Last night Aurora and I went to see Joni Mitchell. She’s was speaking at the Commonwealth Club a few blocks from where I work. The event was scheduled to coincide with the anniversary of Earth Day. We were surprised to see our friend, Nancy Carroll, atending with a friend of hers.
Instead of being a straight interview, it started out with Joni talking about her world view and how she thinks we, as humans, have gone wrong. At first, she seemed to be a little overwhelmed with the ‘big ideas’ and with the depth of the subject, but she had some notes to keep her on track and had apparently given considerable thought about what she wanted to say. Her first statement:
“To love nature in this time is to be in terrible pain.“
She described a poignant display of our world condition as seen on the side of the Hard Rock Cafe in Los Angeles where there is a ticker or continuous counter that shows the growing world population juxtaposed with the number of trees being cut down.
She thinks it all went wrong with Plato and western ‘logic’ or intellect and the focus on western justice which lacks sense. On a poster board, she drew a diagram with a large circle marking North, South, East, and West. These points represented:
- North as intellect
- South as feeling
- East as clarity
- West as sense
She thinks that we, in the west, have focused too much on intellect and clarity and have lost our ability to feel and sense. Because we seem to focus too much on intellect and clarity we are, as a result, working with ‘half a deck’. What was needed, she said, is a balance and called this balance the “Apple mind“.
She draws her world view from various philosophies including Buddhism, Jungian theory, Nietzsche, and Native American culture.
Her talk was interlaced with anecdotes about her recording career, Larry Klein, and “Iron Eyes” Cody (who is known as the Tear Indian in the famous Earth Day ad from 1971). She was asked to read a letter, purported to be from Chief Seattle, which is included in the liner notes of her most recent album, The Beginning Of Survival.
Some other interesting things we learned about Joni:
- She thinks of herself primarily as a painter
- She started smoking when she was nine years old and would ride her bicycle out into the country and spend quite time, enjoying nature and her little bag of tobacco.
- She was asked who she was interested in musically and she said responded without hesitation, “No one!“
- She doesn’t listen to music very much and has very esoteric tastes; needs a high level of originality… There was a term she used that I can’t recall now. (Update 04.25.2005: Nancy Carroll has reminded me; Joni said she needed a “high degree of divinity and originality“ in the music she listens to.)
Some other interesting links:
Interview by Elvis Costello from the November 2005 Vanity Fair magazine:
Discussion, from ’97 about one of my favorite songs, Sweet Bird:
They recorded the talk and I think you might be able to catch it at this location: