I started The September 11 Project seven weeks after 9/11/01, when I realized I could no longer work on the stage play I had been writing. Actually, I couldn't work at all. Not yet. But I needed to do something. I needed to do what I do best, write music. I wrote about the only thing I could think of at the time: the collapse of the World Trade Center and it's aftermath.
The Towers fell in what felt like my backyard (I was living in downtown Manhattan at the time). I volunteered to give blood, volunteered at Ground Zero, then became the main coordinator of an effort that converted the Chelsea Piers indoor parking lot into a huge dispensary of items needed by those who were digging and searching, welding and cleaning, tending and nurturing. Our effort was completely ad hoc, spontaneous, tireless, manic. Each of us had a hole inside larger than the one created by misguided terrorists; into it we poured all our energy. As an independent all-volunteer force (my only mandate was "reject no volunteers, turn no one away"), we did a better job than the official organizations of getting what was needed to the right place, with the help of the NYPD Harbor Patrol (until FEMA shut us down). The guys on the pile dubbed us "The Home Depot." Everything was donated: antibiotics, clothing, heavy duty gas masks, welding gear, buckets, food, even beer, cigarettes and singing actresses. I kept a journal during that time. You can read it here: A Journal from the Streets.
Our efforts were included in the documentary "Answering the Call: Ground Zero's Volunteers." For the 10th Anniversary in 2011, I was interviewed for another related film, "9/11 Remembered - Ten Years Later." After recounting everything that happened ten years ago, they asked what I did to cope. This caused me to revisit these songs. I decided to put them out as an album.
Because I now suffer from a lung disorder and can no longer sing, the vocals couldn't be re-recorded. I remastered each track, but did not re-record or add any vocals or instrumentals. Everything is just as I played and sang 10 years ago in my living room; songs written and performed to heal something inside me, that's all. I think many other people share this need for healing, so I am sharing the music now, even if it's a little late.
"I Will Love" was the first song I wrote, November 1, 2001. It was all I could think of to say. Although the chorus is rousing, uplifting, to me the song was more about the sounds I used than the words I sang, sounds of shock and disorientation. I had a hard to singing without crying and had to do many takes. Next, I wrote "Last Call." The lyrics are inspired from first hand accounts told to me by so people who had lost someone and now had only that last memory on the phone, calls made just before getting to work or from a burning building moments before collapse. While writing the third song, "New Holy Land," I began to crystallize my experience volunteering. I also began to place all the tragedy and loss into a larger perspective. That's why I decided to make it as the first track on the album: it says more of what I experienced, personally, and better summarizes what I've taken from that time. It began just as the lyrics describe: starting on the street alone, cutting bagels and pouring coffee for the ambulance workers lined up on the West Side Highway. 36 hours later, I had 200 people under me providing everything the fireman and EMTs requested. The last stanza wonders if the change we felt would sustain, if the new New York that was being realized all around us would translate into something permanent. It is a question still unanswered.
The concern that something had forever been lost was what inspired "Was There Once A Time." That song ended up finding its way into subsequent musicals. It's lyrics are applicable to many times, many ages. In writing that song, I felt like I had turned the corner from my 9/11 obsession and could actually write about other things.
"At Her Window" was actually written to my daughter, since I had just divorced her mother and wanted her to know I had not left her. She was only 11 years old at the time. But after listening to it again, I realized the song could also be sung by a father's ghost to his surviving daughter. Including it in this collection has added something special to the song. I hope you agree.
The last two tracks form a kind of couplet: "What Thou Lovest Well" and "When I Sing." I wrote the first version of "What Thou Lovest Well" in 1978, when I was a young man. It was originally inspired by Ezra Pound's Canto LXXXI, composed in his mind while he was imprisoned in fascist Italy during WWII. I've tinkered with the lyrics and arrangement many times over the years. I felt it's message was apropos and revisted it again in my living room in 2001. I haven't change it sense. In fact, I rarely sing it anymore. This is the final arrangement. I think it finally strikes just the right chord.
The final track, "When I Sing", was written in Cape Cod, after the World Trade Center's pile of rubble had been cleared. The hole left behind formed a sad, silent, sorry scar. Ground Zero stayed that way for so very long. Long enough for me to question whether any of the effort would ever result in renewal. Would at least one small piece of the Utopian world that had animated us as volunteers ever be made manifest in the truths of the future? The last line of the previous song, "What thou lovest well will always remain," is answered by the first line of this song, "Why do I lie when I sing?" The album ends with this stanza: "It's not that I don't believe./It's that I don't seem to need to anymore./It's not that I want to be free of it/Except when I sing..."
There is very deep belief running through this music, regardless of what my final lyrics suggest. Belief I witnessed in everyone's eyes with whom I worked during that time. Belief felt by those viewing it through their television screens, or through the filter of a decade remembered. A belief that, I hope, will never leave us. A belief in something better. A hunger for meaning. A belief that requires continued reaffirmation..
All instruments and vocals are by me, accept on "What Thou Lovest Well" my pop singer friend from L.A., Joseph Gray contributes backing vocals. All music & lyrics ©2001 Tobin Mueller.
See CDBaby.com for info on recordings, reviews and other liner notes.
Bio Notes: Tobin Mueller's grandfather was a violinist for silent films, and his mom was a vocalist. He started his music career at age 14, arranging music for his mom. He grew up in Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Marquette University and UW Milwaukee. He moved to New York City in the 90's when his musical dramas began being produced there and had several shows off-Broadway. He now lives in Connecticut. A songwriter, playwright and photographer, Tobin is free spirited in his ways of artistic discovery, dedicated to creating new musical expressions above all.
