Written by Carl Sagan in his mid-thirties, this essay was published in 1971 for in Marihuana Reconsidered. Sagan continued partaking in cannabis use for the rest of his life.
It all began about ten years ago. I had reached a considerably more relaxed period in my life – a time when I had come to feel that there was more to living than science, a time of awakening of my social consciousness and amiability, a time when I was open to new experiences. I had become friendly with a group of people who occasionally smoked cannabis, irregularly, but with evident pleasure. Initially I was unwilling to partake, but the apparent euphoria that cannabis produced and the fact that there was no physiological addiction to the plant eventually persuaded me to try. My initial experiences were entirely disappointing; there was no effect at all, and I began to entertain a variety of hypotheses about cannabis being a placebo which worked by expectation and hyperventilation rather than by chemistry. After about five or six unsuccessful attempts, however, it happened. I was lying on my back in a friend’s living room idly examining the pattern of shadows on the ceiling cast by a potted plant (not cannabis!). I suddenly realized that I was examining an intricately detailed miniature Volkswagen, distinctly outlined by the shadows. I was very skeptical at this perception, and tried to find inconsistencies between Volkswagens and what I viewed on the ceiling. But it was all there, down to hubcaps, license plate, chrome, and even the small handle used for opening the trunk. When I closed my eyes, I was stunned to find that there was a movie going on the inside of my eyelids. Flash . . . a simple country scene with red farmhouse, a blue sky, white clouds, yellow path meandering over green hills to the horizon. . . Flash . . . same scene, orange house, brown sky, red clouds, yellow path, violet fields . . . Flash . . . Flash . . . Flash. The flashes came about once a heartbeat. Each flash brought the same simple scene into view, but each time with a different set of colors . . . exquisitely deep hues, and astonishingly harmonious in their juxtaposition. Since then I have smoked occasionally and enjoyed it thoroughly. It amplifies torpid sensibilities and produces what to me are even more interesting effects, as I will explain shortly.
I can remember another early visual experience with cannabis, in which I viewed a candle flame and discovered in the heart of the flame, standing with magnificent indifference, the black-hatted and -cloaked Spanish gentleman who appears on the label of the Sandeman sherry bottle. Looking at fires when high, by the way, especially through one of those prism kaleidoscopes which image their surroundings, is an extraordinarily moving and beautiful experience.
I want to explain that at no time did I think these things ‘really’ were out there. I knew there was no Volkswagen on the ceiling and there was no Sandeman salamander man in the flame. I don’t feel any contradiction in these experiences. There’s a part of me making, creating the perceptions which in everyday life would be bizarre; there’s another part of me which is a kind of observer. About half of the pleasure comes from the observer-part appreciating the work of the creator-part. I smile, or sometimes even laugh out loud at the pictures on the insides of my eyelids. In this sense, I suppose cannabis is psychotomimetic, but I find none of the panic or terror that accompanies some psychoses. Possibly this is because I know it’s my own trip, and that I can come down rapidly any time I want to.
While my early perceptions were all visual, and curiously lacking in images of human beings, both of these items have changed over the intervening years. I find that today a single joint is enough to get me high. I test whether I’m high by closing my eyes and looking for the flashes. They come long before there are any alterations in my visual or other perceptions. I would guess this is a signal-to-noise problem, the visual noise level being very low with my eyes closed. Another interesting information-theoretical aspects is the prevalence – at least in my flashed images – of cartoons: just the outlines of figures, caricatures, not photographs. I think this is simply a matter of information compression; it would be impossible to grasp the total content of an image with the information content of an ordinary photograph, say 108 bits, in the fraction of a second which a flash occupies. And the flash experience is designed, if I may use that word, for instant appreciation. The artist and viewer are one. This is not to say that the images are not marvelously detailed and complex. I recently had an image in which two people were talking, and the words they were saying would form and disappear in yellow above their heads, at about a sentence per heartbeat. In this way it was possible to follow the conversation. At the same time an occasional word would appear in red letters among the yellows above their heads, perfectly in context with the conversation; but if one remembered these red words, they would enunciate a quite different set of statements, penetratingly critical of the conversation. The entire image set which I’ve outlined here, with I would say at least 100 yellow words and something like 10 red words, occurred in something under a minute.
The cannabis experience has greatly improved my appreciation for art, a subject which I had never much appreciated before. The understanding of the intent of the artist which I can achieve when high sometimes carries over to when I’m down. This is one of many human frontiers which cannabis has helped me traverse. There also have been some art-related insights – I don’t know whether they are true or false, but they were fun to formulate. For example, I have spent some time high looking at the work of the Belgian surrealist Yves Tanguey. Some years later, I emerged from a long swim in the Caribbean and sank exhausted onto a beach formed from the erosion of a nearby coral reef. In idly examining the arcuate pastel-colored coral fragments which made up the beach, I saw before me a vast Tanguey painting. Perhaps Tanguey visited such a beach in his childhood.
