From Jerusalem to Cordoba: music as common ground

It’s crazy time in the world at large, a time of social, political, and economic chaos and a questioning of fundamental assumptions we’ve made about how the world works and doesn’t work. You can blame the “interesting” difficulties we’re in on shortsighted politicians, greedy bankers and corporations, god-mad religious fundamentalists, exploding and fragmenting communications… and I’m sure those and others are aspects of the Trouble. But I think we have a deeper problem. We’ve lost our sense of the common ground of humanity, of the pattern that connects us all.

This is too often said and too easy to say: in a profound sense we are united at the core, but we lose the sense of unity, and see only what divides us. How can we feel this truth in our bones? How can we find a way past the significant and growing barrier and borders, the sense of separation that we feel?

Perhaps we can find the common ground through music, a form of communication that can be a common language and source of unity. “From Jerusalem to Cordoba,” a performance Scoop Sweeney and I are producing Friday night (7pm at St. David’s Church, Bethell Hall, 301 E. 8th Street in Austin) is a powerful musical performance by Catherine Braslavsky and Joseph Rowe that includes songs and forms associated with both Christian and Muslim mystical traditions. Behind the music, there is an understanding of the common ground of humanity. In this music, there is a possibility of peace, a sense of our shared source and reality.

From Jerusalem to Cordoba

Here’s a press release for a performance I’m co-producing with Scoop Sweeney:

AUSTIN – Catherine Braslavsky and Joseph Rowe will bring their musical performance, “From Jerusalem to Cordoba,” from Paris to Austin on December 3, 7pm at St. David’s Episcopal Church, Bethell Hall, 301 E. 8th St., Austin, 78701-3280. The performance is a celebration of the musical and mystical traditions in and around the Mediterranean, from ancient Judaism and Paganism, to medieval Christianity and Islam. It features ancient and original music sung in Hebrew, Aramaic, Latin, Greek, Medieval Spanish, Occitan, and Arabic. Instrumental accompaniment includes Middle Eastern percussion, oud, dulcimer, Tibetan bowls, Indian tampura, and African mbira.

The performance is built on short poetic and narrative texts that include both original material and quotations from Hildegard of Bingen, Meister Eckhart, Ibn ‘Arabi, Yehuda Halevi, etc. The narrative thread woven through the performance evokes a rarely-perceived common ground, and an alternative view of sacred traditions which have so often been in conflict. Braslavsky and Rowe have presented this performance at venues throughout Europe.

The Italian newspaper La Republicca describes the performance as “fascinating… with great spiritual power.” Author Jacques Attali describes it as “A remarkably successful voyage in sound, depicting those rare times when Jews, Christians and Muslims have lived together in peace and dialogue.” Rev. Lauren Artress, Canon at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, calls it “uplifting and inspiring,” and notes that “Catherine and Joseph are truly gifted musicians. Allow them to enrich your life.” Jon Lebkowsky in Wired Magazine described the music as “…at once new, traditional, and transcendent. … chants and chant-like original compositions powerfully realized as invocations of the human essence — whether it be the soul, spirit, or consciousness — in its ascendant form: a kind of meditative dance.”

Braslavsky and Rowe will lead a discussion following the performance.

REGISTER for the event:

Facebook event page:!/event.php?eid=121950591195831
Website for Catherine Braslavsky and Joseph Rowe:

The Performers

Catherine Braslavsky

Catherine Braslavsky holds master’s degrees in mathematics and biology, but she has dedicated her life to the performance of sacred music. She studied classical voice as well as Gregorian and Medieval chant. In 1986, she began intensive studies of the music of Hiledgarde von Bingen. In 1989 she began to practice overtone singing with David Hykes, and few months later, became a member of his Harmonic Choir. She was also an assistant teacher in his workshops.

This led to extensive concertizing, in France at major concert halls such as the Théâtre de la Ville in Paris, Sacred Art Festival in Paris, and abroad in Los Angeles, Tokyo, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Prague, Warsaw, Zurich etc…
She left the Harmonic Choir in 1995 in order to devote herself entirely to her own musical projects.

