Sunday, October 25, 2009

2 shows in one day!

hurrah! we have crossed a threshold today. one show at noon, next one, across town at 4. bam! now who's famous?

both shows were 2 hours, one at the west vancouver christian science church (a rockin' gang!) and the next at a catholic worker community house in east van(couver). also a rockin gang!

dig one of the songs here. it is called "comin' home" and is based on the story of the prodigal son.

this week we will be heading out of band camp and back down into the states. bellingham, washington, here we come!

hey also, just as a personal aside, if you are reading this blog - i wanna know! say a little "hey" in the comment box below and let me know you're out there. k? hello?

Friday, October 23, 2009

deep in the labors of band camp

hello friends!

we are so busy with setting up new dates for the washington and oregon legs of our upcoming tour, as well as rehearsing and learning lots of new material, but i wanted to fill you in a little. not to mention share some wonderful videos.

first of all - i want to give a little example of one of the reasons i love christian science. a couple of days ago i awoke feeling really sick - sore throat, hard to swallow, weak and woozy. i quickly went to prayer, resting in my understanding that i am not a fleshly body, subject to the random whims of luck and germs, but, entirely separate from that, a creation of god, wholly spiritual. the thought that really grabbed me was that i am not a body, but an idea, straight from the mind that is god. below is a video from that afternoon, which shows the awesome transformation that occurred.


video


it has been great to feel this group beginning to come together, feel and act as a unit. i am realizing more and more that this is necessary to really play music together. here are some recent photos of The Blessing Tree, taken by our good friend, Julie Furbush.


Partridge Family?


The Monkees?

this group of musicians i am with right now, is truly amazing. ben has set psalm 107 to a truly awe-inspiring bit of music/theatre/marching band antics that honestly you have to see to truly get. every time i sing it i become so proud to be alive, proud to be in a world where such FEELING and joy and reverence exist. i hope that you all get to hear it some time. even if there were a recording of it, it would never do it justice. this is exactly how playing live music should be.

and finally, just for you, another video of the hard labors going on here at camp bow isle...


video

when do they have time to play music?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

after the summit!

hey there friends!

just finished playing at the canada youth summit. it was a fine event, attended by folks from all over canada, and several states in the US. it was truly wonderful to see so many young folks sincerely excited about spirituality - learning and growing and really setting their hearts to it. this was the first performance of "the blessing tree" - a group consisting of me, and 4 others - ben vaughan (guitar, voice, recorder, cardboard drumset), ashton glass (voice, percussion, toy drum), tim kitz (bass, mbira, banjo), and bryan reed (cello, percussion). the performance is called "the blessing tree" because it is a combination of my tree of life material and ben's beatitude sing-along. it is a really great, warm, interactive show.

this week the 5 of us are tucked away on an island off the coast of british columbia, felling trees and rehearsing our material. we all are going to be performing on one another's material, so we have lots of song to learn!

i first made music with ben, ashton, and tim last winter back in boston when they came out to record the beatitudes. we performed together several times, but we are all writing lots of music all the time, so there is a lot to catch up on.


next time, videos from our island hideaway!


Saturday, October 17, 2009

Standing On Ideas

today i am at the canada youth summit in victoria BC. it is a wonder to me that i am here.

as i have been traveling for the last couple of weeks, not to mention the spiritual and creative journey of the last 2 years, writing, recording, and performing this music, i am have been impressed by a new thought: what i am standing on is an idea.

as i took off on the plane for san diego at the end of september and considered what i was going to do, i realized that i was taking this trip because of an idea - this music. i was taking a flight, people were meeting me, people would be coming to see the performances, money was changing hands, all because of an idea. it was this idea that was guiding my life, and, actually involving more and more other lives. it is especially impressive to me that there was a time, only a couple years ago when, this idea wasnt part of my life at all. then, it began to arrive, but it was an idea that i was entertaining privately. then, little by little it was becoming more and more real to me, i gained confidence in the idea.

