good morning ~
today’s track is particularly swirly, a little like falling asleep while floating on a river.
I just dropped these dumb (delightful?) bumper stickers in honor of one of the greatest bangers of all time, click the image if you also want one on your truck:
Also ~ I’m playing a bunch of shows in New York City soon! My first live performances there since I moved last summer - checked it out:
Friday, August 13th - the Whatever’s Clever showcase at the Broadway, featuring 7 shorter sets from folks on the label. I will be doing a set of boombox bangers and any proceeds will go to benefit the Ayuda Mutua efforts in Bushwick. Tickets right here.
Friday, August 20th - finally getting to play a Braided Sound show, a series of graphic-score improvisations organized by Jesse Perlstein. This one’s at Shapeshifter Lab and features me, Jesse, Nava Dunkelman, and Maria Takeuchi. Tickets + info here.
It almost goes without saying that to attend these shows you must show proof of vaccination or show a negative COVID test from within 72 hours. And of course if any of these start to feel unsafe we’ll cancel or reschedule, no big whoop. But I really hope to see your nice face (under a mask, perhaps).
If you like what I’m doing here, please share the project with a friend. Tell them that you enjoy receiving these emails, and when you aren’t reading on your phone that you like listening to the music. Tell them that even when you don’t read the emails or even see them populating the “promotions” tab of your inbox that you like to know that they are there. There’s a certain comfort to them nestling between the sale announcements and the political fundraising. And when you do read the emails or when you do listen to the music you feel that you are given a small gift, a little piece of yourself returned, an acknowledgment that, yes, there are in fact things worth your time out there (or in your inbox). Have them sign up, maybe they’ll pay me something for the effort, maybe they’ll enjoy it, too.
If you want to support the writing and the tunes and the regular interval you can sign up for a paid subscription. Or you can buy something from me, a record or a sweatshirt - these days, every little transaction helps, and I am very fortunate to sometimes make a little money doing work of my own invention, labor that I enjoy. If you can’t part with money or don’t want to sully this digital interaction with currency you could instead send me a little note. You could say something like, hey, I really liked this one. Many people do and that is probably the main reason I keep this particular balloon in the air. More than anything I like hearing from people, a little blip of verification that people are indeed out there. They’re on the other end of the “send” button with their own complex lives and imprecise desires. You, you are this person, and the world as you experience it is distinct from mine in innumerable and nuanced ways. This is where we meet. Right now, we’re face-to-face.
Part of me wants a catalog, an observable and measured collection of the ways in which what I do hits. Analytics, measurements, benchmarks for improvement. A spreadsheet with a column for songs cried during, a column for did not care for, a column for got down to (once at a party my friend confessed to me that they had fucked to some of my instrumental music - we laughed but then five other people there confessed the same thing. I was not aware that what I make could be enjoyed in that way). I’m tempted to believe that if I could simply track what is resonant and what is not, then I would be able to meet your collective needs, fulfill an otherwise obscure and hard-to-grasp purpose.
But that’s simply not how things work between us. There is no precise accounting for whether or not you value what I’m chipping away at here. The scant metrics that do exist - Spotify plays, social media engagement, ticket sales, etc - are hardly representative of anything but the marketability of the thing, which is only sometimes a reflection of the work and it’s qualities. It’s more like carving granite in the dark, or wading through the bog - you find the way by feel alone.
Recently I have held my palm very close to the flame.
There have been 3am drives home from mountain lodge dance floors and guitar solos ricocheting off of warehouse walls. There have been house guests and loons calling in the pre-dawn and icy waterfalls swirling around my shivering calves. There was my friend and I strolling together through the old neighborhoods. There were tomatoes that had no right to be that sweet, that serene. There have been eyes on me, and people singing along. There were new and possibly wonderful people shaking my hand. I felt, at times, painfully good, jaw muscles sore from smiling.
It’s unclear now just how available these delirious pleasures will be in the coming months. The shows, will they be cancelled? The time abroad, postponed? Will I or someone I care for or someone in my community get sick? These are the obvious things to worry about.
But there’s a deeper rupture, too, one that bubbled blubbering to the surface for me late Monday morning - sending emails has made me cry before, but never quite like that. It took some time for me to understand it, but I think it’s this:
Being around other people simply feels good, in a deep, beyond language way. It is a profound and wonderful thing to just be amongst. And that deep thirst just can’t be slaked - that itch can’t be scratched - by these digitally mediated forms of interaction. Not for me, at least, but maybe I haven’t worked hard enough on their behalf. It’s a bit like listening to music on a little cell phone instead of a towering hi-fi. Information is lost.
Today my friend and I were sitting outside a bar. It’s a bar I’ve been to many times but I hardly remember the interior - tequila in a pint glass and dime bags dropped and discovered in the men’s room. In-between club soda sips he told me that he really enjoyed this newsletter a lot. In fact, he was thinking of starting one of his own.
It may be a long time again before we recognize the world as ours, safe and reasonably unthreatening. My palm might not touch the flame for a while. But if that’s the case I am glad that we are here, unmeasurable and face-to-face, even if you’ve never said a word. I will gladly accept the mediated version in eager anticipation of the actual thing. One person enjoys the effort, he told me so out loud, as compelling of a reason as any to meet you here again.
But what about you? Are you glad to be here? How will this time be different? Are you touching the flame?