make music, not noise

Make music, not noise

Word spread
throughout Hanoi
that there was a street cleaner who made music
as she collected the trash
Other street cleaners began to do the same,
and soon the entire city was full
of merry music makers

♫ ♫ ♫

It’s wonderful,
said the locals
The street cleaners have inspired us all
to make music instead of noise

♫ ♫ ♫

Then one day
a local official decided to organize
Hanoi’s first Trash Cart Music Festival
at Hàng Đẫy Stadium

The street cleaners began
to polish their compositions
and to meet once a week in small groups
to improvize and jam together

Some added gongs, triangles, additional bells
and a few other things
of varying shape and size
to their carts
in order to increase the range
of possibilities

♫ ♫ ♫

On the day of the event
the stadium was filled to capacity
All the street cleaners in Hanoi had gathered there,
and before a panel of judges
each one played her cart in turn

The crowd cheered and applauded
at the end of each piece,
and after the last woman had played,
the judges announced their decisions

Five million đồng was awarded
to the winner of each category:
most original composition;
composistion most pleasing to listen to;
and most creative collection of objects used to create music

Five hundred thousand đồng was given
to each of the participants
so that they could buy more instruments
for their carts

And for the grand finale
all the women played together,
improvising their way
into the realm of legend

♫ ♫ ♫

the street cleaner

The street cleaner

Hoa made a few last stops to pick up garbage,
striking her bell at each stop
in the typical, boring way
Then she returned her cart,
went home and washed,
had something to eat
and went to bed

♫ ♫ ♫

She rose at 5 am,
prepared to leave for work,
and soon was out the door

She paused for a bowl of phở[1] along the way
and then again to pick up her trash cart,
and before long she had reached
her first stop of the day

Like every day,
at every stop,
she took out her metal rod
and prepared to strike her bell
to inform people that it was time
to bring out their trash

On that day, however,
something unusual happened:
A few moments after she began
to bang away at the bell,
three drummers appeared
and began to play with her

Although taken by surprise,
she banged away as usual,
clang, clang, clang, clang, clang,
while the drummers accompanied her
with a steady rhythm

♫ ♫ ♫

And when Hoa stopped banging,
the drummers vanished
She collected the trash and put it in her cart,
swept the area nearby
and continued on to the next trash tree[2]

When she got to her second stop,
she again began to bang on her bell,
and this time a different group of musicians
came out to play
and accompanied her monotonous banging
on triangles and cow bells

♫ ♫ ♫

And when she stopped,
they disappeared

Hoa picked up the garbage
and then pushed her cart
to the next collection point,
and this time when musicians turned up,
with gongs and wooden bells,
she altered her banging,
got into the rhythm
and made music

♫ ♫ ♫

The next time Hoa stopped
was at a tree near the cathedral
The bells began to ring
and she joined in

♫ ♫ ♫

And at the following tree
a musician with a stone xylophone appeared,
and together they created
something beautiful

♫ ♫ ♫

And for the rest of the day,
every time Hoa stopped to pick up some trash,
one or more people came out,
sometimes large numbers of people,
and made music with her,
using rhythm sticks,
pot and pans,
and anything else they could find

♫ ♫ ♫

The following morning
when she got to the first tree,
she began to play her bell
in such a beautiful way
that people came out just to listen

No other musicians joined her that day,
but she didn’t care
She was quite happy
making music alone

♫ ♫ ♫

[1] Phở is a noodle soup, usually chicken noodle or beef noodle, and it contains a variety of herbs and spices. The Vietnamese love to eat phở for breakfast.

