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Trespass Song Notes

 Cover photo (The Big Tree)

The Big Tree (Dip River Forest Reserve, Tasmania) is a Browntop stringy bark (Eucalyptus obliqua) found throughout the cooler parts of south-eastern Australia, reaching up to 90 metres and living for hundreds of years. This Browntop has an exceptional circumference of 16 metres around the base but the tallest are found in the Florentine Valley west of Hobart, where rainfall is high and the soil very fertile. The Big Tree has escaped death from lightning strike, insect and fungal attack, bush fires and the axes of the early forest workers. 

Night Dance (Rue de Paris)

This piece is intended to echo one of those formal but intimate dances involving a large group in a circle or similar formation in, for example, the ballroom of a large manor, town hall or weatherboard community bush hall, where dance partners move together, flirt a little, then move apart and take up the next dance partner - when the music pauses for a beat or two - and start the cycle all over again. Attending a dance was once one of the few ways (once a year) of meeting and having contact with other people in a setting / event that often led to a proposal of marriage (or elopement). Picturing a Jane Austen novel, I’m striving to express the tension between the formality of the movements of the dance and people’s attire against the rare opportunity for informality through touching and speaking to a range of strangers, one of the great things that music allows. When I first played this to Heath, he told me he’d been transported to walking down a street in Paris about 3am in the morning and hearing this music waft up from a wine cellar - thus the sub-title. 

Thinking of You (Ik Heb Je Lief)

This is a two-way conversation about missing each other. Many of us work ’til way past the time we’re paid for it, while, too often, one’s partner is waiting at home, in a bar, at a restaurant etc. thinking of where the other person is and why they’re late: “Thinking of you, where are you now?”. The mental reply is “Thinking of me, you told me, thinking of me ‘ik heb je lief’. The Dutch “reply” translates directly as “I love you” but emotionally more evocatively as “You are the centre of my world” even if/when we’re not together. The final riff, and the treble piano overdub on the bridge are based on improvisations done as duets with my grandchild. Heath turned the piano overdub into something more etheral.

Copenhagen (Broken Chords)

A lot of the piano pieces on “Trespass” just flowed from the ether though my fingers onto the keyboard but this one started more conscious as minor key arpeggios (broken chords) to express the sense of disconnection (again!) from someone travelling a long way (20,000+ kms) from home. The broken chords are thus not only literally the run of notes up the piano but also how the heartstrings or bonds / cords that tie partners together in heart and mind can seem less secure when distance and less frequent personal and technological communication intercedes. Done in one take, Heath triggered a plug-in that gave those delicious deep grand piano bass notes the ‘drone’ reverb that reminds me of a Neil Young / Crazy Horse guitar break - wonderful!

iPhone Blues (3rd person)

This luscious chord sequence mixing major and minor keys was originally called “Postcard Blues” in an attempt to express the (selfish and self-centred) thought “I don’t want another postcard from you from the other side of the world, I want you home with me”. But, home with me, the void created by the smart phone’s domination of - and disruption to - our work, social and intimate lives seemed larger than the 23,000 km geographic void; with the iPhone becoming a third entity and constant presence in our lives. The song was build around the 3 closing notes of the main melody line, with me thinking in a Mississippi-delta-rich voice “I got those iPhone bluuuueess”. Slim Fitz builds a triple counterpoint to the melody, perfectly filling out the sound as if on a Hohner Blues G harmonica.

Bellbirds and Rain (A Truer Man)

During one of the recording sessions I stayed at a motel near Merimbula beach, a beautiful part of the world with long stretches of largely unspoilt (national park) coastline and the sweeping magestic ranges of the South East Forests reserves looming above them, dissected by the Snowy Mountains Highway. These forests were saved from further logging of old-growth through non-violent activists - Sting even came to lend a hand. One night it poured rain, waking me up early to the chiming sound of excited ‘bellbirds’ (Manorina melanophrys), a sound my family treasured from our annual trips up into the Blue Mountains west of Sydney, through Kurrajong Heights. Not sure why, but the peace and comfort of those sounds that morning made me feel like ‘a truer man’ (whatever that means). During a break in recording, I drove down Big Jack Mountain Road (turn off near Cathcart, for those “Catch 22” fans!) and stopped where the bridge crosses the Towamba River, where, now midday, the bellbirds were still filling the space with their twinkling, trilling, echoing song in the crisp and otherwise silent air. Slim Fitz plays the chimes as only someone who knows how this feels could; and Heath places them perfectly in the track.

