Week 489 // A Late Winter Song

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Snow
In slow motion
Take me out of time

Remember
What comes first
When troubled days arrive

Remember the faces you have loved
Remember the silence of the snow

Seasons
It’s only time
And time is known to pass

Remember
Even footprints
Tend to fade at last

Remember the laughter all around
Remember the silence of the snow

Snow
Snow snow is drifting
I feel fixed in place

Remember
We can drift like snow
In different ways

Remember the warmth beside the glow
Remember the silence of the snow

Notes
Where you are, it may be springtime. Here it is late winter, and I have spent two Mondays in a row writing music to gentle snowfall out the window. The snow suits the moment better than the spring, even as I envy those of you who have sunshine and green things to greet you when you go outside. It is a time of great anxiety, and the peaceful falling of the snow is a beautiful counterbalance to that anxiety. I wanted to write a song to capture that peace in order to balance out my own dark currents. For the moment, It feels like it worked.

~M.E.

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Week 488 // Where We Are

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Here we are
We’re where we are
We’re every solitary place
We’re lost in dreams out in the park
Without a trace

Here we are
We’re where we’ve gone
We twist in currents through the waves
We call out answers through the fog
We disappear without a trace

And all the lights are on
No matter where you look

Here we are
We’re where we are
We nest and write each other’s names
We’re lost in faces in our hearts
Without a trace
Without a trace
Without a trace

Notes
This is a song about isolation and displacement. I don’t suppose I need to explain why I’d write about those subjects this week. I’m thinking of my friends and colleagues hunkered down, alone in apartments. I’m thinking of those I care about stuck in other countries, waiting with great hope for a chance to come home. I’m thinking of my dear friends whose livelihoods are threatened. I’m thinking of all our loved ones whose very lives could be at stake.

Rebecca and I left our home last week because it felt safer not to stay there. We are in a place of extreme privilege to be able to make that choice. We all do the best we can under the circumstances. Still, it was hard to go. We think of our neighbors always.

I like it when one of my listeners decides they like a track enough to buy it from me on Bandcamp. I’m not a professional musician. I do marketing for a nonprofit. I am able to work remotely, and I do not expect to miss a paycheck in the near future. If you like this song, please download it for free, and then spend your money instead on beautiful music from Nat Osborn or Lyle Divinsky. They are dear friends, and dizzyingly talented professional musicians whose livelihood has been interrupted by cruel necessity. You will absolutely love what they do.

~M.E.

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Week 487 // Out My Window

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Waiting for war to come
It wasn’t a war at all
Looking out my window
I don’t see the change at all

Ring the bells to wave all the world away
Ring the bells to wave all the world away

Follow the road northward
All the way back home
Follow the constellation
All the way back home

Ring the bells to wave all the world away
Ring the bells to wave all the world away

Notes
What an extraordinary moment. It’s hard to overstate what an unusual time this is, and how important each decision feels. As I wrote this song, Rebecca and I decided to leave New York. We might come back soon. We might come back after a long while. We can’t know yet.

We are uniquely privileged in that our respective work and school have gone remote, and that my parents have room for us in a place where we can sequester ourselves until we are confident that we don’t risk infecting others. New Hampshire just seems like a better place to be right now.

This is a song about making a decision even though the world outside our window doesn’t yet look very strange. Certainly, I’ve had many experiences over the past couple of weeks to drive home the reality that the fabric of society as we know it in Brooklyn has shifted and is shifting still. We have decided to go because we have the option. The day after tomorrow, we may not have it.

I want you to be cautious and safe. I want you to be careful with human contact. I want you to vote and flush out the irresponsible hacks who have made the situation worse than it needed to be. I want you to learn and carry forward important lessons once this is over. This is our generation’s crucible. Please make good choices.

~M.E.

