Long Time, No Blogging. Time to Fix that!

Well, I really have been neglecting my blog, haven’t I?  That is actually soooo not like me.  I do apologize. I have actually been a really good girl at Facebooking – so if you aren’t already a fan of mine on Facebook, go ahead and “like” my page there to stay up to date more often.  http://www.facebook.com/jenniferthomaspiano

With that being said, I can only write so much on Facebook and so if you want to know more of what’s happening in my world, come to my blog.  Hopefully I’ll be a better blogger than I have these past few months.

The holidays kept me pretty busy, and then family stuff, and then we moved. Yes we moved!  Would you like to see some photos?  Here, I’ll show you my two most favorite rooms in the house…

This is the living room (with my two little ones – Preston is now 2 and 1/2 years old, and Taylor is 5 months old)

And then here is my music studio… 

 

With having two little ones now, we sort of outgrew our previous residence and needed something bigger.  This is actually the first time I’ve had a room for my studio ALL in itself.  I’ve usually had to share with something else.  But nope.  This time…it’s all mine.  I really am so excited.

We’re still working on getting things unpacked and organized.  I love decorating though, and so that is one of the first things I did (and throw some paint up on the walls).

Let’s talk about music though.

Portraits

It’s 2011, and I’ve got an album coming out later this year.  I’ve actually been working on this album for 2 and 1/2 years now.  I know that sounds crazy but it’s true.  I started the music when I was actually working on The Lullaby Album in 2008.  I feel like my compositions have really grown since Key of Sea, and so I’m really excited to share the music with you. 

While I do love doing original compositions (because they are so special to me), I also love arranging music, especially Classical music.  Over the last couple of years I’ve realized that I really have a knack for this.  It really fulfills me – coming from a Classical background.  Which, I would like to insert here for those younger people who are studying music, don’t ever underestimate the possiblities of what you can do with your talent.  There is no defined “box” in music, where you have to be molded into something and be steared only one direction.  I used to really think that way, as if there were only two roads to be taken with music – either being a teacher or a performer. Not so.  There are endless, absolutely ENDLESS possibilities.  So keep working at it so you have the best talent to use for whatever creative direction you go.

Anyway, one piece in particular that I’m getting very excited about is that I’m arranging Dvorak’s New World Symphony.  In the early 20th century someone put words to it and it became the song “Goin’ Home”.  On my album, it will be called “Home”.  This beautiful symphonic piece will (obviously) feature the piano this time, and in the middle there is an interlude where I’ve taken the 2nd movement of Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto and woven it through the New World Symphony Theme.  Why?  I have no clue. These two songs have nothing to do with each other but they compliment each other greatly, in fact.

Another song I’m excited about, which is NOT a Classical piece, is that I’m arranging the song “Secrets” from the band OneRepublic.  It’s an amazing song that I love and seriously play it over…and over…and over.  I finally said “I have to arrange this song!”.  It took me a while to figure out how I wanted to arrange it for piano, but when it came to me – it sounded amazing. I’m going to have a talented young cellist record that catchy cello part as well.

I do have a random question for you readers though.  What do you think of the title “Portraits” for this album? Its what I’ve been calling it for such a long time that it’s been ingrained in me.  However, if you really want to get technical about it. a “portrait” is typically a photograph or piece of art of someone’s face.  I’m talking of portraits of the beautiful outdoors though…does it really make sense though?  If there are some other ideas out there for titles, I would love to hear them.

The photography for the album is coming together as well.  As you know, this is an art-centered album around the landscape photography of my Dad, Ron Southworth.  He’s taken some beautiful trips lately to the North Cascades and snapped some really amazing thos.  He also has gotten several shots on the Oregon Coast as well – all of which are great inspirations for the original songs I’m writing for the album.

Other Projects

I’m currently working on a symphonic piece with the amazing Swedish composer Glen Gabriel.  He’s asked me to compose and perform the solo violin part for the work.  While yes I am a violinist, not it’s not my primary instrument and so composing a stunning solo part for his symphony has been a challenge for me. One that I have whole heartedly embraced though.  I’ve always been a “work horse” violinist (a.k.a. a symphony player), so to be the “show horse”  (soloist) is a bit of a change for me. 

And that’s really it!  My album in itself takes up so much of my creative time and energy that I haven’t really sought out other projects as of right now.  There is still so much to be done though.  I still need to orchestrate all of the music – which is actually time consuming in itself.  Writing a piano part is one thing, but then writing the orchestration is like composing the song all over again and taking it to a whole other level.  It takes a lot of time, and you want to be sure that the orchestration adds to the piece and isn’t just background repetitive stuff (otherwise why have it?).

