Wednesday, January 30, 2008

codex to my rage

i am arrogant.
i am "artsy."
i am elitist.
i am "equal opportunity."
i am earnest.
i am sarcastic.
i am painfully awkward.
i am a gatekeeper.
i am a guide.
i am convinced that you can do better.
i am very sure this is your best.
i am a walking cliche (who still can't figure out how to put accents on text in blogs).
i am a socialist.
i am a landowner.
i am an american.
i am japanese.
i am french.
i am german.
i am alsatian.
i am scottish.
i am irish.
i am black (according to adrian piper).
i am probably jewish, somewhere, way back somewhere.
i am ashamed of my body.
i am really sure you'd like my body.
i am stubborn.
i am indecisive.
i am flat-footed.
i am a former athlete.
i am a buddhist.
i am a catholic.
i am never, ever certain.
i most certainly am.
i am probably going crazy.
i am more sane than most people i know.
i am pretty sure this post is inane.
i am pretty sure this is "clever."
i am self-referential.
i am looking for my identity.
i am caring.
i am loving.
i am 99% sure you won't post a comment on this.
i am usually quite judgmental.
i am only telling mostly-truths.
i am usually suppressing my libido.
i am training to eventually become a nun.
i am concerned that i was born in the wrong year.
i am disturbed that i was born in the wrong body.
i am intrigued that i was born with the wrong face.
i am [not] (wo)man.
i am a reincarnation.
i am surely meant for redemption.
i am surely going to hell.
i am dead serious about all this.
i am laughing at you for thinking so.
i can fix your sink.

fuckitty fuckitty fuck fuck

what am i doing? blogging and reading other peoples' blogs obsessively. what should i be doing? feeding myself, bathing myself, editing the fucking prop. or, if nothing else, walk the dogs. how long do i have to do these things? the next three hours before i meet with my lone tutoring student to talk about either, a. SAT writing; b. SAT verbal; c. series counterpoint; or d. why he wants to study music composition in college and does he REALLY wanna do that.

ever get so fucking sick of yourself that you just wanna look in the mirror and say, "shut up, already!" that's me. i'm so fucking sick of myself. i'm sick of being so serious and so angsty and so stuck in my fucking head. i'm sick of how preciously i've been treating myself and the indulgences i've demanded from others. i'm sick of bleeding and bleeding and then saying, "hey look! i'm bleeding!" i'm sick of writing coherent sentences. bananas never set over the desert, though they might not quite look you in the eye. whine whine whine whine whine. and i'm getting sick of whining about whining.

fucking fuck fuck. i want my fucking shit damn sense of humor back. cussy cussy cussssssssssss. i'm ten years old, y'all!


fuckingshitassmotherfuckerjesusshitbloodycuntsuckingdamnshitfuckbuggercock. puppies.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

grant update 2

so, i have a draft, but this proposal is still kicking me in the ass. it is still too loose, not quite as coherent as i like. it needs to be tighter. i see the project in my head, but prioritizing what is important to other people in my writing is hard. some things are deeply important to me, but are only "nice background" for people who might give me money. other things are important enough--what i will think about later, yet exactly what they will be looking for. i've gotten excellent feedback from my friends, good guiding questions. if i can only answer and fix what they say, the proposal will be that much better. but for every bullet point i address, i have to get up and away from the keyboard. i pull at my hair and grimace in public. i brought myself to a cafe so as to reduce the many distractions that are at my house. but now i feel trapped. i have to leave this place, or else i will explode. but i know that the longer i manage to stay here, the more i will get done.

this is too important to fuck up. but it's also a bit too important to write about eloquently and passionately in the same go. i alternate between passion and eloquence for each writing session. as it stands now, you can tease out where the passion ends and where the eloquence begins. the goal is for them to meet and overlap. to weave a unified message. that's a lot of coordination. i'm pretty athletic. and i can multi-task if i really want to. but fuck-it-all. this shit hits so close.

there's a reason why i had to quit being a bio major in college. i knew that it distracted from the music. i needed more time for the music. once i decided to commit, i didn't even miss the bio.

but this grant brings me back to that place. where my left brain and right brain kept vying for prominence. i'm glad this damn thing is due soon. otherwise, i might just go brain dead.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

on hatred and catharsis

once one becomes a certain age (whether actual or metaphorical) it is inevitable that we encounter certain, ah, unsavory people. they betray us, they sabotage us, they make us lose our faith in the human race. so develops a certain bile, where we find ourselves fantasizing about things our previous selves would have been appalled to think.

