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Marchons! 48 Hour People's Climate March Recruitment Storm:


Thursday through Friday, August 21-22
As a stay-at-home homeschooling dad with a daughter, a puppy, and a full schedule of music students, I don' t get out to social and political demonstrations much anymore.

But it turns out that I'm going to be in New York on September 21, and furthermore, the how and the why of my presence there are tightly intertwined...in a way that's interesting and revealing.

So follow me below the fold and we'll talk about it — and hear some music along the way.


I'm fifty-six.  I've spent thirty-seven of those fifty-six years studying, practicing, teaching, and performing in one of the world's great forms of classical music: khyal, the ornamented improvisational artsong of North India.  I lived in India for years, learning (literally) at the feet of a master, in an oral tradition that privileges memory and creativity.

Getting a lesson from Pt. S.G. Devasthali in 1991.

These songs emerged in temples and courts at the high end of a (generally pretty brutal) feudal economy; maharajas vied with one another to lure great singers to their courts, and the artists themselves often came from long hereditary lineage, passing highly specialized repertoire from generation to generation.  Stories from those days are very romantic and exciting — a master singer who gained a fortune in gold coins from a brilliant performance and threw them all to the poor on his way home; a bitter rivalry in which one singer hid undetected for years in another's practice room, the better to appropriate his jealously guarded repertoire; a singer whose forceful voice production came from when his father left him in the jungle overnight, telling him only to, "keep singing and the tigers won't eat you."

Some of the songs are hundreds of years old, with roots that stretch back even further into a deeper past, where parts of the music are described in mythic terms (pretty heady stuff for a white teenager from a Boston suburb, I must say).  Tansen, a great singer and composer who lived in the 1500's was, we are told, able to create fire and bring rain with his music.  A particular raga is said to have emerged full-blown from the forehead of Lord Shiva; another is said to call djinns who will grant your wishes if they're satisfied with the performance.

And yet this tradition is a living one.  Composers are making up new material every day; innovative musicians are testing new approaches to traditional repertoire; children in India and abroad are learning and performing this music with dedication, commitment, and excellence.

I started learning it when I was a teenager, and it's shaped my whole life.  Just lucky, I guess.

So this is what I do; these are the songs I sing; this is the tradition I learned.  And it just so happened that I'm scheduled to give a concert in Poughkeepsie, NY — on Saturday, the 20th of September.  Of course I'll be at the People's Climate March — I'm already in the neighborhood!  

That's the how of it.

But the why goes deeper, I think.


When I perform or teach this music I am occupying a tiny spot midway between the past in which the artform was developed, and the future it intends to occupy.

The honor and magic of it comes not from celebrity or riches, but from the knowledge that one is a link in a very long chain of transmission.

When I began learning from my Guru (don't get me started on the misuse of that word by people who only understand it as shorthand for a spiritual charlatan) he said, "in our tradition we believe that you cannot achieve liberation until you've taught everything you know to someone else."

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Climate change threatens to truncate this chain...and every other such chain of cultural transmission from generation to generation.  

It's not just the glaciers that are threatened, not just the charismatic megafauna; not just the ecosystems and the agriculture and the coastal cities — but all of humanity's art, poetry, dance, and music.

You need a stable climate to build a civilization.  Lose the civilization, and you lose the cultural infrastructures that have made our species' wonderful creativity possible.  

Personally, I think our art, poetry, dance, and music are some of the best things we've ever done.  If we were to be judged by those hypothetical planet-busting aliens, what would we offer as a reason not to blast us into our constituent atoms?  

Our skill at killing one another — or Bach's B-minor mass?

Our venality and greed — or the polyphonic yodeling of the Ba'aka pygmies?
I'm not an outdoorsman like the late JohnnyRook.  My mountain-climbing days are far behind me.  I'm more likely to be lurching along behind my dog than running rapids in a kayak or hiking through the deep forest.  My connection to Earth's ecosystems often feels far more abstract than actual.

But I sing, and I teach — and the thought of losing all this beauty and meaning to the consequences of greed and over-consumption makes me utterly sick at heart.

That's why I'll be in New York this September.  What about you?



Marchons! 48 Hour People's Climate March Recruitment Storm:


Thursday Noon through Saturday Noon, August 21-23


 photo 9f344a71-a87a-45b2-9f1d-2f9ced042f96_zps842445cc.png

We are one month out from the historic People's Climate March. The September 21 March is being held two days before the UN Climate Summit, where government and corporate leaders will convene to discuss taking action to address climate change.  

Tens of thousands are expected to march in New York City.

Join in the 48 hour Recruitment Storm by registering and inviting friends to participate. Our goal is to add 10,000 new marchers by the end of the day Friday. Let's make September a game-changer for the climate movement.


Sign up here!!! --> People's Climate March

Originally posted to UN Climate Summit on Thu Aug 21, 2014 at 01:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Kitchen Table Kibitzing, New Jersey Kossacks, New York City, Climate Change SOS, and Community Spotlight.

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