Thursday, December 31, 2009

Log #3

Shiiit. Just when things seem like they are almost safe, something happens to throw them back up in the air. I am continually reminded of something a high school history teacher said about freedom and security being opposed and that any increase in one involves a decrease in the other. I am still having waves of anxiety about how to pay the rent while simultaneously remaining convinced that I am not to give into the pressure to submit and get a "day job". I have confidence in the value of what I am doing and working on far beyond the value I would bring behind a counter or a desk, but that isn't necessarily enough to get by on. Or is it? I just don't fucking know. I have realized that I need to pick a point that will represent "failure", though I see the whole process as successful in that I tried, that way I can keep calm until I reach that point and not stress out about the unknown future. I'm not sure what I will establish as the circumstances for quitting my project, but I have a little time to think about it...

Monday, December 28, 2009

Happenings Happen

Some friends of mine have started doing monthly performance art showcases on the last Monday of each month at this bar in town (an interesting space for that kind of thing, but it seems to work). Since the last Monday of December is so close to Christmas, they made a video and sent it out in lieu of trying to pack a bar while everyone is out of town. It's some pretty "happening" shit. (Their event is called "Happening", that's why that last sentence is funny.)

Happening from Daniel Ryan on Vimeo.

Friday, December 18, 2009

a new beginning....

i am starting an "experiment" that I hope will manifest into an full length album (my deadline is one year from now, when I turn 30!... how poetic!) At the same time, I am also trying to let go, so lets just pretend I didn't even mention the whole album thing Anyway, I am recording myself on a four track recorder, then mixing down to a single 1/4" tape, using essentially only first takes. This is an opportunity for me to learn on many levels: performance of drums, bass/key combo, guitar, vocals; song-writing; recording; and perhaps most importantly - letting go. I'm starting at the barest of bones, and seeing how things progress. here' a link to take one.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Log #2

Tomorrow I go in to interview for unemployment. I've also started getting food stamps. The system is helping me. What a fucked up idea. Over the past few weeks, I've had to deal with a certain amount of judgment from certain friends and acquaintances about whether or not taking money from the government is unethical or shady or lazy or whatever. My reaction is to defend my position, but in the course of doing so, I'm usually just making shit up - really good shit, though, and frequently I am able to offer a perspective that makes it palatable or even appealing to them, but it's pretty bogus, because I don't have any qualms or moral hangups about the whole business. I've got a thousand and one reasons to justify my actions, but none of them are really part of my inner dialogue. There have been a few passages that I have read by Buckminster Fuller and Henry Miller where they talk about encountering similar obstacles, so I'm not really surprised, but... whatever. So far so good. When my money ran out, more was made available and I am not going to ignore the perfect timing. There is such a deep assumption in our country that you have to "work hard" to validate your existence and I think it's just bullshit, because it is often the case that "working hard" translates into working to make someone else money and getting a tiny droplet of the trickle down. For me, "working hard" has been shipping incense and barely legal drugs for an internet site, scooping prepared deli salads into plastic containers, bussing tables, making pizzas, etc. This is what I'm supposed to do? Not work on the art and music that has meaning and purpose? Come on! Of course, I bust my ass staying up all night working on mixes, and compositions, improvising with a wide variety of friends on different instruments and in different styles, and trying not to lose my mind, but to be "working hard" I also need to stand behind a counter at Walgreens? Fuck that, world! I'm not going to do that until it is my last option!

Right now, my net is cast wide - a gospel project, a wind ensemble, making an acoustic rap trio record, discovering new ways to dj and mix music, and transcribing soul and christmas tunes. Keys, drums, bass clarinet, voice, and computers. All full steam. Also, I have noticed that the artists I collaborate with here are incredibly self motivated and for the first time, I feel like I don't have to drag everyone around with me to get stuff done. My availability is often surpassed by opportunities and that's without having a day job!


Monday, November 30, 2009

the flipside of things

a short snippet by Brian Eno I read on - helps me to embrace the future!

The death of uncool

“There’s a whole generation of people able to access almost anything from almost anywhere, and they don’t have the same localised stylistic sense that my generation grew up with. It’s all alive, all “now,” in an ever-expanding present, be it Hildegard of Bingen or a Bollywood soundtrack. The idea that something is uncool because it’s old or foreign has left the collective consciousness.

I think this is good news. As people become increasingly comfortable with drawing their culture from a rich range of sources—cherry-picking whatever makes sense to them—it becomes more natural to do the same thing with their social, political and other cultural ideas. The sharing of art is a precursor to the sharing of other human experiences, for what is pleasurable in art becomes thinkable in life.”


This is documentation. To bring you up to speed, I lost my job October 18th. The restaurant I worked for closed its doors. It was a perfect job in many ways - organic vegan food, wonderful co-workers (almost all women), easy work schedule, paid in cash under the table. Perfect! Then it closed. I didn't want to get some bullshit job after having such a good one, so I just didn't get another job. I felt compelled to test out some theories I've had fueled by reading people like Buckminster Fuller ("Critical Path"), Joseph Campbell (several, but most significantly "Pathways to Bliss"), and Henry Miller (also several, but especially "Stand Still Like the Hummingbird" and "Tropic of Cancer"). These are all people who vehemently swear that in giving up on the standard American day job mentality, their needs were met by simply following their intuition, making themselves available, and doing what was needed from them. So fuck it. I can't swear by that shit if I'm not willing to put myself on the chopping block. So now I'm about six weeks into it. I've gotten a couple random jobs, all of which have been fun (catering, helping dj a junior high dance, and more catering), I've composed and performed, and I've even got a friend that gives me grass whenever he comes over because he thinks it helps my artistic process (sometimes yes, sometimes no). Now it's almost December and I've got rent money coming, but not at hand. I've got a couple shady business options that I'm looking at seriously, because even though it's a touch illegal, it isn't immoral. To me. I may be late, but I think I'll make rent. So far, so good. More to come. xoxo

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

analog boy trapped in a digital world

i have come face to face with a serious quandary today.

It started a few days ago when I pulled out my four track recorder to lay down some demo-type material. I had remembered a few months before recording a simple Beatles tune (blackbird) literally on a shitty tape recorder via the internal mic. Now, normally this sounds like much-less-than-ideal recording accommodations. However, when I listen back to that recording... I can't help but love it. maybe even more than any of the stuff I did on my fancy computer via fancy logic and m-audio interface... blah blah blah. And it's the same argument and reasoning you always hear people making for recording analog. But as we all know... its a highly endangered approach to recording these days, which is interesting to note, since literally everything recorded around 30 years ago and before HAD to be analog. digital just didn't exist (at least not for those purposes.)

So now I'm in this position where I am actually really excited to record music, far more than ever before. And I know this four track recorder has practically everything to do with it (I've been immensely enjoying the stuff I've been recording with it.) So obviously, I am going to follow my heart and pursue recording this way, because it simply makes sense to me. Granted, it is more time consuming, less "edit-able," and you really have to be on your shit when you push record. But aren't these last two things kind of good? shouldn't we be on our shit?....and should we really have to edit that much? granted, some genres of music are practically made for digital - any kind of heavy mixing and mash-up work would be an absolute nightmare via tape.... but when it comes to raw, "acoustic" and live recordings, it makes so much more sense for me to go analog. I've been studying as much as I can about it lately, discovering what digital sound really is (even THAT makes me cringe.) but I have still have to come to terms that our reality, as it permeates almost every level of our existence, constantly screams: go digital or go home!

but, i think the few of us who read spiralsonic would agree.... digital does feel a little dirty. a little too good to be true. scandalous even, for us to be able to have high-def, 1080 whatever, mega-pixel high resolution out the fuckin yin yang.... because, in my humble opinion... it just doesn't feel real. I honestly can sense the fact that digital is merely a sampling of a signal using 1's and 0's. i mean, what is honestly more pleasing to the senses, a black and white photograph developed in a dark room from actual film, or a snapshot from someone's iphone? abbey road versus anything today. now i'm not even talking about substance or intent or general quality of work (which is a whole other can of worms) I'm just talking about the aesthetic experience..... anyway, i could ramble about this forever, I just feel, once again, alienated. and it kinda sucks,... to feel like I'm fighting against the crash of the tide, only to eventually be left out at sea. And I honestly don't feel this way to be some sort of pretentious audiophile purist, cause fuck that shit. but at the same time, I guess those people do have a point... and they stand by their sense of quality. and I guess I don't have over 400 vinyl cause I'm some sort of collector, cause that shit bores me to tears. I really do love listening to it... and every record I bought is for that very purpose. Anyway, if you made it to the end, thanks for reading. just another rambling. I'm sure I'll come to some sense of enlightenment, or least a sense of peace, soon enough.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What the fuck?!

