So the good news is that SURGE: Wordsongs & Soundtexts is essentially complete. We (Will and John) are triple-checking all of our 20 tracks and perfecting the mixes; within the next 48 hours, we’ll be sending them to the engineers over at DiscMakers for mastering and printing. We could not be prouder.
The bad news is that the damn thing came out too well for us to go forward with our original release plan. It would be unfair to our contributors, and to our potential listeners, to drop this diamond into a void, all shinied up and groomed, to reach only the ears of our friends and parents. Since we’ve usually been more interested in the quality of our work than its distribution, that easy route is very familiar. But when we listened to what we’ve got in our hands, we realized it was no longer an option.
So we’re pushing back a few weeks. We’re using that time to do this right: we’re having the album professionally mastered and printed on CDs, and furthermore we’ll be doing everything we can to make sure SURGE gets the exposure it deserves. We want this to be heard.
Here’s what you’ll want to know:
SURGE: Wordsongs and Soundtexts will be available on July 20th. It will be posted in its entirety on this website, www.listentosurge.com, where you can listen to the whole album free of charge. If you listen this way, we humbly request a small, totally voluntary contribution via Paypal to help defray our costs: SURGE was produced for love, not money, but it was by no means free to make!
By popular demand, we are also releasing SURGE in CD form. (Two CD’s, to be precise: at 2:25, it would not fit on just one disc!) The album will be available at CDBaby.com for $18. You can purchase directly from them, or access it via their digital and retail partners including Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, and many more.
In the meantime, please continue to check back with us from time to time. We’ll continue the occasional posting of album material: featured contributors, audio sneak peeks, album art, and more.
We hope that you’re as excited about this as we are! If so, there are a couple of ways we hope you’ll consider helping us out: promotion is not (yet) a strength for either of us, and while we’ll do everything we can to get this right, we could use you assistance in a couple of ways.
Tell us about yourself. Seriously! Who are you? Why do you like SURGE? Our message must give a clear picture of our audience, and you can help us paint that picture. (We might share what you say as a testimonial, but never without asking first.)
Social media. The usual: like us on Facebook! Share the site! Share anything that caught your ear! If you were into this, it’s a fair bet you know somebody else who would be — don’t keep them in the dark.
That’s all for now. Thanks for your patience. As a reward and a teaser, here’s the pre-master version of Letters I: To the Mother of Norberto Renteria, the first of a six-part cycle spread throughout the album:
One of three parts of “Leave the Stovelight On,” written by Darina Sikmashvili with music by Diana Hill. This part is titled “Diane”:
From Darina Sikmashvili:
Over the last year I have taken to writing short, instantly gratifying studies of people. I believe “Diane” was the first of them, the pioneer of my now quickly multiplying family/army of mostly women.
Before I began “Diane” I wrote, (I still have the sticky on my computer from January 2014) “you hurt my feelings. you hurt my feelings and you didn’t have to.” Some spaces later followed, “when I left your house in the morning it was snowing.”
I was on the train the morning of January 2nd 2014, not in my borough and not leaving a friend’s apartment, and I sat down on the 2 train wayyy uptown opposite a woman wearing all gray, starched, it looked like. Gray slacks and a gray sweater peeking out from a long gray coat. She was holding a gray leather tote bag between her fingers and multiple times through our journey together the thing would just slip out of her hands. She’d pick it up, make no adjustments in particular, and relive this again in a few minutes. So I guess if you’d like to know, if you’re really rattling your head about it, that’s what Diane looks like. Something out of a Hopper painting. Something that exists either to come undone, or stay completely still.
Extremes fascinate me. People who live on ends of spectrums, who saturate themselves in something, in someone, y’know? So there’s Diane, who’s typical mode of operation is a modest dinner with friends, and who, when she is made to feel pleasure through another person, immediately retreats to a love cave, only to realize she is there alone.
Kinda sad, right? But consider the speckles of humor! Consider how strange and funny it is to color in so much of feeling into the two-toned experience we know as “second base”. Consider how awkward the experience of holding your coworker up while they imitate a wet cat in your arms – clawing and yowling at you.
With “Diane” I had a tough time, as I’m sure KAFKA (oh, I went here) had, reiterating the humor. With “Surge: Late Nite” and “Rosalind” I think it is clearer…
“Rosalind” was inspired by an ex lover of my current significant other. Their separation was murky territory to me for a while until I learned that the bulk of it had to do with him. It became the subject of a number of arguments between us, and I had conceived of a scenario in which it was she who had the last laugh.
