Thursday, January 25, 2007

last weekend, belle and i went to see a performance by the kronos quartet at ucla. the show has been resonating with me all week. really inspiring show. the most fascinating piece of music was the first one of the night written by j.g. thirlwell (better known to most of us as 'foetus'). it hasnt been recorded yet but it is one i am going to keep my ears open for. its called 'nomatophobis'. really difficult listening music. i told my wife that i thought kronos were smart to begin the evening with it because it took full concentration to get anything out of it. if it had been later in the evening it would have been difficult to give it the full attention it deserved. which made me think again about the role of music in our lives currently. it was such a rewarding evening of music because the quality was so high and it had my full focus for almost two hours. that combination is increasingly rare in our world. i so rarely listen to music like i did some years ago. it is the background sound while i check for emailsmstextgooglesearchpornimwikidvdhdvoicemails (ha that just made me check my phone for new email). at some point i learned, and this applies to everything, good food, film, etc. that the things in my life that have enduring power, took some time for me to initially appreciate. things that are catchy are generally ephemeral. i have come to believe this so completely that i have begun to recognize things that i 'like' differently. i have begun to get better at recognizing that something, here its music, has a quality that is initially intriguing and not necessarily overwhelmingly seductive to me. that recognition is subtle and not always reliable but i have found it to be a much more interesting compass. i have called that more subtle lingering charm the 'resonance factor'. will the movie i saw come to mind in a daydream a week later, for example. not everything has to have this deep significance, of course. fun and sparkling charms are great to litter ones day with as well but that is easy and they take care of themselves. i have to put a little effort and focus into something that i might find initially difficult, weird or, heaven forbid, boring. instead of a constant cycle of sugar high and a sugar crash i need some things to endure. at least a little.

the rest of the evening was michael gordons 'potassium' also beautiful and unrecorded. two traditional songs from iran and iraq that were good too. clint mansells music from 'requiem for a dream'. i almost always like clints movie music. a piece by matmos who i always find have a very clever process for producing music that i found ultimately unsatisfying. and the show, pre encore, ended with a piece by einsturzende neubauten who, among flipper and others, was some of the music i listened to as a boy. i liked being contrarian then but i can see now that was also the beginning of being able to recognize that there might be something beautiful in something initially repulsive.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

sports it seems has always been the working class mans theatre. a way for people not artistically inclined to watch their beliefs and mores played out on a stage. analogous to their struggle and the competition of living. if living is competition. we seem to belive that in america anyway. so its sort of a perfect analogy for an imperfect world view. all this sets up tonights analagous sports observation. i am a fan, unfortunately, of los angeles' hockey team. i know a considerable amount more than i should about them. they are an awful team this year. awful. the general manager of the team every year has something called 'breakfast with the gm'. he meets with season seat holders and fields their questions. i was not there but read a report on the net. the season seat folks were pretty upset. did i mention the team is awful? awful. so the gm starts addressing their concerns about the state of affairs, including some of the big mistakes that he is responsible for himself. can you see where this is going? i hear the reasons why he made the decisions he made. he takes responsibilty for bad calls. talks about what he is going to do and what he is going to try doing with candor and authenticity. i dont always agree. but his forthrightness and leadership are convincing of his qualification for the job. he has assessed the situations well with some wisdom and clarity and plans to continue in the direction he was going in with appropriate adjustments. ok i know this is getting obvious. i thought of our stubborn monarch, king george bush ll. he is a man (i use the term loosely here) that has always made a big show of being a leader. the author of the phrase, "i am the decider". i think it was shakespeare that said,"methinks he doth protest too much". if you have to keep reminding people that you are the leader then i would suggest that you are not leading. during his entire reign he has operated with the belief that we did not need to know what he was doing or why he was doing it. he has created what jon stewart aptly called the most complete "catastrofuck" in iraq. it has gone so completely wrong it is almost perfect. he has now retreated into a tall tower that he shouts from the top of, alone; rice and cheney notwithstanding. by keeping everyone shut out and now being isolated, he has given no human being any faith in his decision making ability. speaking with my wife, raised in england, we talked about how much all of us (houses of congress now included) sound like we are talking about a king. we all talk about not being able to change his mind. we wont be able to stop him from playing his godforsaken (evidently right?) war. he is the stubborn boy-king of old english monarchy. awful.

Friday, January 12, 2007

its strange to spend so much time thinking about being an american. i traditionally havent spent much time on the subject. it is amazing what effect the debacle of our current presidency has had on us. i have very little experience in the realm of feeling patriotic. i can remember wandering around the monuments of washington dc in the middle of the night (they are all quite well lit at night) on tour back in the janes days. i was moved, as intended, by the enormity of the accomplishment of these men in crafting this american political experiment. that is the only really emotional experience of patriotism i remember having. i find this feeling generally hard to come by for a number of reasons. most recently, i have allowed other people, the wrong people (from both the left and right of me i should add), to define america for me. when i hear americans like susan jacoby speak about america i can recognize the beauty of the acclomplishment we are all a part of. beauty that is of course complicated. what, that is true, isnt? as she spoke about the intentions of our founding fathers to keep a division between church state i felt stirrings of patriotism. these men all believed in god. most were christians. they were wise enough, and susan mentions that the last person executed in france for blasphemy was twenty years before they drafted the constitution, to know that church being seperate from state meant there would be a better chance for true freedom. this is inspired. i know all the usual and cynical complaints about this stuff. they have been dogging my every word as ive written this. i was a teenge punk rocker for a second after all. but cynical criticism is often mistaken for good solid skeptical reasoning. and without noticing, this cynicism can become a refuge that keeps one safe, 'right', and for me at least, ultimately unsatisfied.

in an unrelated story, i am aware of the fact that you are all more interested in music news than in my broader human blathering. fair enough. i am a musician after all. so on that front, negotiations have officially begun with a company about finding a home for my solo stuff. lawyers are talking to lawyers.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

2007. hello all. we are returned from paradise. must report that there is at least one place left where peace still exists. you know i had this little rant written about this that i found at steven johnsons blog. but i decided to delete it because why start off the new year with the same old crazily fucking absurd story. right?

instead i will start with the cheery winter story of the donner party. i watched a dvd from the american experience doc series. beautifully done by the brother (?) of ken burns, he of the epic civil war documentary. very much in the ken burns style. but anyway, i digress. the point of all that is to get to alexis de tocqueville. the documentary begins with a quote by him. he continues to amaze me. i will really sit down and read him one day when i grow up. but for now i will continue to marvel at his insight into america and americans in the little snippets i find littered throughout our culture. he made these observations in the 1800's no less. the 1800's. this particular quote is not only appropriate to the doomed donner partys decision to find 'the shortest route' to california, but is also, i think, appropriate to the holiday season and the crazy wake of shopping that follows. it sums up eloquently a major theme in my work, in my spiritual struggle and in our collective and unexamined dreams. have at it.

"it is odd to watch with what feverish ardour americans pursue prosperity, ever tormented by the shadowy suspicion that they may not have chosen the shortest route to get it. they cleave to the things of this world as if assured that they will never die and yet rush to snatch any that comes within their reach, as if they expected to stop living before they had relished them. death steps in, in the end, and stops them, before they have grown tired of this futile pursuit of that complete felicity which always escapes them." -alexis de tocqueville