NEW MUSIC!! – The Transmigration of Cora Riley: Music and Words

CoraRileyEP_Cover_Letter_BCWe have new music for you!

And it is a bit off the beaten path from what we usually do. These three songs are based on an urban fantasy novel written by upcoming author Ellie DiJulio, and combines the feel of my solo work with the harder rock of Pandemonaeon, with a hint of Tori Amos vibe thrown in for seasoning.

The story goes that Cora Riley arrives at her 30th birthday wondering what the hell happened. How did she end up here? Had she just been sleepwalking through her life this whole time? She can’t shake the feeling that there must be something more to this world, something more to her life.

She finds it, alright!

The story continues, chronicling her adventures as she stumbles into the Underworld, and comes to find that all is not well there. In her quest to get back home, she must draw on resources she never knew she had. In so doing, she finds the life she was meant for.

It is a fun read, and one that our tribe will likely resonate with.

Ellie-DiJulioI first met Ellie DiJulio in an online group, where I was struck by her clever writing style and her commitment to her craft.

So, I was delighted when she asked me if I would like to collaborate by creating a music collection to go with the book.

Winter and I wrote three songs, inspired by three characters in the book; Cora Riley herself, a mysterious secret agent who holds the key to Cora’s destiny, and the self-appointed Queen of the Underworld.

Winter and I are proud to offer these songs along with the book!

You also get a supplemental PDF with song lyrics, character insights, and details about Ellie and I, your devoted creatrices.

This project is offered as a bundle called The Transmigration of Cora Riley: Music and Words. It can be yours for $8.00!

Yep you get:

  • 3 Original Songs by Sharon Knight and Winter.
  • The Full eBook of the novel “The Transmigration of Cora Riley” in both .epub and .mobi formats.
  • A supplemental PDF with song lyrics and other details about the book and it’s authors.

For Eight Bucks. 

You can check it out right here:

https://sharonknight.bandcamp.com/album/the-transmigration-of-cora-riley-music-and-words

 Want to learn more about Ellie ?

You can visit her here: http://elliedi.com

Just want the songs and the PDF without the story? That is also available for $5, right here:

https://sharonknight.bandcamp.com/album/the-transmigration-of-cora-riley-original-ep

I hope you enjoy our latest offerings much as we enjoyed making it!

May life be ever more full of magic!

On Waking Dead, Mad, or a Poet

Cadair Idris

There is a mountain in Northern Wales called Cadair Idris, which means “The Chair of Idris”. Idris is a giant from Welsh mythology, although the name may also refer to a famous Welsh warrior-prince of the 7th century, who once defeated the Irish atop this mountain.

But that is not what interests me about this mountain. What I find fascinating are the legends surrounding it.  It is said that anyone who spends a night beneath this mountain will wake dead, mad, or a poet. So naturally, all aspiring poets are compelled to test their fate at the mountain’s foot.

As you might imagine, this is a theme near and dear to my heart. I was captivated by this tale when I first heard it many years ago in the skillfully woven yarns of modern-day bard Robin Williamson.  The quest for inspiration has always been the single most driving force in my life,  and I could well understand the desire to risk all for poetic gifts.

So naturally I had to write a song about it. :+)

I have been writing this song, in one way or another,  for several years. In some ways, all my songs are this song.  But, after several iterations, a song specifically about this quest has emerged, which we are calling “Fire in the Head”.

I am telling you about this because this blog’s purpose is to chronicle moments of magic. And in the last few days, this song has been a portal for the very magic it speaks of.

Winter and I have spent the last few days in our studio, taking our “Neofolk Romantique” album from “Pre-release” to “Done”.  We plan to have the formal album completed by Faerieworlds. Now sometimes, when you are in the studio, it’s just work. Fun work, but nothing particularly special happens. You just prepare, perform your parts as passionately and skillfully as you can, play them several times and choose the best take. If you are reasonably professional and committed to your craft, you will end up with an album that people enjoy. And it’s all good.

But sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes it seems that a portal opens up and something “other” sweeps in and takes over, a kind of spirit permeating your work and making the hair stand up on the back of your neck. The song flows out effortlessly then, as if it is writing itself and you just stand back, its humble servant.

