Sunday, January 20, 2019

"Minimal Friends" with NOX (2018 Collaborations Overview 2/5)


Minimal Friends” NOX (prod. By Kev Brown) [March 2018]



Nox in full-form performing
NOX is a fellow Long Island rapper and was a relatively new friend at the time of this collaboration, after catching him live a handful of times, it was clear we both had a verbose and intellectual approach to writing with an insistent emphasis on our strange sides and leaning into our interests. He's a fantastic freestyler (Here are some episodes of my Spontaneous Sundays with AllOne we did together: Ep. 55 ep. 60, ep. 90) as well so we bonded on our love for the improvised craft. Nox, like Jesse, presented the ideal preparedness for a guest request, bringing the lo-fi Kev Brown instrumental to me as well as his fully formed verse and a solid intention for my role in the track. When he told me the theme and that he intended on calling it “minimal friends”, a sort of anthem for the outsider, a confessional tribute to our dark places and the light-hearted embracing of our oddities, I enthusiastically agreed. It was time to have a left-field-day.

Going into the verse I had a few plans of attack in mind. It helps to write with a specific intention of style and consider how the choices you make will lend themselves to the message you're trying to convey. (For instance, when writing my EP Dusty Dossiers, I didn't want to use any pop-culture references and very little slang, feeling that it would distract from the human narrative and film-noir theme.)  These style considerations become doubly important when collaborating with another rapper because you simultaneous want cohesion between cadence/word-choice/language but also enough contrast so as to offer dynamic to the song between the lyricists.

Here are some examples of my goals for “Minimal Friends”:

An abstract language palette: NOX and I are both huge Aesop Rock fans, and I suspect that much of why NOX likes my music is because of the high-level of lingual experimentation I bring to the table. When he sent me his lyrics it was clear that he had made an effort to use more references and layered/interesting language. I wanted to compliment this (it helps that word-painting is one of my favorite styles to write in, a collage smattering of feelings and references to characters and experiences that I love as an unabashed experimental love-letter to wordplay.)  I find it tends to open up a lot of fun new rhyme-schemes and just calls to mind more imagery and adventure for the writing and listening experience. I decided to meet the weirdness theme by doubling down on my tendency toward playful use of idiomatic language (...I'm a lone wolf in black sheep's clothing // sink social cues in corner pockets...that's my cue... // nip the wallflower in the bud...) and references (from Sonic the hedgehog and Fantastic Four to Harry Potter and Hunter S Thompson) really genuinely letting my nerd flag fly.

Use fluctuating tempos and cadences: Another way I could contrast NOX's verse was to play with my delivery and lay out my rhyme schemes differently. For this song, he had a more laid-back approach to his flow and places his rhymes in the comfortably spots right at the end of each measure. I intended on making my rhyme patterns a lot more interweaving and scattered and busy.

Unique/precise rhyme schemes: Despite the aforementioned goal of esoteric language, another of my personal writing goals recently has been to use more direct and common word choice and be more careful and interesting about my rhymes. Fusing words and phrases that actually exist or finding conveniently related words within the same rhyme scheme.  Being that I wanted to get to a confessional place, I did feel it important to actually discuss/convey some feelings in plain language.
"God I'm pathetic, codependent code of ethics, costly expenses so invested so indebted sewn enmeshment owed to friendships"

Minimal Friends is one of the most vulnerable and open ended verses that I released in 2018, a cathartic upheaval of my hang-ups and a raw description of my character in a way I seldom tackle (coming to terms with a lot of flaws from balding to codependency). Killing your darlings is an integral and legitimately painful aspect of any good and honest writing experience and the gnashing teeth of editing eviscerated my ego in full force when I decidedly had to scrap nearly my entire first draft. I romanticized too much the concept of the loner artist in trying to adhere to the “minimal friends” theme. I was initially heavily outlining an anti-social character and not describing my personal experience enough. My reality (and that of most others I imagine) is much more nuanced than either being a shy depressive shut in or a popular loquacious extrovert, flourishing in an oscillating spotlight. While I actually am blessed to have a lot of people supporting me and am really happiest on stage and in big groups sharing music and observing art and love connecting with people, I can also get completely anxious and shut in and love my alone time. It seems I require both extremes of isolation and the absorption of hyper-social inputs in crowds and groups to subsist and sustain my sanity. I tried to articulate this balance in the song.

Ironically nearly all of my friends are people who often also love to be let alone, depressive weirdos that somehow, when together, don't exacerbate each other's collective dramas. “...A calm and collected uncommon collective of odd and depressive neurotic eccentrics...”.

