Tuesday Tuneup 43

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. Done.

Q. Are you ever done?

A. Sure I am!  Why do you even ask such an insulting question?   I’m so tired of all these ridiculously uninformed assumptions that people make about Art and Artists, and the Arts, and all that.

Q. Art?  Artists?   The Arts?   What assumption are you talking about?

A. The assumption that just because I’m an Artist, then I therefore must be some kind of  incorrigible perfectionist who is never satisfied with his work.

Q. Why do you sound so defensive?

A. Because I’m frustrated.  I want to be done, I tell you!   Done!!

Q. Done with what?

A. With what do you think?   What is this entire blog about?  What am I always driving at?   I’ve been working on this big huge piece for — gosh, it seems like decades now.

Q. You mean your musical?

A. Is the sky blue?

Q. But weren’t you finished with that?   What happened on July 4, 2018?  On Independence Day?

A. On July 4, 2018, I finished the script.  It was actually the third draft.   And yes, I did feel liberated on Independence Day.  Liberated from the burden of having to keep hammering away at the script.  

Q. Are you suggesting that there is some other aspect to this musical that you have not yet finished?   The score, for example?

A. You’re getting warm.  It’s kinda like, I wrote most of the music “in my head” — I mean, occasionally tapping my fingers on my desktop as though it were a piano keyboard.  But mostly just trying to envision internally what it would actually sound like once I got around to writing out the parts.

Q. And you’ve not gotten around to writing out the parts yet?

A. Not exactly.  I figured I’d start with the Vocal Score.   Currently, there are 16 main numbers in the show.   I have thus far scored 13 of the 16 to my satisfaction.   The 14th has been scored, too – though not to my complete satisfaction.  Nos. 15 & 16 remain.

Q. Well then, doesn’t it seem that you’ve come a long way?

A. Not long enough!  Once the Vocal Score is scored, I need to write out instrumental parts.  The bass parts.  Guitar parts.   Keyboard-synthesizer.  And drums.   

Q. Won’t that be the fun part?

A. Maybe.  Not looking forward to writing out a whole piano score.  But I suppose it has to be done.

Q. What’s your timeline?

A. Interesting question.  I almost would decline to answer it.  Anyone who knows me knows that I abhor working for deadlines.  I often boldly claim that the only true deadline is death.   So what makes you think there’s a timeline?

Q. Well – you won’t live forever, will you?

A. Perhaps not.  But there’s something a bit insidious about your line of reasoning.  It seems like you’re fishing for something.   Come on, Questioner!  Out with it!

Q. Out with what?

A. The cat!  Let ‘er out of the bag!

Q. What cat?  What bag??

A. Never mind.  I’d rather do it myself.   As you are well aware, there are looming production possibilities not too far around the corner.  If even one of these possibilities comes to fruition, then there will need to be a full musical score.   People other than me will need to sing the parts.  People other than myself will need to play the instruments.   And at least one of these possibilities is looming for “mid-to-late Summer.”  We’re talking 2019!   I gotta get a move on.

Q. How possible is this possibility?

A. It’s a virtual certainty.  I’ve received a definite offer.  I just haven’t said YES yet.

Q. Why not?

A. Because there may be a greater offer pending, and if I said YES to the lesser offer, I might miss out.  I can’t have both.  

Q. Why not?

A. Time constraints.  It’s also looming for the summer, just with a different company, a different venue.   Can’t have both at once.   

Q. So you need to finish all the musical parts by Summer 2019?

A. That would stand to reason.

Q. You think you can make it?

A. Yes — as long as I get through this one very difficult hurdle.

Q. What hurdle is that?

A. Long story.

Q. Shoot.

The Answerer takes a deep breath.  

Yamaha C3X Grand Piano, Polished Ebony at Gear4music

A. Long, long ago, in the year 1974, I sat down at a piano at Struve-Titus Hall on the campus of the University of California at Davis.   Laboriously, in the spirit of Keith Emerson, I wrote a highly ELP-influenced piece entitled “Winston Greene.”

Q. Winston Greene?  Isn’t that the name of your protagonist?

A. It is indeed.  The main character in Eden in Babylon is a fellow who goes by the name of Winston Greene.

Q. So what is the connection between the song you wrote in 1974 and the character of this musical that you have written 45 years later?

