Sunday, March 5, 2017

Draft Lyrics: “Pipe Bomb”

Lyrics

I’m a terrorist and a provocateur
A pipe bomb to your image of God
To your image of state
To your image of man
‘Cause it’s all about men isn’t it?

I walk in heals because I damn well please
Carry revolution in my poise
A moving target…
…I carry transition in my poise

I’m a scientist and a provocateur
A pipe bomb to your comfort
To your narrow vision of peace
To your vision of stability
‘Cause it’s all about your stable god isn’t it?

I walk in heals because I damn well please
Carry revolution in my poise
A moving target…
…I carry transition in my poise

There is only one way out of this
Deconstruction and personal revolt
Love and full acceptance

Explanation

I like to tell folks what my lyrics are about:  I read an article on the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/from-the-bomb-to-isil-or-duck-and-cover-here-come_us_58af453fe4b0e5fdf6196f8d) discussing how the reaction to Christine Jorgensen's transition in her time was really a reaction to a world changed by the emergence of "the bomb". The article then makes a similar connection between the emergence of ISIS and present modern hostility and fear of transgender people.

ISIS is breaking down the social order of the nation-state, rather, it is a symptom of the breakdown of the nation-state. Similarly, the bomb broke down the social order of a world at the mercy of only God with regard to our species' annihilation. The bomb allowed us to do it ourselves. In each case we had to face a stark change in worldview.

Transgender breaks down the social order of gender that has existed at least since the Industrial Revolution, and much longer in one form or another. I accept my role then as a sabatour of this social order and wear my expression with pride. But I state at the end of these lyrics how the real need is love and acceptance, not one social order or another.

I refer to God a lot in an implied negative way in many of my songs. Do the same here. However, I'm not actually referring to God (my friend and true guide in life), but to the narrow image of God that conservatives of most faiths cling to. "Stability" is their god, not God. While I believe there are a few absolutes in terms of right and wrong, we should not create God in "our own image". God is seen as masculine in popular imagery and in the use of the pronoun "He". So by walking away from being "he", I am walking away from a popular image of God. But this should not be taken for walking away from God.



Thursday, March 2, 2017

This is "Transgender" Music

I identify my music as "transgender" in that it emits from my experience as a transgender person. Sometimes directly—I occasionally write songs specifically about transgender issues—but usually less directly. Here I deconstruct this musical identity in my work, and provide example songs to illustrate.

My primary goal as a musician is to strengthen the transgender community. The target audience is anyone who will listen. We can strengthen our community in two ways:  Uplifting each other and telling our stories to the world. Both are required and my music does that. I aim to become a significant voice in the transgender community.

Writing Songs Directly About Transgender Issues

We (all musicians) usually write protest songs about specific issues. In my case I’ve written two that directly respond to a situation our community faces:

“Stand”

I wrote this in response to the passage of North Carolina's HB2 restricting where my compatriots and I can use the bathroom. The song is livid, and you can hear it in the dissonance I employ in the song’s construction. But it is also about resistance; about standing up and demanding recognition and acceptance for whom one is. This has become my "transgender anthem"; I broadcast it (online) every Coming-Out Day and every Day of Empowerment.



“Smelly Cunt”

More specific to transgender women:  While most feminists support us, there is a vocal subset of feminists that really look down on transgender women. They quip that we can never be "real" women because we have never woken up with a "smelly vagina" (for those of us that do not have vaginas).

But their argument is actually more sophisticated and somewhat reasonable:  They argue that anyone raised as a boy is more acculturated to "move among masculine power" than anyone reared as a girl. Given that we live in a patriarchal society, this acculturation is a real advantage they say. It probably is. Moreover, they regard this division as a "caste system" in which boundaries may never be crossed. Less defendable is their assertion that transgender women "just want attention".

"Smelly Cunt" responds to this. I argue in the song that I experience the same fear of rape, and the same exclusion from equal pay and the "old boy’s network" that all women do. Therefore, I'm a woman because I experience the oppression women face. I also make it clear that the boundaries between sexes and between genders are not biologically and socially rigid; therefore sex/gender is not a "caste". Finally, I make it clear that I’m not living a feminine life simply to get attention.




Writing Songs that Indirectly Draw From My Transgender Experience


Hormones

The hormones I take dramatically impact my emotions. Feelings like love, anger, and sadness are more intense than I’ve ever experienced before. Writing music is a good, healthy outlet for expressing and processing these enhanced feelings. Furthermore, the hormones destabilized my already tenuous mood, so there is more emotional "dynamic range" in the music I produce now than in the past.



