25 February 2012


It seems like people are always calling this kind of thing "Piece for Prepared Piano," but if you ask me it looks an awful lot like a bunch of surgeons around an operating table.  Is not a piano a living creature?  Is this an operation or an autopsy?  I guess without hearing it you'll just have to conjecture.

16 February 2012

Roberta Sá.

Maybe I’ve talked to you before about the role music plays as a barometer of my emotional well-being. I often love happening upon fresh and unexpected grooves. But there have been months at a time when I had no patience for it. Trying to pick something to listen to stressed me out. You know how an invalid has no appetite? I should have realized something was up with my soul, for what is soul-food if not music? The music I did listen to was old comfort blankeys, for which I don’t mean to discount my deep affection. Staples are important. But it was worrisome that I had no appetite for newness. I mean I could have gone through my whole life without ever hearing Del tha Funkee Homosapien ask “What is a booty, and how will I know if I’m shaking it?” That would have been a very sad consequence of me losing my appetite for musical discovery.

And it still happens from time to time. But I’m hungry again. I’m okay! Brazilian pop. Hip-hop. Steely Dan. Sure, go ahead and suggest me some more. Be adventurous. Let us be adventurous.

Here’s kind of a tangent, but I always come back to jazz, you know? For peace. I mean it’s the land where my musical inquisitiveness sparked into incandescent being, and it’s a wide enough land to sustain a lot of discovery. This is deeply and trustworthily good stuff.

08 February 2012

Gregor Mendel.

Gregor Mendel failed the examinations to become an accredited teacher, so he started doing a bunch of genetic experiments on pea plants.  After observing and recording data on 10,000 plants, he published his results, which allowed him to pinpoint the likelihood that certain traits would be inherited.  No one cared.  He gave up and spent the last 20 years of his life just running the monastery.  I mean understanding genetics and running a monastery are, I think, both valid ways to serve Jesus.

01 February 2012

She's a mom.

I bought The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill two months ago and finally finished listening to it today. You might say that took a long time. It did. But if you say it took too long, you’re wrong. I don’t know how it happened -- stretching 77 minutes over 64 days seems like a physical impossibility. I think there was magic afoot. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I would only press play if I knew I had time to at least hear one song the whole way through. Or that I would mainly listen to it walking home from school when it was dark and solitary enough that no one could see the tears streaking my face as I heard “To Zion” for the first time. Somehow, every time I needed to listen to Lauryn Hill for two months, I was listening to something new.

I recognize I came about fourteen years late to the Lauryn Hill party, and I’m sure it must have been incredible to listen to The Miseducation during its zeitgeist. But one of the perks of living a pop culture-ignorant childhood is digging up other people’s old news and singeing your eyebrows on still-burning fires.

So I got to the end of it today and it was kind of sad. I know there is a lot of beautiful hip-hop in the world to encounter, but Lauryn Hill’s not making it. Fourteen years after the whole world, I discovered Lauryn Hill, and I never will again.

I was telling someone recently about how I would kind of rather be in the middle of a book I love than finish it, and she seemed kind of appalled. “You just have to finish things,” she told me. I’m not so sure. She’s probably right, eventually, but it’s not that simple. There’s a great ecstatic holiness in discovery. But there’s also holiness in ripening and cross-pollination and rebirth and even decay. The whole wide project is holy. So I guess in a sense finishes are an illusion. To quote Jorge Drexler: nothing is lost; everything is transformed. I will hear you again, Lauryn.