These are the moments that every artist lives for.

To be able to share these moments with my partner is a gift I cherish above all. It is incredibly bonding, powerful, and humbling, all at the same time.

This was the recording experience Winter and I had these last few days.

Everything you hear about studio magic – and that you hope happens in your own projects – happened on this song. New parts revealed themselves effortlessly, as if they’d been lying in wait all along. A playful creativity permeated each day, and Winter and I  got into that “mind reading” zone that musicians sometimes get when completely in sync –  having the same ideas at once, finishing each other’s sentences, giving each other chills and making each other weep; all that was there.

It felt so magical to me to have this kind of experience while recording a song specifically about the quest for the poetic gift; as if, in that moment, the song was fulfilling itself through us.

These are the moments that make all the sacrifices worthwhile.  The path of indie musician is not the most well charted territory, and really does feel like exploring the Wild West at times. There are few rules, and whoever figures out how to do it and survive, wins. We forego comfort,  security, and stability; we spend long hours on the road, often missing out on community-building opportunities at home; we spend long hours in the studio while others are hosting parties or going to the beach. We hear the word “no” more times than you’d think was humanly possible. We spend years floundering in obscurity striving to hone our craft, with no guarantee that our efforts will ever be recognized. We do all this in the pursuit of inspiration.

We risk our lives for poetry.

And when it comes, it is utterly worth it.

The screaming hag that rides the wind
Will rip the soul right from your skin
The hollow hills will swallow you
And flay apart your mind
To win the kiss of the Gifted Ones
we risk our lives on the mountain front
There’s some wake mad, and some wake dead, 
And some will rise with a Fire in the Head
– Sharon Knight, Fire in the Head

Coming soon on an updated Neofolk Romantique CD near you. 

Got an inspiration story of your own? Care to share it?

 

Sometimes, You Just Need To Go In The Blanket Fort

Blanket-FortYou know. I am just going to say it. This week, I hit a wall. I have been feeling frustrated and discouraged as to how to move my grand mission forward. It all feels like it’s growing too slowly, yet screaming louder doesn’t seem an effective solution.  I’ve been feeling stuck, invisible, and not sure what to try next.

And so – I am trying nothing. I am temporarily abandoning all my “Goals”.  I am just doing what I damn well feel like, and that has been creating art. I laughed so hard when I saw this picture of the blanket fort, because that is how I have spent the last several days. Snuggled under my covers, drawing and painting and watching Photoshop tutorials. (Well okay, no actual painting went on under my covers, that happened at the dining room table. I am hoping to stay married, after all).

It has been utterly therapeutic to take a few days away from my usual endeavor of “Growing a Music Career”, and all the hustle and strategizing and brainstorming and hard work that entails, let alone trying to find enough creativity to write new songs. I melted down and said “Fuck it, I’m not doing anything”. But I did end up doing something. And it  reminded me of how I used to go on Artist Dates, as part of the Artist’s Way program, and how rejuvenating that was for me.

I haven’t wanted to share this, I suppose because in some part of my goal-oriented Capricorn brain, I felt ashamed. Like I was giving up the good fight. Copping out somehow. But this morning I realized – this is part of the process. This is how I replenish the fountain. And I remembered – I have always had these periods, where exploring creativity from a completely different angle helps me to shake loose from a rut.

Sometimes you have to just stop hammering on stuff and go in the blanket fort. You know?

So – what do you guys do when you need to go in the blanket fort? What replenishes you?

Song Magic – Mistress of MacLyr

Storm at Sea, captured by Seraphina at Mister Jones

A much more tame and not even remotely adequate approximation of the storm I am about to tell you about.

Hi everyone!

Some of you have told me you’d like more song lyrics in my newsletter and on my blog, and also that you’d like to know how the music connects to my spirituality. So I  figured I’d explore both those topics here, in a series of posts I’ll call Song Magic.  I’ll share the lyrics, what inspired them, and ask you to participate with some questions about your own story at the end.

