Tag Archives: music






Day 21 of the 30 days, 30 words challenge


The word time obviously has many meanings and a super long definition so I have chosen the specific section my finger landed on in the entry.


time  (tīm)  n.  6.  Often, times.  a.  a period in the history of the world or contemporary with the life or activities of a notable person: prehistoric times: in Lincoln’s time.  b.  the period or era now or previously present: a sign of the times; How times have changed!  c.  a period considered with reference to its events or prevailing contradictions, tendencies, ideas, etc.: hard times; a time of war.




This time, time is on my side, yes it is. It’s only a change of time, love, time, love, time, love, it’s only a change of time. Feels like the very first time. Ain’t got time. Ain’t wasting time no more. All of the time. All of the time in the world. All things in time. All this time: time in a bottle, nick of time, the hands of time, shades of time, sea of time, sand of time, sleepy time time, precious time, pony time, party time, pillow time, quality time, quittin’ time, crying time, closing time. Old time. Only time. One moment in time. Time after time. I can’t believe in time. Time won’t let me. Time to get away. Good time tonight. Let the good times roll. Good times never seemed so good. The best of times. Big time. Spending time, spend more time. Space and time, some other time, out of time. On borrowed time. There are bad times just around the corner. The last time I saw Richard. The last time. Hard times come again no more. Time was. Time waits for no one. Time is: a joker, runnin’, tight. Time loves a hero. If I could turn back time. Do you remember the time? One kiss at a time, one love at a time. Love takes time. Love gets me every time. I kissed you my last time, the last time I kiss you. Right on time. River of time. Some other day, some other time. Where have all the good times gone? Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care (about time)? Wasting time, wasted time. Tomorrow is a long time. Long, long time. Long time gone. Time was. Time waits for no one. It’s been a long time comin’ but I know. It’s going to take some time. A question of time. Time will tell. Time will call your name. Time passes slowly. Time stands still. Time and a half.  Time out of mind. Hard times ain’t gonna rule my mind no more. Time heals. Time for livin’. Time for a miracle. Til the end of a time. Next time. Next time you see her. The times they are a changin’. The time of my life. The time is high. Take your time. Nothin’ but time. Time marches on. Hit me baby, one more time. There was a time. What time is it?






Comprised mostly of songs with time in the title and, in some instances, lyrics from songs that contain time.


Filed under 30 days 30 words

eye open·er

eye open·er (ˈī-ˌōp-nər, -ˌō-pə-) n.  1.  something that causes the eyes to open in astonishment or realization, as a piece of news, discovery, etc.  2. [Slang] an alcoholic drink, especially one taken early in the day.



Beyoncé & Who Run(s) The World


Although I’ve always loved Beyoncé as an artist, more recently I have come to deeply appreciate her and love the way she makes me consider questions about aesthetics and pop culture, about myself and the world I live in and move through. Part of this has come from examining and analyzing her videos. I brought “Countdown” into my freshman composition class so we could look at the video’s aesthetics—choreography, costumes, styling, settings—and how they was greatly influenced by others and in parts taken wholecloth from Belgian Choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker. In doing so, we talked about the context of her as a pop diva, about the history of music videos (hers and others), about issues of ethics and recycling vs. plagiarizing. A few weeks ago, my friend Meg introduced me to her song and video “Who Run The World (Girls).”

On a first watch, I was taken by the choreography, strong and dynamic, by Beyoncé’s holding the leashes of hyenas in a desert, by her hair taking on a light shade of blonde and the sometimes “whitening” of her that happens either with or without her permission. Meg told me how Beyoncé had seen videos of the two men from Mozambican kwaito dance group Tofo Tofo who choreographed part of the video and dance alongside her. She told her people she had to work with them. The body movements and the drumbeats are instantly recognizable as stemming from African dance. They are powerful, they showcase the fluid and sharp movement of bodies to strong rhythms. I showed “Who Run the World” to another friend Amanda, and she was struck by the end of the video, when, after a song about girls ruling the world, Beyoncé leads her army of women—clad in bright flowing dresses, combat boots and garter belts—up to uniformed riot policemen and leads her army in a salute to them. “Whoa, that is something,” she said, and went on to talk about that moment as a sort of insight into these women as powerful not only in the way they execute force but in how they choose to vocalize or not vocalize, how they choose to be assertive and how they choose to, at least seemingly, submit.

For me, this video is a striking commentary about women as powerful beings. About how women are sources of both sensuality and real power and the proposal that these don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Women use their wiles not just as manipulation of power but because this sensuality—in their bodies, their souls, their nature—is a part of who they are at their foundation.

