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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Neither Wolf Nor Dog by Ken Nerburn

Neither Wolf Nor Dog is a very well-balanced book dealing with past/present realities, conflicts and worldviews of both contemporary and past generations of Native Americans.  This is done through the spoken words of an elder concerned with not romanticizing his people... and, as conduit, via the transcriptions, reflections and addendums of of a white reporter/theologian able to gently shed this elder's light to us - a readership of ostensibly non-Native Americans.  

Ken Nerburn, said white writer, is approached by "Dan" (no surname or other name is given) a 78 year old Lakota elder who for years has been ready and waiting to share his story with the world.  Nerburn accepts the task and, with it, a relationship and interaction with the elder that is fueled by early misunderstandings and then made whole by an eventual & wonderful dialectic and resolve.  This dialectic, between Nerburn & Dan, between a 21st Century white man and a 21st Century Native American, is the key to the book's revelations.  Nerburn's confusion over Dan's actions easily act as metaphor of our misunderstandings of "the Native American Experience."

As his confusion turns to revelation, Nerburn (and the reader) realize the more complex truths behind the history of these, our continent's true founding fathers.  The connection to the land and its concomitant worldview is elicited over and over again (a reason I chose to place this review on the Stone Country Book Club Blog).  But, Dan's discussions make this connection rigorous, lived, and contemporary, not easy, idealized, or of some dreamy romantic past.  He brings to light the fundamental obstacles to the Native American worldview presented by our modern American world... he also brings to light the fundamental opposites of outlook between whites and natives.  He most keenly does this through his description of native language, and how that language, even if unconsciously, utterly sculpts its user's worldviews - worldviews that lie opposed to those culled from our generally-used American English.

An engaging and surprisingly quick read, this book does not get lost in ephemera or overbearing pseudo-spiritual and anthropological assumptions. Dan is tough: on his own people and on the rest of us - American culture and its overbearing domination at large.  He takes to task Native Americans seen as merely drunks or noble-savages (he would rather see Natives viewed as drunks) and whites wearing hippie feathers or going to pow-wows or boxing his people into the confines of reservations.  It is his conversation: subtle, simple, and firey at times... one that is of the most important (for all of us "Americans") to, at some point in our lives, pay heed to... Highly recommended.

Daniel P. Cordua 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

An Interview With Jesse Beaman of My Empty Phantom

The following interview took place via E mail in March 2011

1. Basic bio stuff. Who you are and what you do? How long have you been doing this? Where you are from? What releases do you have available, where can people find them? Things like that. 

- My name is Jesse Beaman. I'm a twenty three year old musician/artist living in Austin, Texas. I'm from many places at heart but living in Texas for over ten years. I was born in Miami, Florida and moved to New York City in 1987. After nine years living in NYC I moved to Texas with my family and have been here since. I spend most of my time writing music, playing shows, making artwork, hanging out with friends and soon most of my time will be put into recording. I also work the Austin City Limits Live shows @ The Moody Theater when I'm not doing all the other stuff.  I've been playing music since I was in elementary, playing in bands since middle school, playing shows since high school, playing Austin shows since I was seventeen and touring since I was twenty-one. I guess I've been playing music for over ten years and really recording/touring/living the musician life for five years. I've only released limited editions of my recording and usually it's before I go on Tour when I will make copies of recordings. If you haven't picked up a CD at a show you probably won't have one. I've released three different Tour EP's. One in 2008, 2009, & 2010. I've always had trouble finishing the process of getting thousands of copies cause I have always picked tour funding over recording funding. But since all the touring has been great it's almost a must to make a full length that can be available to anybody around the world, which is the plan for this year. I've been doing some recent recordings here and there over the past few years. I plan to pursue some of those and new ones. Also I recently have had a few of my recent shows recorded live on audio and video + working on some more video's with music. This year should be exciting as far as releasing things go. You'll be able to get everything you need online and at local record stores in Austin soon.

2. What is your personal relationship with the natural world (or Wild places or nature and environment)? What is the relationship between your music and the natural world (etc.) How much of an influence does this have on your art?

- That's a good question. I've been living in the city for over five years now but Austin is a beautiful city that cares very much about nature and natural environments.
I'm lucky to live in a city that cares so much to keep things green and natural. I find myself riding my bike on trails here and canoeing in the Colorado River in the middle of the city. I love wild places. My grandparents and mom are all about wild places. When I was really young my grandparents would take my family to Mexico to an old log cabin they owned in a cloud forest. It was epic there. The cloud forest was beautiful, green, moist, and full of wild animals. Now my grandmother has a really great old wood beach shack on a wild beach in Texas called Boca Chica. It's on the border of Texas and Mexico across the bay from South Padre Island. It is amazing. I still go there to see my family, leave the city, and to be somewhere isolated. It's great, at night you can watch huge ships go through the bay with the South Padre Island buildings lit up in the back round. It's one of the last beaches in the United States that has no hotels and restaurants on it. Perfect place to camp. I've heard from people my music is good for listening to while being in natural places but also can work for being somewhere like a city. Nature certainly inspires me to make music. Each of my songs represent something different. Usually I imagine giving someone a chance to vision something through the sounds I create with a Piano, Drums, Guitar and more. I always see nature in my music when I try to vision things. The new video's I've been creating with people I plan to include Boca Chica Beach cause I always see that place when I hear my music or when I'm performing it + a lot more nature footage. My first foot steps where on a beach actually.