We’ll start with a newer one, Mistress of MacLyr:

Tempestuous twilight, bring my love to me 
Whose froth-white horses come sweeping in from sea 
And carry my heart away from me 

Melancholy eyes, deep with dreams of starfish 
Eerie moonglow hair, soothing sand into surrender 
And operas of Seraphim singing of your splendor 

Oh the roiling churning sea 
He will come for me 
I will wait by my crystal palace and 
He will come for me 

Your salty kiss is on my tongue and tangled in my hair 
With shells between my toes, and yearning for more 
I dance the dance of wild night and conjure you to shore 

Your beauty pierces through me, Master of the Sea 
Courtship fierce and stormy, you made your claim on me 
Your foamy tendrils gripped my hair, and ravished me away 

Oh the roiling churning sea 
He will come for me 
I will wait by my crystal palace and 
He will come for me 

Carry me away to your jeweled and dewey deep 
Never will a mortal’s kiss stir my soul from sleep 
I am ravished utterly away 
Oh I am ravished utterly away 

Oh the roiling churning sea 
He will come for me 
I will wait by my crystal palace and 
He will come for me

This song comes from a mighty storm I witnessed at 4am while staying in Jenner, which is a small coastal community in Sonoma county where the Russian River flows into the sea, and also my favorite place on Earth. I was staying in the last house before the river meets the sea, so I was as close as I could get and still be by a warm fire. My companion stood out on the deck while I wrote by the fire, and eventually asked “It is supposed to be like this?” I went outside to see that the sea had completely engulfed the strand between it and the river, and was now crashing up on the riverbank not 20 feet from our back door. I had never seen it do that, and I had lived here for 2 years. It was breathtaking, and a little scary. The next morning, in town, we read the headlines “Record waves crest at 50 feet”.

The moon was full, and the clouds were billowing and fearsome, sometimes hiding and sometimes revealing her. Light prismed out from the moon the way the sunlight often does, creating an otherworldly array of pearlescent moonbeams that lit the sea. And there was lightning, great forks of it striking and clashing as if some epic battle waged amongst the Gods.

To this day, I think it was the single most beautiful and awe-inspiring display of nature I have ever seen. If I were to choose one example of why I am Pagan, this would be it. These are the things that compel me to worship – the majesty of nature brings me to my knees in utter astonishment.

As many of you know, Manannan MacLyr is God of the Sea in Irish myth. And I adore the sea beyond words. In this song I attempt to give voice to my love of the sea in all it’s beauty and power.

When has nature brought you to your knees?  What experience in your life has compelled you to worship, has shown you a glimpse of the Divine? Will you share an event in your life that has cracked you open, that has broken through cynicism and sorrow and brought you to a place of wonder and openness?

Please share your story in the comments if you are so moved. :+)

(Mistress of MacLyr is from the album Neofolk Romantique and can be listened to here)

(You can get the song for free by signing Sharon’s mailing list. You also get monthly free improvised song snippets called Mermaid Kisses).

Imagination Vacation

Happy Monday my beauties! I was feeling a bit drab, so I decided to give myself some sparkle with this collection of places I’d love to visit. I share them here in the hope that you’ll find them a feast for your own senses as well. Can you imagine curling up in any one of these places with a journal, sketchpad, or musical instrument? I can!

Finding such places always helps to remind me that the world is full of amazing people doing amazing things, that nature is beautiful, and that mystery is inexhaustible. May these images kindle your own creative spark, stir the dreamer within, and rejuvenate your imagination as they have mine.

Song-A-Week Songwriting Challenge – Jan. Review

Whew. I did it. I wrote – and recorded – 4 songs this month.  When I called this a songwriting challenge, I wasn’t kidding. It felt more than a bit like bootcamp getting them all recorded in time for today. And like bootcamp, the first month was pretty rough. I hadn’t factored in the time it would take to record them, and it was significant. I am using Logic on my laptop and am not very experienced. But one of the main points of this exercise is to get faster, and indeed I am already gaining proficiency in Logic, which is a bonus skill I hadn’t even considered.

