All those yellow lines we cross over in our sleep. This is how we are driving through the pandemic head on with the night and winter’s disguise. Here is Greg singing a Jesus song. Picture the musician with his guitar riding a bus across the Upper Peninsula and using a handheld mike to record the Jesus song. He departs from Jesus to read a poem entitled “Hour of the Wolf,” a homage to Ingmar Bergman and his vampire film he made with his former love Liv Ullman, who happened to be pregnant with his child. But always return to the “pilot” and those late-night scenes moving through winter on a bus. R. Thorburn
I read Thorburn’s “Hour of the Wolf,” from one of his poetry books, The Drunken Piano, shortly after its publication in 2009. I knew what it was to see my reflection in a bus window at 3:00 am, and I could hear the bus driver singing a blues song, late at night, driving his life away. I felt what it was to be mid-twenties and anxious; I knew the pinch of wire-rim glasses.
I wanted the wolfing hour to have a melody, maybe a divinity to accompany that grainy ride, and I came up with the song below – borrowing from Edward Hopper’s Hymn, “Jesus Savior Pilot Me” as a floating refrain from the incessant and noisy wheels of the bus. I saw Thorburn and the bus passengers related by anxiety to disciples in a boat on a stormy sea, and as I see many people these days, anxious about something they can’t see.… read more...
It all began on a rainy afternoon at a window inside Peter Gummerson’s house. Looking out the window, my fingers wrapped around chords on his Nord keyboard. I was recording a song entitled “8 Track.“ The original lyrics were taken from two poems and two different parts to my life—one was a runaway nineteen year old and the other a twenty-three year old in love with an older woman. Derrell Syria visited gummersound and laid down guitar throughout the three separate suites in the song. R. Thorburn
My words explore a soul’s stretch toward a white star emerging from lightning; a blending of Michigan & Wisconsin land and water into a memoir piece I have been writing – on and off – for 15 years. Thorburn gave me advice for selecting edits from two long stories, here melted down to this four minute word/music offering. G. Ormson
This song is art and love, a clarinet melody from a friend; Greg’s vocals ride above these moonstruck notes tinged with nostalgia, haunted by regrets. His Taylor guitar booms as the words I wrote for an old flame keep pace with the big chords and star-saturated runs of clarinet. We kissed in that borrowed car, our nights sliding under the tires like a Chagall, the violin tuned to a blue we painted inside out.
Then the goat floating from under our bed, its horns pricking a shined-up moon, in that lower harbor room. Driving out of town in a borrowed car, there were always ghosts crossing the road, like a Marc Chagall drawing of a peasant couple walking hand in hand, or a farmhouse with glowing windows. She said keep to the left as if the white line were a child. R. Thorburn
Gregory Ormson, music, guitar, and vocal; Russell Thorburn, words; Mike Bjella, clarinet. Mixed @ Gummersound, Marquette, Michigan… read more...
For 12 years I lived close to Lake Superior in Marquette, Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Two of my children were born there and all three spent their early years there. But my will to survive its brutal winters faded as the economic pinch turned mean and took a bite from my hide. I had to move.
While living in the U.P., I learned of the Finnish people in the late Nineteenth Century, sailed across the Atlantic to establish a new life. Many of them moved to the U.P., and had been there long before I was in 1998; so were the French Voyagers, and the Anishinaabe before them. They brought little, but their most important resource was sisu, or guts. They also brought their 1000 year old family-bonding mantra: sauna on kuma! Sauna is hot!
I grew to love my sauna and associate the best of my life’s hot times in the coldest of places. I built a sauna from scraps and tin roof panels I scavenged from a junkyard. Somehow, I found $173, to buy windows, a door, a stove and stove pipe. Preparing my sauna the first time, the roof caught fire. A friend was there and we managed to put it out with buckets of water. In time, I made it work.
It was a gathering place for poets and writers. We’d steam together, and afterwards, I’d concoct white Russians in big blenders and pour them into glasses held by writers, musicians, filmmakers, and friends. I’d watch them melt into their chairs as poems oozed from boiled bodies.… read more...
“Silver Beatle” came from a series of poems written with John Lennon in mind—and working with Gregory Ormson, I saw the potential for a song. We all want John Lennon to visit us in our back yard these days. To have him sing for us and tell us in his usual sardonic method we just might make it through this pandemic. R. Thorburn
In 1970, after my senior year of high school, I hitchhiked out to Berkeley and was at Winterland in October when it was announced during Quicksilver Messenger Service’s set that Janis Joplin had died in Hollywood. That night was October 4. I had spent my last three dollars for that concert which opened with Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead followed. When I returned to the Detroit area I formed a garage band, worked odd jobs and barely escaped the draft.
