The Book of Songs

Drawing for the ‘Book of Songs’ to live jazz, Siem Reap

TO TIE IN with Oulun juhlaviikot on seitsemän festivaalin (the summer festival in Oulu), DK will make a popup installation of zines, drawings, and cutouts. This is part of an international series, The Book of Songs. DK draws to live music, especially jazz, in cities like New York, San Francisco, Bangkok, Tokyo, and Kuala Lumpur.

Meet the artists, get the zine, and catch the poetry. And jazz. Free with RSVP.

RSVP through this form, location details will be announced only through email to those who get in touch. See you in Oulu!

In her own voice

CLEAR WRITING. Is important. Direct, to the point. You don’t have to get ornamental with it. These are the things I am saying to the person I used to be, not even two years ago. I guess sometimes you have to revisit the spots where you were, and look at what you said and wrote and did, and maybe shake your head a bit. ‘Really? I wrote that?’ And suffer a bit of embarrassment, but mostly to yourself. Because at the end of the day, it’s really about personal growth, isn’t it? When it comes to making something that you think is ‘art,’ and that’s a giant debate, in and of itself, but for me, art is conversation: when sender and receiver are locked in a timeless, wordless dialogue whose content only they can know. Maybe that’s because of intuition, or the zeitgeist, or the collective unconscious (all things I read about incessantly, and used to blog here, but don’t now, because… editing.)

But there is good motion ahead. The Book of Songs is returning. I’m reworking it completely. It’s so very good to see where the old threads left off (January 2015) and tie them up with some of the new ones (2016, 2017). So it’s going to be part of the next bundle of writings, which you can discover more about here.

Much ahead. Let’s take it one blog at a time.

 

Order the Book of Songs

IT’S NOT QUITE A CHAPBOOK, nor a novella, but rather a curation of some of the most intriguing people we’ve met in the last two decades. A curated collection of poetry and line art drawings. Some images are photographs of collages.

WANT TO ORDER the Book of Songs?

Order here >

WHAT IT IS. It’s not quite a chapbook, nor a novella, but rather a curation of some of the most intriguing people we’ve met in the last two decades. A curated collection of poetry and line art drawings. Some images are photographs of collages. Visuals were mostly made on the spot, live to music. Mostly jazz. Paired with poems, collages, most of the time done right there, on the spot. The Book of Songs is 8 poems and one short story. Each is inspired by someone pretty darn amazing, and there are links in the back to some of their sites. It’s also a dedication: this book is for the memory of Soknea Teang.

SPECIAL OFFER. Get a free track from the Norwegian free jazz band Gunslinging Bird Quartet when you order the Book of Songs. Pretty cool song, ‘If Your Mother Was a Hamster,’ comes with your order.

Get both in an instant download here.

Book of Songs
Book of Songs

 

On quality and intrigue, a conversation with line and music

A Q&A WITH ERLING SKORPEN, a jazz artist, on what makes something intriguing. ‘When you listen to a concert, and you notice that the musicians are really into what they’re doing. When you can feel the energy in the room, and there exists a special atmosphere there. That’s the feeling that best describes intrigue for us.’

IN DENMARK I got to hear a pretty neat collection of intriguing bands at a weird and fascinating spot in Copenhagen called Mandags Klubben 5e. (More about them, another time—so fun.)

But for today I want to share an interview with someone intriguing I met, whose upcoming album is another thing I’d like to share about in a future post as it has a connection to one of our own pieces of work, The Book of Songs, in an abstract, tangential sort of way. Abstract and tangential, now that I think about it, is exactly what was awesome about being there on that day last autumn.

Let me expand.

Loved the sound of a young group called Gunslinging Bird Quartet, and started drawing in ball point pen and off the page—two new things for me, at the same time. I later asked trumpeter Erling Skorpen about the style of music he and his bandmates play, and why. Free jazz.

DK: Cool show, can you tell me about your band?

EK: Through years of playing and exploring different types of music, we all found a common interest in this type of jazz music. It’s merely a process—we might part ways with this aesthetic in one year or ten years. This is the music we all love, and which inspires us right now.

DK: What makes you happy?

EK: When we are playing music and it really works out. Drinking coffee. Pleasant surprises.

DK: How do you define intrigue?

EK: When you listen to a concert, and you notice that the musicians are really into what they’re doing. When you can feel the energy in the room, and there exists a special atmosphere there. That’s the feeling that best describes intrigue for us.

DK: How do you define quality?

EK: When music is honest and it connects with the audience. When you really hear that these people mean what they do.

MEMBERS OF the band are: Trym Daniel Rødvik – alto saxophone; Erling Skorpen – trumpet; Alex Riris – double bass; Amund Nordstrøm – drums & percussion.

