Category Archives: Music

Psychedelic Shack

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.

Tunnel of Love, Live in Hamburg

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.
 

Happy birthday to me (When I’m Sixty-Four)

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.

Ode to Fluff

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.

This “fluff” image was created by the architecture students running Cornell’s “Thumbnail” event, April 15, 2016.

Honeymoon Phase

My brother Kurt and I have created a new music production entity called Rollover.2 (it’s a derivative of the rock group, Rollo; hence the name, which is a contraction of “Rollo Version 2.” Our first production is a new song called Honeymoon Phase. Lyrics and production notes can be found here; the video is embedded below or can be watched directly on YouTube.

Sunlight

I’ve been recording songs by other artists in chronological order — one for each year beginning in the early 1960s — and have now reached the end of the decade with “Sunlight,” a song written by Jesse Colin Young for the Youngbloods that was released in 1969 on their Elephant Mountain album.

I was an early fan of the Youngbloods because my uncle, who worked at RCA records, made sure we had all of their albums from the 1960s. “Sunlight” was always one of my favorite songs. I recorded this cover version live using one mic (well, I only have one mic) for the guitar and vocal. Live piano and bass (both Logic Pro software instruments, actually) were added later; all performances were captured live with my refurbished iPod Touch and edited in Final Cut Express.

Just Need a Little Concentration

I’ve written another song. Not much backstory, except to remark on the obvious that it’s one more examination of aging and except that I had been struggling with the lyrics for months. At a certain point, I felt the need to say it’s done, and to move on. Even the video betrays evidence of that impatience: I didn’t want to deal with audio-video syncing problems I’ve been experiencing using Final Cut Express (Apple’s old video editing platform), and so there are some noticeable time lags between voice and image, especially in the final verse. You can find lyrics and production notes here along with a thank you to brother Kurt for helping with the final mix in his Brooklyn basement studio.