World Unspoken

World Unspoken

Wormwood’s final day of our 2016 tour might have been the 3rd or the 4th of August. It’s a matter of interpretation really. Wednesday was the last day we wandered through unknown parts with instruments on our backs, but we also spent Thursday together, hiking through a national park as two friends. If this thing we call “Wormwood” is defined as an improvisation duo, then Wednesday was the finale. There will be no further concerts abroad. But Wormwood is a name we gave our shared language. It’s something we do together when inspiration strikes. It’s a friendship and a rock band and a spiritual practice. It can’t be boiled down to any less than all those things.

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So we spent all day yesterday in Tyresta National Park without our instruments trying to prepare for the inevitable shock when we suddenly find ourselves back in separate lives. We had many pours of fine whiskey last night in Stockholm. It was a celebration of early nostalgia. The trip is already starting to feel like a wonderful memory, which I suppose tells us we are ready to go home.

This first video is a shout-out to Charlie McCarron. We found a half-pipe in Vaxholm, Sweden. We didn’t have skateboards, but…

This last video is a dedication to the wonderful Konar-Steenberg family. I know they can appreciate the value of a good castle

All things must come to an end, and so it goes with this wild adventure. There have been struggles and laughs – a plethora of both. We have found many truths. Some are hard to put in words. The best I can say for now is that we’ve learned what it means to wander. We’ve also learned what it means to be us. That is no small accomplishment.

World Unspoken? Yes. It’s a vast world, indeed. When you travel through a foreign country and you have nothing to share but music. Words are little more than dreams. When you cannot overhear conversation or ask the stranger on the bus for effective directions, you are relegated to a world of gesture, vocal tone, and body language. It is no man’s paradise, but neither is it hell. It is just another means of existence, a slow but earnest lifestyle. I recommend a visit, but no extended stay. ūüôā

In a few hours we will be on a plane back to the states. We’re leaving behind this vagabond lifestyle, but we’re bringing home a humble, new paradigm. We’ll have a documentary to share with y’all soon. Thanks for following us on this journey!

These little ducklings are ready to paddle their way home!

Monuments

Monuments

Hear lies
one million
carefully cut stones
commanded to be
placed particularly
propping up
conquesting ideas
tightly clutched
forced and thrust
into all
today
and ten hundred thousand times
tomorrow

All I can see across the Western world is the honoring of men who have the blood of man and beast on their hands. It fills my sight perpetually. These “discoverers,” “unifiers,” and “brave leaders” of the noble, wise nations and their self-serving ideas of God and country are the heroes in the stories we have chosen to tell ourselves through our classrooms, national monuments, and historical sites. This is how we have chosen to shape our collective becoming, often resulting in the unbecoming of those more simple and peaceful sons and daughters of the Earth. Yet, these are my people. This is my history. Their blood runs through my veins. What am I to do with this truth that lives just as strong today as it has for hundreds of years? I do not know. At best I am uncertain. Yet, it cannot be ignored.

Perhaps it’s time for new stories. New monuments. Beginning with, I think, the momentary monuments we wear.

A smile. A gaze through which we peer intently and an open ear in which we listen carefully.

A gift. A vulnerable, non-transactional sharing of self through word and deed.

A moment’s pause.
One that considers before speaking and a soft heart which shares in our collective Spirit’s suffering.

Here lives
unknowable numbers
of intentional hands
placed particularly
lifting up themselves
alongside their neighbor
to gently sway
in our Mother’s
sweet, cool breezes
so that one another
might find each other
today.

-BD 7/9/16

This week has been filled with highs and lows. We’ve been in a variety of places with varieties of people, and we’ve discovered a few things about ourselves as humans.

Earlier in the week, as we were exploring Vienna and seeing the sights one is supposed to see (giant churches, old government buildings, palaces, statues, etc…) we were both struck deeply with a similar dissonance. These monuments, while historically significant in the rising, falling, and shifting of nations, peoples, and ideas represent only one possibility of our self-creation through our stories. This one narrative that the Western world seems to tell itself – which honors the acts of the wealthy warriors, the proud, nationalist, white men – rings a bit hollow. We can’t enjoy those monuments without feeling a healthy dose of nausea. There are too many people that have lived and died that these statues and museums don’t seem to recognize. It’s especially hard to reconcile when we get news of sad events back home. We are waiting on the day when we stumble across a statue built to honor widowed mothers or average white men that did not conquer anything but, instead, lived peaceful lives within their means and were attentive to the needs of their developing children!

The day after our foray into downtown Vienna, Ben planned a hike into the hills. We took off in the early morning toward the northern reaches of Vienna’s urban sprawl. This is the start of the historical trail known as Beethovengang. The stream-side hike is supposedly where Beethoven walked during the later years of his life when his hearing was slipping away along with his calm. We weren’t visited by Ludwig’s specter, but we found solace just the way he did.