I went and saw a showing of "Food, Inc." last night - not because I want more information about how fucked our food system is, but because I was meeting some people there that I had to talk to about a catering gig. ANYWAY - of course, the movie highlighted how fucked the food system is (surprise!) and instead of feeling relieved at my own divergence from our popular food culture, I started feeling incredibly upset for the poor and low income communities that are adjacent to my own. Not to confuse you, I am poor. I am currently without steady employment. But what I've found is that in Chicago, a low income person like myself is eligible for $200 a month in food stamps. $200 a month! For that much, I can afford to eat exclusively organic food! This just highlights that regardless of your income level, you CAN afford to feed yourself and your family in a healthful and sustainable way. At this point, it is simply education and priorities that contribute to the recent statistic that 1 in 2 minority children born after 2000 will get diabetes. And that obesity, not just being over-weight, is hitting MOST people in our country. I don't really know what I can do, but I feel compelled to do something. Anything. Thoughts?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Furniture Music

Just read these liner notes from the Ken Vandermark solo album "Furniture Music". Really cool shit:

“Nevertheless, we must bring about a music which is like furniture — a music, that is, which will be part of the noises of the environment, will take them into consideration.” — Erik Satie

This album has been under personal consideration for quite some time, several years in fact. Throughout the time I have worked as an improvising musician I have been fortunate enough to work in a wide variety of settings — from duos to large ensembles, groups that work with predesignated material or bands that are free from this, ad hoc settings as well as long term collaborations — but the issue of creating what I could consider as “my own” solo improvised music remained elusive despite my many efforts to deal with it.

There have been a number of reasons for this. The legacy of improvised solo reed music now goes back decades, even if you begin to examine it after the early works by masters like Coleman Hawkins and Eric Dolphy. My own awareness of this more recent history began with Joe McPhee’s album, Tenor, which I heard when I was seventeen. After this I found the solo recordings of Anthony Braxton, Peter Brötzmann, and Evan Parker. During a period in the mid 1990s the Duets Dithyrambisch double CD on FMP (with Evan Parker, Hans Koch, Wolfgang Fuchs, and Louis Sclavis) became a “textbook” of extended techniques for me. (I owe John Corbett a good deal of thanks for his introduction to many names and recordings [in some cases the people] from the European improvised music scene while I’ve lived in Chicago.)

To me, it started to seem as if performing and recording solo music was a necessary aspect of creative expression. Almost all of my favorite contemporary improvisers have done important unaccompanied work. This includes almost every kind of instrumentalist in addition to reeds: drummers (Han Bennink, Paul Lytton), guitarists (Derek Bailey, Joe Morris), bassists (Barry Guy, Peter Kowald, and recently Kent Kessler), trombonists (Paul Rutherford, George Lewis), violin/violists (Mat Maneri, Leroy Jenkins), pianists (Cecil Taylor, Misha Mengelberg), trumpeters (Axel Dörner, Bill Dixon), musicians who utilize electronics (Kevin Drumm, Thomas Lehn), vocalists (Jaap Blonk). However, aside from the players I mentioned earlier, reedists Mats Gustafsson and Ab Baars have inspired me to find my own way the most. Their solutions to the issues of performing unaccompanied, since the innovations made by McPhee, Braxton, Brötzmann, and Parker, are to my ears the most strikingly personal of my “contemporaries.” I felt that if I was going to be successful in my exploration of the solo format, I would need to develop methods that would hopefully stand up to and apart from their work and the ideas of the previous generation.

For a very long time I was unable to develop an approach that would fulfill this obligation and warrant documentation. When I used pieces by other composers as an unaccompanied soloist it always felt like something was missing. If the music worked it was because I and the listener were sustaining an illusion that supplied missing components (a rhythm section for example). If I played without compositional materials it seemed to me that I was delving into territory better realized by the musicians who had developed the ideas in the first place. My own compositions up to this point were written for specific ensembles and players and didn’t function well as solo source material.

Periodically I’d try different concepts at home and in a rare solo concert, give up on the results, and come back to the problem again some time later. The first solution that yielded workable results was an extrapolation from the “language types” of Anthony Braxton. In the middle ’90s I wrote “sound components” down on cards and would select a number of these from a deck of thirty or so (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not). Then I’d place these in a series, improvising from one card to the next. What resulted was something that in the end sounded more like an academic exercise than music. It also didn’t allow me the freedom to move in the directions that the spontaneous playing might indicate, so this was abandoned and no other ideas seemed to lead anywhere that was useful for a period of several years.

The, in June of 2002, I was scheduled to play on a concert of solo music with Peter Brötzmann, Mats Gustafsson, and Mars Williams. The performance took place in Montreal during the second North American tour by the Peter Brötzmann Chicago Tentet. The four of us were to play for about fifteen minutes each. As I waited for my turn to go on, I became more and more tense; I knew that my lack of success with the solo format was going to be more than apparent when played side by side with these other musicians. Most likely, my fears were realized, but one piece indicated what would be the way for the solo music to come. I had tried it before on tenor, but on this night I chose to use the baritone and suddenly something clicked. The piece was a reinterpretation of Jaap Blonk’s version of Tristan Tzara’s “(brüllt)” found on the CD, Flux de Bouche.

Based on a dadaist poem by Tzara, Jaap’s performance was an extreme repetition of the word “brüllt” (which, according to his liner notes, means “roar” as well as “scream”) until his voice gave out. With the baritone’s large overtone range I felt that I had discovered a way to recreate the intensity of Jaap’s approach to Tzara’s text. His schematic gave me a template which I was able to reinvent in later solo concerts. It provided me with a specific set of parameters to follow, but it also allowed for flexibility in interpretation and an open way to interact with the performance environment (Parameters: low Bb hit as hard and as long as possible. Variables: rhythm, duration of tone, complexity of overtone structure, motion of overtones). This conceptual breakthrough led me to a number of connections between a set of artists whose work I have long admired:

Bernd and Hilla Becher
Samuel Beckett
Morton Feldman
Mississippi Fred MacDowell
Piet Mondrian
Mark Rothko
Erik Satie
Michael Snow

The creative action of these individuals has a commonality in its use of fluid repetition. Through studying their catalogs I was able to “break the code” preventing me from finding my own self contained approach. By creating a solo music based on “typologies” (borrowing a term used by the Bechers for one of their photo collections) which represented open patterns, I was quickly able to develop a series of workable pieces. Here are simplified descriptions of the template methods used on this album; I’ve also included the manner in which some of the ideas from the artists listed above have impacted the music.

Resistance: exploration of difference tone motion in the upper register of the Bb clarinet.

Horizontal Weight: use of an image from one of Franz Kline’s black and white paintings as a source for a graphic and emotional score

So Is This: (the title is taken from a film of the same name by Michael Snow) interpretations of a “structural” film from Snow that examines pattern variations in a leaking faucet on dishes in a kitchen sink

Lines: attempt to spontaneously construct an open ended solo phrase using Lennie Tristano’s piano style as a model.

Immediate Action: use of pitch based speed to try to express the motion contained in a Jackson Pollock painting.

Panels: intersection of the visual aspects of Piet Mondrian with the flow of an Erik Satie piano piece.

Color Fields to Darkness: exploration of an open sequence of bass clarinet overtones to aurally represent the shift in color of Mark Rothko’s paintings towards black.

Would a Proud Man Rather Break Than Bend: approach towards an improvised blues with Mississippi Fred McDowell’s elliptical guitar phrases in mind.

Beck and Fall: integration of the physical action (Act Without Words I) and language patterns (End Game) of Samuel Beckett with the “crippled symmetry” of Morton Feldman’s music.

Melodica: construction of a sequence of “pure” melodies in the time of performance.

Indeterminate Action: utilization of Irvine Arditti’s approach to the “Freeman Etudes” by John Cage (move as quickly as possible through the violin sound combinations in the score), improvised and applied to extended technique possibilities on the bass clarinet.

Leaves: incorporation of the image and sound from the park scenes in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up, and the newspaper sequence from his film Red Desert, then cross cutting them (I owe a great deal of debt to Axel Dörner’s sound innovations for inspiring the first part of this piece).

(brüllt): the methodology of this composition has already been discussed.

I’ve included second versions of five of these pieces in the hope of illustrating the improvisational variety possible with this typological system. They were recorded at a solo concert held at 3030 in Chicago; the performance took place between the two “studio” sessions documented in my living room.

The search to find something worthwhile to say when improvising on the stage or in the studio can always be difficult. My attempts to find a workable and self-contained approach to solo improvisation has been particularly challenging. I feel that I’ve found something personal to express from the results of this struggle; my wish is that in experiencing this music the listener may agree.

