My Name in Music

I saw this meme on Facebook the other day that asked you to use your name as an acrostic, spelling out your favorite bands or singers with each letter of your name. So, since I’m low on blog ideas this week, here are five of my favorite singers/bands/musicians, one for each letter of my name. (My first name only. I could do my middle and last names, but then we’d be here all day).

G – Gjallarhorn (Finnish and Swedish folk-rock)

R – The Rankin Family (Canadian family singing Celtic and folk music)

A – Angelit (Sami singers from Lapland, Finland)

C – Christopher Franke (composer, well-known for composing the epic score to the TV show Babylon 5)

E – Eivør Pálsdóttir (Faroese singer, specializing in multiple styles of music and songs in multiple languages)

Feel free to leave a comment with your name and your favorite bands!

If you like soundtracks, then give a listen to these tracks by the instrumentalist on my list:

Looking Back, Looking Forwards

Like so many others at this time of year, I find myself musing on the past and dreaming of the future. I thought I’d share a few reflections of 2013, and what I’d like to see myself accomplishing this coming year.

Highlights of 2013:

-I got to see one of my favorite singers, Eivør, live in concert. Definitely a dream come true – especially since the concert was not only here in the US (unusual for her touring schedule), but a mere two hours from my house.

-I made my first official submission and got my first official rejection. I submitted a short story to a fantasy anthology, and it was rejected. I was very excited about this, because even if I decide to self-publish my novels rather than trying for agents or publishers, I wanted to get some submission experience under my belt.

-I took a trip to Iceland. It was my first trip to that country, and also my first solo traveling experience. I loved the city, the country, and the culture, and I know that I grew a lot from the experience of being all alone in a foreign country.

-I wrote several guest posts for other blogs. It’s exciting to see my writing featured on other websites besides my own blog, and hopefully I’ve added value to the readers of those blogs.

Goals for 2014:

-I want to go back to Iceland – specifically for the Iceland Writers Retreat. Networking with other writers in the land of the Nordic Sagas would be more than awesome.

-I want to finish the first book of my fantasy trilogy. My original goal was to have the second round of rewrites and edits done by the end of 2013. That did not happen. So 2014 will be the year to finish the edits, get it off to my beta readers, and at least begin the publication process.

-I want to get something published. Whether it’s the fantasy novel, a short story, or even getting paid to write a blog post, I want to have a published piece of work to my name before the end of this year.

-I want to read more. Writers need to be readers; and while I of course love reading, I didn’t do much of it this past year. I had a rather short to-read list for 2013, and I didn’t get through very many of them. You can track my reading habits on Goodreads, if you like – and I want to post more books on my profile this year than last.

Now I’d love to hear your thoughts! Did you have any goals accomplished or dreams realized in 2013? What do you have planned for 2014?

Music to Write By – My Current Playlist

Right now I’m more in editing (and rewriting) mode in my work than I am first-draft writing. But no matter what I’m writing, music is my tool for getting me out of daily life mode and into composing and storytelling mode.

Here’s a sampling of what I’ve been listening to lately:

AOMusic – Edge Walkers

Nothing like soothing instrumental music when I just want to let my mind relax. To properly brainstorm, I find that I need to be relaxed–or, at least, not all mentally involved in or stressed about something. The music of AO never fails to pull my mind into the music, and, by extension, pull me into the worlds I’m creating.

Gjallarhorn – Suvetar 

Since I’m writing a story that’s loosely inspired by the legends of Finland, it’s almost necessary that I listen to Finnish folk music and/or songs about their mythology. Besides, it’s a cool music video.

Ulla Pirttijärvi – Mattharaku askai

The Sami people of arctic Finland are important players in my story, so I use their music for both research and for inspiration. Ulla’s songs are some of my favorites.

The Two Towers – The Riders of Rohan 

High fantasy, dramatic battles, and the Viking-like people of Rohan – what’s not inspirational about this track from Lord of the Rings? Specifically, though, Howard Shore’s amazing score (all of it – not just this track) plain gets me excited about storytelling.

Eivør – Min Modir (My Mother)

Besides the fact that Eivør makes it onto almost any “music favorites” or “currently playing” list, the tribal arrangement of this song is powerful and empowering. Eivør’s voice is otherworldly, and always puts me in a writing frame of mind.

Valravn – Marsk

More instrumental music, this time with a primitive and folk-ish sound. Perfect for conjuring up images of people and places in my fantasy world.

