Rest

A friend of mine who was a very gifted singer and musician passed away quite suddenly a day ago in a motorcycle accident. This poem is for him.

Though the melody stops suddenly,
Brought a grief to me,
The only way to rejoin the song
Is to count the measures of rest.
Against God, who will protest?
The Singer of all right will not sing wrong.
Those who would find harmony
Must bow their knee;
No suspension remains unresolved.
Although our own resolve might fail
Our voices weak, and bruised reeds be frail,
A tear is not a sin, and grief’s absolved.

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To Nathaniel, on His Birthday

He’s Dutch, and Canadian: both blonde and blue-eyed,
He plays on pianos and national pride.
“You ain’t Dutch, you ain’t much,” he’d tell me with bias:
On the whole, I would say though, God sent him to try us.

He moved from Canadia to Franklin’s new college
His departure bewailed, to the best of our knowledge,
Only by those who awaited him there.
Yep. A pain in the butt. A regular square.

But for all that, I miss him; a best friend indeed,
A man who would listen in moments of need.
Happy Birthday! Good luck on this trip ’round the sun.
God bless. And God Speed.And gosh darn it, have fun.

Beknighted

(Upon reading Don Quixote)

 

The stubborn whitewashed walls
Of my old mind’s house cling to me: I must ride.
Lead me forth dubiously, dangerously, undecided and undaunted.
I will be Mr. Grey-No-More beside you,
Bonfiring the false oldness of mockery.
You! In your ramshackle armour,
Cardboard sword,
Batter my mind with your outworn words,
And never worn shall your welcome be.
Make me mad as you are mad,
Inflict your ramblings on my senses,
For I cannot see giants as clearly as I must,
And enchantment flees my approach like some wild thing,
When I would rather romp with it.
Enfeeble my arms , and let life bruise me in passing:
The rough-and-tumble of reality has yet to rattle
My skeptic, armoured heart.

I wonder as I wander through the fields of my thoughts,
Marveling at the holes left behind
In the windmills of my mind.

Commusic – Music with Other Folks: Quantity, Quality, and Questions

Recently I noticed something that I’ve taken for granted almost my entire life, along with most of my generation. The biggest things, the ones we assume as part of our existence, are the ones that become invisible, and music is no exception. Music, as it is today, exists in a new and different format from the way it has throughout most of history.

Music is in the hands of the masses. Without the necessity of an orchestra, or singers, or any sort of equipment besides an i-Pod, we can listen to music whenever we want. Think about it. Before music became portable, first in the shape of radio, then records, tapes, CDs, and mp3, we would have to gather at some spot with other music lovers of the same kind, and attend a performance or make the music ourselves. Either way, music was a community event. Now, it is entirely common to see coffee shops bursting at the seams with hipsters and their earphones, all on their own, listening to some new band nobody’s heard of.

***

Everyone’s on a private tap in this brown room, and buds are burrowed into their ears. It’s like drinking alone at a bar of many people. I feel the urge to splash my beverage over the crowd, really shock them with a good cold splash of Irish drinking songs, maybe start a jig on the big table. But everyone is drinking their music alone, silently noisy with themselves. I take a sip. Soon I too am staring at greasy counter on my faded oak-and-brass stool, watching the wood swim through the brown wash at the bottom of a glass of soundtracks. I am drunk with my story of one. It’s lonely in this fable. Maybe I’m just selfish. Maybe we all are. All I know is that we are alone together.

***

Part of the problem is scarcity. The more rare something is, the more people value it. When music was available only on special occasions, only rich people could afford it. But now that music is in everyone’s hands, we take it for granted, like water. It’s everywhere. It’s assumed. But if you take it away….

Now, a thought experiment.

Suppose you had a rock face on a cliff, and a chisel. You have your whole life to write something there. What are you going to write? Well, you can be darn sure it’ll be the most important, profound thing you’ve ever thought of. After all, it’ll be your life’s work.

The rarer something is, the more we pay attention to it. If we could hear music once a week, we wouldn’t waste that time listening to Friday by Rebecca Black. We would want something important, something meaningful. So here’s a question. Does the quantity of music available to us affect the quality of music we listen to?

This is why the old question “If you were on a desert island, which 5 ___ would you take?” is so effective. It limits the availability of something, and then asks us to really assess what we value most of all.

And there are more. When exactly did music in community get trashed? Is it a product of individualism? Did new, portable technology shape our music? Did lower-quality music make it less worth-while to sing with other people? I don’t have all the answers. But I do have some questions that it may be worthwhile to ponder.

Do you have music you could sing with someone?

Would you feel comfortable singing with other people?

If not, why?

Is all music lessened when you listen to it on your own?

If not all, which kinds?

Do you value music less because it’s so easy to access?

 

(If you’re a Christian as I am, a few more questions.)

Does singing with your church congregation have more meaning than other music, because you’re singing in community?

If you don’t think so, why doesn’t singing in community feel any different? Are you missing something?

What do the Psalms have to say about singing together?

What would Christ have to say about singing together?

 

If these questions interest you, or you want to discuss these issues, feel free to leave a comment, and we can talk.

Lightning Camera

When the lightning was striking,

It struck me that some higher being might

Be documenting the region

With some enormous antique flash-pan camera.

And when under the dim red light (not infernal)

The liquids brought our images swimming to the surface,

They showed me dancing, laughing,

A blur living so hard and fast that focus

Could not catch me.

You too, smiling, inconsistent,

Happy and inconsistent,

Insisting that life meant nothing

And finding every meaning you could.

And here I was,

Expecting to see you starched and upright,

With a pale blank stare,

Looking at the camera

Like a wall painted white.