Noe Venable

In the studio with baby Peregrine

Posted by on Oct 25, 2015

In the studio with baby Peregrine

Well, a new little being has entered the world.  Peregrine Venable was born on September 15th, 2015.  Now she’s my recording partner.   If she would only nap, maybe I could get something done!  Why oh why do my babies always seem to wake at the precise frequency of a mouse click? Slow going…  But I think the vocals I got today are promising. I wonder how many other albums have been made while wearing a baby.  More than we know, I suspect! Autumn blessings, Noe and Peregrine...

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From the long line of mothers, it came

Posted by on Aug 11, 2015

From the long line of mothers, it came

A week ago, I sat in the control room at Tiny Telephone studio, holding the plastic Nintendo gun that controlled my talkback, the mic you use to be heard in the recording room.  Todd Sickafoose was playing piano on one of my new songs.  Hearing Todd’s piano parts, I started to feel the songs again, feel them as did when I first wrote them.  I remembered how each song came to me. The first song came after the birth of my newborn son a few years ago, as I held his tiny self in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit.  Following a traumatic birth, we were separated for five days while doctors performed tests on him.  I’d just had a Cesarian section.  My body felt hobbled, hunched, not my own.  Older than any grandmother.  Every few hours, when visiting time came around, I made the trek back to the NICU, that eerie room of tiny, dreaming souls.  My child lay in a plastic bin, stuck with electrodes, IV and wires. I sang.  I tried to commune with him.   I wanted to tell him we’d get him out of there soon.  That those torturous needles would be out soon.  That we were there, ready to enfold him in a life of safety and love. The other songs came during Ember’s first two years life, as our priorities rearranged themselves to meet the needs of this new little soul.  To our surprise, we came to see that much of what we had been culturally programmed to think about child rearing could be seen as peculiar when looked at in context of the whole human continuum. Our awakening was ongoing, as day by day we came to question and upturn almost every one of our expectations around parenting.  That our child would sleep in a crib in a separate room.  That swings, bouncy seats, or any other baby gear had anything on us when it came to soothing him. That most of life should be lived indoors.  We learned that regular, uninterrupted sleep, while nice, was actually not necessary for survival.  I learned to slow down, to value presence over activities designed to stimulate my child.  My striving became to really receive each day, filled as it was with tiny miracles. Each day, I marveled at him and at us together.  I saw now that mother and child are not really separable.  We are an interlocked duality, a communicating system.  Once I’d held independence to be of supreme importance, for myself, for others.  Now I began to see that interdependence...

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A Juniper moment if ever there was one

Posted by on Jul 24, 2015

A Juniper moment if ever there was one

I had to share this sweet moment from yesterday– Ember dreaming up in a tree he climbed.  We love the Botanical Garden these days, and the AIDS Memorial Grove, where we spend our mornings with other parents and little ones.  We dig in the dirt, splash in the puddles, savor simple things…  A pint of raspberries.  An almond cookie.  Talk and laughter under the trees.     At home in the wee hours, I spend every available moment working on my new album.  Percussion plays a big role on this one.  So I went all out with New York percussionist Mathias Kunzli.  Following our sessions, I found I had as many as thirty different tracks to sort through on some songs!  Since then, I’ve been arranging and rearranging, cutting and pasting, winnowing it down to what needs to be there, and nothing more.  Mathias says this album is my Graceland.  That’s not an album I’ve listened to a whole lot, but I’m certainly inspired by some of the same musical traditions that Simon was drawing on there.  I envy him his time spent in South Africa.  Miriam Makeba has been a heroine of mine since I read her incredible autobiography this past year.  There are so many world music musicians I would love to learn from, so many traditions I’d love to immerse in and explore. The world feels wider to me since I became a mother, more full of wisdom, connection, and other forms of richness.  Now I see and feel how many things there are to learn about beyond the radius of the places we go every day.  It’s humbling and fulfilling, learning about hunter gatherer peoples who long lived according to wisdom which I as a mother am only just now beginning to uncover.  And it’s heart wrenching to also see how much these peoples have had to endure over the last few hundred years, forced to abandon those ancient ways and languages, having their precious children taken from them and “educated,” pulled out of their sacred context and thrust into a world that made no sense. As a Mother in this world, I pray that we are now in the midst of a Great Turning.  Sometimes I think we are.  Some of you, listeners and friends, have encouraged me in this– have pointed to people and movements who swim against the tide of forgetting, and to how those movements are gaining members, gaining steam.  But in the end, I think we are each alone in...

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Where else can we dance?

Posted by on May 25, 2015

Where else can we dance?

