Still. Life.

Jon released a new album and I am loving it. For years I have been telling everyone willing to listen (Ha! that probably means you can find it on this blog somewhere) that the best thing that could possibly come out of this era of musicians getting squeezed by Silicon Valley would be that they make the music they want to make… because when it’s not likely that we can make money, we might as well make something that we want to hear… without considering what an audience might want or how to promote a song for radio etc.etc…

This album is 100% Jon Gagan. He even took the photo himself! You absolutely do not have to be a bass player or bass aficionado to enjoy these pieces! Play these tracks and read what he wrote about the recording. I think you will agree, it absolutely lovely. 

Still. Life. is a collection of sketches that were done on electric bass between 2020 and 2024.

With each piece, I began by simply recording whatever came to me in the moment. I would then overdub another bass part or two and in some cases add Rhodes or percussion, often using the bass as a percussion instrument or source of a sound effect.

During the shutdown in 2020, my daily rhythm became one of waking up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning and playing bass in the studio until the sun came up. I kept something of this habit in subsequent years, and Still. Life. was recorded during this time of day.
With the work having been done in the pre dawn hours it didn’t surprise me when I noticed a certain calm quality emerge as a theme from piece to piece. Without planning it, I realized I had been able to express the feeling of unhurriedness that was emblematic of the pause in the rush of modern life for me.


I posted this on Thanksgiving in 2019. I think it bears re-posting. Have a good day with your friends.

(the following are a few thoughts that went through my mind this Thanksgiving as I was snowed in. Since I was by myself I had time to write them down)

On this Thanksgiving day I want to acknowledge the gentle people. I think of the many native peoples who were erased from this earth [1], or enslaved. I think of visionaries and geniuses who were killed or imprisoned because they thought differently. I also think of women, who did not have access to education and, in too many places on this planet, still don’t. It also brings to my mind the many recluses and hermits who walked into the woods and mountains, to get away from humanity.

For millennia a brutish man could be very successful. This kind of man would offer a sense of security to a mate and could therefore pass on his genes. Because there was always a war, there was always an opportunity for a man of strength to become a hero. Those heroes might have been much more brave than they were intelligent, they were brutal, even psychopathic, but they were considered heroes nonetheless. The bully has been a pretty successful model of a human, at least in terms of Natural Selection. The gentle people paid the price, all over the world. Our genetic programming does not favor the gentle people and in many cases their DNA was lost to humanity. I fear that if human DNA was programmed by Gods, it was a junior God’s first project and he or she didn’t have a lot of experience and very little foresight.

Humans are this planet’s most powerful and utterly dominant predator. Now our survival will depend on turning bullies into gentle people. Can the competitor become a collaborator? We believe that we are better now, more civilized and less violent, but in truth we have only exchanged the physicality of swords and fists for the power of computers, the internet, and social media. The bullying is now done with a keyboard. Instead of practicing sword fighting or aiming a gun at a target, we aim zeros and ones at each other. The effect is worse. Nobody sees the wounds, there is no smell of blood. The victims live to suffer another day. The old bully wore a uniform and carried weapons, the new bully weaponizes words and monetizes data. The old-fashioned bully took his chance in a fight that he might, albeit rarely, loose. There was always that slim possibility that his victim might get the upper hand. Bullying by keyboard involves no such risk of bodily harm. Anyone can do it.

We CAN revolt against natural selection. The planet will heat up, millions of species will be erased. We need to change OURSELVES. We need to grow, despite our programming and against our programming! The great human hack of the 21st century… to become a new species, homo sapiens 2.0.

[1] Estimates, of course, vary greatly, but up to 100 million people lived in the Americas before the Europeans arrived… 90% of them were killed. While most died from the viruses the Europeans brought with them, many of them died in the most carelessly cruel way. And that’s just the Americas…


But what really struck me is the neurophysiology, which is, you know — sound waves coming off of streams, and moving bodies of water, activate the vagus nerve. They calm us down. There are chemical compounds in nature. You might smell a flower or tree bark, or the resin on a tree, that activate parts of the brain and the immune system, right? So our bodies are wired to respond in an open, empowering, strengthening way to nature.

from this podcast with Dacher Keltner

I have always moved forward intuitively and discover only later why I turned this way or that. I look at the map during or after the journey, rarely beforehand.

