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Bessie Jones, 1973 (photo public domain, U.S.)

Every once in a while, I compose music for electronics which uses as its source American field recordings. These can include folk songs, narratives, or “found” sounds from somewhere in American life. I use these sources as beginning points, entering into a free dialogue with them and the stories they tell about what it means — and has meant — to be an American and to be an American artist. These pieces are loosely organized into an ongoing project which I call Dead Cowboys. My newest musical offering has its beginnings in the legendary American singer and storyteller Bessie Jones. In the source audio, Bessie is talking with sonic historian Alan Lomax and his wife, Antoinette Marchand. This entry into the Dead Cowboys series is entitled Pray For Rain. 

Special thanks for this project’s completion goes to the Lomax archives at the Association for Cultural Equity, an invaluable resource for hidden sounds from the American past. Thanks also to Hunter Ewen for his help smoothing out the technical edges (Hunter is a terrific electronic composer in his own right — check out his website and see for yourself).

Dead Cowboys: Pray For Rain is available below via Soundcloud, and will be listed on gregsimonmusic.com shortly. Like everything else in my output, derivative works of Dead Cowboys are licensed under Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA 4.0. For direct download or offline use, contact me directly.

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Every once in a while, in order to break the creative blocks, I write. My favorite project is to ask friends and colleagues for the titles of their favorite songs, promising to use them as the titles for new flash fiction (very short stories, only a few hundred words in length) and post the results here. Part exercise in new artistic directions, part homage to Mr. Tambourine Man, mostly an effort to fill this space with things worth reading.

I’m often working on these little flash stories behind the scenes, so if you have a suggestion for a title, share it on Twitter @gregsimonmusic, or email me using the Contact page. Here’s the third volume of song title flash fiction, with due credit to their respective sources. If you’re curious to hear the songs behind the titles, just click the artist names.

Volume 1 is here, Volume 2 is here.
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Giovanni Santos – a great conductor, tremendous friend, and the original commissioner of For Angels, Slow Ascending – is taking his wind ensemble at La Sierra University to Europe this summer, and on Saturday, March 11 they’ll be holding a fundraising concert to help them get there. Featuring a ton of great music, and including For Angels, Slow Ascending in the original maestro’s hands. This is one not to miss!

7pm, $15-$10-$5. Tickets and more here.

As the calendar turns to 2017, I’ll be doing some small tweaks and redesigns to this space. Mostly cosmetic, which means you can still do all your favorite GSM things (listen, view, and purchase music by visiting the Music page, and find me on Twitter and Linkedin by visiting the homepage) uninterrupted. If you notice that something is missing or broken, don’t hesitate to let me know by using the Contact function, and I’ll get in touch with you right away.

EQ142.jpgThe University of Michigan Chamber Choir has just released their drop-dead gorgeous album White Hurricane, available on Equilibrium records and for download here. In addition to some really fantastic music by my friends Kristin Kuster and Daniel Knaggs, they offer a stunning recording of my piece Two Lorca Songs. Makes a great belated Christmas present for the choral music fan in your life, and makes even better New Year listening. Order from Equilibrium above, from Amazon here, or find it on Google Play and Spotify!