Tuesday, October 25, 2011

the progressive (de)petrification of Scarlet K

It's time for another round of what-terrifies-me-next!


I now have 5 songs in roughly singable shape. I have a basic awareness of my real, stripped down, nonclassical singing voice. It is now time to start, what may possibly be, The Most Terrifying Step of Them All:

Live performance of my own ******* music.

Which, if my imagination is accurate, will feel something akin to being strip-searched with latex gloves on a fat day while someone's mother reads the full transcript of all the terrible, stupid, and generally embarrassing things I've ever said or done in public or in private, as all of my (formerly affiliated) business contacts, family, and friends watch in horror.

Imagination, you are so thoughtful! Thank you for always (always) being there to help me!

I am going to ease (ooze?) into this. First step: find a safe place. Which I've already done. I'm very happy to say that the fully arranged "premiere" of my first completed song will take place at the safest place in all of Brooklyn: Park Slope United Methodist Church. Appropriate, since it was the music minister (poet/author/activist/pianist Pam McAllister) who got me singing and playing both horn and piano again after 9 latent years. "Ask Seek Knock" will serve as the Offertory in PSUMC's November 13 worship service. It's also appropriate considering that this song is a doubter's prayer, offered up by a wishful but lonely 20-year-old me, in a time of recovery from significant emotional trauma.

After that step, I will be taking my few songs to the streets, to sing in local all-original open mic nights. I plan to do all of this in complete secret, which is naturally why I'm publicly blogging about it. But seriously, I plan to do this first without anyone I know in the room. Not even Alaska.

So, if you're tempted to be kind and supportive: thank you, thank you. For now I'd ask that you do so by not coming out to see or hear me.

Scarlet K,
the anti-publicist

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

to have courage you must first be afraid

It is always a surprise to me when someone says "You are so brave" or "I am not as brave as you are" because I spend a great deal of my time feeling afraid. It doesn't feel cinematic --- the heroic horns of  Howard Shore.

So I started thinking last night about what it really feels like when I do something "courageous," and this is the poem that came out of that.

you have to be

(so afraid)

you cannot be allowed


you cannot be allowed
to even think it

you can't be allowed to start:
or else!

you cannot be allowed to start
to step

you have to be, terribly
you have to be, terribly
you have to be terribly
terribly bored

terribly bored

terribly bored
terribly bored
(st - ep)



have to s.t.t.t.t.and
and steady your breath

while accused
(steady your breath)

ri. di. culed.
(steady your breath)

mis. con. strued.
(steady your breath)


. . . . . . . . . . breath . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . breath . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . breath . . . . . . . . . . .

still alive?
still alive!
still alive!!

you have to need the entire room to turn and face and hold you
be a vacuum for the air, the world's dome, the atmosphere

all of it.


NO. not the end.

you have to first forget all of this
like it never happened

start over, begin again.
again. again.


terribly bored
(terribly bored)



(you have to be afraid to say it)

perhaps humiliated, and ashamed

you have to be afraid to say it

first, it has to be so far away it doesn't exist
impossible, impractical hazy mist

you have to have wasted all your time

you have to be so angry. and so sad.

to have wasted all your time


you have wasted all your time




Monday, October 17, 2011

The Scarlet Test: Big Red A+

Thanks to those of you who submitted comments to last week's post. I really appreciate it.

Role models! Here's my Top 10 gallery of leading ladies who pass The Scarlet Test with a big red A+. Dangerous talent ahead.
10. Cameryn Manheim - Actress
9. Queen Latifah - Actress, Singer, Rapper
8. Sophie Guillemin - Actress
7. Adele - Singer/songwriter
6. Breezee One - Rapper
5. Melissa McCarthy - Actress, comedian
4. Ann Wilson - Singer (Heart)
3. Carnie Wilson- Singer/songwriter (Wilson Phillips)
2. Christina Hendricks - Actress
1. Scarlet K - Singer/songwriter
That's right: Move over, bacon.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

High School Drama & The Leading Lady

Hello, Knights!

Partially inspired by this from The New Yorker and this from Facebook, I've created what I'm calling the Scarlet Test. (And I need your help!) But first, some inaccurate assumptions and a back story.

In high school, I was up for lead roles in two of the four annual musicals. I made third round call backs both times but didn't get either role. Instead, I was cast consistently in elderly, matronly roles. I remember my high school drama teacher giving all the auditionees a big talk about "looking the part" before awarding the lead roles to a dancer and a cheerleader, respectively, even though I was arguably the strongest singer. I really really loved musicals and wanted to be a performer, so one day I asked her what I could do to improve. She said something about looking the part, stage presence, and how I didn't have it. Again, I asked her what I could do about that and she said: "Some people have it and some people don't."

It was so final. Now I understand that the real answer was that she probably didn't know how to teach a student to improve his/her stage presence (I certainly don't) and was probably more interested in drawing the cheerleader/jock crowd to performances than my already-converted band friends. Or maybe I reminded her of some family member she didn't like, or maybe she had once been overweight and hated herself for it, so she wasn't interested in teaching me. Whatever. But I was 15/16 and I took the statements about my appearance on stage to mean a lot more than they should have.