What I’ve learned this month –

1) A week is not long enough to write a song. Not for me. At least not yet.

2) “Bacon” is a very user-friendly word in terms of rhyming.

3) Mandolins are metal!  \m/\m/

Okay! Without further ado, let’s set a few ground rules and get started.

I am asking for your feedback in the comments. When you give it, keep in mind, these are very rough sketches, not all fleshed out with arrangements and other instruments.  So when critiquing, please limit comments to melody, lyrics, and song structure. Of course, ideas for instrumentation will be welcomed, but telling me the arrangement needs work will yield a “duh” response. :+)

I have not posted the lyrics, as I was concerned they would take up too much space. I am hoping you’ll be able to hear them in the songs, but if you find it would be helpful to have them in written form let me know, and I’ll work out a way to post them online.

Lastly – please don’t snag the songs from this site and let them get out into the world. I do plan to use the best of these on albums and I don’t want to lose the element of newness. (If you really want one, just ask, and I’ll send it to you with the caveat that you don’t post it on the internet. This is the only  place I want them online until they are ready for release to the greater community. Thanks!)

Here’s what I came up with:

Week 1
Song for a Savior
This is a song about being our own heros. It’s the one that started this whole thing. (I.e. the one that Winter criticized  ;+) ).  I reworked it some based on Winter’s suggestions. It’s still got some swords and kings in it but I felt that the nature of the song couldn’t do without them. Heros need swords after all.   Song for a Savior.

Week 2
Engines of Doom
As the title suggests, this is a metal song, for Pandemonaeon. It’s part of a 4-song epic tale we will be telling based on an idea of Paul’s, about a great battle that seemingly cannot be won, and the despair that ensues, yet also with a quest that yields strengths we didn’t know we had. Sounds pretty cool eh? So where’s the mp3?  Well…here’s the thing. Paul and Winter don’t want to give this away beforehand, but have it be unveiled in it’s full glory at a live show. (Preserving the element of newness and all).  So they’ve forbidden it’s inclusion here. :+( .  I see their point really. But. Pout. Also – they threw it back. They said my part wasn’t “metal” enough. So back to the drawing board on that one. I think rewrites are going to have to be allowed  in this songwriting process! For now you’ll just have to take my word that I did complete a first draft of this song.

Week 3
It’s the Bacon
I wasn’t going to write a song about bacon. I really wasn’t. But one of you suggested it when I first put out the call for ideas, and it just kind of trickled into my head.  So I figured I’d polish it up and put it out there. Sometimes writing about something completely outside your usual fare really cracks open the idea flow, and that is what happened with this. I’ve been getting lots of ideas since I wrote this. (NOTE: I recorded this last night at midnight after a guest appearance in a friend’s show, so I was not at my most refreshed. Nor did I add any of the fun”oohs”, “ahhs” and vocal percussion I was hoping to add. I haven’t done this justice, but I simply ran out of time. Also – I just noticed, it doesn’t start until 15 seconds into the mp3). It’s The Bacon

Week 4
I am the Sand and Sea
Okay! This one is truly the belle of the ball as far as I’m concerned. This song represents the first real songwriting breakthrough I’ve had in a while, and I am very excited about it. It’s my first attempt at demonstrating that “Mandolins are Metal”. I hope you like where Im going with this, as I’ll be following this thread qite a lot more over the next year.  I-am-the-Sand-and-Sea

Okay! There you have it! Please leave your comments here and let me know your favorites, and why, which ones you’d like to see developed further, any ideas for instrumentation, what could be made better, etc.

Also please leave any ideas for next month’s songwriting endeavors here in the comments.

And THANK YOU for playing along!

 

Friday’s Featured Fabulousness – R-Rated Kali

Heya beauties!

Here in Oakland, we have a lovely custom called First Fridays, where local artists open up their studios the first Friday of each month for an “Art Walk”  that spans about an 8 block radius and includes restaurants, painters, handmade clothing designers, musicians, and multimedia artists of all kinds. It is a great way to get out into the community and get your own creative juices flowing and it is one of the reasons I love living in Oakland.

