Week 186 // River Song 3

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Up on a roof
In the lower east side
The kind of thought
That doesn’t cross your mind
That when the morning comes
You’ll change your life

And simple
Simpler than it ever seems
That kind of moonlight’s
Only in your dreams
The kind of dreams
You wake in disbelief

Swim, Swim them deep
To the bottom of the East River
Coming up together in the air

Down on the street
And now we’re buzzing around
Got tunnel vision
And I don’t hear a sound
Are we the only people
In this town?

And never
Never did I ever think
I’d live to see so many sorrows sink
Down to the murky bottom of the drink

Swim, Swim them deep
To the bottom of the East River
Coming up together in the air

Notes
This is the third song called River Song that I’ve written, and it is very different from the other two, which are very different from each other. I suppose the differences speak to the fluidity of rivers, both as bodies of water and as thematic structures. This one is a bit about dreams, a bit about romance, and a bit about finding a place to put all of your troubles (in this case, you can swim them to the bottom of the river and leave them there — not really so different, come to think of it, from the sturdy old box in which I buried them way back in Week 20, which perpetually stands as a free download on my website, in case you’re interested). This song moves a lot. It is summery and lush, and I’m pretty glad I wrote it.

~M.E.

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Week 184 // How We Got Here

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I’m getting carried away with thoughts
And songs I might be singing
A chorus running through my mind

And all the while yonder glance you cast
And set me spinning
You get me spinning all the time

And you can think it all out loud
You know my ears are open
I’d hang on anything you say

And I would spell it out for hours
The way it set in motion
Were that a thing I could explain

But I don’t understand
How we got here
Or what it means to go this way
But it’s good

And out there standing on the stoop
You know my chest was pounding
I searched for anything to say

An early lesson struck me
Full of peace and truth resounding
I pushed the door out of the way

And if I ever knew the truth would
Taste so sweet my darling
I would have spoke it right away

Instead of weighing all the costs
I’d trust the wealth within you
I know exactly what I’d say

That I don’t understand
How we got here
Or what it means to go this way
But it’s good

Notes
Hey folks. I’m gonna keep the notes on this one short because I’m coming right up on midnight, and I’m nearly missing a Monday for the first time ever. I’m not going to do that. This song is about the rewards of telling the truth.

~M.E.

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Week 179 // Land of Giants

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Answer to
Answer to
No one else

Compromise
Compromise
Nothing at all

Acquiesce
Acquiesce
Never again

Think about
Think about
What you done

Nothing, it’s nothing, it’s nothing
It’s everyone
Nothing, it’s nothing, it’s nothing
It’s everyone else

But your mind starts to go
‘Cause you’re thinking too fast
And maybe you’re wrong
Or maybe it’s, Maybe it’s, Maybe it’s
Everyone
Or maybe it’s, Maybe it’s, Maybe it’s
Everyone else

You’ve stumbled upon
This land of giants
And named yourself king

You’ve climbed to the top
Of the mightiest anthill
Declared yourself
You are their king

And the time starts to go
‘Cause you’re bleeding too fast
And you know something’s wrong
And you feel yourself
Feel yourself
Feel yourself fading
And thinking of
Dreaming of
Counting on everyone else

You’ve stumbled upon
This land of giants
And named yourself king

You’ve climbed to the top
Of the mightiest anthill
Declared yourself
You are their king

Notes
This week’s song is about the pitfalls of stubbornness. This is something that I know a lot about because I’ve been stubborn my whole life. The problem with stubbornness is that it is an isolating stance. You’ve got to budge for somebody, or after a while nobody is likely to budge for you. Reliance on friends and family has been a running thread on this site for a while, and particularly lately. This song insists that if you take the isolating stance you are doomed, and at the last minute you’ll know you’re wrong, which for a stubborn person is the worst imaginable fate. It is better to soften you’re position along the way and be right about the big stuff.

~M.E.

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Week 178 // I Think This Boat Is Sinking

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I think this boat is sinking
Sailing away
You said it’s not a problem
Just relax

And you know my time is precious
Especially when I
Decide it’s fine to waste it
Goodness knows

And I’ve never been a nice guy
Especially when you
Were sure I was the nice guy
That ain’t me

You should have heard the things that
I’ve thought about you when
You thought you caught me smiling
How about that?

