The Evolution of a Zenahora Music Project Track

All creative endeavors have influences, even as they themselves influence the birth of others in life’s cycles of artistic expression. The Zenahora Music Project was established to help facilitate that process; here is one example of how it can happen.

Ismael and I had been playing music together for some time when we discovered our mutual appreciation for the production skills of DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill – in particular, tracks from the classic first album like “Real Estate”:

You could imagine Muggs himself listening for the first time to “Sexy Coffee Pot” from Tony Alvon & The Belairs, the song that he samples for the killer bass line:

We started jamming around to it one day, and one thing led to another until we came up with our own little riff (DISCLAIMER: In no way is The Zenahora Music Project or anyone involved with it trying to compare either “Real Estate” or “Sexy Coffee Pot” – two of the funkiest songs of all time – to this simple composite of an improvised jam session from two guys in a garage on a Monday afternoon in San Francisco.)

Now comes the really cool part – Ismael had another, much more formal project going called The Neybuzz, which since 2006 has released 6 albums worth of material, a good portion of which was influenced by the jam sessions we had between 2003 and 2006. In my opinion, the best of this material is the song “Katrina” from the 2006 album “Heavy Soulz”, which has a variation of the Rhumba Real Estate bass line featured in The Zenahora Music Project:

With Eddie Sassin providing a solid rhythm on the drums and Candi Sosa lighting up the track with her vocals, this simple idea for a groove took on a totally new vibe and reached a whole different level – and that’s the intention. Ismael has set the bar pretty high with The Neybuzz version of this track, but we’re hoping to see and hear more from others as well in the future.

Take a listen to the tracks from The Zenahora Music Project and see if you can hear something new in them – and then let us know what you come up with at zenahora@gmail.com

“Boy Meets Girl, The End” paperback on sale at amazon.com

November has been a great month for “Boy Meets Girl, The End“, with over 750 new readers downloading the e-book for free during a 5 day amazon.com promotion, and a couple even getting a copy in the Lending Library. For anyone that has an Amazon Prime membership for their Kindle, the Lending Library offers a ton of books to “borrow” (one book a month, for free), plus all kinds of movies and TV shows, blah blah blah, 2-day shipping, woopdie doo, who cares about all that – the big news is there’s free books for you! Well, not freeeeee, actually – it’s about $7/month for the membership, but it’s money that DIRECTLY SUPPORTS THE WRITERS; no matter whether the e-book is sold or lent, the author gets a portion of the proceeds, so just borrowing a book in the Lending Library helps keep your favorite authors writing.

Amazon has also decided to drop the price of the paperback from $19.99 to $13.49 on the US site (with corresponding price reductions on the international sites), and since I receive the same amount per copy regardless, I WOULD HIGHLY ADVISE YOU TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF THEIR GENEROSITY AND BUY A PAPERBACK COPY NOW. And thanks for the gift, Amazon, you’re a pal…

Okay, enough with the corporate whoring for today, the good news on book two is that I’ve completely changed the story. Okay, not completely, but some shit has gone down and it was pretty epic and I’m really pretty psyched about it. Basically, for the last half a year I’ve been trying to fit an idealized story in my head into a framework that didn’t quite suit it, and while it’s been an interesting process that sparked some good side effects, the overall struggle has been pretty frustrating. I usually run some of my ideas past my wife, partly because she’s funding this whole author-pipe-dream and I feel it necessary to keep her updated (sometimes), partly because we just love to talk about things we are excited about – but also because she’s a good first responder on the “What would the reader feel about this?” front. I don’t give credence to all of her responses, but there are some that stand out pretty strongly right away – and this past week while running plot lines by her she immediately questioned a couple that tapped into this whole idealized story vs. framework issue. Naturally, I defended them on the spot (I mean, it’s not like I don’t spend enough time thinking them through before I talk with her about them), but for whatever reason, the next day it all hit me in a new light. Epiphanic, it was. Scary as hell too, as I sat there staring at the storyboard on the wall thinking that I had just wasted 6 months of writing time on something that I knew I had to change, and be able to justify it to the boss.

I had about two hours before she would be home, so I started getting my case together by writing down some new ideas and piecing them together with parts of the story already written that still worked – and sure enough, just seeing her facial expressions as I talked confirmed what I knew to be the right path to take. Frankly, at that point, even if she argued with me about it I would have stayed my ground – you always know the best way to get out your own expression. But seeing the acknowledgement of what we know in someone else’s eyes is an amazing experience, and I started writing again with a renewed sense of mission.

