Friday, May 20, 2011

On religion

Speculation on the timing of the Biblical Rapture has led me to consider my standing relative to America's dominant religion. I have to admit picking up Douglas Adams's posthumous publication A Salmon of Doubt contributed.

Unlike most of my peers I grew up with no religion, indeed, little talk at all of spiritual belief and the meaning of life and death. Yet, in an antagonistic adolescent world, I experienced what I still consider a divine moment in 2001, hearing Smetana's Die Moldau at New Haven's Woolsey Hall. It felt qualitatively as a transport to paradise. I experienced it again when I visited Bali two years later, again on hearing fine concerted sound that instantly bridged the sacred and the profane.

No doubt my choices of expression, society, and service work come from a common source with these moments of acute awareness. My faith is in a life and strength that feeds my daily choices of right from wrong, but have presence beyond that. As I grow older, the way I relate to others gains depths of gratitude, forgiveness, and generosity that surprise me even as they bear me forward from moments of spiritual devastation. These teach me to be steadfast in practice, even when progress appears impossible.

This life and strength, the common source, is as unmistakable to me as those moments of transcendence through music. It renders meaningless categories of self and other, mortality and eternity. When I'm aware of it I'm empowered in doing my life in the completeness of reality.

In holding this divinity the questions "do you take Jesus as your lord and personal savior" or "do you believe in God" make no sense. The source is empty of questions, judgment, or answers, yet all the music ever played, now sounding, and yet to be conceived flow continuously from it, soundlessly ghosted in our world.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Songwriting and Theater of the Oppressed

My friend Martin has a peculiar practice of what I call "intimate economy." Whenever he abandons his home for a new life on the other side of the world, he gifts trinkets, books, accessories -- all those comfort items that make a home -- to appropriate friends. This time I got this:
Now, I'm not a songwriter so I don't know how to write guitar chords or catchy lyrics (though I've tried my hand at hip-hop). But since my experimentation has plunged me headfirst into the world of improv, it seemed appropriate to document these compositions, so. If this inspires you to write pop style songs, by all means share.
I've continued my Theater of the Oppressed journey with Morgan Andrews here in Philly. Last weekend he facilitated an incredibly sensitive, intimate Rainbow of Desire session featuring a black female couple's dispute over public presentation of their relationship. The 30-some odd participants selected their story over four others' from the room. I know Morgan is a master theater facilitator, so he changes up the process according to everyone's energies, but overall Rainbow of Desire is designed to refract the multiple simultaneous impulses of each individual in a provocative scenario into discernible facets, characterize them, process them through image making and image dynamism, and release them in support of the individual's true practice.

Almost every time I disclose that I'm a composer, someone asks what kind of music. We are such powerful, complex beings. We deserve all of one another, and we have the potential to make this world better in our lifetimes. This is the work I mean when I answer. How can I better put in words the calling to dress myself in rope bondage and medical needles, beat a violin, and step all over my audience members?