Though I grew up in the misty entropy of Seattle, I have spent nearly all of my adult life in the Sonoran Desert of Southern Arizona. When I was growing up, water was taken for granted, abundant; in fact, there was too much of it most of the time. In the desert, I have come to love rainy days. When it rains, kids come out to play; in school they run to the windows.
Water in the desert is synonymous with life.
Water in the desert is synonymous with life. Rainy El Nino winters, like the one just past, turn rocky slopes into green pastures full of wildflowers. Normally dry streams and riverbeds are brimming with water, the banks teaming with life. I remember stopping on a dirt road to explore a dry riverbed north of Carefree, AZ. We walked about a half of a mile up the wash when we came upon a section with water in it. The little stream came out from under a rock and flowed for about 20 feet before diving back underground. I could step from one side to the other, but as I was watching the flowing water, I saw a fish slip out from one rock and scamper under another one. Then I saw another fish, and another. The wash had been dry for months! Did it get stuck here when the river dried up, or was it always here and stayed through the rushes of water that roared down the wash after it rained? Unanswered questions.
Some frogs and toads in Arizona (such as the Couch’s Spadefoot Toad) have evolved to dig into the mud as it dries up, and lie dormant for eleven months. During the first significant summer monsoon rain, usually in mid-July, they dig themselves out with a cacophonous roar, mate, lay eggs and then proceed to eat enough bugs to last them another 11 months before they dig another home in the mud and go back to sleep. The frogs’ awakening is something we wait for every year. What is it like to live such a life?
So this album is loosely organized around water and its role in life. Each track covers a significant amount of diverse musical territory. My music is exploratory but thoughtful. It is not meant to be calming, or exciting, or physically stimulating, it is an emotional journey. It is meant to be listened to, and not a background for visuals, dance, or daily life.
- Lighthouse. The opening track derives its name from a repeated A-Ab passage in the center of the piece that seems to be a guiding light throughout the stormy surrounding music. The track also describes the loneliness of isolation and the beautiful serenity of a peaceful sea. For me it is all a metaphor for the creative life; peaceful at times, stormy at times, but always guided by the muse.
- Floating Spheres. The title here refers to the balls of glass used by fisherman to float their nets. When I am improvising, I often visualize myself as floating in a glass ball on a sea of emotion, so these balls have extra meaning. The glass balls used by Japanese fishermen used to occasionally wash up on the shore when I was growing up in the Pacific Northwest. They were a prized possession and you could find them homes (or seafood restaurants). When I went to the beach I would always look for them, but I have never found one.
- Fragile. This is about water in the philosophical sense. Water is fragile to the touch and gives way to almost everything, but can wear down the hardest stone. Its fragility is its strength. It is perfectly transparent and reflects beauty and ugliness equally, without judgment.
- Slippery Slope. In a conditional world of transmogrified values and transient truths, we are all on a slippery slope. Do we find a handhold and grab on for dear life or do we cast our fate to the wind? Maybe we should learn to ski or skate.
- Soggy Breadcrumbs. Sometimes we stumble onto a clear and inviting path of another and are inspired to follow. But any path, no matter how fresh and well defined, eventually peters out, becomes soggy, or is eaten by hungry birds. All paths are eventually solitary.
- Sequenza No. 2. When I am in a stretch of improvisational recording, which can last for several weeks, I don’t listen to any of the recordings until much later. This is so I can listen to them with fresh ears, without memory or intent to cloud my judgment. In the case of this last track, I actually play a track with the same material and general format as another track I had recorded about a week earlier – “Sequenza” from the album Hold That Thought. I was unaware of the relationship when I recorded it and only when putting the two albums together did I notice the similarity. I liked the first version, but I think this version is better.
These tracks were recorded at my home in Phoenix, Arizona.