Thursday, September 20, 2007

“Bedroom Electro” Attempts to Step Out Into the Hallway.

(This review was written, initially, for a far more mainstream journalistic audience than I generally assume my blog to have. I was initially planning to revise it before posting it here, altering some elements to accomodate for a readership with closer to connoiseur-status music and art-crit knowledge, but I decided against it, and it therefore appears now in its original state. Thus, I apologize for any over-simplifications or unnecesary explanation contained within this piece.)

In the 1950’s, rock’n’roll made it possible for just about any skilled musician to form a band. In the 1970’s, punk made it possible to do so if you barely knew how to play. Now, a new genre is questioning whether you must be a musician at all.

A few years ago, with the fairly sudden popularity of bands that crossed electronic music with indie rock, most notably The Faint and The Postal Service, a bit of a strange phenomenon seems to have occurred that allowed indie and emo scenesters to suddenly admit in public their previously embarrassing tastes for electronic dance music. This transition was influential in giving rise to the extremely short-lived “electro-clash” craze, and, more lastingly, a strange pseudo-sub-genre that is often referred to as “bedroom electro”, due to the fact that the music is usually the product of one individual crafting electronic songs on equipment that is small-scale enough to fit within his bedroom (often, sadly, comprised of nothing at all more than his personal computer and a set of headphones). To be honest, even at this point in its development this do-it-yourself electronica by-product was nothing new, dating back at least to the mid 1990’s, as young fans of Nine Inch Nails began to use their home computers to impersonate Trent Reznor’s commercialized versions of industrial beats (I remember once seeing a computer sequencing software that had all of the electronic noises from a certain Nine Inch Nails record preprogrammed into it so that fans could make new songs using the same sound palate at home). Regardless of its exact origin, the two primary schools (the industrial and the indie) have since caught up with each other and veritably flooded internet sites such as Myspace and Purevolume with computer-generated “bands” whose music rarely exists in any other form besides the MP3 files posted on these sites.

As a musician who myself maintains a recording project with much electronic content that loosely falls, by default, within some of the defining frameworks of this genre, although arriving within those guidelines by different methods and with different influences, I receive almost daily internet solicitation from “projects” of this sort, and, although an occasional gem of creative potential will shine through, most of these acts fall prey to the same parasitic stumbling-blocks that have plagued the genre since its advent.

Frankly, the very nature of Bedroom Electro is also its biggest problem. The vast majority of its proponent artists use virtually nothing besides their home computer in order to write, perform, and record their tracks. Most of what I hear of the material that is floating around the internet calling itself “electro” or “electronica” is created entirely with computer sequencing software such as FruityLoops or Acid, that allows the user to copy, paste, and loop pre-recorded sounds using merely a drag-and-drop style interface. Therefore, creating a song that is most listen-able within this format often demonstrates merely the artist’s computer proficiency, rather than their talent as a musician or songwriter. In fact, the vast majority of the individuals who perpetuate this genre turn out to be “musicians” in no other sense at all.

Of course, there are exceptions. It seems that for every ten mouse-clicking teenagers calling themselves “electronica artists”, there is at least one purveyor of Bedroom Electro who is a legitimate musician, often making electronic music as a “side project” sort of venture to their other musical endeavors. Clearly a distinction must be drawn, therefore, between Bedroom Electro “artists” and “dabblers”. I have personally learned some quick ways to tell the difference, and I’ve stopped listening to the dabblers completely. I’m pretty sure, by this point, that I’ve heard every possible combination of the same bank of sounds that FruityLoops has to offer; it doesn’t seem a necessary use of my time to revisit them ad nauseum.

It seems that this challenge would force a conscious effort, to some extent, onto the actual musicians working the genre to make the chasm of distinction between these two sub-categories wider. Unfortunately, although attempts are often made, they most often fall quite short. The perpetual problem for musicians in this realm becomes how to go about moving the music past Myspace. So you’ve created an internet site where people can listen to your electronic music. So have all of the mouse-clicking dabblers. Where, then, does the next frontier of distinction come? Live performance? A greater deal of tangible (non-electronic) instrumentation? Musical experimentation to a degree at which the capabilities of computer software falls short? All of these solutions have posed perpetual problems for electronic acts of all kinds when attempted.

