Attuned

Attuned

Through faults of stone
These human hands
Reach out with
Eager
Calm.
Every face a city
Unto itself.
Every heart a song
With harmonies
Transcending lifetimes.
The cracks that divide
Are interesting
To find
To film
To study
But in the end
We rediscover bedrock
Or the human soul
We never should have
Forgotten.

-BW 2016

Having spent a few days in Edinburgh and run into several types of great human beings, I’ve found a feeling of kinship in new faces that I hoped for but did not expect. Wormwood played a set of music on the top of Arthur’s Seat. Ben insisted we make the trek up that winding path, and I didn’t argue, but I complained heartily whenever appropriate.
Thankfully, it was worth the effort. Playing for a private audience of tired hikers (fifty people or so) with a bird’s eye view of Edinburgh was magic of the first order. It may have been Wormwood’s most satisfying performance to date.

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Arthur’s Seat

We connected with a group of Germans travelling for school and several American’s as well. We’ve spent a couple evenings chatting with those wonderful people. They are young and smart and complete strangers except that we share one noteworthy experience at the top of a very small mountain. It’s the kind of connection Ben and I hoped we could make via our music and our honesty.
We also found great conversation with a brother and sister from Australia. We sat in the lounge of our hostel and shared a few stories and tips as we all organized bus/plane tickets on extremely slow internet. When traveling it seems planning is a good portion of daily work. Ben and I have discussed feeling pressure to “make every moment great” when on vacation. That isn’t possible or healthy. Just because we are traveling doesn’t mean living stops. Still have to eat. Still have to plan. Still have to take a shit once and a while. Maybe the key is finding joy in every activity. (Yes, that’s right, I relieved myself in two dozen scattered caf√©s through Edinburgh! What did you do with your summer?)
We spent some time with a pair of women visiting Edinburgh from London. They saw the cello and viola by our bunks and “demanded” that we play for them. So we got the common room bar to shut off the music for a spell and we played a few rounds. The Londoners told us later that they honestly expected us to make up excuses or dodge the situation. We told them that would undermine the purpose of our trip. We came to share our craft with anyone who cares to listen. We hadn’t really stated that explicitly until our two, new friends initiated, though. Thanks, you two, for helping us realize our project! Also, thank you for encouraging us to try haggis. It is quite tasty.
I wish this post came with a video. We have many to share,but they are rather high quality (as we prefer) so it is painstaking to upload them! As soon as we find public WiFi with sufficient speed, we will begin sharing our joy on the interwebs. Until then, stay in touch and enjoy your own magical, everyday moments.

Attitude and Gratitude

Attitude and Gratitude

“Attitude and Gratitude” these are the words shared by the joyful couple we ran into on our flight to Halifax. Their enthusiasm for life was infectious. They were individuals who embraced and expressed their sense of wonder at the things that most of us have stopped noticing.¬†I’m grateful that we ran into these people at the start of the trip. I’ve already come to lean on these words as yesterday’s exhasution (“Yesterday” meaning some combination of Tuesday-Thursday interspersed with naps), disorientation, and mild frustration at the loss of an expensive piece of recording equipment was palpable.

Now it is 7am on Friday morning after 10 hours of blissful sleep in a rickety bunk bed. It’s amazing how attitude can shift when well rested, fed, and watered (or caffeinated, as the case may be). “Yesterday” we had our first three performances, each with their own unique connections.

First, I played some solo Bach and fiddle tunes during our 4 hour layover in Halifax. I set up outside an empty gate so as not to force solo viola (insert viola joke here) onto anyone’s ears, but rather allow them to come listen if they wanted. They did. One gentleman approached me afterwards expressing gratitude for my performance. He mentioned he was stressing out over work things on his phone, heard the music, sat down, and left his stress for a time. There were many others that showed up and applauded as the Gate 15 audience.

Next, Wormwood set up under the cover of a few trees to avoid the slight drizzle on Buchanan street in the heart of Glasgow. We were met with many smiles, kind words, generous tips (17 pounds in 30 minutes!), and the unwavering attention of a small child and his father. We enjoyed a nice conversation with the father who mentioned his son had never seen anything like it and was clearly transfixed by what we strange adults were doing. Here is Baylen at our first spot.

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Finally, we found ourselves in a coffee house as the rain increased, enjoyed the company of friendly baristas, and played a short set for the coffee house.

