Your Experience of Me

Hi all,

Last spring, I worked on an installation piece with three friends of mine, Jesse Arnholz, Chelsea Ettlinger, and Vida Weisblum. The focus of the piece was on the mother-daughter relationship, and the places and objects that make it up. It was in a room. On one wall was a portrait of a woman in a bath towel, lounging in a white chair. Along another was a desk overflowing with papers. The final wall had a white table ornamented with two candles, an orange, and a box of tic tacs. And hidden in the corner of the room was a closet, with drawings hung about, books hidden away, and a journal on the floor, to be read and added to over the course of the installation.

Playing throughout this room was a piece of audio. It was made up of recordings I made of Jesse, Chelsea, and Vida talking to their mothers on the phone, edited down and set to piano music. Today, I’m uploading that audio to Soundcloud to be shared. While it was meant to be played as part of this installation, I feel it stands pretty well on its own.

I would recommend trying to sit and listen to it in one sitting, however. If you’d like, we’ve compiled some of the photos of the installation, which might be interesting to look over while listening.

Here’s the link:

And here are the photos:

Wishing you love,

Hayden

Reflection on the End of 2015

I’ve had trouble sleeping the last couple of nights. It’s nothing new - I’ve had issues with insomnia my whole life - but I do think it’s good to reexamine causes from time to time. The end of a year seems a good time to do so.

The things that have been giving me trouble fall into two camps. On one hand, I think about my future, and the future of my work. And on the other, I think of the future of the world, and my fears surrounding it. On the first one:

My life has consisted, primarily, of walking into darkness with the faith that I was moving somewhere important. The importance seemed to find voice in music, and I’ve treated that, and my instincts towards it, as a map through almost everything. This changed recently. I have, more or less, outlined the next year of my life and my work, for the first time seeing more than a couple of inches in front of myself. This keeps me up at night, because as I look into 2016, I am overwhelmed with excitement.

This coming year I'll be releasing an EP called For Gabriel that I've been working on for over a year and a half (I haven’t figured out how to talk about it yet, but it feels important). In the spring I’ll be going on a week-long tour with a number of friends, focusing specifically on trying to make the concerts feel like communion, in the best sense of the word. By the end of the summer I’ll have finished a full-length LP with my dear friend Griffin Jennings. And in the fall, Griffin and I will be taking the semester off from school to tour the US.

And I think it'll happen, too. This past year has both expanded and brought into greater clarity all of the supports that surround this work I’m doing. The generosity of fellow musicians in lending advice, especially the blessed Lucy Dacus and Punch Brothers, has made me feel more knowledgeable and cared for than ever before. Not to mention the broad network of friends, family, and other musicians that continues to astound me. Whatever's happened in the last year, I've somehow come out of it feeling extremely well situated to the work I'm taking on in the coming year.

Yet even as I've arrived at a place of optimism as regards my own path forward, I've grown increasingly worried, particularly in the last two months or so, about the path forward for the world. The tragedies we've seen this year have been shocking, but what worries me more has to do with the discussions I’ve witnessed surrounding them - I see difference, which is fine, but I see distance as well. I see public denouncements. I see the rhetoric of “othering.” I see space being consciously sought out between people and the ideas or persons they view as opposing their own. And I see this all exacerbated by a history of separation, on economic, social, and racial grounds (especially in the US). 

I want the opposite. I want to be close. I want empathy, on a radical scale. And my heart beats heavy when I try to think where such closeness exists in the world, and how I can help bring it about. 

Personally, I think it can start in performance space. We, as performing artists, should not measure our success by how loud an audience applauds, nor by how attentively they listen, but by the nature of their interaction. If we can change the way two people listen to one another, such that they interact with more compassion, more vulnerability, and greater human connection, we've succeeded in our work. 

That's the goal for 2016. Looking forward to sharing it with you all.

Sending love,

Hayden

A Communion (live)

A number of weeks ago I performed a concert in Fairchild Chapel. The goal was to produce something that felt like convergence, or God, or whatever the word is. I was joined by Margaret McCarthy, Griffin Jennings, Raffi Boden, Delaney Meyers, Mobey Irizarry Lambright, and Josephine Stockwell. Reflections on that night have been ongoing, but a constant thread has been the sense that it felt new. Some people hugged each other afterwards. Another person told me it felt like a religious experience. For me, it was a first step towards something important: a type of musical performance that is deep, safe, and based on collective vulnerability. A communion, of sorts.

Alex Wilder recorded the concert, and Will Johnson and I mastered it. You can stream/download it here:

An immense thanks to all those who were a part of it. Looking forward to what comes next.

