Bon Iver's Esoteric Digital Daydream: 22, A Million by Sam Abelow

Justin Vernon spontaneously materialized, instantly finding a place in the playlists of American and European listeners in 2007, with the release of his album “For Emma, Forever Ago.” Heart wrenching and vulnerable, stripped down and timeless, that first album proved original enough for hipsters and accessible enough for soccer moms.

The mythology around Bon Iver began with that first album: he had broken up with his girlfriend and his band, contracted a serious illness, recovered and retreated to isolation in the woods of Wisconsin. There he hunted for his food and stayed in his father’s cabin.

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Highs and Lows of Creative Inspiration: tips on how to be full of ideas by Sam Abelow

Everyone has heard of writer's block and many songwriter's recall fables of late nights in the studio where the "magic" came together. The source of creativity is elusive and so many artists tend to become superstitious about the process.

Whether you are the next artist of a generation, making your way into the business world, or pursuing a life back-to-the-earth, accessing and maintaining creativity can be exhilarating and practical.

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Artists Role in a Selfie Generation: Melody Mouthpiece Versus Authentic Artistry by Sam Abelow

Some of the most influential and idealistic songwriters, like John Lennon, have claimed that music can change the world. Other musicians, like Bono, have used their fame to effect political change. On the other hand, much of the popular music today self-orientated and superficial. Even still, this is entertainment; an example of music as not-so-much saving the world, but making it a less shitty place to be.

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Review: The Last Shadow Puppets by Sam Abelow

Although Turner's personality stands out, this record is written in collaboration with fellow Brit-rockers, also now living in Los Angeles, Miles Kane.

The songwriting and production brings into a time-capsule of a bygone era. For the majority of the record, I'm never to sure, or very interested, in what they're singing about. Instead, the rich and perfectly recorded sounds propel forward, in a twisting car-chase scene.

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The Lumineers: Stories of Cleopatra from folk masters by Sam Abelow

The Lumineers' sophmore album remains true to the band’s original intentions, but the production is taken to another level. This pristine production is effective — still raw, yet clean and immediate.

Lead singer, Wesley Schultz sings lullaby, children songs with grit and emotive power. Track two, “Ophelia,” sounds even more powerful in the album’s context. A sense of expectancy and building arose.

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Review: The 1975 - New Album by Sam Abelow

I’m willing to admit, that despite a keen interest in the obscure and mellow music which doesn’t reach the top of the charts these days, I have my guilty pleasures. Whether it is James Bay, or Sam Smith, these more mainstream songs and productions have their own allure and are fitting for certain moments.

For me, The 1975 is one of these artists; a guilty pleasure, but a pleasure nonetheless.

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Cultures Casuality: Cara Delevingne by Sam Abelow

I was stricken with empathy and inspiration when I heard Cara Delevingne say, in an interview at the Women of the World Summit, that “The most important journey I think all of us will go through, is the journey through ourselves; to find who we are and what makes use happy. And in our culture we are told if we’re beautiful, skinny, successful, famous, if we fit, then we’ll be happy. But, that’s not entirely true.” 

People in their late teens and early twenties must undergo the process of coming to understand their identity, and often go through feelings of isolation, but this undertaking is not often talked about publicly and few perceive this struggle from the Instagram feed of a fashion sensation. 

Being the same age as Cara, and having had my own experiences with depression and overall disillusionment with the world we live in, I feel as though I could have an honest conversation with her. The lyrics of this song are approached in that manner.

Download the mp3:

For her, it seemed the intense spotlight, and the materialistic industry she was involved with, had torn her away from who she is beyond her exterior beauty. Our culture is so focused on superficiality that it was courageous and admirable for her to expose her tender truth and fresh wounds.

The opening line of my song— “Cara Delevingne, what does life mean?”— stayed with me for a while as the initial spark. This sense of almost ironic, raw truthfulness was carried throughout the song, which I felt was enhanced by another layer; referencing the Beatles classic folk-rock sound.