A. My answer will only make sense if you happen to be an Artist of my type.

Q. Are there any Artists of your type?

A. That’s a good question.  I’m not sure I know the answer, to be honest with you.   What I have done — as an Artist —  just seems totally weird.  To even relate the information strikes me as some kind of confession.   I need for some kind of High Priest of the Arts to absolve me of my Artistic transgression.   

Q. How, then, can I be of help?

A. I’m not sure, Father Q.  Just hear me out.  And maybe go easy on the interrogation.  Just let me speak.   You will let me speak, won’t you?

Q. Why not?

A. Whew.   For a while there, I was afraid you were going to just keep interrupting me all the time.  Now I warn you, this story is long.

In 1974 I created a character in my head, and I called him Winston Greene.  I wrote a song about him, describing his departure from civilized society, his prodigality, and his failure to return to the normative world.  I even had him die in the song.  The song was very well-received.  So I played it at every opportunity, until I got tired of it.  

Q. Why did you get tired of it?

A. Because my style evolved past it.   My current style doesn’t resemble it much at all.   So I lost interest in it.  But — I did not lose interest in the character, the persona of Winston Greene.  I continued to toy with “Winston” – until gradually, it appeared I ought to make him the protagonist of a specific, larger work — albeit 45 years later.  But then, I must confess, I did a very strange thing.

Q. What was that?

A. I decided that the song, “Winston Greene,” needed to be worked into the show, with the lyrics adjusted accordingly, in order to serve as the penultimate number — Musical No. 15 – of the 16 numbers in the show.   I decided that in this case, the death of Winston Greene would only be  — a rumor.   He would actually reappear, in the flesh, almost as though there had been a resurrection.  And yet, the death itself would be a deception.   This was my way of exonerating myself for having — having — 

Q. Having what?  Having what??

A. Having killed Winston Greene.   Yes — I so identified with Winston, when I wrote the earlier piece back in ’74, I could not let him die within me, even after he had already died in the song.

Q. Is this why you let the song itself die?

A. Exactly!   But I only realized that just now, at this very moment! The song, “Winston Greene,” in which the man “Winston Greene” dies, is a song I need to kill –– in order that Winston Greene himself might live.   So he continued to live on in my heart, and the song that told of his death was banned from existence.  There would be no record of Winston having died.   

Q. Fascinating!  Is this why you wanted to change the lyrics?

A. Yes!  The lyrics would no longer relate to Winson’s alleged death, but to his endurance, his survival, and his will to live.

Q. Then isn’t your problem solved?

A. How do you figure that?

Q. Can’t you just use the same old music, but with the newer, happier lyrics?

A. I suppose I could.  If I want the penultimate number in my musical to sound like something  I wrote when I was 22 years old listening to Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and not like something I wrote when I wrote the rest of the score to Eden in Babylon, some forty years later.

ELP | thebestmusicyouhaveneverheard

Q. So you are planning to write a whole new song, at this late stage?   Won’t this mean rewriting the last Scene entirely?

A. Not entirely – but to a significant degree.  I read through the last Scene last night, and actually found that it flowed quite nicely — up until the point where the rogue song rears its ugly head.  But you see, I don’t have to write a new song.  Only new words.   I can use a song that I wrote during the same time period when I wrote the rest of the music to Eden in Babylon.  A song that I wrote that I have not yet written words for.  I only have music for it.   You may find that music — in raw form — right here.   

Q. Why do I feel like you’re leaving something out?

A. I don’t know.  

Q. Can you guess?

A. Sure, but it’s only a guess.  Knowing you, I doubt you have me figured for the kinda guy who would cast aside years of sentiment related to his mysterious ELP-inspired tune called “Winston Greene” and then ditch the whole prestigious product for a much more innocuous replacement that doesn’t reflect nearly the professional prowess of the previous project.  

Q. So what else is going on?  What is your underlying sorrow?   Why must you return this song, recently so rigorously resurrected, to its grisly, grimy grave?

A. You wax a bit too alliterate for my tastes.

Q. Illiterate?

A. Never mind.  I must return the song to the tomb from which, like Lazarus, it has been summoned by its Creator.  The reason for this is very emotional and deep.  And it will reveal my vulnerability, as well as a large part of my sorrow.

Q. Your sorrow?

A. Yes — my sorrow.  For I grieve the loss of old friends.  People who were meaningful to me.  Three in particular, though their names need not be mentioned.  Three men whom I loved, and who happened to love the song “Winston Greene.”

