Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The essentials you can't throw away

Jar of mayo, tub of Earth Balance, Thai dipping sauce, leftover brown rice, and so much other stuff that you wonder how it filled a fridge and why you needed it, stuff that enriches life but losing it does not take life away when it goes bad in a power outage — these dove into black trash bags last night. It just so happened that we cleaned out the powerless fridge 48 hours after losing power, and just about an hour before power was restored, which was a couple of days before it was expected by the power company.

While we camped out in our house without power or running water after high winds took out electric lines this week, I was unsettled. It took a couple of days to understand that although I was not unhappy or annoyed, I was strewn about inside, like the inside of a tent mid-vacation week.

I remember my ex-brother-in-law Hank whenever something got broken or ruined saying: No one died. Of course sometimes people do die. And then we cope differently. But these minor, no-death losses are the best ad hoc conferences, like pep rallies for the normal life we get lost in. I was knocked off-center for a couple of days, I had butterflies in my stomach. When I became aware of that, I got to thinking about what I need to do to get back to the center. Do I need running water and electricity for it?

Thoreau said:

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.”

So I ask myself, What are my essential riches (in the Thoreau sense)?

Solitude. Conversation with loved ones. A writing tablet and pen (or Microsoft Word). A few books of poetry. A window and a door, with Nature outside, even one leaf-bearing plant on a balcony.

And music.

Before the storm, several blog friends had posted about the death of Gil Scott-Heron, the guy that everyone had heard chanting and ranting “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Everyone except me. Right that moment, I wanted to ask all of you what your essential music is, what shaped you, what do you return to for comfort and soul centering? I wanted to ask you before one more minute was thrown into the past. As a preacher’s kid who thought it was oh-so-worldly when I received a radio for my twelfth birthday, on which I could listen to music from the pop charts, I missed a lot of great stuff that was played in different venues. My musical muse is Joni Mitchell, and she is far from shabby, even if the radio did play her song about being turned on like itself. But I missed Leonard Cohen, Gil Scott-Heron, Miles Davis, and so many other artists who play and sing the essential music of people's souls.

So, my post-ad hoc conference on the essentials of life leads me to confer with you wonderful folks. If you care to answer, what do you consider your essential music? Be specific please, and maybe not too prolific. Be easy on me. It could be you discovered it four decades ago, or last week, as I did Gil Scott-Heron. I will appreciate your response, and I will begin exploring, listening, choosing for myself and building a library rack for my iTunes turntable. I have the rest of my life to listen, however long or short that may be. As I evolve, maybe what will be essential to me ten years from now I haven't even heard of yet.

Postscript: I recognize that for some of you, this is like asking you to pick a wildflower from your meadow of uncountable flowers and tell me why it is your favorite. This is odd, and naïve, I feel how odd it is, like Music Essentials 101. It changes with the day and time. Ahhh, what I want is perhaps impossible to answer, to retrieve what I never had. Learning anything from lists may be a bad place to start. Suddenly I don't like my request. But I am going to leave it and see what comes of it. Maybe what will come of it is that this is not a good way to learn such things. Eh what?

How about this question: Today, what music does your soul long for?


ellen abbott said...

It's amazing how much we can live without and be content once we get used to not having the stuff. My list would be much like yours only with sketch pad and colored pencils.

Ruth said...

Ellen, you going through your sister's and her husband's stuff brings it front and center for you.

hedgewitch said...

It's true that whenever our basic routine is disturbed, we are like creatures frightened by being thrown out of our refuge, but also true, we actually need very little to be content. I think if you are open to it, age is a process for confirming this. But then some seem to be born with a sense of what is essential and what isn't, so who knows.

AFA essential music, we've lived through a time of incredible richness in that area, and any list I could compile would be too much and not enough. For a long time I lived with the music of Niel Young, but I seem to have outgrown him, sadly. Leonard Cohen is one of the few real poets who chose to go with music as his medium. And of course, there's Dylan--I don't think I could ever give his music a pass.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Hedgewitch, I just added a sort of disclaimer at the end of the post before you commented, because I realize this may be just too much to ask, especially for those who have a huge library. For me, who have a very limited range, I feel like I have everything to learn. I love Cohen and Young.

This is probably one of those silly requests that should happen only spontaneously, or when someone shares it at someone's blog. Funny how I felt almost desperate when I realized I wanted to know this though, and I'll let it stand.

rosaria said...

You must have had moments of despair, with such elemental needs unmet. Music is not fixed for me; I move through moods and music. When I'm energetic and upbeat I want some dancing latin beat, when I'm moody, the blues;when I go to sleep, classical Chopin. I grew up on two continents and my soul is still trying to reach terra firma.

Ruth said...

Rosaria, it could have been much worse, and really, I was sort of getting into a groove with it, adjusting.

Latin music is fairly new to me. Lorenzo has introduced me to flamenco, and it stirs up something almost feral in me. But sometimes I feel that without the cultural origins, I cannot understand it as someone does who grew up there, or adopted it as their culture, as L has done. It makes me wonder about music appreciation, and so many things that require understanding.

Lorenzo — Alchemist's Pillow said...

