I’m a Jew—born and raised—but I come from a “mixed” family (they say “interfaith” now). My dad is a Jew, but my mom was raised Christian. Both my maternal grandparents—with whom I spent a lot of time growing up—were practicing Christians. Far from shockingly, my own marriage is mixed (my wife was raised Catholic, our kids are Jews who end up participating in a lot of Xtian traditions). Interfaith families are really common now, but were much less so when I was young.
As you’re likely aware, back when I was a kid there weren’t a lot of Xanukah songs for us Jewish kids. There weren’t many songs for Jewish kids, but there were some; there were absolutely zero songs for mixed half-a-Jews with an Xmas tree and a Xanukiah and a cat that managed to catch fire in the Xanukah candles every year and Xtian grandparents who came to town on Xmas Eve specifically to partake in the Jewish tradition of Xmas Chinese food.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but we’re sort of a nation that always wants everyone to be one thing or another thing—black or white, nerd or jock, Jew or Gentile, girl or boy—and doesn’t have much patience for things that are mixed and ambiguous and a lil-o’-both. I was in my 20s, and in a Women’s Studies class, before I learned what the hell “intersectionality” was, and my identity began to make any sense to me.
This year—for the third year running—my local Jewish Community Center is collecting donations of Christmas presents, to be given to the Syrian refugees relocated here.
On the one hand, that sounds almost too perfectly absurd: Jews giving Muslims Christmas presents. On the other, it feels like basically the most perfect possible introduction to America.🕎🎄☪🇺🇸
Anyway, there weren’t many mixed kids like me when I was growing up—and there weren’t any songs or holiday specials or children’s books that reflected what I saw and felt and loved about wintertime.
So these are my songs, for all the little intersectional mixed kids out there, who don’t have any holiday songs to sing.
I sorta love things like this, not because it’s the “sound of a Martian sunrise”—because it isn’t. It’s a composition humans made, using an express (and consciously expressed) scheme that’s inspired by a Martian sunrise.
No, I love this art because it sounds pretty and pleases and soothes me, and I love projects like this because artists always and forever operate based on formulae—they just usually aren’t able (or willing) to consciously and explicitly formulate those formula. I like it when we engage with our formulae outright.
Also, I really like Mars. Our relationship with that planet has changed substantially since I was a boy, and that always fills my heart with Hope.
I’ll level with you: This is going to be a hoot. It’s a good book, it reads well, and I’m moderately hilarious. I’ll bring snackies of some sort.
Nonetheless, I’m totally dubious about my capacity to draw an audience. Therefore, I’m running two contests(!!!) associated with this event:
CONTEST: If you are the one and only person who shows up you get a free book, a personal reading, and a free drink at the nearest bar!
BONUS CONTEST: If the number of attendees exceeds the number of fingers I have (total), I will additionally read from the novel of y’all’s choosing. No reasonable request refused!
2. Good Noise in the Loud Lab!
On October 28 I’ll be the featured artist in the Sonic Workshop at the Ann Arbor Hands on Museum from noon until 4pm . I’ll be running my “Loud Lab,” which includes a special installation of the Slinky Sound Forest, weird homebrew instruments and freak-out noisetoys you can rock out on, and an opportunity to craft your own weird noise-music-thingies under my dubious tutelage. Details:
The 45/45/10 Formula for narrative/argument is one of the perpetual bees bumbling around my bonnet.This video for this song is such a stone cold perfect example (and, subsequently, so rhetorically devastating) that I just had to share.PRO-TIP: The first two-and-a-half minutes will likely be almost unbearable to watch for most white Americans.If it helps, know that Joyner Lucas (the musician and the voice you hear throughout the song) is black (although not the black guy in the video).
At any rate, to review my 45/45/10 Formula:
The first 45% of a piece is the Setup: Characters/concepts/situations/dynamics are presented and relationships among these made clear
The next 45% is the Tangle: Complication(s) disrupt (or at least complicate) the situation laid out in the Setup
The last 10% is the Resolution: The knot is Untangled, for better or worse
In the case of this track, the Setup runs from the open to ~2:50. The Tangle then runs to ~5:50, and from that point to the cut to black is the Resolution. What especially thrills me here—beyond the hard body impact of the rhetoric itself and the lean power of the videography—is how shifts in the music mark out the transitions between stages in the argument: Each section break is marked out be an abrupt shift in the tone and mood of the backing track.
This is a wonderful primer on how to structure an narrative argument to hold an audience and not persuade them, per se—because that’s not the goal—but rather to enduringly stick in their craw, so they keep troubling over your argument long after they’re done with the piece of entertainment.This is how you write moral fiction.This is how you plant the seeds that grow the trees that, indefatigably and seemingly effortlessly, bend the arc of that moral universe back toward justice.
And that, kids, is our business.Go, watch … and learn.
I’ve been woefully lax on the beats this month. All apologies; my event schedule, plus holiday prep and holidays, has had me running like the proverbial chicken.To make it up, I’m posting three deep-cuts today, all from back when I used to record annual Xmanukah Songs and had not yet developed crippling shame at my core musical incompetencies.Enjoy!
Found this in a stack of unlabeled 78 rpm records I bought off eBay, like, a billion years ago. No time to lay down a new track this week, so I just digitized this instead. Mysteries within mysteries, etc.
Since September I’ve been posting a new track each week. Nothing new this week (I’m in a cabin in the woods right now, and thus can’t upload new music; this post was pre-scheduled). In the meantime, here’s a little widget so you can listen to all of the tracks in one go.