A very similar improvement in my appreciation of music has occurred with cannabis. For the first time I have been able to hear the separate parts of a three-part harmony and the richness of the counterpoint. I have since discovered that professional musicians can quite easily keep many separate parts going simultaneously in their heads, but this was the first time for me. Again, the learning experience when high has at least to some extent carried over when I’m down. The enjoyment of food is amplified; tastes and aromas emerge that for some reason we ordinarily seem to be too busy to notice. I am able to give my full attention to the sensation. A potato will have a texture, a body, and taste like that of other potatoes, but much more so. Cannabis also enhances the enjoyment of sex – on the one hand it gives an exquisite sensitivity, but on the other hand it postpones orgasm: in part by distracting me with the profusion of image passing before my eyes. The actual duration of orgasm seems to lengthen greatly, but this may be the usual experience of time expansion which comes with cannabis smoking.
I do not consider myself a religious person in the usual sense, but there is a religious aspect to some highs. The heightened sensitivity in all areas gives me a feeling of communion with my surroundings, both animate and inanimate. Sometimes a kind of existential perception of the absurd comes over me and I see with awful certainty the hypocrisies and posturing of myself and my fellow men. And at other times, there is a different sense of the absurd, a playful and whimsical awareness. Both of these senses of the absurd can be communicated, and some of the most rewarding highs I’ve had have been in sharing talk and perceptions and humor. Cannabis brings us an awareness that we spend a lifetime being trained to overlook and forget and put out of our minds. A sense of what the world is really like can be maddening; cannabis has brought me some feelings for what it is like to be crazy, and how we use that word ‘crazy’ to avoid thinking about things that are too painful for us. In the Soviet Union political dissidents are routinely placed in insane asylums. The same kind of thing, a little more subtle perhaps, occurs here: ‘did you hear what Lenny Bruce said yesterday? He must be crazy.’ When high on cannabis I discovered that there’s somebody inside in those people we call mad.
When I’m high I can penetrate into the past, recall childhood memories, friends, relatives, playthings, streets, smells, sounds, and tastes from a vanished era. I can reconstruct the actual occurrences in childhood events only half understood at the time. Many but not all my cannabis trips have somewhere in them a symbolism significant to me which I won’t attempt to describe here, a kind of mandala embossed on the high. Free-associating to this mandala, both visually and as plays on words, has produced a very rich array of insights.
There is a myth about such highs: the user has an illusion of great insight, but it does not survive scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that this is an error, and that the devastating insights achieved when high are real insights; the main problem is putting these insights in a form acceptable to the quite different self that we are when we’re down the next day. Some of the hardest work I’ve ever done has been to put such insights down on tape or in writing. The problem is that ten even more interesting ideas or images have to be lost in the effort of recording one. It is easy to understand why someone might think it’s a waste of effort going to all that trouble to set the thought down, a kind of intrusion of the Protestant Ethic. But since I live almost all my life down I’ve made the effort – successfully, I think. Incidentally, I find that reasonably good insights can be remembered the next day, but only if some effort has been made to set them down another way. If I write the insight down or tell it to someone, then I can remember it with no assistance the following morning; but if I merely say to myself that I must make an effort to remember, I never do.
I find that most of the insights I achieve when high are into social issues, an area of creative scholarship very different from the one I am generally known for. I can remember one occasion, taking a shower with my wife while high, in which I had an idea on the origins and invalidities of racism in terms of gaussian distribution curves. It was a point obvious in a way, but rarely talked about. I drew the curves in soap on the shower wall, and went to write the idea down. One idea led to another, and at the end of about an hour of extremely hard work I found I had written eleven short essays on a wide range of social, political, philosophical, and human biological topics. Because of problems of space, I can’t go into the details of these essays, but from all external signs, such as public reactions and expert commentary, they seem to contain valid insights. I have used them in university commencement addresses, public lectures, and in my books.
But let me try to at least give the flavor of such an insight and its accompaniments. One night, high on cannabis, I was delving into my childhood, a little self-analysis, and making what seemed to me to be very good progress. I then paused and thought how extraordinary it was that Sigmund Freud, with no assistance from drugs, had been able to achieve his own remarkable self-analysis. But then it hit me like a thunderclap that this was wrong, that Freud had spent the decade before his self-analysis as an experimenter with and a proselytizer for cocaine; and it seemed to me very apparent that the genuine psychological insights that Freud brought to the world were at least in part derived from his drug experience. I have no idea whether this is in fact true, or whether the historians of Freud would agree with this interpretation, or even if such an idea has been published in the past, but it is an interesting hypothesis and one which passes first scrutiny in the world of the downs.
