In my mind, there's nothing more entertaining than spending hours -- days? -- sifting through the actual years worth of music that I have saved on every different device that I've used since the introduction of computers into my daily life (which was in high school,m so you know there's some just GREAT stuff in there). This is what happens every time a new computer enters my life... which happens more often than not, since by "new computer" I actually mean "one of my old computers cobbled back together using the soldering iron of sheer will". Over the past seven years, I have rotated through the same two laptops until this past Xmas, when my little sister was given a new laptop and I snatched her old one.
So now I'm making the same old pilgrimage, slowly clearing my old hard drive and saving it onto my phone, where hopefully it can make a living until I find some sort of permanent solution.
But that's the interesting thing, isn't it?
The way I see it, music is constantly in motion. Not just the natural movement of fads and fashions, styles coming and going and sometimes staying around for just long enough that everyone decides that, you know, the Beatles saved rock and roll, or something, (Is that something people say? People say a lot of things about the Beatles. It's probably a safe bet), but the forced motion of human change. That is to say, since every person individually evolves at a different pace, and yet every person can only evolve at the pace that is allowed by their social contract, how does music fit into that system?
Let me start with an example, relating to my current predicament (1 hour into an 18 hour transfer! Such excitement!). When I was in high school, like most high schoolers of the age (I imagine), I mostly listened to music from my tapped-together walkman while staring moodily out the window of the school bus, or while lying uncomfortably in bed because man those headphones had just not gotten small enough yet. Still, moody staring is only external, and I listened to some really truly terrible and ridiculous stuff. The first time I realized I had to get a laptop, I tried to go through all of my files and determine which songs I actually liked so that I would have space for new things! It was really quite the purge -- a lot of Weird Al was pushed to the side in favor of Britney Spears. A hard decision, but one I had to make. And yet, three or four computer-switches and a new phone later, I found myself subject to that song. And I'll admit; I laughed. It's ridiculous. But in high school, I thought that song was some sort of subversive ideal, along with Red Hot Chili Peppers and They Might Be Giants, not because it spoke to me on some deep level but specifically because it wasn't trying to. Nowadays, when I listen to a song about food, I demand that the food needs to be itself emotionally invested in the song. Point being, that the music I deemed unworthy of moving on with me in life, the music that made it into the future with me, and the music that I want to listen to now are all really interchangeable. I could have easily switched that song with one of Weird Al's, or some old Fall Out Boy, and I'd have found myself in the same situation: Delighted surprise, one listen, and all future attempted plays quickly skipped.
But then I have to wonder, what was lost? I know I made CDs -- and Sweet Baby Ray help whoever finds the straight-from-the-radio tape recordings me and my sisters made -- which only run for a song or two before taking a hop, a skip, and a jump straight to the no-man's-land that is my glove compartment. They weren't all Weird Al, though. Today, I'm looking through the list of artists that have made it through all the transitions with me -- library cd to desktop to laptop to laptop to laptop to thumbdrive to laptop to, finally, my phone -- and I think, there's no way that song was out when I was in high school; there's no way I listened to them during the same years that I watched DragonBall-Z religiously with my sisters; there's no way they put out an album that I listened to when I went to bed scared of the X-Files theme song. But where else did they come from?
I've certainly added to my collection over time, but I've also moved with the times. Now, when I move my stuff from comp to comp it's not quite as hard as actually, physically moving thousands of files from room to room or home to home; so there's more that comes with me. Do I want it to? Sure, why not? Do I listen to all of it? No way. Some of that stuff is awful! Looking through my music files is an archaeological study where I learn about the past; old civilizations lying underneath new ones, new cities invading and knocking down old ones.
And so the question is: is that natural?
By constantly shifting my musical information from one host to the next, I am certainly losing some history, but I'm also forced to chose what best preserves it, and what really matters to me now.
