Week 400 // Walking Through Midnight

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Hold the map up to the light
And tell me all the roads you recognize
I think there’s another way
Back to the interstate

Some days I’ve been set upon
Out in the woods I’ve been

Wherever we’re going
We’re walking through midnight
Wherever we’re going
Nobody knows
Wherever we’ve been to
The cracks have been showing
Shadows in the low light
Point the way to go

Breathe the air
The way it tastes without a moment
Shot through by the sun
The rules we bend
And the power given unto us
The moment we have broken one

Sometimes I’ve been one of them
Lost in the cave I’ve been

Wherever we’re going
We’re walking through midnight
Wherever we’re going
Nobody knows
Wherever we’ve been to
The cracks have been showing
Shadows in the low light
Point the way to go

Wherever we’re going
We’re walking through midnight
Wherever we’re going
Nobody knows
Wherever we’ve been to
The cracks have been showing
Shadows in the low light
Point the way home

Notes
I must pause to reflect upon 400 songs written for one purpose: that songwriting requires the writing of songs. I asked myself to be persistent, and I have been so. I encouraged myself to approach the practice with joy and curiosity whenever I was able. For the most part, I feel I have done that as well.

I listen back to these hundreds of songs infrequently, but they return to me in recycled turns of phrase, harmonies, and melodic flourishes. They insinuate themselves upon my new works in ways both known and surprising to me. This week’s song is consciously pieced together from many previous works. I have grown comfortable with that. It is still something new. Besides, all of these songs are truly one song. They are my song, which I have been writing and revising since boyhood, long before I began counting up from one.

I write to you today from Ponta Delgada, capital of Sao Miguel Island and of the Azorean Archipelago, belonging to Portugal, but located some two thirds of the way across the Atlantic Ocean from my home base in Brooklyn. I wrote this song before I came here, and it owes nothing to my current surroundings, except for the accompanying photograph, which was taken yesterday by Rebecca, my wife and traveling companion. It spoke to a lyric you will find in this song in which I sang about a cave.

Like the rest of humanity, I was struck by the harrowing ordeal of the youth soccer team who were lost in a cave and rescued recently in Thailand. Their story caused me to reflect a bit on the process by which we we lose and find ourselves physically, mentally, spiritually, or otherwise. The lyric about the cave came to me as I pondered them, and the rest of the song spread from that nucleus. In the end, this song has little to say about those boys or their heroic rescuers, but they all deserve a nod for their inspiring endurance and ultimate human triumph.

This Mount Everest project has always been about getting lost and finding oneself. It will stay that way for the foreseeable future. Thanks to my wife, my parents, my family, my collaborators, and my friends. Thanks especially to those of you who have come back to listen 400 times. Thanks most especially to any of you who have ever listened at all.

~M.E.

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Week 399 // On the Way

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On the way to the moon
I’m going as fast as I can
But what’s the use?

On the way to another age
I’m taking the scenic route
And that’s okay

I’ve been nothing but
Overthinking it
I’ve been nothing but
Overindulgent
I’ve been nothing else
But left to my own devices

On the way to the sea
If you’re wondering where I am
That’s where I’ll be

On the way up in the clouds
I’ll go the entire way
Without looking down

I’ve been nothing but
Overthinking it
I’ve been nothing but
Overindulgent
I’ve been nothing else
But left to my own devices

Notes
I wrote this song last Tuesday in advance of a busy week of holiday revelry and travel that simply couldn’t accommodate songwriting. I returned to the song this evening to discover that I had anticipated a certain note of my current travel-weary condition. I’m exhausted after a 4 am wakeup, and an early flight straight to work on a Monday morning. The quiet lilt of this song appeals to that sensation.

Though I’m all out of gas, I feel rejuvenated by my excursion and the people with whom I’ve been spending the past few days. Listening to the words in this song, I think I needed to get out of town for a few days. The next week will bring even greater adventure, and will require another song written in advance. Perhaps another travel song will be in order.

~M.E.

