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REVIEWS

[The Night Shifters is] a fascinating ride. The voice feels a lot like Neil Gaiman. This is a huge compliment in my mind, and one not to be taken lightly.” - Melinda VanLone Reviews

Monday, July 21, 2014

Indian Road 18



Arizona is a big place: 113,998 square miles (295,254 square km), so maybe it's no big surprise that there are many places in AZ I've never visited. The difficulty of the situation is compounded by the fact that this big place is very mountainous, and there's a giant, canyon stretching across the the top NW corner of it. The interstate highways transect the top third (I-40) and the bottom half (I-10), and those two highways are connected in the middle by I-17. But that still leaves a big part of the state that must be explored by old highways and unpaved roads. And gas is currently running between $3.50 and $4.10 a gallon, here. Before you wince at how cheap that is compared to what you're currently paying, remember: 113,998 square miles.

This became a particular problem for me when I was trying to set a scene in my new novel in a part of Arizona I'd never visited. I thought I could simply google the place and look up its particulars. I found out that some places are more obscure than others. In this case, the place was the territory through which Indian Road 18 passes, near the southern the edge of the Grand Canyon. I couldn't find photos or maps that gave me enough information to write a convincing scene. So Ernie and I took a 24-hour road trip. We got the information we needed on that trip, but we got more. We found a wonderful spot we never would have visited if it hadn't been for my mission. That place is the Route 66 Roadrunner Cafe, in Seligman.


Seligman is an old Route 66 town, one of the places that almost died when I-40 was built to pass it by. (One of the biggest mistakes America ever made was to deal that fate to our small towns.) Seligman enjoys some attention these days from foreign travelers who are enchanted with the old Route 66 mystique. It's a cute little place, population 456 (give or take), with buildings and signs that were constructed in the mid-20th Century. Route 66 is the main drag, so you see lots of signs inviting you to stop, eat, drink ice cold pop (or beer), and buy lots of souvenirs. Ernie and I arrived there at around 9:00 a.m., so what we had on our minds was coffee. Not just any coffee, either – we wanted the fancy stuff. The Roadrunner was the first place with “coffee drinks” in its signs, so we pulled over and went in to investigate.


We ended up with a couple of “Fast And Furious” iced coffees, which come fully loaded with 3 shots of espresso. We snagged a couple of muffins too, and scarfed those with a speed and enthusiasm that might have horrified any onlookers, had they been too close. The drinks and the muffins get 5 stars from us, so check the place out if you're passing through. They've got a full menu for lunch and breakfast, as well as plenty of Route 66 souvenirs too, including t-shirts and reproductions of vintage signs. They've even got a bar. The owner let us take some photos, and he's the one who snapped the shot of us at the top of this page, in case you've ever wondered what I and my intrepid partner look like when we're happy.


From Seligman, Indian Road 18 is about another half hour's drive on Route 66. The roadcuts on the way reveal some of the most interesting and colorful deposits of volcanic ash and lava I've seen in Arizona. Once you've turned onto 18, which winds through part of the Hualapai Indian Reservation, you climb onto the Coconino Plateau, which is anything but flat on top. It is complicated by its own mountains, hills, arroyos, and valleys. The road is paved, but not fancy or new, and the speed limit varies as you go along. You have to watch for cows, too. It's 60 miles long, and on the map it just seems to end for no particular reason, not far from the south rim of the Grand Canyon. But there's a very good reason for it to end. It's actually right at the edge of the canyon, on a little piece of land that belongs to the Havasupai Indians. They use it to transport supplies in and out of the canyon (via a small helicopter) and also lead horse- and mule-tours into the canyon itself.


A small tributary canyon runs along the west side of the final mile of Indian Road 18. There's a spot at its head where you can tell a waterfall forms when it rains. The part of the Grand Canyon this little tributary leads into isn't the grandest part – the walls aren't as high or the canyon nearly as wide as you'll find it in the national park (the eastern end), but it's beautiful, displaying uniquely eroded areas of the Kaibab limestone, the cross-bedded Toroweap and Coconino sandstones, the Hermit shale, and maybe even a bit of the Supai layer, at the bottom. It was a part of the Grand Canyon I'd never seen, and the journey up that road helped me immensely as I tried to envisage the scene I wanted to write.


