Thursday, July 30, 2009

Singing Trees

Swinging Trees

Watching trees moving in a summer wind has always had a calming effect on me. Trees often strike me as incredibly effortlessly beautiful, even when relatively still, but their interaction with the kinetic energy of wind I find utterly fascinating. And not in a mental sort of, "I must understand this phenomenon" kind of way. I am truly fascinated, the way a child can be fascinated by something wonderful that it's never seen.

I think it's their utter neutrality that gets me. The way they move and bend and adjust to each movement of air and then are instantly ready for the next. They don't seem to care if anyone is watching or appreciating their beauty. They don't seem to be trying to be "better" trees. They're just expressing their nature, moment by moment, over and over, as long as they live.

I want to sing that way. As I look back, or forward, or directly at my current life, I want to see that I'm singing like those trees are. I want to see that I'm adding my song to the chorus of life on this planet. And not just in my songs themselves, or in the way the music sounds, but also in how I live all the time. I want my body, like those trees, to express my nature and I want to be conscious of this as I live.

In order to sing the way I like to sing, I need to be in a certain state of mind and body, and it's important to me to express and share this state when I sing. It's as important to me as it is to share the music itself. This is one reason why I don't mind it so much if people don't listen to or respond overtly to my music. Even if they're immersed in their real or virtual worlds, and don't really hear or get my songs, I feel that unconsciously their bodies get the message my body and voice are sending.

I think trees have this effect on people too. Even if we aren't aware of them consciously, they have an effect on our bodies. So I want to be like these trees in the wind. I want to sing first and foremost because it's in my nature to sing. And I want to sing the songs that fit that nature best. Seeking unforced balance is in my nature too. My ideal is to express whatever level of unforced balance is emerging in me at any time, but especially when I'm singing.

And then, if people like it, so much the better. I hope, in spite of their supreme detachment, that trees can sense in some way when they are being appreciated. If they do, I feel pretty sure it's not their primary motivation for swinging, or singing, in the wind...

Saturday, July 18, 2009


My New Album

I have a new double CD out, my second double CD of 2009. It's called "Undiscovered" and I'm very happy with it. 28 new songs, with 14 upbeat more topical songs on Part~One, and 14 mellower more personal songs on Part~Two.

Part One of this collection includes the title song "Undiscovered" which many people have told me is the best song I've ever written (whatever that means...), "Smokin' Too Much Weed", "Didgeridon't", "Three Legged Dog", "I Love Other People's Kids", and "Daddy Wants A Touchdown."

Part Two includes "Out Of The Woods", "Look Me Over", "Stoned", "Fifteen Years Ago", "Nothing Beats My Heart" "Look Me Over", and "Beautiful Now."

As usual, all the songs from "Undiscovered" as well as all the songs from 17 other albums are all available for free (otherwise known as donation basis) downloading

The recordings are simple but still costly for me to make, so I truly appreciate any donations that come in. I'm in the middle of year two of a five year experiment to see what comes back when I make it as easy as possible for people to get my music. If you're interested in more about the details of my experiment here's the link to my blog posting about it: What Comes Back?

The Title song "Undiscovered" contains a number of possibly obscure references depending on what you're into. So here are the lyrics with links to explain some of the references:

by Gene Burnett (©2009)
Hey just between us—I’m an undiscovered genius
I’m a flower buried deep under the snow
I would melt if you just saw me—Just a glance would help to thaw me
You could hold me up for all the world to know
I’m Picasso incognito—I’m a thousand petalled lotus
I had a blue period too—But nobody noticed
Until you love me—Right above—Clouds will always hover
Until you sign me I’ll be undiscovered
Like Wilhelm Reich in prison I am trying hard to listen
Like Beethoven I can hardly hear a thing
I am gone like Thomas Pynchon—Me andPavlov’s dog went fishing
Will you ever find my bell and make it ring?
Hey just between us—I’m an undiscovered genius
Your kiss would help to prince me—Your touch would help convince me
I could share my gifts with anyone in need
I am Einstein as file clerk—I’m a not so empty vessel
Got some theories of my own—And one of them is special
Until you tag me—They will pass me—One after another
Until you find me I’ll be undiscovered
Like Bach and God confiding—I am much too good at hiding
I am going to have to leave you little clues
Like a message in skywriting—Like two particles colliding
I will name my latest finding after you
Hey just between us—I’m an undiscovered genius
I am Vincent Van Gogh in the loony bin
Like Gauguin in Tahiti—If you would be my sweetie
I could paint you naked without sin
I am Mozart in a breadline selling song for change
But you can’t hear my magic flute—You are out of range
Until you choose me—Lautrec Toulouse me—I won’t have a lover
Until you try me I’ll be undiscovered
Like Shakespeare in a garret—Mona Lisa grin and bear it
I am dying to unveil my latest truth
And like Jefferson declare it—See the light and MC square it
I am holding out my secret flame for you
Like Dylan in Minnesota—I wait for Luke like Yoda
I am like a needle in a stack of hay
I’m invisible like South Dakota—Waiting ‘til you fill my quota
Then I’m going to see the light of day
Hey just between us—I’m an undiscovered genius
I’m the Beatles waiting for a break
But I could sing my sweetest song—If you would only come along
I am Edison in darkness trying to get a waiter
Billie Holiday and Frank Sinatra stuck in an elevator
I’m the champ of rusted lamps—All I do is suffer
Until you shine me I’ll be undiscovered
Until you love me—Right above—Clouds will always hover
Until you sign me I’ll be undiscovered

Thanks for your support!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Oregon County Fair

Force Less~Flow More

I went up to the Oregon Country Fair this past Sunday and had a very interesting and good time. First of all, I went up with my friend and student Neil and his brother Allan and we had truly great "travel karma." We left Ashland at 6:00am, got to Eugene at 9:30am and parked about 100 feet from our bus out to the fair. We were on the first bus and were the first in line to go in at 11:00am. We were given a piece of chalk by one of the staffers and told that we could choose the greeting that people would see on this little blackboard at the entry gate. After careful consideration we came up with "Force Less~Flow More", which turned out to be a good theme for the day as it was very rainy, slippery and muddy all day!

