draft lyrics: “Small Battles”

Dreamed of a fabulous city
couldn’t tell if it was God’s or otherwise
then I realized it wasn’t
that it very much wasn’t
and I stopped trying to build it

Let the adults die on a cross,
but give the innocent children the mark.

We are all influenced
even a Christian must tolerate that
or at least acknowledge it
sometimes its better not to fight small battles

Let the adults die on a cross,
but give the innocent children the mark.

I’m going to fight the Church and the State
and the Law and the Culture
because I only trust the Prophets
and I only trust the one that sends them
because I don’t trust myself
and I don’t trust the one that influences me

Let the adults die on a cross,
but give the innocent children the mark.

“distorted and out of tune” – a troll (sort of) gets it

I received the following response from a troll regarding music [4] I released recently:

The music is “distorted” and dissonant—and would sound “out of tune” to many who lack musical sophistication. That is intentional. A compositional choice.

And the dissonance intentionally speaks to the experience of feeling “out of tune” as a transgender person. So our troll is correct in his surface interpretation of the music.

But he fails to see where the problem lies. I assume that his interpretation is that the transgender person is “sick” in some way, compared to some standard of wellness that he and most individuals presumably meet.

But the transgender person is actually fine biologically and psychologically, as I’ve demonstrated in my scientific articles [1, 2, and 3]. So the problem emits from living within an unsupportive and hostile environment. This experience causes sickness in all individuals—a feature of being human, not a trait specific to the transgender population.

I sing these songs today so that transgender folks among future generations need not feel “distorted and out of tune”.

About “Axis Evil”

I perform as “Axis Evil“, the musical arm of my outreach work. Please follow the feed on Facebook and Twitter.

Update 20 November 2017

I further discuss the dissonant and distorted features of my music as it pertains to the transgender experience in my March 2017 post “this is transgender music”, which goes into far more detail than this text does.

References

  1. the science of gender identity (part 1: genetics)
  2. the science of gender identity (part 2: brain anatomy)
  3. the science of gender identity (part 3: psychology)
  4. the music discussed above:

lyrics: “Stand” (my loud transgender anthem)

I wrote this song immediately after North Carolina passed its infamous “bathroom bill”. From my debut album “City of God“:

Recording

Lyrics

Stand up you little chickenshit
when your chosen name is resistance
your choice to live is resistance
It’s a simple matter really
Revolution in and beyond the mind

I’m exactly who I am and I make no apologies

When your life just wants to be normal
With your name no big deal
It’s a simple request really
Acceptance in and beyond the mind
So stand up and demand it

The time is now
The times demand it

rocker chick walks into a bar…

I’ve noticed that when a well-dressed woman walks into a bar carrying an electric guitar, she gets significant attention from men; far more than that the same woman would receive if she carried an acoustic guitar instead.

a smelly cunt and a mission from God

Yesterday I received a firm reminder of why I write this blog, and why I write the songs I do:

The message came from Drew Arriola-Sands, the fabulous singer of Trap Girl. But that is beside the point. The important thing is how she referred to me in the birthday greeting.

“Smelly Cunt” is a song I wrote about MtF transgender issues that I’ve promoted among the trans community. Drew knows my work through that promotion effort and knows the song. She knows about my efforts to bring together southern California transgender/non-binary musicians for mutual support (although she is doing a much better job of that than me as the founder of Transgress Fest).

But it’s funny that she identified me by the song. I now may never move beyond that in the punk community! Here is the tune, from my debut album “City of God”:

The lyrics respond to the declaration by some feminists that transgender women are not “real” women because we never have experienced the discomfort of a smelly vagina. I assert that we experience the same oppression under the patriarchy that cisgender women do—rape, unequal pay, etc; and therefore are in essence real woman.

But being the punk-ass I am, I use the rudest possible lyrics to express my anger and my point.

But I’m on a mission here: My music and my prose seeks to uplift our community and explore the transgender experience, at least my slice of it. Please see my post “this is transgender music”, and my introduction to this blog “about this blog and my forthcoming book” for more details of this effort.

