13 December 2011

Effing the Ineffable

Wend Elsen's spoken word piece, Effing the Ineffable, over guitar, loops, and bass by Laramie Crocker. Or, the Headphone mix
Title by Matt Dean.
Song version: 4, Date: 20111216

06 November 2011


A new song for my lover.


copyright 2011 Laramie Crocker
Comin' home to you
is like comin' home to me
comin' home to me
I look around
and its you
I see
comin' home to me

so I'm askin you
come home to me
comin' home to you

04 November 2011

On Killy Yorn

Here's a song I recorded today (after doing it last night in a nice set with Richard Berman and Wend Elsen, at the new open mic at Cafe Yesterday, hosted by Sam Weinstein).   I wrote the song in 2000.  We continue to sing it all the time, since people request it.  So now it's going to open Redemption, the opera, even though it wasn't on Redemption, the studio album.  In the opera, it is an excuse to have a Morris dance open the show!  Give a listen:

20 August 2011

Small Truss Houses - Details

Here are some details for the small truss house I'm building, showing how the lumber overlaps to form simple, strong joints without much cutting.  Click on pictures to see them full-size.

I also mitered the corners of the overhanging lower truss chords, for a little decoration.  You can make them even more decorative with carving, stencils, etc.

10 August 2011

Small Truss Houses

My new book (part Walden, part Sears-Robuck house catalog) is an open-source pile of drawings, plans, and models, for designing and building small houses using hand-built trusses from standard, dimensional lumber.

Here's the new cover design (click to see full image).
Please read more in the previous post, A Shack of One's Own.

Small Truss Houses are houses based on small trusses, or small versions of Truss-Houses.   This book details five such house designs, with plans and drawings.

Modern, factory-built and site-built houses are typically "stick-built" (also called "stick-framed") and are often built as "California Construction" or "Platform Framed," so that each layer or storey goes on like layers of a wedding cake: a floor, a wall, a floor, a wall, ... a ceiling, a roof.

A Truss House, howeveris built around a truss frame, so that traditional elements of stick framing are instead integral to the trusses themselves, and each storey is contained in a truss frame.  "Balloon Framing" also ties the floor and ceiling into a kind of truss.  In a Truss House, each truss contains boards that function as floor, wall, ceiling, and roof.

The designs in this volume are all variations on a particularly elegant and strong kind of truss known as a "scissor truss."  Julia Morgan, Bernard Maybeck, and the brothers Greene and Greene all used scissor trusses at some point in their best-loved Craftsman designs.

The designs in this series all use dimensional lumber, which is wood that you can buy at any good lumber yard, and will be the most standard and cheaply available lumber.

In the book, I take you through the simple steps needed to buy standard lumber, assemble it yourself with simple tools, and build inexpensive, strong, lightweight structures for living.  I present complete, original designs with simple, elegant line renderings.  Along the way,  I'll cover engineering, efficiency, and personal independence.  Independence from bankers, independence from factory-built homes.   The designs are all open-source--you can build one following a plan exactly, or read how to extend the designs in the book yourself, to create unique, personal buildings based on the same structural principles and construction methods.

The print version will include building plans, text, and photos of completed buildings.  The open source online version will include the sketchup models.

01 August 2011

A Shack of One's Own

I'm building a shack in the woods in Vermont. I used Google Sketchup to mock up the frame and figure out the angles and dimensions. Plus hours and hours with the Orbit tool. I'm a carpenter, so I actually mitered the intersections, but I designed the whole thing to be built with uncut, dimensional lumber readily available in standard lengths with minimal waste, tall ceiling, good snow load capacity, and snow shedding dimensions.

Including buying a new nail gun, and a 500 foot spool of #8 wire to get power to the shack, and hiring a laborer for one day, the house has cost 1500 $US to date, including foundation, frame, floor ply, wall ply, and galvanized roofing, but nothing else. Labor up to the point in the photos has been 3 days of a journey level carpenter, plus 1 apprentice carpenter for 1 day, plus two apprentices for 3 days.

