Blog entry


song of the day: Glass / Stuart Davis
word of the day: adamitism / nakedness for religious reasons
monk of the day: colin bigelow (causal resonator)

show last night at the Boulder Theater with Wild Divine. Colin was positely radiant throughout. four songs into it, my benumbed tri-kaya corpus sparked back to life by looking at him during Glass. grazie, comite! Colin and i both love that song for some reason. i guess it's partly because we can't say why. when i first wrote it, i actually set it aside and thought "that's not really a it?". it was just so very spare and the lyrics were both utterly literal and completely metaphorical at the same time. they are just:

falling snow
on the back
of a gliding crow
of a crow
of a crow

moonlight breaks
the glass
of a frozen lake
of a lake
of a lake


the song first came to me when i was staying up at Ken's house in mountains, and actually (this is funny, Colin, if you're reading this) i was staying in what is now Colin's room. i got stranded up in the house because there was a huge snow storm, the roads were all closed. i spent a few days meditating, and walked out to the back of the house, which is perched atop a high ridge. i walked out on the deck, and everything for miles was a pure, soft white- like the entire mountain range and its millions of trees had been blanketed in down, the softest snow you could imagine. of course when everything is under that kind of snow, the world becomes very, very quiet, muted from the physical quality of that soft blanket. i had been doing zazen for a couple days- and was pretty emptied out at that point. as i stood on the deck soaking it all in with my heart, a big, black crow glided right by me, in slow motion. the arc of its black, elegant figure against the infinite white canvas of the mountain was an image i will never, never forget. the crow is a very symbolic bird in many traditions, in Japan it's long been regarded as a divine messanger. the feeling i had as i watched the crow had no content or "meaning"- just a simple, endless moment that left me feeling this infinite opening- the emptiness of it perfectly formed by the black crow and white mountains.

i've always carried that image with me, for a long time i wanted to write a song about, and i tried many times, but i hated everything i would write, because there was just no way to capture or convey that feeling, and everytime i tried i felt it ruined, debased, and distorted it. in thinking about this and how it would work with music, i remembered one other time in my life when i had that same feeling. i was about 13 or 14 years old, it was the middle of winter in Minnesota and i was out playing hockey on a lake. the ice was a perfect surface- totally clean and placid, and the moon was high in the night sky, like a big soft white lamp hung a million miles in space. i skated really hard for a long time, then collapsed and laid down on the ice. my heavy breathing subsided and then i was alone in the middle of the lake, all was quiet and still, and the moonlight reflected off the surface of the ice like it was glass. i remember thinking that if the glass were to break, i would plunge to my death underneath, but it didn't scare me, i just felt this very large sense of peace of wonder at it all.

as i was trying to write about these experiences, somehow i just ended up writing them down absolutely literally, with the least amount of words i could use (8 or 9 words per verse). when i did that, it was the first time the song clicked exactly right. this seemed strange to me at first, like i thought "it can't be that easy, it can't be that simple" but it was without a doubt the one and only approach that reproduced that feeling for me. when i would sing those verses, i was transported back into that state. that was really all i wanted from the song, to sing from that state, to find a way to sing something that would evoke and resonate that internal space. the song is so, so simple and spare. the foolish part of me felt somehow that i should do more, but there was no way. i felt rather odd about the song, and set it aside until much later when i tried it on a whim at a concert in Seattle, i think. i got three emails after that show from people saying it was now their favorite stu song. i did it at the next show, and more of the same. the reaction from the audience (and especially from people like Colin) convinced me Glass was doing its thing and it's since become my favorite song to play on many nights.

my favorite painting is Nantenbo's one of the crows. i got to see it in person once, at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts when they did an exhibition of 20th Century Zen Masters. it was by far my most powerful experience at an art exhibit. Nantenbo used just one or two pushes of the brush to create his crows. so much of the impact of the painting for me is what he left out- it's distilled to its very essence, but still carries everything. that's actually my feeling about most of the great Zen artwork. can't explain why- my favorite work is always those sparse, spare whisps of the brush, black on white. it's funny because my lyrical / musical approach has often been so conversely dense. i think that's changed in recent years, but earlier- Jesus if you listen to Nomen and Self Untitled it sounds like I'm choking on a fucking Thesaurus. i still love words as much as ever, but i'm glad those days are over. a song like Glass, using just a few words, intrigues and transports me much more than something like Noah's New Ark or whatever. not that it's an either / or situation, but the depth is where the real love is...

i am still physically sore as hell from doing that lead removal process. you'd think i had run (ran? how do you conjugate that thing?) a marathon or something.

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The greatest lyricist I've ever heard.

-Ed Kowalczyk, Lead Singer of Live