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Thursday, March 31, 2011

An old and angry wind

Thursday-the-pretender, wet and windy.  A yowling storm brewed up last night/very early this morning, the remnants of which are still dogging the morning commute. Thursday isn't going to fool anyone while wrapped in this weather.  It only accentuates the fact that he isn't really the end of the week, he isn't that most-popular dude Friday, and we know it.  The wind slammed against the side of the house last night, recalling the wind in A. E. Houseman's A Shropshire Lad XXXI:

The gale, it plies the saplings double,
      And thick on Severn snow the leaves.

'Twould blow like this through holt and hanger
      When Uricon the city stood:
'Tis the old wind in the old anger,
      But then it threshed another wood.

Like that old wind from a Roman time freshly attacking the new woods of a later era, this was an experienced and angry wind that tantrumed in syncopated gusts, trying to confuse us with oddly timed bursts of breath, seeking to surprise and prise loose anything it could rip and tear.

There was nothing old or angry about this morning's music. On the cusp of lapping one full year of these (mostly) commute-playlist blog postings I still marvel at the way an iPod filled with 6000 or so tunes from a very wide variety of genres can randomly shuffle up a short playlist that is both interesting and yet well integrated.  Starting with The Beatles' We Can Work It Out (ultimately, they couldn't, of course) and ending with the instrumental/atmospheric rock of Explosion In The Sky makes for a richly transitioning landscape of music.  And I swear the first note of Kris Kristofferson's Help Me Make It Through the Night kicked in just before the final note of the previous Counting Crows tune (not possible, I know, but it really did sound like it).

Today's full playlist:

 - The Beatles: We Can Work It Out
 - Counting Crows: Catapult
 - Kris Kristofferson:  Help Me Make It Through the Night
 - Explosions In The Sky:  First Breath After Coma

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hardly at home to anyone

Wednesday, and very wet.  Forecasters tell us we should see lots of rain, especially up in this mountain ranges on either side of us.  That means, for many folks, flooding. When I started my short commute this morning the rain was misty with occasional very large drops kerwhacking down on the canvas top of the Miata.  The latter became more frequent until, by the time I reached campus, it was simply raining steadily.

If Wednesday is indeed Mr. Maleable, then I intend to mold him into a much-needed productive day with uninterrupted time to focus on a couple of outstanding projects.  As Wimsey says to Bunter on occasion, "I'm hardly at home to anyone."  Or, as the reclusive Garbo is supposed to have said, "I want to be let alone."  Let's see if Wednesday is that cooperatively moldable.  I have my doubts.

The music this morning was beautifully paired.  From the steering-wheel tap-along-ability of Jimmy Buffet to acoustic bluesy vintage Bruce Cockburn.  The first three tunes were related by their similar rhythm, though about as far away from each other as possible in terms of their lyrics.  Fountains of Wayne did their recent cover of the classic Burt Bacharach tune Trains & Boats & Planes, a big hit for Dionne Warwick back in 1966.

Each one of these tunes have well written lyrics and the last three can stand as excellent poetry even without the music.  Cockburn's If I Had a Rocket Launcher, one of his better known songs, makes the strongest stance of this group of tunes. Written in Chiapas Mexico in 1983, after visits to Guatemalan refugee camps (through OXFAM Canada) about the atrocities he saw being committed there.

Here comes the helicopter -- second time today
Everybody scatters and hopes it goes away
How many kids they've murdered only God can say
If I had a rocket launcher...I'd make somebody pay

Compare that with the much more laid-back narrative of Mama Just Wants To Barrel House All Night Long

I was up the road on easy street
Watching everybody stand around and cheat
A man comes up and says, "Move along
Down to the corner where you belong"
But mama just wants to barrelhouse all night long

I hear the city singing like a siren choir
Some fool tried to set this town on fire
TV preacher screams "come on along"
I feel like Fay Wray face to face with King Kong
But mama just wants to barrelhouse all night long

Hmmm.... seems to be a Cockburn lyric week for me so far.  Maybe the iPod is rewarding me for having noted two of his songs yesterday as well.

Today's full playlist:

 - Jimmy Buffett: Margaritaville
 - Fountains Of Wayne:  Trains & Boats & Planes
 - Bruce Cockburn: If I Had a Rocket Launcher
 - The Guggenheim Grotto: Map of the Human Heart
 - Bruce Cockburn: Mama Just Wants to Barrelhouse All Night Long

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The weight of inherited sorrow

Tuesday, of this quiet(ish) week.  The campus sleeps, or large swaths of it do.  An in the Gershwin tune (paraphrased), "Summer time, and the parking is easy..." parking lots during this pre-spring-quarter break are mostly empty.  By this time next week we'll be back in full swing, though parking is never an issue for those of us silly enough to get here at 6:30 AM.

Yesterday was dearth of lyric poetry in the music my iPod selected, today was different. Most notably, the playlist finished up with the Bruce Cockburn tune The Rose Above The Sky, recorded on his 1980 album, Humans. This is lyric as poetry, or (more likely) poetry as lyric:

Something jeweled slips away
Round the next bend with a splash
Laughing at the hands I hold out
Only air within their grasp
All you can do is praise the razor
For the fineness of the slash

    'Til the Rose above the sky
    And the light behind the sun
    Takes all

Gutless arrogance and rage
Burn apart the best of tries
You carry the weight of inherited sorrow
From your first day till you die
Toward that hilltop where the road
Forever becomes one with the sky

    'Til the Rose above the sky
    And the light behind the sun
    Takes all

Ozone on the midnight wind
Got me thinking of the sea
And the mercies of the currents that brought
Me to you and you to me
And in the silence at the heart of things
Where all true meetings come to be

    'Til the Rose above the sky
    And the light behind the sun
    Takes all

There are several phrases in this lyric that I particularly like, but the two that particularly resonate with me are, "all you can do is praise the razor for the fineness of the slash" and the stanza:

Gutless arrogance and rage
Burn apart the best of tries
You carry the weight of inherited sorrow
From your first day till you die
Toward that hilltop where the road
Forever becomes one with the sky

If ever a section of lyric could be used for race relations or conversations about institutionalized oppression, diversity, and cultural competency, this one applies.  It reminds me of another Cockburn song, Broken Wheel, from the 1981 album, Inner City Front in which he sings:

Way out on the rim of the galaxy
The gifts of the Lord lie torn
Into whose charge the gifts were given
Have made it a curse for so many to be born
This is my trouble --
These were my fathers
So how am I supposed to feel?
Way out on the rim of the broken wheel