Moreover, I see this activity as a mission from God. Last March I took a week off from work, and expressed big plans to start writing music booking software; intending to change that industry. Then I promptly injured my foot and found myself painfully bedridden for a day. While laying there bored the thought of writing this blog/book entered my mind and consumed me—as if the Universe knocked me off my feet to get my attention—to redirect my focus. Next day I started the blog and the physical pain immediately went away.

At a later date I drafted “prophet with a lowercase ‘p’”, where I outline my philosophy that activists like Gandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. express a far more prophetic role than, for example, the ancient patriarchs of the Old Testament. I argue that anyone who works for the liberation and advancement of a community lives a similarly prophetic experience.

But yesterday I found myself generally discouraged. I’m unemployed, and an employer just turned me down (after a lengthy initial interview) simply for my lack of a PhD., despite the fact that I’m beyond qualified for the job and no legal requirement mandated I hold one for the position. So Drew’s blunt birthday greeting cheered me up—reminding me what I’m really doing with my life—reminding me of my mission.

Postscript

I’m performing “Smelly Cunt” on the first night of Transgress Fest 2017 next month, along with my transgender anthem “Stand”. If you are in Southern California, please come to the show!

perhaps my stage presence is too masculine… (part 2)

In my recent post “perhaps my stage presence is too masculine… (part 1)”, I ask whether I move too much like a guy while performing, and ask whether I care.

I worked out my answers to both questions: Yes, and yes.

The video posted below shows the problem: My movement to the music flows from my chest on up (masculine), rather than from my hips (feminine). I want to drive my motion from the hips to produce more feminine fluidity and curve.

And now that I’ve observed this, I feel deeply uncomfortable that I’m not achieving the more feminine display. It just doesn’t “feel right”.

What I really need to do is watch other female musicians play guitar while simultaneously singing, to see what they do with their bodies.

Also, in all the music videos I’ve posted on this blog so far, I wear flats. This was so I could jump around for the performance of “Voice in the Distance”. I should see what I can do wearing platform heels (I won’t jump around, that’s for sure).

Here is a video featuring my arrangements of “Enjoy the Silence” and “La Isla Bonita”. The second song is a samba, so the call for significant hip motion proves especially pronounced:

vocal frequency response

I now can speak consistently for an hour in a feminine voice—decent pitch, resonance, and inflection—before needing to rest. Moreover, my voice now passes on the phone.

So my voice therapist and I decided to tackle my singing range, to feminize that as well. (Followers of Axis Evil know I sing with a masculine voice despite functioning in all other parts of my life using a feminine one).

I needed data to see where I stand currently:

Starting at D3 (146.832 Hz), which lies in the gender-neutral pitch range, I recorded myself singing the words “I am Emily” up the scale in half-step intervals until D5 (587.330 Hz). (But I couldn’t make it that far in practice). I used a synthesizer to provide the pitch at each interval.

I then cut the synthesizer track and ran the vocal track through a frequency analysis algorithm to get a frequency response (Bode) plot:

As you can see from the plot, I can hold it up to about middle C, but can’t currently sustain volume beyond that.

Good baseline information.

the one song I kept (artistic synthesis)

I’ve released two rock albums since transitioning. Moreover, these are the only albums I’ve ever released. I wrote all the songs for these albums post-transition… except one. Here I talk about that one and why I kept it.

The song is called “Voice in the Distance” and it appears on my debut album “City of God”.

First, it makes more sense to look at the songs I left behind, rather than the one I kept. I wanted a musical reset since the emotional upheaval that accompanied my transition drove the construction of “City of God”. I developed a new sound at that time and wanted to leave my old sound behind, just like I was developing a new (public) identity and leaving my old one behind.

ASIDE: The intersection of my transgender experience and several songs on both my albums “City of God” and “Light Me Up and Love the Bomb” is explored in the post “this is transgender music” if you are interested.

So that explains why I did not keep most of my old songs. But what about “Voice in the Distance”? Why did I retain and promote it?

First and foremost, I thought it was the best song I had written pre-transition and worth preserving in an artistic sense. Moreover, it anticipated the sound I was to develop post-transition. So musically it belonged with my newer material.

Second, I did not have any subconscious association between that song and masculinity. My other pre-transition songs were written for all guy bands.