— Ken Vandermark, March 2003

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

drunken spewing

found this recording from months ago - thought id put it in writing. ah, memories :)

i sit here and i listen to the shit ive been recording and i think what the fuck its all going out of my mouth and out my guitar and into the abyss of nothingness what does it mean it needs to have some sort of significance or something thats my fucking plague its my plight is that i feel like i need to fucking use all my fucking potential have some sort of significance i have to fucking make my mark i have to be something special but really thats not at all important whats important is finding meaning and joy the irony is that the things that i find meaning and joy in are probably that things that would actually push me to the things that i want out of my life but the problem is that i know that thats the case and therefore cant actually allow myself to endeavor into those things i mean am i supposed to be a songwriter it seems like that could have been something that i could have pursued still can pursue but the fact that im aware of that the fact that i know that the fact that im thinking about that putting pressure on myself and creating expectations for the future is actually pulling me down so its like this evil cycle of you know wondering if i could make something of myself in such a regard but its impossible for me to do so because im aware of the fact that i have potential in this way if i was completely unaware and ignorant of this fact just allowed myself to pursue it out of pure joy out of pure search for meaning then maybe so maybe i could actually fucking do something with it but the fact that im aware of that the fact that im obsessed with this whole idea of utilizing my potential in some way in order to make some sort of significant mark to try and find meaning in my life to try and do something with my self find my purpose is actually counter-intuitive or not really counter-intuitive but rather just destructive and so maybe thats the reason im imbibing in substances cause maybe thats the reason im trying to escape is it calming the demons like with kerouac or is it is it a tool i dont know i mean i feel like at this at this juncture of my life i feel like im at this turning point you know im watching all these fucking videos late at night you know just fucking pouring all these inspirations into my brain you know hunter s thompson jack kerouac tom waits these fucking people these heroes these idols rather im worshipping idols i sit here and i drink my beer and i worship these idols and what happens is i watch these people and i let their influence come through me as opposed to just letting it happen naturally i think oh i need to i need to find the person that i have that i can be that these people have these people who are really fucking self destructive and crazy i mean maybe with the exception of tom waits although he was on a self-destructive path for many years until he met his wife and she changed everything but what the fuck do i have to self destruct do i have to be fucking nuts in order to to find that would i choose that would i rather be crazy and and tap into that genius tap into that that insane genius that those people have done or would rather be a socially normal person i mean its hard to say i cant fucking decide just right now im self conscious of myself talking on this fucking tape recorder im aware of the fact that ive been influenced by hunter s thompson in the past thirty or forty minutes its that yeah is that whats speaking through me or this my true self i mean its hard to know were not really truly ourselves anyway were just a fucking amalgam of everything thats come before us and the things that weve chosen in the past and i just have to fucking find have to find peace have to find meaning in things and be completely unaware of it i need to be completely unaware of the meaningfulness i can provide i have to realize that everything i do is completely pointless and then maybe ill be totally free and and stop thinking that i have potential stop thinking that my intelligence and my talent my skill and my capabilities are worth a shit because yeah i mean i do feel like theres something there to be had but my awareness of that is quite possibly my i dont know its my its the bane of existence

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Jesus H. Christ!

Have any of you guys seen "Hair" before? Oh my God! I just saw it for the first time last night and I was on the verge of sobbing the whole time - an excess of joy brings tears. The music was unreal, the dance, the story, the way freedom and passion manifested itself in the performers... Ugh! I can't handle it. Nothing will ever be the same.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Back in the Black

I am now both jobful and soon to be homeful. I am going to be living in a neighborhood with trees that's less that a block from the lake and has a huge dance studio/performance space as its front room. I've also started work at a vegetarian restaurant that's less that three blocks away from my new place. Balance is being restored, synchronicities abound, and Spring is in Summer...

Monday, August 24, 2009

All is not lost!

Though many of us know how lackluster the food culture in America's southeast can be, I experienced a wonderful little bright spot the other day when driving through Alabama. From the highway, all you can really see in driving through Mississippi, Alabama, Louisiana, Tennessee, and probably most of America is Exxon's, Burger King's, Waffle Houses, Walmarts, and all the shit that makes you think the country is going to the birds. However, in looking for a vegetarian place to eat on a road trip with my mom, we found a place called Grace's Fajita Shack or some such unassuming name. Let me tell you, it was amazing - a little pink house with a walk up window and a hand done menu advertising that all of their food was prepared in house (pun intended) with local and organic produce! In ALABAMA! I also saw a sign for It really shifted my thinking as far as some of the harsh criticisms I often level against the southeast. Apparently, there still are people down there who are trying fight the continual degredation of our food supply. Yay!

Monday, August 17, 2009


One of us has stopped changing, or maybe we've just stopped trying - And it's too late, baby, now it's too late.

Time. The Mystery. Intricate interweaving.

Monday, July 20, 2009

birthday thoughts

Well shit. Looks like there will be another one lingering around this train one more time one more year. I've passed the finish line yet again. Seems to always happen around the same time. 

As long as the door slams behind me and not in front I'm a content little muchacho

Tonight was Taco Night and that was a good thing. Who knows what tomorrow has in my store. Shouldn't sell it anything anyway anyhow inie not an outie. How aboutie that. 

The grays are making more since these days hovering up there like slender breeze dancers. You can taunt me all you want but I've still got some blond on my side. Got some on my top. My top that tops my top. It's light like the sunny rain, whatever that means.

I guess being old means I can be mean. 


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

natal chart

just got a natal chart done - thought id post some excerpts (from the first half) that I felt resonated pretty deeply. I'm hoping to eventually get a professional chart done in the future. I'm curious about the actual "chart" that involves the circle with lines (an oversimplified description) because mine has very few lines in it and the descriptions seem very close, yet ellen's had shit tons of lines and didn't seem especially close. wonder if there is any significance. anyway, heres some of the info:

Virgo rising:
dishevelled in a studied way. You appear younger than your actual age or at least your eyes themselves. This could be because you are quite health-conscious.
preoccupation with things being "just so" characterized by an ongoing criticism of what is happening around you. it would be better to identify quite what that part is, and look after it, rather than wind up feeling totally isolated and allergic to life's unavoidable impurities. also, you can appear to be watching ever slightest move or detail. you attract sensitive or creative types who possibly require your subtle attentiveness.

Sun: Sagittarius
Your essential purpose in life is to further and discover more about whatever it is that you regard as important. To enable you to accomplish this you are very able to grasp the whole meaning of any subject that appeals to your sizable enthusiasm. There is always a danger of running away with yourself and over-looking details, as you get carried along by your zest and full-blown opinions. However, because you are a good manager of things and know how to get the best out of people and circumstances, you have probably equipped yourself with something or someone that keeps you grounded by practical considerations. Some kind of goal, vision or belief is of paramount importance in making sense of your life and use of your prolific nature.
You also, in an impersonal way, like to create friction for it gives you the feeling that things are on the move. Yours is probably the most positive sign for the simple reason that you see life as an opportunity. So it doesn't matter too much how difficult the road ahead may look, it is still a road - and roads go places!

Moon in Gemini:
Your reigning need is to feel constantly in touch with what is going on around you. Equally, you have a natural sense of what is happening at street level so to speak. Such a common touch as you have, and the ready wits and gift of the gab that accompany it, you are only too able to keep things light and manageable. That is, until your emotional responses to life around you become inappropriately superficial. You then find what you are doing on either a personal or professional level ceases to have enough permanence or depth of satisfaction - and is therefore worrying you to death and keeping you awake at nights.
The formula that 'you only get as good as you give' is a very apt one for you. An important point in your development is when you consciously commit yourself to a deeper involvement with whatever life is demanding of you and then trust your mental alacrity and your ability to dodge and weave when necessary, in order to negotiate the tricker reefs of human interplay.

Mercury in Sagittarius
Your mind is searching for a meaning to life and it wants to be employed in a meaningful way. You perceive things with an eye for opportunity and have an enthusiastic way of expressing yourself verbally - although you can say a but too much on occasions! You have a broad grasp of general life issues and cultural trends that can sometimes cause you to overlook details and mistake opinions for facts. Your vibrant mentality should avoid occupations that make you feel confined or restless and should instead pursue situations which involve travel and/or variety and that have some social significance.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Come Back Around

What once was lost is now no longer needed
What once was missed is now simply remembered
Today I awake feeling that something is different
Nothing has changed, but something is different.

The lightness of the spring-in-summer morning is everything to me
I require nothing! I need nothing more than what is immediately given
Satisfaction is implicit in my smile - words can't touch it
Let me breathe in the clouds and be done with it

Right now, I can love anyone that confronts me-
The homeless guy by the train station,
The convenient store clerk on his cell phone,
The girl coming out of the bathroom with a her "face" on,
The woman yelling profanities from the bus stop across the street,
The Mexican man pushing the jingling jangling fruit cart,
Those who have insulted me,
Those who have scorned me,
Those who make me feel small,
Those whom I am indifferent to,
The legions of everyone else that I try to avoid-
Come to me! Let me touch your face! I will love you now!
I couldn't before, but now, right now, I can! Let me bless you!

