Having Something to Say

So much of graduate school is about reading. Books, journals, blogs, papers, a never ending stream of information. Incredible information. Mind opening, challenging, brilliantly crafted information. At times it feels like sliding up a hill at a breakneck pace, climbing higher and higher, totally disoriented as the ground falls away beneath you, giving perspective you never knew was possible. How could you know? Each new piece you read (well, the good ones at least) piles on top of previous work, changing the face of the hill, pushing it even higher, its peak beyond the clouds, to the point that you aren’t entirely sure that there is a summit at all. Its incredibly disorienting. Then, someone shoves a pen (or a laptop) into your hand and says, “Ok, write something new.” The pace does not slow down, the trees are zipping by, and the ground continues to glide by defying gravity. Who am I to say something new? Have you read this stuff? Are you aware of how smart people are in this world? How clear their thinking is? How much more there is that I have never read, never considered, can’t even begin to consider?

We take snapshots to remember moments in time, to mark the passing of time. We reminisce with those photographs, as they bring us back to the contexts, persons, feelings, relationships that filled those times. Or at least they bring us back to the residue of those moments, whatever it is that remains after time wears away detail, softens the edges. Memory patina. Photographs also force us to consider our mortality. Yeah. That’s heavy. That photo of me in 9th grade reminds me that someday, God willing, I will be an old man looking at a picture of me writing this dissertation. Then there will be days beyond that, at least for someone. Is writing itself any different? A bit. Writing is a static snapshot of a moment in time (perhaps a loooooong shutter time? certainly not a time-lapse, more of an overexposed motion blur). What does a photo communicate? Say I stuff a photo of C into a bottle and throw it in the ocean, then someone across the world finds it someday in the future, they will know nothing of him as a person, nothing of his life or times. But if I throw… say, my dissertation into a bottle in the ocean then someone somewhere could pick it up and, moving past the language barrier, could read it and gather something of my intention. The writing communicates for me. I won’t be there to speak for myself, to provide context, to offer insight. There are so many words floating around in the ocean (yeah, mixing mountain and ocean metaphors in one post). I sit here pulling a piece here, a piece there, trying to spin together the thread of a story that I was not there to experience. Then I will write my own words, my interpretation of my experience in the world, trying to weave that thread with my own into something, a life raft maybe? A flag to wave for a time? A rope to pull someone else to safety? A small corner of a tapestry? Or maybe just a knot, tied up neatly and thrown back into the ocean.

What do I have to say? Not much at the moment. Just these disjointed thoughts about writing as I try to write. These are not discouraging thoughts though, even the bit about photographs and mortality (believe it or not). I need to remember to be thankful we don’t have to hurtle up the mountain, or fish for words in the ocean alone. We aren’t just communicating with a hypothetical future moment, we are here in the moment together. That’s a pretty great feeling.

Carving Out a Moment at the Horizon

There are no mountains in Florida. Apparently there is a ridge that runs down the middle, with the highest point, dubbed “Sugarloaf Mountain,” standing a whopping 312 feet above sea level. Its a lump of sand. When you drive through Florida there is nothing “in the distance” except a blue sky. The scenery changes of course, but there is no sense of visual anticipation, nothing hanging on the horizon. That’s how I grew up. A few years ago we drove from Illinois out to Yellowstone National Park. After a restful night’s sleep we pulled out of the Black Hills and made our way into Wyoming. Slowly a line began to appear on the horizon, a smoky smudge at the bottom of the sky. All morning it hung at the edge of our awareness, the barest suggestion of a test to come. The sense of scale was really unfamiliar as neither I nor Dr. E had ever driven this far west before. The land was so flat, the drive so long, the smudge so persistent that we had no idea of when we would finally reach it. Today? Tomorrow? We ate lunch and kept up the drive, eventually tuning out with the distance. Suddenly the mountains loomed up in front of us, an imposing wall of stone and forest taking up our entire field of view. The Bighorn mountain range. We went immediately from relatively flat grasslands to hair raising switchbacks. It was incredible. At the top the drive sort of leveled out and we spent an incredible afternoon taking in the wilderness (and spotting a moose!). Then, out of the blue again, we were at the other side and the world simply ended, dropping away out of sight. You can see it in the picture (that’s us by the way, we took the trip with some good friends and one of them had the camera out).