I initially set upon writing this piece as a review of an E.P. recently released by one such project of this nature that I've been in contact with. This outfit is the brainchild of one musician that I know to be a rather talented individual, although various other members have been added at different points in time to facilitate some of his attempts to move the music “out of the bedroom”. I have seen this project’s mastermind attempt all of the above-stated potential solutions and more since the outfit’s inception, all with rather struggling results. Attempts at live performance have been tainted with either an over-reliance on prerecorded elements that make the audience wonder exactly what is being “performed” live, or an over-abundance of live instruments replacing the electronic sounds on the recording which makes for a very different sounding band. Even on the recordings, it seems that as they add more non-electronic instrumentation (guitars, live drums, etc.) they stray further from their desired sound, and end up fumbling awkwardly with the defining characteristics of being an “electronic” act. Basically, as I listened to their new release, it became evident that the harder that they seem to be trying to distance themselves from the mouse-clicking computer dabblers, the harder it becomes to listen to their music. The more I think about it, the more that I realize that this seems to be a common theme, and quite a dilemma for the more legitimate representatives of the genre to overcome.

Bedroom Electro’s very definition, therefore, appears to be Bedroom Electro’s biggest problem. Until the truly talented experimenters with he genre can find a more effective way to go beyond merely poking their heads with curiosity out of the bedroom door and actually step out into the hallway that leads to the places where the rest of legitimate music resides, it seems hard to take even the most earnest of these outfits seriously, and the average public will continue to have no clear way of distinguishing the musicians from the non. Until that step is made, the harsh truth is that there’s no real reason to peer into the bedroom; there’s not much here to see besides a pile of coats on the bed while the party continues in the other room.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Words On Naked Mannequins Render Them No Longer Naked?

The future of Miss Claustrophiobia, in her plaster form of representation, involves paint and words and modifications.

I have many ideas, and many notes scribbled in various notebooks, about the elements (an extremely varied and diverse set) that are to be captured on her body. These words and images and elements will all factor as components of the eclectic identity of the conceptual lady, and will help me to demonstrate the ideas about identity, insecurites, phobias, and humanity/ human life/ psychology in general that I undertook the project in order to demonstrate.

In one particular notebook that is dedicated to scribbles, ideas, and very early drafts, I have haphazardly jotted the following.

Installment-art/sculpture

project- collage

on mannequin

"Thrill of the chase."

words to put on-

I don't need this,

But I do.

(Conflicted ideas of attraction,

based on female body)

include- clock,

house (symbols of

comfort)




These words are a form of poetry, these images and scribbles a form of visual art. These are still more completed facets that lead to a larger, perpetually-incomplete work.

(I must warn once again that these words do NOT express anything near the entirety of the concept of the project, but are merely a small subset of examples of smaller concepts that accumulate to make a (ideally) far larger statement about the construction of individual human self-identity conceptions.)

Monday, September 17, 2007

Miss Claustrophobia's future, as it relates to her past and present, as it sculpts her identity.

Miss Chloe Claustrophobia, as she appears in the photographs posted in earlier entries of this blog, is not in her completed state. Those photographs are depictions, each an individual completed work of art in-and-of-itself, of a raw-material, prior to its use, for a larger piece of art. Miss Claustrophobia the mannequin is merely a canvas, on which Miss Claustrophobia the piece of art, which is merely a depiction of a single set of facets of Miss Claustrophobia the concept (the larger piece of art), will be rendered. The prior-posted photographs are therefore similar to art photographs of a blank canvas, positioned at particular angles, in order to make a statement.

