I’m doing some Spring organizing - it feels pretty good! Last winter I performed Led Zeppelin songs with the Seattle Rock Orchestra. Growing up, I listened to a lot of classic rock, so this was such a treat to dig in to pieces I’ve loved for so long with some amazing Seattle talent. Victoria Wimer Contreras rips it up!
I am driving listing to a poem on KUOW written by Carolyn Wright. She is a Seattle poet I have taken classes with. I perk up because she is about to read a ghazal (pronounced guzzle), a poetic form I happen to be fond of. I am all ears when the poem subject matter is given, the Newton CT shootings. The poem is called “Ghazal for Emilie Parker”. When Emilie’s father, Robbie Parker, spoke about teaching his 6-year-old daughter Portuguese, she was prompted to write the poem.
I am covered in shivers by the time she finishes reading, a litany of the fallen children’s names concludes the poem and am weeping as I reach my destination. As a new mother, I am extremely concerned about the prevolence of violence in America today. I feel old when I say, “it wasn’t like this when I grew up!”
But it’s true.
Our politicians give me little comfort, even though nearly everyone and every measure I voted for last Fall passed.The Sequester has sent a very poor message to America’s people from Washington D.C. and I feel terrified that like The Sequester, America’s politicians may stalemate how we discuss and move forward with America’s serious problem with gun violence. Its up to all of us to chime in, no matter what our opinions are, and tell our legislators what we’d like to see change. Clearly, something must change, and I hope for it to be a succession of wise, compassionate and brave moves.
Now, I don’t want to get all preachy on you! But do indulge me. I’m going somewhere I promise.
Candace Pert, a reknowned phychopharmacologist, wrote a book called “Molecules of Emotion”. I happen to be half-way through this book, which is required reading for my therapeutic bedside music program. What I thought would be droll, is a surprisingly exciting autobiography of her work at the top of the scientific world in America. Since the mid 1970’s she has been at the forefront of psychopharmacological study (ie. how the brain responds to phychoactive drugs, naturally occurring in our body and otherwise). She has pressed against an all male establishment since the beginning of her brilliant career, and worked on discoveries that effect cancer and AIDS research, as well as researching what parts of the brain are used when our bodies release natural “feel good” endorphins. In the words of spiritualist and M.D. Deepak Chopra,“Pert was one of the first Western scientists who was able to explain the unity of matter and spirit”, aka the mind, body, soul connection.
She In 1975, she was intentionally left out receiving a of a major award because she was a woman. Instead of burying her head in the sand, as she puts it, she confronted many key players, only to be ostricized by her colleagues. Details in her writing of this actually raised my blood pressure! I share this last bit with you because March is Women’s History Month.
I arrive at home, and decide to Google Candace Pert. I can’t believe what I see. Only yesterday she wrote a very compelling take on the Newtown shootings! What timing! You can read it here.
This article provokes an eloquent suggestion that anti-depressant medication of a certain kind, Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitor (SSRI’s) should be looked at as an emotional trigger to mass shooter’s psychologies. She asserts there is just as much concern to bring the use of SSRI’s to this discussion as the NRA and gun lobby issue, video games, media/entertainment’s glorification of violence, the flaws of our mental health system, etc. If this interests you at all, I really do encourage the reading of her article (she as far more scientifically eloquent than I!).
Dr. Pert informed me in an email that the following statement is untrue. However… even correct labeling does little good. That said, she points out that the FDA does not insist that drug companies label SSRIs, which according her cause, can have the side-effect of violence! After reading her article, and knowing the back (her)story of what sort of ethically honorable woman she is, I believe that the FDA and Congress need to put some pressure on drug companies; that anti-depressant medications be initially administered by psychologisists exclusively; and that we check in with ourselves quite seriously about the ways in which we allow big corporate advertising to manipulate our rationale. (How many drug commercials do you see on any given TV break suggesting that you can simply ask your doctor for whatever it is that you want and obtain it?)
(Uhmerica by Regina Spektor is an anthem to my country’s gun fascination. My two-year old daughter is Regina Spektor’s biggest fan and she happens to love this song.)