That expedition was the sole reason for our trip, so we had to head back to Phoenix once I'd snapped some photos. On the way, however, we had to make one last stop – at the Roadrunner Cafe for two more “Fast and Furious” coffee drinks. The car needed gas, and so did we . . .

HWY 89 took us back through the Bradshaw Mountains (with a quick stop in Prescott for supper), to Route 93, past Wickenburg and back to Phoenix. It was a beautiful trip, and possibly the only one we'll be able to afford this year. But we made it count. If you're passing that way, I hope you do too.



Psst! Hey Buddy! Wanna Learn Some Lyre . . . ?



This is it, folks, your chance to not just listen to ancient lyre, but to learn how to play it! Follow Michael Levy's links and get the real deal . . .

Sheet Music For 10 String Lyre!

HERE IT IS! After copious laborious scrawling, I am pleased to announce that I have finally gotten around to compiling a free 10 page PDF instructional booklet of my first ever attempt at preparing some actual written musical notation for some (hopefully suitably simplified!) arrangements for my 10 string Marini lyre, of a selection of my original compositions as featured in my lyre albums, including a couple of my arrangements of 2 examples of the actual surviving music of ancient Greece...LET THE LYRE LEARNING REVOLUTION BEGIN! My brand new blog which features the free download link to this unique booklet can be found here

Happy plucking, everyone!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Those Wacky Hz Hooligans



Michael Levy tackles New Age Cognitive Dissonance in his newest blog about vibrations and what they can and cannot accomplish. Check out the link and tell him what you think!

Is 432 Hz New Age Schmertz?

After drowning in a veritable Tsunami of gigabytes of 'information' on the Internet that 432 Hz is the frequency of the cosmos, that it is the resonant frequency of human DNA and even that there is an global conspiracy to infiltrate the 'evil' sound of the note A at 440 Hz into our dialing tones, I decided to dust some of the cobwebs off my hard earned philosophy degree from 1989 and get down to some serious epistemological excavations through this veritable muddled mountain of New Age mayhem, to valiantly strive to extract some actual facts from the cognitive carnage which surrounds the mystery of the reference pitch of A at 432 Hz!

The following brand new blog is the first fruit of my philosophical explorations - if anyone out there wishes to add any constructively critical comments to my blog, I would very much appreciate your own views and knowledge on this chaotically contentious issue - many thanks!

My brand new blog can be found here:


I will be looking forward to hearing some of your own much valued opinions!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

What Is Music . . . ?



In his latest blog post, Michael Levy asks a question I have pondered myself. Follow the link and check it out!

What is Music? A Philosophical Analysis!
A quick bulletin to let you all know of a brand new blog I have just posted, entitled "What Is Music?" - a philosophical analysis of this unique and compelling concept, in my efforts to answer a 30 year old riddle I set myself, when at the age of 16, I happened to ponder the question (whilst walking though the countryside listening to a cassette tape of Beethoven's Pastoral Symphony on my old Sony Walkman)...

What is it that is different about my experience of listening to this beautiful piece of music about being in the countryside and my actual experience of physically being in the countryside?

The new blog (and at last, my answer to this 30 year old riddle!) can be found here: 
http://ancientlyre.com/blogs/what_is_music/
 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Taking the Lyre Into the Future . . .




Here it is, Michael Levy's new album! Follow the links!

"21st Century Lyre Music" - Out Now, on iTunes!

I am pleased to announce the release on iTunes today, of my ultra-experimental EP, "21st Century Lyre Music"! The aim of this EP, is to provide the wonderful lost lyre of antiquity with a brand new voice for the 21st century and hopefully, way beyond...

This highly futuristic album demonstrates that as well as being able to so vividly evoke the spirit of the ancient world, the timeless lyre has the magical quality of being able to transport the listener to our distant future as well.

The album features original compositions for solo lyre, transformed by a myriad of cutting edge, 21st century electronic effects - a magical musical space ship, to transport the listener on an epic voyage of intergalactic travel, to other universes, other worlds and alien landscapes...

The PDF booklet of the detailed album note can be freely downloaded here

The link to the album on iTunes is below:

Buy "21st Century Lyre Music" on iTunes!