Discover Gunslinging Bird online here: Soundcloud.com/gunslinging-bird.

Arts and culture, conversation and the story

IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE, as Erling says and which is exactly why I enjoyed being there. Mainstream can get in the way of real connection, in my opinion. When you bumble into the unexpected and find intrigue, there is something *! that happens.

Magic?

Magic.

It’s delight these days, I’m convinced, that makes up the aesthetic of a new kind of ‘beautiful.’ And when I say ‘delight’ I don’t mean some user interface or an app. I mean, real life. What is the role of music in society? What is the role of poetry, of design? To make artfulness, I think. To meander, to open hearts.

But what’s your take? Comments welcome. —DK

This post originally appeared in the INTIMACY sequence of our eZine, S. P. A. C. E.

Where great physics intersects with great literature: Outbreaks

NEILS BOHR: ‘There is no quantum world. There’s only an abstract quantum physical description. It is wrong to think the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics is what we can say about nature.’

A surprising overlap in thinking: What Neils Bohr and Henry Miller both say about the creative process

SERENDIPITY LANDED IT ON MY LAP.

In a dusty, sun-caked patio of a lending library in Phnom Penh, the worn volume tossed towards me by a longtime friend, with the abrupt grunt, and a halfhearted recommendation. ‘This one, maybe. You might like it, A.’

Henry Miller. The Colossus of Maroussi.

I did.

Too much.

I still haven’t returned it. One day, eventually, but it is too nice to read and reread the dense packets of prose that answer life’s big questions: what is our purpose, how can we reconcile our callings towards the esoteric (live artfully, miraculously) when the world is ravaging itself in global warming, apathy, fragmentation, and war. I lately read classics more and more. They seem to have some of these things organized and carefully, beautifully, and quite convincingly spelled out.

What we are, how we are meant to live, and what we might yet become are super giant metaphysical questions. When I talk about metaphysics, people get kind of all distant and a little weirded out. Science is hard, I get the rebuttal. I spent a lot of time in a part of America with the highest concentration of PhDs (this would be Raleigh-Durham), and often, more often than I care to admit, ran up against the celebration of logic over all.

Logic is a mess. Logic is killing us. And logic isn’t working. When we have the world upping in temperature inch by inch, the empire of Disney comes along and tries to put it out of our mind with a pretty little distracting animation about a world of cold and ice. A movie glorifying war comes out at just exactly the time as, guess what? Real war’s on. This is weird, but this is the world we are in. I was in this bungalow in a hippie outlay in a rural part of Cambodia one day, just hanging out on a hammock, and this older guy gets it that I’m getting him, and just tells me point blank, it’s all over. ‘The truth will be buried in a sea of irrelevance. You should read Aldous Huxley.’ ‘Tell me more.’

CAN’T SAY THAT I AM A BIG READER. I like talking, though. Correspondence in the written form is cool, too. What matters is the quality of exchange. The dialogue. Value is the awareness of something new, an input that is beginning to plant somewhere, and inform the old learnings. I am reading for the sake of curating a magazine. I don’t have much else to read, except what will engage the people I care about. The ones who ask questions.

Miller, describing his thoughts at being taken to an astronomical observatory in Athens along with his friend Lawrence Durrell:

The image I shall always retain is that of Chartres, an effulgent rose window shattered by a hand grenade. I mean it in a double or triple sense—of awesome, indestructible beauty, of cosmic violation, of world ruin suspended in the sky like a fatal omen, of the eternality of beauty even when blasted and desecrated. ‘As above, so below,’ runs the famous saying of Hermes Trismegistus. To see the Pleiades through a powerful telescope is to sense the sublime and awesome truth of these words. In his highest flights,musical and architectural above all, for they are one, man gives the illusion of rivaling the order, the majesty and the splendor of the heavens; in his fits of destruction the evil and the desolation which he spreads seems incomparable until we reflect on the greate stellar shake-ups brought on by the mental aberations of the unknown Wizard. Our hosts seemed impervious to such reflections; they spoke knowingly of weights, distances, substances, etc. They were removed from the normal activities of their fellow-men in quite a different way from ourselves. For them beauty was incidental, for us everything. For them the phsyicomathematical world palped, calibred, weighted and transmitted by their instruments was reality itself, the stars and planets mere proof of their exeellent and infallible reasong. For Durell and myself reality lay wholly beyond the reach of their puny instruments which in themselves were nothing more than clumsy reflections of their circumsribed imagination locked forever inthe hypothetical prison of logic.

Their astronomical figures and calculations, intended to impress and overawe us, only caused us to smiole indulgently or to very impolitely laugh outright at them. Speaking for myself, facts and figures have always left me unimpressed.’ —Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi, published in New Directions Books: New York, 1941

Neils Bohr takes it further

THE WEIRD PART IS this. Henry Miller’s ideas about precision and logic and the people who profess that this is the prime tier of thinking itself is right in line with the physicist who gave us the model of the atom, Neils Bohr.

