Dancing About Architecture...
Each one of us, from the greatest – the Bachs or Beethovens, the Napoleans or Temuchins – to the least great – the long forgotten and unremarkable Akkadian farmers, the cloistered religious monks – is, ultimately, unimportant, is, ultimately, insignificant. Each one of your desires, each one of your fears, your hopes, is of infinitesimal consequences. In the grander scheme of the universe – which may just be one universe in a seemingly infinite number of universes – you are nothing; despite your accomplishments – whatever they may be – your life means nothing. You are, generously, a speck of dust. What is the fate of a single dust mote? What is the fate of a single atom to you? As you fret about your day, absently biting a fingernail, what were those keratin-filled cuticular cells to you? What did those protons – those electrons – mean to you? As easily as you slough dead cells from your eyes with each nervous blink, the universe cares much, much less about you and your well-being. The bacteria living on the K button of my keyboard can trace their lineage back nearly 4 billion years to the origin of life on Earth – and so can you. How important is that bacterium’s existence? How important is yours? And how do you reconcile the unimaginable largeness of the universe with your own unimaginable smallness?
It is with these troublesome thoughts going through my mind that I’m honoured to award the 43rd annual Schmolaris Prize to Micah Erenberg for his album Art Week (the album), a collection of nine songs that struggle with the question of significance and perseverance in a world where meaning, ultimately, is absent. What gives a person meaning? How does a person become satisfied with life? What is worth pursuing? And what is not? Art Week (the album), with its rich and warm – and addictively rewarding – melodies, is philosophic in its answers, capturing them like the afternoon’s light in a pendulous crystal hanging in a window, scattering colourful patterns on the carpeted floor beneath it.
Faced with such gloomy nihilistic prospects is no easy feat to overcome. Many don’t, and instead languish in religious fervour, gripped in an endless fever, consoled by the fantasy that only once life ends will its true meaning become apparent. What point is there for living if there is no meaning behind it? they ask, breathless with worry. What good is a meaningless existence? they ask, kneeling in a desperate prayer. These are the ones “distracted by a living lie”, as Micah sings on Love is Gonna Find You; the ones that “remain something small”, as Micah sings on Do it for Love. Meaning is not to be found in some mystical external source, like some hidden elementary particle; for Micah Erenberg, it’s love – a love that swells from within, a meaning that swells from within. This is the lesson Micah learned from his childhood friend who could make bright colours from grey – in the same way that a melody enters Micah's head, he makes meaning from nothing but himself. Melodies aren’t caught by brains like butterflies in a net. No one waits around with a cage, baiting a melody out from under the front steps. They’re created from within. Are melodies not worth pursuing if they have no external source? No, they are worthwhile despite that. Even if they are painful reminders of tragedy, they are worthwhile. Do it for the love of the melody. Do it for the pain of the melody. And do it again and again and again. Do it for its own meaning.
But that realization did not come easy for Micah. On Song For My Sister, Micah lists his failed attempts in his search for meaning: alcohol, weed, speed, cigarettes, internet, phones, screens, scenes. None of which are satisfying, none of which are fulfilling. And, yes, although alcohol does indeed make other people less boring – and I’m sure this rule doubles for amphetamines, and, at the least, quadruples for screens – it will rob you of your health, wealth, and friends. Choose life, and all those Trainspotting words. They are false muses. They are apparitions of happiness. And they make you lose sight of your true self, that true creative self who finds meaning from within, who hears melodies from within, who hears songs from within – and brings them to life. On I Promise You, in which Micah promises to give up the vices that deafen his inner ear, he sings he’ll do what he has to do in order to get out of the mucky prison he finds himself in. And the clearest path before him is one of acceptance.
Reeve of the Rural Municipality of Chicken Town, Micah Erenberg has accepted a country life. Scrub poplars angle upward like crooked white fingers. Black medic and red clover line a packed gravel driveway. Elms and maples shade a series of small sheds – red, blue, and brown. And hidden in this farm life, like a painted egg in a woven nest, is a secret studio – its walls lined in song and verse. Remove all the city vices and a pregnant silence – a silence full of possibility, a creative silence; like a blank canvass or a blinking caret – is waiting. In such silence, anything can happen. It is a silence ripe for self-reflection. A silence ripe for art. Everyone should have a place like this. A place at the base of a swaying spruce, in amongst the pillowing moss, roots that rock as you lay there, lifting your head buoyantly in meditation. And no one around for miles and miles. A profound silence. A leafhopper jumps onto your jacket’s sleeve, and leaps away again – into the small forest of Labrador tea that look like shredded umbrellas, their orange fuzz like cotton lips. In such a silence, everything is as it should be. One’s existence, one’s self is accepted – you are who you are. Alone, at last. Embrace it. Love it. This is the one life you get, so you may as well make beautiful things.
Art Week (the album) documents Micah’s struggle to overcome the futility of significance, and in doing so creates music that will last much longer than seven days – to anyone that hears them, they will last a lifetime.