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Week 398 // Proof

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Oh the night’s flame
Bursts in green and blue
In the alleyway
The light climbs all around you
In the olden days
We’d’ve had no other word but truth

Gone are the days
Of human kind
And in our place
Is naught but time
And all this space
And that seems fine

Oh when the chorus comes
I’ll sing about speaking the truth
There will be a melody
I will offer it up as proof
There will be a word like “God”
It will cut to the core of you

Night on the desert
On the edge
It could take a couple years
But we’ll forget
It’s a thing we’re built to do
And we do it well

The moon knows not
Her grasp upon the tide
In the olden days
We’d’ve had nothing to lose but time

Love in the cages
Love in the anguish
Love in the morning time

Notes
I’m still working out what I’ve got in this song. I took more care with the words and music than has been typical of this project in recent months. I felt the words I sang, and I offer them as proof of something true, but I’m not certain of precisely what I’ve got to prove. Were I the listener, I’d key in on words like desert and cages, because there’s something of the current moment in this song. I’d also pay attention to themes of past, forgetting, and proof, because there’s something about epistemology here. I’d also let the guitar whisper in your ear, because there’s a trust in the truth of music within the words. If you listen, feel free to let me know what you hear.

~M.E.

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Week 397 // Escape

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Wash the dirt from your clothes
Wipe the soot from your eyes
Straighten up and show some backbone
Straighten up and fly right for once in your life

Have I seen my face?
Have we seen our face?
In the USA we’re kickin’ ass
In the states we’ve made an art of taking names

So there’s no escape
No there’s no escape

When the moon is full we will be there
When the sun is in the east we will be there
We will throw a parade and you’d better come
Or your head on a pike so you’d better come gladly

Or there’s no escape
No there’s no escape from this
No there’s no escape

Notes
No Trump. No KKK. No Fascist USA. I’m a bad activist. I turn up to protests and feel better for a little while. That’s no way to do it. It’s not supposed to be therapy. It’s not supposed to scratch an itch. It’s supposed to pick a scab until it’s bleeding badly.

We’re bleeding badly. If you’re squeamish around Antifa, you might be a fascist. A lot of people are squeamish. This doesn’t end well. We’re incubating something worse than what we’ve seen, and I feel very scared for the future.

I lieu of any constructive solutions, I offer a song of desperation. I prefer my songs to include a “moment of conversion” wherein a constructed tension is breached by some productive turn of thought. I long for the epiphany that would offer this song its moment of conversion. I’ll be on the lookout.

~M.E.

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Week 396 // Footprints

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I’m dressing down
I don’t think you’ll mind
It’s just fine for where we’re going

The night machine
Is turning out fog
I’m not sure which way we’re facing

Tonight in the garden
I followed you by your footprints
Tonight in the garden
I recognized your shadow

I’m feeling tired
But I don’t think you mind
I thought I saw your eyelids drooping

Tonight in the garden
I followed you by your footprints
Tonight in the garden
I recognized your shadow

Notes
This week’s song is a collection of disconnected moments, memories, and dreams. I think the combined whole is sort of impressionistic in that it gestures toward a cohesive picture without belaboring the minute details. At the center of these dreams and memories is my wife, Rebecca, who floats through these vignettes like a leaf on the breeze. Other times I’ve written of her as the ocean. Today’s offering is a more serene take. Also, today is her Birthday, and I hope it has been a lovely one.

~M.E.

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Week 395 // Nobody Nobody

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The strings that pull at everyone else
The motion taking everyone else
The shadow cast by everyone else
The first the last and everyone else

And in a way I’ve stayed like everyone else
And in a way we’re all like everyone else

The strings that pull at nobody else
The motion taking nobody else
The shadow cast by nobody else
There’s the first and the last and nobody else

And in a way I’ve stayed like nobody else
And in a way we’re all like nobody else

Notes
I think Identity is a subject that all of these songs deal with somehow, however directly or indirectly. This is a piece about the simple binary of self and other, and the nagging question of our relative uniqueness. The contradictory thoughts “I am like everyone,” and “I am like no one” seem both to be equally freeing and suffocating. The freedom of individuality is also the isolation of uniqueness. The mundanity of sameness is also liberty from prejudice. Sometimes we all feel like we stick out like sore thumbs. Other times we all feel like we are unable to distinguish ourselves. Somewhere in the gravity of these continuums lies the self. A thing to ponder with a simple song.

~M.E.

