Sunday, March 28, 2010

TIme can be Deceived, and other things I learned in Big Sky Country

"To beguile the time,/ Look like the time"
-Lady Macbeth
Macbeth Act I.5, l.62-63

Thesis: Time is a corruptible prison-guard. If you act like you've already got a way out, she gets curious and jealous and gives you the keys anyway, if only until you slip up and give yourself away. Still, temporary relief can be incredibly welcome relief.

Sub-Thesis: The local joke in Missoula is that their town is 5 minutes away from Montana. It's a microcosm of weird hippie college culture inside a larger ecosystem of weird (sometimes hippie) cowboy culture. A psychological and cultural anomaly.

Synthesis: My time in Missoula gave me an opportunity to act as though I wasn't dead in the middle of the space that I'm dead in the middle of.

Thank you, Jan, for the iPhone photos.

Thank you, Jacob, for the hospitality you pretended to hate.

Thanks to both of you for the love, friendship, and everything you bring out in me.

Thank you, Clark Fork River, for your presence. You were the universal solvent and catalyst through which this chemical sublimation took place. Thank you for your bridges, psychologically and physically forcing me to cross boundaries and confront the space around your edges everywhere I went.

Thank you, Montana, for your open country and your big sky, your striking mountains, your run-down mining towns, for your dusty antiques store that offered me up an underpriced, vintage, brandless guitar amp. Your kindness is not lost on me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

And it all amounts to this, my darling

Photo: Simon Williams

Alright, for the none of you that have stayed with me through this weird/long/fragmented essay-like thing that's happened spontaneously over the past four days on this blog, I have a little something for your aural enjoyment. I'm releasing this single, called "Stillness" (After a thematic section of Four Quartets), because in a way, I think that it's my contribution to this discussion about time and heartbreak and healing and circularity and the fullness of humanity. It's among my very favorite songs that I've ever written, so I feel kind of weird giving it to you outside of the context of an album release. All I can say is that the process of recording this, being back in the studio with Simon, has completely energized me. I'll tell you right now that a full-length Luke Williams record will be coming next summer. It's going to be stripped down, much less electric than the Ancient Eyes EP, looser, more raw. So for now, enjoy this little gift, from me to all of you who are so faithfully supportive of me and my musical endeavors.

And with that, I'm off to Missoula, Montana for some much-needed time by myself and with old friends.

I love you,


Luke Williams - Guitar, Vocals, Banjo, Tambourine
Simon Williams - Vocals, Sound Engineering, Mixing
Clay Williams - Vocals
Scott Williams - Vocals
Alice Williams - Vocals


Numb, my fingers and toes
Catch me before I sink down under
Trusting the breaststroke
To carry me home
I'm caught in the undertoe

Spinning sand and water
Tumbling I kiss the darkest abyss
Soon will resume,
It comes from the moon

Movement without motion
Stillness containing so much, so soft
So condescending
Such visibility,
So much nothing

I can see for miles and miles
What a beauty, such a vision
Ample stalls can feel so empty
Vastness of a lonely prison, and
Like the winter solstice I'm
All aligned with nothing, nothing,
Frigid blue is all I hear, and it
All amounts to this, my darling

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Time is a Circle, and Unredeemable

The reason that time has been so present in my thoughts lately is T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets, a collection of poems and lyrical prose from the man that is pictured above to be hanging out in my apartment with me and a disembodied hand. I had a professor ask me about seminal texts in my life, books that grounded me, changed me, books that I returned to. I was only introduced to Eliot about 6 months ago, but I've literally been reading this unassuming little book of poems constantly ever since. Much like Ray Lamontagne's "Trouble," It somehow inhabits a wholeness of human experience all at once.

Throughout Four Quartets, Eliot makes clear his obsession with time. Several other recurring concepts in the book have already made their way into songs that I've written this winter, but I think that time has been waiting for me, waiting for this week, to explode into every facet of my thought.

The book is laid out in four sections that archetypically represent the natural seasons. The first section, Burnt Norton, begins:

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.

Sort of cryptic-sounding at first, but it's pretty simple once you get past the initial syntactical confusion. Eliot is a passionate disbeliever of linear time. At the very least, he's a firm voice for the necessity of living outside of its grasp, of understanding and embracing circularity. I'm going to try.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always -
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned not of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Thanks for the comfort, T.S.

Penultimately (I've got one last piece of this little blog-essay to give you tomorrow), I want to present you with the musician that first showed me what it felt like to encounter a piece of art that exhibited both sweetness and pain, that timelessness and fullness of human experience, like Four Quartets, like "Trouble." I tend to keep Kelly Joe Phelps hidden away from the world, because when my dad took me at 14 to see him play, I developed a really personal connection to the experience. I was taken in by much more than the virtuosity of his musicianship or the deep smokiness of his voice. Somehow the combination of his beautiful, mumbled lyrics and his presence as a performer really crept into the depth of my consciousness, through that back door that unlocks itself when you're in the presence of something truly great and your existence opens up, and you lose all sense of time.

