Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The PB&J Mix

New Birth Moon

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I'm incubating. The new year is coming, my new plan, my new gwish. It is dark, it is wet and I'm not doing too much but thinking. And listening to music. 

"Now, the making of a good compilation tape is a very subtle art. Many do's and don'ts. First of all you're using someone else's poetry to express how you feel. This is a delicate thing."

Here's my Winter PB & J  mix tape. That stands for power, beauty and joy... or peanut butter and jelly. Both make me smile.  Enjoy!

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I recently discovered this amazing musician, John D Boswell, who is using auto tune software to turn spoken audio clips into songs. He takes the words of well known scientists like Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Stephen Hawkings and David Attenborough and sets them to music creating inspirational and beautiful music. This one is possibly my favorite, featuring Neil deGrasse Tyson reminding us that "we are part of this universe, we are in this universe, the universe is in us."

Before he died in 2002 Dave Carter collaborated with Tracy Grammer to produce three albums of folk singer songwriter music that are often called Buddhist Cowboy music. His mystical experiences and study of psychology, myth and mysticism show clearly in his music. I heard it said that no one could fit more words into a song than Dave Carter and this song is an excellent example of all of that. "I walk the occam razor way through priests and circus clowns. Am I a missoner of faith or grace or vision or another grinning prisoner of Happytown?"

The guy who did Symphony of Science has turned his talents to turning other celebrities to rock stars with his Remixes for the Soul compilation. This one stars Bob Ross from the PBS show Joy of Painting and makes my heart sing. Anyone who has ever watched an episode of the show has seen just how full of love and encouragment Bob Ross is and how it radiates through the TV screen right at you. It feels like spending an hour with a beatific nun or the Dalai Lama, only with painting instead. "You can almost paint with anything, all you have to do is practice. There are no limits here, start out by believing here." Thanks Bob Ross, I will believe! 

The first time I heard this song was at Winterfest, a folk benefit for Sisters of the Road Cafe, in maybe 2001 or 2002. I cried as Dave and Tracy performed it on stage at the Aladdin. It has remained an important song ever since... "On a sleepy endless ocean when the world lay in a dream, There was rhythm in the splash and roll, but not a voice to sing. So the moon shone on the breakers and the morning warmed the waves, till a single cell did jump and hum for joy as though to say...  This is my home! This is my only home. This is the only sacred ground that I have ever known. Should I stray in th dark night alone Rock me goddess in the gentle arms of Eden.

Featuring Richard Feynman on the bongos, Bill Nye thinking about the vast emptiness of space, Carl Sagan waxing poetic about star stuff and Neil deGrasse Tyson's statement that "we are all connected; To each other, biologically, to the earth, chemically. To the rest of the universe atomically." One of the most popular Symphony of Science videos for a reason. 

The apartment I lived in for three years in college was called Shelter from the Storm. "Not a word was spoke between us there was little risk involved, everything up to that point had been left unresolved. Try imagining a place where it's always safe and warm, "Come in" she said "I'll give you shelter from the storm" The link above is to the album version that I love most, but this live performance is amazing. Harder, harsher, but Dylan at his best.

I first knew Ladysmith Black Mambazo from their work with Paul Simon on Graceland. This version of Cat Stevens' song combines their haunting harmonic style with Dolly's clear voice and makes me just wanna get on that train. Check out Ladysmith Black Mambazo's Amazing Grace.

Possibly my very favorite of the Symphony of Science tracks. "There is a powerful recognition that stirs within us, when we see our own little blue ocean planet in the skies of other worlds... onward to the edge, we're moving onward to the edge. Here we are together on this fragile little world."

A truly pronoic tale of adventure, trial and redemption. The road goes on forever, and the party never ends. I like the Joe Ely version above best, but here's another one with Joe featuring Joel Guzman (who makes the accoridan seem like the sexiest instrument ever), here's one by Robert Earl Keen - the guy who wrote the song, and here's the Highwaymen's version (ya know, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, et al). It's a good song.

A truly unironic celebration of the simple pleasures in life - a new truck, the moon and stars, a campfire and a pretty lady. It makes me smile. 

When I was in high school I was bona fide obsessed with U2. I listened to the Achtung Baby cassette tape on my Walkman on the bus to school, during passing periods, spent the afternoon watching the concert footage on VHS tape and fell asleep listening to the tape again. Some U2 songs send me into that weird place you find yourself when you look at your high school year book, awkward and embarrassed and emotional. This song, though, has stood the test of time and is still in regular rotation.  

When this came on at the bar the other night, my friend said "I feel like I only hear this song at Goodwill." I said, he isn't living life right then. "Some will win, some will lose. Some were born to sing the blues. Oh, the movie never ends it goes on and on and on and on..... don't stop believing. HOLD ON TO THAT FIEEELLAAAYING!"

I think it is curious that I chose to end my PB and J mix with such an intense song. It is sad, yes, but not dark. It brings tears to my eyes, but not always tears of grief. In August of 2003 I watched a full moon ruse over the Oakland Hills as Bruce entreated us to rise up. In November of that same year I visited St. Paul's Chapel in lower Manhattan and cried as the words ran through my head... my city of ruins. I sang this song to my puppy years later, the emotions still fresh but her wagging tail and excited cuddling adding a new layer of association. And of course, any Bruce is all mixed up with my dad, an "it's complicated" relationship if there ever was one. But the take home message is not one of sadness, it is the pronoic belief that every experience allows you to grow, even the painful, terrible and horrific ones. "With these hands, lord, with these hands, I pray for the strength... I pray for your love, lord, with these hands."

What are you listening to in this dark time of the year? What plans are you making, what are you incubating? What PB&J is rocking your world? The photos are images from the Hubble Telescope turned into holiday cards. View all of them at Hubblesite.org  and download your own for spreading holiday PB&J. Blessed winter! 

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New Birth Moon 2008: Waiting

New Birth Moon 2009: Advent, Awaiting the Birth

New Birth Moon 2010: Winter is Dark, Yet Each Tiny Spark

New Birth Moon 2011: Wolves at the Gate

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