Water of life is going to flow again
Changed from the blood of heroes and knaves
The word mercy's going to have a new meaning
When we are judged by the children of our slaves
No adult of sound mind
Can be an innocent bystander
Trial comes before truth's revealed
Out here on the rim of the broken wheel

You and me -- we are the break in the broken wheel
Bleeding wound that will not heal

We do carry the weight of inherited sorrow and the forefathers'-torn gifts of the Lord, and our historical (and contemporary) oppressions of others are certainly in that legacy, whether we want it or not.  Like the current generation that will have to face the wasted planet we are leaving behind, facing the consequences of the decisions of previous generations is not something we have the luxury of denying.  We can ignore it, but it doesn't go away.  There are no innocent bystanders, I can't be color blind, poverty blind, gender blind, or any other form of monkey-paws-over-eyes blind. "Into whose charge the gifts were given, have made it a curse for so many to be born, this is my trouble -- these were my fathers, so how am I supposed to feel?"  This makes as good an opening question for much-needed dialog as anything else I have heard.

And this, in my opinion, is the realized potential of good poetry and strongly-poetic song lyrics, that they hold up an introspective mirror and cause us to truly think.  Thinking is the thing the status quo fears most.  Fear of the power of critical thinking is one reason we continue to underfund education in a country where the vast majority of power and resources are enjoyed by a relative few. The process is institutional.  As in the Matrix, once you see it, you can't ever go back to pretending it's not there.

Today's full playlist:

 - Dusty Springfield: I Only Want to Be With You
 - Amy MacDonald: L.A.
 - Pixies:  Monkey Gone To Heaven
 - Patrick Cassidy: Naoise son of Uisnech
 - Bruce Cockburn: The Rose Above The Sky

Monday, March 28, 2011

Monday brought out the banal lyrics

Monday. Again. It seems like it was just Monday a couple of days ago, too.  The forecast has us stuck in a loop of cloudy-with-rain weather.  If this weekend is any indication, it will be cloudy, then pour down rain like there is no tomorrow, followed by a short-but-glorious sun break, then clouds, then.... repeat.

Regardless, even a wet and grey Monday brings a new week and a (somewhat) fresh start. The campus is still on break this week, so it will be quiet across campus.  We should also hear, this week, what the House thinks the state budget ought to look like.  Then we wait for the Senate budget to roll in, and then begins the reconciliation between those and the Governor's budget to see where we finally end up.

Today's music was comprised of a short, but wide-ranging, playlist.  Short, meaning only four tunes.  Wide-ranging in that it covered rock, soul/hip-hop, and country-folk.  The Living Sisters were the latter, with an annoying tune that features beautiful harmonizing and parochial lyrics.  With shades of the last scene in the Wizard of Ox, they sing about not ever letting the sun go down without being in their own home town. A sure-fire recipe for xenophobia and insular thinking.

My Mourning Jacket, usually good for both vocals and lyrics, sang an equally nonsensical bit of lyric this morning (though great musicianship on the tune):

A kitten on fire, a baby in a blender
Both sound as sweet as a night of surrender
I know it ain't easy but you do what you can
If your livin' gets wheezy, you can follow this plan


A good shower head and my right hand
The two best lovers that I ever had
Now if you find you agree with what I just said
You'd better find a new love and let 'em into your head

OK, it's clearly not a morning for good lyrics/poetry, certainly not on that note!

Fountains of Wayne, a group that you can almost always count on for clever lyrics, gave up an unusually banal bit of lyric.  The only exception this morning was the Ben-Ari tune Sunshine to the Rain. Even here I can't tell if it's rich and powerful street poetry or just stretching for a rhyme.  Both, in different place, I suspect.  At least those lyrics gave me something to think about on the way in.

In other music-related news, my iTunes library went AWOL last night. The library is there, all the songs are still listed, but over half of them can no longer be found.  I also note that the remote drive the library is stored on has been renamed (?!?).  I have tried restoring from a recent back-up, but get the same result.  I don't know what to make of it at this point.  I have the library backed up, but am clearly going to have to spend more time figuring out how to restore it.  Then comes the bit of trying to figure out what happened to cause this issue in the first place. Of course, this happened Sunday evening, rather than Friday, when I would have had the weekend to work on it.  Grrrrr.....!

Today's full playlist:

 - Fountains Of Wayne: You're Just Never Satisfied
 - Miri Ben-Ari: Sunshine to the Rain
 - My Morning Jacket: Into the Woods
 - The Living Sisters: Don't Let the Sun Go Down

Friday, March 25, 2011

Karmic coincidence came with the popular dude

Three cheers for the popular dude; we've nearly made it through another hectic week!  It has been an odd week, in that it has been somewhat out-of-schedule for me. This morning was an extra-early-alarm day so I could drive to the Everett Navy Station to pick up the son of good friends and get him to the airport in time to catch a 7:00 AM departure, flying home to see his folks and family. Driving to Everett at o-dark-hundred the rain was slamming down.  Even on the side streets getting to the freeway the rain drops were large enough and landing hard enough to sound like small pebbles hitting the canvas top, and at freeway speeds it was all wave and wash.  By the time I met the referenced sailor at the pick-up lot just outside the base, the rain had slackened and wasn't bad for the rest of the commute south and then back north. Thanks given for that.

Because of the extra-long commute this morning there is a correspondingly long play list.  Since most of the trip was given over to catching up on said sailor's latest deployment, I only picked the soundtrack up when I left the airport for the drive back north to campus.  So today's playlist represents the length of a more typical commute than is my normal.  Lots of good music, covering pretty much every genre, and not a bad egg in the whole bunch.

Paring the very-different keyboard stylings of Supertramp and Cannonball Adderley made for a fun start to the trip, The Bad Plus got feet and fingers tapping as they laid "...a strip for the higher-state line," and the Spamalot soundtrack soared with well orchestrated silliness.  The soundtrack for the Russian film Brother, 2 offered up a beautiful minor-key folk tune sung by a children's choir.

Then, in one of those supreme cosmic, karmic, divine coincidences, the last tune to pop up in this morning's random shuffle was from the BMW Band, the living-room "band" two buddies and I had many years ago. The digitally remastered tracks, taken from old dusty cassette tapes recorded on cheap equipment in various living rooms, were a Christmas gift from the daughter of one of my band-mates. And the sailor I shuttled to the airport this morning? The son of one of my two BMW band-mates, and the brother of the daughter who had those old recording remastered. Here's hoping he remembers to give his folks a hug from us when he gets home later this morning!

