Music


Lindsey Hawley stayed at our house;
that’s how I met her. She’s a Chi Alpha minister at Stanford University, and she’d come to talk to my church about what she does there. It happens my husband and I have a guest room, so she stayed with us. So cool.

We all had dinner together, and she’s delightful – intelligent, gracious, lovely, with a wonderful sense of humor.

The next morning, as I brushed my teeth, I heard music in the guest room. I wondered, what album is she playing in there? Because it was beautiful, a capella, with a unique, muted lilt to the voice.

But the singing stopped when she turned on the blow dryer and picked up again when she turned it off. That was my first clue that it was her voice I heard.

In church, when she finished speaking to us about Chi Alpha, she sat at the piano and sang to us about Jesus. I could have listened all day.

So I told her so, and asked if she’d made an album. No, she said, but she had recorded a couple of songs she’d written.

And – I told you she was gracious – she sent one to me. Here it is, wonderful, tender, titled Lead Me On:

Then she sent another, titled Moped, wrapped in a file labeled “Put on your scuba gear cause we’re goin’ in deep.” And this one is… actually it’s not… well, have a listen:

Thanks, Lindsey. I think you’re amazing.

Just testing out a YouTube to see if I can post video like the cool bloggers do.  And guess what? It works.

Several weeks ago my husband and I met with friends for dinner. “There’ll be live music,” they told us. If I heard the name of the band, it didn’t register.

We got there early enough to watch the group unpack and set up. Out came the microphones and speakers I guess, guitars and drums and various unidentified pieces of equipment.

Then someone started rosining a bow, and it dawned on me that these boys intended to play a fiddle. Out came the fiddle itself, and musician
Christian Zupanci played a little riff to test the speakers. Now they had my attention.

Next appeared an electric mandolin, and next a harmonica. Next they tested out the blend of their voices. I sat up in my seat. This was going to be something special.

And it was. The Blue Turtle Seduction is truly wonderful, truly original. The quirky style they describe as “High-Altitude
Bohemian Tribal Funk Grass”
demonstrates the golden rule of thumb for all artists:

If you catch yourself doing the expected, normal thing, knock it off and do something else.

Their album, Deep Sea Rodeo, is now available for purchase on their website. You’ll also find sample clips and their concert schedule. If you’re lucky, they might make an appearance in your area. Check it out.

I recently discovered a wonderful song, a passionate song for your artist soul, a song that will keep you whistling the rest of the day.

The song’s title is It Was All Dance, and it’s composed (I think?) and performed by Vlad Persan.

For some reason, the song is not available for sale or download on GarageBand.com where I found it. But a little Googling turned up this page, where you can download the song for free. Save it to your computer by right-clicking “Download,” and then select “Save Link As…”

Once you’ve had yourself a good listen, you might go to GarageBand.com and check out his other songs. You might even e-mail Vlad and tell him you agree with me, that his beautiful music deserves better distribution.

In From Where You Dream, Robert Olen Butler says:

“If I say art doesn’t come from the mind, it comes from the place where you dream, you might say, ‘Well, I wake up screaming in the night. I don’t want to go into my dreams, thank you very much. I don’t what to go into that white-hot center; I’ve spent my life staying out of there. That’s why… I was able to draw a comb through my hair this morning. Because I haven’t gone there, I don’t go there. I’ve got lots of ways of staying out of there.’ And you know what? You still need those twenty-one or twenty-two hours a day. But this is the tough part: for those two hours a day when you write, you cannot flinch.”

Me, I flinch all the time. I’d rather paint my toenails or even the living room walls. I’d rather watch X-Files re-runs (which I love) or Entertainment Tonight (which I don’t). I’d almost rather spend a day with Rush Limbaugh or Al Franken or (Yikes!) both, than spend ten minutes in the place where everything–joy, wonder, my deepest sense of God, but also sorrow, dread and terror–gets distilled to its purest intensity.

But I love Butler’s book, because I know my best writing has always come from that place, and the novels I’ve loved have always taken me there and held my hand.