Is one phase of her existence, one particular medium of art with which her concept is capture or exemplified, more genuinely, therefore, who "Miss Claustrophobia" is or is intended to be than another? Absolutely not. Is the pre-modification mannequin that graciously sat as my model for the photography set less authentic, complete, or representative of the themes that I use her to demonstrate then the form that has been muddled and modified with paints and words and sculptural elements? Absolutely not. Much as an individual at a prior stage of their development is still relevant to understanding their identity, even if their views or dispositions may not agree with the present juncture, each stage of rendering of the identity of Miss Claustrophobia is relevant and crucial to a complete understanding of her conceptual identity. Miss Claustrophobia as a naked, unadorned mannequin, struck and captured into a variety of poses by the click of a camera-shutter, can tell us things about the ideas being expressed that the post-adornment version of the same physical mannequin cannot after the time has been taken to spell out on her the physical ideas that I wish her body to eventually express.

I might be getting ahead of myself a bit. Miss Claustrophobia has yet to actually be modified or adorned.

In fact, she currently sits, still naked, in a corner of my office/ bedroom/ studio, with a ribbon on her neck, placed there on a whim one night and yet to be removed. The ribbon says "Bride to Be," and was worn by my frequent (and oftentimes reluctant) performance-art collaborator Hysteric Noir to a suicide-themed costume-party (get it? social suicide? yeah, ok, hardly anyone else seemed to think it was as funny as we did, so you're not alone...). The whim worked. The "Bride to Be" ribbon, and the reason that it was initially purchased and worn, fits the concept of the project rather well, and is therefore an appropriate adornment for Chloe at this phase of her development.



(I'm betting that the reader is now beginning to think that this sort of description seems a bit over-wrought and superfluous. And I agree. So I will alert you now to a shift in narrative modes. I am now relying on abstraction to illuminate, which I thoroughly believe not to be the non-sequetor it might initially seem.)

Performance art? Yes, this factors into the identity of Miss Claustrophobia as well. Does this mean that as one of the medium facets of the project I have a large scale and conspicuous performance-art exhibition planned? As of now, absolutely not.

However, this project is one which deals with, at its most simplistic level, issues of identity.

It is my firm belief that an artist's creation of his own identity is inherently an act of performance-art.

Therefore, individuals who come into contact with artists who are aware of this act of identity-creation that they are engaged in factor, whether they wish to acknowledge it or not, as collaborators in the demonstration. They are participants, and often even raw-materials, in the piece of art being constructed.

The relation of my anecdote about the suicide-themed party, and the subsequent placement of the ribbon on Chloe's neck, where it accidentally seemed to make sense to me as a facet of the mannequin's current identity, is in-and-of-itself a piece of art (another raw material) that I am utilizing to demonstrate a particular angle on the overarching idea.

This entry itself, therefore, is (hypothetically) merely another piece of art, another aspect of Miss Chloe Claustrophobia's identity. As will, and has been, every other, subsequent and to come.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Nihilist Sculpture Project Nears Completion

While attempting to find the footing from which to begin the critical discussion of the photo-set posted in my last couple of entries and the subsequent future of the Miss Claustrophobia project, I realized that this would probably be a good time to (give the reader a bit of a break from this singular subject and) fill in some helpful gaps of information on similar/ somewhat/ arguably interconnected projects. Therefore, I feel that before proceeding I should reprint a press-release that I wrote several months ago for The Asbjorn Poetry and Arts Collective that has yet to appear on this particular blog. If you are having a hard time gethering how this article relates to the projects that I've been discussing lately (other than explaining names haphazardly dropped in prior installments) keep reading in the future, the conceptual connections should become more apparent.

PHOENIX, Arizona-

Chris Castle, a nihilist performance artist based at ASU's West Campus, braces for controversy as he proposes plans for a post-modern sculptural work constructed entirely from green Bible pamphlets handed out around campus by trench coat-wearing evangelicals.


