Kudos to Dave Montgomery, my former Gunn High of Palo Alto school mate, for winning the MacArthur ‘Genius Grant’ for his work on soil

Screen Shot 2019-04-24 at 4.37.22 PM

we’ve got the dirt on dave

Soil brother number 1. He’s also a very talented musician, with two bands, Good Bones and Big Dirt.

So to summarize: Mark Weiss, Gunn class of 1982, runs Earthwise Productions a concert company that is a spin-off from Earth Day at Stanford; Dave Montgomery, Gunn class of 1979, who is a professor of science at University of Washington and won the MacFound grant in 2008 after publishing his book on “dirt” or “soil” and plays in two bands.

I caught up with recently by email because Beth Custer is doing a work based on Paul Hawken’s book “Drawdown” and Dave Montgomery contributed a brief chapter to it.

And yeah I admit I cannot grasp the concept enough yet to describe here, but check back.

In music, I have worked with Steve Lacy and Corey Harris, both of whom won that grant.  I don’t recall discussing dirt with either of them, although since Corey’s studies brought him to Africa, I bet he observed something about the traditional farming there.

Also, my mind has flashed to Ana Kagunda a local musician in Oakland whose family I believe still owns a farm in Kenya.

And: Dave Montgomery remembers Mia Levin, my Gunn classmate, who also once played in a band called Mudwimin — when Mudwimin played my Cubberley series in Fall, 1994 we sort of headlined the event, in an ad in the Palo Alto Weekly, “cirque de soil”.

I know that E.O. Wilson enjoyed the tribalism of Alabama Crimson Tide football. I believe he said that not only do the total organic mass of ants exceed that of humans, but they are more critical to the natural processes, earthwise. Yet, wake up to find out that we are the eyes of the world, yo.

Did I mention that Beth Custer’s piece for clarinet, voice, cello, violin and drums based on Paul Hawken’s “Drawdown” has its 650 premier at Palo Alto Art Center, Friday, May 17, 2019 at 8 of the clock, for free, free as the air we breathe and the gas we exchange.

And my understanding, as a special feature, the sound created by Beth will travel beyond the walls of the room and quite possibly expand in every direction for billions and billions of ears.  (If ants had ears, rather: Or, what is the frequency, David?)

and1: I don’t remember when or why I took this picture of Beth Custer, but here it is:


Beth is doing three shows about the environment, on commission from SF Arts and with special help from Circuit Network

Dave’s book is actually called “Dirt: the Erosion of Civilizations” and was published 12 years ago, and a summary of such appears on pp. 70-71 of Hawken (2017)


About markweiss86

Mark Weiss, founder of Plastic Alto blog, is a concert promoter and artist manager in Palo Alto, as Earthwise Productions, with background as journalist, advertising copywriter, book store returns desk, college radio producer, city council and commissions candidate, high school basketball player, and blogger; he also sang in local choir, fronts an Allen Ginsberg tribute Beat Hotel Rm 32 Reads 'Howl' and owns a couple musical instruments he cannot play
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