Brian The Folksinger
When I went to write a simple biography for the original website, primarily intended for venues, I felt how much it lacked of the essense of my life, my real biography. It is hard to make a life make sense when the primary motivations, the essential threads, are left out. So I wrote this at the same time as a personal biography, the stoey of my life more as I saw it, by what moved me more than what I did. Again, I tried to keep it simple, and therefore, I had to leave out a lot, while trying to give enough to show those essential threads that wove through the music, or the music wove through.
Rather than add to this and lose its essentially simplicity, I have added new sections to extend the personal side of the website. One for my philosopical and spiritual thoughts, one for more personal and recent reflections for friends who wonder where I am at, and a final one for any woman who might think she'd like to know me better.
I have followed a strange course in music, a strange course in life. Though I have sung and performed since I was a child, I never intended to play music for a living. I used to take my guitar to highschool and play for the crowd that gathered around me, sitting by the fence during lunch. I was performing professionally and doing programs in schools, but I didn't like the music business and left professional music after highschool. I am a true child of the 60's, born in 59', I grew up not taking part in the 60's, but being shaped by it. The people who participated in the 60's could pass through it as an experience that changed them to some degree. I can never leave the counter-culture, because it is part of me, not something new, but my foundation.
I studied philosophy and spirituality, especially eastern, including taoism, zen buddhism, yoga, and martial arts, and the mystical branches of all religons, the poets and philosophers rather than the doctrinal fundamentalists. I studied alternative energy, computer science, organic farming, sustainable economics, cooperative organization, environmentalism, social activism, and of course history, biology, biochemisty, physics, and higher math. I took wood-shop and mechanical/architectural drawing, studied engineering, as well as the practical education during the summer building barns, outbuildings and rebuilding the old farmhouse, as well as all the homestead skills, living without electricity or running hot water. The counter-culture included an outlook that valued reason based upon scientific understanding and knowledge, valued education and technology, used appropriately and sustainably. It valued ancient wisdom while discarding fundimentalist doctrine, it valued both effective traditional methods and the advanced science and technology, often seeking to combine the two.
I wished to live a simple, spiritual life. My dream was to be a beekeeper on an organic homestead practicing sustainable economics through voluntary simplicity, using appropriate technology, with a deep cultural and spiritual life, with horses and honeybees, solar cells and computers. I had grown up working summers in Vermont for a long-time friend of my parents, a writer, who had chosen that lifestyle, and from whom I'd learned beekeeping. I also was dedicated to pursuing social change as well, through local action. I formed a cooperative tree-planting crew, and we worked successfully from Maine to Texas. I built my first dulcimer. I planned to form an intentional community based on a cooperative neighborhood/village structure, legally structured like a condominium rather than a commune. But the farm idea never got off the ground through a bad choice of partners, and the tree-planting crew unravelled when I stopped leading it, and disillusioned, I left on a mountain bike, taking the dulcimer as my only instrument. I travelled a while, then retreated to a cave in the wild with my wolfdog, the dulcimer, and a pile of books, to meditate.I recognized that the problems of the world stemmed from ignorance and a lack of consciousness, from a lack of sensitivity, consideration, and unselfishness, a lack of character. This is what led people to do wrong, and were the true roots of all evil. There is good and evil in the world, and people unconsciously or consciously channel one or the other into manifestation, re-echoing waves that have been reverberating for millennia. It is a great struggle fought in each person, which cause to serve, which energy to manifest, minute by minute, day by day. And while I could retreat from the world, I could not escape it. So I chose to dedicate my life to trying and guide people towards higher consciousness, as the ultimate solution to all problems.
