Anthropause

A new word…

In a paper published yesterday in Science, a team of geologists found that lockdowns caused human-linked vibrations to drop by as much as 50% between March and May. Collected from 268 seismic stations on every continent, the data reveal noise reductions at 185 sites, from the border between Namibia and Angola to Manhattan. Dubbed an “anthropause”, the lull proceeded as a wave, beginning in China in January before sweeping across the rest of the world in March and April. Even in a borehole 380 metres beneath Auckland, vibrations decreased by a factor of two.

LINK

Thursday


A visitor… and saffron in a mortar.

T-Shirt

In the course of less than one century the classic undershirt with short sleeves, also known as the t-shirt, became an outer garment, worn for every occasion, even under a suit. My dad went from never wearing a t-shirt, because he preferred sleeveless undershirts under his button down shirts in the winter, to frequently wearing t-shirts during the hot summers he spent in Santa Fe.

T-shirts now come in all colors and many display slogans or logos or some kind of image. How did this happen, I wonder? I remember an iconic photo of James Dean wearing jeans and a white t-shirt. Marlon Brando wore a white t-shirt in the 1951 movie A Streetcar Named Desire. It was the cowboy uniform and was adopted by poets and musicians in the Sixties. The t-shirt and jeans rose up together, from their beginning as work uniform. My grandpa disliked jeans. They reminded him of the workwear called Blaumann, literally blue man, which he wore in the factory where he worked as a machinist. I tried to tell him it was a similar color but a different fabric, to no avail.

My mom bought my first pair of jeans at a department store. I could immediately see that the fabric didn’t at all look like the denim that Levis jeans were made of. Levis were the gold standard among my friends. Mom didn’t understand what my problem was and so I had to wear the pants to school. The other students looked at me with pity, or so I thought.

You can’t wear a t-shirt to your grandfather’s birthday party, you can’t wear a t-shirt to the family dinner, you absolutely can’t wear a t-shirt to this funeral. Perhaps part of the allure of jeans and t-shirt was the fact that one had to fight to wear them in the first place. It’s funny now to think that just 50 years ago insisting on wearing a t-shirt and maybe even denim… and perhaps letting one’s hair grow down to the shoulders was such an act of rebellion.

I wonder whether it was in fact easier to have something so simple that could rile up parents and grandparents. Now one really has to think of something much more radical to achieve the kind of anger that would make a total stranger yell at me that I should be ashamed of myself and run, not walk, to a barber.

Reality

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
– Philip K. Dick

Reality is something the human race doesn’t handle very well.
– Gore Vidal

Enjoy your problems.
– Shunryu Suzuki

85% of the quotes on the internet are falsely attributed to give them additional weight by assigning them to a well known and respected author.
– Abraham Lincoln

New Moon

New Moon at 11:33am yesterday. The beginning of the cycle. Also yesterday, at 08:56pm, was the anniversary of the first step on the moon in 1969.

Washington Life

I was looking for something in that big, dark cupboard that’s the internet – an article I wrote for Musician Magazine sometime around 1992 or 1993 – and found this today… it’s a couple of years old, but some words can survive that time…

Music Notes: Ottmar Liebert’s Flamenco Revolution – Washington Life Magazine:

“Here’s the important thing that most people don’t realize, that all these traditions that seem so unique and unified, whether it’s jazz or flamenco, are really the result of a whole bunch of different things running into each other like marbles that hit each other. Most people know that flamenco’s Spanish, but they don’t know that probably something like 60% of traditional flamenco is Arabic. When you hear them singing and flattening the final note, that’s a very Arabic thing to do. I’d say at least 60% of flamenco. Why does flamenco sound that way and not like the gypsy music in Spain or the gypsy music in the Balkans? It’s because of the Arabic culture that was there for, what, 600 years? Then you’ve got the tangos, flamenco, and rumba, and that all came from the Caribbean, so if you took all of that away, what would you have? You’d have some folk dances, some Sevillanas and a few other things like that, but you wouldn’t have this richness that comes out of combining it.”