bighornThe trip was incredible, and there were many more amazing sights, but I’ll never forget that moment when the horizon burst upward, where the mountain took us by surprise. That’s kind of where I’ve been the past few months. Except there is no mountain to enjoy. We’re still nestled amongst the endless, and currently frozen, fields of corn. When I started the Ph.D. program I knew that there was a dissertation on the horizon. But its not often that you actually meet the horizon, and when you do it is a jarring experience. This semester I am attempting to write my proposal. Three chapters to make a case for how I can add something new to the body of knowledge in music education. The road to this point has been filled with twists and turns, scenic moments where things came into new perspective. But I had no idea where I would end up. I’ll not get into details of my topic right now, though my post from earlier today is a hint of where I think I’m headed. Its far more exciting than I thought it would be. Honestly the feeling I get thinking about my dissertation is pretty similar to how I felt in that picture. The world is opening up, and it takes my breath away. I’m so charged to see ideas come together in a way that I never would have thought of before. It feels like the beginning of an incredible adventure, though I fully expect to get lost several times on the way.

After we took that picture we hopped back in the car and started down the snaking path to the valley below. The sun set quickly and we finished the descent in darkness, with the smell of glazing brake pads filling the car cabin (thankfully there was a mechanic open in Cody the next day, a Saturday). We spent a solid week camping out of the car and hiking around Yellowstone. It was incredible. I can’t wait to take C there when he’s older. On the way back we had to cross through the Bighorns again. As we came to the eastern descent we noticed a big crowd gathered in one of the scenic overlook parking lots. There was a guy in a hang glider. Seriously. A hang glider. I can’t make this up. As we turned down a switchback we saw him launch into the sky. It was incredible. We paced one another all the way down the mountain, he must have been in the air a full 20-30 minutes. As we reached the end of the last switchback we saw him touch down gracefully in a field. I can’t imagine what that must have been like, having the audacity to launch yourself off the end of the world. I hope that’s how I’ll feel when this whole project is finally over. Yet that’s not going to happen for a looooong while, at the moment the end is barely a smudge on the horizon.

Daily Dose of Derridean Deconstruction

Its been a while… But life is busy!

Spending Cormac’s nap working on Chapter 1. Reading a chapter entitled “Justice, If Such a Thing Exists.” The gist is that justice, in its truest sense, is ultimately impossible. That doesn’t mean we ignore the concept, only that there is no “end game” no final state of justice. Its an eternal process of becoming. This paragraph floored me- had to share!

“The key to understanding what Derrida is about here is to understand that by ‘justice’ he does not mean a Platonic eidos, or a Kantian regulative Idea, a determinable ideal or universal model, an identifiable paradigm to be applied as the universal is applied to the particular. What he means by Justice, and its impossibility, in the typically unorthodox, exorbitant style of deconstruction, is the singular… the ‘remnant’ and the ‘fragment’ that drops through the cracks of the law, not as a merely factual omission or defect of existing laws, but structurally, necessary. The singular is not a case that can be subsumed under the universal, not a specimen of a species, but the unrepeatable, unreproducibly idiosyncratic… The singular is what is always and already overlooked, out of sight, omitted, excluded, structurally, no matter what law, no matter what universal schema , is in place… The heart of justice aches over these singularities with a kind of biblical justice, rather the way the kingdom of God is concerned more with the one sheep that is lost than the ninety-nine safely grazing in the flock.” Caputo, Deconstruction in a Nutshell, 135

Whoa. More to follow.

Every boy needs a dog, and every dog needs a boy.

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“I’m supposed to chew on this right?”

Abbey met C when he was only a day old. At some point in the 24 hours between birth and homecoming I brought a blanket home for her to sniff. I let her nuzzle with me, smell the hospital, all that good stuff. Then came the big moment. She could sense the excitement, contorted herself to peek inside the car seat.

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Apparently she was happy to have Dr. E home. Things have been up and down since then.

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Abbey is a great dog. She’s been part of our lives for about 6 years now. I say great dog, but I should qualify. She doesn’t do tricks, she doesn’t listen, she is needy, she hogs the bed, and she is constantly licking something. But she’s also the most affectionate dog on the planet. Part of bringing a dog into our lives was so that we could get all of our spoiling out before a kid came along. It worked. At the moment she is curled up in her chair, yes her chair, in the living room. In a couple hours she’ll be under the covers, yes under the covers, with us in bed.

