Forward Motion

Things have actually progressed remarkably smoothly since my last update.  There has not been a moment throughout the past week when I have felt that “life” was getting in the way of my artistic progress.   To the contrary, I finished scoring all the parts for the other players tonight, and we’ve arranged a time and place to practice this Sunday for the upcoming show the following Saturday.   One more practice after that, and I think we’ll be in pretty good shape.

As I might have mentioned, I agreed to continue to accompany the Wednesday evening Taize services on a volunteer basis, while no longer being on salary at my church.  I understand that the woman who is replacing me for the next two months is very capable, and I’m looking forward to sitting in the pews on Sunday, soaking in the sermon and all aspects of the service, and no longer having to concern myself with the strange conflicts that would rear their heads whenever I tried to play piano or organ properly for the occasion.

It would seem that my background in Musical Theatre somehow interfered with my ability to grasp the worshipful context.  Although I identify as a Christian, it was unusually difficult for me to shake the idea that my playing was a “performance” rather than an “offering” or a “presentation” before God.  I would constantly refer to the chancel as the “stage,” to the prelude as an “overture,” and to the postlude as “exit music.”  I am certain that a period of observation, without mandatory participation, will help me to shed these conflicts.   It’s entirely possible that when the four months are over, and both of my replacements have served their terms, I might regain some kind of paid position with the music ministry.  But I’m neither banking on it, nor shunning the prospect.   To paraphrase John the Baptist: “God must increase, and I must decrease.”

Along with this transformation, my zeal for the production possibilities of my own musical has skyrocketed.  Of the five originals that we will be performing on Saturday the 6th, three of them will be from Eden in Babylon.   If you want to look at the lyrics I will be singing, here are the links thereof:

Heart Song

Ode to the Universe

The Very Same World

I’ve decided on four theatre companies where I have worked in the past, or where I know people with whom I’ve worked, where I will submit the musical immediately upon completing my demo.  Then I think I’ll relax and see what we can do about producing the show on a regional level here in the Palouse Empire, where I have chanced upon a community of like-minded Artists who believe in me.   I’ve been here only nine months as of yesterday, and I never cease to marvel at the miracle of it all.

I didn’t have to let an entire lifetime go by without seeing the city where I was born — where I had only lived for the first year of my life.   When I first saw this city, I saw that it seemed custom-designed for me — right to the point of their being a running shoe store conveniently placed on the lower floor of the very apartment building in which I live:

friendship square

There also turned out to be a Conservatory of Music that I didn’t even know about in this town, sponsoring an annual jazz festival.  Moreover, Idaho Repertory Theatre was founded in this city in the year I was born.  And when I went to see the house where I was born, the cross street as I approached said: “Home Street.”

Sure beats being hit on the head with guns by gangbangers and having four laptops full of costly music production software stolen in a three-year period of time! I still have the same laptop I had when I moved here — in fact, I even have a back-up, in case this one should fail me.  Once again — there is a God.

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.

Flash of Illumination

Rarely do I set aside any time to devote to the completion of my musical.  I haven’t exactly burned out on the idea of finishing it –it merely has gradually woven its way so far down the scale of my life-priorities, it’s almost the last thing I ever think of doing.  At the same time, I have no doubt that the script will one day be complete.  Most likely, this will happen when I receive the flash of “illumination” that is regarded as the third of four stages in the creative process, as posited by the great thinker Graham Wallas.

220px-Graham_Wallas
Graham Wallas

Because this fascinating theory has been born out in my own creative experience, I am convinced that the moment of illumination I’ve been waiting for is in my future.  Then, and only then, will I finish the script.  I would never be able to finish the script by adopting what many would call the more “professional” approach.

The “professional” would have the attitude that his project needs to be completed by a deadline.  If this deadline is not imposed upon him by paycheck from employer, it will be imposed upon him by his own most professional soul.   An Artist who is one by profession knows that whether or not he is working for hire on a particular piece, there will come a day when his sensibilities differ far enough from those needed for him to focus on that endeavor, he will invariably shift his focus onto the more palatable present-day interests on his plate.  This he will do, even if it means losing his remaining grip on the more dated project, and rendering it obsolete in the process. 

