It's funny, but I feel more comfortable writing in the Weebly blog editor on this computer than a normal word processor. It might be because I don't have a normal word processor on the computer...well anyway!
On November 22, 2016, the feast of St. Cecilia the patroness of musicians, our family learned that our new baby on the way was a girl. This was very much a joy to hear because we currently have only one girl and five boys. Slowly working on leveling the ship! Furthermore, my wife and I both figured out her name independently months before we knew she was a girl. Her name: Isabel Thérèse.
Along with that beautiful news, we also got a severe diagnosis for Isabel. The technician could not find all four chambers of her heart. We learned through a later visit with a pediatric cardiologist that Isabel has a congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). Basically, she only has three chambers of the heart. Without immediate intervention after birth, this condition is fatal.
From that diagnosis, we have learned that we are in the backyard of one of the best hospitals in the country for treating this disease. Treatment is done through three surgeries over the course of three years or so, the first one within a couple of days after birth. Discovering this gave us great hope for Isabel's future.
Even so, her future is not guaranteed. So, we pray and hope. God gave us this little child for a reason, heart defects and all, and God is the good father who gives good gifts. Within this child whom the world could see as defective, my wife and I only see blessing and light. Even to the extreme that she lives only a day, this is an immortal soul who graced the planet and will sing to God in heaven. And for that, I am thankful for His gift of Isabel.
And so, I took to what I do - music. I recorded three songs in celebration of this time in our lives. I will be releasing this shortly and probably unceremoniously. These songs are an extension of my faith and are performed for God. I don't want to make a cent off of it, and I'm not looking for a following. But anyone who wants to hear, feel free and feel free to share: just because this is my expression of faith, does not mean it is unique to me.
The three songs are in a style that is rather new to me. It isn't metal, but I do use heavy guitars from time to time. No drums and plenty of acoustic guitar. Could call it acoustic, but I use electric lead guitar over it. I don't know exactly - its a hodgepodge of stuff, but I think that it works!
I will reveal the three songs when I release the album. Something is telling me that it will be on February 2. We'll see.
I humbly request prayers for Isabel and for all families who are going through situations similar to this. Thank you for taking the time to read the blog :)
Sorry for being a little late on the "official" notice on this album. but you know - better late than never!
On October 7, 2016, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, The Holy Rosary album was officially released. The Rosary, for those unfamiliar with the devotion, is a meditative prayer on the events in the life of Jesus and His blessed mother, Mary. There are two layers to the devotion. The first is the actual vocal (or mental) recitation of the prayers of the rosary. These prayers are common prayers such as the Our Father (the Lord's Prayer), the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be. Although this is the outside of the devotion, so to speak, it is not the entire devotion.
The true devotion lies in the contemplation of the actual events, their significance in salvation history, and the illustration of virtues that we as Christians are called to imitate. This contemplation is the second layer of the devotion and the true "meat" of the devotion. Although this is the main focus, in our world of distractions, it is given less focus. Although there is some merit, I believe, in the recitation of the words of the prayer, it is lacking in what grace is possible when we contemplate.
Before I get into the actual musical release, I want to lay out the organization of the mysteries. There are (currently) 20 decades of the rosary in total. They are divided into four sets of five mysteries: Joyful, Luminous, Sorrowful, and Glorious. In this order, the mysteries of the rosary go through the life, death, resurrection, ascension, and a glimpse of the eternal glory of heaven.
The music of the album helps in both of the layers of the devotion that I have outlined above. The first layer is pretty easy - I've recorded myself saying the prayers. Just say it with me and you are saying the rosary. Great - but, what of the contemplation? That is where the music comes in. Using the Wagnerian technique of leitmotif, I developed a number of "themes" that are used throughout the mysteries to call attention to various aspects of the mystery. For example, I have a journeying theme, a Jesus theme, a Mary theme, theme for revelation and angels, and a theme for the sorrows of Mary. Although I have found these useful myself, it is important for the practitioner to actually be knowledgeable of the mystery in order to contemplate; this album will not on its own infuse that knowledge.