as i was flying to san diego it dawned on me that, where at one point i had been tentatively, privately cultivating this idea, now i was walking on it. it was supporting me. it was causing me to travel, causing me to learn, causing me to interact with others. AND it has become the very path i am walking.

someone who has an idea they love, if they are going to share it, if they are going to live it in the world, must at some point become so confident in that idea that they are no longer supporting it, but it is supporting them. and the more i walk on this good idea, the more i stand on it put my weight on it, the more i see that it is worthy of that confidence. it WILL support me. and it will support others too. god is rich to bless us with good ideas. fascinating and beautiful ideas!

how incredible to behold an idea, growing and growing, from a private and unsure thought, to a robust and influential system of ideas with great character and power! what a fascinating development!

hoping to have some bootleg audio recordings for you soon....

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Blessing Tree, Assembled!

ok friends,

no more attention to capitalization. there is no time for such trivialities.

i have made it to victoria, BC, where i, and 4 friends - ben, ashton, brian, and tim, will be performing tomorrow night at the Christian Science Canada Youth Summit. this will be the first of many shows that we will be playing together as - "The Blessing Tree" - a combination of my Tree of Life music and ben's Beatitude singalong. instruments involved: guitars, bass, banjo, voices, strap on drum, cello, xylophone, mbira, and cardboard drumset. these are musicians who i LOVE, and who i have not seen for 6 months. so when i arrived at their place last night, on bowen island, BC, we had a many hour sharing of our treasures. and treasures they are! so many wonderful and inspired ideas coming out of the children of god! you will just have to wait until the blessing tree comes to your town. sing-a-longs abound. and lots of really fast rhyming.

to recap the last few days - wednesday was the last of 9 concerts in 11 days! it was a marathon, and i learned so much about performing during that time. it is hard to imagine taking in so much in so little a time.

for the record, and to hail the goodness of this thing that is happening, i would like to mention that a person who came to one of the early shows in this tour emailed me afterward and let me know that he had been healed of a long standing grief during the performances of one of my songs. there have been more things like that. simple conversations, little comments that prove that this music is moving thought, causing hearts to be moved, and revealing the natural happiness that is god's expression. i am so glad to be part of this.

the wonderful feeling here (well, one of them) is seeing that this whole tour, all of it, is a great big collaboration - the work of the Spirit, bringing people together, to support one another, share their gifts, and be involved. as i look around and see all these folks coming together around ideas, i am touched. we all love the spirit, we love one another, we love music, expression, god. and this love that we feel, draws us together do to things that are ALIVE. being involved is humbling and grace-filled.

oh! and please check out my ALL NEW website, http://www.stonebalancer.com/, where you can even purchase Tree Of Life as a digital download if you choose! and you can help me get the word out!

love to you all!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Count Soul, Not souls

It has been quite an adventure to be traveling around performing over the last 10 days or so. But this has been a different adventure than I have ever had before. These travels have taken me, not only from place to place, but into different communities, churches, homes - all intimate spaces, made up of real people.

Some of these shows have been raucous and packed to the walls with people. Others of them have been smaller, almost like conversations.

Last night's concert at the CSO at the University of Washington was the latter. I had been expecting lots of people - maybe 30. But when the time came, there were 6 folks sitting in the 30 seats we had set out.

In years past this would have been too much for me. I would have felt embarassed, maybe devalued by the seeming lack of interest in what I had to offer. (I immediately think of the concert I played up in Springfield, MA with my college band, "Jarvis", in which the mainenance man at the club set up a ladder right in front of me on the stage and began to change a light bulb in the middle of one of our songs!) But, I am happy to say that that way of seeing a performance is forever gone from my eyes. These days, certainly because of the nature of this music - because it has all come directly out of prayer, and praise of God - I feel confident that what I have to give is worthy, beautiful, and in fact, healing. I know that if someone comes to hear me they are coming to be touched. Even if it is only one person, that feels like a deeply important event.