And all that time spent writing already, just to see the ideas scrapped? It was well worth it, if what comes from all of this is more in tune with what I want to express and what you’d like to read.

I’ll leave you with a little news blurb that just popped up on the nytimes.com page an hour ago – this is a central theme in book two, and every time I see something new about this field I know (once again) that I’m on the right path…

German word of the day – “Bildungsroman”

Yesterday I learned a new German word – but not because I live in a German speaking region, and not because I read Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha” or any commentary about it in its native language (though admittedly these would actually be good present day activities for me – but I digress…)

I’m not even exactly sure how I stumbled on this word anymore, because it was one of those strange moments where a bunch of divergent aspects of my life came together and suddenly made sense in a brand new context (which, ironically, is best described by another German word commonly used in English) and I’m like 10 degrees of separation away from that original context now.

What is important is that I have a new word to represent what I already understood well – the concept of the “coming-of-age” story, which is pretty much what “Bildungsroman” translates as in English (and do yourself a favor and play the little pronunciation samples they have embedded in the definition, just for the hell of it – they give you the English singular and German plural versions and I bet neither of them are what you’d expect this word to sound like if you are a native English speaker).

Bildungsroman - from "erase pen" http://www.dipity.com/tickr/Flickr-erase-pen/

A Bildungsroman novel is usually about a kid and how he/she grows up to be a man/woman, or as this article cites, it’s a story “which focuses on the psychological and moral growth of the protagonist from youth to adulthood.” This author, who focuses on Victorian era literature (of which apparently this genre was very popular), breaks it down like this:

1. A Bildungsroman is, most generally, the story of a single individual’s growth and development within the context of a defined social order. The growth process, at its roots a quest story, has been described as both “an apprenticeship to life” and a “search for meaningful existence within society.”

2. To spur the hero or heroine on to their journey, some form of loss or discontent must jar them at an early stage away from the home or family setting.

3. The process of maturity is long, arduous, and gradual, consisting of repeated clashes between the protagonist’s needs and desires and the views and judgments enforced by an unbending social order.

4. Eventually, the spirit and values of the social order become manifest in the protagonist, who is then accommodated into society. The novel ends with an assessment by the protagonist of himself and his new place in that society.

Now, if you’ve read my book already, then you know what I’m getting at with all of this: basically, my book can be aligned with this genre pretty well (and that’s not something I’d really like to admit, since I’ve been resisting pigeonholing this funny, sad, insane, sensible, repulsive, enlightening, common sense and amazingly ordinary story into a nice little convenient marketing package, on principle alone).

But there’s a couple of distinctions I would make (as other sub-genres of this literary device have as well):

  • The main protagonist in my book, Cecil Adams, isn’t a child – but “maturity” is a subjective thing, and a key aspect of his character’s personality development
  • and “the spirit and values of the social order become(ing) manifest in the protagonist, who is then accommodated into society” isn’t the issue in this story – actually, it’s the complete opposite (unless you consider “the social order” to be metaphorical and spiritual in nature – but that’s a different conversation for another time…) and the premise that the character must be accommodated in-to society is actually the cause of the original problem.

And so I’ve decided to create my own subgenre of the Bildungsroman: the Antibildungsroman. You know, Google Translate doesn’t always do the best job, but when it comes up with gems like that one, it makes up for a lot of strange translations. If you flip it around and write it as “anti-education novel”, it describes succinctly how the “antagonist” Linda challenges Cecil’s “education” in life (specifically, what it means to be a man, but really, what it means to be human); and if you leave it as “novel anti-education”, and think of the adjective form of the word novel (“of a new kind; different from anything seen or known before”), then it still works (at least for me…)

And so here it is:

  • Antibildungsroman: a story that traces the psychological and moral growth of characters (protagonists and/or antagonists) as they endure repeated clashes between their needs and desires and the social order they learned them from, culminating in a perceptual epiphany that alters their existence (and those around them) indelibly.

Eventually I’m going to have to come up with a more directly English variant on this word, because it’s just too much of a mouthful – but for now, I’m pleased as punch to have something that can get across the wide array of themes in this novel in a more concise and efficient way.