I can remember the night that I suddenly realized what it was like to be crazy, or nights when my feelings and perceptions were of a religious nature. I had a very accurate sense that these feelings and perceptions, written down casually, would not stand the usual critical scrutiny that is my stock in trade as a scientist. If I find in the morning a message from myself the night before informing me that there is a world around us which we barely sense, or that we can become one with the universe, or even that certain politicians are desperately frightened men, I may tend to disbelieve; but when I’m high I know about this disbelief. And so I have a tape in which I exhort myself to take such remarks seriously. I say ‘Listen closely, you sonofabitch of the morning! This stuff is real!’ I try to show that my mind is working clearly; I recall the name of a high school acquaintance I have not thought of in thirty years; I describe the color, typography, and format of a book in another room and these memories do pass critical scrutiny in the morning. I am convinced that there are genuine and valid levels of perception available with cannabis (and probably with other drugs) which are, through the defects of our society and our educational system, unavailable to us without such drugs. Such a remark applies not only to self-awareness and to intellectual pursuits, but also to perceptions of real people, a vastly enhanced sensitivity to facial expression, intonations, and choice of words which sometimes yields a rapport so close it’s as if two people are reading each other’s minds.
Cannabis enables nonmusicians to know a little about what it is like to be a musician, and nonartists to grasp the joys of art. But I am neither an artist nor a musician. What about my own scientific work? While I find a curious disinclination to think of my professional concerns when high – the attractive intellectual adventures always seem to be in every other area – I have made a conscious effort to think of a few particularly difficult current problems in my field when high. It works, at least to a degree. I find I can bring to bear, for example, a range of relevant experimental facts which appear to be mutually inconsistent. So far, so good. At least the recall works. Then in trying to conceive of a way of reconciling the disparate facts, I was able to come up with a very bizarre possibility, one that I’m sure I would never have thought of down. I’ve written a paper which mentions this idea in passing. I think it’s very unlikely to be true, but it has consequences which are experimentally testable, which is the hallmark of an acceptable theory.
I have mentioned that in the cannabis experience there is a part of your mind that remains a dispassionate observer, who is able to take you down in a hurry if need be. I have on a few occasions been forced to drive in heavy traffic when high. I’ve negotiated it with no difficult at all, though I did have some thoughts about the marvelous cherry-red color of traffic lights. I find that after the drive I’m not high at all. There are no flashes on the insides of my eyelids. If you’re high and your child is calling, you can respond about as capably as you usually do. I don’t advocate driving when high on cannabis, but I can tell you from personal experience that it certainly can be done. My high is always reflective, peaceable, intellectually exciting, and sociable, unlike most alcohol highs, and there is never a hangover. Through the years I find that slightly smaller amounts of cannabis suffice to produce the same degree of high, and in one movie theater recently I found I could get high just by inhaling the cannabis smoke which permeated the theater.
There is a very nice self-titering aspect to cannabis. Each puff is a very small dose; the time lag between inhaling a puff and sensing its effect is small; and there is no desire for more after the high is there. I think the ratio, R, of the time to sense the dose taken to the time required to take an excessive dose is an important quantity. R is very large for LSD (which I’ve never taken) and reasonably short for cannabis. Small values of R should be one measure of the safety of psychedelic drugs. When cannabis is legalized, I hope to see this ratio as one of he parameters printed on the pack. I hope that time isn’t too distant; the illegality of cannabis is outrageous, an impediment to full utilization of a drug which helps produce the serenity and insight, sensitivity and fellowship so desperately needed in this increasingly mad and dangerous world.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.”
During these crazy political times, I have made a solid effort to learn as much as I can from the Far Right, whether they call themselves Fascists, Neo-Nazis, Alt-Right, Identitarian, White Nationalists, whatever ridiculous term they come up with, etc. I wanted to make sure that if I ever crossed one of these individuals on the street, I would know them by face and I would have a full understanding of their ideology. We have to be as responsible as possible when facing a foe this dangerous.
We need to educate ourselves and be as smart as possible while we find ourselves in this insane intellectual battlefield. Now, I personally am not going to share any of the sites that I have been thoroughly for the past 2 years, as I do not want to give any of these evil people any online traction. I do encourage everyone to learn as much as possible about these people so we can crush their insane ideology once and for all.