For a celebrity to reveal their psychological issues and inner struggles, to their young fans, helps to restore some balance in this over-inflated materialistic modern culture. Cara letting people know that the fashion industry was destructive to her mentally, that the glamorous lifestyle was not fulfilling on a deep level, may indeed help awaken the youth to this wisdom.

Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.
— Carl Jung
There is no coming to consciousness without pain.
— Carl Jung

So, thank you Cara for inspiring me to create this song. I hope that we all can have the opportunity to strive for profound levels of self-realization and come to know our inner world, values and abilities in order to contribute to the collective.

Rosko Green Music Video: Thick Skin by Sam Abelow

Throughout the process of directing this video I had no conceptual idea as to why I was doing the stop motion animation. Certainly, it all was inspired by the fact that I had amassed a large collection of collage materials: tear outs from vintage esoteric magazines, stolen images from newspapers, textiles, prints, scraps of drawings my sister brought home from college. Drawers filled with these images and textures inspired me to create.

As I began to piece together the segments of initial stop motion, I realized I needed more content. I went to my journals and began to do stop motion, moving through the pages, zooming in on compelling illustrations and crouching to the camera, overlooking the notebooks, until my knees crippled. When Interpreting this strong element in the video, the exposing of my journals, there is an obvious connection to the song "Thick Skin" which lyrically is so raw and upfront with vulnerabilities.

please enjoy watching the video before continuing...

In the lyrics of the song I honestly explain shortcomings, fears and struggles, which are usually left unsaid; remaining in a journal, therapist office or hidden behind brief glances, slammed doors and in between the brief silences of telephone call. In other words, I say out loud, in the song, troubles and doubts many of have experiences, but never wish to announce.

This song isn't just about a bad day, an unlucky week, or even a dark winter which persists in weakening our willpower or mood, it's about a dysfunction and disillusionment much more prolonged and interwoven into the most fundamental foundations of the psyche, which make the world and society seem unfathomable. It's a vast, overwhelming fear which makes everything seem undo-able, where all of life towers in its vastness.

Undeniably there is a sarcastic tone to the song, as if to say: "Yes, I know I'm complaining." There is something inherently ironic about a rock song, a John Lennon, George Harrison, or Lou Reed style guitar lick juxtaposed with such depressing lyrics. In a dramatic way, I exaggerate the theme, inspired by real emotions, and say during the refrain "everything seems to get at me."

During this phrase I imagined the food being splattered at my face, in the dimness of night, with contrasting light. The setup was relatively simple, but it all had to happen in one shot. Once my white shirt and face where spoiled with the blackness, the crud, the gloppy grossness, the shot could not be redone. We left the camera rolling for the whole song and what you see are the results of that moment.

The uncomfortable feeling you see is real and so is the fundamental theme of the song. In conclusion I can add something uplifting and say that life seems more inviting these days, girls easier to talk to, dreams much more pleasant and everything doesn't seem to get at me.

Review: Father John Misty Live by Sam Abelow

Photocred @ alexcimmino  edited by myself

Photocred @alexcimmino edited by myself

Yesterday evening, August 5th 2015, Father John Misty played an energetic set to adoring fans at the Summer Stage in Central Park. He was powerful frontman, performing beautifully honest, introspective folk songs which despite a strong intellectual voice carried massive currents of emotion compelling the audience to connect with. The themes of his lyrics also enter the social and political realm in a uniquely satirical fashion. These expositions are full of revelation and somehow crystallize complex notions and viewpoints about the modern human condition.

Witnessing his highly lyric-driven music coupled with a strong intellectual pull, in a live setting was profound for me, as a devoted fan. I tweeted on the train ride home from the event: “I had a lot of pleasure dancing my tushie off at #FatherJohnMisty tonight in central park.” This was absolutely true and is indicative of the emotional and physical response to his performance.