The EP will also soon be available from all the other major digital music stores, including Amazon, Spotify and Google Play etc. All the purchase links will be posted in the section of my website devoted to this album.

NB! Each and every new digital music store album review posted & better still, online blogs about either this album or any of my other releases are literally like a libation to Apollo, in my efforts as an aspiring independent artist, to honestly promote my lyre music to the rest of the unsuspecting world...each and every one of them is like gold dust and is incredibly appreciated - many thanks, everyone!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Are You Ready For Ultra Experimental Lyre . . . ?



Tune in to some experimental music from the lyre master, Michael Levy! Follow the links . . .

More news - I am going to release my most ULTRA experimental EP album ever..."21st Century Lyre Music" - the world's first fusion of modern electronic effects and the lyre of antiquity! 

I have already independently released the EP on Bandcamp & the physical CD of the album from my Reverbnation Store:

http://michaellevy.bandcamp.com/album/21st-century-lyre-music

http://www.reverbnation.com/store/view_item_album/artist_1132710?utf8=%E2%9C%93&item_id=2016693

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sign Up, O Lyre Fiends!



As if you needed more incentive to subscribe to Michael Levy's mailing list, here's an example of the goodies that you get when you do. Pop over to his website and get yourself on that list!

Free Bonus Track For All My Subscribers!

As a big humungous THANK YOU to everyone who kindly subscribes to my mailing list, just for you, here is a download link for a 100% FREE bonus track, Inspiratio (Inspiration), not featured in any of my albums or singles - this 320kbps quality MP3 can be freely downloaded from here

Thanks once more for all your support in helping to "spread the word" about my lyre music (...and each and every new album review you find the time to kindly post on either iTunes or Amazon is like a libation to Apollo, in my efforts to honestly promote my lyre music to the rest of the unsuspecting world!).

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Great Unconformty (Even More Fabulous Than It sounds)




This post by Dr. Jack Share about the Great Unconformity and the Grand Canyon is so fascinating, I have to share it (and preserve it on my own log so I can come back and visit it). The photographs are amazing, and worthy of a textbook (for all I know, they ended up in one). Follow the link and wallow in Deep Time!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

S'cuse Me While I Kiss This Lyre



Follow the links below and listen to Michael Levy's alternate history take on modern music. What if the lyre had not been replaced by the fretted lute . . . ?

21st Century Lyre Music?

Sadly, in the Western world, from the end of the Dark Ages, the wonderful lyre of antiquity was gradually replaced by the fretted lute, until the guitar as we know it became the standard accompaniment to virtually all of modern Western popular music...

In my brand new series of somewhat surreal "cutting edge" Youtube videos,"21st Century Lyre Music?", I wanted to explore an "alternative Universe", in which what may have happened if it had been the fretted lute family of instruments which had fallen into oblivion in the West, and instead, the magical Classical lyre of antiquity had continued to have been played into the 21st century? These videos are therefore dedicated to dragging the lyre of antiquity kicking & screaming (in some cases, literally!) into the 21st century musical experience...

The video playlist below features performances of a selection of both my original compositions and a spontaneous improvision, using a palette of 21st century effects, ranging from FLANGER, AUTO WAH, DISTORTION & PHASER REVERB!! 

In this "alternative Universe", I wonder if the late great Jimi Hendrix might have, instead, SET FIRE TO THE LYRE??? Hope you enjoy the music...

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

A Not-So-Ancient Communication Technology, Cherished



I feel compelled to jump on a bandwagon here concerning an interesting book, Letters of Note: An Eclectic Collection of Correspondence Deserving of a Wider Audience. It's been all over facebook and other spots on the web, most recently because of one of its featured letters, which was written by J.R.R. Tolkien, in 1938, to a publisher (Rütten & Loening) in response to a query concerning his book, The Lord of the Rings. The publisher wanted to buy German rights, but felt obliged (since it was 1938) to enquire whether Tolkien was a member of the Aryan race. The letter quoted was supposed to have been the less diplomatic of the two that Tolkien drafted – a fact that I find charming, because it seems quite restrained to me.

Here is a partial quote from Tolkien's letter: I am not of Aryan extraction: that is Indo-Iranian; as far as I am aware none of my ancestors spoke Hindustani, Persian, Gypsy, or any related dialects. But if I am to understand that you are enquiring whether I am of Jewish origin, I can only reply that I regret that I appear to have no ancestors of that gifted people.