now, dearest readers, there is a new outlet for our otherwise dangerous desires. enter netdisaster. go to the link, and type in the web page, blog, myspace, whatever web presence of the person who done you wrong and then virtually destroy it. you can smite it with the hand of god, shoot it with bullets, throw tomatoes at it, hack it with a chainsaw, have a virtual dog poo on it, or have a frat boy vomit on it. among other things. even though most people i know personally would probably know whose webpage i spent several giggle-filled moments dumping on, i am not including it here, to protect loved ones. so i'm including an example of someone i'm pretty sure everyone hates: w. being smote by god. so poetic, don'tya think?


finally, a body of work on the dog i love. if you don't totally love sighthounds after looking at this, then there's a part of me that you won't ever really understand.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

i dare you

i recently saw this link on art deadlines list.

it is a call for artists to "dare" each other to do art-related things. perhaps it's my recent mania-induced haze, or maybe it just reminds me of a time in my creative life when it seemed everything i did was based on an imagined dare. i dunno. this website seems to be new, and who knows if it will actually yield anything. that said, i'm daring you readers to submit a dare with me. if i get even one response saying "i'll do it" i will submit a dare to this website.

i dare you.

on dirty little secrets

i have a couple of dirty little secrets. they traverse my brain and call out to me and giggle when i try to talk with them. but here, i can share a couple. and then they will no longer be dirty little secrets.

dirty little secret #1: (i must whisper this) i no longer care whether or not i win the lotto. in fact, if you were to give me a choice between hitting the lotto and getting this MAP grant, i'm pretty certain i would choose the grant. crazy? maybe. but i've learned through this piece that the more involved i am in my creative process, the less i think about abstract windfalls. i actually begin PLANNING. planning for how i will complete a project, and thusly, i plan a little for the funds. yes, i'm still strapped for cash. and my worldly things are slowly deteriorating into tattered and beat up artifacts of a once respectable wage. that said, i'm still purchasing tickets. it's a commitment i made and it IS an art piece, even if it is hardly noticed and rarely spoken about.

dirty little secret #2: i am suffering from hypergraphia. if you haven't noticed the sudden spike in my posts, well, now you know. in fact, i have to stop myself from blogging just so that i can let my computer and my mind rest. it sounds like a good thing, this hypergraphia. but in actuality, it is really me bordering on the edge of mania. and everyone knows that mania is usually balanced out with depression. thus, last week's sleep-all-day. when i'm not writing, i'm thinking about writing, or having conversations in my head with myself, with characters, with people i know but might not tell certain things to.

dirty little secret #3: to combat my hypergraphia, i have been reading. (combat writing by reading) i have been reading very specific blogs over and over again. to a stalker-like degree. i won't say which blogs those are, except that i actually find myself reading my own blog posts--over and over again. this seems very odd and egotistical to me, but i have trouble stopping. if i'm a stalker, i'm a multi-stalker, a self-stalker.

dirty little secret $4: (this one, not so secret) i want this fucking grant. i want it so very bad. i am trying not to put too much stock in it, because it is statistically highly unlikely i will get it. i'm not sure whether it's the idea of creative approval, or some other type of outside gratification. i know that my project is good, and i'm very certain i will still do it with no outside funding, even if it means racking up several tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt. that said, i would give up many things to get this grant. i would stop eating meat, i would stop drinking, i would shave every hair on my body, i would live in a tent, i would eat gruel three meals a day for a year...

dirty little secret #5: on wednesday, i listened to tchaikovsky's 5th and broke a sweat conducting to it. this is probably the most embarrassing thing. firstly, because tchai 5 is one of the most saccharine pieces of orchestral music ever (marin alsop diplomatically said that tchaikovsky suffered from the "need to edit"). secondly, i was conducting, with a baton, by myself. yes, i suppose it's a type of dancing, but really. and thirdly, broke a sweat!? i'm so out of shape, i can't even flail my arms to a trumpet march without panting. aging sucks.

okay, enough secrets. sigh. back to grant writing.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

another blog with me

greetings dearest readers!
just a quick note about the new blog for the play i'm in, nighthawks. i'm a contributor and i've already written two posts. wanted to make sure all was up and running before i announced it here. anyway, it will have stuff about the process of the show and updates on when and where things will happen. please read/subscribe to it! as a teaser, i do plan to post an entry about my neuroses surrounding the stage kiss in the show. saucy!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

on cartography

the plane lies ahead. a blank, stark plane.

no lines, no grid. no cardinal directions.

i have been set to draw a map upon this plane.