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Week 394 // The Seat of Your Soul

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Smile at the camera
Say hello to your future self
Say so long to this moment in time
It was fun while it lasted
Say hello to your future self

In a hundred years or so
When our ashes are floating to the ground
In a hundred thousand years or so
When all the data is destroyed
And the dust of us is blowing all around

Come on wave to the camera
Wave to the guests at your 90th birthday party
Flash a smile for your grandkids
Make it look good for the jaded youth
In your extended family

Smile at your lover
Watch your lover smiling at you
Watch your other
Perched on the seat of your soul
Feel your lover smiling at you

Come on wave to the camera
Wave to guests at your funeral
Flash a smile for your grandkids
Make it look good for the jaded youth
Dragged to your funeral

Notes
Rebecca and I spent the weekend at her 10-year reunion at Skidmore College, which was also my de facto 11-year reunion. Being back at school was marvelous and captivating. For all the fun and unrestrained joy the return held, there were somber moments too. I spent a long while sitting at a bench that has been installed to commemorate an old friend who was lost nearly 13 years ago. I sat there with a new friend who also knew my old friend, and we talked about impermanence and memory. My heart contorted as I reckoned with the sensation of my worst memories bubbling to the surface of my best memories. Thankfully my new friend was kind, wise, and helpful. No place is not complicated, I remembered.

Much of the weekend was spent intermittently passing around phones displaying old photographs of our former selves, and the way things used to be. Their smiles found us through the years, and I looked over my shoulder to realize they were smiling past us to our 20-year reunions, and 50-year reunions, and our anniversaries and birthday parties whether we live to see them or not, smiling straight past the present moment all the way to our funerals and even beyond, as long as the data can hold onto a coherent pattern. We marked the moment with new photographs, so we too could greet the future, just as we had done in the past. Like my old friend’s lovely bench, it was a bid for immortality and an admission of our impermanence, but this time I wasn’t sad. I fell asleep holding Rebecca tightly.

~M.E.

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Week 393 // All of the Pieces

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Searching every face
And so I wonder
How many paces out from her
I’ll spy my other

The call spins me around
Before I hear it
The walls around us
Bend their shapes to guide the spirit

All of the pieces fall into place

I know the things I know
I’ve seen confusion
I’ve seen the patterns set by men
And evil uses

I’ve seen your light come on
I’ve seen the light reach out
I know what contrast cast by light
Is all about

All of the pieces fall into place

And here we are to see it
Here we are to see it
Here we are to see each other

Notes
This week, I merely set out to write a nice song. The word “nice” is so devoid of substance and meaning that the task was likely to be in hand by mere virtue of the extreme breadth of possible interpretations of the term. Nonetheless, I think I did what I set out to do. I reached for the safety and warmth at the center of my marriage, and I cast that sensation as a bulwark against the encroaching confusion and darkness of the world at large. That’s a pretty nice thought to anchor a pretty nice song; that if we’re lucky, love can protect us from creeping darkness. There you have it.

~M.E.

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Week 392 // Above Us and out to Sea

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Listen down below
To the whispering pines
The secrets that they know

And way atop the trees
I’m gonna build us a house
that looks over the sea

Focus on the ocean calling
I will be there with you darling
Focus on the ocean calling
I will be there with you darling

A hundred years from now
Along a ragged sea
They’ll read our names out loud

Focus on the ocean calling
I will be there with you darling
Focus on the ocean calling
I will be there with you darling

Notes
I’ve played around with similar chord progressions and melodic ideas in the past (and pretty recently), so writing this week’s song sort of felt like putting on a well-worn old shirt. I think it would be an interesting project some day to track the songs that I’ve written with related structures and musical ideas. I have a feeling that nearly 400 songs would probably fit into around five general buckets — a thought to ponder another day.

This song plays with a recurring fantasy that Rebecca and I share of living together in a tree house. I think I was trying to build her a song as a safe refuge to return to as she looks ahead to an exciting new chapter as a law student this coming fall. In this song, I have perched the tree house above the ocean, because I know the sound of the surf will both comfort and inspire her. During the day, she can seek her adventure out to sea, and return home safe each night with the treehouse like a beacon to guide her. It’s a bit fanciful, but so is love, isn’t it?

~M.E.

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Week 391 // Back to Sleep

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Wake up tired
The faces of the the angels
Hovering up above me and you
I am one of them
And you’re one of them too
Let’s go back to sleep
Let’s go back to sleep
Let’s go back to sleep
For a little while

Lying here
My eyes are open and I peer into
The boxes we’re placed into
And I’m in one of them
You’re in one of them too
Let’s just go back to sleep
Let’s go back to sleep
Can we go back to sleep
For a little while?

Notes
This song is a bit of of a lullaby for grownups. I wrote and performed it immediately following a nap, with the full intention of resuming my slumber afterwards. It’s slow, dreamy, and just fine with being imprecise. I picked up my guitar and began to play, and the song emerged from me in mere moments, as if it had arrived while I was asleep. I played it once into a microphone, and that was that. There was time to spare to take the song’s advice.

~M.E.

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