I will be specific and un-prolific: John Coltrane. I could name so many more, but his stirring and deeply spiritual improvising sit at the center, the essential core, of what I look for and find in music.

As for what music my soul longs for today, right now it is the music of my two bike wheels humming. Travel has kept me from riding for the last three weeks and there is now a break in the clouds and rain, so my bike path beckons to me. I never use ipods, mp3, walkman or earphones of any kind. While biking I always hear music in my head, never knowing what tune will be next on inner turntable (that word dates me!), anything from Donizetti to Credence Clearwater Revival and everything in between. And at the centre .... Coltrane.

Ruth said...

That's the spirit, Lorenzo. If anyone should chide me for asking you to name your core music, it would be you with your bookend-busting music library that runs into multiple genres and cultures. But this is just what I hoped for . . . what is it you turn to when you hear music in your head, and what keeps turning up. I would not have known you could drill into that, and I am grateful.

I hope you can get out for a bike ride soon, very soon, and hear the music of your road. Do be careful.

Nancy said...

Ruth -- important post, and important truth -- in these minor emergencies, we don't die. I have to remind myself through every minor trauma I live through that I will live through it, and if I don't - well then it's my time to go to the next adventure!

I'm going to choose favorite music with a jazz flavor -- Etta James (if I ever get married, her song At Last will be the song for the first dance), Al Jarreau (any of of his albums, but his song "Morning" is a particular favorite, Curtis Stigers (any album or song) and David Benoit (again any album or song).

Arti said...

I've appreciated this post in that I too often wrestle with this notion of what the bare essentials of life are, and further, the essence of what makes a person a human being. Anyway, philosophical musings aside, electric outages do remind us how much 'luxury' we've been living with.

As to musical essentials, however much I love the folk and classic rock genres, it's the wordless yet soulful melody of Bach's Goldberg Variations that I'd claim to be my bare essential in music.

Thanks for a thought-provoking post, Ruth!

Nancy said...

Ruth - one more favorite - James Taylor and Carole King Live at the Troubador - particularly "Will you still love me tomorrow?" It just played on pandora and I used it to tell myself I'll still love my work tomorrow. Hehehe.

Terresa said...

Getting back to the center - of all the posts I've read in the past week, this one speaks to me the most. I've been seeking solitude for months now, and have come to appreciate a quiet room and a good book over many other things. It's a shifting of things, one that (in trendier circles) could be considered embracing the "slow movement". I was talking with my brother about this the other day, there are books on it, volumes even, but Thoreau (and you) say it most succinctly, we are rich in our solitude.

Bonnie said...

Well, we are synchronized on this one Ruth! Two of my essential musical favorites are Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. I think it is because they are poets, artists, conscious beings, lovers of Earth ... not only singers/songwriters - which actually would be quite enough.

Don't you just want to take this waltz in a daisy-filled meadow that was formerly a parking lot?

Those situations were we lose all our modern conveniences are sobering aren't they? They make me realize that beyond being conveniences, they are silent vacuums that suck up our connection to self and planet. So say I as I type at my keyboard while the air-conditionning whirrs, and surround-sound bathes me in music......

Brendan said...

Desert island (Skellig Micheal) albums: "You've Got to Believe in Spring" by Bill Evans; "Kind of Blue," Miles Davis; "Blood on The Tracks," Bob Dylan; "Lamb Lies Down on Broadway," Genesis, "White Album," Beatles, "As Witchita Falls, So Falls Witchia," Pat Matheny Group; "Tea for the Tillerman," Cat Stevens; "Country Life," Roxy Music; "Another Green World," Brian Eno; "Exile on Main Street," Rolling Stones; "Beyond the Missouri Sky," Charlie Haden & Pat Matheny; "Lyle Mays," Lyle Mays; "Agualung," Jethro Tull; "Never Mind the Bollocks," The Sex Pistols; "Squeezing Out Sparks," Graham Parker & the Rumour; "Court & Spark," Joanie Mitchell; Oh screw it. - Brendan

Maureen said...

For starters: Diana Krall, Leonard Cohen, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Stephen Stills, Carole King, Annie Lennox, Bonnie Rait, Bruce Springsteen; Stravinksy, Varese, Mozart, Gorecki's Symphony No. 3 w/Dawn Upshaw (that last can bring tears).

elizabeth said...

Yes, we need so very much less than we mostly have!
Actually sort of liberating to chuck a lot of stuff like when the mouse made himself quite at home in the wicker basket with the old hats and debris by the dog leash........smelly so goodbye to all that!

Not having electricity makes one so much more grateful for it, I think.

As to music

Gustav Holst's Planets
Mahler's 5th

Leonard Cohen (why is it that followers of you blog are all Cohen fans?
a sort of litmus test.
Quite impossible to chose spine tingling music --how powerfully it changes our life and our mood.
Actually, even though I am now officially a heathen --some of the hymns Ancient and Modern of my lost youth.
All best wishes

steven said...

ruth - i have a vast memory of music and a vast shelving unit of music and a vast collection digitized on ipods of all sorts. but if i left this island now for a very small one i would take brian eno and david byrne "my life in the bush of ghosts". shriekback "care/tench". king crimson. "discipline". jon hassell "last night the moon came". gil evans "out of the cool". miles davis "pangaea". david sylvian "gone to earth". keith jarrett "spirits". elvin jones "phoenix". robert fripp - anything solo. i would cry for the loss of everything else. steven

The Solitary Walker said...