I ask myself when I'm talking so much, is it because I'm nervous or because I'm happy to talk to people? “nip the wallflower in the bud, faux-gregarious, social wariness, aware of this paradox...nervous jabber jaw the fact is I'd rather not talk...”.   I wonder...do I talk to people and try to entertain them because that is my genuine state of being or am I appeasing a reputation that I think I have to uphold? Some of these neurotic bouts of self-analysis and the feeling of being a spacey outsider while simultaneously a niche-celebrated performer in my little pond were plenty to work with.

In the end, this has some of my favorite writing and phrases and I'm really proud of it, I think most of the tools I have are on full display here while still experimenting further and conveying something newly personal. This was another track, like “Inkwell-being” that I recorded alone in my room (how thematically appropriate) and I'm happy with how that came out as well, my meager recording means lends a conveniently appropriate raw quality to the song  I think. NOX's well-written and tenderly performed spoken interludes added so much to the song and I hadn't expected them at all either.  Speaking of Nox speaking, I asked him to write a little something about the track and he sent me the following:

"I first started writing “Minimal Friends” on a train ride into the city. I was recovering from a depressive episode and penned the verse without intending to use it for anything. Like many artifacts of my darker moods, I wanted nothing more than to bury it and leave it in the dust. It was a catharsis, a way of encoding my feelings into words so that I could make it through that moment, but it wasn’t originally intended to be a piece of art to be shared. It was a private and solitary exercise.
But perhaps that was what drove me, months later, to make use of it. Thumbing through an old notebook, I found that those words still resonated with me months later. Like a time machine, they brought me back to that dark place. Yet, far from renewing any grim thoughts, it made me feel a lot better about where I’d gotten in the interim. From a place of light, I looked back and saw that even though the darkness had seemed impenetrable, there was some illumination waiting on the other end of the tunnel.
It was a very raw piece, and the Aesop Rock-like maze of imagery and non-linear thought communicated not only the way I felt during that time but also the way that I felt it, the way my mind worked when mired down in the dross of depression. If anything, it was powerful, albeit a bit esoteric.
And perhaps that’s why I immediately thought of Bruce when seeking a partner on the song. His own work is deeply poetic, and as an artist, he isn’t afraid of being vulnerable with his audience. When I first got into rap, that was why I liked Tupac more than Biggie (East Coast heresy, I know): while Biggie might have been lyrically superior, Tupac was a complete human being, and he wasn’t afraid of baring his wounds. For a project like “Minimal Friends,” I knew I needed someone who could lower their guard.
Of course, personality is only part of the equation. I also needed someone whose skill and style would do justice to something so personal. I need not boast about Bruce’s lyrical and rhythmic skill (anyone who’s heard his music is already well aware), but his style was what sealed the deal. While he seems perfectly comfortable writing in a more straightforward manner, I find his imagery and sense of the poetic to be the most impressive and unique aspects of his artistry. There’s a sense of depth. One does not get the entire story on the first listen or even the second. And that is exactly what I wanted for Minimal Friends, for my goal was not necessarily to communicate in perfect detail how I experienced that darkness, but to put something out there onto which listeners could project their own experiences.
That is, after all, the purpose of art."

Well said Nox! I expect no less than eloquence and insight from the man.  You wouldn't either if you checked out more of his work, such as his new album "The Formula" which also features another song we did together this past year!  Go stream and purchase "The Formula EP" at the following link: https://store.cdbaby.com/cd/nox6 Listen to it with your friends.  Or alone.  Whatever you're into, weirdo.  Thank you for reading, please let me know what you think of all this and what more you'd like to know about other songs or writing techniques and strategies!  
From a distance or up close...our connection means something to me!
Until next week stay crafty,
 -Bruce "AllOne" Pandolfo

"I write when defensive like squid ink cloaking,
No joking, I think an Armadillo's my Patronus
I'm a lone wolf in black sheep's clothing,
white knuckled handshakes, hands shake balled in pockets
Scratch my baldin' noggin sink social cues in corner pockets
That's my cue: Nauseous awkward sweatin'
God I'm pathetic! codependent code of ethics
costly expenses so invested so indebted
sewn enmeshment owed to friendships
calm and collected to an uncommon collective
odd and depressive neurotic eccentrics,
heart is a heaven, art is our best friend,
lost in a head-trip like a Topiary labyrinth
nip the wallflower in the bud, faux gregarious
social wariness aware of this paradox:
nervous jabber jaw fact is I'd rather not talk,
clamming up shocked trapped on the spot and exposed
"the tacit folks you have to watch" the maxim posed,
no matter how it goes you're on the "radar" that's a palindrome
Z-lister, reach inwards, deep thinker off in fantasies
Reads into each whisper. Peace fingers (my apologies,)
My "minimal friend" policy: they're family AND they're quality."


