North from Lodi, Early December

All morning on the Interstate through fog
past cattle bathed in fog and maybe goats
recruited to crop down the marginal grass
of tracts of Interstate-adjacent homes

one drives all morning on the Interstate
past fog-blest cattle fog-bathed baby goats
past crops at dawn, distrait fog-margined grass
Those homes
This fog
The interstate
That grass

The speed and turbulence of all that drives
the Interstate sweeps all the roadbed clear
of fog. The fog holds off a bit, askance,
the driver's glance still barred beyond the marge.

The pavement seems so smooth, as smooth
As suede as fleece as milk as sheep as goats,
and on each side secreted by that fog
the grass-green grasses grow beneath the stock.

The grass grows green-o, rushing rushers rush
and still the fog sifts, self-absorbed and still

and mops the moist and misted eye that drives
all morning on the Interstate through fog.

John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble:
All Can Work

All can work

Hello, friend.

Have you received the good news? The news that the John Hollenbeck Large Ensemble's All Can Work is the First Great Record of 2018?

I wrote as much on Twitter, don't you know, which is the truest of tokens of truth.

All Can Work releases today [January 26] via New Amsterdam Records, which is a perfect place for it, being as the album is in part a sly, gentle slap in the face to genre. It is a fundamentally fine jazz record that, often as not, sounds nothing like a "jazz record." (New Amsterdam, while commonly pegged as specializing in something such as "contemporaryAltNewClassical", eschews such labels and has a solid history of supporting releases from or adjacent to the "jazz" corner of the galaxy, e.g., Darcy James Argue's Secret Society and exotic creatures such as Will Mason Ensemble and Battle Trance.)

John Hollenbeck is a profluent drummer and composer, collaborating far and wide with groups both large and smaller. This is his third release with his own eponymous big band. All Can Work displays the core virtues that make a “great record”: it gives pleasure, it offers variety and surprise, it rewards repeat listening, and it is a satisfying whole, most particularly enjoyable when consumed, in sequence, as such. Those same virtues inform well-crafted live performances, in any genre, and All Can Work performed straight through would be a super solid show.

The curtain-raising "lud" is not obviously a jazz piece at all: brass and winds sweep slow chords across chittering tuned percussion, in a manner akin to that of many a contemporary chamber group. It serves to clear the aural palate nicely, in preparation for the first major course.

“All Can Work” is tribute and memorial to Laurie Frink—trumpeter, educator and mentor to many another player, and longtime Hollenbeck collaborator and band member—who died of cancer in 2013. It is a song, an excursive setting of words drawn from Frink's email messages to Hollenbeck, a sketch of a cherished friend and of a musician's love for her craft and companions (and theirs for her). Theo Bleckmann is the singer, guilelessly weaving through biography, joy, fear, surprise, speculatiove philosophy and more, to reach a simple and affecting farewell:



I will miss you all and especially the music

There follow two non-Hollenbeck compositions with which Hollenbeck has his way as arranger/reinventor. “Elf” takes its title and raw musical material from a Billy Strayhorn piece, subsequently retooled through Duke Ellington as “Isfahan.” Themes that are straightforward in most prior versions are here smeared, reshaped and relished as a tumbling burble topped with high woodwind ululations.

Kenny Wheeler's “Heyoke” was originally a quartet piece [on Gnu High (ECM 1976), with Wheeler, Keith Jarrett, Dave Holland, and Jack DeJohnette], but it thrives in its new large-band manifestation. The original begins with an enticing melody, stated by Wheeler on flugelhorn and then passed and played with around the group for roughly ten minutes; there is a pause for breath, then an extended, more urgent and even more freely improvisatory segment of the same length, subsiding in roughly its last 45 seconds to a sort of clockwork tick-tock call and response motif. Hollenbeck’s re-version starts with that clockwork, extending and inflating it for more than five minutes before the lyrical “Heyoke” melody is allowed to surface, to shine a bit, and then to subside back into the primordial broth, adrift over some mellifluous Theo Bleckmann vocalise.