Like Diane, Rosalind had to fight her way out of herself if she was going to make any sort of reclaiming of her personality. I think a common experience in break ups involving cohabitation is the ownership of things, and this is the anchor Rosalind finds for herself. The claiming of furniture, the claiming of her participation in their shared life. Still, the saying goes, that some animal I forget never changes its stripes, and Rosalind cannot make these declarations in person. She flees like a thief with velvet chairs in the night!
“Surge: Late Nite”, man… Regrets, I’ve had a few. Do you know that I was absolutely without a doubt convinced that I would sound like a sexy, throaty, jungle-ey late night radio-show host? Do you know that I had dreams the size of elephants about the phone calls I would receive about starting a little segment of my own? Reciting Joe Frank-like dreams that listeners would send in? Wishing misters and mistresses happy birthdays? Instead I think it is a bit of a, “receding from oral surgery” drawl… Ah, well, what’re ya gonna do?
the gem center was recorded in the summer of 2013 using a tape recorder with speed-of-playback controls. audio was recorded in blips. throat singing, crowds at coney island, laughter, and the text, which changes speed here and there.
i find that writing and recording give me permission to reveal invisible things that are inside of me. my thoughts are like mud, and when i write they are like clay, and can be molded into more coherent shapes.
i am grateful for the opportunity to share this recording with you. thank you to Surge for publishing this small piece.
Below i leave you with original notes that fueled the recording. Thank you for reading. If you have any responses to the writing or the sound piece, please email me at email@example.com
the gem center notes, 2013
the gem center is an unbreakable force. when i meet a stranger i can understand my feelings before the stranger speaks. you can know someone without speaking. you can know a lover by the way kissing feels. you can know something wrong is happening when a certain darkness follows a stranger into an elevator and the door closes. you alone with the stranger in the elevator, and something is not right. no words were said but something is not right.
i think we are silly, as a culture, to rule out reincarnation as a beautiful possibility. we say it is archaic and that it cannot be proved. it is a display of ignorance to rule out any possibilities beyond the point of dying. be open. be open to sophisticating your views of what happens in death.
the gem center is with us before birth and after death. the sex drive does not come from your free will, it is present before you can choose it. puberty turns you on and you get turned on. we sometimes speak of sexual attraction as different than other attractions, but this is an invisible distinction. all attraction is the pull together. any two pelvises touching will result in something extreme, be it attraction, repulsion or otherwise.
there is a simple form of magic that anyone can do. a magic spell. you do not believe in magic? then try this spell. if you are a man, put on lady’s clothing. now walk outside. the feelings that you have- this is attraction. you attract a great amount of energy and feel it as embarrassment, or something else, something very new. what will you do with your new power?
without any training you will waste it. without any understanding of how to hold a feeling like a delicate egg, or a baby you will surely waste it.
how can you tune your gem center? spend more time in the dark. go for a walk and listen to the wind at night. when you are embarrassed, take notes. have you ever been walked in on? what was that like?
Here’s the opening segment of “Make Me Smile,” a new SURGE track written and read by me (William Nava) with music by John Passaro and Daniel Howard.
Some may recognize the title – back when SURGE released bi-weekly episodes, “Make Me Smile” was announced as the next installment three times. All three times were followed by extended silent hiatuses.
In many ways the history of “Make Me Smile” is the history of SURGE.
I wrote the text for “Make Me Smile” January 2013, originally intended to fit into a five-minute open mic slot. The text quickly ballooned well past that possibility, leaving the poor piece homeless. Having recently completed a super-sized album, I didn’t feel up to another full-lengther. But I really loved “Make Me Smile,” and didn’t want to just produce it as some awkward 18-minute single.
So SURGE was conceived out of a desire for “Make Me Smile” to have a bigger home than I was willing to build myself. It was originally gonna be an hour-long album consisting of three tracks: “Make Me Smile,” with music by John Passaro; John Passaro’s “The Man” (now titled “Flow”); and Daniel Howard’s “The Gift.”
The album was set up as a time-crunch challenge, to be completed before I was to leave on an extended trip. We failed it miserably – not one of the three tracks was done by the time I headed for the airport.
John took over the project while I was away. He conceived and executed the successful transition to bi-weekly podcast. I joined John as co-producer during production of episode three. “Make Me Smile” was promised as episode four.