The full playlist:

 - Supertramp: Bloody Well Right
 - Cannonball Adderley:  Mercy, Mercy, Mercy
 - Bruce Cockburn: Kit Carson
 - Joel Frahm & Brad Mehldau: Smile
 - Bruce Cockburn: Pacing the Cage (Live)
 - The Bad Plus:  Layin' A Strip For The Higher-State Line
 - Philip Glass: Mvt. IV - Concerto for Saxophone Quartet
 - Great Northern:  Winter
 - Weezer: Say It Ain't So
 - Spamalot, Broadway Cast: Find Your Grail
 - Nautilus Pompilius and Children's Choir (Брат 2 Soundtrack): Прощальное письмо
 - BMW Band: Gentle Man

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Lord of the Starfields

I can't believe it's Thursday already.  The pretender has snuck up on me and, given how compressed this week has felt, I'm having to fight falling under Thursday's spell.  But Thursday isn't Friday, and it sure isn't Saturday, so I must press on.  Looks like another beautiful day is queued up.  After I got out of my car and was walking toward my office building this morning it dawned on me (no pun intended) that I should have had the top down on the drive in today.  I'm still in the-dark-of-winter mode, I guess.  I have gotten out of the habit of checking the skies as I roll out of the garage and having the option to even consider dropping the top.  Early morning and late evening are my two favorite times of day for going topless, too. If the weather holds - tomorrow!

With one exception, another exceptional mix of music on the iPod this morning.  The songs followed each other in one of those feels-tailor-made playlist progressions that, once upon a time ago, the very best radio DJs took pride in crafting. Following Train's My Private Nation, almost rock anthem-esque in flavor, with Belle and Sebastian is genius. Then tossing in a later recording of a vintage Cockburn tune like Lord of the Starfields right after that: even more genius.  Good job iPod!

Lord of the Starfields is one of the earliest Bruce Cockburn tunes I dove into, and remains one of my favorites.  It showcases both his guitar prowess and the strength of his imagery and poetry in songwriting (to view a short YouTube video of him singing this song live, with rather poor audio quality).  How can you not appreciate lyrics like this:

Lord of the starfields
Ancient of Days
Universe Maker
Here's a song in your praise

Wings of the storm cloud
Beginning and end
You make my heart leap
Like a banner in the wind

O love that fires the sun
Keep me burning.
Lord of the starfields
Sower of life,
Heaven and earth are
Full of your light

Voice of the nova
Smile of the dew
All of our yearning
Only comes home to you

O love that fires the sun
keep me burning

Such good stuff.  If you want to watch a better video, check out this YouTube recording of Bruce doing a live acoustic performance of Lovers in a Dangerous Time with Stephen Page (from Barenaked Ladies, who recorded a cover of this tune) from a Music Without Borders concert to benefit 9/11 victims, check out this link.

The only jarring moment in today's playlist happened just as I was pulling into campus when the soft jazz guitar playing of John Stowell was followed by the suddenly crunchy opening cords of the Electric Owls.  Those two tracks should not follow each other!

The full playlist:

 - Train: My Private Nation
 - Belle and Sebastian: Storytelling
 - Bruce Cockburn: Lord of the Starfields
 - John Stowell:  How Deep Is The Ocean
 - Electric Owls: Halloween Mask

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hawaiian Virginia Adaptation

Wednesday, the malleable day of the week, rolls in with a big bright moon and very slight cloud cover.  Looks like another day of spring-blue skies!  I presented at a conference yesterday, with a couple of colleagues, and commuted into Seattle in the passenger seat.  Consequently, collegial conversation replaced the usual soundtrack and conference activities replaced the usual blog entry.

As I get close to lapping one year of this daily commute-music (mostly) blog experiment I am looking forward to looking back over a year of randomly selected music from my iPod.  Considering it holds close to 6000 songs from a wide variety of musicians, my sense is that I have seen only a fraction of this music, and a lot of that quite regularly.  While I understand that the law of averages doesn't require anything in particular to happen, or demand that any particular song will pop up every so often, it does seem (just going by very-faulty memory here) that my iPod has its favorites and, just maybe, doesn't play totally fair with all the songs stored below deck.

Notwithstanding, it was a great playlist this morning. Really nicely varied and steering-wheel-tap-worthy.  Israel Kamakawiwo'ole (IZ), best known for his medley of Somewhere Over the Rainbow/What a Wonderful Life from this same album, sang his rendition of the John Denver tune, Take Me Home Country Road. It has an upbeat island rhythm and the lyric has been modified to reflect island landmarks and culture.  Not knowing the Hawaiian alterations nearly as well as the original lyrics, but being easily drawn into this well-known tune, I happy sang about Virginia's country roads while IZ sang of Hawaii's.  It worked just fine.

The full playlist:

 - The Shins: So Says I
 - Israel Kamakawiwo'ole: Take Me Home Country Road
 - Jónsi: Grow Till Tall
 - Terence Blanchard: Flow, Pt. 3

Monday, March 21, 2011

Hoplandic Monday

Monday can come in however he sees fit today, because we got an unexpectedly beautiful weekend after which it would be petty to complain.  Yes, it appears we're back to dripping and gray, but it's not very cold.  I got top-down drives in several times this weekend, and spring is dialing up all the reasons why I like that so much.  Birds singing makes for a lovely soundtrack, and the smell of fresh-cut lawns a fine bouquet. Looking up at the passing flowing trees, in their range of shades from white to deep pink/purple is a visual treat.  Soon the sweet smells of blooming plants will be added to that mix.

I'm gimping today.  This much-repaired back still doesn't like it when I do normal things for extended periods of time, I guess.  Swapping out the winter tires on both cars was the biggest back-bender and the one I'm paying for the most. It is good to have that done, though, and the Miata is much happier with those heavy winter tires gone.  Like shedding boots for tennis shoes, it adds a little extra spring to the step. Things are now back to zoom-zoom instead zlog-zlog.

The music was all Sigur Rós this morning.  I guess I hadn't changed the iPod from Friday afternoon in-the-office-concentration mode.  The songs this morning translate (more or less), in order:  seafairer, fljótavík, so silent, and track 6 (from the album ( ) in which all the tracks are simply numbered).  Fljótavík doesn't seem to translate directly, and appears to be one of Sigur Rós' "hoplandic" songs, but I'm guessing it springs from the Icelandic word for floating, fljótandi. The lyrics themselves are about a sailing trip, which supports that theory.