“Science is a process, not so much dramatic results,” Pert says. Any artist will tell you the same is true for their artform. Practicing one’s scales is far from glamorous, but an essential part of the process in order to achieve skill. As a harpist, just tuning alone can get annoying and frustrating, but without it, well… forget about it! Practice IS the practice.
Before reading Pert’s book, I had never thought before that the unknowns of running scientific experiments can be compared to making art. The “creator” has the general idea of what they are going for, but not always know how to get there. One may end up discovering something entirely different than planned. There is beauty and meaning is this type of work.
In the creative process, opening up to unknowns can be raw and unnerving, but they often expose a deeper layer to the task at hand. There are signs along they way that tell you you are going in the right direction. When themes happen in life, they’re like personal mini-movies; subject matters that one should be paying attention to.
This happened to me today when several of my interests and “current themes” intersected in an unsuspecting way - Poetry, Violence in America, Healing Arts, Science. I believe that these signs are guideposts that are pointing me toward the right direction at this time.
Starting this month, I’ll begin interning as a harpist-in-residence at NorthWest Kidney Center, playing calming music for patients and staff. My plan is go forward and work at this and other healthcare facilities and do the same. Which ones? I don’t know, but I’m sure there will be a guidepost for me.
It would be my great pleasure to play harp at any same sex wedding ceremonies coming up this year!
Washingtonians voted progressively last fall on a number of issues, one of them being legalizing same sex marriage. So… to anyone gay reading this wondering if I’m the right harpist for you at your nuptiuals? - YES. I’m extremely in favor of love overruling bigotry, repression, stagnation and negative thought patterns. Finally, a little righteousness has been given the main stage. Congratulations!
January is a major network-y month for me. I worked at the monolithic Seattle Wedding Show (in high attendance despite a Seahawks playoff game) and am poised for this weekend’s wedding show up in Everett, where you can find me on Sunday. Anthony at Monte Cristo Ballroom in Everett has asked me to play as a preferred vendor for his clientele, so I’ll be playing there for an open house on Thurs. March 8th.
In non-wedding news, I’m lining up a therapeutic harp internship at NW Kidney Center in Sea-Tac for patients on dialysis. Music in clinical settings has been proven to alleviate anxiety and pain, not to mention help family and staff feel more at ease. This is ongoing work for me - more news to come in the coming months- so I’ll just leave it at that for now.
I’ve spent the past three Tuesday afternoons over at Bright Water Waldorf School playing music for play rehearsals - pictures from the upcoming performance forthcoming. Its pretty adorable to see 5th graders dressed up as gypsies, fairies and ducks!
Onward and Upward!
My cheat sheet for a successful career in music is PRETH. It looks something like this:
P – Performance $
R – Recording $
E – Events $$$
T – Teaching $$
H – Healing $$$
P is for Performances. These are public shows, orchestra concerts, new music, dance performances, art performances. These are typically events that occur in theaters, halls, public centers (such as Seattle Center), festivals (such as Folklife), clubs, restaurants, museums (last February I performed solo at both Bellevue Art Museum and Seattle Art Museum for after hour patron and public events) and in parks (I have played for the City of Seattle Parks and Rec summer buskers program).
Performances for me don’t usually pay a lot. Sometimes they do, but I can’t rely on them to be a predictable amount. Sometimes I know in advance what I’ll get (orchestral work is forthcoming); sometimes I have no guarantee at all (restaurants and particularly club work). Performances for me can range anywhere from from $0 - $500. Regardless of pay, performances are an essential part of a working musician’s career. It is when I play with my musical family – people like Evan Flory-Barnes, Josh Rawlings, Aham Oluo, Jherek Bischoff to name a few. It is also how I get to play with my peers in public, tell friends to come out and hear me play and hopefully get exposure to some new ears. Performances are the “art” part of a musician’s career, when original songs are played and/or audiences are entertained. Admittedly, I don’t do as many concerts as I’d like to do, largely because I’m mother to a person under the age of two and sleep is unpredictable and precious to me. I can’t be going on stage at 11pm anymore. (groan) I know. I’m boring. I could get depressed and think missing out on something, but I usually don’t. I get to be mom to an awesome little girl (who happens to be fond of music already) and parenthood has made me hip to trying other means of making money in the music biz. Which leads me to the next letter.
