“Five Outta Seventy” — digital collage by AleXander Hirka

Songs—5 Down, 65 To Go

Examining The Roots — And Offering Five Blossoms

“Without music life would be a mistake.” — Friedrich Nietzsche


From amidst the music of the spheres, stardust was gathered and mixed together in a DNA soup. And thus I emerged onto this planet via my mother at Bellevue Hospital in New York City in 1951.

From my earliest days at home on Avenue C on the Lower East Side of Manhattan (the Old World in the New World)—to every living day now in Harlem—music has always been a huge part of my life.

Over the almost seven decades my ears have done a lot of exploration—always reaching out beyond the mainstream—searching for all the secrets that are revealed in that mathematics of sound.

It has indeed been a long strange trip and last year I wrote in some detail about a few of the turning points and discoveries.

The “Songs” Project

This current project began when I was approaching the age of 50 in 2001—a number that seemed so significant at the time. A half century!

For decades before that I had been making mixed-cassette-tapes and CDs of favorite songs for friends.
These often covered themes as diverse as Legs, Subways, Death, Anti-War, New York City, et cetera.

I wanted to take the time and consider what my 50 favorite songs were at that time and then to share them with my friends. (With time—especially if we actively pursue new listening experiences—our tastes evolve. Twenty years later most of those songs hold up magnificently, a few less so.)

After doing 50 Songs I decided I would do another set every five years.

Each collection took most of the year forehand to work on. Many many hours spent selecting the songs and then carefully choosing how they interlock and segue into each other.
As I do with the visual elements in my collage work I envisioned the entire collection of disparate musical components that I had brought together to somehow coalesce into a singular musical journey.
The lyrics were always very important to me and I wanted each collection to weave a story from a particular perspective in a particular space in time.

I can’t say how many of the recipients listened to the collections as a whole, chronologically, but many friends have repeatly told me over time that they were still enjoying the ecclectic collections of music.

Here is a “promotional trailer” for previous “65 Songs” project.

No artist was allotted more than one song per collection—so favorite artists like Leonard Cohen, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Pearls Before Swine, Elvis Costello, etc have always had one spot reserved for them. They will surely show up on 70 Songs.

These collections are of “songs”—music with lyrics. Looking back I see they range from the 1930s to the present and from many different parts of the world. I have not included instrumentals, and so alas much great jazz music is not represented here either.
Classical music is a whole universe of music I love deeply and a collection of favorite pieces is a challenge I as yet have not tackled.

5 of 70 Songs

So as I work away on this new collection, going over thousands of songs, listening deeply and moving them around like puzzle pieces that need to fit together, I am sharing five that will surely make the final mix.

Lend me your ears.

What Makes A Man A Man — Marc Almond

Bela Ciao — The Goran Bregovic Wedding & Funeral Band

Khima — DakhaBrakha

The Return Of The Prodigal Son — Arthur Meschian

My Rajneesh — Sufjan Stevens

This collection will be ready by the 22nd of December — my 70th birthday.

Now that we’re past cassette tapes and CDs I suspect I will share this via a flash drive.

The Needle I Got Hooked On


© AleXander Hirka 2020. All Rights Reserved.

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Writer, visual artist, philosopher, autodidact, curmudgeon. More than half of what i do is make believe. https://alexanderhirka.nyc

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