Ilona Tipp | Unadorned

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United States - New Hampshire

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Folk: Singer/Songwriter Jazz: Jazz Vocals Moods: Type: Vocal
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by Ilona Tipp

Vocal pyrotechnics with soaring melodies and rich harmonies spanning and transcending styles including jazz, blues, folk, country, Klezmer, and classical… but also just pretty songs.
Genre: Folk: Singer/Songwriter
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
1. Unadorned
3:45 $0.99
2. Home
4:16 $0.99
3. Where I May Go
3:21 $0.99
4. Traveling Band
2:37 $0.99
5. Best of the Real
4:16 $0.99
6. Worrying Will Do You No Good
2:58 $0.99
7. Water
4:50 $0.99
8. Long Gone Blues
3:41 $0.99
9. Niggun for the Moon
4:12 $0.99
10. Nobody Can Tell Me (TDOR)
3:30 $0.99
Downloads are available as MP3-320 files.


Album Notes
Ilona Tipp, voice and piano (tracks 1, 2, 5, 7)
Jacob Hiser, piano (tracks 3, 6, 8, 10) and vocals (tracks 3 and 5)
All songs, music and lyrics, by Ilona Tipp, copyright 2018 Missive Maven Music
Full liner notes on my artist website, under album links

1. "Unadorned"
Ilona Tipp, vocals and piano
I had the first line of this song kicking around in my head for well over a year before I finally finished the song in December 2017. It all grew out of that idea, and as I wrote it, I deliberately kept the chords and voicings simpler than some of my other, more jazz-infused songs. I wanted this to be simple, direct, and true... unadorned.

2. "Home"
Ilona Tipp, vocals and piano
I wrote this song for my best beloved Alex Myers... spouse, best friend, muse, and inspiration for decades. I've been trying to write him a love song for many years, but it never felt right until now. The chorus came to me to me as I was walking home from the train station on a very cold winter night, looking up at the stars. I sang the melody of the line "you are my north star, you're my guiding light; you're a warm bed on a cold, cold night" into my phone as I was walking (a method I often use for songwriting - many of my songs have been born out of a line sung into my phone as I walk!), and the rest of the song grew out of that.

3. "Where I May Go"
Ilona Tipp, vocals / Jacob Hiser, piano and background vocals
The chorus of this song - words, melody, chords - came to me fully formed as I was walking home from a yoga class. The text reflects my struggle with wanting to plan and organize... but ultimately understanding that the only constant in life is change. The harmonies deliberately modulate, somewhat unpredictably, as a way to illustrate that surprises happen... and to show, musically, that "Where I may go, I cannot know... until I get there."
This is the first track on the album where you get to hear my amazing collaborator, pianist Jacob Hiser. Working with him is a joy! Turns out he's pretty fabulous with background vocals, too.

4. "Traveling Band"
Ilona Tipp, vocals
"Traveling Band" is unlike any other song I've ever written.
The concept for this song first came to me after a rehearsal of a community choir, in which people of all levels sang a simple round. In my years of singing much more "complicated" music, I had forgotten how delightful a round can be, to sing as well as to hear. I gave myself a compositional exercise, to try to write a round just for fun. The first line came to me intact, melody and lyrics both, when I decided I wanted to play with shifting tonality between major and minor within the same key. I had the intention for the mood before the full lyrical content came to me: I wanted it to feel quasi-medieval, sort of like a drunken "Game-of-Thrones" type tavern song, imagining a troupe of troubadours and bards singing to a rowdy crowd. As I was writing it, the theme came to me in the second lyrical line: a plea for musicians to be paid for their work! (Alas, a common trope for a common problem. Please don't ask musicians to work without compensation.) I elected to use anachronistic words like "prithee" in order to emphasize the historical yet hopefully timeless feel... because musicians and other artists have been struggling to get paid for centuries. Some things don't change.
The repetition of the last lyric in each section felt right to me, even though it brought the number of measures in each phrase to an asymmetrical 5. Sometimes it's refreshing to get away from 4-bar phrase structures...
I don't have fancy home recording software, so this song existed only in my head and in awful overdubbed iPhone recordings until I actually got into the studio in February 2018 and laid down the 4 vocal tracks. I really wasn't sure if it would work or not, but it came out better than I had expected. It's a wild experience to sing a round with yourself!

5. "Best of the Real"
Ilona Tipp, vocals and piano / Jacob Hiser, background vocals
I wrote "Best of the Real" as a way to work with my ongoing struggle with perfectionism. Should I even do it if it can't be perfect? What did I do wrong? Why do I spend so much time worrying about everything?
The song had its genesis when I was looking at a pile of letters on my desk, realizing how many were sitting there waiting for a response. (I'm big into letter-writing.) The letters were waiting for the "perfect time" for me to write back... and as I looked at them, the first line "all the letters left unwritten" came to me, and thus the song was born.

6. "Worrying Will Do You No Good"
Ilona Tipp, vocals / Jacob Hiser, piano
I thought this song was the perfect answer to the previous track, "Best of the Real." I worry too much. I know I worry too much. But how do I stop? Sometimes it helps me to write songs giving myself advice. It's like my higher self talking to my daily mundane self, just trying to live a better life... But this song is the most pleasantly lighthearted on the whole album.
The entire first verse came to me when I was taking a walk. The rhythm fit my footsteps. Later when I was trying to work through the B section and struggling to find the right lyrics, those also just came to me on a walk in the forest (the same forest where the photos for this album cover were shot).
I have to credit my amazing friend, pianist, and collaborator Jacob Hiser heavily on this song. I knew when I wrote it that it was going to require a groove that I was unable to play myself. The first time I brought it in to Jacob, I spent about fifteen seconds explaining the feel, handed him the lead sheet, and from the very first run-through it was even better than I could have imagined. He also helped structure the ending. Singing this song with him always makes me happy, and it actually does make me feel less worried!