Dylan, Dylan and Dylan. Of course. You can never have too much Dylan.

And yes, for jazz, I'll go along with Davis and Coltrane. And many other, less well-known jazz artists. I'll settle, though, for jazz per se rather than individual performers.

Cohen, Young, Mitchell. Yes, yes and yes. Poet-songwriters all.

Folk, world and roots music - a treasure chest, thousands of names no one's ever heard of, seek them out on Internet radio.

And I'm listening to much more classical music now (I used to sing in a choir): Bach, Mozart and Beethoven, the holy triumvirate. Mahler and Bruckner. And I've a deep emotional attachment to Brahms (my music teacher, a long time ago, told me I was a Brahms person, whatever that means.) The main theme in the 4th movement of the 1st symphony is the most divine melody you could ever hope to hear.

And Scottish bagpipes played in a remote Scottish glen.

And organ music you come upon unexpectedly as you open a church door in the gathering dark.

Louise Gallagher said...

Keith Jarrett -- the Koln Concert Pt 1 (yuuuuuummmmmmyyyyy)

Yo-Yo Ma -- Bach's Solo Cello No. 1 in G Major (I'm listening to it as I type -- I once wrote an entire play to it)

Satie -- Gymnopedie 1

Miles Davis, George Winston, Katie Melua, Mark Bodino, ...

For starters :)

erin said...

ruth, i share this: Solitude. Conversation with loved ones. A writing tablet and pen (or Microsoft Word). A few books of poetry. A window and a door, with Nature outside... and my children. while once music might have been more important to me, now it shifts, comes and goes. i find it abrasive often. i'm valuing the quiet most often after a decade of constant noise in my marriage - not all bad, but invasive. however, i do walk really well to wintersleep's snowstorm. love that whole cd. also love people talk off of another of their cd's. otherwise i love music which speaks to the moment spanning many genres.

i love to think about what might be essential for me. and what might not.


Anonymous said...

I like variety and right now my favorite song is Rolling in the Deep by Adele, but that will change, in time.

missing moments said...

Ruth, such a lovely post. I'm with you on the essentials ... maybe I would include my Mac though.

Music loves:
Leonard Cohen
Van Morrison
Paul Simon

Allison said...

Love so many of these artists. And I have a few more:

Indigo Girls,
Bruce Springsteen and Vivaldi.

Gayle Carline said...

I have a fairly large musical library and pretty eclectic tastes, but my soul longs to hear my son sing. He's a vocal jazz major at Cal State Long Beach, and his voice is good, but it's his passion that I love the most. When he performs, he does it with such complete investment, he reminds me that life is something you should throw yourself into. As I grow older, I want more and more to do what I love.

Here's a sample of him (he's the 2nd from right) -

C.M. Jackson said...

ruth--I have 36 days and counting on my itunes catalog but if I had to choose today--I would have to say Keith Jarrett-The Koln Concert-for the freedom and the fearlessness of his music--here's hoping that you have calm and blue skies--c

ps --let me know the date your son will be playng the Getty--I will have my good friend Marlyn check out so I can live vicariously--

João said...

oday I found this :

Grandmother said...

My "CD's on a desert island" would be the 3 in the Woman's Heart series: "A Woman's Heart", "A Woman's Heart 2" and "A Woman's Heart A Decade On". They feature various wonderful celtic women singers and are my soul soothers as well as the "connected to all women" music.

Deborah said...

Spanish and French music from the early 20th century - Albeniz, Mompou, Fauré Ravel, Debussy. And a contemporary Portuguese group, Madredeus, who are just the thing for introspection and writing of any kind.

Dutchbaby said...

I had never heard of Gil Scott-Heron until Lorenzo and Bill Horberg posted about him. I'm glad I now know of him now, even if posthumously.

My music taste is all over the map, ranging from Frank Sinatra to Cee Lo Green. I love my Motown playlist for dancing, Antonio Carlos-Jobim when I create, and Shania Twain when I drive. Lately I've been listening to The Kenny Rankin Album. He's not well known but I've always loved this album. Al Jarreau, yes of course.

Jeanie said...

First of all, condolences on the power and such. I had water, but losing power is worse.

My music essentials -- Broadway showtunes. From Stephen Sondheim, I learn life, from Kander & Ebb, wit, from Rodgers/Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, Bock and Harnick - heart. And I won't go on -- though I could for pages!

rauf said...

my understanding of English is getting poorer by the day Ruth.

i have traveled without a camera many times and yet i have enjoyed the journey with bitter sweet memories which have faded in time. And i have traveled without music and did not feel the absence of recorded music as there are pleasant and unpleasant sounds all around me to fill me up. Some times i wonder where i have taken this picture. Some times the camera bag and the music i carry seem a burden to me. i walk in the forest without opening my camera bag and regret carrying it. By the end of the day i realise that i have not taken a single picture and yet i enjoyed the day, again with memories bitter sweet with a touch of horror and anxiety. i know i will not die if i don't have my camera and music and i know that i will die with over confidence and ignorance.