Three Hollenbeck originals follow. “this kiss”, per the composer, is drawn from Romeo and Juliet, foregrounding the exuberance of the Young Love plot, with the Violence and Death plot serving as a sort of lurking descant. In “from trees”, the preposition in the title is the important bit: the piece moves steadily away from forested things into a chiaroscuro-noir urban nightscape, easing through a slippery semi-waltz on its way to a chugging slow boogie of an ending. [Hollenbeck’s liner notes—which are interesting enough to warrant obtaining a physical copy in order to read them, but which I had not looked at before writing that sentence—reveal the inspiration for the piece to be the paintings of Piet Mondrian, and particularly the path from his early studies of trees to the grid paintings for which he is best known, in particular the late “Broadway Boogie Woogie”.]

Theo Bleckmann returns to words in “Long Swing Dream”, speaking rather than singing an extended excerpt from the diaries of Cary Grant, in which the actor describes and endorses his experiences with LSD, while the band in its lowest registers pulses beneath.

For an encore? A rousing and savory arrangement of Kraftwerk’s “The Model”, shimmying naughtily like a Weimar a-go-go show.

The year is new and the remaining months hold who knows what surprises musically, but All Can Work is all but guaranteed a high-ranking spot on my personal List when the year is old and done. I have been returning to it regularly for weeks now, and custom has thus far failed to stale its infinite variety. Definitely a keeper, recommended without hesitation for any with ears to hear it.

All Can Work releases via New Amsterdam Records on January 26, 2018. This post is based on recurrent listening to a review CD received from the label, but the blogger has since put his money where his post is by purchasing a digital copy.

Songs of a Railwayfarer:
Gabriel Kahane, 8980: Book of Travelers
Los Angeles 20 Jan 2018

Gabriel Kahane - Little Love [from 8980 Book of Travelers]

On the morning following the Presidential election in November, 2016, Gabriel Kahane elected to board a train and to travel the United States, talking with those he met. He traveled for thirteen days and covered, he says, 8980 miles, conversing in dining cars, in observation cars, on station platforms, and returning with the material for the songs that make up 8980: Book of Travelers. A recording is rumored to be coming some time this year. The performance version premiered at Brooklyn Academy of Music as part of the BAM Next Wave Festival in November, 2017. On February 2, it will be presented at the University of Michigan. Last night, on the anniversary of the Inauguration that followed from the election that birthed it, Book of Travelers came to Los Angeles and the Theatre at Ace Hotel.

8980: Book of Travelers is, like The Ambassador before it, a collection of songs on a theme. It is a contemporary cousin to the mid 1970s work of Randy Newman (Sail AwayGood Old Boys, and Little Criminals) and of Joni Mitchell. It is a sort of counter-Hejira: where Joni Mitchell emphasizes travel as a means of escape, an active effort to become lost, Gabriel Kahane approaches it as a mode of inquiry, an effort to find something or other (cf. Paul Simon's "America"). In that, Book of Travelers connects with the tradition of writers taking to the road to find where it might lead, or what questions it might answer, as in Steinbeck's Travels With Charley or, in an entirely different vein, the latter portions of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and Kahane's chosen musical style dials back somewhat the American Songbook grab-bag of Newman (and of The Ambassador) and in favor of accenting the stratum of art song that grounded his short-story-esque song cycle The Fiction Issue.

The musical forces and staging for 8980:Book of Travelers are less elaborate than for The Ambassador: just a grand piano and an angled ribbon of four projection screens behind. An autoharp was discretely embedded inside the piano, and used with similar discretion. Looping pedals and a vocal processor were used for a brief segment that evoked simultaneously Laurie Anderson and the helium-voiced sociopathic toon in Roger Rabbit. For the most part, Kahane simply sat, played and sang, with occasional brief remarks on the particular travelers from whom a song was born. 

I, for one, loved it:

Whether questions were answered or not on the singer's journey is uncertain. It is clear that, for Gabriel Kahane, the trip reaffirmed that the blending and exchange of human voices, whether in conversation or in song, is something of a good in itself, and that each of those voices is uniquely derived from a long and personal history. Where are we, as a nation? How did we get here? What can we or should we do, now that we are here? Book of Travelers does not presume to answer that sort of question, other than to suggest that it is through that exchange of voices, and in the understanding of one another's individual and overlayering histories, that any route to a method for the pursuit of an approach to such answers may be descried.