Friday, January 18, 2019

"Inkwell-being" with Jesse Ramos (2018 collaborations overview 1/5)


Hey AllOne Family,
     As we continue into early 2019 I thought it might be another fun retrospective weekly series to highlight some of the music I shared a role in throughout 2018. This year and 2015 were the only two years since 2010 that I didn't release some sort of full EP or LP project since I started sharing music publicly in 2010. However, Two-thousand and Collaborateen this was appropriately a relatively fecund year for quality collaborations and as a bonus, nearly all of them were unprecedented collaborations with artist friends as well!
     Here is the start of an overview of a few of the songs that made it to the public ear (some that I wrote and recorded are still in behind-the-curtain stages). I felt it may be interesting to know the origins of relationship that spawned them and perhaps to know a brief comment on my intent and experience writing them.
     I genuinely enjoy writing guest verses and answering the call to contribute to other's projects. It is a real honor for my skills and work ethic to be trusted to improve and compliment something as vulnerable and dear as another person's artistic vision. As suggested from the onset of my public music career with the debut album “Coal Aberrations” collaborating has always been a favorite creative experience of mine. It is rewarding for being rife with artistic challenges and therefore personal growth.
     I have a handful of collaborations projected for 2019 and I'm antsy for more creative endeavors! Please email me at AllOneVoice@gmail.com to discuss working on a project together if you're interested in working toward some collaborative projects!
Birds of a feather-pen and all that,
-Bruce “AllOne” Pandolfo

Inkwell-Being” Jesse The Tree (prod. By Mkour)

     Jesse is a gifted and laid back Rhode Island rapper friend that I met through Drent on tour some years ago. This collaboration was in talks for a while and I had my verse written for several months and if not for the typically harrowing misfortunes of life intervening in what may have been a 2017 release otherwise (this song was unveiled in March 2018). This was the first song released that I recorded with home-recording set up in my room, which has been an extraordinary advantage for experimenting and I recommend it thoroughly.

     Jesse came to me with the ideal level of preparation and vision, with this beautiful MKOUR instrumental, a chorus and a demo of his verse. He showed me where he wanted me to rap but his instructions stopped there.  Jesse is more of a visual and stream-of-consciousness writer and was characteristically open-ended about what he expected from me. This left me the fun task of interpreting his lyrics and identifying the thesis of the song, which I took to be a nod to our entangled relationship with the work we create and the thin line between the validity of our reality and the reality of the art we create. I absolutely love this concept and had recently read Alan Moore's genius comic series, “Promethea” where he explores this philosophy in vivid detail.

     I took the opportunity to double down on the referential, visual and stream of consciousness style of writing and use the simplicity of the beat as a challenge to change cadences often (from iambic pentameter to trap flows to double time to more laid back approaches). I thought of this writing as intentionally “tighter” phrases, making each word count and relate to the next one very precisely phonetically. My thesis statement so to speak was the desire to explore my love of creation that is so obsessive or optimistic to the point of seeing it as a redeeming belief system of sorts. My hope was to expound on the idea that through sharing our art and processing the world through our creative ideas we achieve immortality or at the very least ideally attaining an acknowledged and connected impact with others beyond our living life. 
   Jesse paid me the highest compliment imaginable from an artist whose work I write cameos for when telling me he loved my verse so much that he had to go back and write his so as to avoid a lopsided quality issue. Cheers to Jesse, whose work on this song is expressive, technical and incredible as to be expected. Be sure to check out “Inkwell-Being” and the rest of his work on his Soundcloud page. (www.soundcloud.com/jessethetree)



Inkwell-being (AllOne verse)

Think therefore iambic pentameter
Bringing forth my grand Bic pen's tacit worth
Ink enforcing quickened imagined words
Inklings forge expanded parameters

Spinning yarns to prevent looming death
(Scheherazade)
living art like clay molded famed soldiers
(the Terra Cotta)

our existence is a piteous pithy blip
in a jiff we sit at the winking lid
blinking at the brink of the abyss,
abysmal, shrinking to think of it,
timid, frantic tend to grasp a pen and pad
as a parchment script and wizard staff
and autograph, glyphs, and craft
enchant and chant in chance to scratch
an Escher map, of Penrose steps to lap,
in an attempt to stretch elapsing seconds
before I tap, collapse and they etch that dash
to represent my end in an epitaph,
in crypts equipped with an epic task to scripting
prose longing to prolong my sojourn
sold that my sole hope's to sew my
soul through a medium
previous to my soma's meeting its “so long”
to supposedly only be spoken through mediums.
No creationist but creation is our greatest gift,
Grecian myth to theater scripts
Dave Chapelle to HG Wells
relaying help and save ourselves,
They say we're spellbound
by what we spell out and it's magic
We exist in the legacies we crafted
remembered in legends we inhabit
My inkwell's expressive formaldehyde
to ink well-preserved forms I'll decide
Food for thought and you are what you eat
Art mimics life visa versa repeat

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

2018 Book List and Recommendations


Happy New Year, 
Welcome to 2019 as well as a humble welcoming back to the annual retrospective of reading material I've enjoyed this year! As you'll come to see, 2018 was certainly the most comic book and graphic novel dominated year yet. I think this is also because I (to my shame) fell into the trap of watching a lot of Netflix. My housemate got a big television last fall in my house and it becomes this media centerpiece with such distracting gravity. Admittedly I don't have the willpower to resist this electronic tide-pool always,  I still read a little every day and still stubbornly prefer to read physical books.  It just feels better to me.