We are all creating new markers to anchor these days—in the hopefulness of rebirth and artful ways to live. R. Thorburn, Marquette, Michigan
“There were no flies on Frank that morning—after all why not? He was a responsible citizen with a wife and child, wasn’t he? It was a typical Frank morning and with an agility that defies description he leapt into the barthroom onto the scales. To his great harold he discovered he was twelve inches more tall than heavy. He couldn’t believe it and his blood raised to his head causing mighty red colourings.” John Lennon, from In His Own Write
Gregory Ormson, music, guitar, vocal; and Russell Thorburn, words; recorded & mixed at Gummersound, Marquette, Michigan… read more...
Video of wild Mustang grazing in the Arizona desert, filmed by Randy Anagnostis and accompanied by his original music and keyboard playing. We collaborated on a project which asked for a reading of Earth Teach fitted to a natural scene.… read more...
“I embrace the certain hurt of this path. At a cabin in the Midwest, I do not feel assaulted by noise; I seek justice for myself and creation. I enter the stillness, listen, and index the anchors of constancy.” Gregory Ormson
Russell Thorburn, piano; Gregory Ormson, words and voice. “Radio On,” composed by Thorburn, and a memoir by Ormson; mixed @ Gummersound, Marquette, Michigan.
Russell Thorburn and Gregory Ormson have worked together for over a decade writing original poems, prose, and music. Much of it happens in spite of distance and isolation. The seven songs/poems, posted for NATIONAL POETRY MONTH during April, are Ormson/Thorburn’s word/song series for the pandemic.
Isolated in an Upper Midwest studio, musicians record their work for “Mescalero Territory.” A sitar introduces the fever of an injured and isolated outlaw, holed up in a barn where Billy the Kid fights off rats and nightmares. The poet reads this story of “Mescalero Territory” to original sitar accompaniment.
Poem/song notes for number 2, “Mescalero Territory. ” Writer and reader, Russell Thorburn. Sitar, Gregory Ormson, Mixed Peter Gummerson @ Gummersound, Marquette, Michigan.… read more...
Russell Thorburn and Gregory Ormson have worked together for over a decade writing original poems, prose, and music. Much of it happens in spite of distance and isolation. The eight songs/poems posted over the next 8 days of April will close out NATIONAL POETRY MONTH for 2020.
Russell Thorburn plays “Chelsea Hotel,” a composition he wrote to celebrate Dylan Thomas. The hotel is similar to a whale swimming through the Atlantic humpbacked Ocean of New York City, and lives are certainly made of vibrations, artists and poets who swam through the hallways and never reached shore. In the song Dylan opens the door to Death wearing a Fifth Avenue gown and black gloves; he is there at his typewriter to finish the last pages of Under Milk Wood.
Substitute Thomas for Ormson’s memoir and corners of eternity, and don’t answer the door. “Chelsea Hotel” was performed at the Beaumier Folk Series Concert in 2014, Northern Michigan University. I was on piano and mumbling the lyrics. Here is the basic piano track in another gummersound recording. R. Thorburn
Free diving in Hawaii opened me to a whale song’s sonic jangling my synapses and brain cells. It came to me from deep down and far out. Sounds swam through the water and past my cochlea until my inner ear caught humpback aria as it rearranged maps in my head.
Under the waves, I heard the ecstatic; it was accompanied by sweeter-still unheard melodies of which John Keats wrote. Years later, I’m still trying to make sense of it all, like the yellow-robed priests: Mayan, Incan, or Egyptian, who crumbled into the dust at such otherworldly ditties. … read more...
IN this rare photo, 16 year old Bob Dylan and a friend, Dale B, pose with Dale’s Harley Davidson in 1956-7 on what is now called “Bob Dylan Drive,” in Hibbing, MN. I’d bet they wouldn’t have guessed that 63 years later Bob would release yet another song that once more would be a mindful mirage for the world. Released yesterday, 17 minutes of “Murder most foul.” Incredible Link below
In the yoga tradition of reverence for life, SAT SONG provides music for participation in a magnetic blending of East and West grounded in the language of soul. Through song chant and breath focus, repetitive words and musical phrases are well-suited to accompany yin yoga classes along with yoga workshops, events, retreats, music events, and festivals. SAT SONG is Gregory Ormson (G) and Soumya (Somi) Parthasarathy.
