Taking Requests

I began making a podcast yesterday morning when I was in a depressed state. Actually, I’m not supposed to use the word “depressed” in this context (I am told) so as not to confuse my state with that of someone who suffers from Major Depression, which is a serious mental health condition. I’m supposed to say I was “despairing” — and anyway, that’s more accurate.

I disliked the podcast at the end of the day because my despair was interfering with the point I was trying to get across. I was going to just junk it, but when I got up this morning and started listening to it, I actually became jazzed. (For those unfamiliar with the terminology, “jazz” is the opposite of “despair.”)

So I’m touching it up a bit. This could take several hours. But when I submit it (at some point today) it will seem as though I think today is Thursday. Please overlook that disparity. Today is Friday (I think.)

I’m ceasing to make much sense, so I’ll close. But first I want to ask if anyone has any requests, and I’ll try to play one of them on the piano. I tried yesterday but couldn’t think of any songs I could particularly get behind. So I’m taking requests.

Uh – please do not request “The Piano Man” by Billy Joel. It’s one of several songs I will refuse to play. You’ll find out what some of the others are as you request them.

All that said, request away.

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Summer Musical Workshop

This was originally intended for my YouTube channel in video form. I reduced it to an audio cast and placed it here, as a little explanation and promo for my demo. Still in the process of gathering funds, still need another $450 before I can call it quits.   It’s less than four minutes long and should be informative.  Hope you like it.

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Re: Expect the Best

“Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth that ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no one could have dreamed would have come their way.  Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”  

          –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

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Keva Singing

Just want to post these, that we did during afternoon rehearsal.   Keva was singing “Reaching for Your Hand” fairly unrehearsed, reading the words and music from her smartphone.    She and I have done “Daylight” before, but we both wanted to do it over again — and I’m glad we did.   Both songs are from original musicals of mine.    Keva Shull does an outstanding job with them, imho — and I think you’ll agree.

“Reaching for Your Hand” from The Burden of Eden

“Daylight” from Eden in Babylon

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Re: Everything Must Change

I briefly posted my version of “Everything Must Change” yesterday, prior to promptly removing it from the public eye upon recognition of bloopers too big to bear widespread disclosure.  

Specifically, I kept forgetting during my improv around the standard changes to enter into the repeated modulating passage that precedes the signature hook.  Anyone who knew the correct changes could easily raise their voice in justifiable objection.   So I had to remove the rendition before any further foreseen damage could be effected.

I’m headed up to the church at this moment, confident in my capacity to create a conducive restoration of the formerly misshapen theme.  So convinced am I in my competence to thereof, that I even have dared to announce it beforehand, though one knows not what the future brings.

The piece had been on my mind for two reasons.  One is that it seems fitting in this time of temporal transition, with Good Friday representing the power of Christ’s sacrificial love, wherein there is a death to the flesh in its formerly all-inclusive nature, to be followed by a promised rebirth of a far more transcendent form of life.   “Everything Must Change” can be said to embody this theme, in its core essence.

A second reason is that its chord progression resembles that of another piece that had crossed my mind recently; and that, in fact, I had already performed on a video recording.  “All in Love is Fair” is a song by Stevie Wonder that was popularized in roughly the same era as “Everything Must Change.”  Their chord progressions are similar though not identical.  My mind, while improvising around the progression to “Everything Must Change,” kept forgetting which tune it was that I was supposed to be embellishing.  Many odd short-circuitries of mortal mental prowess transpired.  The upshot was a failure to honor the essence of either piece.   A reconstruction of said construction is therefore in order.

That’s about it!  I’d hesitated to offer what might be interpreted as a mere disclaimer — but then I had a hunch that the explanatory information might be useful to someone, on some level.  I’ll be back within a few hours.    

Tuesday Tuneup 101

Q. Where are you coming from?

A. To be honest with you, it varies from one moment to the next.   Sometimes I’m coming from a place of peace and love toward all humanity.   At other times, I’m coming from anger.

Q. Anger?

A. Well – I like to call it “righteous indignation.”

Q. Are you indignant at the moment?

A. No, not really.

Q. Are you coming from a place of peace and love toward all humanity?

A. Well, I wouldn’t say all humanity —

Q. Then where are you coming from at this moment?

Pause.

A. A very pensive place.  A place of thinking things over.

Q. Why is that?

A. I imploded the other day.  I shut down from stress.  I got to the point where the deadline, however self-imposed, was so much more important than any other thing in life — including my own self-care — that I literally shut down.   I became non-functional.  I imploded.

Q. Did anybody witness the implosion?  Or was it completely internal?

A. Oh, it was seen all right!   I wonder, however, if they knew the extent of it.

Q. Were you trying to hide it?

A. Yes and no.  I didn’t hide the fact that I was upset about something.  But I don’t think I conveyed the full extent of the inner implosion.

