EB Engine Entries September 8, 2019

One of the great things about the EB Engine is that you never know what you’re going to get when you tune in. This is fantastic when you’re trying to use it as a generative workshop prompt. But looking at Endless Beautiful from only that angle reduces the actual sound collection aspect to a means to an end, which is totally not my experience. Sound collection is an enormously rewarding and fun activity for me. There’s a story behind each and every one of these sounds, and I want to share a bit of that magic with you. So from here on out, I will attempt to showcase and reflect on the sounds going into the EB Engine and give a little backstory before I throw them into the forge.

I will be adding the following 4 sounds to the EB Engine later today.

  • Morning Blow Dry and Stir
  • Uplift Desk
  • Validating Parking Providence Place
  • Checking into 160 Westminster

Morning Blow-Dry and Stir

Morning Blow Dry and Stir

Carolyn was blow-drying her hair this morning. Admittedly, this is not the most exciting thing in the world, but if you listen to this recording carefully, you will hear me moving back and forth from outside the closed bathroom door and over to an open window. There’s a dog barking. It sounds like someone is mowing their lawn. Eventually, there’s a baby that lets out a loud squeal. A lot happens right away in the morning, much of it on pure instinct and routine. I shave my face, brush my teeth, and take a shower every morning before work, but if you stopped and asked me to detail out what I just did, I bet I’d have a hard time recalling strong details from my routine. This recording represents a slice of that chaotic activity, recorded outside our sometimes limited perspective.

Uplift Desk

Uplift Desk

Not much here, just the smooth, mechanical motion of the motorized desks at the What Cheer Writers Club in Providence, RI. You’ll find me in their fancy library nooks on most weekends. Whenever I come in and arrange my materials–my laptop, hard drive, water and coffee cups, recorders, and books–I’ll always hit the button to adjust my desk. Is it important to have a good ergonomic setup when you’re working? Yes. Secretly though, I like the sound that pressing the button produces. It also helps me feel fancy.

Validating Parking at Providence Place

Validating Parking at Providence Place

I’ve come to appreciate the Providence Place Mall over the past few years for many reasons. I wouldn’t describe myself as a big shopper, but you can’t beat $2 parking for up to 5 hours in their spacious parking garage. Financially, that’s a good incentive, but here’s the real reason I park there: it’s a great bite-sized way to people watch. I have to walk through an entire floor of the mall to get to and from my fancy writing desk at What Cheer. This gives me an opportunity to bask in all of the hum and intensity of a large mall, a place that you would have to drag me to otherwise. It takes me about 10 minutes to make my way through, and I find it to be a nice perspective switch. The area where I validate the ticket is in an intermediary area between the mall and a walkway that leads down to the street. It feels and sounds like an in-between space. The sound, the temperature, and the general feel are a strange blend between the street level and the mall interior. I look forward to visiting and passing through every time.

Checking Into 160 Westminster

Checking into 160 Westminster

Okay, so this is back at the What Cheer Writers Club. They have an elevator that leads up to the second floor. I absolutely could take the stairs, but it wouldn’t feel nearly as cool, so the elevator it is. At first blush, this is a relatively standard elevator ride recording, but just like anything else in this world I suppose, the closer you look or listen to it the more interesting it becomes. I love how rattly that door sounds in the recording. Without seeing the smooth slide of the golden doors, it sounds like a violent terror-jangle. I can assure you it is quite lovely in person. Another thing that I find interesting about this recording is the voice saying, “….technology…something…schools…” I don’t know what the hell that is. I’m pretty sure there isn’t a speaker in the elevator, and I was alone when I recorded this. Maybe the elevator is haunted by an I.T. professional?

Why I’m Excited About the EB Engine

Let me ask you a quick question. What is the connection between the items on this list?

