Amber Waves (blog)



My new album is out. It’s a bit more minimal and blues-based than anything I’ve done to date – I don’t really know why, but in hindsight I guess that I was bound to reflect the mood of the times.  This last year, I was often confused and disappointed, and aware of how many things have changed for the worse, yet I hadn’t forgotten that a lot has changed for the better. It’s always a complex mix. Various fears and blindnesses came forward in an intense and uncomfortable way.

Here are some notes on the references and sources that the music and titles and images for this collection were made from:

The title of track 1, “The Deep Blue Goodbye” is taken from the first Travis McGee novel by John MacDonald; there’s a strong ‘cynic-is-merely-a-disappointed-romantic’ vibe in the series’ main character that I also hear in this piece of music.

Track 3, “Forging the Moonlight” was cut down from a longer improvisation, edited to have shape and brevity. Something more fire-y and dynamic was lost, but I like the this version as well.

Track 4, “Deceived Into Truth” is named for a phrase from David Halberstam’s tragic report on the Vietnam War entitled “The Best and the Brightest;” the same idea is explored in section three of Barbara Tuchman’s ‘March of Folly.”

Track 5, “Sunken Cathedral’s” title is taken from a Claude Debussy piece. Ruins have a way of effecting me a haunting way; I think we get a feeling from them because we share the same trait: a vulnerability to time. We too will become obsolete and outlast our use.

Track 7’s title, “Bare Ruined Choirs” is from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 73, which itself borrows from Ovid’s ‘Metamorphosis,’ and reflects the onset of age. Here’s the sonnet:

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.
In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,
As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourish’d by.
This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

“Track 8, “This Quiet Dust” is also graced with a borrowed title, from a collection by writer William Styron (Sophie’s Choice), but was actually inspired by a different book of his – ‘Tidewater Mornings,’ a memoir of his boyhood, as it evoked memories in me of my own both idyllic and violent boyhood. I saw the title in the author bibliography of ‘Tidewater Mornings’ at the front of the book after I’d finished reading it and liked what it evoked.

Track 10, “Valentin in the Fountain” was so named because I found that contemplating this historical image while working out the piece of music unleashed aspects of my heart that seemed to apply to much of what’s going on metaphorically, around and inside myself. The piece has a kind of Wabi-Sabi approach – I hear my desperation, spiritual longing, sense of aching beauty, open-endedness, acknowledgement of pain, rough surfaces, all happening in the air gap between the spirit and the material world.

Valentin was an artist who worked in the vacuum left when Caravaggio fled Rome, escaping a charge of murder, and he followed that game changing artist’s lead in creating unprecedentedly humanized depictions of mostly mythological and biblical allegories and symbolic events. Valentin and his group of artist friends loved to live large – carousing, drinking, eating and generally abusing their health. One cold night, after imbibing in the aforementioned excessive revelries, Valentin jumped into a frigid fountain in the center of town. The next day he came down with a severe fever and within a week was dead, aged 39.

Everything comes from something; the lineage is unbroken, but the trail can be shadowy, obscure, complex, twisting and turning. All my music and phrases come from things I’ve lived, read, heard and and that resonate with me or trouble me, or fascinate me, or hypnotize me – as places of engagement, or confrontation, or refuge. Some things you can define, but the most interesting things can’t be traced to their source so easily – it’s too mysterious.  Those are the things that are in between the notes, and that I strove to capture on “Forging the Moonlight.” All of the things of real and lasting value haven’t even been hinted at in the words above.  I hope you enjoy it.