I have begun to think of it this way- rather than comparing it to the large numbers that I was expecting, I am really delighted at the opportunity of being able to sing something truly meaningful to even one heart. This is more than just a trick because we are sharing the room with Soul, not souls. Who is present at this concert? Soul! how many are there? There is only one, and it is All. When Soul, the real deal, Love itself, is seen and felt in the room, all present feel more life. We all feel more connected, see more opportunities, and feel more excited about life. And that's what it's all about!

Soon I am off on the ferry to Bainbridge Island for one more house show tonight! I have made a specific request that no light bulbs be changed during the show.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Beautiful, Expressive, Alive

Since we last spoke I have performed 2 shows. Both wonderful. The first was at the Soulfood Bookstore in Redmond, WA. When I first walked in, Clint, the owner (with long hair and red beard) says with kind voice and big smile, "First things first - what kind of hot drink can I get you?"

It was a very warm space. When he introduced me, Clint said, "Welcome to Soulfoods, a safe place for artists..." which I think is a particularly wonderful way to characterize one's bookstore. It did feel safe, and warm, and appreciative.

You can see the archived videos of the show here:



Then, yesterday, after church, after pancakes at Mae's diner, and after a windy walk at Alki Beach in West Seattle, it was off to a house concert. One of the really fun things about this tour, in which I have no car of my own, and dont really know where I am going at all, is that I am almost entirely dependent upon my hosts. These wonderful folks with whom I am staying have, in many cases, organized the concerts I am playing, and are delivering me to them as well. That was so in this case, and I never really know where we are going or what it is going to be like until we get there.

We arrived at a beautiful home, rich with dark wood, asian art, and sweet family photos on the fridge. I met Mell, my hostess who showed us to the gracious concert space. One wall of the space was really a huge window looking out onto a lake that shone in the evening light. To make things even better, it was a dessert and concert event! So, soon people were arriving with a hunger for music and an abundance of cakes and pies, tarts and cookies.

It was another warm event, intimate and informal. This is my favorite. I love to be able to answer people's questions, joke around, and sing together. A friend said after the show, "each concert feels like you are giving us all a big hug," which, sounds to me just right. And I feel the same. We are all there together, praising God in a new way, a way that is revealing itself as we go. I continue to learn this about music - it is not about cd's and radio. It is a basic thing of life, able to bring people together, connect us intimately, and reveal to us more and more who we are. It has the ability to unwind us, and help us let our beautiful, expressive, alive selves out. And then it turns out we are all being beautiful, expressive, and alive together.

Tonight I am playing at the big CSO at the University of Washington. Here we go!

Below are some photos from my walk this morning...

Lovely water tower

Lovely cement fish!

The tiny sun next to some immense Northwestern evergreen

Downtown Seattle, as viewed from West Seattle, my temporary home

Friday, October 9, 2009

Off To Seattle!

Arrived in Seattle yesterday afternoon after a most beautiful flight from LA. Of the 194 pics I took from my window seat, I will show you 5...

Taking off in LA

The vastness of the blanket of LA

Pattern meets wilderness, northeast of LA

Awesome Mt. St. Helens, with Mt. Adams bringing up the rear

Seattle's waterfront in the foreground and amazing Mt. Rainer reigning over it


The show on Wednesday night was one of the best yet. Seemed like about 45 folks all piled into the Asher House in LA. And soon we were all singing together. My fave songs to do as singalongs are Lead, Jump In The River, and You Can't Take My Life Away, as the victorious closer. During lots of the show people were snapping photos and taking video, which I love, but I really wish I could be doing the same! It is so sweet to me to see heads bobbing, folks swaying, singing along while I perform. I am coming to see that it is a kind of conversation. I am singing and people are responding with all their different ways of communicating.

One of my favorite moments was during You Can't Take My Life Away. I had just handed out the few song sheets that I had. And You Can't... is one text heavy song. So we all sing together, just on the chorus. About halfway through the song I noticed a young woman in the front row, almost jumping up and down as she read along with me. She was mouthing the words, following along intently on the song sheet as I was singing, and the words that she was mouthing, were, of course, coming out of my mouth. Then we all burst in together with the great defiant chorus. At the end of the song the guitar drops out and we all, continuing in our one emphatic voice, holler one more time, "You can't take my life away! oooh, You can't take it away!" And then pow, it's over.