Because the Book of Travelers songs have, for the most part, not yet been released in a recorded version, most of us in the room were hearing them for the first time last night. Gabriel Kahane writes very well for his own voice, so that most of his words could be grasped on the fly. Still, there is no doubt that repeated listening will yield increasing returns. There is every reason to think that this Fool will be unable to resist writing about it again, if only by an amendment to this post, whenever a recording eventually enters the station.

In the meantime, two of these songs were sent out into the world in the latter part of 2017: "Little Love" and "November." "November" literally picks up where the concluding song on The Ambassador, "Union Station", left off, referencing "that last train from L.A." It begins in direct address to the listener with the words, "When last we spoke...", pointing toward the one-to-one conversations that are at the center of Book of Travelers. I had surmised, from this circumstantial evidence, that "November" would be the first song in the Book. I surmised incorrectly: it proved in performance to be the last song in the series. "Little Love" is a delicious little earworm of a song, performed straightforward as you please in concert without any projections or dramatic lighting, on the theme of growing fondly old together. I have previously expressed my particular fondness for "Little Love" on Twitter:

Both "Little Love" and "November" are currently accessible here:

Listening Listfully 2017


 Time is up, year is done.

July 3 of 2018 will mark the ostensible 15th Anniversary of this blog. There were giants in those days, and I stared enviously up at their scabby brilliant knees. Who knows what I may push myself to do with this dear weary site in the coming year. I suspect there will be more poetry; I hope there will be something more frequently appealing as well.

So here we are again with "Listening Listfully", my catalogue of the album/EP-length recordings released in the past twelvemonth that most particularly tickled my fancy. Old school preferences underlie the thing: a preference for music arranged into "albums" or their equivalent, and a preference for buying and owning said music (in the hope its creators might actually be compensated for their creations) over smash-and-grab streaming. A random quantity of numbered choices in the mid-forties this year, followed by an unquantified miscellany because, as I said in 2016, "the List is like baseball: it could in theory go on without end."

I style this blog as an index of enthusiasms. These are personal favorites, as always, rather than "bests"—although I maintain that everything here is here because it is genuinely among the best things of the past year, and not simply because I have enjoyed it. The rankings become increasingly imprecise with each step down the line. I have provided commentary, of sorts, for the first fifteen on the list; it is a random stopping point, driven mostly by a desire to post this while it is still 2017 (at least in North America). There are inevitably many recordings of quality omitted, simply because I have yet to listen to them.

Flawed, entirely subjective, and internally contradictory as always, here begins the twelfth edition of The List: 


1.    Michael Vincent Waller - Trajectories

This is a beautiful recording. To hear it gives pleasure. Great, if quiet, pleasure. This music engages the lived and living world, and particularly the acts of receiving that world through the senses and of sifting through it in the mind, in dreams, or, if one insists, in the soul, and finds the essentials of that world to be, if only impurely, good and deserving of the engagement, and the engagement good and deserving of being shared. This is hardly the only task that music, or most any art, can choose to take on itself—this List, in any given year, is something of a demonstration of how many different things music can attempt to "do", including choosing to do nearly nothing—but it is a task that has always appealed to this particular listener. When I wrote about Michael Vincent Waller's first major collection, 2015's The South Shore, I invoked Baudelaire's phrase: luxe, calme et volupté. That still fits.

This collection focuses principally on works for solo piano, plus a pair of mid-length pieces for piano with cello. The pianist is R. Andrew Lee, best known for his recordings of adventurous minimalism and composers of Wanderweiser group. on the Irritable Hedgehog label. The cellist is Seth Parker Woods. The style and sensibility of the music is Waller's own, but it is easily associated with pianistic forebears such as Erik Satie (in particular), Harold Budd, and John Cage's "In a Landscape", with a dash of Gavin Bryars' string writing. Although it is not in general circulation (it was shared with supporters of one of his commissioning projects) Andy Lee has recorded a delicious collection of Satie and Satie-influenced piano, and that portion of his repertoire serves him well here. 