Castle, a founding member of the Asbjorn Poetry and Arts Collective, is a notorious individual in the local post-modern art community. His past projects have included performance installments on themes that blur the lines between representation and reality. With this project, he is taking his stab at an age-old question. "We're all so wrapped up in the insignificant aspects of our 'lives' that we fail to see the meaning, though the 'meaning' of our 'lives' may be just that there isn't one at all." This piece will be constructed of green-covered copies of the New Testament that have been distributed in throughout campus by an evangelical organization. As for the shape that the sculpture will take, Castle says, "I keep thinking of this Belle and Sebastian song… where they're talking about life-size sculptures of the Velvet Underground… but I don't have enough bibles for that. It will assume shape based more on my latent insecurities, hopes, dreams, loss of faith, all of this." He says that the project was inspired by "the lack of inspiration.. inspired by my own despondence, how little inspiration there really is." He proceeds to discuss the art of William Shatner, and compares his project to a particular song - "the first line of the song is 'live like you're gonna die. Cuz you're gonna.'"


When it comes to the scope of the sculpture project, Castle claims that "there will be random displays of the work in places where its meaning is most needed and most often ignored. Perhaps at the Greyhound bus station, a busy street-corner, shopping mall, or freeway off-ramp." He says that the green Bibles provide an ideal medium for bringing his concept to life for a myriad of reasons. "Green, like money, is a symbol of decadence, and how the living are made to service the unliving. The bible is an empty text full of wives tales. They mean nothing, yet to some, everything. Plus, they were free. I dropped the last of my paycheck on Jack-in-the-Box tacos."


Although the medium of this work may make it seem to invite controversy, Castle isn't anticipating much critical fire. "I expect most people to not even realize there's a sculpture present. And if they do, they won't be able to separate it from the dismal reality that surrounds it." Although other nihilist artists close to Chris Castle, such as William Steele Jameson III, assert that they've witnessed much work completed on the project, the answer from Castle himself is far from clear. "That's difficult to determine. If by 'work' you mean… copious amounts of… inspiration… then the project is nearing completion." The organization that distributed the green Bible pamphlets was not available for comment.


(a photograph from my own portfolio of Chris Castle's sculpture "Savior Rising From the Pool.")

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Miss Claustrophobia, In her naked phase.

These are some more stills from the photography set of Miss Chloe Claustrophobia, pre-modification. (These images also appear in my visual-art portfolio at DeviantART.)


"Construction, Images, Angles."


"Reality, Identity."


"Plaster Snoot in Reverse."


"Pomp and Deterioration."


"In the Spotlight, Girl."


"Slide Inconspicuous."


"The Small of the..."


"CAO"


"Cookin' with the Mannequin." (pictured with Chloe, Chris Castle, nihilist sculptor.)


"Still in Smoke."


"Cold Conversation."


"Blurring Constructed Identities; A Self-portrait with Miss Claustrophobia."

Monday, September 10, 2007

A bit more on Miss Claustrophobia...

OK, I'm going to try to pick up where I left off in my convoluted attempt at an introductory synopsis of the Miss Chloe Claustrophobia project.

In case you are having a hard time deciphering what I'm saying through my banshee-shreaks in the recording posted in my last entry, I'll begin by posting the lyrics this time around. Yes, they're vague. Yes, they're minimal. Yes, they're nonspecific. Yes, that's part of the point.

She came to me late one night, and she said
'Stay out of the snake pit.'
I don't know what she meant when she said,
'Stay out of the snake pit.'
Miss Claustrophobia's seen all of the men
Fall into the snake pit.
I don't know what she meant when she said,
'Stay out of the snake pit.'

When she appears, and I'm just
Nervous, and shaking,
It seems that she's naked and thinks
I'm looking for advice
But when your illusions have crumbled,
She'll leave you where you are,
In your bed, to sweat.


(I should also take this time, before I move on from the musical element of the project, to acknowledge my collaborators in this phase. "The Plea of Miss Claustrophobia was recorded by Wes Hopeless and myself at The Hopeless Estate in El Mirage, Arizona. Wes Hopeless played drums, spoons, various electronic noisemakers, synth, and back-ground screaching on the track, and I contributed the lead vocals, guitar, bass, synth, and tambourine [the bruises and gouges on my right thigh have still yet to completely go away]. In the video, Lady Hysteric Noir is playing bass, and videography was accomplished, with rather extreme constraints of space, by a gentleman named Buddy. The instrumental elements of the song were composed by myself, Wes Hopeless, and Hysteric Noir. As always, I am extremely indebted to and grateful for my collaborators.)