I have never been to Seattle before and I love drinking in the newness of it all. As we were landing all the city was laid out before us in wonderful views. Islands, mountains, the brightly colored waterfront and bold industrial quarters, bridges, and swaths of beautiful dark green trees. It seemed to me the city that a little boy might build as he was making the most fun city he could think to build.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Be Not Afraid Of Their Faces

I love being on the road. I love to have my thoughts, my most precious resource, with me in these new places. My home for tonight is in the Asher House (a home for Christian Science students) at UCLA, and for now, all is quiet. I have a sweet little garden out my window, and the dry, airy light of autumn in Southern California is resting on the tops of the trees.

Last night was another performance coupled with a spiritual talk given by CS lecturer Tim Myers. It was an event for teens and there were about 12 of them there. It was intimate, in a private home, our bellies filled up with pizza and salad. Actually, mostly just pizza.

The scene: the kids splayed out across a few couches, not knowing what they were about to hear. Me, opening the evening with songs, staring into 12 blank faces. As adults, often when we talk with teenagers we ply them with questions about themselves - What are you into? What kind of music to you like? And often the teens respond uncomfortably, hesitatingly, inaudibly. And all day I have been praying, thinking of these folks who I don't know yet, longing to sing in such a way that their hearts will be touched, and that I may be able to give a bit of a gift of spiritual vision. How can we meet one another?

As I began it did seem no one was listening. The kids were sinking deep into the couches, casting glances to one another -so very different from an audience of adults who are there entirely by choice, who are really seeking to get something from a performance. But here is the interesting part: about 3 songs in, mid-song, with words flying out of my mouth, I was thinking to myself, "What is the right way to proceed with this? How can I connect with them?" And the answer I felt, right in the moment was an interesting one. It said in my heart, "Don't try to be popular with them. Don't think of them as kids who you have to reach. Just rest in the fact that they are alive, just like you, and have soul and guts and can hear the reality of the music you are singing. Basically, it was saying, "Give them a powerful performance and don't pander to them".

So thats what happened. I closed my eyes and sang with sensitivity and conviction. I opened them and reached out to my audience with love, strengthened by the fact that they are not "young people", but just people.

Over the couple of hours that we all spent together there was a fascinating and palpable warming that went on. Conversations bloomed, stories were related, jokes and laughter. And now, the next day, I think with a full heart of the thoughts, our most precious resource, that have been shared, and are moving, new, in all of us.

It is wonderful to have the opportunity to explore lots of ways to share visions of the Spirit with others. To experiment, succeed, fail, change things around for next time.

And next time is in a few hours when I will be performing for a broader audience, here at UCLA.

Tomorrow, on to Seattle! You can see the first show I will be playing there. It will be streaming live at 8pm-10pm PST, 11pm-1am EST on Saturday, October 9th. Check it out here:

http://www.soulfoodbooks.com/OldRoot/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=44&Itemid=49

Until later!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Taking Off The Mask

Last night I performed at an event whose theme was "Taking Off The Mask - Unveiling Your God-Given Identity".


The more I see the power that art has to heal and inspire the more the more I begin to understand the huge work there is to do as an artist. I have long understood that art is not just about something pretty on your wall, or a song to sing along with on the radio. It is a force in the lives of people, communicating pure ideas in ways that nothing else can. But recently, as I have been performing this spiritual music in front of audiences, I feel the gravity of the opportunity to really help - to do something that will touch the heart.


I have noticed people in my life, who, because of their confidence or their ability, their lack of fear, have shown me a new direction I could go, a new way I could live. I think of these people as "door-openers". I have a friend who is absolutely fearless about making jokes. He will make a joke in a situation in which most others feel constrained by self-consciousness. In these times, his willingness to be loose, his refusal to submit to self-consciousness, loosens up the feeling in the whole room. His freedom makes me more willing to make a joke, to step out on a limb. Taking off our masks of fear and self-consciousness reveal the amazing creatures we are.