[2] In Hanoi people park their motorbikes on the sidewalk, so when they put trash in the street, they put it in front of a tree. If they put it just anywhere along the curb, it might block motorbike access to the sidewalk.

the tea den

The tea den

From his sitting room window
Ricci looked down at the street
and decided to go for a walk

Through a labyrinth of passageways and staircases
he descended
East or West?
he asked himself
and then decided to go left

♫ ♫ ♫

Upon reaching one of his usual haunts,
Ricci entered,
sat down
and waited for the girl to bring him
a pot of tea

♫ ♫ ♫

It’s an auspicious day
for a tea ceremony
said the sole other patron in the café

As Ricci gave an Indian head wobble in reply
the man rose and continued,
Here’s my card
We begin at seven sharp
Good morning
And then he left the café

Entheogenic Tea Ceremony
@ The Tea Den
33 Tisane Lane

murmured Ricci
as he lay the card on the table
He poured himself another cup of tea
and then observed the flow
of people walking by

♫ ♫ ♫

Ricci put the card in pocket,
paid for his tea
and stepped outside
A number 13 bus was approaching
and when it stopped,
Ricci got on

Welcome aboard,
said the driver

This is a nice ride you’ve got

Newest addition to the fleet
She’s got solar panels on the roof and wifi,
and by pressing this button
I can make red lights turn green


Ricci then chose a seat
and rode
for a while

♫ ♫ ♫

What’s your name, Mister?

My name is Ricci

Where’re you going?

I don’t know
Wherever this bus is taking me

What do you do?

I sit, I walk
and sometimes I take the bus

After a while the child stopped asking questions,
and then Ricci enjoyed the view
in silence

♫ ♫ ♫

At the end of the line
Ricci got off
He looked around
and then began to walk back
to the center of town

♫ ♫ ♫

Nice coat

It is what it is,
Ricci replied

Purple is cool

The deeper the better

The light turned green
and Ricci crossed the street

♫ ♫ ♫

Looking for anything in particular?

What can you recommend?

A Ya Ho Wha 13 album just came in

Which one?

Penetration: An Aquarian Symphony

Father Yod at his best

So they say

Got any Sun Ra?


I’ll take both

Ricci paid for the records,
thanked the man
and left the shop

♫ ♫ ♫

Can I interest you
in a book on the solar system?

I’m an inner space traveler

I’ve got The Art of Living by Goenka 

Remain equanimous

And I Am That by Nisargadatta Maharaj

I am

So you’ve read that one too

Got anything by Terence McKenna?

Food of the Gods

I’ll take it

Ricci paid the man
and then continued his walk through the park

♫ ♫ ♫

Back in his flat,
Ricci put on the Ya Ho Wha 13,
made a pot of indica tea
and read
for a while

♫ ♫ ♫

Ricci glanced at the photo of Meher Baba on his wall,
went to the Dharma Seed website
and downloaded a talk,
and then listened
while the late afternoon light
flowed by

♫ ♫ ♫

At 6:15 Ricci began
to make his way to The Tea Den
It wasn’t far,
but he prefered
to never be in a hurry

♫ ♫ ♫

Good evening
Come in
Welcome to our den

Nice place

Once a year we invite someone new
to join us
This year it was my turn to choose

I see

We gather here
once a month
and drink
Last month we had peyote tea
and the month before, San Pedro
Tonight we are drinking mushroom tea,
and the ceremony is about to begin
The others are in the den

Ricci followed the man
into a  candlelit room
Thirteen soft archairs,
arranged in a circle,
surrounded a wooden table
upon which a china tea service was laid out

Friends, this is Ricci

Introductions were made
and Ricci was offered a chair

We stay together
in this room
until the ceremony is over
and maintain silence
unless exceptionally inspired
Respect for the medicine
is imperative

The tea was poured
and all but one candle blown out
Ricci drank his tea,
closed his eyes
and waited
for Mushrooms to arrive

♫ ♫ ♫

Time faded away
and Mushrooms began to teach
Ricci became the flow
and ceased to exist

♫ ♫ ♫

As time began to return
and dawn neared,
the ceremony came to an end

That was some pretty strong tea

Panaeolus cyanescen

Thank you for inviting me

We meet on the third Thursday of each month
You’ll always be welcome

Then Ricci and the others parted,
leaving the house
one by one

♫ ♫ ♫

living among mushrooms

Living among mushrooms 

Morning, Luke

Morning, Mushroms

Had breakfast yet?

