Wednesday, July 09, 2008

On Phoenix, Tron and Re-Birth

The sound of nothing is louder than the vast din that surrounds us. Even in the midst of swirling sound, we can reach up and flip the switch inside of our heads and hearts that activates the Great Reduction In The Sound, a.k.a. G.R.I.T.S. (Well, of course it's got to have a catchy acronym. How better to remember that it's there?)

It was with great relish, corn relish, come to think of it, that this switch got activated on many occasions over the holiday weekend. Floating in the pool, bobbing about with face up-turned to sky and administering the clickety-click of that switch. Click, interstate noise be gone, please. Click, Tom Petty song be gone, please. Click, worthless and stress-inducing mind-chatter, exit stage that-away. In its place, a welcome flood of stillness swept into the empty halls and streets of my being, washing away the distractions and leaving cool pools of liquid God twinkling around my brain and heart.

It's here in the silence of these flooded spaces that inspiration rises up out of the ashes of intent. It was a wonderful weekend of chilling with Jae, later on with friends, and then once again with Jae as we tick-tocked towards the inevitable week where duties pushed and jostled for attention on the front lines of Monday morning. Back to work. Tour's over. Gardening is mostly done. The stack of to-do items towers like a triple Dagwood sammich and me, on a diet.

Production Deadlines or How I Learned To Be Responsible Again

It's easy to screw off when no-one's looking. Much harder to do that when people are paying attention, so I've been producing weekly podcasts for almost four years now, starting in 2005 with AFI Radio, which I ceased producing in the fall of 2007 (the archives remain active) while concurrently creating The Dulcimerica Video Podcast which debuted in January of 2007 and ultimately led to my first (gasp!) paying podcast gig, the DPNews Online audio and video podcasts, begun in April of this year. Working for Dulcimer Players News has brought certain things into perspective, like deadlines, for example. Mine are all self-imposed. Editor Dan Landrum said, "you know, it's a weekly podcast, you don't have to have them there on Monday." But I've chosen to get each one of the audio and video productions out by the first business day of the week. Why? To establish precedent and provide a measuring point for expectations.

How many podcasts have you seen debut, then new episodes pop up with a fury, and finally - they wink out like a long-dead dwarf star, leaving you sort of deflated, especially if you really liked them? I think it happens more often than it actually should, which is why that won't be happening with either Dulcimerica or DPNews Online. No, if they wink out, it'll be for good reason, much like with AFI Radio; reason being - I was sick of begging artists for material and figured on spending that time each week doing something that would be received perhaps a little better.

Dulcimerica has exceeded all expectations and continues to be a surprise in that people really enjoy it. The music, the tips and techniques, the travelogues and interviews. It's actually a lot bigger in concept than when I first started and the struggle has been to keep it from becoming too "Big Idea-y." There's a lot of flash and trash on television and radio already.

But DPNews Online isn't my personal platform for making a musical statement; it's part and parcel of a much larger entity that's been around longer than I've even known the mountain dulcimer, so I step with care and am careful to present the stories and music from a place just off-stage. So far, so good.

The summer issue of Dulcimer Players News has just begun landing in mailboxes around the world and I'm quite honored to be sharing the cover with hammered dulcimer player Bill Robinson. I met Bill in Morris, Illinois this past June at the Gephard Woods Dulcimer Festival and he is a fantastic player and great spirit. Our presence on the cover is in support of the idea that traditions are things that you make your own. There are ongoing conversations in the dulcimer world, for both hammered and mountain dulcimer, that have to do with maintaining traditions while moving forward in progressive fashion. Some people resist the moving forward bit. Some shy away from the roots of traditional music. Like anything in life, moderation and balance is the key to true understanding and appreciation. I've been incredibly blessed to have found the worldwide dulcimer community; it feels a little like re-birth, for without this direction in my life, and I always tell folks this when I meet them at festivals and shows, I'd probably be dead right now. Though I play other instruments and venues outside of the dulcimer festival circuit, it's the connection with the dulcimer, preservation of its history and the promotion of its future, that keeps me firmly rooted in the present. That's pretty darn cool.

Phoenix Joins Kokopelli

Part of back-to-work week is continuing recording on "Kokopelli Rising", which will be a largely tribal album of percussion, mountain dulcimer, Native American Flute and whatever else slips into the mix. A rough mix of one track, "Phoenix", is now on this page for your perusal (I've already gotten some very nice comments on the tune - thanks, all!)