I had always been dedicated to service, to leaving the world better than I found it, but now I sought to address the essential problem specifically, directly, and simply. I wandered about, speaking to people and playing for them, words and songs of peace, love, freedom, and justice. I never talked politics, but much of sociology, philosophy and spirituality, character and ethics, sensitivity, consideration, and unselfishness, of right and wrong. I also listened, and gathered simple truths and wisdoms gleaned from hundreds of people, from Greek and Chinese philosophers, Persian poets, Sufi mystics, Indians from India and America, to chance words on the street. All added to my repertoire. You could say I was following an old tradition. Eventually I wove the words and songs into a seamless stream, a gentle dream, a simple theme of harmony. In the universe, just as with music, there is harmony and dissonance, good vibes and bad vibes. The point was to be sensitive and aware, and consciously seek to be in harmony, within yourself, with others, with the natural world, with the universe.
"...the universe is singing harmony,
here and now, you and me..."
I traveled on, talking with and playing for anyone who stopped to listen, wherever I was. I usually played on the street, even when I could have played on stage, because it gave me the time to interact with people, time to talk. Sometimes I drew crowds of hundreds, sometimes people spat on me. I never tried to make money, but people just kept giving it to me. At first it embarrassed me, then I realized that they appreciated what I was doing, and I should accept their gifts with respect and gratitude. I was given more money than a simple wanderer needed, so there was not much point in trying to get gigs, and that wasn't part of my real purpose.I did this for many years, from border to border and coast to coast. I always avoided recognition, and played for anyone who stopped to listen, asking for nothing. I was serving the people as a Bard. The King might give me gold, the shepherd share his soup, and I played for all. I played for the children and the old folks, for hippies, cowboys,tourists and locals, the rich and the poor, the famous and the homeless. It was that simple. I am a well-known unknown, having crossed so many lives, but few know my name.
I had a series of old VW vans, and an old Willies wagon, all rigged out to live in. I'd drive north and south and fly east and west, or drive the whole circuit. I had an 17' skin and strut sea-kayak rigged to sail and used it to live in the wild islands miles off the coast. I had a laptop that ran at a blistering 4 mhtz and a solar cell to power it. I had the dulcimer and my wolf-dog. When I wasn't playing, I would return to the wild lands, to nature, where I could relax and feel at ease. It is where I feel at home, as I never do in cities and towns. The natural world is in balance and harmony, away from man's influence. To return to the wilderness was like listening to a perfect piece of music played to perfection, to recover from the strain of listening to, and trying to teach, an elementary school symphonic band, filled with players who stretch from the talented but unaware to the tone-deaf, and all oblivious to the fact that they are supposed to be playing together, or even that they are playing. I have found "civilization" most often irritating, if not outright threatening and abusive, and though I love people, they are often hard to like; and the world they live in is painful for me to dwell in. It just gets worse when and where people adopt arrogance and attitude as a replacement for compassion and character. I love the sheer beauty of nature. Beyond that, I like the pragmatic, practical reality of the natural world and life lived in it, whether sailing or walking about. Pretense and rationalizations don't light a fire or gather wood. The forces of nature are balanced upon, not overcome. And in the vast quiet and solitude ofthe wilderness, one must be oneself, for there is no one to act for, no one to speak to, except yourself and the Nameless. In the absence of society's noise and distraction, the underlying realities of life come out clear, and the Spirit speaks to those who will stand quiet and listen.
Now, after many years, I have recognized that the music has a value of its own, and deserves to be allowed to go as far as it may, without my hindrance, whether from a desire for anonymity, a dislike of "business", or a spiritual priority that always saw the music as a tool, not an end in itself. I have tried to listen, even though I talk so much, too much. So many people have told me and asked me to share my music with more people, to "do more" with it, and been so obviously moved. I have listened to the praise and the tears.
People asked me to record, so I did a couple tapes over the years, but nothing serious. Then someone said, "It's not that you should make a record, it's that you should leave a record. The words stayed with me, and I have begun to act upon that. So here I am, typing, not talking, trying to be "professional" for the first time, recording CDs and looking for ways to spread them, looking for ways to play for wider audiences. It is my work for now, though I hope when it is done I can return to the simple life I led before. I will always remain a simple folksinger, an American Bard.
"...a quiet spot to break my bread,
a warm place to make my bed,
and the Road ahead..."