In each case, our music has brought some form of joy to those that have heard it and opened the door to conversation and connection that likely would not have been there otherwise. I’m excited to see how this way of sharing music continues to open up these doors. In the meantime, I’m going to return to my journaling and attempt to orient myself around these two important words from a stranger.

-BD 6/17/16

Where Streets are Paved in Malt

Next surprise took place around 10 this morning when we stopped to take inventory in a half conscious daze of jet lag and realized our tiny iPad microphone had rolled away at Halifax airport! Too late now. That sucker is gone!
Luckily, the company that makes our little condenser mic is UK based and we found a store with them in stock! Serendipity? Check. First unplanned expense? Check!

We also found a cello for me (Baylen) and made a friend at the music store. Hats off to Ben at Biggars Music! I have not named my new companion, but she is quite temperamental. :p

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So here’s the thing about Glasgow…everyone keeps telling us we’ll like Edinburgh much better! Seriously, we have had multiple people ask us what we plan to do here, and when we say we leave for Edinburgh tomorrow they seem relieved! Haha. Is there some dark secret on these streets that Glasgowians don’t want us to catch wind of? So far the only thing shocking has been the price of single malt. Ben and I had a pour of 12-year Dalmore for the same price as a pint of beer! Eat THAT absurd Minneapolis liquor prices.

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We are fighting to stay awake so we can reform some semblance of sleep schedule. Update soon on how successful that struggle turns out.

Surprises

Surprises

The stress of life

Is brought to you

Free of charge.

Everything else

Is extra.

-BW ’16

 

There’s nothing quite like arriving at an airport, trying to check in and being immediately directed to a “special services” desk. The silent panic in that queue was palpable. From what we could tell, it was a place for travelers trying to check bags big enough to transport livestock, frazzled folks who missed flights, and clueless people like us who booked their tickets on third-party websites that only kind of exist…

Long story short, we stood at the counter for a short eternity while an incredibly patient desk person made several phone calls. We were both just about finished internally evaluating our life choices when she smiled and handed us our boarding passes. Phew! We can laugh about it now!

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The next surprise was a pleasant one. We were just about to enter security when Ben leaned down to untie a shoe and a four-sided die fell out of his viola case! He has no memory of intentionally packing any dice, so we must conclude that this cute little stowaway joined us of her own accord. She has been named Dee Four. Expect further tales of this brave polyhedral!

We made it into Toronto without a hitch and through customs. The many colored arrows pointing us down a long series of hallways had the affect of a cattle chute. It wasn’t unwelcome, though! We are both dragging from lack of sleep. (Cheers to those who celebrated our departure with us!)

Then we flew to Halifax. As we boarded the plane we got to chatting with some very friendly Minnesotans also Faxing to Hal. They were brandishing a Ukulele and looking forward to their first busking experience. I hope they won’t be insulted if I quote them. “We’re shooting for two dollars!” Their enthusiasm was infectious and we had a great time laughing and joking. Cheers, you two!

Once on the plane I saw there were adorable tiny monitors in front of our seats that let us track our flight on a little map. (Top speed 585 mph and a cruising altitude of 40,000 feet if you were wondering.) I’ve never watched my little GPS blip float over rivers and lakes. Pretty surreal ūüôā

Now we are relaxing in the Halifax airport and trying to pretend that it is 10:30pm when our bodies think it is 4:30pm. Our flight leaves in 4.5 hours. This should be interesting! Here’s a picture of Ben striving to be restful :p

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Anticipation

Anticipation

Breathless is a state of mind,

not lungs.

The air that circumnavigates

the globe is ceaseless

in its circulation.

It will drift within and without

without your blessing

or your encouragement

or your wishes.

 

The ‘breathless’

that you feel is

lack of time to notice

what the world is

doing to you ;

what you do to it.

The interaction is

perpetual.

The feeling is

temporary.

-BW 2016

 

15 days and counting! We fly to Scotland in two weeks! I’m scrambling to wrap up loose ends and make ready for a two-month sabbatical from normal routines. We were talking the other day about how strange it will feel to spend so much time without a schedule. There will be planes and trains to catch – sure – but overall, the time is ours to waste and wander. ¬†That is very exciting and very unusual. I am very much looking forward to the ponderous hours of people watching.

As promised, here is an approximate itinerary.  All dates are estimations, and even locations are subject to whims, but this should give you an idea of our journey.