Piece by Piece - Kelly Joe Phelps.

piece by lonely piece the mountainside tumbles away
back down to the river bottom lined with pocket worry stones
a hundred years in hand worn smooth by long grandmother nights
sitting by the rocking chair waiting for the world

oh, if I could roll back all the years and talk to my daddy's dad
about all the fears I’m leaving in that maybe he had had
I might get some light to shine down this dusty old dry well
hear the bucket hit the bottom and the rope come rolling by

when three hundred years has been the time from whence it came
why hadn't someone yet figured out to lower down the gun
and shoot out the middle of this clawing, staring eye?
hear the bucket hit the bottom and the rope come rolling by
sitting by that old rocking chair waiting for the world

It's only Time, it will go by

Thanks to Julia for pointing me to this Ray Lamontagne song. It fits perfectly into this internal conversation I'm having. I don't have any clever interpretations of this song, no connections to make at the moment. Just the hypnotic melody, and the lyrics, they speak for themselves:

Don't let your mind get weary and confused
Your will be still, don't try
Don't let your heart get heavy child
Inside you there's a strength that lies

Don't let your soul get lonely child
It's only time, it will go by
Don't look for love in faces, places
It's in you, that's where you'll find kindness

Be here now, here now
Be here now, here now

Don't lose your faith in me
And I will try not to lose faith in you

Don't put your trust in walls
'Cause walls will only crush you when they fall

Be here now, here now
Be here now, here now

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Time is a Salt, according to Shakespeare

"Your lordship, though not clean past your youth, have yet some smack of age in you, some relish of the saltness of time in you."
- Falstaff, to the slightly younger Chief Justice
from The Second part of King Henry the IV
Act I, scene 2, l. 93-95

Falstaff is the quintessential voice of humanism, wit, and the common man in the Shakespeare canon. He is a constant voice for individual life over patriarchal nationalistic honor and, and he refuses to reminisce with his friends about joy in bygone days; his joy is eternal and almost zen-like. He lives in the moment, man. But time - and a brutally excessive drinking habit - have given Falstaff the gout and painful boils, among other innumerable diseases. It's also found him in his 70s, joyful but acutely aware of his naturally-imposed limits. Falstaff evades the recognition of time because he understands that, in the end, it exhibits only saltness and deterioration, contributing nothing essential to his life.

"Well, thus we play the fools with the time, and the spirits of the wise sit in the clouds and mock us."
-Prince Hal, on his inaction.
from The Second Part of King Henry IV
Act II, scene 2, l. 133-134

Foolishly spent time is time spent being mocked by our ancestral collective wisdom. So the question is, what is time spent foolishly? How can we possibly know? It seems like more often than not, I get advice that sounds like "All you can really do is wait." It's the trite old expression "time heals all wounds," but when all I do is wait and expect answers, I feel foolish. I feel like I'm playing the fool with time. I guess it's possible that the spirits of the wise are jaded, that they forget what it's like to be human, to feel, to have your understanding constricted to patient grains of sand at the midpoint of an hourglass. They mock us in their wisdom because they are proud, because they've already paid their dues and waited and expected answers and felt foolish and maybe they got them and maybe they didn't, but either way they're not waiting for anything anymore.

They've stopped wondering if they'll always feel this way/so empty, so estranged.

But you and I haven't stopped wondering, Ray. Understand, I don't compare my life to yours. You've been to hell and back so many times/you must admit I kind of bore you. And I'm appreciative of that. I hope I'm never so acquainted with that journey as you are. If I'd been born just a few miles north and a few years earlier, we would've gone to the same high school, but you ditched class and got in fights and it took you so long to ever pull yourself together. You would have had no sympathy for me, overprivileged, overconfident, idealistic, and I know that. Even so, your music means something significant to me, so thank you. Thank you for your inspired confusion of physicality, early morning beauty, sexuality, emotional hardship, and thunderstorms. In the end, there's a lot of things neither of us understand/why so many people lie.

I had a great conversation with Kimberlee about Ray Lamontagne's album "Trouble." It's inspiringly hopeful and desperately sad, often at the same time. The whole thing just feels so incredibly human.

I think the word is "timeless," and that's of interest to me now more than ever.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Time is a Soothsayer, Supposedly

I want time to tell me those things. Right now. Okay? Isn't that how it works?

What about you, Nick Drake? Can you just tell me? How did you get such an overwhelmingly satisfying response? Time seems pretty cryptic, at least to me.

If time told you all that, then why did you overdose? But we are different people. Maybe that's not what you were looking for. Or maybe time lied to you, and told you the real story later, she felt bad about her dishonesty.

Time is a human construct anyway, isn't she? We created our own prophetess, just like the Greeks created their Gods, their oracles. Humans have always needed them. But the seers at Delphi overdosed too. They didn't like what they saw. Maybe time doesn't either, and maybe that's why she lied to you, Nick. Maybe I just want her to lie to me, too.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I've been meaning to write about my uncle Paul's show that's on display at Finch Lane (The Art Barn) right now, but then somebody did it for me!
15 bytes is an online zine about local art in Salt Lake, and they just did a lengthy and very cool write-up of the show. Read it here. Great photo of him as well.

I love Paul. He is truly one of my favorite human beings. Ever since I was little, I've connected with him on a really personal level. The effortless joy and kindness he emanates, almost in spite of himself, and his dedication to expression through art have always made him an important role model in my life. He's always been interested in me as well, and as we've shared music and ideas over the years he's always showed me a kind of adult respect that really empowered me and fostered my thought, especially concerning music and art.

I also love Paul's art, so it means a lot when I say that this is, by far, my favorite group of paintings I've ever seen from him. I have so much to say about the show, but I'd rather you just go see it for yourself. Take some time to explore the depth of the world of marks and subtleties he creates, and then call me and we'll talk about it. Or just let me know when you're going so I can come too :)