“Turns Toward Dawn” (Studio Version)

“Turns Toward Dawn” — Studio Version. Recorded (along with five other songs) on Cooper Knutson’s last day, serving as the main character, Winston Greene, in our ongoing Eden in Babylon workshop. Cooper Knutson and Keva Shull, vocals. Andy Pope, piano. Sound design by Liam Robert Marchant. I am at this stage nothing but proud of everyone involved. The world has yet to hear a better “Turns Toward Dawn” than this.

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Don’t Fear the Reaper

It was late one afternoon in the year 2012 as I departed from Ohlone Park, where I had been sleeping all day in the sun.  As I walked slowly into town, I had felt a kind of pathos that I related, not specifically to my homeless condition, but to my overall position on the planet.

“I really am not meant for this world,” I told myself.  “Who am I trying to fool?”

At that thought, a very slow strain of song began to well up inside me.   Very low notes, in a minor key, sung very slowly.   I remember likening the strain to a dirge — to music that might accompany a funeral.   

I must have appeared to be either very pensive or very downtrodden.   I recall a woman with dark hair stopping to look at me.  She gestured toward me as though to ask me if I needed help, or if I wanted to talk.  But I only looked at her and smiled — and kept on going.

The theme developed into eight measures of true melancholy and darkness.  I couldn’t get the music of my mind.   Then, as I entered onto Shattuck Avenue, I ran into my friends Jerome and D’Angelo — two very large African-American men with whom I was camping out at the time.  (We were sleeping in a vacant lot, and I felt their presence often protected me, as I sometimes stayed up working on my laptop throughout the night.)

“Jerome!” I cried.  “D’Angelo — I’ve got this song in me.  It’s deep.  I’m not quite sure where it came from.”

“Can we hear it?” asked Jerome.

“Of course,” I replied.  “But let’s seek a place in private.”

The three of us then walked to the Redwoods, where we stood beneath the tall trees during the setting sun.  No one was within sight, as I slowly sang the eerie melody.  I sang four measures slowly, then paused.  I then sang the same four measures again, getting even slower at the end.

Their reactions are unforgettable to this day.

D’Angelo looked aghast, almost shocked — almost terrified.

“You better take that song right back where it came from!”  He cried.  “That is dark – it’s a song of death!  I believe it is evil!”

“No, no,” Jerome, a brilliant writer, was quick to disagree.  “Dark is good.  Andy should keep that passage – and expand upon it.”

I recall watching D’Angelo look over to his best friend Jerome silently.  Of course, anyone who knows me knows already that I took Jerome’s advice.

I walked slowly about the city of Berkeley that evening.  I walked in dark corridors, in quiet places where people were not gathered.  By the end of the night, I had the A Part, and the B Part, and a little bridge.

I also has a Dell laptop in those days, with Finale software installed.  So it wasn’t long before I came up with the saxophone solo, the wooden clarinet, the harp, and other instruments.  It was at first wooden and pastoral, then brassy and urban.  I remember going over to this guy Lorenzo’s apartment with it – I remember playing the fully sequenced version below for a homeless journalist we called James the Greater.

It was on that night that the Urban Elegy was born.

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Take Two

Just a brief note to whom it may concern. We did a second take of my song “Secrets” with better sound equipment. I went ahead and replaced it on the previous post. But this is all just a tease because we’re posting a video tomorrow at 6pm PST. It’s a work-in-progress and something of a sidetrack. But I’m fairly sure it will have progressed a bit further by then. Stay tuned.

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Secrets

I don’t have a piano piece for you tonight, or any clips from our current workshop. However, a stroll down memory lane unearthed this studio recording of my song “Secrets” as performed by people involved in a workshop of my previous musical, The Burden of Eden, in June of 2006. You’ll have to click twice to get full credits from my SoundCloud.  But I will say that the 18 year old woman named Lauren Mack who sang this solo learned it in San Jose while listening to the musicians from Marin County playing it on an mp3.   She then arrived in Berkeley and recorded this fairly dazzling rendition in a single take.  

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Vocal Score

Finished this last night. It’s the third draft of the vocal score to my musical. Music, lyrics, and vocal arrangement.  Maybe you just heard that song “Daylight?” Here’s a screenshot:
And here’s what a considerably more complex page looks like: Capture You may not read music, but there are plenty of words involved, too!  If if you feel like checking it out, you can always click on the link with the title below.   This way you get the whole 90 pages of it:

EDEN IN BABYLON VOCAL SCORE

Hm, it just crossed my mind that maybe you do read music.   You probably even know how to write it.  In that case, don’t judge me too harshly for my many peccadilloes.   I’d rather have you help me score all this stuff out, because believe me, getting all those little black dots in the right places with Finale software can be a real pain in the you-know-what.

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Awake the Dawn

The team thought it would be a good idea for me to record a bunch of piano-only clips of the songs in the score to my musical EDEN IN BABYLON. This one was done on the famous Green Piano in Rm. 33 (of which I’m certain word must have reached your ears).  The Green Piano is an aging workhorse clunker that’s just perfect for the boom-chuck of musical theatre. And anyway, I read my piece “Awake the Dawn” off of my vocal score, and this is the first time I’ve played the tome from start to finish without missing a beat. A little touch of Edvard Grieg at the end, and we’re in business! Enjoy.