"draw lines, any lines. just know, you must follow them."

the terrifying task of drawing a map in the ether. the endless possibilities of success, of failure. of happiness, of sorrow.

she walks behind me, sees the page still blank and gently nudges the rubbery eraser next to my hand, as if to say: these lines are not permanent. you can change your mind.

but what i know is, once you draw a line, it can never be completely deleted. it leaves imprints in the fibers. and even if no one else can see them, you still know they are there. and some lines clear easily, while others... the act of trying to remove them might cause damage, a rip or tear in the medium.

and we mustn't have that.

i see myself as charlie brown, crouched over the desk and paper, head cocked and tongue jutting absent-mindedly out of the corner of my mouth.

chuck would brood just as i do now. and after much pondering, perhaps with the help of linus, he would draw a line.

and everyone, including charlie brown himself, would know that the line is completely wrong.

this is what i fear. because it's not just a map.

every line, every shape, every destination holds pains and joys and demons and oracles.

and there's really no getting lost in a map and territory i've set out myself. in this task, any loss of direction is stubborn willfullness. is a self-imposed confusion, an imagined paralysis. a purgatory.

i've never drawn on a blank plane before.

every other map i've sketched began with the marks of others. sometimes i followed those other lines religiously, only tracing what already existed. sometimes i petulantly scribbled over what already was. sometimes the lines were so faint, i bled from them inadvertently. and sometimes i've asked for a line to be drawn, only find out it was false: written with vanishing ink, or with a stroke so broad it was impossible to continue on the same map.

i say i am surveying the land. but i have lingered long enough. the time has come to pull the first stroke.

i am deeply afraid.

grant update

i've been working on it, but i need to take some type of break. but i report to you what i have done.

i managed to write the "short description" of the piece:
Una Corda is an original solo performance opera about cancer. Drawing aesthetic influences from late minimalism, pop music, sacred text and music, this project juxtaposes the solo singing/speaking body with live and recorded music, video, and Buddhist and Catholic ceremonial rituals.

and then, as i was trying to tackle the long description, i drew a blank. and in my notes, i wrote this (warning, it is stream-of-consciousness and unedited):
how do I talk about the relationship between the sacred and the profane without seeming totally flippant or trite? This relationship is indeed vital, crucial, even to the idea of the piece. It is how I have managed to approach the piece in a specific and focused way as opposed to an abstract idea. The sacred text is a kind of map by which I can meditate on the pain and profanity of cancer as a disease and cultural marker. Because cancer is more than just an illness. It is not only that the process of sickness, healing and dying is painful, but cancer has established itself in our collective consciousness as a symbol of both a death sentence as well as ultimate redemption. This polarity in attitudes toward cancer is what I find the most problematic and interesting. Because, as a lived experience, it becomes difficult to just continue if the disease is only either death or redemption. Somewhere in between, we find different ways of examining our humanity, of how we interact with strangers as well as loved ones. Somehow, cancer becomes an organizing structure. It creates priorities that didn’t used to exist. It sets certain relationships and moralities into focus.

I say this as if I know. But really, I’m just writing about what I saw. What I have seen over and over again. There is a kind of “reckoning” that happens in cancer. Whether or not the patient lives on or dies. And this reckoning is probably both internal and external. But it’s the external reckoning—the one that involves community, family, and friends—that has touched me and called me to engage in this piece.

Because cancer is more than just about mourning. And it’s more than just blind hope. Because there is that glint of wisdom in the grief, and there is that shudder of reality in desire.

So, this is what the piece is about? How do I express that in 800 words? How do I express it in 100?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

on procrastination

i had budgeted this time to writing the MAP grant. i did work on it yesterday. but now i find myself blogging instead. writing this grant is terrifying. but i can't fail this year. i've enlisted the help of three collaborators whose work i admire greatly. part of me enlisted their help because i just need it. this opera will kick my ass even if i manage to have a whole broadway crew behind me. i'm beginning to accept that i just cannot do certain things alone.

but part of me enlisted their help just so that i would not flake out on the fund raising. it's still amazing that i need to have someone else help me finish things. or maybe it's just the tedium of the grant. since, well, i AM actually MAKING things. which is the revolution of the decade for me.

