Fiddling while Rome burns


Modestly adventuresome tales of record collecting

When the world gets me down, I often turn to my stereo for solace. Needless to say, the lasers and needles have been getting quite the workout this season.

Since high school, I’ve been collecting records on vinyl and CD, and I like to keep an eye on the rapidly shifting landscape in the recorded music industry. What’s new this tumultuous year? The trends are interesting. The RIAA has issued its mid year revenue stats for 2020. Overall revenues are up 5.6%. Streaming music revenue continues to dominate with 85% market share (and revenue growth of 12%). People are streaming more than ever. Digital download music, however, continues its downward trend (6% market share). 

I’m most interested in the state of physical products, good old LP’s and CD’s—what impact has Covid19 had on them in the first half of the year?

Read more….

the eschorama newsletter

art, books, creative writing, fiction, history, literature, music, philosophy, podcast, poetry, reviews, spoken word, writing

In May I started writing a newsletter about my creative life at It contains essays, creative nonfiction pieces, short stories, poems, songs, reviews of books and music, podcast announcements, and talk about the craft of writing and creativity in general. I’ll use this blog to announce new issues, which come out every 7 to 10 days.

If you like what you see there, sign up to receive new issues by email. Go to

Thanks for checking it out.


music, poetry

During the quarantine, I have been practicing more guitar, specifically aiming to improve my woeful finger picking skills. One of the songs I practice regularly is the gem from Leonard Cohen, “Suzanne.” Below is a printable 1-page lyric and chord sheet for anyone who wants to play along.

My first exposure to this classic came from a very obscure source. When I was a teenager, my family would sometimes sojourn over to Lancaster county, Pennsylvania and shop at the Park City Mall, a massive shopping mecca, rivaled in size only by King of Prussia mall in our region. Anyway, there was a record shop there–I think it was called Record Bar or Record Town. I have a vivid memory of finding in the bargain bins some albums for something like a buck, each. In that small batch was a CCR budget compilation, two Guess Who albums, and an album by a band called The California Earthquake called Resurrection. I knew nothing about that band; I merely thought the cover art looked cool, so I took a chance.

Reformation by The California Earthquake, 1971

It turns out that The California Earthquake was like Christian rock with a Blood, Sweat, & Tears vibe. Check out the discogs entry for more details on this truly obscure LP. The album itself was mostly forgettable, but there was this one track on side 2 that caught my ear:

“Suzanne” by The California Earthquake

It was an oblique way to encounter a classic song for the first time. I never forgot the song, though, and it led me inexorably to seek out who this songwriter Leonard Cohen might be. Later, I would discover more famous and worthier versions by Leonard himself, Judy Collins, and others.

Leonard Cohen, “Suzanne”
Judy Collins’ cover of “Suzanne”, 1967

It has been covered by countless artists. Here’s a recent take by Peter Gabriel:

“Suzanne,” covered by Peter Gabriel

I think what struck me upon my first listen was the poetry of the lyrics, the kind of hypnotic, lingering way that the melody lines weave through the chord progression. It was like the music was bowing down in reverence to the words. The song billows with atmosphere and tangible imagery and wisdom:

There are heroes in the seaweed, there are children in the morning
They are leaning out for love and they will lean that way forever
While Suzanne holds the mirror

from “Suzanne”, last verse

How could a pensive suburban teen NOT be impressed at that? I felt like I was discovering a new bohemian world distinct and apart from my own, where truths could be told by following an artistic vision.

I think I’ll try to arrange a cover of this one soon. If something decent comes out, I’ll post it.

podcast episode 2: “walking home from school”

creative writing, fiction, music, podcast, spoken word, Uncategorized


eschorama podcast episode 2
Monologue script “Walking Home from School” written by Jim Esch

“The Snow Queen: story 1” from Hans Christian Anderson’s Faerie Tales, published by Educator Classics


“Haunting Thoughts – Sallapam” by Jyotsna Srikanth

Indigo Girls: “Dead Man’s Hill”

“Duet for Ghosts” by Ed Harcourt

“Des pas sure la neige” Claude Debussy, performed by Daniel Barenboim

Dead Man Winter: “I Remember This Place Being Bigger”

“Snowy Walk home from Worrall School” by Jim Esch

“I Forgive it All” by Mudcrutch

Music from the Free Music Archive (licensed under the Creative Commons attribution license)

“Walking Shoes” by Blue Dot Sessions:…/Walking_Shoes

“Walking the Wall” by PC III…lking_The_Wall

“Walking Down the Street” by Borrtex…own_the_Street

podcast episode 1, “public domain”

literature, music, podcast, spoken word, Uncategorized, writing

First installment of my new freeform radio podcast, featuring poems now in the public domain as of January 2019, including “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” by Robert Frost and a set of poems by Wallace Stevens: “Tea at the Palaz of Hoon”, “The Snowman”, “Sunday Morning”, “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. Music featured includes “Russian Snow Camo” by Drake Stafford, “Snow Drop” by Kevin MacLeod, “Snow Ticket” by P C III, “Little Man” by Sonny and Cher, “The Sighful Branches” by Axletree, “Snowmen” by Kai Engel, “String Society” by Jim Esch, “Judgment” by Sister Mary Nelson, “Snowfall” by Steinbruchel

Russian Snow Camo by Drake Stafford is licensed under a Attribution License.
Snow Drop by Kevin MacLeod is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.
Snowfall by Steinbruchel is licensed under a Attribution 3.0 United States License.
The Sighful Branches by Axletree is licensed under a Attribution License.
Snow Ticket by P C III is licensed under a Attribution License.
Based on a work at
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at or contact artist via email.
Snowmen by Kai Engel is licensed under a Attribution License.

Some favorite tracks from 2018

music, Uncategorized

I like to use Spotify as a music discovery medium. Its algorithms are pretty good at the suggestion game. I tend to keep playlists by season: one for winter, spring, summer, fall. Then I cull those lists for an annual playlist of tunes that made the best impression on me. It’s fun. For what it’s worth, here’s my 2018 sampler:

Tom Stoppard radio play: Darkside

literature, music

Check out this 2013 Tom Stoppard radio play inspired by Pink Floyd’s Darkside of the Moon. Full of philosophical thought experiments, it uses the album as a soundtrack.

<p><a href=”″>Darkside</a&gt; from <a href=””>Adrian Amaral</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>