29 Comments
founding

>>"And I remembered that’s why I never built a good meditation practice or went to therapy. Because I had writing and music and walking and they have always been enough."

Funny you should say that about music. That's going to be the focus of a future season of my newsletter. Well, I guess I know what we're talking about when I have the honour of interviewing you!

Also, a thing I have learned from many super-musical friends is: when someone tells you how good they are as a musician, it's information that's less than useless - either they're FANTASTIC and they're self-deprecating with the same pressure they've exerted on their skill to make it shine, or they're SUPER-AWFUL and the bottom end of the Dunning-Kruger graph is making an all-singing, all-dancing appearance. So, I'm taking your protestations of not being good at the harp with exactly the right pinch of salt.

>>"Walking never gives answers, I say to people often; but it is always *an* answer."

This has been bouncing round my head for the last few days. It feels like a ruckus in there. A really good and important one...

Hmm.

Expand full comment
author

Oh, I know what you mean about information that's useless. It's like with anything I guess, hard to gauge what a person means by "good" or "not good." Perhaps I could become decent at the harp if I started practicing regularly, but for the moment I'm held back by not being able to read music fluidly (once it's off the 5 little lines, I have to count the notes to figure out which ones they are). If I can just get back to playing my 3 reliable songs on a regular basis, maybe I'll get somewhere! But the nice thing about the harp is that you don't even have to know how to play it for it to sound good. It's just a delightful instrument no matter what.

Expand full comment

Because of construction I've had to walk in town more this spring, and after 3 years of being freaked out by OTHER PEOPLE, it's nice to return to the small pleasantries of running into people on the trail. There's an older guy, who like me has some creaky joints, and we had a nice long chat the other day about the eagle's nest and our concern about the ditch work and was it going to endanger their tree. There are people I see but just nod to, and I keep running into my friend Debbie, and it's been lovely to have a chance to catch up. Even Hank-dog, who can be aggressive, is getting better about passing other dogs. I can really see my mental health deteriorate when I can't get a walk, and a nice quite place by some running water to say the Heart Sutra every morning.

Expand full comment
author

This, honestly, sounds ideal. It's all those little interactions and then the incredible joy of some running water (rivers and streams probably create my favorite sounds in the world).

Expand full comment

It's good to be getting over my pandemic misanthropy ... I got a tiny bit more wigged out than I think I wanted to admit at the time.

Expand full comment
author

I think a lot of people did. I'm hopefully walking with a friend next week who basically hasn't been in public in two years and hung out in the woods homeschooling her kids.

Expand full comment

Music. I don’t know why I haven’t even been listening to music of late. I might get a record player and start listening to my old albums.

Expand full comment
author

It's interesting, I've heard a lot of people say that recently. Record players are really coming back. My mom has tons of records but I bet most of them are warped by this point.

Expand full comment

I've gone back to listening to music on CDs again. I like to listen to a whole album, and I also like not being tracked while I'm doing it.

Expand full comment
author

I've started to do the same -- in the car, where I used to listen to the radio but have gotten increasingly annoyed with banter and commentary. I keep looking for a CD player for the kitchen that's straightforward without a bunch of bluetooth and whatever. I don't mind using Pandora sometimes when I'm in the mood, but would prefer to spend less time giving Spotify my attention!

Expand full comment
Jun 2, 2022Liked by Antonia Malchik

Hard same here, Nia and Charlotte. I never kicked my CD collection to the curb, and I'm fortunate that my car is JUST old enough to have come with a CD player. One tool for one purpose feels so...simple? Clarifying? Non-distracting? Anyway: good.

Expand full comment
author

Agreed: good!☺️

Expand full comment

I have a little bookshelf player by Jensen out here in my writing room that I'm pretty sure I ordered from the evil empire. It does have bluetooth, so if I want to listen to a podcast, I can, but mostly it's a lot of Max Richter because he's lovely, and I can read/write to it ...

Expand full comment
author

Maybe I'll look into that. When I'm copy editing I'm always battling with the algorithms because my main requirement is that the music can't contain words and there's no way to explain that (and most classical is a bit too dramatic). For writing, I've been a have-Enya-on writer for decades, though recently I've fallen in love with Philip Aaberg because it puts me in a prairie Montana mood.