At the time of release, the composer and players presented a handful of live performances, including one I was able to attend in Santa Monica. The balding back side of my head is, blessedly, out of frame in this video of "Lines" from that set:


2.    Sam Amidon - The Following Mountain

In the opening moments of "Ghosts", Sam Amidon bellows "I'm all out of ideas!" He is mistaken. His work has been a fixture of this list for nigh on a decade now, and the ideas never stop. Built largely on gleanings from a single long guardedly improvisational recording session, the album is a slurry combining the folk, trad, banjo, fiddle, and shape note material one expects with Sam's longstanding interest in new music and in experimental and avant corners of jazz, with drummer Milford Graves as emissary and conduit. Sam Gendel [#6, below] and his saxophone bring additional savor. At this time, my personal favorite among Sam's albums, and a good précis of what makes all of them so rewarding.


3.    Iceland Symphony Orchestra, Daniel Bjarnason - Recurrence

The best full-orchestra album of 2017. Accept no substitutes. Composer Daníel Bjarnason conducts works by the current generation of Icelandic composers, including his own darkly surging "Emergence". (There is a superb version of that piece on his Bedroom Community debut, . This new version is better.)  Bjarnason co-curated (with Esa-Pekka Salonen) the Los Angeles Philharmonic's Reykjavik Festival in spring 2017, and most of these pieces turned up on one program or another. If any doubt remained, that Festival and this recording serve as compelling testimony to the creative variety and strength of Icelandic music at this time.

[Both Daníel Bjarnason and Anna Thorvaldsdottír also have pieces on Los Angeles Percussion Quartet's Beyond, #8 below.]


4.    Miles Mosley - Uprising

Miles Mosley plays bass in Kamasi Washington's band, and much of this material comes out of the West Coast Get Down sessions that eventually resulted in Washington's epic Coltranesque epic, The Epic. In Washington's band, Mosley does most everything one can with an upright bass: plucking, bending, bowing, and more. Rather than a jazz-jazz album, Uprising is a floor-shaking contemporary soul/R&B session. Mosley is an appealing singer, on the lines of Stevie Wonder's grittier side. Just when you wonder where all the bass is, you realize that what you may have thought was electric guitar, including the Hendrixy solos, is the bass. Plenty of bottom here, in every sense. [More West Coast Get Down-adjacent music appears below, from Kamasi Washington (#9) and Natasha Agrama (#11).]


5.    Slowdive - Slowdive

 I rediscovered a hitherto unrecalled fondness for shoegaze this year. This, the first new Slowdive album in 22 years, sealed the deal. Bathe in it.


6.    Sam Gendel - 4444

and Sam Gendel - HAT TRICK

and Sam Gendel - Double Expression

Sam Gendel, largely on saxophone, is an important contributor to Sam Amidon's The Following Mountain [#2, above]. On 4444, his first album under his own name (largely featuring his trio previously recorded under the name of Inga), largely foregoes saxophone in favor of lithe, swirling, bossa nova flavored guitar songs. It remakes any space quite attractively while it is playing, and the occasional gesture toward sociopolitical concerns led me to characterize it on Twitter as "José González, with thorns".

The vocal-free HAT TRICK and Double Expression return the saxophone to the foreground. The former is a three-track EP of Gendel solo improvisations, with loops and electronics, very much in the vein of Jon Hassell; the latter is nearly two and a half hours of material recorded live, in duo and trio formats, on a single afternoon in an apartment and on the sidewalks of L.A.'s Silver Lake neighborhood. In all of these settings, Gendel's groove is true.

[Although he does not, I believe, appear on Aromanticism (#10 below), Sam Gendel also plays in Moses Sumney's touring band.]


7.    Aaron Roche - HaHa HuHu

Recommended, for recondite strangeness, for grit & sparkling lint, for indwelling beauties.