Asokan brought a memory card for transferring the pictures in to a CD which completely destroyed my computer. i was not angry with him for bringing a card full of virus. i learnt a lesson on that day. i can lose every thing in a matter of seconds, my house all my belongings perhaps my life as well.

'My things and i' doesn't sound very good.

i have never met you Ruth but you are the biggest influence of my life. More than music and photography or any philosophy. i hold it very dear. i will not let it go even when tsunami hits me.

Miss Jane said...

I found myself "oohing" at many of Brendan's choices, Christ, I just put on "Court & Spark" last night.
and Pat Methany's Witchita Falls .... The Lamb
Sometimes I feel like Sibelius' 7th--broad and brassy and just a tich melancholy. Rachmaninoff does me in.
Any sort of 'cello: Rostropovich to Tom Cora.
I can't help but love the Romantic composers, but Mozart's Violin Concerto is perfect for bath time--Pinchas Zukerman has the sweetest sound
Chet Baker tears at my heart strings, Sarah Vaughan stubs them out.
Radiohead's The Bends moves me. I love Muse.
But I dig Bob Wills and Hank Williams.
Did I mention Howlin' Wolf?
I also have a HUGE crush on Jimmy Page circa 1969-1975.
Oh, and fado! & Rush. hahahahaha

Miss Jane said...

Say what you will about Fleetwood Mac, but Stevie Nicks is quite the poet. I've gotten a lot of inspiration out of her lyrics.

lw said...

lately, the music of silence
i dream not of big boats,cars or black sabbath
but a little lake
a cabin
a window
an alone loon calling
a candle, some oil, a quill, some paper
pretty sorry essentials i guess

who said...

I am not sure a person could ever hear every great song ever written, even if each song was only listened to once, even if all they did from their time of birth was continuously listen to one song after another until they day they died.

There are simply that many amazing songs, maybe even infinite if the music that was never recorded was taken into account, because some songs don't end. As if the tune that a child hums was one their parents passed onto to them to sing, which may have originated from great great grandparents, or maybe before that, as if their familiar tune carried on, was that of the wind.

as for some commercially released albums, a really great one is All This Time, which was written by Erika Wennerstrom and recorded by her and her band.

Susanne Vega has several almost too good to be true albums, but they definitely do exist.

Elvis Perkins wrote and performed a work of art with Ash Wednesday and I particularly like a song Stay Zombie Stay that is a track from another album.

There is an artist who performs under the name Dessa, and her album A Badly Broken Code is a perfect example of a recent poet who has the talent and the voice to put her poetry into the motion of song.

(I was logged in under an old account, so I deleted my comment and logged in again)

Susan said...

My music choices tend to lean toward the familiar, sounds I grew up with, probably because I know all the words. :) I love Katy Perry and Adele's Rollin' in the Deep (I also loved the version they did on Glee). Sara Watkins who often sings on Prairie Home Companion, in fact, I think she's a regular on there now. Diana Krall is my go-to girl for background music on a quiet evening at home. I love Trisha Yearwood, especially her ballads...she can really tell a story with her voice. Allison Krauss and Eva Cassidy and Judy Collins for the purity of their voices.

That's quite a bouquet, so I guess I'll spare you. :)

Susan said...

Oh, I forgot to rock out to some Bruce!

Ruth said...

Nancy, oh thank you. One of my great joys in the past year has been getting an education in jazz, which I had never appreciated before beyond the pop stuff. Etta James singing "At Last" is a treat, and I can picture it at your one day possible wedding, how lovely. I don't know Curtis Stigers or David Benoit, so I thank you for that introduction. I have printed out this comment page and will gradually listen to every musician/song, listening also for my own connections.

Re your second comment: I would have loved to hear JT and Carole King when they did their tour together. Their musical personae were important to me in high school, and JT is still so present in my psyche, I feel like he's my brother, seriously. I know I'll still love him tomorrow. ;-)

Ruth said...

Arti, oh yes, thank you, Bach's Goldberg Variations. I need to get them on iTunes.

Now after your comment I wonder what books you would think of as essential. :-)

Ruth said...

Terresa, I love your comment and knowing my post expresses what you feel too. I imagine it is far more challenging to find and create solitude with a young family at home, than for me in an empty nest. I applaud your recognition and efforts to find it.

Ruth said...

Bonnie, thank you. I agree about the stellar poetics of Mitchell and Cohen. I turn to Joni as muse more than any other musical writer, as I said in the post, and it is her voice as much as her lyrics that meets me inside.

It's quite lovely to have these beautiful conveniences and technologies. But sometimes when things go "too well" I lose the edge, the bite of pain that contributes something else, something I don't want to go without actually.

Ruth said...

Brendan, thank you for taking the time to write out this much. I will listen to each song/album I don't know over the next bit of time (how long is a bit?), and what I enjoy I will download on iTunes. I will even make a "Brendan" playlist. How fun is that?