With that in mind, I will be developing a mini-site for the rosary and its recitation here at Phrygian Phish. It will have resources on the prayers, the mysteries, and other tidbits that I have learned and run across along my own faith journey.
But, in order to better reach people, I have developed videos for each of the set of five mysteries. As I write this, I have actually released two sets - the Joyful and the Luminous. Below you will see the Joyful mysteries video.
I hope that this album is a blessing to all, and if you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Here is the entire album available for free:
About time for an update on the Rosary project, so here goes:
All of the music is done. It consists of 21 tracks with one track for the introductory prayer (what we call at home the “on ramp”) and one track for each of the twenty decades of the rosary. Musically, it would fit rather well between the Divine Mercy Chaplet and the Jesus Prayer on Last Rites’ Divine Intimacy. It gets heavy at times, but I am not in a thrash metal groove. But at the same time, it isn’t “classical” - It has a beat…some of the time.
When will it be released?
I am shooting to put together all of the music for the release by the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary on October 7th. I will put it up on Bandcamp for free download.
However, to help promote it and spread the word, I will be making five videos for YouTube: one video for each of the four sets of mysteries and one video for the entire 20 decades of the Rosary in one shot. Most people that I know who pray the rosary shoot for five decades a day, which is very attainable. By setting it up for just one set of mysteries, this can be an aid in developing consistency in praying the rosary.
OK, so that is about it for now. I'll write a little more about the prayers of the rosary before the release on October 7th.
I know that I haven't written in a while, but as my MO has been for the last several months, just because I am quiet, doesn't mean that I have not been busy. In fact, I have recently finished a rough draft of what will be the next official musical release this year: the Holy Rosary. For many years, I wanted to record music to help accompany the recitation of the rosary. The rosary is a very powerful devotion in which I have felt the effects of grace first hand in my own life. The purpose of writing music to accompany the recitation of the rosary is to facilitate an ease in 1) the actual recitation of the rosary, 2) the focused meditation on each mystery of the rosary, and 3) the removal of distractions.
It is rather easy to see why it is easier to recite if you have a voice to recite with it, so I am not going to expound on the first reason. The second reason, the focused meditation on each mystery, speaks to the musical structure and how that relates to the rosary. Just as an overview, the twenty mysteries of the rosary are twenty events in the lives of Jesus and Mary in which we meditate on their meaning in salvation history and how that relates to our lives. For each mystery, a decade of "Hail Mary"s are prayed along with an "Our Father" bead. There are many recurring spiritual themes over the course of the twenty mysteries which I have tried my best to reflect what I could in music. I have written music specific to each mystery using the technique of leitmotif to translate spiritual themes into musical themes.
The third reason is somewhat odd. My original intention in doing this recording was so that my family and I could recite the entire rosary on long car rides. When I play the CD, everyone in the van (there are eight of us currently) all settle down and know that we are focusing on the rosary. In contrast, when reciting the rosary au natural, interruptions abound both from the littlest of children to me (if you can believe it!). With the recording, you feel compelled to continue praying and leave the distractions behind.
And as a secondary characteristic of listening to music is that the music gets into your head. And, what easier way is there to pray without ceasing than to pray with the tune that can't get out of your head!
I do want to stress, that I am not advocating a better way to recite the rosary, but rather a useful prayer aid. To be honest, the most efficacious recitation of the rosary would be in silence, preferably before the Blessed Sacrament. But we don't always have that option everyday at every hour. I believe that the use of music can help defend against the noise of the world and pull ourselves closer to God.
With this release, I believe that God is calling me to work towards promoting prayer. Although much of the apologetics and the new evangelization is centered on reasoning one's way to Christianity or Catholicism, I believe that a surer way to conversion is through prayer, both by the faithful and the unconverted. I am prayerfully discerning the beginning of a ministry either later this year or early next year that will do just that. I humbly request your prayers as I discern God's Will for my life and Phrygian Phish.
Stay tuned for more information on the Holy Rosary soon!
This has been my musical project since early May and it has finally come to fruition. “What is it?”, you might ask. Well, put simply, this is a musical accompaniment to a string of St. Gertrude Prayers which we call a St. Gertrude Chaplet. So, before I share the musical side, let me give you some background on the prayer being said.