3.What level of importance does the preservation of the natural world hold in your life? Where do you rank environmental issues in the grand scheme of world problems? Are there any issues in your local community that are of particular concern to you?

- I think it's very important to protect nature and natural environments. It's how we are alive. Environmental issues are important. It's important not to ignore the way we are hurting nature in the ways we live. In Austin the people here really work hard to keep natural springs, parks, and hiking trails around for everybody to be able to experience. I've been so busy playing shows, touring, and just being a twenty three year old it's been hard to dedicate a lot of time in environmental issues but it would be great to start putting on music performances that can go towards keeping places safe in Austin and even other places around the world. I do feel bad for touring sometimes cause of all the driving but when I'm back in Austin I only ride a bike and ride the bus.

4. You have done a lot of touring, are there any places that stand out to you as particularly beautiful and vibrant? Anywhere that seems particularly fragile? What can we expect from you in the near future as far as releases and touring, etc?

- I've seen some beautiful places on the road. Almost hard to put in words how moving it was to me going through these places. Northern California going straight through the Redwood Forest was probably one of the most epic things I've done. It was so beautiful and green. The trees were enormous and the rivers were strong, crashing against the rocks like ocean waves. Before entering the forest I was driving right next to giant elk that were in large numbers running across the road like deer do in Texas. I got out of the van for a walk on a beautiful beach off the coast of Northern California to watch how huge the ocean waves were. That experience is strong in my memory. I also love driving through North Carolina, Virginia, Colorado, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and Washington. All those states have highways going through beautiful places.
As far as recording and touring goes. I plan to be very busy recording, making artwork, and taking video until Summer 2011. The plan is to release my first full length record + video's & artwork before the tour that's going to start in late July. I plan on going on a full N. American Tour in support of it all. Also my older recordings will be available online soon on a few websites. 2011 is going to be a great year!

5. Since this blog started out as a book club please list a few of your favorite books!

- Lately I've been reading Blood of Brothers. It's about the civil wars in Nicaragua and the United States involvement.
Also, I've been peaking in the book This is your Brain on Music which is great.
I was a big fan of the fantasy books Lord of the Rings when I was younger.

6. Add anything thing you'd like as a conclusion.   

    Thanks Jeff!

For More Info:

Saturday, March 12, 2011

An Interview with Andrew Weathers

I first met Andrew Weathers in January of 2008 at a show in Baltimore, Maryland.  His live performance that night was incredible, and I still remember it vividly.  I have been lucky enough to keep in touch with Andrew over the last three years. Andrew's music continues to evolve, and every time he comes to Philadelphia I am boiling over with anticipation to see what he has in store.  The website said in a review of Andrew's album, A Great Southern City, "Weathers' intelligent sound design swells with a...forthcoming passion."I couldn't agree more.  The following interview was conducted via E-mail in  February 2011.

Who are you and what do you do? How long have you been doing this? Where are you from? What releases do you have available? Where can people find them?

I'm Andrew Weathers, I'm from North Carolina. I've been playing music as a serious endeavor since 2006, and I've been running Full Spectrum Records since 2008. I have one solo album, A Great Southern City out on FS, and a record by the Andrew Weathers Ensemble coming out on Sleep on the Floor in March.

What is your personal relationship with the natural world? What is the relationship between your music and the natural world? How much of an influence does this have on your art?

I remember a time I was driving to Atlanta with my friend Zach and I went on a rant on how my music is urban music and it's ridiculous to think that my music was about nature. I have moved away from this, towards thinking of my music as settled in a place between urbanity and the natural world, as is my existence. As much as I would like to get out, removed from urban life, it's just not something I get to do as much as I'd like. I think I appreciate the small places where nature and urban intersect: a creek between the highway and school, a park that's perfectly placed so that the sound of the city floats over it.

Was there a catalyst, something that made this change in thinking come about?  Or was it more of a gradual change in thinking from strictly urban music to more of a combination between urbanity and nature?

Beyond Civilization (by author Daniel Quinn) was a catalyst to make me directly conceive of the change, but the shift was pretty gradual.  

Are there any other artists that you would recommend (musicians or otherwise) who's art is strongly influenced by the natural world?

An artist who has a pretty close relationship to nature that immediately comes to mind is Annea Lockwood . I love the way she presents these well constructed works, but the natural sound is so untouched. It's like shes composing directly from the field recording, which is maybe in fact what she's doing.
Or if you look into John Luther Adams, his book Winter Sounds - it's incredible the reverence he has for Alaska, and how much that affects his music.

How often do you work with field recording, if at all?  Why or why not?

I definitely work with field recordings a lot. These are usually urban sounds - church bells, cars, street performers and the like. I use them because I love the idea of re-contextualizing our every day sonic environment. I think that's the most important thing that I've learned from Cage.