Q. Why not?

A. It would have been rude, ugly, and self-centered.

Q. So you suppressed it?

A. Well, I never exactly expressed it.

Q. What did you express?

A. Oh, some minor peeve that everybody knew I would get over in minute or two.

Q. But what was really going on?

A. Extreme insecurity.   We all implode every now and then — but me personally, I prefer to implode in private.

Q. So you were afraid that they would detect your implosion?

A. Exactly.  As I collapsed inwardly under the stress of pressure and deadline, I began to throw out smokescreens, in an effort to divert attention away from the implosion.

Q. Did it work?

A. I think so.  I think they just thought I was irritated.

Q. What exactly do you mean by “implosion?”

A. Well – it’s hard to define.   This graph, however, may be useful:

implosion

Q. Where did you get that graph?

A. Free Thesaurus.  

Q. To which of those external manifestations did your implosion lead you?

A. What do you mean?

Q. I mean – on the circle there – did you explode?  Did you go off?  Did you collapse?

A. Almost all apply.  But mostly, I think I “broke.”

Q. What did you break?

A. I broke my resolve.   I broke my code.  I broke my standard as to how I am to comport myself among the others.

Q. The others?

A. The other Artists.  The Artists who were, at that moment, in my midst.

Q. What is your code?

A. I could write books about it.

Q. Can you capsulize?

A. I’ll try.

Pause.

A. My code is not to be a people-pleaser.  Not to say or do things because I am trying to get a favorable reaction from one or more of the other Artists.   Obviously, I cannot please everybody.  And in such a small, close-knit group, such measures  — born entirely of personal insecurity — are transparent.

Q. Have you not only told me what your code is not?

A. Can you repeat that, please?

Q. I said: “Have you not only told me what your code is not?”

A. Ah, I see.  I have in fact only told you what I aspire not to do.

Q. But what do you aspire to do instead?

A. I aspire to act according to the standard.

Q. The Moral Standard?

A. Well – that goes without saying.  But it’s not the standard that is most applicable in this context.

Q. What standard is that?

A. The Aesthetic Standard.

Q. Clarify?

A. I believe in an absolute aesthetic standard.   Just as with morality — and in my view, ethics — there is a standard of Beauty for which we all must strive.

Q. How does this apply in the context of the Artists?

A. Because we’re trying to get it just right.  We’re trying to make it as beautiful as we can make it.  And if we fall short, we feel it.  It drags down the energy of the whole room.   When we come closer to it, we feel that too — and it lifts up our hearts.

Q. Wow — so, this people-pleasing of yours, it interferes with the striving for the standard?

A. Of course it does.  People-pleasing is ugly.  The standard is beautiful.  But the gist of this discussion is merely this:

As long as I stay focused on our mutual desire to reach the highest Artistic standard, I will avoid my self-centered desire to make positive impressions on the other Artists.  And then, ironically, I will probably make the best impression I can possibly ever make.   Because it will no longer be I who seeks to impress.  It will be that which I and the other Artists have mutually created.  

It is that final Artistic product that I hope — that we hope — will impress the world.

The Questioner is silent.   

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Tuesday Tuneup 100

Q. Where are you coming from?

A. What do you mean, where am I coming from?

Q. Just what I asked – where are you coming from?

A. Don’t you usually open with a different question?

Q. What do you mean?

A. Don’t you usually ask me: “what’s happening now?” on Tuesday mornings?

Q. Don’t you think it’s time we came up with a different opening question?

A. Come to think of it — now that you mention it – I was getting a little tired of that question.

Q. Why is that?

A. For one thing, I was running out of answers.   

Q. Do you like the new question?

A. Kinda.  I just think that if somebody’s passing by this morning, and they’ve never read one of my Tuesday Tuneups, they’re going to wonder what the heck we’re talking about.

Q. But can’t they just click on one of the three Tuesday Tuneups below and figure it out?

A. Sure — that is, if they care to.   Why should they not just surf off to some blog that makes more sense than this one?

Q. So what if they do?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Why should you care?

A. Good point.   It’s not as though I’m exactly into “collecting followers.”   WordPress tells me I’ve got almost 1000 by now, but I can guarantee you there are probably less than 100 who actually follow.  And I can only think of five or ten to whom this Tuneup will even be appreciable.   And even those people might be bored by now.

Q. Do you want to change the subject?

A. Kinda.

Q. What would you rather talk about?

A. Basically, I want to tell you where I’m coming from.  I never answered your first question in the first place.

Q. Well, where are you coming from?

A. Brain-dead. 

Q. Brain dead?

A. In a daze.

Q. Why’s that?

A. Oh – I busted my butt trying to get all this stuff done by last night.   By the time we had the first joint rehearsal of all the musicians and singers, the band had all their parts written in 4/4 swing and the singers were still working out of the book where the song was in 6/8.  This meant the measure numbers were different in both books.   It stretched the limits of my intellectual faculties trying to keep things moving.

