Labor of Love

In case anyone’s wondered, I’m still in the land of the living, and I have not yet dropped off the face of the planet.  I realized earlier today that it’s been nine days since I’ve posted.   I was planning to delay this post until I had completed the piano-vocal score to the third musical number in Eden in Babylon, the song called The Very Same World.  But then I realized that even the completion of that score will only reflect a far greater pleasure — one that has already made itself manifest in my experience, and quite unexpectedly, at that.

Remember how I said I wasn’t looking forward to having to create an entire piano-vocal score for a musical so huge?  I alluded to the tedious ardor of having to put The Burden of Eden together nine years ago, and not having attempted a score of that magnitude since.  But to my pleasant surprise, I have found that I am actually enjoying the process of creating this score.  I’ve been working on “Same World” since Monday, and I honestly believe I will have it finished tomorrow, which is Friday.  (Or later on today, to be more accurate, since I am up after one in the morning as we speak.)

Steinway-Model-D-Grand-Piano-52626-Brazilian-Rosewood-1I think part of the difference lies in the software I’m using now, as opposed to back then.  In those days I only had a general midi replica of a piano sound.  Now I’m using a sampled Steinway grand.  Believe me, it makes a huge difference.  I’m also undergoing the intriguing challenge of trying to create a piano part the way that I myself would play these tunes on the piano.  This challenge is made even more challenging by the fact that I have never played any of these songs on the piano.  I don’t own a piano; and I wrote them, like I write all my music, “in my head.”

But hearing the sound of that Steinway, I’m eager to at least try to play them on the church piano, which is a Baldwin grand.  Once I have the music written out, it will be much easier to do so.  All I’ll have to do is change hats and read it – as though it were somebody else’s music, and not my own.  I honestly think this process will fascinate me enough, that the tedium I’d earlier dreaded will no longer be a legitimate threat.  More likely, this current fascination will morph into a gigantic labor of love.

So, I’m in the final formatting stages of “Same World” tonight.  Our church secretary said I could sent the pdf file to her, and she would print it out for me in the morning.  Then I’m going to examine the hard copy, pencil in any adjustments, and print out a final version.   My goal is to have both “Same World” and Heart Song scored by next Friday, so I can take them down to the Open Mike, where I just might meet some interested singers for the project.

Many other nice things have been happening lately, and my goal to get this musical produced seems a bit more attainable now.   The plans I’m devising to go about this are a bit less vague and a bit more fully baked than they were the last time you saw me.  But I’ll save the details for a near-future entry.  I want to take another look at the “Same World” score before I ponder the unappealing notion known as “sleep.”  I’ve long been of the camp that contends something like sleep, in situations like these, to be for the faint of heart.   Food also seems to be quite unnecessary.   My theory, as expressed in this post, is this:

What physical nutrition I lack is made up for in the spiritual nutrition with which this music is feeding my soul.

No wonder they bipolarized me!  But would I have it any other way?  Probably not.   They can bipolarize me till the cows come home.  When I take care of my soul, the rest of me takes care of itself.

Patience and Prodigy

Practical realities have often managed to elude me, especially when I find myself feeling pressured or in haste.  I’d rather do the thing immediately and do it poorly, just to get it out of the way, than exercise the patience and prodigy required to do it later — after sufficient preparation — and do it well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACase in point.   I mentioned in this entry that I’d realized the next logical step in the process of preparing my musical for production.   So,  I boldly walked into the School of Music to inquire randomly as to the availability of certain singers who would learn some of my music and assist me in recording a demo that I can present to prospective producers.

I carried no score with me.  I didn’t even have a printed out copy of my script.  I brought no items with me that could prove myself in any sense.  Fortunately for me, it turned out to be Spring Break, and nobody was in the building.  The office was closed and dark.  I prepared myself to leave, when unexpectedly a man stepped out of the dark office.