Regardless, there was almost nothing that I read this year that I didn't love or wouldn't recommend (unless you were adverse to certain gore-laden horror titles like the brutal “Crossed” series, which is not for the faint of heart, to put it lightly.) I ended up returning one book that was gifted to me last Christmas, which was frankly an unreadable block of technical surveillance history called “We Know All About You”. After a few attempts I had to put it down, which I've only done with maybe 2 books in my whole life. Anyway, it was a quality over quantity year for me when it came to putting my nose between pages.  Let's get into it.

Do you like reading physical copies of books, audiobooks or e-books best? Why?

Reading more Non-fiction:
Aside from the aforementioned “We Know All About You”, I've enjoyed a lot more Non-fiction reading than I normally do. I got such wide-eyed enjoyment and inspiration from real-life characters in expansive biographies about Cornelius Vanderbilt like The First Tycoon and micro-career summaries like The Great Reporters. I learned an excessive amount of helpful information and brilliant concepts in the fields of meditation and philosophy by diving into Sam Harris' Waking Up and Free Will. Reading up on the intrepid and baffling historical significance and usage behind the technology of hot air balloons in Falling Upwards was both a heartwarming and jaw dropping thrill that inspired some of an album I'd been working on. I rarely read non-fiction and know many more pragmatic friends who appreciate non-fiction exclusively, but this year was a good year for it (and juxtaposed nicely from all of the comics I was reading, in retrospect.)

Who are some of your favorite non-fiction writers? What are your favorite non-fiction books? Do you prefer one over the other?

Reading new writers:
I also read a lot of books by first time prose/writers for me (Alan Moore's second prose novel, Jerusalem took me the first 6 months of the year to get through but was easily the book of the year for me. I can't shake it! Every sentence and idea is an astounding feat of linguistic mastery and experimental imaginative expression that has real heart behind its immense brains.
Sam Harris is a new Non-fiction favorite, I've greedily gobbled up every episode of his podcast and Waking Up and Free Will were phenomenal influential experiences of books, both hugely readable and eye-opening as well. Shannon Wheeler was a first time comic writer for me with his “Too Much Coffee Man” series that I found very funny and familiar as a sleepless and struggling creative type who tends toward the neurotic and occasionally bleak. Reading John Darnielle's debut novel Wolf In White Van was a surprise and a treat (I recommend listening to his band “The Mountain Goats” if you like hyper-literate modern indie music or narrative-style folk tales). The biographers of The First Tycoon and Falling Upwards (T.J. Stiles and Richard Holmes, respectively) found gorgeous ways of turning a whole lot of historical and technical information about bygone lives and times into engaging, beautiful stories about the human will and spirit and what ambition and hard work gets us, I have much respect for both of them and may turn to more historical works in the future. Erin Morgenstern is a new author to me whose novel,  The Night Circus dazzled me with her Bradbury-meets-Rowling style fantastical tales of a magical circus with steampunk aesthetics ticking behind an imaginative P.T. Barnum nostalgia littering her wonderful scenes and characters. Her book was an impulse buy for me, in a vignette that showed advertising working at it's finest at a book store .

Please comment with writers I may not have read and let me know your favorites of theirs!

New Comic Series:
I started both Fables and Sandman this year and have to say they both live up to the hype. Bill Willingham's cast of characters in "Fables" and dazzlingly intricate plots are really appealing and dole out a wonderful blend of humor and serious concepts/concerns among the complex character's issues and entanglements. I'm only three volumes into Neil Gaiman's celebrated “Sandman” series but the genius of it and style of it is obviously up my alley, both high-concept but accessible stories that I look forward to finishing in the coming year. The art style of both of these is also right up my proverbial alley as well, being older series there isn't as much digital art and I really enjoy their experimental styles and bracketing of the stories and artwork.