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Week 486 // Other Moments

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Thinking I could sleep in
Thinking I could lie next to you

Thinking I could sleep in
Thinking I could lie next to you

Other moments seem lost
I’ll take the moments we get together
I’ll take the moments we get together

Other moments seem lost
I’ll take the moments we get together
I’ll take the moments we get together

Thinking I could wait up
Thinking I could lie next you

Thinking I could wait up
Thinking I could lie next you

Other moments seem lost
I’ll take the moments we’ve got together
I’ll take the moments we get together

Other moments seem lost
I’ll take the moments we’ve got together
I’ll take the moments we get together

Notes
I appreciate this song for its immediacy. I made it with one microphone, one guitar, and one voice, all in one take. It’s got a lot more fret noise than I’d typically put up with. The tempo gets a bit lost. There’s a fair amount of street noise from my window. I’m a bit pitchy in my vocal performance. But it’s here and I appreciate those things about it. It’s a song about patience, and I didn’t exercise any at all while I was making it.

~M.E.

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Week 485 // The Forest I’ve Been

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In the clearing
See the forest I’ve been

In the clearing
See the forest I’ve been

And the feeling is old
And the feeling is old

In the morning
See the night that I’ve been

In the morning
See the night that I’ve been

And the feeling is old
And the feeling is old

Notes
I wrote this song with a persistent headache. I didn’t want to be writing music, but that’s part of this project. Sometimes I need to sit with a song even when I don’t have the feeling for it. Sometimes I have to push through some unpleasantness to stay true to my commitment to this thing. By necessity, I drifted into something gentle and quiet. The song speaks of traversing darkness, and coming out the other side. Maybe right now it’s about a physical pain, but it’s also an emotional experience I’m familiar with. Listening back, the song is simple and soothing. I’m glad I pushed through to write it.

~M.E.

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Week 484 // Over There

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Over there
A spot of sunshine
It’s so inviting
I’d live in there for days

Over there
A conversation
A new tradition
I’d stay in there for days

Breaking all the rules
Breaking all the rules
To write our own

Over there
Friendly faces
The ones who know you
I’d live in there for days

Over there
The finest morning
A lovely evening
I’d stay in there for days

Breaking all the rules
Breaking all the rules
To write our own

Notes
The weather was gorgeous over the weekend, and I’m going to breeze right past the apocalyptic dread that fact raises in me, considering it’s not even March yet. I spent some time in Prospect Park, and you’d have thought it was Memorial Day weekend, there were so many people out and about. The unseasonable warmth lent the people an incredulous jubilance everywhere I looked. It was like they were subverting all the rules written long ago about February, and getting away with it right out in the open. In every direction, little groups of accomplices huddled in circles laughing, shouting, smooching, playing, singing songs, and having the loveliest time. I walked around and I took it all in.

~M.E.

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Week 483 // Man

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Back when I was born
Men couldn’t talk this way
Only ever hold back a storm
Only ever lock it away

Back when I was a boy
Boys were a certain way
Boys had to conquer the world
Boys bled in the heat of the day

Lord now that I’m a man
A man’s an uncertain thing
A man isn’t alone on the edge
A man offers whatever he brings

Notes
Maybe I haven’t used this space enough to discuss my experience of manhood and masculinity. It’s a loaded subject that I’m not fully comfortable writing about, so I wanted to use this song in part to find the edges of my language on the topic.

I remember a time when the definition of a man was a lot narrower. This definition was not only narrower in the dimension of what a man could be like or act like, could think, feel, or express — but narrower, also, in the scope of people who could ever be accepted when describing themselves as men.

Our current definition of a man is mercifully a little wider, but still far too narrow. It causes deep injury to the souls of men and boys of all description, and to the people in their orbit. It alienates us from ourselves, from other men, from women, from our partners, and from humanity at large. It is in part why we men do damage to other people in ways both great and small, whether we mean to or not.

We are bound by the narrowness of our definition, and we strain and rage against it. We long to be free of it, to decide it for ourselves even as we are frozen in fear of that freedom. I’m not speaking for all men, of course. But I’m speaking on behalf of a great many who I’ve encountered. So many of us feel this way.

