Dear Friends and Family,
I hope that life is treating you well and that you're finding time and space to enjoy, despite the current challenges we face. Its not easy out there! But with some effort we can carve out a place inside that's peaceful. I'm very grateful to be involved in some musical projects that support me in that department, and that promise the same for listeners.
This year I've been performing live and recording cello with Krishna Das, a great standard bearer of the Chant world. KD has a powerful voice and presence that has helped thousands of people discover their inner spaciousness and joy. This week a video was released about my role in the album, which is due out this Fall.
Also in the Chant world, I've begun producing the new album by artist Nina Rao. Nina is the real deal- a singer with beautiful sound who also brings a powerful connection to her songs. Nina will be leading the Ocean of Chant Retreat at Kriplau June 23-25, and I encourage anyone looking for a place to rest their weary head to come along- I'll be playing cello there too and enjoying the beautiful Berkshires.
I'm looking forward to the launch next weekend of the new album by beautiful Natalie Merchant, on which I play.
In the short term, Fabian Almazan's Rhizome, the Jazz octet of which I've been a part for almost 10 years, celebrated the release of its 3rd studio album with a show at Brooklyn's National Sawdust last Wednesday. Fabian, who is also the pianist for Terence Blanchard Group, is dedicated to creating social change through his complex and beautiful compositions.
Take care of yourselves and each other. That's about all for now. I'm looking forward to seeing you at an event or to hearing from you via email. Your support is deeply appreciated.
Dear Friends and Family,
A beautiful new photo by Ioana Boambes, taken at a Brooklyn kirtan, one of my favorite places to play.
My message to 45 and all who continue to support his self-serving policies, denigrating all people and the whole earth. It's time for a change. What are we waiting for?
Its been a great couple of weeks playing cello with Krishna Das, the Kirtan artist who has taken the world by storm. Kirtan is a form of yoga chanting in which the artist calls out a phrase in Sanskrit and the audience sings it back.
In the video above you can watch our kirtan from Philadelphia last week. It was a sold out performance and went live on Facebook to an audience of 90,000 live participants. What a blast. Hope you enjoy this invitation to connect to the Heart.
It's definitely one of the craziest times I've ever experienced. How about you? It seems like there's an instability underpinning everything that we do, and nothing feels quite certain anymore. Even when we're working on something or enjoying something fun, there always seems to be this sense of uncertainty. Maybe it's an opportunity for us all to face the fundamental uncertainty of our psyche, regardless of who's in office or what's happening in the world. I'm not suggesting a substitute for social action, but rather a supplement to it. When we're more at ease with ourselves, we can act more effectively. these things can go hand in hand and be simultaneous.
So if we turn our gaze for a moment from the political stage to our inner theater, we might learn something new and grow more comfortable with who we really are. What do you think, and what do you feel? Let me know. I'm not looking to be reassured, but asking a question about our nature and how it coincides with this very moment. What's the opportunity here?
What do you think?
It seems that a lot of us are going through a big wave of suffering right now, related to the political situation we've found ourselves in. It's tough to see that things aren't going our way, and it's heartbreaking when people and the earth we care about are undergoing unnecessary and cruel punishment. Add to that that thousands of us are also experiencing a political awakening, waking up from our apathy and un-involvement. Taking an interest in the world and current events in a way we've never done before, realizing that disengagement is no longer an option- that we can't create the world we want without being involved in that making. It's a hands-on operation.
The downside to that radical shift in our attention is that, in paying attention to what's going on in the world, we're also taking a whole boatload of suffering into our awareness. We always knew it was there, lurking on the periphery of our attention. But now we're reading about it in a much more vigorous fashion. We need to actually understand what's going on. For me, that's meant learning things I'd rather not know. It's painful to me to learn that there's a new famine brewing in Africa that will likely kill thousands, many of whom children. Or to really look at what's been happening in Syria for the past seven years. And of course it's horrifying to learn of immigrants being torn from their family members here in America to be deported.
It's exhausting to learn about all these things, and it's saddening. There's a weight on our hearts. It's important to acknowledge that weight, the sadness, exhaustion. We can't keep our balance and we can't give ourselves the proper care to go on fighting for what we care about, without first acknowledging what ails us. Just like with any prescription, we need a diagnosis first.
