Melting down the broken bits of Volume IV and forging a new narrative about a willful yet adaptive material. An introduction the theme, the music, and the guests of Volume V, inspired by glass.
Welcome to More Devotedly, a podcast for people who see the arts as a force for positive, progressive change. I’m Douglas Detrick, this is Volume V, Prologue.
It’s been about a year since I’ve released new episodes on this podcast. It’s been a stressful year, and I had some personal matters to address and other projects to complete, but I’m very glad to have a new set of episodes to offer you now. I wanted to give you a preview of what’s coming up, and to share some of the ideas behind the conversations and the music I’ve created to surround them.
Here’s the episode.
Over the summer of 2020 the pandemic was raging on with vaccines still off in the indeterminate future. Protests against police violence against Black Americans, and in honor of and in solidarity with George Floyd, were continuing since they began in May. All in all they continued over 100 days without interruption here in Portland.
The protests opened the door to some very important conversations and legislative and policy changes in government, nonprofits and businesses. However, that progress came with a cost.
Counter-protesters from right wing, white nationalist organizations came here to pick fights. Unidentified Federal agents were facing off with protesters and making arrests from unmarked vehicles seemingly on direct orders from President Trump. And former Attorney General Bill Barr declared Portland an “anarchist jurisdiction” with threats of punishment if the city didn’t get in line.
As the attention of white nationalist organizations and their right-wing political allies focused on Portland, the city became a battleground in a political proxy war. And real violence, including deaths, resulted from this war of words.
The conversations I put on the podcast were an effort to reclaim at least my own narrative about what was happening. I tried to give some Portland artists a positive platform to talk about what was going on here in their own words. It didn’t fix all the problems, and didn’t ease all of my anxiety, but it helped.
As always on this podcast, I find those conversations helpful in clarifying my own thinking, even if my thinking is different from that of my guests. And I hope they fulfill that purpose for you, the listener, as well.
As I was creating music to underscore those episodes, I wanted to create a sound world that would instantly communicate how I was feeling, and how I thought at least some other Portlanders might be feeling—to portray the emotional state of a whole city into sound. I chose glass, to create music with glass objects as the only sound sources.
Glass—as bottles, vases, jars, sheets and bowls—can have incredible resonant qualities, and the sounds they make can be instantly recognizable, or sometimes otherworldly. I chose glass because it seemed like it would capture the fragility and the danger that I felt, and thought some other people here were feeling then.
But, by the time I finished the project, I found that I had misjudged this material. As I worked with it in my hands, I found it to be incredibly resilient. As I studied the history of its use and manufacture, I found it to be incredibly versatile and useful beyond my expectations. The more I learned, the more that glass came to symbolize renewal and rebirth. Fragility is only a part of its story.
I found that I had misjudged glass, and looking back, I think I misjudged Portland as well. We were under a lot of stress, yes, but Portlanders are resilient. I can’t speak for all Portlanders of course, but I think it’s safe to say that we Portlanders love our city, and the vast majority of us are committed to fighting racism. We are committed to a better future for Black Portlanders, and for all other marginalized Portlanders. I’m committed to those goals as well.
So, this new volume of the podcast is a completion of the narrative I began in the last volume. I’m hoping to melt down the broken bits of the story from last fall and form them into a new story. And I want to see how other artists are doing the same with the pieces of their pre-pandemic lives as we emerge into our changed world.
In order to do that, I wanted to continue to work with glass, but to do it in new ways that reveal a deeper understanding of the material. I’m also planning to bring in other sounds that compliment this material’s flexibility and adaptability. By the end, I’m hoping to reveal a more nuanced understanding of the sounds that this material can produce, in my ears and in yours.
I’m excited about the group of guests that I’ve gotten to talk to. The first is Jen Fuller, a “glass, steel and light” artist who talks about how working with glass can be like coordinating an ensemble of dancers all dancing different steps at the same time.
Episode two features Patrick Walsh, who produces classical Greek theater in Oregon prisons as a way of “reenfranchising” the inmates.
Episode three features Tanya Kalmanovitch, a improvising violist, educator and writer who took the opportunity of quarantine to reevaluate her relationship with her instrument and her music through a Substack newsletter.
Episode four features William Seiji Marsh, a guitarist and singer-songwriter who launched a coaching business for musicians dealing with anxiety and other issues.
Episode five features Laila Heile and Joaquin Lopez, who talk about their plans and motivations as they step into the role of co-Creative Laureates of Portland.
Episode six features Kai Talim, a podcaster and entrepreneur who is challenging his guests to tell the stories of how they reinvented themselves using the values and skills they gained from their experience in the arts.
Overall, this is a group of super smart, ambitious and conscientious folks, and I’m so glad to connect you with them.
Make sure you subscribe on your podcast platform of choice to hear them all, coming very soon.
Be sure to follow the show on Instagram and Facebook, find it @moredevotedly. And if you aren’t on the show’s email list, head on over to moredevotedly.com and sign up. You’ll hear about new episodes and other big announcements.
You’ve been listening to More Devotedly. My name is Douglas Detrick, and I produced this episode here in Portland, OR.
What you’re doing is beautiful. Can you do it more devotedly?