I adore "Kind of Blue" and it is essential for me too. The White Album shaped me in high school. "Aqualung" yes. "Tea for the Tillerman" yep. Both you and Steven share Brian Eno, so I'll definitely check him out.

Ruth said...

Maureen, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes yes yes. I don't know Varese, will check that out. I agree on the Gorecki symphony . . . heartbreaking. This version of his "Sorrowful Songs" sung by Isabel Bayrakdari inside the walls of a concentration camp is astonishingly melancholy and beautiful. Robert (The Solitary Walker) posted it a few months back, then Gorecki died a few weeks later. Video here.

Shari Sunday said...

I have been having trouble with blogger lately and unable to comment. Very frustrating. I have been simplifying my life for a while now. I care most about people, a few creature comforts and, I admit it, air conditioning. I know you have been going through a trial lately. All my life my musical taste has been influenced the tastes of other people. Bob Dylan with my first boyfriend, Merle Haggard with my first husband, Pink Floyd and the Eagles with my very musical second husband. Now I am married to a man who doesn't really like music but prefers talk radio. For myself, I love blues, guitar and rythm (no spell checker here?) Rock from the 50's, 60's, 70's, WWII music, Frank Sinatra, Jimmy Buffet, Nora Jones, Bob Denver ...well, you get the picture. I'm even starting to appreciate the Black Eyed Peas. My daughter is into "alternative" music whatever that is and makes me the greatest CD's that I listen to in the car. I still don't have an ipod.

Ruth said...

Thanks you for sharing your recs, Elizabeth. Your comment reminds me of the Bible passage about moth and rust. Lay not up treasures! As for hymns, I am with you. I was happy to leave them, but then I remember one like "Be Thou My Vision" or "Great God of Wonders" and I feel the majesty and connection.

Ruth said...

Steven, thank you very much for listing these songs and artists. I am not familiar with any of them! So I will listen on YouTube first and then download the ones I connect with.

I hope you never have to lose any of the music you love.

Ruth said...

Robert, I've had the honor to witness some of your musical treasures at The Solitary Walker, especially that Gorecki "Sorrowful Songs" I mentioned in my comment to Maureen. So you are a Brahms person, eh? You and my mom. Thank you so much for listing these names here, and for how you continue to share them at your blog.

As for that last line in your comment, it reminds me of one of my all-time favorite memories. My sister and I stayed in a sort of shabby hotel in Paris called the Saint Roche (how would we have known before we booked it that it was nicknamed 'the roach'?), across from the St Roche church. Every evening after walking the city, our legs aching, we walked up the narrow St Roche rue and heard music through the windows: one evening choir practice, one evening organ, etc. We walked in the hotel to it, climbed the stairs to it, undressed and showered to it wafting up and into our room. I would not trade my memories of music and that shabby hotel for the Ritz any day of the week.

I imagine on your walks about town you happen upon some lovely church music, and then I think of Philip Larkin and "Church Going" . . .

Ruth said...

Louise, I thank you sincerely for leaving your recommendations for music here. This is a treasure trove, all of you doing this for me. I am listening to Keith Jarrett as I type, the Köln concert. I have begun downloading some of these favorites of commenters at iTunes, first listening on YouTube. It's a great day off, preparing for guests tomorrow — straightening, cleaning and dancing around to all this great music.

Ruth said...

Erin, I'm listening to Wintersleep's "Snowstorm" while I type to you. It reminds me of Andrew Bird.

Like you, I value the quiet most of all. I truly think this is why my musical range is limited. I more often choose silence than music. But more and more, I am looking for music to punctuate certain kinds of solitude, and especially as today, when I am cleaning and cooking.

Vagabonde said...

I think Hank was right when he said “no one died” because when someone does then it makes you realize how quickly we can pass away. I just found out that an old friend from work who retired when I did went to his 50th high school reunion last week-end, with his wife. They went on a sightseeing tour of the North Ga mountains in a small aircraft and did not come back. They found the wreckage – no survivors.

The question about music is an interesting one and so difficult to answer for me, at least. As for Rosaria my music taste changes with my mood. I travel for music – I came to this country mostly for jazz. I planned a trip to Paris in November 09 to coincide with a one night show by Cesaria Evora, one of my favorite singers from Cape Verde island (listen to her, she has a tremendous warm voice.) I enjoy listening to the music I heard as I was growing up – Chopin from my dad or middle eastern music, Opera, Strauss waltzes or tango music from my mum (and she would dance with me while listening.) When I had my daughters I danced with them listening to the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and New Orleans jazz and sang Joan Baez songs to make them go to sleep. I listen to a lot of classical music. After having worked with people from Africa for many years, and flying to Senegal just for the music, I have to say that whenever I take a CD to play in my car, or a CD to make me feel good I always turn to Orchestra Baobab, a Senegalese Afro-Cuban band, very popular in France. I have all their CDs. I also like music from the Congo-Kinshasa and Zimbabwe. I like ragtime and have many Scott Joplin albums and CD.

Elizabeth said...

I think it's super how Rauf writes to you.
He is MY hero actually and I look forward very much to his too infrequent posts.

photowannabe said...