two of the collaborators are loved friends from college. corey dargel is a musician/composer/performer who is dead serious about humor and playfully brazen about serious music. even in college, we knew he was one of the most talented composers in the program. we were right. he's now making his way as a singer/songwriter as well as a concert singer/performer and a member of laboratory theater. i love corey very much. it seems a bit trite to write that here. i get the distinct feeling that he doesn't read this blog, so at least i don't have to feel embarrassed. his success as an artist has been slowly increasing. and while i might have felt jealous of him once, no longer. i just smile and think, it's good the world sees how stunningly talented he is. and now he's agreed to be a part of my project. it is intensely meaningful.

yvan greenberg is my other collaborator friend from college. i lived in the same house with him for a semester. we were in the same program, but somehow our paths crossed in multiple other ways. he is deceptively quiet. one of those people who might sit in a corner and most folks won't notice until he says something that makes all movement stop. or until he begins performing a tick or mannerism to the point of virtuosity. yvan taught me a lot about listening and seeing. he was never didactic or pedagogical, he just had stuff--in his room, in his head. he also has this thing for the absurd, and in college he was never shy about bringing the absurd to reality. i have so many memories about yvan that are wordless, but involve meaningful glances or a hug so vulnerable you might just melt into the ground. now yvan is the director and founder of laboratory theater. and i've asked him to direct my opera. i know that his eye and ear will somehow show me something about myself and my piece that i would never see on my own.

yvan, corey and i were part of an experimental music ensemble called "les moutons" with jim altieri and bill stevens (for a full score pdf of the music that inspired our name, go here). les moutons kept me alive for a semester. it was my life force. we would stage impromptu performances in lounges, in wilder bowl, almost anywhere. we performed a week-long piece. we took pieces from the "experimental music canon" and actually performed them. our work was playful, political, awkward, charismatic. and in hindsight, my relationship with "les moutons" managed to keep me from completely hating (white) men and becoming some type of lesbian separatist.

and now i listen to robert ashley's "dust," a piece i wouldn't even consider listening to if i didn't spend that time as part of les moutons. my opera will include a section much like ashley's "spoken" opera. i suppose it's a more modern version of sprechtstimme. jeez, i think i managed not to totally misspell that. (see pierrot lunaire.)

and i've managed to write through this morning's grant writing time. i have to go to rehearsal in an hour. so that gives me either time to shower, or i can poke at the grant for about 15 minutes. dear readers. please kick my ass about this. the grant is due feb 1. and when i think about it, it sends me back to memories and future memories. but now i must be pragmatic.

as an accountability measure, i will blog about the grant again within two days. if you don't hear from me. holler.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

on sleeping and insomnia

okay, so i'm just gonna go out on a blogging cliche limb and indulge my megalomaniacal everyday minutiae middle-class self-important drabble and say it: i'm depressed.

there. much better.

well, not really. jeez people, i'm depressed. and when i look at my life, i really got nothin' for it. that is (for those of you who do not speak samwise gamgee), i have no reason to be depressed. i have a lovely partner, a house that is beautiful, and a couple of loving dogs to help warm it. i am in the most creative period of my life since i graduated from college. and i'm actually seeing small projects finish and come into fruition. i refuse to do any job that doesn't seem fulfilling to me. and i see friends on a fairly regular basis (regular basis for me, that is).

so what, pray tell, the FUCK is wrong with me?

i spent the entire day yesterday in bed. yes, in bed! and not in the good way. no, it was in that undeniably bad way. that, i-don't-want-to-face-the-world-so-i'm-just-not-gonna! way.

and my mind shoots all sorts of reasons at me. is it grief? is it some type of re-organizing of my life? is it my crazy neuroses around the play i am in? is it my saturn return? and fuck-it-all, i don't know! any reason seems just as good as the next.

and now, because of yesterday's all-day-in-bed debacle, where i actually think i slept for at least 16 hours, i'm having trouble sleeping. so i blog. and so, dearest readers, if you have made it thus far, please forgive me my indulgence. i needed to think that you would read this. and i needed to feel that i would be read. otherwise, i think i would have imploded from loneliness.


fuck depression. tomorrow, i shall buy a symbolic firearm, seek out depression and shoot it. (just in case there are some people out there who do not know me, i am generally opposed to firearms, thus the "symbolic" disclaimer.) i will kill it dead. it will plead and protest, and bargain with me, but i will look it in the eyes with my coldest stare and shoot it point blank in the forehead. and as its limp body hits the pavement, its fingers will twitch and i will be a little sad and dismayed. no one likes to put down a living being, even if it is depression itself.

