Sunday, February 22, 2009


Absorbed a lot this weekend: John Duncan concert, 'Future of Journalism' meeting, two LOST episodes, Fahey (the sweet black pup we're dogsitting) running around like a tasmanian devil in the snowy backyard, and at the end of it all - Juana Molina, who I'm now officially astounded by, after watching/listening, spellbound, tonight's performance at the Morse Theater.

Even backed by 2 other musicians (sorry, fellas accompanying her whose name I can't track down) she's a one-woman show - kind of a tasmanian devil herself - singing, crooning, uttering, strumming, looping it all at crazy, cyclical, syncopated intervals with the slightest tap(s) of a foot on (one of many) pedal(s). And all the while cracking up / charming the pants off the audience between songs, and making it all seem effortless - the acrobatic timings, the hauntingly piercing melodies, the complex structure of every song she offered up.

Looks like she's headed to Cincinnati, Cleveland, Boston, NYC, DC, Philadelphia in the next week...if you're anywhere close, do yourself a big, big favor and go see the show. Then drop a line, and we can talk about the amazing CUP/handclap song thing. Because I really can't figure out how to explain it, and would love to know what you think.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

the melodies remain

Driving home from Columbus last week a jolt of recognition released a flood of memories when we passed the green highway sign for a small town in Indiana - home of the Jewish overnight camp I attended for a few summers 20-25 (wha?!) or so years ago. First and foremost, songs came to mind - haunting melodies and hebrew lyrics that I've long since forgotten the translations to, if I ever knew them in the first place.

All of these years later, I can clearly envision sitting around a campfire and singing freely into the night, and so many other small impressions wander back...the way sparks from the fire would shoot up into the sky then disappear, linking arms with the girl (or boy!) next to me and swaying from left to right, slowly, with each song...the SMELL, of course, of fire and pine and summer and Calamine lotion. Remember?

There were a few English songs too, ones that I didn't necessarily understand the words of, but whose melancholy, minor key melodies introduced tragedies I'd not yet encountered. Probably didn't understand the notion of 'tragedy' even, age 11ish. But still, the songs stuck.

And have been playing in my head, on a loop, for days now. The camp has a website, which I spent about thirty seconds on before quickly navigating away. The songs are findable as YouTube videos from Jewish folk festivals and other various group singalongs (none of which hold a candle to the campfire sessions) But I have no desire to find any of this on the interwebs... it seems all wrong to encounter these memories again through poor graphic design and others' experiences that seem to barely relate to mine.

I'd prefer to savor the wisps and verses that still exist somewhere deep in my brain, and let them wash over and take me back to the days of reluctantly dressing up for the Shabbat Walk, inventing excuses to skip swimming lessons, traversing the length of the dining room for bug juice refills, and playing jacks on the concrete deck outside the canteen. I'd rather marvel at how embedded all of this remains, how easy it was to tap into, how sad it still feels to hear those songs in my mind's ears, and how nice it feels to let the memories swell.

[So many boucy balls lost each summer...]

Monday, February 16, 2009

Round in the middle...

Ahoy Ohioans! Ohioians! Buckeyes! People from the great state where I was born! We're heading your way with a laptop full of fantastic audio stories. Destination: the Wexner Center in Columbus, for a Third Coast Festival Listening Room. And what's more, now OH-based producer Neenah Ellis (remember the centenarians series on NPR back in 2000? What about those amazing stories about one-room school houses?) will be on hand, and we'll be playing some of her fine work.

So come on out and listen on Wednesday, February 18th (yes, soon) at 7 pm. And thanks to the audio-leaning folks at OSU for helping bring us over.

P.S. It's a free event. You may even consider road tripping.

P.P.S. That is, indeed, a mousepad with I LOVE OHIO printed badly/too largely across a blue (!) silhouette of the state. But no, I don't have one. Yet.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Words of Sounds (1) - Powers

I've noticed that fiction writers seldom spend a lot of extra words describing sounds, so I'm trying to pay more attention, and share the occasional worthy (at least in my estimation) passages. Suggestions welcome, and thanks in advance.

The Words of Sounds #1 - The Echo Maker, by Richard Powers (pg. 166)

"He stopped at the far end of the MotoRest parking lot, closed his filmy eyes, and listened.

The songs came on, mathematical, melodious, their elaborate patterns slowly mutating. Some were as singable as any human tune. He counted, sensitizing to the calls that played off one another, each a solo against a mass chorus. He lost count after a dozen, unsure where to lump and where to split. Every complex riff was identifiable, although Weber could identify none. Softer, in the middle distance, he heard the shush of cars along Interstate 80 whooshing like sprung balloons."

In this case, Weber is a writer (about neurological disorders / consciousness) from New York who has just spent a sleepless night in the middle of Nebraska (where he traveled to investigate a man with a brain injury) and is about to embark upon the streets of a small town at dawn.

[Sensitizing is my new favorite verb.]

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Sunday Improvisations

Pretty soon here, I'll be on a plane heading back to Chicago. In the meantime am sitting at The Bridge PAI, listening to some of hour 3 of a 12 hour improvising marathon. It's just me and the three musicians in the room. Bass and computer language push to every corner of the room. Layers of tone fill the space, in cahoots with the sun flooding through the window behind me, warming my back. Quieter murmers break through now and then, seemingly bubbling up from deep water.

It's a maybe perfect way to wrap the past three days in Charlottesville, dense and curious and full of listening, talking talking talking, hiking, bourbon, coffee.

Overheard: Teenager in the hotel elevator, responding to mom's entreaty too loudly over the tinny smash of bad rock and roll bleeding out of his earbuds. Mom: "smile?" Teenager: "WHY."

Overheard: Sex, in the room next door. Or two doors down.

Overheard: The wail of a mother, looking frantically for the toddler she'd lost in a crowd.

Heard: Jingling of dog collars (Harriet and Luna's), between pockets of conversation, as we climbed up to the lookout on Turk Mountain.
Heard: The loudest water drips, inside a secret train tunnel full of stalagmites.
Heard: Cat Power in the background, sealing the deal on the most charmed day ever.

[Can feel the drones now. Vibrating back against warm window. Slightly louder than before.]