Music

If only I could remember the first time a song created a scene so vivid that I suddenly found myself in an unknown place populated with unknown people. “Norwegian Wood” may hold the honor. The song debuted in December 1965 with the release of The Beatles’ Rubber Soul album. I turned 15 that month and […]

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Still on the Line

March 2, 2012

Can a song “exist in a world of its own – not just timeless but ultimately outside of modern music”? One of the rare songs that does, the BBC says, is “Wichita Lineman.” I heard the song today for the first time in years and surely felt the same way I did when Glen Campbell‘s […]

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Life is Short

March 31, 2009

In an interview broadcast today, singer John Mellencamp described to NPR’s Terry Gross the inspiration for the song “Longest Days” on his 2008 CD, Life Death Love and Freedom. He said his grandmother called him Buddy. She lived to 100. Late in life she often asked him to lay in bed with her as she […]

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Banjo Ties

January 27, 2009

News comes that my grown son, Zachary, is learning the banjo. I knew that like me he loves the instrument’s sound — singular and echoing and mournful. Not discordant but of the earth in the way the guitar and other stringed instruments are not. I didn’t know he harbored ambition to make music. The news […]

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Soundtracks to Tragic News

November 28, 2008

Exercising while listening to music and watching tragic news on CNN is a collision of dissonance. Picture the scene: two dozen bodies bouncing along on cardio equipment in front of six health club TVs. I’m on the elliptical machine. Music blaring from my ear buds drowns out all other sound, even my panting breaths. My […]

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Musical Erasure of Time

November 21, 2008

My forty-year high school reunion in September didn’t make me feel old. In fact, I felt young again surrounded by my long-lost friends. It’s always that way when I’m with my two brothers. In a way, we never age no matter how many lies the mirror tells and how far our attitudes diverge. How could […]

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Groupie in the making

August 25, 2008

I stand in the rain. The Avett Brothers are about to take the stage in Portland at the Oregon Zoo amphitheater. So miserable is the weather this night that wife and little son fled for home after the opening act. Everyone is soaked and cold. While I wait, tunes from “Emotionalism” play in my head. […]

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Shame on McCain

July 25, 2008

I’m at the gym today, listening to the Avett Brothers‘ CD Emotionalism as I pant and sweat. CNN is on the TV several feet away. I vow not to read the closed-caption transcription of John McCain’s speech and look away. But my eyes betray me. McCain excoriates Barack Obama for not supporting the surge and […]

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More than music

July 22, 2008

Being there is everything. Not just attending small venue concerts to hear musicians I’m enthralled with but making sure I’m pressed next to the stage. I want to see what’s written on their faces, to witness the up-close interplay with their band mates, to judge how they play off the audience. I want to imagine […]

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Fanciful stories

July 17, 2008

Not fully grasping an intriguing story appeals to me. Take Lisa Barcy’s arresting animation and Andrew Bird‘s somber yet whimsical song “Lull” that accompanies it (click the image). The story instantly captured me. With each viewing, I see more in the drawings, hear more in the sounds, comprehend more meaning in this odd, fanciful tale. […]

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Josh Ritter connects

May 6, 2008

“I used to live on Prescott,” acclaimed singer and songwriter Josh Ritter tells me on the phone. I tell him I live nearby in Northeast Portland. We’re chatting like people who might have passed in the grocery aisle and nodded a hello but now are finally getting to know each other. I’m trying not to […]

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More to the story

May 3, 2008

I stop for coffee this afternoon at the Goldrush Coffee Bar because it’s near my house and an all-time favorite song pops into my head whenever I enter: Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.” (Prophetic lyrics here.) Coffee black for me, but “Tutley’s Triumph” catches my eye on the chalkboard menu. I’m told it’s a […]

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