Words & Music

Constructing a Song

Songwriting can be a laborious process for me, and it’s usually spread out over enough time that I forget exactly how the whole thing came about. But I had a small revelation during the writing of one song that prompted me to record my process. The song is called “The Glorious Cause.” The... Read More


From Propaganda to History

In 1998, the Modern Library published two lists of the 100 best novels in English. One list was chosen by the Modern Library board, the other by readers. The board’s list starts off predictably: Ulysses, The Great Gatsby, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, Lolita. It goes on just as... Read More


You Can’t Not Say Something

I recently had a major misunderstanding with a client about what it meant to be objective. The project was somewhat controversial, perhaps more controversial than it should have been. It was an exhibit about the problem of violence, and it dealt primarily with historical accounts of violence. Going... Read More


Splicing with Commas

Recently Steven Pinker was on a podcast talking about grammar, the particular subject was comma splices. In short, he hates them, he thinks they are barbaric. A comma splice is the joining of two independent clauses with nothing more than a bare comma, as I have done in the two sentences above.... Read More


Improving

I think I’m improving. On the guitar. I’ve been practicing every day, having faith that, though I don’t notice much happening, I’m slowly getting better. Trying to put in the hours that—as Malcolm Gladwell says—will make a difference. And, lo and behold, the other day I realized that my... Read More


The challenge of transcription

A couple of nights ago I had a dream in which some people were singing a song. They were climbing a hill of crumbling red dirt. The main group, about four or five, went up first, singing the verse of the song. It was beautiful. A lone man followed, singing the chorus. All I could see of him were... Read More


I Stank

Last night I played my first open mic in Seattle. It’s quite a different scene there than the East side. The room was in the basement of an old church in Fremont, the self-proclaimed center of the universe. It had that dark coffeehouse vibe, without the coffee. The lineup was relentlessly young,... Read More


Getting Out

I performed at my first open mic yesterday. It was a rainy Tuesday night at the old train depot in Issaquah. I was late on the sign-up sheet and got stuck near the end, so I was only allotted one song. I had a chance to reflect on the value of going early as I sat through performer after performer... Read More