Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Long Now; The Short Now

The clock is ticking, ticking, ticking on our farewell to 2008. I thought it was a wonderful year. I hope 2009 isn't too bad in comparison (all the advance hype leaves my usual optimism with so little wiggle-room!)

In San Francisco recently, I went down to the headquarters of the Long Now Foundation.

I was excited to see their cool brass-and-stainless-steel clocks and planetary orreries, and the turning of another new year seemed like a good time to visit. Unfortunately, the museum/bookstore/headquarters was closed for the holidays. Since the Long Now Foundation is an organization dedicated to shifting our frames of reference from short-term and local horizons to longer and broader ones, I guess I shouldn't sweat the fact that I'll have to wait until later to visit the Long Now Foundation. I will come back sometime in the next thousand years or so, to contemplate the difficulties and complexities of the long-term protection and preservation of human knowledge and culture.

I've been reading about this organization with much fascination, especially since I've recently learned that it got its catchy name from Brian Eno, who seems to be a board member or some such thing. Another notable involved in the group is the wonderful author Neal Stephenson, whose recent novel "Anathem" was inspired by the Long Now Foundation's "Clock of the Long Now" project.

It's very interesting to think about how music fits in with a super-long frame of reference... I guess my favorite Bach two-part inventions are almost three hundred years old. But most of the music I love is a tenth as old as that, and I have to admit, when I think about who I'm writing for, it's not people three hundred years from now, never mind people ten thousand years from now. If I'm making music for people alive now, then my music is for the Short Now. Time can tell how the Long Now will deal with it.

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Your Voices" at the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Oh, here's the artwork for the Star Tribune's community blog.

The Strib is calling their community blogs "Your Voices." Here is the Dan Wilson blog at the Star Tribune.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

My Voice on "Your Voices"

I'm going to be occasionally blogging on the Minneapolis Star and Tribune's "Your Voices" page. It's not going to be much different than this blog so I thought I'd post a link to those pieces when I put them up.

Star Tribune's Your Voices Page

Christmas approaching fast and everything seems under control. Illusion? If so, a lovely one.

Peace and Joy to you all!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Set List for Pantages Show

Here's the set from the Pantages, for those who asked. Read my reaction to the show on the previous blog.


Solo set

Hand on My Heart
Across the Great Divide
One True Love
Honey Please
Brad Gordon joins
Singing in My Sleep
All Will Be Well


Band Set

Easy Silence
Against History
Willie the King
Baby Doll
I'll Be Your Baby Tonight
Secret Smile
She Can't Help Me Now
Free Life
band off
All Kinds


Everything Green - everyone
Eric & Steve off
John & Brad on pno, then Brad trumpet
Made to Last

Monday, December 15, 2008

Pantages Theater, Minneapolis, 12/13/08

What a night. My favorite show so far. Ever. It felt like the first truly rocking DW solo gig. I did the first set alone & then with Brad Gordon on piano for the last two songs. Then John Munson, Eric Fawcett and Steve Roehm joined in for the second half. The group moved like a school of fish through the dynamics - turning together and not knowing why, just going with it. Brad's clarinet on "Baby Doll" was pure joy. The "Secret Smile" jam still makes me smile.

I snuck in some Bob Dylan in the middle of "Hand on My Heart" and then later in the set sang Dylan's "I'll Be Your Baby Tonight" with the full band in nasty, groovy, greasy stomp mode and it was hilarious. I had never been able to cover a Dylan song but after I spoke at the "Blood on the Tracks" event in November, I got inspired to try again. And this song seems like I can get inside it pretty well.

Did you hear the travelogue in the first four songs? "Hand on My Heart," "Turtledove," "Across the Great Divide," "California." I felt the room was with me all the way. Thank you.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Up to Me, Tangled Up in Blue, Isis

"... The only decent thing I did when I worked as a postal clerk
Was to haul your picture down off the wall from the cage where I used to work..."

-Up to Me, Bob Dylan

I'm still buzzing from the "Blood on the Tracks" book party/performance I took part in last month. Kevin Odegard, one of the Minneapolis session musicians who played on about half of the Dylan album, wrote a book called "A Simple Twist of Fate" which details Dylan's fits-and-starts-filled process of making the record.

It's a really fast, fun read, and it's full of unexpected insights into the creative process in general. Recounted as though for the history books, "A Simple Twist of Fate" is an account of the last stage of the process of making "Blood on the Tracks", when Dylan came to Minneapolis to re-record many of the songs with a group of young and little-known session players. The album was already finished, the artwork finalized and the musician credits printed up, but the vinyl was not yet pressed, and Dylan, in a last-minute change, swapped in the Minneapolis versions of the songs into the final pressing. The new musicians were never credited for their amazing performances, always referred to in the press as "a group of Twin Cities unknowns," or some variation of that. I think this phrase actually became part of the mythology of the album, and that probably removed Dylan's and Columbia's incentive to credit the musicians more clearly.

So Kevin and the most of the rest of the group that played on "Tangled Up in Blue," "Idiot Wind," "If You See Her, Say Hello," and other songs, got up onstage and played those and other songs. Which was beautiful to hear.

What I haven't expected is for the album to have taken hold of me so powerfully since then. I am neck-deep in the mystery of Dylan and I love it. Not only "Blood on the Tracks," but also "Desire." If you want to hear what I would dream of being able to do as a songwriter, listen to "Isis" a couple of times. It'll be worth it just to hear a master yarn-spinner at work.

Griffin House was in Minneapolis last week working on some new songs with me and during a break we listened to "Isis" together, first the version on "Desire" and then the live version from "Biograph," which is from a Rolling Thunder Revue tour. Is it funny? Sad? Epic? The ground shifts beneath your feet. All I know is I laughed a lot.