Q. But wasn’t Cody in charge of the singers?

A. Cody was working with the singers in Room 33 using the Green Piano.  It’s a large room and the seven singers could social-distance there.  I was working with the band on the chancel in the sanctuary.  But since only three of the band members showed up, we decided to combine the two for the last half of rehearsal, because 7 + 3 = 10, which is the legal limit for a gathering under the city ordinance.

Q. And how did that go?

A. Well, outside of the conundrum I just tried to describe, it was wonderful.   With what Cody Wendt has done for our singers, combined with what the musicians from the School of Music are doing, I couldn’t be happier.   I hadn’t been sleeping well for stress of deadline and pressure..  But last night I conked out and slept the sweet sleep of the innocent.   Woke up a new man, although —

Q. Although brain-dead?

A. Not anymore!

Q. Why is that?

A. Good coffee.  And I’m going to put it to good use.

Q. How so?

A. You don’t know?  I gotta get those vocal parts into the right time signature!

Q. Aren’t you a bit imbalanced these days?

A. Well – duh!   That’s what happens when you have deadlines.   You let everything else go, you don’t clean the kitchen, you don’t clean the bathroom – you cram as if your life depending on it.

Q. And is this healthy?

A. Not at all.  It’s just modern life.

Q. What do you make of it?

A. In the ideal world, there would never be any deadlines, any pressures at all.  As I just told Lauren Sapala, I would work at my own pace, slowly and steadily, and not release my work until it was absolutely complete.

Q. Isn’t that called perfectionism?

A. Not in my book.  It only becomes perfectionism when you have to rush to meet a deadline.  So you turn in a half-done job, like I did last night, and when you whine about it, people call you a perfectionist.  If there were no deadlines, there would be no perfectionism.

Q. What would there be?

A. There would be a beautiful new world full of relaxed people who have time for each other and who don’t block other people out of their lives only because they have to meet a deadline.  We would all stop running The Marathon Race to Hell.  

The Questioner is silent.  

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Gratitude List 1650

(1) Although I’ve had a very rough week — underslept, brain-dead, irritable — I’ve noticed that I perk up whenever I think of the Kids. Something about the way they’re so into it — it’s inspiring. They make me feel good about myself, and about what I have to offer.

(2) Really happy that Cody has taken over the teaching of the music. I sat in at the end of one of the rehearsals yesterday, and I was very impressed with his work. In fact, I was impressed with all of them. They seemed eager to show me what they’d accomplished. And when they showed me, I was proud.

(3) Stressing over the drum parts, I decided I needed help. So I went over to the School of Music and talked to the jazz professor there, who happens to be a percussionist, to see if maybe a student could help me out for credit. To my amazement, he told me he’d be happy to score the parts himself.

(4) Realizing I really didn’t have time to score all the saxophone parts either, I approached the sax player and proposed that he score the part in exchange for a stipend. He agreed, and that’s one less thing to worry about. Now I have more time to read Ashley Peterson’s blog, for which I am also very grateful. You learn something new there every day.

(5) Managed to squeeze in a new article for the religious site. It’s called “Diverse Not Divisive.” I’m grateful that the journalism hasn’t fallen completely by the wayside, but what I’m really grateful for is that Eden in Babylon is beginning to have the feel of a community project — a collaborative effort. I’ve never known a place like this before in all my life. This town is just what it claims to be. It truly is the Heart of the Arts.

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All the Things I Am

I can explain everything.

Given the difficulty I have getting piano pieces to you guys consistently every Friday, I have decided that each time I go to the church with the Baldwin Grand, I will record three songs instead of just one. That way I’m less likely to slack, because I can just schedule them in advance.

I tried doing both “Desperado” and “All the Things You Are” yesterday.  This was the second time that I attempted to do it all by myself without enlisting the help of a second person to position the iPhone properly on the tripod.

The first time I succeeded, as is evidenced on my YouTube (though not on the version of “The Way We Were” on this blog, which leaves out the first minute or so that reveals me struggling and finally succeeding to get the iPhone onto the tripod.)

Yesterday I did not succeed, although I thought I had.  But when I looked at the video of “Desperado” the iPhone was bouncing up and down in such a way that was so horrible — I just couldn’t give it to you.   (That there was an internal piano teacher rapping me on the knuckles all the way through the performance didn’t help much either.)

As for “All the Things You Are,” I for some reason couldn’t remember two of the chord changes, even though I had just played the tune a week prior with our saxophonist, and played it night after night for nearly nine years during the 90’s at Gulliver’s Restaurant.   I tried it eight times, I believe, before admitting to my internal piano teacher that I would never remember the changes.   (The knuckle rap was less severe after the true confession.)