So what is that prescription, what do our hearts require? For me, as for so many, this question has led me to question the nature of suffering itself. Why do we suffer? What's the purpose? Why did God build suffering into the equation of life on earth? Is it just to instill a craving for something better, to motivate us toward good behavior in the hopes of achieving a better existence in an afterlife or new incarnation? We know that every single celled organism knows to avoid pain and seek pleasure and that's no different for us. Perhaps the Almighty built suffering into our mechanism, knowing it would push us to seek liberation, higher ground.
When I feel the deep deep weariness and sadness inside, I turn to prayer, my conversation with God. And in it I ask, "Is this the only way? Couldn't you have found some other way, gentler, to move us forward, to drive us toward the light, to you? Why so much pain?"
In the silence that follows, I listen for an answer but expect none. For now, I think the questioning is probably enough. The answers we do have regarding suffering are maybe enough for right now: That suffering ourselves makes us more compassionate to others, and in that feeling we become anti-suffering agents (ASA). With compassion, we have the power to help eliminate suffering in the world and for the earth. But we can't do that without knowing who is suffering and where. It's up to us to stay informed, to keep track of what's at stake, but also to track our own well-being and our own suffering, so we can keep ourselves in balance and on point to do our work here as ASA.
That's all for now. What are your thoughts?
Watch my video 'One Family' and celebrate Dr. King!
"Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”
-Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
We’re living in a period when its easy for us to fall into a trap of endless anger and hate. Nothing could be more relevant now than Dr King’s message. Racism seems to be simultaneously on the decline and on the rise. While many of us are becoming more and more vigilant, others are falling deeper into the darkness of discrimination. But for us vigilant ones, Dr. King’s message was and always remains- we must love everybody. King married the ahimsa (nonviolence) of Gandhi’s Hindu view to the Agape (Love for all) of his own profound Christian faith. He understood that civil disobedience is a powerful tool because it arouses compassion and concession in the oppressor. But he also taught that when we fight injustice with Love, our own hearts are made stronger, deeper and more powerful for the long journey ahead. Hate, on the other hand, is corrosive to its bearer. When we’re able to witness the ‘sameness’ of the oppressor and carry Love for him or her, we can create connection and real change. When we fixate on ‘otherness’ we arrive in resistance and stoke the fires of hate. When we look across the lines and take in the humanness of our ‘enemy,’ holding Love for them, a bond is bridged between us-a reminder of our common humanity- and that is the only power that can create real and lasting change.
So on this perfectly timed MLK Day 2017, let’s remember the profound teachings of his Majesty, and go forward with Love in our hearts towards this week of profound change. We all deserve to be in Love, to be free of the scourge of hate and rage. We deserve a world without these things, and its up to us to make the change. Martin is with us, always.
Please share the video, the song, the words, or your own passion about Justice today and everyday.
I had a splendid time playing at Natchie Nights in Dumbo Brooklyn last Friday. Here's a clip of a cello loopy moment. Tomoko Omura and Nadia Ackerman both made stunning guest appearances and we were surrounded by Nadia's beautiful art. The Ricci carbon cello sounded marvelous. Many thanks to all who came down and participated with their voices and hearts.....
Love to you all
Loving being a part of a beautiful new video by miraculous Berlin singer songwriter Maria Goja. 'Uncertainty' was released this week as a single. I'm really proud of Maria for tackling such difficult emotional terrain in a pop song. 'Uncertainty' is about just that- the emotional experience of living without knowing, which is really our regular state of being!
The cello was recorded here in Brooklyn in my studio and sent over to Berlin for mixing. Amazing to work in this way. I think the results are beautiful. Here's the great video. Enjoy.
I'm stoked to play cello on this film about one of the most important things in my life- The Clash, a band which touched so many lives so deeply with its incredibly powerful sound and life affirming message. London Town, which comes out in theaters today, has beautiful music by composer/producer Bryan Senti. he coolest thing is when something you were really passionate about as a youngster comes back to your present with no intentional effort on your own part. The Clash helped form the way I think about the World, and that music can help bring human rights to all. My song Same Old Song was influenced by their amazing sound. Listen here and buy the album in my shop
Let's go see the film!