I owe this song to Paul McCartney’s “Lady Madonna”. Before this recording session I had spent a month or two not being able to play anything - none of my own songs and none of my favourite Beatle / Dylan etc etc songs I knew off-by-heart in younger days. It was a weird and uncomfortable feeling sitting down at the piano and my fingers getting into knots. When I used to play lots of other people’s songs earlier in life, I’d always “sign off” with either the outro to the Beatles “Ballad of John and Yoko” or the equally rocking piano outro riff for “Lady Madonna”; so, getting fed up one day with nothing happening I thought to myself, “OK, just end it” and knocked out a rusty version of the Lady Madonna outro riff…. for my hands to just keep going from Paul’s last chord … and the curse was broken. Thanks!! (and your concert in Melbourne on the 6th of the 12th month on my 66th birthday (2017) was FAB).

The Long Way (Everything and Nothing)

Another song of loss Vs hope, as someone’s partner leaves to work in another city, triggering a separation of possibly 3 years. At the airport, as she flies away, maybe it feels - in the same moment - like one has everything and nothing, as both face the prospect of taking the long way to live together again. The melody attempts to express dread/fear and hope/belief. I really like playing the bridge chord progression, and Heath added some “Ocean Road Studio, LA” effects to give the piano a bit more depth and character.

Liefde (World of Love)

This song owes a lot to my grandson who has been improvising duets with me since he was 2 years old. Caring for him one day when he was about 4 yrs old, I was playing the second part of this track on the piano as he played with toys beside me. Not long later, with him up on the piano stool, he came out with the riff that links Part A to Part B, and closes the track - a riff that echoes my melody but adds much more. The song started with the feeling of a Dervish dance that strives to reach a spiritual trance through repetition and spinning around (so one can better feel the love of one’s God). I’d read that Dylan was interested in this phenomenon though still unsure of any song he tried it for. Having visited Turkey twice, enchanted by the people, art/music, land and sea scapes, I felt such a dance is a dance of love - a world of love.

Be Still the Night (Maelstrom)

Driving alone the 1,000-odd kilometres between two cities, as per “The Long Way” track, towards the end of a long day on the road, my mind starting telling me “just let the night be still” given how chaotic and stressful the days were in and between Sydney and Melbourne. I have some Scandinavian heritage and have a soft spot for words like “maelstrom”, which is mostly associated with strong tidal currents of North-west Norway but, interestingly, comes from a Dutch proper noun that literally means “turning stream”, first known usage being 1659. This tracks starts with disjointed and turbulent piano “daytime” dis-chords (imagine a concert orchestra playing out of tune and time) shifting to major key hymn-like reverie as peace and calm descends, evoking the still of the night. Beyond the literal interpretation is a metaphor for emotions and life choices.

Hurt (So Bad)

I was ironing when this came into my head - stopped halfway through a shirt before I lost the feeling. The demo was played hard and angry. Heath got me to feel for the melody instead, expressing the same emotion even more achingly by holding back and allowing the notes to speak not shout; and let the moment pass.

Tarkine Sunset (takayna)

This piece is intended to express the fragile beauty of the Tarkine / takayna coast line, largely intact wilderness on what is sometimes called the ‘edge of the world’. The beaches are strewn with huge logs washed down rivers in flood and thrown back on the sand by the massive winds and wave formations that travel unhindered around the Southern Ocean. The Tarkine is under threat from further mining, forestry and inappropriate recreational use and, despite the scientific and cultural value-add to the environmental treasure, is not being supported by major political parties for national park status. Thus the transitory but stunning sunsets act as a metaphor for the possible imminent loss of one of the most beautiful places on earth. This music formed the soundtrack to the Bob Brown Foundation 2017 end-of-year message and was played live at the Cygnet Folk Festival in 2019 as an opener for the “Earth Celebration” - see the “News” page for both items. On the CD, Pete Costello, Terry Mead and Ben Brinkoff add counterpoint multi-instrument touches, with studio video found on the “Welcome” page.

Wedding Song (Such Happiness)

When the mood strikes, I usually sit at the piano with a phrase in my head (like “let the night be still’ noted above) and let those words move through my fingers to the keyboard and see what happens. In this case I was consciously searching for a wedding song and started with the first few chords of Van Morrison’s “Have I Told You Lately That I love You” because a) that song was special between the groom (when a child) and myself, and b) because it is the near perfect piano-driven love song for two people who had found ‘such happiness’ in each other - though, for Van, I suspect his avowal of love is for both a person and his God. The repeated E-flat 2nd octave end notes are meant to be church bells tolling the news of their marriage far and wide, closing with the pump organ church hall breaks seamlessly introduced by Slim Fitz.

Tarkine (takayna) Sunset Revisited

The solo piano version, pure and simple, brings the CD to a fittingly melodic close. 

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