R is for Recording. I don’t think I’ve tapped into my fill potential here. I’ve almost exclusively recorded other people’s music. Out of 100%, I’d say 85% of the recordings I’ve done have been when other musicians are calling me to work on their albums. I’ve been fortunate to have done recording work with some very inspiring and easy to collaborate with people, like bands Hey Marseilles and Secret Chiefs 3.
Albums I want to do personally are #1 my own songs dammit! Q. You write songs? How come I never hear them? A. I am a lazy, slow, audio ludite. But I’m getting better!
At least I have a Soundcloud page and an audio/video page on my website. In the Spring of 2012, I had the awesome chance to be one of the primary musicians (my musical co-collaborator was Saskia Delores) on a huge installation that well-known fiber artist Mandy Greer got commissioned to do at Seattle Center. We recorded hours of tracks at my house and in the field and then played the pre-recordings during the dance performance (under direction of Jessica Jobaris) while I played and sang live on top of those recordings.
Ok. So, back to the R in PRETH: I am putting my twinkle toes in the recording pool this Christmas and have done a few tracks for you the hear, download and hopefully drop a few dollars and cents on a Bandcamp site – coming very soon!
E is for Events. These are private jobs and they make most musicians who play them a fair amount of bread. For a harpist, its fairly predicable seasonal work. Summers are always taken up for weddings. December is always booked with company holiday parties and holiday concerts. Events are categorized as anything where I am background music and/or I am paid privately by an individual, company, hospital, or business entity. I usually like these jobs because I end up meeting interesting new people. In other words, they are weddings and special occasion events.
Once, I played for a wedding of two men (before WA state passed the historic Ref. 74) and they wanted me to play all Dead Can Dance songs on harp – it was so much fun! I’ve been invited to artist colonies in MN, WA, OR and CA. I’ve played at the Microsoft campus. I’ve got an upcoming school concert that I’m very excited about, and every December I play for at least one Seattle Waldorf School’s winter spiral (when kids toddle through a labrynth of evergreen boughs to the center of a spiral and light a candle, eventually making the room a magically candlelit sanctuary by the end of the ceremony). Its one of the most enjoyable things I do every Christmas.
T is for Teaching. Frankly, I wish I had more students. I’m eager to teach actually. Two years ago I resigned from Holy Names Academy adjunct music faculty for a maternity leave. I’m still trying to get back from it! Honestly, teaching is something I had always put on the back burner – having students from time-to-time, but not really going out of my way to advertise. In that way I’ve had random students come to my home who have lived in my neighborhood, or I’ve gone to their home. I’m flexible. My friend Leslie asked me to teach a couple of classes on improvising at the harp and playing harp in a band at her harp camp. Now, I’m itching to share some knowledge about the harp once more. I’m ready to take on students of all musical backgrounds and ages. I’m excited to say, I’m re-opening my home teaching studio in Seattle and also teaching Saturday mornings at Music Works Northwest in Bellevue.
H is for Healing: Did you know that the harp is one of the oldest instruments used for therapeutic purposes? Did you also know that caves in current day France have paintings of a harp that date back to 15,000 B.C? If that doesn’t blow your mind, then perhaps knowing this will: Soothing music will make a person relax; which causes their breath to deepen; which has a domino effect of increasing oxygen flow to the brain, balancing hormones, neuropeptides, and a number of other regulating systems. What music, specifically soothing sounds, can do is to allow the body to relax, and thus unwind that tense state. In contrast, people who don’t take enough deep breaths never allow themselves to be de-stressed and can remain chronically stuck in a “fight-or-flight” state. Music is a tool for good health and recovery from illness. Harp is a primary musical instrument in fighting off stress!
Dr. Mitchell Gaynor’s book “The Healing Power of Sound” is just one of the many scientific books that medically back up the human response to musical healing. Obviously, not all music heals every person in the same way. But certain instruments, particularly long resonating instruments like the harp, are universally recognized as being therapeutic. For instance, the long fibers of the human body resonate with the long strings of the harp more than any other instrument.
