I’ve been busy. Someone told me that Verdi (or someone) called them his “trench years”—working day night on music, forging his craft. But I’m really trying to avoid military metaphors. Maybe let’s say my nose has been to the grindstone. It’s hard to look out the window when you’re crouched over the stone; after a while, one’s neck gets sore.
How to maintain a long view? I’ve tried to maintain a long afternoon dog walk this winter. I stretch out the mind on these walks listening to spacious music, usually instrumental. On the playlist: Rob Mazurek, Jessica Pavone, Streifenjunko, Andrew Weathers/Seth Chrisman.
In Andrew’s recent newsletter he made a point about choosing non-commercial, non-algorithmical, non-industrial entertainments. A perhaps eyerollable metaphor to agriculture: maybe this music, like a local vegetable, has nutrients you won’t get from more depleted soils. I’ll take it a step further: it’s helpful to listen to music by people you know. There is an extra dimension to this. In that spirit, I’ve also been spending time with the two best musicians I shared bills with on tour last May: More Eaze and David Lord, the guitar wizard of Wichita.
Another way to extend mental space is spending time on a long-term project. Eighteen variations in, I am finally ready to admit that I am learning Frederic Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated! The scheme is I learn one variation a week, and every six I double back for a week or two and review. Learning a piece like this is perhaps like climbing a mountain. South of Albuquerque there is a formidable one called Ladron Peak, named for the bandits that supposedly used to hide out there. You start the day by driving nearly a full circle around Ladron; then you start on foot. Throughout the day hiking, from some angles the mountain looks smaller, more manageable; from others, impossibly tall and distant. There are no trees to block your view; you can see the summit the whole time. You just have to keep trust, and keep walking.
Again to shun the militaristic, I don’t want to “conquer” the Rzewski or “surmount” anything. I just want to explore it, to know a piece or a place well, to spend a day (or a year) walking. In some traditions it is considered disrespectful to actually climb a mountain. The proper act of humility and devotion, rather, is to circumambulate.
• Gone Walkabout
• Music as Drama
• Crossroads II
• 10 Best of 2014
• January: Wyoming and the Open
• February: New Mexico and the Holes
• Coming Up
• Notes on The Accounts
• Crossroad Blues