If working for hire, he would be far past the usual deadline before that happens, and would most likely have lost the gig by now.  If not working for hire, he is his own employer, and he determines for himself if his interest in any given project can be sustained.  If it’s coming down to the crunch, and he senses that he can no longer healthfully sustain his own interest in his own piece, he will force his way to the end of the project.  This he will do, even if in its “finished” state it is far below his own understandably high standards of artistic quality.  He does all this because, as a “professional,” he deems it a worse sin to leave a job undone, than for it to be done at less than 99% his optimum, very best performance level.

Now, I am not saying that there’s anything wrong with being a professional playwright, musical theatre composer, or screen writer.  Far from it.  If, for example, somebody were to offer me, say, $5000, if I were to complete the script by, say, September 1st, 2016, I would have to turn to that person, and simply say:

“Thank you for your most kind offer, sir.  I believe I have just received the flash of illumination that I have needed.”

This is what the “professional” would do.

Who is Winston Greene?

As I’ve gotten deeper into the creation of the Eden in Babylon libretto, I’ve become more concerned with subtext: that wonderful unrevealed material that defines character for the writer and is craftily concealed from the audience so that they might feel free to figure things out for themselves.

Recently, I found in my workbook some notes on the background of the protagonist of Eden in Babylon, whose name, as you know, is Winston Greene. I felt it would be helpful for me to have a deeper understanding of just how Winston got to the place where the members of his birth community would be so concerned about him as to stage a major intervention on the very night of his presumed spiritual enlightenment.

I wrote the notes fairly quickly at a moment of illumination, then proceeded to forget about them completely. It was interesting, two weeks later, to unearth the notes and find out exactly what I had said:

“In Scene One, Winston is being metaphorically “cast out of Eden,” for the form that he had rejected was found in an instance of Eden initially, that being the mother’s womb. This later was expanded to the experience of the home-hearth and the overall umbrella of her nurturing, and also was connected to the great sense of warmth Winston knew as a boy, having been born into a privileged class. There, not only were his essential life needs met most effectively, but many of his personal desires and wishes were easily fulfilled as well. This gave him the strong impression, early in life, that there would always be enough warmth in his world to ensure the fulfillment of his dreams.

“Unfortunately, this sense of Eden was gradually corrupted. It morphed in a gradual and insidious way into an instance of Babylon instead. For though Winston sought diligently to uphold the initial innocence of an idyllic and uninhibited Eden, his efforts were obscured by the high visibility of his personal folly; for he indulged in this naiveté long past the point at which social restrictions would logically prohibit the more flagrant and shocking displays of his deviant behavior.

“Just as Adam and Eve were cast out of Eden on the basis of an offense on the part of a powerful authority (viz., the “Father God”), so is the end of Eden for Winston Greene. In his world, it is the Babylonian Mainstream of his birth community who have become offended by his completely innocent behavior, and it is they who have orchestrated his eviction from his own psychic home of Eden, his own unconscious extension of the conditions of his mother’s womb. For though his mind was sharply focused internally on the release of his Spiritual-Artistic contribution, any hope for redemption on the basis of such talent and devotion was completely obscured by the fact that even his most valiant and admirable efforts along these lines were in reality known only to Winston himself. For the people of Winston’s world saw only the disrespectful, impetuous scoundrel; and took his absent-minded permissiveness for an elaborate, premeditated act of extreme social offense. Thus they collectively sought his institutionalization on grounds of antisocial behavior, rather than encourage the ongoing production of his Creative-Artistic vision; which was of course, as an Artist, his primary focus.”

In light of these notes, one might relate Winston’s early life more closely to that of the Buddha than to any other major religious figure, because Buddha was brought up in an atmosphere of extreme wealth and decadence, only to be shocked when he first encountered the suffering of humanity in the form of a hungry and underprivileged class. This class of people will Winston discover once he is institutionalized, in the form of the many young people who have arrived there from broken homes, foster homes, abused backgrounds and other tentative pseudo-foundations. These are the “Children of the Universe” whom Babylon has robbed of the “experience of Eden” that our protagonist was so privileged to have replicated in his own affluent, though misleading, childhood.

Note: Some of the more esoteric language here might be clarified upon reading an earlier work of mine entitled The Form of Babylon and the Age to Come. (Link is to a pdf file of the text.)  Pursuing the links in the block quote above might also be helpful, though they would require a lot of reading of philosophical text before one would grasp the context.  If one is familiar with Plato’s Theory of the Forms from the start, that reading would be unnecessary.