“Make Me Smile” went from late to very late until another episode was completed and released. “Make Me Smile” was promised as episode five.
The hiatus that followed was even longer. Summer and winter volumes were conceived to freshen SURGE’s energy. “Make Me Smile” was handed off to Daniel Howard to add music. Two more episodes were finally released. Naturally, “Make Me Smile” was promised next, and again, SURGE came to a stop.
Why? The culprits here are no mystery: insecurities, pressures, expectations, inexperience, laziness. The shit that usually kills young projects. But why “Make Me Smile” in particular?
I offer two interpretations:
John, Dan, and I co-created “Make Me Smile,” so it is the only track by SURGE’s original three. It began SURGE, and will not see full light of day until the release of the complete album. In addition, it is easily John’s most ambitious musical undertaking yet. All this extra significance proved paralyzing.
The track opens with an act of unspeakable violence, from which the rest of the piece must heal – through struggle, acceptance, vacillation, and finally, transformation. So my other interpretation is this: “Make Me Smile” retroactively provides an instructive allegory for dealing with the debilitating forces that resisted its completion.
For us, the track represents both SURGE and the struggle for productivity. The release of this teaser thus serves as a symbolic home-stretch marker for us, and a cause for celebration.
SURGE first saw the light of day over two years ago, when David Tuchman recounted an attempt to salvage the disintegrating work of his college professor in “No Matter What Remains.” David updates us on the status of his project:
More than two years ago, I used SURGE to announce my intention of fully cataloging and recreating the theoretical writings of Dr. Moster, my vanished college professor. I thought if I said my words loudly enough and to a large enough number of people, it would put enough pressure on me that I could restore the corpus of Dr. Moster’s lost work, making it once again a part of our reality. In the past two years, I’ve failed miserably.
I may even have regressed. When I recorded my SURGE piece, I thought I could complete my transcription of Dr. Moster’s handwritten investigations into what he called the “leakage” of persons and events occurring in alternate universes into our own in the form of fictional characters within a few months. It took me over a year to complete this work. Towards his disappearance, Dr. Moster’s handwriting began to fade, becoming as faint as warm breath on a cold windowpane. My vision suffered a great deal of strain in those months as I tried to discern what letters the scratches on his pages formed.
The move to digital, I discovered the existential integrity of Dr. Moster’s notes was far more compromised than I’d assumed. Somehow, the earliest files I’d created were degrading. When I opened them to start drawing on Dr. Moster’s work, I found letters, words, and even whole sentences missing. Even more frightening, I saw letters disappear before my eyes as I scrolled through the documents.
In an attempt to preserve as much as I could, I went back to analog. I printed out stacks of pages and, just to be safe, scanned them and stored the files on multiple physical and cloud-based backups. Combined with my work on the OMGWTFBIBLE project, retranslating the Hebrew Bible as a comedy, this has kept me busy for the past year.
I hope the relaunch of SURGE brings Dr. Moster’s story to a wider audience and compels me to finally bring this project forward. I’m especially anxious to delve into my professor’s attempt to bring a fictional character into this reality. I’ve been able to piece together notes about an investigation into a long-argued historical debate about a mysterious man who showed up in a small California community in the 1950’s for whom there is no official record and who subsequently vanished in the night without a trace, the apparent disappearances of young British boys dating from the 17th to early 20th centuries, periodical articles that must be wholly reconstructed, and too many other stories to count. Working on this project is like trying to pick up Jell-O by hand. I hope it doesn’t continue to avoid my grasp.
It is with tremendous pride and giddiness that we announce the June 15 release of SURGE: Wordsongs & Soundtexts! The collaborative album of audiodrama will feature the work of over a dozen writers, dramatists, musicians, and audio artists.
Some of you reading may be familiar with SURGE‘s earlier iteration as a biweekly podcast. This podcast how now been discontinued – five of the six tracks which it featured are available now, and all six will appear on the final album. The album will also feature an assortment of new material which never appeared on the podcast.
Over the coming two months we will post periodic sneak peeks – in the form of behind-the-scenes updates, posts from the artists on their own work, and highlights of some of the available tracks. As June 15th approaches, we might even unveil bits of new material ahead of the full release.
So check out the available tracks on the Album page and make sure to come back for updates in the coming weeks.
We’ll update you in just a few with the story SURGE‘sinitial conception as an album between three friends; its troubled life as a biweekly podcast; and its transformation back into an album, this time by a whole community of artists.