Week 465 // The Glow Worm Serenade

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The Earth is aglow
And we are alive

The Earth is aglow
And we are alive

The Earth is alive
And we are aglow

Notes
Riding back to New York from Vermont in a rented minivan, David and Nat could tell that I was feeling anxious about arriving home in time to write and record a song today. It was after five, and traffic seemed to be slowing. Luckily, I was riding with two of New York’s most creative and supportive musicians. They convinced me to strum out a new tune in the car, and they offered to help. My range of motion was tight, and recording conditions were less than ideal, but we made it work as best we could. We were coming off the emotional high of a beautiful annual gathering with our dearest friends, so the sentiment came easily.

David and Nat provided whistling, vocal improvisations and harmony, and I plucked out a nice thing on the guitar while I sang a simple notion into my phone. The engine roared, doing its best to obscure the finer subtitles of Nat’s vocal “trumpet” solo, but you can hear it there behind it all. David sounded like a beautiful song bird.

I’m grateful for this life and the people who live it with me.

~M.E.

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Week 464 // Melted Wax

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Take this
Confidence
Sunshine
Icarus
The moonlight
Never melted wax
Icarus
Didn’t think of that

Notes
This song was written around a short and simple poem I concocted using the myth of Icarus to poke at questions about confidence. He probably had too much of it, which is something a lot of us can relate to. Usually when we fly too close to the proverbial sun, we don’t really plummet to the earth, but our confidence often can. Unlike Icarus, we can often build ourselves back up again, and look the situation from another angle. We can be wiser than Icarus and make our next flight by the light of the moon instead.

~M.E.

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Week 463 // The Persistence of Life and Those Living It

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There’s a change
On the way
There’s a change
On the way

I’m gonna need you
With me
I’m gonna need you
With me
I’m gonna need you
With me
I’m gonna want you
Close

There’s a storm
On the way
There’s a storm
On the way

I’m gonna need you
With me
I’m gonna need you
With me
I’m gonna need you
With me
I’m gonna want you

Notes
This is my second favorite recording of this song. As I wrote it, I made a quick demo of it on my phone’s voice memo app so I wouldn’t forget it. With the bedroom door and a window open, Rebecca’s shower could be heard in the other room, and cars and trucks were loudly rattling by outside. Juxtaposed with this somber meditation on change, the soundscape grounded the song in all of those things that remain the same — the persistence of life and those living it. Unfortunately, those sounds were too assertive in the lo-fi recording. The track, although beautiful, was utterly unfit for public consumption, so I rerecorded it with a bit more care, and a lot less noise. It was a shame to lose something beautiful in this song, so I dedicated the title to that which was lost.

~M.E.

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Week 462 // The Words

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I walk for miles to you
I walk for miles to you
You’re waiting there
You’re waiting there
What am I to say?
What am I to say?

I write a song to you
I write a song to you
Try to find the words
Try to find the words
It doesn’t say enough
It doesn’t say enough

I’ll spend the day with you
I’ll spend the day with you
Holding onto this
Holding onto this
I find the words again
I find the words again

Notes
How do we say we care? Songwriters have sung of scaling mountains, of braving the elements, of overcoming great trials just to say “I love you”. The very art of writing love songs is meant to convey that which we otherwise might not muster the courage or eloquence to say in plain words to another person, to elicit a grander understanding of one’s depth of feeling. But walking for miles and miles and writing love songs are just gestures. They can be meaningful gestures to be sure, but the true language of expressing oneself to another person doesn’t live in those sweeping gestures. It thrives most in time spent together, in quiet moments, in simple kindnesses, in listening ideally at least as much as you speak. It seems that I’ve written a song about the inadequacy of song. The snake is now eating its own tail, but there you have it.

~M.E.

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Week 461 // Our Way in or Their Way Out

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Let philosophers opine
On the meaning of the tides

I object to being made to come ashore

After sleeping I awoke
My throat was parched but still I spoke

I don’t long to be afraid anymore
I don’t wish to be consumed by the war

I don’t mean to come off as rude
And I don’t want to seem obtuse
But I don’t feel like being the student anymore

Are we entertaining doubt?
Our way in or their way out
I don’t know, is this a good world?

Catch me napping in the park
Talk to strangers after dark

I don’t long to be afraid anymore
I don’t wish to be consumed by the war

I don’t mean to come off as rude
And I don’t want to seem obtuse
But I don’t feel like being the student anymore

Notes
I’ve spent a lot of my adult life trying to convince myself to give into conventional wisdom. When we’re a bit younger, we assume we know better. It takes learning a bit of humility to come around to the notion that others might have figured out a thing or two before we came on the scene, and that things are often done a certain way for a good reason. For the most part, conventional wisdom has done alright by me. When I shook off my sense of superiority over the way things are done, I found myself in a solid career with some stability, able work toward a future with my partner. Not bad.

But I’m getting old enough to understand that conventional wisdom has frustrating limitations. I have an inkling that many of the world’s most pressing problems somehow boil down to: “this is just the way it has always been done”. Certain clever people need to assert that on this subject or that one, they might actually know better. Lots of people do this, but they’re usually just told to grow up or to be more realistic. The oppression wrought by sensible people runs deep enough that naive people can rarely be told apart from clever ones. Having noticed this, I offer no solution whatsoever, other than to sing about it. I’ll get back to you.

