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I said to myself, “I am thoroughly happy and content, now. If my most pitiless enemy could appear before me at this moment, I would freely right any wrong I may have done him.”

Straightaway the door opened, and a shriveled, shabby dwarf entered. He was not more than two feet high. He seemed to be about forty years old. Every feature and inch of him was a trifle out of shape; and so, while one could not put his finger upon any particular part and say, “This is a conspicuous deformity,” the spectator perceived that this little person was a deformity as a whole. A vague, general, evenly-blended, nicely-adjusted deformity. There was a fox-like cunning in the face and the sharp little eyes, and also alertness and malice. One thing about him struck me forcibly, and most unpleasantly: he was covered all over with a fuzzy, greenish mold, such as one sometimes sees upon mildewed bread. The sight of it was nauseating.

The above is an abridged passage from Mark Twain’s 1876 short story “The Facts Concerning the Recent Carnival of Crime in Connecticut,” and the sense of disgust that the protagonist feels at this fuzzy little troll-person very accurately sums up my feelings right now about president-elect Donald Trump. I borrowed Twain’s description because I, in fact, cannot accurately convey with my own words the deep visceral disappointment that I am feeling about the election results. The closest I can come to expressing it with my own faculties is by making pained guttural noises (not unlike what I imagine an aardvark dying would sound like).

I, and nearly all of my friends, family, and Facebook feed are feeling shocked, outraged, and afraid at the prospect of Donald Trump being our next president. It is tempting (and quite enjoyable in fact) to sit back and fire insults at Trump and his supporters. Like this: Trump and his supporters are the human embodiment of a Nickleback song— tasteless, gross, loud, and limp. Yep, that felt good. I could do that all day. Yes it is tempting (and fun), and yet counterproductive. For here is the twist in Twain’s tale: the narrator reveals that the “vile bit of human rubbish seemed to bear a sort of remote and ill-defined resemblance to me!”

Like Twain’s character, we as a nation are now face to face with a clear embodiment of our own twisted nature. I don’t believe that most of Trump’s supporters are overtly racist, misogynistic, or stupid, yet I do know that Trump’s victory has seemingly given license for some of his supporters to partake in some very racist, misogynistic, and stupid behavior. The KKK in North Carolina has announced plans for a Trump victory parade. On Thursday at my own NYU the door to the Muslim Student Association’s prayer room was vandalized with the word “Trump.” On Friday a teacher reported that a ten year old girl had to be picked up from her school because a boy had grabbed the girl’s vagina—when asked why he did it, the boy said “if a president can do it, I can too.” Since the nation’s founding, America, while boasting some truly great cultural, social, economic, and technical achievements, has always harbored an appalling underbelly of racism, sexism, and domination. Because we have elected an appalling, racist, sexist egomaniac to be our president, this underbelly is simply being more blatantly exposed than usual.

If there is any silver-lining to the fact that some people now feel emboldened to play out some of their darkest drives, it is that we as a country can no longer ignore it. Whether in a single person, a family group, or an entire nation, things do not change unless it is first recognized that there is a problem. In my eyes, it is clear that we have huge racial, economic, social, and educational divides in this country, and that those divides breed fear, hatred, and disregard. We cannot simply write this off as the fault of those “ignorant” Trump supporters. If we want America to be great—not “great again,” but for the first time— we all have to accept responsibility for the fear and prejudice in our country and in our own hearts and combat it with love whenever we see it.

I am encouraged by the massive and active backlash against the election of Donald Trump. Right now there is a days long protest roaring at Trump Tower, just a subway ride away from me. Liberals and democrats have been suddenly inspired to action in a way that they would not have been if Hillary had been elected. This is a wake up call. There is a huge amount of energy behind the anti-Trump movement and if everyone who is disappointed in the election results decides to use this energy not towards Trump-hate, but towards acts community building, volunteerism, social justice, and general kindness, then I believe that we can transform Trump’s presidency into a step forward, rather than two steps backwards.

In addition to being inspired towards social action, I also also feel an urgent desire to double down on my musical life after this election. For playing music has been a bridge in my life to communities of people that I would have otherwise not been exposed. I’ve performed with and for people of all different races, cultures, sexual orientations, and political leanings (yes I’ve even been in a band with a Trump supporter or two). It did not matter what our superficial differences were, we were all there to just enjoy the incredible human endeavor of making music.