The band sounded pristine. Immediately launching into “I Love You Honeybear,” taking the stage by storm. The driving pulse of pure musicianship translated off the vinyl onto the stage. This was especially true with the live version of “True Affection,” which unlike the record was completed powerfully by the live drums.

Lyrical Prowess: The Father of Folk

Father John Misty’s skeptical, harsh satirical nature was charismatic and appealing between songs, which almost bordered on a stand-up comedy routine. His vocals soured and hit all the right notes and runs, with the chops of an American Idol winner, without all the fluff, a sense of aesthetic that cannot be beaten by any artist out there besides possibly that of Thom Yorke.

In fact, his outstanding vocal abilities are such a focus, which are complemented by the borderline forced antics of turning the mic stand upside down and falling on the ground, jumping up onto the kick drum and running around.  The audience surely responded to the more driving rock rhythms, but I felt his stage techniques were a little contrived. Constructively, I would encourage Josh Tillman, the man behind the moniker, to always bring the violinist and consider hiring a small horn section, especially saxophone. He could then allow these musicians to carry some instrumental sections which live audiences always respond too.

The criticisms are far and few between and if I had a moment with the current father of folk, I would convey my complete admiration of extraordinary developed songwriting techniques and lyrical prowess. The way he assimilates troubling, intricate, dynamic social-political perspectives in a poetic and never “cringe-worthy” way is absolutely remarkable.

Singing: “Oh, they gave me a useless education; And a subprime loan… Keep my prescriptions filled; And now I can't get off; But I can kind of deal” is an exceptional way of summarizing a state of affairs which when observed create inner conflict. His inner resolution of the collective struggles is expressed succinctly, as a fellow songwriter I know firsthand that these types of topics are the most difficult to tackle in a beautiful way.

In a genius technique of lyricism of “Holy Shit”, formatted in a stream of associations, cuts to the core of reveals an intelligent man grappling with the current paradigm and striving towards consciousness. Tying together a seemingly endless slew of images which constellate into a pristine and objective view of our modern Western social climate: 

“Original sin, genetic fate

Revolutions, spinning plates

It's important to stay informed

The commentary to comment on”


This documentary's lost on me

Satirical news, free energy

Mobile lifestyle, loveless sex

Independence, happiness.”

The splendor and exceptional aptitude of this mature and focused lyricism can only be likened to Bob Dylan. Father John Misty is one of the great artists of this generation. Whether he will be recognized as such by the mass public, as compared to the view counts of Taylor Swift, remains to be seen, but I know he has effected me deeply. 

The Power of Music by Sam Abelow

"Guitar Man" by Alex Grey

Back to the Start

Firstly, to understand the power of music, it may be important to understand the architecture that current music is based upon. The ancient Egyptians understood a lot about triangles (oh really? i.g. the Great Pyramids at Giza). In fact, they knew a lot about geometry in general. Sacred knowledge of how simple geometry relates to the natural world and the cosmos was passed from the mystery schools of Egypt to the Greek philosophers. Namely, the wise Pythagorus who after, traveling to Egypt, took this knowledge and created the foundation for modern music.

Pythagorus designed what is now known as the musical system based off ratios found within the golden ratio. I won't bore you with the mathematics and technical aspects, but what is important is that the general "sacred geometry" which is inherent within all of the organic plant and animal kingdoms is also reflected within the intervals and scales of the musical system, still used to this day in all of modern music.

Throughout time all cultures around the world have used tones (frequencies of sound and noise), as well as rhythm for ritualistic and ceremonial purposes as well as a way to tell stories (griots), or for entertainment. Spiritually, the use of sound is present in shamanistic practices of drumming and chanting. Also this is found in mystical Jewish mantra-like chants and Christian prayers. Of course it is well known that Sufi's and Hindus use songs and mantra in their religious activity. Recently, transpersonal psychologist Stanislav Grof has recognized the power that music has to induce natural altered states of consciousness as a vital part in "holotropic breathwork".

