All songs written and performed by Mel Hsu (cello, vocals, guitar)
Album artwork by Brenda Zhang
Oil paintings of Cello Bodies by Johanna Justin-Jinich
Featuring the voices, wonder and support of: Steph Hsu, Howe Pearson, Katya Botwinick, Heran Abate, Morgan Hill, Avery Trüfelman, Nick Petrie, Mike Rosen, Nate Mondschein, Josh Smith, Hannah Cressy, Taylor Matthews and my Grandma
Engineered and Produced by Jared Paul
Recorded in the X Factor Lab. Middletown, CT
Every so often, I pause to actually listen to the way I speak or to look at the way my hands move. And every time, I am overwhelmed with the realization that I am so clearly the byproduct of the collective interactions I have had with every person I have ever met. My sense of humor has my sister’s laughter seeping out of it. The way I dance inadvertently imitates the way my friend does justice to empty space by painting with his arms.
This album is my way of celebrating and thanking the people who have shaped me. The teachers, camp counselors and grandmothers who have shared with me the power of their instruments. The close friends who have stayed up talking about nothing and everything, fighting the clocks and the sleep from our eyes just so that we could spend another hour together. My parents and sister, who continue to teach me what it is to be selfless by giving me the opportunities, the country, the languages, the unconditional support, and the home to learn what freedom of expression really is.
But this is also my way of thanking the incredibly fluid and subtle nature of human interaction. The strangers on city sidewalks who sneak smiles and the Tuesday afternoon Brooklyn Bridge conversations had when we just needed to share. The way you kissed your daughter’s forehead on the subway that day and the time you played “Moon River” on your saxophone just for me in Central Park. I never caught your names or the places you were going, but you catch and hold me in those moments of remembrance that we are always connecting the dots.
And then there are the people whom we have never met, except through colored ink and sound waves. I never met Johanna, but I’m beginning to learn who she was through stories, through mannerisms she has left in close friends, through poems she wrote and bodies she painted. Her art overwhelms me with how much of her voice still lives, along with her strongest beliefs, with her insecurities, and the love she felt for others. Being introduced to her work has been the closest way I have come to meeting her as a human being, to seeing her painted more fully, more candidly.
This is the closest I think I might ever come to writing an autobiography, because it is an archive and an invitation, it is a love song and an elegy, it is prayer and it is hopelessness, it is pause and it is forward momentum. This is my fight, but this is our growth.
By helping me write or record these tracks, by choreographing a dance that sparked cello lines, or by using your hands to paint voices, you humble me in remembrance that this is less about what I can create, and more about what we have created. By listening to these songs tomorrow or in nineteen years, you will continue to be intertwined with this album’s process as it begins to travel on its own. My only request is that when you do happen to stumble upon these songs, you will not let time or highways prevent you from coming to find me and celebrating this little thing we call life.
You are all still a part of me, and if you listen closely, you might be able to find parts of you intertwined in the words, harmonies, and silent pauses of this album. Thank you.
I once drove to Canada from Philly blasting nothing but this album for the entire trip. I also play track 2 & 3 on repeat when I am washing dishes and need to simultaneously have an epic dance party. Mel Hsu