This is in strong contrast to other representations of how women are portrayed as using their sexuality and sensuality. Oftentimes, women in film and media are shown using their sensuality as a form of trickery or a last ditch effort to save them. (These examples also often do an injustice to straight men, portraying them as oversimplified beings, oversexed dolts who can’t tell their wristwatch from their crotch.) If she is in a bind, a Charlie’s Angel could strut out in a bikini to distract a villain. Or Liv Tyler and Alicia Silverstone in the Aerosmith video “Crazy” can make eyes at the convenience store clerk to shoplift as much loot as they want. Or maybe when about to be raped by a man, a woman will use her sensuality to convince him she has changed her mind to buy a few seconds until she can grab the glass vase from the shelf and break it over his head. In these examples, a woman’s sensuality is a source of power but also a source of shame and guilt because she is using it in situations that allow her (and it) to be demeaned by others; her sexuality is the only thing she can use to help her because her smarts, her skills, her knowledge are nonexistent or not enough. She is objectified: her sensuality is reduced to being her only power instead of a deeply rooted part of who she is as a whole being—and that whole being, her real source of power.

This is not true in “Who Rule The World.” One of my favorite moments of brilliance in the video begins at time marker 2:20. In a close-up of Beyoncé, she sings the words “You will do anything for me” as she makes seductive facial expressions, looking away from the camera. Then, as she sings “Who Rule the World?”, she looks directly into the camera with soft eyes and smiles sweetly, a sort of “cover of Cosmopolitan” smile. But immediately after, she scrunches her face into a strong, aggressive expression and shouts: “Girls!” For me, it’s not about Beyoncé being coy and taking advantage of her unsuspecting male viewer. It’s about her knowing that her power rests in both her sweetness expressed in the question and in the strength and power delivered in the answer.



In the video, the women dancers wear military jackets strung over bras. They wear official army caps with metal stars. Later, some of them, including Beyoncé, wear brightly-colored flowing dresses with long slits up the sides; others don camisoles, underwear and long flowing capes. The dancers wear garters and stockings and black combat boots. At moments their underwear shows, but instead of this being a kind of seduction, it is a kind of powerful revealing. Because of the capes and slits in the dresses, the viewers can see the strength and power of these women’s bodies, and through them, the strength and power of women’s bodies in general. And in showcasing the strength of their hips and thighs, in both the costuming and the choreography, we remember that there has been, since forever really, a masculining of what power looks like: in human bodies and in the world. It looks like war. It looks like dominance. It looks like carved pecks and abdomens. It looks like giant sculpted Popeye arms. This video is saying: power looks like the line of muscle definition in a woman’s thighs, it looks like the delicate swoop of an arched back, it looks like the ability to dance with both subtle and sharp movement, hip sways and shoulder snaps. It is beautiful and it is strong.



As a woman raised in the South to understand that women are supposed to look and behave a certain way, I have not always been able to connect with or honor all that I am as a woman: my sensitivity and my power (and the power that comes from my sensitivity), my soft curves and my strong legs (and the strength that comes from having both soft and sturdy parts of my body). And it is really refreshing to have a perspective that is not an either/or, that does not ask me to sacrifice one for the other. Because fuck that. I don’t have to and I don’t want to. And not in some sort of I am Woman, Hear me Roar way. More that I am woman and I can roar if I want to. I can also whisper. I can dance and I can run. I can compromise and I can be unyielding. More that I am a woman and all that this encompasses. And that to be a woman, to be me, is to be beautiful and valuable and strong. I run this mother—




Filed under weekly words


1strum \ˈstrəm\  noun : an act, instance, or sound of strumming

2strum \ˈstrəm\ verb strummed  strum·ming

transitive verb 1.  a : to brush the fingers over the strings of (a musical instrument) in playing <strum a guitar>; b: to play (music) on a stringed instrument <strum a tune>           2. : to cause to sound vibrantly <winds strummed the rigging — H. A. Chippendale>

intransitive verb

1: to strum a stringed instrument 2: to sound vibrantly

strum·mer noun

(definitions this week taken from merriam-webster.com)

I took piano lessons for eight years. I started when I was six. I don’t remember if I asked for lessons or whether my parents just signed me up. In any case, the decision would have been a logical one as I adored music. From an early age, I loved to sing and did so pretty much all the time to anyone who would listen. My dad remembers me sitting fixated in front of the television as a young child, watching ballet and opera. As a toddler, I carried around my Fisher Price tape recorder with attached microphone everywhere I went.

I was always very moved by music, but as memory serves, I never really enjoyed playing or practicing the piano. I appreciated the delicacy of the movements of fingers over the keys and the sort of sweetness that emerged when a classical piece was played by someone who understood the instrument. It’s just that I always had the feeling that that someone was not me.