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Nevermore

Interesting version of my age-old song “The Age of Nevermore.” Not sure about the church environment. This kind of music seems out of place. I do like the tone on that piano, though. It’s almost a hundred years old.

Weird how I still look fat even though I’ve lost 15 pounds from running. It must be my “piano posture,” but let’s face it — that’s not going to change. I look thin as soon as I stand up again. :(

Anyway, nice funky version of the tune, I was reading it off of my vocal score for a rehearsal tape. I pretty much want to abandon the Finale orchestrations and just put a five-piece band together — if and when, if you know what I mean.

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Evolution of a Song: Part One

I often proclaim — not without pride — that I wrote most of the music to Eden in Babylon in my head, without a musical instrument, without music paper, and without music notation software.   While this statement is true, it is not true of the entire score.

There are two songs in this show that were actually written a long time ago — in 1971 and 1982 respectively.   They had different titles and different lyrics, but the same music.   Also, half of one song was written in 1984, and 1/4 of another song was also written in that period, around about 1980.   Otherwise, all the songs were written between 2010 and 2016, when I was homeless in the San Francisco Bay Area.

These older songs were obviously written by a much younger man.   So it might be interesting to explore how they evolved and found a place in Eden in Babylon.

One of the songs is “Midnight Screams.”  This song has had three different names.  First it was “Child of No Emotion.” This was the first ballad in a rock opera I wrote in 1971, called Euphoria.  

Ah, how I remember Christmas of 1971.   I came home from U.C. Davis, my brother Steve was there, I sat down at the Wurlitzer spinet on which I learned how to play piano as a little boy, and promptly played the first five songs in Euphoria.

I remember after the fifth song, “Child of No Emotion,” Steve smiled, and in an uncharacteristic departure from his usual inscrutability, I heard the words:  “I love you.”

I don’t recall having reciprocated his expression. I have always loved him, of course, but I was so self-absorbed at the time, I believe the next words I said were:

“How does Euphoria compare to Jesus Christ Superstar?” (This being 1971, the famous rock opera from England was making a big splash in the States.)

“So far,” said my admiring younger brother, “it’s better!”

I’m inwardly laughing, because I happen to think Jesus Christ Superstar is the closest a rock opera has ever come to replicating a true classical opera.   I hold it to be a masterpiece.   But back in the Day, I remember my brother and I, in our youthful arrogance, deciding we were “done” with Jesus Christ Superstar.  He had learned the entire score on his bass, and I had learned it on the piano.  We had played the score so many times together, that one day the two of us ran out in the middle of the street and stomped the two-album set — and we’re talking vinyl — to pieces.

Ah, the fond memories of misspent youth!   

I might contact Steve later on tonight because he’s really good at keeping family mementos, and it’s very likely that the Euphoria libretto is among them.   I can’t remember the last time I saw the text.  Knowing me, I probably lost it in some storage unit somewhere along the line.   Unlike Steve, I’m a minimalist.   (That’s a positive way of framing the fact that I’m very bad at hanging onto things — and very good at being able to hit the road at a moment’s notice.)

While I don’t remember many of the lyrics to “Child of No Emotion,” I do remember that the title figures on the fourth line of each verse, where the words “where the wind is howling” and “desperately prowling” are found in the present-day lyrics of “Midnight Screams.”  

I’ll look for the libretto.   Meanwhile, stay tuned for a sequel.  I forgot all about “Child of No Emotion” until I decided to write an opera in the year 2009.   In 2010, I was fortunate enough to have landed an under-the-table gig in a sleazy hotel on MacArthur Blvd, which is when I dredged up the Child and decided it was now a song with new lyrics, called “Cloaks of Art.”

There’s a story around that one that’s just a wee bit more colorful than a tale of two whippersnappers ripping an old vinyl album to bits.    

TO BE CONTINUED

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The Very Same World

I mentioned I’ve been working on putting together the “interactive score” to my musical Eden in Babylon.   Well, here’s the third number – it’s called “The Very Same World.”  I placed the lyrics below.

Andy Pope · The Very Same World

This must be the day
That the sages always say
Will emerge upon humanity in stages –
Something in the air
Has not one thing to compare
With the air of every other day till now.
Now must be the time
Some call supreme, some call sublime,
Approaching the apex of the ages,
The day when each and every one of us is in our prime,
The combined effect
May well redirect the world.

The Very Same World
That was for centuries
Riddled with travesties,
Hatred and war
Will by and by be
What she was meant to be,
Wholly, authentically
Healed at the core.
Her banners unfurled,
For all the earth to see
Let us give birth to the
World we adore.

This must be the start
Of an Era of the Heart,
Of a full and perfected new creation
All the saints in sight
Will in harmony alight
Upon a new and unexpected place of song
Thus will we ensure
That the faultless and the pure
Will stand fast in the face of violation
We will be strong when we are tested, and we will endure
When the trumpet sounds
And the scourge abounds
Let the clarion
Ring its call upon the world:

The Very Same World
Engulfed in tragedy
Will now see Majesty
Stand at her door.
The Very Same world
That had been torn apart
Will show her golden heart:
Let her heart pour
All over the world
And put an end to shame:
That world will bear the name:
World Beyond War.
That world will bear the name:
World Beyond War.

© 2019 by Andy Pope

 

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