Notes
I saw the title and opening line of this week’s song scrawled on the wall of a coffee shop bathroom last week. I see lots of things scrawled on bathroom walls, but for whatever reason I took a picture of this one. I think I liked the way the letters in the word “sinking” were following a downward arc, as if they themselves were on the boat. I thought it would be nice to use this line as a springboard for a new song, so that’s what I set out to do this week. I tried to follow my instincts about what the line’s original author might have been reaching for with the boat metaphor. A boat carries people, like friendships and relationships carry people, so if the boat is sinking, perhaps somebody was in the midst of the end of one of those. I put my head in that space, and what came out was kind of mean, but realistically, friendships and relationships rarely end nicely. It actually felt good to write something mean though. Since this song is about somebody else’s friendship or relationship, I didn’t need to hold back for fear of attacking a real person in my life. That’s not to say I haven’t been in this place before. This is a song about trying your best to act nice, when nothing you’re thinking is nice at all.

To my friends and family who have been emailing and texting me to make sure that I’m alive these past several Mondays, and to my listeners losing patience in the middle of the day, I offer the following disclaimer: for the next month and a half or so, expect Mount Everest songs to be posted late on Monday Evening. That takes us through the end of the current semester of my graduate program, and this project just fits best into my life that way for the time being.

Here’s hoping your Monday doesn’t totally suck.
~M.E.

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Week 172 // Glass Houses

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Everyone lives in a glass house
Everyone burns their light at the same time
Everyone shifts as they dream about
Everyone else who’s standing in the same line
And no one has figured out
Their house is such we can see inside

Everyone lives in a glass house
And everyone learns their pain in the same kind
Everyone smash and careen about
Everyone love like burning anywhere they find
And no one has figured out
Their walls so clear we can see inside

Everyone lives in a glass house
And everyone holds the stone to defy their kind
And everyone curse as they think about
Maybe they learn too late what is in their mind
And no one has figured out quite yet
Their heart we can see inside

Everyone lives in a certain state
Everyone knows the truth that they dare not say
That everyone’s life is a sweet slight breeze
And everyone wills the chance they’ll disturb the leaves

Notes
I’ve written the opposite of this song a couple of times — plenty of songs about the ways in which our insulated and isolated natures confound and condemn us. This song is about the idea that perhaps our isolation is an illusion that we construct for ourselves with great effort, rather than a nature to which we are subject. Perhaps we’re so fundamentally similar to one another on a basic level, that it requires a strength of will not to be empathetic, not to see our same triumphs and tragedies happening over and over again in all of our neighbors houses. This is a song about how transparent we all are, about how people can see right into you if they choose to, but perhaps they don’t because they’re afraid it would be too much like peering into themselves.

Here’s hoping your Monday doesn’t totally suck.
~M.E.

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Week 169 // What Soft Inscription

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I had a knack for wasting time
Now I can hardly take it

I work this thought, at least I’m trying
Your truth is what you make it

I wrote it down some years ago
To keep my heart from shaking

Not so important what I wrote
As all the space it’s taking up

It gets lost
All of your ideals
Even your insights
Each of your concepts

I work the seam, and there it goes
It splits and I can’t take it

A conversation years ago
About a loss of station

It seems to me the kind of thing
That stings so we misplace it

What soft inscription do we leave
When we’re convinced we’re faking it

Notes
I recently ran into a curious object in my possession, which is the notebook that I used to communicate with people during the prolonged enforced silence of my recovery from throat surgery nearly five years ago. Being totally silent for a long time is an unpleasant thing, particularly when all you’ve wanted for nearly a year is to have your voice back the way it was, and it’s so close that you can taste it. The book is strange because it consists mainly of one side (my side) of conversations that were happening otherwise out loud. Reading this book, one performs a sort of archeology through which missing voices and contexts are filled in. One thing that struck me while I read through it was how mad I was at everyone around me. It wasn’t because of anything they had done. I think I was mad because of how sorry everyone seemed for me, and because if I told them how I really felt about conducting conversations on paper, about coughing up black shit all summer, about losing my sense of self to an injury, I would have been begging for pity, which I really wanted, and hated myself for wanting. So in these halves of conversations I’m trying to be really nice, and upbeat, so everyone can say “what a good attitude” but it’s transparent when I read it now that my attitude was pretty awful, and that I’d have preferred everyone else to evaporate. My attitude is a soft inscription across the whole document. I think the point of this song is that sometimes you just can’t fake it.

Here’s hoping your Monday doesn’t totally suck.
~M.E.