My father played the guitar in the evenings when I was small. If he knew more than two songs, I don’t know them. My memories are of dancing around in my Annie nightgown and accompanying him with my toy tambourine to the sounds of Peter, Paul and Mary’s “I’m in Love with a Big Blue Frog” and Captain and Tenille’s “Muskrat Love.”

When I was in seventh grade and a guitar class was being offered at my new school, I decided to take it. I packed up my dad’s old Takamine in a soft case and toted it with me to school. The first week we learned “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” (This was a logical choice for the instructor: All of us attended a Catholic school and the entire song is two chords: G and D). We also learned to pick the riff to “Can’t Touch This”: neer-neer-neer-neer-neer-neer-neer-neer (And by now, you should be able to pretty accurately assess my exact age). I scanned the room that first day, and I noticed quickly that I was the only girl there. I didn’t know hardly any women who played guitar. I had vaguely heard of Joni Mitchell and Joan Baez, but I hadn’t heard of Joan Jett, Bonnie Raitt, Sarah McLachlan. Instead of feeling empowered, I felt like I didn’t belong, and I quit.

Dar Williams

In college, I met my friends Julie and Sarah, who both played guitar, and I became curious again. I was also exposed to a world of music I hadn’t heard before. I found a home in contemporary folk music and here there were women playing guitars all over the place: Dar Williams, the Indigo Girls, Ani Difranco, Erin McKeown, Lucy Kaplansky, And yes, some of my early attempts at finger picking were to songs from Jewel’s first album.

I got a guitar for Christmas my freshman year of college and I began to play. And immediately, there was something different here than with piano. From that first strum, I felt a current in my body. It sounded like a heart beat. It sounded like a footstep. It sounded like the hitting of a boot on a plank of wood, like the hollow clang of a metal, like a voice echoing in a tower.

Woody Guthrie

Also, I was really, really bad. It took me three hours to make chord changes, and initially, I couldn’t sing when I played unless I phrased my singing in time with chord changes. But I didn’t care. There was something about the sound that kept me coming back. There was something about the sound that was satisfying, even if I wasn’t good. There was something about the sound that made me want to be better at making it.

The music I am most attracted to is music that over all else feels sincere. I love music that is sung on porches or in living rooms. I love music that has imperfections, where voices crack or one note is picked a lot louder than the rest. It gathers its beauty not from its proficiency but from its earnestness. It is beautiful because I can tell that the person making it needed to make it. This music is made to fill a void or to celebrate a milestone. This music is made because in the making, life becomes a little easier. Or suffering is shared. Or something needs to be said and this is the way to say it.

Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee

One of the definitions of strum is: “to cause to sound vibrantly.” I guess this is what drew me to the guitar and what draws me to folk music, to the blues, to old country. There is a vibrancy in these songs that ultimately reminds me of what it means to be alive—in all its loveliness and heartbreak, in its seamlessness and messiness.

A few years ago, a very talented singer/songwriter friend of mine and I recorded some songs together. We had sung together in college and after years apart, we reconnected and we sang again. The first time we attempted to record one song, Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times,” we did it in parts. I played the guitar. Then I sang. Then she did. But it felt mechanical. It didn’t work. We decided to do it the way we actually performed it. And when we sang, I played guitar and we harmonized, singing together with eyes closed because we didn’t need to look at each other to know when to begin or when to end. And that creation of sound is one of my favorite moments.

Elizabeth Cotton

Just a few songs that come to mind in relation to strum:

Disclaimer: Some of these don’t have “strumming” at all, the first one is acapella, actually. Many of them are finger-picked. But I mean strum as in “to sound vibrantly.”

Hazel Dickens “Little Pretty Bird” (even though there is no strumming involved in this one; it’s acapella)

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings “Time (the Revelator)”

Stephen Foster “Hard Times (Come Again No More)”

Elizabeth Cotton “Freight Train”

Woody Guthrie “Do Re Mi”

Dar Williams “If I Wrote You”

Bob Dylan “Don’t Think Twice”

Mark Erelli “The Only Way”

Lucinda Williams “World Without Tears”

Joni Mitchell “A Case of You”

Sonny Terry & Brownie McGee “A Better Day”

Doc Watson “The Coo Coo Bird”

Patty Griffin “Sweet Lorraine”

Po’Girl “Old Mountain Line”

Jeff Buckley “Hallelujah”


*It’s funny that this word is assigned this week as I’m playing a gig with an old bandmate Mark at The Neutral Ground in my hometown New Orleans.

1 Comment

Filed under weekly words