And so the day begins. Spring will give way to summer and fall.
The feelings may pass like every day,
But that does not invalidate the sincerity of this morning,
It is not less for being impermanent.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

an open letter to the rest of the planet

I don't KNOW a whole hell of a lot - certainly not a lot that I would try to convince others of. What little I do know applies more to myself and my situation than anything else. I find it a bit presumptuous when others try to force their bibles or prophets on me, or when they force their agendas on me. I am not a huge fan of government interference and I am not a huge fan of activists that try to curb government interference; it's a personal thing. It just does not make sense to me to live in a such a reactionary way. Why would you want to be an activist? It seems as though you are simply providing the head with which to beat against the wall. Of course, I am glad that there are activists (try not to make sense of all these statements together). Someone needs to be the head and someone needs to be the wall. Sometimes incremental change is even made. I find the protests in Iran inspiring. I love to see such passion! I like to see people speaking out against our own country's wars as well, but I would rather see soldiers putting down their guns or just not joining the damn military in the first place! I would rather see politicians that think about the consequences of their decisions and are not so fool hardy and easily whipped into some sort of xenophobic fervor. But that's life, you know? I'm not going to freak out about it and I probably won't lose sleep over it. I try not to say things like "we're at war", because I'm not at war. At least not in Iraq or Afghanistan. There is only so much I can do about someone electronically taking numbers out of my "account" and using that to kill people. After all, I'm not really that great with computers. It doesn't make sense to me to "fight the war" or "fight for peace" any more than it makes sense to "fight cancer" or "fight poverty". For me, these go hand in hand with "conquering nature" and "conquering space" or "fighting wrinkles" or "killing bacteria". To a certain extent, I would even lump in "freedom isn't free". Fuck if it isn't! If freedom isn't free, then NOTHING is free! I don't need soldiers or war for my freedom! Give me a break with that line of shit! "The fight for peace"... I almost would not even share these feelings, because I would not really want to change anyone's mind one way or the other. After all, I am just a 26 year old guy with a little bit of shoddy public education. I would not presume to know much more than anyone else. I am excited about being alive today, though. And I am a very happy person. I do not generally take things too personally and I only get worked up about trivial stuff that I want to get worked up about because it's fun and interesting. I have an idea about my field of influence and it does not extend to the Middle East (if such a place even exists!), so I do not watch the news. I am conscious about what I put into my mouth, ears, and eyes, because I know that processed foods, chemicals, insincere music/tv/movies/books, and most readily accessible information is not going to make my life any better or easier or happier. You could say I am fasting. Do not give me your trivia or your "next great band" or your youtube videos or your wikipedia research. Love it, cherish it, and keep it away from me until it seems relevant. I will let you be the judge on when that is, but do not throw shit at me like some deranged monkey just because you have too much of it in your immediate vicinity. I will try not to do it to you either. I would much rather hear about how your day has been or why you have that grin on your face. Tell me about you and let's acknowledge that we are swimming in subjectivity together. I will even hold your hand and we can be people again and stop being receptacles for recycled and decomposing bits of chatter from the Massive Media. What do you say?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Monday, June 29, 2009


i have finally been organizing my photos, thought I'd share some I liked. I seem to be sensing a theme for my photography. hopefully it remains abstract.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

the dump that reached for the moon

Oft doesnt sense shot one please just please whether tomorrow fuck now no yes sip sip mas NO just let it happen. Just let it happen. What do you want. Just let it happen. If you want it, do it. Just let it happen. It's not meant to be a strife. Just let it happen. Tea turns to whiskey turns to a brightly lit cigarette turns to words on a paper about how much control I have lost/sacrificed. But what if the words are good? Is it worth it? Let me work it. What do you want. Young and impetuous. Full of folly. Do not forget your folly. Take it with you. Wrap your head in it, cover your eyes with it, plug your ears. This is life. Life is meant for us. Us stupid little creatures that occasionally eat our own shit. Walk around with bad breath and wonder why no one wants to kiss us...

I'll kiss you! I'll be imperfect with you! We can run across the coals together! In opposite directions, of course, but we will do it together! This is OUR fire, this is OUR fight. On opposite sides, of course, but this is our battle! I honor you and the life that is in you. I honor your honor - your decision to risk it all to play your part in this. I will play my part and you can play yours. When we are done we can switch. I know it will be hard to push the blade through my chest. I wish I could make it easier for you. But that is your responsibility, so buck up! We are doing this together, remember? This is exactly how it has to be.

I saw a fly today. It must have been hurt, because he/she let me get very close. Shiny and green, blue, dull and black, brown, transparent, wiry, hairy, smooth, tongue moving in and out ever so slightly. Beautiful is too trite a word to describe the presence and presence of this small manifestation of God. I tried to be affectionate to him/her and he/she was not having it. Stupid fucking fly.

I cried this morning. Not a manly tear falling down my face, but an embarrassing, retching, trembling sob. My face was distorted into that sad ugly face you only let your mother see and not because you have a choice, but because sometimes you need to be held when you get that face. Thank God I was alone, because I had no intention of masking it. And what was it that I was crying over? A piano solo. A piano solo. A solo piano solo, a fucking solo piano piece. What the fuck?! Who am I? Who pulls this shit? Is this acceptable behaviour from a fully formed, practically incarnate American man? Maybe "man" is too strong a word... how about "26 year old male". "26 Year Old Male Lacks Ability To Keep It Together" "Practically Incarnate Man-Child Sobs Helplessly At Computer Screen Whilst Watching Five Year Old Performance Taped From A Radio Show" "15o Pound Lump Of Pink Skin Fails To Realize What He Should Be Crying About As He Breaks Down During Piano Performance, Yet Stares Stoically At News Of Crime, Torture, And Death"

Oh. Or more specifically - "Oohh ." Pure grace - called Chef Ito. Grace that accepts my humanity in a hug upon meeting. Radiant human being completely absent from the stainless steel trap of braising, boiling, grilling, baking, steaming, microwaving, blanching, roasting, frying, poaching, and speaking. Sunbeams shot from his finger tips. Sunbeams and dried mushroom powder. Sonic booms hailed from his silent lips. Health and wealth follow in his wake. Quite a feat, you know. This type of person makes change want to happen. Dollars turn into dimes. What ever he's got, I want a piece. And you know what? I bet he'd give it to me, too.

But who's counting? There's the this and the that. There's the "wait until later" and the "never again". Not to mention the "how did that happen in the first place" and the "I can't imagine". Well. I can imagine. I can imagine a lot of shit. It happens all the time, really. I don't wait until later all the time. Now is now is now. Seize the day at the expense of the week! Take my word for it! I exclaim, it must be true! But it's okay, because I've already proved myself to be a valuable asset to the world. I recycle. That's right! I recycle! No, no, not everything, that would make me a fanatic and the world hates a fanatic... And I'm vegan! That's right, vegan! Mother Earth fuckin' loves my ass! Sometimes, I even ride my bike! Eat it, gas guzzlers! Eat it, fat fucking Southern BBQ rib munchers! You're going to hell! You're creating it as we speak! Be more like me you bastards! Save the planet with me, one fucking recycled can at a time! If ONLY you would be more like me. More like me. More me than me. More human than human.

Full I feel full I feel fullI feelfullI feelfullIfeelfullIfeelafullIfeelafull I feelafull I feel awful I fell. It is nighttime. I don't even feel particularly angsty, but I feel nighttime. The spirits are in me. Not the Holy spirit, the other one. The I'm-awake-while-the-rest-of-the-world-sleeps spirit. It gets lonely at the top of the universe. The gash will be closed up by morning, but who can sleep at a time like this? There's blood running through my veins, God Damn It!! There is an entire scope of being that wants - NEEDS - to be made manifest! I feel the soul of this realm in me! I am the enacter, the enabler, the puppet to be moved by forces eternal and dark. Not dark as the evil of books and Fox News, but dark as the starry night in Montana, dark as the not-at-all-shameful truth you hold close to your breast and hide from prying eyes, dark as the Bone Machine or the Tropic of Cancer. Real, tangible, edible, smokeable. Fuckable. It's a sinful smile, but sinful as New Orleans in 1918, sinful as that good shit, the brothel jazz, the cigarettes that stretched across the Mississippi, the oompah and the Papa. The Baby Dodds and the Zutty Singleton. The gage, the tea, the viper room. The brownies that you don't give to your grandparents. It ain't misbehavin', it's just exercising a different set of muscles.

You are here, though. It isn't just me at the top of the world. In speaking, I imagine your listening. Furrowed brows like me, a smile anticipating the end of the... I won't give it to you, though. No closure. I'll keep changing my trajectory so that you will never know where I'm going next. You'll never bore of me. I will go crazy staying exciting, but I'll fucking do it! Never stopping, never slowing, even. No time for breathing, no time. Even when I'm listening I'm talking. You will feel my gesture. I will be pressed up against you always. Head to toe. I will make our parts interlock that every cell is touching in an embrace you cannot fucking fathom. You will have to breathe through me and see through me. We will drop talking and use telepathy instead. Thought, feeling, emotion dripping from my brain to yours and back. Running along electrical tracks at the speed of...