  • Pick Up Sticks
  • Transfer Available for BCD12 Train
  • Slicing Stuff
  • Bella Eating
  • Moving Boston Sci Museum Mini Crane
  • CompuCleaner
  • Sifting Flour

I’d be interested in hearing what you came up with. I expect there are many different answers. Your interpretation is very much dependent on the angle that you’re looking at the list and your own experiences leading up to the moment you thought about those words.

Let’s take this a step further.

Imagine that I have you listen to audio recordings of the items on the list without telling you anything about them ahead of time, including their name. This is where the number of interpretations explodes. Within each recording, there are even more opportunities to pick at your brain and experience. For example, you might have lived in NYC and waited for the BCD12 train transfer daily, or the rumble of the track might remind you of a country train crossing in Kansas from your childhood, or the conductor on the loudspeaker might remind you of that time a bee flew into your open car window in a KFC drive-thru.

Those were examples that I fabricated off the cuff for only one of the recordings in the list. I can only imagine what is kicking around in your genuine experiences. That’s the idea behind the EB Engine. You tune in, completely unaware of what you are going to hear, and see where the sounds take you. You can use it as a journaling prompt for 5 minutes. We even have a timer next to the player to help you stay on task. You can use the sounds to push your imagination. I love writing little stories and scenes. Carolyn is really good at coming up with poetry inspired by the sounds. The EB Engine is an incredibly effective tool to help you express and explore surprising thoughts and ideas.

How does the EB Engine actually work?

There are currently 766 items in the EB Engine as of September 2, 2019. These recordings generally range from 1 – 2 minutes long. Every recording has been captured by either my partner Carolyn Decker or me. As of today, the recordings add up to a total of 21 hours and 12 minutes. The order of the recordings is randomized frequently (every time the computer restarts). That randomized playlist is shuffled as it is played. To make all of this happen, we load our files into a Winamp playlist on an old laptop, which plays the sounds 24/7 and serves as our dedicated EB Engine server. We then encode this audio and send it to an Icecast or internet radio (Radiojar) server. The player for our internet radio station is then on our website. That’s the EB Engine!

This is the computer that runs the EB Engine! And yes, that’s Winamp!

Why is today a special day for the EB Engine?

Today is the first day that the EB Engine is caught up with recordings and ready to receive new ones. Getting to this point with the EB Engine has been a process. In the beginning, Endless Beautiful recordings were compiled into 15-minute “Sessions.” These sessions were comprised of the sounds that we captured with our recorders, but they were also specifically edited by me, and once you listened to a session the first time, you always knew what it was comprised of.

I began experimenting with the EB Engine at the beginning of 2019. At first, it played our 15-minute sessions, which added a certain level of unpredictability, but the sounds still came in large chunks. I liked the direction that we were moving in, but I wanted to push the randomness and opportunities for exploration even further. That meant that I needed to break the sounds out of the sessions.

For the past few months, I have been separating sounds, uploading our back catalog of archived sounds, and ensuring that the EB Engine runs effectively. And here we are. Ready to take on any new sounds that I load in. I, Lucas Pralle, the keeper and perpetuator of this project, have no idea what will play in the EB Engine at any given moment. My job is to load it with more sounds and let it do its thing. And that is a very good place to be!

It only gets better from here on out!

That’s right! The more I add, the more complex and variable the EB Engine gets. I’ve already been noticing some fascinating results from workshop participants. I’ve had users comment on the cadence and patterns and similarities between separate recordings. The thing is, those recordings were captured in entirely different places and are of entirely different subjects. What does that say about the human mind’s search for meaning in patterns. Or here’s another one for you, what does it say about the nature of the sounds that we hear? I expect that these questions will only become stronger as the EB Engine library grows. I can’t wait to see what users come up with.

In the meantime, head to our homepage and give the EB Engine a try!

Creative Writing and Google Apps Workshop

Creative Writing and Google Apps Workshop

Workshop location and time:

Carolyn and I will be hosting a one-day Creative Writing and Google Apps workshop at What Cheer Writers Club at 160 Westminster Street in Providence from 10 – 2 pm on August 4th, 2019! This class is part of the Frequency Writers summer catalog. The cost for the workshop is $65. You can register here.