There’s a song I listen to sometimes before I write, because it always plunges me well beneath the surface, down to the place where the trivial doesn’t exist and my easy answers don’t apply. I don’t listen to it often, partly because it hurts to hear it, but more because I never want it to stop hurting. I don’t want to turn it into white noise with no more power to touch me.

If you want this tool for yourself, go to iTunes or wherever it is you buy music downloads, and type in “Chris Rea Tell Me There’s a Heaven.” No, don’t Google the lyrics. Trust me on this one, just pay the dollar and listen to the song.

If you do that, and if you love the song as much as I do, I’ve got a gift for you.
It’s a poem by William Butler Yeats that I did up with artwork from Aon-Celtic, and a font from Fontfile, to hang on the wall beside my desk. Download Poem.gi

, save it to your computer and print it out. Then tack it up over your own desk to remind you to plunge to that place where you dream.


On the premise that St. Patricks Day deserves more than a scrap of green paper pinned to the lapel, I’m going to spend this week helping you prepare. It’s this Friday, don’t forget.

The first order of business is to queue the music.

A year and a half ago I spent a late Thursday night (it started at 10 pm!) at a small pub in County Clare, taking in a seisiun (seh-SHOON), which is something like an Irish jam session.
Sort of.

Here’s how it goes:

You arrive at the pub at nine, because you can’t believe they really start at ten. It’s just like any bar here in the States, with patrons in their twenties meeting and socializing, till they get tired and leave–all but the three quietly playing their fiddle, pipe and accordion in the corner.

And
all along, their parents and grandparents have slowly filed in, taken their seats, and sat with their glasses of Guiness, just… waiting.

A man tries out his bodrun, a flat irish drum. Unsatisfied with the tone, he passes it across the crowded room to a woman who warms it a bit by the peat fire burning in the ceramic fireplace set into the wall. She passes it back, and he begins to play along with the small band, matching beat for beat and, almost, note for note.

And when all the kids have left, the real fun begins. A man stands and joins with the tune the musicians play, with his beautiful, tenor voice. And when he finishes, a woman signals the band to stop, and with her silken voice she commences to sing, unaccompanied.

Down by the Sally Gardens
, Danny Boy, and my favorite, I’ll Take You Home Again Kathleen.

And soon you realize, all the Irish can sing, in that lulling, flat-noted way that they can and we can’t.

Then a man recites a poem in a voice that’s good as singing.

And they dance. A farmer does a jig. A housewife does a step-dance to rival anything Jean Butler did on Riverdance. The fiddle player puts down her instrument and performs a Brush Dance, a complicated, athletic bit of wonder done with a broom–you have to be there.

The lights flash at one in the morning, urging us to leave. The seisiun finishes at two.

And lest you think this a show for the tourists, this was the Tír na nÓg pub in Cranny, County Clare, a community of about seven hundred. We were the only tourists there, and they didn’t know we were coming. They were farm folk, just doing what they do on Thursday nights.

No matter what the time, you leave wide awake, struck by the idea that we in the States have lost something important, somewhere. Struck by the fervent hope that those young Irish won’t lose it, as well.

So, you want just a bit of that for your own? How about some free Irish music by the Brobdingnagian Bards to download?

And if you could use some more, why not go to this site
for free lyrics and almost-free downloads?

Have a wonderful, green, white and orange week.

Just listen to this.

The Lost Jewish Music of Transylvania. In a family like mine, such a title inpires wise cracks: “Ah, good–they found it. Where’d it turn up?”

But then you push the play button, and the enchantment commences. Soon you really are laughing, not at the music, but with it, in a burst of pure joy. Before long you’re dancing, the way they must have done, back in the day. Arms raised, feet shuffling–the music tells you what to do.

Then the music mellows to something gentler, a bit sad, and rather romantic. And you sit to read the liner notes, and learn that yes, the music really was lost, or nearly so, when the Jewish musicians of Eastern Europe perished during the Holocaust. Fortunately for the sake of the music, there were non-jewish musicians who remembered the music, and years later, while they still lived, younger musicians who cared enough to research, transcribe and record this treasure.

What a memorial to the spirit of those who were lost. What beauty, and truly, what joy.

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