Once the music is all recorded and orchestrated, I’ll need to get send it off for mixing and mastering.  Such an essential part to making one’s music sound professional and beautiful – I might add.  And then the artwork for the album – oh the artwork.  This album in particular is going to take a lot of work because the artwork is the theme and concept!  Not only has the photography taken a couple of years to take, (and still in the process of being taken) but the actual album artwork itself is extensive.  I have an amazing 3D digital artist named Don Webster, who will be creating my cover for the album.  It’s hard to explain, but basically he is going to be putting a grand piano in the middle of a forest for me, but its also inside of an ornate picture frame.  The end result will be beautiful and as if the piano was actually taken inside the photo.  I can’t wait to see the finished product – its going to be amazing!

So as you can see, all of this does take some time to create and finish.  The plan is by the end of the year.  And also, in conjunction with the CD release I will be doing some concerts as well. Can you believe it’s been a little over 3 years since I last did some concerts? 

Anyway, music-wise, that’s it.  Thanks for taking the time to read the update, and please don’t hesitate to drop a hello or comment.

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In the Works…

I haven’t been the best at posting news lately about the new album, and so I thought it was time for that.

I’m about 5 songs into the album now.  Well, technically 6, and if you count the one in my head that isn’t written down yet then 7. 

I finally finished my Spanish song – which will end up being called something along the lines of “The Fire Dance“, or “Dance of Fire” or something like that. It’s based on two very famous Spanish pieces called “Malaguena“, and “Asturias“. I’ve got the piano part recorded, and now it just needs to be orchestrated.  Not an easy task though. I’ve never orchestrated a Spanish song before, and have been finding it one of the most challenging things I’ve yet to accomplish.  I can tell you that I have watched my fair share of youtube videos of Flamenco dancers, and Spanish guitarists.  I’ve also been consulting with a Flamenco Guitarist who has been helping me learn the beat placements in 12/8 time. 

I’ve been working on an original piece that, in accordance with my album theme, will go along with a high mountain photo.  I actually started this piece a while ago and stopped, and only just within the last couple of weeks after digging it out again and contiuing composition on it – have realized how perfect it fits a theme of high altitude, soaring among the clouds next to huge volcanic ranges.  My husband’s many adventures climbing the Cascade Mountains lies as a huge inspiration for this song as I continue to work through it.  If you’ve ever visited his youtube channel, watch his video on his trek through “The Enchantments”.  That is how I visualize this song. Particularly at about 3:19 minutes into the video.

Moving along here, I’ve also been working a forest themed song which is turning out to be quite ambient.  No true featured piano here, but instead it’s used for emotional effect only here and there.  This song will feature a lovely vocalist by the name of Poppi London, whom you have heard in various movie soundtracks over the years. The photo that will be featured with this song will be of a deep forest in the Redwoods with mist and light coming through.  Very beautiful.  And the song itself will feature some echoey drums, and also perhaps a dijeridoo.

One of the harder songs I’ve been composing at the moment for the album, is an arrangement that I’m doing of Dvorak’s New World Symphony and Rachmaninoff’s 3rd Piano Concerto, mov. 2.  These two pieces actually flow together quite beautifully.  It will be a “bigger” and emotional piece, with full orchestra.  I wrote the arrangement of Dvorak’s work myself, but am using the actual true excerpts from the Rachmaninoff and because of this, I’m having to put in a lot of practice time to get it learned and down well enough to record (as you know Rachmaninoff had very large hands and his compositions are not for the light hearted).  This particular arrangement will be called “Home“. If you are familiar with the New World Symphony and the story behind it, then you will understand why I titled it that.  The photo for this song is already taken – a very picturesque setting of a home set on a hill in the evening, with stars in the sky.

The song in my head that I have yet to sit down and write out/work on, is an arrangement of Gymnopedie #1 by Erik Satie, a French composer.  This particular song is special to me and will coincide with a beach photo, possibly of either the Oregon Coast or the Washington Coast over on the Olympic Peninsula.  Seashells, sand, sulfery bubbles on waves, tidepools….that is the essence of this song.

I also have my version of “Toccata and Fugue” (by Bach) finished, but will be re-working that a bit for the new album. You can listen to here:  http://www.ourstage.com/tracks/AAJDPPFNAYJN-toccata-and-fugue

I have 2 other songs that I’m working on, but don’t want to mention yet because I feel like the ideas are so stellar I must keep them top secret! Haha!  So just know there are 2 more I’m also working on and you will be surprised at some point.

