Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Silent as a Semaphore

My sister and I are working on a song. Here's the story:

1. I gave my sister Kimberly some lyrics and song fragments I've never done anything with
2. She misreads a line and comes up with a great song idea
3. She writes interesting music -- one verse and one chorus
4. We get together, she describes the idea, I'm impressed (and convinced of the value of bad penmanship)
5. I research semaphores on Wikipedia and other inerrant sources
6. I wrestle the lyrics for two more verses and a bridge out of an afternoon Kimberly spends working on her guitar technique (she "doesn't really play", she just makes up chords and picking patterns that are more interesting than a lot of accomplished guitarists)
7. We turn the original chorus into a pre-chorus and write a more hooky chorus

I haven't written a song like this before. It's fun. It's hard work.

Hopefully you'll get to hear it sometime.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Drawing in Community

Talked to a friend tonight who is thinking of taking up painting. Comes from a long line of artists, which is great but makes it hard to start.

I drew this during an evening gathering of our community.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Roots in Winter

So JRL is over.

I'm tired of playing a bunch of those songs.

There's a lot of new ones I like playing but don't know very well.

I feel like the important thing for me now is not to rush into anything. To let myself breathe, rest, and be in the winter season creatively. There are other things on my mind.

But underneath the surface the roots are alive, and on certain days they are growing.

Drawing by Christa Reuel

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Art and the Preacher: JRL Farewell Gig part whatever it is by now

Someone worked through the night the day before the concert to create an atmosphere, an aesthetic surround experience for people who came to the show.

There were large, black, wooden sculpture-people standing around in the audience and on stage.

There were shapes cut out and placed on chairs and on the stage.

There were paintings and candles. It felt a bitlike a shrine. Which was great, especially when the reverend Andrew Kreider came up and said a few words about the dearly departed JRL.

Funny and sad beautiful and good. At least for me.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

What you can't describe: Farewell Concert Part Three

There are several things musical that I dream about, and, if I let myself think about it, ache for.

One is that feeling of a band when the drums and bass and rhythm guitar are moving together effortlessly: it is powerful and solid and good. This happened at the Farewell gig. More than once.

Another is the bliss of a great, improvised solo. There were a number of these -- by various guitarists and a flautist.

The other is that craziness that sometimes happens.

. . . when you've been building and building a song and it gets wilder and louder and louder and more intense until evrything sort of flatlines. You can't really hear the different parts anymore and somehow it almost seems still and silent. It's ironic and beautiful and you can't really capture it.

I don't know when it happens or why or what makes a person open to it (or not), but I do know it's a gift. I know you can't make it happen. I've heard people describe it in different ways, and attribute it to different things.

I like to think of it as a gift to and from a lot of sources at once: God, the musicians, the people in the room, those who helped plan or prepare for it, the people caring and praying for the community.

What difference does a moment like that make?

Is it worth all the time and energy?

I don't know but I'm really, really thankful for it. Like I am for lakes, and colored fields, and large open skies, and certain smiles or expressions.

Earthquake Trees

They sit, stuck to the earth


Observing the tantrums of the ground

Like old men waiting

On park benches

Detail of a Christa Reuel drawing.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

A Gift: Farewell Concert Part Two

The whole night felt to me like it had been put together by someone bigger, more mysterious and wiser than me. And indeed, after how many years of doing a lot of it myself -- booking, promoting, etc -- this was very different. More than any show I can remember, this was the result of major collaboration at every stage. I was a gift -- to and from many people.

The progression from the first band to the second and then to JRL was interesting-- each one was different, but they they related and sort of built on each other. I worried a little about how the audiences from each band would like the others, but there were no riots or mass exoduses (of course it takes masses to have a mass exodus...). Enough people showed up to make the room feel good rather than awkward. (Which is great because I've played in that venue awkwardly at least twice, so I know what I'm describing.)

I was amazed by:
The number and quality of musicians playing.
The interest and response of the audience (like a shot of caffeine).
The interaction between the musicians.
Those musical moments...