And the information is constantly changing! The music that I listen to has grown exponentially, by including the music from my past and because music is just so much easier to get hold of. Every artist that I've heard and liked on the radio in the past week, I've already downloaded onto my new computer. After the downloads, there are suggestions for downloads! Artists I've never even heard of! But I might like them, so why not? So in addition to the music I haven't listened to for years, there's music I might not listen to for years (the download has gotten all the way to G -- Golden Earring. What? Who are they? Or is that an album title? I have no idea! What fun!). But I will listen to it, because I love hearing music I've never heard before -- I LOVE it. Plus now I own it!
But that's my way of listening to music, and everyone is different. And that's the thrilling thing; everyone emphasizing their own taste above all else, even if that taste is defined by "all else", because that is still the most important influence to that person. The funny thing, I've come to realize, about music, is that popularity defines what is popular, even if that has no bearing on what we listen to in the future. I mean, in 2015 I was listening to Taylor Swift and feeling it... and now I listen to Taylor Swift and I sing along as a Disney villain. Times change. Music changes. What we like, you know, CHANGES. Or I guess those Taylor Swift songs stayed the same, and I changed around them; in the end, it was just personal. They keep playing TSwift on the radio because she's still popular, because she makes fun songs and people (myself included -- imagine!) like fun things.
In the question of permeability, music stands its grounds -- humans do not. People change, whether they want to or not, and music stands as not only a symptom of that change but a guardian of it. (21 hours remaining. How did that happen??). People change, but the music of my past is as proud today as it was back when it came out; like a mummy it may be unwrapped but perhaps it is best remembered in the gold of its glory.
But surely, if we were to write up a mathematical equation, "music" would be greater than "some sci-fi explanation of 'core samples' ", and don't even pretend like you don't know what I'm talking about.
No, "music" only represents who we really are to ourselves; I can sing "Blank Space" like I think Jafar would do it, but to my oft-copilot Dirick, the song is a void of meaning; Dirick is a professional artist and listens primarily to leaked versions of musicians he likes. As usual, the "human equation" is only a vague estimation of the beautiful complexity of reality. Music, as a form of art -- even when it's only goal is appealing to the base, the most basic qualities of human emotion or necessity, even then it is art which knits together the incoherent base of humanity; that which brings people together -- music is an expression, like any other medium, which only gains shapes with audience interpretation. Music may be permanent, but the interpretation has no option but change.
The question is now, does the music change in order to portray a similar interpretation, or does the music change as humanity evolves?
What ho? Has winter finally joined us on the East coast? I woke up this morning and, according to my car (the most accurate scientific instrument I can imagine), it was only 28͒ -- that's actual cold! It only took about a week into January... though to be fair, when I was in Columbus during the holidays, I did see three or four snowflakes. Quickly followed by a week of thunderstorms and 80͒ weather; this is how Ohio reminds you where you are.
Speaking of interstate weather phenomena (slick segue!), about a month ago I travelled to New York to taste some wines with my good friend Dani, who used to work at Notaviva and a VTech's Agriculture Research and Extension Center, and now works at Rappahannock Cellars down in Front Royal. We signed up to take part in the Seneca Lake Wine Trail tasting event called "Deck the Halls". It's a sort of wine and food pairing event across 33 wineries over the course of two and a half days (starting Friday afternoon). Some people try to hit them all just to get the food and the little decorations that you're supposed to hang on a wreath they give you at the beginning of the event; Dani and I had a few recommendations for wineries on the lake (Fox Run, Ravines WIne Cellars, among others), but we ended up discovering a lot of little wineries and vineyards that had some amazing wines -- along with a lot of interesting talk about the NY wine industry.
One of my favorite stops was at Damiani Wine Cellars, which is not actually a part of the official Seneca Lake Wine Trail, but it's on the eastern shore of the lake and has some scrumptious reds -- which is pretty cool to find in a region that really prides itself on Riesling and Gewurtztraminer. As the sun was setting over the cool evening, lancing vivid reds and oranges down onto the lake, Dani and I got into conversation with the very knowledgeable woman behind the counter.