Finally, “Voice in the Distance” is a spiritual song—but not “in your face” about it—that really transcends gender. I relied on every ounce of spirituality I held to survive my transition, and so spirituality belonged on the debut album. Even the debut album’s name “City of God” is spiritual. So in that way “Voice in the Distance” looked forward in time, even though I wrote it about nine years prior to writing “Talk”, my first post-transition song.

Transition requires a life trajectory of constant evolution. This provides a wellspring of artistic material and artistic synthesis.

BTW: “Voice in the Distance” is one of my favorite pieces to perform live. First and foremost, I’m good at performing it, as I’ve played it often and had it for so many years. Also, people like it! More importantly, I enjoy playing it. The tune is complicated enough to satisfy my intellect and simple enough (for my guitar/voice skill) to perform effortlessly.

new album!

Just released a new album today:

The cover photo was taken of graffiti in Kashmir. Three of the songs explore my evolving feminine sexuality. The other two are sitar instrumentals.

Three of the songs on this album are described in my post “this is transgender music” if you are interested.

 

nice girl

A friendly punk song about a woman whom I think is fabulous. She knows who she is!

Recording

Lyrics

I’m not in love, but I like the idea
Not infatuated, but I’ve got that feeling
Just enough to keep me in pursuit
Just enough to keep me in pursuit

I’m not in love, but I like the idea
It’s a relief, and a new anxiety
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is

She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I wonder what secrets she keeps
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out who she is
She’s a nice girl, and I want to find out what’s in it for me

draft lyrics about bipolar disorder and gender dysphoria

I wrote these lyrics a decade ago to explain bipolar disorder to myself. They also are about distraction-seeking behavior with regard to the stress of gender dysphoria:

I was a kid driving blind when I wanted distraction
Looking for God or a new manic high
Looking for privilege or a new discontentment
Looking for someone to blame

I, I had the best of intentions
I, I had the best laid plans
I had the best of intentions
I had the best laid plans

Checked in ecstatic…
…and checked out of mind
Checked back in, for a quick look around

draft lyrics: “Pipe Bomb”

Lyrics

I’m a terrorist and a provocateur
A pipe bomb to your image of God
To your image of state
To your image of man
‘Cause it’s all about men isn’t it?

I walk in heels because I damn well please
Carry revolution in my poise
A moving target…
…I carry transition in my poise

I’m a scientist and a provocateur
A pipe bomb to your comfort
To your narrow vision of peace
To your vision of stability
‘Cause it’s all about your stable god isn’t it?

I walk in heels because I damn well please
Carry revolution in my poise
A moving target…
…I carry transition in my poise

There is only one way out of this
Deconstruction and personal revolt
Love and full acceptance



Explanation

I like to tell folks what my lyrics are about:  I read an article on the Huffington Post (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/from-the-bomb-to-isil-or-duck-and-cover-here-come_us_58af453fe4b0e5fdf6196f8d) discussing how the reaction to Christine Jorgensen’s transition in her time was really a reaction to a world changed by the emergence of “the bomb”. The article then makes a similar connection between the emergence of ISIS and present modern hostility and fear of transgender people.

ISIS is breaking down the social order of the nation-state, rather, it is a symptom of the breakdown of the nation-state. Similarly, the bomb broke down the social order of a world at the mercy of only God with regard to our species’ annihilation. The bomb allowed us to do it ourselves. In each case we had to face a stark change in worldview.

Transgender breaks down the social order of gender that has existed at least since the Industrial Revolution, and much longer in one form or another. I accept my role then as a sabatour of this social order and wear my expression with pride. But I state at the end of these lyrics how the real need is love and acceptance, not one social order or another.

I refer to God a lot in an implied negative way in many of my songs. Do the same here. However, I’m not actually referring to God (my friend and true guide in life), but to the narrow image of God that conservatives of most faiths cling to. “Stability” is their god, not God. While I believe there are a few absolutes in terms of right and wrong, we should not create God in “our own image”. God is seen as masculine in popular imagery and in the use of the pronoun “He”. So by walking away from being “he”, I am walking away from a popular image of God. But this should not be taken for walking away from God.