What’s on your current writing playlist?

The ABCs of My Awesome Life

I totally stole this idea from The Magic Violinist. She has a great blog, so pop on over there (after you’re done reading my blog, of course!) So in this post, I reveal many deep secrets (or not) about myself, in alphabetical order.

Ambition: My ambition is to be a successful author. What makes a successful author? Having ten loyal fans? A hundred? A bazillion? Dunno. But I’ll start my journey of success by getting published first (hopefully by the end of this year/early next year).

Bad Habits: Sleeping late. Personally, I don’t consider this a bad habit unto itself—except that the world is run by morning people, so I wind up looking lazy by trying to sleep in till a decent hour.

Celebrity Crushes: That guy who played Hawkeye in Avengers. And the guy who played Thor. I don’t keep up with celebrities, and I’m too lazy to go look up the actors’ names. But who doesn’t like hunky superheroes?

Drink: XS Energy drink. I’m not an energy drink fan, really, but since XS is more of a nutritional drink than a standard “energy” drink, I’m all about it. Lots of flavors to chose from, too. Which is good, because I like variety.

Education: Always. I have a college degree, but I don’t think that education should be defined by the number of schools attended or the certificates on your wall. If you read, or connect with new people, or basically live life with your eyes open, you’re learning (or you should be). My education is increasing every day.

Food: Chocolate. Peanut butter. Chocolate and peanut butter. I also like fresh fruits and veggies, and hotdogs that have been cooked over an open fire and are all crispy and burnt on the outside.

Guilty Pleasures: I’ve never been quite sure what this is supposed to mean. I try not to do things that I will feel guilty about later. With the possible exception of eating cheese or ice cream. I’m lactose intolerant, but man, I love dairy. Sigh.

Hometown: Richmond, VA

Ice Cream: Love it. Except, as I just mentioned, I can’t have diary. Sigh.

Jonesing for: Ice cream, since I’ve been writing about it. Sigh.

Kryptonite: Bunny rabbits. And music. If I’m out in public and a song I like is on the muzak, then I’m pretty much ignoring my shopping or my lunch partner till it’s over.

Lookalike: Periodically, I’m informed by random strangers that I look like Meg Ryan. And a friend recently said that I look like Eivør, which I find flattering beyond words. When I grow up, I want to be as pretty and talented and famous as Eivør is…

Movies: Lord of the Rings (all of Peter Jackson’s thus far to date). Star Wars (all of them, but mostly the original trilogy). Miss Potter. Clue (y’know, that 80s movie based on the board game). August Rush. Most anything starring Will Smith.

Nickname: Don’t really have one. Some people call me “Gracie,” which is fine.

Obsessions: Music. Writing fantasy stories. And those forbidden dairy products. Sigh.

Perfume: I don’t use it.

Quirk: Which one? I’m rather quirky (aren’t all writers, really?) I’d be happy to live every day and go everywhere in sock feet. I’m borderline neurotic about checking my notifications on my phone, Facebook, etc. It bugs me to have a bunch of little icons or red flags in my notification bar.

Regret: I don’t do regrets. Sure, there are some things in the past that I wish I’d done or hadn’t done. But since I can’t change the past, I’d rather devote my mental energy to making sure that I don’t do or neglect to do something in the future.

Starbucks: Nope. I don’t like coffee. And there are cheaper places to get tea or giant cookies.

The Last Book You Read: I’m always reading 2-4 books at once. Some recent reads I enjoyed: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick. Wisdom by Bonnie Watson. You can always stalk me on Goodreads if you really want to know what I’m currently reading.

Vacation: I went to England and Norway a couple of years ago, and I’m hoping to go to Iceland later this year.

Wine: Don’t drink it much—maybe one glass a month. I prefer red over white.

X: X-Men. I spent my college years and most of my 20s reading nearly every X-Men comic in existence.

Years: I’ve lived a few, and I intend to live many many more.

Zen: I guess this means what brings me bliss or peace? Music. Long walks in the woods. Scratching my rabbits’ ears.

Music Review: Live Concert – Eivør

I’ve written several music reviews on this blog, and I think I might like to make a habit of reviewing live shows, as well. For that to happen on a regular basis, I’d need to either travel more to find my favorite bands (that would be awesome), or have them come closer to me (that would also be awesome).

This past week, one of my favorite singers did indeed come to me. Faroese singer/songwriter Eivør performed in Washington, D.C. as part of a Nordic exhibition at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. (I reviewed Eivør’s most recent album Room a few months ago).