Happy New year and Happy reading and exploring!  I intend on having a book or two of my own out by the end of the year...I hope you get to see it! Enjoy the full list below, I've emboldened some of my favorites reads for you.
Much love as always, I wish you a bountiful 2019!
-Bruce "AllOne" Pandolfo

Full reading list 2018:

Crossed
by Garth Ennis

Crossed: Family Values 
by David Lapham

Crossed: Psychopath
 by David Lapham

The Big Guy and Rusty The Boy Robot
 by Frank Miller

Fables 1-14 
by Bill Willingham

The First Tycoon (The Epic Life Story of Cornelius Vanderbilt) 
by T.J. Stiles

Jerusalem 
by Alan Moore

Dept.H vol. 3 and 4
 by Matt Kindt

Too Much Coffee Man: Omnibus
by Shannon Wheeler

“Heretics! The Wondrous and Dangerous Beginnings Of Modern Philosophy”
 by Steven & Ben Nadler

Paper Girls Volumes 4 & 5 
by Brian K Vaughn

Graphic Storytelling and Visual Narrative
 by Will Eisner

Sandman vol. 1-3 
by Neil Gaiman

The Great Reporters 
by David Randall

Cinema Purgatorio vol. 14 & 15 
by Alan Moore & co.

Bluebeard
 by Kurt Vonnegut

League Of Extraordinary Gentleman 4: Tempest vols. 1-3
 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill

The Bojefferies Saga 
by Alan Moore

A Time To Kill 
by John Grisham

Glacier City 
by Jay Faerber

Waking Up
 by Sam Harris

Wolf In White Van 
by John Darnielle

Don't Sweat The Small Stuff (and It's All Small Stuff) 
by Richard Carlson

A Small Killing 
by Alan Moore

Falling Upwards
 by Richard Holmes

The Courtyard Annotated 
by Alan Moore

A Portrait Of The Artist As a Young Man
 by James Joyce

Gwendy's Button Box 
by Stephen King

Elevation
 by Stephen King

The Night Circus
 by Erin Morgenstern

American Gods 
by Neil Gaiman

Sirens Of Titan 
by Kurt Vonnegut

Free Will
 by Sam Harris

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Thoughts on The Art of Improvisation, Freestyle Rap and Performance

Hey Folks,
As many of you will know through my performances and content, I absolutely love freestyling and improvising. Even in elementary school, long before I knew about hip-hop, I recall making up silly songs on the spot to make my friends laugh.  Fast forward 2 decades and I've been doing a weekly freestyle show "Spontaneous Sundays with AllOne" for nearly 2 years now and constantly improvising rap in my shows.  This blog was prompted when a fan named Ryan sent a very complimentary email asking simply "HOW DO YOU DO IT?" So I thought a lot about it and polled an audience of some of my favorite improvisers that I know personally for their thoughts and responded with a version of the writing below.  I think anyone can freestyle if they practice and still I think it is one of the most impressive and amazing performances to watch whether it is musical, rapping, poetry, dance, acting or comedy.  Here are some thoughts.  I have so many personal and distant artistic influences who've helped me grow over the years and I've tried to pepper in articles and videos throughout to pay homage and share the wealth of knowledge and talent out there, as I'm far from the last word or best practitioner of freestyle!  These are numbered but in no particular order of importance.  Please comment with your thoughts and stories of your  favorite artists and books, movies, songs, videos and articles about freestyling and improvisation! 
Improvise life,
-Bruce AllOne
Cyphering at O'Briens in 2015 with DJ Second Nature, guitarist Matt Heeb, Miggs Son Daddy, Dope KNife and Drent 


1) Freestyle rapping (When I say this I specifically mean IMPROVISING, going "off the top" "off the head" "off the cuff "off the dome"  etc.) is a "practice makes... practice" skill, like everything else. There is no such thing as "perfect" especially in improvisation.  However, I think that is one of the magic and charming aspects about it is the high wire act of tripping up and then having something brilliant occur and the very next moment so long as you stick with it. The practice of freestyling is the only thing like it, there are no replacements for engaging in freestyling. It is always the same situation where you are always IN THE MOMENT. You will often have different limitations or influences depending on the scenario (you may be playing with musicians to influence your rhythms, other rappers to influence your topics, a crowd to influence your energy or even the duration of time during which you are rapping) but you are always trusting yourself into the same capricious art.
The short version of this is: freestyle as often and in as many different scenarios as you can.

Anticon rapper DoseOne and his parter Jel had a Freestyle 101 class. This video and the rapping and articulation of the skill of freestyle in it is incredible, inspirational and instructional.
CLICK HERE TO WATCH the FREESTYLE 101 mini-documentary. 

2)  A number of people (including my talented friend Eli Brooklyn) responded to me opining that flow/rhythm/cadence is more difficult to master and more important to experiment with and develop than rhyming words. “Anyone can rhyme, but flow is tantamount to great rapping.” What I take from this or what I would expound on is this: expand your toolkit of deliveries that you insert words into.  If you are comfortable switching into many different deliveries and tempos, those fluctuating factors will not trip you up and leave you open to finding rhymes and word choices as you improvise. 

3) There is an almost-magic paradoxical quality of improvising. I find that you have to walk the fine line of being completely loose so that the majority of your imagination and vocabulary is available to you and but also be alert, aware and cognizant enough that within that "blue-sky period" space you can steer yourself in any direction at the drop of a hat.  You want to be in control what you are doing so you are able to make those moves and rapid creative choices consciously, but be open to new ideas (the "yes and" principle will be expounded on below). 