Hoplandic, a made-up set of Icelandic-like sounds that Sigur Rós' lead vocalist Jonsí frequently uses, seems just about right for this Monday.  It doesn't pretend to be anything in particular, doesn't distract me from the work at hand, but still carries the form and thrust of the melody.

The full playlist:

 - Sigur Rós: Saeglopur

 - Sigur Rós: Fljótavík

 - Sigur Rós: Svo Hljott

 - Sigur Rós: Track 6

Friday, March 18, 2011

Powerful lyrics for difficult times

It's Friday, and that popular dude is welcome back as far as I'm concerned.  Now we just have to get through today's schedule and whatever isn't complete by this afternoon probably comes home to haunt the weekend.  Still.... it's Friday!  Yesterday brought beautiful spring-like blue skies and a top-down drive from work to a local restaurant where Melissa, mom, and I had bangers and mash and corned beef and cabbage in honor of St. Patrick's Day.  No green beer.  I have my boundaries and standards, thank you very much.

This morning's soundtrack was both compelling and relavent.  It started off with a track from the Russian movie Brat 2 (Brother 2), that's 2 as in sequel.  The group Смысловые галлюцинации (Smyslovye Gallyutsinatsii, which I believe means Semantic Hallucinations) doing the song Вечно молодой (Vechno molodoj, Forever Young). Then straight-ahead jazz with Fred Wesley, The Fray, and the very good (and local, as in Seattle) one-man-indie-band, Telekineses.

The drive finished up with two songs back to back that have a lot in common, ideologically.  Both are written and sung by Canadian poet-musicians, and both call out political conditions and hypocrisy.  Both were written several years ago, and both play just as relevantly today.  In Call it Democracy, Cockburn writes:

Padded with power here they come
International loan sharks backed by the guns
Of market hungry military profiteers
Whose word is a swamp and whose brow is smeared
With the blood of the poor

Who rob life of its quality
Who render rage a necessity
By turning countries into labour camps
Modern slavers in drag as champions of freedom

Sinister cynical instrument
Who makes the gun into a sacrament --
The only response to the deification
Of tyranny by so-called "developed" nations'
Idolatry of ideology


See the loaded eyes of the children too
Trying to make the best of it the way kids do
One day you're going to rise from your habitual feast
To find yourself staring down the throat of the beast
They call the revolution

IMF dirty MF
Takes away everything it can get
Always making certain that there's one thing left
Keep them on the hook with insupportable debt 

Compare that with Cohen, writing in the song, The Future:

Give me back my broken night 
my mirrored room, my secret life 
it's lonely here, 
there's no one left to torture 
Give me absolute control 
over every living soul 
And lie beside me, baby, 
that's an order! 
Give me crack and anal sex 
Take the only tree that's left 
and stuff it up the hole 
in your culture 
Give me back the Berlin wall 
give me Stalin and St Paul 
I've seen the future, brother: 
it is murder. 

Tough lyrics for difficult times.  Both express the frustration of the disenfranchised and the sense of, "...staring down the throat of the beast they call a revolution."  There is certainly a bit of that in the air these days, and not just elsewhere in the world.

The full playlist:

 - Smyslovye Gallyutsinatsii: Vechno molodoj
 - Fred Wesley: Peace Power
 - The Fray: Over My Head (Cable Car)
 - Telekinesis:  Tokyo
 - Bruce Cockburn:  Call It Democracy
 - Leonard Cohen:  The Future (Live)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The CRT hovering above us

Thursday, who loves to pretend he is nearly as good as Friday (we know better!), is cold and damp, but not raining so far. The sky is an electric deep blue, the sort of color a cathode-ray tube television dissolves into when turned off in a dark room.  A very deep blue illuminated from within itself.  It really did have a pending-inverted-TV-screen-hovering-above-us feel, at least to my still-firing-up imagination at that early hour.  Wonder what today's programming will be.....

It may take a couple of large mugs of mate this morning to clear the cobwebs.  Not sure why, but that's the way it is this morning. This isn't a day I can afford to be low-ebb, either.  Piles of things to get to today, that have to be gotten to today, and my calendar spites me with a nearly unbroken wall of meetings.  I'm sure in some karmic way it serves me right for taking the first half of yesterday off to attend to other things. Quick, change the channel, find one with less demanding programming for today!

A lot of good and well-mixed music for this morning's drive. Since this playlist really speaks well on its own, and being pressed for time, I will let the list conclude it's own elegant sufficiency:

 - Pink Martini: Let's Never Stop Falling In Love
 - Bradley Sowash: The River Is Wide
 - Pat Metheny: Time Goes On
 - Robert Plant & Alison Krause: Sister Rosetta Goes Before Us
 - Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man (Live)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Tuesday, drawing my own conclusions

Tuesday and I'm running late.  It usually happens once or twice right after the DST changeover, while by body's internal clock slowly realigns itself with the artificial construct of pretending the hour is other than it really is.  The alarm went off and I drifted back to sleep, fully convinced (really, fully knowing) that it wasn't yet time to wake up.  Bother!

Not sure why this gets to me, though.  I come in early because it suits me to take advantage of the quiet early morning hours to get caught up, not because anyone else expects or cares that I'm in before 7:00. If I'm 20 minutes later than my usual time this morning, I doubt anyone even knows other than me. Still, it does get to me.  Makes me unreasonably mad at myself, as if it is some significant failing on my part, a weakness of character.  Damn Puritan strains threading throughout our cultural heretage, no doubt. That's my excuse, and I'm sticking to it.

Spectacular evasive action was required on the drive in this morning.  I was following a car down one of my usual commute streets when a very large unlit SUV came flying out of a long tree-lined driveway and careened out onto the road right between me and the car I was following.  She was clearly in a hurry to get somewhere, not even sort of looking, barely able to negotiate her high-speed turn onto the street, and no doubt very surprised to find herself suddenly slotted between two other cars, the latter one (me) swerving to a sudden halt into the oncoming lane (fortunately empty).  It was only then she turned on her headlights.  As luck would have it, she was going my way.  That gave me plenty of time to read the many stickers on her  jacked-up turquoise Chevy Blazer.  "Trucks are for Girls, "In loving memory of Brian..." somebody or other (with hockey sticks next to their name), and a sticker of Calvin (of & Hobbes fame) pissing on the words, "stupid people."  Riiiiiiiight. We can all draw our own conclusions. I sure did.

