Singularity Liner Notes

BACKSTORY

In 2003 I bought an effects pedal that would alter my musical course most significantly. It was a green box that created delays and echoes of whatever I would play. That was fun, but I found this pedal had another setting even more fascinating—the ability to record any noise I created on my 5-string fiddle and play it back to me over and over. But wait, there’s more! I could even layer sounds on top of that loop to thicken the texture.

In the beginning looping was just a practice tool, an opportunity to play along with “someone” (myself) as I learned and developed chord progressions, melodies, rhythms and solos.

Over time, the practice morphed into experimentation. I found myself wanting to record the echo sounds, but to get that sound, the pedal had to be switched out of the record/loop mode. I needed another pedal. And what if I wanted a bass sound…I suppose I could play the bass, but I really play the fiddle—and they make pedals for that. So, I got another pedal. And another. And so on.

Then in 2009, Michael Jackson died. I was teaching at fiddle camp and it was my turn to give a performance the following evening. A tribute seemed in order. A friend suggested I try building a whole looped arrangement of Billie Jean. That night, I went home and dissected the song, finding ways to recreate the drums, bass, strings, and vocals—all in real time, learning how to build a whole composition in sequence, part by part.

The process was so engaging. I returned to my underground fiddle laboratory to tinker some more—reworking old material and creating new. I’d use camp performances and festival workshop opportunities to test out my Frankenfiddle arrangements. The seed had been planted for a one man / one fiddle / one pedalboard concept—and it was growing steadily through constant fertilization and pruning.

Acoustic + electric, analog + digital, man + machine = limitless possibilities. This is my Singularity.

 

TRACKSTORY

[Note: Track order is for CD. LP track order differs.]

1) Billie Jean (5:34)
Michael Jackson; Mijac Music, Admin by Sony/ATV Songs LLC, BMI

As the first looping arrangement I assembled, this tune holds a special place for me—both expected and unexpected. Academically, it gave me a deeper understanding of arrangement and the beauty of how each instrumental and vocal part fit together to serve the song—I figured that would happen. What I didn’t expect was the emotional impact and nearly universal acceptance this song would have. Michael Jackson has written music known throughout the world and that’s no small accomplishment. As a fiddle player that grew up on a steady diet of bluegrass and bebop while avoiding pop, even I was aware of it.

Billie Jean has turned into my free pass. It’s the song that people comment on the most at shows. Up until now, I hadn’t understood the power of a well-placed cover, and let’s be honest, I write some esoteric instrumental music (though I’m no stranger to pop music now), but by playing something folks are already familiar with, I feel like it has given me the freedom to play originals they may not be familiar with—yet—and that’s a gift.

During the same week of MJ’s death, Les Paul also passed away. Considered by many to be the father of multi-track recording, Billie Jean became a twofold tribute.

 

2) Heartbeat Kid (6:47)
Casey Driessen; C-String Tunes, Admin by Tunecore Publishing, ASCAP

Pregnant with our first child, my wife and I went in for the 20wk ultrasound to hear the heartbeat. Not knowing what to expect and being the nerd that I am, I brought in recording gear. The heartbeat was much faster and much more swishy sounding than my own, but it had a great rhythm. Back in my music room, I took the grooviest section of heartbeat, looped it and wrote a tune. Then somehow I all but forgot about the tune—perhaps it had something to do with the learning curve of raising my first child.

Fast-forward two years. I’m on the road with the Flecktones and we get stuck in Hurricane Irene, diverted from a cancelled shows for 4 days to Burlington, VT. Unaccustomed to 4 days with no plans, I dragged my gear through the rain and set up the mobile fiddle lab in my hotel room. I had been reminded about that heartbeat tune recently, sitting on the bus with Béla Fleck playing compositions for each other, so I decided to see if it would lend itself to looping. Thank you Irene. Thank you Molly. Thank you Emmette.

 

3) Gaptooth (4:39)
Casey Driessen; Béla Fleck, Bryan Sutton; C-String Tunes, Admin by Tunecore Publishing, ASCAP / Fleck Music Admin by Bug Music, BMI / Deepwood Music, BMI

Once upon a time, I learned a tune called Cumberland Gap from the playing of the great claw hammer banjo player Riley Baugus. It was unaccompanied banjo and without any other harmonic content for my ears to reference, I filled in some musical blanks that led my version down a different path. Some might say I learned it ‘wrong.’ In bluegrass, we have a Cumberland Gap, but it’s different than the old-time version—which got me thinking about the origins of the tune. Much of our Appalachian music has Scots-Irish roots, so I took it there. Through this morphing, it’s not really Cumberland Gap anymore, but that’s how this began.

I originally recorded this on my first album, 3D. Part of the looping learning process for me was retrofitting previous material to this concept. Some worked some didn’t. I think this did.