Long attracted by Indian music, she studied the South Indian classical tradition with Nageswara Rao in 1992-93. Since then she has pursued research in ancient music (Jewish, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, Greek and early Christian), and contemporary musical traditions.

In 1991, she began to work with Joseph Rowe and Thierry Renard. After several years of research, they performed their first major concerts in 1994, recording their first album “Alma Anima” as well. Since then she has concertized extensively in France, and has performed several concerts in the U.S. She has also performed and composed music for the theater, collaborating with Alain Kremski and Joseph Rowe in the highly acclaimed production “L’Ombre de Lumière”, based on the music and texts of Hildegard of Bingen. She also collaborated with Kremski in “Musiques Rares,” and with Joseph Rowe in the “Credo” project, as well as the recent performance piece “From Jerusalem to Cordoba”. She has also composed and recorded music for French television and documentary films.

An active music teacher, she has developed her own method of “natural chant,” consisting of deep work on the voice, exploring certain musical traditions, and a new approach to improvisation. She teaches in Paris, both individually and in classes, and often directs workshops in France and abroad.

Joseph Rowe

Joseph Rowe has studied classical guitar and Middle Eastern oud (with Hamza El Din), a master whose unique marriage of voice and oud, and of Nubian and Arab influences, has been one of the pioneers of what is now called “world music.” He has performed several times onstage with Hamza, notably in a concert with the Grateful Dead in San Francisco.

He also concertized extensively with other Arab, Persian, and African musicians, as well as with medieval groups. During extensive travels in Africa, he learned and performed with musicians from the Congo (percussion, flute), and with Mideastern dervishes (percussion, voice, oud), as well as with Afro-Brazilian percussionists and healers.

During the 1980’s he worked as a radio producer for National Public Radio stations, and was among the first designers of programs combining classical, jazz, world, and new music, and interspersed with cultural and public affairs interviews.

He now lives in Paris, where he has turned more and more to music and theater, working as musician, writer, composer, and actor. Besides his extensive work with Catherine Braslavsky, he has collaborated with Marc Zammit at the Théâtre Molière in Paris, and with Alain Kremski and Michael Lonsdale at the Cluny Museum (Paris Festival of Sacred Art). He has composed music for a number of theater pieces by authors such as Samuel Beckett, T.S. Eliot, Jean Giono, and Roland Dubillard. He has also composed and recorded music for French television and documentary films. A writer and storyteller, he writes texts for theatrical performance pieces with music.

In his work as literary translator, he has translated books by authors such as Henry Corbin, Jacques Attali, Régis Debray, Jean-Yves Leloup, Pierre Rabhi, and books on Thich Nhat Hanh and the Dalai Lama.

He is also active in research and teaching in the areas of creative-potential therapy, and exercises for integral evolution making use of theater and music. Partly inspired by his study with Bill Douglas , he has developed his own system of exercises called “Holorhythm,” a synthesis of body movements, vocalizations, percussion, speech, and meditation, which help unlock the gates to deep listening, inner and outer attention, and creativity. He teaches workshops and sees individual clients in France and abroad.

For more information about this event, or to schedule interviews with the performers, contact Jon Lebkowsky, events at, 512 762-6547.

All government is local 2.0: manor.govfresh

Manor, a small town in Texas a few miles from Austin, has become an unlikely star player in the new world of “Government 2.0.” This week Manor and GovFresh, an organization that provides news and information about technology innovation in government, joined forces to host a conference on “big ideas for local America.” The conference highlighted the work Manor, nearby DeLeon, and other small governments in the U.S. are doing to incorporate social media and open data approaches to provide better information and services to citizens, and to engage them more effectively. This is part of an open government trend that’s been brewing since the 1990s, but is catching fire with pervasive Internet adoption and digital convergence.

When Obama was President-Elect, Gary Chapman at the LBJ School in Austin spoke to a local community media summit and told how the Obama Transition Team had been working with the LBJ School on government transparency, with Open Government as the new administrations highest priority. Beth Noveck, Assistant to the White House CTO, was in Manor affirming that priority – the Obama Administration is providing leadership from the top.