What is Endless Beautiful?

So if you’re not familiar with what Endless Beautiful is, go to our homepage and hit the play button at the top and listen for a bit! Carolyn and I collect sounds with our audio recording equipment in Rhode Island and anywhere else that we travel and use them to produce creativity prompts. That’s just one way we fulfill our mission statement of creating meaningful conversations through creativity and multimedia-based education. We have a podcast, a livestream, take our workshops to schools–we will even be leading a church service later this summer!

What makes the August 4th workshop special?

Endless Beautiful workshops are unique on their own, but we’re delivering this one using a framework of free Google apps such as Google Sites, Draw, Sheets, and Slides. As a certified Google Educator, I want to show you how you can use these tools to create engaging, mobile-friendly content to host your own projects–whether that’s face-to-face in a workshop, over the internet, or both.

Do I need to be a tech genius to participate?

No! All you need is an internet capable device that you can type with and a free Google account. As long as you come to the class ready to participate in a collaborative, open, and fun experience, you should be all set!

Workshop detail recap:

What: Creative Writing and Google Apps Workshop

When: Sunday, August 4th, 2019 from 10 – 2 pm

Where: What Cheer Writers Club – 160 Westminster St, Providence, RI

How much: $65

Registration: Frequency Writers

EB Radio Livestream

EB Radio Cover

Lucas and Carolyn use EB Radio as the prompt for this livestream. This discussion includes themes ranging from climate change to serial murderers. You never know what you’re going to get during an EB workshop!

Remember to submit phone recordings to be played on Endless Beautiful Radio on the website, endlessbeautiful.com.

Carolyn’s EB Livestream Result January 13, 2019:

We have come to the old cemetery,
crayons and paper in hand, scalpels for the lichen,
brushes for the grit--so many slate headstones,
their skulls and carven wings, so much ash and dust,
and four hundred years peace,
a baker’s dozen generations of children
come to wax over the names and pull dandelions
from the weedy plots, run sticks over the railings,
and dream of the river a quarter mile
across the field, the sizzle of the campfires
steady along its silty banks.

The seasons become as messy as the waves,
bleeding into each other, ebbing a little higher,
a little lower on the beach, folding,
stretched and consumed by the undertow.
The timing hasn’t gone wrong, but
the way we’re using the time has—
too fast, churning our days into foam
when we used to have flat rollers.
At the back of the bay, mussels
and barnacles entomb themselves—
do they still believe the tide will turn?

If all things change--and nothing is static,
where do we set our stones?
Knowing our time in the low tide,
the dry wait while the river curls away,
do we build our castles and our crypts
on the hill or in the plain?
We are blind to the dragons that
live in the rising seas--carefree
in the ultimatum, walking through a laugh,
and that might not be so bad.
Would I rather live long enough
to feel the wave reach up,
write my epitaph in the wet sand,
and watch it fade--or go on swimming,
treading the deep, and brave the below?

Lucas’s Result from 1.13.19

He emptied the sharpener out in the small bin near his fish tank. Pencil shavings fluttered down into the basket, releasing the satisfying aroma of shaved wood and ground graphite. This was probably the third time that he had emptied the sharpener. Henry had lost count. He tended to get caught up in his work. Some called it tunnel vision. He liked to call it following his muse. Satisfied that all of the shavings had been cleared (Henry kept a toothbrush on a nearby table to aid him), Henry clapped the metal casing shut and sharpened his number 2. Ah yes, that was a good point, it was time to get back to work.

He sat at his desk in the corner of his apartment. Sun warmed the wooden floor and various decorations that he had strewn about. Some might have called the stacks of newspapers and photos lining the walls junk. Henry preferred to think of them as precious mementos. Instead of wasting his time in the evening by watching television or surfing social media, Henry found all of his necessary pleasure by examining the grainy photos that he had managed to gather and by meticulously jumping from word to word lining the pages of the newspaper articles.