As far as ADHD, I flushed the new meds down the toilet on the 13th day, after having five bouts of sleep paralysis on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week.   Correlating that the last time I had sleep paralysis of that severity was the last time I took an ADHD medication, I am wondering whether people with sleep disorders should be on ADHD meds.   I’ll talk to the doctor about it.

Finally, since my ADHD is currently at the level where it probably took me four or five minutes to write this reasonably coherent blog post and it will probably take my four of five years to score a drum part using Finale notation software, I’m a bit discouraged about my position and potential in life in general at this time.

However, being as today is the Sabbath I will “keep it holy” by continuing to write the blog posts, essays, and religious news columns that my ADHD empowers me to do with facile — or perhaps this an autism spectrum issue — and cease to belabor the drum parts that my ADHD disables me from producing effectively.

Said ADHD does, by the way, enable me to play long improvisational passages on the piano with ease.  So I can assure you that I’ll get to the piano at some point between now and Thursday, and I hopefully give you “All the Things You Are” — since after all, I just told you All the Things I Am.

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Gratitude List 1649

(1) On the 10th day of my new ADHD medication, I have yet to discern an intended effect.   What I’m grateful for, however, is that I haven’t had any side effects either.

(2) A couple fine conversations with my pastor yesterday reminded me of what an extraordinarily gentle and centered fellow he is.  I would say, “Christ-centered.”  I’ve really never met anyone quite like him, and I am grateful for his influence on my life.

(3) After a very sedentary month during which I gained a few pounds, I’ve finally started jogging and doing my push-ups again.   I feel better already.   Grateful for the blessing that regular exercise has been throughout my life.  Push-ups in particular are highly underrated.

(4) Being a person who has a hard time establishing a regular morning routine, I am grateful to have found a good start.  If I keep my smartphone turned to one of the Psalms, I begin reading the Psalm when I reach for the phone, first thing in the morning.   Then the words of life enter into me before anything else does.  (This morning it was Psalm 19).

(5) The Kids have outdone themselves.  As of last night, it has been decided that I no longer need to attend rehearsals.  They are perfectly capable of proceeding without me.   After all, they’re forty or fifty years younger than me, and not at all scatterbrained.  I’m grateful for the respect they all have for my work — and I’m very very grateful that they care.

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Tuesday Tuneup 95

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Insomnia.

Q. Are you trying to tell me you’ve been up all night?

A. Yes.

Q. But aren’t you an early riser?

A. I pride myself on it. But even early risers are prone to insomnia at times.

Q. At what kinds of times?

A. Oh, you know — times when there’s too much on the mind.

Q. But don’t you have a highly active mind?

A. I do. So what?

Q. Then how can you say that there’s too much on your mind?

A. Are you being a smart-ass?

Q. Why do you ask?

A. Because it’s obviously not the massive bulk of brain activity that has led to the insomnia, it’s the content of the activity — the kinds of things that I’m thinking about.

Q. What kinds of things?

A. Oh – human relationships. I botched up one of them totally, just a few days ago. Somebody who seemed to like me, too. But for all this guy liked me, I still couldn’t make it work.

Q. Well, do you like him?

A. Come to think of it, no I don’t. But that makes me feel guilty, because he likes me. Or — at least he did, before Monday.

Q. What happened Monday?

A. I asked him not to write to me again.

Q. Isn’t that unlike you?

A. Yes. I did it at a moment of exasperation.

Q. What were you exasperated over?

A. His apparent lack of empathy.

Q. But didn’t he like you?

A. Not the same thing as being able to empathize. Hustlers on the streets “liked” me because when I was an easy mark and a pushover. People sometimes like you because you’re supplying something they need. They like you because they succeed at using you. That’s a far cry from empathy.

Q. How do you know he lacked empathy?

A. He’d seen me more than once when I was — well, hurting. His responses were not those of one who could feel or even understand my pain.

Q. What were his responses like?

A. The same as always. He didn’t change at all, when I started to have a hard time. He still just kind of smiled and gave me unsolicited advice, as usual — even though I was shaking, and practically crying. And that’s not right. We’re supposed to flow with people’s ups and downs. Scripture says we’re supposed to “mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice.” My pastor does that really well, as a matter of fact. And he’s genuine. You can just tell that he feels your joy as well as your pain. Even if he hasn’t lived through the kinds of situations you have, he still identifies with — with — the human condition, in all its various shades and colors. He’s rare. But he’s a good example.

Q. Then why not talk with your pastor?

A. Oh, I did! Three times, actually. And he empathized all three times, even though he saw me in three different states of mind, messed up in different ways at different times over the same thing.

Q. What thing?

Pause.

A. That thing is myself. It’s not about that guy who lacked empathy. I could just as well say it was about anyone else on the planet. But it boils down to me. It’s me whom I’m messed up over.

Q. Have you ever tried loving yourself?

A. Oh, please.

Q. Why do you dismiss my question?

A. What in heaven’s name is “love?”

The Questioner is silent.