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that this was not the response the publisher was hoping for. I'm curious to know what the second draft said. I think I'm going to have to add Letters of Note to my bookshelf. It will stand with similar collections. One of the best ways to study history is to read letters written by the people who lived through it.

But our part of history isn't documented that way. We write emails and post comments on social media, many of which have to be less than (x) characters. We may receive eloquent emails from brilliant people: writers, artists, scientists, etc. But the emails that are preserved are the ones from corrupt politicians and businessmen.


I suppose we can argue that our electronic brand of correspondence is in its infancy, and many things could happen to change it. Perhaps it will even be discarded as the social networking sites become too commercialized and controlled. Instant communication is necessary in a society where business is booming and many things have to happen quickly, but we've reached a point where economies are stagnant, resources are strained, and underemployment is the new norm. Our philosophy of tearing up the landscape and tearing out our hair to produce stuff and ship it out as quickly as possible doesn't resonate with young people. And their children may feel that constantly talking to each other on Twitter is old fashioned.


That doesn't mean they'll sit down and write letters to each other. I think if we wanted them to do that, we'd have to insist that schools begin to teach the art of letter-writing from kindergarten through high school. At this point, we don't fund or staff them well enough even to teach basic English, math, and science, and curriculums are under attack from legislatures who are hostile to education in general.

Ironically, this is just the sort of historical event that could be well-documented through letters.




Since we don't have letters to document our age, I'll have to make do with doodles by Ernest Hogan to illustrate this post. He's out of town, at U.C. Riverside, talking about Latino SciFi with other chicanonauts. While he's gone, I'm stealing his art and eating all the ice cream . . .

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Snappin' and Pluckin'



Michael Levy has a couple of new announcements to make –follow the links and discover the beauty of ancient music!

My CD "King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel" has made it to King David's Lyre...in Israel!

A fan of mine from Australia who bought a copy of my CD, "King David's Lyre; Echoes of Ancient Israel" was on a recent vacation in Jerusalem and has just kindly sent me the most utterly awesome photo...of my CD cover on the famous sculpture in Jerusalem, of King David's Lyre - this photo has surely got to be the best tribute to my debut album of 2008 - ever! 

To see the said utterly awesome photo, please click here to see this cryogenically cool news bulletin!

As this may well be about the nearest I may ever get to actually being in "The Promised Land" on my ever-struggling musician's 'income', THIS PHOTO JUST MADE MY DAY!! 

Pluckin' GREAT!!

I have finally got some of my best tracks registered in a new compilation with a genuine Music Library!

The organisation who contacted me was SRL Networks...maybe someday soon a major company like Felt Music might also take a sniff of my niche market releases for solo lyre & then the use of my tracks in every ancient themed movie & historical TV documentary in the known world??? Watch this space!! 

My brand new SRL Networks compilation is also available to hear & share on Spotify:


NB! If there are any more tracks any of you lovely lyre fans out there would like me to add to this existing SLR compilation, do please let me know!! 

This is certainly a step in the right direction in the hope of "living the dream" of someday actually being able to make some sort of living out of my love of lyre pluckin'! 

Indeed, in my daily struggle to 'get my music out there', sometimes I feel the actual anguish of Orpheus...I am but a humble musician and not a salesperson, so when it comes to promoting my musical wares to the rest of the unsuspecting world, (apart from my thankfully ever-growing web presence!), I really haven't a clue who to contact and how!

What I really really need to find, is a specialist music agent, preferably in the UK, but anyone with the necessary know how will do!

Therefore, does anyone out there know anybody who knows anything about how to further my cause? Any help, whatsoever, would be most gratefully appreciated! Many thanks, everyone...

The photo at the top of this post is from Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, offered up because, like Michael, I will likely only visit Israel through books and the internet, and from the photos I've seen of it, parts of Israel look like parts of Utah.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

We Control the Horizontal, We Control the Vertical



When PONTYPOOL begins, you might think it's a noir-style thriller or mystery. It hooks you in much the same way as one of those. Once it takes a sharp turn in the horror direction, you're in for the ride and waiting to see what will happen next. That it manages to go off into an unexpected direction from there is a real treat.