This is what art and artists can do. The work of artists is not to create objects or songs. It is to unveil the God-creation within themselves. And the outcome of that work is beauty expressed. A powerful song, sung with conviction and poetry can open doors for the world to loosen up. It can give people a deeper sense of freedom and expression. It is a wonderful thing to sing openly about love, honesty, freedom - all kinds of things. And this happens when the mask is taken off. Then we see that we are not living in a mundane world, but rather, we are living in a deep and poetic spiritual creation.


Below are some lyrics from my song "Nothing To Hide". This was one of the theme songs of the performance last night. Listen to it here: http://www.myspace.com/alexcookmusic


Brightly to you all!


The sky is wide, that’s what I feel inside

I let it go, that weight of horrible pride

And now I’m flyin’ up above it, cuz I gave up the sham

Thank God, thank God, I’m who I am


Dontcha know, dontcha know?

You’re already perfectly clad

Like a precious stone, theres nothing to add

And you go walking past the hawkers tryin’ to sell you a line

But you don’t need nothing’ you already shine


And the sky it churns with promise when your life is honest

Everybody say amen

It’s the end of all the hurtin’ when you drop your heavy burden

I don’t care how bad you’ve been


The world is full of lies, but I’m gonna be slick as a fish

I’ll slip through their fingers, free as you wish

Because I know just who I am, and I’m not playin’ a part

My every day, is from the heart


There ain’t no cloud, hangin over my head

I got nothing to hide and I got nothing to dread

And now I’m flyin’ up above it, cuz I gave up the sham

Thank God, thank God, I’m who I am

Monday, October 5, 2009

Welcome!



Dear friends,

Welcome to The Voice and The Song. This is a blog that will chronicle my west coast tour supporting my new album of spiritual funk/rock/reggae music, "Tree of Life". It is also my intention in this blog to use correct capitalization. (for those of you who know me, you understand the depth of this commitment.)

I'm glad to have you with me now. There are too many beautiful things happening every day not to share them with you.

Like, for a large example, this whole idea of a tour. I have dreamed of being on the road, playing music, for years and years, but only now has it become a reality. I am realizing that in order for something like this to work, the voice, the reason to perform for others, must believe in itself. The musician must understand that he has something wonderful to give to people. And, he must actually HAVE something wonderful to give! This is the reason for getting up in front of others. It is about letting the voice out - but actually it's more like THE VOICE. As I sing my songs, THE VOICE has my words and my images on it, but really it is a very basic, simple thing of life. The voice of life, singing and being shared.

The more I understand this, the more I am able to feel it in the room with us, and simply know that it is THE VOICE that is singing, and not really me.

I have played 2 shows so far - Encinitas and San Juan Capistrano. Both were well attended and lovely. I have been loving ending the shows with "You Can't Take My Life Away", the whole crowd singing along with the chorus. And at the end of the song, the guitar drops out and we all sing into the heavens, "You can't take my life away, yeah... you can't take it away!" and are left with that defiant, powerful feeling celebrating in our hearts.

You can always hear this music at http://www.myspace.com/alexcookmusic

Some great news - a new friend in San Diego turns out to be an aspiring film guy and did a high quality video and audio of the whole show in Encinitas. "Soon" there will be video clips on YouTube, and there is talk of a bootleg live album. (Which, I have to admit, even before this came along, I was musing on what I would call a live album from these performances... ahem. And I think a wonderful idea would be "Tree of Live". Right?!

Today I am heading up to LA where I will be playing a couple of joint events. I will perform for a little bit and then CS lecturer Tim Myers will give a talk, and then I will perform again. It makes me feel happy to see music, especially my music, being embraced by my community, and used as a tool to help us all grow spiritually.

And that is wonderful because that is one of the greatest things that art is - a tool, to help us grow spiritually. http://www.stonebalancer.com/artfeedsthehungry.htm

for all you non-californians out there, here is a photo of the view over the back fence of my home for the last 2 days, and another from the porch of my home for the next 2 hours.


Over Summer and Laura's back fence, Encinitas












From Amy's porch, looking out on San Clemente

More to come!