The downside of all that spoiling is that she is pathetically jealous. If Dr. E and I are cuddled up on the couch she has to try and squeeze between us. She can’t just sit near you, she has to lean her entire body against yours. She can’t just greet you with a wagging tail, she needs you to come down so she can lick your face. She’s the best. We don’t want a well-trained genius dog, we want Abbey. She is certainly jealous of the attention that C gets from everyone. When a guest enters our house she practically knocks them over with love, “Pay attention to me first! Ignore the tiny human!” For the most part she leaves C alone, with some occasional foot or face licking. Lately things have slowly been changing. If C and I are on the floor together, reading a book or somesuch, she will come over and try to get between us. She’ll paw at me, or shove her snout under my chin. She’ll flop on her side and stretch her paws out, often dangerously close to C. I have no fear that she’ll hurt him on purpose, she’s the most submissive dog on the planet. But she doesn’t know her limits, she gets too excited, and doesn’t seem to realize that he’s still fragile. Later on I fully expect wrestling, rough housing, and general shenanigans. For the moment I have no idea how to help her understand the situation. I end up having to push her away, to be firmer than normal. She slinks away, somehow looking even more pathetic than normal.

We’ve had our good moments too, the first picture is a good example. Abbey laid there for a good 5 minutes letting him touch her tail, grab her paws. She licked him all over his hands and face (yeah its gross, no I don’t care). It was fantastic. So I suppose there’s progress. But I can see in her eyes that something has changed, she knows she’s not first anymore. Its kind of heart breaking. With the winter coming its bound to get even worse. She dives under the covers as soon as the temperature hits 50 outside. Once snow falls she is a depressed lump of dog fur until spring. We will keep working on it I suppose, and hopefully they will continue to bond. Every boy needs a dog, and every dog needs a boy. Hopefully they are the right boy and dog for each other.

Irrationally Seeking Rationality

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This was a few weeks ago, but the face is about right for this post. “Help! I’m on my belly and I’m mad, even though I’m perfectly capable of flipping to my back at any time.”

C is screaming in his crib right now. Its 7:30 on Monday morning and he’s been up for an hour. I’ve tried to reason with him; we’ve gone over his schedule, that he’s supposed to eat in a half hour then take a nap, that his diaper is clean and that the teething gel will soon kick in. Still he cries. Why can’t he just listen? Oh, that’s right. Because he’s a baby.

When this tiny human makes its angry sound it fries my circuits completely. I go from being a completely sane, understanding, compassionate, rational adult, to a confused robot. “Why are you crying human child? Can you stop crying now?” Why didn’t someone warn me about this? Somewhere in my mind I knew that crying would be unpleasant. But I thought the unpleasantness would be deep concern for my child’s welfare.  Nope. Don’t get me wrong, I’m quite concerned for his welfare. But most of the time I know he’s faring pretty well. I can handle the catastrophes. Exploding diaper? No problem! Hangry melt-downs? Let’s eat! I know most of his cries and how to handle them, but sometimes there’s nothing to handle. Give me something to fix, I’m good at fixing things. Its just such a shocking experience to realize the power his crying has over me when there is nothing to “fix”. Its immediate and visceral, he cries and I can no longer think.

There’s probably something for me to learn from all of this, something profound and human. But at the moment it escapes me. Maybe I’ll find clarity once he starts talking, or at least communicating with more nuance (or maybe I’m the one that needs more nuance). Whatever the case, I’m going to do my best to eliminate the words “Why are you crying?” from my vocabulary for a while.

I didn’t get anything done today.

Friday! Woo! TGIF!  I don’t have classes on Friday. The sweet life, huh? Fridays off used to mean hanging out, movies, general whatnot. No longer. I have gradschoolitis, the main symptom of which is a soul crushing guilt that every free moment should be filled with work. Papers to finish, the constant threat of far-off deadlines, the constant pull of books you know you should finish, the constant nag of projects that you want to get started. Last year my Fridays, when not traveling for my assistantship, were spent doing all those things. By Friday evening I could look at my day and be pleased with everything I got done (I recognize the grammatical error I made, hang with me). Something changed this year, I’ll give you three guesses.

