KUAR Listening Party: Civil Rights Brothers

M and I recorded for the KUAR Arts and Letters – “Civil Rights Brothers.” The show “Civil Rights Brothers” is based on Allan Ward’s book Civil Rights Brothers, The Journey of Albert Porter and Allan Ward which accounts his life as a civil rights activist. Both Porter and Ward organized demonstrations, meetings and literacy training in Jackson, Tennessee and continued to help the community in Little Rock, working with foster children, the homeless, and volunteering for public schools.

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We worked on various versions of “Mr. and Mrs.” and “It Is Well.”

On “Mr. and Mrs.” we really focused on the lyrics –
“We’ll make the changes. We’ll say what needs to be said. And then we’ll do them in our hearts and our heads.”

Although the song was originally written about taking marriage vows, these lyrics applied to what the “Civil Rights Brothers” show was about. The idea that it can be difficult to stand up for what is right, but if you know it to be right, sometimes all it takes is the willingness to say what needs to be said – then your actions will follow your resolve. What was really great was that the song was played throughout one of the stories Ward tells of how they met with Civil Rights activist Medgar Evers who had resolved that he would die for this cause, but that the martyrdom was necessary to reinforce the necessity of the movement.

On “It Is Well” we really focused on how the song was executed –
We wanted something that would attack the resolve of what the song is about. We created the song based on an aggressive bass line. For the lyrics, Micah sang into a dying tape recorder and recorded the play back of the tape.

The hymn was written by Horatio Spafford in a response to his tragic life events (financial ruin and the deaths of all of his children). We didn’t produce the entire song, but did use the following lyrics:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

My sin—oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!—
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

It is well with my soul,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

Our version of the hymn was played during the show when Ward describes a very intense situation for Albert Porter during a selective buying march with students. It was an almost surreal moment when a man came out of the crowd with a pistol and violently threatened Porter’s life. Porter, who was so dedicated to the movement responded peacefully, “you must do what you think is best, and I will continue to do what I think is best.”

We attended the listening party at KUAR studios. We brought some white chocolate covered rice krispie treats dusted with coco powder and hot chocolate with marshmallows. Some of the other musicians that also worked on this show were there and we were given a private performance of “One Simple Prayer” written just for this show by Gil Franklin.

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We went to the studio and all listened to the show. We were able to talk about the show afterwards and it was a great discussion!

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Listen to KUAR Arts and Letters: Civil Rights Brothers.

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KUAR Listening Party: Daniel Black, Arkansas Author

M and I recorded for the KUAR Arts and Letters – Arkansas Authors featuring Daniel Black show called “Daniel Black, Arkansas Author.” We worked on instrumental versions of The Boy with the Broom and Campfire Song.

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Once everything was sent and mixed, we went to a small listening party with some of the people that worked on the show. M and I brought homemade caramel corn and hot chocolate with marshmallows. It was so much fun!

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You can listen to “Daniel Black, Arkansas Author” on KUAR Arts and Letters. The songs are on The Damsels in DistressSongs for KUAR Arts and Letters (2014)” album.

Listening Party Experience

This is a “selfie” on one of the happiest days.

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I went to a fancy listening party downtown in the 300 Third Tower. The listening party was in the party room and the view of downtown Little Rock was really nice.

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The listening party was for the KUAR Arts & Letters, “Searching for Latini” episode. UALR Chancellor Joel Anderson came to the event and even gave a short speech of his support for this project.

So, what does any of this have to do with me, and why do I look so happy in the selfie?

In December last year, The Damsels in Distress were hired to create music for a new program on KUAR called Arts & Letters. We wrote the opening theme music – also used for the radio spots – based from “Corey’s Song.”

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The first show, “Ethics Bowl” aired in January. It was about what “ethics” are and played a sample Ethics Bowl.

From left: Marla Cole, Angela Johnson and Dr. Allison Merrick hold a trophy after competing at the Texas Regional Ethics Bowl in San Antonio, Texas. Credit ualr.edu

From left: Marla Cole, Angela Johnson and Dr. Allison Merrick hold a trophy after competing at the Texas Regional Ethics Bowl in San Antonio, Texas.
Credit ualr.edu

On one hand, we wanted the music to emphasize the experience of a game show -poppy, fast, bright, upbeat, but also with an edge (for the feel of competitiveness). We also wanted to put a serious tone for the idea and debate of “ethics.”

Here’s how it works.

As composers, we get a phone call. In the call, there is a title and description of the coming show. The discussion extends to what sort of music that specific show needs in terms of how many songs, length of songs, the general “feel” or “mood” of the show. This call is followed up with an email of the script. We (The Damsels in Distress) each read through the script and then together, we brainstorm general ideas – kind of like story boarding, but with music.  We grab our instruments and go to separate rooms and write.


  

We come back together and do a rough recording of what we wrote. We write off of each others initial song, and create a “sketch” – which is a more detailed recording with many different parts we can mute/unmute. Once we get the detailed sketch we like, we record on our more professional gear.

 

This does not all happen in one day! This process takes weeks. Once we have recorded and are satisfied, we email the files. From here, we may need to rewrite or rerecord songs based on what the producer wants. The show airs, and we get a check in the mail.

So, back to the Listening Party.

At the Listening Party everyone that worked on the show ate delicious Thai food catered by Chang’s and listened to “Searching for Latini” live. It was super exciting – much like an actor’s cast party when the production is completed. It was also the first time a lot of us got to meet each other because so much of the show is done through phone conversation, email, and separate recording sessions.

“Searching for Latini”  is about Brunetto Latini, the teacher of Dante and the first translator of Aristotle and Cicero into a vernacular language. We wanted the music to sound Italian/Italian Renaissance for this show.

Listen to Searching for Latini here!

Credit Parlor Press

Credit Parlor Press

Listen to the songs we wrote for “Searching for Latini” here.

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