With the ideas of the dream and the conceptual attempt of the song still fresh in my mind and yet to be completely expressed, I began collecting raw materials for a visual facet of the project to further express the concept in mind. The primary find, in this regard, proved to be a mannequin that Chris Castle and I (yes, the notorious nihilist sculptor and performance artist Chris Castle) jokingly began referring to as "Chloe" (no, I don't remember why that name seemed appropriate. Ask Mr. Castle, he might...)

The first phase of artistic creation into which Chloe (it soon became obvious that the themes that Chloe was procured with the intention of expressing rendered her and "Miss Claustrophobia" the same symbolic individual, thus "Miss Chloe Claustrophobia") factored was a set of photographs, using her in her pre-modified form as the physical subject.

This is an image from that set of photographs, titled "Stubborn and Swank."


In my next entry, I will post other images from the set of my photography featuring Chloe, as well as discuss, from a critical perspective, how these photographs factor into the overal project.

Friday, September 7, 2007

An Introduction to Miss Chloe Claustrophobia.

One of my primary intentions with this blog involves the construction of a centralized location from which to synthesize and blur the lines between art-genres as they weave in and out of each other as the multiple mediums that I work with engage in the same projects from multiple simultaneous angles in attempts to more thoroughly adress the same concepts.

Whew, that was a mouthful. Basically, this blog is a place for me to put it all together, to place in the appropriate context {the piece of music} that needs {the fiction sketch} that needs {the visual image} that was rendered in response to {the critial review} in order to fully make sense or create the sensation or idea that it is intended to. (obviously all {brackets} in the foregoing statement are examples interchangeable with countless other variables. I think you get the point.)

This catch-all idea is also intended to afford me the oportunity to address other topics that enthrall me, using my own work as examples, such as the lack of binary and objective certainty in matters of creativity, such as ambiguities as to the "source" or "credibility" of artistic creation (see my prior post about windchimes), and similar ambiguities about artistic "end-results," questions of which stage in the artistic process constitutes the "artistic product." It is this last question that I wish to adress by introducing my readers to a multi-faceted project that I'm engaged in. That project is, loosely, the construction of the artistic identity of an otherwise non-entity that I call "Miss Chloe Claustrophobia."

Miss Claustrophobia, as a project, is currently still in the nascent stages. I am by no means currently exibiting a completed work, as the "completed work" of the project will involve many elements and may never completely exist, although many of the elements leading up to the hypothetical "completion" of the project will be exibited in "completed" forms. Many "completed" pieces of work will therefore be exhibited as components and raw-materials for a larger work-in-progress. In theory.

This project is not a puzzle. If you watch the updates on the project that I leave in this blog waiting for some sort of thorough-going "answer" as the project gets closer to "completion," you will be sorely disappointed. I don't believe in binary "answers" to artisitc questions, or "statements" made by art that can be "cracked" so definitively that they hit you like the punchline to a bad joke. Much of the concept itself has to do with the necesity for conceptual subtlety and the lack of finite answers to questions of statement, purpose, and intent.

Miss Claustrophobia began as a dream. A very vague dream that I remember almost nothing of, at that. But a dream that left me with a very definite impression of a better understanding of latent human (and personal) phobias, obsessions, and insecurities upon waking. The day after waking from this dream, I wrote a song with my Doom-Rock band The Green Sea called "The Plea of Miss Claustrophobia" that captured the concepts of the dream as they seemed in my mind at the time, in an appropriately vague, elusive, and frantic manner.

This is the song that therefore began the project-





















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This is a video of The Green Sea performing that song while writing it the day after the dream that inspired it-
Snake pitt

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I will continue this explanation, with some of the images and ideas that followed, as well as future plans for the project, most likely tomorow.

Until then, stay out of the snake pit.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Ignite Poetry Magazine, round 2.