Seems my album is turning out to be 50% Classical arrangements, and 50% of my own original work.  As I discover more and more about myself and my love for different types of music, I have found that I just absolutely love fiddling around and arranging the Classics.  And so it is with this album I move into more crossover arrangements  as well as my own originals.

I’m hoping to get the bulk of my composing done for this album before August, when the baby is due.  Right now I’m able to manage some work here and there during naptimes with my almost-2-year-old son, and also in the evenings.  However, once the newborn joins the family…it will be another story.  At least for the first few months.  I will be getting very little sleep, which isn’t the most condusive state of mind to concentrate on composing. At least for me.  I’m not setting any time schedule for this album, but in my head…I see having about 80% of the songs composed by August.  Taking a few months off to adjust to the new baby and riding the downflux of hormones which is always fun.  Then early 2011 be in full orchestrating mode.  I hope to have my pre-pregnancy body back by summer of 2011 and finally get some new photos taken of me for the album cover.  And then have the album done by Fall or Winter of 2011. 

Oh! And I’m going to have the help of a very talented artist named Thomas Christian Wolfe design my Cd cover.  You can check out his work here:  http://www.themasterworks.net/

No guarantees….because in reality..it seems these things always take longer than I anticipate, but that is sort of the timeline in my head right now for this project.

Stay tuned later today…we are finding out the sex of the baby and I’ll post it on my Facebook Fan Page. 

– J.T.

POST EDIT:  We’re having another boy!

A Look Back…and Ahead.

The other day I was doing what I do every day – which may surprise you is more along the lines of wife/motherhood rather than music (which when done every day can sometimes seem like I’m living the movie Groundhog Day), when I started thinking about the path ahead.  What is coming in 2010?  And beyond? 

Well one thing is certain: Come this August I will be having another baby.  I will no longer be the parent of just one child. 

The prospect is a little scary, but it’s also exciting for me because when I envision what my life will hopefully look like when I’m 85 years old, I want it to be filled with love and family.  Yet right now, as I’m in my early 30’s, sometimes the concept of knowing that family is more important than anything else on this planet sometimes only really strikes me during those fleeting moments of near-misses, or “I-wish-I-would-have-known-this-years-ago-instead-of-only-just-now” moments. 

For example, I look at my son who is now almost 20 months old, and realize what a big boy he has become lately.  Then I look at photos that were only taken a few months ago and see how much he has grown.  THEN I look at his photos from when he was a tiny baby (which only seems like yesterday for me) and I have one of those “I wish someone would have told me that they grow up so fast” kind of moments.  But wait, yes, I’m sure someone actually did tell me that.  And then I have a moment of realizing how much I want to savor every moment with this sweet little boy before, next thing ya know, he’s turning 18 and going to college.

I have also been thinking a lot about the musical journey I have taken since releasing my first album, “Key of Sea” at the beginning of 2007… 

When I released that album, I was a happy newlywed of 2 yrs, and only 28 years old.  My days consisted of being lucky enough to have a work-from-home job where I could simultaneously work on my music as well.  I remember many days where I could work on my music for 12 hours straight if I chose to, only stopping to eat or steal the occasional hug/kiss from my husband.  Sometimes I would also work through the night.  And then, when devoid of all creativity and filled with cabin fever, my newly college graduated husband and I would take off on whatever adventure suited us.  Sometimes it was rollerblading on Alki Beach in West Seattle. Sometimes it was going over to the beautiful Olympic Peninsula and camping for the weekend.  Or sometimes it was just going out to discover new restaurants. 

We worked hard, but we also played hard. 

I also performed quite a bit that year that I released my album.  I would spend hours a day practicing and preparing so that my songs were as perfect as possible for the concerts.  I enjoyed travelling to neighboring states to put on small concerts for my fans (which by the way was a new concept for me…I had “fans”?!).  I also enjoyed spending hours a day at my gym exercising and keeping my body in shape. 

Life was bliss. 🙂

Fast forward to now – February of 2010.  Life is still bliss, but it’s a different kind of bliss.  I really do feel so fortunate and blessed in my life.  I still think my husband is as cute as when I met him and love spending time with him.  And we have a family now – which is something we always wanted.  I STILL feel so lucky that I can stay at home so that I can work on my music, however, aside from my work-from-home job is now that pays me (music and teaching), I also do a 24 hour a day job called motherhood.  And I dare say that job is far more challenging, but the payback is far better.

