Bit by a Musical “Bug”

I nearly got rid of this musical companion in 2011. Pictured here in a photo shoot for its Craigslist ad.

Where were you on October 6, 2018, as Brett Kavanaugh was confirmed to the U.S. Supreme Court by the Senate?

I was at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, singing along with Ani Difranco‘s timely punch back toward our patriarchal system. I was also sitting in a bushy area that would give me a tick bite to plague my next six months. I was also experiencing the beginning of a bad concussion (from hitting my head on my apartment ceiling twice hard) and thoroughly questioning my life.

Human services had been the focus of my career for about a decade. I’d secured a Master of Social Work degree the year before, focused on community systems. I’d next moved to Northern California and was working on a peace-related community organization project. I care about peace very much, but I felt like I was fighting against the grain. I’d always loved creating music, but I had long been holding it to the side of my life.

Following that fall day at Hardly Strictly, months of a concussion and infected tick bite symptoms transpired. With this sickness, it was hard to focus on computer work, logistics, and driving in the peace organizing work I’d been doing. I got headaches easily; simple things made symptoms worse.

However, I wrote songs at a fast pace. I meditated to make sense of this time. I aborted my focus on my human services profession and began a dive into sharing music as a way of interacting with life. I focused energy on this desire I had set to the side for years.

Significant support from people dear to me made my transition easier. The past year, I have picked up the pace on musical writing, practicing, performing, identifying my musical goals, and finding my way in music business. I have experienced internal wind in my sails. I look forward to embarking on a tour late this fall.

I’m encouraged remembering other musicians – I’m thinking of Kate Rhudy, Lucy Wainwright Roche, and Joe Pug – who at some point chose to set another goal to the side: creating music is now the direction for each of them. I share my own story in case it has any wisdom in it for you . . . in case you some time feel called to change directions, and turn so you can feel the wind in your sails.

C

Seeking Percussive Possibilities

I’m preparing for a tour starting this late fall. I’m recording for my CSA program. I’m lacking tools to emphasize and play with rhythm, noisemakers and accentuators. I could duct tape my own bottles of rice, staple plates of beans, and decorate them “funky” and “fun,” but that sounds like lonely business to me.

A more personal approach: Send me some of yours? Dusty shakers you have lying around, clickers made of spoons, or any bright, small, and shaky idea that comes to your mind to contribute to my budding plans for a tour. I’ll delightedly bring them with me on stage. For me, small would be a bit better!

Til October 28, 2019, I’m at P.O. Box 1785, Mackinac Island, MI 49757. Beyond that please write clairebatesmusic@gmail.com to find out where to send things.

C

What are the Grand Hotel Garden Recordings?

The Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, Michigan, symbolizes inequality. One of the island’s largest employers, most of its workers come to the U.S. on work-related visas to help their families survive. It blows my mind to imagine the difference between the lives of those who spend hundreds of dollars each night per person to stay here, the people who work to keep it running, and their family members around the globe.

Working on Mackinac myself, I snuck into the cool, lush garden of the Grand Hotel to record songs, mostly songs about hard times. Boat horns and pressure to finish measures quickly in order to shoo mosquitoes color these recordings. The environment speaks to me about persisting inequality in the arrangement of our world.

My Grand Hotel Garden Recordings include:

Where I Am: Mackinac Island, MI

This summer I returned to Mackinac Island, MI, working for the state park and focusing on the side on song. I visited here when a child and worked here for a summer when I was 19.

Where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron connect, the Straits of Mackinac feel wide open, and they hold history, from indigenous sacred usage and military conflict and takeovers to the annual policy conferences held here today. Today, this tourist destination showcases seething and converging consumerism, militarism, and nationalism colliding with immigration, racism, and rural poverty. Here I am with my heart open . . . grateful for the constant birdsong, bright yellow snails, trillium, and earth inhabiting this island as well.

C

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