It succeeds as a science fiction movie with some odd twists and turns. But the best thing about it is the radio studio in which most of it is set. They could have performed the story as a stage play (and maybe that's what is was, originally), or even as a radio broadcast. But what I liked most was the studio itself. Something about that place made me think of NASA control rooms. It seemed a place from which the world could be saved. This is probably due to the era in which I was raised -- technology was dials and gauges, pipes and switches. How I would love to work in a place like that. I loved being in that control room with the characters, and damned if they didn't figure out -- well, you'd better watch and see for yourself. It's worth the ride.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Feasting With the Dead



If you're in Chicago this year, don't forget to stop in and see this exhibit (and hear Michael Levy's music). Follow the link . . .

My Music Now Featuring at the University of Chicago Oriental Institute Museum!

Tracks from my 2011 compilation album, "Ancient Landscapes" are being used in the video "Remembering Katumuwa" featured in the Special Exhibit "In Remembrance of Me: Feasting with the Dead in the Ancient Middle East" at the Oriental Institute Museum, University of Chicago, between 8th April 2014 to 4th January 2015!

For full details, please read this news update here!

Note – the photo at the top of this post is not from that exhibit – it's from an old ranchero museum in New Mexico. But it kinda sorta fit the theme.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Surfing For Musical History



Michael Levy proves it's possible to find gold online if the right pilgrim looking for it. Follow the links below!

New Archaeological Discoveries - with my Laptop!

Never under estimate the power of Google search - I have recently found the answers to 2 intriguing questions regarding the lyres of antiquity...right here, on my laptop!


For years, I had assumed this vertical ridge must have been some sort of strap to hold the lyre - until I stumbled into this amazing Vimeo video by author and musicologist, Michalis P. Georgiou. It explains some of the obvious differences between the lyre we are familiar with, and the kithara which has a number of special characteristics unique to the instrument. During the course of these explanations, it is mentioned that the ancient Greek Kithara also had a vertical ridge down the back - this was to represent the shape of the spine of a tortoise, as seen in the more archaic ancient Greek "Lyra" - the lyre made with a skin stretched over tortoise shell resonator ...the mystery of the ridge seen down the back of the highly Hellanised evolution of the later versions of the Biblical Kinnor, (which in the 1st century, was almost identical to the ancient Greek Kithara), was finally solved!

The second major discovery I have made on Google, was an ancient description of an actual lyre playing technique which I had previously inferred from illustrations of ancient lyre players and which is featured in all of my albums - alternating between finger plucked and plectrum plucked tones. I found a description of this very same technique in some really interesting text by the ancient Roman poet, Virgil, in his epic poem, "The Aeneid - Book VI, line 645 : 

"...There Orpheus too, the long-robed priest of Thrace, accompanies their voices with the seven-note scale, playing now with fingers, now with the ivory quill" [nec non Threicius longa cum ueste sacerdos obloquitur numeris septem discrimina uocum,iamque eadem digitis, iam pectine pulsat eburno] ...It is amazing what you can find online these days!


And here's a link to his new blog about his findings:
http://ancientlyre.com/blogs/new_archaeological_discoveries_in_my_lounge_on_my_laptop/

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Hello, I'm Dr. Flora Strangelove . . .



Recently I had one of those dreams where I couldn't remember who I was, where I was, or how I had gotten there. To compound my confusion, I dreamed that I woke up in that state. I believe the term for that kind of experience is false awakening (but I may just be making that up from my own fevered imagination). It also didn't help that people sometimes actually do wake up without any idea where they are or how they got there – the experience is common enough to lend the dream that extra element of realism (and therefore that edge of panic).

In this dream, I woke up of the hood of a car. I had no memory of going to sleep there. But oddly, I did know something: it had happened before. So instead of flipping out, I tried to take stock of the situation.


This attempt to make sense of the unknown is what lies at the heart of many dreams. The circumstances usually don't make the slightest sense, so the explanations we come up with can be quite creative. In this case, I noticed that I was in a parking lot, possibly next to an Interstate, and there was a building nearby that could have been bathrooms. A few other cars were in the lot, and some of them also had people sleeping on the hoods. Those people had blankets and pillows; once I saw that, I realized that I did too. So probably I was sleeping on my hood on purpose, rather than ending up there as the result of an accident (or a drunken misadventure).

