assassination. Somehow Kennedy would still get shot no matter what you did. We've all seen enough science fiction to know that you supposedly can't change history!

I have vowed to someday listen to every song and weed out the really bad stuff and save somethings to CD and then perhaps lift a good lyric or riff out some of them and use them in new songs, or re-write that one bad verse in that one song, or replay that guitar solo that was off. It would be a shame to waste so much work.

The songs are filled with youthful exhuberance and experimentation and some songs I wrote under the influence which is something I haven't done in 20 years, and all kinds of relflections of things that were hapenening at the time which were unique and won't happen again. So it might prove to be very fruitful to salvage some of this material but it won't be in the near future. It's a project for a later time if at all.

Having heard the songs a few years ago, I did find comfort in the fact that although there is magic in the songs that I will never be able to dupilcate either sonically or artistically, it did help me to see how much I've grown and improved over the years and how I'm trying to create a new magic with different tools and different skills for a new age. One must keep moving forward. I can do things now that technically, I never could never have done then. I don't pine for the "old days". I embrace the new technology and use the imagination I always had to try and come at things from a fresh perspective. It's the only game in town and I intend to play to win.

Thank you for bringing up such a thoughful topic. The creative age never ends if you know how to preserve it.

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Sly Witt

2/11/2009 7:38:01 AM ---- Updated 2/11/2009 7:51:22 AM

Great topic! It's something that I've been thinking about a lot in the last few days.

The cool thing is that I'm on a creative high right now. My voice isn't what it used to be and I don't have the energy I once did, but I'm still somewhat free and unfettered and I think the stuff I've learned over the years has added to, not taken away from the art. When I'm doing music I have no age, if that makes sense.

My life would have been so different if I wasn't obsessed with writing music. Thing is though, I can't seem to NOT do this. I've tried to 'grow up' before but without music I become a hollow shell. When I'm writing, arranging, mixing, etc... the years, heck, everything drops away and I'm in that special place....the creative place, where I'm in touch with something so much bigger than me. It's my religion, I guess.

My life, too, is chronicled by cassettes, stereo tapes, tascam 4 and 8 track cassettes, tascam 1/2 inch 8 track, dats, cd's, floppies of midi files, etc.

Every 10 years or so, I take a couple of hours and listen back.

I'm occasionally moved to re-visit one of them. The tune "Universe" on my artist page is one of those. I wrote the main line in the '70's on a mini-moog. I re-did it in the 80's, again in the 90's, and then this one, which is a test track for another version being produced by someone else. Maybe someday I'll get it right.

Sometime this year, I plan to revisit two other old tunes of mine...one is the very first song I wrote when I was 10, the other I recorded in the early '80's. I still believe in the songs... and I never did them justice.

The vast majority of the songs, though, are what they are and all they'll ever be. I have one cassette where I scrawled the words "let the moment stand" because by accident I had done something that sounded so amazing that I'll never be able to do it again with the same purity.

Hah! I used to feel superior to cover bands... now I'm covering myself.

Regarding popular music being 'owned' by the teens and twenty-somethings, I sometimes think I should hire a bunch of young guys to be my 'front'.

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Hugh Hamilton

2/11/2009 5:13:46 PM

My old homemadequarter-inch reels flaked when I tried to digitize them - and a nice puff of smoke blew up out of the top of the player at the same time.

"Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain," said I.

I hear yuz.

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Dick Aven

2/11/2009 6:15:42 PM

Right on Mr. Elliott!

It used to really bother me when I would hear things like "you don't get any better after you are 30". Back when I was in my twenties and playing sax professionally in Atlanta I felt like if that was true I would never get to where I wanted to in time.
Especially when I had a nagging feeling that I should be singing and playing guitar.
At that time technology was changing so rapidly that I decided I'd be better off focusing on simple down-to-Earth playing of acoustic instruments and song writing
as opposed to relearning the changing technology every year or so. I pretty much quit playing sax for 10 years and wrote songs on my guitar.
Once I came back to playing sax my understanding was much more comprehensive and I had a catalogue of music. The "radicle root work" I did left me with a seemingly unlimited room for growth. I'm 44 now and I know I am improving on both sax and singing/songwriting. And it all comes down to what you said;

"My tip for growth that I learned over all this time? Try to play songs alone on one instrument while singing. Do a lot of that. It will pull you into the next level for whatever you want to do. That's the best tip I know for growth."


Thank you, Bob.


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Bob Elliott

2/12/2009 10:42:44 PM

"My old homemadequarter-inch reels flaked when I tried to digitize them - and a nice puff of smoke blew up out of the top of the player at the same time."

Well, Hugh, that's how this story ends. My 4 track started eating the tape here last night, so we're done with Memory Lane for now. Got some of them off, but there was this strange thing called "Strawman" I really had wanted. I'll have to have that machine fixed someday.

Mr Aven....an honest to God sax player eh?

That's interesting to know. Hmmm......

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