In the last 5 years or so, as we’ve seen an acceleration of digital convergence and increasingly pervasive use of smart digital devices to access all sorts of information, we’ve seen a disruptive democratization of knowledge and information and demand for all sorts of data to be opened up via application programming interfaces. The world’s information is increasingly sorted, sifted, and combined in various useful and creative ways. This is transforming the worlds of journalism, healthcare, energy, and law as well as politics and government. The Manor gathering was an acknowledgement and update. Janet Gilmore of the Texas Department of Information Resources noted that there’s an open data movement within governments – and governments have all sorts of data sets they can expose – about weather, wildlife, real estate, income flows, resource locations, etc.

There’s also a huge potential for government at all levels to use social media to engage citizens – not just to get the word out about what government is doing, but listening to citizen input on what government should be doing. The message I heard in Manor is that people don’t want to talk about doing cool and innovative stuff with emerging technologies, they want to stop talking and start doing. And there’s so many easy ways to start doing: WordPress sites, 311 systems, Facebook and Twitter presences, QR codes, mobile applications… a list as long as crowdsourced minds can make it. Manor is soliciting ideas and conceiving new ways to incorporate technologies via its Labs, in partnership with Stanford Univeresity’s Peace Dot Program and others.

There are many challenges to opening up government, not the least of which is culture. Someone at the Manor gathering commented that “the technology is easy, but the people are hard.” That speaks to all sorts of challenges – training and adoption, privacy issues, culture change, apathy, control. But we’re on kind of a roll here, and picking up momentum and energy.

On January 28th and 29th, there will be a Texas Government 2.0 Barcamp at the Eastview Campus of Austin Community College. Watch this space for more information.

Vote for the future of journalism!

I’m part of an informal group of journalists who are focusing on the future of that profession, and more generally on the future of news discovery and delivery. We proposed a coordinated set of SXSW Interactive sessions on journalism via the panel picker, and we’re soliciting votes from any and all of you who are ready to see journalism re-imagined and re-invented in the context of what McLuhan referred to as the “new media matrix,” facilitated by the Internet and participatory media.

The informal group includes Evan Smith from Texas Tribune, Chris Tomlinson from Texas Observer, Matt Glazer of Burnt Orange Report, Dan Gillmor from the Knight Center for Digital Media Entrepreneurship, Tom Stites from the Banyan Project, Burt Herman from Storify and Hacks/Hackers, Jennifer 8. Lee of the Knight News Challenge,, Jay Rosen of NYU, and Andrew Haeg of the American Public Media Public Insight Network.

The sessions:

We’d be thrilled to get your vote for each and every one of these sessions, or for any you have time to review!

TEDxUT Notes

Today at TEDxUT, I was live tweeting all day until I maxed out my update quota. This was my second TED-inspired event, really like the format, though I’d also like to do something a little more … experiential. The venue (UT’s AT&T Center) was great, and the talks were diverse and compelling. Since tweeting was allowed, I did that instead of taking conventional notes, so I’m posting that link instead of a summary.

Selected tweets:

Jim Walker: Sustainability has basic equity component, impacts everyone globally. Challenge: how to pursue sustainability, keep qulaity of life. How do we improve the lives of millions of people living on brink AND improve environment at same time, become sustainable. Gulf between academy and athletics at UT. Nobody’s fault, matter of evolution. Both leaderships focused on relationships.

Melissa Lott (on Energy): In 10-15 years, we’ll have translational tools to put data into useful formats for feedback and management. Powerful to be able to see electric flows per appliance/device in home. We need to make people passionate about the science of sustainability. Space program analogy. We need that kind of excitement. Astronaut Barbie becomes Energy Wonk Barbie.

Derek Woodgate: How can we augment the learning process? Convergence, ambience, collaboration, remix. Delivering context and relevance… context-based, media-rich, collectively generated, diy and access culture. Mulltiuser immersive enviironments, recombine knowledge into different perspectives. Continuum of learning throughout life. Concept of the sense event. Intesnse, interactive, with augmented ambience. Deliver a sensation, built into an experience. Teachers and students co-create and design educational experiences, real sense of being there.

Ramon Alberto Garza: What’s happening with information? People not consuming broadcast as much. Information a commodity. What will people pay for? Understanding and entertainment. [I would add context.] Global Alliance for Information Tech Development formed to expand global connectivity.Propose and information society bill of rights. In broadcast world, editorial funnels decide what information we get. In the web world, information is firehosed into our brains. Cellphones bringing dark ages villages to the 21st Century quickly.