but that's the plan. because i'm sick of depression. and if it's not going to leave me alone, well. it should know better.

be gone, depression. you're not needed here!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

on music crushes

okay, synchronicity is my word.

so, i've been getting back into music (see previous posts) to a religious degree, even. well, last week, lovely partner (a baltimore native) sent me an article marin alsop, the new director of the baltimore symphony orchestra. she is currently being touted as the "first woman conductor of a major american orchestra."

since about the age of 11, or so, my dream was to become a conductor. i worked through high school pursuing this dream. i applied to oberlin because it had a masters program in conducting. i ended up in composition because it was the only thing i thought i could possibly be accepted into a conservatory doing. unfortunately, i only began taking conducting classes just as my ardor for classical music started to wane. i wanted out so bad, that i did not complete the conducting sequence and was therefore not able to apply for the MA in conducting. conducting seemed so elitist, so hegemonic, a symbol of the evils in the world i was working against. besides, i was supremely insecure about my musical talents and smarts, and i couldn't bare the thought of standing in front of hordes of musicians who i thought were better than me. so i let go of the dream. i don't regret it, but to this day, i have small fantasies of waving a baton for a local high school orchestra or community string ensemble. we'll see.

this all came flooding back to me as i read about alsop. i found one of her recordings of brahms in a used cd store. neither i nor lovely partner have ever liked brahms. but we somehow liked this recording. then, lovely partner and i spent last night watching the videos on her website. she's so enthusiastic and articulate about the music she directs and her vision. she loves new music and is committed to programming living composers at almost every concert.

every video clip we watched, we kept saying, "oh my god, she's amazing. and she's such a dyke!" and thus began our crush on marin alsop. because of my past as a conductor and conductor wannabe, my crush is much more evident than lovely partner's. so much so that she kept teasing me and saying, "i'd lend you out to marin alsop." it turns out that alsop is out and has a french hornist partner and a son.

regardless, we are converts now. we even planned a trip back to lovely partner's baltimore family around an alsop-directed bso concert. yes. we bought the concert and plane tickets in that order.

i know this crush is all part of my return to music. it seems that i'm meant to return to it with a new intensity and fervor. and that is exactly what is happening.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

on jury duty

today, my "gig" was reporting for jury duty. it's a "gig" because i got paid for it (even though it's about $10).

and i performed it with aplomb.

it was actually an enlightening and somewhat empowering experience. i had arrived to inpaneling assuming that my girl body with boy looks would immediately disqualify me from serving. i thought i would be home in twenty minutes.

the twenty of us went into the courtroom, with a judge, and attorney, and the defendant. the attorney (for the state) asked the room questions like: has anyone here gotten a traffic citation? does anyone here feel very loyal to police officers? does anyone here feel particularly against police officers? etc. i spoke once about the traffic citation i got a couple years ago, but that's it. i made eye contact with the judge--purely by coincedence.

then they sent us out of the court. ten minutes later, the nice bailiff (his name was neil) calls us back into the courtroom. then the judge called off six names. i was one of them.

i was very, very surprised. i mean, really. and even though i've been complaining about jury duty for the past few weeks, i actually felt kinda proud that i was "chosen." weird, huh?

we heard the case, it was a traffic ticket. kinda boring, but the facts were a bit jumbled. when we adjourned to the locked jury room, neil told us our instructions: elect a foreperson, decide guilty or not guilty, if guilty, decide a fine.

the jury was all female. when neil left, i just said, "okay, i guess we need to elect a foreperson." to which the woman across from me said, "how about you?" i said, "it gives me neither pain nor pleasure. is that okay with the group?" everyone nodded. so now, not only was i serving on the jury, i was the representative of it.

we hashed it all out. because the defendant's testimony and the officer's testimony differed significantly, it was really difficult to rule at first. but i kept at task. i reiterated, well, we might know that intersection, and we might empathize with one side or the other, but we can only use the evidence presented to us, even if it is incomplete. i surprised myself at how by the book i was.

when all of us seemed to express, a sentiment of, well, i understand the defendant's feelings, but it really seemed like he broke the law, i astounded myself by saying, "well, we've been chosen because we have shown a certain trust in the process. our charge is to adjudicate based on the law and procedure, even if we personally disagree with it." the one person on the jury with a different verdict than the rest started to say she was leaning the other way. i said, "it sounds like you are changing your vote. is this true? if it is, i want to be sure you are changing it of your own volition rather than because the rest of us are voting the other way."

