Do you ever go back to your roots? How do you contribute to your community? What traditions do you find worth carrying forward into the future?
Whether you’ve got kids or not, whether you’re part of a big extended family or not, or whether your circle of friends and community is large or small, there are bound to be some worthwhile pieces of your past that are valuable enough to bring forward into today and pass along into tomorrow.
Whether it’s grandma’s salad dressing, your dad‘s favorite fishing lure, or the games you played in the swimming pool as a kid, you’ve no doubt got any number of quirky practices buried in your community and family tree that are unique to you and worth sharing.
Summer is the season to gather and share, whether it be family reunions, community campouts, or social service activities. The long days here in the northern hemisphere, and the relaxed schedule with most people’s kids out of school make for a welcome break in routine that invites travel and trips into nature and beyond.
I write this blog/newsletter from the perspective of a person who is reaching both forward and back in a living lineage of family. I’ve got one daughter in elementary school here in the Bay Area, and an older one who is well launched and living in Melbourne Australia with a solid career doing graphic design. My Dad is 92 and in excellent shape, ticking along like a metronome on the coast in Southern Oregon, enjoying a quiet routine of books and movies, and occasional dinners out with his 64-year-old girlfriend.
So that puts me right in the middle. With a living parent, I’m still a kid, yet with growing and grown children, I am definitely a parent. I feel like I am climbing a ladder, steadying and following my father above me while reaching down to give my daughters a helping hand of support.
This past weekend that dynamic came into clear focus for me at the Boundless Community Retro Campout. It’s an annual gathering hosted by the East Bay Circle of Men that brings the group’s spouses, friends and families together. In the closing circle, Rafi, the vision keeper for the year talked about that role that guys our age have, which is to bring the best of our past forward into the present, and provide a solid foundation for the next generation who we trust to lead into the mystery beyond.
The theme for this year’s camp was “What’s Old is New Again.” inviting analog activities such as archery, polaroid photography, and of course turntables and vinyl records. Definitely my cup of tea, we played novelty records for the kids in the afternoon, inspirational music on Sunday morning along with DJ lessons for the teens, and of course a full-on dance jam after the talent show on Saturday night.
Earlier in the evening, Mo, the organizer, took me aside and asked me if I would like to give a short talk about my philosophy of analog versus digital as part of the talent show before my DJ set. I said sure, and was determined to somehow make it more than a dry intellectual discussion since I would be following a series of animated performances.
When the time came for me to talk, I took the mic in my hand and was blinded by the foot lights, and I flashed back to my days as the frontman for a punk rock band in the early 80s. I asked myself “How can I put as much energy into this as possible?”
So I delivered my story in a wildly gesturing sing-song, more of a stream-of-consciousness rap than a learned lecture. I wanted to get the crux of my teaching out in five minutes or less, and I wanted my presentation to have some punch. I started by hinting at the secret that would come later, that the difference has to do with our heart, and that the electromagnetism of analog is what digital ones and zeros lack.
Then I quickly shared the anecdote about the Mom at my daughter’s circus class and what happened with her son. The week before, I’d told her about why electromagnetic media matters, and how digital sound fails to activate our somatic senses. She came back nodding her head in amazement saying “What have you done to my son?!?” She said her daughter’s 4-year-old brother had undergone a radical transformation.
She said “My son’s never paid much attention to the music coming out of our little wireless Bluetooth speaker streaming from my iPhone. After you told me about the difference in records and magnetic tape, I went down to my basement and found my old boom-box and a basket of cassettes. He’s latched on to my old Raffi tape and is carrying the boom-box around the house playing it over and over and singing along at the top of his lungs!”
With that anecdote setting the tone, I launched into some science, specifically about research by the Heartmath Institute that says that our hearts have 5,000 times more electromagnetic energy than our brains. Then, “Why does this matter?”
It matters because of the way music is recorded. With digital, one second of sound is sliced up into 44,100 snapshots of information, represented on the computer chip as ones and zeroes. It’s decoded as information that our brain has to process before our body can respond, with no electromagnetism involved anywhere along the way.
With vinyl, (and magnetic tape in a slightly different manner), the music is carved in real-time into the master that presses the records by means of a cutting head that holds four magnets, creating a fluid replica of the soundwave in three dimensions.
Then, when the record is played back on the turntable, four tiny magnets behind the needle translate the motion back into an electromagnetic soundwave, an ‘analog’ of the original, that is then amplified and played back through our speakers.
So in a nutshell, the secret of vinyl is that it touches our heart, and since it is pure feeling, rather than information, we have a choice as to whether we need to get our brain involved and think about it at all. Our bodies respond somatically to analog sound because our hearts feel it first. That’s why dancers move differently to vinyl records or live music than they do to digital sound.
I finished by saying that science has a ways to go before this is figured out, but the little boy proves the point that there’s something going on here that’s worth paying attention to. There’s a mysterious element of consciousness and emotion that is somehow transmitted electromagnetically straight to our hearts. I ended my rap with a riff about how when people say that ‘vinyl sounds warmer’ what they are pointing to is the fact that it ‘feels live’. Then I jumped behind the turntables and played an epic set!
In the spirit of ‘what’s old is new again’ I pass along this philosophy to my kids and hope to make some small difference in the world by tackling this topic. Vinyl’s meteoric comeback is old news, yet people still ask me all the time “You mean they’re still making records?” Both of my daughters have turntables and recognize records as the real thing. Every time I talk about it people come forward vowing to pull their old records out of storage or ask me how to get set up with a system. It’s not that hard, and the rewards are well worth it.
For me, one of the important chains from past to future is made of vinyl records and analog sound. And I’m fortunate that Dance Jam, our weekly laboratory in Berkeley is a place where I can share and develop my passion. For you it might be black-and-white film photography, sewing by hand, or your grandma’s recipe book.
Whatever it may be, recognize that you are an important link in the lineage of culture, and that you will always have knowledge, skills, and insight that you can share as a foundation for future generations to build upon, whether they’re in your own family or not.
With love and light till next week! Signing out,
Dance First Media Partner Spotlight – GUITARFISH MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL!
Speaking of live sound and organic audio, have you heard ofGuitarfish? If you love live music, nature, family-friendly camping, and floating on a river, then this is the festival for you!
This is the 8th Annual Edition of this epic high-country gathering happening on the South Fork of the Yuba River at the Cisco Grove Campground. Produced in association with the fine folks who bring you the Joshua Tree Music Festival, Guitarfish is especially focused on live music and organic audio out in nature, in the woods, over a mile-high in elevation!
Live acts include Con Brio, Orgōne, Pimps of Joytime, Dead Winter Carpenters, Dynohunter, Steve Poltz, Afrolicious, Within, Achilles Wheel, Handmade Moments, Royal Jelly Jive, Pamela Parker, Midtown Social, Lost Whiskey Engine, Ideateam, and many more.
With plenty of art, great food, conscious vendors, and cool kids activities, this is the high-country camping and music experience not to be missed! Get your tickets now for this intimate gathering, it will likely sell out so don’t sleep!
Learn more, buy tickets, get involved!
GUITARFISH MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL!
July 26-29, Cisco Grove Campground, CA