Posts Tagged ‘music’


In January of this year, a coal-cleaning chemical leaked out of a tank less than mile from the intake for West Virginia American Water Company. Some 300,000 West Virginians lost their water for drinking, cooking, bathing or cleaning. For quite a while, the liquid flowing through our taps had a weird, licorice-like odor. Even after it was declared safe, many people did not trust that it was, and continued using bottled water. (Some of us still are using bottled water.)

Politicians—including many who collect big money from their coal investments, and including our governor—skittered to distance themselves from any responsibility to protect West Virginia’s environment or the citizens who depend upon it. As I took my daily walk around Charleston in the weeks following the chemical spill, my thoughts were angry as well as sad. A melody and some words began to take shape in my mind: a from-the-heart, straightforward message.

In early February, there was a public hearing in the West Virginia House of Delegates. Although the prospect terrified me, I decided to “speak” at the hearing by singing my song. Many legislators were absent, but I sang my song anyway. Many other citizens also stood up to express their outrage and to beg our so-called public servants to quit serving extractive industries at the expense of public health.

Now my friends Julie Adams (producer), George Castelle (guitarist), and Paul Flaherty (sound engineer) have helped me record the song, and yesterday I successfully uploaded it to CD Baby as a single (for download only). It’s deeply satisfying to me to send my song out into the world on the same day that the EPA proposes new, stricter standards for water and air quality. Our politicians will no doubt scream bloody murder over the new standards, the way they should be decrying the mining and fracking methods that are fouling our state. They will declare the new standards as a “war on coal” instead of what it really is, a plan to protect public health and safety from the ones who only use us for the riches they can steal.

You can download or listen to a 30-second snippet from the song at CD Baby. You can read the lyrics right here:

If you love my West Virginia, you will keep her waters clean

If you love my West Virginia, you will keep her mountains green

If you love my West Virginia, love her Wonderful and Wild

You’ll respect her like your mother and defend her like your child

If you love my West Virginia, you would suffer for her sake

If you love my West Virginia, you will give more than you take

If you love my West Virginia, you would grieve to see her kneel

To the ones who only use her for the riches they can steal

If you love my West Virginia, you will hold her in your soul

If you love my West Virginia, you won’t let her mountains fall

If you love my West Virginia, you will fight to see her stand

With her summits bathed in glory like our Prince Immanuel’s Land

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Sound and sharing

A few days ago, when I went out to take my laundry off the clothesline, there was a musical instrument sitting on the lawn beside the clothesline. It was a sort of electric guitar on a stand, and it belonged to my next-door neighbor, Mark So. And it was playing a one-note composition (I think the note is F-sharp) he had made in dedication to my laundry and my new fascination with watching my laundry dry. He even wrote out a “score” for me to keep.

Yesterday, my other next-door neighbor, Paul Rudy, treated our whole group to a one-hour sound composition he has created while staying here, a “suite” of sounds that he described as a sort of movie-without-visuals. It was indeed evocative — sometimes disturbing, eventually redemptive.

Both of these kinds of “music” — compositions without a distinguishable “melody” — are new to me. Even though I probably won’t be moved to emulate them (I’m a folkie for life, I think), hearing them has enlarged my capacity for listening: the intersection between sound and art is larger than I’d imagined.

Last week, I met an Austrian woman at the visitor center, and we have become friends. Verena is a sound healer; she has a array of instruments, some of which she brought to my casita after we took a walk today. Others, because they are large, have been left behind in Austria while she is traveling, but luckily she had pictures of them stored on one of those wonderful little flash cards you can plug into a USB hub on just about any computer. So I was able to see a picture of an instrument that is also a table (like a portable massage table). The client lies on the table, and Verena plays a series of tones on strings that are underneath the table.

The instruments she brought to my casita included a Native American flute and a small drum, some rattles of various styles and sounds, a brass bowl, some small brass cymbals/gongs, and a very tiny, wonderful instrument, a silver ball less than an inch in diameter that makes a beautiful, shimmery sound when you hold it in your hand and jiggle it.

We had a “potluck lunch” (she brought soup and zucchini and bread, I provided yogurt cheese and avocado, olives and chile/garlic paste). Afterwards we had a lovely hour or so of sharing: poems, pictures of her homeplace, and even some drumming and singing. Not to mention savory ginger-carrot soup, stir-fried zucchini, and bread with delicious spreads.

I’m tallying up the “sound adventures” of the past three months, and I’m amazed: voice lessons, Al’s piano studio, the flickers’ drumming on trees and metal pipes, the chip-chip of the downy woodpecker at the bird feeder, and now these most recent sound experiences. I have a feeling that, in the future, when I think of Taos, it won’t be just the mountains and the skies I remember.

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