This is an assortment of videos about some incredible men, all former Nazis, who have been crusading against this insane subgroup that is now directly in our White House. Listen to each one of them: they have been down the darkness and have real tools on how to defeat radical Nationalism. I understand these videos can be tough to watch for many. Know your enemy.
I am not a professional writer, musicologist, journalist, etc. nor do I possess any other academic title that would make me an authority on this topic. There are definitely going to be type-o's and grammatical issues. Due to the recent reaction of Kendrick Lamar winning the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his album “Damn”, I felt obligated to voice some opinions on the topic, as I have many.
Who I am:
I am a composer and improvising pianist living in New York City. The majority of my work focuses on social injustices, psychology, worker’s rights, poverty rights, and anti-authoritarianism. I am a white, straight, cisgender man. I come from a lower middle class family from Ohio from a conservative part of the country. Most of my family and hometown friends identify as conservative. Politically, I identify as a libertarian socialist and social activist, though I try to vote as responsibly as possible for the greater good. Philosophically, I combine elements of Utilitarianism, Existentialism, and Secular Humanism to attempt to make the best decisions in life. I am a 9-year US ARMY veteran, though I have never seen combat. I am currently a full time student at Montclair State University studying Music Therapy, with a focus on veterans, incarcerated populations, and end of life care.
Now you have a basic idea of where my positions come from.
A Brief (Incomplete) History of Hip Hop:
Hip hop started as a social movement and art revolution in the Bronx in New York City during the late 1960s. The “Founder/Father of Hip-Hop” DJ Kool Herc (Clive Campbell) is notable for hosting peaceful block parties as a reaction to the violent gang culture taking place in the neighborhood. Using the two turntable framework of disco DJs, Herc would use two copies of the same record, often hard funk, to elongate sections of beats, enhancing the atmosphere of festivity and community building, while also creating a stimulating moment of ecstasy when he would change to new pieces of music. The artistry came from his ability to move from one record to the other with seemingly no tempo change and no deviation from the sound, as well as more experimental elements, such as scratching and ‘chopped and screwed’. Herc began exploring record shops to find more and more obscure albums to utilize in his performances. He also included toasting, an Jamaican tradition of boastfully speaking in rhythm about fables of fearlessness, at his parties, though Herc denies this connection to his Jamaican herritage. His style caught on to other early hip hop legends Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Afrika Bambaataa and the Zulu Nation, The Sugarhill Gang, etc.
The 1980’s (Golden Age hip hop) saw a growth in popularity through radio play and television. It was an era of abundant diversity, quality, invention and impact after the genre's founding and development in the preceding two decades. Notable artists include (my favorites*) *Eric B. & Rakim, *KRS-One, *Public Enemy, A Tribe Called Quest, LL Cool J, Run-D.M.C., Beastie Boys, De La Soul, Big Daddy Kane, EPMD, Slick Rick, as well as Gangsta Rap pioneers Ice-T and N.W.A.
Tom Terrell of NPR called Eric B. and Rakim "the most influential DJ/MC combo in contemporary pop music period." Rakim’s rapping deviated from the simple rhythm patterns of his predecessors as he ignored the bar lines, earning him comparisons to pianist Thelonious Monk. Rakim innovated rapping by inventive use of internal rhymes and multisyllabic rhymes while Eric B. produced stark, dense beats, beginning the use substantial sampling in hip hop records.
KRS-One pioneered both gangsta rap and conscious rap, telling lifelike accounts of street life and providing spiritual guidance for spiritually burdened people, earning him the nickname “The Teacha”. He created The Temple of Hip Hops, a ministry, archive, School, and Society (M.A.S.S.) with the goal of preserving and fostering “Hiphop Kulture”. The Temple inspires DJs and MCs to educate people on the philosophy of Hiphop, to create socially conscious songs, and for media outlets to play more socially conscious hip hop. KRS-One started the Stop the Violence Movement and wrote the book The Gospel of Hip Hop.
KRS-ONE breaks down the 9 elements (with the first four being the 4 pillars) of Hip Hop as:
Public Enemy influenced the hip-hop sound through auditory innovation and experimentation, diplomatic political and cultural mindfulness, all pervaded with expert, poetic rhymes. Music journalist Stephen Thomas Erlewine wrote "Public Enemy brought in elements of free jazz, hard funk, even musique concrète, via their producing team the Bomb Squad, creating a dense, ferocious sound unlike anything that came before."
Gangsta rap is a subgenre of hip-hop, distinguished for its sagas of criminal life and deviant behavior. Gangsta Rap parallels other crime-oriented music like Outlaw Country (Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson) and Narcocorrido (Cartel Mariachi), though it has received much more controversy and has received many accusations of inspiring acts of violence. Initially known as “street hip hop”, this genre was pioneered by artists such as Ice-T and N.W.A.
