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This evening, I went to hear Jonatha Brooke at The Kate in Old Saybrook. It is very late, too late for me to try and write anything very coherent, but I want to get down some of my thoughts, even if I’ll need to finish them later.
One of the songs she sang was parts of some of Woody Guthrie’s writing, including one with the words, “Finish Later” at the bottom. When I heard that, I knew that would be, at least part of my quick evening post.
It seems like more and more of my writing is falling into the finish later category, ideas for blog posts, parts of poems.
It made me think of a poem by Billy Collins about unfinished poems by Paul Valery, January in Paris. These partial memories make me think of another poem by Billy Collins, Forgetfulness.
But this is a digression. Another song Jonatha Brooke sang was about her mother as the Alzheimer’s took hold. “Are you getting this down?” her mother would ask her. I’m trying to get some of my reactions to this evening’s music down.
One of the things she spoke about between songs was about that doubt that wracks all writers. I touched on this doubt in a recent blog post talking about Lent and The Accuser. It relates to my daughter’s book, Don’t Make Art, Just Make Something. I’m sure there is material here for me to explore in my discernment process. Where does art, being a creator created in the image of The Creator, yet tormented by doubt about being good enough, a good enough writer, among other things, fit in?
One other song she sang was about when her mother went into hospice and she wasn’t ready. She sang about The Last Call, and Red Molly’s song “The Last Call” came to mind. Poetry, music, art, woven together with doubt, uncertainty, reconnecting art to daily life, reconnecting spirituality to art and to daily life.
There is so much more that needs to be written about all of this, when I’m not over tired, when I have more time. So this, too, will end with
I can’t remember when I first came across Edna. It was probably during a high school poetry class, or perhaps scanning through an anthology. She didn’t make much of an impression. Years later, I saw a one person play about her. It was at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which I went to regularly back in the 80s. It was a long time ago, and I would often see five or six plays a day, so I must admit, I don’t remember much about the one person play, other than that I enjoyed it.
My next encounter with Edna St. Vincent Millay was as I was listening to the emerging artists selected to play at Falcon Ridge in 2015. One group, was Liz and the Family Tree. I had problems finding them; eventually finding Liz Queler and Seth Farber and their album, The Edna Project. Like with my experience of Edna at the Edinburgh Festival, the songs from the Edna project blended into the mix of the twenty four emerging artists. I enjoyed them, but couldn’t especially remember any of them. In my notes about the emerging artists, I shared a link to their webpage and Facebook page, and simply stated that I hadn’t found a favorite song from them yet.
In December, Liz contacted me on Facebook saying she had just come across my blog post and offered to send me a CD. I must admit, I don’t listen to CDs much anymore. Most of the music I listen to is streaming, but I accepted and when the CD came, I had to figure out where to play it. My laptop doesn’t have a CD player and the CD player in the family room hasn’t been set up for years.
It turns out, however, that my car does have a functioning CD player, and I was looking for something new to listen to on my commute. So, for the past several days, I’ve been listening to The Edna Project repeating on the CD player for an hour and a half each day as I drive to and from work.
I guess a good way to start to think about The Edna Project is to wonder, what would it be like if Edna St. Vincent Millay were a twenty first century singer songwriter? What would it be like, if she trekked from her place in Austerlitz over to Hillsdale?
My teenage daughter has grown up going to Falcon Ridge. She kicked along to the music of Jian Ghomeshi in her mother’s belly. Later, probably when she was around five, she ran up to Dan Navarro to tell him that her favorite song was “Teacher Teacher”. Then, it became Freebo’s “She Loves My Dog More Than Me” that was her favorite song. As she approached her teen years, she started listening to Katy Perry and Taylor Swift and has now moved on to My Chemical Romance, Fallout Boy, and Panic at the Disco. Their music surrounds her just about everywhere she goes.
As I listened to The Edna Project, I could not help but think what a better place this world would be if more teenaged girls listened to Liz Queler and Seth Farber singing the poems of Edna St. Vincent Millay. There is a nuance and subtlety in their music that is missing from most pop music, and there is at least as much romance and intrigue.
So, what songs do I like best from The Edna Project? I’m still not clear. They mingle together in my mind. “There will be rose and rhododendron … The chilly apple from the grass warmed by your living hand … Blessed be death that took my love… like a fish scale or a butterfly’s wing…but, oh, the little hill they took, - I think I am its mother…wonder what sort of people could have had this house before … I will plant bergamot at my kitchen-door…we neither kissed nor spoke …If I can’t be sorry, why, I might as well be glad…scattering the blue dragon-flies… I knew her for a little ghost …”
The CD is still in my car player, and I’m wondering, what other collections of sung, or even read poetry can I find next? I’m listening to Billy Collins read his poetry aloud, and looking for other poetry to listen to in the car.
Not only would the world be a better place is more teenage girls were listening to The Edna Project, but more poets and songwriters should too, and there should be more projects like The Edna Project. It seems like putting Emily Dickinson’s poetry to music other than the Yellow Rose of Texas might be a good step.
