Thoughts on 'Entanglement'

i’ve been touring completely alone for the last few years; meeting people in concert rooms, bars, pubs, gardens, theatres and living rooms. i don’t know much, and as i get older i know even less, i am sure of less, i feel less and less able to answer the question of how to be a good person in the world.

as i sit and watch with dismay all of the ways in which capitalism is ruining us, i can spend all day thinking darkly about all the things i’m not doing.  there are people in my life who work as activists and support workers and i believe that’s the only real, appropriate way to exist in this world of traumas, intimate and global, that we are all surrounded by.

and yet, i am compelled to do this thing.

i am traveling around with this one idea: that it is real and important and valuable to create spaces for people to meet each other. to feel connected with the community around them. one small way to achieve this is to gather for a shared musical experience. i don’t feel like i have anything particularly important to say, no more so than the thoughts other people have in their minds, so it’s not a message i’m travelling with, but rather an idea: that we can be together, and that’s meaningful.

there are a lot of unheralded people who create and maintain these spaces.  most of their labor is invisible and thankless, especially the efforts of the hosts and caretakers of the physical spaces themselves; those who feel called to bring music into their community, and have the patience and wherewithal to make things function.  i feel like my “job” is to serve as a storyteller, or a journey maker, a musical picture painter, an experience-giver.

in turn, the role of the audience is to share that space with me and with each other, to feel whatever they may feel, individually as a listener, as an experiencer in whatever setting.  everyone’s part is equally important here. there would be no one without the other.

i feel humbled and grateful for all the things that have come before, that have allowed for me to spend these years in this way. having the great fortune to wander in and out of communities and scenes, and watching them for tiny periods of time from their inside bellies.  watching how groups, associations, collectives interact and care more (or less) about each other, how some things are different everywhere and some things are the same.

mostly i’m interested in how people work together and build together.  i feel fortunate when my schedule allows me a few extra hours to hear people talk about what living in their city, town, or community is all about.

to each and every person who has come to the shows, who has talked to me after the performance, who has shared in this, i thank you. i will keep following this thing for as long as it lasts – a length i certainly cannot know – but while i’m here, i won’t stop appreciating, and trying to do better, wandering down this particular peculiar path that i’ve chosen.

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inspiration for music on this album:

Particles (and then the title and theme of the record) took shape after i learned a tiny amount about a huge idea in quantum physics called entanglement theory. i travelled around with this piece for months on tour before i ever recorded it, gathering ideas on how to play it, and told a version of this story at every stop.

physicists were doing experiments on particles in a box that they created. they came up with a complicated process to put the particles through, and once the process was done those two particles were forever connected, entangled. if they put one particle through something, the other particle would react as though it underwent the same experience.  touch one, and the other one would feel it as well. after they perfected this system inside the box, they experimented with taking one particle outside of the box and putting it elsewhere in the room. they discovered that the two particles were still interconnected. they took the second particle further and further out of range of the other, and still, touch one and the other one would react as well.

finally, they sent the second particle up into space, and still, touch the one on earth and the other would react at the same moment.

i found that idea to be beautiful, terrifying, and inspiring.  it made me wonder about how we connect and entangle with each other, how we affect each other in ways that seem so intense and mysterious sometimes. we are born interconnected with our blood family, but we release some connections while gathering others along the way. some are chosen entanglements, but some entanglements hit us from nowhere, as impractical or painful as they sometimes are.  some of us can feel intimately connected with elements of nature, affected by ebbs and flows. and we can feel the joy and pain of people and circumstances we don’t know directly.

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Fractals begins with 2 notes right next to each other, symbolizing to me 2 souls, or beings, traveling together, but always slightly apart. this idea is revisited throughout the pieces, finding each other, separating again.

the main music from this half comes from a melody that i’ve been carrying around in my heart and fingers for a couple of years, i came to refer to it as a ‘muse melody’.  but i could never find the proper expression of it, no matter how many different things i tried. i felt the melody began to represent something called truth – something my body was singing about, asking a question; what do i know about things that are true?

i know the truth of bodies aging, that the earth holds the truth in ways that we in the western world are almost completely disconnected from… that there are truths in sand, that sand becomes windows. we can look out the windows and observe truths outside of ourselves. the truth is that the wind blows, the wind carries truth……

in the process of trying to find the perfect expression of this melody that had come to represent such big ideas, i would play and record the melody in its simplest iteration, as a placeholder, in ways that i knew were imperfect.  then i would record ideas around it, thinking that i may find the answer by surrounding it with other sounds and ideas and melodies. but instead i fell in love with the ideas around it, never finding the right way to utter the original statement. so, i would take the melody back out, and try to fix it yet again, but i couldn’t do it.

slowly i realized that what i was leaving behind seemed to maybe actually be the answer, on its own. at some point i allowed myself to stop searching directly where i thought i needed to; i stopped trying to find that perfect expression and just let the ideas that formed around it become the truth.

so, in the end, the fractals pieces ended up being different iterations of searching, flowers blooming from the ground of an idea. living on their own with this muse melody’s presence, but not present.

it was a practice of opening up and allowing things to exist as i found them, to be true without being exactly as i expected.

when i was listening to them through with a dear friend, he said they reminded him of fractals. i couldn’t imagine a more perfect idea to describe that practice of iterating, of finding truth by changing perspective, changing the terms of the search, finding expression of ideas repeating themselves out and out…

anyway. i thank you for reading, for listening, for being out there. hopefully be seeing you.

xj