"Many black rappers—including Ice-T and Sister Souljah—contend that they are being unfairly singled out because their music reflects deep changes in society not being addressed anywhere else in the public forum. The white politicians, the artists complain, neither understand the music nor desire to hear what's going on in the devastated communities that gave birth to the art form," wrote journalist Chuck Philips. "The reason why rap is under attack is because it exposes all the contradictions of American culture ...What started out as an underground art form has become a vehicle to expose a lot of critical issues that are not usually discussed in American politics. The problem here is that the White House and wanna-bes like Bill Clinton represent a political system that never intends to deal with inner city urban chaos," Sister Souljah told Philips.
My personal reaction to the phenomenon of gansta rap is this. The initial artists who came out were telling authentic stories of the hardships street life. Due to the success of N.W.A.’s “Straight Outta Compton” in white suburban communities (for shock value elements), the genre became one of the most lucrative forms of hip hop, causing more and more ‘gangsta’ rappers to emerge. Though some of the music is incredible and many of the artists are genuine, I think that this genre has caused much of the negativity directed at hip hop culture. Spike Lee criticized the genre as equivalent to black minstrel shows and blackface performances. This is yet another example of how the system, greedy for money, took advantage of disenfranchised people, and made money off of their misfortunes, while also creating a negative effect in the oppressed community.
To complete this portion of the article (as there is so much more to talk about), the genre/culture has continued to grow with many groundbreaking artists such as mainstream acts 2Pac, Biggie Smalls, Nas, Snoop Dogg, Wu-Tang Clan (my personal favorite), Lauryn Hill, Eminem, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z, Missy Elliott, Ice Cube, Queen Latifah, B-Real, Zack de la Rocha, etc., as well as underground innovators like MF Doom, Killer Mike, B. Dolan, Immortal Technique, Dead Prez, Brother Ali, El-P, Pumpkinhead, Mos Def, and Talib Kweli. It has even been recognized (FINALLY!) by the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music with Kendrick Lamar’s “Damn”.
Again, I am not a professional writer or scholar. I am simply an artist who is intensely passionate about this music and this culture. I am sure there are gigantic holes in this article.
Here is a short video describing the music theory behind rapping.
And here is a short video on Ice-T’s “The Art Of Rap".
My Personal History With Hip Hop:
In 2009, I secretly dropped out of school without telling my family or friends. I was attending Kent State University for Music Composition and felt overwhelmed by the academic environment. My grades were dropping, I was losing focus on my work, so without telling anyone, I lied that I had graduated and dropped out.
After this, I made two drastic decisions that changed my life forever. I joined the US Army National Guard to join the band, and I moved to New York City to pursue a career as a composer and pianist.
I had always been interested in a large variety of music, starting with Late Romantic works by Rachmanninov and Scriabin, to 20th Century repertoire by Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Cage, Reich, Ligeti, etc. I also was engrossed in metal music, whether it be Slayer, Meshuggah, Pantera, Rage Against the Machine, etc. In college at KSU, I was introduced to jazz music, and began going to sessions to improvise with fellow musicians, and learning each time something about the history, something about myself, and something about music communication. I have always had a decent amount of technique on the piano and I had strong ears, though my reading has never been very good. After some time at these sessions, I began to realize my playing, though technically okay, was not making the same impact as many of my African American friends, even though we were, theoretically, playing the same tunes and the same collection of notes. I asked one of my friends what I was doing wrong and he responded with “you don’t have any swag.”
No one had ever been this blunt with me before, so I continued to ask what I could do to improve this. He said “you need to listen to violent, violent ass hip hop. You’re trying to relate to a culture that’s 40 years old and you don’t even know what the culture is producing now.”
And that was it. I began to intensely listen to hip hop music.
I began by listening to Eminem, mostly because he was a well-respected artist by others in the hip-hop community, but he also spoke more closely to my vernacular than others (me being a white man from Canton, Ohio and him being a white man from Detroit, Michigan). I utilized his music to learn about the concepts of "content" (what is being said), "flow" (rhythm, rhyme), and "delivery" (cadence, tone). After I became familiar with these concepts, I began listening to more artists. I went through 2Pac, Biggie Smalls, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and eventually landed on the Wu-Tang Clan. This was the group ‘opened my eyes’. Not only was Wu-Tang musically gifted (I consider RZA and GZA to be musical and philosophical geniuses equivalent to Mozart, Beethoven, Russell, and Confucius), but also the message of the music began to stick with me. This was the first time I truly began to empathize with the life of African American people in the United States. I had never considered that being a different skin color or growing up in a different culture/location could have such drastically different results on ones life outcome.