Work continues on my new album, as yet unnamed.  It’s funny to work so intensely on it now, since there’s still so much I want and need to do with Cascadia, my last release.  Remaining Kickstarter rewards are foremost amongst those things.  We have two music videos we’re nearly done with, and the new songbook is about half completed. But with our cross country move less than a month away, this is my last chance for a while to work with the incredible New York musicians I’ve got to know here.  So I’ve had to seize the moment. Today we started laying down percussion tracks with Mathias Kunzli.  Jeff Hill is engineering.  It’s always amazing to see / hear Mathias in his percussion playground. Percussion is going to play a significant role in this album, more so than on anything I’ve released prior.  There are a few reasons for this new direction.  First, there’s all the south and west African music I’ve been listening to these last couple of years.  I discovered South African music in a choral workshop with Village Harmony, and fell completely in love with it– the syncopation, the warmth of those big open harmonies, and the laid back feel.  It’s a feel that’s completely in the body and soul.  There’s no way for our music notation to accurately capture it.  Most of the time, when you play a South African song exactly as written, it sounds completely inaccurate to how a true South African chorus would sing it. This is so different from the feel of much American music, which is often right on the beat, or else pushing forward a bit. A second inspiration for this new album has been Mathias himself.  When I first heard him play, it opened my ears to how much fun rhythm could be.  I often wonder what it must be like to BE that groovy…  I tend to hear melodies everywhere, sparks of songs, shy little poems, wanting to be written.  I wonder what it would be like to be that way with rhythm.  The city is so full of rhythm, once you start to listen for it.  Birdcalls, machinery, the screech of the subway. Becoming a mother is the third thing that’s helped me find my groove.  Maybe because sitting down is a thing of the past for a while, once you have a baby.  Little ones are happiest when they get to keep...

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Notes from the studio

Posted by on May 11, 2015

Notes from the studio

With our California departure immanent, I’ve been spending as much time as possible in the studio.  So little time, so much to record! I laid down acoustic guitars for ten new songs at Grand Street Recording, then added the incredible Todd Sickafoose on bass.  Next up is Mathias Kunzli, who will add his magic touch on percussion.  I’m sad that with our move we’ll soon be many miles away from these folks.  But we’re all pretty itinerant, so I’m hopeful we’ll find ways to work together, despite the distance. Following this work in the studio, I’m shifting my focus to home recording.  I love working in this way.  It’s a nice blend– having input from others, but then always getting to return to the cave and get really tuned in to my own muses and instincts.  My setup is minimal, really just one good mic and one good pre-amp.  But I’ve been able to do a lot with it. In California, I’m looking forward to reuniting with Daniel Berkman, who I’m hoping will add Kora and some other instruments. And it turns out that my dear friend and collaborator Yair Evnine is also going to be out there, I’ll be able to add his vocals and cello.  Beyond this, the arrangements are still finding their form.  I’m excited to discover who else will find their way into the musical soup. Meanwhile, Cascadia, my last release, is still simmering along.  I mean, it’s released, but there’s still so much I’d like to do with it.  Foremost are two music videos in the works by filmmaker Eric Daniel Metzgar.  Both of them are in the same state– NEARLY finished.  I’m hopeful that the next couple of months will bring their completion.  I’m really looking forward to sharing them with you. Also in progress is a new songbook, featuring ten songs chosen by Kickstarter Backers. This should also see the light of day in a few months.  To my Kickstarter backers, I’m sorry it’s taken so long, and I thank you for your patience.  But I’m hoping that California will bring a little more time, since we have family out there to help with childcare. Thanks for reading, I’m looking forward to sharing this new music with you. I mean, I’m THIS happy about it. All love to you, and enjoy the spring! Warmly, Noe...

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“California, I’m coming home”

Posted by on May 11, 2015

“California, I’m coming home”

Dear Friends, I’m up early, enjoying the solitude of the pre-dawn morning…  That blessed time before the toddler wakes and our “real” day begins.  I love these stolen moments, the spaces in between where you’ve been and where you’re supposed to be.  It’s funny I’ve written so many songs in the most unexpected moments…  While walking from one place to another, during transportation layovers, etc. This morning, though, I reach out to you, since I am long overdue for an update. My biggest news is that after ten years away, I am moving back to California, to the San Francisco Bay Area.  With our departure immanent, I have been taking the time to really see and appreciate all that we’ll be leaving here in Brooklyn. Foremost, I see how much I’ve come to love the people I’ve met here.  Each one of you Brooklyn friends has affected me so deeply– what I care about, what I write about, how I mother my son.  Amidst all the grave things going on right now in our world, you’ve helped me find my strength and my voice.  I am stronger for my love of all of you. I’ve also been noticing the beauty of the land here.  My son is now two and a half, and with him as my co-explorer, I’ve gotten to spend every day in Prospect Park  with its waterfalls, meadows, and hidden places..  How blessed we’ve been to ride our bike everywhere, and to watch the year unfold here.  Honestly, I find the city so overwhelming,  I don’t think I could have lasted here any other way.    At the same time as I notice these things, I am overjoyed, after so many years, to return to the place that’s always been home to me.  My last album, Cascadia was, in some sense, a landscape of dreams, filled with sense impressions of places, real and imagined.  But on another level, it was a simple love letter to wilderness.  Wilderness as the holding place of spirit.  And nowhere have I felt that more intensely than in the California wilds. Right now it looks like we’ll be moving on June 15th.  My partner is making a film this summer, so I’ll be flying solo, with one toddler, a music studio, two guitars and a cat.  Wish me luck!   Californians, I can’t wait to see you! All love, Noe...

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