The words truly transported him, Henry always found new meaning in the syntax and the rhythm. “Back Bay Bomber Strikes Again,” read one article. Henry remembered that one quite well. His first job had gone relatively unnoticed, but the police had tipped the reporter from the Times off that they’d been tracking some “Back Bay Guy.” Henry had scored three kills on that one. It really had been quite daring. A bundle of C4, tossed in the luggage area under a bus. Henry had made sure his note that he had worked on so hard had survived by sealing it in a titanium box with a key welded next to it.

Now, his next job was coming up. His biggest one yet. He loved public transportation. All of the bustle. All of the stories converging in one place. Desperate mothers pulling their children by their shirtsleeves. Loners and lovers. Perhaps even killers on their way to their own scores. But they would never make it. Not if Henry had anything to do with it. The explosives were prepped. Henry’s biggest payload yet. Enough to derail the Amtrak. Henry signed off on his note. “Love, The Back Bay Bomber” and closed and locked the box. He grabbed his luggage and locked the door. His Uber was waiting to take him to the station.

Blacksmith Livestream

Blacksmith Livestream

Lucas and Carolyn reflect a bit on all of the amazing developments that the listeners and participants of EB helped make happen in 2018 before using Session 38: Blacksmith for this livestream. Lucas writes about the sometimes grueling sacrifices that a parent must make for their children. Carolyn writes about classification and how to better understand the natural world that we live in. It’s a good time!

Lucas’s result from 12.30.18 livestream:

He poured the small stones into the glass jar. It was nearly full. The weight of it had been growing heavier over the past two hours, but the chanters demanded that the rite be carried out fully. Children laughed as they skipped along the beach, throwing small sticks at the gulls and kicking at knee-high waves. His brow was dripping with sweat, his eyes stung from the wind, salt, and sand. The jar slipped in his hand as his muscles cramped. He knelt and cradled it near the core of his body. At one time, he might have asked himself, “Does this matter?”

He hadn’t eaten for two days. Long, white blisters, flecked with blood lined his feet. He had sustained a gash on his shin from slipping on the algae-covered rocks–it had almost cost him the jar. It had almost smashed upon the rocks. The children sitting in the grass above the dunes laughing. But he had caught it.

There were times that he felt like he was flying as he walked upon the beach, holding the jar, waiting for the stones to be loaded within. His stomach felt as if it dissolved or perhaps slip down his leg and out the tips of his toes, relieving him of the added weight and trouble of eating. In the beginning, when the ceremony began, he remembered wondering how a gull would taste if he would strike it with a jagged rock, smash its beak, and roast it on a spit. He had supposed then that it might taste like chicken, or perhaps a tame fish, but now, he had forgotten what any of that tasted like, or why it even mattered in the first place.

A young girl, perhaps five years old, placed her hand on the lip of the jar. He looked down at her delicate fingers grasping at the smooth glass and was struck by how extraordinarily small and articulate they were. It took him a moment to realize what she was doing–that the stones that were appearing in her palms and being flung out into the sea, had come from his ceremonial jar. She laughed and marveled.

He sat as she pulled more of the stones from the jar and threw them into the water. Her eyes sparked green and blue. She jumped and splashed like the happy gulls. Before he knew it, half of the jar was gone.

Carolyn’s result from 12.30.18 livestream:

Rustling means that among the marbles,
something in the jar is alive, to be counted,
slippery among the interstitial of the spheres.
Can it be seen? Does it matter?
(the thing itself and whether it can be seen)

The pulse quickens, the quick of the nail
at the edge of life reaching under the lid,
uncertain of its expectations. So then—
the same question--does it matter to me?

Does it matter at all? If I know
how to open the jar, should I?
Those internal conditions change
by that conditional. The shift of it. The twist.

Is this too serious?
Maybe it isn’t so dire, this living,
that living thing, but even so,
how would I know? Can’t know its song
unless it sings it. Cant know if it sings.