After the photos, add 4 hours of journeyman carpenter to install roof purlins, then 2 hours of journeyman and 2 hours with two apprentices to install 6 sheets of galvanized roofing panels, which are 16' long and 32" wide.  The roofing panels went up easily, with the ladder going up inside the building, poking through the trusses, which was very stable and secure.  The last roofing sheet had to be screwed on with the ladder outside the building, which is a bit sketchy as the peak of the roof is about 17' off the ground.  If you aren't comfortable on ladders, you'd want to spend the extra time to set up some scaffolding.

I've included photos of the shack.  The sketchup model is here: LaramieCrocker.com/download/truss+ply.skp

( You should be able to view it with the freely available google sketchup program: http://sketchup.google.com/ )

Here are some movies from my desktop showing the model from all sides.

Truss Shack (full-size)
Truss Shack (medium)
Truss Shack (small)

Here we are air-nailing the trusses on the platform, and standing them up, on-site.
Cast of characters: Laramie Crocker, Lukas Holst, Jordy Holst, Greg Goedewaagen.

10 July 2011

9 Days Out (album: The Death of Finbar McGrath)

Here's a demo recording of 9 Days Out, from the upcoming "The Death of Finbar McGrath". This version has me on piano and vocals, and the lovely Wend Elsen on vocals, and a very cute piano melody in the middle somewhere.


23 May 2011

Here in My Garden

A demo mix of "Here in My Garden" from "The Death of Finbar McGrath".

02 April 2011

Dream Heavy - practice mix

Yo, here's a track of me playing Dream Heavy. This is a demo practice mix for those who want to come sing along at Cowboy Lounge. You can sing all night, but this track gives you a heads up on this piece, because it is simple yet twisted. This track has guitar+vocal, plus two additional vocal overdubs. It is really a bass-drum-guitar driven groove, but this demo just shows the vocal part, with the guitar. But there's huge sing-along fun, so there's something for everyone. Just give it a listen, and find a line that you like, and then join in. This is a short mix, but we often do it as an extended jam since it's an infectious beat, and it's such a fun looping structure.


And we'll want to do some songs you lead or bring.

So sing it, and bring it!

Sang-along with Family Crest at Fox Theater, Oakland

Still kinda high from singing with the Family Crest, in a secret audience-side choir, packing the audience with sing-alongs who knew the parts. Absolutely Egytian, Arabian, Tibetan, and a little bit bhudda, the Fox Theater in Oakland is a pre-war extravaganza, you feel like you are flying, underground, in a cabriolet spaceship, in a beautiful subterranean garden. Big fun, big feel-good, big sound.

So excited that I'm now recording DreamHeavy on crappy GarageBand, but just testing out my new macbookpro. Anyway, reminds me that next week at Cowboy Lounge, I'm going to do Dream Heavy, and singers should listen for a part in the mp3:

21 March 2011

Rainy Day Lover

Here's a new song. I wrote it one rainy day this last Winter, and recorded it, and sent it to my lover to share the feeling of being away from her in the drip of Berkeley. Since then, I've worked on the verses and lyrics and turned it into a full song, but this first recording was done in a few hours just to capture that mood.

Rainy Day Lover (partial demo)

Here are the lyrics for the full song form:

And I hear
music for a rainy day
music for a rainy day
a rainy day love

and I hear music
in the street
in the tyres
in the rain
in the low flying airplanes
I hear

music for a rainy day
music for a rainy day

and I hear music
in the sky
in the trees
in the birds
in the leaves
on the ground
in the rain
in the arms of an oak tree
with you
my rainy day love

music for a rainy day
music for a rainy day

rainy day love
a rainy day lover

music for a rainy day
music for a rainy day

Naked: The Songwriting Process

I thought it would be interesting to share the steps of creating a new song. I have many different ways I approach a new song. Described below is my process for a new song, "It's Time."

But first, a bit more about process. Some songs are lyric-driven; some are melody-driven; some by harmony. On another level, some come from a musical perspective (e.g. I'm interested in a groove, harmony, or melody working together), and some from an emotional place. Songwriting for me seems to be the most effective way to express emotions, both for getting them up and out of my body, and for sharing them with people. So even though I may be working with sounds, many times those sounds come from an emotion or feeling. I think this is what makes songwriting and singing so much more effective for me than cartooning, writing, or talking.