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Dr. E works on Friday mornings, meaning I’m on daddy duty. Its a pretty sweet deal honestly. We hang out, go to the park, take a nap, read books. But we don’t get work done. The “to-do” list hangs over my head the entire morning. Dr. E finally comes home and I might run off to an afternoon meeting, or do a little field work if time permits. Then its home again, C’s bedtime comes around quickly, we make dinner, and finally there comes a moment to work right? Nah. Finally a moment to collapse into the bed, to actually talk with my wife. Inevitably we end up talking about what we need to “get done” over the weekend. We consult our calendars, and make to-do lists. Then its off to sleep, more often than not punctuated by weird dreams about how much I have to get done.

Notice a trend? Its always what needs to get “done.” Deadlines (what a morbid phrase), to-do lists, work to finish. I used to take pleasure in what was done, what I had accomplished. I’m realizing that I have to change my definition of success. Friday might just have “to be”. To be together as a family, to be content with not getting anything “done”. None of us are ever done, not with our tasks or with our becoming. I have to learn to accept that I’m not going to get as much “done” now that our family is bigger. But I do get to begin a whole lot of new things; things that will keep growing and changing for a lifetime. Maybe C has offered me the right medicine to treat my gradschoolitis. The symptoms will take a while to fade, but that’s ok. Its a treatment, not a cure.

My Son, The Shameless Flirt

I’ve mentioned before that C’s resting face is pretty stoic. He kind of takes everything in. Its a look he’s had from day one: eyes focused, mouth closed, intently staring at the most interesting thing in the room. There is a sort of wisdom to how he looks at the world (at least I think so, but I’m biased). Lately that steely gaze has been interrupted more and more often by some tiny smiles. I say “tiny” only because he’s such a small guy, but those smiles have power beyond his wee face.

Now before we go any further— I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with his smile. Quite the opposite actually, its a great smile. But he’s picky about who he gives it to, picky in a pretty gendered way. I get some pretty big grins, but I’m dad, its only natural. Other men might warrant a smirk. Any random woman makes eye contact with him and, BOOM, out comes the charm. My son is a shameless flirt. Literally, he has no shame, has no idea what shame is. Part me wants to give him a high-five, to pump a heteronormative fist in the air. Right on C, starting out early. Thankfully the rest of me catches up quickly and I avoid an embarrassing moment. But the tension is there. Today he is as innocent as can be, his smiles are smiles in the truest sense. He has moved past basic mimicry and I get the sense that his smiles are in response to some sense of shared humanity (as much as a baby can do that sort of thing). How long can that innocent smile last? Certainly for quite some time, and hopefully for a lifetime. Will I need to encourage him to be a bit more fair with his smiles? What can I do to help him out?

The world is not such a good place to grow up in if you want to avoid objectifying other people, if you want to maintain a healthy relationship with shame, with human attraction, with innocence. Its certainly a bit early to start worrying about most of this stuff. We’re doing the best we can, and he’s going to be who he going to be. But I know that I will be implicated in his becoming, in how he learns to treat people. That’s heavy. For now I’m just going to keep trying to get him to smile. Because its a pretty fun thing to do.

Tuva: What is home? (with a dose of post-structural discussion about cosmopolitanism, and far too many rhetorical questions)

This post follows the previous one, even though the previous one falls further down the page. Such is the internet. If you scroll down a bit you’ll see that I spent a few paragraphs geeking out about a performance of Tuvan music that I attended earlier in the week. It was a pretty great experience (the music, not necessarily the post). Those guys are fantastic musicians, and the whole throat singing thing is absolutely incredible. But as much as I loved the music and the story it told, I am left with questions. This sort of ensemble warrants a discussion about representation, “authenticity”, and how we craft the stories that we share with the world both individually and collectively.

In the previous post I spent a couple of lines thinking about how the structures of Tuvan music seem to reflect the structures of Tuvan life. This was a story that they went out of their way to tell. The videos they played behind the songs were filled with images of mountains, yurts, livestock, and social/religious ceremonies. The costumes they wore on stage supported the “traditional” images; rich silks with gold accents, elaborate headgear with spikes. Granted, there were several instances in the performance where they highlighted the living nature of Tuvan music: a six-string guitar, a bit of bluesy accordion, a video of a traditional horse race for children in which the course runs along a road where jeeps and vans keep pace. The overall impression was of an ancient society, connected to the land, open to modern influences in the world, yet fiercely devoted to their roots.