That's right, Ignite is back.

My last semester before graduating from Arizona State University's West Campus, I helped to found and served as the Managing Editor for a publication called Ignite Poetry Magazine. I am back with them as some sort of Honorary Alumni Adjunct Editor (Editor-in-Chief Chelsey Kissling says that she has a "special title" prepared for me, but I don't know what it is yet, and that frankly frightens me a bit...), and we're currently compiling our second issue. That means that we're in the process of accepting submissions of pieces of writing from the ASU community-at-large for inclusion in the journal. If you aren't aware, we're the premier and only literary journal serving the ASU community from the West Campus (a small satelite campus that is becoming a bit of an unexpected hotbed of Literary creativity within a massive circus of a University-system). We were extremely happy with the outcome of both the issue and the accompanying reading-night for the last issue (considering especially that they were our first attempts), and have pledged ourselves to making each issue progressively better than the last. Therefore, if you are a poet from the ASU community, I strongly urge you to take part in this venture by submitting pieces of your work for publication consideration.

Visit our official website for submission details and further information.

Also, stop by and read the innaugural issue of the magazine, which was released in April of this year, and is available in its entirety online in PDF form. In addition to my work helping to get the publication off of the ground, the work also includes three pieces of my own poetry published within it, including the piece from which my Doom-Rock band The Green Sea took our name.

So, stop by and read what we've done in the past, what we're currently working on, and keep your eyes peeled for what's to come very soon. I'm excited for this next issue already, and we've barely begun the editing process.

Also, visit Ignite on Myspace, and enjoy some photo's from last semester.


The commemorative packaging of our innaugural issue designed by Chelsey Kissling for our contributors.


A sampling of last semester's editorial staff.


Chelsey welcoming the crowd to last semester's release-celebration reading-night.


A photo from the reading night for the last issue's release. Poet Stephanie Weirich is reading.


Poet Jon Swearengen reads his work from the last issue while I man the soundboard.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Re-Creations

(while editing some past pieces in my prose portfolio, I came across this one, which suits the purpose of this blog quite well, as well as taking us residents of the desert in the sweltering summer back to a colder and more comfortable place for a moment. In Phoenix this summer, apparently we've had more days above 110 than any other year in recorded history. I'm ready for it to be through.)

Artifice-

My eyes open and I see brick. Wet brick, coated in faded leaves, a smudgy decoupage of New England fall. As my ears awaken I hear the flow of water; the splash, the gurgle, the bubbling life. Oh, that’s it. I’m in a port city, sitting on a bench (as I feel the metal beneath me and notice my equilibrium tainted due to my eyesight facing the ground). I’m back in Portsmouth, listening to the wake, hearing the waves of the cove crash gently into rock. Say that this was all a dream, god, say it was all a dream.

I lift my head, and my delusion is shattered. The vision of each eye is bisected from each other by a fountain, so straight, so white (rather than clear), so perfectly consistent, pulsing flat white surging water from an even whiter far too real PVC pipe, jutting up from the far too perfectly shaped little rock-lined puddle in an island between a break in the walkways. This is all far too real. The stucco around and behind comes into focus, yet I still hear the flow of the water. Seeing the fountain, I still can’t seem to make the connection between the two. This used to be a sound that relaxed me, a sound that put me in my place (I’m smaller and less lastingly important than what traditionally makes this sound, yet now the sound is being made by something that I myself could have constructed). This can’t be the same sound. Yet, audibly, it is still the sound of the flow of water.

I look down again. Brick, laid around the abused public barbecue and the bench on which I sit. Merely four feet of it surround me, but it happens to be laid just below the bench. Leaves from a fig tree, standing nearby, struggling to survive feebly for years (long enough to make this place old enough to be ugly, but not antique enough to gain charm) had cast themselves, dead and fallen, out of season, beneath the bench. Oh, make this be a dream. Oh god, say that this is a dream.