David Cameron: If you give people more control over their lives, you can build a stronger and better society. Politics will succeed only if you go with the grain of human nature: treat people as they are, not as you’d like them to be. Evolution from local power to central power to people power. Pre to post bureaucratic. ehavioral economics: give people comparison data showing what others are doing, as in energy efficiency. JFK: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” Now you actually have the knowledge to do (for your country). RFK on what GNP doesn’t capture (longer speech)

John Daly: Teaching influence: create need, have a plan, show benefits,what happens if we don’t adopt. Simple persuasion model. Creating a need: unless there is pain, there’ll be no change. Creating a need: unless there is pain, there’ll be no change. Correlation of healthcare to donor class is practically perfect right now. No pain. Significance of affected parties: rich matter more. Poor and uninsured don’t have power to make the case for healthcare. Campaigns not a battle of facts, but a battle of stories. Republicans sucked people into discussion of plan before need had been established. Pretended there was one plan, cherry picked. People fear regret more than they’re excited by opportunities.

Peter Stone: Stone is into robots, fully autonomous agents in the real world. Could be robots, could be software agents. Robots doing sensing and decisionmaking in the real world in early Robocup, but not well articulated. Have to alter rules of soccer for human vs robot game. Thinking how to do that. Cars with autonomous agents who have a reservation path can make traffic lights and stop signs obsolete. A goal of AI to achieve robust, fully autonomous agents in the world. Result: Jetsons or dystopia?

Meg Withgott: Tree in Amazon jungle with aerial roots that seemed to lift it from the soil – “its a tree that walks,” says the guide. Changed the way she saw culture, life, creation. First tree she new was a huge spreading apple tree. Neighbor said the tree was planted by Johnny Appleseed. Meg thought this was a tall tale or myth. Story of a tree that thinks, the Dream of the Rood. Tree linked old native story to a new story. Tree thinks and speaks. Tree tells the story of the crucifixion. Rebirth is important for this tree. Talking tree promises healing for those who believe. Later Anglo Saxons look to trees for healing – is this a myth? Do trees think? We’ve learned that plants respond to touch and have memories, signal, communicate, plan, do cost-benefit analyses. Back to Amazon, trees really can walk. Socratea exorrhiza. Trees use aerial roots as legs. The Walking Tree can step a meter a year. She had blinders that obscured her outlook when the guide originally spoke… thought plants were more machinelike.

Bruce Sterling: Nonprofit idea that is worth spreading: Design Fiction. Becoming chic in the design world. Has a lot to do with lower coordination costs. Has dropped people across disciplines into each other’s laps. Design Fiction = Has dropped people across disciplines into each other’s laps. Most products of human genius are never real objects, anyway. Designers and fiction writers are up to date with storyboards, user observation studies, scientific experiments, brainstorming. Everybody who’s involved has a different idea about what design fiction is. Recommendations who to follow. FIrst, @bruces. Then Branco Lukic. Dunn and Ravey, critical design, Royal College of Art. BERG, and experience design company in London. Have an onboard sci fi writer, Warren Ellis. Julian Bleecker, guru of Neat Future Laboratory.Make diegetic prototypes,actual objects, commonly electronic, to make political point. Jake Dunagan, Institute of the Future. Into immersive futurist experiences: future shock therapy.Design fiction has to be scripted, thought up. Not standard futurism. Social intervention or activism.

Sidney Burrus: Open Educational Resources. Burrus is involved with Connexions at Rice – similar to MIT Open Courseware. Connexions is a respository of modules of informaiton online, plus tools for athoring and maintaining content. Book is mature technology being replaced by net-based content delivery, which is more immediate and current. A book created by a stay at home rural Illinois mom (Catherine Schmidt-Jones, Music Theory) via Connexions is globally one of the most read books in its field (music). Within 3 days Minh Do created Fundamentals of Signal Processing for his class – with chapters by global experts. Software to enable virtual laboratories. Powerful learning tool. Creative Commons important for broader distribution of learning.

