Saturday, January 31, 2009

we are the animals

i always feel

like black and

white are

unnecessarily pretentious

all i want to do these days is write. after two full years i'm back in an english classroom and both new and familiar doors are opening again in my brain. some traveling operatic types came through our little town last night and it was hard not to grab the sign-me-up-for-church pencil and paper from the pew back and start scribbling that the pianist looks like a tugboat docked between transport ships!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

on the subject of northern california in the year 2009

from my bedroom window i can see the highway that runs the length of california. a man is trying to get onto the highway in somebody else's car, but he doesn't have anybody else or their car yet.

several months ago i tried to write at the same time at the same time as i was driving south: "this steady state of migration to the outside of ourselves/ highways are a fascinating endless". the words scatter across the page like a topographic map.

i am obsessed with the idea of a road that can take you for 1540 miles with countless installations of buck-fifty units of gas station coffee that always taste like coming home. i am obsessed with the idea that you are at home even if you have no idea where you are except that you are in california.

this man has a garbage bag thrown over his shoulder and a stick that measures the distance between the palm of his hand and the ground. the ground is covered in that short hopeful grass that only grows on the side of highways in california.

"motherfucking californians!" he shouts.

and then he shouts some more. the cars move blindly past him and muffle his words like a flock of pigeons all rising at once. a simultaneous departure from the cool city square of his eagerness.

every day there is somebody else who wants to slide down the chute of california. some have colorful handkerchiefs, or dogs, or parts of bicycles, or parts of dogs, or pieces of cardboard with bent corners. sometimes i think about taking off my clothes and standing at the window just to see what happens.

sometimes a cop car will sidle up real gently like, as if it is going to ask them to the prom.

"free -- fucking get out -- goddamned future -- every californian's future --"

there seem to be equal instances of the words "fucking" and "california."

"you fucking hate niggers!" he continues shouting.

and this is where he is wrong!
dear sir, they're not picking you up not because you're black, but because you look like a crazy screaming homeless guy. you look like a wild screaming bird with cold marble eyes frenzied and trapped in the subway.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

visually curious cross sections.

my family had dinner at a friend's house for christmas eve. i was helping her with something in the kitchen and i apologized for being clumsy with my words.

"you're spending all your time in the right side of your brain," she said. i dont know how much truth that holds, though it is probably surprisingly little.

these last several days have found me practicing into a state of euphoria. i do not suddenly become technically more able (though relaxing is certainly part of it, which can only help the sound), or more accurate in my playing. it is an intense musical clarity and totally focused thought, so it is the quality of sound and control of musicality rather than "hitting notes" that improve. the great majority of previous euphoric episodes have correlated with complete or nearly complete run-throughs of pieces, and not slice-and-dice passage work. musicians experience this frequently; it is the drug of practicing, the days when you can see god. regardless of the arrival method, there is no doubt that it is a fundamentally alerted state of mind. something changes in the brain. it would make sense that the longer and more frequently one spends in a musically euphoric state the more effect it has on one's brain. the realization that i was spending time there without any concept of the physiological consequences ... was bothersome. and so i did some research.

there is either very little understanding of what exactly happens while one is playing music, or i am just not good enough with my doctor-lingo to effectively navigate their seas of knowledge. in a brute overview, performers often get hit by a truckload of dopamine, which explains the performance/competition addiction. however, performing is not playing. there is a certain honesty in playing for oneself that is very difficult --at least for me-- to take onstage, and the high seems to have a more religious tone when in isolation. (again, i only speak for myself. if you are a musician with things to say in this regard, i'm all ears.)

on the other hand, there have been a lot of studies of people listening to music, probably because it is easier to do MRI's of a person lying still than of a person sawing at the violin. according to this layman-unfriendly article, when a listener gets chills, the same centers of reward and emotion that correspond with sex and chocolate light up (which any musician could have told you):

which is a really totally useless graphic unless you are familiar with the brain. but it looks good on the page. visually curious cross sections.

anyway, i feel like i have a lot of work to do.

musicians, i'd like to hear your thoughts.