It may seem like a strange title for a music blog, but I think it really captures what I’m going for here. Tune out: labels, genre, hype, money, preconceptions and Opt in: to interesting people, fresh sounds and compelling stories. As a journalist, I have covered a wide array of topics within the the NYC jazz community, but I am itching to break out. Don’t get me wrong, jazz in New York is an endlessly fascinating topic, one that I could cover for the rest of my life without ever coming up dry, but I want an outlet to cover anything I find compelling. tuneOUToptIN will focus on, but not be limited to, the coverage of music. I reserve the right to indulge in the occasional political screed, while exploring environmental, cultural, and culinary topics in the pursuit of the gem-like flame — to steal a favorite phrase from Walter Pater — that lies at the heart of all creative endeavors.
Everywhere I turn, it seems, I run into people that amaze me. I came to New York City in 2003 in search of these people, and found them in places I never intended. Foremost among them is my incredible partner Loretta Clayton, who opened up a world of beauty to me in the form of literature and ideas, before finally agreeing to go on a date with me. We’ve been together for almost three years now, and I am a better person for every second we’ve been together. At The New School, I was lucky to study with some of my favorite musicians — Michael Blake, Frank Kimbrough, Gerry Hemingway, Dave Glasser, among many others — and the great music writer Howard Mandel who edited my work, and introduced me to an incredible array of music.
In 2005, I began working for Hawthorne Valley Farm, at the Union Square Greenmarket. There I met people who were passionate about food, culture and the arts, and who turned me on to many of the ideas that now figure prominently into my life. My farmer’s market friends introduced me to the wonders of fermentation, biodynamic farming, homebrewing; they lent me books that changed my life, and radically altered my views on food, a subject I had never given much thought to. Food politics — for lack of a better term — along with agricultural and environmental issues will be recurring topics on this blog, and I hope to feature some of the people who have inspired me over the years.
In his beautiful book Becoming Native To This Place (The University Press of Kentucky, 1994), Wes Jackson wryly criticizes American universities for offering “upward mobility majors,” and suggests a “homecoming major” as a way to counterbalance the trend. “Little attention is paid to educating the young to return home, or to go some other place, and dig in,” he opines. While I’m sure it’s not what Jackson had in mind, I relate to this idea. For me, it took the first formative years in New York, and the incredible people I met, to allow me look at my hometown of Medford, NJ, and the broader world with a fresh perspective. I appreciate my hometown in a new and, I think, deeper way. I’m interested in its history in a way I wasn’t when all I wanted to do was leave for New York, and I have met fascinating people who were there all along, like my good friend Al Celenza. The same perspective has allowed me to look at the broader country and world and know that there is so much out there: so many stories, perspectives and surprises. I’m not sure I can dig in the way Wes Jackson suggests, but I’d like to experience places, people, and music in a way that is deeply committed, and hopefully unconventional.
Tune out, opt in. I think that pretty well sums it up.
Thanks for reading.