-Hayden

Letter on Punksong

    

In the Spring of 2014, Griffin Jennings and I talked after a composition recital about how we wanted to make music together. We’d just heard each other’s pieces performed, and being both excited by what we had heard and having no other plans that night, we grabbed our guitars and met in a practice room. It took us a couple of minutes before we locked on to something, and when we did, I asked him what he was playing. “Oh, it’s just a punk song I’ve been working on.”

Over the year and half since, that punk song has grown, and me and Griffin have developed one of the deepest friendships and richest working relationships I’ve ever known. We’ve spent a ridiculous number of hours together recording guitars, writing glockenspiel parts, and editing down the 212 tracks that make up this song. We’ve spent time in practice rooms, multiple dorm rooms, New York City, Washington DC, all trying to engage and explore the idea of creating, and creating together. And as we now get to look for the first time on the fruit of our labor, I’m struck by how much we’ve grown, and how lucky we are. I’ve never felt so comfortable or capable in a collaboration as I do now, and I’m filled with such excitement knowing where we plan to go and what we hope to achieve over the next year and beyond.

Before we do that, however, there’s still one thing we wanted to share closing out the Week of Punksong: Over the last number of weeks we’ve been covertly compiling endorsements for our song from Oberlin students, admin, and faculty, and are now prepared to share it with the world. Enjoy:

Also, we owe some thank yous:

Thank you so much to Amara Granderson, Margaret McCarthy, Mitchell Herrmann, Jeremy Poe, Andrew Pau, Tim Gemesi, Gabe Smith, Ethan Rode, Jasmine Anderson, Mobey Irizarry Lambright, Joo Won Park, Sarah Snider, Daniel Karcher, Hunter Brown, Kirk Pearson, Michael Orenstein, James Quintana, John Talbert, Ava Prince, and Conrad Sheriden for sharing your endorsements and being part of our video. You made me and Griff smile many times as we were recording/editing this thing. Also, this shit is marketing gold. No way are we not blowing up after this one.

On the musical production of Punksong itself, thank you to Ethan Cohen for playing drums, Gabriel Hawes for playing Glockenspiel, Elijah Fox-peck for secret autotune, and our incredible vocal mob of Khalid Taylor, Robby Baskin, Patrick Dunaj, Chelsea Ettlinger, Araxi Polony, Gabe Smith, Pablo Johnson, Maya Moskowitz, Henry Weissberg, Sammy Mellman, Luke Paschal, Cole Blouin, Ellie Tremayne, and Ethan Cohen for your deeply inspiring performance of sheep noises (1:37).

Thank you to everyone who came out to our Week of Punksong events, as well, particularly our release party last night. It was so nice to see everybody, and omg you guys liked the song that rocks.

It would also be wrong not to thank Isabelle Harari, who was present for nearly half of the recording sessions that led to this song, and has been an incredible support of the whole project since its inception.

Finally, I just wanted to say that it’s been amazing thinking on how Punksong has functioned not only as musical project, but also a social mechanism for bringing people together. It of course brought me and Griffin together, but looking back on the vocals-recording session with 16 people crammed into a south quad, our release party last night with many more people talking and dancing to the Bee Gees, or this ridiculous video we’ve just released, so many people have been a part of this process (look at all those tags above), and it’s my real hope that some tangential connections, empathy, or community has been formed that will outlast the song itself. That, in my mind, is the highest goal of music, and if even for moments we’ve touched it, I’m proud of what we’ve done.

Love to everyone,

Hayden

I Would Die 4 U - With Lucy Dacus

At the beginning of June I spent a week with Lucy Dacus. We played a couple of shows together, heard Michelle Obama speak at Oberlin's commencement exercises, and camped through varying degrees of cold in an enduring and extremely blue tent. It was an absolute joy and highlight of the summer, and I thank Lucy immensely for being the inspiring, warm, talented individual she is. 

Somewhere along our travels, Lucy told me about a couple who had emailed her about a cover she'd released a long time ago with her friend Adam. The song was Prince's "I Would Die 4 U," and the couple had seen a video of Lucy and Adam playing it on Youtube. They liked it, apparently, so much so that they asked if any recorded version existed such that they could use it as their first dance. Lucy asked me if I'd be up for trying to record the cover, and I of course was very excited to do it.

We recorded it on a Sunday in one of Oberlin's classrooms. And I mixed it over the next couple of days in Oberlin's Slow Train Cafe and Lucy's kitchen in Richmond. It is small, and I very much hope you like it.

Much love to all,

Hayden