Different Love Languages, & download for “Emergency Soothing Piano”, a 35-minute live improv
HELLO MY LOVES.
TL;DR: I’m gonna write a big long post. A little of it is cut and pasted from the last few days, but I wanted it all in one place.
1. The pro audio recording of JUST the piano improv track from friday’s “emergency soothing piano” session is mixed and polished (well, polished “enough”) and ready for you all to download. Mp3 is HERE and WAV is HERE. I hope you enjoy it, deeply. It’s perfect in its imperfection, as it was written on the spot in response to …. everything. (See below).
2. So it’s all in one place….and if you wanna go down the art-post rabbithole:
–here’s the post where I flailed with my booked but empty studio date and took a poll about what to do….
–here’s the post where I announced this project….
–here’s the post where I asked you all how you were doing, and got my ingredients….
–HERE IS THE ACTUAL WEBCAST ARCHIVE LINK (it’s about 2.5 hours long, patron-only)
-and here’s the post where I break down in tearful gratitude when it’s all over.
3. LAST NEWS THING…...there’s a $10+ patron webchat/poetry-reading/how-are-we/sing-a-long/cry-a-long in three days (Wednesday night for many of you). There’s already a nice loving buzz in the chat. Someone has started the concept that we all wear pajamas. I’m IN…get your time zone and RSVP here, I’ll be broadcasting live from the house here: https://www.crowdcast.io/e/frw50tbn
Aie aie aie, you beautiful people.
You you you.
Jesus. What a weekend.
I went from zero to a hundred….from homebound-lockdown-solo-mother to blinding-recording-studio-piano-slayer in a mere matter of hours.
If you missed the webcast itself (live from Roundhead recording studio in Auckland) from Friday, I highly recommend watching it if you have two hours to kill….just to understand the context of the improv song. There were a few stories that needed to be told for you to understand the meaning behind the music.
It’s had 1,111 views as of this morning, and that cannot be a coincidence.
How it felt?
How it feels?
There’s a lot to say.
It was a bit of a tightrope, emotionally; having someone get blocked from the chat a few seconds before I went live didn’t help, except perhaps it DID help. Someone was spamming the comments with the intimation that I MUST RESPOND BECAUSE I WAS THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD SAVE THEM…and….I dunno. i think it’s the other way around here, people.
i think you’re the only ones who can save ME.
Let me tell you something, dear patrons.
I am a strange musician.
But we ALL are.
I know you know that.
I’m part everything…..part musician, part storyteller, part performer, part therapist. Part therapy patient.
Part pianist …. but kind of hate to play the piano if it isn’t going to do anything for anyone.
I very rarely play for “my own enjoyment”.
I’ve been speaking with a few friends lately about the “Love Languages”. It came up a few weeks ago when a sweet millennial was talking to me and used the phrase in passing, as if I, of course, knew what it meant. I did not. I felt old. Or maybe, not so much old….just out of the loop.
You know, she said, looking at me like everybody knew this thing: Love languages. what’s your love language?
I did not know. She schooled me.
And…one can google. From Wiki: “The Love Languages are a concept created by Dr. Gary Chapman through his long-time work as a marriage counsellor”.
According to Ol’ Gary:
“We all give and receive love in 5 different ways: words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch.”
(You can actually take a quiz here).
I’ve been thinking about this deeply, pondering it in my heart, and discussing it with friends.
Looking at old stories and old hurts through this lens….re-examining old, broken-down relationships, seeing things in very new lights…..re-understanding misunderstandings in ways I never quite have before.
I have pinned myself down lately into a sub-category: my love language – the one I like to speak – is Offering of Delightful Surprises. If you do not like Delightful Surprises, dude….just stay the fuck away from me and do not try to fall in love with me.
I will drive you fucking crazy. And if you don’t like surprises in general, maybe also stay the fuck away. It just won’t work, buck-o.
I am not saying anything here is right, or wrong. Love is weird.
What’s so painful about learning all this Love Language stuff is seeing the tragedy of the missed connections. I’ve had so many.
I had, for example, a beautiful and beloved boyfriend, named Ad, back in my early thirties. It was a short relationship, but a passionate one. We went fast. During the first few months of our courtship, I went off on a silent mediation retreat for a week.
Meditating was really especially hard. I’d just fallen in love.