Obviously, I use urban sounds because that's where I usually find myself. I'm not drawn to music as escapism, but rather enhancement. I imagine this will continue until I live by a river in the Appalachian mountains.  

What level of importance does the preservation of the natural world hold in your life? Where do you rank environmental issues in the grand scheme of world problems? Are there any issues in your local community that are of particular concern to you?

I think it's of great importance. A book by Daniel Quinn called Beyond Civilization really drove into me that our lifestyles are killing the planet. I think his suggestion that not everyone has to step away, but a good number of us do, is apt. The book bought the possible consequences of my lifestyle to my attention - I've started to feel guilt for touring as much as I do, and I still haven't found a conclusion to solve it.  As far as community concerns, I think that here in Greensboro, what is already available is not valued. I think this is the case most places, but buildings are constantly knocked down to be replaced with poorly build housing for students, that isn't really even needed. There's recently been a massive complex go up called The Providence that flattened several working foundries, buildings that I thought were beautiful. People tried to fight it, but somehow the city council didn't listen. I just see it as wasteful to make something new & unnecessary where there was something that had life left in it.

When I first started to read Daniel Quinn's books and others with similar theories, I had a very extreme response.  I felt like my eyes had finally been opened and a thousand lightbulbs had been turned on (or off, actually).  What reaction did you have to the idea of living "beyond civilization"?

I was incredibly impressed with how well Quinn articulated concepts that has been just underneath the surface for me. I don't know exactly how feasible his lifestyle concepts are for me, or anyone else, but I really do admire them and try to incorporate them into my daily life as much as I can. It's a very slow process. 

You have done a lot of touring, are there any places that stand out to you as particularly beautiful and vibrant? Anywhere that seems particularly fragile? What can we expect from you in the near future as far as releases and touring, etc.?

Beautiful places: everywhere in the Appalachian mountains, particularly around Pittsburgh, PA and Shepherdstown, WV. Salt Flats in UT. Night driving through Arizona. West Texas, Marfa, Balmorhea. 

In North Carolina there are fewer fireflies than when I was child.

I'm touring to support this Ensemble record in the fall and into the summer, mostly East Coast, but perhaps into the Midwest some. After that, I will hopefully be moving somewhere that is not NC, can't say where yet!

If you could save one endangered species from extinction, what would it be?

Polar Bears and Indian Elephants.  

Since this blog started out as a book club please list a few of your favorite books!

Beyond Civilization, Ishmael - Daniel Quinn
On the Road, Dharma Bums - Jack Kerouac
Zen Mind, Beginners Mind - Shunryu Suzuki
The Sun Also Rises, Old Man & The Sea - Ernest Hemingway
Haunted Weather - David Toop

Thank you so much for doing this interview Andrew, add anything thing you'd like as a conclusion.

Thanks Jeff for asking me to do this - it's wonderful to get an opportunity to think about the different contexts that my work must exist in. 

Contact Andrew Weathers:

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gone Tomorrow by Heather Rogers

Gone Tomorrow by Heather Rogers
The New Press 2005
ISBN: 978156584879

Garbage. Garbage. Garbage. It's never far away.  It has been pouring rain since I woke up this morning.  It is now 10:30pm, the rain is still coming down and the wind is still blowing.  In the large lot outside my apartment window, there is garbage roaming around freely, propelled by the wind. On this street,  the night before garbage pick-up everyone in the surrounding buildings places their garbage bags in the lot and the next morning the owner of the lot will take the garbage out to the curb.  This is a somewhat flawed method for getting rid of all of our garbage.  Sometimes bags rip open, and their contents are strewn about and dispersed throughout the area.  Hence the cigarette packs, potato chip bags, Pepsi bottles and other trash items finding new homes in the lot and nearby yards.  I find myself inspired now and then, so I venture out into the lot on nice sunny days with an industrial sized garbage bag and a pair of work gloves and I pick up trash for a few hours.  The lot will look fairly decent for a few days, and then garbage night comes around again and the cycle starts over.  This is the process that was going through my head while I was reading "Gone Tomorrow" and again, tonight when I sat down to write this post. 

Why aren't there more books written about garbage?  Elizabeth Royte's, Garbage Land was the first book that I read on the subject and I am aware of a few others that are among the masses of books that I hope to read someday, most notably, High Tech Trash by  Elizabeth Grossman. It seems like such an important subject, if anyone can recommend  any books to me, I would be grateful. 

Gone Tomorrow by Heather Rogers starts off with a brief history of trash removal and leads up to our current predicament.  The facts are sobering, very upsetting and layed out with many footnotes to back them up.  We have been heading down a dangerous path for a very long time now and our over consumption is coming to an end whether we are prepared for it or not.  We can swim in garbage and filth and waste or we can wake up and take some action to save what is not already "trashed". Recycling alone won't be enough; that is one of the main things that I took away from this book.  We need deeper answers. Heather Rogers has written an alarming and critical book, read it and pass it on

Book Club Selection For March 2011

For the month of March the Stone Country book club has selected "Eating Stone" by Ellen Meloy for our next book.                                            

                                             Eating Stone by Ellen Meloy

We will meet in Philadelphia on Friday April 1st to discuss "Eating Stone" please get in touch for more information!