Does knowing such things matter?
(the thing itself and whether it sings)
Is the buzz of curiosity worth the cause?
The effect? The consequence.

Is consequence the opposite of sequence,
the thunder echoed back from the burst,
the result possibly an insult?
Intention passed off as the precursor
to the tension it makes,
what it precipitates, what is saturated
in that flooded jar.

-Carolyn Decker 12.30.18
using EB Session 38: Blacksmith

Snow Livestream

Snow Livestream Cover

We use Session 52: Snow for this workshop. Carolyn writes a piece of fiction that questions inspiration, imagination, and dreams. Lucas writes a story about a not-so-distant future where virtual reality provides the ultimate escape. What will be the consequences for our society when this happens? Also, send your recordings to add to the new EB Radio station on our website!

Carolyn’s Result:

The hatchway door opens. Cool air rushes in sudden and stale, displacing the swelter of the underground. From inside the tunnel, the engine whirs. The guide lights flicker on in succession. Spray jets coat the opening with ice, and workers rush to buffer smooth the launch pad. The pod races up the chute, quicker than can be heard, races into the distant sky, known only as a dim comet tail flash escaping the horizon. Another farewell song blasted off-planet with the tourists inside frozen in sleep.

I miss birds. This off-world appeal didn’t prepare me to ignore the cravings for things I didn’t realize I’d cared about. Sure some people have their holograms, VR. What you don’t predict is that, without the exposure to all those subtle things in life back home, you don’t even dream about them anymore. Marty says you can only see what you’ve seen, but I guess the subconscious starves without proper feeding like anything else. Maybe I’m must jaded.

Maybe I just don’t have any imagination anymore. Left it behind. Looked down into the dark tunnel one too many times and stopped seeing dragons swarming down there. Just mechanical gravity. Launch pads. Landing straps. I guess I figured we’d find something unexpected all the way down there. I remember what we feared–but we just didn’t find it.

Lucas’s Result:

The door swung open slowly. The hinges creaked and the frame moaned under the weight. Humidity had swollen the wood, malformed it so much that Alex had to lift the door in order to latch it. What a shithole. His apartment. He’d been there for six years now. Hell, the heat hadn’t worked at all during the winter for the first two years, not that Alex would have known enough to do anything about it. His mother had stopped by—one of her bi-yearly visits, told him that he better call the utility company or she was going to call the cops. Alex’s mom told him to stay off the dope. He’d never done drugs. Never drank. Maybe popped an Adderall from time to time to boost his focus, but that was about it.

So yeah, Alex got his heat turned on, but that didn’t mean much for him in the middle of August, sweating like a pig in his shitty apartment, fogging his headset lenses to the point that he had to constantly wipe them dry. His mom had been wrong about the drugs, at least the ones that you shoot up or dump down your throat, his drug of choice was virtual reality.

Alex wiped his lenses again and his brow. He pulled the visor down and found himself in a beautiful spring scene, complete with a line of blackbirds on low wooden fence, a spring mist coming off the hills, and enough moisture and cool relief to make him forget about the infernal reality that his body was currently buried in.

Almost. Sweat was dripping down his cheeks so much that they soon filled the eye wells on his VR set. He pulled them off again. “For fuck’s sake!” yelled Alex. He looked over and realized that his door was still open. Alex set the VR set down on his desk and walked across his apartment, through the pizza boxes and coke cans, to close it. He grabbed the handle, picked it up, and locked it firmly.

To live was to suffer. This existence that he was forced to revisit every time he was outside of VR was pathetic compared to the one that he had carved out inside it. Alex had been an early adopter of the technology, so he had made a name for himself in the circles. In the beginning, it had been novelty jobs like mowing someone’s virtual grass, or perhaps walking their virtual dog, never anything gross— nothing sexual or hyper violent. Alex was above that, the tech was beyond that, VR represented a new beginning for humanity, and it was pioneers like Alex that were pushing it forward.