There is a ritualistic or meditative nature to accessing the free-form mentality that most felicitous for performing improvisational material.  This was never more beautifully or impressively brought to bear than when I was with my long-time friend, the brilliant poet and teacher, Eliot Green last year at an intimate house-show event and we went from talking one second, to him walking across the room at a moment’s notice following a quick deep breathing exercise and then inexplicably performing two completely lucid, mistake-free, articulate and topically relevant perfect  spoken word pieces that were totally improvised.  I had chills the entire time.  When I asked Eliot about it he has much to say. (He renounced performing written work years ago because he felt disconnected from audiences when reading from the page but was also disenchanted by the cumbersome ordeal preparing and memorizing material).  Eliot described a visual exercise he learned to do which I’ll poorly paraphrase here:  “I close my eyes and breathe deeply and imagine myself walking down a hallway to open a door.  When I open the door, I'm in a “blue-sky space” and am able to freely and comfortably improvise."

 CLICK HERE to watch a freestyle session as a Spontaneous Sundays with AllOne episode.
Which you can also watch for examples on adapting to different conditions and style (I go for more spoken word phrasing,tempo, vividness of language and allow the a capella format to let me loosen up my usual attachment to rhythm. 

4) As my rapper friend Kev Varghese (the most frequent Spontaneous Sundays guest) and several others made a point to focus on: One of the most important things is to HAVE FUN.  Let go of your ego and get  out of your own way (this is a hard thing culturally for rapper's to do, as it is a braggart's domain.)  Freestyle sessions are all fleeting moments and there are no wrong answers. Performing before people can be scary and you might want to impress people and do written-level virtuoso lyricism completely off-the-cuff. Trust when I say that "yes, written level improvising is possible" but ironically, fixating on that genius level of achievement will undoubtedly lock you up and stop the flow of thought.  This is essentially the experience of giving yourself writers block in real time.

 (As an aside I view “writers’ block”as an illusion created by stifling expectations. I.e. You have such a high bar set for yourself to impress yourself and the people who will consume your art that you never allow anything to come out because you’ve narrowed the aperture of what is acceptable and you never get any of the helpful creative juices flowing, so to speak.) 

An example to illustrate this point of expectations = freezing up is that, often, if you can get people who don't rap to goof off and freestyle sometimes they come up with incredible rhymes because they have no inhibitions, no presumptions that everyone thinks they will be amazing.  This "beginner's luck" or more accurately, "outsider's freedom" phenomenon is probably exclusive to rapping because essentially you are just talking with more rules as to what you say and how you say it. It is liberating to remember that we essentially improvise every conversation!  Freestyle rapping is the same thing as talking, it just imposes more limitations such as tempo adherence, rhyme pattern, topic consistency, word play etc. 


5) Despite seeming contradictory to the advised abandoning of our ego, when it comes to accessing our peak potential in all things, an ambitious sense of confidence is key (this is where fun comes in!)  All things are good in moderation, confidence is one of this things to balance in improvisation.  You need to be able to trust your skills enough to fall back on your instinctive ability!  If you feel good about your ability then you can be loose or psychologically spry enough to really grab onto whatever mercurial thoughts that you have and utilize them as expressive tools in the moment. 

6) Expose yourself to different scenarios, freestyle with other people. Try improvising singing. Rap over live instrumentation as well as different sorts of beats. Presenting yourself with these challenges is only going to on your skill set exponentially. Remember, in true improvising there is intrinsically no comfort zone. (This is probably true of art of any sort.)  

7) In general, improvisers of all sorts operate best with a “yes, and“ initiative. You may have heard this. It's a big axiom in improv acting. Never refuse a prompt to go in a new direction.  Run with suggestions full speed ahead with open arms and an open mind to do your best to meet the challenge proposed. The beat speeds up? Speed up along with it and see what happens! The other rapper suggests that you trade off every four lines? Go with that and see what happens. This is not limited to your interactions with other people or other factors in the freestyling, this rule is probably most useful in the self-contained meta-cognitive experience of rapping.

"It's not the note you play that is the wrong note it's the note you play after that makes it right or wrong." -Miles Davis
If you watch Spontaneous Sundays you’ll notice that I “screw up” a lot, I'll miss a rhyme or I say a nonsense word or a trip up my words. This can be embarrassing, but also it can be seen as an opportunity to take a new direction either with a rhyme scheme or an associative string of word play.  Even incorporating the newfound cadence created by my trip-up into the lines that follow can be a fun hair-pin turn.  Removing the ego and being open to anything helps us let every momentary mistake be a redemptive springboard for a recovery landing in a new, unforeseen direction.