On and on. And on and on. Over and over. Everything is everything. Everything is everything is something is everything is nothing is something is everything. What you do for enjoyment I do for addiction. Addict or just a dick. It's not one thing, it's not another. It's everything over and over. Ouvre. Click click. A little self-loathing goes a long way. A little self love goes along away. Eat it and weep. I'm full. No room left. No room at the inn. Get in. We'll make room. There's always room. Tip topera. Drip dropera. Why can't we be friends? Why can't we just get along? In the song I sing, everything is everything.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

from the cocoon

freed from the cocoon
i can
feel my wings
built over my entire life

freed from the cage
of doubt
judgement and fear
built over my entire life

its the sun, that freed me
it is this star, one of millions that
on its longest day, pushed me out
on its strongest wave, a scream a shout

waking me up from encrusted dream

had something put me to sleep?

to be angry, resentful?

to be thankful, joyful

series of infinitesimal moments
gather together, break apart
only WE decide to organize them
it is in THIS series of moments I allow myself

free reign

express my life
with all i do
without the demons

voices that judge
presence that lingers

no need to quiet them
i will choose to ignore them
they are the residue of mucus that used to bind me

and if there is but a film left on my skin
i will glance at it and remember
how it used to
surround me

laughing at its growing insignificance.

In th e mi ddl e of t he des e rt

It's hard to say. No, I don't know. Really, it has more to do with... well, I guess it is true that it has been, hmm... three? Four months? No, wait. Six months?! Jesus Christ. Well, no wonder I have been so on edge. Sort of reminds me of when they stick the poor sucker in the phone booth with all the cash flying around. If only there was one bill, he'd nail it, but with the possibility of so much -- it's impossible. Like Papa always says, "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush". Yeah, right? In England they refer to women as birds. At least in the pictures they do. I never understood the sexual undertones of that bit o' wisdom. I still don't.

You can't really miss it, though. It's as big as a house - that same brick wall that you keep banging your head against. Gall darn it. God damn it!! Feels like the first time, but really, it's about the five thousand, four hundred, and sixty-first time. Feels like the first time, though. Awkward. Wawkward. Awawakward. For some reason, a killer whale comes to mind. Can't say why, though. Well, I guess I could, but I really don't want to.

Wish against wish. Mine against yours. You show me yours and... It wasn't what you thought it was. I was really there - I mean THERE. All there. Lucid as a goose-id. Or a goose-Id. They say three's company, but really I could go for some company. These three make me feel lonely as hell. I'm still going home to the same twin bed. I guess it's for the better since it isn't very big. Quite conducive to neck cramps, etc. Backache... When you're filled with the spirit, though, it isn't such a big deal. Filled with the spirits. Either way.

Nothing could be further from the truth. I have summarily refused to toe or tow the line. I don't like lines or queues, although I do like to say "queue". They'll tell you how wonderful you are and how much they love you over the tele. There's no getting at them over the tele, though, if you know what I mean. One will call to wish you a good morining, one at midday and then another before bed. "I'm tired now, good night!" Good night and good luck. At two hours behind the meridian, "good night" becomes long lonely evening. It's enough to drive a drunk to drink. Or a skunk to stink. In my case both. (Going on week three with the lovely pink top.)

But after all the "well then's" and "heretofor's" it is still time to decide. You are old enough to know what you want and young enough to f-f-f-f-fucking do it! It's a beautiful thing if you're into that sort of thing. What's to become of the kingdom? Fife? On point. Get to the. end. Not yet! It is not a second to early and somehow still seems too late. But it isn't - not yet.

I once did try. I drank and drank. Droplet at a time. Sept 15, 2003. A day to live in infamy! The first day of the rest of my life. I will do something that is worth remembering! Even if all I do is remembering! Backward forward backward forward. Backward. Forward. There's no telling why it happens that way. There's no telling if it happens that way. There's no telling what will happen that way. It may happen. that way. It may. something happened.

It's beautiful, really. Sassafras on a starlit night. Of course the goddam lights block the stars, but there are people who will vouch for their existence. I'm willing to take most people's word for it. My moon is in Capricorn. My Aries is in Saggitarious. Saggytarrymous. Supposedly a match made in heaven - high time to reavaluate what I think about heaven. Though there are plenty of Saggies in the sea. In fact, I know most of them and they are very good people. I wouldn't want to be intimate with as many as I have, but a learning experience none the less... Okay, I'd do it all again in a heartbeat, who am I kidding. Sweet sweet imbalance of lifE! Sweet mysterious craziness! Zany zany half-a-brainy! Always falling forward and aft! Crazy bastards that we are, think we can handle crazy bitches! It's all for a lark. A stark raving lark. Wouldn't have it any other wayyyyyyy!

There really isn't any other way. Just up up up. Up UP UP!!! What could possilbly fillbly mybly tumbly? Another dagger through the throat? Another attempt at subverting my own fifth chakra? Ultimately, I will subvert itself. Myself. Herself. Her shelf. All the knick knacks. All the weight in those pieces of trash (shit). All the depth in the two dimensions on the wall. "Throw them out or throw me out!!" She said she threw them out, but I have my suspicions. They weren't half bad.

I'm just glad I got my shirt back. Its companion is gone forever, but at least we are back together. Bay to Breakers. You and me, pinky. I'll go to high heaven before I let another woman come between us. Granted, you must be greatful for your adventures. I know I am. But let us not forget each other and let us chance not a permanent separation. When St. Paul is ready for one of us we shall depart, but not until. I hate everyone named Paul. So does mister Brainerd (in this situation, I must speak on his behalf, whether the point is valid or no). It sounds like this. EEEdeiei OiJOIje AgRHISHV dgjsj vsw4^%W% tvoit StatsiU S jgDGd if;oifgf;hoai aASia gi;io dsfjGg fgjlgj zdfdf gSD do is gsdog 'gSGigsggi 1!!!! i hosi g;iw @u09r1~ tpo 90 ew9tq q9gu v!! ei driog s - you know, like a solo saxophone piece by Vandermark. One of the grittier ones. He must hate Pauls, too. I feel it. I'm intuitive, you know.

But what about now? That was then, this is now! Vodka and wine for a real good time, if you want advice, just follow a rhyme; it doesn't matter if it's right, it only matters if it's tight; so drink it up until you're spent, and borrow more from the government! Harrah! Hooray!

Sometimes I cannot help but wonder if it is all for naught. Then I cannot help but wonder if they are all terribly bad choices. then I canno thelp but won deri fit doe sent mttr bec aus e it wi llll alll lll happ ppp en the same whey regardels.s. Now I wander if it shouldn'tt have been this waf from the gat go. Of course, it would all sound more eloquent in French, no doubt.

Oh, girl! I'd be in trouble if you left me now! I don't know somethin something something. I just don't know how!! Ooooh, Girl!

Ultimately it falls into someone's hands. We could all say yay or nay. Just not to the questions we want. Oh, sagittarians. Oh. I will be stuck with you mother fuckers forever. You imbalanced fucks. You daughters of bitches. I will never escape your evil fucking wrath, gad damn you! AHHHHAHAHAHAAAHHHH!! Okay, so to be honest, I really like you guys. Nay, I love you. LOVE! You think I say that shit to anyone?!?! Jesus! I will be dumped on forever. I fucking love it, okay, but I must say it can get a bit tiresome. DUMP ON ME YOU SAGITTARIAN FUCKS!! I FUCKING LOVE IT!!!

What's left is what's always been left. The left. The right. The wrong. The middle. The Little Debbie Snack Cake. Caffeine free for you Seventh Day Adventists! Full of a bunch of fucking chemicals that make the chocolate less present! Not that I mean to go on a tangent. This is straight line stuff. To the point. Let's get to the -

Happiness is. I could spill out my lungs for it, but it wouldn't do a lick of good. If you close your mouth, it comes through the nose and when it comes through the nose, it stings, so you may as well just squeeze your mummy's hand and let it happen. I know, I know, I've seen it all before. You just want it to be over with, but let me tell YOU - this is the best part. Every orifice will be oozing presence. Anything could trigger it, Lauryn Hill, Gene Kelly, Brad Mehldau, a bleeding heart, a sunrise, the sudden realization that you are about to make vegan enchiladas for your father and step-mother... just go with it, let it happen. It is only natural that you want to laugh and cry at the same time. It is your soul purging. it is cataclysmic. it is probably the best thing that could be happening to you at any moment. it is bliss.

