The Presence Of That Absence

Updated: Jul 4

As mentioned on the Home Page, I am writing and recording eight new songs using the collective title, The Presence Of That Absence. I would like to use this blog to explain where that title originated and why I chose it.

When the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was asked if she missed the peak glory days of her career she responded "The presence of that absence is everywhere." When I read this it struck me how the absence of something really does create a presence in the current environment which is not merely nostalgia.

It seems to me that as a culture we are gradually becoming accustomed to think that once something is gone it has ceased to exist, and therefore ceased to deserve our attention as we continually shift our focus to the next big thing. The Millay quote points out that when things of value disappear, their absence exists in the present. We are losing sight of the fact that the present is built on, and connected to what came before, and did not just appear out of thin air. This dynamic is playing out today in intergenerational blame games.

The forces of the marketplace play a central role in this process as part of an effort to reduce humans to consumers and users in order to shape our behavior, tastes, and spending habits. We are constantly kept off balance with a vast array of new distractions coming at us in rapid succession. Whether it's the latest entertainment, news, retail product or technology sensation, our gaze is being directed at what's coming next, and blind to the rips in the social fabric created by such a fragmented and ungrounded world view. There is a familiar saying, "Those who ignore the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat it." In contrast, the current popular view encourages us to dismiss the past because as soon as something is no longer new, its' value is depreciating until it no longer matters. In the end, lasting value is subordinated to planned obsolescence and disposability. The "use it up and throw it away" mentality is even affecting our relationship with our planet.

The absence of something we identify with is an actual presence in our lives. It is part of who we are. My new recording project seeks to provide some timely examples of this in a way that's musical, engaging and entertaining. Illustrations will be forthcoming in future posts:-) Stay well!


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