Tobin has journeyed through musical theater, classical, jazz, and progressive rock. He's written ballets, film scores, children's music, poetry, historical fiction, political essays, domestic humor, and video games. He has recorded with Dave Brubeck, Ken Schaphorst, Donny McCaslin, Janet Planet, Dane Richeson, Woody Mankowski and others.
In London, Tobin was inducted into the United Nations 1994 Global 500 Roll of Honor for his cherished work with youth and the environment.
Member: ASCAP, Dramatists Guild (NYC).
|Song of Myself / Solo voice & piano...|
Song of Myself - voice/piano - Tobin's favorite cover songs, reinterpretted. Intimate, heartfelt, devistatingly honest music. Complete lyrics and song notes are linked from Tobin's Song of Myself project page. Ballads, blues, showtunes, folk rock, jazz - the music of Tobin's roots. These are songs he's song for decades, songs that have evolved and matured with him. New additions to the Great American Songbook.
"American Tune" by Paul Simon. "Blackbird" by Paul McCartney. Bob Dylan's "Dignity." A Joni Mitchell and an Elton John medly. "Being Alive" from Company (Stephen Sondheim). "Impossible Dream" from Man of la Mancha. "Oh Danny Boy." "Frozen Man" by James Taylor. Many more, plus two original songs by Tobin Mueller.
A moving and meaningful compilation. Songs from a life well lived.
Album released July 13th, 2012.
|The Muller's Wheel / Jazz...|
The Muller's Wheel is a collaborative project combining the talents of pianist Tobin Mueller and saxophonist Woody Mankowski in Jazz Quartet and larger ensemble settings. These original tracks represent their personal journey through jazz influences -- from swing to bop to fusion to funk. The styles of Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Herbie Hancock, The Brecker Brothers, Weather Report and more influence this homage to the jazz greats. Even the blues are given Mueller/Mankowski's uniquely bop-funk treatment. In all, the duo's originality permeate each track, each jazz sub-genre.
This is joyous music. It reminds us of the happiness we relive when returning to our musical roots. Mueller/Mankowski remind us how the personalities of certain eras continue to assert their influence and power.
"The Muller’s Wheel" title is based on the biological concept that mutation and DNA recombination creates cycles of growth and loss. It serves as a metaphor for the ebb and flow of the synthesis and creativity Mueller and Mankowski apply to their musical influences. The tracks are arranged in historical sequence, and the listener appreciates the cross-pollination between each of these genres. Listening from beginning to end creates a cyclical pilgrimage. It's rhythms and inventive flights of fancy invite the listener along for many return trips.
|Rain Bather / Jazz...|
Tobin's first pure jazz recording is Rain Bather, a jazz ensemble 80 minute long play CD. Tobin plays B3 organ and composes all the tunes. It features superlative solo performances byan all-star band members. Most of the tunes are in the jazz-funk-fusion vein, but many others try to break new ground, defying easy labels.
Click here to learn more about the recording.
Tobin Mueller - B3 organ, electric piano, synth; composer
Woody Mankowski - soprano saxophone
Chris Mueller - acoustic piano
Jeff Cox - acoustic bass
Dane Richeson - drums & percussion
Tom Washatka - tenor saxophone
Doug Schnieder - tenor sax
Ken Schaphorst - flugelhorn
Bob Levy - trumpet
Sal Giorgianni - flute
Bill Barner - clarinet, additional sax
McBoy - electric guitars
|Tobin's first solo piano collection is Morning Whispers, a song cycle of tragic beauty. Although it's marketed as New Age, it is more Neo-Classical and melancholy than most New Age recordings. The use of key changes, unusual time signatures, and other variational devices makes this work involving, not merely background music. Its internal intensity, however, does not detract from its healing essence, its sense of inner joy.
The second is 13 Masks. This project came out of discussions about the role subconscious plays in creativity. Tobin used his illustration of 13 Masks to inspire songs combining ragtime, jazz and avant-garde classical. He let his subconscious lead the way, creating phrases and variations that pleased something deep inside. An eclectic mic of original of songs, for sure
For more details, see Tobin Mueller's Recordings...
|Audiocracy / Progressive Rock...|
See: Audiocracy: Revolution's Son for latest band info.
Ever since Tobin first listened to Yes, he's been enthralled with progressive rock. Using the Internet, he collaborated with players from around the world. He put tracks together piece by piece, a whole different way to record, but it was very rewarding: the music is inventive and driving!
The album was well reviewed in Progessive and other leading prog mags. The CD inculdes a collection of great arwork illustrating each song by Hovakimian Anoushavan. Please check it out.
Tobin Mueller: organs, synths, pianos, drum programming, backing vocals
Twon: vocals, bass, acoustic guitar
Bob Piper: electric guitar, guitar synth
Darren Chapman: electric guitar
Tadashi Togawa: guitars
Rob Thurman: drums
• Audiocracy on CDBaby
• Audiocracy on iTunes
|A Bit Of Light / Alternative Rock...|
A progressive folk / cross-genre collection of songs Tobin's been accumulating for a decade, A Bit Of Light includes some of his favorite collaborations with saxophonists, fiddle players and guitarists, mixing jazz, bluegrass, tango and folk-rock. World renown violinist Entcho Todorov, saxophonists Danny McCaslin and Woody Mankowski, and guitarist John Luper provide fabulous highlights.
The CD comes with a digital booklet in PDF format:
Download the Digital Booklet here!
(click to view in browser, right-click to download to desktop)
For more details, see Tobin Mueller's Recordings...
• A Bit Of Light on CDBaby
• A Bit Of Light iTunes
|• Tobin on CDBaby • Tobin on iTunes •
• Member: ASCAP, Dramatists Guild (NYC).