Tag Archives: music

Sequence: Bach Cantatas for Sunday


As an artist, I love the idea of work made for a certain setting – installments in airports are meant to be viewed by the very tired, grand works are commissioned for a certain opera diva to sing, sculptures are built into a certain mountain.

About a year ago, I heard a concert of Cantatas by Bach.  Beautiful, rapturous things – short pieces meant to be sung by a church choir during Sunday services.  As the story goes, Bach got a gig writing choral works for the church, and churned out more than 200 in his lifetime, each written to be sung on a certain Sunday of the year. Of course, you can listen to it on the “wrong” day, but I like to think that by hearing it on the day it was written for, I am sharing something with the artist. Something small, maybe, like the way that the sunlight looks on a Sunday morning in February compared to the way it looks in a hot August morning.

The husband got me the boxed set for Christmas a few years ago.  It’s completely overwhelming – all of them in one place, ready to go.  So they’ve sat on the shelf, as I work myself into a tizzy about which Sunday is the “right” one to start on, whether or not it matters if I listen in the daytime or the evening. Crazy stuff. But you know how it goes – in the moment, this seems essential to The Art.

I think I’m over it. I think I’m ready to get started again, to put in the disc that has today’s cantata, to just listen, and love the moment it’s in.

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Music to Cut Paper By


So the thing about cutting paper, is that it’s slow. I mean, I’ve gotten faster since I first got started, but it’s no letterpress or computer based graphic design. There’s still the limitation of the hand holding the exacto knife, and the person sitting in the chair doing it.

And the thing about cutting paper, is that the knife is sharp, and you can’t un – cut paper. So you have to pay attention, which means that watching movies doesn’t work very well. I used to watch documentaries while I worked, but the catch was that if it had an interesting bit, all work would grind to a halt, and I’d come to as the credits rolled. Not a winning strategy for finishing projects.

My compromise has been to play music, podcasts, and other audio while I work. Here’s a sampling of what I’ve been listening to:

1. Radiolab  You might have heard these science shows on NPR in the car, depending on where you live, but I ran into these as podcasts. Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich spend an hour examining different scientific topics by talking to scientists, doctors, and people on the ground. Fascinating stuff. The production quality is amazing – something like an old fashioned radio drama meets Nova.

2. Stars of the Lid  If you’re someone who can’t concentrate if there’s talking going on, you should check out any of the Stars of the Lid albums. This Austin duo creates vast wordless soundscapes that stretch seamlessly into each other for hours and hours. Beautiful, haunting stuff, and provides a sound backdrop to the studio without sounding like Muzak.

3. Langroise Trio I ran into one of the albums of the Langroise Trio, “Volante”  at the library when I was looking for some background music for an event I was helping with. Apparently, this group resides at the College of Idaho, and has been creating haunting music together for twenty years. “Volante” tells a spare story over the course of the seventeen tracks, weaving more abstract works with a more narrative style.

4. The Moth  Now, if you’re the kind of person who can deal with doing art while listening to words, you should also be listening to The Moth. The Moth is an open – mic story telling event and podcast, where the only rule is to tell the truth, with no notes. You get everything from the hilarious to the heart wrenching, and all of it is really good. Really, really good.

What about you? What are you listening to in the studio this week?

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