Melody-driven songs for me come from singing a line and playing with it. I like melodies that weave around and surprise, so I will modify my lines with intervalic jumps and mode changes until a nice melody emerges, usually while walking around.

Harmony-driven songs will come from two sources: 1) finding some nice changes on the guitar or piano, and then freestyle singing over the changes; 2) singing harmonies to melodies, before the changes are implied.

If the vocal has emerged as driving, the fun begins when I try to fit chords to the harmonies using Jazz harmony theory, and a bit of prankiness.

And, of course, the groove has to be there. For me, it comes while working the chords or bass lines, and is part and parcel of the noodling and playing. Workshopping the song with other players, or rolling out an unfinished song at a jam is my favorite process for refining the groove.

The lyric driven ones can come from an idea or emotional state, and I put myself into a trance and start pouring out lyrics either into a recorder, or pen-and-paper. O Youth [listen] was written with a broken hand while on Oxycodone--the whole lyric came out in one stream, in as fast as I could write it with my gimpy hand.

Mary [listen] was written from both directions. I was driving back and forth between Vermont and Brooklyn, and I kept tossing the lyrics around in my head. During the same time, I was working on two different guitar bits, in different keys. Guitar parts tend to sound right in only one spot on the neck, based on how the open strings sound for each chord voicing. So there was this spanish bit, with a gypsy change in open Em, Am, C, and B7, and then another bit, this pop song going between Gmaj7 and E. Normally, that is not a traditional change, because if you want to stay modal, Em is the relative minor to G, so to change you go to some other key. But E to Gmaj7 sounds great, and I didn't know what I'd do with it, but I'd sit there for half an hour just playing the changes and looking for more chords in the sequence. Then one day, fresh back in Vermont, fresh from bustle-y New York, alone with my guitar in the cavernous living room, coming up with fresh lyrics for the E/Gmaj7 part, I realized that the two musical sections matched the two word pieces--one angry, one hopeful--and I tried to glue the two sections together, even though the modes were weird together. Then I flushed out the lyrics by walking around the house and gardens, guitar strapped on, playing the song about fifty times, running back into the house to find the pencil and paper lying on the kitchen counter to scribble down the latest lyric. Somehow it worked.

Here, now, is an unpublished, unfinished song, in the very first stages. Song titles usually come last, but for now this one is named for its hook: "It's Time." I now have the luxury of an Android X, with the wonderful apps Rehearsal Assistant and FourTracks Lite, which let me record while walking down the street, siting in the kitchen, whatever. So I've uploaded the first takes of coming up with a new song.

These are in the order that I recorded them, all within about half an hour of each other, so you can hear, plainly, the raw process.

The next step I took with this song was to walk around and sing the hook over and over, looking for more lyrics to pop into my head. Then I fired up FourTracks Lite on the phone, and did a freestyle recording, trying some harmonies.

The next step will be to write more lyrics. This song is heavily based in an emotion, an idea, a hope of transitioning from a stuck place in life to another place, with a feeling of waking up from a dream, somehow hoping that the waking life will be as joyful as the dream life, without nightmares, and relying on something greater than myself for strength, through some kind of faith. Though ultimately, faith must be in ourselves.

This will involve, if past songs are any indication, sitting down in my yard or kitchen, and recording or writing freestyle until some tasty words come out, and riff on those. If I'm stuck or coming up with something trite, I use word association to break out and get into some kind of flow. Then I'll work those with the music some more, guitar in hand. Then, I'll fire up ProTools and start laying down tracks and harmonies and see what else happens.

Eventually, this song is going to need some kind of change, transition, or bridge. Hopefully that will come out of monkeying around. I tend not to use any kind of classical, Tin Pan Alley, Nashville, or any other process, because I don't like to write songs that sound like they followed a formula. My only real trick here is to play around with different keys on the guitar, or piano, or vocal freestyle until something fresh-sounding pops out. To help in this process, I try to transition to the most "out" mode I can go to from the current mode and see what works while being distinctive. On the guitar or piano, this can sometimes sound like random jumps, which is what they are, until I hear something fun.

Stay tuned for later posts on this song as it develops.