Somi comes from a long line of yoga and classical Indian music; Somi studies Indian classical music in Chandler, Arizona and practices Astanga style yoga. She enjoys blending traditions in music, lending her voice to raise songs of the soul. G teaches yoga and has practiced music instruments and vocal from the time he joined a choir at 10. He studies sitar at the SPK Classical Indian Music Academy in Chandler, Arizona.
The words SAT and SONG, in Sanskrit and English respectively, suggests the nature of hybrid music provided by Somi and G ——————————————————————————————————————————————————————-Contact information for SAT SONG: email@example.com; 808-640-4624; #motorcyclingyogiG; @GAOrmson.
Video and photography at the Salt River by Randy Anagnostis; recording by Raven Studios, Mesa, Arizona.… read more...
“There was something about the way he played his Stratocaster that made it seem otherwordly.” –Eric Clapton on Jimi Hendrix
My sitar flows in 19 bands of light: their names are baaj, chikari, and tarab. Its journey to my hand is a mystery, but its music-medicine came to my doorstep from an old land, gripped me from the eons, and pulled my soul into its orbit. It’s a path unlike any other, bending more than notes. A musician friend and professor said, “Its all angles.”
Saraswati dances, sitar bends, and because I’ve heard its music and felt it in my chest I participate in its step. This step is toward the depths and from them rises a watery siren-song of the fathoms.
Sitar music is a never-ending river, shepherding me to a place close and yet far away. My teacher speaks in common tones and offers up clusters of daring: “Consistency, consistency, consistency,” she says. Her words; the kernel of all learning, teaching, and the core of every guru’s curriculum.
I’ve seen the rivers of India, but I can’t put myself and my sitar on their banks; but once at dusk, on a hot July night, I made my way with this rosewood, gourd, string & steel riddle to the banks of the Salt River in east Phoenix to listen. There, I realized sitar will not accompany me without shepherding along a river of souls.
Looking to the Salt, I could almost see a funeral pyre float past; a desert inspired mirage bobbing with the current, like a lazy raft ablaze in flames, scented smoke and grief trailing behind.… read more...
Hear “When I Get Back to Marquette,” and “Mescalero Territory.”
Russell Thorburn, NEA recipient, is the author of four books of poems. His last book, Somewhere We’ll Leave the World, was published by Wayne State University Press. Currently he is producing and directing his one-act play Bomb Shelter for Black Box Theater at Northern Michigan University, where he teaches composition. It will premiere March, 2020, and includes original music for the end of the world that never happened in the sixties. www.russthorburn.com
Gregory Ormson, writer and musician living in Arizona, has collaborated with Thorburn over the last decade on word and poem projects. He writes on music, yoga, motorcycling, and landscape.
“Mescalero Territory” Lyric and voice, Russell Thorburn. Sitar, Gregory Ormson, engineered at Gummersound Studio, Marquette, Michigan. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7CJeFLGYOO8YVB0NjFQSUFhR0dJV09kSjlVZ2daTk5uYU9Z/view?usp=sharing
“When I Get Back to Marquette” Russell Thorburn, Marquette, Michigan lyric; Gregory Ormson, Mesa, Arizona, music, guitar, vocal, and lyric adaptation; Mike Bjella, clarinet, Montreal, Quebec; Peter Gummerson, Marquette, Michigan, sound engineering. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1CiqMkl6W9OOuS82qWe-LASo3ytH_FNLw/view?usp=sharing
“Rough Road? Breathe . . .” Just published in H.O.G. Magazine. I’ve been reading H.O.G. Magazine since 2002 when I joined the national H.O.G. organization. This is the first time they’ve ever published a story on yoga, or yoga for riders. H.O.G. riders and all of us realize the times are a changin’ and if we are fluid we’re better able to adapt. Breathing well and being fluid is what we do in yoga. Check it out bikers. Thanks to H.O.G., (ed., Matt King), and Superstition H-D in Apache Junction, AZ.
Motorcyclists love to ride, they want to ride longer, and they want to ride skillfully. That’s why I started Yoga & Leather: Yoga for Bikers at Superstition Harley Davidson in Arizona. The story is now published in issue 51 of H.O.G. (Harley Owner’s Group) magazine in digital format accessed by HOG members.
Two pages of the hard copy I’ll pass it along here. Thank you Matt, ed., H.O.G. Magazine. Get your copy of H.O.G. magazine for updates from the world of H.O.G. and Harley-Davidson. it includes riding tips, vintage bike notes, mechanical advice, riding tales, and stories of the next ride.
