Gabriel Kahane performing “8980: Book of Travelers” | Photo by Daniel Fish
Hit play below to listen to our extended Arts Alive interview with Gabriel Kahane discussing his new project, 8980: Book of Travelers.
If there’s one thing Americans from all points on the political spectrum can agree on, it’s that America is divided. But, it turns out, one path to healing and understanding can be found on the miles of train tracks that crisscross the country.
Specifically, the dining car of a cross-country Amtrak train. That’s where musician and composer Gabriel Kahane spent much of the two weeks immediately following the 2016 presidential election.
“I set out the morning after with a suitcase, a couple of books, no cell phone, no internet-connected devices, and I talked to strangers in dining cars of Amtrak trains for a little under two weeks,” Kahane told me. “Then I wrote songs largely about the people I met and about my own shifting feelings about the country and about the landscape.”
Gabriel Kahane tells me he planned the trip long before we knew the outcome of the election. The goal: to listen to the voices of Americans from all walks of life, share their stories through music, and hopefully in the process, create moments of togetherness and shared humanity among people who may not share many of the same political opinions.
Brian Lauritzen: This was a project, this was something you were going to do no matter who won the election. In part, as a response to the fact that we can’t seem to get along, as Americans.
Gabriel Kahane: Yeah. I’ve described this project as being ‘extremely political’ and yet really not ideological. One of the things I’ve been really preoccupied by in the year since the election is this idea that as our attention spans have shortened and as our public discourse has been hollowed out, we seem to only have enough patience to look at the symptom rather than the system. And that, I think, has implications in all sorts of spaces in our society.
The project is called 8980: Book of Travelers. 8,980 is the number of miles Gabriel Kahane traveled. Now, he’s back on the, well, road, performing songs from his Amtrak journey. He performs at the Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles Saturday night, January 20th. Kahane tells me he understands that unplugging from our electronic devices is a luxury that we don’t all have. However,
GK: The more we can absent ourselves from these structures that amplify difference and prevent us from connecting, the more of a chance we have at reconciliation. And I don’t know that we do have a chance at reconciliation, but I hope so.
BL: At least a more peaceful coexistence, maybe, if not fully reconciled.
Gabriel Kahane performs 8980: Book of Travelers at the theater at the Ace Hotel in Downtown LA Saturday night at 8:00. Presented by the Center for the Art of Performance at UCLA. For tickets and more information, click here. You can read more about Gabriel Kahane’s journey, in his own words, here.