I’m glad to live through a time in history when we can ask questions of our manhood, when we can think again about what it means. This song is a small piece of that larger questioning. How can we be better men? I’m not sure, but we can try.

~M.E.

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Week 482 // Over and Over

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Wait ’til the moment is over
Over and over again
Realize that normal feels crazy
Over and over and over again

It’s anyone’s guess
It’s anyone’s guess
It’s anyone’s guess
What comes next

Compare our intel discretely
Over and over again
Turn off your conscience completely
Over and over and over again

It’s anyone’s guess
It’s anyone’s guess
It’s anyone’s guess
What comes next

Notes
Last week I was a bit more thoughtful about my anxiety surrounding current events, our current election cycle, and the lawlessness and indecency of our president. Last week was insane. This week I just feel hung over. I have no real insight here. I just want to vent a bit about the cycle of paranoia and disappointment that I’m trapped in as I remain engaged in our deteriorating process. After 2016, I had to take a big step back to cultivate my own wellbeing. It’s only February, and I might be there already.

~M.E.

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Week 481 // A Battle Prayer

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Modern ways
Don’t weigh me down
I can see through the darkness
I can hear every foot step
But for my own
But for my own

All the while across the field
I hear a prayer
In a language I don’t know
A note of anguish
Strikes a tone
It strikes a tone
A note of strangeness
All our own
All our own

Oh the dogs begin to howl
And the wild things grow angry
Blood and bone
Baring fangs
Each scared of their own
Scared of their own

And the cloud
Will take a toll
On both the wild and weary
Oh the wind works a theory
All its own
All its own
We’ve been fearing all our own
All our own

Notes
2020 was destined to be a fraught year. Election years always are, and this one will be the worst in memory. Today marks the Iowa Caucus, and tomorrow the most corrupt president in history will gloat through his State of the Union address on the literal eve of being acquitted by the US Senate following a sham trial that heard no witnesses. America is a nation at war with herself, and we must live through it. I offer us this prayer.

~M.E.

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Week 480 // Every Person

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On the way to work
I got stuck
On the wrong side
Of aging tiles
The water
Everywhere
Don’t be afraid of the others
They are like you
They are
The same
Look to them
Speak to them
I’ve been a coward
To think so much of myself
I am
Ashamed
That I think of myself
As if I am apart
And a leaking pipe
Becomes a river
Below
And it caries us
All the way
Home

Notes
I wrote this song in a different way, as a creative exercise and to find out what would happen. I may have tried this before, but I can’t quite remember. I recorded a fairly straightforward guitar piece, and without listening back to the whole thing, I began to sing and record lyrics phrase by phrase. I invented each phrase just before I sang it, and practiced each phrase only a couple of times before I recorded it. I didn’t allow myself to write down or listen to the previous phrases as I worked. I only reacted to my memory of what I had been singing, and whatever related thoughts came into my mind.

As I sang, I began to think about Jason Polan, who died today. I never heard of him before cancer took his life, but I wish I had met him. He was an artist who set out to draw “Every Person in New York“. Both for practical reasons, and because of his untimely death today at the age of 37, he never quite got to all of us. In order to draw as many people as possible, he worked quickly, sketching people as they moved about, trying in earnest to capture as many as he could. The work is a stunning testament to our shared humanity.

Polan did much of his work on the subway. Could there be a better place to encounter as many New Yorkers as possible? His subway drawings struck me deeply. So often it is a place where I shy away from the human encounter, guarding personal space and avoiding eye contact. Lately I’ve been experiencing a bit of agoraphobia in New York crowds, and the subway has been a trigger. I have wanted to feel apart from those around me, but here is work that describes our familiarity and commonality. It cuts straight through our otherness. I feel sad that this artist is gone. I feel sad that only his death brought the lesson of his work to my attention. I feel glad that I found this.

~M.E.

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