Now, compare those costumes to what they’re wearing here.

T-shirts, jeans, cargo pants. Same incredible music, different costumes. We all don different costumes for different occasions, for different purposes.That interests me deeply. People get to write their own narratives, draw their own pictures of themselves. Telling our own story is one of the ways that we claim agency in our world. I believe that the narrative that Alash spun at the concert is honest. They come from an ancient land with deep roots, and part of their mission is to serve as cultural ambassadors of those roots. Yet there are probably very different stories to be told from Tuvan life. Stories of poverty, of those who would fight against tradition, of city life far removed from the yurt and cattle. How do we, collectively, make decisions about the stories we share with the world? What does this mean for me as an educator? What does this mean to me as an American educator, where my students and I have rather complex backstories, where home is not so easy to describe?

I have a complex and rather convoluted genetic identity, in fact I don’t know my whole back story. That’s kind of the American norm right? Beyond genetics, I am a product of a liberal, cosmopolitan education. “Cosmopolitan” is not just a pink beverage, it is a word of Greek origin– a citizen “-polites” of the world “kosmos-“. The cosmopolitan agenda in education seeks to elevate students beyond their local contexts, to come to know and respect other people in the world. I’m not necessarily complaining, there is a lot of good wrapped up in being able to think beyond the particularities of your own context. But sometimes I wonder if I’m missing out on something. I was born in New England, was raised in Florida, am currently living happily in the midwest, and will soon have to follow the job market to who-knows-where. The globalization of the marketplace and the transience of American society can further remove us from deep engagement and connection with local contexts. Certainly there are parts of America that tout historic locality over everything else (“The Lonestar State”, the confederate flag, other less offensive examples that I can’t think of at the moment, etc.), but for the most part people’s roots don’t run very deep in a place. And having deep roots can even be seen as a negative (townies, yokels, hicks, etc.). If I were asked to be a cultural ambassador for my country, what story could I tell? What is my home?

This question has been rattling around my head a lot lately, especially since C came on the scene. His names, all four of them, are pretty traditional Irish names. Both Dr. E and I have some Irish heritage that we feel proud of. But we also have Yugoslavian, English, Scottish, and Native American history in our blood lines. Why do we focus on the Irish roots? Why, after living 20+ years in Florida and 4 more in the midwest, do I still feel a strong connection to New England? And where does music fit in this discussion? What is my music? I grew up playing classical music, with a dash of jazz, and a healthy dose of the Southern Baptist hymnal. Are those my musics? How can that be?

Another metaphor that gets tossed around in this sort of conversation is “anchor”. Rather than having “roots” in a place, maybe we simply drop “anchor” for a while. I’m not sure I like that metaphor. Anchors keep a ship from drifting with the tides, but they don’t really connect the ship to anything. It is a temporary connection. Roots are also anchors, keeping tall trees upright despite the weather. But roots allow for nourishment, to draw life from the soil they touch.

A lot of music educators would argue for a cosmopolitan agenda, though they would call it “world musics” or “multicultural musics”, all code words for “someone else’s music”. People make efforts to contextualize these musics, trying to help students understand the lives of the people who are most steeped in the form. What are we steeped in? What is our context as American music educators? Its a big country, and its people have come from a lot of places.

I guess I am just a bit jealous of Alash. They have roots. Perhaps its just nostalgia for an imagined past, but I can’t help but feel that in a certain way I am homeless. After all that is one logical conclusion of the cosmopolitan agenda. The fully realized cosmopolitan is a citizen of nowhere, they are homeless. Certainly this is not the entire story of my life, and I can still recite you the addresses of the places that I have called “home” over my years. Those places weave together, memories rise to the top. I can write you the story of my home. As I watch C grow I wonder what his story will be, what his first memory will be when he thinks of “home”, where he will think of himself as having “roots”. I think I’m just about done rambling for the moment, but I will probably return to this topic again soon. For the moment I’ll have to be content with knowing that home is here, where the heat just turned on, where the dog sleeps on the couch, where the baby monitor assures me that life goes on.

Tuva: Geeking Out on Throat Singing (with a dash of pseudo-intellectual structural analysis for good measure)

Since I am getting a Ph.D. in music education you might assume that my days are filled with rehearsals, practice rooms, my nights with exciting concerts.  You’d be wrong. My days are filled by staring at this laptop screen, reading obscure academic texts about music, and my nights are filled with more of the same (though recent nights have been more taken up with baby time). This is a shame as we have an incredible music scene around here. Sunday afternoon was a rare moment, I actually went to a concert. It was a trio of Tuvan musicians called Alash. 

