2023

It was the year that…

…I read fewer books than I did in the previous year. Only about half as many, in fact. My favorite non fiction books were Ways of Being, by James Bridle, and Where the Heart Beats, by Kay Larson. My favorite book of fiction was Hopeland, by Ian McDonald. Still Laughing, an autobiography by George Schlatter, was very entertaining. My current read is The Complete Cold Mountain. I am familiar with the Cold Mountain poetry because around the year 1981, I bought a used copy of Cold Mountain translated by Burton Watson. I carried that book everywhere with me. Kaz Tanahashi and Peter Levitt made new translations of Hanshan’s poems and then put them into three groups according to a new theory of Kaz’s that suggests that the poems were written by at least three different people. The earliest Hanshan may have been a Daoist and wrote in Early Chinese Language rhyming. Hanshan number two seems to have been a Chan (Zen) Buddhist. Hanshan number three wrote their poems in Late Middle Chinese rhyming. Would it be acceptable to see Hanshan as one poet with three bodies from different times?  Yes, indeed. The new insights into Hanshan are very interesting and the translations are beautiful. 
I am also listening to Doppelganger, an audiobook Robby gave me. It’s illuminating, frightening, and fascinating in turn.

…I didn’t buy any CDs. I considered buying the CD of Notes With Attachments by Pino Palladino and Blake Mills but purchased an album download of 24/96 FLAC files instead. Other music I enjoyed this year:

  • Player, Piano – Daniel Lanois
  • The Wind – Balmorhea
  • Emanon – Wayne Shorter
  • Feio – Wayne Shorter’s composition from Bitches Brew by Miles Davis
  • The Omnichord Real Book – Meshell Ndegeocello
  • Ralph Towner – At First Light

…I finished recording my first album ASF–After Santa Fe–in July. I discovered new methods for recording and used a new laptop computer for the first time in more than twenty years. Instead of thinking of the studio as a place that I walk to, as I did from 1994 to 2021, a studio has become something I carry with me. Rain Poems is my first album ASF. I love the way the music for the new album unfolded and the playfulness that came from experimentation, for example by treating the sound of the guitar with pieces of paper or fabric or using a sponge. When a guitar doesn’t quite sound like a guitar, one discovers a new instrument that looks like a guitar and feels familiar. It’s like having a whole new arsenal of instruments at my fingertips without actually having more than one instrument.

…I made a solo retreat in a cave at the refuge in August. This was the first of a couple of bucket list items I planned for this year. I loved it. I dropped into six hours of daily meditation without much trouble, although I did have to vary my seating positions because the legs are getting older.

…I opened the new Backstage site in October. It was about a year in the making and I am very happy with the result. This is the year I stopped handing new music to digital distributors and streaming corporations. I am also considering the withdrawal of the HuHeartDrive releases from 2019-2021 from those services: Fete, Vision 2020, Bare Wood 2, and the singles. I appreciate all of the members who signed up. Thank you for coming on this journey with me.

…I stopped using my watch to time workouts. I discovered that I don’t care about individual workouts, I just want to know the total for the day: did I move long enough and did I move hard enough. I also don’t want the watch do ask me whether I ended a workout just because I paused to look at something. Now I have all of the prompts and notifications turned off. I wore an Oura ring for a short while. A little too bulky which means I couldn’t wear it when I play guitar. I almost lost it so many times because I had to take it off for soundcheck. Several times I discovered the ring hours later, resting on a volume knob of the monitor mixer…

…I went to Japan for four weeks in November. I walked the Kumano Kodo trail, the second bucket list item of 2023. The length of four weeks was perfect, long enough to get a feel for the place and the culture. I loved the challenge of the Kumano Kodo, which culminated in the Belly Breaker section. I loved the variety of places we stayed on the Kumano but also during the rest of the trip. I am already planning another walk. 

…I summed up my year in 25 words. This might become an annual practice. :-)

Happy guitar-playing creativity.
Summer album. Backstage. 
A week alone. Cave time. 
Month in Japan with Lisi. Kumano Kodo. Bellybreaker!
Crazy upon return. But made mochi.

Happy New yEar!

 

 

Tattoo + Music

Monday afternoon I was walking home after a very late lunch. Is a meal eaten at 1630 a late lunch or perhaps an early dinner? I noticed a poster of a tattooed arm on a wall. The text was: 

A Tattoo is a lifetime mark. Have it done by a Tattoo artist.

Aside from the fact that the sales pitch was obviously directed towards tourists, because English, I understood the sentiment. 

My mind immediately wondered how long it would take until a robot can give you any tattoo you want? It would have a searchable data base of tattoos – probably easily obtained by going through Instagram posts – and would be able to adapt any photo you might give it.

Then I changed Have it done by a Tattoo artist to Listen to Music by Real Musicians, in my mind.

We have sayings like You are what you eat to show that we should be mindful of what we put into our body. In computer science there is the term GIGOgarbage in, garbage out

Music is a type of food. Some music sticks around in your body for much longer than food does. Some music seems to ferment and develop and it can change us fundamentally. Perhaps we will need an *Organic* sticker for music, now that AI has already produced as many songs as humans have ever created. *Made by Humans* or *Human Music*? What would you suggest?

