26 January 2012

“…and they tell you that your blood is purple till it hits the open air, well…”

For New York, it’s an intimate-but-not-in-an-unpleasant-way venue. Bar, a few tables, a stage, good but not overly-imposing-or-meaning-to-impress atmosphere. The amps weren’t too loud. I was as close as possible – close – and the sound was right, and I could hear all the words.

After a day shuttling between medicine, public health, and poetry contexts, with many, many subways and miles of walking in-between, I re-learned what it means to be an artist.

Rachael Sage.

If I have a favorite musician – a singular one, one who is alive and performing and now, and who is not so very well-known or widely-played to be obvious – it’s her. 

And it’s been her for the past decade – little more than. A friend gave me Smashing the Serene in the fall of 2001. It’s technically Rachael’s second CD, but it was my first. As I told her tonight (crazy, idolizing fan like I’m the crazy, idolizing fan with some of my poets): “I realized that I’ve had a relationship with your music for over a decade, now. That’s longer than with most of the people I know.”

It’s true. That’s formative years (aren’t they all?) Music, good music, can be both background and foreground. One of the four options (she gave) for her last/encore song was the first Rachael Sage song I ever heard. (“Sistersong,” Smashing the Serene). I know the words to that one and to many others. And the ones she sang that I’ve heard – but not memorized – brought the same knowing smile of familiarity, triggering memory and attachment.

That’s what it means to be an artist.

That’s what you want it to mean, to be an artist… to mean something. To get to be part of someone else’s story, in a way, to have given and shared that gift.