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Champagne

I think I’ll do it over again. The song, that is.  I’ve been under the weather, hadn’t played for a week actually, was kinda tight. Low key body ache, soar throat, sniffles, low energy. Canceled two rehearsals, one on the morning it was supposed to happen. That’s not like me, and I feel pretty strange about it . . .

Hm, but you know what? I think it’s time for a regular old flu shot. Just because of Covid doesn’t mean other stuff isn’t going around. Anyway, come back tomorrow or Sunday, for more champagne.

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Strange Synchronicities

1. I awoke the other morning after only two hours sleep before a very busy and seemingly important day. Going to the computer to check the time, I watched the clock turn from 5:59:59 to 6:00:00 before my eyes.

2. Knowing it was time to issue a newsletter, that morning, I did so. As I submitted it, the clock turned from 8:59 to 9:00.

3. This week, I wrote a Tuesday Tuneup, knowing I had scheduled the previous day’s gratitude list to post at 7:30am on Monday. As I submitted the Tuneup, I watched the clock turn from 7:29 to 7:30, just as I clicked on “Publish.”

4. In the year 2018, I decided to calculate the first day that I ever slept outdoors, after years of sleeping inside.  The calculations are preserved in this blog post.  It was 11:50 when I finished the post, so I set it at midnight.  The next morning, I looked at the computer clock and realized I had made the discovery exactly fourteen years after I had first slept outdoors.  So I discovered on May 17, 2018 that I first slept outdoors on May 17, 2004.

5. Incidentally, that same year, I was talking with Lauren Sapala about the use of meter in prose.  She mentioned that Neal Cassidy had done this, and I said I also had used it in a piece called The Temple of the Human Race.  Lauren wrote back asking me if I knew that it was the same day as the date on the piece, or if I had changed the date.   I had not changed the date – for why would I have?  It turned out I had written the piece on March 23, 2007, and sent it to her on March 23, 2018.

6. Finally, feeling full of synchronicity, I decided to count how many days it was that I was homeless.  I first became homeless on May 17, 2004, as I have told you.   I got down on my knees outside Sequoia Station and screamed at God to put an end to twelve years of homelessness on July 17, 2016 – as I have told you — and knew somehow that my homelessness was over – that the prayer was valid, and the needed action would be revealed.  Interesting that it was the 17th of each month.   Counting the days between the two dates (it can be done!) it turned out to be 4,444 days.

7. And to make a nice number seven, I must ask the question: “What does it all mean?”

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Tuesday Tuneup 88

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Nothing.

Q. Nothing?

A. Nothing.

Q. But isn’t that impossible?

A. What do you mean?

Q. Aren’t many things always happening, all around us?

A. You’ve got a point there. But there’s nothing happening inside me.

Q. No feelings?

A. None.

Q. Numb?

A. Numb.

Q. How long have you been this way?

A. I’m not sure.

Q. What made you this way?

A. A lifetime of overreacting to each and every vicissitude.

Q. Vicissitude?

A. Vicissitude.

Q. What does “vicissitude” mean?

Vicissitude: Today's Vocabulary word, an a2z post - In ...

Q. Is that your answer?

A. Yes.

Q. So you are no longer overreacting to every vicissitude?

A. Correct. I no longer react. I merely observe and absorb.

Q. How long do you think this will last?

A. Who knows?

Q. Are you happy to be numb?

A. Neither happy nor sad. I experience no reaction whatever to my numbness.

Q. Empty?

A. Empty.

Q. Done?

A. Finished.

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 87

Hey I wrote this on Sunday night, at the end of a classically bad day during which, at one point, I threatened to leave WordPress out of total annoyance with the new editor, combined with a seeming inability to return to the old editor. I’ve revised my position, though I am just as annoyed. I’ll continue to post as I’m able. 

So — I permitted my feelings on Sunday night to result in this tune-up, which turned out to be a positive introspective exercise.  Hope you can relate (at least some of the time).

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Pain.

Q. Physical pain?

A. No. The other kind of pain.

Q. Mental?

A. Or emotional. Or spiritual, or existential. You know the pain I mean.

Q. Existential?

A. Best describes it, yes.

Q. Elaborate?

A. Emptiness.

Q. Who can fill that void?

A. You know the answer to that. Only God can feel the void. But God is —

Q. Intangible?

A. Bingo.

Q. Doesn’t God work through people?

A. That’s part of the problem. There aren’t any people around to work through.

Q. There aren’t?

A. You’re kinda boring tonight, do you know that?

Q. Boring, like — empty?

A. Yes.

Q. But isn’t that merely a reflection of your own internal emptiness?

A. I suppose it could be. Boredom, emptiness, loneliness — they’re all kinda connected.

Q. Are you lonely?

A. Right now, yes. Usually, no. It’s because of stuff that happened — bad stuff — stuff I wish I didn’t have to face or process —

Q. And if she were here, you wouldn’t have to?

A. I see what you’re driving at. If she were here, and I were in this mood, she would just become a sounding board. It would dehumanize her. I’d be using her. That would be lousy. You’re right — I’m best off alone. That way I won’t subject anyone to myself.