This is why I have undertaken a clinical certificate with the Clinical Musician Certification Program aka Harp for Healing to become a therapeutic musician. After I complete a 45 hour internship in a clinical setting, I will then officially be a Certified Clinical Musician (CCM). I intend to play at the bedside and in clinics where my harp music is needed and welcomed.
Q. What is the difference between a therapeutic musician and a Music Therapist. A. Capital letters of course!
All joking aside, the Music Therapist (MT) has a degree in Music Therapy. MT is the active rehabilitation of a patient’s condition with music as the tool. A MT likely can play therapeutic music, but their job is primarily to work with a patient directly in an active way.
Conversely, a therapeutic musician has a certificate to play at the bedside and do not have a degree specific to this work. They work in a passive environment, playing music for clinical patients as well as their staff and family to alleviate stress, pain and discomfort. This can be in the form of bedside music or music in a lobby, operating room, post-op, or neo-natal unit, to name a few clinical places.
And there you have it – my secret to personal success as a musician! I have posted this message partially for myself alone, just so that my goals become more real and take solid shape. I have also written this for other musicians to hopefully look at their own careers as a legitimate business. This is the model I dreamed up for me. I’ve been half way there for years and just now have thought of this mnemonic device to help me stay focused and complete my plan to success as a professional working musician.
Every Thanksgiving I like to read a poem at the dinner table that has me thinking about the zeitgeist of the time or about the season or about family or the concept of gratitude. You get the picture.
This year, I have chosen to read a poem by Margie Piercy, The Sabbath of Mutual Respect.
The poem begins:
Abundance, Habondia, food for the winter,
too much now and survival later. After
the plant bears, it dies into seed.
The blowing grasses nourish us, wheat
and corn and rye, millet and rice, oat
and barley and buckwheat, all the servicable
grasses of the pasture that the cow grazes,
the lamb, the horse, the goat; the grasses
that quicken into meat and cheese and milk,
the humble necessary mute vegetable bees,
the armies of the grasses waving their
golden banners of ripe seed.”
There are many names for the Goddess of Abundance. In this poem, Piercy calls her Habondia. She is also Mother Earth, Demeter, Ceres, and Gaia. Piercy praises the role Earth and of woman. “Praise our choices, sisters, for each doorway / open to us was taken by / squads of fighting / women who paid years of trouble and struggle.”
I chose this poem because of the drastic changes that we as humans are undergoing with regards to technology, social paradigm shifts and political policy. I chose this poem because of the drastic storm that hit the East Coast, Superstorm Sandy, and all of the questions this raises on how and where we live. What does this mean for Earth’s own transformation? I chose this poem because after the recent election we now have more women U.S. senators than ever before! It is a poem that speaks of plentitude, contentment and equanimity.
I praise the Earth this Thanksgiving that I have the opportunity to celebrate with friends and family by eating together. Like most American holidays and the American Dream, it means something a little different to everyone. This year, I chose to celebrate women the world over and give thanks for being born in America with all of our abundant freedoms.
“Doorways are sacred to women for we
are the doorways of life and we must choose
what comes in and what goes out. Freedom
is our real abundance.”
There is so much to say on a blog when you’ve been absent for six months. The biggest news: I have a new computer! I am extremely grateful to be using this new fabulous machine!
The old Mac impeded upon my ability to upload video properly (so I’ll be fixing that previous entry) as well as record any music at home; the old computer’s memory was full. Now I’m back in the 21st Century and very excited about it.
My focuses this Fall are (in no particular order):
- recording a solo harp Christmas album
- being a mom
- working on my certification to become a CCM (certified clinical musician) for therapeutic bedside music
- Fair Trade Music Seattle
- gigs - Seattle Rock Orchestra (11/9); Ahamefule Oluo’s show at Town Hall (12/9); and solo harp holiday jobs
- family life (and cooking with all those pumpkins we bought last month)
- getting harp students
- quiet time for meditation and a moment with friends
I have been asked by Heather Bentley, to read some new poetry coming up on July 8 at the Royal Room. The evening is called Club Shostakovich, which Trio Pardalote will curate. It is a free evening of chamber music and poetry - sophistication and affordability at their best! Yes. You should come.
