Monday, January 17, 2011

River Mandala

River Labyrinth: 1/17/11, on the ice of the Huron River at Argo Park

Here is what I did today when I needed a break from composing. My colleague the wonderful  soprano Carmen Pelton made a labyrinth in her yard this summer,  and she recently loaned my wife and I a book on the history and process. The book taught how to plot the walls of a classical seven-course Minoan labyrinth, (as in the neolithic tomb carving below) but to make one out of snow I had to teach myself how to create one by walking the path. 

neolithic tomb labyrinth

Creating the shape by walking the path means that the shape won't be mathematically proportional, but drawn freehand by walking, in this case, with a shovel.This practice used parts of my brain that I haven't accessed since I was an early adolescent, and for a time obsessively drew mazes (motivated by what, I cannot remember.)

I'm tempted to draw some metaphoric connection to composing though, in which we lay out a path through action, and ask others to follow it...and of course the difference between a labyrinth and a maze is that in the former there is only one path to follow, instead of many...

Tomorrow's forecast: rain.

Mandala center

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Where is the river

 This is the second of two current river songs. It was inspired by a very short commercial spot designed for the Huron River Watershed Council that I saw once that showed cars going by on a road with the question "Where is the River?". The camera then panned down to the ditch by the side of the road and answered the question: "Closer than you think..."

If anyone is interested in writing some of their own water or river songs, and participating in spontaneous public performance this winter, please contact me! I could also imagine some kind of water-themed flash event on public transportation, so if you have ideas, do let me know!

Where is the River

Friday, January 14, 2011

River Songs-Everything Flows

"Every single thing we do as animals we do because we are an aqueous solution." 
Lynn Margolis

I spend a lot of time on and along the river near my house; I go to visit it every day. I've been doing so for over twenty years. I came to realize that I was made of the river, and that its waters were flowing through my veins, that my cells were swimming in it, that it flowed through me just as surely as it flows through my neighborhood and my town.

I sometimes say that I only want to write music that I would sing to myself for my own edification if I were in a field alone, and this little song definitely fits into that category.

I wanted to write some simple songs that would express this intimacy with the waters, and the immanence of the river. I have the simple hope that if we come to love the river, we will not hurt it, since we are dependent on it, utterly. If you love God, you gotta get right with God, and if you love the Dharma, you are compelled to live rightly by the Dharma, and if you learn to love the river, you've got to get right with the river.

We are quite dependent upon the river for our moment to moment existence. In this way, our relationship to the waters makes me think of the Zen Master Samu Sunim's teaching about "true suchness": that which is "intimate, immediate, spontaneous and obvious."

This is meant to be one of a small set of "guerilla art" songs I've created to sing on buses during the winter here in Ann Arbor--our University is organizing a semester's worth of events around the theme of Water, and this is one of my contributions.

So here is my first attempt at a simple river song:

Everything Flows:

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Wisdom of the Day


Not in the sky,
Nor in the midst of the sea,
Nor deep in the mountains,
Can you hide from your own mischief.

Not in the sky,

Nor in the midst of the ocean,

Nor deep in the mountains,


Can you hide from your own death.

The Dhammapada