Now, I have been writing quite a bit here lately about my rambles in DENMARK. And the Neils Bohr Institute visit in particular, for example, features in a strong, central way in the new book I am writing (more on that some other time). Mainly, I wanted to get back to Phnom Penh and find a different library, one that has textbooks and not just novels, so I foudn the ___ university on the second floor above a moto parking lot and went on in, and got to the physics section, which I already knew about because of some old research on Bohm and qualia, and discovered, quite happily, a biography of Neils Bohr.

The man who became so well-loved in Copenhagen that taxi drivers taking physicists invited to study there took no money for their clients when they heard the destination was the Neils Bohr Institute has given us, as Miller, a lot of meaty and comprehensive thought on our collective work in life to be the best humans we can. Like Miller, he gets easily irritated with people who profess to know things, absolutely. What I learned from being in Denmark, as the biographer also comments, is that one must suspend his conditioning that directs us to speak and act as though we are ‘correct.’

There is no quantum world. There’s only an abstract quantum physical description. It is wrong to think the task of physics is to find out how nature is. Physics is what we can say about nature.

–AS

The Book of Songs #5: ‘Open Heart’

‘STARTING TO START?’

‘Yes, how?’

ANTHOLOGY. The Mirror, 2014
ANTHOLOGY. The Mirror, 2014

THIS is the cover. The cover always is the last part, in the book-making process here at DK.

The reason is you just don’t know until the very end what might become, what is going to become and how it becomes is the work of the creative process. You have to start somewhere, for sure, but where and how to begin the compositions… that is the question for physics experiment designers as well as those standing and looking, at the canvas, whole.

There comes a time when you write and you collage and you find out that something exists that isn’t even in the words or the image. It is the intention. And when that intention came out in such a way that it was 10 people’s shared work, the work of looking deeply, within, well, wow, we had magic. Even though I’ve never met some of the contributors to The Mirror 2014, there are the connections that were built from correspondence and more than that, attention. Because attention is the highest currency now, isn’t it?

Readying to open THE MIRROR 2016A new volume is poised to be co-created.

I don’t have any idea, right now from this vantage, what the new collection will look like. Who’ll be part of it, what stories will be loosed? What will be the cover, what will be that new collection’s title, look & feel, and list of contributors and their stories’ names? It is a mystery, this. But the invitation is the first part. Setting the stage comes next. These things I learned from a different kind of artist—the musicians.

Playing pen, playing line, playing words, or playing notes. The compositions flourish most brilliantly, don’t they?, when they start from… what…?

‘Starting to start?’

‘Yes, how?’

‘Simple: it’s this. An open heart.’

‘Trust the process?’

‘Trust the process. Of… becoming.’

More like this

READ posts on DK’s new collection, Book of Songs >

The book of songs #3: ‘Back to the heart’

THEY DON’T HAVE to go around posting things on Medium. They just know.

THERE IS SOME WEIRD CHRISTMAS JAZZ going on lately in my internet radio streams. This is irritating.

I’m into internet radio; a long time ago it used to be TODAY FM from out of Ireland, because, well, I like that station. Nowadays it’s jazz stuff from Denmark, since I was just there sussing things out. Tokyo in the 1990s. Other places, in the middle, for similar musical investigations, though I couldn’t have called them such, it was just hanging out back then, but most clearly the one I recall for its energy was Small’s. In New York. Cycling ‘cross the Brooklyn Bridge late late late after a show there or elsewhere, maybe not a show, maybe it was the nightclub scene. (Limelight. Yeah. Yeah.)

We never really change

ANYWAY, way back then and suddenly very recently once more, I’m on a new search. Open ears, conscious of the importance of sensing as you go, and going, and looking, listening and learning. (The work at DK in the last few years has been all about making space for people to also get lost in the uncertainty, which is of course rather esoteric but many people like to talk about Heidegger and the Nothing and I think that they are the kinds of folks who, perhaps, might be inclined to want to hear a little more. So it goes, that you find your 0.02% of the world population, if you’re lucky, that ‘get’ you and you ‘get’ them. More about that in a second, when you hit the moment of intrigue.)

Listening and learning

PEOPLE I CONNECT WITH and I share this: we’ve been looking for some new inputs.

To come back to the world of music, I’m going to many places, and lots of clubs small and smaller to see what I can hear. Many times it’s a whiff, that’s just how it is, but every so often you discover something really incredible or run into true intrigue. It happens when it happens and there’s nothing you can really say or do to create the moments of, ‘Hey, wow. This is cool.’ I used to call it ‘the a-ha,’ because that’s what designers like to talk about.