 

4) Murder in the Red Barn (5:32)
Tom Waits, Kathleen Brennan; Jalma Music, ASCAP

The tradition of murder songs runs deep in my bluegrass roots, but it’s not just limited to folk musics. We seem to be fascinated with one of the heaviest and darkest acts committed between humans. Regardless of whether the act was real or an imagined desire or impulse, song and story give us a medium to deal with this serious subject a bit more comfortably.

I’ve always been into Tom Waits’ writing, his rich imagery, his juicy words…but even beyond that, this song reached its boney hand out and grabbed me like a reaper who knows your destiny. It must have been the plunking banjo in Waits’ original recording, the mention of the violin and reference to the color red that compelled me to introduce a fresh murder song to my folkloric roots.

As a constant fiddle plucker and strummer, I often imagined doing an arrangement in which I never pick up the bow. Here’s one of those.

 

5) Tanuki Attack (3:32)
Casey Driessen; C-String Tunes, Admin by Tunecore Publishing, ASCAP

I took my first trip to Japan in 2012 and it was amazing in every way—people, food, culture, geography, you name it. One of my first experiences was visiting a bonsai master’s garden and workshop. I saw unbelievable 100+ year old trees that were being passed down from master to master. Upon entrance to this garden I was greeted by a foreign statue—a strange upright raccoon/bear/badger type animal with a sly grin and giant testicles. Immediately curious, I was informed that it was the Japanese raccoon dog. Known in folklore as the mythological tanuki, this shape shifter brings luck and mischief—two things I don’t want to live without. I started to see tanukis everywhere, almost as if I was being followed—could this be my spirit guide?

I’d recently composed an all “chop” piece—think of it as a tune without any notes—using new percussive bowing techniques that I’d been developing. It arrived nameless to Japan and quickly became Tanuki Attack. Upon returning home, I found a package from a Japanese friend with my very own tanuki…he keeps me company in my music room.

 

6) Working on a Building (4:54)
Casey Driessen; C-String Tunes, Admin by Tunecore Publishing, ASCAP

I’ve been playing this song for years…and so has Tim O’Brien, but in a much different vocal+fiddle style. I was so inspired by his harmonizing of fiddle with voice, the timbre of the two together, that I decided to try it for myself. This is one of those great songs, one that stands the test of time and genre. It’s also one that accepts new arrangements willingly, which is why this remained a live only song for a long time—I could never settle on a form.
A couple years ago at the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, I was preparing for a solo set and needed to figure out an arrangement for the looping gear. I was invited to participate in the Gondola Sessions—a video series of performances riding the gondola. On the way back down the mountain, I played this acoustically, miraculously coasting into the chair lift station on the last note—with my back to the station I was a completely surprised.

This is Singularity of a different nature, solo fiddle and voice.

 

7) Rose Tea Waltz (5:09)
Casey Driessen; C-String Tunes, Admin by Tunecore Publishing, ASCAP

Tea or coffee? I can’t decide. I like them both for different reasons and I go through phases. Coffee is a high powered jolt that helps me get a lot accomplished in a concentrated amount of time. I forget to eat and my body crashes—but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep coming back. Tea, on the other hand, is a much more gradual and longer lasting energy, though not to the height of coffee. I like the ritual of steeping loose leaf tea. I like it’s subtle and more delicate flavor. I feel that tea is better for me and often enter a tea phase when my whole being needs centering.

I was going through a phase of mixing and matching loose leaf teas. As the title suggests, dried rose petals were being added to everything. One morning I brewed up this waltz. It originally appeared in full band form on my second record, Oog.

 

 

CREDITS

5-String Fiddle / Voice :: Casey Driessen
All sounds & arrangements created by the fiddle and altered live through these pedals.

Produced, Recorded & Mixed :: C.Driessen at DADA Studio, Asheville NC
Mastered :: C.Driessen & Matt Mangano at Southern Ground Nashville

Cover Photos :: Sandlin Gaither
Inside Photo :: C.Driessen
Album Artwork :: C.Driessen
Singularity Logo :: Mark Fidel

THANKS ::
Molly & Emmette Driessen,
Tom, Karen, Bridget, Arthur, Regina Driessen, Madonna Nagel, Pam Holthauser, Brad Henderson, Brad Madison, Chris Faville, Val Hersey, Béla Fleck, Howard Levy, Futureman, Victor Wooten, Richard Battaglia, Zach Newton, Adam Hudson, Stephanie Fields, Carla Parisi, John Silakowski, The Wedge Brewery, Matt Brown, Matt Mangano, Zac Brown, Brandon Bell, Jason Lehning, Lyris Hung, Brian Christiansen, ZBB Family, Luke Bulla, Billy Cardine, Cyril Lance, Sandlin Gaither, Yuiko Inoue, Darol Anger, Mark O’Connor Fiddle Camp, Creative Allies, DPA, Schertler, 291 Kickstarters, Hurricane Irene & Linus.

ENDORSEMENTS ::
D’Addario Strings, Reunion Blues Cases, Moog Music
www.caseydriessen.com

 

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