This is dedicated to all the wild-eyed, overworked nurses and doctors out there keeping us alive during the pandemic.
Feral Nurse — April 12th, 2020
This is dedicated to all the wild-eyed, overworked nurses and doctors out there keeping us alive during the pandemic.
Feral Nurse — April 12th, 2020
This week I did something that I haven’t done in years. I bought some music. I mean sure, I do pay for music by subscribing to Spotify premium and buying tickets to live concerts. But I hadn’t purchased some music to have and to hold since I don’t know when.
The album that changed that for me this week is called All Melody by Nils Frahm. It’s music I’ve been listening to for the better part of a year now. I keep returning to it, and I keep liking it more and more. The songs are hauntingly beautiful and subtly crafted, with each note and shift ringing out with crystal clear purpose. You should listen to it.
I finally reached a breaking point with my affection towards this music and decided that I was no longer content to just listen to it. I wanted to play with it. I wanted to stretch it, reverse it, compress it, shift it, bop it, twist it, and pull it. You can’t do this stuff on Spotify—you have to have the audio file.
Quick side-note: There’s a similarity here to dating vs. being in a relationship. Listening to music on Spotify is like dating. You experience the music or person in the nice, curated way in which they want to be experienced. You’re also likely listening to other artists on Spotify (dating around), and you can walk away from any one artist whenever you’re tired of them. But purchasing music—now that is a relationship baby! All of a sudden you can truly take this music/person wherever you go. You can burn it on to a CD and play it in your friend’s 2007 Toyota Corolla, you can put it on your weird Chinese handheld mp3 player, or yeah, you can still play it on your phone. You can also hear this music from totally new, and deeper angles— you can slow it down, speed it up, and put it in reverse. Some of these new angles will be uglier, and some of them will be even more beautiful.
Disclaimer: I know more about music than I do about relationships.
Anyway, upon purchasing and downloading All Melody I was delighted to discover that the download included liner notes. I had a keen sense of nostalgia as I was reading them—remembering all of the CD’s I bought and insert-booklets I read. I also learned a little bit about Frahm and his recording process. For instance he does his recording in the historic Funkhaus Berlin recording studio, only records in one take, and only uses real chambers for reverb in the studio—all things that add an atypical depth of life to his electronic music.
Yet I was most struck with his articulation of a timeless conundrum in the artistic process. For creators, the music in the speakers, or picture on the canvas, or movie on the screen will never quite live up to the image which we have in our heads. These are his words:
“All Melody was imagined to be so many things over time, and it has been a whole lot, but never exactly what I planned it to be. I wanted to hear beautiful drums, drums I’ve never seen or heard before, accompanied by human voices, girls, and boys. They would sing a song from this very world and it would sound like it was from a different space. I heard a synthesiser which sounds like a harmonium playing the All Melody, melting together with a line of a harmonium sounding like a synthesiser. My pipe organ would turn into a drum machine, while my drum machine would sound like an orchestra of breathy flutes. I would turn my piano into my very voice, and any voice into a ringing string. The music I hear inside me will never end up on a record, as it seems I can only play it for myself.”
My song this week (Lucas speaking now) feels like a textbook example of this very conundrum. I had high hopes for it, and I think there are certainly redeeming qualities to it, but it is not what I hear in my head. Oh well, here’s to getting closer next week.
Finally, I want to extend an extra special thanks to my buddy Jonathan Gardner for providing the buttery bowed bass you hear on this track.
I was sitting down in my local coffee shop, getting ready to write a pretty arcane blogpost about technology and aesthetics, when I learned that Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and unidentified others died in a helicopter crash. Suddenly I didn’t feel like writing that post.
Like many of you, I feel deeply shocked, sad, and confused. My heart aches for him and his family. Yet, what feels truly strange—considering that I obviously didn’t know this man personally at all—is that I also feel a sense of personal loss.
Many of you who know me, know that I am a huge NBA fan. I don’t have a team I love—I simply love the rhythm of the game, the tension of close competition, and the players who bring their own unique spirit and skill to the sport. I’m that meme of Rob Lowe in the NFL hat, only for basketball. I just a fan of the game.