He put his headset back on.

Endless Beautiful Radio

Endless Beautiful Radio

Endless Beautiful has a 24/7 radio station! It’s easy, just go to our website, and the player is right there on the top–hit play, and boom! you will be transported into a new world of sound. You can use this to relax, stretch your imagination, do something weird, do something creative, or whatever else you want. Anytime you want. You can tune in by going to our homepage.

Update 12/24/18: You can contribute to the EB Radio Station now! Just click the button below the player on homepage to submit your own audio.

Gift Livestream

Gift Livestream Cover

We use Session 73: Gift for this workshop. Watch and listen as Carolyn shares her powerful story of being in the Women’s March in Boston. Lucas shares a crazy story about being at a Slayer concert. The discussion then turns to ideas of liberty in America and what that means in 2018. We have the video and audio versions of the livestream below.

Carolyn’s piece from the 12/9/18 livestream:

We make noise--we holler, we join
the ruckus and the rumble, the jostling
shoulder-to-shoulder, knee-to-knee
of the gathering, we cheer,
our voices singing the steam whistle,
the rally of the island ferry pulling
into harbor. We ring out the gleam
of firelight, of the torch lit from without,
and we link arms, becoming the conduit
for that rushing spark. Our feet move
together, but not in unison, each its own
stepping, and the journey overlapping.
We will not leave breadcrumbs to be
trampled or stolen, but shouts to echo
and rebound from the ears, minds, and
mouths--the lungs, the fluttering furnace,
that web of blood, that breath.
We are not idle--neither are we idols,
our faces not incarnations but makers
of incantations, of what worth saying,
and the noise of it more so. We extend,
suspend disbelief in our noise making,
shake out the silent naught-saying,
drill deep into our bellies for that
joyful source, the whoop, the cry,
the announcement of no fear,
hear me, hear ye, sudden
and earnestly. Uulation! Jubilation!
Victory and pomp--costume and
all of us subsumed in revelation—
the ongoing exploration, left right
over up and down, we go through it—
stomping, cheering the way.

Lucas’s entry from 12.9.18 livestream

“Make some noise!”

The crowd was going wild. Children jumped in their seats. Men threw buckets of popcorn at one another. Mothers flung hotdogs onto the stage. It was complete anarchy.

“Take a seat, take a seat, ladies and gentlemen!” It was the bodiless announcer booming over the loudspeakers. A fat raccoon, oblivious to the command, rolled its way out onto the stage. The crowd went into a frenzy again. This went on for another five minutes.

Finally, after everybody’s vocal cords were charred, and they felt like they were going to pass out if they didn’t get a drink in them, they sat down.

Attendants wearing black t-shirts, black pants, white sneakers, and wireless headsets like secret service agents raced up the stairs onto the stage. They frantically swept the hotdogs, raccoons, and other rubbish off the stage. A tall throne, gold and red, was brought out and set onto the center. It rotated on a small platform, so the entire arena could see what was going on.

The stage crew disappeared to the edge of the stage, near the stairs, and a new figure appeared. He appeared to be a Buddhist monk, he wore orange robes, his head was shaved, he looked noble, and yet, he rolled a carry on luggage alongside him. The crowd remained silent. Not a murmur. Not an errant hot dog.

The monk slowly rolled the luggage toward the center and the throne. He slowed a few times as the luggage almost tipped over, until he climbed up and took a seat. A woman ran out with a microphone, knelt before him, and handed him a microphone.

One word.


The crowd erupted again. Men, women, and children went wild. A drunk man riding a camel somehow had made it through security and almost made it to the stage before being tased. This was all on the jumbotron of course. He spun around wildly as electrodes pumped electricity into his body, probably looking for the camera.

The monk motioned for the crowd to quiet again. After a few minutes, they obliged.

The monk stood on his rotating platform, held the mic up to his mouth and said, “You don’t have to be alone anymore.”