Sexuality

To my complete surprise, my sexuality evolved post-transition. Prior to that, I spent my whole life chasing women. Now I chase both women and men. I don’t know if this is due to taking estrogen or due to cultural forces, but the cause doesn’t really matter to me because I’m having a good time. Anyway, I’ve used music to explore psychosexual aspects of my life post-transition:
“Fuck Me, Kim Jong-Un”:
This is the first song I assume a first person sexualized feminine identity in—I'm not speaking as Emily but as a feminine sexual object. However, there is a role in the song for my male voice and the fact that I have a penis, making this song distinctly transgender in delivery. Basically, I mockingly adopt the Victorian stereotype of a woman who throws herself sexually toward powerful men—the stereotype of not being able to resist such men. In this case I throw myself in the song at Kim Jong-Un, while making fun of him in much sexualized terms. The fact that I’m biologically male increases the insult since I imagine North Korea is rather homophobic (just an assumption). The mix of speaking as biologically male and as a (Victorian-stereotyped) woman in the song is a uniquely transgender way to operate.



“You Can Drive the World”
Here I experiment with stereotypically feminine power in romantic relationships, about gaining advantage over a partner in the bedroom through submission and poise. But more generally it is about my realization that I’m happy with letting a partner be the (kindly) dominant figure in the relationship as long as I hold some power in the bedroom. So in that way it is about accepting a feminine role in the patriarchy. I detest the patriarchy, but part of my transition from man to woman involved experiencing the power of the patriarchy over me for the first time—and that experience validated my success in becoming a woman.

Despite this connection to the loss of male privilege, the particular partner I envisioned when I wrote this song is a woman, a very brave and strong one. She heads her household with poise against significant obstacles, and I’d join that household in a heartbeat. I fell in love with her; this is a love song.

The final aspect of this song that emerges from my transgender experience is that now that I am "out", I’ve come out in other ways:  I’m not afraid to speak my mind about my sexuality (or most anything for that matter). So I blatantly—and kindly—state in the song that “my agenda is to fuck (her)”.



Romance

Dating has been extremely difficult post-transition. A woman I deeply loved turned me down because I became a woman (I’m not sure if that was the only reason). Several guys who expressed interest in me as a transgender woman ended up being too chickenshit to meet me in public, so I didn’t waste my time worrying about them. I’m proud of who I am and will not accept a partner who won’t introduce me to their mother. But this frustration has been intense, and I wrote four songs to express it:



Complexity

My harmonies and counterpoint are complicated. I also favor intricate percussion. Some of this is to satisfy my intellect, but mostly it reflects that transgender life is emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually complex. Gender dysphoria of any type is a complicated experience; it is hard to describe and process. So I write music that is harder to process intellectually than standard punk, metal, and hardcore music.




Dissonance and Tension

Gender dysphoria is mental dissonance and extreme tension. So my music is dissonant and tense.



Unstable Harmonies

Reflecting on the fact that mental illness rates are high for the transgender community, as demonstrated by my own instability, I choose harmonies that are unstable. A technical example of this is that I rarely use power chords (first and fifth note of the scale played in the low register of a guitar). Instead I use parallel fourths in the same register (first and fourth note of the scale). This is more “gritty” and less harmonically stable, particularly because the root of the scale is unclear:  Is the root the lower pitch note, or is it the higher pitch note with the 5th in the bass (an inverted power chord)? This uncertainty reflects how I often feel.

My cover of Rush's "Animate" demonstrates my decision to reduce the harmonic stability from that in original arrangement. The chorus of the original recording does not use low-register parallel fourths. I do:



I repeat this method during the verse guitar part in my cover of "Poker Face".



Covering Female Artists

Despite my masculine voice and masculine vocal range, I make a point to cover female-identified artists to express solidarity and respect. Women must constantly uplift each other in a patriarchal society, so I’m uplifting Madonna and Lady Gaga by covering their songs. This is an assertion of my womanhood, which I constantly feel I must do to survive living in a society that directs me to live as a man.



Punk and Hardcore

As a transgender woman, I’ve found the most support among musicians playing punk rock, metal, and hardcore. I perform and compose other forms of music as well, but "punk" is my community. "Punk" is my home.

