Oh, I could let the world go by Its loud new wonders and its wars But how could I give up the sky When winter dusk is set with stars? And I could let the cities go Their changing customs and their creeds But, oh, the summer rains that blow In silver on the jewel-weeds!
This is a poem by Sara Teasdale turned into a song by me.
I’ve been thinking today about how much nature features in Sara Teasdale’s poetry. Visiting it has been essential for so many, a comfort, a source of solace especially needed in lockdown. Seems like Albuquerque dwellers live for time spent outdoors. Sara Teasdale, a white lady who wrote all these poems in the 1920s and 30s, did not acknowledge the unspoken truth that white Americans routinely ignore–that we are living on stolen land.
I’ve also been thinking about white Europeans. How is their experience different from my own – that of a descendant of white settler colonists – to know that you are living on land that belongs to your ancestors? Could this be a part of why so many white people have a deep feeling of being unmoored, out of place?
I am a white person living on unceded Tiwa land in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
I donated 10% of my Patreon earnings in June and July to Seeding Sovereignty. If you have the means please do the same. I am so grateful to be in a good place financially, plenty of food, stable shelter, lots of support economically and emotionally from family. Wondering what it would be like if all BIPOC felt similarly supported, held, cared for by the larger culture.
Today I am proud to present my arrangement of Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps! I love this tune. The first time I remember hearing it was in the hit 1990s Baz Luhrmann classic (in my mind anyway) film Strictly Ballroom where Doris Day’s version provided the soundtrack to a sexy secret tango.
Thank you to the patrons who yet again paid the bulk of my rent in July! Thank you!
Now what is that cute little instrument featured here, you may ask? It is my friend charango and she is so sweet. A Bolivian/Andean instrument also known as the super ukulele. She is loud. She is brash. She is here to be heard and she is not kidding around. And I love her! She has ten strings in total, grouped in pairings, tuned GCEAE, similar to the ukulele. But there’s not reentrant tuning like in the standard soprano ukulele. Rather, the middle pair of E strings are tuned an octave apart. I have a lot of instruments and I love them all and this is one I really want to spend more time with. So it’s nice to revisit this song I wrote probably a decade ago and play it on a different instrument.
But onto this song: I wrote it because the first word in the title of the movie “Hope Floats” (which I don’t think I’ve ever seen actually) rhymes with “soap,” and I thought it would be funny to claim that all soap floats when clearly not all soap floats.
One last thing: this past week I have been obsessed with rereading The Hunger Games trilogy and when I am done here I am going to sink back into the third book of that trilogy because I just can’t get enough of that adrenaline-fueled thrill ride. It is really really working for me to use these books as a reward for doing these recordings. So satisfying. I’m so excited for the weekend (I give myself the weekends off) because what will be in store? I’m so happy you asked! I’ll finish the third book and then probably watch all the movies. Anyone down for a virtual Hunger Games movie night? Or day? lmk <3
This song was written by Bob Nelson, and my arrangement is loosely based on Ukulelezaza’s excellent one. I love this song. It’s one of the very few hawaiian songs I have in my repertoire. Gotta remedy that situation.
In other news, patrons paid my rent this month! I am so excited and grateful for that. Thank you thank you thank you. After Patreon’s fees and taxes I received $500 for posts I made in June. Thank you so much, patrons! I am so grateful to have you.
After approximately 42 takes yesterday to then push, push all the furniture in my apartment around and continue on to do what felt like 37 more takes, here is my offering to you today. It took a pandemic to get me here, folks, because, it’s not like I have anything else on the agenda so why not spend seven hours polishing a song I thought I already knew? Thanks, lockdown, for getting me to finally practice, I guess? Hah!
Why is it that when I sit down to record these songs I’ve been playing for years that it feels like I am learning them for the first time? I love these old songs.
A song I wrote in December 2012. It’s funny coming back to these old songs and looking at them again through today’s lens nearly a decade later. This song is sort of speaks to climate change and it is sort of a cartoonish and whimsical fantasy story. It’s easy to make the jump from flood to pandemic. Of course, things can never be the same after this.