What is the St. Gertrude Prayer?
The St. Gertrude Prayer is as follows:
Eternal Father, I offer thee the most precious blood of thy divine Son, Jesus Christ, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the holy souls in purgatory and for sinners everywhere, those in the Universal Church in my home and in my family. Amen.
This prayer was originally given to St. Gertrude as a devotion to the souls in purgatory. I will briefly explain purgatory below, but the purpose of the prayer is to lessen the suffering of the souls in purgatory. Our Lord said that 1,000 souls would be released from purgatory every time that this prayer is said.
Later (I think in the 1800s), the phrase and for sinners everywhere was added to include a benefit to souls that have not yet died.
What is Purgatory?
Purgatory is a place for souls that have died in a state of grace in order to purify themselves before entering into heaven. How I understand it is that all souls cling to this material world in one way or another and do not fully embrace the promise of Eternal Life with God. Purgatory is where we break those last bonds and purify the effects of our sins that bind us to the world. The Biblical basis for Purgatory is based on 2 Maccabees which is not included in Protestant Bibles. Purgatory is often depicted as a place with lots of flames and fire much akin to hell, but much more joyful. All souls in Purgatory will eventually be in heaven.
What is a Chaplet?
A chaplet can be simply stated as a compound prayer. So if you think of a compound word as two or more words put together to make a bigger word, a chaplet is where we put several prayers together to make a longer prayer. Usually these are repetitive and require the use of beads in order to “keep track” of the prayers recited. The concept of a chaplet could be easily extended to praying perpetually such as the devotion of the “Jesus Prayer” in Eastern Catholicism and Orthodoxy.
The classic example of a chaplet is the Holy Rosary. Another is the Divine Mercy Chaplet. The purpose of repeating the prayer is to pull the devotee into a deeper meditation on the mystery or Theological truth that is being contemplated. Although repetitive prayers could be viewed as redundant, the graces that are called down by each prayer are far more than we will know on earth. Furthermore, through repetitive recitations, the prayer then becomes ingrained into our being helping to purify our thoughts and actions.
The St. Gertrude Chaplet presented here is praying a St. Gertrude prayer for every bead on the rosary, starting at the crucifix, going around the “loop” and back down to the crucifix. So, five beads get used twice. If you do the math right, you get 64 (10x5 (five decades) + 5x2 (five beads to the crucifix used twice) + 4x1 (the four “Our Father” beads between the decades on the loop)), which is a very nifty number.
Why write music for a chaplet?
Simple: help keep you in the game. Anyone who has prayed the Rosary with regularity has noticed that your mind can wander. It is very easy to lose the contemplation side of praying a chaplet or the Rosary.
The goal for writing music for the St. Gertrude Chaplet is to keep you moving forward. There is a clear amount of time in order to say the prayer which is good if you are praying by yourself. Without music it would be much easier to stop in order to attend to menial distractions (such as checking that text message) because you have no “drummer” to keep time.
Secondly, music can get stuck in your head. Ever have a tune that won’t get out? Furthermore, you know how annoying it is when the lyrics are trivial and banal? What if you got music stuck in your head that pulls you to recite a prayer instead; for it to lift your soul upwards? How cool would that be?! Well, that’s another reason that I decided to write music. And speaking from my experience, it works.
Thirdly, it creates an atmosphere for contemplation. We have six kids who can be quite loud inside of our minivan. But, once we put this on, they’re quietly listening to the music. Not only does it keep you from checking your personal distractions, but also eliminates other distractions.
Haven’t you done music for chaplets like this before?
Yes – I have done the Divine Mercy Chaplet and a perpetual Jesus Prayer track under the Last Rites moniker. Both are on the “Divine Intimacy” album which is available for free on Bandcamp and Soundcloud. Since Last Rites is my metal persona, it is heavier and more distorted/dissonant than my other Phrygian Phish compositions.
Are you going to do any other chaplets?
Maybe – if God so deigns it to happen. Now, can we get back to the topic at hand?