Have a great weekend,
I've got some great news to share
It's been a while since I've written here. I've spent the summertime having some quiet reflection and rest. I hope you had some of the same, or whatever is most important to you.
So, it's been several years that I've been looking for a great travel cello. Things have gotten so complicated with the airlines that it's virtually impossible to travel with a cello without a separate seat for it, which is prohibitive for presenters. Recently, my musical partner Beatrix Becker introduced me to Ricci Carbon Instruments of Salzburg, which sponsored our last European duo tour by supplying a cello. I was amazed by the quality of the sound and the ease of playing. The Ricci did what no other carbon cello I've tried can: it succeeded in both an ensemble and a solo setting. Audiences loved the sound and I felt comfortable sharing my music through its voice. See the photo above for its beautiful natural appearance. And I never had to worry when checking it at the airport- it's mighty strong.
Because of my enthusiasm for the cello, Ricci and I have teamed up to make me an official Ricci Artist, playing their cellos, helping to find them a home and make a name here in the States. It's very exciting to me to finally have an instrument of this caliber that I can travel with without worry- it really takes the edge off!
I'll be playing the Ricci at my next solo show, here in Brooklyn, October 21st. Come hear it and me do our thing. I'll be singing and playing some new material that's been percolating over the summer. I hope you can join me there! It'll be an intimate evening to share music and thoughts together. Here's a link for tickets.
with love and gratitude,
It's been a terrific week of music and experience. I started at home in New York with a recording session with the great Natalie Merchant. I played cello in a string quartet with piano and her amazingly iconic and powerful voice. It was a real privilege to be a part of this special album, a part of the Carnegie Hall Lullaby Project, which sends songwriters to cowrite lullabies with mothers in prisons and shelters.
yesterday i arrived in LA, to perform and record with the wonderful composer and pianist Peter Adams. Here's a view of the Pacific Coast this am. Enjoy the weekend. I hope to see you at a show or elsewhere soon!
SAINT BOWIE: Dedicated to the Orlando victims and their families.
I was planning to release my Elegy for David Bowie today, which I feared would be too late, but I see that the timing is actually just right. This sad week of the massacre in Orlando is a good time to celebrate Bowie, to be consoled by his bravery. Nobody did more to open the pathways to sexual and gender freedom than David. Please share this video.
In this piece of original music for cello, I'm joined by the wonderful Wells Hanley on piano. The recording was mixed by Mark Plati, Bowie's longtime co-producer, music director and friend.
David was a messenger from another realm. The Man Who Fell to Earth wasn't just a movie role. He came from another planet, another space and time in which Freedom is just another part of life. Where being a sexually diverse being is normal and why wouldn't everyone appreciate that? He shared that vision with a planet just beginning to rotate into sexual freedom- when Space Oddity hit the airwaves in 1969, mainstream America was just figuring out that you don't have to be married to have intercourse. David’s being was so far beyond that envelope, somehow representing the entire spectrum of sexual possibility and gender identification, a single flash of his physicality sufficient to convey a huge throb of freedom. As the tweets of the Arab Spring called dissidents to mass demonstrations, David’s body language sent climactic shudders down the spine of Western sexuality, calling us to throw off the tyranny of the heteronormative and gender binary. In his music, he gave the bird to the monolithic shame which obscures our complex sexuality- helping millions to shine a light into previously darkened corners of existence.
What a service he did his adopted planet. Whether we identify as LGBTQ or identify with them, empathizing with their path of freedom, we can appreciate the changes Bowie brought with him to Earth. To live under the dumbed-down version of sexuality and gender provided by the mainstream is to accept a lesser view of ourselves as humans. Without the much deeper, complete view of who we are as sexual beings, we’re forced to settle for a broken mirror. Seeing ourselves through the shards of this pane damages our ability to fully know ourselves. And if the Oracle’s imperative, ‘Know thyself,’ is the key to our well-being, we can never truly be well.