Monday, June 15, 2009


Today I realized that I have adopted several behaviours based on no other reason than I feel my intuition compelling me. I would be interested to know if you have similar experiences. My current list includes eating with my hands - I do not think I have used a metal utensil except for two times with soup and cereal; wearing the same clothes every day - I have a pink shirt and blue jeans that I take off at night and put on every day, I have been changing my socks, but along with this I have stopped wearing underwear and I believe it has been about a week and a half since I have worn anything else; and I have been eating more and more - I dare say "mostly"? - raw food for about two or three weeks. There are probably even more habits that have escaped attention, but these are a little more obvious. I have no intention of doing any of them for the rest of my life, but it makes sense now and I imagine I will continue until I see a reason to stop...

Monday, June 8, 2009

today alone...

today I ran into a guy I used to work with in Madison. I also managed to run into a guy that attended our first potluck in this house in Chicago. It was several months ago, I never expected to see him again and these were totally different circumstances and different people. Then later that night I met a guy that had worked at Tomato Head (his name is Chis Hoose, he remembers Courtenay). Three people in one day that represented the three last places I have lived in... Weird, huh?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

an excerpt from Martin Buber's "I and Thou" (my italics)

The world is twofold for man in accordance with his twofold attitude.

He perceives the being that surrounds him, plain things and beings as things; he perceives what happens around him, plain processes and actions as processes, things that consist of qualities and processes that consist of moments, things recorded in terms of spatial coordinates and processes recorded in terms of temporal coordinates, things and processes that are bounded by other things and processes and capable of being measured against and compared with those others -- an ordered world, a detached world. This world is somewhat reliable; it has density and duration; its articulation can be surveyed; one can get it out again and again; one recounts it with one's eyes closed and then checks with one's eyes open. There is stands -- right next to your skin if you think of it that way, or nestled in you soul if you prefer that: it is your object and remains that according to your pleasure -- and remains primally alien both outside and inside you. You perceive it and take it for your "truth"; it permits itself to be taken by you, but it does not give itself to you. It is only about it that you can come to an understanding with others; although it takes a somewhat different form for everybody, it is prepared to be a common object for you; but you cannot encounter others in it. Without it you cannot remain alive; its reliability preserves you; but if you were to die into it, then you would be buried in nothingness.

Or man encounters being and becoming as what confronts him -- always only one being and every thing only as a being. What is there reveals itself to him in the occurrence, and what occurs there happens to him as being. Nothing else is present but this one, but this one cosmically. Measure and comparison have fled. It is up to you how much of the immeasurable becomes reality for you. The encounters do not order themselves to become a world, but each is for you a sign of the world order. They have no association with each other, but every one guarantees your association with the world. The world that appears to you in this way is unreliable, for it appears always new to you, and you cannot take it by its word. It lacks density, for everything in it permeates everything else. It lacks duration, for it comes even when not called and vanishes even when you cling to it. It cannot be surveyed: if you try to make it surveyable, you lose it. It comes -- comes to fetch you -- and if it does not reach you or encounter you it vanishes, but it comes again, transformed. It does not stand outside you, it touches your ground; and if you say "soul of my soul" you have not said too much. But beware of trying to transpose it into your soul -- that way you destroy it. It is your present; you have a present only insofar as you have it; and you can make it into an object for you and experience and use it -- you must do that again and again -- and then you have no present any more. Between you and it there is a reciporcity of giving: you say You to it and give youself to it; it says You to you and gives itself to you. You cannot come to an undertstanding about it with others; you are lonely with it; but it teaches you to encounter others and to stand your ground in such encounters; and through the grace of its advents and the melancholy of it departures it leads you to that You in which the lines of relation, though parallel, intersect. It does not help you to survive; it only helps you to have intimations of eternity.

The It-world hangs together in space and time.

The You-world does not hang together in space and time.

The individual You must become and It when the event of relation has run its course.

The individual It
can become a You by entering into the event of relation.

These are the two basic previleges of the It-world. They induce man to consider the It-world as the world in which one has to live and also can live comfortably -- and that even offers us all sorts of stimulations and excitements, activites and knowledge. In this firm and wholesome chronicle the You-moments appear as queer lyric-dramatic episodes. Their spell may be seductive, but they pull us dangerously to extremes, loosening the well-tried structure, leaving behind more doubt than satisfaction, shaking up our security -- altogether uncanny, altogether indispensable. Since one must after all return into "the world," why not stay in it in the first place? Why not call to order that which confronts us and send it home into objectivity? And when one cannot get around saying You, perhaps to one's father, wife, companion -- why not say You and mean It? After all, producing the sound "You" with one's vocal cords does not by any means entail speaking the uncanny basic word. Even whispering an amorous You with one's soul is hardly dangerous as long as in all seriouness one means nothing but experiencing and using.

One cannot live in the pure present: it would consume us if care were not taken that it is overcome quickly and thoroughly. But in the pure past one can live; in fact, only there can a life be arranged. One only has to fill every moment with experiencing and using, and it ceases to burn.

And in all seriousness of truth, listen: without It a human being cannot live. But whoever lives only with that is not human.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

blank cacophany

thought filled brain

word filled mouth

empty out

fragmented world

fractured dreams

funnel in

central energy
pouring out in
divergent paths towards
same transcendence

two feet
a thousand toes
pulled apart, together
pushing through pain to
touch it all

spend it all in the deep end -

know the bliss of that depth?

spread across shallow waters -

to know a lot .... a little?




Saturday, May 23, 2009

teaching thoughts...

Jamison's doosy of a blog entry has sparked some thoughts that have been rattling around in my own head for some time now. Thoughts that my long-overdue Spiralsonic post would be a perfect spot for...

I am a teacher. A music teacher. That's what I do. That's what I have chosen to be the vehicle for my music skills. I have made teaching the direction of my life's musical path. Even though I have only been doing it for the last 5 or 6 years I consider myself quite good at it. I enjoy it immensely. But as much as I enjoy my classroom teaching it is in the one on one private lesson setting that I am able to truly be myself and perfect the art of teaching music. However this is quite an irony for me. 

Much like Jamison I started piano lessons around the age of 7 or 8 and was quickly frustrated with the process. Instead of practicing and learning to read the notes I memorized what keys to play. This pissed my teacher off to no end. I don't even remember my teacher's name. Actually they made such a small impression on me that I honestly don't even remember if it was a man or a woman. Needless to say I did not take piano lessons for very long. However music was still a huge part of my life growing up. Later in life I went on to take private clarinet and piano lessons in junior high and guitar lessons in high school with a few different teachers. I never stayed with one teacher very long because none of them really made it fun for me. None of them sparked anything inside of me the way learning on my own did. By the time I began studying guitar and music in college I was pretty much an entirely self taught guitarist.  I learned best though experimentation. I felt very strongly that a motivated and creative person could learn just as much on their own as any teacher could show them.

The irony is that now I am the teacher in the room. And I have realized that I teach private lessons very different than anyone else at the music store I work at. I might teach differently that most teachers in general! I teach my students to express themselves with music. I teach my students that guitar is simply a tool for expressing that which cannot be expressed. I don't teach from a book. In fact I don't even teach them to read standard notation unless they really want to. In my opinion it is more important for a beginner to have a powerful connection with the music and their instrument at the beginning than it is to learn how to read whole notes and try to read stupid 8 measure "songs" that use 3 pitches. I try to show them from the very beginning how important it is to form a bond with the instrument that will last forever. Much like Jamison having the powerful life-changing moment when he got his first trumpet. There were no real rules yet. No rights and wrongs. It is this freedom that gives the beginner confidence and joy. I give my students the tools they need for self-expression. I remind them that I can not truly teach them anything. I can only guide them on their path and make suggestions based on my own musical experiences. 

I usually have my students improvising by the third lesson. I believe that improvisation is the highest form of musical achievement one can reach. This one idea forms the very basis of my teaching style. Does it work? Well, I have a handful of students that have been with me since the very beginning. They have stayed with lessons because they enjoy them. It might be the only time in their week where they feel like they have control. It might be the only time in their week where they can truly express themselves without fear of the teacher saying "No that's wrong!" I don't ever want to be that teacher. I want to be the one that says "Yeah! That's colorful! Now try it this way..." 

I can only hope that when they get my age they remember my gender. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

A doozy

Perhaps a major reason music - and specifically jazz - education is so seriously undervalued in our society is that it is often not taught in practical ways or with any cultural significance. I find that instead, it usually gets trapped in traditional and esoteric realms in order to, ironically enough, be taken more seriously. Like all musicians, throughout my life as a music learner, each realization that I have made has become successively more profound. However, I still struggle to achieve a balance between what I have come to view as two disparate, yet related, paths of learning: the organic and explorative nature of learning, which ultimately brought me to music in the first place versus a more structured and disciplined nature of institutionalized learning which has, strangely enough, had a significantly stronger presence in my personal history.