Sorry, so tell me about the music of the St. Gertrude Chaplet.
I am a mathematician by training. I like numbers and in particular, I like patterns. I previously worked on a project where I made music using fractal patterns. Basically taking a pattern and reiterating it on a smaller scale. Noticing that we had such a nice number of prayers to work with (64), I decided to split it into eight groups of eight prayers.
But how long would a prayer be in music? This took a lot of time conducting myself while saying the prayer and counting measures while I did it until I got a comfortable configuration. How I did this, I couldn’t tell you. But it turned out that going 100 beats a minute in 4/4 time, I could comfortably recite a single prayer in eight measures. Hmm…eight measures. So, eight sections of eight prayers which are eight measures long? This was great!
So, what I did is for each prayer in a section, I wrote a chord progression that was a descending fifth pattern (or ascending fourth if you prefer). Eight chords: one for each measure. In terms of scale degrees this was: I-IV-VII-III-VI-II-V-I. For every prayer, this was the relative chord progression. That means that this chord progression sounds different if we are in different keys, which I changed keys for each section of eight prayers. How did I change the keys in each section? Well, used the same pattern that I used in the chord progression.
OK, so this is going to be confusing to most people, but I am going to attempt to illuminate how all of this works together like a fractal:
The first section is in E minor. The E minor scale is E – F# - G – A – B – C – D – E. Now, think of them as numbers 1-8 where E is 1. OK, using the pattern above (and ignore the roman numerals – just translate I, II, III into 1, 2, 3) and using those as chord, my progression for each prayer in the first section is:
Emin – Amin – Dmaj – Gmaj – Cmaj – F#dim – Bmin – Emin.
So, this progression is used eight times for the first section. For the next section I changed keys from E minor to A minor. Look at the chord progression for the prayer in the first section. In the progression I went from an E minor chord to an A minor chord. Now I am going from the key of E minor in the first section to the key of A minor in the second section. So, using the progression for that first prayer, I figure the keys for each of the remaining seven sections. Then for each key, I build the chord progression in the same manner as before (number the scale degrees and the progression is 1-4-7-3-6-2-5-1. Whether a given scale degree is major/minor/diminished depends on the key).
And that is the point where the pure pattern ends. From there I wrote different musical themes and variations to keep the listener interested. In fact, I used quite a bit of mixture and the final section is actually in E major, not E minor. Oh, and the last “1” chord is actually a cadential I-6-4 chord to either a V7 or a regular V.
ZZzzzz….are you done yet?
OK, I’m done explaining.
So who all helped?
Well, I wrote the music so that we could actually say the prayer with the music. I may have mentioned this earlier, but my family and I took over the maintenance of MTEP.com, which is a Catholic apostolate to help spread the devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory through the recitation of the St. Gertrude Prayer.
But, without someone saying it along with the music, it was easy to get lost (especially for people that weren’t me). So, I recorded myself, my wife, Samantha, and two of my children, Joey and Rosemary, to help keep people on track when using the music.
The recording of the voices can be a little disjoint, but that is natural. I like it. We’re not perfect, and to be honest, that isn’t what I was after. I wanted to record four people praying the prayers, not reciting a poem in unison.
This sounds cool, can I download it?
Sure! I have both the Chaplet with recitation and just the orchestra available. And both are free. Also, Samantha put together this ultra-nifty video on Youtube (see below) that you can share with folks!
I hope that you all enjoy the music. Spread the devotion to the Holy Souls in Purgatory and please pledge your prayers at MTEP.com.
Here we go, moving along with the Psalm project here with Psalm 8. This is a shorter track in the pantheon of Last Rites tracks and simpler in instrumentation. I'm experimenting with paring down and that simpler is better. Many of my songs have so many different instruments going on that its hard to keep track of them all and make sure that they are heard AND not sound like a circus of noise.
It is very catchy and a nice way to start the day. Second only to a good cup of joe.
I am still learning how I want to do the format of these things. I do like to share the technical side of things without getting too into the details. So, I'm going to see how this goes.