First, we brought up something we had noticed at pretty much every vineyard we had visited; when looking down the slopes into the vines, we could see that instead of the generally flat rows you'll find at most VA vineyards, up in New York the vines were surrounded by piles of dirt, right up to the graft union.
This is called "hilling", and it is supposed to keep the vines warm during the winter the same way a cozy, cozy blanket and a cup of hot chocolate does for the rest of us. The graft union is generally a pretty weak site because of the nature of attaching two different plants to one another; I'm sure even after he got a new hand attached, Luke Skywalker probably didn't want people grabbing violently at his wrist or applying... freezing temperatures to it.
If the graft union is dead, then the plant above it -- the part that you want to be alive, because that's where grapes come from -- is dead, too. Sometimes, vines can be tricky because even though it looks like most of the vine is dead, you'll look at it and see some really healthy looking shoots popping up out around where the vine went into the ground. Unfortunately, at least in our vineyard where we use grafted vines, this generally indicates that the rootstock is the only thing remaining alive -- and the rootstock doesn't produce grapes... or at least not ones you want to use for making wine. I mean, making good wine.
So, New Yorkers, and probably a lot of others, too, use the hilling technique to help protect their vines during the harsh winters -- which you may remember from the past year or two, even if it hasn't shown up quite yet this year.
According to the woman at Damiani's, another source of protections comes from the lake itself. Water holds onto heat, and so at the widest and deepest parts of the lake Seneca itself helps dampen the hideous effects winter can have on vines. This, unfortunately, is something Stephen and Shannon are not allowing me to pursue here at Notaviva, considering it would involve me digging an entire lake on our property, and possibly diverting a river or two over here.
Hilling up dirt around the vines might be a lot of work, but it seems to have some great affect according to the vintners around Seneca Lake, so we'll definitely be looking into it over here! (Hopefully before El Nino changes his mind and brings the horrible winter ways East).
Listening to Pink Martini and not drinking wine because it's 9am.
For a week, the Mid-Atlantic states have been struck by ferocious winds and pounded by fearsome rains. For four long days, the threat of hurricane landfall dampened the already flood-vulnerable spirits of Virginians... But by Bradamant's beard, WHAT ABOUT THE WINE? To uncover the story of horror and hope in our small corner of Virginia's wine world, read on...
7:00am Sunday, September 27. Somehow, the icy breath of winter has seduced with glee the horrifying humidity of summer, offering its overlong handshake of ominous clouds alongside the sweet whispers of whipping winds to the bog of eternal august heat. These sadistic lovers have aroused a sense of dread in the clammy air weighed down with the avenging promise of rain.
That's too bad, because I have things to do; bottling day looms in the back of my mind, and there are wines to filter, so today I shake my fist at the sky's gray mask and plead for just a little more time. The sky, ever-kind, obliges.
Monday, September 28. The day passes without so much as the rising of the sun; instead the world sits impassive beneath a ceiling of chill malevolence, a shroud bearing down in ill-concealed spite.
All that matters to me today is that Halloween is on the way. I spend the day in the company of good friends, pushing off the imminence of the oncoming disaster. We travel the markets searching for terrifying inspiration in preparation for our carnival of horrors.
Later, I run through the start of a drizzle to open the door to my home, looking forward to a dinner of gnocchi with pumpkin, squash, and sage pesto. Before I can reach the kitchen, however, my hopeful ignorance is interrupted by a message, white, marked with the red of a mind in panic: URGENT.
It can wait a moment.
I pull the pot of pasta and sauce from my refrigerator and place it on the stovetop on low heat, shrugging off my raincoat in the process, before I finally turn back to the message. Slipping the envelope open, I find that my calm expectation for the coming days has been unraveled; there is more wine to filter, and the threat of torrential cloud-break is upon us.
Well, that is a worry for tomorrow. Tonight, all I can do is enjoy my dinner and pour myself a glass of wine. This is the finest preparation for an unavoidable confrontation with discomfort.