Music was ok-but-not-inspiring this morning. The last two tunes felt more-right (whatever that means on a Tuesday morning) than the previous tracks did.  Winterpills is a group that I really like, though hear very little of or about.  Kind of a Shins-meets-Weepies sort of sound.

The full playlist:

 - The Living Sisters: This Mountain Has Skies
 - Tingstad & Rumble: Shamrock
 - The Shins: Phantom Limb
 - Nick Drake:  One of These Things First
 - Winterpills: Laughing

Monday, March 14, 2011

New and Improved: with more Earliness, Darkness, and Wetness!

Monday, with a bucket. Like many unnecessary products lining the shelves of our stores, it practically shouts out that it is New and Improved: with more Earliness, Darkness, and Wetness! Like some foul-tasting medicine advertising it now contains more nasty-tastingness. A real convergence of all the things that make Monday so unpopular with us working-folk. With the roll-out of daylight savings time this weekend the alarm clock went off at 4:30 this morning, no matter what the numbers on its face say. That means I'm back to getting up in the velvet of night, just when I was starting to get used to having the first shards of daylight to wake with.  And then it rained a bit this weekend.  Ok, really, it rained a whole lot.  At times the rain has come down so fast and hard that even working storm drains were simply not able to take it all in. This morning has been one of those times.  Nothing says roll over and go back to sleep like getting woken up by an alarm clock in the deep of darkness with the sound of torrential rain being wind-slammed into the side of your bedroom walls and window.

Daylight savings time (DST).  One of the stranger conventions of capitalism, it amounts to a collective agreement to reset all our clocks one hour later than real time in order, supposedly, to enjoy an extra hour of daylight in the evening. A few years back Congress extended the reach of DST earlier into winter/spring and later into summer/fall. This was in response to extensive lobbying by corporate interests who have found that more hours of daylight translate into more hours of commerce.  This, then, is another symptom of having traded a democracy for a corporatacracy. Oh, it's far less detrimental (many folks actually like DSTs, and I'd be fine with it if we didn't switch back each fall) than, say, the hold three or four global agribusinesses hold over our entire food and food regulatory system, but at its root is the same story. Corporate money buys the policies it wants and population shuffles dutifully along.

I found out this morning that Web browsers can hold a grudge all weekend.  Just as I was wrapping up last Friday afternoon, my browser locked up and refused to budge.  I finally had to force-quit it.  This morning it reminded me of that little spat, but held out the olive branch by offering to restore my session from Friday afternoon.  Please no - by all means, let's start this week off fresh!

A very varied commute soundtrack today.  I think the iPod was trying to take my mind off the weather, earliness, and darkness, and it (mostly) worked.  Stafrænn Hákon is another Icelandic musician I found a while back, and before I had ever heard of Sigur Rós.  Similar ambient style.  When I first found his music it wasn't available here in the US, so I had to content myself with the MP3 tracks he graciously made available through his Web site.  Now, quite a bit of the catalog is available through Amazon, iTunes, et al.. Just as I was pulling in the BMW Band started warming up.  It took me back to the living room that particular recording was made in, and the track is mostly an open recording of tuning up, talking, and taking a couple different stabs at the tune we eventually managed to pull together.  Fun stuff on a really wet Monday morning.

The full playlist:

 - Stafrænn Hákon: Tætir rækju
 - Bobby "Blue" Band:  Kiss Me to the Music
 - Medeski, Martin And Wood: Where Have You Been?
 - John Barry: Chaplin
 - Ron Carter: Komm Susser Tod, Komm Sel'ge Ruh'
 - BMW Band: Tuning, Talking, and Good News

Friday, March 11, 2011

If I could share my shavings of light

Friday, that most-popular dude of the week, has resurfaced.  He's subdued this morning, though, bowed down with the weight of Japanese tragedy after one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded was followed by a terrible tsunami.  It is impossible to see, hear, and understand the magnitude of destruction and loss of life and livelihood without being heartsick. 

In the comparatively very-mundane world of commuting music, I'm still in Sigur Rós mode this morning.  More precisely, my iPod is still set to my Sigur Rós playlist, but that's only partially because I've been to busy and/or too lazy to change it.  It's also because it's just such good stuff that it's hard to want to change it.  Two roughly ten-minute tracks covered the commute this morning, one studio recording and one live.  The track Svefn-G-Englar, from the album of the same name, is one of my two favorite Sigur Rós tunes from my favorite Sigur Rós album.  On the drive home from campus last night the same tune played, but from the earlier Agætis Byrjun album.  Both versions are clearly the same tune, but each has it's own distinct flavor.  The Live Jonsí track finished up just as I pulled into a parking spot on campus. 

I am not certain what Svefn-G-Englar means (some sources suggest sleepwalking or, as a play on words with the hyphens, sleepwalking angel, but I can't verify any of that credibly), but Agætis Byrjun translates as good beginning. Fitting, I hope, for a Friday morning. I only wish I could share that good beginning with others who need it more this morning.  I am helplessly reminded of Bruce Cockburn's song, Isn't That What Friends Are For, when he sings:

I've been scraping little shavings off my ration of light
And I've formed it into a ball, and each time I pack a bit more onto it
I make a bowl of my hands and I scoop it from its secret cache
Under a loose board in the floor
And I blow across it and I send it to you
Against those moments when
The darkness blows under your door

Isn't that what friends are for?

Today's full playlist:

 - Sigur Rós: Svefn-G-Englar
 - Jonsí: Grow Till Tall (Live)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Krafist rigning og vindu

Thursday, the great pretender and reveler in the ebb of weekly energy, is striking us today with heavy rains (we're told to look forward to rain falling sideways) and high winds.  Severe weather alert says very strong gusting winds this afternoon and evening.  Should be loads of fun.  Nothing but a little spitting rain for most of my drive in this morning.  The sky was light grey, but ringed by ominously darker clouds in all directions.

It was all Sigur Rós this morning.  I hadn't changed the iPod's mode back from what I was listening to in the office yesterday and, frankly, I didn't want to this morning. It just felt like a Sigur Rós morning.  That one of Jónsi's live concert recordings from his recent Go album tour popped up first just confirmed that resolve to keep the playlist where it was.  