I'm making use of my new favorite key of D major and I don't really modulate to a minor key (although I use minor chords in the D major key). Well, I do modulate out using "gear-change" key changes (whole step key changes without use of a V-I cadence: D major to E major to F# major).
As I said, I'm really only using a couple of instrument tracks - much fewer than I usually run. In the heat of it, I have two rhythm guitar tracks, one lead guitar, one bass, a consolidated drum, and two vocals. Hmmm...putting it that way, it sounds like a lot, at least more than though. Oh well...
I don't know what else to put in here, so if you have suggestions, please feel free to comment.
Anyone following my facebook page will know that I have been working on an orchestral work that will hopefully be released next. I am not going to be releasing this under Last Rites - this will be purely Phrygian Phish material. It is for MTEP and features the recitation of the St. Gertrude Prayer.
For Last Rites, I have Psalm 9 next. Since I am using Douay-Rheims, I will be diverging from modern translations of the Bible that separate Psalm 9 into Psalms 9 and 10. Just on that, it will be longer than usual. I am hoping to have this one done by the end of the summer...we will see.
And lastly, I have a new toy! Well, not a physical toy, but new software: Sonic Pi. This is some really cool stuff - you can basically code music and not only that, you can change the code as it is running creating a live performance of coding. For the kid who programmed Mortal Kombat on his graphing calculator in High School, this is a dream come true. The flexibility to explore fractals, serialism in a non-diatonic state, and all sorts of really cool stuff is making the future bright for Phrygian Phish production. I'll write more later on it once I have something to share.
So that is it for now! Please feel free to download and share Psalm 8!
I feel that it gets pretty quiet around here when I am not posting here every other day gearing up for Renatus. Now, I feel like we are getting into a good holding pattern.
So, yeah - new music! Last Rites nonetheless. Wait a minute...didn't you just release an album? Yep, but I'm not letting that get in the way of making more music. This will be the way of the future for Phrygian Phish for the moment. Once I finish a song, it goes out. However, over the horizon looms a project that just wouldn't be done justice if I released it in pieces. When we get there, we'll figure it out.
The goal is to have one thing a month released. Or so....I am not going to hold to a definite here. I'm going to say at least one a month. Probably more.
Anyway, to the subject at hand - Psalm 7. Looking good on not falling off the bandwagon on this Psalm project thing. Reading the Psalm, I got a sense of urgency in the Psalmists' words so I translated that into fast(-ish) thrash metal. For those familiar with Last Rites' catalog, think Wisdom of Job. Tonically, I am living around D major/B minor with some overtures to the octotonic scale. For some reason I like playing in this key...don't know why. But that is why I kept it for Psalm 8 as well, which will be released later this month!
Without further ado, here is Psalm 7!
It seems like the month of March was a crazy month for posting blogs on here, but now it seems like things have slowed down. Well, that is what it looks like. The fact is, there is a LOT going on behind the scenes. So lemme clue you in on it.
Routenote - Fractals
About a month ago, I let everyone know that I was test driving the Routenote digital distribution model for my album Fractals and that I would tell you how it went or is going. Well, here we are about a month out and I have to say, that it looks like it is doing what it is supposed to be doing. I have seen Fractals land on Amazon mp3, iTunes, and Spotify - the three spots that I want to make sure that I had exposure. So far I haven't seen any money on it, but they are greatly lagged in their reporting of earnings. Not as lagged as reinsurance reporting though, so I guess things could be worse!
Routenote - Last Rites
Considering that I want to increase exposure for Last Rites, especially through streaming services, I am going to release the latest two Last Rites (Divine Intimacy and Renatus) albums through Routenote. Because Last Rites is not a for profit venture (heck - Phrygian Phish doesn't make money in a year for me to take my family for pizza!) I'm not worried about having everything for free on sites like soundcloud and bandcamp. I just sent out Divine Intimacy and will prepare Renatus for Routenote treatment later this week.
I'll give an update on that when I notice them hitting the sites.
What is MTEP? Well, it is an apostolate (i.e. Catholic ministry) that we inherited from my in-laws. It stands for "Mission to Empty Purgatory". The goal of the ministry is to spread awareness of the St. Gertrude prayer to aid the souls in Purgatory. Through praying, we can help alleviate these souls who are destined for heaven, but need to fully burn off the trappings of earth. Check it out!