‘Yeah.’
Yeah! That! Thatthatthatthatthat!’

It’s like this could be their whole conversation.

‘Yeah.’
‘You know?’
‘The moment.’
‘Exactly.’

Boxes and edges

YOU GET INTO a box, which is in and of itself a huge amount of fussing and overcoming of inertia of the variety that you can ask me to pontificate about, if you meet me in some whiskey bar sometime. (Or if you read S. P. A. C. E.)

You see the edges a little but then you get to working out more of the details of the dimensions and the textures and you see the limitations. Yet we all have to have frameworks to make sense of things, or to let go of the pressing urgency to ‘make sense of things,’ altogether.

Play space, in the box, leads to opening of dimensions that are sentient and close, and these are the ones that make us human. Yes, human. It used to be unfashionable to talk about our humanness, but now, with the obvious limitations on what turning ourselves into machines (workworkwork) can do to our health or distract us from looking closely within to hear our own hearts, the songs there!, and discover a purpose, well. We all know how that story is going.

Realness

REAL ARTISTS are doing stuff. They don’t have to go around posting things on Medium. They just know. And so, with the heart open and the eyes wide, I looked in the corners and upon the stages to find the songs that felt right, that made me feel good. It’s a collection. And it’s gonna be called, uh…. what should it be called? Oh, right. It’s the Book of Songs. ‘Cause it’s here at the edges where things mix and come into color that the magic of the moment comes alive. Isn’t art about connection? Conversation? Discovery and making it up as we go, tripping and learning and then, a-ha!? I am writing. I am going to write the best bits into the Book of Songs. —AS

The book of songs #2: ‘Gentle hand’

THE BOOK OF SONGS, meanwhile, is coming together as a collection. It’s going to be a modest size but an honest gathering of notes, stories, poetry, and artwork from this time here in Scandinavia. Inspired by the music, art, and maybe even the food here where I am. So that would be… six weeks, I think, if I can hold through December.

imageIT IS 4 DEGREES. Celsius. I can’t remember the last time I had this many layers of shirts (5) and socks (2). Maybe it was when I was a kid in Michigan, bundled into snow boots and a big blue coat I still remember the smell of. Musty, but somehow solidly that of winter. A briskness of cold, an ice-tinged cold that’s unforgiving, and mocks the ego of a floral spring, who has sung her medley too long ago now for us to recall it fully. Somewhere in the eaves and folds within folds, there it is, the echo, but now just a bitten, mitten memory, of something felt, once, yes, it had been, but now the exact shape and color of it is too easily forgotten.

Coordinates (0,0,0)

NIGHT IS ALREADY HERE, almost. I can feel it. It is 3:43PM here, or as they would say, 15:43 (such economy!). Let me now discover where there might be somewhere to do some more laundry. And put away these eggs. One of them broke on impact with a sleet sidewalk, waiting for the bus, which brought me to a station, which brought me somewhere else, and so on, to here.

The ‘Book of Songs (USD $15, limited edition),’ meanwhile, is coming together as a collection. It’s going to be a modest size but an honest gathering of notes, stories, poetry, and artwork from this block of time here in Scandinavia. So that would be… six weeks, I think, if I can hold through December.

Winter is what I came to see, I guess. I suppose that the chill without only makes it much clearer that there is, and greatly, a giant swarm of warmth, within. Maybe in that inner someplace, there will be a gem, a nugget, of poetic form that gives the Book of Songs what she hasn’t been aware that she’s been looking for. —DK

The Book of Songs #1: ‘To err’

''Book of Songs'
”Book of Songs’
IT IS ODD.

When world of before is no longer the world that you can resonate with. You don’t understand why people are concerned about the things that they seem to place at the tops of their priority lists, and you find yourself wondering how things could possibly have changed, internally, so quickly. Was the trip that long? Did you really go that far? What kind of dimensions did you go out to, without knowing just exactly how it happened? What did happen, what didn’t, and why do you feel so strange now, in your own rooms, in your old spaces? Certainly the crazy time of life is when you’re between things—in the interstice between a prior life, and one that’s about to become. Writers call these ‘chapters’. White-haired mountain dwellers in India you may meet will call them ‘yugs.’ ‘Four yugs,’ they’ll say. ‘Birth. Learning. Application. Preparing for death.’

While waiting between THEN and AHEAD OF NOW, so many things are swimming about in your mind. You want to talk about this, sort of, but you also want to hide away and try to process things for yourself. You can’t decide how to start, and you stare at the walls that used to seem so comfortable and familiar but now are just… walls.

Which feel, now, with this perspective and space intime, deafeningly blunt. Where is the good stuff?

The stuff that makes us feel something. That feels… Human? Ah, yes. That. —AS