But I’ll be honest, it’s not easy at all. 

I do miss the days when I had unlimited personal time to compose and record new music.  Now, I have to wait for naptimes to do that, or when everyone else is sleeping at night.  Which, doesn’t usually work for me lately either because being pregnant usually puts me in bed early these days. 

I have tried to work on music while Preston is up and awake, but it’s usually highly interrupted.  Which, don’t get me wrong, is perfectly understandable. If I were only 19 months old and couldn’t do many things for myself but had a lot of energy and desire to DO a lot, I would probably be pulling on my mom’s pantleg every 10 minutes too.

So I often find myself asking, “What is going to happen with my music over the next few years?”

Well, I am still going to pursue it.  For certain.  I want to keep working on my dreams and talents so my children can see that you can do anything if you try hard enough. 

But I do feel a slight course change in my career. 

When I released that first album, I feel that I really made a presense for myself in the music community.  I had attention from filmmakers, and musicians alike.  I had many expectations from people to be a heavy-hitter that year.  And I really think that I did my best and accomplished a lot.

But now my expectations for myself are different.  It’s not about quantity any more. It’s not about how soon I can get the new newest music out, or how many concerts I can do that year, or when I can release my next album.

It’s now about quality. Quality in my music, quality in my family life, quality in myself.

This new album that I’m currently working on, “Portraits”, has already evolved quite a bit from what it was originally intended to be.  As I work on it (in my rare off time), I find myself yearning to dig deep within myself to create the absolute best music that I can.  I find that deadlines don’t matter to me much any more.  I would rather spend more time to get the best possible work out of myself than to produce something common or half-hearted.  I find that I am really challenging myself as I compose/arrange the music.  I have really been digging deep into my toolbox of skills for this album. And combined with the daily tasks and challenges I face as being a mother as well…it only makes the music I am creating more valuable to me.

So you will see a new Jennifer Thomas over the next year or more.  She is no longer the carefree newlywed and the newcomer to the music scene.  She is more grounded, more experienced and wise, and well…more grown up.

Thank you so much to all of my friends and fans who support me with your encouraging notes, emails, comments, etc.  It lets me know that people are listening and waiting.  And thank you most of all for your patience as I have evolved (and continue to evolve) from yesterday to today.

 

Toccata and Fugue

I just uploaded my latest project, “Toccata and Fugue“, as it is called right now.  I just wanted to share a little bit about this song and how it came about.

First, for those who just listened to my ‘Lullaby Album’, you should know this piece is of a completely different callibur or style.  If you have a sub-woofer on your computer speaker system, you may want to turn it down a bit because the song has a lot of bass to it.  It’s quite “boomy”.

I love, love, love Classical music.  And I especially love to tweak it.  Which results in much of my music being of a “Classical Crossover” genre in nature.

“Toccata and Fugue” is based off of J.S. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565.  (Bach wrote 2 Toccata and Fugues in Dm, but the one I am referring to is BWV 565).  This piece is a very well known organ solo, and over the years it has traditionally been used around Halloween time because of it’s thematic elements and somewhat frightening minor chords that can rumble an entire concert hall.

You can view/listen to the traditional version here in this youtube video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_FXoyr_FyFw

I have been quite familiar with this piece for several years as my college symphony orchestra performed it for a Halloween concert one year.  It is one of those pieces that gets into your head and kind of haunts you.

About a year ago, I was in my home music studio and started fiddling around with this piece on my keyboard.  I started adding more instrumentals to it and came up with a very cool 1 minute clip of some ideas.  Well, and then, the piece got brushed aside as the muse left, and I didn’t work on it again for a long time.

About two months ago, I decided that I really wanted to finish my rendition of this song.  So I opened up the file that I started over a year ago and listened to it.  Then I sat down at my piano and started writing parts out.

As with a lot of pieces that I write, I started going off on some solo-esque cadenzas on the piano (in other words, tangents) and made the piece completely un-listenable to anyone but myself.  Well, because I really enjoy Classical music for that very reason.  You can do things like that. However, that is also why a lot of people today find it hard to follow Classical music and understand it.

So I re-worked this song and reworked it to make it appeal to a broader audience.  I think I ended up with 7 or 8 different drafts.  Each time, refining it, simplifying it, and structuring it.

In the end, I ended up with a song that is about 30% Bach, and 70% Jennifer Thomas.  You will hear what I mean in a second once you hit the play button.