End Of Line

July 9th, 1982 - I stood in line for many hours to catch the debut of Walt Disney's "Tron." I was a geek. I have the 20th anniversary DVD and am going to watch it tonight. I'm still a geek. Like the man says, there are no problems, only solutions. God bless Kevin Flynn. And now, a handful of great "Tron" quotes:

Kevin Flynn: On the other side of the screen, it all looks so easy.


Sark: [paces back and forth on the deck of his carrier as he addresses his new recruits] Greetings. The Master Control Program has chosen you to serve your system on the Game Grid. Those of you who continue to profess a belief in the Users will receive the standard substandard training that will result in your eventual elmination. Those of you who renounce this superstitious and hysterical belief will be eligible to join the Warrior Elite of the MCP. Each of you will be given an identity disc.
[Displays his own disc to the crowd]
Sark: Whatever you do or whatever you learn will be imprinted on this disc. If you lose your disc or fail to follow commands, you will be subject to immediate de-resolution. That will be all.


Kevin Flynn: Look, just so I can tell my friends, what this dream is about, okay? Where am I?


Master Control Program: You're getting brutal, Sark. Brutal and needlessly sadistic.
Sark: Thank you, Master Control.


Dr. Walter Gibbs: Ha, ha. You've got to expect some static. After all, computers are just machines; they can't think.
Alan Bradley: Some programs will be thinking soon.
Dr. Walter Gibbs: Won't that be grand? Computers and the programs will start thinking and the people will stop.


Ram: I'd say "Welcome Friend". But not here. Not like this.
Crom: I don't even know what I'm doing here.
Ram: Do you believe in the Users?
Crom: Sure I do! If I didn't have a User, than who wrote me?
Ram: That's what you're doing down here.


Master Control Program: Mr. Dillinger, I am so disappointed in you.
Ed Dillinger: I'm sorry.
Master Control Program: I can't afford to have an independent program monitoring me. Do you have any idea how many outside systems I've gone into? How many programs I've appropriated?
Ed Dillinger: It's my fault. I programmed you to want too much.
Master Control Program: I was planning to hit the Pentagon next week.
Ed Dillinger: [Alarmed] The Pentagon?
Master Control Program: It shouldn't be any harder than any other company. But now... this is what I get for using humans.
Ed Dillinger: Now, wait a minute, I wrote you.
Master Control Program: I've gotten 2,415 times smarter since then.
Ed Dillinger: What do you want with the Pentagon?
Master Control Program: The same thing I want with the Kremlin. I'm bored with corporations. With the information I can access, I can run things 900 to 1200 times better than any human.
Ed Dillinger: f you think you're superior to us...
Master Control Program: You wouldn't want me to dig up Flynn's file and read it up on a VDT at the New York Times, would you?
[an image washes over the screen in Dillinger's desk. It is a newspaper with a photo of Dillinger plastered all over the front page. The headline above reads: Encom C.E.O. Indicted]
Ed Dillinger: You wouldn't dare!


Ed Dillinger: ENCOM isn't the business you started in your garage anymore. We're building accounts in thirty different countries. New defense systems. We have one of the most sophisticated pieces of equipment in existence.
Dr. Walter Gibbs: Oh, I know all that. Sometimes I wish I were back in that garage.
Ed Dillinger: That can be arranged, Walter.
Dr. Walter Gibbs: That was uncalled for! You know, you can remove men like Alan and me from the system, but we helped create it. And our spirit remains in every program we design for this computer.
Ed Dillinger: Walter, it's getting late, I've got better things to do than to have religious discussions with you. Don't worry about ENCOM anymore; it's out of your hands now.


Master Control Program: I've got a little challenge for you, Sark - a new recruit. He's a tough case, but I want him treated in the usual manner. Train him for the games... let him hope for a while... and blow him away.
Sark: You've got it. I've been hopin' you'd send me somebody with a little more guts... what kind of program is he?
Master Control Program: He's not any kind of program, Sark. He's a User.
Sark: A user?
Master Control Program: That's right. He pushed me... in the other world. Somebody pushes me, I push back. So I brought him down here... What's the matter, Sark? You look nervous.
Sark: Well, I - it's just - I don't know, a User, I mean... Users wrote us. A User even wrote you...
Master Control Program: No one User wrote me. I'm worth a couple million of their man-years!
Sark: But-what if I can't...?
Master Control Program: You rather take your chances with me? Want me to slow down your power cycles for you?
Sark: Wait... I need that...
Master Control Program: Then pull yourself together. Get this clown trained. I want him in the Games until he dies playing. Acknowledge.
Sark: Acknowledged, Master Control...
Master Control Program: End of line.

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