8.    Los Angeles Percussion Quartet - Beyond

There is a good argument to be made that the U.S. is currently in something of a Golden Age of Percussion Ensembles. In composition and in performance, the music on this two-disc set is roughly as good as contemporary percussion music gets. Chris Cerrone's "Memory Palace" never fails to move me as a solo piece, and this rearrangement for quartet is my favorite version yet. Andrew McIntosh's disc-long "I Hold the Lion's Paw" is an quietly immersive amble through a vivid series of interior landscapes, a trip unto itself. I strongly suspect that I will look back someday and decide I have underrated Beyond in this ranking.


9.    Kamasi Washington - Harmony of Difference

A six-part jazz suite with Washington and band building and trading themes and solos, the whole structure bursting to accumulated glory in its final long segment. Supremely satisfying.


10.    Moses Sumney - Aromanticism

Moses Sumney's falsetto. Draperies of diaphanous sound. Love and sex and happiness and their alternatives, stewed, steamed, and seasoned in yearning. Harp. Did I mention that falsetto?


11.    Natasha Agrama - The Heart of Infinite Change

Although Natasha Agrama has West Coast Get Down connections,  and has sung with Kamasi Washington's band, there is no sign of Miles Mosley (#4 above) on bass. Instead, one must make do with Thundercat or with the singer's stepfather, Stanley Clarke. The bass chair nicely signifies the heady mix of youth and experience on this record. The other old lion on hand, in his final session, is the late George Duke. A beautifully spare version of "In a Sentimental Mood," with just Clarke and Duke and an occasional fingersnap for accompaniment, is the second best thing here. Best is a reworking of Joni Mitchell's reworking of Charles Mingus's homage to Lester Young, "Goodbye Pork Pie Hat," expanded into a tribute to the song's entire line descent, its focus shifting from New York to Los Angeles, to dazzling effect.


12.    The Knells - Knells II

 Progressive rock. Medieval polyphony. Two great tastes that continue to go great together in the hands of Andrew McKenna Lee and band. Really, you should try this.


13.    Donny McCaslin - Beyond Now 

David Bowie played saxophone himself in the early part of his career. Donny McCaslin has the distinction of being Bowie's last sax player, as part of the jazz-based band assembled for Blackstar. McCaslin's latest with his own longtime band includes two Bowie-Eno covers: "A Small Plot of Land" from Outside and a gripping and granitic version of "Warszawa" from Low, the latter seemingly filtered through the lens of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman." The blowing and swinging and escalating choruses on the remainder of the album are also of top blowing and swinging quality.


14.    The Mynabirds - BE HERE NOW

Laura Burhenn, rocking the #Resistance. Quite aside from its politics, this album satisfies in ways one used to be able almost to take for granted in American Rock Records.


15.    Psychic Temple - IV

Another waking dream narrative of Southern California musics. Chris Schlarb is a wizard at this.


Further in the way of item by item commentary affiant sayeth not, at this point in time. Affiant reserves the right perhaps to return and scribble post hoc commentary on some or all of the entrants below, all of which are worthy of your attention.


16.    R. Stevie Moore & Jason Falkner - Make It Be


17.    World Spirituality Classics 1: The Ecstatic Music of Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda


18.    Nadia Sirota - Tesselatum


19.    ensemble, et al. - The Slow Reveal


20.    The National - Sleep Well Beast


21.    Jean-Michel Blais & CFCF - Cascades


22.    Jasper String Quartet - Unbound


23.    Del Sol String Quartet - Dark Queen Mantra


24.    Scott Wollschleger: Soft Aberration


25.    The Tape Disaster - Oh! Myelin!


26.    Qasim Naqvi - FILM



27.    Theo Bleckmann - Elegy



 28.    Amir ElSaffar/Rivers of Sound - Not Two


29.    Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Courtenay Budd - David Del Tredici: Child Alice