Kobe Bryant never qualified as my favorite player. That title has been reserved for Reggie Miller in the late 90s, Jason “white chocolate” Williams in the early 2000s, Tracy McGrady that one game he scored 13 points on the Spurs in 33 seconds, Steve Nash in the late 2000s, and LeBron James during the 2010s. Yet during the entire duration of my NBA watching life, Kobe Bryant has been constant presence. He was a force of nature on the court, and remained visibly close and meaningful to the game after his retirement in 2016. I literally do not know the game of basketball without Kobe Bryant in it.
He was the epitome of strength, skill, and confidence. He was the consummate alpha male on and off the court. He never flinched, never shied away from a challenge, and never succumbed to any weakness. He seemed to have a supernatural power—he seemed to be more than human. He was Kobe—a spirit you can channel on any court in the world. “Kobe!” Swish.
And this is why it is utterly shocking and mind-bending that he is gone. The person that seemed beyond human, went and did the most human and vulnerable thing possible.
I don’t think that there is much of a silver lining to be gleaned in any of this. Pardon my french, but sometimes things are just completely fucked up.
What can be gleaned, however, is inspiration and truth. The truth is, Kobe Bryant was not super-human. He was a man who worked incredibly hard to become great at the thing he loved doing. And while most of us could never dream of reaching the heights that Kobe did, we can all find peace and pleasure in following his lead, and working hard at the art, craft, or skill that we love.
I had planned to post the song that I recorded this week, but considering the moment, I think it is fitting to post a different song of mine. A song about loss:
I contradict myself a lot in this blog. I doubt anyone has noticed or cared about it. I’ve noticed, but I don’t care about it. You see, I’m of the Emersonian mindset. He once wrote that…
Ok, wait—before I quote Emerson, I just have to say that I’m completely distracted right now. I’m journaling a draft of this blog post in Central Park, sitting on the rocks by The Lake, and there are a group of rowdy, shirtless teens across the pond who are cheering loudly every time someone rows a boat by them. All of these poor, pond-ridden tourists are limply rowing by at a snail’s pace while these teenagers cheer them on like its the Olympics. It is incredible. I want to go join them, but that would not be cool. I’m not a teen anymore, even though sometimes I still feel like one…
And I’m going to pretend that was a smooth segue into the topic of teens—the source of my blog’s most recent contradiction. The contradiction occurred when I made this statement a few weeks ago:
“The difference between 19 year old me, and me now, is I’m right and he’s wrong. I’ll go out on a limb and say unless you’ve developed a drug habit, this is true in almost any discrepancy between one’s 19 year old self, and one’s 30 year old self.”
That was a pretty good line. And I suppose I stand by it. But the problem is that literally one week prior I was sincerely arguing that we all need to be acting more like freshmen in college. Lucas, Lucas, Lucas, Lucas…you can’t have it both ways, bro.
Except yes I can. You see, I’m of the Emersonian mindset. He once wrote that…
Wait! Hold the phone—you know what? I don’t have to quote Emerson to justify my contradictions. I can contradict myself because this is a hobby-blog—a hoblogby, if you will—and I can do whatever the hell I want. Proof: click this LINK! See? I can do whatever I want.
Yet, there is something even more important than my inalienable right to hoblogby-freedom that allows me to be so confident in my contradictions and rogue hyperlinks. It is the idea that something doesn’t have to be factual to be true. You can contradict yourself and still be telling the truth both times. Please note that this reasoning will not hold up in a court of law, and my lawyer friends do not appreciate me invoking their profession for clickbait purposes. However, I’m not a lawyer. I’m an artist, and this reasoning will hold up in the court of good art.
May it please the Court (of Good Art) to submit for the record, exhibit A:
“Art is a lie that makes us realize truth.”
Woooohooooohooooooooh, that’s a strong argument for the defense. I rest my case.
Now before I go on and celebrate my recent court victory, I just want to note that you can use quotes by Picasso in the Court of Good Art, but the same cannot be said about the Court of Good Behavior.
