Cold in America [Frio en America]



This song has no lyrics, it is an instrumental.

Music by Dave Ryder and Dan McHugh.
Copyright 2010. All Rights Reserved.

Recording and lyrical notes:

The main riff was created by Dan, a 6/8 piano chord progression that I immediately loved. I layered MANY guitars on top of it, and we arranged it like a jazz standard: a brief intro, the the head leading to the middle section where we free form improvised guitars and synths, finally ending with the head again. There is a fairly long, drawn out ritard* to finish the song on the last few bars of the head which we had difficulty timing our playing together, so at Kent’s suggestion I didn’t play on the end of the final take, but instead acted as a conductor waving my arms to the feel of the deceleration I was hearing in my head, and then I just overdubbed my last part later. I must admit I felt foolish “conducting”, but it IS an effective way to get a group of people to time things in sync. It is the only time I ever did it, and it actually was a wonderful experience – I imagine real conductors must feel a massive rush of endorphin (not to mention stress) knowing that this large group of supremely talented musicians are watching his every move as he controls the tempo and volumes of various movements of a performance, signaling different sections (brass, woodwinds, percussion, etc.) to join in or lay out as the case may be.

It is odd to imagine music and war having anything in common, but it is not a coincidence that the military uses terms like “it was a perfectly orchestrated flanking maneuver” or “we will orchestrate the airstrike with the infantry attack”. Large groups need a leader or else chaos ensues.

*We have been keenly aware of dynamics and time signatures in our music for a very long time, but I personally developed a bad habit of just “fading out” a song rather than taking the time to work out a precise ending – and time is the issue, always – we all have day jobs, and so we are always under a time crunch to get as much done as possible on the rare occasions we can actually all get together and record.

Some things we have been slowly incorporating into our music over the last few years are playing around with tempos (although I used to be almost always opposed to slowing down during a song (ugghh), except at the very end like the ritardando in this song) and key changes: a well placed key change, usually higher and slightly faster can really energize a song. By the time I feel that I have pretty well mastered my personal preferences of song crafting I will either be to old to play anymore, or dead lol.

Jack Delano.

Santa Fe R.R. yards, Argentine, Kansas. Jack Delano.

Santa Fe R.R. yards, Argentine, Kansas, by Jack Delano.

Jack Delano was a remarkable man, but I had never heard of him, and I don’t remember how it transpired that I came to use this photo to represent this song. It is the switch house at night at the Santa Fe R.R. yards in Argentine, Kansas, a place not even remotely close to any of the events that occur in Odiseo. It initially caught my eye because it seemed to capture coldness on several levels: The misty coldness of the foggy night, the cold steel rails and cold steel metal of the trains, and symbolically the coldness of the mechanized, industrial FBI machine that was so different from the warmth of hearth, home and family Ulises missed.

During my research of this series of photographs (commissioned by the Farm Security Administration Photography program) I realized that he had captured on film a visual Odyssey: a journey taking him from Chicago to L.A. during WWII. I wonder if he ever thought of it in that manner, i.e. as his personal Odyssey.

Then a few more things came to light that clinched it for me. Jack Delano was far more than a simple government photographer (and the fact that Ulises and Jack were both men employed by the government was not lost on me either): later in life he was a filmmaker, musician, author, artist – this man, who was born in Russia and immigrated to America in 1923 (on a ship named the SS Homeric!) was a true renaissance man. Somebody should make a film or documentary about his life.

He directed Los Peloteros, a Puerto Rican film about poor rural kids and their love for baseball. The film remains a classic in Puerto Rican cinema. He also wrote the score. His musical compositions included works of every type: orchestral (many composed for the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra), ballets (composed for Ballet Infantil de Gilda Navarra and Ballets de San Juan), chamber, choral (including Pétalo de rosa, a commission for Coro de Niños de San Juan) and solo vocal.

The photo is a work of the United States Government, and is therefore in the public domain. To the left is a photo of Jack working in his studio in 1990.