at that point, one of the other jurors said, "what do you do? it must be the law!" and i said, "well, we can talk about that after the verdict."

we decided he was guilty. he defended himself poorly and didn't present convincing evidence, and the prosecution did fulfill its burden of proof. but because we were so ambivalent about the context of the violation, we lowered the fine from $100 to $50. i had originally proposed fining $1, but after brief discussion, we all agreed on the fine.

i confirmed the "guilty, $50 fine" verdict with a show of hands and signed the "guilty" form. now my signature will be permanently housed in the municipal court.

and i left with a strange sense of importance or maybe even pride. i never say it aloud, but the fact is, i am a patriot. i am cynical and critical of the system and the administration. more often than not, you'll hear me saying "i hate america" than the opposite. but the fact is, i hate america now because i love its potential. i believe in our justice system as an idea. i actually believe it is the best justice system in the world--in theory. the problem that i have with our justice system is its execution. i believe in the constitution and i believe in the declaration of independence. we just have not been treating either document with the respect they deserve. and that bums me out so much that it turns to bile. but today, i was a part of it. and i believe that i executed my duties with fairness, intelligence, and good faith.

so here i am, mixed race, gender queer "socialist." underemployed artist. and foreperson of a municipal jury. maybe i am just a "good liberal."

we sure live in a crazy country, tho'.

Monday, January 14, 2008

dear jesus,
i pray to you not as one of your followers.

in fact, i pray to you as someone who holds many of your followers in contempt. i pray to you as an ancestor, a predecessor, as far-fetched and unlikely as that might be.

because today, you showed yourself to me. as i sat, writing music of praise as part of a piece about profanity and pain, you arrived. you saw that i was using words meant for you, and you helped me birth a piece. a finished piece.

bars and bars, not left languished and forgotten. but bars cohesive and devout, and most importantly, punctuated with double bars.

double bars! how long has it been since i've drawn double bars!

yes, it is only dots on a page. yes, it will need to be reworked, edited, rescored and polished. it is not perfect. and it is so simple, it might have even been written by someone else before. but it is done. and it came from me with the ease of a sigh. and i was in it. i listened to every note, i felt the timbres of my creaky piano. i actually let each tone wash over my body and into me and listened for the praise. listened for the pathos. listened for you.

perhaps the reason why your followers are so devout is not because you are the only begotten son. perhaps it is because you are the muse, the mentor, the spirit of creativity and making. perhaps it is because you have sat with many before me, writing, drawing, scribbling notes and just at the right moment, you have whispered, inaudibly, "yes, that's the one."

because that is what you were to me, today, just over an hour ago. setting old text written by old men, men who would probably never even deign to sit next to me, you knew that it needed your guidance.

and so.

laudate eum in sono tubae.
hossanna in excelsis.

have mercy

kyrie eleison
christe eleison
kyrie eleison

Friday, January 11, 2008

on composing

and so i've been composing. if you've been reading my blog lately, you might have noticed or guessed that i'm in a very intense emotional place. many things have converged over the past week or so, and i have found myself reticent and melancholy.

and playing music.

which is rare for me. you see, when i was at the illustrious oberlin college conservatory of music, i was immersed in music roughly sixteen hours a day. i loved it, then i hated it, and then it all began to feel so futile. the love i had for music when i arrived in ohio had somehow faltered. even though i have written music since i graduated, it has always been an uphill battle.

but these past few days have found me singing along loudly to songs on my ipod. i've been obsessed with the song "falling slowly" to the point that i've written down the lyrics and chords and i play it on my piano every chance i get. i even recorded myself singing it. and then, just an hour ago, i did something rash.

i started to compose music. yes, it consisted of three notes total. they are three notes that will be in my opera. oh, have i not mentioned the opera? it's the one about cancer, the one that i tried to write a grant for last year but failed to submit. now i'm preparing another proposal anew, with more specific ideas and some material. i've enlisted my lovely friend corey dargel to write at least one "aria/song" for me. but...

i'm gonna have to compose the rest.