This is a busy week

I’ve been interacting with this year’s SXSW schedule, noticing how much programming there is, and how many speakers I don’t know, which is actually pretty great. In the world of social media, we’ve learned how many more great voices there are in the world than we can ever hope to track, so many more of them given the opportunity to reach some kind of following or audience as the barriers to publishing fall away. So much of my information life lately has been exploring to find the various pockets of compelling intelligence within the crowd. SXSW Interactive facilitates that by creating a way to crowdsource the schedule – actual attendees vote on panel suggestions. There’s down sides, if course – people game the system, and you get panels and presentations on compelling subjects by presenters that are inexperienced, or were smarter in their proposal than in their delivery. But overall it’s a great thing, and of course there’s also quite a bit happening on the periphery of the event.

Where am I speaking?

Tuesday night, actually not part of SXSW but a good lead-in, EFF-Austin and Plutopia Productions are sponsoring an event – a panel on the twentieth anniversary of the Secret Service raid at Steve Jackson Games, part of the “hacker crackdown.” I’ll be moderating a panel featuring Steve, Bruce Sterling, and attorney Pete Kennedy (who argued the case). The event, at Independence Brewing, is sold out, but we’ll hopefully be streaming, or at least have video online after the fact.

The day before SXSW starts, March 11, I’ll be giving a talk at “Sharing, Exchanging, Social Health,” an event that takes advantage of the presence in town of many participatory medicine/social health advocates, and gives them a place to hang out. It’s an unconference seeded with a few programmed talks.

With my Plutopia Productions colleagues, I’ll be introducing Plutopia 2010 on Monday the 15th. Gates open at 7pm at the Mexican American Cultural Center. Plutopia is a defining SXSW Interactive event, this year focusing on “The Science of Music,” and featuring Bruce Sterling, DJ Spooky, DJ Strangevibe, Black Pig Liberation Front, Xiao He. The schedule is here. We’ll also have the Edible Austin Food Fest featuring local food and distillers.

Tuesday, David Armistead has asked me to join his core conversation at SXSW Interactive, “Can Social Media Save Business So Business Can Save the Planet?” Here’s a description:

In the era of GM-like businesses, now just past, opaque layers of hierarchy were used to control the flow of information to create an effective coordination of action. But new communications and information technology, including the new social media, now drop the costs of coordination so low business has to adopt them to stay competitive. Except – these technologies drastically flatten the organization and flood everything with radical new transparency, and many firms resist these kinds of changes.

John Motloch from Ball State University will also join us. Should be a lively and worldchanging discussion.

Finally, at the end of the day Tuesday, I’m introducing Bruce Sterling’s talk. I don’t think either one of us has any idea what we’re going to say at this point, but Bruce’s talk is always a highlight of the event.

State of the World

Time for the 11th annual Bruce Sterling/Jon Lebkowsky State of the World conversation on the WELL. This year we have a lot to talk about, the world’s off-center and wobbly. We’re off to a good start…

Basically we’ve got an emergent, market-driven global financial system that was all about a faith-based market fundamentalism. It was deprived of oversight for three good reasons (a) it rapidly brought prosperity to billions (b) under globalization, money is inherently global while governance is inherently local (c) complete regulatory capture of the system — nobody but bankers understands how to bank. There’s no caste of regulators left anywhere who have the clout or even the knowledge to do anything usefully stabilizing. No, not even if you give them guns, lawyers, money and back issues of DAS KAPITAL.

Too big to fail. So, what can you do? Cross your fingers, basically. Make some reassuring noises. Cheerlead instead of reforming the infrastructure. And pawn what’s left of the credibility of government.

Twenty years ago, it seemed like this situation might lead to shareholder power, a kind of pension-fund ownership society. It kind of did, for a while. But over a longer term, the poor engineering told on the rickety, fungus-like structure of finance. The wealth and the executive capacity drifted into the hands of moguls. Not governments, big institutions, megacorporations, multinationals, but moguls, weird eccentrics, like Russian moguls. Madoff figures, Enron. Nobody was left to look. Even if they did look, all they could possibly see in Madoff and Enron was a genius, highly charitable head of the NASDAQ and the world’s most nimble and innovative energy company. It’s like looking at your SUV and seeing drowning polar bears. Just a minority viewpoint.

