Cliff Crego's blog, whitebark—
Notes scratched into a stonepine snag, open to the light, clear air . . .

February 2011
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Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 8:45 am

We shape the world and the world shapes us.

We have become voluntary rats in the digital
maze of the long and dirty tail of ecommerce.
Social creatures one and all, we are joyfully
and miraculously threading ourselves together
into digital networks of every description,
sharing creativity, information and meaning
across past boundaries, both real and arbitrary.
But we at the same time we are mindlessly taking
the bait set out by a new breed of high-tech trapper.
We gladly nibble on surreptitiously scattered
crumbs of implicit intimacy, savor self-centered
flirts and innuendo, willingly devour disingenuous
praise, and recklessly rise erect to the ecstatic
schadenfreude of exposing the misstep, the
mistake, the fall. And so, every click becomes
a trail, with scents and scat eagerly scooped up,
tested, mapped and then charted in exquisite
detail by the digital trapper’s department of
behavioral analytics.

Coyote knows how to cover his tracks. We
however have much to learn. We are having
too much fun to take the time to watch those
who are watching us. Social creatures, one and
all, yes. And now we are free to roam the labyrinth
of electronic wonders we hold in our hands. But
freedom necessarily has two sides. One is effortless
and enjoyable: the freedom to, to do and think and
consume what we like. The other side—equally
necessary and essential—is the hard and
unglamorous work of vigilance. This is the freedom
from side. Freedom from sets limits. As a highway
sets a speed limit of 100 k for all without exception.
As an economy sets limits on the interest charged
for borrowed cash. Or as a digital network sets
ipso facto limits by virtue of its essential common
ground of shared protocol.

Vigilance and surveillance share the same root,
vigilare, ‘to keep watch,’ as in keeping a nightwatch
as one’s comrades soundly sleep. At present, we
are not being vigilant enough, watchful enough of
those who are watching us. They are watching us
for two reasons, both of which have to do with
control. Just as we are social creatures, one and all,
we are also eager to control for self-advantage,
either for reasons of political power, or for financial
gain, or, most dangerous of all, both at once. We
would do well to remember that Benito Moussolini, no
friend of freedom, is said to have defined fascism
as the state when economic power and political
power are separated by no more than the breadth
of a cigarette paper. Vigilance is needed to ensure
that our track of both digital delights as well as
our unwanted and best forgotten detritus do not
become both fire and tabac of those who wouldn’t
think twice about smoking us alive, and then
stamping out real freedom like a discarded butt
under their blackshirt boots.

The raven follows the coyote in a web of mutual
benefit, without either one trying to control. What
is missing in the digital realm is a clear sense of
the idea of limit, of freedom from as well as
freedom to. We need to be more vigilant. Vastly
more vigilant. For freedom is Culture’s greatest
creative artifact, and just as Nature’s fundamental
asymmetry is that creation is slow, and destruction
fast, we can lose our cultural electronic freedoms
with the flip of a switch. Intelligent limit needs to
be given articulation and structure as the shared
ground of common sense, and as simple,
universally applicable and disinterested, law.

[Why are there so few new documentary films on
the REAL backrooms of digital, social networks?]

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Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 12:57 pm

In my Circle in the Square performance project, one
of the primary problems addressed is the fragmentation
of poetry and music. In the view explored here, poetry
and music form a kind of necessary unity—that is to
say that they cannot survive let alone flourish without
one another. Yet only a cursory look at contemporary
practice reveals that poetry and music exist in largely
separate worlds, rarely crossing borders or showing any
kind of what I suppose academics might call
interdisciplinary interest. Poets in the English speaking
world publish their work in written form, largely for
other poets. And New Music composers in both
Europe and America publish their work by means of
recordings, and, in a remarkably parallel way, largely
for other composers or new music specialists.
Given the tremendous difficulty of understanding
the origins of this kind of cultural fragmentation,
which is so characteristic of Western society at
present, I think it is best to be simple and direct
in one’s approach. By this I mean: Place both poetry
and music under one roof, so to speak, like two
parties of a loving relationship who have somehow
become estranged from one another, and simply
make sure they stay there. In other words:
Do poetry; Do music—and then—do them always
together. In concerts; in presentations of every
description; and in one’s own work as an artist.
The key thing is that they remain together, and that
along the way, we become aware of I would argue
not so much new ways of unifying them, but rather
new ways of looking at their shared,
common source.

