Heart of the Arts

No doubt you’re aware by now that I’ve resumed my search for singers for the Eden in Babylon demo wholeheartedly, after being discouraged at an earlier stage, and sinking into an unweildy period of deep depression that I am determined to demolish.  Well, I’ve got some encouraging news to share with you!

I think I’ve found a singer for the main female part on my song  The Very Same World.  She’s the new Choir director at my church, a young woman involved with the Lionel Hampton School of Music.   She sings very well — and the song is in her range, too.

In the clip below, she would come in solo at 1:44, where you may notice a key change.  Prior to that, she would have entered at 1:06 (the first hook) with myself and a second female vocalist of unknown identity.  I can sing the main male part from the start – for now – but I’ll need three more voices for the second hook, coming in at 2:32.  I faded this version at 3:02, but you probably get the point.  In the one minute and forty-two seconds that follow, it only gets bigger.  And it’s all scored on Finale: piano, six voices, and all other instruments.

I only told her that there “might” be money in it, since after all, I’m not sure.  If she didn’t mind doing this one for free, that would certainly be very kind of her.  However, as far as requesting she sing the other two songs on the demo, it doesn’t seem right not to be able to pay her something.  It would be good if I could just get a team of three men and three women together, including myself.  If would be great if I could rehearse three songs in three rehearsals adequately before we record — and then proceed to pay them what they’re worth.   If I really want to find talented singers who can help me create a demo of decent quality, I need to pay each of them at least $125 for the three songs I’d like to put on the demo.  Then I can at least begin to submit the show to theater companies — with or without a complete piano-vocal score — because they’ll at least have some idea what the music sounds like when they read the script.  

The words below are those of the second hook.  The complete lyrics may be found here.  I put a picture of the entrance way to my new and favorite city, just so you can get a grasp of how golden it is, for me.  If I can pull this thing off anywhere, I can pull it off in Moscow, Idaho – in the city I knew absolutely nothing about before I found my home here on July 27, 2016 — in the Very Same City where I was born.  

The Very Same World
That has seen 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.

The Very Same World

from the new musical Eden in Babylon,
exploring the effects of homelessness on the young people of 21st Century America.
Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope

All Rights Reserved.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps – God Bless!

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.   

A Long and Winding Tunnel

The other day, another blogger cautioned me not to let my blogging get in the way of my Art.  She’s got a point there.  I reflected on this, and I realized that there have been days when I’ve put more energy into describing my project than I have into the actual project itself.  For this reason, I have decided that my earlier decision to try to post “every other day” is unrealistic.  I’ll post when I have something to say.  We must, after all, remember the wise words of Plato:  plato1

The fool speaks because he has to say something.  The wise man speaks because he has something to say. 

That said, I do have a couple things to say this morning.  I may be getting way ahead of myself here, but I worry about my song Children of the Universe being taken out of context.  In the musical, the Street Kids are fed up, they’re out in the elements, they have an inkling that they’d rather be “safe” in jail, and they decide to vandalize the homes of the wealthy where their friend, Winston Greene, was born, so they can go join him in jail after his wealthy birth family put him there.  It’s a vengeful act, and not an uncommon sentiment among those who feel they’ve been screwed left and right by society.  This is how revolutions have been started throughout history.

But once again, I’m a spiritual person, and a morally minded person.  Do I  myself advocate violent uprising against the bourgeoisie?  Actually, no — I do not.  I am a man of peace.   But I am trying to make a point here.  The point I’m trying to make is that if we don’t get a handle on the effects of classism in America, it’s probably going to happen.  Many people in the impoverished classes are incredibly frustrated that wealthy people seem at times to view their poverty as a moral failing.  They would prefer that people in the privileged classes respect them enough to at least listen to their points of view, and consider that what they have to say might be valid.  I am far from wealthy myself, but when I was even more impoverished than I am today, I felt this frustration.  I was simply receiving too many lectures from people who thought they knew the answers for me, when in reality they knew nothing about the world of poverty, and I often felt that I had a lot of answers for them.  But in general, they wouldn’t listen — and this was a frustration.

This frustration was shared by almost everyone else I knew who was in a similarly impoverished position.  Apparently, it was also compounded by the tensions of urban living.  This is one reason why I finally made the decision to relocate in a rural area, which is just about the wisest move I’ve ever made in my life.  Since then, my wrathful resentment toward those who flaunt their opulence has been reduced to a relatively mild disdain.  (We don’t “do” upper crust in this neck of the woods.)   

