Archive for December, 2007


Thursday, December 27th, 2007

…about the music

Slipping, away.

Cycles of loss can be very beautiful. Secrets are revealed. Details previously obscured suddenly show us a fresh view of something we thought we knew well. These trees down the road from my house boast a level of magnificent intricacy I couldn’t have seen a few months ago. Winter, and what it takes with it, can be enlightening.

And it can be harsh and painful. And inexplicable and unfair. As solstice began last week, one of my very close friends died. Dan Morris couldn’t have been more than 40, and those four decades had spent themselves creating a brilliant person with immense talent and a huge heart. If only they had created better kidneys for him, while they were at it. A phenomenal musician with an otherworldly sensitivity, he was not only a percussionist and a composer, but a visual artist. His love for birds, action figures, his wife Marie, and sushi knew few bounds. And he was the most generous, wry witted friend one could ever hope for.

We take the artifacts of our daily lives for granted and sometimes barely notice the items that fill our spaces over time. As Dan lay in a coma 1200 miles south of me, my eyes kept stubbing themselves on small things that have lived in my studio over the years. The teal ceramic Turkish dumbek he gave me and taught me so patiently to play. The pastel he drew of one of his seven parrots. His Tranzport remote that allows me to record live in another room while single-handing my sequencer. The myriad of tiny action figure muses he gifted me with to inspire fearless creativity. The stack of Fripp and Eno CDs we both loved that I kept meaning to return to him.

The magnificent intricacy of my friend was constantly unfolding, season after season. In his permanent absence, I’ll continue to see and to discover. And to smile. I’m convinced that a person’s legacy is in the memories he leaves with the survivors who loved him.

One of Dan’s last, amazing recordings graces my new CD. You can hear a small excerpt of him joyously playing a slew of different drums from around the world on the first track, Slipping, above. I know that he would be far more pleased to have his remembrance on my little blog accompanied by this silly piece than with some serious elegy.

Winter, and what it takes with it. The cycle of loss is unavoidable. It’s up to me to find the beauty in it, somewhere.

Cat Bath Friday

Friday, December 21st, 2007

…about the music

Re:pair, for this pair.

Isn’t this what everyone finds in their bathtub?
These are self-cleaning kitties.
With some sunlight streaming in through the adjacent picture window, the downstairs tub is a fine place to take cover when too many people are traipsing in and out of the house and the humans who claim to own you (ha! what a joke) want to shield you from the chaos. Truth be told, these cats never need shielding; they love people no matter what sort of large power tools they might be using. That puts them one step ahead in the evolutionary chain from their mother, the sonically intolerant composer. But since Smudge and Moses could either be lunch or at least part of the weightlifting program for a bald eagle or owl, when the front door needs to be kept open this is one of several safe refuges around.

If I had a photo, and yes, I promise sometime I will, I would have posted an even more entertaining pic of Moses (dressed in black) at my feet, underneath the upstairs shower. As in, IN the shower. With me. Yes, while the water is pouring down. Loving it (hey, who wouldn’t? Oh, wait, this isn’t that sort of blog…). Moses always tries to be as close to the water when I’m bathing as possible. In past houses this usually required sitting on the edge of the tub and craning his neck until the spray rained down on his clueless head. But here he’s found Nirvana: an over-sized walk-in, stretch your legs kinda shower that has plenty of room for a litter of seafaring cats. Of course, the only one I know is Moses.

I will try to remember to bring my camera upstairs with me. Stop giggling and don’t get your hopes up: you’ll see ALL of Moses, and… glean an idea of my shoe size.

Who’s shroomin’ who

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

…about the music


If I had the time (because I do have the interest), I could spend hours cataloging the many unique mushrooms I come across on the modest acreage of which I have the honor of stewardship. Each is a piece of public art, erected very suddenly while no one was looking. And just as quickly, little museum thieves whisk them away. I walk across the same piece of property every day and, like the ocean, it is never the same two afternoons in a row.

Lots of these fungal flowers, if not mingling in little coffee klatches of a handful, are loners, standing upright with an admirable defiance and too-brief beauty. This one, reaching five inches toward the sky, would be picked for the mushroom basketball Olympics if they had one (and maybe they do… who knows what goes on in mushroom-land when we’re not paying attention). The tinge of purple and the delicate upturn of petals is not what I usually see with the rest of the fun guys who wear big hats.

I’ve been a bit of a mushroom myself this week, holing up like a hermit and preferring the dark (easy to do here since the sun sets at 4:15, shortly after I’ve finished my morning coffee). I managed to bribe my muses with enough red wine and dark chocolate over the past few weeks and they have finally returned to play with me. This is a good thing, since I have two commissions that could not be more different from each other in every conceivable way– style, instrumentation, client– due almost at the same time. And that time is coming up shortly.

Be kind to your muses and they will be kind to you.
And talk to your mushrooms, and sometimes they will talk back. Maybe even sing.
Inspiration comes from everywhere. I steal it like a mushroom thief.

Shiny Kiss

Thursday, December 6th, 2007

…about the music

As the title implies.

Passion searches
for its partner
through air that moves
and breathes

into your ear
slowly first
then quicker gasps
it finds you

reflecting light
and sound
with lips pressed
against cool metal

It sings to you
it moans
eager to seduce
all that lives between the air
and you

barely touching
neck hair
this shiny kiss.

I am easily goaded, and a New Faithful Kelpisto, writer Glenn Buttkus, asked for some of my poetry to round out the musings, music, and images here at Algae Central. I have no other poem to offer but this one; my sole foray toward concise expression. Those who know me will tell you I am many things and concise is not one of them.

The photo was snapped on Thanksgiving Day. Appropriate, I think.

A few years ago I was asked to send a flutist a solo piece that had been composed to prose. I thought this was a slightly odd request. I mean, how many composers have that kind of thing at the ready, just laying around their studio? But what I lacked in words I did have in music. Who better to remedy this imbalance than the composer herself, especially when the piece is titled Shiny Kiss and the program notes state, “The title refers to stage lights bouncing and reflecting off of a metal flute, and the sensuous way a flutist’s mouth embraces the embouchure. This simple hollow tube is the vehicle for such passionate expression, and just watching expert lips coaxing music from it can be a nearly voyeuristic experience.”

Well, I’m not concise, but at least I’m not… dull.

False bay, real atmosphere

Saturday, December 1st, 2007

…about the music

Water crossing. And mud.

Above is what this corner of the world looked like yesterday afternoon (MID afternoon, I might stress, as it was just after 3pm and oh so impressively dark). The sun lowered itself gently over False Bay, an aptly named body of sea and muck that is always mysterious and gorgeous. At low tide, shallow, rakish water pulls far, far back to expose mud and creatures to the sky from which they hide. Here, the air was crisp and fresh, in contrast to other visits that attacked my nostrils with a sulpher-like smell so overwhelming as to drive me back inside my car. Such as this summer moment as seen from the same spot, in the fog:

Today the islands are having their first glimpse this season of white powder. I woke up like a little girl, announcing excitedly to Charles, “it’s snowing! it’s snowing!” and watched as everything became dusted and magical. I went outside in my flip flops and pajamas to feed the birds and reveled in the flakes brushing my skin. For a northern-born soul like me, it was exhilarating. We’ve had just a sprinkle of flurries so far on San Juan, but parts of neighboring Orcas Island are already laden under an inch or two.

I keep hearing the great James Taylor in my head: “Now the first of December… was covered with snow…”
Rockabye sweet baby Alex.