The Mystery of the Brain

Diane and her daughter, 2007On September 25, 2007, my sister Diane had surgery that changed her life, The surgery to remove a tumor from her optic nerve went terribly wrong, Diane was left with severe brain damage to the left frontal lobe. For months, the doctores told us she wasn’t going to wake up and if she did, she would be in a vegetative state. No one could offer any hope for her future except to suggest that we prepare for the worst. Once Diane defied all of the predictions of her doctors and not only woke up from the coma, she was alert and aware of her surroundings. she was blind in her left eye and could not move her right side, but her left arm and leg were strong. Her speech was profoundly impaired, but she did manage to communicate with single words and gestures. While she was hardly her robust former self, my sister was still in that severely damaged body and for the first time, we had hope for her future. maybe the same medical profession that “broke” her could offer some way for her to regain at least a protion of what she lost. At first, she made steady progress with traditional speech and physical therapy. She was working on regaining some independence and we actually have some video of her getting up on her own two feet and walking with a lot of help from her therapists. But after she suffered some setbacks due to seizures and bouts with pneumonia, her progress palateued and her insurance stopped allowing her to have therapy. Since she wasn’t progressing quickly enough, she was not eligible for any therapy at all. I never realized that there was no such thing as gradual progression or therapy at your own pace in the world of medical coverage – both private insurance and medicaid – Diane had both and neither could help her get what she needed. Still we hoped that there was someone out there with a therapy or treatment that may help improve the quality of her life. Surely someone must be doing research into brain functions and nerve regeneration or re-purposing?

I started searching for places that may offer specialized therapy for someone with Diane’s severe level of brain damage. Unfortunately, I found many organizations who lobby for funding and several doing research but only a few offering actual treatment and none offering anything innovative for someone with Diane’s severe problems. I had always thought that the problem would be funding the treament Diane needed, but now I realized that the treatment may not exist. the reasons for this are not entirely clear, we can treat cancer with amazing success now, AIDS is no longer the certain death sentence it once was but we still haven’t unlocked the mysteries of the human brain. There have been studies showing that despite the long help belief that brain cells do not regenerate, this may not be true and in fact sometimes functions done by that lost cell can be taken over by other cells. So many possibilities, but so little that we can actually do to help Diane regain her ability to talk, walk and do anything independently. so, with treatment limited to things that will just keep her alive, Diane sits in a nursing home that provides her with basic care but that can’t offer her any treatment or therapy that might improve her future. My question to all of these lobbying groups is where does all the money you successfully lobby go? Where is the data from the research you have funded? How much of the funds have actually gone for research and how much of it has gone to fund additional lobbying?

We all realize at this point that there is no miracle cure for Diane’s condition. However, it is frustrating that even with good insurance and a specialized care account that will provide anything she needs that insurance can’t cover that her treatment options are so limited. At this point, we are willing to send her anywhere if there is hope for some improvement for her. Our dream is that one day she will be able to spend days with her family and friends at the beach or even just sit around the kitchen table with us at family gatherings. We would like her to have all the support and therapy she needs to stay as healthy and active as she possibly can. With all of the amazing technilogy we have in this modern enlightened word we live in , we still don’t fully understand what makes our bodies function the way they do.

Dollars for Diane

Karyn Albano

Saturation Acres Recording Studio

Saturation Acres flagSaturation Acres is a recording studio located in DuPont, PA. It is owned and operated by Bret Alexander, songwriter, guitarist, and producer for The Badlees, a band which reached national success in the 1990s and continues to enjoy great regional success to this day. Alexander opened Saturation Acres in 1999 at its original location near Danville, PA along with fellow Badlee Paul Smith. The duo had recently recorded and produced the Badlees’ album Amazing Grace independently in Alexander’s basement, after the band found itself in major label “limbo” the previous year. The result was an album that sounded as good as anything coming from the major studios and a rekindled fire by Alexander and Smith to do more studio work (both had started out as studio engineers before forming the Badlees in 1990).

For nearly a decade and a half, the studio has been the most highly regarded and respected in Central Pennsylvania as hundreds of projects have been produced at Saturation Acres. These projects have crossed the musical spectrum from hard rock/heavy metal to country/Americana and just about everywhere between. There is also a great diversity in the level of artists with national acts like Breaking Benjamin and Darcie Miner recording in the same place as scores of regional acts like Mycenea Worley, HotWingJones, Ed Randazzo, and a list too long to reasonably list here. Most of the Cygnus Wave releases have had ties with Saturation Acres to varying degrees, with the Imaginary Lines and Animal Society albums having the deepest affiliations.

Bret Alexander in the control room at Saturation AcresIn 2007, Smith left the studio as a full-time partner (although he still works on many projects) and Alexander decided to relocate to the less rural, current setting in the heart of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton corridor of Northeastern PA. Although the studio has lost some of the mystique of its former remote setting, it’s new locations gains much in convenience for artists. Alexander says the most rewarding aspect of his work is when he takes a mish-mash of ideas within a band and forges them into a cohesive direction. As he put it in an interview a few years ago;

It’s so cool to get them in a room, and get them on the same team, and start to figure out exactly who they are. And all of a sudden, it’s like ‘OK. Now we know. Now we know who we are, and what we’re good at. Before, they were just playing.”

