1 • I left academia in 2009, but kept mentally organizing my year around the academic calendar for another fourish years thereafter. Seasonal employment encourages such extension. And I did always enjoy the intrinsic seasonality of it, as compared to the featureless industrial calendar most 9-to-5ers in our society have to contend with. There are periods of intensity and periods of indolence built into the academic calendar. But that’s really just the seasonality poking its head from behind the curtain. Our trips around the sun happily bring us intensity and indolence in (mostly) predictable patterns.
2 • Lately I’ve begun to orient myself toward the equinoxes and solstices instead. Transitions between cycles are never direct or precise, but they do tend to occur around the solstices, I’ve noticed. I feel my energies shifting, broadening, narrowing, tightening, loosening at around these times. A new cycle starts this weekend. I’ve felt it coming on since April; probably had an idea where it was headed before that, but started to feel it in April. It’ll reach its widest expression over the next couple weeks. I’m looking forward to seeing what that brings.
3 • I was in Chicago last week for a pre-solstice concert visit, as I was last year. This time I played Open with Doyle Armbrust alongside Andrea Cerniglia and Julie Brannen of dropshift dance. The show was at High Concept Labs’ new space. We did a video shoot, also. It was such a pleasure to see these two artists literally “embody” (Andrea’s word) the music. I never wanted to see Open on a traditional concert program. It needs movement, it needs attention to lighting and space. All that happened for the music last week, and I’m grateful for it.
4 • Peter Margasak wrote this lovely preview of the performance for his Chicago Reader blog. Peter is one of my favorite music critics—not to mention a curator and presenter of huge importance to Chicago music!—so it was a kick to read his thoughts about Open.
5 • He also wrote this great piece about Ornette Coleman last week. It illuminates the specific impact this musician had on so so many, and also beautifully conveys the power certain artists have to graft their work to our personal lives. Reading Peter’s words, I reflected that I’d felt similarly when Elliott Smith died in 2003. I didn’t know him, but what he taught me in his music was forceful, path-altering stuff, and I felt personally bereft to lose his example.
6 • Ornette Coleman was a master, and his legacy is a challenge as intellectually lofty as it is physically exuberant. His sights were set on really reinventing music-making, but he never lost touch with the essential joy of things.
7 • To speak of another artist of technical mastery and surprising humor, completely different but as deeply American: I’m into some Thomas Pynchon for the first time since high school, 200ish pages deep in Gravity’s Rainbow. I don’t really think it’s “hard” reading. I think you just have to let some things go. Accept that you’re not going to “get” everything. Try and remember who everyone is—or at least most of them—without getting suckered into chasing down every scientific reference. And simply enter the flow of it. I often say this same thing about music. People say they don’t “get” something. Well, neither do I; not completely. I heard Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time last weekend. I know that piece pretty well, but it’s not like I saw the score scrolling by in my head as I was listening. No one ever “gets” everything; what you do, hopefully, is let a book or a piece of music at you, and this complex but basically involuntary thing happens in your mind as you interact with it, and maybe it creates (you create) an impression inside you, and maybe you can take that with you and think about it later, or maybe you don’t think about it at all but just let it live. No one remembers every plot point of every novel they’ve ever read; still it is worth reading them, still you take them with you when you’re done. You do “get” something. Just not everything.
8 • Like a Zen story or koan. It’s not about the solution. There is no moral. The point is to let the question at you, and see where your mind goes.
9 • I keep thinking about this performance of La Monte Young’s famous Composition 1960 #7 (that’s the fifth “to be held for a long time”). Not much to “get” there, eh? Or… wait. Maybe there is.
• 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