The new and thrilling passion of ALL AD ALL THE TIME was alive and thriving in my head and loins and wouldn’t really leave me be. I found myself shamefully foundering during multiple meditations…I could not stop thinking about Ad, about his music, about his desires, about this new and dazzling THING of ours. I spent the entire week cheating on my meditation, and instead of sitting in Good Zen Mindfulness, I spent HOURS of mental energy concocting the Perfect Plan about how I would surprise and delight him the very night I got back to Boston.
I went over it in my head again and again while on retreat, and then….I did it. Dear god, I was excited. The very night I got home from the silent retreat, I went out and bought the ingredients for the perfect Apple Martini. I grabbed one of my huge, long, white flowing street performance dresses. I picked flowers. I drove to his apartment building.
I’m probably getting this wrong (this was almost twenty years ago, dudes), but as I remember: I left the lights on my Volvo on to illuminate the scene, and I left the Glistening Green Martini Bouquet for him to come down and find. I waved a Kate Bush kiss and drove off, electric with pleasure. I had Done An Amazing Thing. I had shocked and delighted my new love. AND I STAYED SILENT. IT WAS ALL SO BEAUTIFUL AND MEANINGFUL AND I AM SUCH AN AMAZING LOVER I THOUGHT OH YES, GO ME.
It really did not….seem that way to him.
After we broke up, he wrote a song with the lyrics:
I didn’t need a martini bouquet /
You could’ve asked me about my day.
It’s a pretty goddamn great break-up song, up there with the best of them. And also contains one of my favorite Ad lyrics ever:
Still, I’d rather hold hands with you / than sleep with anyone.
…second only to his top break-up lyric of all time (from his genius tune Uhauls and Ryders:
I have burned all your pots and pans / I have overwatered all your plants.
God, I love Ad. (If you want a primer, go get the album “Mr. Fancypants“. Tangent. But a good one.)
Back to the point.
The way we express love and connection and desire – as humans, as musicians, as lovers – is so, so very unique.
And the way we want to be loved is so very unique.
And we are human. We do that dumb thing and assume that other people are like us. We assume – well, if we’re dumb like me – that other people want to be loved the way we want to be loved.
It’s fascinating to realize that artists and musicians also have love languages, with their audiences.
I’ve been on this path of understanding for two decades: oh my god, not all musicians are like me, and not all musicians like it the way I like it. I have particular kinks and fetishes as a musicians. I really love certain things.
This came into coincidnetal focus over the weekend as I chatted with an old-school indie musician friend of mine who could not be more different than me: they dislike the public gaze, they do not want to be “known”, they do not Do The Internet.
I, on the other hand, think it’s a great idea to get naked and stand on a box in front of a library collecting used books for children. It’s, like, a real different kinda pleasure. I was reminded of how very very different we all are. So much of this came into light when I Did The Big Kickstarter and found myself face-to-face with thousands of musicians who were like: Oh… fuck no. Not that way, please. Too much closeness. Too much intimacy with the crowd. Too much direct accountability. Way too much messiness. Not for us.
BUT, I flailed back at them, IT’S FUN. IT’S LOVELY, THIS WERID THING! IT’S DELIGHTFUL!!! DON’T YOU WANT TO DO THIS THING I AM DOING???
No, most of them answered. And Shut up, Amanda. What works for you works for you. Now leave us alone.
There are some musicians who really love being public. Some who genuinely hate it. Some who just want to work in the studio, some who hate studio pressure…they just want to perform. Some musicians LOVE hanging out with their communities (hi there). Some just do not wanna do that as part of the job. Some musicians would rather die than be physically touched by some stranger who loves their music. I am not one of those people.
We need an online test to see what kind of “Artist Love Language” musicians speak.
I love playing the piano. Full stop.
I love the act of touching it, finding the songs and puzzles to solve in it, delighting someone with what I can DO TO IT.
And I love, love, love improvising.
God I love it. I FUCKING LOVE IT SO MUCH. I LOVVVVE IT. I REALLY LOVE IT. I AM GOOD AT IT.
My truly happy place? Seriously?
The place, as an artist, that I have felt the deepest pleasure?