But the reason I wanted to point it out is that I am writing music now for the site. It will be a twenty minute long piece that is loosely based on my nontrademark fractals technique. It is going to be epic, so stay tuned!
I am already hard at work on more Last Rites music. I have two more psalms largely mixed with a couple of edits left and then it is off to the mastering. Once I am done with them, I am going to release them. So stay tuned.
I think that is about it. Back to your regularly scheduled Tuesday!
Renatus is now officially released. As mentioned before, and I'll say it again, it is free to download. I have it in a couple of different spots for you all....well two really:
Bandcamp - I have a new Bandcamp site. You do not have to pay to download the album - however - I only have 200 free downloads per month, so, if that gets exhausted then folks will have to pay. I don't mind folks paying, I'm donating all proceeds for Last Rites to charity, but if you volunteer to pay, then it saves on the number of free downloads for other folks. So that you don't feel pressured - I doubt that I will use up all 200 free downloads in a month!
SoundCloud - Here is the set of Renatus on SoundCloud and you can download every track if you want.
Now, if you want an actual physical copy of the CD, that is not free. I did not press CDs to give out for this release, however, there are two spots that you can get a copy:
Oh but wait...THERE'S MORE!
As I mentioned earlier in the Lenten season, I was going to release the Last Rites back catalog for free. I am proud to announce that I have gotten all of it out there in some form or another, but not all in one place. If you haven't checked it out already, check out the Discography section of Last Rites to find where you can download each of Last Rites' releases for free.
Also, for those into physical CDs, I am offering to ship for free Last Rites CDs in the Free Last Rites Program. Just sent me an address (I don't even need your real name...I kind of relish sending to Lord Vader in Alaska) and I will ship it. Simple.
Anyway - thank you all for your support and I hope you all have a blessed Easter season. Stay tuned though....I have two new psalms in the works that will probably be released within a month or so!
Just when you thought that I could only talk about Last Rites, I'm throwing a curveball at you. Just the other day I realized to my horror that my album Fractals - the one and only worst selling album of ALL TIME - was no longer available by mp3 on Amazon. Knowing that most folks buy mp3s and stream music (and amazon mp3 is not at the top of most folks radars in that regard), I figured I had to do something about it. Which leads me to the next part.
I am test driving a free digital distribution service called Routenote. I by no means am getting paid for saying anything about it, but I thought that it would be good to give an open an honest account of what this service is like just in case anyone, like me, finds themselves in the need of digital distribution.
So basically, the service touts itself as free digital distribution so that means nothing paid up front. This is in contrast to CDBaby which I have used for digital distribution for my other releases. Some services charge upwards of $29 to do distribution. So why does Routenote do it for free?
The only reason that I can see is that the free service has a 15% commission on all royalties, which really doesn't bother me - 15% of zero is still zero right? Well, hopefully there will be someone out there buying it. They do offer a Premium service where you pay a fee and you keep 100% of your royalties, but even that is less than what other services charge with a commission.
So, which means the difference must be in service and how well they do their job which is why I am writing this post. I don't know how well they do their job and so far, I can't say yay or nay. When I compare to using CDBaby, it feels less put together. It isn't as polished as I think that it could be. So far I don't see any evidence that it has made it to any shops except iTunes which is usually quick. I'll give you all an update as I go along.
I am eyeing this service for my Last Rites releases Divine Intimacy and Renatus. On the one hand, I want to have my music available for free - which it is if you go to the bandcamp or SoundCloud sites - but I am thinking about trying to increase exposure particularly through streaming services like Spotify. I could end up with some residual income from Last Rites going that route, but I am giving all of that to charity. If people really want it for free, it is available.
Anyway, as Fractals becomes live and I get more exposure to how well Routenote works, I'll let everyone know.
I hope everyone has a good Holy Week!
About The Blog
This is the news blog of Phrygian Phish. Check out here for news on Phrygian Phish projects like Last Rites, Beyond the Dice, and other Sean Bailey projects.