4:52am Tuesday, September 29. I awake with worry. The unseasonable cold has drifted into my dreams, and a memory surfaces: "You could smell the salt in the air. You could see it, white, coating the ground. You could taste it in the grapes..." From an interview I had heard, regarding the striking of a category 4 hurricane on the north-east coast, many years ago.
At Notaviva, I reference my most recent sampling venture; going out into the vineyard, taking a random sample of each varietal and then essentially performing a very small individual crushing scenario in order to measure the sugar and acid concentration in the grapes. My goal is to track these numbers as they fluctuate, with the hope of projecting an accurate harvest date. Up until now, these grapes have been maturing splendidly, but with the sudden downturn in weather, it is time to make another measurement.
Petit Verdot, Cab Franc, and then Blaufrankisch...
If only I could build one; then maybe these flood conditions would not be flooding my grapes with water, decreasing concentrations and slowing down maturation; essentially, pushing harvest further into the cold of Autumn.
5:00pm, same day. We get started on our last wine, and with a lasting cackle of vindication, the sky opens its doors to the unabashed cataclysm of rain that has been, apparently, waiting for the very worst moment to begin its effusive effluvium.
Proudly, I can state with defiance that we completed our endeavor without incidence, and at last all of the wines were prepared for the final move to their glass homes.
Wednesday, September 30. Today was a day of whispers. Rumors of hope and dread compounded and fought to gain control of minds and grounds. Some claimed that the rain was supposed to pause today. Some muttered that the rain was already coming down; never again would we experience the joy of simple sunshine. Some warned, eyes downcast and shoulders slumped in defensive dejection, that the harvest was going to have to be pushed to the impossible cold of November. All thought the same word, the same name... but none could gather the strength to pull that tremor into the actuality of speech, and risk bringing even a shadow of that portent into the auspices of reality.
I heard a terrible joke today: "They're going to call the next one Phoenix, right? Because of the actor?"
Friday, October 2. Today the latest and best in a long line of hand-knitted hats has proved itself. Thanks be to Alice, my lil sis.
Saturday, October 3. News arrives on the white wings of the dove of peace. While it is true that the southern isles have been blighted by this weather-ly wastrel, those of us on the eastern shore can appreciate the recent attention of luck that has sent this Hurricane off on the only safe path out of the apparently thousands of projections made by the National Weather Oracle.
Still, we have the torrents of rain to contend with, so I have created my own forecast for the upcoming harvest:
Worst Case Scenario: Hurricane Joaquin makes a not only sudden but perhaps even malicious turnaround and makes landfall directly on top of Notaviva Vineyards. All of our vines are destroyed and, in a further display of omnipotence, Joaquin rends the very earth from our site and leaves only a scar in the ground that travels to the very depths of Earth's core.
Best Case Scenario: Far from inundating the remaining grapes with an overflow of water, the rains imbue our reds with the potential of everlasting youth; wine made at Notaviva Vineyards offers the imbiber wisdom, joy, and love, and we usher the world and all humankind into a new era of discovery and wonder that eventually leads to intergalactic travel. You are welcome.
Most Likely Scenario: The rain dissipates and although the weather makes a turn for the cool, the sun allows the grapes to intensify to an appropriate and flavorful degree. Harvest is postponed to mid- or late-October, but is completed and the world is just a little bit better due to the inclusion of some more good wine.
Epilogue, 3:30 pm, Monday October 5. This day dawned cold, but bright. The few clouds that still jealously guarded the sun's rays this morning have scattered to the wind and a wondrous blue sky washes this glorious Autumn day with its fine light. I have gathered more samples from the vineyard, and can attest to the truth that we suffered very little from this near-apocalypse. In fact, with the heat of the sun and the remaining tempestuous winds helping to clear out the moisture that gathered over this week, we can expect to harvest our Cabernet Franc and our Blaufrankisch as soon as this Wednesday. What excitement!
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Notaviva Vineyards, LLC
13274 Sagle Rd
Purcellville, VA 20132
Tel: (540) 668-6756
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NOTAVIVA® and WINE PAIRED WITH MUSIC. POUR. LISTEN. BELIEVE.®
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