Over the last 15 months, Soumya and I have been practicing music of the soul by working on bhakti music, blending traditions of the East and West. Our band Sat Song (truth song) has a first event Thursday night in Tempe. We’ll perform for the 10 year Anniversary Celebration of the Arizona Interfaith Power and Light organization. This is an organization demonstrating much needed cooperation and respect in our day of division along religious and cultural lines. I’m pleased to be part of this event. Wish us well!
Soulful Music and Poetry: Back to Marquette
August 30, 7 PM @ The Crib
With Dylan Trost and Greg Ormson, singer-songwriters; Russell Thorburn and Jonathan Johnson, poets
This one-of-a-kind event features the eclectic energy of Dylan Trost, in his brand new compositions, which include “Strangelight” and “Where Is All the Dust?” As well as other Americana-like grinders of the human spirit you will want to hear in a coffee shop setting.
There is also the original music of Greg Ormson on acoustic guitar and sitar, formerly of The Magees, from Wausau, Wisconsin, an innovative Irish-American band. Greg provides fiery vocals in his deep baritone range, and his guitar work sparkles with the Irish tunings. Sitar reflects his meditative nature as a yoga teacher who currently lives in Phoenix. He has come back to Marquette, and sings of it in a newly recorded song.
Dylan and Greg will provide guitar background for Russell Thorburn’s poetry from
Somewhere We’ll Leave the World, Wayne State University Press, and selections from his new work, including poems from the recent anthologies of Undocumented: Great Lakes Poet Laureates on SocialJustice—and Respect: The Poetry of Detroit Music—both Michigan State University Press. Greg has collaborated with Thorburn on songs recorded for a forthcoming CD, including “Back to Marquette.”
Jonathan Johnson, Eastern Washington University and Cheney, will read from his recently published memoir The Desk on the Sea, Wayne State University Press, and May Is an Island: Poems, Carnegie Mellon Press. His work has been anthologized in Best American Poetry, published widely in literary magazines, and read on National Public Radio. … read more...
One good thing about Facebook is that every now and then someone reaches from the past and makes contact with us in the present. This is the case from someone that contacted me yesterday and I’m glad he did.
Today (Aug. 13) is Kristen and Greg’s 25th wedding anniversary. Back then, I was the officiant for their wedding when I was working as a clergy for the Lutheran church and my assignment was to Northern Michigan University. Marquette was my home for 12 years, and two of my children were born there. Except for the cold – which I can’t stand – it was the best place I ever lived.
Along with his Facebook note, Greg sent one photo from his and Kristen’s wedding ceremony. I had never seen it, and it brought back many good memories of my time as a YOOPER in Upper Michigan.
Greg reminded me that I played my ceremonial wood duck drum as part of their wedding. Playing a drum wasn’t that far out of bounds -since I started drumming with a set at 14 – but I made the drum I used in their wedding and have used it in many ceremonies. The oak body for the drum came from a large tree that had been struck by lightning. The deer skin on top was from the last deer my dad had shot in Indian-head Country of Northwest Wisconsin.
Text below is from “Anchors,” a piece about drumming.
From early on, I heard text and sub-text in drums and memorized tom-strike patterns, rim hits on snare, and foot work for the high hat.… read more...
Thank you #YOGANECT for publishing yogainspirationals number 74.
During my seventh year practicing yoga I started learning the sitar.
Immediately I realized it was a hard instrument to play and its technology is ancient: there’s a huge gap between frets and the strings which are painful on the fingers; the metal sitar pic winds tightly on the finger and pinches; the instrument’s lightweight strings go out of tune easily and there are 21 of them; but most of all, the traditional playing style requires sitting on the floor with the left leg crossed under the right while the sitar neck rests over the right thigh with the sound gourd perched on top of the left foot. This position is hard on the left knee, back, legs, hips, and both ankles.
At one point during my practice in the last few months, I started doing yoga before playing. I needed to set my legs, hips, and back at ease. When I did this first, I realized I could sit longer and concentrate better and my yoga practice tied directly to sitar practice became my daily ritual.
This two-step approach to sitar practice – beginning with yoga – became my entre into the world of classical Indian music. I now view yoga as my commencement ritual, and I won’t even try playing sitar without first doing yoga, or at the very least, until after breath work. Yoga and sitar, including savasana, tune me up for my day; now I hesitate to go out in public before this commencement.
A NEW TAKE ON AN OLD SKILL
I sang in a boys’ choir at age 10 and once performed with a small group at the World’s Fair in New York at age 11.… read more...
The surprises, somewhere east of Bryce Canyon, UT. Link below
The people, like Rick and Linda from Troy, New York. She was wearing a hat from Superstition Harley Davidson, Peter from Australia, Ron from Hanksville, UT and the unknown fiddler below on Utah state highway 12.
