We've updated our Terms of Use. You can review the changes here.

My Vortex Camera (Control Songs, Vol. 3)

by David Garland

  • Streaming + Download

    Includes unlimited streaming via the free Bandcamp app, plus high-quality download in MP3, FLAC and more.
    Purchasable with gift card

      $8 USD


My Vortex Camera My Vortex Camera is filled with film and focussed, poised to take some pictures of more changes. Twirling and churning, I view my vortex vaguely; the camera holds it still so I can see it. Smile, my unavoidable void! Say “cheese,” and strike a flattering pose! I want to remember you just the way you aren’t yet. Here in my wallet I have my vortex photos; snapshots of the process of transition. Here’s Hesitation, and this one’s Taking Chances. This big one shows the Moment When I Lost Her. Smile, my vertiginous void. Face me, and let my lens take you in. I want to decipher you just the way that you are now. Smile, my unavoidable void, smile. Void my unintentional smile. My Vortex Camera can’t see the sea or sunset. It’s watching just the patterns of emotion. Smile.
Ditty One 01:27
ESP 02:46
ESP If I had ESP your mind would be revealed to me. Each and every thought within would be as naked as your skin when it has been unclothed. If you had ESP my captive thoughts would be set free. My pregnant pause would then give birth, revealing all for what it’s worth, with depth or dearth exposed. Extra Sensory Perception— it’s a tinselly deception. We are, each of us, doomed to be discrete, locked inside our homes of meat. —please read my mind— If I had ESP, then I could shed uncertainty. But as it is, I have to guess, and your thoughts, I must confess, are more or less unknown. Extra Sensory Perception— it’s a tinselly deception. We are, each of us, doomed to be discrete, locked inside our homes of meat. —please read my mind—
Ditty Two 01:18
Under the Blanket He wears his wristwatch, she wears her jacket, under the blanket. They’re never naked. They’ve almost forgotten how. She’d like to touch him. Yeah All of a sudden, they’re hearing music! Hah, hey! He’d like to touch her under the blanket. Yeah His wristwatch has wound down. Her jacket is empty. And under the blanket it’s so warm.
My Tiny Life 04:33
My Tiny Life My tiny life— Circumscribed by a moment or two of the part of a moment when you and I start looking further than just right in front of right here, contained and confined by our fear of containment, confinement, and fear of just being just only just here for just such a tiny time in our tiny lives. Oh, my tiny life. A brief interlude of bad attitude; a short episode in a lachrymose mode; no sooner begun than pretty much done; my glimpse of the sun—my tiny life. Unprepared for the limits so quickly defined by the limits prepared by my mind, with each thing that I’m choosing, I’m loosing the rest, forgoing the knowing of an always growing, refining, defining collection of things I’ve not done with just such a tiny time for my tiny life, my tiny life, my tiny life. With just such a tiny time for my tiny life— oh, my tiny life.
Ditty Three 02:15
Happy Ending 04:03
Happy Ending George is a hipster, and so is Marge, who’s his sister. Will they find some clothes to wear? I don’t know. George drives a blue car, but he drives to a place which is too far. Will he find his way back home? I don’t know. (chorus:) For a happy ending, you should see a movie, and hope that dreams can still come true. I sure hope so. I have a yearning to increase how much I’m earning. Will I make the move to Easy Street? Who can say? When you’re in the mood to eat some tasty food and you go down to the store, will you find the perfect dish? Who can say? (chorus) ’cause even I can see that reading the newspaper isn’t an end in itself. Sometimes I feel uncertain about that final curtain. Will it fall with grace, or with a punch in the face? I don’t know. George is a hipster, and so is Marge, who’s his sister. Will they find some clothes to wear? I don’t care. (chorus:) ’cause even I can see that reading the newspaper isn’t an end in itself.
Ditty Four 01:27
Forest Fractures Branches growing thick and thickly, grow in sharp and jagged lines. Bark on trunks is rough and brittle, needle leaves grow on the pines. There are leaves in all directions, there are leaves upon the ground. Friction in the upper levels offers ears the only sound. Trees can block out all the sunlight, vines can cling with viperous coil. And the roots are part of this scene, though they’re hidden in the soil. (chorus:) Trunks taper to twigs. A twig’s a harness for a leaf. Leaves translate the light into wood and green and height. Breaking branches, crackling footsteps— sounds not heard here for an age. Forest fractures herald humans appearing on our verdant stage. Are they here to chop the woods down, stripping bare the forest floor, clearing roads and building cities, making way for millions more? No, it’s worse, they come as poets, to interpret what is here. Seeing trees as symbols only of their strictly human fear. (chorus) One intruder tripped and stumbled, fell into the underbrush. One is lost; another’s frightened by the leafy forest’s hush. Still another’s nervous feeling stems from staring at a tree. They’re all desperate, in a panic, thrashing through the woods to flee. They think forests harbor dangers, they think woods should be cut down. But the truth is, their behavior differs little in the town.
Ditty Five 00:40
Once Upon a Time Once upon a time... most seem to start that way. Once I tried to climb upon a time, but couldn't stay.