After a great deal of study, thought and experience with music I try to summarize some philosphical ideas, as well as hit on upon key points of practical understanding

It is clear that tonality and rhythm have a profound effect on consciousness, on a basic primal and deep, spiritual level. The fact that it can induce transcendent states of consciousness where, for example, individuals and groups feel they are merging with an ultimate creator spirit is revealing of extraordinary potentials of sound. Beethoven is quoted as saying that "music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy." Even to the Western mind it is obvious that music has the capacity to transcend the intellect and all rationality.

Modern Music and the Unconscious

Today music is more often lyrically orientated and therefore introduces much more content of the conscious mind. Still, it seems that the content resonates into the recesses and labyrinths of what is not intellectually grasped. This can be for better or for worse, considering the wide selection available to listeners in a globalized society.

Largely speaking, popularized music is not used in ceremonial, traditional manners but, when viewed objectify, the festival culture, for example, seems to be reminiscent of tribal gatherings, church and temple ensembles and other type of mass-rituals. People seem to connect with the lyrical and musical content in songs for experiences of ecstasy and dance (archetype of Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and fertility, for example) as well as for more dynamic emotions of lost-love, heartbreak, loneliness and so forth. The personification of different universal forms (archetypes) within music is absolutely an expression of modern day mythology.

Teenagers going through phases of angst are notorious for retreating into their favorite artist's lyrics in order to feel understood and less alone. Songwriters express collective themes within their lyrics, which are supported by musical forms; a"musical language" which resonates to profound depths.

Understanding Carl Jung's concept of the "personal and collective unconscious" brings this all into focus. Jung, based on Sigmund Freud's work, discovered that beneath the veil of the conscious mind is a vast well of material which stretches far beyond the individual, merges back into the group, and more. The forms which play and act within our psyches are known as archetypes.

It seems that over generations the group psyche has amassed countless themes which correlate with specific sound idioms such as classical music, or more recently blues and folk rock. These new outlets for archetypes, such as "the lovers", are universal and connect with us on a core level. Now it is easy to see why music, in a modern, non-secular society has become so important.

My dear friend and musician, Jeff Moss, suggests in an essay on this topic that "a composer performing an original composition in front of a large audience is undergoing therapy each time he steps on stage. He is revealing so much of himself, displaying his personal archetypes and complexes to the crowd. [As] they sing along [...] they 'take over' his sufferings." 

"[The singer] can also act as their healer. If we assume that the crowd attended because they already liked the music, then we can assume that something about the music speaks to them, and relates to their personal sufferings. Attending the performance and listening to the music are exposing them to the sufferings of the composer, in which they relate to, and are therefore being exposed to their own unconscious sufferings, which is characteristic of the healing process."

The issue is that today much of popular music does not reveal personal struggles (complexes) or positive archetypal, mythological or universal forms and themes. Instead, much of the Top 40 portrays stories of lust, materialism, drunkenness and so forth. This may be understood, in the Jungian sense, as a manifestation of the collective "shadow" (that which is not seen by the "conscious ego"). Meaning, that which is normally repressed is coming forth. Obviously, many destructive forces are revealed through the popular content today. It seems though that rather it is our conscious values that have degraded and we are, in fact, not expressing a "shadow", but instead just the outright corruption of our principles. The apparent destruction of humanity is therefore present within the artistic expression of our lyrics.

New spiritual horizons for music and tone

After following this exposition you may agree that the power of music is often misused in the modern world. Even still, there may be a resurgence of music which is healing and insightful rather than destructive and poisoning. It's a very personal, subjective issue, as to discerning what music is authentic and what is phony. I know that for me, it can be immediately apparent.

Besides the popular forms of music found in such genres as rock, pop and hip hop, there are less structured forms of music that resemble some of the traditional, spiritual-orientated uses of tone and rhythm mentioned earlier. People are creating all sorts of ambient pieces, which often are specifically directed towards different chakras (energy centers within the body, described in yogic texts), or brain wave sates (such as the "theta brain state"). These musical creations often promote healing, balance, and relaxation. It is interesting to see this new trend evolve, as it seems to be a resurgence of the original uses of music thousands of years ago.