Beautiful and thought provoking post Ruth.
The thought that came to mind for me was my Hubby and my 2 weeks spent in Kenya. We lived in tents out in the bush with a Masai tribe. Cooking over a twig fire and using a kerosene lantern plus using the "long drop" showed us how much we coud actually get along without. As far as music...Africa is music to my heart and soul. The Masai language is beautiful to the ears and their singing can fill my entire being. That's Music!

Ruth said...

Lilith, oh yes, I've heard that song. She is a real presence, isn't she? Her voice reminds me of Amy Winehouse. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Reena, yeah, I'd cry to lose my Apple Blossom mac.

Thanks for your recommendations, all loves of mine too. I think Paul Simon may be my favorite song-poet. I have been listening to his newest album: So Beautiful or So What, and it is tremendous, as always. I appreciate how he takes his time between projects, and they are stellar. And Van Morrison, ohhhh.

Ruth said...

Thanks, Allison, and welcome. My sister Ginnie loves the Indigo Girls, they have such a great harmony. Who's more fun to listen to than the Boss in concert? And I used to listen to the Four Seasons while cleaning, it motivated me.

Ruth said...

Gayle, what a delight! To listen to and watch your son perform, to open to life, and to give the world his expression, is just the best feeling a mother can have. I'm so happy for you. And you are so right. Getting older we find authority to do what we want and love. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your son's performance.

Ruth said...

C.M., holy cowbell, that's a long playlist. Thanks for the Keith Jarrett recommendation which has been echoed by others here. I need to listen to more after my first sampling.

Peter's Lord Huron band will be at the Getty in L.A. July 30. The band info is here

Ruth said...

Obrigada, João. You're another one who has a wide range of interest in music. This piano by Egberto Gismonti is gorgeous and original. How do people keep coming up with new sounds?

Ruth said...

Mary, thank you for sharing the Celtic singers in the Woman's Heart series. I'm listening now, and they are lovely. I can hear why you would turn to them for soothing your soul.

Ruth said...

Deborah, thank you. Fauré's Pelléas et Mélisande is one of my very favorite songs. I also enjoy Debussy very much. I don't know Albeniz and mompou, or Madredeus, so thanks for those. I am listening to Madredeus' O Pastor now . . . Anything that helps you write as you do is to be praised in my book.

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, well good, I'm glad to know I am in such good company for not knowing about Gil Scott-Heron. Thank you for those new-to-me names Green, and Carlos-Jobim. I did not know the latter wrote "Wave" . . . listening now.

Pauline said...

What an interesting question. I so seldom listen to music other than wind and birdsong that when I find myself whistling tunes, it's usually something from my mother's era, tunes she whistled! (That would be music from the 30s and 40s.)

I lived deliberately for several years without power or indoor plumbing when I homesteaded in northern VT. I was without vacuum cleaner, radio, television, toaster, running water... it's amazing (and highly entertaining) to see just what one can do without, and what one finds to do with!

Ruth said...

Thanks, Jeanie. It was a two-day adventure. Kinda fun. But I was giddy when we got it back.

Yes, showtunes for you, I knew that! Nice that you can be on the stage of television and perform in that sense. I wonder if you were in musicals in high school . . . ?

Ruth said...

What a comment, rauf.

I don't know about your understanding of English, but what you have written here is utter poetry. Everything is here, in a moment of words. Life and death, beauty and pain. All the opposites from Rumi and Rilke that have pounded in my brain this past year, and that you have pounded in my brain these five years. It is poetry of a life. A prayer. I have always told you that your life is a prayer, rauf. Your life is poetry too.

In tears I receive your statement. This is the blessing of a lifetime.

Ruth said...

Miss Jane, no wonder you are a wonder. Seeing these depths in your musical loves explains a lot (about your poetry). There is much in your list I do not know, some I do. And I will definitely have to give another look at Stevie Nicks' lyrics after your second comment. I will check all the musicians you listed that I don't know.

Your comment about Jimmy Page reminds me of what happened to me after my son started playing guitar. I listened to artists I never gave a hoot about in high school, like Stevie Ray Vaughan, who now is a great love, because in him I hear my son play. Jimmy Page was one of his guitar teachers in his progression from age 12 to now age 28.

Thank you for taking the time to give me these gifts, which will educate me for some time to come.

Ruth said...

LW, sorry, huh?



Essential essentials, if you ask me.


Ruth said...

Dusti, I thought that was you.

So you're saying the gallery of amazing songs is like the Louvre and may be almost eternal. I will listen to all the artists you've given here. I have listened to many that you've posted at Slightly Diffused Bomb and enjoyed every single one. So I already know I like your taste. Thank you so much for taking the time to share these.

freefalling said...

Ruth - I think you might really love this.

and his story

freefalling said...

oh - I meant to say before:
those aboriginal handprints are REAL - real live old ones!

RD said...

This post and the comments it's elicited are priceless. I may have to print them all out and spend a few evenings sampling them on iTunes. (I already started tonight.) One of my midlife resolutions (good Lord, I'm hitting the big 5-0 in days' time now!) is to become more musically literate. I enjoy so many kinds of music, but haven't made music a part of every day, and couldn't tell you much about any specific genre or artist. I admire people like your readers who have a rich appreciation and knowledge of music--and I want to be like that. Music reaches deeper into my soul than just about anything else, and yet I'm so ignorant in this area. Thanks for posing this question! And thanks to your readers for sharing.