“No!” yelled the crowd.

“Uh huh, you know it. You can feel it. You can see it. Look around, to your right and your left. Take that man, woman, or child in your arms and tell them that you love them.”

The crowd was silent. More silent than before. The monk lifted a finger as to cue something, and a high school band began to play up in the upper decks. The monk swung his finger around as if conducting the music. The crowd was still silent, except for the band.

And then, just as he had approached the stage, the monk began to leave. He grabbed his luggage and rolled his way back off the stage.

And the band played.

A Gift for All of Us


I grew up in a rural area of central Wisconsin called City Point. There’s no town there–just a bar, a small Lutheran church, a railroad crossing, a billboard advertising gasoline and a casino 30 miles up the road. If you drive down one of the quiet country roads where most of the residents live in their scattered homes, you will definitely see a lot of woods, probably spot a cranberry marsh, and if you are lucky, cross paths with a bald eagle feeding on a deer carcass on the side of the road.

It’s been difficult for my parents to keep up with me since I left home. Since then, I’ve lived on both coasts of the U.S. I had a stint in China after college. I spent several years in the Marines and on deployments. It has always been easier for me to make the trip back to Wisconsin to visit them and my other family members. That’s why it was such a pleasant surprise when my mother told me that she and my father were coming to Providence to visit Carolyn and me at the end of November.

It turned out that my mother had a conference in New Jersey. She wrote to me in an email, “You’re not going to believe this, but I’ve actually convinced your dad to come out with me. You can give us a tour of the East Coast!” I explained to my mom that the East Coast is a big place, and New Jersey isn’t exactly right next to Providence, Rhode Island. But after looking at the location of her conference on the map, I realized that my parents would be right across the Hudson River from Manhattan. I wasn’t going to let them travel all the way from City Point to New York City and just take pictures of the iconic Manhattan skyline from New Jersey. We made a trip out of it.

The details of our trip from Rhode Island to New York City are captured in the audio of Session 73: Gift. All of the sounds used in this one, all nineteen of them, are from locations and moments that we shared together during that time. The trip was an opportunity for my parents to see the life that Carolyn and I are building in Rhode Island together: Beavertail Lighthouse in Jamestown, a P-Bruins Game, Downtown Providence and the What Cheer Writers Club. We also got to explore Manhattan and locations like Ellis Island, the Statue of Liberty, and Times Square. 

Carolyn and I have recorded several hundred (1,000+?) sounds for Endless Beautiful over the past few years. During that time, I have increasingly become a more careful listener, and I would like to think, more aware of my surroundings. We record a lot. For every good two minute recording, I probably throw away three others or only use a few seconds as a transition from one sound to the next. That being said, the recorders are not always on. For the sake of efficiency, I have been trained to take an inventory of a given moment in real-time, understand the different sonic and contextual elements, the different actors, emotions at play, and ask, “Will this be valuable for a listener?” and I guess more importantly, “Is this worth remembering?” If the answer is yes to those questions, or if I get that feeling in my gut that tells me something special is coming up, I hit record, and try to take in as much of this wonderful existence that I have to the privilege to be a part of with my own eyes and ears.

That’s right. The recordings are only merely an artifact. Stitched together into a session, the sounds can serve as creative rocket fuel, they can juxtapose ideas, serve as bizarre, soothing, and maybe even disturbing pieces of art, but ultimately, Endless Beautiful is meant to be a reminder to encourage us to take a closer look and listen of the world around us–and to talk about that shared experience. I relearn these lessons in some small way when I edit and put a session together, and again when I create while listening to it, and yet again when I have meaningful conversations about what we have all created, and for that, I am truly blessed.

Thank you. 

Please accept this gift. I can’t wait to hear about all of your thoughts, memories, and experiences.

