Noe Venable

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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Thoughts on Goldenrod

Posted by on Nov 2, 2014

Thoughts on Goldenrod

Our new music video, Goldenrod, is up!  Kickstarter backers can preview it now, and all others will be able to see it shortly. Now that the video is finished, Eric and I look at it and say, WOW, how did we do that?  And what did we do, exactly?  This is often the feeling that art gives me, especially my own art.  I feel both connected to it, and disconnected from it, so that it shocks and puzzles me, even as putting it out there brings release. For this video, we wanted to show a group of people coming together to create ritual.  We decided to document a gathering of unusual, clearly defined characters.  It would involve dancing and fire.  Beyond that, we didn’t plan much.  We had a location, a man in a tree suit, some fire, some fuel.  We stationed lookouts at the periphery.  And then we went to it. My little son, Ember snuggled with his grandmother a safe distance from the flames, and I thought about how long it had been since we were all outside under the stars.  Too long, I thought, living in the city. The theme we sought most to emphasize in this song is the yearning to transcend ones individual self and reconnect with something greater.  We played a lot with the idea of wildness.  Not wildness as something separate and other, but rather wildness as our genesis and birthright. My own costume is an homage to indigenous peoples, whose life ways have always honored the principles that modern environmentalism is just coming around to.  Most importantly, that the earth is not simply a material, passive thing to be objectified and used for its resources.  Rather, Earth’s rhythms need our participation and support.  What we call “nature” is not separate from us.  It is the true whole to which we belong.   If my costume is an homage, it also reflects my own situatedness, and the people who are dear to me.  The top that I wear in the video, the Guatemalan huipil, is worn in honor of my Godparents, an always source of wisdom and strength to me.  The yellow cloth at my waist comes from my mother, and honors her loving support.  The headdress I made of ribbons are for my grandmother, who cherished bright colors, and saw beauty wherever she went. Wearing these things helped me feel them with me, and in that sense, our...

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Things to love: Community radio!

Posted by on Jul 18, 2014

Things to love:  Community radio!

Well, we did it!  Hundreds of packages have gone into the mails, and are on their way to our Kickstarter backers.  Packing them up was a daily opportunity to feel, again, so much gratitude to everyone.  Again, thank you so much for making this possible. A couple of things are still in the works:  1)  Music videos.  One of the songs will be chosen by backer vote, and we want to give our Kickstarter backers some time with the album before we ask for their choice.   2)  The second songbook.  I’ll start working on this in the fall, and hope to have it out by this winter.  Songbooks are very labor intensive, as I learned this past year while creating the Cascadia Songbook.  But I’m really looking forward to starting work on it. In other news, press is starting to roll in about the album.  Our amazing publicist, Jean Shirk, informs me that there will be a couple of news features on the album that will run next week in the San Francisco Chronicle and Examiner. Also, this evening we played live on KPFA radio on the Bonnie Simmons show.  After so many years away from the bay area, it was surreal and moving to return to KPFA.  Bookshelf altars and walls decked with portrait art of radicals…  Brilliant people so passionate about what they do, working under the radar to share music and messages.   There’s nothing quite like community radio, especially in the bay area. Now that I’m home again, I find myself questioning my sound-mindedness for ever having left this place.  I sincerely hope it will not be too many years before I find my way back home here for good. Well, goodnight dear readers.  I’ve got a little one to sing to sleep! Wishing you wellness and joy,...

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“Let Us Welcome a New Star”

Posted by on Jun 19, 2014

“Let Us Welcome a New Star”

People who have visited my Kickstarter page may wonder why Cascadia is listed as having thirteen songs, when the physical copy of the CD lists only twelve.  The reason is that midway through the campaign, I decided to remove one track from the sequence, and instead to offer it as a bonus track.  All Kickstarter backers received a link to this track along with their rewards.  It also appears in the Cascadia songbook. The song is called “Let Us Welcome a New Star.” Today, I want to share the story behind this song.  “Let Us Welcome a New Star” is dedicated to Volary’s Samantha Lien.  Samantha battled cancer before her too brief life ended, shy of her fortieth birthday.  During this time, she recorded her debut album of original songs, Out of Shadows. This song was written during a time when I had not seen Samantha for several years. I knew that she had been ill. I had only met her a few times, but I thought of her often. I had recently gone back to school, where I had taken an astronomy course in addition to my courses in comparative religion. So I was thinking about stars, about time, about impossible distances. And I was thinking about Sam. Early this year, Samantha’s partner Alex wrote to me to let me know that she had passed. From his description, I had the sense that despite all of the pain that she had experienced, she had also come into a great and powerful beauty– realizing the preciousness of life, and living it to the absolute fullest.  Alex shared that he and Sam had been wed at Commonweal, a spiritual center that brings together people undergoing cancer’s initiation. I was honored and moved to hear that they had played my song “Woods Part of When” at their wedding. They had also created a music video for one of Samantha’s songs, “Blackbird Fly.” Recently, Alex traveled to Sam’s home country of Australia. There, at Cape Tribulation in the Queensland rainforest, he carved a memorial to her in stone. He plans to carve a similar memorial on a stone near Commonweal– two stones drawing a connect-the-dots line between two places that were dear to her, and between the two countries that made up an important part of her identity. Samantha had a message to share with others who might hear of her music,...

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