All posts by John Burdick

Rejecting despair: A conversation with Joe Defino of Hope Rocks in Saugerties

Rejecting despair: A conversation with Joe Defino of Hope Rocks in Saugerties

Without saying anything, music activates and potentiates causes, social purpose, and all modes of human connection. This mysterious power lies at the heart of Hope Rocks, the Saugerties-based organization that for half a decade has used the catharsis and joy of rock music to combat addiction and suicide among young populations, hosting a yearly festival that draws thousand and conducting year-round outreach and education.

Making Records: Jamal Ruhe

Making Records: Jamal Ruhe

Of the three stages in the process of making a record — tracking, mixing, mastering — it is only mastering that happens behind a veil, performed in optimized listening spaces, employing speakers and amplifiers that cost more than your car and racks of specialized equalizers, dynamics and spatial processors, and metering tools that suggest actions of the highest precision and the finest touch.

New Paltz restaurateur, songwriter and storyteller plumbs troubled past in new book

New Paltz restaurateur, songwriter and storyteller plumbs troubled past in new book

In his stunning new memoir The Trouble with Kim: On Transcending Despair and Approaching Joy, the New Paltz writer, musician, and restaurateur Seth David Branitz goes deep into a troubled personal past. It is the story of a wildly dysfunctional New York City family from the 1970s through the end of the century, a family mired in poverty, violence, mental illness, and deepening cycles of futility and struggle. From these antecedents, the youngest child traces his own descent into addiction and inexpressible despair and longing, describing a circuitous route toward — not to — redemption, stability, forgiveness and something like happiness.

Gathering for a county Covid-19 update

Gathering for a county Covid-19 update

The arrows of crisis are all pointed up at precipitous angles, as officials and front-line workers scramble back into response mode, and a fatigued, near-broken populace moans “not that again,” as if it were another pointless Kardashian/Jenner news cycle. Some of the most embittered and suspicious among us arguing that is precisely what it is.

If tinnitus is killing you, let it

If tinnitus is killing you, let it

If you start to sentimentalize and tragedize your tinnitus—“for I shall never taste the silence of the night sky again”(pronounced ah-GAYN), then you’re really in for it. You’re ruined. Instead, I recommend considering all the rest of your reality as something equally unverifiable and incommunicable. Imagine all you perceive as your brain and sensory apparatus involved in a complex act of imitative modeling based on incomplete input, and not as the direct experience of creation through the open, undistorted tubes of your eyes and ears.

An ex-imperial invader considers what he wants for his community  

An ex-imperial invader considers what he wants for his community  

What I want is a New Paltz of diversity, a New Paltz with room for the down-on-their-luck, where people can still discover themselves in shambolic, affordable and undistinguished ways, a SUNY where a kid can act the dilettante without accruing a prison of debt, a New Paltz where doing nothing — big nothing, like what Marriott and Con Ed got done here — really means something.

Making Records: Julie Last of Coldbrook Productions

Making Records: Julie Last of Coldbrook Productions

Owner of Coldbrook Productions in Woodstock, Julie Last has seen it all. The California native came up as an audio engineer at the legendary Record Plant in New York City, the woman manager of which told her on her first day, “I don’t think you’ll last two weeks, but come back tomorrow.” She worked there for four years.

As Covid restrictions negate the advantages of city life, erstwhile Hudson Valley residents return

As Covid restrictions negate the advantages of city life, erstwhile Hudson Valley residents return

Here we look at the unique case of three returning natives, dual citizens of sorts who made a life and an identity elsewhere and are now in various states of return, perhaps driven here by urban hellscapes and the loss of sustaining work, perhaps pulled back by the place and the past. The question for them, as for us all, has never been why live here but how to make it work here. The traumatic Covid era is one in which societal and personal transformations intertwine. It is a time of reinvention.

Unison opens its new outdoor performance space in the sculpture garden

Unison opens its new outdoor performance space in the sculpture garden

With their facilities indefinitely unavailable, or available on terms so reduced it is nearly impracticable, arts organizations like New Paltz’ venerable Unison Arts Center are asking and answering the toughest questions about survival — economic and creative. Where is the soul of an arts center? Does it lie in the actual physical space, with the high ceilings, wood beams, track lighting and acoustic treatment? Or does it live in the curatorial and community impulse?