I thought it meant: "My body looks matronly, possibly elderly. I am not eligible for lead roles because of my size/body type. Nobody wants to see that on stage. To realize my dreams, it doesn't matter how talented I am or how strong my singing is if I don't, first of all, lose a lot of weight." And, the thing is, I wasn't really even aware that I had absorbed these assumptions; I just made them tacitly and behaved accordingly. I didn't audition for the musical my senior year (Charlie Brown stars six kids! What's an elderly 17-year-old to do?), I didn't pursue musical theater in college (I had plum forgotten the dream by then), and that even crazier dream I had of getting up on stage and singing my own songs? Well, that was perhaps the most absurd of all!

So I buried that all down deep deep deep. I remained paralyzed by these misconceptions until, pretty much, last year. Except, well, the body type thing isn't so much a misconception when it comes to show biz. Them's the breaks, right?

Per Dr. Pamela Peeke via WebMD:
"The average starlet is wearing a size 2 or 4 which is the sample size designers are making presently."
For me, that possibility is right out, though I've tried so very very hard for a long time. I'm not built that way, for starters, but I also have hypothyroidism, which is unforgiving of my love of baking/cooking/going out with friends. (If you want to understand the body-madness involved with thyroid conditions, read this.)

But the point is, I am not going to let this keep me off stage anymore. I can't keep waiting until my body complies -- I've got songs to sing! And, after all (again, per WebMD):
"Today, the average American woman is 5′4″, has a waist size of 34-35 inches and weighs between 140-150 lbs, with a dress size of 12-14."
So, I need some performing role models! They've got to be out there, right? I'm running my own twist on the Bechdel Test. Let's call it the Scarlet Test. I am looking to compile a list of:

1. Leading ladies in a film, TV show, or band (that will be me!)
2. Below the age of 40 at the time of popularity
3. Of average size (let's say anywhere from 8-16, to be generous)
4. Where she is of romantic/sexual interest or, at the very least, the size of her body is not the punchline

Where are those average-bodied leading ladies? On your marks, get set, GO.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Jesus is so lucky to have us

Having grown up in a religious sect that does not believe it is a religious sect --- a denomination that bends reality and the annals of history to claim that it was established in 1AD, when in fact it was started by Alexander and Thomas Campbell, Walter Scott, and Barton W. Stone, as part of the Restoration Movement in mid-1800's America....

...my soul leaps up in laughter.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

My father was a barber

Great bangs have great beginnings.
For my birthday, I would like to tell you a story. I recorded it last night.

First, you have to sit down and close your eyes. Imagine the sound of a marching band drumline cadencing onto a crisp wet field. Imagine a drone in the low brass. Imagine a fiddle double-stop, the sounds of banjo and strings joining in, loaded with a full battery of percussion in the chorus.

And then... press play.*

  My father was a barber 

*Please forgive the recording quality. I am making these rough draft recordings to give would-be band members a sense of my songs. Until then, most of the instruments must be imagined. I am seeking a drummer/arranger, fiddler, cellist, and an upright bassist. If you're into this, by all means drop a line.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Charlene's Ordination Song?

It's true that, from time to time, I do some creative writing during church services. Stand up and sing a hymn, back to the notebook, take my place in the choir, to the notebook, pick up the French horn for the offertory, to the notebook, to the notebook, to the notebook. It's my own private call and response.

And it's a happy coincidence that today, during the ordination of the new Reverend Charlene Han Powell [WAHHOO HUZZAH!], I finished writing my latest song [YAAAAY]. What's unusual about this song is that it is finished and I still really like it. (Usually, now would be the repulsion stage in my process.)

You know how rappers will often start with an exposition, like "My name is ... and I'm from ... and this is what I'm about ... so I'm here to say..."? It's like that. Sort of. This is definitely an album opener and a show opener. Also you hafta hafta hafta imagine that it opens with a drumline cadence, then perhaps a brass pedal drone and/or a double stop in the violin before the voice comes in. And there's a banjo. And harmonies and lots of strings and drumline action as it picks up.


my father was a barber / and my mother made our home
in the sweet idyllic country / Wilderness and Locust Grove
honeysuckle spring and summer / maple leaves in early fall
without fail one day the truth prevailed I somehow lost it all

so long I've tried to say it / but I couldn't find my words
displaced Americana / hymn sings and hope deferred
fantasy or pure conviction / you can claim that I am wrong
but i do not need your third degree to put this into song

lay low, let it go
there are stranger works of fiction that I know
since then, where I've been
is the place where grace moves in

studied Carter, Ives, and Barber / dropped the needle one by one
symphony and private lessons / Theory IV and Methods I
it took several years of schooling / just to finally learn one thing
that I do not need a third degree to stand up here and sing

lay low, let it go
there are stranger works of fiction that I know
since then, where I've been
is the place where grace moves in

----- instrumental break w/ much drumline ------

my father was a barber / and my mother made our home
in the sweet idyllic country / Wilderness and Locust Grove
honeysuckle spring and summer / maple leaves in early fall
without fail one day the truth prevailed I somehow lost it all

----- transition to 3/4 time + 4-part harmony ------

I thought it was over
I thought I was done
some kind of an old soul
found out I was young
(repeat x3)

----- end humming the coda + add drumline to finish -----