Axis Evil

This is my stage name. I selected it to make fun of George W. Bush, and to mock those who consider transgender an evil thing. Please check out my new album "City of God" at axisevil.bandcamp.com, and my website at axisevil.com. You can follow me on Facebook and Twitter at @axisevilmusic.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

String Quartet for Mini and Amol

I wrote the following string quartet as a wedding gift for two friends:

Cheesy MIDI Rendition


Sheet Music

https://drive.google.com/open?id=0BzqNzl6eyl0MaXR5ZXFGeXI1RGs

Technical Details

Written in the Lydian mode. I did not think consciously about harmonic rhythm when I wrote this, just added layers of counter melodies that I thought sounded good.

I don't actually play any of these instruments, but made every effort to write something that can physically be played on them. I'll probably hire a string quartet in the near future to test my work out, and to record it.

But first I need to add dynamics, staccatos, and other annotations.

Monday, February 20, 2017

The Trick to Improvisation is Confidence

The trick to improvisation is confidence.
I was asked at a punk show last night to come up on stage and sing with the band. Problem was, I did not know and have never heard their music. They handed me a microphone and started playing, and I realized they wanted an original vocal track. The stakes were high for me; there were about 30 people in the audience and I’m promoting my music actively, so I really wanted to make a good impression. Therefore I mustered up all the confidence I could and made up lyrics and melody on the spot. And stage presence. One always has to project good stage presence (this was hard for me because I’m usually standing behind a guitar when I sing).
Anyway, we made it work! Sure the decades I’ve spent developing my musical skill helped, but I primarily credit the DECISION to deliver confidence for the success.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

How I'm Going to Get There (Notes)

Notes on How I'm Going to Achieve My Goal

Organize transgender musician “summit”

  • D, R, and J
  • Group on Facebook
  • Draft plans
Help at Transgress Fest

Work on getting more gigs
  • SD county
  • OC county
  • LA county
  • Booking agency in Long Beach
  • Fallbrook open mic?
  • Soda Bar
  • Casbah
  • House of Blues
  • Queer bars
Girls to the Front
  • Propose April or May
Post liberally to the Transgender Musicians Network Group

Find other Facebook groups for transgender musicians

Write a 10-15 minute sitar set

Take sitar lessons

Connect with East Meets West Music
  • and the Ravi Shankar Institute
Look into getting CDs made

Write a blog post justifying my “raw” mix down

Write a blog post about how creativity is a skill

Pay for my domain name

Start a SoCal trans musicians Facebook group

“featuring Emily Williams” on all instrumentals
  • or all sitar work
Backup files

Get files on iPhone

UCSD radio

Album reviews
  • Alyssa’s zine
  • other?
  • the Advocate?
Write blog posts on my music theory

Post tablature online

Enter contests
  • composition contests
  • Guitar Center
  • songwriting contests
  • other?
Always be ready to perform
  • gear ready
  • iPad with me and charged
    • or iPhone with me and charged
Punk Rock Food Drive

Strategic use of Facebook promotions
  • how to measure?
  • when to use?
How to measure brand success?

How to measure success in general?

Write blog post about my intent to be “selectively famous”

Read about it
  • How to promote
  • How to get gigs
  • How to tour
  • How to market
  • How to use Facebook effectively
    • and other social media
Up the Twitter use

Plan a GoFundMe strategy for touring
  • USA
  • India
Print business cards

Renew SoundCloud

Figure out a plan for using metrics
  • SoundCloud
  • Band Camp
  • Google
  • etc.
Contact NotApologetic
  • Shows together
  • Collaborations
Send sitar recording to the shop I bought the sitar at.

Get a CD of my sitar recording to East Meets West Music

Get the sitar piece ready for the stage. Keep developing it.

Connect with Headstone and the Schematics

Market in Korea again

Friday, February 17, 2017

"Red Shift" featuring Emily Williams

Recording


Sheet Music


Rhythms aren't perfect. I added guitar tablature for the sitar part in case anyone wanted it.

Notes

I've always enjoyed Hindustani music, and after traveling in northern India last December I've become passionate about it. Therefore I am learning all I can about the subject. Furthermore, I am incorporating these ideas into my own work. I consider it "cultural exchange" rather than "cultural appropriation" since I am making every effort (but not necessarily succeeding) to respect the contexts of the ragas I employ.