I don’t really have a studio that I can open to display my own art, but I have decided to participate in this tradition by hosting my own “Friday’s Featured Fabulousness”, which will happen every Friday, right here. After all, I have been expanding my offerings to include art (I was a visual artist long before I discovered music) but you’d never know that if I didn’t tell you about it. So that’s what Friday’s Featured Fabulousness is about – showcasing one of my creations that may bring fabulousness into your life.

We’re going to start with Tribal Kali. I am featuring her first, because someone flagged her as R-rated on my store, which means she is likely to become hard to find. Sheesh. Just because she’s naked. I mean, it’s not like it’s porn. She’s freaking Kali, for fuck’s sake! So what if you can see her nipples? Or a bit of muff? It’s not like they’re “in use”.  And it’s not like there’s senseless violence. Well. Except for the severed head. But still. It’s a METAPHORICAL severed head. Some folks just don’t get Kali at all. :+)

Anyway – ranting aside – she’s quite a powerful iconic design, I think, for when you want to invoke a little more ass-kickery into your day. For now, I am using Zazzle as my store of choice and you can currently get her on a T-Shirt and a button. (The button got the R-rated flag. I changed it back to G-rating, which means everyone can see it, but they’re bound to be on to me soon, in which case you won’t be able to see her until you make an account with Zazzle and put your content filter settings to “off”. Kinda like that Island in Pirates of the Caribbean, that can only be found by those who already know where it is).

So I figured I’d give her top billing while you can still see her.  :+)

If you’d like to see the rest of the items in the store, here is the link.

http://www.zazzle.com/sharonknightpandemon.

Oh and Zazzle has got an endless supply of schwag to put art on so if you decide you want her on any number of other things – a coffee mug, a keychain, an iPhone case – shoot me a note and I’ll set it up for you.

 

2012 – The Year You and I Write Songs Together

Celtic spirit, metal attitude!

Happy New Year everybody!

I hope your festivities over the weekend have helped set the tone you’d like to see in 2012 (i.e. no puking), and that you are well on your way to any new beginnings you mean to invoke.

I rarely make New Year’s resolutions, as I prefer the idea of living intentionally every day.  My New Year’s celebrations always include some version of setting my intentions for the year and toasting them with friends.  However, I did make one resolution-type commitment this year that I am pretty jazzed about.

It began with writer’s block. There I sat, staring at the blank page with the bleak emptiness of a soul who has nothing to say.  But not to worry, I know the cure. Write anyway. So I do. Except that everything I write is shite. Or so I tell myself.

“You’re saying the same things over and over” says the Critic, brandishing his cane and pursing his shriveled lips in disapproval. “That’s stupid!” “Nobody says that!” “That doesn’t even rhyme.”

But onward I go, stalwart and steadfast. “Get back ye great prune! What have you ever done? All you do is tear down, so hush.”

Thus vanquished, my critic pipes down and I manage to churn out a song. It was a pretty song. Quite pleased with myself, was I.

And then came Winter. “Your songs are always about castles, kings, towers, serpents, pirates, and phoenixes. Write about something else”.

AUGGH!!

Apparently my efforts to blast through writer’s block are still not yielding breakthrough results. Clearly I need help. But from whom?

Why, you, of course! 

Yep, 2012 is going to be the Song-A-Week Songwriting Challenge, and I want you to help me.

Here’s how it’s going to go down:
I will write one song a week, every week, for the entire year of 2012. On the first Monday of each month, I will put out a call for ideas, right here on this blog,  and you guys are welcome to suggest ideas you’d like to hear me write about, in the comments section. If an idea really grabs me, or I see a common theme developing from several suggestions,  I will write a song based on your idea. On the last Monday of each month, I will post a recording of songs written that month and ask for your feedback and to vote for your favorites. If I’ve written something based on your idea I will give you a copy of the recording. Over time, the favorites will be developed into fully arranged songs for release on a formal album.

In this way you all can help me craft my next album in accordance with what you would like me to write about. A truly collaborative effort!

