MISTAKES IN THE SUNSET
(thoughts from staring at the sea at noon, 6-17-06)   
I have written over 500 songs in my lifetime. I have produced at least 20 CDs worth of material, not including the music that i was apart of in two bands ("Helikopter" , "The Uniform") that spanned 13 years. I've been fortunate in this regard, as it has given me an insight on life and experience often documented by a song, as if it were a milepost. People and places come and go, yet I am often left with a document; most of the time i do not understand the value of the document till much later.

I have never been one to learn from history to avoid future mistakes. The important events that signify ones own lifetime are often lost on me, as i seldom have tangible evidence of their existance. From that standpoint, I am a minimalist, and I cannot bear to keep objects of historical significance in my presence for any length of time. I value only those "things" that have some practical future application in my life for the purpose to be used again.
So by these two statements, I have created a contradiction. It must mean I am living in a mistake. I am living by accident. I assume then, that all of us, in all of our decisions, are living day to day as an exception. Perhaps human life is marveling in not setting out with what we intend to do, but achieve a less obvious more fulfilling prophecy.

In regards to the songwriting, I often think of my music as "background music" to a movie playing in my head. This movie is not privy to the audience that I expose my work to. I'll present two cases to illustrate my point. Case #1 is when I create a printed form and give it to someone to listen to, mostly in the form of a CD-R. It usually has a dozen or so songs, pictures, words, sounds; but it is of course lacking in this imagery that makes the movie in my head. This is quite obvious, and each an every songwriter must deal with that.
Case #2 is less obvious. This involves live performance, where in real time the audience and I are 'sharing' the moment. Here is an early example: I co-wrote a song titled "Transistor" while in the band "Helikopter" during 1992. I refer to a woman in the song, and actual events with her on a particular day in Phoenix, AZ in the spring of that year. The events took place in the form of an unsigned 'postcard' in my mind, too brief even as a 'letter' if you consider the analogy. But the imagery from the 'postcard' was what I used for live performance of the song. The running time of the song was about two and a half minutes; for someone to create an actual postcard, it could probably take the same small amount of time. The point I'm getting to here is that for live performance, I would rely on viewing the postcard to the point where singing the song and playing the bass for it were secondary; as a musician I could go on autopilot for two and a half minutes, and just like in Case #1, the audience does not see the imagery in my mind.
Kurt Vonnegut is one of my favorite writers. A technique he uses in his writing is to create timelines that are not presented in sequential order. You can see his characters develop, but by writing them in a different order, it doesn't seem that obvious. Yet the characters, well-written, still develop. There seems to be a reverse foreshadowing of events that I like to refer to as a late-arriving epiphany. I try to look at my own writing in that form and songs get written as A goes to B goes to C, but I mostly just see the C and don't recall how I got there.

Often after repeated analysis, something which is much  more easily achieved in listening to music versus reading a book, do i understand where I was in my life when I wrote that particular piece. Its interesting to a consider how a song from 1997 may fit better with a song from 2001, instead of the next song on that particular disk. It takes a while for me to 'get' this. If I documented all life as prolifically as my songwriting, perhaps this would all make sense.
Denis Johnson is another one of my favorite writers. His novel "Already Dead" I have read a number of times. He created a canvas of life in Northern California that I've put myself in a collision course with. I have ventured to the towns in that novel, looking for the shadows as ghosts of characters that he presented. Within 3 years of that reading, I find myself living in Oregon trying to understand the significance of these locations in my thoughts.

That book helped me think of Mistakes in the Sunset.I ponder this time of day as natures melodrama. It is when the sun must fall. There is a complete and total reality of this fact. There is so much in our lives that we have to believe in, that you need a faith based belief system to devote to, that undeniable truths like the sun setting have a certain power and a sense of completion. A prolific event.
Mistakes in the Sunset might best describe my work. The light we see at this time has a desperate quality about it, as it plays with the shadows to create a unique event. It is all exactly there. I cannot describe it fully. That echoes the personal satisfaction with my own collection of songs. They are over. The sun has set. I can only hope that I might "get" it in the future.

Everyday all of us have the opportunity to see the sunset. I like to look for the mistakes. Watch the light play with the shadows. It seeps in at odd angles. It will make one rather anxious. Light bounces off the "real thing." Ever watch people scramble to get into position to watch the sunset? Such drama...

Give me that day. Give me that feel. Give me that light.