I believe I said Why does flamenco sound that way and not like the gypsy music in France or the gypsy music in the Balkans?

The Moon + the Guitar

I want to share a few observations I have made about creativity and how I use that experience while working on new music. But let me start with this….

Seven years ago Douglas Rushkoff published a book called Present Shock. Here is a link to a video on Vimeo in which he explains some the ideas behind the book. I loved the book and bought several copies of it so I could give some away to friends.

The book delves into circadian rhythms, biological clocks, and moon cycles in an effort to explain what happens when we subject ourselves to the constant terror of notifications and alarms.

Just as there are four solar seasons with rather obvious implications (winter is better for body repair; summer is better for exertion), there are also four corresponding moon phases, sections of the day, quarters of the hour, and even stages of breath, Filippi argues. By coordinating our internal four-part, or “four phase,” rhythms with those of our greater environment, we can think, work, and interact with greater coherence. Integrating the research of Dardik, Goodman, and Robinson along with his own observations, Filippi concluded that in each moon phase the brain is dominated by a different neurotransmitter. According to Filippi, the prevalence of one chemical over the others during each week of the lunar cycle optimizes certain days for certain activities.
At the beginning of the new moon, for example, one’s acetylcholine rises along with the capacity to perform. Acetylcholine is traditionally associated with attention. “The mood it evokes in us is an Energizer Bunny–like pep. That vibe can be used to initiate social interactions, do chores and routines efficiently, and strive for balance in our activities.”
Nearer to the full moon, an uptick in serotonin increases self-awareness, generating both high focus and high energy. Serotonin, the[…]

Excerpt From: Douglas Rushkoff. “Present Shock.” Apple Books. https://books.apple.com/us/book/present-shock/id572777094

Here is a summary found at this site:

1st week of the new moon—Acetylcholine:
associated with new ideas, making friends, and being open minded;
2nd week of the new moon—Serotonin:
all about getting things done, being industrious and reaching conclusions;
3rd week of the moon cycle—Dopamine:
it makes you want to relax and enjoy being with people (not about work or getting things done);
Last week of the cycle—Norepinephrine:
makes you very analytical, organising things and moving above the situation to figure out the structures which underline things.

Are you still with me?……….

I have made over thirty albums since 1990 and that translates into a lot of time spent in studios trying to encourage and harness that fickle beast called creativity.

For many years I wondered why some days and even entire weeks were ablaze with creativity and on other days I just wanted to study what we had accomplished, edit, and make detailed plans for the next mix. Then there were days when I wanted to sit down with a book and ignore the music I was working on completely. I put it down to some weird mechanism in my brain or perhaps something in the air that I responded to. I did notice that there were days when we all, meaning all of the musicians and engineers involved, felt creative and switched ON. Likewise we felt that we were running against the wall on days that it simply didn’t flow. What’s wrong with me? Why can’t I figure out a nice melody for this piece?

Rushkoff described that he wrote Present Shock using the four moon phases to plan his activities… creative writing, editing, engaging with others etc.

I don’t plan my days and weeks like that but it has been tremendously helpful to feel my way through the four phases. I can tell when I am switched on because work feels easy. I can trust my ideas, I can trust my ability to spin melodies… there is a sense of flow and effortlessness. I can also tell when I am in a different phase, because I WANT TO EDIT and study and compare and make plans. Knowing that this may well be how our brain functions, and how the hormones cycle through it, made a big difference to me. I am not fighting it anymore, unless I am getting paid to work on somebody else’s project – then I have to knock my head against the wall and hope that something good falls out. :-)

Check out Present Shock or, perhaps, just give some attention to the moon phases and how they seem to highlight different aspects.

Sky Reflection


Looking south on State Road NM-41 not far from Galisteo. The sky is not reflected in water, but in the roof of my car. When I noticed this reflection I was surprised because my car is always dirty. The only time it gets washed is when it stands outside in the rain.

Rain!

A summer thundershower! It’s been so dry that this is really really welcome.

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