I have to tell you the story of how I acquired the Recorder used in this work, because it’s not as simple as going to Best Buy with a credit card.
Three years ago, after graduating college and scratching my bewildered head, I chose to take an adventure. My plan was to load my bike with a tent, sleeping bag and supplies, and head south. After about a week-and-a-half of wandering, I found myself biking down Route 50 about a hundred miles south of Champaign.
Now, it was August and that summer was particularly hot. Accordingly, I needed to stop frequently to replenish my water supply. One evening, I left the road looking for a gas station to get water and stretch my muscles before the nightly ritual of looking for a safe place to pitch my tent.
As I pulled into the parking lot, I spotted a bike that looked exactly like mine: blue road bike. On it were two red panniers filled with supplies, also just like mine. Strapped to the back wheel was a tent and what looked like a guitar. Just then a tall, lanky, bearded twenty-something walked out of the gas station with a big jug of water in his hand. “Holy shit”. I said. “You’re me”.
The young man looked me up and down and said, “You’re right”.
His name was Andrew Schaeff. He had left a few weeks before from a small town in Ohio. His plan was to head west. Like me, he was uncertain where he was going, but certain he had to go.
We decided to camp together at a nearby State Park around Forbes Lake. Schaeff (as he goes by) recommended we do “stealth” camping, which meant not signing in to the official camp site, but crawling into the woods ourselves looking for an adequate spot. There we made a fire and cooked hot dogs bought from a nearby gas station, and got to discussing life, philosophy, and the Beats. At the time, Schaeff was reading Dharma Bums, which was the inspiration for embarking on his journey.
For the next three days, we camped at Forbes Lake, taking journeys during the day to the nearby town of Salem, IL. Salem is the birth place of William Jennings Bryan, for you history nuts out there, the three-time presidential candidate and (in)famous lawyer who attacked evolution in the Scopes Monkey Trial. Schaeff and I found a plaque that called Bryan ‘the Great Commoner’, and I remember trying to argue that the phrase is an oxy-moron. I was reading Nietzsche at the time.
I could write a whole chapter on those three days, but I need to get to point of this tangent: on the third day, as we were about to split our separate ways, Schaeff and I came to an agreement about a certain audio recorder in his possession. You see, the recorder was originally his; he used it to record music. However, at that point in the trip, he was running low on money. I on the other hand wanted the recorder in order to document the next leg of my journey. So he sold it to me, in the woods, beside the lake.
So you see why this little recorder is so cherished. I used it throughout the past few years but have only now begun to really use it. Today’s recording is a song played by me on my tank drum. Explaining what a tank drum is a whole ‘nother tangent but suffice it to say it’s a bell-drum carved out of an old propane tank. Mixed into the song is a recording of cicadas from that summer, two years ago.
The cicadas are long gone, but as we enter spring this week, what better symbol for re-birth? And what better symbol for Rhythm? Rhythm and re-birth. Because the cicadas return every year like clockwork. Because their song is percussive and repetitive. Because every re-generation, they’re eternally the same.
In honor of the mystery that brings the right people together at the right time, tonight’s song is called ‘nameless’.