30.    William Basinski - A Shadow in Time


31.    Kovtun - Infernal


32.    Choral Arts Initiative - How To Go On: Choral Music of Dale Trumbore


33.    Casey Dienel - Imitation of a Woman to Love


34.    The Dan Ryan - Guidance


35.    Denny Zeitlin & George Marsh - Expedition: Duo Electro-Acoustic Improvisations


36.    Sufjan Stevens/Nico Muhly/Bryce Dessner/James McAlister - Planetarium


37.    Liew Niyomkarn - Nº 3


38.    Conrad Winslow: The Perfect Nothing Catalog


 39.    Daniel Corral: Refractions


40.    Flower Crown - GLOW 


41.    Herod - Herod Plays Kraftwerk


 42.    Crash Ensemble - Ghosts



Miscellaneous extras: 

First, a selection of electronics, drones, and declamations, with a cover photo by ... me.

Gavin Gamboa - La Bibliothèque Fantastique


Next, the late Julius Eastman, whose rediscovery continues apace, in a 1974 live performance by himself with S.E.M. Ensemble, and in a hotchachacha 2017 cover version by Horse Lords.

 Julius Eastman: Joy Boy


Horse Lords - Julius Eastman: Stay On It [from Horse Lords' Mixtape IV]


 Some more Brazilians (to go with #25 and #31 above).

 Dialeto - Bartok in Rock

Devilish Dear - These Sunny Days

 Juna - Marina Goes to the Moon


Some single-piece [i.e., non-album release] new music in the somewhat classical vein.

Jonathan Morgan - Nick Norton: Elegy II

Los Angeles Percussion Quartet - Matt McBane: For Triangles


A handful of further jazz-related choices.

Morgan Guerin - The Saga II

 Dwight Trible - Inspirations

 DeJohnette, Grenadier, Medeski, Scofield - Hudson


And no musical year can end well without a pair of Gabriel Kahane releases: three solo piano pieces, featuring Timo Andres, and two new songs.


With that, this blogger wishes for you all a fine and musical 2018. As the sage says, things can only get better.



The Short Line

The short line-

Old friends
What ends

Do we work toward?

Who is on board.

May need to be made
But who is repaid?

Who is

Whose words
Do we twist?

And who's ignored?
Let's postulate

Amid the mists
That life is hard

The times suggest
There's no reward

And young things end
As old, friends

The Bridal Veil Falls in Autumn

The Bridal Veil Falls in Autumn

Wick’d by wisps of air
Or spread akimbo
By the press of wind
Across the faceted cliff face
Skewed in descent
The creek-rush waters
Fall as water falls
That has no choice

They are fewer now –
Those still, infinitous drops that drop en masse
From the precipitating lip –
Than they were in spring
Fewer yes but clearer to the eyes
Of we who tip our sockets up to see

In places such as this it seems
We are not out of Eden yet
Yet we are
At all times walking
Toward Eden’s sole and outbound gate

Wickèd the heirs
Of whate’er has made
Such a space out of space
Waking in error
Where an angelic blade
Keeps that portal in place

We will reach it too, too soon
But likely not tomorrow

Look up and up and
Drink the air before you
Walk back down the tarmacked trace
To your lot

And still the falls
fall in the fall
never still
though not at their full
they never falter
Still the falls
fall for free
for all
in their fall
they never alter

Meantime the air drinks deep
From vaporizing waters
Watched by other fallen folk
Who stand and point and press
Until they too withdraw


© 2017 George M. Wallace; all rights reserved.

Photo by the blogger.

Steal Away, Dandy (song)

Steal away dandy

A plate of cold deviled eggs looking back at me
like that old devil moon.
And I hold a beveled glass full of Beaujolais
and a runcible spoon.
    An ice cold Grüner
    In a frosted schooner
Is your potation of choice on this island Earth
where we all stand marooned.

    When the stereo blasts “O Fortuna”,
    It's a wonder you didn't leave sooner:
    Steal away, Dandy,
    Don't let those French doors hit you too hard.

At the end of the drive there's an Uber-mensch
with a smile and a lift.
As he hands you an ale and an allen wrench,
it seems a natural gift.
    Ill at ease with the notion
    Of Eternal Devotion,
With a gesture you're moving at speed to the beach
As a swallow is swift.