Blue-

Cold air spiraling through my lungs inspires me. I can feel it move more acutely, I can trace its path; mouth, throat, lungs, swirl around, return, and heat the insides of my lips. A draw from my cigar gives me a point of comparison, warming my mouth so that I can further feel the next clean breath forcing through.

Stars are far more beautiful when the mental imagery of “cold” has rendered them a faint shade of blue. They share my chill; warmly, understandingly, peacefully. A track from Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue” slides gently, swankly, onto my stereo. As I stare out from my patio at the void between the blue glow of the swimming pool (artifice) and the knowing points of blue in the sky (oh so very real), I can see right now one of the thousands of tiny reasons that this record’s title is so wonderfully aptly well fitted to it.

Once, near my last apartment, on the east side of town, I drove past a fountain from which water sprang four feet from the ground in the color of the blue plastic linings to suburban above-ground pools. Are we so deluded here, so far from reality, that we think that, because the old analogy tells us so, that water is always blue? That particular shade has never, to the best of my knowledge, existed in nature. We dye water a different color to make it look more like… water? I glided my car into the next parking lot and hastily scribbled my thoughts down in verse.

Life-

I’ve spent the evening sitting, in a brown tweed dress jacket and a green felt fedora, on my patio, inhaling the chilled air, drinking scotch and smoking cigars, or smoking scotch and drinking cigars, listening to good music, spinning and turning over thoughts and scribbling illegibly in a notebook… and I realize that this is how I want to spend the rest of my life. The vague sound of water behind me, flowing from fountains around the apartment complex that during the day I dislike, compliments well the jazz and down-tempo, classical European metal and Irish folk that pours, a liquid adhesive to hold the pieces together to recreate an inspirational mood, from my speakers. Cool air, the clear sky, my vices, soothing sounds… envelope me and I’m lost in the “self” that I feel more sincerely, the “self” that doesn’t care what else is going on as long as I have these moments and the thoughts, ideas, and artistic output that may spring from them more readily than at most other times. I can see myself sitting the same, spinning similar thoughts, when my age is far advanced.

I’m recreating something, but this is something new, all the same. As I recall, everything that I strive to recreate was, in its time, originally an attempted recreation of something else. Most fell short, and, in doing, found something more memorable. I know that, regardless, this will continue, and, understanding this idea, I’m closer to being content.

Fire-

I remember fires popping and hissing, stinging in contrast to the cold. We sat with our guitars and our storytellers, passing pipes and tossing around our best and our newest material in quiet comfort, in the stark air to which it was fitted. Our voices and melodies would stop on the cue of a stray and piercing sound, and our host would explain about the pack of wild dogs that he would hear, and on rare occasion see, yipping and howling, through the woods, in hot pursuit of a doe who’d wandered from her stag. We listened intensely (this was among the definite strengths of all those gathered) as the pack passed in their yipping frenzy out of earshot, leaving us, sitting in silence with the creak of the sway of the pines that we all knew had lived longer than science would ever be able to prolong a human life. A log would loudly pop and fall in the fire, raising a spray of sparks into the sky, jarring us from our dazes, reminding us of our circle of companions around the fire, and the song and tale would gently rouse once again.

The flame bounces much the same from a candle. Without the pop and hiss, the light dances, the gypsy spins her secrets around the room. This is something I again recreate, that leaves a reminiscence, yet conjures something new entirely. The bounce of the candle directs my vision, channels and tunnels my thoughts to only those that feel appropriate in its light. I test my words by this; I calculate my moods by candlelight.