Q. But doesn’t she love you?

A. I believe she does, yes. But she loves the right things about me. That’s why I love her. Not many people have ever come along that even see those things in me.

Q. So — are you saying — you don’t want her to have to see — the wrong things?

A. Not the wrong things — the bad things. The things that are hard to live with. The things that make it hard for me to live even with my own self. Nobody should ever have to see those things — not even me, really. And yet, because I am me, I am consigned to see them all the time.

Q. Tell me: what do you see when you look in the mirror?

A. Oh come off of it!! You’re starting to sound like a pop psychology guru! I had enough of those cats in the seventies, for crying out loud.

Q. But what do you see when you look in the mirror?

A. I don’t know – let me go look. Brb.

Pause.

A. I see a guy who could use a shave.

Q. Is that all? Nothing else?

A. Not to speak of. It’s the unshaved look — most glaring.

Q. When was the last time you shaved?

A. Probably the last time I had a razor to shave with.

Q. When was that?

A. Oh, I don’t know. Five days ago, maybe.

Q. When is the next time you’ll have a razor?

A. Probably tomorrow. Razors are on my list.

Q. But why is your unshaven appearance the main thing you see?

A. It’s what’s on my mind, I guess.

Q. Not shaving?

A. Never mind. Some items are easier to hang onto than others. Razors go quickly.

Q. What else goes quickly?

A. Coffee. I rip right through that stuff.

Q. Could you use a cup of coffee?

A. Not anymore. I had a quad espresso earlier, when I finally got it together to figure out the easiest softest way to get caffeine into my system.

Q. When was that?

A. At about five in the afternoon.

Q. You didn’t have a cup of coffee till five in the afternoon?

A. No I didn’t. I also didn’t get a damn thing done all day.

Q. What about after the quad espresso?

A. By that time, I was brain dead. Long story.

Q. So you had a bad day?

A. You could say that, yes.

Q. Isn’t tomorrow another day?

A. Look buddy – how many tomorrows have we got left? It’s not as though we can afford to have too many more bad days. Every day is precious – the times are evil — we need to redeem the time —

Q. Why are you carrying the weight of the world on the shoulders?

A. Who else is going to do it? Atlas?

Q. Well there must many others who are equally concerned with —

A. Yeah – and you know who they are, don’t you?

Q. Not — exactly —

A. They’re a secret organization of cats from another dimension. Somehow they have successfully infiltrated the earth with an organized plan to save the planet. Only a select few of us even know they exist. They have taken great measures to conceal their identity, even from the Internet —

Q. Woah! Aren’t you sounding like a conspiracy theorist?

A. No! I’ve actually met these guys! And they swore me to secrecy, and —

Q. Are you on the level?

A. Why would I not be on the level?

Q. If the things you’re saying are so outlandish, how can you expect others to believe you?

A. That’s why I don’t usually talk about them. People will only think I’m insane.

Q. Are you insane?

A. Maybe more so on days like today than on other days. You see, if she were here, I wouldn’t be so alone, and my thoughts would not take me off into those strange conspiratorial dimensions.

Q. She would ground you?

A. I don’t know about that. But she would take my attention away from darker matters.

Q. Is she a lighter matter?

A. I believe so, yes. She understands me. Most people don’t. How can I not love her?

Q. So you love her because she loves you?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you love just anybody who loves you?

A. Who else loves me? She’s the only one who loves me. She’s the only one who even understands me.

Q. How do you know this?

A. I can tell.

Q. Has she ever told you she loves you?

A. No. But I can still tell.

Q. Then why don’t you let her in?

A. I don’t know. It seems — wrong. She will eventually see the bad stuff in me. And it will burst her bubble. And I will feel bad. And it would be better not to take that risk.

Q. What about God?

A. What about Him?

Q. Maybe only Christ can fill that void – you know?

A. I know. I’m supposed to love Him because He first loved me.

Q. Then what’s keeping you?

Pause.

A. A couple things, actually.

Q. Shoot.

A. First off, what is love?

Q. How can you ask that question?

A. Why shouldn’t I?

Q. Haven’t you already implied that you know what love is, since you know that she loves you?

A. That leads to the second thing.

Q. What’s that?

A. Who is she?

The Questioner is silent.

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Tuesday Tuneup 83

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Frustration.

Q. Over what?

A. WordPress.

Q. Why?

A. For one thing, the blog posts no longer manifest in chronological order. As soon as I get to The Very Same World, it deviates from the order and throws me onto all kinds of posts that happened forty years ago. This sure doesn’t help when I’m trying to figure out the number of the last Tuesday Tuneup I wrote.