8) Nearly everyone I talked to agreed that writing songs helped improve their freestyling. (My friend Dope Knife responded with the reverse statement, saying he observed that the more he freestlyes the more he notices his writing and rapping improve). Both seem inherently obvious as mutual benefactors and beneficiaries as both practices are great exercises for sharpening your thinking as well as your relationship to language, music, poetry and self-expression.  Writing a lot will help with your vocabulary as well as elucidating your ideas, your understanding of language, the style with which you write or rap and what you enjoy most about language and how you employ its plethora of tools. 

9). On the subject of expanding vocabulary, which Ryan explicitly expressed concern with his acumen for conjuring words,  there is a simple -if dry- answer to this: Write every day. But also and most importantly, read everyday, listen to music every day. When you come across a word or a turn of phrase that you don’t understand, stop for a minute and look it up and write it down. Writing it down will help you retain it and maybe do your best to employee that word or turn of phrase the next time you’re creating something or the next time you have a conversation.  Stephen King's "On Writing"  and Ray Bradbury's "Zen & The Art Of Writing" are both must-reads that comment extensively that you cannot be serious writer if you do not read. If we follow that logical thread, you cannot be a superb freestyler if you are not a good writer/rapper. Any of the greatest rappers of all time will tell you that they are readers and diligent students of their craft, I almost guarantee that!

Here are some particularly great freestylers and projects that I think would be informative to study/get inspired by:

Eyedea (Here's a link to Eyedea and Slug's famous freestyle on The Wake Up Show).  Eyedea is my personal greatest artist/freestyler/writer of all time.

(I've gotten to beatbox on stage for Kristoff Krane freestyling in NYC in 2010, he is always getting open and freestlying in his sets and for videos.  Here is Eyedea and Kristoff Krane's all-freestyle project “Face Candy”  they did 2 albums of live recordings as a group. "This Is Where We Were" and "Waste-Age-Teen Land"

Astronautalis (who includes freestyles in each of his shows by taking topics from the audience.  He also did an amazing project called "DANG!" (listen here) comprised of 7 freestyles in 7 nights where for a week straight when he woke up he recorded  a freestyle song about his dream the night before.)

Sage Francis (amazing freestyler and one of my favorite writers in hip hop of all time!)

Dope Knife (who has a freestyle section in each of his sets called "Who Got The Props?" where he takes items from the audience and makes songs about them)

Supernatural is a legendary freestyler and battler.


(Thesaurus and Illmac are two pioneering battle rap legends. Here are their 2 final rounds winning World Rap Championships 2006 and here's their 2007



Here are some great Spontaneous Sundays with AllOne episodes with fellow improvisers of various disciplines.  Each guest provides a different example of me working to adapt with different influences and styles and prompts:
Spoken Word artist Eliot Green 
Beatboxer, rapper, singer Kaila Mullady
Rapper, writer Tim Will Hunting
Rapper, Singer Zeus Lee
Producer/musician Drip 'N' Drive

Monday, January 1, 2018

Sorry, I'm Working! (Prioritizing art and combating distractions)

Happy New Year and welcome to 2018 my fellow AllOnederers.

As the symbolic significance of year's transitions entice us into hopeful changes of habit and pursuits of our ideals, this post I've been thinking about seems prime time to share.
One of the things I value more than anything is my writing and musical creation craft.  However, our priorities are really expressed through how we spend our time.  As Kristoff Krane expresses with beautiful brevity on his new 2017 release, "Kairos part 1":
"There's nothing more true than "You Are What You Do" "

I often find myself having a difficulty carving out time to simply sit down and work on a recording project or a writing endeavor.  A mix of my own ADHD and codependency (Note: Self-observed and described) implores me to say "YES" to every plan and event offer or request that a friend or family member asks of me.  The trouble is, often I'm thinking in the back of my head "Well... I have so much to do..." and yet I will confirm and commit to recreational plans.  Because it's just fun, right?  Life is passing me by and I'm lucky to have friends.  It's more exciting to go romping about with a slew of pals or catch some new stimulating media than it is to shut in privately and do creative work or -worse- dry independent-artist business work.  But pulling aside the impulsive answer to the intrusive-though-complimentary social opportunities, I'm very plainly neglecting my highest calling by not aligning the short-term-decisions with the long-term-goals.

Which calls back to the idea When saying "NO" to others, we're able to say "YES" to ourselves.

Often, if I bring up my own creative goals (admittedly meekly) as a refusal to proposed plans, people don't take that answer seriously.  Don't get me wrong, I love my friends and I'm grateful to have companions and family members who wish to spend time with me, but it can also be fairly distracting.  Frequently, non-creatives immediately figure that as an artist with a nebulous goal, you have a shifting timeline or a floating schedule and no real deadlines.  Yes, I should be more adamant about staying disciplined about my own goals.  However, I needed to do something to combat other's convincing prejudice against taking creative work seriously as well as to safeguard against my own tendency to jump impulsively into plans. 
(Remember: "People pleasers" are people too...)