In light of that personal transformation, I would hate to go down as one who advocated violent revolt against the establishment – or against anyone or anything, for that matter.  But I wouldn’t mind going down as one who issued a warning that it’s probably about to happen if we don’t shape up.

The second thing I wanted to mention is that I’ve been vigorously working on the second Scene in Act Two and am beginning to see the light at the end of this particularly long and winding tunnel.   I have this odd feeling that the next time I put pen to paper, I’m probably not going to stop until the long-awaited moment arrives when I write the words “The End” at the bottom of the document.  This time, unlike my earlier efforts at getting this show on the road, I can see the end from the beginning.   For that progress, I may thank my  Writer’s Guild , my pastor, my Minister of Music, my friends in my current community of Artists and musicians — and all of you.  Without the support of other writers and like-minded thinkers, I would never have been able to reach this stage  — in fact, I wouldn’t have come near it.  So – what I have to say in closing is:

thankyoured

Another Scene Down

I’m not sure exactly how many hours I put into my writing today.   It seems I didn’t really get started till about one in the afternoon.   Let’s say there was an hour break for dinner and bathroom stops.   So I guess I wrote for eight hours.   All I know is that when I wrote the words “End of Act Two, Scene One” at the bottom of p.104, I looked down at the computer clock — and it read 10:00pm exactly.

I had a feeling today would be a good day.  I awoke in good spirits, feeling relaxed and relieved after having resolved a difficult situation at work.  I also knew I had the day off — and I knew what to do with it.   Most of the writing of the 17-page Scene consisted of refining the six pages leading up to the song called Hunted, finishing the lyrics to Hunted, writing all the dialogue between Hunted and the following song, writing a new monologue called the “Mainstream Monologue,” and finally finishing all the lyrics to the song Children of the Universe.   (If you happen to listen to the music of that song, you can easily discern how writing its lyrics was no small task.)

Obviously, I felt very pleased when I finished all that work.  But there’s something gnawing at me.

real-writerIf you’ve been reading me much at all lately, you’ll know that I’ve been contemplating the different stages of the creative process as well as the different spaces of Bipolar Disorder, and how they seem to coalesce in order to yield long periods of time when nothing gets done at all — at least not consciously — followed by long periods of time when all kinds of work is steadily produced.   Even though I only have two Scenes left to go, and I can actually even see the light at the end of the tunnel, I have this horrendous fear that the next period of depression – or incubation – is going to last even longer than the last one, which was damn near seven days. 

For the sake of balance, I want to stop writing now, and rest my weary head and bones.  But for the sake of getting the show finished, don’t you think it would be better if I forged forward, while I’m still on the roll?   I’d hate to plunge into another week or two of dry vacuous nothingness.

But no – I must seek a more healthy balance here.  I have tomorrow off as well, so I might as well get some rest, and have at it once again in the morning.   I’m starting to get the feeling that God is actually going to allow me, after all these years, to finish the damn thing.  I need to ride on that hope.   There’s no turning back by now.

Done with Act One!

As I wrote the words “End of Act One” at the bottom of p.86, I looked at the computer clock.  It was 6:45am.

No – I did not stay up all night.  True, I got to work on time last night by the skin of my teeth.  A phone call to announce I’d been searching for my missing keys seemed appropriate.  Granted, the keys were only missing for about five seconds.  But at least I didn’t lie about it.

Four hours of work was fine.  I concentrated well on the job, when called for.  I was unusually silent during dinner hour — and I’m sure you all know why. 

As soon as I got home, I grabbed my laptop and headed to the Bagel Shop.  There I remained until the first rush of drunken students arrived.  I returned to my room, and wrote till midnight.  As the clock struck twelve, I gave up.  I had been belaboring the end of the Act for so long to no avail, I’m sure all the Muses were snoring in their sleep from boredom.  Soon, I was snoring too.

And it’s a good thing.  I got up at around 4am, took my thyroid medication, drank some water, did some reading, made some coffee, called a friend, and finally braved the unknown. 

Then, what didn’t happen last night happened this morning.  It was uncanny.  It’s a rare experience, and very difficult to describe.  The same experience occurred when I wrote the Siddhartha Monologue, and the lyrics to “Midnight Screams.”  The rush of creative fire ripped through my bloodstream.  It practically burned through my pores.  As I wrote the “oracle” that my protagonist, Winston Greene, is supposed to be “receiving” at the end of the Act, it was as though I myself were receiving it — from somewhere.   It couldn’t have happened last night, either.  Last night all I did was stare brain-dead at the page.  It must have happened when it was meant to happen; for this morning, I was on fire.

tom
Tom McKenzie

Honestly, I got so excited when the final verses of the song came about, I could barely focus to write.  Mercifully, I was able to contain myself just long enough to finish the Act.  At that, I heard the voice of my Theatre Arts mentor, the late Tom McKenzie, clearly saying what he no doubt would have said to me at that moment – God rest his soul.