The concert began gently, as Eivør came onto stage alone—barefoot, wearing white, and silent. She began with the Faroese lullaby “Rura Barnið,” played on the kalimba (thumb piano). The bell-like tones of the thumb piano transitioned seamlessly into the musical intro to “Green Garden.”

Songs from her latest album Room was the theme of the show—she sang “Boxes,” “True Love,” “Eg Veit,” and others. “Rain” was one of my favorites from this concert. Before beginning the song, Eivør announced that she was going to try something she’d never done before, and laughingly apologized in advance if it didn’t work.

The audience sat alert in anticipation as she adjusted the microphone on her mandolin, and then bent over the instrument and sang into it. Using the mandolin’s mic to capture the wailing chant that is the intro to “Rain” was a success, and after a delighted grin to the audience, Eivør played back the track and launched into the song.

I wish I’d been fast enough with my camera to capture that moment. Most musicians sing with their instruments—but leave it to Eivør to take music to a new level of unique by singing to her instrument.

The gentle Nordic fairy that is Eivør on stage disappeared briefly during songs like “Nu Brenner Tu I Mær.” Suddenly she was an angry Viking goddess, full of power and passion.

And just as powerful—maybe more so—was her performance of “Trøllabundin,” another of her classic Faroese songs. For this song, her accompanists left the stage, and Eivør had to fill the space with just her voice and a frame drum.

And fill it she did. Part way through the song I realized that I had closed my eyes. Her voice—quiet and mesmerizing, then loud and primal—enchanted me to a place far beyond the city of Washington.

“Falling Free” was the final song. Eivør’s lingering voice hung in my mind like an eternal free-fall long after the song was finished. The concert ended as it had begun—in beauty and pure music.

If you get a chance to attend one of Eivør’s live concerts, I would highly recommend doing so. And put in a good word for me to ask her to come back to the USA sometime, too. I’m sure she gained some more American fans after her D.C. performance!

Eivør’s website: www.eivor.com

Kennedy Center Feb 046

Music Review: “Room,” Eivør Pálsdóttir

I’m neither a professional musician nor a professional music critic or reviewer. But I love music, and I’ve blogged about it before, so I’m trying my hand at writing a review of one of my favorite singers and her newest album.

Eivør Pálsdóttir hails from the Faroe Islands, a small island chain about halfway between England and Iceland. Her musical résumé is long and prolific, with more than ten albums (solo and collaborations) to her name. I’m a relatively new fan, but thanks to the internet, I’ve been able to hear a lot of her older stuff as well as newer music.

One of my favorite things about Eivør is her diversity in music styles—she sings everything from folk to heavy metal to lyrical ballads to world music with a tribal flair. Her newest album, Room, was just released a few weeks ago by Tutl Records. I would classify the songs on this album to be some folk-rock, some singer/songwriter style, and all with a unique Eivør twist. As a whole, this album is a beautiful showcase for Eivør’s clear soprano voice.

Similar to some of her previous albums (such as Larva and Human Child), all of the songs but one on Room are in English. “Eg Veit,” the Faroese version of the song “I Know,” is available on the digital download version of the album.

Poignancy, bitter-sweet sorrow, and loving remembrance characterize the songs. The death of her father came as Eivør was putting together Room, and she’s dedicated the album to him. The powerful and loving influence that he must have had on her life is evident in songs like “Far Away.”

While I generally dislike sad songs, no matter the subject or how well they’re sung, even the saddest songs on Room are far from depressing. Every song is tinged with promise and beauty—like the mournful song “Green Garden,” which repeats the hopeful “…waiting for the earth’s orbit to bring back spring.”

Although I’ve already picked my favorite songs of the album (“Green Garden” and “Rain” are at the top of my list), as a whole Room floats and shines like mist over an island in a cold sea. It’s well worth a listen.

Since this is supposed to be a writing blog, after a fashion, then what does this glowing review of a singer you’ve probably never heard of have to do with writing? Nothing, maybe—or perhaps everything. Writing a great song takes as much talent and work as writing a great novel or writing a great blog post. Eivør writes what’s in her heart, and she’s not afraid to share it with the world. The world is a better place because of it, too. And it’s something we can all do—write, share, and be inspired by the beauty all around.

Eivør’s website: www.eivor.com

“Rain” – acoustic version, live in the studio