I've recently made available a 53 minute unreleased version of "Evening Clouds" (the original appearing on "Skies and Stars") for my mailing list- which you can join by clicking HERE but I have some good- if not slightly weird- memories around the recording of this song, and thought that sharing them in a blog post could be equal parts "informative" (for you, the reader) and "therapeutic" (for me, the guilty party).
"Skies and Stars" was my "night sky" album, and "Evening Clouds", at 28 minutes long, was the longest track on the album. But the original recording of "Evening Clouds" was around 53 minutes in length. This was neither by design nor by accident, but by an attitude of "let's see what happens". And here's what happened:
It was an early May evening in 2019, and i thought direct inspiration from recording under the evening sky would result in at least an enjoyable song. So i set my recording gear up close to the door leading out to our deck, took my guitar and an expression pedal (which i would use for volume swells) out on to the deck, and immediately encountered my first problem: I couldn't see much of the sky.
(We have an enormous number of large trees around our house, and they create a wonderful and beautiful boundary around our property. But they block out a large portion of the sky.)
However, i quickly discovered that if i lay on my back on the deck, i had a perfect view of the sky, and the clouds, floating above me. The problem with THAT approach to recording was that i could not operate my expression pedal while laying on my back (for point of reference, imagine operating the gas and brake pedals on your car while laying on your back. It would not be a smooth driving experience- for either you OR any unfortunate passengers in your car).
It's long been a belief of mine that every problem has a solution, no matter how inelegant that solution may be. And i found it- perhaps the most inelegant solution to my problem. As with most inelegant solutions, it involved duct tape....
I decided that using duct tape to attach my expression pedal to one of the rail posts on the deck was a good way to allow me to lay on my back AND operate the expression pedal. So that's what i did. After testing the pedal, I determined it was secure enough, so i went inside, hit "record" on my computer, went back outside, lay down, and started playing.
.... upon reflection, I should have just written a song about the trees I could see while sitting upright, rather than the sky i could only see while on my back. But that would have made too much sense, I guess (maybe next album)....
The absurdity of my recording situation was quickly replaced by a sense of awe, brought on by gazing on those evening clouds, and on the evening sky, which grew darker and darker. And, quickly, I entered that kind of "in between state", where awareness and intuition share equal influence. By the time the sky was its usual beautiful shade of late-evening black, i had recorded for a little over 53 minutes. And that felt like the right amount. So it was time to get up and go inside.
I will spare you the mental image of a 50+ year old man trying to get up after laying on a hard wooden deck for roughly an hour. There have been times in my life where, after sitting in one position for a long time, my leg had fallen asleep. That night, while attempting to get up from my prone position, I realized my "everything" had fallen asleep, so "walking back into the house" became more of a process of "crawling toward the deck door, by any means necessary, including knees, elbows, and chin".
The next day, after my "everything" was mostly awake again, I listened to the recording from the evening before, and realized my dilemma: I'd recorded a very good track for my album, and it was, essentially, the length of an album. And there was more i was wanting to "say" on the album, with other songs I was working on, so I cut the length of "Evening Clouds" roughly in half for inclusion on "Skies and Stars".
Still, it seemed unfortunate to let that full-length track sit indefinitely in the "island of misfit toys" that is my computer's completed song folder. So I thought i would make it available for free to my mailing list- to all current subscribers and all new subscribers. If you're not currently a subscriber, you can easily become one by clicking HERE.
Thanks for sharing the song and the story—I love them both, and the story absolutely adds to the song (though it would be great to see a video of all of this lol).
Side note: I’ve been requesting to hear your music on KEXP’s “Pacific Notions” show because it would fit in perfectly, and I know that the DJ, Alex, would dig it. Haven’t heard you on there yet, but I’ll keep requesting until I do, since I listen religiously (so to speak, for a Sunday morning show).
Thanks for sharing that story. At least some good came of it, as this is one of the most sublime ambient pieces I’ve heard in a long time. I’m a big fan of long-form ambient pieces (i.e. especially Steve Roach, who often composes full CD length tracks) and I have to say this one ranks among the best in my book. I play it often ever since I downloaded it. Truth be told, I put it on a CD-R together with Downdrift II, and they fit together very well, filling the entire CD-R perfectly!
That’s hilarious!! Plus, it’s an awesome story. Thank you for sharing this w/your fans.
Enjoyed the story of the song and look forward to listening to it. I appreciate your effort to put yourself in the ambient environment for inspiration 😉
Simply beautiful, as always. Minute 54? I’d pay to see the video – hahahahah! That’s for the extra-special fans – LOL!