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Week 167 // Little Do We Know

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Little did we know
Thinking all of that time
Getting up close and personal
When we’re waiting in line

City lit up
City let go
City take a part of it
And bury it below

Of course I’m not feeling right
Of course I said it all before
Of course I thought of everything
It’s settled, I said it’s so

Of course I ain’t feeling right
Of course I said it all before
You know I think of everything
But little do I know…

Somebody ran out
Looking checkered and alive
Swinging cap-guns and counterfeit
Screaming run for your life

Not one of us thought
I think I’ll take that advice
Swallow shitloads of sedatives
Until we look at it right

Of course I ain’t feeling that
Of course it’s been a bloody week
Of course there’s more important things
It’s settled, I said it’s so

Of course I’m not feeling that
Of course it’s been a bloody week
And sure there’s more important things
How little can we know?

You can’t think of everything

You can’t look for everyone
You can’t stand for nothing else
It’s settled, I said it’s so

You can’t think of everything

You can’t look for everyone
You can’t stand for nothing else
It’s settled, I said it’s so

You can’t think of everything

You can’t look for everyone
You can’t stand for nothing else
It’s settled, I said it’s so

You can’t think of anything

You can’t look for anyone
You can’t stand for nothing at all
It’s settled, and it’s so

Notes
All throughout the fall there were posters all over the subway imploring the public to come forward with any information that could lead to the whereabouts of a missing autistic child who, if I am not mistaken, had disappeared from a train platform. The posters had his picture, a description of what he was wearing when last he had been seen, and warned that he was non-verbal, which would make communicating with the child problematic. Sometime within the last couple of weeks, I read a short news item online reporting that remains had been discovered someplace in Queens (I think), that were believed to belong to the same child. Posters like this go up all the time in New York, and I can’t help but notice how seldom I hear, even in passing, of a resolution like the one I read recently. The teenage girl in South Slope? The elderly man suffering from dementia? I’m not sure if anybody knows what happens to these people in the end. The world is a cavernous place, with nooks and crannies that people can disappear into. It’s an unnerving concept considering how desperately people care about one another. Sometimes it seems like the only thing to do is to be numb to the world, no matter how strange it gets. This is a song about that.

Here’s hoping your Monday doesn’t totally suck.
~M.E.

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Week 166 // So Much For Entropy

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Just look, it’s getting later
And the light fades on my street
Strange how who once were strangers
Ain’t no more the day they meet

And I been thinking backwards
About this century
This ain’t the end of nothing
Ain’t no such thing as history

And they, they could be the best of us
Like there’s any doubt that’s what they’ll be
And we, we can make the best of this
We can be like monoliths that bleed

What if we’re on to something?
So much for entropy
And the forces working against us
Don’t amount to anything

Awoke some blinding morning
Catch my breath and count to three
And there’s a concept forming
A little spark that you can see

Notes
This week I’m excited to welcome special guest backup vocalist, Rebecca Horton, who did a lovely job helping me fill out the backing melody that constitutes the core of this song. She rocks!

This is one of my periodic attempts at something large and sweeping, both sonically and thematically. I figured with the new semester almost upon me, this is the time to do something like that, before I’m face deep in media theory, and free time is nothing but a distant memory. I’m writing about the future, and our tendency to think about it in the context of the past, which might be all wrong. I was recently watching the new film Her by Spike Jonze, and a line of dialogue struck me, that “the past is just a story that we tell ourselves,” or something to that effect. Not only does this suggest that the past isn’t real — somehow made up, unreliable, or false — but as a reference to the past it is an unavoidable allusion to the nature of our future, which is somehow just as illusive. If the past is a story we tell ourselves, then the future is a story we haven’t read yet, and as a function of this concept, I think we sometimes have a tendency to get mired in the future as the location of the end of our story. But for all we know, we’ve yet to even meet the principle characters. This song is about all of the people we haven’t met yet, right down to the generations yet to be born. It’s an optimistic song, because sometimes you need one.

Here’s hoping your Monday doesn’t totally suck.
~M.E.

