Harry Chapin was, briefly in the early 1960s, an architecture student at Cornell University. Thankfully, that career choice short-circuited and, after several other initiatives (including an Academy Award-nominated boxing documentary that he wrote and directed in 1968), he ended up as a rather successful singer-songwriter in the 1970s. I arranged and recorded this version of his hit song from 1972, “Taxi,” at home in Ithaca, NY.
I actually went to see Chapin play a benefit concert at Cornell, when I was an architecture student there, perhaps around 1973 or 1974. He was an excellent performer and it was a memorable concert which, in addition to Taxi, included a song he wrote when he was a student at Cornell, about taking the Greyhound bus back to NYC: “Take the Greyhound/ It’s a dog of a way to get around/ Take the Greyhound/ It’s a dog gone easy way to get you down.” If my memory serves me well, the benefit event also featured Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden.
More of my covers, as well as original songs, can be found here.
I wrote and recorded a new song: This Is What You Get.
As usual, there are several listening/viewing choices: check out the video embedded above; watch the video as it appears directly on its YouTube page; examine the video together with lyrics and commentary on my music website; or — for those of you who prefer audio only — listen on SoundCloud.
I recorded James Taylor’s 1971 classic, “You Can Close Your Eyes” and made a quick video using the new Final Cut Pro video editing software that I got with my new iMac.
Between writing and recording new songs, I’ve been recording covers that were somehow meaningful to me, in chronological order starting with 1963’s Surfer Girl (Beach Boys). All my music, with links to additional videos, can be found here.
I saw James Taylor at the Capitol Theater in Port Chester during my senior year in high school, in 1970. I had already been playing guitar for about 6 years; seeing him perform solo (just voice and guitar) was unforgettable and I’ve been a fan ever since. “You Can Close Your Eyes” came out the following year and became one of my favorites. Beginning about 20 years after that, I starting singing it as a bedtime lullaby for my children.
I’ve been recording cover versions of songs that were, in some way, influential in my musical development. Beginning with Surfer Girl from 1963, I’ve picked a different recording artist for each succeeding year, and now find myself in 1970, the year I started the B. Arch program at Cornell University, and the year that Psychedelic Shack became a hit for the Temptations.
Strangely, 1970 was also the year that Peter Eisenman’s “House II” was completed in Hardwick, Vermont. That this house shows up as the “psychedelic shack” in my music video has something to do with current research I am conducting into the question of architectural “function” and, specifically, the suggestion by some architectural theorists that one of the functions of architecture is to express the spirit of the age. Since this idea of a Zeitgeist has always struck me as rather peculiar, I took this opportunity to expose its fraudulent nature by juxtaposing two antagonistic sensibilities from the same time and the same place: on the one hand, Eisenman’s hyper-conceptual tightly-scripted architecture and, on the other hand, the rhetorically psychedelic and “anti-establishment” work from contemporary architects like Archigram (whose “Walking City” appears briefly in the video). The Temptations, of course, is not a “psychedelic” group, so their recording of Psychedelic Shack, written by Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield, can be taken more as a commentary on late 1960s hippie culture than as an example of it. Even so, the song lyrics adequately capture the cultural ambiance:
They got a cat there shoutin’ the blues, talkin’ ’bout payin’ some dues
People walkin’ round reciting poetry, yeah
Screaming guitars and a thousand colored lights
People, I’m telling you this place is really out of sight
Contrast these lyrics with the description of House II by Eisenman (Iman Ansari, “Interview: Peter Eisenman,” The Architectural Review, April 26, 2013 accessed here):
So I achieved what I wanted to achieve, which was to lessen the difference between the built form and the model. I was always trying to say ‘built model’ as the conceptual reality of architecture. So when you see these houses and you visit them you realize that they were very didactic and very important exercises — each one had a different thematic — but they were concerned not with meaning in the social sense of the word or the cultural sense, but in the ‘architectural meaning,’ what meaning they had and what role they played in the critical culture of architecture as it evolved over time. So while the work was interested in syntax and grammar, it was interested to see what the analogical relationships were between language and architecture.
Some notes on the recording and video production:
Music arranged and produced by Jonathan Ochshorn.
Recorded with Logic Pro 9 software.
Vocals: Jonathan Ochshorn.
Real instruments: Jonathan Ochshorn (electric guitar, harmonica).
Software instruments played live on midi keyboard: Jonathan Ochshorn (drums, bass, organ, piano).
Recorded at home in Ithaca, NY, April, 2017.
Video shot by Jonathan Ochshorn with a refurbished iPod Touch in selfie mode, and edited with Final Cut Express.
Still images were mostly found on the internet and edited using Adobe Photoshop, except that one photo is of me at Cornell in 1970 (appearing on a backwards clock while the Temptations are singing “There ain’t no such thing as time”).
Video was shot and edited at home in Ithaca, NY, April, 2017.
On the way to our Fulbright semester in China, we stopped in Germany and drove in a loop from Berlin to Weimar to Cologne to Hamburg, and then back to Berlin. While in Hamburg, we checked out the amazing Elbe Tunnel and I could not resist the temptation to record a live version of my song, Tunnel of Love, on my iPod Touch, while walking under the Elbe River. So here it is: I added some basic instrumentation and background vocals when we returned to Ithaca six months later.
I’ve uploaded five of my music videos to the Chinese “Youtube” website, called Youku. All Google internet products, including Youtube, are blocked in China, so at least these five videos will be available there (here).
When those of us born in 1952 turned 15 (or were about to turn 15) and the Beatles released Sgt. Pepper (including McCartney’s “When I’m Sixty-Four”), actually being 64 was just an incomprehensible abstraction. Well times change: here’s my live cover of the classic song (with background vocals, bass, drums, and organ added) that I’ve just posted on YouTube to celebrate my 64th birthday.
I was asked by the architecture students running Thumbnail, a PechaKucha style event, to submit a song consistent with the event’s theme of “fluff.” The song itself can be heard on SoundCloud; the video, which includes the song as well as a spoken introduction (consisting of twenty 20-second segments as required—for a total length of 400 seconds, or 6 minutes 40 seconds), can be seen on YouTube; or, if you want lots of additional information about the lyrics and production, see the video on my music page.
This “fluff” image was created by the architecture students running Cornell’s “Thumbnail” event, April 15, 2016.