Once I reached this conclusion, I noticed there was another critical piece of information that I had forgotten: my name. It should have been the first thing that came to mind, but it absolutely did not. When I wracked my brains for it, the name Flora bounced around like a withered peanut in its shell. So I thought maybe my name was Flora. But the name Dr. Strangelove was also knocking around in there, so by that reasoning my name must be Dr. Flora Strangelove.


And why are we all sleeping on our hoods instead of in our cars, where it's safer? I wondered. The temperature was comfortable outside, maybe that was it. But wait – if we were near an interstate, we might be far enough away from town to see the stars. So I rolled onto my back to look up and, sure enough, the Milky Way stretched across the sky in full, fabulous display. I figured this must be why I had decided to sleep on the hood: so I could enjoy this view.

As I gazed in wonder, I heard a sound that knocked my panic level up a notch: someone stirred beside me. I had company on that hood.


Slowly I turned my head to gaze at this menace. But he was asleep too, and he was in a sleeping bag. That suggested that he hadn't just snuck up on me, he belonged there. I studied his face, but didn't recognize it. Maybe if I had been looking in a mirror I wouldn't have known myself, either. As I stared at him, he pried an eye open and focused on me.

Hello,” I said. “I'm Doctor Flora Strangelove.”

He managed to look baffled, even though he was only half awake. “Huh?' he said. “Wha – ?”

And then I woke up for real.


These half-baked little scenarios are exactly the sort of thing that get writers thinking. The human brain can't help trying to find patterns, even if no real pattern exists. The philosophy of a writer is that it doesn't matter what's real – you can make it seem real. You just have to find an interesting way to fill in the blanks. And that's why dreams like the one in which I played Dr. Flora Strangelove are more interesting than frustrating. Even if I never do much with it, I'll wonder why those two people were sleeping on the hood of that car together. Were they married? Were they private investigators (with a really small budget)?

Who else was in that parking lot . . . ?


The illustrations for these posts are from the files of Ernest Hogan. The one of the long-fingered lady at the top is the cover for my ebook, Pale Lady. Download it for free on Smashwords!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Every Roman Bath Should Have At Least One Lyre Guy



Time once again to head on down to the Roman Baths and get your fix of lyre music from Michael Levy! And if you don't live in the U.K., remember you can download or order his albums. Follow the links and fix the date in your head . . .

Live Lyre Concert at the Roman Baths!

Sit laus Deo Apollini! For the third year in succession, I will be having the pleasure of playing my lyre, live at the world famous Roman Baths at Bath Spa! This concert and talk, held between 8pm - 10pm on Friday 16th May 2014, will form part of the annual "Museums at Night" festival.

I will be performing at the amphitheatre below the incredibly evocative Gorgon's Head at the Temple Pediment of Sulis Minerva - from my experience of playing here for the previous two years, I have discovered that this particular position in this amazingly preserved building provides the most incredible natural reverb, with the sound of my lyre literally bouncing off all the walls & floors of authentic 1st century Roman stone! This has just got to be the most incredible venue to attempt to bring back to life the lost music of ancient Rome...
I will also be giving talks in between my recital, all about how my obsession with the lyre & ancient music first began, the fascinating historical background & research behind my attempts to bring back to life the music of antiquity, as well as a demonstration of some fascinating ancient lyre playing techniques which I have used in my many recordings.

All the details, including times, ticket prices and the venue, can be found in the newly updated "Calendar" section of my website:

http://www.ancientlyre.com/calendar/The incredible Great Bath will also be torch-lit and there will be a bar - I shall look forward to hopefully meeting some of you lovely lyre music fans there on the night!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Zen and the Art of Desert Appreciation



I'm a happy denizen of the desert, delighted by gnarly cacti, an abundance of tough creatures, and a lot of exposed rock – but I will admit that the desert is not for everyone. In fact, when I was a kid, I used to dream of living in a greener place. That was because I had never been to one of those greener places in the winter, and it was also before I had developed my passion for geology and its attendant dislike of landscapes that are “haired over” with green stuff that blocks my view of the rocks. Yet though my love of the desert has its scientific, geological/botanical side, there is another dimension to it as well, and that dimension is zen.