I do have a tape player 😂

Expand full comment
Jun 2, 2022Liked by Antonia Malchik

I've never heard of Aaberg, but I'm looking him up now, on the strength of your have-Enya-on-for-writing recommendation. ;)

Expand full comment
May 14, 2022·edited May 14, 2022Liked by Antonia Malchik

Oh I need to get some Aaberg! I forgot about him -- I've met him a couple of times at parties and he's such a lovely man. I first heard of Richter at a Terry Tempest Williams reading -- she played some of his "Recomposed -- 4 Seasons Quartets" and it was lovely. I've subsequently bought a lot of his CDs because I can concentrate, and a couple of them are like 70 minutes at a pop, so a good way to set a writing goal. There's also a streaming service I signed up for called Idagio -- all classical, which as you say is often too dramatic, but they have a good selection of contemporary classical ...

Expand full comment
May 14, 2022·edited May 14, 2022Liked by Antonia Malchik

I'm very late to catch up with these last ones and had something to say about Rolfe from The Sound of Music, but that's already three weeks ago so maybe another time.

I miss the identity of feeling like a musician. I took just enough piano as a kid that I can still kind of sightread and work out tunes by ear. I was a decent French horn player in high school and college. But the bar got too high and at a certain point you just move on to other things.

What I really miss though, is a world in which many of us listened to the same music together, on the radio or on the stereo, the new album release as a social event, the new favorite song as a soundtrack and emotional resource for our daily activities. Sure, there's great music out there as always, and musicians all over the place. But most of us listen alone now, or not at all. And what we do hear in public, together, is either oldies or product. What does this do to a society, when the music we share is mostly dead?

Walking, unlike music, is practical. But it's like music in that (not to ignore disability) humans were born to do it, and it's equally valuable being done for its own sake.

Expand full comment
author

Phrasing it as "the identity of feeling like a musician" gets to the heart of something that I miss, too. I think it might be that I never got very good at any of these instruments so never had that identity but wanted it. To be able to pick up an instrument and just play seems as lovely as speaking several languages fluently. Like you, the bar got too high for me. After bouncing around in schools that only had pep band (that music is numbingly simplistic), I landed at one and later another that had full-on orchestras and there was no way for me to catch up.

I think, maybe, I have some hope that music still creates links among people, even if it's not always the same music. It's such an ancient human art that it will always have something that connects us. Though I know what you mean about listening alone. And yet, people share singles and playlists. Maybe in a hundred years our relationship to those things will feel different.

Some years ago I was at an interdisciplinary residency, and the leader of the composition section of the residency was Richard Reed Perry from Arcade Fire (which I'd never heard of, being mostly music ignorant). One evening the music people hosted a party with lots of the musicians playing. One of them did really good covers of older popular songs (like 70s/80s). I've never liked cover bands very much, and said something about that to Perry (not in a mean way, more wondering *why* I've never liked them much). And he said something so interesting. He said what I meant was folk music. And he told me about growing up with his parents and their friends playing folk music, which is essentially just music that most people know the words to, and I said I'd literally never thought about commonly covered pop or rock songs that way. It forever changed the way I think about cover bands.

Expand full comment
author

I would love to know what your thoughts are about Rolphe!

Expand full comment
May 14, 2022Liked by Antonia Malchik

There are many reasons why I love walking with her, but intimacies aside, I love that she walks with her nose. Because of ber, I think more about who all passed by during the night, or how dirt must not always smell the same.

Expand full comment
author

That observation is going to completely change how I walk with our dog!

Expand full comment
May 13, 2022Liked by Antonia Malchik

I think walking is why God invented dogs or visa versa. Either way, walking in the woods with Polly never fails to feel godly. We have ospreys floating above.

Expand full comment
author

I know a lot of people who feel this way about walking with their dogs! One friend said to me, "I can't imagine a walk without him."

Expand full comment
founding

Thank you, Nia! Solvitur ambulando! I started walking to work when the pandemic started, and that daily 1.75 mile commute each way has become something I love in all weathers. It's a de facto antidepressant, antianxiety med, and just ... fun.

Expand full comment
author

Your daily walking posts are one of the few things I miss after leaving Instagram ...

One of the weird disconnects about walking regularly is realizing how often people are unwilling to do so due to even minor shifts in weather. Or how many people (especially people who recently moved here) are surprised that our elementary school has kids wait outside in the morning until the bell rings in all weather (unless it's below 10 degrees F). Rain, wind, snow -- our society at large seems to have a very different expectation for what our bodies can navigate around in than even two or three generations ago might have.

Expand full comment
founding

Aw, thank you. That disconnect is really strange to me as well. Our bodies are capable of so much, especially with a layer or two or an anorak / rain jacket.

Expand full comment
author

Very true 🧡

Expand full comment