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The space between: we’re related (taken from life)

I’m tracing my roots. Here they all are on screen, my ancestral flesh and blood: Mary, Robert, Nathan, Samuel, Elizabeth, Sarah and Laura. I am a time traveller; rifling through the 1700s, attending marriages and births, chasing after burials. Suddenly and invisibly real—perhaps I could will them into existing, here or there, what does it matter… But their shadowy forms are already present enough to my mind—Mary’s cheeks glow on Winter mornings as she makes the fire, Nathan’s breath clouds the air as he tills hard Norfolk soil, Robert shifts uncomfortably, his bottom numbed by a hard church pew. It’s my hopeful fiction that embodies them. But it’s more than sufficient to make a family connection. And it takes no time at all.

Time is only the distance from here to there. Well, how small a space! Smaller than the distance between speakers and ears, smaller than the vast journey between ears and mind, smaller than that quivering line between reality and imagination.

Whenever I listen to Paul Lansky’s Things She Carried, she’s here. Right now. A psychological portrait of a woman who was or is, or might have been—there’s no time to worry about which. There she is, was, or will be. She reaches across a completely timeless void, an ordinary voice that conjures her own music. Her portrait is drawn in sound, or rather she draws her own portrait in sound. Her vocal rhythms engender spatters of percussion; her intonation tunes chords and timbres. Her music trickles and slides and twists in time to her thoughts.  She excites her own music. (And that’s so pleasingly exciting.) And then she recites a list of such ordinary things; a comb, pens, a change purse, coins, a library card. She’s nobody special—she’s just someone. So I feel I know just what she means.

Things She Carried

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