In weather like this, maybe especially, there is a certain kindred connection with Iceland.  Average April temperatures there are, apparently in the range of 0°C / 32°F to 7°C / 45°F.  We just made it through the coldest February in record since 1942 and this week's forecast calls from temperatures ranging from 39º F to 51ºF.  Oh, and rain and wind, of course. That's obligatory.  Krafist rigning og vindur.

Today's full playlist:

 - Jónsi: Tornado (Live)
 - Sigur Rós: Illgresi
 - Sigur Rós: Hafsól

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Overly shuffled

Mr. Maleable is just a cloudy and wet as Tuesday.  Which is to say no pouring, or even raining with any enthusiasm, just spitting and being gloomy wet.  Neither especially cold or by any means warm. Very Wednesday weather, in fact.

Got behind another truck this morning that was moving with an almost exaggerated slowness.  The cars behind me were not especially happy about this, but there wasn't much I could do about either circumstance. When a light at the end of one of the blocks we were traveling down went green, though, he (or she?) suddenly sped up to make that light, then went back to exaggerated slowness as soon as they determined they would make it through.  At that point I started to wonder if there was some intent to their actions, instead of the much more common state of inattention.  You do occasionally run into drivers who appear to take a perverse pleasure in attempting to control other drivers around them, maybe this was one of them?  Whatever their deal was, they turned at that intersection, so the rest of us no longer had to contend with their issues and could resume the normal posted speed. No matter how you slice it, we are a complicated species. More so the more we have to interact.

Every now and then, when I get into the office and back up the iPod to see the tunes that were played on the drive in (in the car it sits in a rear console cubby between then seats, so I can't see the iPod's screen and my stereo doesn't provide an iPod readout) I click back one too many times.  If I reverse back beyond the starting point of this morning's playlist, with shuffle mode on, I can no longer move forward down that same path of tunes.  The shuffle setting keeps track of only so many tunes backwards, apparently, then it's off creating new shuffles.  I did that this morning, so I lost track of what I listened to on the way in.  I remember/recognized several of the artists, but don't recall most of the tracks.  I know the Belle and Sebastian was an instrumental number from their soundtrack album, Storytelling, but don't know which track that is by name.  I think it was the track Fiction, but no guarantees. The Weepies track stuck in my head, and I remember the Van Morrison track.  For the other three tracks I can only conjure up the group.  Outfoxed by my own shuffle, I guess.

So, today's full playlist, such as I can recall it, contained at least the following:

 - Mew:
 - Eugene Maslov:
 - Belle & Sebastian: Fiction (?)
 - Weepies: Suicide Blond
 - Van Morrison: Little Village
 - Fred Jacobs:

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Mostly, Small Source of Comfort

Tuesday, definitely post-Monday, not as light this morning owing to the rain and clouds.  The forecast is all dripping cloud icons into the predicted future, so last night's top-down drive home was probably the last for a while. This morning I followed the over-size trucks rather than being tailgated by them.  Two different trucks proceeded me down the first and then second half of my commute this morning.  Both were working hard to keep their rigs at least five MPH under the posted speed limits, with regular use of breaks to help maintain their go-slow speed (and, no, neither I nor anyone else was riding them, so it was just their own sense of what felt safe and reasonable from their cockpits in the sky).  The silver lining to this very slow procession toward campus was that I had new music to listen to and the extra time simply extended my listening time.

To the one or two (if that many) regular readers of my daily post-commute brain dump who may actually share my interest in what songs my iPod shuffles up and mixes together when left to its own devices, apologies in advance for this morning's playlist.  Bruce Cockburn's 31st album is released today, and my pre-order copy downloaded last night.  I loaded it on the iPod and set said device it to just this album for today.  The album is titled Small Source of Comfort (liner notes and song comments at that link).

Cockburn says, of this album, ""When the last studio album, Life Short Call Now, was released, I felt that it was time for something different. I had a vision of music, electric and noisy, with songs and jackhammers and fiercely distorted guitars. To pursue music like that, you need isolation. In the initial stages at least, there's likely to be more noise than music. It's important not to incite your neighbors to violent acts.

"As things turned out, these last few years have been spent hanging out in urban settings mostly; in apartments where sound travels, with only brief periods of solitude, mostly found doing long distance drives. As a result, what's come out is a collection of folkier, acoustic guitar songs and pieces. Just goes to show, you just never know..."

This album certainly is much more acoustic overall, and in many places it takes me back to some of Cockburn's earlier works.  There is some very good music and musicianship on this album, I would hazard to say it may be one of his best.  Listening to it through for the first time last night I was awash in compelling poetry and amazing guitar work (five of the 14 tracks are instrumental).  Here is just one small sample of the imagery and poetry this album contains, a small description of something seen along the side of a road, from the song Iris of the World:

on a boulder by the shoulder
the paint will likely outlive
both the feeling and the holder
in the age of Global Warming
when all things are growing colder
it's beautiful the writer
opened up his heart and told her 

Passing through the iris of the world

A simple image, but deftly handled.  Here is the complete lyric from the song Boundless:

Horses in the meadow by the highway side
and a Church of Christ in a double-wide
clouds overhead are ghostly gray
it snowed a little but it didn't stay 

Red-winged blackbird on a mileage sign
ghost town gutted like a dried-up mine
stark faces in the windows of a speeding train
we love our blindness and we love our pain 

Standing by the lake sucking poison mist
lungs clenched tight like an angry fist
picking at sores in the hope they heal
hungry and harrowed and caught in the wheel 

I feel these serpents of desire
ripple my skin like ropes of fire
all I ever wanted, all along,
was to be the "you" in somebody's song 

Seven dances for the spirits
running a race, running a race
seven dances for the saints
running a race, running a race
looking for the stillness in the womb of space

The howling wind, it sings to me
the sky looks troubled but I feel free
visions and feeling and ink on my hands
you can travel forever and never land 

In the crashing chaos where stars are born
the strong get fed and the weak get torn
look at that cosmos eating its tail
circled like the lip of the holy grail 

Seven dances for the spirits
running a race, running a race
seven dances for the saints
running a race, running a race
looking for the stillness in the womb of space

I say: good stuff!  Here is the complete drive-in portion of the playlist:

 - Bruce Cockburn: Iris of the World
 - Bruce Cockburn: Boundless
 - Bruce Cockburn: Driving Away
 - Bruce Cockburn: Called Me Back
 - Bruce Cockburn: Radiance

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blue skies, looming streetlight, and a Wonderful Remark

Monday, bright, dry, and cold.  The sun was up this morning for my drive in, not by much, but enough to call it early morning.  The temperature was something shortly above freezing and while clouds were hanging low above me, the forecast calls for blue skies and temps in the upper 40's (F). 