Austin Non Profit Camp

Here’s the elevator speech: Austin Non Profit Camp is a free, facilitated and participant driven conference that will be the place in Austin for non profits (and social entrepreneurs) to learn and troubleshoot their technology problems in a supportive, collaborative setting.

Here’s where you sign up:

You’ll want to attend if you’re a technology expert who wants to help nonprofits, or if you’re a nonprofit that is grappling with technology (and who isn’t?)

The Austin Non Profit Camp is similar to Aspiration Tech’s Penguin Day events, which were established to bring together open source developers and technology support staff for nonprofits in a friendly, open knowledge sharing environment. The Non Profit Camp is free, and unlike Penguin Day it’s not completely focused on Open Source (because many compelling solutions for nonprofits are hosted solutions like Google Apps).

Working with EFF-Austin and local techs, I helped coordinate the local Penguin Days in San Antonio and Austin. We’ve been talking for two years about doing another one, and when we invited David Neff to work with us, we found that he’d been wanting to do the same. Once we joined forces, the current Non Profit Camp plan came together quickly. Maggie Duval of the EFF-Austin Board of Directors and Plutopia Productions joined us as producer, and Matt Glazer of Burn Orange Productions and GNI Strategies is helping us get the word out. Great team! Sure to be a great event as well.

Sign up at Event Brite, and show up at 10am Satureday, November 14 at ACC Eastview Campus, 3401 Webberville Road,
Room 8000. If you want to present, sign up for a slot – we’ll have two rooms for breakout sessions and several “pods” in the auditorium for smaller conversations.

A free lunch is provided by Pictoric and the fine folks at  Carino’s Italian. Following lunch, we’ll have a keynote address by Holly Ross. Executive Director of NTEN (Nonprofit Technology Network).

I plan to have a session on social media, for those who’ve been asking. Join us!

Adoption Rocks!

Next month, for International Adoption Month, The Long Center for the Performing Arts has a benefit concert and celebration called Adoption Rocks! It’s a benefit for The Gladney Center, a Texas organization that’s been providing adoption services for over 100 years. Facilitating adoption is a great global community service – this particular event was inspired by an Austin family’s adoption of their Ethiopian daughter last year. The family’s friends hosted a live concert last November to raise money for the Ethiopian orphanage. It was such a great event, they’re doing it again this year, only larger, and benefiting The Gladney Center, which is a licensed, not-for-profit agency that has been creating bright futures through adoption since 1889, and has become a global leader in providing adoption services.

Particulars: The event is November 13th at 7:30pm or 9:30pm, featuring Ivan Neville’s Dumpstaphunk, John Pointer, and the Sangra del Sol Dance Troupe. Tickets are $100 apiece, $50 of which is tax-deductible. There’s also a silent auction, and a cash bar.

To by tickets, click on desired show time link below and enter the promotional code “ADOPTIONROCKS” (all caps)
7:30 pm link =
9:30 pm link =

If you want to sponsor or need more information, contact Mike Chapman –

Happiness Is Mobile Loaves and Fishes

Mark Horvath (aka @hardlynormal), who is an advocate for the diverse and generally invisible homeless population, is in Austin hanging out with our friends at Mobile Loaves and Fishes, just in time for this week’s social-mediated screenings of Andrew Shapter’s film “Happiness Is” on Thursday, preceded by a Tweetup (info blogged here by the MLF crew). A “tweetup” is a meetup coordinated via Twitter, but you don’t have to be a twitizen to go there and have a great time.

Mobile Loves and Fishes is featured in the film, a documentary that asks how we can create more happiness (however defined) in our lives. Here’s a clip…

Mitch Kapor leads OneWebDay

EFF founder Mitch Kapor is the new board chair for OneWebDay, the global event founded in 2006 by Susan Crawford. As an Austin organizer for OneWebDay, and having worked in the past with Mitch via EFF-Austin, I’m psyched to hear this news, and the news that OneWebDay’s been awarded a Ford Foundation Grant. Susan, who did such a great job making OWD happen, is advising President Obama on science, technology, and innovation policy at the National Economic Council.