At age seven I started taking private piano lessons with an older, very conservative man who, although reasonably knowledgeable, was far from inspiring. Although I dreaded experiences at the piano for this reason, when I quit six months later, I had at least learned to read music, familiarized myself with the keyboard, and came to understand basic musical structures. About a year later my father showed me a simple tune - perhaps the only one he knows - called “Bobcat Boogie.” It’s hard to say what might have done more good for me: his two minute rendition of a simple jazz tune that excited me about music, or six months of structured practice and, oftentimes, drudgery.

When I was eleven, on the first day I received my trumpet, I had an invaluable, purely organic, learning experience. I remember holding the horn, exploring its physicality and how it was made, in some ways in awe of the natural beauty the instrument possessed. Combining my music reading knowledge and newly-found, almost instinctual, relationship between lips, air and mouthpiece, I achieved new sounds ... solid trumpet tones! I can only remember the experience that afternoon as being almost blissful in nature. I would lose sight of this very quickly upon my first days in band class.

During high school I was of course part of the band program which, like most high school music departments across the country, involved rehearsing and performing standard repertoire of Western classical music. Obviously this gave me an immense skill set, too detailed to discuss, but it also helped to manifest in my impressionable young perception the subtle hierarchies of which genres were to be more “appreciated” than others. I say this because alongside my wind ensemble experience, I also played in an original funk and ska band (the Skamikazes!) where we wrote music purely by ear, and purely for fun (and maybe to impress some girls). Somewhere in the middle there, my only experiences with jazz education came purely through the All-State jazz bands, which of course, followed a set of predictable norms within musical academia (i.e. a 17 piece big band learning to play standard repertoire under traditional teaching methods).

My newly formed loves of music, coupled with my sense of duty to attend college, led me to pursue jazz in higher levels of education, where I found myself starting to “swim upstream.” I joined a “typical” undergraduate jazz studies program which focused primarily on a highly structured curriculum of “standards” and be-bop styles, giving scant, obligatory mention of earlier traditional styles and little to no introduction to ethnic musics or jazz from the 1970s to present day. And although I have slight degrees of resentment for this fact, I also know that I wouldn’t have been exposed to jazz music in such an intense way had I not been in such a program. The limited repertoire of jazz styles given to me also acted as a launching pad into less familiar stylistic territories. This manifested itself into my confrontation - that ultimately proved successful - with a curriculum that indoctrinated students onto a jazz “conveyer belt”. Due to my high levels of discipline and work-ethic, I was able to convince the faculty to let me put on a non-traditional senior recital of primarily world improvisational musics, which would in turn inspire a number of students to find their own personal voice in jazz, pushing them to work in and around the system to help personalize their education. In this way, I ultimately found the most beneficial aspect of my studies was joining a community of like-minded musicians who helped push and inspire each other, creating invaluable learning environments.

As anyone would imagine, attending graduate school in New Yor, opened me up to a much larger world of possibilities and provided a much more balanced learning environment which helped me grow profoundly as a musician in every sense of the term. Students were given much more one-on-one attention from progressively minded, highly experienced musicians with deep understanding of the ever evolving place that jazz and improvisational music had in our culture. Of course, the unfortunate realities of an institution’s bureaucracy, self-aggrandizement and pressure to uphold general academic standards are always going to limit the potential for a student to find his or her most valuable path for learning. So, once again, I found myself moving into other departments (classical, ethnomusicology, etc.) and breaking the molds that seeped around me. I know deep down, that these actions were not merely a product of rebellion or subversion, but rather an attempt at the most organic way to learn music, through curiosity, exploration, fascination and experimentation.

As I think about what encouraged me to attend graduate school, it was ultimately to continue the search for my personal voice, to find new challenges, and of course, to be surrounded with an inspiring and educational community. School was the easiest way for me to do all of that, because it gave direction, instilled discipline and provided an automatic group of fellow musicians. After moving from New York, and finding myself “on my own,” I began to ask, “Where do I go from here?” In many ways, one of the biggest holes in all of my education was how to actually teach myself.

In the years I have been out of school, I have been forced to confront serious personal issues with my musical self. The foremost seems simple but has been surprisingly complicated for me: what do I want to do with my music? In some way or another this is a question we continuously ask ourselves as musicians, but it is so crucial in order to establish an initial sense of direction. I have always had school to tell me which way to turn or in what ways to dissent. But clearly the ideal is to allow yourself to find out what you really get out of music--what your loves and passions are, and then decide what the proper tools are to achieve said goals. Interestingly enough, I find that in many ways, I have gone about this in reverse. I have been given the tools, structure and methodologies needed to achieve any level of success in music; now I must allow myself to discover my true musical passions, and more importantly, be o.k. with whatever those are. In the end, I hope that with the proper financial and cultural support, music education programs of any dimension can progress towards a healthier balance of structure and exploration, discipline and inspiration, practice and play.

(edited by Ellen Brackin Sevits)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Eject button

I've come to realize, or at least think, that I'm not addicted to nicotine. I never thought I was, yet I've been a fairly consistent smoker for... five years now? How long ago was that first mushroom trip again? Anyway, it is my currently held belief that in smoking I'm not succumbing to the will of addiction so much as I'm expressing 6 or 7 minutes of conscious self-destruction. That's what's hard to give up. The need for self-destruction apparently hits a few times every day in my life.

This morning, however, I woke up thankful. I'm alive, Jesus! I'm alive! Thank you thank you!! It's day two of not smoking and today I've found this sense of being thankful for this one day very helpful. Yesterday I just happened to be distracted enough that there wasn't time to worry about destructing, but today, I needed to overcome it with some mother fuckin' spirit! It's hard to be sincerely thankful while trying to snuff out what you're thankful for. It is, of course, too early to say that this perspective will be lasting or helpful in my occasional quest to quit the ole 'rettes, but we'll see...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Hunter's "Wave Speech"

Strange memories on this nervous night in Las Vegas. Five years later? Six? It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era — the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant. . . .
History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.
My central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour wearing L. L. Bean shorts and a Butte sheepherder's jacket . . . booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turn-off to take when I got to the other end (always stalling at the toll-gate, too twisted to find neutral while I fumbled for change) . . . but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: No doubt at all about that. . . .
There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda. . . . You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. . . .
And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Brad Mehldau and Jon Brion, together again!

I haven't found this information anywhere on the internet, but in the program for the Brad Mehldau concert I went to last week, it said he was back in the studio with Jon Brion working on the follow-up to Largo... Whoopee!! We've been waiting years for this!

Monday, May 4, 2009

A point to ponder when it all seems like too much

This is an excerpt from Henry Miller's essay "The Immorality of Morality", which is published in the collection Stand Still Like the Hummingbird. It's meant a lot to me...

It sounds like defeatism to say to the young of our day: "Do not rebel! Do not make victims of yourselves!" What I mean, in saying this, is that one should not fight a losing battle. The system is destroying itself; the dead are burying the dead. Why expend one's energy fighting something which is already tottering? Neither would I urge one to run away from the danger zone. The danger is everywhere; there are no safe and secure places in which to start a new life. Stay where you are and make what life you can among the impending ruins. Do not put one thing above another in importance. Do only what has to be done -- immediately. Whether the wave is ascending or desending, the ocean is always there. You are a fish in the ocean of time, you are a constant in an ocean of change, you are nothing and everything at one and the same time. Was the dinner good? Was the grass green? Did the water slake your thirst? Are the stars still in the heavens? Does the sun still shine? Can you talk, walk, sing, play? Are you still breathing?

With every breath we draw we are utilizing forces that are absolutely mysterious as well as all powerful. We are swimming in a sea of forces which demand only to be utilized and enjoyed. The problems which beset us are human problems, problems largely of our own making. The great problems remain untouched: we have not the vision as yet to recognize them. But in accepting our everyday problems, accepting them gladly and unreservedly, we may make ourselves fit to cope with the greater ones to come. The mathematician is not appalled by the problems which face him in his work, neither is the surgeon, nor anyone who engages seriously in whatever pursuit. Why then should man, as a species, be terrified of the problems which beset him? Why should he deny the monster which he has created with his own hands? If he has spawned a monster, let him devour his own monster!

This essay is wonderful enough that the whole of it should be consumed, multiple times, but I can only write so much... or I am lazy.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

reactions and contemplations

Jeremy, thanks for sharing so much on this blog! I wonder if others will see the opportunity in it that you have. If not, no big deal I guess. Sometimes my hopes become expectations and that's never a healthy thing, but I guess its always important to try, right?

I think spring is a powerful season - actually the most powerful season, because its an obvious phase of change for us and our surroundings, and obviously a time of growth and rebirth. I wonder sometimes how we are so intrinsically connected to the world in this way, that when new plants are born, we feel some sort of urge to be reborn too. As people who pursue art and music, it resonates that part of our world all the more I think.

