A Power Outage and the Joys of Being Disconnected

This morning we woke up to find that the electricity had gone out.  Not having too much in terms of food for breakfast, we decided to take a walk to a local breakfast cafe, only to realize that the electricity had gone out for a larger part of our neighborhood than we had realized, finding the cafe closed. 

We thought perhaps the Peet’s by us would be open, so we started on our way to hear a screech and a crash and sure enough at the intersection two cars had gotten into an accident.  It sounded quite rough but luckily the one truck had hit the other car in the rear driver-side door and no one was hurt. I started to think though how much does society depend on electricity, seeing how the one power outage had made running many businesses in the area not possible, as well as seeing how not having street lights on could lead to such dangers. 

When we arrived at Peet’s, we had found that they did not have any hot drinks such as coffee due to the electricity outage.  We had gotten some iced tea and some pastries and sat there enjoying them, a bit hungry.  I was amazed at how quiet it was without all the ambient sounds of machinery.  Also, no overhead lights were on so the room was wonderfully lit with just natural light.  At one point a worker who had gone to another store that did have power had come in with hot water in a thermal carafe, enough to make pressed coffee.  I really enjoyed how things were just fine there, operating with just the very basics.  (I was reminded of the coffee chain in Poland called Pozegnanie z Afryka, something about the light in the room, the coffee…)

Back at home, we purchased some matches on the way so that we could light the stove to do some cooking.  Sitting there, it was a joy to just relax in the silence and just think about things.  I was reminded of how working away from the computer for music has often yielded some of the most fruitful work. The car accident today made me realize that some uses of electricity are really quite essential, but there are a great deal many things I’m seeing now that just don’t feel like they’re necessary to have on.

Today, after such a beautiful wedding of our friends Tom and Corinne at Tilden Park and the lessons learned from this morning, I’m looking very forward to taking the next 6 days away from computers and cell phones and other technology to participate in our teacher’s Tai-Chi  camp at Walker Creek Ranch, disconnected from it all. 

On “Lutoslawski on Music” and other Sunday Morning Thoughts

It is Sunday morning in Guerneville after a night of celebration of the 30th birthdays of my dear friends Alex and Julie. I had retired earlier than the rest last night being a bit exhausted from being sick this past week, and consequently I have woken up earlier than everyone. The sun is quite bright this morning, lighting up the fantastic view brilliantly. I sat outside briefly looking out at it all, listening to the sounds of insects all around, watching the bees visiting the beautiful flowers nearby and thinking how lovely it all is.

Inside everyone else is still asleep, so I took out the book Lutoslawski on Music by Zbigniew Skowron, a book Lisa was kind enough to check out for me from the university library. Only 20 or so pages in, having read the introduction and first essay of notes on large-scale form, I am already deeply drawn to Lutoslawski’s thoughts and considerations and have the expectation that this may very well be one of the most important texts I may read about composition and music.

This book is the first full collection of Lutoslawski’s writings and I am excited to be reading it now. In the past there have been a number of occasions where I have come across a book that seemed to have come at exactly the right time and addressed exactly concerns of mine. It has been some time since I had such a feeling but I am struck by this book now in this way.

My mind for composition has felt quite blocked for some time, both in regards to my general view on music and composition and in particular in regards to the concerns of large-scale form of the piece I have been working on, off and on, for the past couple of years. I believe this was in large part a result of the circumstances of our previous apartment, as already in the week since moving to the new apartment I have felt a great joy in being able to really listen to music again. Having mostly settled in to the new place, I have begun to collect myself to work once again on this piece, though I have been feeling a bit slow to engage again with the material and the form.

Reading and thinking about Lutoslawski’s words this morning has my mind racing and feeling a degree of activeness towards music that is exhilarating and refreshing. Recently I have been reflecting quite a bit on my life, about time passing, and composing in general, and many other things. Perhaps too with my friends entering their 30’s–a milestone I will be observing myself at the end of this year–I have been looking at areas of my life that may be taking up too much time and others that may be neglected. This morning, sitting here in the quiet house, I am filled with thoughts on music and composing and am glad to be spending my time on this. I am looking quite forward to reading more of this wonderful book and seeing where all of these thoughts will take me ahead.

Life in North Berkeley

We successfully moved this past Monday and Tuesday from South Berkeley to North Berkeley.  So far the new apartment has been pretty much everything I could have hoped for in addressing the issues of the previous apartment.  The general baseline quietness is wonderful, and having this kind of silence only underscores the amount of sound we were around in the old apartment. The apartment is much smaller but feels much cozier for it; when we lived in Warsaw we found we enjoyed the smaller apartment so much, and certainly again finding a small but well partitioned apartment is much more preferable than one with too much space…

The area is certainly much more affluent and therefore feels quite different than our previous neighborhood.  A less gritty place, the people seem to not have the same kind of worries as those in the previous neighborhood. Seems to be many more smiling faces and warmer characters here, which I am finding myself fond of…

One of the greatest joys of living in this apartment so far is how much more nature there is around.  We have lovely trees right outside our windows that are often frequented by birds and squirrels.  The animals in the area seem very friendly and not afraid of people, which I think says something about the kind of people who inhabit the area. Taking walks here, I found myself once looking around at the trees, the people, the buildings, and all around with a certain deep observation and curiosity that seems to have been missing for the last year…

Live Oak Park, only a very short 5 minute or so walk from here, is a really wonderful place.  Living closely to a park reminds me of the apartment we rented in Warsaw next to the Old Town and the Ogród KrasiƄskich.  It’s been great walking to and through the small park, and the Picnic Area 2 has been quite excellent for practicing tai-chi in: under the cover of beautiful trees, the ground a comfortable soft dirt, a small stream ahead bubbling away a beautiful sound.  A very peaceful space…

Yesterday, while on the train to the airport (Lisa is on her way to Warsaw for a three-week research trip), we looked at a video I had taken of the old apartment.  I had taken the video just as a reminder of what the old place was like for future reference. We were both amazed at how quickly we had lost any connection with the old apartment, as well as how quickly we had connected with our new apartment and neighborhood…

Already I feel rejuvenated being here.  The past few months in the old place were of such distress that I hardly did much personal work, but the peacefulness here has been excellent and I am now collecting my thoughts, reviewing where I was with all of my personal work, and slowly returning to these very meaningful endeavors…