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"The Worth of Notes" (Dec. 2010)

Playing music with little people has me wondering what music means to grownups bombarded with relentless multisensory stimuli.

As annual milestones like holidays and turning seasons approach, I sometime rifle through my past essays checking to avoid repeating reworded reflections on the same theme, or continuing the alliterative activity for a moment, "Retheming". I realized as I began this month's essay that I did not write one last December.

Of course. It makes perfect sense - we moved into our new old house one year ago. December 3rd to be exact. It snowed an inch that day, an ominous harbinger of the hard winter that followed. There was no shortage of thought to share, but no time to do so. So, there is little risk of repeating anything I may have written going into last year's holidays, unless of course, I write nothing at all.

As the festive holiday season is upon us, I realize how much is different from last year. There is all the work we've done on the house of course, including some major weatherproofing and energy efficiency projects that will hopefully save us a ton of money compared to last winter's national debt raising propane and electric bills. We're all a year older, and this is far preferable than the available alternatives.

One particular difference; I've been playing, sharing and teaching music with pre-schoolers and toddlers at Madeleine's daycare on the weeks that I am not on the road. I have learned a whole new appreciation for the power of music, and our natural inclination towards it. It's funny to see the toddlers to kindergardeners lighting up when I walk in with my cedar flute and kid conga in hand in addition to my guitar.

Music is obviously precious to them. We as a culture have certainly been reassessing the value of music in our lives. It has become so woven into the content and context of TV dramas, video game, advertising and stadium spectacles a la Lady Gaga, that the worth of the notes, melodies, rhythms and stories has become hopelessly blurred. And of course, when one's livelihood depends on people assigning some finite value to music, whether collecting it on disc or in iPod, or experiencing it in a church basement or a hockey rink, this is of more than passing interest.

This month you see that we are offering the lowest prices ever on my music. Is it worth any less? Was it ever worth what we charged? Has it ever been worth even as little as we charged? Only an individual can make that choice.

What I do know is that I want you to have the music more than I want your money, vital though it is to my career vitality. I want you to be able to share it with others, to give it as a gift from your heart, and to keep it close to keep you company at whatever moment you might find yourself needing it. We're giving away some of it, discounting the rest of it, and working on making more of it. And I am deeply grateful to you for consuming it, whether within the solitude of your earbuds or in ravenous celebration around the table with friends. Perhaps this month's sale has made this more possible for you, and if so, I'm delighted.

I know that I have spent these past couple weeks deeply immersed in music - creating it, studying and learning new guitar material, producing it, teaching it, thinking about it. Its worth to me is immeasurable. It is life itself. It is oxygen, and water, and wine and a table laden with culinary delights. I am grateful that I have a way to share it with you.

Happy holidays - Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, a blessed Solstice, and the joy of whatever way you and your loved ones mark these shortest days of the year, and the holidays we revere with their arrival. It is December 3rd, and I just saw the first snowflakes of this winter. I believe I still have some caulking to do.


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