I recently stumbled across the words for these seven songs and felt inspired to set them to my own music. Some of them are ancient songs with origins lost to history, others date to the late 1800s, and one of them was written in 2004. All of them convey a mood of longing and perseverance – two characteristics of traditional folk music I’ve always been drawn to.
The process couldn’t have been any more simple. As soon as I found a melody and arrangement that suited the words, I recorded each song through my iPhone and these are the results; these bare-bones recordings capture the initial moment of inspiration for each song.
True – these are what most folks would consider scratch tracks or first takes. And while I may, one day, decide to do more with them, what you’ll hear on this album is the initial moment of inspiration for each song. Despite the occasional throat-clearing or flubbed note, I was able to capture the precise moment when these songs “clicked” for me, which usually disappears from a song when it’s put through the mechanical process of recording and production. From that perspective, they’re perfectly imperfect and I couldn’t have recorded them any better if I’d tried.
It’s been eight years since I last performed as a solo folksinger, but on March 31, 2017, I dusted off some of my old tunes and even played a new one for an intimate show at Conroy’s Pub in Lawrence, KS.
It was a surprisingly gratifying experience for me, and I hope to have another opportunity to do it again soon. More than that, though, it got my creative juices flowing and I’ve begun working on a new album of folk songs that I hope to release digitally in Fall 2017. This time, I’ll be working with lyrics from old-time folk songs in the public domain and setting them to my own arrangements. At some point, I may be interested to write new songs from scratch, but for now I’m really enjoying the process of working with great words already written.
The aforementioned “new” song from the recent Conroy’s performance is my arrangement of the old folk standard “Rye Whiskey.” Lyrically, it’s a combination of a few well-known versions, and musically, the new arrangement gives an already timeless song a bit of a contemporary feel, in my opinion. Here’s what it sounded like at Conroy’s:
When I’m in the mood to make some noise, my musical outlet is a garage trio called Organ Loaners with some friends that love lo-fi, ’60s-inspired garage rock as much as I do. Featuring my buddy Mike on drums, my buddy Brandon on bass, and me on guitar/lead vocals, Organ Loaners play whenever it can find a show at one of the basement rock clubs in Lawrence, KS.
This is a five song EP recorded in Mike’s basement on Nov. 23, 2013. I may have been drunk and the amps may have been too loud, but these noisy and imperfect first takes are a pretty good representation of the rough-around-the-edges sound that Organ Loaners is known for.
These five pieces were composed with a process I call interlooping. Each piece starts out as a single loop of spontaneously-played piano, which is played back while I play and record a second “live” loop. This continual layering of live playing over accumulated loops results in a combination of interesting interruptions, harmonies, and echos that make each piece increasingly more dynamic from start to finish.
Added to the catalog of Japanese netlabel Bump Foot in January 2015.
The titles refer to specific moments from my life that have been instrumental in shaping my present and my future:
– Tanglewood: The dissolution of my first long-term relationship.
– Long Distance: The passing of my grandmother.
– Questions: The process of shedding the faith of my childhood.
– First Glance: The precise moment I met my wife, the love of my life.
– Providence: The street in Lawrence, KS, on which my wife and I now live, and where we’ve decided to make our home.
In all, these pieces remind me of where I’ve been, and how those experiences have helped me recognize where I’m meant to be.
All music composed, performed, and recorded by Christian Williams. Recorded with a Zoom H2N through the Looptastic HD app for iPad; mixed and mastered with Audacity.
Providence by Christian Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Six sound compositions made from field recordings that I collected near my home in Lawrence, Kansas. This is the first volume of my Sound Profiles series – an ongoing project where I document the soundscapes of the places I live and visit with a combination of unadulterated and digitally manipulated field recordings.
The concept of this album was to illustrate a spring day in my adopted hometown, and build a narrative around the sounds that compete for one’s attention in this small, but vibrant city in the American Midwest.
Selected as one of 50 highlights of Creative Commons music from 2014 by Pilot Eleven, a UK-based netlabel.
– Prelude: Early morning thunderstorm (unadulterated field recording that ends with the fade-in of the next track, “Rope”).
– Rope: Dying tornado siren (layered loops of varied pitch).
– All Clear, Wake Up: Ambient backyard noise in afternoon (unadulterated field recording layered behind loops and half-speed recording).
– Iron Horse: Idle locomotive at Lawrence Amtrak station (layered loops of varied speed).
– Hydro: Bowersock Dam on the Kansas River (sound collage of three different locations near the dam).
– Conversations: Backyard at night (unadulterated field recording).
All sounds recorded with a Zoom H2N and/or Edirol R-09; mixed and manipulated with Audacity by Christian Williams in Lawrence, KS.
Lawrence, Kansas by Christian Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
Two separate solo works for piano each spontaneously composed, performed, and recorded at my home studio in Lawrence, Kansas.
The first four tracks comprise Dog-Day Suite, which was performed and recorded on the afternoon of September 7, 2013. With the windows open and the sound of cicadas providing the ambient sound, the individual pieces in the suite represent different characteristics of the annual cicada hatch that marks late summer in Kansas.
The last nine tracks comprise Spaces, a collection of abstract pieces that were my favorite results from experimentation with piano reverberation in a confined space.
Released February 16, 2014. All music composed, performed, and recorded by Christian Williams in Lawrence, KS.
Dog-Day Suite / Spaces by Christian Williams is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
This 20-minute experimental composition consists of five layered field recordings from my morning commute to work. The start and stop time of each recording was marked by when I entered and exited the Kansas Turnpike. Each recording features a combination of road noise and whatever else I was listening to that day:
– Day 1: String Quartet No. 2 – Morton Feldman
– Day 2: String Quartet (1950) – John Cage
– Day 3: Diamond Daze – Pantha du Prince
– Day 4: Rain and windshield wipers
– Day 5: “Morning Edition” (12/9/13) – National Public Radio
Released December 29, 2013. Composed and recorded by Christian Williams in Lawrence, KS.
Three works of layered acoustic loops and field recordings that interrupt, distort, buckle, and warp.
Released in November 2013 and available for free download, this is my first album of improvised, abstract sound art. The pieces are inspired and influenced by my fascination with musique concrete, acousmatic sound, and electroacoustic music.
Released November 1, 2013. All music composed, performed, and recorded by Christian Williams in Lawrence, KS.
Before gas tractors plowed the fields, steam traction engines ruled the prairie. Now, the glory days of steam farming live on through the words of the men and women who experienced them firsthand.
These 12 poems, originally submitted to the steam engine enthusiast magazine Iron-Men Album back in the 1950s, have been unearthed and set to original music by Christian Williams. Enjoy this glimpse of a little-known chapter of American history.
Released April 1, 2009. Poems written by Chestor Phalor, Eva K. Anglesburg, Harry Fischback, Ernest Pawson, E.C. Harsch, Helen Virden, Mrs. B.K. Francis, John Kelly, J.F. Loffelmacher, Chas. L. Genter, O.H. Nieman and Mae Baber. Original music composed, performed, and recorded by Christian Williams in Lawrence, KS. Album design and layout by Jeannine Snyder.