Q. Isn’t there another path of navigation that will lead you to the Tuneup number?

A. Yes. So I googled Tuesday Tuneup 82, which is the last one I remembered writing, but I wasn’t sure. But whenever I put Tuesday Tuneup 82 onto Google, all these other tuneups were coming up, I guess more popular ones, and I could never get to 82.

Q. What about quotes?

A. Eventually I realized quotes could help, and eventually I put Tuesday Tuneup 82 in quotes, and it came up.

Q. Why didn’t you do that in the first place?

A. Just cuz it’s not my practice. I usually find out by scrolling down, and the scrolling down led to weird other places. I figured it would come out without quotes, so I guess I tried it third.

Q. How about just writing down the number of each Tuneup and putting it in a place where you can find it?

A. Why are you on my case?

Q. Why do you think I’m on your case?

A. I don’t know. You’re just kinda annoying me this morning.

Q. Whatever. So when you pulled up Tuesday Tuneup 82. what happened?

A. You know what happened! I got slammed with this new interface.

Q. Then what did you do?

A. Started googling things like “Go back to Old WordPress editor.”

Q. Then what happened?

A. It said to “go to plugins” and then find the Old Editor and reinstall it.

Q. Why didn’t you do that?

A. Because I couldn’t find “plugins.” Looked all over for it.

Q. And now you’re settling for the New Editor?

A. Begrudgingly. WordPressed my buttons.

Q. Which buttons?

A. Resentment against pseudo-authority.

Q. What do you mean by pseudo-authority?

A. I mean the dynamic whereby one thinks that they are an authority, but by all rights, they are NOT an authority.

Q. Can you clarify?

A. Morally, ethically, and in terms of rights, it is not the perogative of WordPress (or Microsoft or Google or Facebook or whoever else), to decide where I should go. If I wanted to go to Phoenix, nobody has the authority to make to go to Cincinnati. That’s what it feels like. I intend, through my executive agency, to go to the Old Editor, and they KIDNAP ME and take me to some foreign editor whom I don’t even know.

Q. But you did give up and try to use the New Editor?

A. Did I have a choice? I’m at the New Editor begrudgingly. Already TWICE I’ve hit some damned key that I keep hitting, maybe five times a day, that instantly eradicates all my work. If it weren’t for the Drafts, I’d have never gotten this far.

Q. Where is that key?

A. I have no idea. I’ve been asking people about since 1999. Nobody seems to ever take me seriously. I wonder if it’s something that only happens on MY computers. But it’s maddening, whatever it is.

Q. So you are basically saying — what?

A. I resent any situation where somebody feels they have the authority to hijack my agency. They should be a gentleman about it. They shouldn’t just throw things on me, no matter who they are.

Q. But hasn’t WordPress been talking about the interface for weeks now?

A. Sure they have. But I haven’t paid any attention.

Q. Why not?

A. Because I figured I would just use the Old Editor. And now I am just frustrated because under the all the other pressure, I can’t find the Old Editor.

Q. Don’t you feel kind of childish?

A. Yes, I do. I feel like a spoiled child. It is not that important for me to be doing any of this right now. I’m pissed off because I’ve been up since 8, I thought I could just compose a simple tune-up that I always enjoy writing, and start the day off on a nice note, and be in a good mood at rehearsal this afternoon for the Kids

Q. Well — uh – I mean, Andy — isn’t your rehearsal for the Kids more important than the Tuneup?

A. What do you mean? I miss the Tuneup half of the Tuesdays or more! I just wanted to do it this time, and do it quickly, and get on with the day.

Q. Do you mean to tell me you have spent four hours trying to figure out how to get to the Tuneup field?

A. Um – er – not exactly – the plumbers came over, I was talking to them, played a little piano, made a sandwich, and did some other things, but whenever I got back to the computer, all that has happened on any level has been navigational stress and failure.

Q. So you’re in a bad space?

A. Yes. And I want to be in a good space — not for me, or for the the Kids. They’re just — too good. And I have worked with Kids who are flaky – and they put my name in a bad light. But these kids – are not like that. They do show up on time. They don’t make lame excuses for not being there that any idiot can see through. They don’t insult my intelligence in that fashion, nor do they have a problem with my authority – which is in this case, is not Pseudo-Authority, but Real Authority. They’re reliable and talented and enthusiastic, and the least I can do is greet them with a good mood.

Q. Have you ever been in a bad mood whenever you’ve seen these Kids?

A. No – next to my daughter, these Kids are the delight of my life right now.

Q. Well then, you could be in a bad mood till 3:30 and then instantly be in a good mood, as you soon as you see the Kids.