Monday brings the promise, to the traditional work week, anyway, of a fresh start with new energy.  Since Friday was a solid GTD and catch-up day for me, I walked into an unusually caught-up and clean office this morning.  I love it when it works out that way.

I noticed an odd streetlight today for the first time, driving in on my usual route.  It springs from the sidewalk on the right side of the street (when heading West) shoots up higher than any of the others, then looms out across the road to a point a bit beyond mid-point.  None of the other lights are as high or reach clear out across the road like this one mid-block light does.  No crosswalk or other unusual aspect to that point in the street that I could see.  And why come from the far side of the street to hang the light over the opposing traffic lane?  I'm sure there is a good reason, but now it's an unanswered ponderable for me, something I will question every time I pass under it.

Today's playlist looks longer than it was.  The first song, Van Morrison's Wonderful Remark, picked up half way through and the last one had just kicked off when I pulled into a parking place at North Campus.  Even half of the first track is a dandy, with lyrics (about politicians' lies and half-truths) that seem as right for this time as when it was first written (first recorded version was 1969):

Now, how can we listen to you
When we know that your talk is cheap
How can we never question
Why we give more and you keep

How can your empty laughter
Fill a room like ours with joy
When you're only playing with us
Like a child does with a toy

How can we ever feel the freedom
Or the flame lit by the spark
How can we ever come out even
When reality is stark.......

Listen, how can you tell us something
Just to keep us hanging on, yeah
Something that just don't mean nothin'
When we see you, you are gone

The best bit of lyric, though, is the chorus:

That was a wonderful remark
I had my eyes closed in the dark
I sighed a million sighs
I told a million lies to myself, to myself

Which, of course, should be the dawning realization that it is we who continue to put these folks in charge, abdicate our active role to the monied and powerful interests that are more intentional and purposeful, and tell ourselves whatever lies justify a passive existence.  Like the pathetically whiney John Meyer song, Waiting For the World to Change, we often sit on the sidelines complaining rather than doing anything constructive to change the world we live in.

The full playlist:

 - Van Morrison: Wonderful Remark
 - Pink Martini: Tempo Perdido
 - Fountains of Wayne:  No Better Place
 - David Gray: The Other Side
 - Pat Metheny: Inori (Live)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Good stuff, Maynard

It's Friday. It was Firday before the iPad corrected me, a figment of typing too fast before the yerba mate kicks in.  Today it's a can of Enlighten Mint.  Usually I keep a jug of extra-strong home-brewed mate in the fridge, and then mix it with some almond milk and a few ice cubes for a 20 oz iced mate late I bring with me in a co-opted plastic Starbucks tumbler, but I forgot to brew more last night.  Either way (canned or home-brewed), as the old commercial taught us all to say: "Good stuff, Maynard!"  

It's Friday, though. Distracting thoughts are given greater latitude to develop and a wider tapestry than they would otherwise receive on other less tolerant week days.  So you have permission to follow that last link and spend 31 seconds watching a commercial from 1983. If this were Monday through Thursday (or even Firday), maybe you wouldn't get that permission, so take advantage of Friday while he's here. The popular dude has stopped by for his regularly scheduled weekly visit, always much anticipated.  Or, as James Lileks tweeted last night, "I hear Friday coming up the block, whistling a tune, kicking a can. The best day of the week."

Also, I hit a small patch of black ice this morning, as I tootled along the ridge by our house.  I never saw anything other than what appeared to be dry pavement, but all of sudden the car did that feels-like-it's-folding-in-half quick-side, the DSC kicked in to right things almost instantly, and the little red "I just saved your arse" light blinked at me a few times in the instrument cluster. All this at the whopping speed of 25 MPH, no less.  Still, I was suitably warned that things might not be as they appeared and took things even easier until I got to the well-worn arterials.

On the music front, what an amazingly good playlist shuffled up this morning!  The tunes, the artists, and even the mix were all excellent.  That the opening intensely-electric riffs of Ellipsis, from the legendary Pat Martino, were whipping up as I slipped into my parking spot put the cherry on top of the sunday. 

The full playlist:

 - Wilco:  Poor Places
 - The Shins: Your Algebra
 - Kurt Elling:  The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing
 - Matthew Perryman: Breaking Out the Windows
 - Big Head Todd & The Monsters: Cold Blooded
 - Pat Martino:  Ellipsis

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A twenty-inch gun

Thursday, light but indirectly wet.  Nothing really falling from the sky, but the roads were wet enough to set the wipers to scrape-the-tire-flung-road-muck-off-the-window mode.  Yesterday afternoon we got real blue-sky sun for a bit.  I even managed a top-down drive home.

This Thursday isn't even pretending to be Friday or the weekend. It feels much more like Wednesday, with as much work yet to get through as already accomplished.  The calendar has a list of meetings and events, and the task list is still showing a number of time-critical items I haven't yet been able to tick off. 

Still grappling with budget reduction numbers and strategies, waiting for the real numbers to coalesce out of the legislative brawl but working with the various models of bad, worse, and gawd-awful we have been given in the mean time.  Shades of the sentiment I sense in the Kenneth Fearing poem $2.50:

But the faith is all gone,
And all the courage is gone, used up, devoured on the first morning of a home relief menu,
You'll have to borrow it from the picket killed last Tuesday on the fancy knitgoods line;
And the glamor, the ice for the cocktails, the shy appeal, the favors for the subdeb ball? O.K.,
But they smell of exports to the cannibals,
Reek of something blown away from the muzzle of a twenty-inch gun;

In a letter to legislators, one of our state universities correctly observes, "In essence, the "public" in Washington's public state universities no longer refers to who is paying for the education of our sons and daughters—that burden has obviously shifted, predominantly, to them and their families." Between cuts in education funding soon to approach the 50% mark, dramatic increases in tuition rates (in the 50%+ range by the time this biennium is over), and the threat to both state and federal financial aid sources for students, we may soon be facing a scarcity of students, with higher education effectively priced out of the reach of many (most?).  This is the smoking twenty-inch gun we are staring down. 

What becomes of a nation where a majority of its citizens are not educated beyond a basic industrialized high school level, in an increasingly educated and competitive global economy? At what point do we become fit only for the low-wage manufacturing jobs from other industrialized nations?  How many generations does it take to lose our global lead in research and innovation? From here, today, it looks very much like we will get the chance to find out.