For it is not politics, but our shared passions (whether music, sports, cooking, dancing, art, science, writing, sewing, etc…) that have always brought people together. In 1999, it didn’t matter if Eminem was white, he was accepted into the historically black Hip-Hop community because he could rap really well. In 1947, it didn’t matter that Jackie Robinson was black, he was accepted into the historically white Brooklyn Dodgers clubhouse because he could play baseball really well. In 1898 it didn’t matter that Marie Curie was a woman, she was accepted into the historically male scientific community because she discovered Radium (and made many other great scientific breakthroughs I don’t claim to understand). Now I admit that Robinson and Curie were “accepted” into those communities with a lot of struggle and backlash, and I need to point out that you shouldn’t have to be superlatively great at something to be accepted into a community. Yet the point that I am trying to make is that it is in fact rarely politicians that affect true social change and progress— the most powerful positive force in the world is normal people coming together to do the things we already love to do.

lucasguitar

I’M BACK Y’ALL! I’m back. But Lucas, where did you go? Well, if you’ve followed my internet life, as I’m sure very few of you have, you’ll remember that once upon a time I was keeping a music blog here at LucasMurrayMusic.com. That practice tapered off last summer as I got more and more busy with my life of teaching and playing music, but here I am, back again. Before I left the blogosphere (wow, that is actually a word), I documented my life of gigging, my opinions about various bands, the risks and rewards of creating something, and kept web-diaries of three separate tours (two in America, and one in Africa!). On at least two occasions, I also did something similar to or exactly like proclaiming “I’M BACK!”

You know how certain rappers (read: every rapper) will at some point exclaim in a song “I’m back,” and you the listener will wonder where they went in the first place to be back… Well yes, that’s essentially what I am doing as well. But I now think I understand T.I. or Eminem’s need to claim to be back. There is an inherent insecurity in artistic endeavors. First of all, there is no urgent need for you to record a rap song, or write a blog-post, or paint a picture of a snow leopard. Every artist must overcome the fact that the world will keep spinning without their art. This in mind, the artist can feel like he or she must continually justify his or her work. Furthermore, if there is any time interval between works of art (which inevitably there will be), an artist might feel that he or she has become irrelevant (granted, it’s closer to the truth in my case to say that the artist was never relevant in the first place). Thus, one oft used defense mechanism is to bust through the wall Kool-Aid Man style and scream “I’M BACK!”

Anyway, I’m back, and I have a new plan: I will release one new song and one new blog post every week for nine months. That’s right, one full human gestation period. This is the first full week of April, and so my target end date is the last full week in December, specifically my birthday, December 30th (side-note: I just accidentally figured out when I was conceived).

But seriously Lucas? One new song and one new blog-post every week? Isn’t that a little ambitious?

Yes it is, skeptical inner voice, but only if you expect all of these posts and songs to be good. Frankly, they’re not all going to be good. I’m going for quantity, not quality. Yet I’m doing this in good faith that if I produce a bunch of work, some of that work will actually happen to be good.

There’s an anecdote I often repeat to people from the excellent book Art and Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland that illustrates the logic behind my new project. In brief, a college pottery instructor at the beginning of the semester informed half of her class that they would be graded on the quantity of pots they make, and she told the other half of her class that they would be graded on the quality of a single pot. Thus, all semester long the students in the quantity group were just uncritically churning out pot after pot after pot, while those in the quality group were paying precise attention to every detail of their pots. Predictably, at the end of the semester, the quality group’s pots were mostly good—some of them very good— while the quantity group’s pots ranged from very bad to very good. What may come as a surprise however, is that the very best pots in the class were all made by students in the quantity group.

This points to a crucial point about learning to make art: that if you wish to produce your best work, you don’t necessarily need to slave away worrying about every detail on a single work, you must simply create and create and create, and some of your art will be really good. Don’t worry about making bad work. Some of it will certainly suck. The shitty stuff is simply fertilizer for the flowering of great works.

Thus, in the spirit of producing work, here is Opus 1 (look below). I actually wrote and recorded this song when I was 19, and at the time believed it to be the best song I had ever written. I’ve certainly grown and changed since then, but I am releasing it now because I never really let it reach any ears beyond a handful of friends and family. Furthermore, the song also captures a yearning for something that I believe I am attaining in the pursuit of this project. Enjoy.

(Note: “Opus” is simply the Latin word for “work.” Composers have been using the word since the fifteenth century, often to number their compositions in chronological order. For this project I too will use this convention. Some songs may have subtitles, but every one will have an opus number.)