Zen is not a concept many people readily connect to the Sonoran Desert. Most folks picture garden shrines, moss-covered rocks, sapphire-blue pools and waterfalls when they think of zen (if they think of it at all). People don't tend to picture saguaros with twisted limbs and shattered, metamorphic-core mountains. But I would argue that zen is first thing you should think of when you're in a desert – especially in the summertime. When you are being blasted by that apocalyptic heat, in order to survive you sometimes have to stop thinking. You must simply be; it's the only way to endure the discomfort with any kind of patience. And that is a state of mind that usually only zen masters can achieve. That zen state of mind is the reason I was able to go beyond my scientific fascination with the desert and actually love the desert.


It was only when I was able to get past my discomfort, to sit quietly and observe the world around me, that I could see what was happening.


It wasn't until I shut down the noise in my head that I noticed the silence in the desert was full of sound and the emptiness was full of life. This is the sort of revelation that comes to you when it's 117° F, and you're sitting in the shade (where it's only about 105° F), sipping a Mega Gulp, thinking Wow – I could die out here, and suddenly you hear a bug that sounds like a tuning fork. That bug only makes that noise in the hottest, driest part of the summer, in the middle of the day. If you're in the right state of mind, that sound resonates with your soul.


For some folks, one hot day that forces them to cling to life via a Big Gulp (at least 64 ounces worth) is enough to put them off deserts forever. But for some of us oddballs, it's like the gateway drug to a life of fascination with things gnarly, pointy, dry, and hot.


Here in Phoenix, Arizona, a desert junkie has many places in which she can satisfy her cravings. One of my favorites is White Tanks Regional Park. The White Tanks are a metamorphic core complex, meaning that early deposits of igneous and metamorphic rocks were altered by upwellings of new molten material, in this case in the mid-Tertiary period. The park is a haven for saguaros, petroglyphs, hikers, school field trippers, and mountain lions (not all in the same bus, of course).


The hikes range from fairly easy to very challenging (the latter being the ones on which you could conceivably encounter the mountain lion). The best time to do them is from Mid October to mid April. Take a LOT of water if you're planning to hike for more than an hour, and if you're going any significant distance from the trail heads that have water fountains. Ernie and I usually take 1 ½ gallons of water each, (technically, we take 1-liter bottles, 3 to 4 apiece).


And don't forget to take a camera! It'll give you an excuse to stop and catch your breath at regular intervals.


After all, zen only lasts so long. And then you need a Big Gulp.



New Songs for an Ancient Instrument



Check out Michael's new blog post about music and the price paid for loving it – just follow the link!

Composing New Music For An Ancient Lyre!

I have just written a brand new blog, revealing the complete story of how my interest in composing music first began, the tortuous teenage lovelorn loneliness which resulted in my very first musical composition at the age of 17...and some of the "magic tricks" I now use, in composing new music for my various models of the lyres of the ancient world!

Here is the URL of the new blog:


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Ancient Greek Modes



Check out Michael's new blog post about his discovery of the ancient Greek modes, and how they've continued to inspire his compositions. Follow the link below!

Composing New Music in the Original Ancient Greek Modes

One of my greatest musical discoveries in my life, was to re-discover the long- forgotten magic of the original ancient Greek musical modes, once wrote about over 2300 years ago, by Plato and Aristotle...

The unique, individual character of these modes has been the back-bone of almost all of my original compositions for solo lyre since my first experimental release in 2010, which featured all 7 of these modes, in my album "The Ancient Greek Modes"
  
My brand new blog, detailing my experience of composing new music in the original ancient Greek Modes, can be read here.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Michael Levy's Transformation into Orpheus (But Without the Misadventure in Hell)



Visit Michael's blog and find out what drives a guy to not only love ancient music, but to seek reproductions of ancient instruments. After all, if you want it done right – do it yourself (sort of)! Follow the link below . . .

The Inspiration behind my "Musical Adventures in Time Travel"...

I have just written a brand new blog, detailing the complete story of how my fascination with ancient music began and what inspires me about the ancient world, the first time, as a child,  I imagined what the long-lost lyre of antiquity may once have sounded, the rekindling of my childhood fascination with this instrument - and the continuing story of how my albums came to be recorded, from the humble beginnings of my Youtube Channel in 2006! The new blog can be read here