Not yet, guys

How long has it been
since your last tune up?

 It’s been a few weeks

And how’ve you been?

I’ve been feeling slightly out of tune
for the past few days

Well, we’ve got some pretty potent medicine
and we’ll be around
for a day or two

Thanks, guys
Perhaps on my way back

We’ll be here, Luke
One for the road?


And so Luke ate
a mushroom
and then continued on his walk
in the countryside

♫ ♫ ♫

Hey, Luke

Man, you guys are everywhere today

Some elephants were here a couple nights ago
and left their dung all over the place,
and then it rained yesterday morning
and was sunny all afternoon
Perfect conditions for us


Feelin’ hungry?

Kind of

Fresh is best

 It is a nice day
to go on a journey

We’re ready

And so Luke and Mushrooms merged,
and the illusion of separateness
faded away

♫ ♫ ♫

Sit like a stone
for a while,
murmured a gentle wind

So in silence Luke sat and thought
about nothing
at all

♫ ♫ ♫

Observing the subtle vibration
flowing throughout,
Luke got up
and walked on

Hey, Luke

Hey, Thoughts
You’re back

Mind if we entertain you
for a while?

Not right now, guys
Best you just flow on
I’ll watch as you pass by

Are you sure?
We can be
whatever you want us to be:
Anger, Fear, Jealousy, Pride
We can dwell on the past
or worry about the future
Just tell us what you’d like
to feel

Man, how about you guys
just leave me alone for a while
I’ll let you know
when I need some thinking done

Alright, Luke
We’ll be here
Just water our seeds
and give us a little attention
and we’ll thrive

And so,
free of thoughts,
Luke ambled on

♫ ♫ ♫

Greetings, Luke

Hey there, Elephant
Good to see you again

I see you’ve eaten

Thanks for your help

Anytime, Luke
Watch out for thoughts
They’re around

They keep trying to distract me

Thoughts, sensations, emotions,
they come right at you sometimes,
like a spear or a web,
they wound or entangle
those who nurture them

They try to occupy
and control my mind

I simply observe thoughts
and they lose their power over me

Yeah, vipassana meditation:
Observe the flow
and remain equanimous
Have you taken a Goenka course?

It comes naturally to us,
but sometimes I listen from a distance
I like the sound of his voice

Goenkaji is gone,
but his teaching remains

I recommend his course
to all humans

Yeah, me too
You feel like playing frisbee?

Sure, Luke

And so Luke took out his frisbee
and he and Elephant played
for a while

♫ ♫ ♫

I’m gonna to get going, Elephant

Alright, Luke
Be well

You can keep the frisbee
I’ve got another one at home

Thank you, Luke
There’re a few others in the herd
who enjoy playing

See you around

Later, Luke

And then Luke set off
down the path

♫ ♫ ♫

Afternoon, Luke

Hello, Spider
That’s a pretty web you’re weaving

It’s a new design
This is the prototype


It can support more weight
than previous webs
It’s a new kind of weave

That’s awesome
Could you make me a hammock?

I could,
but you might never be able to get out of it
I do, however, have something else
you might be interested in:
silk strings for your guitar

I’d love some silk strings

I see you have a seven string guitar

It’s got an infrasound string
Most people can’t hear it,
but elephants can
I use it when I play
at elephant parties

I’ve got a set ready for a six-string guitar,
and I can weave an infrasound string now
if you feel like waiting

I’m not in a hurry

Me either
Never am

Slow is good

And so while waiting for Spider
to make the seventh string,
Luke put the other six on his guitar
and played
while Spider wove

♫ ♫ ♫

These strings sound great

Glad you like ’em, Luke
Here’s the infrasound string

Thank you, Spider
What do I owe you?