I was fortunate to work with a couple of great musicians on this piece.  Glen Gabriel from Sweden formulated most of the beats and effects, and Adam Amos of the UK also did some of the beats and effects.  Zak Dewey of Seattle did the mixing and mastering, and I did everything else – the piano, orchestration, and the kitchen sink.

Thanks for taking the time to listen to my late project – hope it doesn’t disappoint.  And for reals, turn down that subwoofer. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

– Jennifer

Here it is the URL where you can go take a listen to my new song, “Toccata and Fugue”:
http://www.ourstage.com/tracks/JRCTUOULEGFQ-toccata-and-fugue

Or you can hit play here:


Quantcast

“Portraits” Coming Late 2010

portraitscover

You may have heard me vaguely mention my next album idea Portraits here and there.  I am officially announcing it’s existence, and that I am going to be working on this project for the next year, with a tentative release sometime towards the end of 2010.

To give a little glimpse inside the idea behind this project…

I come from a family of passionate artists.  Not just in music, but also in art.  My dad, Ron Southworth, is a talented photographer.  Over the past several years, he and my mom have taken countless trips to various parts of the Northwest to take photos of the beautiful landscape.  It started out as just a hobby, and has turned into a side career for him as his photographs have developed a small fanbase (a.k.a. pieces of fine art that sell between $250 – $500 per print). He is also a member of the Camano Island Art Guild, which is neat because the island has been a flocking spot for artists for years and you have to be invited to be a member, after in depth screening of your work.

The thing that makes his photography unique is that what you see is what he truly saw through his lense. In a world of digital art, Photoshop, and other ways to manipulate photos these days, my dad’s art stands unique in that he rarely, if ever, uses such manipulation in his photos.  The skies are that beautiful pink color because he knows how to use his camera equipment to capture it.  The colors are that vibrant for the same reason. 

_DSC3295-eSo back to Portraits, having seen the beautiful pieces of art that my Dad had been creating over the past few years sparked an idea in my head about a year ago.  I had been toying around with the idea of doing an album that was story-based.  Meaning, I wanted to find an original story and score it with music.  However, as I continued to research stories and ideas, I kept coming back to these photos of my dad’s.  They were a story in themselves; an artistic journey around the Northwest landscape.

I got out my little notebook (my brainstorming book), and jotted down several locations and iconic images of Washington (and some of Oregon).  For example, lighthouses, beaches, mountains, waterfalls, cities, etc.  I started to take one idea at a time and think of what would it sound like if it were music?  In a sense, I suppose you could say that I started to score a soundtrack for each of the images/locations. 

And this is where the idea began for Portraits.

This album project is not only exciting for me because of the originality of it, but also because this is my home.  I grew up here in the Northwest, so to score a soundtrack for the landscape is very personal to me.  I have so many memories of climbing stairs up to the top of a lighthouse, playing on the beaches and catching little crabs, hiking the majestic mountains, seeing beautiful sunsets over the ocean…

My dad is on board with the project and will be continuing to capture images to be used for the music.  This will be a more expensive project than I have ever done before though.  For one, the time and travel involved.  Two, because visual stimulation is key here (equal to the audio stimulation), I want to create a very moving and complimentary CD booklet with full color pages of each of the photography works.  We are also thinking of doing an companion book of my dad’s photography, possibly a coffee table book.

Thirdly, because the music for this project is going to be of a cinematic quality.  Oh the ideas that I have for this. 🙂  I am going to be on the lookout for talent to collaborate with me on beat work; someone who is a wiz at producing beats of the down-tempo quality (think Enigma, Delerium, Paul Schwartz, etc.).

So there you have it.  The ideas and story behind my upcoming album Portraits.

I am still in full marketing/promoting mode for The Lullaby Album right now, but since the production stage of that album is finished I can at least begin composing/producing the music for Portraits while simultaneously promoting the lullabies.  I do have my husband and little one though, who are my first priority. So the music for Portraits will be written with no deadlines or pressure.  This project is a pleasure for me and I feel that I really want to give it my utmost quality and talent.

In other words, it will be done when it is done – without compromising family time or quality of music.

How can YOU help?  By simply helping me spread the word about my music.  Help me get the word out.  I have video promos on youtube that you can post on your blogs.  Give my cds Key of Sea and The Lullaby Album as gifts for Christmas this year. Come babysit Preston for me so I can work on my music.

LOL okay I was really just kidding about that last part. 🙂

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Please visit www.RonSouthworth.com to see more of this beautiful photography.