It only took a few minutes in a natural setting for our spirits to brighten. We played music under Viennese trees and ate lunch at a tiny “bistro” that was really more of a cottage. The menu was “soup” and stroganoff. There were no options, just “one meatball or two?” It seemed to us like the kind of lunch your Austrian grandmother would make if you came to visit. Good! but not inventive, haha.

Later we stumbled upon three Chinese-German men sitting on park benches playing erhu (a traditional Chinese instrument) and singing. After a moment’s hesitation, we approached and gave attentive audience. They greeted us cheerfully when they saw our instruments. As a group, we exchanged music and smiles, but they spoke no English, so the only practical languages were non-verbal and musical. It was wonderful! Ben got a short lesson on erhu, and we gave them a spin on our instruments in turn. Two parties of strangers bid farewell as friends.

 

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After that we made it to a vista looking out over Vienna and the Danube. The distance made the sprawling city seem so much more peaceful. We played music for fellow sight-seers and were well-received. One gentleman from Brazil said something along the lines of, “This was perfect. I’ll never forget.” Two young people, one from Vienna, the other from Turkey, thanked us with a box of chocolate dipped wafers. They were delicious!

It’s those kind of sentiments and moments that clarify our intent when we are a bit drained. Wormwood is an intimate performance. We don’t do well in giant plazas or busy streets. We don’t do well as people in those places either! As great as it is to see the landmarks of famous places, crowds and noise leave us feeling hollow.

What does that mean? It means Wormwood is (and will continue to be) the worst tourists ever. We don’t buy tickets to museums, or exhibits, or tour buses. We don’t buy souvenirs or trinkets. We don’t even use transit most of the time (much to Baylen’s chagrin.) In fact, we sometimes attract tourist’s coin and detract from the economy of tourism in a region! Yikes!

That said – we believe that the moments we’ve shared with fellow travelers and locals have been reason enough for our journey. Whenever we follows our bliss as humans, serendipity lights up our lives. We’ll look for people and trees and leave the bronze-cast heroes to history.

The Hills Are Alive

The Hills Are Alive

I am
Landscapes
Clouds
Flora
and the Light shining upon them

I am
Sky
Lakes
Mountains
and the Beasts thriving within them

We are
Earth
Sun
Wind
and Water manifest into Spirit
momentarily captured
between physical borders

-BD 7/5/16

On Saturday we successfully made our way from Peschiera del Garda to Verona to Brenner to Innsbruck to Salzburg. Four trains with a collective layover time of only around an hour. Twenty minutes after arriving in Salzburg, we were checked into our hostel and ready for an early night to bed. We have officially “leveled up” our international transit skills.

As we traveled, I was fascinated at how quickly the culture changed along with the landscape. From blazing sun, palm trees, and endless fields of vines quickly into mountains shrouded in clouds, cooler weather, and coniferous trees. Along with that, “Grazie” became “Danke,” leathered skin and loose fitting clothes became fair skinned and lederhosen (for those dressed more traditionally), and the architecture was transformed. It made me consider in a new way Dr. Suzuki’s words “Man is the child of his environment.”

On Sunday, we were successfully the worst Salzburg tourists, yet perhaps the best adventurers. We got a fairly early start and found a nice public garden to play a couple of sets to warm up for the day. We then followed our ears to discover something that was familiar to my (Ben) eyes and ears, yet in a new place. A community band! Growing up and continuing to play with the Oskaloosa City Band is/was always a treat. So, here’s an Austrian shout-out to those keeping the music alive.

Afterwards, we decided to pay our respects to Mozart by offering up my viola as a tribute.

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In the spirit of being the worst tourists, we decided not to do the paid tour of his home, rather to improvise a set of music across the street in dedication to this great 18th century improviser. We set up inside of a piece of public art and amassed a small, curious, and appreciative audience.

We continued to explore Salzburg free of any paid tours and Baylen was once again able to afford us the opportunity to play in an enormous cathedral. We’ve come to discover that Baylen has a wonderful strength for approaching people and gaining permission for us to make music in spectacular public spaces or simply for finding the right people in the most unexpected of places (more on that in the next post). I, on the other hand, am learning of my midwestern roots and “don’t want to impose.” We certainly balance each other out as travel companions.

On the flip side of that coin, the balance that I’m able to offer is to say…

Ben: “Hey Baylen! Forget the Sound of Music Tour! Let’s make our own. Look at that place that is far away and up high with no clear roads, maps, or trails guiding us there. That’s where we’re going with our instruments!”

Baylen: “You’re crazy.”

Ben: “Yup, let’s go!”

And so began our 2.5 hour hike up Gaisberg. First on roads, then on trails, then back on roads, then on remote backcountry trails up to this…

We had an appreciative audience of two that stumbled across our performance on their way down the mountain. So appreciative that they even offered us a ride back down the mountain to our hostel. Thank you so much Joanna and Reinhold!! We polished off the day with boiled beef, potatoes, vegetables, and a delicious Weissbier (or two).

Needless to say, it was a full 12 hours in Salzburg. Stay tuned for an equally eventful day two.

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!

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.