~ Lucas

Jar of Treasures Livestream

Jar of Treasures Livestream

We chose Session 43: Jar of Treasures for this workshop. Watch and listen as Lucas pens a story about a mysterious man and his journey around the country. Carolyn writes a poem about the importance of creating and maintaining shelter…and knowing when to leave it. We have the video and audio versions of the livestream below.

Lucas’s Result

He didn’t know what he had been walking for anymore. The soles of his shoes were worn out. His jeans were shredded at the bottoms. His neck had been sunburned so many times and had peeled so massively, it was thick like the hide of a bison. He’d been at it for 25 years. That’s right, this wasn’t a weekend jaunt, not even a summer hike, this was a multi-year, multi-season, walk, and he wasn’t sure why he had started.

At this point in time, he had managed to make it to Vermont. The flies were terrible. The birds, beautiful. I had rained an hour prior, now he trudged along the side of the road in the gravel with soggy socks and shoes, cars whizzed past. The passenger in the last truck had tossed a cigarette out the window. What a loser. Even he knew that it wasn’t cool to be smoking anymore, and he’d been in the elements, walking both in society and outside of it, for the past 25 years.

For every transgression, there were 10 wonderful things that happened to him. A few weeks ago, a blue-haired woman had brought him a piece of apple pie. She had spooned it into his mouth as he walked. She told him about the cardinals that were out by her feeder and about her grandson and his video games. She needed to talk. He liked the pie. It was a good thing.

He wasn’t always on the roads. He had special permission. Was that how this thing had started off 25 years prior? He got an idea for a fundraiser, or something like that, he wasn’t sure exactly why, all he remembered was passing by a carnival in Alabama, and the sheriff driving up and handing him a paper. The sheriff told him that he could walk anywhere that he pleased, that the President had even signed it, so he’d been doing that, but he wasn’t exactly sure why.

A few months ago, in Texas, he had crossed through some farmer’s field, brown cows watching him, mashing tall grass between their teeth. He had crossed a barbed wire fence to find a farmer with a shotgun waiting for him.

“You’re on my property, you goddamn fool,” said the farmer.

He produced his pass, and the farmer turned white. “My apologies! Let me clear the trail ahead for you. Please, don’t tell them about this. I’m just trying to protect my land…I’m sure you can understand.”

He couldn’t understand, because he couldn’t remember exactly why this had all started—just that he needed to continue to do it. So he walked. And he supposed he would walk until his feet fell off, and the birds would steal his flesh, and his bones would be bleached in the sun. He wondered if another man, woman, child, or animal would come upon his bones, and he wondered if they would remember why he had started this thing in the first place.

Carolyn’s Result

We’re all looking for shelter,
looking to uncover someplace funny,
but home like–some island
sliding over the surface of the ocean,
a place inverted in the mirror
where a chip broke out of the glass
and the reflection became less
a reflection, having broken and fallen off,
and more of a brother, someone
easier to accept for their flaws—
even love them for them.

If that shelter takes the form
of a bottle someone long ago
cast into the woods, and now
some squirrel has filled it with acorns,
make a fire by the mouth—
you’ll need water to boil, but
that generous seed can be pounded
into a meal, and you’ll have not only
a place to sleep, but food,
and warmth–what more can you need.

Put your fingers in there,
mind that you don’t shock them red,
remember the numbers and letters
of the spell. Once you’re inside,
you’ll have to figure out how to
get out of there. Make it stop moving.
Pull back on the springs or the
lever, and puzzle your way through.
Any shelter worth its measure
can stand a little stretching,
but you’ll want to ensure you’ve got
at least two doors, an exit plan for either.

It’s fundamental to survival: shelter—
need it to go on living, but,
fully worth belaboring the point,
you need a way out. You can’t need it
so bad that you get stuck.
A spider doesn’t get caught in its own web
and get out. Birds leave their nests
and only rebuild when the season is right.
A sense of home is episodic,
and getting lost is the only way
to enrich the journey. So wander,
take shelter in wisdom instead of worry,
and don’t stay there too long.

EB Livestream
-Carolyn Decker 11/25/18