I had a walk that turned into a meditation last night, which I was reminded of when I read the quote that John shared with you. Finding balance between experiencing the world and acting in it can be difficult, but I think that is where some significant meaning lies.

While I was walking, my head was spinning, probably in spiral-like forms, transcending further into a rather esoteric, and thus, pointless matter in my head. I've recently found a new passion in songwriting, but immediately feel frustrated because I don't have as much expressive skills on piano and guitar as I wish I had. Its one of those situations where I want all my musical abilities to be on par with my most expert musical abilities. Which is obviously silly, and I consciously realize that. But what can you do?

While I was coming to some powerful realizations about my musical past, trying to connect the dots and come to new, more profound conclusions, my mind seemed so cluttered, it just wanted to shut off. And I realized, then and there, that that was the most important step I could come to. My mind has been getting in the way of my music. As it does more often than not.

So as I was walking along the street, I just shut my inner dialogue completely down (over time of course, meditation is a slow process obviously) but it was so beautiful to experience the simplest of surroundings in the most deep and meaningful way. We all have this happen in moments of our life, but its when you prolong those moments when you come to know bliss, you know?

And I realized that all the artists and musicians who have really found the deepest levels of their self-expression, they weren't sitting there thinking "I need to do this" or "perhaps I will sound like this" or any intellectualization of their work. They just do. They feel the calling, they don't question it, and they just do. they act. Don't judge, don't question, don't doubt, don't fear, just do.

And as simple as that is... its surprisingly difficult to manifest in your life, in the things that you care deepest about. But its like that quote iterates - open yourself to the world, and it will present itself to you in all its beauty. There is inner beauty that can come out too, and express itself in countless ways, but only if you are able to open yourself fully to it. Here's to spring!

Monday, April 27, 2009

an april treatise

Taking long walks in the rain. Deciding that the rain is not assaulting me, but caressing me. April can be great practice. Rain can be beautiful tactilly, sonically, and visually. I tried to listen to everything on the outside and quiet the voice on the inside that vacillated between a running commentary of what I was experiencing and my inner voice singing "Ooh, Baby Baby" by Smokey Robinson. The sound of trains and cars swishing through puddles, the sound of drops hitting my coat lapel, random bits of conversation - all of it motion. Then my inner voice started recalling wave length. One size creates light, another size produces sound, another is radio waves, another is atomic vibration, another is a second, another is a year, another is a millenia. When I looked hard at the lights I saw, I could hear a pitch - somewhere, somehow. Not a pitch you can recreate with the voice, but a vibration that can be heard in the eyes. I don't think it was synethesia. I'm not gifted in that way. After a long walk in the rain, I got to a show. It was improvised dance and music. Unfortunately, I take that shit seriously and have very high expectations. I couldn't feel the communication between the dancers and the musicians. The musicians were playing and the dancers were moving to a soundtrack. I could not sense dialogue or communication. Or love. Everyone seemed very talented and maybe that worked against them. Screechy apocalyptic noises and me having to FIGHT not to fall asleep. Of course, I also credit the Mexican food with making me a little sleepy, but the performance didn't help. There is a part of me that appreciates the creative process and adores the risks involved in experimental improvisation. There is another part of me that wants to be moved by the expression of others. That part craves the creation of a contemporary mythology in art and needs work that inspires me - not just to create, but to get out of bed in the morning, to have faith in life and love and the passionate pursuit of whatever the fuck you pursue. It's a lot to put on myself and it is a lot to expect from other performers. I get it. But seriously. Isn't that what this is all about?

Once Again

The first time I ever did psychedelics, John Nipper called from the beach and told this to me:

You don’t need to leave your room.
Remain sitting at your table and listen.
Don’t even listen, simply wait.
Don’t even wait.
Be quite still and solitary.
The world will freely offer itself to you.
To be unmasked, it has no choice.
It will roll in ecstasy at your feet.

It is a quote from Franz Kafka. I lost my shit, needless to say and I still feel it every time I reread it.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

My Favorite Things

I just want to share the fact that I'm having a day worth remembering. And it just occurred to me a few minutes ago that I've had almost no human interaction, excepting a few text messages and a couple brief exchanges with the floor staff of the Handlebar. Wonderful lunch, bass clarinet practice, "So What" on the rhodes with stacked 4ths, two hours of walking on a sunny/cloudy day and getting caught in a perfect spring shower, becoming acquainted with Ramsey Lewis, and looking forward to seeing the Brad Mehldau solo piano show with a beautiful woman I'm totally smitten over. Reading Siddhartha and Ishmael, cleaning my bathroom and just fucking ENJOYING EVERYTHING! Oh yeah, and I recently discovered my zipper has been down pretty much all day. Hoorah!!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Favorite Classic Soul Singer

A. Marvin Gaye
B. Sam Cooke
C. Al Green
D. Otis Redding
E. Smokey Robinson
F. Other

Monday, March 30, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

Diatribes and Lamentations..... now what?

Recently, I have had the immense fortune of being able to travel and experience some great places while on tour. For this I feel extremely lucky and try not to take it for granted. The unfortunate thing is that upon returning to Nashville, the city becomes all the more lackluster and, to be honest, it kinda gets me down. Now, I have had mixed emotions about Nashville since moving here, but I have always tried to find the good qualities, and to really be happy. And I feel like I've been successful; I am truly happy. But I don't really think Nashville itself has a lot to do with it.

I do have a great house, an amazing wife and a sweet fucking gig with some really wonderful guys (which I realize, of course, is something that happened for me because I live in Nashville.) But when we travel to cities throughout the country, I see so much of what Nashville lacks. Cities half of Nashville's size have twice the culture, be it music, food or all around cool-ass vibe. Granted, it is very easy to get into the mindset of "the grass is always greener" and I know some of that is playing a part. But let me just throw some rather unsettling statistics about Nashville your way that continue to haunt me.

# of baptist churches: 374
# of buddhist temples: 1
# of Professional sports teams: 2 (talk about a culture crusher... people don't realize how horrible these are for a city!)
major cultural export: commercial country music
# of Vegetarian restaurants: 3
# of real jazz venues: 0 (F. Scotts is a fancy-pants restaurant with lame-ass cocktail "jazz." I mean, come on....)
# of head shops: 0. Seriously, zero

Major Universities:
Vanderbilt - private, highly expensive, highly conservative
Belmont - private, largest christian university in Tennessee
David Lipscomb - private, heavy christian affiliation
Tennessee State University - poorly funded state school predominantly for African-Americans (surprise, surprise!)

(I could go on and on.....)

So, yeah I know, bitch bitch bitch, right? I shouldn't complain when I have it so good, right? What it boils down to is that this city, in general, does not resonate with me at all. However, there are some really kick-ass things here and there that keep me excited and hopeful, which I guess leads me to my final quandary.

Sometimes I fantasize about Ellen and I possibly moving somewhere else. I of course, have some cities in mind, but even those have their major drawbacks (i.e. Austin totally kicks ass, .... but its in Texas, ouch! And Seattle is fucking great, .... but 9 months of cloud and drizzle ain't my bag.) Obviously no place is perfect and ultimately, its rare that people find that they live in a place that really suits them. They have to make it work. So, if I'm going to live in Nashville, I gotta find a way to make it work.

So, in my usual way, I got inspired to figure out ways to help Nashville change for the better. I got excited again about being a part of a minority group of people who are pushing hard to get Nashville on track to becoming a truly great city. I thought perhaps, is this my calling? Part of my 'personal myth' as Joseph Campbell might say?

But then I remembered a conversation I had with my friend Faith who lives in San Francisco (obviously another amazing city.) I explained this sense of empowerment in being part of a small group of people who are progressively minded, appreciate culture, etc.... amidst a bunch of bullshit. And yes, it does have its appeal. But ultimately, it gets to be exhausting. She says she felt the same way living in Tennessee, but now that she lives in S.F. she's so happy to be surrounded by an environment that really does suit her. She's not looking back and can't imagine being anywhere else.

I guess its just that when I drive around Nashville, there are so many little things that can get to me, that annoy the piss out of me (most of it, I think, is because Nashville IS in the south, and the south, lets be honest, is about as slow and backwards as the products of incest that sprinkle its rural areas (which are many!) Granted, the city IS changing, ever so slowly.... but I'm a naturally impatient person, so its hard.

I ask myself.... and anyone else who empathizes: Is it worth it? Is it worth the energy and hope and angst to try to help change an entire community, or is that in itself a futile endeavor? In a lot of ways I don't even believe in trying to change people or places. But if I'm going live here, I have to do something. I want to live by the words of Ghandi: "Be the change you see in the world." But, I guess I'm just frustrated and don't know which direction to put my energy. Maybe I can be satisfied to be living my life the way I am and try desperately to ignore my environment. But right now, that seems like a lackluster way to go. I guess I could also just stop my bitching and appreciate every moment of life as a wondrous gift. But where's the fun in that? :)