CD released 2000
Review Records, catalog #rere96cd
Gently re-mastered in 2011

liner notes

In New York City, where I live, musicians from very different backgrounds and from all over the world can encounter one another in their search for kin from their muse’s home town. It might be that their only point of connection, and only common language, is music.

Several years ago I was listening to maverick radio station WFMU when a song about a “wastepaper basket fire” came on. I hear a lot of songs I can enjoy, but not so many that make me feel that the songwriter is grappling with words and music the way I like to myself. I called the dj, Irwin Chusid, and learned that I was hearing Brian Dewan perform one of his songs. Irwin gave me Brian’s phone number, and I called him up to invite him to be a guest on my WNYC radio show, Spinning On Air. A song heard by chance on the radio and a sense of aesthetic camaraderie were the only things I expected to have in common with Brian.

During our first conversation we learned that we’re literally from the same home town—Lexington, Massachusetts—attended the same grade school, junior high and high school, and the house Brian grew up in is diagonally across the street from the house I first lived in. Brian is nine years younger than I am, so we hadn’t met up in Lexington. There are two wonderful CDs of Brian’s songs: Brian Dewan Tells the Story (Bar None), and The Operating Theater (Instinct Records), plus a couple EP CDs were released by the Hello Recording Club. Brian’s electric zither is one he designed and built, and he plays it through a Leslie cabinet.

Will Holshouser is also from the same area, though less precisely. He’s from Cambridge, Mass., but it’s only as New Yorkers that we met. Will is the only accordionist I know of who studied with jazz eccentric Anthony Braxton. He’s an imaginative composer and arranger, as well as being one of the new generation of accordionists for whom the accordion is not just a genre instrument.

The Dutch multi-instrumentalist, singer, and songwriter Fay Lovsky happened to be in New York at just the right time to add her theremin to “ESP.” Her CDs are available from www.bastamusic.com. It really is a thrill to play with imaginative musicians like Brian, Will, and Fay. And there’s another voice on this CD as well: my 11 year-old son, Kenji Garland.

Most of the music on this CD was performed for broadcast on Live at the Stork Club, a weekly program on WFMU. I want to thank the show’s host, Stork, for inviting us to play. On my other recordings I’ve allowed myself to reimagine the performing ensemble for each song, but this CD is different. Instead of indulging in the infinite options of multi-tracking, I’ve limited the arrangements to what we can play live. Three of these songs have been released in different versions: “Under the Blanket” and “Happy Ending” on Togetherness, and “Forest Fractures” on Control Songs.

“Control Songs” is the category I’ve created to describe my songs. Just as “love songs” can address the fundamental motivating force of love from many perspectives—happy, sad, ernest, ironic—so my Control Songs address another fundamental force in our lives: our need—sometimes ambivalent and illusory—to believe that we have control over our lives.

—David Garland, March 2000

(This CD includes new performances of a few songs that were released previously on Control Songs and Togetherness.)


released September 1, 2000


David Garland: vocals, bass guitar, flute, psaltery & recorder, toy piano, guitar, accordion
Brian Dewan: electric zither, autoharp, taisho koto, accordion
Will Holshouser: accordion
Fay Lovsky: theremin on “ESP”
Kenji Garland: vocals on “Once Upon a Time”

Produced by David Garland, who wrote the music and lyrics, except lyrics for “Once Upon a Time,” by Anne Garland

Cover art by DG


all rights reserved



David Garland New York, New York

Composer/singer/multi-instrumentalist David Garland has been steadily shaping songs in new ways since 1980.

"Like many great songwriters before him, Garland pushes the limits of acceptable harmony and dissonance, yet never at the expense of beauty. If it's not possible for popular music to reach the heights of the great classical masters, it seems no one has told David Garland."
--Sean Lennon
... more

contact / help

Contact David Garland

Streaming and
Download help

Redeem code

Report this album or account

If you like David Garland, you may also like: