Spirit Grooves Blogs

Published on May 19, 2014

I spent most of the day in the studio interviewing Seth Bernard, founder of the Earthwork Music Collective, and his wife May Erlewine Bernard, who is also my daughter. Margaret, my wife, took care of our newest granddaughter Iris Betsy Bernard, who is only a couple months old, while May was being interviewed.

My son Michael, who is also a videographer, was with me in the studio, while his partner Micah Ling hung out at the house, along with my daughter Anne, her partner Michael Lee, and two-year-old Emma, their daughter and my granddaughter. My step-grandson Lucas (who is 14 years old) was also there, so it was a house full. Did I mention the two dogs? I made a huge pot of chili (four cups of beans), and there were pancakes (with no dairy or butter), and a wonderful potato-leek soup that Anne made, and on and on.

I didn't get my afternoon nap, but I did get a walk down the alley with Margaret, Anne, and Emma just before the sun went down, with the dogs of course. Anyway, that is the cast of characters for the weekend. Now for a little fun story.

Michael, my son, and I were in the studio for maybe six hours. I was also down there at dawn getting everything ready. The interviews with Seth and May went well and I got to ask May about her music career, something I thought I knew all about. To my surprise I learned a number of things I never knew about May, and I will share one of them with you right here, because it really struck me. This is what May told us.

Well, of course May was raised in a home full of music. I had been a musician when I was her age and for many years we had a whole house full of guests living right next door, including some who lived there for a long time. One person (unknown to us at the time) showed up unannounced and stayed for years. That kind of thing.

Well, May reminded me of the great dinners we would have, and I would always want to play recorded music that I particularly loved for our guests. My interest in music was more than just playing them at tune from my favorite albums. I wanted them to listen to each song intensely, and I would do my best to walk them through the tune, said May. Of course, I know this experience all too well. Not only would I play a particular tune, but I would show my friends where in the tune the "hook" was, to make sure they could appreciate it.

And usually I was (often) deeply disappointed at my guest's inability to simply listen attentively. They would talk right through it, especially when we came to the most beautiful part, almost every time. I would be sitting there listening myself, doing my best to show them by example how to listen, and encourage them to hear the music, but more often than not, they just continued with talk as usual, as if music is a background thing. Ouch!

So, for forty years or more, my pearls of music wisdom seemed to fall on deaf ears. I guess that many of my friends (and guests) were just not 'that' into music, apparently, or it was to them just another commodity. And here is the funny (and a little sad) part. What I didn't know until yesterday is that all those years, my daughter May, who was at first just a little girl, and then later a teen, and so on, was listening. The sad part is that I never focused on the one person who listened. She was listening with open ears. Actually, her siblings also listened too.

Therefore May heard me play many tunes over and over and over through the years. She told me yesterday that when I would point out the hook or sweet spot, she would listen carefully and hear it, and it sunk in. She was learning all of this, while I was trying my level best to introduce my dinner guests to one music artist or another. All those dinners I never paid any attention to my own child, who it turns out was the real musician in the crowd, and who herself would become one of my favorite singers and a distinguished songwriter. How thoughtless of me!

May related that story yesterday, and I was hearing it for the first time myself. It made me want to laugh and cry at the same time. I did both. All those years I was preaching music to a choir of one, my own child, who could hear it clearly, even above the chatter of the crowd.

Of course May went on to become the songwriter she is today, with famous musicians singing and playing her songs. Here is a little poem I wrote some time ago about listening.


Although I won’t,
Often listen,
My heart,
Wants to hear.

And this is a song of May's that always touches me. It is called "Sweet Days," of which yesterday was certainly one.


[Photo I took of may at the Wealthy Theater, some time ago now.]