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This is 'part 2' of Lian and Itay's wedding. They will be doing a ceremony here in Tel Aviv for Itay's family, and we all came over to help celebrate. It's been an incredible trip!
I've been delinquent in posting to my little blog here. There is so much I need to put up -- links, general reports of life, changes, all that. Nothing bad to report "mm"-blog-wise, but I'm afraid I fell out of the habit of committing even very mundane things to text. And I probably should, although it's not as clear to me 'why' as it once was. I started this practice, though, so I might as well keep going.
I finished my book-thing earlier this summer, and it is now approved and listed in both the Amazon and Apple App Stores. I'm not going to link it anywhere yet, because I want to try some sort of "official" announcement after the school term starts. It's all ready to go, though. I think maybe finishing the book may have helped fuel my brief pause in blogging. I just withdrew from a lot of things for awhile, especially things that involved writing. I need to get re-engaged now.
One thing that can help is an experience I had yesterday. It was one of those 'travel epiphanies' you can have when in a new context saturated with experiencing. We were in Jerusalem and had walked the Stations of the Cross up the Via Dolorosa and had arrived at Golgotha. The midday Muslim "call to prayer" had just begun echoing through the streets, following us into the huge basilica-like structure built to surround where the Cross was placed and the purported location of Christ's tomb. The sound of the Islamic cantillation, and a suddenly stark realization of exactly what I was seeing almost knocked me off my feet. Wow. How did I get here? What was I doing?
I was filled with both expansive hope and profound depression simultaneously. The hope: the world is so amazing! Look at what these people, these humans-like-us did; Christ, Mohammed, Buddha... but then, what have we done with it all? The millennia of hatred, the killing, the wars. What can I do? What can we do? I guess my best answer, especially as I age, is to look around, see where you are, and think what you can do from there. And hope that the promise of a better future for Lian, for Itay, for Daniel, for Stephan and Bo, for all, holds true.
My writing here in the ole blog has gotten even more spotty than ever. Partly it's because I've been swamped with work. I had forgotten how many e-mails students can generate at the beginning of the term. At least I haven't fallen too far behind, yet. Another reason is a personal characteristic that causes me difficulties in my other work. I set up for myself something that I need to do in order to return to 'normal' mode of working. Then I don't do that something, and it begins to pile up. And then I don't ever return to the 'normal' mode of working. For this mm-blog, I have a bunch of links to things that I wanted to include here. I didn't post them, and now I have a fair number of links. Yikes! I guess the best thing to do is to post them, and then maybe I can get back to the semi-random ramblings that I normally write:
To be sure, I simply haven't collated a lot of 'experience' lately. This was an intense summer. How do I write what it feels like to watch your children blossom? To watch life continue to flow, to learn of deaths of friends and joyous news of others? This is the real stuff, and I've spent the last few months simply absorbing. I think I was pretty depressed -- finishing the book-thing was a part of it all -- but I'm old enough now that the depression sort of washes through. Now here I am, back doing the familiar things. This is when you need to watch out, because something will change. It always does.
More posts later, with additional links when I recall them.
Today was rainy and cool, and driving home I noticed the trees have really begun to turn. Time. Fourth week of the semester. I seem more aware of this than ever before. How many more semesters in toto will there be? I asked some of the CMC-ers when getting on the elevator this past Tuesday: "What if this turned out to be the very last time ever that you got on an elevator?" Why ask that? I don't know...
We had two really interesting visitors to our "composition seminar" yesterday at Columbia: Sean Griffin and Charles Gaines. I really enjoyed the discussion. Charles talked a lot about his motivation in using 'systems', or mechanisms of art-production [my words here] that took him away from the projection of his personal ego (yeah, he was a big fan of John Cage). George Lewis made some observations -- as he generally can do -- that were really amazing. Yesterday in particular I was pretty much blown away by the discussion, possibly because it was one that really mattered to me; issues that I have thought about myself. Of course, I couldn't really put coherent words together in the moment. Heading home afterwards, I thought about Charles and Cage and the whole non-intentionality thing. It seems to me that, intention or not, the reception of art (the aesthetic appreciation for lack of a better description) is so messily bound up with the contingent and the personal that it ultimately doesn't really make a big difference what the original 'system' might have been. However, and the question I wished I had managed to formulate to ask Charles and Sean, I think that the cultural-political act of ego/non-intentionality can be a huge thing in how we shape the world. Is that the purpose in Charles' "systematic" approach? Or was he somehow attached to the aesthetic output that came from such an approach? The latter seems problematic to me. Charles was fond of talking about how a particular metonymy formed an important aspect of how his work was interpreted. I found myself thinking that metonymy is gonna happen anyhow, and the creator doesn't really have a whole lot of control over the ultimate result when the work gets "out there". So does it matter if the original intention was ego-driven or not? That's where the cultural-political thing happens, and to me that's where the real power and purpose of art lies.