And now for the celebration. Woop woop! We did it! We won! Beauty is truth, and truth is beauty, and that’s all y’all need to know!
Anyway, having freed itself from the need for facts and consistency, art becomes both easier and more difficult than that other great search for truth: Science. It is easier because the initial bar for creating art is very low. Look, here’s some art. That was really easy to make and bad art is still art. However, the bar for creating good art is much harder to find.
Conversely, in science the initial bar is much harder to clear. There is a more vigorous and demanding method to follow. Perhaps you’ve heard of it? However, once you are conducting replicable experiments with accurate measurements, you’ve pretty much hit your mark for doing good science. Interestingly enough, if you are conducting bad science (i.e. not following the scientific method), that’s not actually science! It’s actually closer to bad art. So congratulations! You’re an artist!
I actually used to think I wanted to be a scientist—an astrophysicist, to be precise. But I realize now that I was more interested in the spiritual and aesthetic implications of certain theories of the universe than I was in actually doing a bunch of advanced calculus. Like, the multiverse? Great premise for a science fiction film. Or like, the big bang+big crunch? That’s just the universe breathing in and out. I know—like, far out, man.
It is pretty clear to me now that I was way more interested in being a bad artist than a good scientist. So I’m happy I chose the path I did. Rather than constantly trying to fit a scientific peg into an artsy hole, I’m free to just arrange those pegs into a model of a pterodactyl, string some rubber-bands across that hole, and start strummin’ a pterodactyl tune. Or, like I said earlier, I can do whatever the hell I want!
Now, I recognize that I still haven’t really talked about what it takes to make good art. And I don’t necessarily think that doing whatever the hell you want is always the right path to get you there. Frankly, there is no one right path. However, I do believe that in art (and in life), ridding yourself of useless hang-ups is vitally important if you are going to find a path that is right for you. So if fear of contradiction happens to be your personal impediment, congratulations my child—you are free. Please imagine me making some vaguely religious gesture with my hands as you read that last sentence.
Did I really have an Emerson quote to share? Well I had one in mind, but I actually could’t find it. But here’s one by Walt Whitman that basically says the same thing:
“Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large. I contain multitudes.)”
We had a little taste of spring this week in NYC—two straight days of sunny, sixty degree weather. Yep, after a long cold lonely winter, the ice was slowly melting. That is, little darling, until a vile, frigid, umbrella-crushing wind blew in some thick sloppy snow sludge just in time for the weekend. Still the dream of spring was planted firmly in my brain. I feel the warmth at the end of this icy tunnel. Plus, the terrible weather gave me a great excuse to just hole up in my room and record music. Life is good. Enjoy this week’s songs.
February 26 — When I was but a Babe
February 27 — Sunday on Mars
February 28 — Exiting the Void
March 1 — Ice Cream Social
March 2 — Raindrop
March 3 — Ancestral Temple
Hey! Is anyone awake right now? Its about 1AM at the crack of Monday— not exactly the optimal posting time for blog viewership, I know. But I’ve made a personal pact with myself to post something every week, and so its better late than never. Given a full plate of tasks and my predilection for procrastination, its been a bit hard to get everything done this week, and I’m a little worn out from trying. I think my appearance is hovering somewhere around Jack Nicholson level in the Shining. Therefore, seeing as how I’m very sleepy and just want to crawl in bed now, I’m not going to try to say anything profound or meaningful. Instead, I’m just going to cold stop talking and post my songs.
February 20 — Floating Towards Ice Island
February 21 — Small Joy
February 22 — Two Great Whites
February 23 — Maria Von Trapezoid
February 24 — Baseless Claim
On Saturday my roommates and I hosted a barbecue at our apartment. As I’ve expressed in blog posts past, I love my apartment and roommates so much. One couldn’t hope for a better household of randomly assembled twenty-somethings. Early in the day, when it looked like our plans were going to get cancelled due to pouring rain, I was really content to just play Nintendo 64 all day with my roommates— that’s how cool my roommates are. But the rain cleared and so the show went on. We fired up the grill, threw down some burgers and dogs, and our guests trickled in and out throughout the afternoon. A core of five of us lasted until midnight, eating, drinking and telling stories— we let our guard down and learned a lot about each other that night. In the immortal words of Ice Cube, “I gotta say, it was a good day.”