Q. These men have died?

A. Not that I’m aware of.  I suppose they still live. 

Q. Yet you have lost them in some way?

A. Yes.  They do not speak to me.  I have lost their friendship.  I mourn that loss.  And yet they are the only ones remaining who would have had any fond emotional or sentimental attachment to that particular piece of music.  In other words, I must confesss that I put the song in the show for them.   

Q. For them?  For these three men who no longer speak to you??

A. Sadly, I confess, it’s true.  I had this vision that if I used the song “Winston Greene” in a dramatic way toward the end the show, it would move them, and soften their hearts toward me, and I would regain their friendship at last.

Q. Let me get this straight.  You were willing to throw a lousy song that you wrote when you were 22 years old into your new musical only because it might win your three friends back?

A. I was.  I do confess it.

download (1)Q. WHAT KIND OF AN ARTIST ARE YOU?  THIS NOT TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE!!

A. I feel like you’re about to assign me three Hail Mary’s and an Act of Contrition.

Q. That aside, what do you think are the chances that any of these three guys will come and see your musical this summer?

A. Slim to none.   They want nothing to do with me, apparently.  Why should they want to see my musical?

Q. Sir!  Why even entertain the notion??   Are these three fellows that important to you?

A. This is where the sorrow comes in.  They obviously were, at one time.  But for the life of me, I can’t figure out why.  I mean, I’m sure they’re very fine fellows in their own rites, but why did I place such a high regard on their loyalty?

Q. Loyalty?

A. I did use that word, yes.

Q. You feel that they have betrayed you?

A. Not exactly.  But they’re not loyal to me anymore.  And all I want to regain is — their loyalty.   

Q. What is so important about loyalty?  I mean, in this context?   Aren’t there thousands of people from whom you will hopefully be gleaning box office receipts far more important than these three men whom you knew in the 70’s?   Why can’t you just forget about these guys?   

A. That is indeed the $64,000 question.   They’ve evidently forgotten about me.

Q. Have they?

A. Maybe not.

Q. But even if not, why is it so important to regain their friendship?

A. Well, it isn’t.  And that’s why I’m removing the number.  I’ve decided that now.  The other song is much more akin to the style of the present day.  And a composer whom I respect told me that it’s the best piece of mine whom he personally has heard.  So — once I get my lyrics together, I’m on my way.

Q. Why does something seem unfinished here?

A. Because, like I said at the beginning, I’m not done.  And I want to be done.  

Q. Why do I feel like I haven’t gotten the full story here?

A. Probably because I’m leaving something out.

Q. What could that possibly be?

A. What if — and this is a pretty big “if” — what if the music that I wrote in 1974 just happens to be better and more appropriate for the final Scene of the show than the music I wrote in 2016?   I mean, despite everything.   What if, painful though it might be, the right thing for me to do is to include this song anyway?   What if that choice is the right Artistic choice, irrespective of the sentiment, the glitter rock, the former fans, and the bygone era?   

Q. How can you know for sure?

A. I can’t.  That’s why I linked you to both songs.   The version of “Winston Greene” was done in 2010 using general midi software associated with my Finale notation program at the time.   It excels beyond the earlier, more primitive style — though perhaps not by much.   The version of “Sirens of Hope” was done using the Garritan Personal Orchestra in 2016, almost immediately after I got off the streets and was able to start sequencing my compositions again.  So – listen to them both.  You tell me which one you like better.

Q. Why should my opinion matter?

A. Why should mine matter more?

Q. Aren’t you the Artist?  The Creator, as it were?

A. I am.  But I can hardly be expected to be objective at this stage.

Q. Is something clouding your vision?

A. I’d say, so yes.

Q. What is it?  Why aren’t you seeing straight?

A. It’s hard to see clearly when there are so many tears in my eyes.

Q. Why are you crying, Andy?  Is it because of the loss of your friends?

A. They were never my true friends.  So there is no true loss.

Q. Then why are you in tears?   

A. Because Winston Greene might die.  It happens every time I get to this part in the show.  It happened when I wrote the first rough draft, and again when I wrote the second, and the third.   And now, writing out the Vocal Score, it’s happening even moreso.  Winston Greene cannot die.  Winston Greene must live.   

The Questioner is silent.   