 

June 15th – June 21st \ Glasgow, Edinburgh, London

June 22nd – June 28th \ Paris, Nice

June 29th – July 7th \ Zagreb, Vienna, Salzburg

July 8th – July 15th \ Munich, Prague

July 16 – July 21st \ Leipzig, Berlin

July  22nd РJuly 29th \ Hamburg, Copenhagen

July 30 – August 5th \ Stockholm

 

If you want to tell us something about one of these cities, or you know someone that lives there, drop us an email!  wormwoodsound@gmail.com

A long time back we had¬†thought to travel with a cello in the plane seat beside us, but that proved too expensive and potentially disastrous if airlines decided not to let a wooden person on the plane. I have heard some good stories about how pleasant travelling with instruments can be – and then I’ve heard some horror stories. ¬†The long and short¬†is that we would probably need a travel agent to ensure my neo-viola da gamba makes it across the pond AND back. ¬†Instead, we will buy a student quality cello in Scotland then burn it for warmth before we crawl onto a plane in Stockholm and fly back to the US of A.

Cue meme:

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Cheers!

Why Wormwood?

Why Wormwood?

A family member recently asked me, in more or less words, “Why Wormwood?” I hadn’t stopped to consider this question for a long time. It has just been a given, a reality of what we are. I want to thank this family member (Thanks, Aunt Kim!) for asking so that I was prompted to put the many thoughts I’ve had about the name into words. So, for all of you out there who may be wondering, here are some words about this thing that we call “Wormwood.”

It all began as we were sitting on the stoop one balmy summer night drinking absinthe (as many nights as a 26 year old bachelor artist begin) and spitballing ideas for what to call this duo we’ve found ourselves in. Needless to say, wormwood, the iconic ingredient in absinthe, was right there on the tip of our tongue. At first utterance, my gut told me that it was right. A sort of “love at first sight” moment. There was a poetic attraction to the word through the way it felt, sounded, and the imagery it suggested. The “wood” pointed towards our acoustic instruments carved from spruce, maple, and pernambuco. The “worm” held both the musical “ear worm” as well as the process of decay where worms recycle old life into new.

After this initial attraction, we began to learn more about this word and discovered the use of wormwood in herbal medicine. When consumed, one if the benefits is that it creates an internal environment which purges and resists harmful, invasive organisms. Wormwood, the herb, is a purifier of the body. Wormwood, the sound, we will soon discover.

Finally, absinthe is a drink made most famous by the Lost Generation of artists converging in Paris in the early 20th century. It is said that this was their drink of choice as they shared ideas, created their work, and made merry late into the evenings. Much of their work and approach have inspired both Baylen and me. Specifically of interest to Wormwood is the work of the surrealists and their attempts at reaching into the subconscious mind as a source for unfiltered creativity. Improvisation is the closest musical act that I have found that reaches towards this place. There isn’t time to think. There isn’t time to trace along some pre-prescribed plan. The conscious, verbal mind must shut off. One must enter The World Unspoken.

BD 5/18/16

Small Stones

Small Stones

Ripples are not seen,

but felt

by hearts that beat in tandem,

recommending care

and encouraging harmony

in every human interaction.

 

The small stones that

you drop

here in this moment

do not elevate me simply

by their motion.

 

Rather, it is your specific

gravity and mine,

revolving with impenetrable

purpose around the

self-same heart

of human kindness,

making ours a complex

celestial arrangement

to puzzle anthropologists

and astronomers

alike.

 

We have the same orbit,

you and I,

if you care to notice.

-BW 2016

 

As we prepare to conclude our Indiegogo campaign, we want to send out our sincerest gratitude for all the generous support we’ve received for our World Unspoken Europe Tour. ¬†Your donations mean a great deal to us! ¬†They help us financially – sure – but they also tell us that you think our¬†project is worthwhile. ¬†That is the ultimate compliment. ¬†The countless people that we’ve talked to about travel and culture and music have given us the confidence we need to sally forth with smiles on our faces and music in our hearts.

If we could leave this month, I think we both would hop on the nearest plane. We are so ready to be off!  June 15th is the scheduled departure date, though. So we have just over a month to wait. Plenty to do between now and then!

If you were thinking about donating or recommending our page to someone you know, now is the time.  There are three days left on the Indiegogo campaign.

Wormwood: Indiegogo Campaign

Again,¬†we can’t thank you enough for your time and words and dollars. Stay in touch and stay classy!