I will tell you:
I love nothing more than being at a party and sitting at the piano while a few drunk – or anti-social, or piano-curious – strangers hang around the piano, drinking wine and chatting lightly
– and perhaps quietly crying single tears – while I mournfully and soulfully pound away while the rest of the drunk people are the party ignore what magical breakdown is happening over in the piano-corner of the loft/basement/living room. THAT IS LITERALLY MY FAVORITE THING. I DO NOT KNOW WHY. IT IS JUST MY FAVORITE THNG IN THE WORLD.
But right now…I’m gonna think about why, and try to write about why, because I think it’s maybe important to figure out, given what happened the other day.
(If you missed my ecstatic and tearful after-stream post, you may already be scratching your head, wondering why Amanda sounds a Bit Too Excited this week).
Maybe this will help explain.
I have always loved playing the piano. Playing music. MAKING music.
But what I love most, by a factor of millions, is playing music FOR PEOPLE WHO WANT TO HEAR MUSIC. It may sound dumb and simple, but it is not.
I have spent plenty of time in the course of my career playing music for people who did not want to hear music (see: The Dresden Dolls opening for Panic! At The Disco….what a fucking palaver). It is as proportionately terrible to play music to non-listening people as it is to play music to the listening people. It is a terrible, terrible, terrible feeling.
When I booked the “There Will Be No Intermission” tour, which ultimately sold 100,000 tickets, I had some really hardcore conversations with my agents and manager.
No clubs. No venues with bars in them.
Only theaters, sitting places, venues where everyone there WANTED TO BE LISTENING.
I remember saying to Matt Hickey, who’s been my agent at High Road for eighteen years now: I don’t wanna sing whisper-level songs about miscarriage and abortion and be competing with an ice machine. I want to be able to hear a pin drop, ALL NIGHT.
The only venue where we totally failed in this regard was Portland, Oregon. If you were there at the Crystal Ballroom, first show…oh my god. You know what happened. That’s a story for another post.
Back to the point.
This is the first time in my career where I felt like I was playing music not just to a nice, random group of “listening people” (I’ve often gotten to do that, and it’s my fave)….but I KNEW YOU.
I had gotten to TALK TO YOU AT THE PARTY before I sat down to play the piano.
This post was the party.
How are you? How are you really?
And you told me.
The joys in the garden.
The cats for company.
The deaths in the family.
And I thought about The Pips – also known as the Greenwich Time Signal.
I tell the story in the pre-amble on the webcast: they’re broadcast on the BBC. And RNZ over here in New Zealand, and they have been a lighthouse in my life. A marker that humanity is working.
Beep… beep… beep… beep… beep… beeeeeep.
Here is a SOUND GRAPH of the pips:
Those five first pips are exactly one second long, and then the sixth pip is the exact beginning of the hour.
That sixth pip is a molecularly perfect fucking quartz crystal sign that somewhere…..the adults are in charge. Somewhere, someone has their shit together. Somewhere: we’re keeping track of time.
It’s the hourly ball drop.
It’s Big Ben.
It’s the digital sine wave of Big Ben.
I’ve been listening to RNZ since I got here, and they broadcast the pips here too. And I started getting really attached to the pips. Because the hourly news broadcast started to be this thing that I was just hanging onto, to tell me that the adults were still in charge, and the world had not collapsed, and everything is gonna be okay because the newscasters are newscasting, and someone has their shit together. And I will know this, because…
Beep… beep… beep.
Someone is still making this happen. LIFE IS WORKING. It’s all good.
When we came to Waiheke and Ash and I moved into this new house by ourselves, the pips became this religious thing in our house.
If it was 5:40, I’d say oh my god, in 20 minutes ….. I get to feel good!
And I would call to Ash five minutes before the hour, Ash, come into the kitchen, we’re gonna get to hear the pips!
And he would be like We’re gonna get to hear the pips!
And I’d be like I know! It’s gonna be in three minutes!
And I would attach my phone to the Bluetooth speaker, and we would stop everything, and we would just listen to the pips.
I didn’t know that they were called the pips until I happened to be here in Auckland, at RNZ, doing an interview with Jesse Mulligan, their afternoon radio broadcaster, and I was sitting in the foyer of the radio station, waiting to go on the air, and there was a painting behind the couch of the pips.
It’s hard to describe. I should have taken a picture of it.
But I happened to be sitting with my friend Cyrus. He’s also an American stuck here because of the pandemic, and we were talking about our mutual love and weird obsessive, almost unhealthy attachment to needing to hear the pips, so that we could hear if the adults were in charge and everything was gonna be okay.