The icing on this delicious cake of a day was that I met a cool, kind videographer named Paul. My friend Morgan brought Paul (and Paul’s lovely Labradoodle Ringo) along to the party, and I got to pick his brain a bit about various films and projects he’s working on. Of course I didn’t want to pry to much— I’d guess Paul probably came more for the hot dogs and beer, and less to talk about his work life— however, in NYC it seems like every social event is also a networking opportunity.
A networking opportunity?
Did you cringe a little bit while reading those words? I did when I wrote them. As someone invested in a career path that doubles as an artistic expression, I’m not wholly comfortable wearing the business side of my musical life on my sleeve. After all, I didn’t start writing and playing music because I wanted to open up business opportunities— I think I did it because I was a sensitive child who discovered that music was a satisfying outlet for my creative urges… oh, and also because I just thought it was cool. So it feels corny and insincere to think of an interaction with someone at a barbecue as something called a “networking opportunity” that would benefit my “musical career.”
Yet the truth is, I do want to have a career in music and “networking” will undoubtedly be major part of any successes I have. It is a clear fact of life that people so often get jobs simply based on who they know. This is especially true in the music industry. If you need to find someone to score your film, or play violin at your wedding, or sing tenor in your indie rock opera, you’re first going to think of who you know, and then if you don’t know anyone, you’re going to ask someone you know if they know anyone. Sure, there are less personal ways of finding a musician like posting an ad on craigslist or contacting your local musician’s union, but the vast majority of gigs come to fruition as a direct result of human to human connection.
Thus networking is undoubtedly an essential part of any musician’s career. But personally, I just really dislike the term networking. It is such a lame business-professional buzzword, like “synergy” or “team building.” It makes me want to yak. The term also has an air of objectification. When you are “networking,” it sounds to me like you aren’t exactly treating people as people but as nodes in a cold synergistic digital network built to benefit your career goals— you are using people as a means to an end. Of course this isn’t the whole truth— it probably isn’t even the half truth— this is just the feeling I get from that bogus word.
If you’re like me, and become nauseous at the sound of the word networking, but still want to “make it” in some kind of creative field, I have good news. You don’t have to become some kind of overly enthusiastic, business card pushing, insincere yuppie blowhard to expand your work opportunities. That is, you don’t have to do that unless you are an overly enthusiastic, business card pushing, insincere yuppie blowhard. If that’s case, you do you brother! Because when we’re talking about networking (and I really hope that is the last time I have to use that word in this blog post), we’re really just talking about meeting people, remembering people, and hopefully having them remember you. And you surely want people to rememberer you as you actually are, not as some put on personality that you think will be pleasing and engaging. Granted, it’s probably a good idea to try to be polite and attentive when you’re meeting someone new that you might want to work with, but you don’t have to be spectacularly “on,” and you certainly don’t want to be anything other than yourself. This really isn’t all that different than meeting someone you might want to be friends with or someone you might want to date. Whether it is a potential friend, partner, or collaborator, what you are generally seeking is someone that you enjoy being around, someone that you can communicate well with, and someone with whom there is a degree of mutual understanding. And you can only really find that if you are being true to yourself.
In a very meta moment, Paul and I spent a portion of our conversation talking about the importance of meeting other people in your creative field and just generally being cool, personable, and easy to work with. We were two people in a similar creative field (he is also a musician, and I am also trying to begin doing film scoring work), being generally cool, personable, and easy going. Perhaps we will collaborate down the road or recommend each other for various projects, and perhaps not. I know that based on my first interaction with him, I would certainly have no objection to working with him. Furthermore, because he struck me as cool and professional (and because he is the only videographer I know in town) I would recommend him were someone to ask me if I knew any good videographers. Yet whether our connection yields professional gains or not, ultimately it was just nice (and always is nice) to have a pleasant conversation with another good human.