Well, it’s almost time. Today was the last Sunday of the liturgical year. Thursday we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day and then next Sunday, will be the first Sunday of Advent. So, it is time to put together a list of seasonally appropriate music.
As a good Episcopalian, that does not mean Christmas songs, and particularly does not mean songs about Grandma getting run over by Reindeer, and other such songs. We are entering the season of Advent.
So, I looked in the 1982 Hymnal for a list of Advent Hymns. There are fourteen in that category, although I’m sure there are other hymns that are appropriate for Advent.
I went out and searched Spotify to see how many of them I could find there. I found eight. As I started playing through them, I found that two of them were on albums of Advent music, so I added the eight hymns and two albums into an Advent Playlist.
I will continue to seek other music to add to this list. Let me know if you have any recommendations.
All you sinners stand up, sing hallelujah (hallelujah!)
Show praise with your body
Stand up, sing hallelujah (hallelujah!)
The music from Panic! At The Disco blares in the Connecticut Convention Center. My wife, who is still recovering from sinus surgery couldn’t take our daughter to the concert, so I am here instead. My phone is almost dead as is my daughter’s, so I’ve turned them off and they are in my pocket.
We’ve agreed at where we should meet after the concert. As we stood in line, we started talking with a mother and daughter in front us. The other girl is tall and two years older than my daughter. They have both come without friends trusting in that special sisterhood of Panic! At The Disco fans. They are excited and eager to rush to the front of the giant mosh pit. They are also probably hoping to shed their parents, parents cool enough to take them to a Panic! At The Disco concert, but not cool enough to view this night as the most important night of their lives.
We agree that the two girls can rush forward and the two parents will stay towards the back, out of the crowd.
We learn that the girls have gotten separated in the rush. The mother feels responsible and frequently texts here daughter. I try to assure her that our daughters will be fine. We take turns trying to make our way through the crowd to find our daughter, to no avail.
There are three hours of warmup bands, and part way through some girls help another girl out of the crowd. She collapses at the table next to where we are sitting. Other parents are talking about low blood sugar or maybe dehydration. Medics arrive and help the girl out of the venue. I’m wondering if it is really Molly.
I am worried about my daughter. She has her own health problems and I’m not sure how well she can stand for four hours in a crowd. I make a few more trips to try and find her, but the crowd has grown larger and thicker.
I turn on my cellphone briefly in case someone has been trying to get in touch with me. The only messages I see are about the attacks in Paris, at a crowded music venue, not that much different than where I am at. It heightens my anxiety, but I don’t mention it to the mother of the girl who was going to be hanging out with my daughter. I worry that she has enough anxiety, with her frequent texting, and this might compound it.
Most of the warm up bands aren’t all that exciting, but finally Panic! At The Disco takes the stage. The atmosphere is electric. I feel sure that my daughter is enjoying herself now, and that the long wait standing in the large crowd will have been worth it. The lights are done incredibly well, and thousands of fans hold up cellphones to capture moments of this wonderful experience.
I wonder if the band knows about what has happened in Paris, and if they do, if they will say anything about it. The play one of their better known songs, “Let’s Kill Tonight”.
Let's kill tonight!
Show them all you're not the ordinary type …
May your feet serve you well
And the rest be sent to Hell
Where they always have belonged
Are there others struck by these words on this night?
On the ride home, my daughter is ecstatic. It has been a wonderful night. She is very sore and thirty. We stop and get her a large bottle of water, we talk a little bit about the concert and what happened in Paris.
It is now Saturday morning. My daughter is still asleep and I am reading the news. A friend is in Paris and has checked in as being safe. Mixed with all of this are more discussions about freedom of speech and political correctness. The idea of replacing ‘political correctness’ with ‘treating people with respect’ comes back to mind as I read Terry Cowgill’s Op-Ed At Wesleyan, A Shocking Disrespect For Free Speech
“Even by the hypersensitive standards of political correctness that dominate the academy…”
“Even by the hypersensitive standards of treating people with respect that dominate the academy…”
Terry seems upset that people used freedom of speech to express displeasure with criticize a newspaper. I comment,
Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, as long as the people speaking say things you agree with. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, as long as no one uses it to criticize a news organization or suggest the organizations funding be cut. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, as long as no one uses that speech to point out that you say things that hurt other people or that you're racist. Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, as long as long as it doesn't injure your white fragility.
Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, and I’m glad that people like Terry Cowgill and his supporters, as well as those criticizing hurtful, racist, Islamophobic speech shoot off their mouths, and not the music venue.
Freedom of speech is a wonderful thing, when it asks people to pray for Paris and when it asks people to pray for Beirut whose bombings on Thursday have gotten much less attention in the western media.
Yet in all of this, the beginning of Panic! At The Disco’s song Hallelujah remains
A moment you'll never remember
And a night you'll never forget!