Ric Albano

The Yet-To-Be-Solved Riddle Song

There are times when songwriting is just not so serious. One such example for me came in the late spring of 2006, when I sat down to write a song about summertime, but ended up writing a cool riddle which gypped lines from songs from eight of my favorite classic rock artists.

The song was “She Said” (listen to it here) and each of the nine lines within the three verses begins with “She said…” or “She says…” with either direct or paraphrased quotes from established songs. The first line is;

She says I wonder if you’ll ever learn…”

This is a reference to an obcure song that I wrote about a decade earlier. But the rest of the lines refer to well-establish artists and well established song. A few hints on these songs – first, all these songs were released between 1966 and 1975 and next, the tense which preceeds the lines tells whether the original singer of these lines was alive or dead in 2006. Here are the eight lines in question;

She says ‘A movement is 6 stages while the 7th brings return’
She said ‘I know what it is like to be dead’

She says ‘Behind the beauty cracks appear’
She said ‘The future is uncertain and the end is always near’
She says ‘Keep them mower blades sharp’

She says ‘Think as it was and then again it will be’
She says ‘Go sing your heart out to the infinite sea’
She says ‘I may make you feel but I can’t make you think’…”

Six years after the song was written and nearly three after it was released internationally, noone has yet been able to tell me the origin of all eight of these quotes.

Listen to the Song:

Ric Albano

Lorelei’s Crass and Sinister Style

The story of the origins of the song “Lorelei”

Imaginary Lines image 26

It was as strange and surreal a moment as it was wonderful. The moment that is now captured forever in the quarky little 7-second intro to the song “Lorelei”, started out as a simple enough task but soon escalated into a long and deep yet frustrating conversation.

The tune itself had been bouncing around the house for years with various lyrics and themes but by the summer of 2004 I was in the midst of a prolific writing period and decided to take this simple, jazzy melody of this tune and try to revamp it with a new theme. That theme soon arrived by my merely going to work everyday, with plenty of material coming as a result of one asinine remark after from some of my “enlightened” co-workers, especially in the political context of an election year. I would then go home at night and occasionally hear refreshing remarks from my 6-year-old son Jacob, who seemed amazingly just as interested in Campaign 2004, but yet seemed to make statements just as (if not more) profound then those “grown-ups” had made during the day. I had my new song!

I would simply take statements from both sources – the pathetic, boogey-man believing state worker and the intuitive, brilliant 6-year-old ver batim and juxtapose these statements in an entertaining (albeit cryptic) set of rhymes that would become the song “Lorelei” (check out the resultant lyrics here). I also decided to further pay tribute to my young source of inspiration by naming one of the many fictional characters in the song “Mr. Rooski”, the same nick-name that I’d been calling Jacob practically since birth. Then came the above mentioned moment, when I decided to test-drive this new tune on one it’s inspirations by performing it on the living room piano. Jacob was remarkably quiet and still throughout the 6 or 7 minute performance. Then when it was finished he stared back it me blankly for a little while, not letting on what (if anything) he thought about the song. Then, out of the blue, he launched his first remark:

“You didn’t win fair and square, you cheated!”

He was referring to a game of Madden football that we had played earlier in the day. At that point in time, he was just about as good as myself at video games (he’s much better than me now), so when we’d play he would either win and gloat or lose and blame me for somehow cheating to win. I calmly explained that this lyric was in no way about the Madden game and it’s original source actually came from other people that he didn’t even know. Further, I explained, the “Mr. Rooski” that is mentioned in the was in the song was not actually him but was instead was a fictional character, a gonzo temperament, an “abstract facsimile”. At first he seemed to accept this logic, but just as I was about to get up from the piano stool and continue on with this day he continued the argument with an amusing back-and-forth between myself and my 6-year-old son that lasted about a half hour. Everytime that I thought I got the point across that the song wasn’t actually referring to him, Jacob would continue the battle of wits by pointing out other lyrics that “proved” me wrong. After each subsequent argument and counter-argument and several ever-intesifying, open-handed piano bangs with the now-nearly shouted;

“It’s not Rooski! It’s an abstract facsimile of Rooski!”

I had an odd new beginning to this odd and entertaining song.

NOTE: This song’s most recent and final update included a revamping of the lyrics for the 2018 release of the Sinclair Soul album Nine Fine Lines.

Listen to the Song:

Ric Albano, 2005

Sound Off for Vets 2012

America's VeteransLast Saturday Sound Off for Vets (a site sub-hosted on Cygnus Wave) throw their annual free benefit concert to benefit the Wounded Warrior Project and raised $900 for that great cause. Due to the donated efforts of many volunteers, local business sponsors, and performing musicians, the show was once again a success.

The event took place on City Island in Harrisburg, PA and the four hour show consisted of sets by Pennsylvania artists Chris Nelson, Rhyne McCormick, Michael Anthony Smith and the Dirty Thieving Gypsies, and Shift Seven. Nelson, the benefit’s organizer, claimed this to be the best show since Sound Off began in 2010;

These folks came out and played free of charge in order to help us get the word out about our wounded service men and women…”

THe show was videotaped in its entirity and there are discussions about possible DVDs for sale to raise further funds for the cause. On this Memorial Day weekend, it is essential that we all remember and give appreciation to those who put it all on the line in defense of our country, our citizens, and our freedom.