It is in this spirit that I’ve undertaken the composition
of a number of new song cycles. The Shepherd’s Purse—
for soprano, oboe and harp, is the second of these.

| go to Intro: The Shepherd’s Purse, for materials
and performance models, etc. |

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Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 7:30 am

We shape the world and the world shapes us.

The culture of cultural awards is a culture
on the verge of collapse. The integrity and
excellence of a work—seen by all, seen by
none—is, like peace, always its own reward.
The cold mist of the northern night wind builds
intricate palaces of hoarfrost of the purest
of whites, and the whole of Creatura applauds.
For Creatura lives by the knowledge that, in
but an hour, such fortunate and magnificent
structures shall return to the expectant nothing
out of which they were born. What is sacred is
the cycle. The artifact partakes of this only
insofar its objective manifestation does not
impede the cycle’s primary generative flow.

TERZO SUONO—the third sound
Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 6:20 am

We shape the world and the world shapes us.

When you smash a violin, you get a pile of
useless fragments, not smaller violins.
Weighing almost nothing, alive, pulsing with
air between soft spruce, and hard maple, the
violin’s sound easily fills an auditorium.

Our sophisticated self-image leads us to think
that we have solved the riddle of the 3rd sound.
Play a D and an F-sharp together, and we hear
another D two octaves below. This is the
difference tone reality inside our own ears.
But when played on a violin, the open D string
begins to resonate as well. Sympathetic resonance,
similar differences, like resonating with like.

We think we have solved the riddle of sound.
Yet their instruments, and perhaps also their music—
of Stradivari and Vivaldi—are clearly superior to
our own. They meditated upon, wrote whole
treatises, on the mystery of the third sound,
of the lower D emerging out of nothing. And
they listened, listened closely, with a sustained
seriousness of a slowly growing mountain pine.
Even our exact copies of their instruments
do not compare.

We think we have found a better way of thinking
about sound. But even the old Bach, as hard as
he tried, could not duplicate Vivaldi’s miracle of
a bassline emerging from higher thirds,
out of thin air!

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Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 5:05 am

The problem with entertainment once it has become
commercialized is that it quickly replaces our own
unique experience of the world, our own voice,
with something merely second hand. After a while,
that is what we ourselves become—second hand,
empty containers, filled with somebody else’s
self-serving idea of culture.

Witness the 100-year old photo portrait of an
American homesteading family. They’ll be standing
outside their self-made cabin, and most remarkably,
holding their own instruments: violins, accordions,
guitars. I say a self-played fiddle tune is worth a
thousand mp3 tracks, and in every way except
technologically more sophisticated as well.

So why can’t we have both? That’s an open question,
but what is certain is that real culture, just as real
listening, is never second hand.


In the Culture of Excess, the Art of doing nothing,
of doing less, of taking away, of going without,
shines more brightly each passing day, like the
bronze foot of a statue pilgrims have touched
for generations.

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Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 11:44 am

Virtuoso. Diva. Voice of Gold.

How many new pieces have you
been mother and midwife for?

Forget the evening dress, the accolades,
the awards.

100 years from now, they
will only ask, “What new music
did she give birth to?”

“What! Nothing?”

Nothing more.

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Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 11:22 am

Cameras, cameras everywhere.

The only thing we don’t see

is the spirit that brought us here

in the first place.

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Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 1:40 pm

The only thing worse than
the fragmentation of Music
and Poetry, is when we,
in fragmentation, try to unite them.

Music and Poetry are, in my view, two aspects of the
same movement. That is why it’s only natural for me
to present them together. The percussion study
offered above is a part of a much larger project.
You can get an overview at
the mimi-website at:

As long as I can remember, I’ve found discussions
of sound, and form, meter and rhythm in poetry forums
in any of the languages I know absolutely unbearable.
For more than 100 years, beginning with the great
Igor Stravinsky, Charles Ives, and Edgar Varèse, a rhythmic
revolution has occured of tectonic proportions. But until
poets are also actual performing musicians as well as
practicing writers, I doubt very much that this will change.
Unfortunate, I think. Especially for the young, for the
natural intelligence of the young child must be
conditioned for years in order that the organic unity
of Music and Poetry be broken apart. By the time a
young musician goes to a conservatory, or a young
poet goes to a university, the fragmentation is already
essentially complete.

