The Song Journal

Miscellaneous news and writing by Bob Franke, mostly about songs as a portable art form, and the process of creating them and enabling them to do their work in the world.

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Location: Peabody, Massachusetts, United States

from Bob Franke began his career as a singer-songwriter in 1965 while a student at the University of Michigan. Upon graduation in 1969 with an A.B. in English Literature, he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, and has since made New England his home. Bob has appeared in concert at coffeehouses, colleges, festivals, bars, streets, homes and churches in 33 states, four Canadian provinces and England.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Material world

The new CD is out (it's available here), and we sold a bunch of them at the Old Songs Festival last weekend. The character of this job of mine changes from season to season, but every now and then the earthliness of it impresses me. Much of the time it seems that it's not so much about singing or playing or even writing. For one thing, it's about driving (see a previous post). When you put together a concert series in a local venue, it's about moving chairs and writing a convincing press release. Last week and the beginning of this one around the house, it's been about using a paper cutter.

I seldom do paper mailings these days--they're really expensive, and yes, a bit wasteful--but when I do, it reminds me of the old days when I used to take on temporary jobs like running a decollater. A decollater is a machine that tears apart those old multi-part computer forms that still show up in business from time to time, the ones with the holes on the side that are fed through sprockets. The different parts go to different departments. We don't have different departments around the house, but when I do a paper mailing I have to ride herd on an old computer of mine that does nothing much except put out postcards when there's call for it. Four postcards fit on a sheet of card stock. You put the content on one side and the addresses on the other, nicely formatted. When the printer starts you have to keep an eye on it to make sure the ink hasn't run out. You take the finished sheets into the living room and cut them on a paper cutter while you're watching TV. If you're lucky, Joan puts the stamps on.

There's a real sense of, well, relief in all this. When I do it, I think of Gandhi spinning his own clothes. One of the reasons I still do this is that I believe that it's right livelihood for me. I try to minimize both the environmental and the financial damage. People seem to respond well to getting the news in a non-electronic form. And doing it by hand, myself or with Joan, gives me the sense that any damage I do is at least on a human scale. The hope is that any good that I may do will accelerate itself enough to cover the damage. But there's comfort in dealing with the material stuff that enables the spiritual.


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