which is what my soul wants to do. really, it does. but just now, as i was sitting over my three notes (they are g, e, and b, incidentally, an e minor triad) i found myself at once deeply connected to my piano, like a plug in a socket, and then also fundamentally repulsed by it. i recall composing assignments in college and how i would sit in the library, write about ten bars and then go to the bathroom. i'd come back, write ten more and then go find a friend. it was very rare for me to compose very much music in one sitting. i just thought i was lazy, a perennial procrastinator.

now, for the first time, i realize this is not true. as much as i've tried to distance myself from music, it is that abstraction, that inability to describe music, that totally uncerebral part of it that has always hooked me. when i am in music the way that i came to it, music is pure and uncomprimised emotion. even the stuff by the serialists. it hits a core of me that feels so close, i can actually experience ecstasy.

and it makes me feel vulnerable. like i have no skin. like anything and everything can and will harm me.

this is why i learned to love music when i was an angsty teen. this is why i learned to hate music as an angry twenty-something.

singing other people's music still has a distance. i didn't write it, so there is that tiny space in the performance of it that i can explore affect. but my own music, fuck.

i've never written a piece of music (never finished one, that is) that i could play. i thought it was just because i'd never gotten around to it. but now i know. it's because there you are, playing out the notes that are so dear to you, presenting not only your body, but your naked, naked soul. with no "instrumentalist" or "singer" to blame. how the hell can i do that?

the thing is, i will. this cancer opera (called "una corda," did i mention that?) will get done. i'm supremely uncomfortable about it. i have so much anxiety, i've actually been having trouble eating. but somewhere inside me, i know it is time. it is time to become that vulnerability, to embrace it. and, fuck, it is the most frightening thing in the world right now.

i think that's why it's the best, too.

Sunday, January 6, 2008


today marks the sixth year since my mother passed away. here is what i wrote:

and when you died, the dirge began with a phone bell, and the barefoot carpet steps of three adult children newly orphaned. it continued with four stifled sighs, the squishy sound of sitting on the floor, a short inhale of breath through the nose.

i began the slow chorale. when we knew what the bell meant, so early, so dark in the morning. that was the only hello that meant really anything. it was the only hello i was frightened to utter.

after the click and dull thud of plastic on metal, the rude beep of the modern off switch, sleepy, luke-warm clothes played out into the light brightness, suddenly cold by the winter chill.

doors opened and closed only after two nods and a grimace. lights flicked on and the wind slashed branches across the window pane.

the next movement commenced with liquid poured into cups, stopped throats barely swallowing. with eight feet shuffling to step in shoes on the stair, each foot pausing to nod at your shoes. it crescendoed to that crack of the door, that muffled squeak, a pause and a thud.

then four doors open and four doors slam and metal upon metal creak as the garage opens wide to spit us out into the country air. the largo beat of the tired engine, guiding us on a journey etched too well in our brains. short staccattos of falsely cheered voices. sniffled tremelos and booming snorts. a hand, warm and calm, whispering softly against another cold and frightened one.

the third movement screamed with the early morning chatter of the city waking up. with the clatter, clatter, click-click of the garage ticket dispenser. and errant cuss of the oldest, not able to take an overcrowded space, glasses a bit foggy and moist.

yet the middle section was filled with silence. pregnant, stagnant, changed. no longer tense with dreaded anticipation, but raw and swollen with an abrasion that still has yet to heal.

dull, syncopated footsteps. dings and clacks of elevator bells. a swift push, the sucking lift. more dull, syncopated footsteps again.

gliding, sliding doors. beeps of your neighbors' vitals. long, slow breathy wheezes from balding patients' ventilators.

upon the arrival of the march, your room is still.

the machines that were only yesterday fused to your body have been removed and you are finally free.

the chorale resumes, but says nothing at all. the libretto reads, "blah, blah," but underneath, in parentheses, it reads, is this what it means to feel loss? to feel nothingness? to feel the novocain spill and wash the mind?

and when the dirge began to wane, we realize it's a ruse. the music follows us to unexpected places. it clings to our bodies, it sounds in the ring of our ears, it becomes the score to our first dreamt dreams without you.

it is orchestrated in new ways. some instruments are standard--long distance phone calls, repeated refrains of "she's gone," knuckles rubbing violently against wet eyelids that refuse to listen. familar strangers speaking in multiple tongues, hearse motors, airports, monk chants and farewells.
but other instruments seem new. like the high-pitched nervous laugh that barrels from my chest at inappropriate times. like the click-clack of a dog's feet who loved you well and wonders when you will return. like the dry lick of the page, endless and barren, futile in the hopes of distraction.

