Week 404 // Passage

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On the way up
We are looking at strangers faces
Lines that we know
Add up to misplaced shapes
And tales we’ve been told

On the way up
I thought of all the years you’ve been breathing
Each spoke a word
Even your past believes in what we’ll become

All of the windows open and worlds come in
They open and songs come in
We’ve never heard that one
We’ve never heard it before

On the way up
We are talking about plans we’re making
Each is a poem
Each is a breath I’m taking
Each holds a song

On the way up
I thought of how you look when you’re crying
Your shoulder conceals half of you
And I would be lying to say I’m unmoved

All of the windows open and worlds come in
They open and songs come in
We’ve never heard that one
We’ve never heard it before

Notes
My household is in the midst of yet another powerful transition as Rebecca truly embarks on her law school journey. Since this change must be dizzying to her, part of my role as her partner is to strive to maintain stability wherever possible in our domestic life. I don’t yet know how hard or easy that will be. I’m also bracing myself for her departure into the depths of her studies, and the inevitability of being left idle to occupy myself in her absence. I don’t know what that will be like either. These concerns form the anxiety present in this song.

Here is what I do know: this change of circumstance will alter the course of our lives, both in the shortest of short-term and in the remotest corner of our future together. It’s impossible to predict the shape of the change, but we get to try to encounter it with hope and wonder. The joy of that realization accounts for the windows flying open and the song flooding our ears in the refrain.

Rarely do I experience satisfaction with myself as acutely as those weeks when I attempt to capture whistling on one of these recordings. It is hard to record whistling in my experience, so I rarely ever try. It is a shame because my lips are truly my primary instrument, whistling as I am wont to do all around town whenever I am out and about by myself. I probably seem like a crazy person, but I’ve come to terms with that since the city where I live provides such convenient cover for people acting out of the ordinary. The threshold is high around here. I did a simple whistle harmony toward the top of this number, and I felt glad about it, but I digress.

~M.E.

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Week 403 // The Misery of Neighborhood Pets

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Don’t leave the window open
It’s hotter than hell out there
It wouldn’t make a dent

All day long I’ve wondered ’bout the fate
Of the kids down the block
And the misery of neighborhood pets
What chance do they get?

Down somewhere by the ocean
I heard there was a breeze blowing by

Down at the bottom of the sea
Where you can’t even breathe
They got a nice cool spot
The sun can’t even touch you when you’re there

So many people
Hanging ’round town
Could it be they got no better place to be?

Notes
It’s hot out there gang. I think there has come a day in each of my New York summers when the heat has reached such a pitch that I could write of nothing else. That day arrived today.

I’m an outspoken detractor of summer. In the deepest, darkest days of winter, there is no room in my apartment that is rendered uninhabitable for mammals. Not so in summer. I worry for the safety of my pets. Sure, this season has plenty of charms, but when the score is tallied it comes in dead last by miles. Summer is very bad.

This song is playful, hoping to make light of the objectively terrible conditions outside and in apartments citywide. But there is also a serious sentiment in the end. I wish New Yorkers and summer sufferers everywhere a safe cool place to pass the remainder of the season. If you’ve got an elderly neighbor, maybe check in every once in a while.

Stay cool.

~M.E.

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Week 402 // The Hard Part of Windstorms

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Call in a favor
Cut to the chase
I was a windstorm
Blowing in place
I was a windstorm
Wherever I was
The clock was a minute slow
Catch up with me
I can wait
The wind blows wherever I go

There in a moment
Blink and it’s gone
The word from the poet
The hard part of song
The hard part of windstorms
Wherever they are
The clock slips a minute slow
Catch up with me
I can wait
The wind blows wherever I go

Notes
I wrote this song with hardly any gas left in my tank, but I think it came out pretty. I wrote this song for all my friends who have lived through a storm. I tried to somehow describe the wind’s atemporal disorientation, and the way it makes you brace in one place, even as it moves every molecule of you. Whether any of that comes across or not, the wind still stands as an evident proxy for the turbulence we inevitably confront. The calm and patient guitar stands as a foil to the metaphor. Somewhere within us, perhaps, hopefully, the thrashing wind can subside.

~M.E.

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Week 401 // More Like You

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Come into the morning
Meet me at the house
A window off the tree line
A cat to chase the mouse

Your hand upon the rearview
Still you look ahead
And then we’re gone
Your hand upon my own hand
Holding on

Tight are the corners
Still you take every one
Gone is the silence
That you break
Laughing at the sun
I’m trying to be more like you

I wake you in the morning
The guilt I cannot take
To stop you in your dreaming
Compel your eyes to wake

The motion is an old one
We walk upon the shore
And then we’re gone
The motion is an old one
Holding one

Tight are the corners
Still you take every one
Gone is the silence
That you break
Laughing at the sun
I’m trying to be more like you

Notes
Rebecca and I just returned from a long-overdue honeymoon. When we married three years ago next week, we took a few days together to drive up to Maine for what millennial couples like us call a “Minimoon”. It was beautiful, but brief. Time marched on, work and lack of work intervened, and for a long while we didn’t have much time for vacations. Aside from the minimoon, we’d never really taken a trip together other than to visit friends or family. Finally, circumstances aligned and we flew off to magical São Miguel Island in the Azores. The trip was one joyful adventure after another. It dawned on me during our vacation that we’d probably never spent so much consecutive uninterrupted time together. It was about time.

In this song, I write about sharing time and space with another person. I think the words wind and swerve between past, present, and future. The landscape is unfixed, so the other person becomes the stable horizon. I’m a bit sad our trip is over, and I think you can hear a note of that here. Mostly, I’m just glad to have a person I enjoy and admire so deeply to spend my time with.

~M.E.

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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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