Arti said...


I was going to say in my previous comment that I look forward to a post by you on essential books and movies. At the mean time, I'm still thinking... but Jane Austen's P & P would definitely be one of them, other than the Bible of course. ;)

Ruth said...

Susie! Haha! You know the words. Oh you're so sweet. You listed some of my favorite female vocalists, and I add Joni, Patricia Barber, Sarah McLachlan, and a few more. I'm learning to love Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Abbey Lincoln, and others I'm getting to know.

And well the Boss. Nothing like him on stage to get a person fired up, eh?

Thank you for sharing here, and often at your BSR too, which I always always enjoy. Ahem. :-)

Ruth said...

Shari, I'm sorry to hear about your frustrations with Blogger comments. It has been an epidemic from what I hear.

I really love your comment, because it's so true how music can be associated with periods of life. And one of my greatest pleasures has been to rediscover music from my youth that my kids discovered, and also to find new music through them. Coldplay is one of my favorite groups, because of my son's inspiration from them, and their songs never fail to move me because of that connection. My kids make mixed CDs too. A couple of Christmases ago I made them for them, and I was quite proud. I 'discovered' some groups they didn't know yet, like Fleet Foxes, Andrew Bird, Bon Iver, Blitzen Trapper and Blind Pilot, all of whom had (I believe) debut albums a couple years ago.

Thank you!

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, how terrible, what happened to your old friend. I'm so sorry.

Why am I surprised to hear you say you travel for music? You came to this country mostly for jazz! And you planned a trip around a musical concert. How tremendous that is to me. For me too: Chopin from my youth, listening to Mom play the piano. And as for your middle eastern music, that reminds me of the Turkish classique music we heard (more than 'listened to') in Istanbul. Now when I hear it I miss it, though I didn't love it then. Talk about what Shari said about periods in our lives associated with music.

Thank you, my friend.

Ruth said...

Elizabeth, I am moved more than I can say by rauf's comments here, and all of his life and posts, yes. I know that the world weighs heavily upon him, and I wish I could lighten it. Thank you for coming back to read these comments and express this.

Ruth said...

Hi, Sue! Great to see you! The images of you and your husband in Africa conjure much beauty. And how true that language itself can be music. I feel this way when I am at the big local grocery store where I occasionally hear people speaking Turkish and I stop and look closely at radishes and lettuces so I can linger and listen to them. I adore it, and it is music to me. Thank you.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Pauline. Your comment fascinates me, and now I want to hear it all. There are times I hear the hum of the refrigerator and other appliances and realize I probably never have total silence. Such are the sounds of life. But yes, we are quite capable of living without many things, and it's good to do now and then to rediscover something we have missed, even if it was right there all the time.

Ruth said...

Oh Letty. Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu is beautiful. Blind, hardly any English, and such presence and timbre. Thank you. I am so touched by the melody and melancholy notes of this song "Wiyathul."

Ruth said...

Oh, and thanks for letting me know those are real handprints in the cave!

Ruth said...

RD, your comment reflects myself in many ways. I'm glad you can find here what I am finding, which is like a treasure music box. They say that music sometimes takes us into an ecstasy better than sex, and that is saying something, I'd say. Not sure how they measure that, but anyway.


Ruth said...

Arti, well that is perhaps something I might do one day, we'll see. I'd guess that P & P is probably my top book pick. Yeah, movies would be fun too. Hmmmm, maybe I should start thinking about that now.

Ruth said...

For the record, I'd like to list some specific songs that feel essential to me these days for different reasons:

Neil Young – Helpless
Joni Mitchell – River, Carey, Hejira
Glen Hansard & Marketa Irglova – Falling Slowly
Patty Loveless – Soul of Constant Sorrow
Blind Pilot – One Red Thread
Fleet Foxes – White Winter Hymnal
Bon Iver – Flume
Esther Satterfield – Lullaby for Nancy Carol
Nina Simone & Felix Da Housecat - Sinnerman
Blitzen Trapper – Furr, Black River Killer
Diana Krall – S’Wonderful
Miles Davis – Blue in Green
John Coltrane – Naima
Fauré – Pelléas et Mélisande
David Mead – Human Nature
Ray LaMontagne – Trouble
Pavarotti – Turandot
James Taylor – Grace
Gabriella – Sweet
Sweetback – Hope She’ll Be Happier
Schumann – Scenes from Childhood
Lord Huron – We Went Wild, When Will I See You Again, Into the Sun
Coldplay – Yellow
Bill Evans Trio – Nardis, Peace Piece
The Corrs, I Know My Love
Allison Kraus & Robert Plant – Gone Gone Gone
Meridian - Murder in a Small Town

For starters . . . :-)

Susan said...

Oh, YES! Patty Loveless. Her 'Mountain Soul' CD is flawless, especially the one you mentioned and also Harlan County. She was born and raised in Pikeville, KY in the heart of coal country, so she knows.