Introducing and explaining myself briefly, I found the man to be very cordial.  He pointed me to the particular professor to whom I should address my inquiry.   I looked into the professor’s credits, was mildly intimidated, took note of his office hours, and determined I would return when school was in session.

Good thing I didn’t.  It suddenly just struck me – wouldn’t it be far better if I showed up with a hard copy of the script and at least three of the songs printed out?  That would show him not only that I’m serious, but he’d have a chance to check out the manner in which the piano-vocal score had been prepared.   He’d realize at that moment that I know what I’m doing – at least in terms of creating a legible, functional musical score is concerned.  So that would help, right there.  Anybody can say they wrote a musical.   To show up with neatly written music for the singers to sing would work much more to my advantage.

What I’m hoping is that some students needing a Senior Project might eagerly learn my music for a grade.   This was in fact suggested in a blogger’s comment a while back.   It’s crossed my mind since then that singing students in search of a good grade might actually do an even better job than more-or-less mercenary professional singers I might have hired who would be more likely to do it just for money.   While it is totally against my nature to present myself as someone whose music might be worth a non-paid rehearsal or two, I think that to carry the actual music with me will no doubt work in my favor.

So – time to score about three songs.  That’s about the minimum, I think, to demonstrate the score.   If they ask where the rest of the score is, I can tell them I’ll come up with it if I know for sure they’re interested.   Who knows?   Maybe I could get a mild commission to notate the rest of the score.   After all, it’s no small task.   The last time I wrote a musical score without commission, it’s done nothing but sit on my shelf for the past ten years.   Check it out:

The Burden of Eden

(Complete Musical Score)
Copyright © 2008 by Andrew Michael Pope
All Rights Reserved 

Whether you know much about music or not, anybody can see that it obviously took a bit of effort to produce that 242-page piano-vocal score.   It’s not the kind of task I’m eager to repeat unless there’s a good reason for going about it.    In fact, even trying to score three of those numbers could throw me back into serious isolation.   I don’t want to go there.  

Well – the wheels still spin.   Necessity is the mother of invention.   Perhaps there is an easier, softer way . . .

Eden in Babylon: Complete Script

I’m at the cafe near my apartment with three other members of my Writers’ Guild. We meet here every Saturday morning at ten for an “Edit & Write-In” that lasts till one o’clock. Although conceptually this is somewhat akin to the Write City group in which I participated for a while in San Francisco, it actually is a bit looser than that.  At Write City, we would all write non-stop for a prescribed period of time without discussion of any sort.  Total silence wasn’t just a concept — it was a mandate.  But here, we’ll stop and talk with each other sometimes.  In fact, possibly even too often.   For example, it was just recently suggested quite audibly by one of the members here, for example, that I stop talking in order to let him get his work done.  Since that moment, approximately fifteen minutes ago, everyone has been completely silent,  according to concept.  Before that moment, it seemed to me anyway that we were all about talking — though perhaps I was the main culprit.

In any case, I’m here on a mission.  As reported earlier, I decided that I would refrain from looking at my script for two weeks.  Those two weeks being up today, I have been scouring the Eden in Babylon script  to see where obvious edits need to be done, as well as note any major irks.

secret-to-editingI am irked by the Big Mac reference in the “I Am Buddha” monologue, which I find odious. I am also irked by the effusive God-talk in the Winston/James confrontation. There’s a major typo on p.84 where I forgot to eliminate the Four Kids and redistribute their lines among the remaining Eight Kids, and (possibly worst of all) there is no front quotation mark to the Rousseau Quote at the beginning of the script, nor does the quote necessarily apply to the currently completed script the way that it might have applied to my vision of it in 2012, when the quote was first associated with it. Maybe there should be another quote, or no quote. Or maybe I should dedicate the play to a certain person – I can think who probably would warrant the dedication by now —  or have no dedication, or no quote –  or some combination of the foregoing.

