After a horrific week of social unrest in the U.S., and while the Irish Music Stories project begins a major overhaul, host Shannon Heaton offers a meditation on how cataloging and organizing can soothe the soul.
Thank you to everybody for listening. And a special thank you to this month’s underwriters: Enda McGreevy, Rus Bradburd, Jeremy Keith, Kevin Doyle, Roland Hebborn, Christopher Stuart, Edward Schilling, Randall Semagin, Parker Abercrombie, Marji Gibbs, Sean Carrol, Peter Smith, Mike Voss, Ian Bittle, Brian Benscoter, Marc Gunn, Gerry Corr, Suezen Brown, Paul DeCamp, Rick Rubin, Kenneth Doyle, Susan Walsh, Emil Hauptmann, Chris Armstrong, John Ploch, Jon Duvick, Randy Krajniak, Joel DeLashmit, and Susan Walsh.
Episode 49 – The Naming of Birds: The power of mundane, manageable, administrative tasks
This Irish Music Stories episode aired January 12, 2021
Speakers, in order of appearance
>> Shannon Heaton: flute player, singer, composer, teacher, and host of Irish Music Stories
>> Nigel Heaton: young announcer for Irish Music Stories
>> Shannon: I’m Shannon Heaton. And this is Irish Music Stories. The show about traditional music, and the bigger stories behind it…
[ Music: “Perfect Maze,” from Perfect Maze
Artist: Shannon Heaton with Emilie Catlett and Natalie Haas ]
…Like how cataloging and organizing can soothe our souls.
There are thousands of things to do. To learn. To deal with. To enjoy. To endure. Sometimes it’s overwhelming. Even something niche and specific like Irish music, well there are thousands of tunes. And players. And styles. Sometimes zeroing in on something like, say, jigs in E Minor, or tunes with bird names—maybe this gives a manageable moment of focus.
[lists tunes with bird names: The Skylark, The Thrush in the Straw, the Swallowtail Jig, The Lark in the Strand, The Peacock’s Feather]
Here in the US, we’ve just weathered a suspenseful special election in the state of Georgia. This Senate run-off election was a big deal. It would determine the balance of power for the next two years.
It was a nail biter.
Then the next day we were supposed to have the last ceremonial display before finally putting the 2020 election behind us. It’s usually this fairly swift, routine congressional process—the ratifying of victory for the election winner and incoming president.
But the whole thing went south after the outgoing guy cheered on a group of rioters.
[ Music: “Dark Low Jig,” from Production Music for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton ]
He urged these people to march on Congress. And his rally cries fueled the mob who had already been fed weeks on unsubstantiated claims by House and Senate members—and media outlets—that the November election results were illegitimate.
Now, a few key players (some of those same Senators and Representatives who’d been spreading misinformation, and allowing their chief to perpetuate false claims for over four years), well some them began to change course that day. But at that point there was already an angry civilian army, wrapped in enormous flags, storming the Capitol building.
They broke through the small collection of Security officers. And they took over the place, sending the U.S. Congress into hiding.
One shirtless dude in a woolen Viking hat posed in the Senate chamber. Another was photographed grinning as he carried a lecturn out the door. One guy sat, feet up, at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s desk. Some carried plastic handcuffs intended for specific individuals whom they saw as traitors to their hero.
And there were casualties. A Capitol police officer and four other people died because of this attack. Meanwhile the leader they were fighting and dying for had retreated. Though he reached out to let us know “my people are peaceful.” And meanwhile ‘his people’ were displaying a Confederate flag and a noose.
State Houses in Georgia and Colorado closed as hundreds gathered in front of their buildings, holding Trump flags, and in some cases rifles. In Arizona, armed protesters marched with a guillotine.
Back in Washington D.C., where Senators had made it out their historic building just ONE minute before the breach, security forces eventually cleared the building. And a janitorial staff worked overtime. Congresspeople, too, helped to clear the wreckage, folks like representative Andy Kim of New Jersey, a Rhodes Scholar and first generation Korean American who got down on his hands and knees to pick up trash.
[ Music: “G Meditation,” from Production Music for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton ]
And then, somewhat remarkably, Congress was back in session. Back to the tedious task of counting electoral votes by hand, in the room, that had so recently been sacked and desecrated.
At that point it was getting really late. My family tuned out the news commentators and talking heads, and we watched C-Span: raw footage of Senators and Representatives casting their votes. There were just a few speeches at this point from dissenting congresspeople. But mostly it was just routine, boring, reassuring administrative work. Though over 100 still voted nay, they finished the slow, dull voting process. And they completed the final paperwork, to formally recognize the 46th President and Vice President of the United States.
[ Music: “Haapvesi,” from January EP
Artist: Assemble FKA Popcorn Behavior ]
There is real beauty and comfort in buckling down and getting to work. Big elections; symphonies; societies and classrooms; even tiny podcasts involve lots of small, simple pieces working together. The rhythm of big projects comes from small, consistent movement.
I’ve begun an overhaul of the Irish Music Stories project. I need to rebuild and expand my website and create additional resources, essays, images, new episodes. There is so much to share with you. And it’s going to take time—by hand and in the room—to pull it together.
After the recent raid and return to order in Washington DC, I have a fresh appreciation of mundane administrative work. I won’t air all my organizing moments (there’s no IMS-Span). But I’ll keep you posted each month. I have a lovely poetic episode in the works. So I hope you’ll stay tuned.
My deep thanks to this month’s supporters. I am humbled by the encouragement of folks who’ve chipped in recently. YOU are keeping these stories free and even more available to everybody.
Here’s my son Nigel to recognize this month’s supporters.
>> Nigel: Thank you to Enda McGreevy, Rus Bradburd, Jeremy Keith, Kevin Doyle, Roland Hebborn, Christopher Stuart, Edward Schilling, Randall Semagin, Parker Abercrombie, Marji Gibbs, Sean Carrol, Peter Smith, Mike Voss, Ian Bittle, Brian Benscoter, Marc Gunn, Gerry Corr, Suezen Brown, Paul DeCamp, Rick Rubin, Kenneth Doyle, Susan Walsh, Emil Hauptmann, Chris Armstrong, John Ploch, Jon Duvick, Randy Krajniak, Joel DeLashmit, and Susan Walsh.
>> Shannon: Thanks, everybody. And thank you for listening. In case you can use some calming cataloging, here are more bird tunes.
[ Music: “D Chimes” from Production Music for Irish Music Stories
Artist: Matt Heaton ]
[Shannon names more tunes with bird names: The Morning Thrush, The Robin’s Nest, The Noisy Curlew, the Blackbird, The Cuckoo..]
Episode guests in order of appearance
No guests in this month’s short episode. Just your fearless host, trying to find beauty and joy in sorting, cleaning, and organizing…