This is what White Privilege is.
It was not that I had more financial gains than most people (believe me. I still am on the bottom of the economic scale in our country, maybe 2 points above total poverty), but it is that I literally can walk into a store and not worried about being followed by a store manager to make sure I’m not stealing anything. It is that I don’t have to worry about sitting on a park bench at night, minding my own business, and not have the police called on me.
White Privilege has nothing to do with hate towards another person. It has to do with systemic advantages. This is one of the many lessons I learned from the Wu-Tang Clan.
I joined the Army on January 29, 2009 and shipped off to Basic Combat Training (Boot Camp) on May 26, 2009. My bunkmate was a Mexican American man from San Antonio, Texas. He had been involved in street gang activities, mostly due to the influence of his cousins, before joining the military. Our first conversation was when the Drill Sergeant was at the other side of the room screaming at some people, he leaned in to me and said, “I’ve never been around this many white people before”, and I responded with “I’ve never NOT been around this many white people before.” We silently laughed and became immediate friends. Not only did I enjoy his company because of his sense of humor, but I during our bathroom cleaning sessions, I began to realize how intelligent he was. He was well read; he had vast knowledge about subjects from science and the cosmos, to various forms of philosophy, to stand up comedians, to musical taste, etc. The biggest eye-opener for me was the realization that if I had been in his exact circumstance, I would have easily joined a gang. It was protection, community, and family, as well as a money making endeavor. My white suburban Ohioan concept of a ‘gangbanger’ was forever destroyed.
Musically, when I had been immersed in hip-hop music for approximately three years, I began thinking of my piano solos as MC verses. I stopped concentrating on harmonic language and began imagining storytelling instead. The jam session scene definitely noticed the change. My piano playing grew in virtuosity and direction, eventually leading me to playing Buddy “The World’s Greatest Piano Player” in Trystero’s interpretation of Robert Ashley’s opera-for-television “Perfect Lives”. My life as a dance accompanist grew, as I began playing classes for the Martha Graham Dance Company, Doug Varone and Dancers, the Juilliard School, Barnard College of Columbia University, New York University, American Ballet Theatre, and many others. My compositions began to experience a different rhythmic vocabulary and a more focused comprehensive sociopolitical message.
Philosophically, I began feeling music as a universal practice. Lyrics and choreography were just as much a part of music as rhythm, harmony, melody, and timbre.
This all comes directly from hip hop music and culture.
In 1952, John Cage wrote 4’33”, what many consider, myself included, a masterpiece of innovation. The idea that any sound can be faced and that any idea is valid has had a profound effect on the composer community. The idea of the piece asks one fundamental question… What is music?
Kendrick Lamar won the 2018 Pulitzer Prize for Music. This is amazing. It is challenging people’s concepts on what is serious music vs what is pop music. It is bringing hip-hop to an acutely significant platform. To be 100% honest, I don’t consider “Damn” to be Lamar’s best work (see “To Pimp A Butterfly”), nor do I consider “Damn” to be the best example of hip-hop in 2017 (see Binary Star “Water World 3/anything by Killer Mike). However, I do consider Lamar to be a musical mastermind and completely deserving of an award like the Pulitzer. Check yourself. If you are mad about the results of this competition, ask yourself “why?”. This is the exact situation John Cage would have dreamed to witness; in addition to the importance of the social indications this is displaying to us. Please, don’t be the stereotypical response we all knew would take place when an artist like Kendrick would win an award like this. Celebrate that a 30-year-old African American artist is finally getting the recognition we should have bestowed on artists like Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, Billie Holiday, and Louis Armstrong, years ago. Look at how the country treated Jesse Owens after winning four Olympic gold medals in 1936 Berlin. Look at how African American soldiers were treated after fighting Nazis in WWII. Realize that you know people who, at one point in their lives, were not allowed to drink out of the same drinking fountain or use the same bathroom as people of a different skin color.
Grow up and get over your own ego. Times are changing for the better. Be a part of the solution, not the backwards ass problem.
“If you say 2+2=5 with enough conviction, eventually people will just sort of go with it.”
-George Orwell, 1984
"You're saying it's a falsehood and Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”
“It’s a slippery slope from ‘knowledge is bad’ to ‘let’s burn books and also people.”
-Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
“We did it! Thank you to all of my great supporters, we just officially won the election (despite all of the distorted and inaccurate media.)”
“We are just one failed uprising away from watching kids get fireballs thrown at them on live TV.”
-Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games
“Left to their own devices, schoolboys will eventually begin hunting each other for sport.”