On Friday night, December 2nd, Jon Shea, Nick Hoen, and I will be playing Irish tunes at Basil in dirty ol’ Weston. The set list includes rebel standards that we played for a years, but in these last couple weeks, we’ve had good laughter while adding new tunes and songs. The lads are still the enfant terrible lads, but this time we’re a little more seasoned, a pinch more cooked, a dash more true.
We thank Jim and Tee Daly and the Basil staff for inviting us, and thank all of you who asked at the Central Wisconsin Irish Fest if the lads Magees were going to play again.
Since our last gig as a band, in August, 2012, Nick has been playing guitar nearly every weekend with Carmen Hoen in Open Tab, their husband/wife acoustic duo. They’ve also been regularly gigging with their 4 piece rock band, The Third Wheels. Nick still kicks Irish rhythm guitar in spectacular fashion.
Jon has been gigging occasionally with his fiddle playing friend Fergus, and over the last four-years, continues wooing forth the pinched reedy notes hidden deep in the sacristy of his uilleann pipes; this in addition to his excellent mandolin, whistle, and guitar playing. Jon is not like everybody else; and nobody plays like him either. Recently, he started teaching the whistle to his son Finley, and while Finley doesn’t know yet how lucky he is to have his pops teach him, someday he will.
HOW THIS STARTED 9 years ago
In December, 2007, Debbie Iozzo invited three Norwegian and German-American guys that were working on Irish songs to play them at Iozzo’s Italian restaurant in Wausau.… read more...
Five days ago, I went to a drum circle attended by about 50 people. It brought me back to my essay in progress.
Drumming takes place through the night until a last tired thumper wanders away in the fog of exhaustion. Their fully-charged reptilian brain shifts to the goal of finding their tent. Some can’t walk away, so they fall asleep on the ground near the fire as the sun rises, lighting up the dawn as shadows drop down from the tree tops.
Taking a path through the woods and away from the drum fire is not new, but our caves are. Tents of orange, green and blue cover the grounds. In the dark, glowing candles from within make them look like Japanese prayer lanterns lit in remembrance of ancestors.
These drummers demonstrate what the new physics teaches: We are all connected. In the drum circle, there is something mystical and unintelligible to senses, but the drummers understand and speak the language of time. They know this language. They’ve learned it by listening.
Listening, according to some experts, is the “most often used but least often practiced communication skill.” But something happens when listening to drums that is more than the sum total of communication. In his fine novel of India, Return to the Source, Lanza Del Vasto once wrote:
“The finest and most complete instrument they have is the drum. It is the voice of all speech, the Aum of all hymns, the foundation of all music. The drum is the bond between the musician’s voice and his body, between his body and the music to which it gives the earthly consistency of the steps it raises.”… read more...
Three sound files include tunes from my Wisconsin Irish Band, The Magees (Jon Shea, Nick Hoen). Five years playing with Jon and Nick remains a warm and satisfying memory.
Song one: Road to Erogie
Song two: Roddy McCorley
Song three: The Patriot Game (Jon)
The following four songs I’ve been writing with Russell Thorburn as we build a collection of songs about rock legends. These back stories reveal stage fright, tender moments on the beach and the unmitigated grief of suicide.
John Lennon haunts with demolition chords; Levon Helm deals with a lifetime of suicide grief attempting to turn back the clock; Rick Danko’s stage fright forces him to borrow a coat and flee into a cold Ontario night.
Samples are single takes recorded on a cellphone; it’s the lyrics that speak in these songs, not necessarily musical talent.
Dylan Thomas is the subject of song four.
Song one: Silver Beatle Come Back (John Lennon)
Song two: Levon and the Mountain (Levon Helm)
Song three: Danko’s Last Song (Rick Danko)
Song four: Send Dylan to the Country (Dylan Thomas)… read more...
Five years with Jon and Nick. We’ve practiced, studied, watched videos, listened to traditional music and now finally put together our first cd. While not perfect, we’re pleased with reaching a new milestone as musicians. We’re grateful for the opportunities to share this music. It’s what we do.
BRIU, by The MAGEES.
It’s a variant spelling of a Celtic and provencial Italian word; it means verve, vivacity, vitality.
It’s how we play it and it’s how we’re trying to give our due to the masters.
It reminds me of Salvador Dali’s comment about how to grow into an artist: “Copy the masters, copy the masters, copy the masters and then do what you damn well please.” And while we’re not doing just what we please, we’re working on following the masters and then hoping to create our own masterpiece some day.… read more...