Do you know about Tuvan music? Tuvan throat singing? Have you heard about Tuvan throat singing in a non-ironic way? (An unnamed family member of mine mentioned that she knew about the style thanks to the Big Bang Theory… no comment.) The idea of Tuvan throat singing has always appealed to me, and I had heard cross-over recordings in the past. But this was my first chance to really sit and take in an entire concert of Tuvan music. Whoa. I was not prepared. Throat singing is thrown around as a novelty, something obscure to impress people in a bar conversation. This was no novelty. It was beautiful.  It was incredible. It was an experience.

Here are the guys:

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And here’s a bit of what they do. Do yourself a favor, stay on board at least until past the minute mark. Better yet, plug in some headphones and watch the whole thing.

Those voices. Did you just listen to just the droning notes, or did you follow the “whistle”-like overtones they produce? How did you react to the sounds themselves?

I’ve been in music long enough to get past the initial discomfort that can come from encountering unfamiliar sounds. We (the largest we, everyone) don’t all agree on what “sounds good”. Alash’s website explains a little bit about the various types of throat singing common in Tuva, with notes about what each can be representative of.  I was struck by how the sounds of the instruments so perfectly complimented the various vocal styles. Of course it makes sense, you would want the instrument to complement the voice, and the voice the instrument. But how did these particular sounds come to be central in Tuvan music? The romantic/structuralist in me wants to see these music sounds as sonic markers of Tuvan environment and social norms. Take for example the kargyraa, which their website describes as “a low pitched style with a growling undertone below the fundamental pitch, as well as higher overtones. Suggests the howling of winter winds or the cries of a mother camel after losing her calf.” (emphasis added) They said it, therefore I’ll believe it. With apologies to actual anthropologists/ethnomusicologists (and any Tuvan readers), here’s my brief, humble, and hopefully unoffensive attempt to contextualize some of these structural links.

I’m an ancient Tuvan. I’m chilling, figuratively and literally, in my yurt listening to the wind howl. Its an especially bad winter, the herds suffer and calves die. I mourn with them. I start to sing, I sing with the animals, joining in their mourning song. I sing against the winter. I bow my igil  in time with my singing, atune my voice with the cries of my herd, with the wind whistling through the walls. I press deeply into the strings, all the sounds groan together, rising and falling as each moment runs its course. 

Over the years this sound continues takes shape, other voices raise with mine, individual sounds are lost within a broader fabric. Eventually the shoor and igil blend perfectly with the overtones of our voices, harmonics of all three ring together to create resonant tones– notes that no one person is playing. This reflects the life beyond the sound. Our lives revolve around shared efforts, not only of people but of horses and livestock as well. Collective life is more than the individuals who make it up, the social system grows beyond itself, takes on a life of its own, yet could not exist without the efforts of the individual member. Life and music are shaped by the environment, thus we respond and mirror our conditions within our songs.

We hold to the sounds passed down to us, but the land and life is changing. Our influences are changing. Horse meets jeep, the yurt has wi-fi now. Blues musicians have come to sing with us, instruments pour across the borders. Yet we still hold to our roots, we maintain our connections to the land, to those who have gone before. The structures of our society, our histories, our views of the world are present in the sounds and songs that we raise.

That’s the impression I got from watching Alash, the story that they were attempting to tell. Videos ran behind several pieces, showing the sweeping and varied landscapes of Tuva, the celebrations and lives of the Tuvan people. It was a convincing story. But I think I would have been convinced even without the translation and videos. The sounds themselves were so interesting, so evocative, it was hard to not see a structural connection to some way of life. Perhaps I’m reading into things too much though. These are professionals, great musicians and performers. Their job is to spin a convincing yarn, and for those 90 minutes I was tied up in it. It may also be that I need to get out of the house more often…

Or maybe there’s another way to analyze this whole thing. We all create our own stories in their telling. How does Alash craft the story of their people in sound? Next post I’ll deal with that other analysis, and riff on some thoughts I’ve been wrestling with lately: seeking a sense of home in a globalized, cosmopolitan world.