I’ve been re-working some older poems this spring and summer, I guess mostly because of limited time. I had been toying with the idea about doing some sort poetry experience, when and opportunity to do something in the field (literally, a field!) came my way. I’ll be sharing “The Salt-Water Erasures” first at Club Shostakovich, and then up at Smoke Farm in Arlington, WA for the Lo-Fi Arts Festival. Yes. You should also make a drive to the farm. It is pretty and large and there are few rules to abide by other than to be a decent human being and enjoy yourself. Pretty much the same as any other day, only at a large remote farm with a few hundred artists, so that’s pretty special.
Here’s a little artist statement of where my head is on this subject these past few weeks:
I have been thinking about water of the body - the human body and the Earth body - and how oceans and humans have salt. The equations of salt in most oceans are about 3%, whereas The Dead Sea is a shocking 33%! The Dead Sea has been noted for its unique saline qualities, dating back to the Ancient Greeks who believed in and had stories of Three Muses (or Fates). Sappho, who was Greek, was the first woman poet that we know of and her poems where originally written on papyrus leaves. Over time, the leaves have decomposed and words are missing from the original poems. All translations of her work that we have today are open for interpretation because of this. Like the ocean, time washes away everything we create, yet some things may remain in fragment. Being a new mother, my creative work time has eroded to small bits during the day here and there, rather than large chunks of time. Conversely, I am interested in the sojourn that the creative process takes when revisiting completed work. I plan to revisit the poems I wrote two years ago, when my daughter was in utero (another body of salt water floating in salt water). I will re-write some of the poems and dub them, The Salt-Water Erasures. Erasures are a method of re-writing poetry by literally erasing some of the original words to create something new, almost fragmentary. Some of the poem will have repetition,which will allow for a certain meditative quality to emerge, the way water lapping continuously has for someone sitting at the beach.
These are some of the photos (taken by Rodrigo Venezuela) from the Mater Matrix Mother and Medium performance at Seattle last month, in May 2012. It was a pretty amazing integration of pre-recorded harp and voice with live music performance on top of that; costumes by Mandy Greer; choreography by Jessica Jobaris.
for Beth Fleenor
That fig tree attracts wasps. They get wobbly
in the heady fermented fruit
flying lazily on the summer wind
like some Sinatra party guest after martinis.
Masts clang down the hill in the harbor.
Another siren calls while the dusk wraps its ethered scarf
around the neighborhood and the raccoon,
in his nocturnal wonder, takes one look at the tree
to see his paradise, his destiny, like a moth
sees his paramour flame, he knows
he will reach supreme love
from the bright fig at the crown
now illuminated by the moon. The limbs
are as soft as quartz, scratching easily
as he climbs up & up & up.
Drawn out is this moment of reaching—
the way he scampers on the thin branches for footing,
stretching towards splendor, there it is: a purple sack,
a Lilliputian’s laundry bag. He touches as high
as he can without falling. And then he does
manage to clip the fruit with his paw
joyously dropping into his mouth, the wet
and juicy center. A smile perhaps
and laughter at the bulging size of the fig
which in one second slides down his throat
but gets stuck. And there is our raccoon—
on tip-toes in the moonlight at the height of his happiness
in the tree choking. After that there is a fall,
followed by the brief silence of being airborne
before landing at the crux of two crossed branches
that bounce of the sudden glottal stop. Uh-oh.
Everyone is gone from the house to have heard
the accident, but in the morning they find him
strange fruit hanging from the Mediterranean tree.
And so he is plucked (apprehensively)
his soft furry body like a forgotten gym bag
stuffed with stinky socks. He is processioned in a bizarre majesty
down the street on the shovel used to dig his grave.
Now he rests in the old apple orchard
of the abandoned house (half burned out in decay)
there beneath the one oak tree covered
in ivy vines that in a few years from now
will have a small fig tree in its shadow
that started from the seed
in the raccoon’s belly.
published in The Far Field