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Week 164 // First of the Year

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Lo and behold
The first of the year
Is a common thing

Auld Lang Syne
Sobering up, disappear
And I’m counting up my rings
Cautiously

Good God
I sold my thoughts long ago
On this very road

One time
I shook my branches just so
And I scattered all my snow
At your feet

Then there’s this story
And when I heard it
Slipped my fears behind me
Fading with the years
And though I’m sorry
That I slept right through the end
Could be the way that it’s intended to be

Stand in the cold
And Cling to the way
That it makes you feel

Cracked and exposed
You creak as you sway
And the past ain’t nothing real
Suddenly

And I heard this story
And when I heard it
Slipped my fears behind me
Fading with the years
And though I’m sorry
That I slept right through the end
Could be the way that it’s intended to be

Notes
Although it’s been nearly a week since the first of the year, this is the first Mount Everest song of 2014, and it is frequently my desire to mark such an occasion with a song that reflects on the meaning of what has always been my favorite holiday. In the past I’ve often used this opportunity to talk about renewal, and second chances, and all of the wonderful things that the New Year evokes. This time I’ve gotten a bit more esoteric. There are a few things going on in this song. There is reflection on the past, and our tendency to get stuck there, and examination of the future, and our habit of willing it to come too fast. It is also a song about stories, positing that perhaps it is best to fall asleep before the end of them. Just like we hurry to find our way into our future, we often listen to stories only to hear the end. That isn’t right. Also, in parts of this song I am a tree, and so are you, because trees are steady and evocative of the past. These particular trees finds out about the present by standing in the bitter cold. You’re never so present as when you’re cold, because you become aware of every inch of your body. I’m not sure what all of this amounts to, and my metaphor may seem like a reach, but I think it all comes together quite nicely.

Promise for next week: bonafide artwork that I will spend actual time making!

Here’s hoping your Monday doesn’t totally suck.
~M.E.

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Week 163 // Far and Howling Creatures

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Suddenly
Rubbed my eyes
And I was in the open air

And the violet streaks across the sky
Disarmed us all

And my heart
Ached with every gasp
That breathed the coming storm

And my islands
Far and howling creatures
Hear them call

God save us all
May we all escape this season standing tall

See them run
Up the frozen mountain
And they disappear

Like the sun
Lost to the horizon
Hours ago

And your breath
Lingers on the window
As you strain to find

Any figures
Coming for you
Shadows in the snow

God save us all
Does the window change the quick and steady fall?
Does it reveal a darker void than you recall?
And at once conceal the edges of it all?

Notes
This song is pretty special to me. As most of you know, for the past few years I’ve been trying to find my voice each week on this website. Many of you might not know that through all of that time, my older brother, Eben, has been working just as diligently to find his own musical voice. When we were kids, when asked if he could play a musical instrument, he would always reply that he could “play the radio pretty well.” While that has always been quite true (his taste is pretty excellent), I could always detect a note of sadness, or perhaps regret behind his characteristically sardonic response. But years later, Eben became a master of systematic self improvement. He is keenly aware of what he perceives to be his deficits, and one by one he addresses them. He reclaimed his manual dexterity at first by practicing fine penmanship with fountain pens, and it wasn’t long before he was tying his own own fishing flies, rehabilitating old rods and reels, restoring antiques, making lamps from whiskey bottles, woodworking, knitting, and working on his 1982 Volkswagen Rabbit truck, all in his spare time. It was only a matter of time before he became an expert at an instrument other than the radio. He found his passion at first in the Bagpipes, but as you will hear on this track, he has also developed into a wonderful Celtic Whistle player. Like all of his other myriad avocations, he has thrown himself headlong into the rich culture and history of Celtic music, and his expertise is as plain as day in the lilting emotion that he is able to evoke. His whistle sounds full of history to me, but more importantly it is full of his own voice, a voice that he has labored with great passion and resolve to find. I am immensely proud of him for what he has accomplished, and it is wonderful to finally have the opportunity to collaborate with him for all of you out there to hear.

As I listened to big bro’s whistle, I could hear vast spaces, and as I looked at the spaces around me, they were winter spaces, blanketed in white, obscured by an element that swallows the landscape and everything in it. This is a song about looking out the window and watching the world become slowly enveloped. It is about the trick that the window plays on us, directing our attention toward the menace of the driving snow, but simultaneously obscuring the vastness much greater than the storm. I doubt I’m alone in this experience. When I look out the window into the storm, it looks like the world ends ten feet from me, and anything could be out there. Winter is frightening in this way; with the world blotted out, we can’t trust our eyes. I suppose this song is about replacing exterior spaces with interior ones, because when the space outside of your window disappears, your imagination fills the void.

Thanks again to Eben for all of his help, and his enthusiastic participation in this song. I can’t wait until we do it again! While I’m at it, thanks to Sarah (my sister in law, Eben’s wife) for the awesome Fox Hat Christmas present that she knitted for me. Also, if you haven’t seen this, do yourself a favor and get to it.

Here’s hoping your Monday doesn’t totally suck.
~M.E.

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