171003, Tuesday

Back again with my notebook.

I don’t know if these technically count as “morning pages” since I secretly plan to publish them somewhere, but I’m going to say yes they do, since I’m hand writing them, and thus feel free to speak freely. If in the transcription to digital there’s something that I want to leave out, I will.

I’m enjoying Rusbridger’s book. There is that old saying that writing about music is like dancing about architecture, but he’s doing about as good a job of it as anyone could, I’d say. It helps, I suppose, that I can read music and therefore am able to follow along in the core as he describes certain difficulties.

Since this is a similar journal about me taking some time in my life to learn the piano, I’ve wondered if I should do something similar by putting excerpts from the score of Book of Leaves in my text? In the end, I think not.

First, I don’t think that an exegesis of Rachel Grimes’ score will have the same effect as the ballade. What Grimes is doing is both more obvious than what Chopin does, and more subtle. More obvious in the sense that there’s not much more going on than what you’re hearing. There’s no political context. There are no canons or numerological puzzles, like you might find in Berg or Bach. In other words, you don’t need to see the music to fully appreciate its genius, as you do, say, with the music of Webern.

But it’s also more subtle in that, what are you hearing, exactly?

Simple things, but they stir deep emotions. Like the chords at the end of The Side View, for example. What’s going on? Who knows? And I bet that Dr. Carl Schachter wouldn’t care to know. But it’s moving, just the same. The point being this: that what’s happening visually in Grimes’ score is not as interesting as what’s happening sonically.

Also, Chopin has a universal aspect to him. When you play or listen to his music, it feels like a communal thing. All the world loves him.

Grimes is, of course, different. I myself had never heard of her until I happened upon a lucky google search. But that is part of her allure. She is of my time. And somehow that makes the learning of this music more personal. This music is very rooted in Kentucky, which is to say America, which is to say home. Also, it’s music that speaks a lot about nature, and that has two effects on me.

First, there is water and lushness in this music, which is a welcome teleportation device for me, since I now live in the desert.

And it’s important in another way. It’s nice to play music that celebrates nature in a time when it really feels as though the natural world is dwindling. Sitting at the piano, a thing of metal and wood and air, and playing music that is inspired by birds and leaves and moss and memory is rejuvenating. I like Rachel’s score very much, actually. It’s not the Goldberg Variations, but I can’t play the Goldberg Variations. But, with a loft of work, I just might be able to play this and god bless her for writing something so good that is also so easy.


Let’s talk a bit about silence. We’re losing it.

One of the things that has kept me attached to the guitar for so long, and that will likely keep me going back to it forever, is how much I enjoy playing Takemitsu’s music on it. His music is rich with silences. (Takemitsu himself described listening to his music as strolling through a Japanese garden, which is in fact one of the most wonderful things that a person can do.)

Rachel’s music hardly resembles Takemitsu’s, but it does share a similar appreciation for silence and space and that’s something that I’m drawn to.


(I find that I’m having difficulty putting my pen down today. This really is some form of therapy for me.)

You know, I really did try to follow Thoreau’s advice and build my castle in the air. I tried to have a career I would love. To monetize my passion, so to speak.

But something went wrong because, in fact, I don’t like it and I think it’s that I let fear derail me somewhere and it was a small nudge, but over time, as the traveling continued, the train of my life wound up somewhere quite different from where I was aiming. I’m trying to fix that now, and I’m afraid. Afraid of failing. Of sounding the fool. Of not being able to support my family. I think I’m afraid, even, of happiness. It’s like Slo-Mo says in his video. He started wondering if the happiness he felt when he left his life as a doctor indicated that he was in fact mentally ill.

For example, I don’t really have to go to work today. I could skip it. I could spend the day playing the piano, or strolling, or writing. These things make me happy, but when I do them I start to panic. As though I ought to be doing something else, simply because I am enjoying these other activities too much.

But it’s my life. Why shouldn’t I decide what to do with it? Why do I feel that I can’t do certain things because someone else might not approve? But who  is this someone else and why have I given them the power of judgment over my own life?

About a year ago, I bought Denise Duffield’s Lucky Bitch and read this sentence, which changed my life: It’s totally okay for life to be easy.

I want to place all the guilt that I feel at the ease with which I live these days in a beautiful box and then burn it in a beautiful fire. After all, I have many difficult days behind me. Perhaps I’ve earned this easy one.

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