Michael Harren – Pianist, Composer

Michael Harren is a Brooklyn based pianist, composer, electronic musician and storyteller. He is currently putting the finishing touches on his one-man show “Tentative Armor” for a Spring 2014 performance at NYC’s Dixon Place and playing piano with Sandra Bernhard for select dates on her current tour. He Tweets and FaceBooks incessantly. These are his good things.

Good things to read.

Shambhala: The Sacred Path of the Warrior by Chögyam Trungpa. Back in 1995 I found myself in need of some changes in my life that I thought some spiritual searching might help with. A good friend recommended this book and it resonated so deeply within me. A good, solid, digestible introduction to Tibetan Buddhist concepts. My spiritual journey since has taken me from Native American sweat lodges to Wiccan rituals and even to living on a Christian commune, Koinonia Partners in Americus, GA. I always find my way back to this book, and I consider it the birthplace of the spiritual belief system that works for me.

On Their Own Terms by Lee Hall.  I have read quite a bit about Animal Rights through the years, but Lee is the first to break things down in a way that really makes sense to me. Lee’s definition of animal rights is simply allowing them to exist on their own terms without human intervention, wherever possible. Before reading this book, I had never quite thought of it that way. This philosophy is just right for me.

The Sun Magazine. Short stories. Poetry. Interviews. Photography. Simple and beautiful. The “Readers Write” section really hits the spot.

Good things to watch.

Central Station. Hands down, this is my favorite film of all time. A really moving story of a bitter middle-aged woman who finds herself responsible for the care of a young boy. Equally heartbreaking and inspiring. Spectacular in its simplicity.

Louie.  I’m a long time fan of Louis C.K.’s stand-up so I was thrilled to hear about his series on FX. Of course, the show features Louis C.K.’s irreverent humor, but it is tempered with an experimental and cinematic style and some really fantastic writing. It’s thought-provoking in really unexpected ways. I dare say this is my favorite show on TV. From what I understand, Season 4 is in production right now. I can’t wait!

Vegucated. Documentary filmmaker Marisa Miller Wolfson challenged three meat-loving New Yorkers to adopt a plant-based diet for six weeks. The result is this very accessible film that presents veganism in a very realistic light. This is my favorite film to suggest to people who are curious about veganism, because it tells the truth about the meat and dairy industry by meeting the viewer where he/she is.

Good things to use.

Penultimate – I am an Evernote fanatic, and have been working hard to switch over to a totally paperless lifestyle. The one thing that I was hanging on to was handwritten journals and notebooks. That is, until I discovered the Penultimate app on my iPad. Now I can take digital notes by hand and they are automatically saved to Evernote. Better still, I can zoom in on your notes and the page “drifts” as I write. I love writing by hand for things like journaling and lyric writing, so this is a total game-changer in my paperless life.

TofuXpress.  I was a tofu fan long before I went vegan five years ago, but could never deal with the whole process of wrapping the gelatinous block in paper towels and stacking it with books to press the water out of it before cooking. Enter the spring-loaded and plexiglass TofuXpress. I can’t think of a more hippy-ish statement than “this product changed my bean curd eating life for the better,” but if the hemp rope sandal fits…..

Ableton Live.  I was hesitant to put a Digital Audio Workstation on this list, as it may not resonate with many readers, but this software has changed the way I compose, produce and perform music. It is easy to use and massively flexible. I can’t imagine my creative life without it. I use it for writing and mixing music, recording podcasts, and performing — not to mention the experimentation I am starting to do using it with video. Love it!

Connect with Michael on Twitter, @MichaelHarren.

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