7. "Water"
Ilona Tipp, vocals and piano
This is the first song I wrote with which I was completely satisfied. I've never worked a song this hard, or agonized over every little detail, the way I did with "Water." Despite all that, it is the song closest to my heart. (I almost titled the album "Water" instead of "Unadorned!) I wrote it at a difficult time in my life, when I was struggling to work through something that shook me deeply, and I think I realized partway through the process that I was writing this song to comfort myself. The lyrics are an extended metaphor about water in all its various forms, and yes, the metaphors are about me. I am all of these things, but so are many of us, I think. We are all water. I hope the song soothes you and gives you strength, the way it does me.
"Water" would not have been possible without tremendous guidance and support from my teacher and mentor, Dominique Eade. I brought this song to her in a very early form, and she saw the truth of it, understood what I was trying to say, and helped me find a way to express it in a way that was true to my voice and myself. Through the writing of this song, she helped me hone my own craft and style. I would never have been able to give birth to songs without Dominique's wise midwifery, and every time I sing this song, I send her a little prayer of gratitude. Her own songs are amazing, you should check them out!

8. "Long Gone Blues"
Ilona Tipp, vocals / Jacob Hiser, piano
I wrote "Long Gone Blues" about leaving a job, but I deliberately crafted the lyrics to be vague enough that they could be about any upcoming ending - a relationship, a situation, whatever. The mood is fairly gleeful.
I used to sing a lot of blues back in the day, and I honed my non-classical belting style through study of some classic blues singers. Generally my songs have a more complex harmonic structure, but I have so many roots in the blues that I wanted to write a fairly straightforward blues tune. (It's not quite a 12-bar blues in the classic form, but c'est la vie.) I had the idea for this song years ago, when I was actually in the aforementioned job itself - the "by the time you think to look for me, I'm gonna be long gone" lyric is how it started. But when I decided to write it in earnest, it came right out in a rush, in less than an hour. I don't think I've ever written a song faster than this.
I had some kind of rollicking blues piano in mind when I wrote it, which I knew I couldn't play myself. But I wrote it anyway and trusted that it would somehow work out, and it did - I started working with Jacob Hiser just a few weeks later. I knew he could play just about anything well, and when I brought in this song to our first session, he played it better than I had ever even been able to imagine it!

9. "Niggun for the Moon"
Ilona Tipp, vocals
A niggun is a wordless melody meant to be sung, and it comes from the Jewish music tradition. (Niggun is Hebrew, aka "nign" in Yiddish.) I studied niggunim and Jewish Music with Hankus Netsky, founder of the Klezmer Conservatory Band, and I am deeply indebted to him for his guidance through exploration of Jewish Music.
Niggunim are always vocal music: they are to be sung with voices, not played with instruments, but the use of nonsense syllables instead of words is a key component. The idea is to reach for something spiritual that can only be accessed with melody, and is beyond words.
I wrote this in December 2017, as I was staring out the window at the super moon, huge in the sky. Like other niggunim, it is semi-improvisational. It's different every time I sing it live, and in this take that is featured on the album, I left out an entire section (that sometimes appears, and sometimes doesn't). It is a song of yearning in the moment, and while it isn't always a religious experience for me, I do think of it as reaching for something higher when I sing it.
The take I chose for this recording was the very last take of my 2-day recording session in February 2018. It was the second take of this song. I was happy with the first take, my voice was almost shot, but I said, what the heck. Let's just do another take and I'll go for broke. It ended up being the more passionate and moving of the two takes, and though my voice is definitely rough and tired in some places, I feel it embodies the emotions I was hoping to express in this song.

10. "Nobody Can Tell Me (TDOR)"
Ilona Tipp, vocals / Jacob Hiser, piano
I wrote "Nobody Can Tell Me" in the fall of 2017 for the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR), and specifically for the TDOR service in Exeter, NH coordinated by local authors (and trans heroes) Lisa Bunker and Alex Myers.
I wanted to write a song that supported any individual's freedom to express their own personal identity. I hope this is something to which everyone can relate - we have all struggled with figuring out exactly who we are and what makes us individuals in this world - but I wrote it specifically in support of all my trans* friends and loved ones, who often face such obstacles and difficulty in the most basic aspects of daily life.
I am a cisgender woman. I identify as queer, and I have at times in my life presented as gender non-conforming, and though I do not claim this identity, I have been perceived as such. When I chose not to present my gender identity as far on the "feminine" spectrum as I might do so currently, I have been accused of being in the wrong bathroom. I have had rocks and bottles thrown at me for shaving my head but not my legs. The level of hatred that can be directed at anyone who doesn't conform to society's standards can be staggering, and for transgender individuals, especially trans* people of color, it can be fatal.
In writing this song, I did not seek to appropriate a transgender identity or misrepresent who I am; I sought to sing from the perspective of an irrepressible spirit. I hope it resonates with anyone who has struggled to express their true identity.

Hungry for more? Even more extensive liner notes, and links to other musicians and resources, are available on my artist website.

Recorded and mixed by Sam Kassirer at Great North Sound Society, Parsonsfield, ME

Mastered by Jeff Lipton at Peerless Mastering, Boston, MA
Assistant Mastering Engineer: Maria Rice

This album would not have been possible without Alex Myers, Bobbi & Larry Tipp, Jacob Hiser, Dominique Eade, Ran Blake, Hankus Netsky, and Tanya Kalmanovitch. My gratitude to them all is boundless.



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