On the commute-music front, it was quite the playlist this morning.  It started off with a beautiful variation on one of Chopin's most beautiful nocturnes, then jarringly followed up by the Beatles, crowing rooster, barking dogs, barnyard and all, shouting, "Good morning, good morning!" Back down to solo piano with David Lanz, then a couple of folksy-rock ballads, and finishing with the opening bars of some great straight-up jazz from the inimitable Bill Evens and Stan Gets.  Not sure why so many tunes fit into today's drive, since I didn't stop and don't recall it being any longer than usual, though come to think of it I did manage to wait through every traffic light possible along the way.

The full playlist:

 - Jacques Loussier: Nocturne No. 20 in C-Sharp Minor, Op. Posthume
 - Beatles:  Good Morning Good Morning
 - David Lanz:  Madre de la Tierra
 - Melissa Etheridge: God is in the People
 - Bob Dylan: Tangled Up in Blue
 - The Bill Evens Trio/Stan Getz: But Beautiful

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

One-third if by bus

Wednesday, still wet but a tad warmer today.  Also, it has steadily been getting lighter and lighter with each passing morning.  While I'm still not driving in full sunrisen light, nor is it any longer in full darkness.  The rear-view mirror is still in night-mode, but that might not be entirely necessary now.  With daylight savings time coming in just another week or so, the morning lightness will soon make a big jump forward.  

Gas prices continue to edge upwards toward that behavior-changing $4/gallon mark. My daily commute, at that rate, will cost me just shy of two bucks a day. That works out to about $40/month in gas spent getting to and from campus in an average month. College employees can get a subsidized local bus pass for $45/quarter (roughly three months of travel).  As much as I enjoy my little roadster, commute travel is absolutely not the same as carving along a curvy mountain road.  The Miata sits in a parking spot all day, rarely moving unless I have an off-campus meeting at a neighboring campus (like today).  I'd love to be able to take the bus instead of driving everyday, and the savings would be measurable at the soon-to-be $4/gallon mark.  Unfortunately, state budget cuts have impacted transit schedules too.  My short 15 drive would be replaced by a two-bus one-hour-and-ten-minute bus ride with nearly a one mile hike to the closest bus stop to our house.  The latter is fine, since I try to get one to two miles walking in every day, but losing over two hours each day to local bus schedules isn't.  Maybe that will improve as gas prices increase and ridership goes up.

Mr. Maleable (Wednesday) is living up to his reputation this morning, with today looking like a make-of-it-what-you-will sort of day.  The calendar isn't exactly crowded with pre-determined meetings, but more hours of the day are blocked out than not.  Yet most of today's meetings have maleable agendas, with opportunities to be surprised by what gets covered and sorted through. 

Today's playlist was short, with a sizable chunk of the time consumed by Vivaldi's Spring (a little optimistic right now, but we're getting closer!), closing with a nice high-energy ballad from Spain's Obk:

 - Brad Mehdau & Pat Metheny: Bachelor's Ill
 - Vivaldi: Spring
 - Obk: Eterna Canción

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Difficult Choices

Tuesday, wet and cloudy, as befits an early March in the Pacific Northwest. A truly normal commute and no need for the had-become-normal 4:00 AM wake-to-check-the-weather.  Very good.

If only everything felt as good.  As CFO of a community college which is staring into a biennium of budget reductions on a scale we have not yet experienced (which is saying plenty!), there is much to be concerned about.  Difficult choices lie ahead, but what really galls me is why these "difficult choices" even exist.

Reading, last night, Bill Lueders' excellent article (Scott Walker's War) from Isthmus it sank in that serious class warfare has begun here in the US. What started a number of years ago as a gradual but very intentional consolidation of wealth and power away from the working classes (if I can use that cliché label) and toward corporate interests and the relative minority of super-wealthy, and which became a frenzied resource-grab during the last Bush administration's term of office, has now come dangerously close to triggering revolution.  

That the sacrifice of workers benefits should be required to balance state government after corporate greed (unpunished and unmitigated) stripped the economy of cash and left state and local government revenue sources suddenly missing in action is so disingenuous as to be criminal. But it does serve the intended purpose of making one working class the scapegoat of another, distracting the people from the real thieves in the room. As a result, some have come to believe that this is a fight at the trough over scant resources, with there simply not being enough to go around. 

Consequently, "difficult choices" is the phrase on everyone's lips.  But the difficult choices some of us are truly facing are not natural, they are contrived and caused.  The feast was rich, but only a few have enjoyed it.  Now, with only the scraps left to feed the majority we have come down to "difficult choices" about who will eat and who will starve.  Or, for those of us in education, who will still be able to afford an education and who simply will not.  And what will that mean 5, 10 or 20 years from now?  For all of us?

Yet the missing money is still here, just out of reach of most.  Check out this article for a good picture of what I mean: It's the Inequality, Stupid. Or check out the info-graphic data in this short article: Empire at the End of Decadence.  I am worried about where this train wreck is heading and who the casualties will be.  There is not all that much, any longer, that separates Egypt from Wisconsin, or Wisconsin from the other 49 states in our fragile union.  Meanwhile, some argue about how best to distribute the mean leftovers at the trough as if we should simply except our "new normal" (The New Normal). It's the wrong discussion.

But this is a blog about commuting music, right?  So....back to normal (that word again!) programming.

I had set the iPod to my Patrick Cassidy playlist while working in the office yesterday afternoon and forgotten to dial it back to shuffle-all mode, so today's playlist is all Patrick Cassidy.  This is not a bad thing at all. A mathematician turned classical composer, known for casting his cantatas in Irish Gaelic, his work is beautiful and grand.  Most of his work is based on Irish mythology and history, with story lines that would give Tolkien a run for his money.  Immortal Memory is actually a collaboration between Lisa Gerrad (formerly of Dead Can Dance) with songs in Gaelic, Aramaic, and Latin.  Really beautiful music.

The full playlist (with albums in parenthesis)

 - Lisa Gerrard & Patrick Cassidy:  Elegy (from Immortal Memory)
 - Patrick Cassidy: Tuath De Danann (from The Children of Lir)
 - Patrick Cassidy: Lir's Heart Is A Husk of Gore (from The Children of Lir)
 - Patrick Cassidy: No no break this day, my heart (from Deirdre of the Sorrows)