- Steve Schmolaris
October 19th, 2020
"The pecan haystack wasn't as good as the ham banana." - Glen Murray
"I picked Cantor Dust... What the f*ck is wrong with you." - LANETTE SIRAGUSA
"Satanus vobiscum." - Remy Bouchard
"Drake likes Micah Erenberg. Get at me." - Drake
Bad Gardening Advice is pleased to announce the short list for the 43rd annual Schmolaris Prize. Founded by Steve Schmolaris in 1977, the prize is awarded annually to Manitoban musicians based solely on vitamin C absorption rates when under moderate-to-high physical stress. This year's jury members include Glen Murray, Lanette Siragusa, Remi Bouchard’s corpse, and Drake. Your 2020 Schmolaris Prize Short Listers are:
- Slow Leaves – Shelf Life
- Bluebloods – Make it Rain
- Renée Lamoureux – Empower
- Cantor Dust – Too Many Stars
- Slow Spirit – Nowhere No One Knows Where to Find You
- Micah Erenberg – Art Week
- Black Galaxie – Black Galaxie
- Robojom – Hollow Body
- Pip Skid & Rob Crooks – It’s OK
- Juniper Bush – Healing Through a Sonic Figure
- Danny Lütz – Animals 1
- Drake – Dark Lane Demo Tapes
The winner will be announced 9:00 PM CST on Monday, October 19th via TikTok.
Thanks to our 2020 sponsor, Bulldog Pizza’s Deep-Fried Spicy Buffalo Wings for catering this year’s gala event.
Update: Due to COVID-19, all tables at this year’s gala event will meet provincial standards for social distancing. Tickets can be reserved at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Climate change, the loss of habitat and biodiversity, implementing UNDRIP, and supporting social justices; these are all immediately important for Canada, and especially so in a world that is changing faster and faster with every day that passes. Glen Murray – the man, the myth, the legend – may have thrown his hat into the ring to become the next Leader of the Green Party of Canada, but he has never forgotten – nor abandoned – his first love: underground Winnipeg music. “Whether it’s Trio Telfaer or Apollo Suns, Murder Capital or FreakingSnap, Zrada or E.GG, Winnipeg has always been the musical heart of Canada,” said the former pegcity mayor. “Listening, you get the sense that all that exists is Winnipeg – and there’s a contentedness in it – satisfied and reflective; it’s like on those old medieval maps: Here be dragons. In Winnipeg, we’re all dragons.”
Rémi Bouchard’s corpse has climbed out of its coffin to adjudicate for this year’s Schmolaris Prize. The corpse staggers out of the Laurier Parish cemetery gates, his putrid skin barely clinging to the bones – a thick swatch of it has peeled down the left side of his face and flaps loosely – and he begins a long, arduous walk south on highway #5, passed McCreary, through the streets of Neepawa and Gladstone, east along the Yellowhead, around Portage, and on to Winnipeg. Rémi the Corpse’s passion for music is otherworldly, and nothing will stop him from celebrating Manitoba’s best and brightest. Not even death. If you listen closely, or if you were in one of the vehicles that stopped to marvel at the lumbering monstrosity, you would have heard his gentle voice – gruffer now thanks to the decomposition – humming along with the thick cloud of flies that circled his head; a long-lingering baritone from Choral Fantasy on Haiku. “I am no longer surprised at the state of our world,” said Rémi, spraying black spittle in the entryway of Schmolaris HQ. “Music soothes nothing. Rather, it opens us up to new pains and greater horrors – ahh, and I have never wanted it more.”
Now that there have been no new cases of COVID-19 in Manitoba for over two weeks, Lanette Siragusa, Shared Health’s Chief Nursing Officer, can breathe a sigh of relief into her N95 facemask. “Her stoicism in the face of a looming pandemic calmed Manitobans as no one else could,” said Steve Schmolaris. “And I wanted that same determinedness - that same devotion to the facts – for this year’s Schmolaris Prize.” Graciously, Lanette’s accumulated vacation leave will be used to listen to this year’s nominees rather than to defend her doctoral thesis at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh. It is both an honour and privilege to include her on the jury panel for Schmolaris 2020.
Could not be reached for comment at the time of publication.
This year saw the long-awaited publication of Steve Schmolaris’s autobiography My Life in Music: From East Schmelkirk to the Stars. The gritty tell-all revealed the origins of his ongoing feud with Randy Bachman, the national criticism he received for awarding the 14th annual Schmolaris Prize to Crash Test Dummies’s The Ghosts That Haunt Me – rather than Tom Cochran’s Mad, Mad World – and chronicles the events that lead up to Steve’s late-90s Kittens cover band performance at the Albert. Morley Walker from the Winnipeg Free Press called the book “…infuriating. Steve Schmolaris has been promising this book for decades, and now that it’s finally out I don’t know what to make of it. Steve has fictionalized his entire career – I’m certain that nothing between these covers is actually true. I’m not even certain he wrote the damn thing. I mean, there’s an entire chapter on Harlequin versus Streetheart.” Carolyn Gray from Prairie Fire said “…it is a portrait of a madman coming to terms with reality. By the end of the novel – I will not call it an autobiography – Steve, the real Steve Schmolaris, emerges from the falseness of his younger self, and only then does he face the world as it truly is, as he truly is. My Life in Music is about a man finding truth in himself.” To celebrate the 43rd annual Schmolaris Prize – and because sales were poorer than expected, which Steve blames on the economic downturn of COVID-19 – each nominee will receive 43 copies of his autobiography.
(Image: Steve Schmolaris at the inaugural Schmolaris Prize in 1977.)