Anyway, here is a composition I wrote for the sitar that combines Western and Hindustani ideas. The technical details:

The Hindustani ideas I use are:
  1. Melody in the sitar.
  2. Used the Yaman raga in the bass. However, I'm not sure I used the motifs and dominant notes of the raga properly.
  3. I intended to use the Yaman raga in the melody, but made a mistake that I thought sounded good, so I went with it. Essentially, I mix use of the perfect and augmented 4th, and use of the major and minor 7th. Similarly, I mix use of the major and minor 3rd.
  4. The interplay between the sitar and bass was inspired by the interplay between the sitar and tabla that you hear in Hindustani music.
The harmonies and backbeat are fundamentally Western.

I really hope you like it!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Potential Material for Alyssa’s and Daliah's Zine

Daliah and Alyssa,

Here are lyrics you are absolutely welcome to publish in your new zine! If you use any of these, I’m hoping you can put in a link to the recording.

You Can Drive the World

I'm a gentle discontent
Ready for poise
Ready to please
Ready to gain advantage

I'm bold discontentment
Ready to light something big
And this world is not enough
So let's make a new one

My agenda is to fuck you
My agenda is to drive you
Decent and kind
Loving and responsible
And you can drive the world

I'm gentle release
Disguised as pressure
Disguised as peace
Ready to gain advantage

I'm bold release
With no loss of composure
No loss of grace
And this world is not enough
So let's make a new one

My agenda is to fuck you
My agenda is to drive you
Decent and kind
Loving and responsible
And you can drive the world

With no loss of grace
No loss of composure
You can drive the world

Stand

Stand up you little chickenshit
when your chosen name is resistance
your choice to live is resistance
It's a simple matter really
Revolution in and beyond the mind

I'm exactly who I am and I make no apologies

When your life just wants to be normal
With your name no big deal
It's a simple request really
Acceptance in and beyond the mind

So stand up and demand it
The time is now
The times demand it

Grandiosity

These are the days of passive rejection
Of sins of omission
But who really cares?

These are the days of bitter grandiosity
Of driven absurdity
But it takes you places

It's manic self medication
Or maybe manic restraint...
...or maybe the problem
You overthink it, deliberate it
But it will still be here when you get back

These are the days of active resistance
Of sins of commission
And you care too damn much

These are the days of bitter persistence
Of driven despair
But it takes you places

It's manic self medication
Or maybe manic restraint...
...or maybe the problem
You overthink it, deliberate it
But it will still be here when you get back

Smelly Cunt

I’ve never had a smelly cunt
but I still fear men in the dark
I’ve never had a smelly cunt
but I still fear rape in the dark

its not who you fuck
its not a caste, not abstraction
there’s no release from this, no algorithm,
no relief

I’ve never had a smelly cunt
so where’s my equal pay?
I’ve never had a smelly cunt
still I’m not a part of this “club”

its social abstraction,
genetic algorithm,
brain development flux
but I know its easier for you to assume I want attention

I’ve never had a smelly cunt
and I’m a better woman than you are


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Something I Might Set to Music

Lyrics

I need your help to find a creative, open-hearted solution to a major issue in my life:

Despite my best efforts to the contrary, you remain the most important person in the world to me. I've given up trying to change this fact.

So now I’m trying to create a positive way to live with that reality—one that works for you… one that you can tolerate.

Preferably one that adds value to your life. One that brings happiness and joy to your life.

I need your openness, support, and creativity to help me find a path forward.

Thoughts on How I'd Set it to Music

My late 90's composition "3Jane" (https://soundcloud.com/axisevil/3jane) sets a precedent--as far as my work goes--for setting spoken word to music, though here I'd do something more upbeat and hopeful.

There is the concept of "techno without a backbeat" that I've experimented with before; I'm thinking heavy use of samples, synthesizers, and electric instruments. Nothing acoustic. Nothing chordal. No melody. No harmonic rhythm. Just sound.

But major 3rds and major 7ths to establish the optimistic imagery I'm going for. No cheesy perfect 4ths since they will suck the life out of it. However, augmented 4ths (a la the Yaman raga) might be perfect.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

New, Original Song: "You Can Drive the World"

Recording


Lyrics

I'm a gentle discontent
Ready for poise
Ready to please
Ready to gain advantage

I'm bold discontentment
Ready to light something big
And this world is not enough
So let's make a new one

My agenda is to fuck you
My agenda is to drive you
Decent and kind
Loving and responsible
And you can drive the world

I'm gentle release
Disguised as pressure
Disguised as peace
Ready to gain advantage

I'm bold release
With no loss of composure
No loss of grace
And this world is not enough
So let's make a new one

My agenda is to fuck you
My agenda is to drive you
Decent and kind
Loving and responsible
And you can drive the world

With no loss of grace
No loss of composure
You can drive the world