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Seismic “Song Dissection” With: Sam Miller of Jenny Invert and Song “Still Life/Millet Seed

May 3, 2012

I have asked artists to partake in this project in where they write the lyrics on a sheet of paper and “doodle” on it, then explain the inspiration for the song. Well I love this band Jenny Invert and asked Sam Miller to do the same. As you can see that his sketch is far from a doodle, and I was very grateful for his artistic talents, and cooperation on finishing it. If you would like to see this incredible band … go to the Columbia City Theater tonight and watch them play with the fantastic ‘The Way We Were in 1989’ and ‘The Tiny Trees’. This will be a genius night of music.

Still Life/Millet Seed is the combination of two short songs I wrote back in New Mexico on sleepless early mornings, a few months apart from one another. I suppose Still Life is representative of my feelings toward the instinct to find stability and security in a fundamentally unstable and ever-changing world—and Millet Seed is inspired by an ancient Greek Philosopher, whose thinking was fueled by this instinct. Hence, in a somewhat ironic way, the two songs make some sense together lyrically/thematically—but otherwise, they’re pretty distinct. Still Life, like many of my songs, was written without any specific meaning/interpretation in mind, so I think it’ll be more interesting to focus on explaining the idea behind Millet Seed. The song is influenced by some ancient Greek philosophy I was studying at the time, namely, Zeno of Elea, who aimed to prove that our common sense experience of reality is false. He argues that the way we experience time, movement, change, magnitude, and distance is contradictory in nature. According to Zeno, all material things are made up of (and can be divided into) other smaller things, and since very small objects don’t make a sound when they fall to the ground individually, it’s an illusion that larger (composite) objects “seemingly” do. He uses a bushel (unit of volume) of millet seed as an example: an individual seed hits the ground silently, but a bushel being dropped is apparently audible. However, since a bushel is only a collection/product of many soundless individual seeds, Zeno argues that the experience of hearing a bushel of seeds drop to the ground must be an illusion. Ridiculous as it may be (and simply untrue because, among other reasons, small objects do in fact sound when they hit the ground—just too quietly for our ears to detect), this paradox has interested me. My actions contribute to something greater than myself, but it’s easy to lose sight of this because my affect on the whole can seem insignificant. It’s important to remember that instead of justifying what I do on the basis of my actions’ small affect on the big picture—I should be considering the consequences of the same thing being done by a large number of people. In the song, I compare myself to a single seed, and describe the whole/group several ways, including: “herd,” “masses,” “force,” “mob,” “cult,” and “bushel.” I enjoy Zeno’s paradox as a metaphor for describing an absurd consequence of not taking the idea of strength in numbers seriously. “As a single millet seed, I do not make a sound. When I fall with the bushel I am loud.”

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