Nothing at all
Please accept them as a gift

That’s very kind of you
Thank you

You’re welcome, Luke

It’ll be dark soon,
so I best be on my way

Alright, Luke
Watch out for those webs over there
They’re my negative vibe filters
They help to keep the vibe positive

Right on
I’ll be careful
Enjoy the sunset, Spider

Take care, Luke

And as Luke walked
towards the setting sun,
he heard a call to howl
off in the distance
And as he drew nearer,
a dog chorus began to sing

♫ ♫ ♫

Evening, Luke

Hello, Dog

I saw you playing frisbee with Elephant earlier
Maybe sometime you and I could play

I’d love to
Do you live around here?

See that dude in rastaflage over there?


That’s my house
I share it with him

I’ll bring a frisbee
the next time I come this way

We’re having a howling session
over by the big tree
Want to join us?


And so Luke followed Dog
over to the big tree,
joined the group
and began to howl

♫ ♫ ♫

You howl well, Luke

Thanks, guys

You’re welcome to join us
whenever you’re in the neighborhood
We’re going home for dinner now
Come again soon

I will

And as the dogs headed home,
Luke sat down under the tree
and oberved the early evening sky

♫ ♫ ♫

Greetings, Luke

Hey there, Python

Don’t worry
I’ve already had dinner
Just thought I’d see
if you wanted to hang out for a while

Pull up a log

And so Luke and Python
sat in silence
and remained equanimous

♫ ♫ ♫

Thank you, Luke
It was a pleasure
enjoying silence with you

Most talk
just adds flavor to essence,
and not all flavors are palatable

Quiet is queen
among us

That’s awesome

I’m going to take off

Alright, Python
Be well

Goodnight, Luke


And as Python climbed up into the tree,
Luke began to make his way home,
guided by the light of the moon

♫ ♫ ♫

Greetings, Luke

 Hello, Tortoise

You’re walking almost as slowly as I am

Slow is good

Slow is excellent


Gives one a chance
to be mindful

Being mindful is good

Mushrooms are good too


Perhaps if all humans were to eat them,
a more sustainable paradigm
for living on earth
would come to be

A shift towards love
for the earth and all beings

You understand

And then Luke and Tortoise
walked side by side
while the moon and the stars
slowly flowed by

♫ ♫ ♫

Well, this is where I call home
I’m going to go sleep under that boulder over there

Okay, Tortoise
It’s been nice walking with you

Goodnight, Luke
See you around

And then Luke wandered
in the general direction
of his home

♫ ♫ ♫

Upon hearing the sound of a violin
off in the distance,
Luke stopped
and listened for a while

♫ ♫ ♫

When he opened his eyes,
Luke saw that he was surround by frogs
They beckoned him to follow
and then hopped in the direction
of the violin

Thank you, Frogs,
said Violin Girl

The frogs hopped off
and she put down her violin

I’m Feather

I’m Luke
That’s an extraordinary violin you’ve got there,
and you play it well

Most five-string fiddles
have an extra low string
This one has an ultrasound string instead
I use it to communicate with bats and frogs
and a few other animals

That’s cool
So you sent the frogs

I asked them to invite you here

That piece you played was haunting
and beautiful,
and it seemed to last for hours

It did
You were sitting out there
for about three hours

A song should never be hurried

Would you like a cup of tea?

I’d love a cup of tea

And so Feather brewed
a pot of tea
and then they drank in silence
for a while

♫ ♫ ♫

I usually meditate around this time
Would you like to join me?


Mushrooms and meditation,
a powerful combination

One of my favorites

And so Luke and Feather meditated
while the crickets and the frogs sang
and the owls hooted hello

♫ ♫ ♫

I see you’ve met Spider

Yes, she gave me these strings

She also wove the strings
that are on this fiddle
Shall we play?


And so Luke tuned his guitar
to Feather’s fiddle,
and then they played
and infra-ultrasonic song
for all the creatures
walking by

♫ ♫ ♫

The sun is rising
I’ll be on my way
Thank you for the tea

You have a home here, brother,
and will always be welcome

Thank you, sister

And then Luke gathered his things
and set off
down the path

♫ ♫ ♫