This is tragic. That’s all I can say.

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Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 11:47 am

We shape the world and the world shapes us.

The way of non-violence is not merely the deeply
held intention to live a life without conflict and the
use of force; it of necessity actively seeks to make
explicit the contradictions of thought, culture and
convention that lead to violence (and waste) of any
kind, against oneself, against one’s fellow human beings,
or against the Earth.

The voice of frustration of the current era, amplified
a thousand fold by the populist rhetoric of ad hominem
Attack Radio and TV, flirts with violence of the most
insidious kind as a misleading means of releasing equally
misguided rage. This is a profound mistake. The way of
non-violence, as an alternative, takes the rule of law and
civil stability as its point of departure, and seeks by means
of argument, dialogue, or, when necessary, civil disobedience,
to widen the circle of ethical awareness and discourse to
include in a radical and uncompromising way the whole
of the human community and the living Earth.

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Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 12:16 pm

The hardest task of the Artist is to praise
and defend all the good works of the Universe,
with but one single exception:—
your own.

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Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 7:11 pm

Without a doubt, we live in a culture of universal fragmentation.
Fragmentation is not diversity, not the rich weave of niches
and differences we see and experience in the natural world.
Fragmentation in this view is always bad; it is the loss of
wholeness, when networks and structures are broken
apart, and connectedness and meaning are thereby lost.
Here’s an image of fragmentation that is easy to remember:
If you take a fine violin and smash it to pieces, you do not
get a lot of smaller violins. You get a pile of wooden shards,
good for starting a fire perhaps, but not much else.

Many of my reader/viewers are surprised to find out that
I’m also a composer. This always amazes me, because Art
Music—that is, classical, utterly non-commercial, newly
composed pieces for highly trained, devoted and talented
ensembles of musicians playing for the most part on natural,
non-amplified, instruments in real acoustic spaces before real
live audiences (all of which nowadays needs to be said with
some emphasis)—is at the very core of what I do, and why
I do it.

Have a look at the score of an OCTET I’ve featured above.
Just browse the geometry of forms. And then look at the
winter landscape of very similar pure both simple and infinitly
complex geometrical patterns. For me, they are but different
outward expressions of one world.

| score at:

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Filed under: General
Posted by: @ 6:35 am

Back down at my little Office in Eagle Valley.
Three weeks of highcountry winter. Lots of new
photos and texts. Now comes the hard but fun
work of sorting out and developing all the new
stuff! How much time I have to do this
depends entirely on the weather and snow
conditions. That’s because I now have a string
of camps set up, with gear and food caches, that
I need to keep an eye on. This is especially so
with climate chaos on the increase, and especially
in mountains, where the effects are amplified
by factors of 2 or 4 or more. When winter isn’t
always winter anymore, and it can rain with great
intensity up to and above 3000 m. at any moment,
even a simple snow wiki or igloo isn’t as safe
as it once was . . . .

Here’s a set of three new miniatures, just things
I’m thinking about, besides the weather:


Some ideas float into awareness like driftwood from
the sea; others, you sometimes need to sit on for weeks
before they hatch. Most amazing of all is the lightning
strike. Out of the blue, a new idea arrives unasked for,
fully formed, in a flash of insight. How is this possible?

The task of Philosophy is not just to see the logic
and consistency of relational webs between concepts
and theories, but also to prepare as a kind of spiritual
yoga the mind to receive new ideas.


The ’shooting first and asking questions later’ of arguing
backwards from conclusions is not done in the name of
logic and reason, but merely as a means of strong-arming
consent or agreement. In contrast, real dialogue and discussion
always have a quality of thin, clear, air about them.
The open question is unburdened by the weight of the past,
treading lightly as it enters the unknown, following the
evidence wherever it leads.


Insurance is not just the business of making money
out of what doesn’t happen. It’s also a sure sign
of the failure of community, of the common ground
of shared risk, of the ethical imperative of ameliorating
the natural and unavoidable lack of fairness in the
distribution of Fortune’s goods and privileges.

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