    Still the stereo blasts “O Fortuna”,
    Bottles empty and I should have seen sooner:
    Steal away, Dandy,
    Don't let those French doors hit you too hard.

I've heard Arnold once heard it, and Sophocles,
both long withdrawn from the world.
That sound you don’t catch catches you:
a kaleidoscope tumbling curl.
    There is one wave in seven
    Lofting hell-bent to heaven.
Washed by sea wrack and sand and you envy the grit
In the heart of the pearl

    You wonder what Life means to teach you
    When the rescue lines cannot  quite  reach you:
    Steal away, Dandy,
    Adrift a few yards too far from the shore.

(Hey now hey now:
don't dream it's Dover….)


Note: The attentive reader might well deduce that this set of verses is meant as a pastiche/homage to the lyrics of Walter Becker and Donald Fagen, aka Steely Dan. And that attentive reader would be entirely correct. With the recent passing of Walter Becker, I found myself drawn to listen to his first solo record, 11 Tracks of Whack (1994), and realizing just how much of the Steely Dan sound should properly be credited to him. I also, at some point, discovered that the first two lines of this thing had formulated in my mind. So I set to work to write a full set of lyrics "in the style", and here they are. There is a melody to all this that exists in my head, drawing from the lope of "Home at Last" with a dollop of Fleetwood Mac's "Hypnotized".  Should we ever meet, I will venture to sing it, unaccompanied, but will forebear for a price.



An emptied tent in an open field
On a slanting brushland
beyond the dunes
This is my heart
This is my heart

A peg wrenched loose by a skewing pole
And a wrinkled door flap
flotsamed by gusts
This is my heart
This is my heart

Dust cast off crusts and a shredded rug
Of a homely pattern
shunted aside
This is my heart
This is my heart

A bowl with a dried on smear of broth
And no table under
no spoon nearby
This is my heart
This is my heart

Look at this: spare and indelicate
An envelope fabricked
of yearning air
Enter my heart
Enter my heart

An emptied tent in an open field
Vacancy draped atop
unyielding earth
This is my heart
Enter my heart

Empty   my heart


© 2017 George M. Wallace; all rights reserved.

Photo by the blogger.




Removing the mirror leaves two spaces empty:
The space before, a space behind,
And yet a third: the space between
What is seen and what is there to be seen.

Behind the wall that stood behind the mirror
Another absent mirror stands implied.

Before the wall that stands disclosed
Where once a mirror tossed transverted vistas
Back to its observer in its obverse world
Essay it as you saw once in a film:
Extend a gloved hand or hesitant finger
To probe through absences of images of what was where to find a way to there
By a push and a press
At the melting emptiness
With palms and inner knuckles then a wrist
A sleeve an elbow soon enough a shoulder and
In one membranous pop perhaps yourself.

Be still as limpid sheer reflective water
Be sure as you are still as you approach
The tensing surface of that vacancy
In transit toward
Another side an other side aside
Astride a sliding shine of faceted glass
And as
Silvered glass may pass for mercury
Hermetic ceilings lower in suspense
A wingèd heel extends its healing wing
And then is flown.
Persistent vision’s memory insists
Though silvered glass might pass that you will not.

The mirror would not yield if it was there
Its emptied place yields less
The vacant wall yields least of all


© 2017 George M. Wallace; all rights reserved.

Photo by the blogger.



A lens of air and vapor held in air
shaped by air
suspended in air
Perceived from earth by way of light
through air
through albumen

through surging ions and shifting envelopes
Earth and æther
Auroral order overboard
A cloud

Wand'ring lonely
An unhoused king of importunate space
Faded finery
Adherent arcing tortoise carapace

Wing of swift, wing of swallow
Your shining copper shield, Achille
Nothing strikes right
In this striking light

A lens of air and vapor
held in air
Perceived from earth by way of light
through surging ions
Earth and æther
Swiftly swallowed

A strike a stripe
a lens
all blends


© 2017 George M. Wallace; all rights reserved.

Photo [we know: not in fact a lenticular cloud] by the blogger.

Power and Light
[Updated! With Video!
And Exclamation Points!]