a seemingly endless dirge. marching slowly, bleeding across changes in season, month, and year.

but then the dirge shifted. the voice of birds joined in, faint at first, but delicious and sweet. the wheezy sobs turned to tears, turned to vapor, turned to rain, turned to rivers, turned to the roaring sound of babbling brook and foaming tide.

the dirge, reluctant, but steadfast paced itself and moved forward. shedding black for red, ash for perfume, stone for sun-baked clay. the dirge, still present in dream, still fragrant with your hair, still clement and insistent followed new variations, evolved new themes.

until one day, i listened and the dirge sounded like a waltz, sounded like a reel, sounded like Giant Steps or Maple Leaf or Appalachian Spring.

all the sounds flowed together and watched as i walked on. gently coaxing, whispered caresses, wrapped around me when i thought i was alone.

and when you died, i lost my voice and had to travel to find it again.

but now, though sometimes frail or hoarse or scared, the voice can't help but sing, stronger, more robust than before. sing with the dirge that left your lungs, now years ago, but still so close. the dirge i thought mourned of you. the dirge i hated and muffled and screamed at. the dirge that marked your void, that lifted you on a pyre away from me forever.

i sing, sometimes soft, sometimes loud, always along with the melodies, the harmonies, the complex rhythms of that dirge.

because now i know--

the dirge is you.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008


new years day is my easter.

in the days before, i mourn the end of an intangible spirit, of what has expired and what has been left to die. i contemplate the sins of the year, i look to the trees and earth, seeing the wilted brown trying to break free into the wind. i recall this week some years ago, when i stood on the precipice, looking deep into my gravest fear--waiting, dreading, grasping onto my last hopes with my nails chapped and bleeding.

as part of the year end rumination, i cook. and i cook. starting two days before, cutting and salting vegetables. brooding silently over recipes. i prepare, but i eat little. i place the last energies of the year into every nugget, every morsel. i only partake to taste, to ensure the purity of my cooking.

then, the evening of the 31st, i allow a short communion. soba--long and thin, a metaphor for life. this repast takes me into the wee hours.

and then, the rebirth.

when the clock strikes the new year, all is born anew, in lights and abundance and sweetness. this year, to mark it, i made sweet red bean soup (zenzai) with yomogi mochi balls. the mochi for fortune, the yomogi herb a green reminder of earth, of mortality, of corporeality.

i become acutely aware of my every thought, every move. i act deliberately. for three decades of experience have taught me to believe the old wisdom: 一年の計は元旦にあり(the path of one year exist on new years day).

i rise a little earlier than i'd like. i recall my first dream and contemplate its prophesy for the new year. i stubbornly finish my morning pages although many things try to distract me. i brew tea. i cut the last ingredients of this holiday. i bathe and put on the only new piece of clothing i own--a gift from my in-laws. it fits--this bodes well for the year.

i make a chicken soup (ozoni) with daikon, carrots, spinach, shiitake, yuzu zest and square mochi. we break fast with this soup. i prepare a third bowl of soup, light two sticks of incense, and strike the bowl bell by the picture of my mother. placing my hands together, i pray slightly longer than usual. hoping my extended presence will entice my mother to partake in what i've offered. later, i will remove the bowl and eat the cold contents myself, somehow offering my body as a vessel to digest the meal for my mother--a six-year-old disciple of shakamuni.

in a stacked faux-lacquer box, i have packed the food i've been making for the last couple days. when we eat it, i will offer a taste of each item to my mother again, hoping, praying for her presence to walk among us again, as jesus walked among his disciples.

inspired, i put on a cd of bach cantatas: wachet auf and jesu, der du meine seele. i realize that new years has outstripped christmas as the most important holiday in my personal mythology. i also realize that i am newly open to the spirits, gods, and prophets of the universe.

and this is why new years is my easter.

it is the hope that rises from despair, the life that grows from expiration, the salvation borne of sin.

because today, i embrace the beginning of beginnings, when the ether was brought into creation. and i realize i am close to that creativity, that i am a part of that creativity, that i can let the creativity of god or life or reincarnation flow through me; through my fingers, my body, my voice, my words.

and so, my e-kakizome haiku:

a new beginning
hope born from winter's clutches
so emerges the Word

patronage, anyone?

i have many posts in progress and a couple others in my head, but i wanted to link to this post by jenifer wofford, since it is oh so--well--helpful. please check it out here.