Local Heroes

As YouTube’d and Wiki’d and Facebooked and blogged-drenched as we are today. And as wicked cool as it is to have the entire world in digital form at our fingertips- we still need people to do stuff –Locally.

I might have the Mona Lisa as wallpaper on my computer screen, but it is the mural on the wall of the building around the corner that brings out the pride in the place where I live.  I might have an ipod full of the greatest recordings in the history of jazz, but it is the consistent swing of the drummer that plays at the club down the street that provides the heartbeat ofmy daily experience and the face to face inspiration that makes my kid want to study music.

I can listen to TedTalk’s and Fresh Air broadcasts, read Huffington Post and New Yorker articles that open the portals of the world. I can order in a bounty of exotic products from Amazon and Zappos and Ebay and never leave my couch. But I need real people to rub shoulders with, and inspire me, and  remind me the possibilities of the life I might aspire to–here in my own zip code.

I need people to make the great ideas of the world live on MY block.

I need local heros.

Why Megan McGeorge is my hero…

What Megan is doing has been done before. But not here. And so to me, even though her idea is simple, it is brilliant.  In retrospect it seems obvious, but that makes it no less inspiring.

Megan is my hero because she is one of those people who make a decision that a thing needs to happen, and then she get’s it to happen.  She didn’t wait to get a grant.   She didn’t wait for someone else to give her permission.  She gathered her courage and asked. Then she rolled up her sleeves and pushed.  The thing she decided was that our public spaces would be enhanced if people had the means to fill them with music.   I happen to agree with this. I believe that providing the means for music to return to the commons  make all our lives better. 

She is also my hero because this was not an idea she pursued in order to enrich herself.  She wasn’t looking to busk for cash. Although there is absolutely nothing wrong with that occupation.  She was after something more elusive.  She was providing the means for music to be given away.  She was planting something. Some people plant trees.  Megan plants pianos.   And once she planted a few, she mobilized her community of musicians-professional, student, amateur to join her in showing the rest of us what could be done with this new resource.

Megan is my hero because she is finding a way to bring a voice to the commons.  She reminds me of how engaging with music, not recorded, but actual, real-time music was part of the rhythm of daily life. for all people- youngest to oldest. trained artist or novice, professional or amateur.  Music was usI

I did a show today called Piano-Rama in part to draw attention to the work of Megan and Piano, Push Play, to try to spread her story a bit further. 

Tnanks Megan.

Words

Chief_JosephI did an interview today with radio host and Portland writer Lynn Darroch on the jazz radio station KMHD.  Lynn posed the question of how I went about trying to capture the idea of territory in music.  The process for me is threefold.  First I need to find a story that I want to tell, a seed of inspiration.  Then I sit and listen to for the musical seeds that might come from reflecting on those stories.  The fun part for me is then looking for a point of view, much like a writer or a film maker would do.  Trying to find a place from which to tell the story.  For me this place is often discovered through words- whether text of lyrics I’m inspired to write, or  those of others.

This post has  some words that found their way into The Territory.  It has the practical purpose of letting whoever might be interested see the lyrics to those vocal movements of the piece, since there was not room for these in the concert program.

One figure whose words inspired me was the Nez Perce leader Chief Joseph.  Whether or not  Joseph was a great leader of the native people, or a prop of the US government is a matter for debate.  I think we are fortunate, however, that many of his words, which resonate with some profoundly wise thoughts, have been preserved.

One statement that inspired me was made to him by his father, Joseph the Elder, on his deathbed.  As is so often the case, the father charges the son with taking up the burden that he can no longer carry. I knew when I read these words that I wanted to use  them in the piece.  They provide the text for the verse section of Part 3: Chief Joseph’s Lament.

“My son, my body is returning to my mother earth, and my spirit is going very soon to see the Great Spirit Chief. When I am gone, think of your country. You are the chief of these people. They look to you to guide them. Always remember that your father never sold his country. You must stop your ears whenever you are asked to sign a treaty selling your home. A few years more and white men will be all around you. They have their eyes on this land. My son, never forget my dying words. This country holds your father’s body. Never sell the bones of your father and your mother.”

I was also inspired by Joseph’s famous Surrender Speech from October 5th, 1877

“Tell General Howard I know his heart. What he told me before, I have it in my heart. I am tired of fighting. Our chiefs are killed; Looking Glass is dead, Too-hul-hul-sote is dead. The old men are all dead. It is the young men who say yes or no. He who led on the young men is dead. It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are freezing to death. My people, some of them, have run away to the hills, and have no blankets, no food. No one knows where they are, perhaps freezing to death. I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find them among the dead. Hear me, my chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever.”

Together these two statements provided the impetus for the refrain of this movement.  That this man, whose spirit was broken, might in giving up have sown the seeds for the future.

Chief Joseph’s Lament

wallowaSo many miles
into the long ago…
All that was wild
courses below the ground.
So many hands
take what they do not own.
Scatter for years
all that our blood has sown

So many miles
into the long ago…
When we were wild,
rising to run the ground.
Sky father smiled
down on these bleached bones
Taught us to fly
carried away one by one.