Whatever the case, I’ll begin making the pertinent changes today and readjust them on the shared link.  However, since I don’t want to water down the “I Am Buddha” monologue, nor the Winston/James confrontation for that matter, I won’t bother to change them if I can’t think of a way to assuage my irk without doing so.  But I can at least promise technical fix-its, insofar as I notice them. Perhaps you will notice others. Anyway, here it is:

Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope.

All Rights Reserved

Otherwise, I still don’t really feel like putting much energy into further refining or polishing this thing. Even though it’s a first draft, it’s taken me so long to come up with it, considering all the weird obstacles, blocks, etc. that have taken place in the past five years, it just seems sort of ridiculous to plow into further editing right now. Maybe not “ridiculous” – but at least self-defeating on a larger level in life. If I were to dive wholeheartedly into the refiner’s fire with this thing, I’d probably isolate myself so hugely, it would defeat the more primary purpose of getting this show on the road. The more I can involve other people in my efforts, from this day forward, the more chance I stand of gaining not only external support, but external perspective. What is right and wrong with this show will more likely be determined in some future read-through, staged reading, or work-in-progress production, than they will in the solitude of my messy room, where I will sit for hours on end scratching my head.  You get out into the real world, you start to get a director involved, and Actors — and the proof is in the pudding.

The Wheels Are Spinning

After church yesterday morning, I spoke with my pastor briefly. He said he had listened to some of the Eden in Babylon score as posted on this page. Anticipating his objection, I waited for him to elaborate. He phrased it positively when he did, and I’m also certain that he would never have characterized his observation as an “objection.”  It’s just that I’ve heard it all too often before, so I tend to be on guard.  And for good reason – for he basically said what everybody else always says: that he would like to hear it all put together – meaning the singing as well as the instrumentals.

That’s a friendly way of saying that it’s hard to tell from hearing the music alone just how the words are supposed to fit in. People look at lyrics I’ve posted; they listen to the music I’ve posted; and they think “OK – these words are supposed to match up with this music? How, exactly?” It really does put a damper on people’s ability to appreciate what I’m about. I can deny that obvious fact no longer.

So – a logical next move would be round up some singers and put them over the instrumental tracks. But who are these singers?  It is one thing for me proclaim: “I will round them up.”  But what does this mean, precisely?  Round them up – from where?  From whom?  Will they sing for free? The pastor suggested I might be able to use the church facilities, meaning the sound board, the mixer, and the microphones. He hinted at my even using members of the Choir, and I’ll admit there are some awfully decent voices there. But can they handle my style?   Well, perhaps.  But will they truly vibrate with the groove?  Doubtful.  There’s a certain type of worldly, non-churchy vibration in the music itself that lends itself to something a bit down-and-dirty at times.   It’s kind of the pastor to have offered, but it’s also uncomfortably recalling how I could easily find the right singers and pay them what they’re worth – if only I had the money.

But since I don’t, it strikes me that the School of Music might be a more likely place to find competent singers who can sing in the style of my characters and who would enjoy learning this music and recording it with me – possibly even to the point of doing so for free. About paying them, I can sort of “feel it out” when I talk with them, and definitely seek to make an impression on an academic musical level, so that they’ll recognize me as a composer-theoretician, and we can all mutually vibrate on that level as amiably as is to be expected.  Money can be brought up at around about that point.

Also, to sort of wade gently into the unknown waters here, this “rounding up effort” can be realistically restricted to a small number of “character singers” at first. I need Winston, Benzo, Mortalis, and Taura – that’s four.  Throw in a fifth woman for other female parts, and me doing the other male parts, and we have ourselves a pretty decent blend. So that would be five people to concern myself with having to pay, five people with whom I would have concerned myself with “rounding up” to begin with.  Whether the field I tap is the School of Music or anywhere else, if it’s a matter of advertising, then I’ll need to word my advertisements in a compelling manner, as well as cultivate an appealing approach, in general.

singers-in-rehearsalI’ll need a legible score, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I can extract parts from my Finale files. It will only be a problem if I become perfectionist about it, and allow it to enclose me back into isolation. This I can avoid by churning out one number at a time, while in the process of slowly gleaning singers. If we’re only talking about a handful of singers besides myself, whom we may assume will need to be very decent musicians and/or musical theatre people who have a real, built-in reverence for the kind of prodigious accomplishment to be found in the flagrant manifestation of remarkable musical score; then these being the caliber of people whom I seek probably wouldn’t mind working for free at this stage. It’s also possible that maybe I can simultaneously seek some small measure of financial support, so that they won’t have to render their services for absolutely nothing.