As a teenager silently struggling to recover from sexual abuse and to understand my own place in the sexiverse, David held up a looking glass that was fully whole. I’ve said many times that he saved my life, and I say it again because it’s true. No one in my life was so able to reflect to me the alright-ness of my experience and inner world. And I think this was true for so many hundreds of thousands, largely because of the enforced code of silence and shame around sexual and gender diversity. David penetrated those private places without us even needing to speak of our struggles. Flying his UFO of radio and record, he came right into our worlds and healed us, lightening our burdens and removing our grief. If you want to assess his impact on our culture, just imagine if he hadn't been here; imagine the breadth of personal devastation had he not descended to Earth. Massive worldwide mourning at his death and ascension reflect the impact he had not just on the world of sound, but on the inner world. And to address his impact on sexuality is to address only one facet of his complex and radical impact on society.
So with these words, I bow down to Saint Bowie and I give thanks for his tremendous impact on my life, knowing that his influence will remain forever. The Changes he brought us can never be undone.
Excited to announce that the Akademia Award for Best New Jazz Song has been awarded to 'Right Where I Need to Be' by Monica Behan. I wrote the string arrangement for this beautiful tune by Monica and Loston Harris. The track was produced by Clarence Penn and multi-Grammy winner Russ Titelman. Listen Here.....
I had a beautiful time on April 18th playing a solo show at The Bedford in London. The bar has a great venue in back, with beautiful sound. The place was packed and the vibes were lovely and I was joined by the lovely Nathan Finkel on guitar. I just received Video of the show which you can watch HERE. There's a coupla cello numbers and a coupla songs. There's some new material I'm really proud of at 9:30. Check it out and let me know what you think!
Thanks and see you soon at a live concert.
I just got home from an amazing two week tour of Germany and the UK. Composer/performer Beatrix Becker of Berlin and I have a duo for cello and piano/clarinet called Berlin Meets Brooklyn. The project features original classical crossover music by each of us.
Beatrix and I visited Dresden, Wurzburg, Berlin, and Gros Plasten in Germany, and London and Penrith, Cumbria in England. We played intimate recitals to sold out audiences who were extremely attentive and wonderful. I'm feeling so grateful for the love we were shown and for the music we got to share.
Here's a short video about what we do. We hope to see you at a Berlin Meets Brooklyn show very soon.....
I hope you're enjoying the first signs of Spring. Its beautiful here in New York.
Last week was wonderful. I had the opportunity to record Stravinsky's Tango with a very gifted Classical pianist, Harriet Stubbs, who's making her debut album. The great producer, Russ Titelman, winner of 3 Grammy awards and maker of some the best records of all time was at the helm. He produced Sail Away by Randy Newman, one of my all time faves.
Working with Harriet and Russ was challenging in the best sense. Harriet's deep, insightful playing pushed me to reach deep into my own creative resources. And Russ' amazing musical imagination made me stretch my own.
I'm looking forward to hearing the finished result when the album comes out later this year. I'll keep you posted!
BTW, the session took place in Long Island City's Samurai Hotel Studios which boasts a gorgeous Steinway concert grand.
See you soon!
Hi there! I hope you're well as you're reading this. Maybe you're here on the East Coast where the weather is starting to look a lot like Spring.
I've been having some good travels with the cello and my songs, Been to the West Coast a couple of times this year so far and really enjoyed that. Above you can see the crazy huge van I used to get around with on one leg of a tour. Roomy. Traveling with friends who happen to be musicians you're playing with is a great experience to have. And getting to book and play my own solo shows along the way has been an excellent way to mix things up and get heard in otherwise hard to reach places.
Wherever you are, I hope you're enjoying the weather, whatever it might be. And I hope there's some good music in your environment too, to liven things up the way only music can.
Till very soon. I hope to meet you in one of those far away places.
I saw this funny road sign in Birmingham, UK, where I was playing last week. The timing couldn't have been better- New Years is just the time to shift our priorities around a bit and refocus on what really matters. To me that means returning to the Heart and getting out of my head. I loved playing for the Brits both with the amazing band, Darshan, and my own show of my own tunes, sung at the piano and at the cello with loops and live electronics.
Wishing you a happy and healthy 2016. And may your priorities be where you really want them this year.
Its awesome to have cello solos in the new Scorsese production, The Wannabe, starring Vincent Piazza and Patricia Arquette. The movie is out now in theaters around the country and on VOD. Another beautiful score by Nathan Larson.