I don’t usually listen to pop music. It’s not part of my diet. ;-) But sometimes it sure can make you smile: as the sales person at El Corte Ingles was writing up the vacuum I wanted to purchase, I noticed that she was soundlessly mouthing words… and they seemed to be in English! Then I got the connection: a pop song was playing on the store’s sound system. I recognized the song but could not tell you what it is called or who recorded it. Eighties, maybe??? The song and her lips were in sync. I had to smile, because I had that experience with Sweet dreams are made of this just a few days ago, when I heard the song waft through an open window and started singing along, realizing that I knew most of the words. 

Pollution

Data collection and Targeted Ads are the industrial waste pollution and ozone destroying chemicals of the information age and should be tightly regulated or (better) eliminated.

Two

Woke up around 0255. Maybe I had a nightmare but couldn’t recall it. Felt heart beating. Read for a while. Wrote something down that was on my mind and then went back to sleep.

Instead of computers becoming like us, we are becoming like computers. We are becoming binary thinkers. Zeros and ones, yes and no, good and bad, heaven and hell, blue and red, with me or against me, acceptable books and not acceptable books, the backlash against non-binary gender, 😊 or ☹️

Binary thinking isn’t exactly new, or limited to the age of computers, but it is becoming more ubiquitous and extreme. Perhaps it’s due to the two hemispheres of the human brain, but it has undoubtedly been amplified by the machines we made. It’s either too hot or too cold. Music is great or sucks. Animals, or plants, are deemed either useful or considered pests or weeds.

Robby told me, on Monday, that some kind of magic happens when one mixes one part of oatmilk with one part of H&H and adds that to coffee – so half and half actually becomes a quarter and a quarter – sorry, I couldn’t resist, but it’s my birthday and so I allow myself to write it. Fixed my morning coffee like that. Double espresso with Oatly and H&H. Nice. Not sure whether it’s magical but pretty damn good.

Walked three and a half miles and listened to On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous. I am glad I am listening to the book, instead of reading it. The author reads his own text and he gets the rhythm just right. The rhythm of words. Rhythm is the most important part of poetry. Rhythm is everything, isn’t it. Drumming is Life!

begin interlude
When Robby plays the djembe it’s easy to forget he also plays Chopin on the piano, has perfect pitch and a masters in composition… Playing with Robby and Jon is incredible. If you had asked me for advice about performing or how to put an band together I would tell you this: play with the absolute best musicians you can find and always, always look for musicians who are better than you. You will learn and they will lift you up. And listening to them will give you pleasure, night after night. A career is a marathon, not a sprint. Listening to Jon’s solo on Butterfly Dream energizes, encourages, and inspires. This is the stuff that keeps you going night after night and improves you.
end interlude

At home I had a second cup – actually a glass – of coffee. Still enjoyed the oatmilk + H&H mixture. Thought about what I wrote in the middle of the night.

We are clearly binary creatures. Two arms, two hands, two legs, two feet, two lungs, two eyes, two ears, even two nostrils, the brain’s hemispheres. Perhaps it’s a bad design, destined to lead to war. Perhaps it is just a good challenge. Something to outgrow and overcome.

Don’t focus on the weather, whether the sun shines or a storm is coming… above the storm the sun always shines. I think somebody said that better… (quick search) yes:

You are the sky. Everything else is just the weather. – Pema Chödrön

Perfect.

Artists and Laozi

I think Jon Gagan is one of the finest bass players in the world, right at the top of the field of electric bass guitar and upright bass players. I feel very lucky that the man decided that he did not want to live in Manhattan, L.A., or Nashville, the three music centers of the country. He chose to live in Santa Fe and we have been making music together for over thirty years. Worked out well for me… ;-)

It makes me wonder how many amazing painters we never heard of because they didn’t want to play the game and do the gallery hustle. How many outstanding poets never searched for a publisher? How many incredible actors decided to work in a local theater in the countryside because the idea of Hollywood was too odious.

I am reminded of Laozi who, according to legend, very reluctantly wrote down the thoughts which became the Tao Te Ching. How many men and women have walked away, unwilling to deal with publishers, galleries, record labels, the public. We know that the person who wants the job the most is not necessarily (in fact rarely!) the best _________ (leader, politician, painter, musician, author etc.).

Especially true for politics, isn’t it!

Poetic

I walked exactly three miles. First I listened to rough mixes Jon sent last night. Upright bass for two of the Rain Music pieces. The bass sounds amazing in his hands. The man is at the top of his game. The notes speak of experience and life and depth… no notes for the sake of playing notes. What will we sound like in ten years? I am reminded of the words of Pau Casals who, when asked why he was still practicing cello daily at age 80, replied Because I think I am making progress.

I do believe I am making progress. I like where music leads me. As age slows my body down, I can, perhaps, imbue each note with more of something. One has to acknowledge the changes. When it is hot outside, wear shorts. When it’s raining, wear a hat and a waterproof jacket. When young play as many notes as you like. It might help you to explore. When old concentrate on the notes that really mean something. Move toward depth and essence.

After the Rain Music I listened to an audiobook called On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, by Ocean Vuong. Very poetic and very sad. Those two often go hand in hand, don’t they, the poetic and the sad?