-William Golding, Lord of the Flies
"I was sitting at the table, we had finished dinner. We’re now having dessert—and we had the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake that you've ever seen—and President Xi was enjoying it."
“One minute we’ll be mastering interplanetary space travel, the next we’ll be training children to fight aliens.”
-Orson Scott Card, Ender’s Game
"My administration is committed to advancing scientific research that leads to a better understanding of our environment and of environmental risks. As we do so, we should remember that rigorous science depends not on ideology, but on a spirit of honest inquiry and robust debate.”
“If a theocratic military dictatorship takes over and you don’t have the good sense to be male, well, yikes.”
-Margaret Atwood, The Handmaid’s Tale
“Many young men find many young women to be attractive sexually. Many young women find many young men to be attractive sexually. Put them together, in close quarters, for long periods of time, and things will get interesting … Moral of story: women in military, bad idea.”
In the rare, but possible chance that I am murdered tonight for exercising my right to free speech by a group of brainwashed individuals, here is a letter that I would like to have spread around the internet.
First and foremost, I am not a writer. I am a composer and improviser. Music is my main language, not words. I apologize for the lack of skill.
Secondly, please find it in yourself to forgive the individuals who have done this horrible act. They are not evil. They have been brainwashed by an ideology and even though, from an outsiders perspective it's clear that their actions are wrong, remember that it can happen to anyone. Forgiveness is essential for peace.
In my death, I request that you, the human beings of Earth take into consideration the 3 things that should be fixed in our world.
The most important thing to do is stop homelessness. Make a weekly or daily effort to bring food and clothing, as well as attempting to find shelter for these humans. Everyone is within 6 steps of becoming homeless and these people need love more than anyone.
Empathy is a skill that can be taught. I know this from experience.
Education is essential. It needs to be free and accessible.
Critical thinking, life skills, how to find information, empathy, and problem solving.
I was a 'D' and 'F' student from Elementary School all the way to College. I did not know how to learn. Finally, I started teaching myself knowledge and skills through experience, books and documentaries. It dawned on me that I was capable of being a straight 'A' student had I known how to learn. Now, I work at Barnard College of Columbia University, one of the premiere Ivy League schools in the world.
Everyone can learn. Everyone can learn more than what they know.
If you don't know something, figure out how to know it, even if you disagree with it or don't think you need to know it.
Knowledge is power.
The more we all know, from all perspectives, the closer we are to peace.
Meditate, Eat healthy, and exercise.
Your mind, body and emotion are all connected.
Whatever you don't have in tune will be what is your downfall.
Be a better listener than a talker.
Don't allow yourself to be pretentious.
Don't go to bed angry.
Religion should be obsolete.
Embrace your enemy.
Be in the present.
And find peace and harmony with every being.
Composer, secularist, soldier, human being
huffy tuffy: the dream film
I was at a Lecture hall at
a college. My best friend Chris (played by an unknown African American actor).
We are playing sports (I'm not, I just know my character is).
Chris falls into a creek and is eaten by a crocodile, metamorphing into
a human/crocodile combonation.
The rest of the dream, he either is really pushy on getting change or aggressively
trying to eat people. He tries to eat me and my sister, Angela (played by a white girl with pig tails)
FLASH and we're in a college auditorium. There is a group of girls I'm sitting with.
A really mean crossdresser named Dave starts to make fun
of everyone. Dave is played by a white guy. He eventually disappears.
Chris walks by and offers everyone soda. He comes back with sodas,
and asks me for 50¢. I say "No. Chris has already been payed in Full. I don't owe him anymore money."
Chris flashes his crocodile (now an alligator) face at me. No one else sees it.
At the front of the the auditorium, some college kids are partying. Everyone looks at the movie screen.
We all jolt to the right, realizing to people in the movie screen more to the left (all sitting down).
It's mirror image. As we jolt to the right, everyone says "Huffy Tuffy". I realize we've been watching the film 'Huffy Tuffy' which mimics and reacts with real life. I realize that all of the last events were fake.
Then, I realize I'm in a dream. I immediately wake up.
I don't remember the dream at all, but I remember realizing I was dreaming (at least falling back asleep) because all the terms in my head were made up: People, places, things, etc. Interesting.
hotel room annie pop album (My hand hurts)
I was living in a motel room
like my first apartment. Hajnal was staying with me.
The other room was half open to another client, an old woman who
was taking a nap. I realize that this is not real life, but a dream.
Hajnal and I decide to make a pop music album of songs
from Annie. She sings. I play.
This is an experiment to see if it affects the sleeping woman.