This is a roundabout way of saying, I read all of your comments.
And I was thinking about my attachment to that sound.
I just was like, ah fuck it, I’m gonna see what key the pips are in.
And they’re in the key of B.
And if that’s the key of B minor, that means they’re also in the key of G.
And the key of G is MY KEY.
Fucking everything I’ve written in the last 10 years is pretty much in the key of G.
If you listen to There Will Be No Intermission and you’re trying to learn it on piano or ukulele, you will notice there’s a lot of G.
G is my jam.
It was MEANT TO BE.
The other thing that occurred to me, as I was reading your comments, sitting at the piano, and trying to figure out the architectural structure of this piece that I’m about to make up for you, was a book that I’ve been reading to Ash…..
It’s called Hello Lighthouse, by Sophie Blackall.
It’s so beautiful. It tells a story of connection that I cannot explain. You just gotta read it.
I was gonna bring the book with me, but in my haste to pack for the ferry to the city, I fucking forgot it. Luckily, Michael managed to send a pdf of the book to me on my phone, so I could read it during the webcast. Michael gets three gold stars for that one.
(You can download the audio of me reading the book, accompanied by the piano, and some of my tearful commentary….here:
NOTE: I want to do a better recording of this, a real one. OH MY GOD….MAY I? SHOULD I? PLEASE ASK ME TO.
So I was thinking about this sad and beautiful lighthouse story , and thinking about the pips, and how they’re sort of ….the same.
HELLO! HELLO! HELLO!!!
I AM HERE.
I really do believe that.
Or maybe it’s just me.
So this song that I made up for you….it’s all of these things together.
It’s the pips.
It’s the lighthouse. It’s lots of lighthouses blinking, signaling, waving at each other.
It’s me, asking you how you are.
And it’s you, answering me.
But you’re not just answering me, you’re telling each other.
We are not alone.
We’re all blinking, waving, flailing….lost and hoping:
We are not alone.
The end, and I love you.
It has been one of the biggest pleasures of my life to play this music for you.
When I started playing the piano….I felt all of you, all of your comments, all of your stories… inside me. Coming back out of me. Being transformed, somehow, into something more beautiful.
I felt the joys. And the griefs. I felt the chemo. I felt the loneliness.
I EVEN FELT THE CATS.
I erased my mind, I poured you in…..there were no words needed, and I just got to make music.
For this moment.
I don’t know if I can really explain.
This feels like everything to me.
I love you all so much.
It feels like I’m getting away with murder, because I am just enjoying this so fucking deeply.
Maybe we can do it again.
Here’s the links:
If you wanna, you can LISTEN on soundcloud:
HERE IS THE mp3:
HERE IS THE WAV:
And just for good measure once again, the links to download the audio of the full stream – this includes me explaining a bit about the process behind the piece, as well as a little Q&A after i finish playing.
and once again…..the link to WATCH the full archived stream on crowdcast:
Engineer – Steven Marr
Assistant Engineer – Matt Gunn
Recorded at Roundhead Studios, Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand
on December 10th, 2021.
There’s Matt on the left, in the mask, Steve on the right:
Me and Steve…
A huge thank you to Alex for helping to build this post.
I JUST LOVE YOU.
——THE NEVER-ENDING AS ALWAYS———
1. if you are a patron and new to my work, don’t forget your patronage allows you access to ALL of my patreon releases to date. HERE is the link to download my latest big solo record, “There Will Be No Intermission”, and HERE is a link to download the PDF of the art/essay book that goes with it.
2. if you’re a patron reading this post via an email notification, please click through to comment on this post. at the very least, if you’ve read it, indicate that by using the heart symbol. that’s always nice for me to see, so i know who’s reading.
3. see All the Things (over 150 of them) i’ve made so far on patreon:
4. JOIN THE SHADOWBOX COMMUNITY FORUM, find your people, and discuss everything: https://forum.theshadowbox.net/
5. new to my music and TOTALLY OVERWHELMED? TAKE A WALK THROUGH AMANDALANDA….we made a basic list of my greatest hits n stuff (at least up until a few years ago, this desperately needs updating) on this lovely page: http://amandalanda.amandapalmer.net/
6. general AFP/patreon-related questions? ask away, someone will answer: firstname.lastname@example.org