I wish I had been able to better articulate these things at the time, because the discussion was so good. George, man... That's a MacArthur award-winner who really deserved one! I look at what he has done, how he thinks, and then I consider my other colleagues and their accomplishments (Fred, Georg, Zosha's work is beautiful), and I wonder: "Yikes! What am I doing here?"
I said in my previous post that I would put up additional links when I remembered them. Here's one:
I have started to publicize my MemoryBook app! I sent around an e-mail to hundreds of people (I'm a spammer), and also posted it on a number of e-mail lists. But of course I didn't list it here. To set that right, here is the link:
I really love my mom's graphics for the app. The image above is the main
one, used for the 'prelude' and the 'postlude' of the book-thing.
But I think the main intensity -- or perhaps it's a symptom -- is that I find myself living in the future too much. I'm always saying to myself: "ok, I'll get through this, and then I'll be at this place." When I arrive at that foreseen location, I'm already imagining the next place. The problem with simply getting through things is that it ultimately feels so thin, so empty. Here I go, and then here I go again, and then again, but where am I going? And how is the trip?
The other problem with investing too much of your mind in the future is that when you think you have the linearity of life figured out, something completely unforeseen will bend the flow of your existence. How will I take that?
Last week I was walking up Broadway from main campus to the Computer Music Center, and for some reason I noticed the pattern of fallen leaves against the sidewalk. I thought how nice it would be to stop and gaze at the pattern for awhile, soaking in the late-fall/early winter feel of the day. I had an appointment I had to make, so I couldn't stop by that particular woods on that metaphorical snowy evening. I need to get back to a place where I can enjoy the flow of life as it happens, with an eye towards the future but with the sense of the here and now. It takes both.
Jill snapped this photo while returning from her pottery class on September 11. I've been meaning to post it here for, well, several months now...
We just returned from a short but good visit to see my mom and dad in Indiana for Thanksgiving. One more week of classes, and the term ends. We've planned a big event for next weekend to end the term:
More recently, here are links to recent musical fun:
A really nice thing happened as a result of the CMC party. Rick Whitaker, concert programmer from The Italian Academy at Columbia was in attendance and very much enjoyed my book-presentation. Long story short, he decided to set up an evening event at the Academy:
Finally (for now), here are some photos of the outdoor display this year:
But you know what? That's how it always is. The trick is not to live too much into the future, as I have been doing these past months. Don't extrapolate, linearly or not. Realize instead that "living" is something you do right now, at this point, aware of what it is. If you can be.
When I try to stretch that now-awareness again, it feels great. Jill is dropping off to sleep after a day of excellent cooking (more to come!). Lian and Itay are home, wrapping Christmas gifts downstairs. Daniel too. We've had a wonderful weekend-past with my mom and dad, sister/brother-in-law/nephews, and the next few days promise to be filled with that good holiday cheer. I read back on my past December 24 blog entries, and this happy feeling seems to be a common thread. I hope it stays unbroken, at least for a little while more.
I'm again indulging in my personal Christmas Eve traditions. The Byzantine monks are chanting away on the stereo, I'll shoot some photos of our trees to put here (probably tomorrow), and I'm going to relax with a small sip of Amaretto shortly. This is good, really good.
I can write here the clichéd expressions I generally do -- "I wish this could go on forever!". Maybe it does.
Here are pictures of our trees this Christmas, taken on Christmas eve:
I don't know exactly what the Gaelic words mean in the piece. It's something about summer, and the peaceful feeling of a good season. If I could write the words, though, especially as we travelled on the NJ Turnpike, I would endow them with the reality behind the "clichéd expressions" I wrote about yesterday. The words would sing of an awareness of how precious/precarious life is, of the immanent feeling of what it is to be at that moment, surrounded by the goodness of family and love. The words would also convey the futility of trying to grasp that moment, to clutch it close in order to preserve it forever. I wish I could freeze the flow.
Notice that I say "IF I could write the words..." I can't. I surely do know what they mean, though.
Here is the song:
The movement from December 31 to January 1 promises a similar dramatic scene-shift. Of course it really isn't, but we still mark the moment. It's an arbitrary point in time, but we label it: Happy New Year!