People come in and out to listen. Everyone has
their 2 cents of advice (most of whcih I don't agree with)
Hajnal's phone rings. She takes the call in the room
with the sleeping, nameless woman (This is part of the experiment)
Josh and Tyler are there. Josh shakes my hand, but while joking, hurts my fingers.
I get mad at him. He says he didn't do anything wrong.
Tyler pours water on the carpet as a joke. I get irritated with that.
They start to bicker.
My R2-D2 alarm goes off and I wake up.
The first thing I do is write this dream down.
dream 2 (after 20 minute nap)
terror game show
I'm invited to a gameshow in a creepy warehouse/dockyard.
We're given games. There's a really crazy girl who keeps
trying to kill everyone.
She has a mouth that looks like a spaghetti.
We have different costumes. The bigger guys is a vampire.
I'm dressed as a sandbox.
My game is a game about a beach party in the middle of the city with a giant mantis and a giant bunny who dance and wrestle.
They mostly love to dance. I woke up dancing, except laying on the couch.
I was dressed a friendly anthromorphic turtle. The End.
Musicstore big band
Had a gig with a new piece with a new, modern big band.
was in a jewelry store at a shopping mall.
The whole dream took place before the downbeat.
It was all about talking and hanging. I got Elliot a gig to play
sound effects on a music stand. Weird.
A whole bunch of people
are hoola hooping. Everywhere.
I'm on a red rug. We're in a treehouse.
A few nameless people, shaped like pairs.
There is a 110 foot Owl and a Jeep.
The Owl shrinks into the jeep.
Wolfman ... Enjoy wolfman!
He's focused. I hope he's okay ...
Like a bird.
Listened to Chomsky
in my head and outside.
in the woods
I'm sitting in a cabin. There
are owls. It is fun.
There is a red rug.
state trooper bob
I got pulled over driving
a HUGE van from the
back seat. I was speeding (I think)
and couldn't see the road (I think)
The trooper spoke in the phonetic alphabet
of Nato asking me about drama classes.
He was apparently, a big theater guy.
I just woke up.
A Homeless Man is following a woman.
At first, they're both shouting and it sounds
like beautiful music. Slowly, everyone realizes
that she is in danger. No one does anything. She
pleads for help. I chase the homeless guy
away. As a sign of gratitude, she
gets me tickets to an unnamed Andrew
Lloyd Webber Musical. I get to go
backstage and meet the whole cast. One
of the cast members wants to make the
story into a musical. I refuse. I leave.
I had a birthday, but my
cake said F. Scott Fitzgerald.
The song "Hey Soul Sisters" played on repeat.
I exist in a world where zombies exist.
It's a brand new coincidence. Life.
It's a giant study.
I was shaving in a barbershop,
getting shaved, while shaving myself,
while observing in a mirror that
I was getting shaved, and from a distance.
This was the first feeling and experience
of the Fifth Dimension.
A friend brings in a case to show a cool science experiment. It turns out the case has a big spider in it.
I imagine that it crawls on my leg. I wake up startled.
Long road to college
I had a gig at KSU. Drove Dad's truck to park. The parking lot was under construction, so they led us to "another" place. The road never ended. I was nervous about walking back and missing my gig. The snow kept covering the window.
All I need need to do
All I need to do is go to drill. The thing that is crazy is that I have dreamt of this landspace before, and even this scenerio. The reason, I'm not sure.
There is a Spacecraft that leaves from Cleveland at a movie theater, in the theater. I get there on time. The theater is actually a giant Rocky Mountain side. After watching the film (nameless)I see the spacecraft leave, early. I missed.
I'm with Shamus and one other person. There is a younger crew. We decide to go to the airport (which is designed in a crazy way) to rent a zip car.
We get the car and drive to the zoo. The zoo, you have to run up a stair case, on the rails, covered in lizards, as fast as possible, without disturbing the lizards.
I struggle doing it, because I freak out everytime a lizard yawns or leans its head out or tries to bit me.
Finally, I get to the top of the stairs to get to the bus (which is right outside the 1 story building. Doesn't make sense).
Ben Stiller is driving the bus. As I walk, he shuts the door and drives away. I run, jump onto the door, punching it to get his attention. I have blades to make it easier. He tries to ram me off the bus door, while talking to me that he doesn't notice me.
I wake from the R2-D2 alarm, smiling, because the alarm is hilariously obnoxious and I've seen my dream landscape before. No control yet, but aware of it. Very exciting.
Cabin in Sky/Tree
Sitting in a treehouse, with a rug on the floor. Red rug.
Feels like a cabin.
At a political campaign with R2-D2.
At a super market.
I feed and experience the park.
I post when I post.