~M.E.

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Week 460 // In a Sea of Stars

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Home
In a sea of stars
Calling out your name
With the window
Open
And it doesn’t matter who hears

Home
Home
Home

Day
And the trouble’s gone
Walk the same way home
In the cool breeze
Sun light
Everything is looking up

Home
Home
Home

Notes
I wrote this guitar part in my parents’ living room in New Hampshire on Sunday morning. I’ll often record clips of ideas on my phone so I’ll remember them later. Listening back as I prepared to make this recording, I heard my dad say, “that one’s peaceful, what do you call it?” I replied as I continued to play, “it’s called I don’t know, I just made it up.”

My mom suggested, “well you need to give it a name,” to which I replied, “that’s usually the last part.”

Now that it’s done I, I have a less evasive answer. It turns out it’s called “In a Sea of Stars”. I wanted to give it the feeling of home that I always feel in that living room in New Hampshire. The words don’t necessarily speak to that exact Sunday morning in that exact room, but I hope the feeling comes across.

~M.E.

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Week 459 // Angry Kind Faces

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Every seat is a seat in the middle
I squeeze myself in
Everyone is a little bit pissed about it

Every face is a little bit angry
And little bit kind
It depends on which angle you’re looking from

Everyone just looks so alone
And they don’t look like they know where they’re going yet

Every seat is a seat in the middle
I squeeze myself in
Even though it’s a little uncomfortable

Every face is a little bit angry
And little bit kind
It depends on the angle you’re looking from

Everyone just looks so alone
And they don’t look like they know where they’re going yet

Notes
Living in a city, I fall into the trap of getting a bit obsessed with transit. It consumes a big part of life here, so when I reach for a broad brush to use to describe my days, it’s always close at hand. You’d think I’d have had my say on the subject after I wrote my masters thesis about the MTA, but it works its way into my songs frequently. This one looks at the people riding along with me, and tries to see past the default scowl of the train rider. There’s usually a real person in there, erased behind frustration and anger. It is my hope that in most cases the condition is temporary. In the best case scenario, we lose ourselves when we set out, and find ourselves when we arrive.

~M.E.

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Week 458 // The Light, the Way it Looks at Dawn

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In the morning
All the way to where I’m going
Catch the melody so lonesome
On the breeze from where it’s blowing
But I am not lonesome
And in this I truly am amazed

I’m amazed
At the rain on the windows
I’m amazed
At the fog on the hillside
I’m amazed at the light
The way it looks at dawn

Once or twice
In the tracing of my steps
I have overwhelmed my memory
And in the moment I have wept
For the monsters that pursued me have gone home
And I am so amazed

I’m amazed
At the solid earth beneath me
I’m amazed
At the clarity of birdsong
I’m amazed at the light
The way it looks at dawn

Oh impermanence
Reliable and true
I could drag my heels to trenches
Build a fence ’round me and you
But we know fences will blow over
No matter what
We will be left amazed

I’m amazed
At the moments as we miss them
I’m amazed
At the frequency of sunrise
I’m amazed at the light
The way it looks at dawn

Notes
How often do you watch the sunrise? You know it happens every single day, don’t you? So many of them pass, and we let them, and we’re okay with it. We have to be. We can’t capture every moment. We can’t savor every passing breath of our life, no matter how precious.

There’s a tension in this song between the relief and amazement at having traversed some unsavory moments in life, and the thrum of anxiety in trying in vain to adequately savor our amazement during our loveliest moments. Of course the answer is to seek serenity in the beauty of impermanence, to stop resisting it. After all, impermanence is just as much the reason the unsavory moments pass, as it is the force that brings a lovely moment to its inevitable end. We need endings. We can’t go on without them.

~M.E.

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Week 457 // Wait Up

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Wait up for me
I’m on my way home
Wait up for me
I’m on my way home
My way home

Wait up for me
I’m on my way home
Wait up for me
I’m on my way home
My way home
Everywhere

Notes
It’s Monday morning in Olympos, Turkey, a seaside backpacker hamlet built amidst ancient Lycian ruins that dot the forest and rocky Mediterranean beach. It’s an improbable place, and I can’t really describe it. I’m here with Rebecca, and tomorrow we’ll make a long journey back to New York together. She’s been away since early June.

I wrote this quick meditation on homecoming the day before I left for this trip. At face value, it was a funny thing to write just before leaving home. But coming home doesn’t mean coming back to my apartment, or going back to New York. Coming home means coming to Rebecca, and that’s what I was about to do. This is an “almost there” tune.

~M.E.

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Week 456 // A Way to Get There

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If there’s a way to get there
I will go
If there’s a way to get there
I will go
When the season’s ending
I will know

If the moon is rising
I’ll be there
If the moon is rising
I’ll be there
I’ve been looking for you
Everywhere

Notes
I’m writing this note from JFK International Airport in Queens, but by the time this is post is up, I’ll be in Istanbul. By now I’m reunited with my wife. By now I’ve glimpsed one of the great cities of the world for the first time.

This is a song about longing and distance and the passage of time. It is simple and slow. It was written in great anticipation, attempting to internalize the truth that patience pays off. I don’t know the amazing things I’m to see and do in the coming days, but I know my traveling companion. My wait is over now.

~M.E.

P.S. Photo credit, Rebecca Horton.

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