February 2008

[ARTIST spins toward REVIEWER and whips drum machine out of its holster]:
“Go ahead, punk: call my last album ‘quietly beautiful’…”

(Sent from my mobile phone.)


Rich drove me up to Greenpoint to introduce me to Aaron Tasjan, who’ll play guitar with me next week. We rehearsed in Aaron’s big industrial loft, a multi-hued and sweetly chaotic musician lair that sits across from a factory that makes wood pallettes.

(Sent from my mobile phone.)

These greenish Gretsch guitars at Main Drag are the exact color of a beverage I make
almost every day. Here’s the recipe:

– 1 Avocado (small)
– 1.5 Cups Whole Milk
– 3-second squeeze of honey

Put all ingredients in a blender for 60 seconds, being sure to lock up your
dog first.

The song ‘Loud and Clear,’ which I recorded last November, was released
today as a digital single by HackTone Records/Warner Music Group. It’s
available for download on iTunes and Amazon, for less than the price of a
can of Coke. My thanks to everyone who helped me make and release the song,
and to all of you who watched the birth of the recording on this very

Today I received a piece of mystery mail that had been sent to me from a publishing house in Manhattan. I don’t know who arranged for this special 100th issue of Granta sent to me, but I thank him or her, as inside it I found an utterly captivating little ode by James Fenton called ‘On Buying a Clavichord.’ A pre-cursor to the piano we know today, the clavichord was barely as loud as the human voice. It was infinitely sensitive to the player’s touch…when a key was pressed, it engaged the string directly and could be gently manipulated to extract a range of pitch modulations and vibratos – which is utterly unlike a piano, where a pressing a key simply clunks a wooden hammer that in turn strikes the string – all that can be varied is the intensity of the hammer-smack. Bach’s favoured instrument was the clavichord. Witnesses observed that his body barely moved whilst playing it (‘only the first joints of the fingers were in motion.’) While reading Fenton’s piece I felt such a consonace with my own deep and sometimes mysterious bond with the lap steel guitar. From the moment I sat down to play one, the particular character of its voicings and the physical mechanics of its expressiveness… just suited my nature. The bond is inexpressible. Fenton’s piece concludes with a quote by an imprisoned poet-musician who was an ‘one of the most ardent and romantic defenders of the clavichord’: “Ah! Do not lament the thundering of the harpsichord. Look, your clavichord breathes as sweetly as your heart.”

(Sent from my mobile phone.)

Irwin cajoled me up to Times Square to see the Magnetic Fields perform at Town Hall. All I could think about during the show was how I wished Wham! would suddenly reunite and jog triumphantly onstage in white short-shorts to sing these songs.

(Sent from my mobile phone.)

Late Winter has me snowed under into some kind of creative hibernation. My studio keeps winking at me, but I continually deny its charms, returning instead to the arms of Beyonce, whose single “Irreplaceable” I’ve had in a freakishly relentless loop that is broken only to watch forensic-type TV shows or read history books and science magazines. When I pick up the lap steel, only really bizarre (and loud) stuff pours forth for a few minutes, then I grow sleepy like a brown bear. Tomorrow may be different. That said, many people believe that a great deal of creative processing occurs unconsciously, like seeds germinating underground. I’ll buy that.

(Sent from my mobile phone.)

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