The wheels are spinning, anyway. I have a complete script now, so it doesn’t make much sense that the next phase of the project would entail too much more isolation. I ought to be able to use the fact of the completed script to encourage further human involvement, such as by holding a reading. But I don’t want to just focus on that, at the expense of connecting the musical dots, because I feel that to do so is a higher priority.  Although it’s true that I’ve now completed a libretto, I don’t even have a full vocal-score to present to singers or to a musical director, nor do I have (especially) samples of the music including the singing as well as the instrumental accompaniment, on which anyone can clearly hear what the score is all about.  So despite that I’ve completed a script full of text, I still don’t have a completed package.  It’s still not quite marketable.

It does seem, however, that to prepare the next piece of the package will need to involve about five other people, to do it decently, by whom I mean singers, who can sing the different character parts, along with myself, and I can maybe just accompany all the songs on the piano, if that’s the easiest way for them to learn the music, and for me to put it across.  After all, it’s what I’ve been doing all my life – so I might as well  go the extra mile here.  As to exactly where to find these other comrades of the Arts, this is another story.  But I am firmly affixed that this is the next step.   

The End

This post will be very brief.

As most of you know, I have been working on a musical play, off and on, for about five years.   This included a writer’s block of three years that was finally broken over Thanksgiving dinner last year.  I picked it up again on Thanksgiving night.

As of 11:15am this morning, I have finally put the words THE END at the bottom of my  document.   Eden in Babylon is complete — book, music, and lyrics — 132 pages in standard script format for a musical play.

Please fill out the contact form on this website if you would like a copy of the script, and we’ll see what we can do.  No doubt changes will be made, being as this is an initial draft.  I will say, however, that the satisfaction I am feeling at this moment far exceeds any previous form of satisfaction I have hitherto been known to feel.

Special thanks to Mary Donohoe and to all the members of the Palouse Writer’s Guild for their support — and to all of you, I offer a very special thank you, on this day.

Home Stretch

I’m on the home stretch.   It’s one-thirty in the morning here in Cascadia, yet the idea of stopping to sleep borders on absurdity.  I just reached the bottom of p127 of a show that I had estimated would run 135 pages in standard script format for a musical play.  I’ve been writing for so long that it’s difficult to conceive of slowing down and doing some light reading before bedtime, but I know it’s the right thing to do.

chi-the-homestretch-trailer-20140911I did go back after the last post and remove the four unnamed Kids from the cast as well as the entire Mainstream Chorus Line, whose players were doubled from other parts.  This significantly reduces the concentration of actors who will need to be onstage at any given time, although it only reduces the cast size from 27 to 23.  That’s probably about right, because I definitely need for this to have the feel of a large cast traditional musical without being too unwieldy.

After that, there was about a day and a half when I couldn’t put pen to paper, but since about 4pm Tuesday afternoon I’ve been working on the final Scene incessantly when I haven’t been hassled by sudden personal problems of almost maddening proportions.  I did succeed in filling out my application for the new position and submitting it to the pertinent people.   In fact, all aspects of life pertaining to work and to my church have been proceeding very well, but just about every other aspect of life is in such disarray right now, I truly fear that when I finally write the words THE END at the bottom of this document, I will not only find myself completely depressed, but possibly even collapse from utter exhaustion, after which I may find myself in a coma for weeks to come.

Anyway, that’s the buzz if you wanna know what’s happening.  This blog post was my wind-down.  Time to catch some sleep.