In this sense, more positive, holy archetypes of "the shaman", "the old wise man" or "the earth mother" are being expressed. I believe that as musicians and artists explore the inner world of the "personal and collective unconscious" and integrate their findings into the "conscious ego", the great healing and insight they experience will continue to be reflected in their art. In turn this will inspire the public to activate themes which propel humanity towards evolution and spiritual truth.

Links for more research

Binaural Beats, The Sacred Solfeggio, and The Algorithms of Organic Life Systems

Letter, Musical Pitch, and Color in the Work of Paul Foster Case 

Dr. Emoto's studies on Music, Thoughts effects on Water 

Music Interests: American Folk and African Rhythms by Sam Abelow

Screen Shot 2015-01-27 at 11.46.05 AM.png

I find myself gravitating to historical music, which seems to have much more authenticity within the lyrics and concepts, which is enhanced by the retro, tubes, transistors, and tape the tracks were recorded onto. Along those lines I’ve also gotten interested in various types of World music, especially that of Africa. These sources of music from the past seem to resonate with me much more than a lot of the highly produced, electronic driven music coming out these days.

At first, about six months ago, during the writing and composing of my second self titled album, I got really into traditional folk music. My favorites are Mississippi John Hurt and Elizabeth Cotton. They sang about the struggles and small joys in life. These simple lyrics, with subtle guitar parts really seem to suit my mindset. Cotton sings on the refrain of one tune: "You calls me your honey; you spends all my money. Then you think that’s funny. That’s why I’m going away.” There’s a hint of lightness in their suffering. As if to say, they know it’s all transient, and that hardship is just a part of the deal of life. The human condition is shared in such a immediate, yet uplifting way. I connect with with both songwriters use of juxtaposition. Using happy chords with a sad story is a technique I’ve often gravitated towards unconsciously. I began to identify it within their music.

Eventually I discovered The Band, which is now my favorite group to listen to. Along with that came Van Morrison, who similarly began to get back to the roots of music and express something soulful. The Band is the most unique group that I’ve come across. The way they are able to combine Country, Folk, R&B and Rock so seamlessly is totally inspiring. The songwriting ability, the lyrics and stories they tell hit somewhere deep within the reservoirs of collective struggle, the American sense of perseverance. Being of Jewish heritage, and living in New England all my life, songs like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, which references the South’s defeat in the Civil War, can still bring me to tears, despite an obvious, logical emotional connection. I believe it is the communication of emotion; that of despair which bypasses the mind and directly impacts the heart. The songwriter Robbie Robertson was from Canada and was able, through meeting Levon Helm, to understand, feel and express the culture of the deep South. This encourages me to explore writing about things that are non-autobiographical in the future.

I’ve always been intrigued by groups like Weather Report, which created a fusion between Western harmony theory, which evolved into Jazz, with the rhythms and sounds of the more exotic regions, such as South America and Africa. The sublime expressions of Joe Pass on recordings like “Trinidad”, make me feel like I’m sitting the room with the virtuoso himself. This introduction of Jazz artists incorporating the sounds of other nations really intrigued me to dig deeper.

My interest in spirituality really helps me understanding artist like Laraaji who’s peaceful, wandering pieces express the “All Pervading”. Still, without the direct reference to spiritual thought, I found something transcendent in Afro-Cuban rhythms and the chanting vocals of such artists as Emilio Barreto. Listening to drums, who’s beat I cannot follow and who’s lyrics I cannot understand, help bring me out of my mind and into the heart.

There is still an appreciation for all types of Pop-Rock types of acts within my ears, mind and heart, but expanding our musical palette can be really fun. The end result of music, philosophically speaking, is always dance. So, in the end, let’s be done intellectualizing, put something uplifting on the stereo, and move to the sound!