But now I want to ask, what are the things that have been lingering that could be washes away? How can we seize this opportunity? Can we as white people educate ourselves–cleanse our minds, our hearts–of the racist and sexist stories we habitually tell ourselves, and make this country what it never was intended to be: equitable for all?
I was intimidated to record this one today but once I got going I didn’t stop. I learned about this wonderful singer songwriter Yumi Arai because of the Miyazaki films her songs are featured in. I have the biggest artist’s crush on her! This melody! It is so beautiful and sad! I can’t handle singing it! Every time I play it there is a sort of breaking in period where my voice just sounds like crying the first few run throughs, because I am crying. Hoo!
Here is a translation I found on hereisarchy.tumblr.com. If you’re not crying yet, are you ready to start crying? Yet?
The white slope continued on to the sky
Wavering, ephemerality envelops her
Unnoticed by anyone, all alone,
She is ascending
She fears nothing, and soars up high
She admires the sky, is dashing through the sky
Vapour trails are her life
At that high window, even before her death,
She looked to the sky, and now they don’t understand
Other people don’t understand
They only think that
She was too young, but she is happy
She admires the sky, is dashing through the sky
Vapour trails are her life
She admires the sky, is dashing through the sky Vapour trails are her life
Was it three years ago that Meredith came to my house and we recorded an album’s worth of Sara Teasdale poems? And then she thought, wouldn’t it be nice to have just one more, and she took the copy of Flame and Shadow that @snakroo got for me from St. John’s Thrift and opened it to this little gem and started singing what would become this beautiful melody and I said hey wouldn’t an E7 chord be nice there and what if the “not ones” both had the same little melodic hook happening and anyway this is perhaps my favorite Sara Teasdale song of all and it happened with you, my friend, and I would really love to tag you here but it looks like you’ve deleted your instagram again so maybe I’ll try your sister? @heylouwrites
This poem is just so beautiful and under my reading today it speaks to this destructive tendency that white people in power have. Do we have a death wish? Sara Teasdale wrote this in the time of WWI, but its themes could be applied to so many occurrences in American history: subsequent wars, occupations, colonizations, environmental degradation, the upholding of systemic racism, environmental racism, every stripe of racism. Sara Teasdale probably died of depression and in this poem you can see her hopelessness. Can white people hold all the terrible things we’ve done to people of color, to the environment, to the earth? Can we hold ourselves responsible and consciously undo all of the harmful social structures that we unconsciously re-enact each day?
There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground And swallows circling with their shimmering sound And frogs in the pools singing at night And wild plum trees in tremulous white Robins will wear their feathery fire Whistling their whims on a low fence-wire And not one will know of the war, not one Will care at last when it is done Not one would mind, neither bird nor tree If mankind perished utterly And spring herself, when she woke at dawn Would scarcely know that we were gone.
A song I started writing in 2013 or so that remained incomplete until about a month and a half ago. Earlier today on Instagram (@sageharrington) I posted about The Artist’s Way, that most wonderful book on cultivating healthy creativity, which is how I learned to do morning pages: fill three pages each morning. I do it longhand. This writing is allowed to be bad. It is supposed to be boring. It is supposed to, and does, teach you how to get past the blocking aspects of #perfectionism. It helps you turn off your internal critic so that you can get some creative work (or play?) done even if your creative work isn’t writing. This practice is amazing! I love my morning pages. I miss them when I don’t do them. And it was so very very interesting to watch as the remaining lyrics flowed—how smoothly they came onto the page!—after 7 years or so of this song feeling incomplete and abandoned. I attribute this song’s completion to the daily practice of morning pages for preceding six months. Hah!
So here you have it: a song about capitalism and the monetization of silence. What if you actually could sell an experience, a memory, a quiet moment? What if that’s the only way it was available to you? I feel the influences of my beloved Regina Spektor here, especially her earlier songs.