A Saranac Inn Guitarist’s Post-Op Musical Breakthrough
January 17, 2022 —
Ted Lewand plays guitar and writes songs for a band called Saranac Project. He told me that for the past 17 years he had taught music at Assumption University in Bangkok. He lives in Thailand six months of the year and returns to the hamlet of Saranac Inn the other half. Covid restrictions have thrown a wrench in everyone’s international travel, so like many would-be travelers, he is currently in the United States.
Lewand had surgery not long ago. It kept him from playing music right away, but he describes a musical breakthrough as he recovered.
The transcript below has been lightly edited for clarity. Please click the play button above to be able to Listen to its history.
Ted Lewand: I was lying down so I couldn’t really pick up the guitar and play. And what I ended up developing more of was this ability to hear things in a more composed way. So I was able to hear long stretches of that tune in my head, so to speak, without the instrument in my hands. And I tried to do that for quite a long time. When I was finally able to put the guitar in my hands, it was already fully formed to some extent. And I’ve never been able to do that before.
Doyle Dean: Yeah, tell me how it felt when you finally got to record that, it was kind of like, “wow, that’s magic. I already know how that goes!”
LEWAN: Well, it was magic, actually. And, you know, to some degree, maybe I wasn’t the actual composer, but somebody else was taking over.
Like many part-timers of the Adirondacks, there’s that “wow” factor when you come back, Lewand told me that for him, yes, it’s beautiful scenery but it’s also a spiritual experience.
LEWAN: It’s kind of like seeing an old friend again and I have a lot of history there. And there’s also a family story, you know. I believe the spirit of my mother and father animates the cabin I still go to today. I can still smell my dad’s pipe tobacco and hear the New York Times rustling in the next room. Because that was his place. It was his place. And it was her baby.
Lewand said another benefit of being in the Adirondacks is access to its birds and their songs.
LEWAN: I always set up my recorders at four in the morning and try to record the birds waking up. Because what I like to do is slow down those birdsongs. And in them are melodies that we don’t always hear because the birds sing so fast. I like the melodies that I can sometimes appropriate.
Lewand told me that his song “Pléiades” was written for the constellation, also known as the Seven Sisters, and he pointed out that the Iroquois word for star clusters is Saranac.
LEWAN: I think we are all aware of the beauty of the stars in the Adirondacks. And the Pleiades is the small constellation of stars. Anyway, it’s in 7/8 (time signature) and it’s the Seven Sisters. Those stars, you know, when you live in a city like me half the year, you don’t see them.
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