I wasn’t sure why I wanted to make an album using river and rain sounds, but it turned out to be an inspired idea. There is the practical side, which is that the water sounds mask any traffic noise that might get onto the recording through the guitar microphone – because I live in cities and I am not recording in a soundproof studio. Another reason was surely that I had been concerned about water for more than thirty years, because Santa Fe is part of the high desert. Today I learned that Sound waves coming off of streams, and moving bodies of water, activate the vagus nerve. They calm us down.

The pieces are starting to make sense.


Walked to Jon’s studio this morning, openly carrying my white guitar case over my shoulder. We decided not to play with the full setup, through IEMs, in favor of sitting in the same room. This way we could hear ourselves acoustically and could easily talk about finer points of the arrangements. We set up in a circle. Jon used a very small amp, placed behind the chair he was sitting on, for his fretless bass guitar. Robby brought the cajon and used Jon’s hi-hats. Super simple and so much fun. While we played, Jon would sometimes talk us through the arrangement. He would announce the violins, then the cellos, and here come the basses. I told him he should have a microphone and do that for the concert. At least he will wear a mic and do that for the rehearsal with the orchestra tomorrow afternoon. :-)

We worked through the whole set list for two hours, but there was a fair amount of talking and laughter, too. At one point I said how much fun it would be to have recorded the rehearsal… the music, the stories that bubbled up. I wonder how long it would take to forget that a recording is being made. Because, if one couldn’t forget that, the magic would probably be lost and one would perform rather than just hang out and work.


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Crews are taking down dozens of elm trees on Alameda, on the river side. My first thought was, they should have started with us Europeans. We are a non- native invasive species. Walking past the tree carnage this afternoon I argued with a crew member, who shouted that I didn’t know what I am talking about.

He should read this article from the Santa Fe New Mexican, headlined Rethinking the dreaded Siberian elm:

But for all the hate, Santa Fe and many communities in New Mexico would have little shade without the dreaded Siberian elm. And now, as climate change increasingly makes the state hotter and drier, some researchers and arborists are rethinking the value of this hardy tree.


“It is a new world we live in, and elms are succeeding,” said Nate McDowell, a former Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist who led a Southwestern tree study that found that climate change could leave the high-desert mountains of New Mexico nearly bald, with the majority of piñon and juniper trees dying off by 2100 as a result of drought, heat and bark beetles.

“Do you really want to cut down something that is doing OK when other things are dying?” said McDowell, who is now with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory studying the effects of climate change on tropical forests.

To me this action of cutting down fifty or more elm trees, some of which were standing on the slope down to the river, with their roots keeping the dirt from eroding, is a terribly misguided project. There are thousands upon thousands of elm trees in Santa Fe. Take these by the river down and new ones will be seeded this spring. There are also huge lawns in front of big mansions on Palace Ave that are an invasive species of grass that requires lots and lots of water to survive. The irony is that mansions on Palace Ave are probably donating money to Friends of the Santa Fe River for this project.

The Week

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Monday evening I went to dinner with Roshi Joan. We went to her favorite restaurant, Izanami. When she saw my hat she said I looked goofy. I am going for full on goofy and being myself, I replied. I want to be that crazy old man who dresses strangely uniquely and dances in the rain in the middle of the night. Besides, I find this hat so much cooler than a baseball cap. It’s waterproof, it protects my neck as well as my face, and I can fold it up and stick it into any pocket. Plus it’s black and no logo shows. And it reminds me of Yohji.

This afternoon I went to an optical shop called OJO, near the plaza. I love their logo. The word OJO means eye in Spanish and the J is an even better nose than the Y of eye.
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I have always picked out my frames, but this time I asked the sales person to pick out something for me, so I would try something new and different. He gave me a few interesting choices, that I will think about. I think the shop has been open in Santa Fe for several years, but I never went inside before. OJO only deal in independent frame designers. I looked at beautiful frames that were made in Belgium and in Hong Kong, for example. No Luxottica stuff for them – the Italian company that probably controls 90% of the eye glass market.

LensCrafters, Sunglass Hut, Apex by Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision, Target Optical, and It also owns EyeMed, one of the largest vision health insurance providers. Luxottica’s market power has allowed it to charge price markups of 1000%.


Tomorrow Rahim AlHaj will come for a visit, and maybe a little jam. I haven’t seen him since right before the pandemic and it will be great to catch up.