A. True.

Q. Do you want to be in a bad mood till 3:30?

A. No.

Q. Then why don’t you just post the Tuneup and get on with the day?

A. Good idea.

Q. Anything else?

A. No. End of rant. Andy OUT.

(There’s supposed to be some thing here that says to donate to Eden in Babylon but I don’t want to stress on figuring it out right now. It’s a beautiful day and there’s music to play. God bless.)

Evolution of a Song: Part Three

So I mentioned somewhere along the line — either in Part One or Part Two, I suppose – that I had decided to write an opera in the year 2009.

The opera I would call Eden in Babylon.   I only wrote the first Act, as it happened, before I burned out on the idea that Eden in Babylon was supposed to be an opera, and not just a regular old musical.

The first Eden in Babylon was quite different.   It had nothing to do with homelessness.   Instead of entering into homelessness after the first two scenes, the main character entered into a fantasy world of the imagination.   Really, only the title remains, as the show has changed its context so much.

In that realm of imagination lived a woman named Helzabel, who objected to all things beautiful.   She held Artists in particular disdain, since they often created the very beauty to which she objected.   The song she sang, Cloaks of Art, played with the biblical concept called “cloaks of maliciousness.”  (1 Peter 2:16 KJV.)

But now that Eden in Babylon had become a musical about homelessness, that fantastical realm where Helzabel dwelt was replaced by the realm of the streets.   And Helzabel became Molly Mortalis — suspicious not so much of Artists, but of people who had become homeless.   A similar character of a similar sentiment — in a wildly different world.

This called for wildly different lyrics.   And a major tune-up on the tune.   So without too much hemming or hawing. I came up with Midnight Screams.

I wonder how many people who read this will actually listen to Cloaks of Art and tell me how much, or how little, it resembles Midnight Screams?”  As for “Child of No Emotion,” the variant in Part One, I’m afraid you will never hear it.   That libretto, I fear, is gone.

But the music lives on.   These three abide — Book, Music, and Lyrics.  But the greatest of these is Music.

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Babylon Interactive

I want to let you all know that I’ve got a playlist now on SoundCloud that will automatically pull up the interactive score to the musical I’ve been working on.   Feedback is welcome — I’m not exactly sure how viable the instrumentation is.   If I want to easily translate it to a live pit orchestra with “real” musicians, this arrangement probably is not optimum.   It does have an interesting, ethereal sound to it, however.

The thing I keep struggling with is the awareness that when I “received” this music, I was walking about the various outdoor venues of the Berkeley, California area, fully believing that the correct orchestrations were as absolute as the music itself, and that all these sounds were coming from Beyond, having originated in a realm of musical consciousness far greater than the confines of my relatively minute human intellect.

The more powerful that memory, the greater the sense in which I feel this music is cheapened by the arbitrary addition of synthetic sounds only remotely related to the real live musicianship that seems to be called for.  On the other hand, when the music was originally being “given” to me, I “heard” it involving sounds that I identified as being of a timbre tantamount to that of a tenor saxophone and a viola soloist.   So my choice to employ tenor sax and viola in my arrangements was not arbitrary.   It’s an attempt to best replicate that which I have already heard. 

The problem with this is that, while it may indeed provide adequate background for singers presenting an interactive production online, it would be difficult to rectify those sounds as being suitable within the typical pit orchestra of a Broadway-type musical.  I could replace them with an increased focus on electric guitars and keyboard-synth, and thus render the interactive orchestration compatible with that of a real-live pit orchestra — one with a rock ensemble flair — but if I do so, I sacrifice the beauty of the expressive tenor sax and viola sounds, as authentically replicating the ethereal sounds that I heard.

One thing to note is that instruments like saxophones and violas are generally found as parts of larger jazz or classical ensembles.  While we do hear sax solos in jazz and other genres, we don’t often hear viola solos.  More often, the viola is a part of a string section.  So I might as well add a wind section, a string section, and a brass section for that matter, if I’m going to involve such instruments.  They sound out of character when played together without some bolstering or support from instruments of their kind.

However, all of this has to do with idiom.  That is, because the ear is not accustomed to hearing passages that involve a sax and a viola harmonizing in descending cascades such as we hear in Sirens of Hope, it rejects the application of those instruments as bizarre.  They don’t match the typical pairing of instruments — a single brassy wind like that, with a solitary stringed instrument in the midrange.  And yet, were we to have such instrumentalists in a pit with ample miking and the like, we could lift their sounds to levels akin the other players – the drummer, the bass, the guitarist and the like.

A final thing to consider is that when the music was being directed my way, it was not with the idea that human musicians were playing it in whatever Ethereral Realm of the Beyond it was emanating from.  Seriously!  The distinct impression I got was that it was being performed in such a way that transcended mere human musicianship.   And if this is the case, then certainly the employment of the software is excusable.  To the ears of the ethereal, human instruments, human devices, and human programs are all one and the same.  They are all equally non-divine.

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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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