Here's where another observation came into play.  Nobody questions when you say "Oh I have to work".  Not even for birthday parties and more formal or special events!  It's just accepted in this "us vs. them" sort of mentality that "yeah work sucks and external forces are controlling you and taking you away".  Yet I don't actually care about my own 9-5 work or my day-job, but it is a rarely-if-ever suggested thing to try to abandon or get out of work obligations.  Fusing these situations brought on a strategy that would take care of everyone that wasn't entirely lying, or was at worst lying-by-omission.

Recently, I've been identifying all my creative-time vaguely as "work" and nobody challenges me, and I can go about what I need to get done in a serious, uninterrupted and guiltless way. 

If I have creative work or artistic goals that would make me uncomfortably opt out of plans with friends or family, I just tell people "Oh I'm working until X time" to buy myself time to get what I need to accomplished.  When I am getting out of my day job at 6 and then planned on writing/editing or what-have-you at the library until 9, I just tell people "I'm working until 9".  Nobody asks questions, nobody tries convincing me to "wait until tomorrow to do that", nobody says "well, can't you do that when you get home later?", nobody makes any implication that the work isn't serious or a top priority

Really, all of this is a simple semantic way for me to trick myself and my friends into creating an environment that I can take my music and writing career more seriously.  If you have codependency issues or if you frequently find yourself distracted by the fun of other's plans and suggestions this might be a viable way for you to reclaim some of your prioritizing confidence.  For friends who I've done this to who are reading this... sorry, I can't talk right now, I'm working.

I hope we're all able to prioritize our goals and preferred disciplines while managing our time in a way that is best suited to becoming who we feel most represents us and accomplishes what we need to in this world!

What are your thoughts on this?  How do you keep on top of your goals and creative schedule?
Please contribute comments and suggestions below!
Always be loving, always love being!
-Bruce "AllOne" Pandolfo


Friday, December 29, 2017

Bookworm recap 2017 booklist (with links and recommendations)

Hello Bookworms!
    As we approach a new year, which comes with a cliche degree of incredulity, I figured I'd share the  list up of books I read in the past year (with as many links as I could muster to relevant things either purchase-links or information/website links.)   I don't think it affects you remotely, except perhaps to see where my head may have gone as far as motivation to read one title to another if there were any discernible through-lines, but this list is also in chronological order of reading them (save for random comic volumes) This year I actually obtained three new bookshelves, one of which I made from two old dresser drawers, so my crazy personal library is a little more tidy!

  To my retrospective surprise, A great majority of these are both graphic novels AND specifically ones by Alan Moore.  I've really fallen in love with the graphic novel form. Also, in any endeavor he is tackling, he seems to be the greatest creator in it.  I've actually come to the conclusion that he's one of the most thoughtful, interesting and gifted living writers, and certainly the finest I've ever read.

   I also ventured back into my love of Kurt Vonnegut in a big way as well as discovered a great love for Jules Verne in debuting him for myself.  I read a fair amount of authors who were new to me, none of which really disappointed in their own ways;  Tim Will Hunting (my friend Tim Mission), Tim Ferriss, Dashiell Hammett, Jonathon Tropper, Truman Capote, Jon Baird, Italo Calvino, Franz Kafka, OSHO, Randy Pausch and Joseph Conrad.   I'd venture to say that as far as novels/books specifically go, I think the most fascinating and enrapturing and enjoyable was "The Explorers Guild" by Jon Baird and Kevin Costner (yes, THAT Kevin Costner.) Illustrated by Rick Ross (No, NOT THAT Rick Ross).  Second to that might have been the poetic and strange Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.   

Special Mentions:
Best Non-fiction 
"Custodian Chronicles"

Best non-fiction collection:
 "All These Wonders"

Best Graphic Novels: 
Miracleman and/or Promethea 

Best "Classic": 
The Lost World

Best Story Collection:
 "Trigger Warning"

Best Anthology: 
"Shadow Show"

Favorite author new to me: 
Dashiell Hammett

Best Fiction read: 
"Explorers Guild"

Most unique prose fiction read:
 "Invisible Cities"

Most pragmatically impacting: 
"4-Hour Work Week"

 Please comment with some favorite reads of your own this year or if you have reviews or opinions on any of the following works! Asterisks will accompany my strong recommendations on this list 
Happy New Year and Happy Reading my fellow bookworms!
-Bruce








** Tom Strong books 1-6 (Alan Moore) **






** Promethea Books 1-5 (Alan Moore) **




Tom Strong's Terrific Tales book 1&2 (Alan Moore)


















Dept.H vol. 1 & 2 (Matt Kindt)