Glass Stories EP & Chapbook
Pre-order the chapbook and EP through the Kickstarter campaign, June 5 to 30 at this link.
What is Glass Stories?
Glass Stories is a collection of two short stories, two songs, and photographs inspired by the fragility, adaptability, and resiliency of glass. The project makes connections across boundaries of history, fiction, and music, with the mythical and physical presence of glass as an inspiration. It’s also a project that marks a new chapter in my career—this is my first collection of short stories, and shows the deep connections I’m hoping to build between music and fiction in the coming years.
The COVID pandemic changed the world in ways we are only beginning to understand—and it has changed me too. It’s been a time of terrible suffering and loss for millions of people all across the world. Even though my family and I have so far escaped the worst effects of the pandemic, I’ve struggled with deep feelings isolation, frustration, and worry about the future. This project is an attempt to turn those emotions into something that might help me find peace, and I hope it can be for others as well.
What is Glass Stories about?
In the late 17th century, a Viennese man became an architect to the king of Poland. In addition to cathedrals that are still standing today, he also built a manor house that he named Muranoẃ. He named it after the Viennese island where he was born, Murano, a place that has been famous for glassmaking since the 13th century. More than 250 years later, the same geographic location had grown into the largest enclave of Jews in Europe. During World War II the Nazis built walls around the neighborhood, turning it into the Warsaw Ghetto, a site of terrible persecution and mass murder.
The two stories are set in this same geographic location, telling imagined stories that show both the fragility and the resiliency of the people who lived there. The first, “Seven Years” is about a Viennese servant named Paolina working in Muranoẃ manor house in the 17th century who suffers consequences from an accident and must accept that she can’t change her circumstances. The second, “Weapon to Wield,” is set in the Warsaw Ghetto during the second World War, is a coming of age story about a young Jewish boy who learns the truth about his situation, and differs with his father about how to respond.
The songs are built from the same ideas, exploring bad luck, self-doubt, and the struggle to fight against powerful, oppressive forces while still retaining one’s dignity. I composed the songs and sing and play banjo and harmonium, and recorded and mixed the audio with performances by Amelia Lukas on flute and Catherine Lee on english horn. Jasnam Daya Singh will join us at the live performance playing harmonium and piano. I produced and mixed the songs, and they were mastered by Gus Elg.
What inspired Glass Stories?
I started thinking about glass during the summer of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd. Protests had been ongoing the whole summer in Portland, which drew the attention of then-President Trump and many other right wing elites. My hometown had become the battleground for a proxy war—a war of ideas and ideology where real people were suffering, and in some cases dying.
I did a series of interviews on my podcast More Devotedly where I interviewed artists and arts leaders to hear their thoughts about the situation. As I decided how I would set music to the episodes, I decided that glass, an instantly recognizable and evocative material, would be the way to draw attention to the fragility that I felt represented the situation in Portland.
But, over time, I learned more about glass as a physical and sonic material, and I found it wasn’t nearly as fragile as I thought. It can be strong, it can be incredibly well suited to both aesthetic and practical uses, and it can be reused over and over again. Focusing on the tension between fragility and resilience was a better way to represent the fight for justice for Black and Brown communities in the United States, and it provided a better mindset for me to find my own place in that effort.
I found that same tension describes people all over the world who are struggling and have struggled against difficulties as whole communities or as individuals. Glass Stories follows characters facing difficult situations, where glass objects and the mythology that surrounds them, are a driving force in the stories.
What can supporters expect?
Supporters can receive a digital download of the music, a printed copy of the chapbook, an invitation to a supporters-only online presentation about the project at 2 pm pacific/5 pm eastern on Sunday, July 3rd, and admission to a live performance featuring Amelia Lukas on flute, Catherine Lee on english horn, Jasnam Daya Singh on harmonium and piano, and myself on voice and banjo. The concert is Friday, July 1st at Resound NW studio in SW Portland at 7:30 pm. Those living outside of Portland can receive a hard copy of the chapbook in the mail, or a digital download of the music. Anyone can join in the online event with Douglas Detrick where he’ll talk about the songs and stories, the history, and the process of making the work. The chapbook is 56 pages, and will be a 5.5″ x 8.5″ perfect-bound book with black & white photographs.