We headed for the main stage to catch this awesome band called Paper Bird. It had been looking like it would be a rainy day and sure enough by the time we got to the stage it was more or less pouring with lightning and thunder to boot. As soon as we arrived we found this little strip of dry ground beside this fence and promptly grabbed it. We knew we'd end up wet but we didn't want to start the day that way! What I could hear of the band I liked a lot. Very tight with unusual arrangements. After hanging there for a while we decided that it was time to brave the storm, leave our cherished spot, and go catch my friend Jim Page.

When we got to his stage, I had to smile. Here was Jim playing on a stage with about 25 people up there with him. He'd invited the audience to come up on stage with him where it was dry! Jim has folk roots that seem to go to the center of the earth and there was no way he was going to be dry while his audience got soaked. After awhile, I ended up up there too! It was great hearing my old Seattle friend again and it was nice to be dry while I did it! Jim was the only performer I saw who invited his audience to share the dryness of the stage.

Then my friends and I went our separate ways for awhile. The thing that I found fascinating was to watch how people dealt with the mud. It was nearly everywhere. Every path to every place was a slippery, muddy mess. I teach T'ai-Chi for a living, which is basically learning to keep your balance in various training environments, and here I was, watching thousands of people trying to do just that. I've never watched so many people working on keeping their balance for eight straight hours. Most people hardly ever challenge their physical balance so this was really interesting to me. Everyone had their own approach and style.

At first I tried to walk where I could keep my feet out of the mud, but after about 20 minutes I realized that if I did this all day, I'd have no fun and all I'd really see of the fair was my own feet! Plus, if I worked so hard at keeping my feet clean, it meant staying at the edges of the pathways and limiting severely where I could step, both of which, in my mind, actually increased my chances of taking the dreaded huge fall right into the mud.

So, I decided to lower the bar and play a different game. I decided that it was fine to get my feet covered with mud up to the ankle but I'd try not to get it all over my pants and I'd certainly try not to take the big fall. Once I did this, everything became like T'ai-Chi. I was slipping and sliding, walking right down the middle of the paths, through puddles, on the edges, anywhere I felt like walking. I used every one of my T'ai-Chi leg muscles and skills, succeeded in enjoying the challenge, and I never took a big fall. I came close a couple of times when I really pushed the edge, but both times I saved myself with a well placed hand of the ground. (Once I even got some applause and appreciative comments!)

I sat when I could on a bench, drank Chai from my thermos, people watched and caught a few more acts, most notably Raina Rose who I really liked a lot. She really had something going on even though it was pouring her crowd was not large. At one point she sang the line "As a storm rolled in" and thunder sounded just as she said the word storm. The look on her face was priceless.

I felt sorry for the bands and vendors who didn't get the money or exposure they may have hoped for, but I didn't see anyone feeling sorry for themselves. Everyone I saw was not just making the best of it, they were enjoying making the best of it!

After a whole day of "surfing" the mud, we were ready to head home. We met at the gate, got on the first bus to downtown Eugene, didn't have to stand, walked the 100 feet to Neil's trusty vehicle and we were back on the road to Ashland. We had managed to enjoy what could have been an awful day by joining the die-hards, embracing the mud, and mostly by living by our motto: "Force Less~Flow More".

Monday, July 6, 2009

Cicadas Emerging!

Little Miracles

All my life I've seen little brown cicada shells in the early summer clinging to branches, trees or bushes. My father was a biologist and when I was a kid I had quite the insect collection. Occasionally, I would find a dead adult cicada (sometimes called "locusts") but I never say an adult until fairly recently. When we lived in Iowa back in 1997 or 1998 there was a hatching of 17 year cicadas and then they were everywhere, you couldn't miss them. Their life cycle is fascinating. Here's the wikipedia link if you are interested:

Basically, they live under ground all winter, sucking sap from the roots of trees. Then in early summer they crawl up the tree and "hatch" into adults who fly away, mate, lay eggs and the whole thing continues. You can hear them in the trees, they sound kind of like a whirring sprinkler system.

Anyway, all I ever saw was the shells and the occasional adult. There's a tree outside our apartment that always has a bunch of the shells on it in July. So this year, like most years, I hoped to actually see the emerging cicadas. Instead of forgetting all about it until it was too late, I was returning home from a late dinner out with friends and I remembered to check the tree. And there they were in various stages of emerging!

What you see here are some pictures I took over two nights that capture some of the process. The little nymph thing crawls up the tree (they're actually pretty fast!) and finds the right "spot." Once they find the spot, they split open and the winged version starts to push its way out. As they emerge they arch way back. It looks like they'll fall but somehow they don't. I think they arch back this far to free up their legs which then reach forward and grab to the shell. Once they do that they begin to expand and pump up the wings. I think they actually pump liquid into the veins on the wings. The wings expand until they are full. The veins are actually a very light yellow green color at this point and the entire cicada, normally a tough as nails little bugger, is very soft and vulnerable. The wings harden, the veins turn much darker and away they go!

So finally, after decades of wondering how they do it, I got to see it for myself. Nature is amazing. This little miracle has happened, like so many others, right under my nose all my life and I'm just now seeing it. I could live to be ten thousand years old and not run out of things like this to find out about.