I think this will be fun, and it will really help me to have you guys part of the process. Aside from providing valuable feedback, you guys will really help to hold me accountable! Getting a new song written and recorded every week is going to be quite the trick with all the other irons I’ve got in the fire this year –  a new chant CD with Thorn, my summer touring schedule, and developing music meditations and workshops for Sonic Alchemy (because songs change the world, yo!) to name just a few!

So please hold me to my word – I’ll be a better woman for it, and also a better songwriter!

And, lo and behold – it’s the first Monday of the month! No time like the present to get started.  Got an idea for a Sharon Knight or a Pandemonaeon song? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks in advance for your help, I really do appreciate it. Let the ideas commence!
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(Want to get a free improvisational composition from Sharon in your inbox each month? Sign the mailing list and we’ll send ’em out. They’re called mermaid kisses. And btw – we never ever ever share your email with anyone else and we keep our own mailings to once or twice a month. In case you were wondering.)

A Mermaid’s Lair

I did this awhile ago but figured I’d post a pic as a reminder that when we are feeling uninspired with our abodes, paint gives a big bang for the buck in the transformation department!

This was a huge improvement over “landlord white” and now my bedroom makes me feel like a mermaid!

This just cost me 2 cans of paint – one white and one the jewel-tone green, a few rollers, one tray, one brush, and pizza and beer for my helpers. Under $100 for sure. Probably under $60 without the beer swilling fiends I had for help.

All part of my core philosophy – bringing beauty and wonder to your life doesn’t require a lot of money, just imagination. :+)

Neofolk Romantique – New Music!

We have new music, which was just unveiled last night at our show with Wendy Rule at Serpent’s Kiss in Santa Cruz.  Just in time for our cross-country tour. Yay!! This is a collection of traditionals and new originals that have yet to find their way onto a “formal” album. It also introduces our self-proclaimed musical genre, Neofolk Romantique. After years of  listening to the staunch Celtic traditionalists proclaim that my music is “Not Celtic”  I have decided to create my own genre. Neofolk Romantique is what I like to think of as an innovative and fresh interpretation of folk music; it contains a goodly dose of stark melancholy and reverence for ancestral tradition that one thinks of when one hears the term Neofolk, but also has a romantic and fanciful spin. Romantique, in fact, for our love of antiquity and old world charm. Rather more flattering than “Not Celtic”, wouldn’t you say?

Neofolk Romantique gives me far more flexibility to reflect my own world without getting bogged down in annoying trivialities such as facts. Facts have very little place in art, as far as I am concerned. Give me Steampunk over Reconstructionism any day.

So – reinventions having been thus proclaimed, let me tell you about this album.

It is indeed romantic and fanciful. All acoustic and very sparsely instrumented. A highlight for me is a song I wrote for a storm, who’s beauty swept me away completely. It’s called Mistress of Maclyr, and the vocal performance is one of the most emotional I have ever given. It isn’t technically perfect, but that is part of the charm of this album, and left this way intentionally. Enchanting performances by Winter and Tim Rayborn are also featured.

It also includes Saucy Sailor, a feisty English traditional about a carefree sailor lad. I have always loved the spirit of this song. Then there is an A Capella poem by William Butler Yeats, and a fun little tune I wrote called The Captain’s Flask. And of course we had to include Henry Martin, one of our best loved songs when we play live.  We also recorded an acoustic version of Pandemonaeon’s Queen of Shadows which came out surprisingly well. The album contains 10 songs in all.

We consider this a pre-release, which means this:

These particular versions of the songs will only be available for a limited time.

Some of these songs – particularly the traditionals – will only be released on this album and not on the formal release. Therefore they will only be available for the duration that this pre-release is available.

These songs represent a sparse, paired down interpretation of our music that is much more akin to our live shows than our full-production albums. They contain the flaws, vulnerabilities, and intimacy of a live show and as such give a different feeling than our lushly crafted studio albums.

You can listen to the album in it’s entirety – and if you like, purchase it – on our bandcamp page. Folks who purchase this album will get $5 off our formal studio release, due out within the year, simply by mentioning they bought the Neofolk Romantique pre-release. We beleive in the honor system because we believe you are honorable.

Enjoy!