The Knoxville Gay Men's Chorus will  be celebrating its 5th Anniversary with its Spring Concert on Saturday night, May 20. In amongst songs made famous by Simon and Garfunkel, Madonna, Cindy Lauper, and the Pointer Sisters, the concert will include the premiere of a new piece composed by Dave Volpe: "Power and Light". In 2014, Dave was the composer of "Nebula of Angels", which was commissioned and premiered in Walt Disney Concert Hall as part of the 35th Anniversary concert of the Los Angeles Gay Mens' Chorus.

This fool provided the text for "Nebula of Angels," and when Dave Volpe received the Knoxville commission he graciously requisitioned another pile of words, in a celebratory/anthemic vein, and it was this fool's pleasure to oblige. I have yet to hear a note of the music Dave hath wrought this time, and I will not be in Knoxville when the final product is rolled out, but here, for whatever delectation they may provide in the absence of Dave's music, are those words as I compiled and piled them.



Out of our watery refuge

And into the unsettled air

The earth and the fire await us

In their time

Adrift in the wake of that secretive sea

An inner spark lights the fuse for flight

Striking a match, the heart is still grounded

Stoking our personal flame

and generating

Power and Light

Power and Light

The club and the fist are no match for the bliss of

Power and Light

We are sowing Power and Light

Power and Light

Power and Light

The lift and the laughter lasting hereafter

Power and Light

Warm and glowing Power and Light

Under the star-shadowed nightfall

And into each uncertain day

The labyrinth lies before us

Every time

At risk in a mist amid pitfalls and traps

Our inner spark lights the fuse for flight

Passion and voice, as beams in that darkness

Arcing like coals to the torch

and resonating

Power and Light

Power and Light

The leap from the shoot to the trunk to the fruit

Power and Light

We are sowing Power and Light

Power and Light

Power and Light

Exploring, divining the glory that’s shining

Power and Light

We are showing Power and Light

Our lives will not be silent

We will never shun the fight

For hearts and hopes and love and freedom

Standing striding echoing on

Tracing, replacing all that is gone

More than before reaching up and beyond

Renewing the world with the force of a song

Refilling the world with

Power and Light

Power and Light

Power and Light

The club and the fist are no match for the bliss of

Power and Light

Warm and glowing Power and Light

Power and Light

Power and Light

The lift and the laughter lasting hereafter

Power and Light

We are sowing Power and Light


© 2016-2017 George M. Wallace; all rights reserved.
Photo by the blogger.


Update - May 23, 2017:

A good soul in Knoxville has uploaded video of the premiere performance. Behold!


a musical box

Musical box

slow light
the spiked cylinder
the gears’ teeth
the spinning vane
the torquing key and vertiginous spring
from whence this once
and once again
springs Lohengrin
or Brahms perhaps
some music anyway
some old and toothsome sound
come round
again and still again
unlocking still
and yet again
the unlocked stillness
teething sweetly
teasing out the inner ear

[jocular cochlear jiggery pokery]

tricking and trickling
out from the
tight grained
tight wound
spring loaded
shine varnished
mite box of musings

or muses
what use is
a box without

soul love
and slow light


indifference, like shells


O rare and clarifying day, 

    good day:

Your raiment of the moment washed in blue

Illumes a softened, sadder rumination

Among despairing men

Who watched each hair go grey.


Whichever course they plot they face the sun

In unimpeding drifted winter air

Lashes, squinting eyelids: unavailing

Against that ageless burst

Frigid, Promethean.


Out many miles from shore a sudden shower

A sodden shudder weeping on the sea

Mere meters wide

    a drenching isolation

A pure vertical rain

Repeating every hour


This shined and shattered shaft of splint’ring light

That draught of water from a cloudless sky

Alludes to sullen shoulders wracked with sobbing

A smudged and doubtful map

Disperses lines of flight


O rare and clarifying day,

    good day:

Your raiment of the moment washed in blue

Aloft a soft'ning shy manifestation

Engrained with faded care

Dispensing with dismay.



© 2017 George M. Wallace; all rights reserved.