I forgot to mention a few other ladies with whom I love to sing along: Linda Eder, Jane Monheit, and of course, the wonderful Emmylou Harris.

As you can tell, I'm a big girl singer fan. :)

Deborah said...

Just had to say that your attentiveness to your readers and commentors is wonderful. To have responded to every comment here instead of just saying 'appreciate all your ideas' (which would have been completely understandable) is kindness itself. I know you love these conversations, but they take a lot of time. You're lovely.

Nelson said...

From today's comic strip, "Adam":

Son: "do you ever worry about about dying, Pop?"
Dad: "Sometimes, not really. Not while I'm doing the crossword."

"Don't you ever think about what you'll miss after you're gone?"
"I just want to make sure you, Mom, Nick and Katy are okay"

"What about video games? They're so cool now. Imagine what you'll miss."
"All I need is a nice lasagna, a dark roast blend, Bob Dylan on the stereo, some snuggle time with your mom and..."

"You shouldn't boo your mom."

"I was booing Bob Dylan"
"Ooh, I wouldn't do that. There're baby boomers everywhere and they don't like that."

Ruth said...

Susie, I love the old timey sound of Patty's voice; it makes sense that she was born in coal country!

I don't know Eder or Monheit, but I do know and love Emmylou Harris.

Thank you, my dear, and if I come across any new girl singers, I will let you know!

Ruth said...

Deborah, I thought about saying "thanks for all your wonderful ideas." :-) But for some reason, since I see this place the way I see my home, if someone pays me a visit, I have to respond to each one individually. It's been a habit these five years, and I doubt I'll be breaking it, though sometimes I am dearly tempted ('the temptation of no words' . . . ha! :-)

Thank you for acknowledging and appreciating this. I appreciate that! (and you)

Ruth said...

Nelson, how perfectly apt!!! Hahaha. I love how he doesn't worry about dying while doing the crossword. :-) And he is so right, about baby boomers or anyone, you just can't boo our essentials, it's too personal, and there are reasons.

Thank you for this, I love it!

Ginnie said...

Ohhhh, I remember choosing no electricity during those tent years, Ruth. I remember no running water while in the Peruvian jungle except for what came down from the mountain's trough. Those were days I loved. Maybe I'm a nomad at heart? But to have it thrust on you like's different! I always wonder why? Not why ME. Just why. Why does it not surprise me that it doesn't happen more often! Why does it discombobulate me.

Are you serious that you got a radio for your 12th birthday? I learn more and more about you here at your blog. HA! I'm sure you know that my only music up till my divorce was religious. Jo and Donica both were instrumental in opening up my musical world. But even more now, here in another world, I'm growing in my tastes. I heard a bit of a song for days on CNN Int'l in a commercial and went to heaven every time I heard it. I finally Googled it:
I go into another world and lifetime every time I hear it. So I guess that tells you what you want to know, yes?!

Stratoz said...

away from jazz which is what calms my soul these days

Bruce Springsteen.

Maybe because of the day Darkness came to me

In a Monte Carlo headed to or away from a urologist I knew too well

as a child and young adult.

Stratoz said...

The Monte Carlo was powder blue.

My dad was driving.

Oliag said...

I am late to this party!

It is funny because I have been recently thinking about the music that I like to listen to the most...or that I gravitate to without even thinking. It seems to me that all my favorites are singer/songwriter/poets...Dylan, Cohen, Simon, Mitchell, Springsteen, Lucinda Williams, and so on...The new music I listen too also tends to by by songwriter/poets...Neko Case being my more recent favorite. It is nice to have so many choices!

Loring Wirbel said...

I think I told you once that my desert island discs would number in the thousands, since the artists speaking directly to me are multitudes. Those who seemed most on my wavelength over the years, I suppose, might include Neil Young, Bowie, NY Dolls, The Clash, REM, Gang of Four, Smiths, Incredible String Band, Trumans Water, Guided by Voices, Pere Ubu, Sun City Girls, Art Ensemble of Chicago/Roscoe Mitchell, Gil Scott-Heron, Diane Cluck, Mountain Goats, Inca Ore, Ani DiFranco, ... see, I don't know when to stop!

Was having a discussion in San Jose a few weeks ago with a table full of people who liked free jazz and experimental noise, we were lamenting the fact that Craig Matsumoto no longer did program direction for the Stanford station. One guy at the table, a country music lyricist, was quiet, and somehow we got around to the fact that he helped write lyrics for The Civil Wars. I went bonkers, told him how much I loved The Civil Wars, and he said, "How can you shift from talking improvisational noise-music to country music so quickly?" I told him, "I never noticed there was a difference." That would apply to my feelings about all schools of music.

Loring Wirbel said...

I realized from Oliag I skipped Cohen, also Phil Ochs. Bad me. And Ginnie's comment regarding your gift was interesting - I got my first transistor radio at age 5 from my grandparents, and was religiously following the Top 40 within a week or so after that. First album was Best of the Beach Boys, age 7 or so.

Dan Gurney said...

Almost 100 comments!!

My essential music is in my heart. My ukulele helps me mine it, smelt it, and bring it into the world to share.