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All At Sea

Hi everyone,

I’m writing to you from on board R/V Falkor, a research ship currently traveling from southeastern Vietnam to northern Australia. This whole experience is, admittedly, a little outside of my wheelhouse: my normal life, as you know, generally centers around writing music about landscape and playing the piano, and it’s very weird to suddenly find myself someplace where there’s neither piano nor land.

The Schmidt Ocean Institute, which owns and manages Falkor, is a pretty remarkable organization. It was founded to encourage and enable new advances in oceanography, and places a special focus on making the field more visible. Scientists who successfully apply to perform their research on the ship all have to agree to a list of requirements designed to increase public interest in the ocean and in marine science: for instance, all the data collected on board must quickly be made publicly available. There’s also lots of public outreach and PR that occurs during each journey: they bring along videographers and social media experts and so forth. And — most importantly –for several trips, SOI goes out of its way to find an artist with a history of making stuff in response to environmental science, then flies that person halfway around the world so he or she can spend time on the ship and make some relevant artwork that reflects both the experience and the data collected on board.

So that’s me: I’ve been here for the last week or two, traveling across a place utterly unlike any that I’ve ever been to before, hanging out with a talented and impressive crew assembled from a bewildering array of different countries, and learning way more than I ever expected to about the ocean, how it is studied, and how people move through it. If you’re interested in what I’ve been up to out here, they’ve had me write a couple of blog posts here, here, and here. I’ve been posting a few photos here, as usual, when the internet allows for it. I’ll also probably be raving about this whole experience for months after I get back, so if you’d like we can just talk about it then.

Before long, however, I’ll be rejoining the real world with plenty of days left to enjoy the best time of year in New England. Here are some shows that I’ll be playing in October and November right after I get back:

10/9 EAST CHATHAM, NY – New Concord Meeting House
10/14 PRINCETON, NJ – Princeton University – (I’ll be presenting a new piece about the Quabbin Reservoir as part of a conference about water and place in North America)
10/19 PROVIDENCE, RI – AS220
10/21 BURLINGTON, VT – Light Club Lamp Shop
10/22 BOSTON, MA – [private event] (with 90-Mile Portage)
10/23 MONTPELIER, VT – The Skinny Pancake
10/30 MONTPELIER, VT – The Skinny Pancake
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11/4 COLEBROOK, NH – Tillotson Center
11/10 SOMERVILLE, MA – Arts at the Armory (with 90-Mile Portage)
11/11 BURLINGTON, VT – Radio Bean
11/12 STOCKBRIDGE, MA – Six Depot
11/13 MANCHESTER, NH – The Currier Museum – Opening Event: “Mount Washington: Crown of New England”
11/16 YARMOUTH, ME – Gather
11/17 SALEM, MA – The Gulu Gulu Cafe (with 90-Mile Portage)
11/27 MONTPELIER, VT – The Skinny Pancake
(More details for all performances here)

I’m looking forward to all of those. But in the meantime, this isn’t too bad at all. As I write this — and I’m not kidding about any of this — I’m staring through a porthole at a pod (pod?) of dolphins dancing around about a half mile away, and a zillion flying fish all skittering away from the wake of the ship as we cruise past them. In the hazy distance is a massive volcanic island. Please understand that around this time last year, my car’s engine was catastrophically exploding in the desert outside of Albuquerque, so I feel like I’ve earned the right to relish this whole situation a little bit.

Best wishes from farther away than usual, but I hope to see you all soon.
Ben

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