Porch-

Thanksgiving morning, I found myself with nowhere to be. My family three-thousand miles away and my girlfriend at work, I was left, for what seemed like the first time in a hectic set of months, completely to my own devices. After sleeping in a bit, but not as much as I had thought that I would, I prepared my coffee and bagel and carried my breakfast, my acoustic guitar, and my notebook onto the porch, where I had resolved to spend the remainder of the day until a late dinner that evening. There I sat, listening to the creaks of the oddly-placed scattered pines in the breeze, lost in reminiscence somewhere between wishing that I was somewhere else and coming to terms with where I was. From my guitar poured a constant stream of lilting yet somber folk elegies. I wish that I had run a recorder, as my best material is prone to escape and waft unheard into the air at times like these. I took occasional breaks to call and leave messages for friends and family back home who didn’t pick up their phones. I called the house where my father’s family had gathered, to have the phone passed around the room to small-talk and chatter and background noise, to hear my grandmother shout into the receiver “I-can’t-hear-you-but-I-love-you-and-I-miss-you-Goodbye” in a single breath. I switched from coffee to some of the decent red wine that I had splurged on knowing that I would be alone, and the strain of my songs grew sadder, as I tried to drown out the din of the children around the complex at post-dinner play by concentrating on the breeze in the bows of the trees.

Goulash-

My first Christmas away from New England, I found myself spending the day alone. I was living with my father and his wife at the time, during their short-lived attempt at not hating living in the desert that a career opportunity (which later proved less important than their happiness and peace of mind) had landed them in. The three of us had celebrated a quiet dinner on the eve of the holiday, and then they had flown out early in the morning to spend a week with the families back home. I woke up somber, craving a feeling of warmth. I was thus determined to create that elusive feeling for myself.

I pressed the button that ignited the artificial gas fireplace, lit pillar candles around the house, and climbed the stairs to the loft on which the stereo was housed with speakers facing downward to inundate the lower level, and selected some records of Celtic Christmas songs. Something about the strange contradiction between the melodies of the Christian holiday and the instrumentation of one of its pagan sources was comforting to me, making the holiday seem far less plastic and “Hallmark”; more authentic, warm, and realistically convoluted. I like to be reminded that nothing is as simple and cut-and-dry as our modern culture urges us to believe. The sounds of fiddles and mandolins danced with the flicker of the candles and the fireplace around the white walls and twenty-foot vaulted ceilings of the house. For some reason, this house felt far too large when its three residents were all inside, but at this time, knowing that I was alone within it, it felt sufficiently cozy and small. Similarly, the architecture style of the interior of this particular house had always bothered me; the angles were wrong, the ceilings were too high to the point of being tacky, it wasn’t at all comfortable… yet on that Christmas day, with the light flickering and the space filled with soothing sound and the seductive smell of simmer, the house bore a cathedral-esque beauty that I reveled in.

I cooked, and ate, and drank wine, and drank wine, and cooked, and ate… I found enormous amounts of comfort in mixing many things together in a giant pot, seasoning, eating it all with some good toast… I mixed noodles, beans, steak tips, hamburg, chicken, random leftovers in the fridge… creating bowl after bowl of soupy goulash comfort food…

I called my friend Nat, back in New Hampshire, at some point in the evening, after a couple bottles of wine and unknown amounts of pots of various kinds of stews.
“Sir Nathaniel… I’ve got an idea. We need to start a restaurant. We’ll mix anything together in a giant pot on request…. What do you think, gourmet goulash, fine wine…. I bet Liz’ll run the bar for us… We’ll specialize in high-end comfort food… We’ll set up in some place where it’s cold all the time… What do you think, are you in?”
“I think you’re a weird guy, you’ve had a bit to drink, and I miss you,” Nat laughed back at me, “How’s your Christmas been?”

It’s been almost two years since then, and I now look back on that Christmas fondly. The feeling of warmth and comfort that I found, in retrospect, surpassed whatever I was trying to recreate at the time, regardless of the depression that had to prove its side-effect and provoking agent. I realize that this was the feeling that I was attempting to recapture this Thanksgiving on my porch, and notice that everything has and will build on everything that has come before it. Perhaps I’ll look back in the future and remember a passage of the folk music that I played on the porch this last lonely holiday and smile.

Nature-

Cold air, the stars, the sparkle of flame, the sounds of the trees in the wind… will always prove the same, link themselves in a chain of eternal contemplation, or reflection, and I will build my own significance, I will forge my own traditions, on the links between these, and the things that, in time, they might mean.

And, for this, I will keep on re-creating, knowing that, in doing so, I am creating something new.