Here is a tongue-in-cheek video we made this evening. We didn’t write a script, and we didn’t do multiple takes, so we apologize for our¬†shenanigans.

Cheers!

 

Listen

Listen

A lazy afternoon
drifts by
under
full sun

Time ticks
steady
with or without
my assertion

Hopeful leaves
slowly
bursting
discover
full life
imperceptibly

Or so it seems to me as I race along running this marathon at a sprinter’s pace with eyes and mind fixed on the finish line.

Every step
I take
passes by
fullness
of expression
and
becoming

held softly
where
listening ears
might find
that place
of past
and future
forgotten

-BD 5/4/16

I find myself running so much these days. Running from place to place, appointment to appointment, even state to state. Always striving for that next thing. That next gig, that next performance, that next paycheck, that next “whatever” that is always there because of a tendency towards insatiable consumption.
What Wormwood embodies for me is a time to slow down. To sit where I am, be who I am with, and see and hear what is immediately in my present. A note begins and is filled with infinite potential. I must listen to it, see it for what it is right now, and follow the story that it wants to tell. As a Suzuki teacher, I can’t help but think of Dr. Suzuki’s words “Tone has a living soul without form.” Never is this more true than in the act of improvisation. The living soul pours through, unfiltered, and it is our job to listen.

May Day

May Day

The trees cry spring

and gently burst into flames.

We dance inside our skin

and skewer our hearts upon the notes of

sunrise birds and sunset frogs.

The emboldened soul that walks

among the dead and rotting flowers

demands abandon,

commands for nothing,

revels in peaceful recklessness.

-BW, 2016

Happy May Day to you, friends! Tomorrow Wormwood plays a set at Potted Meet. Stop by Elsie’s Bowling Alley in NE Minneapolis and have a drink with us. The jam starts at 7pm. We’ll have our say between 8 and 9pm.

There are about ten days left in our Indiegogo fundraising for the World Unspoken Tour. If you have pledged already, we are extremely grateful! ¬†If you are still considering, keep in mind that any pledge of $10 or more will earn you a dedicated improv set. ¬†We’ll video record a round of music from some far-off location and post it on this¬†web page. ¬†It will be our pleasure to send you a musical postcard!

Check out the fundraising site for more info: Wormwood Indiegogo Page

Cheers!

 

Simple Truths

Simple Truths

This last week I spent a great deal of time imagining.

My imagination is my strongest muscle, or so I’m told. I find a lot of ways to exercise that muscle. Sometimes I brainstorm ways to reach children and light a fire in their hearts. ¬†Other times I play nerdy games like Dungeons and Dragons, imagining fantastic worlds with realistic¬†characters and rolling dice to add some chance. ¬†Still other times, I sit on the porch¬†with a close friend and talk about the way the world changes or – more often – doesn’t.

In all these moments I imagine what might have, what could, and what I hope will be. The imaginings are made real when I share them with other humans. They affect the trajectory of the moment when I simply speak them aloud. We all imagine things, but some of us hand those things over for public scrutiny.

I think that improvisation is the actualization of imagination. (Do I???) Yes, I do. It’s the action that corresponds most directly to imagining. I think that when we¬†improvise we¬†reach into the velvet folds of memory¬†and pull out a handful of high-octane quicksilver and we throw it on the wall. Some of it sticks. Some of it melts. All of it is good.

In music, Wormwood taps¬†into our shared classical training, our adolescent love¬†of Prague¬†metal, and even our half-sarcastic-half-serious appreciation for¬†Second Viennese School intellectualism. ¬†What comes flowing through the water main is something very truthful. ¬†It is music that expresses us as people. We don’t have time to condense it, complicate it, or sweeten it, because the faucet¬†is always on. It’s very honest and that’s the point.

Honesty is vulnerable but freeing. To say what you believe, rather than what you memorized¬†is to share a piece of yourself with others. It’s speaking simply – with instruments. ¬†I should say:¬†We aren’t the first ones to realize this! There are uncounted musicians out there that play what they feel¬†and to hell with the plan. ¬†It’s just great to be able to put words around our “style.”

Consider the following:¬†If pop tunes are poems, and symphonies are novels, then Wormwood is two voices¬†taking turns sharing random journal entries with a crowd of strangers.¬†Considering the content, I suppose the audience can’t be strangers for very long.

Cheers!