“And now, it’s time for you to put it aside for a while.”

This calls for a glass of wine.

The Kiss of the Muse

On Tuesday evening, I left the all-night restaurant alluded to in my most recent post, convinced that I’d somehow managed to hook up with a very talented batch of like-minded Writers.  I gave each of the six other participants a copy of my Scene One, and received from each of them a chapter of the novels they’re currently writing.

My main reservation is that I’m the only playwright in the bunch.  Also, since I’m a musical playwright, there are song lyrics as well as dialogue and stage directions strewn about my manuscript.   This differentiates me even further from the novelists in my midst.   Moreover, they all seem to be writing fantasy or science fiction–which of course is to be expected.  But my work is intended to deal with social issues such as classism, and to paint a picture not often seen of the Homeless Phenomenon in America

However, this doesn’t mean that their feedback will be of no value to me.  It only means that I’m afraid to receive it.   After all, our commonalities are greater than our differences.  I look forward to receiving input on plot, character development, clarity of content, and the like.  What I dread is that someone might object to some of my lyrics, without being aware of the type of music that accompanies them, since they won’t be hearing the music, but only reading the words.   This has happened before in the past, and it has put me in an awkward position.

kissofthemuse

Still, they’re all very intelligent, highly motivated people.   I’m sure that whatever happens at our next meeting, the fact that I’m finally convening with others of my ilk, and no longer hiding from the public world in stubborn isolation, is bound to reap more benefits than detriments in my creative life.

Otherwise, I’ve been busy with work and church (which in my case are very closely related, since I work at a church).   I’ve also been engrossed in some personal matters for the past few days.  So, while I did succeed in finishing Scene Four, as reported in this post, I’ve not yet begun to take a stab at Scene Five.   But I can feel it starting to simmer within me, somewhere down there. It’s a vague but very real sensation: an undeniable sense that I’m about to burst into another creative binge.   It feels as though something inside me is “percolating” — or, more accurately, incubating.  It’s almost as though I can feel the Muse approaching.  If I’m lucky, maybe she’ll kiss me, as she did the similarly exhausted Writer in the charming little picture up above.  Well — here’s hoping.

Baby Steps

I’m sitting in the local pub in a highly neurotic state.  No worries – I’m not drinking, and perish the thought.  But when the clock struck 4:20 a few minutes ago, I must admit I experienced more than a vague inkling to dip into the dubious diversion of delectable desirability, duck into the nearest dark alley, and burn one.   It’s hard for me to deal with anxiety; and as I expressed quite emphatically earlier, taking a valium or a klonopin is no longer a viable option for me.

Since the previous post, I actually went back to the beginning of the script and wrote up to p.53 a second time, making adjustments – some minor, some fairly significant.  I got into the “zone” at one point and completely rewrote the intro to the female antagonist’s first song, which I call “Midnight Screams.”  I sent it to my brother and my daughter hoping for feedback, haven’t heard from either, and am feeling a bit pathetic on this whole feedback thing.  I hate it when I become “insistent” that people peruse my work.  It never works in the first place, not to mention it makes me feel like an annoying pest.

leonid_pasternak_-_the_passion_of_creationThere’s no getting around it.  I’m going to have to break out of isolation here, and present myself as best I can to the world of other artists and writers  engaged in projects of equal importance to them.   So, I more-or-less boldly wrote to the fellow who teaches the current undergraduate Playwriting class at the University, even though I could already feel the stab of rejection slicing through my heart over the Intraweb — pseudo-prophetically, as it were.  My confidence is at an all time low.

But – it was a baby step.  If that doesn’t work, I’ll see if there’s a Meet-Up group of some sort.  Either way, I’m going to have to stop bugging my friends and family members for feedback.  I need to go about this decently and properly.  Bottom line is, the idea of sitting around a table in a classroom and sharing all my crazy ideas with a bunch of other writers is scaring the living daylights out of me.  But that’s all the more reason why I’ve got to take the plunge.  You don’t learn how to swim, after all, by avoiding the water.

Opening up to p.53 and the current minor impasse.  The wheels are starting to spin.  Obviously, a twisted love song is in order, both lover and lovee a bit on the delusional side.  Welcome to the wonderful world of Musical Theatre.  Maybe if the owner of the pub steps in, she’ll let me play the piano for a free meal like she did last Saturday.  Here’s hoping.