Worlds Collide: ChillStep

Music has always spoken to me since that day in the fourth grade when a band director put a trumpet in my hands and asked me if I wanted to be in the band.

I am ecumenical when it comes to music. I owe my allegiance to no artist or style but rather find myself drawn to the beauty, power and mystery in all musical forms and styles. I listen to music often when I write or when I’m editing photographs. I listen when I drive, when I take long walks and in the little dead places in life where nothing else is happening (standing in lines, walking between the parking lot and the office, getting dressed, waiting for airplanes to take off.)

I used to listen to a lot of Chill. It was like having a soundtrack to my life played through the speakers of the humongous SUV I drove at the time. In recent years, I fell under the thrall of Dub Step, the London underground mashup of electronic dance music, power chord rock and roll, heavy bass and anything else you want to throw in the blender of Fruity Loops (a computer program for editing music). I especially love “the drop”, a moment in most Dub Step songs when after a soulful or intricate opening there is a dramatic pause and then a blast of sonic energy in the form of a wall of music that makes one imagine a warehouse full of people jumping up and down in unison and joy.

Imagine my wonder, in recent days, when I stumbled onto ChillStep, the bastard child of two genres of music I had, until then, loved equally but separately. I had used a voice command to tell my handy electronic assistant to play a Dub Step playlist and somehow, not once but twice, the assistant responded, “Playing ChillStep playlist.”

The calm moody laid back world of Chill jammed up with the frenetic power of Dub Step. ChillStep appeared as a revelation. Calming and energizing in turn.

I commend it to you.




Time Travel

About 20 years ago, I crept into my children’s bedrooms at about 3 a.m. and rousted them from their sleep.

“Come with me. Let’s go outside and watch the meteor showers.”

Tonight, I went out to watch the Perseid meteor shower again. I saw a lot of meteors but it was the memories that came thick and fast.

As a boy, my best friend and I built telescopes from parts we ordered from the Edmund Scientific Catalog. I studied the stars. Traveled to them in my mind. Developed a love for the mysteries of the night sky and the universe. When the city came and installed a street lamp, I shot it out because it cut down dramatically on what I could see in the night sky. It made perfect sense to me but neither my father nor the public works department were amused. Another night my friend’s mother locked up the house and went to bed without knowing that we were on the roof stargazing.

As a young man, I remember walking to the barn to milk before day break and seeing the Milky Way in sharp relief against and deep black sky, unpolluted by street lamps. I could barely make it out tonight from my suburban neighborhood with the bright lights of Nashville castings its glow from the east.

And then that night I woke up William and Marshall and explained to them what was happening as streaks of light coursed across the sky. They still remember that night fondly. They were sleepy and groggy but they turned their faces to the sky and were delighted when they saw the shooting stars. I suspect they will always remember that and, perhaps some future night, they will wake their own children and make new memories. With their faces turned, once again, to the night sky they will begin a story by saying, “Your grandpaw did this one night with us a long time ago.”

Memories, like the stars themselves. Steady.Sometimes harder to see than others. Always there.