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Tuesday Tuneup 41

Q. Where would you like to be?

A. In a place of greater efficacy.

Q. What do you mean by that?

A. I would like to be more effective.

Q. In what way?

A. In many ways.

Q. Such as?

The Answerer takes a breath.  

A. Such as in my ability to help people.  To make a difference in their lives.   I mean, a positive difference — not a negative one.   Sometimes I just feel like my influence, try as I may to be helpful, winds up being hurtful.  I stick my foot in my mouth at some juncture along the way, and I wind up feeling — I don’t know.   Like a failure, I guess.

Q. Are you a failure?  I mean, objectively speaking?

A. I suppose that depends on what it means to succeed.

Q. What does it mean to succeed?

canstock27956854.jpg

A. Very good questions, these.  I think that success must mean different things for different people.   And our notions of success must be somehow wrapped up in our ideas as to life-purpose.   We have this American idea of success here — seems to be dwindling a bit — but it’s the notion that success is related to some kind of worldly advance in monetary gain, accumulation of property, or perhaps a surge in prestige, clout, power, or influence over others.   I don’t know.  A bunch of things that I never really think about.

Q. Then why are you thinking about them?

A. I lied.  Who am I trying to fool?   I think ahout them all the time.  But usually, it’s with  aghast exasperation.

Q. Aghast exasperation?

A. Yeah.  I drop my jaw, and stand aghast at what they all seem to expect of me.  I become exasperated —  not because I don’t have those things (money, property, clout, etc.) — but because people seem to think I’m supposed to have those things in order to be “happy.”  Drives me up the wall!   How would you like it if a bunch of people were always telling you how “unhappy” you are, just because you don’t have all the things they have, even though you don’t want them anyway?  (Not to mention, you’re probably happier than they are.)

Q. Why do you care what they think?

A. I don’t know.   Seems I get asked that a lot these days.   

Q. Do they care what you think?

A. Evidently not.

Q. Then why should you care what they think?

A. Again, I don’t know.   Golden Rule, maybe?   I mean, what is this modern-day hogwash about how we should all be completely indifferent to what other people are thinking?  I get so tired of everybody telling me I care too much about what other people think.   What am I supposed to do?  Stop caring?   That seems — unloving.   Did Jesus stop caring when He went to the Cross?

Q. But isn’t there a difference between caring about them, and caring about what they think of you?

A. No!  They ARE what they’re thinking!!  Whether they think it about me, or anybody else, or the fencepost!!

Q. But do you KNOW what they are thinking?

A. Yes!  It’s obvious what they’re thinking!   They even tell me what they’re thinking!  They do that all the time.   How can I not know what they’re thinking?   They’re always telling me that I’m this worthless, no good, lazy impoverished bum who made “poor choices” throughout this poor life, otherwise with his talents and abilities he’d be living in the frickin’ Taj Mahal, or in some big mansion like that one place where I lived a long time ago.   As if I care to live in a mansion.   I’m just grateful I’m not flying a sign and sleeping under an overpass with a boatload of tweakers.   

Q. You once lived in a mansion?

A. Yes.

Q. What was it like living in a mansion?

A. Freaky is all get-out.  My landlord had more money than he knew what to do with.  He gave me this huge upstairs flat with a private bathroom and a marble floor on the shower.  The guy had two Steinway grand pianos, recording equipment  . . .

Q. Why was that freaky?   Why not beautiful?

A. I don’t know.  I just didn’t belong there somehow.  The guy had a Jaguar, a Cadillac – expensive Belgian furniture you weren’t even supposed to sit on — I just felt like it was out of my league.

Q. And what, pray tell, is your league?

A. Wrong side of the tracks, man.   Poor but thrifty parents.  Neither of them left a will.  Neither of them had anything to leave.  I’ve gravitated toward poor people all my life.  I feel a kinship with people who are impoverished, and I feel out of place among people of greater means and privilege.

Q. But why is that side of the tracks the wrong side?   Why not just — another side?

A. Because of the very thing I said at the top of this whole page.  

Q. Refresh my memory?

A. I said, I wish I could be more effective.   And it just seems like, in this society, if you don’t have at least some means, at least some privilege, you’re not effective at all.

Q. But can’t you be effective in other ways?   Like say helping a friend of yours with a personal issue?   It doesn’t cost money to do that, does it?

A. But that’s my whole frustration!   I don’t help people right.  I say the wrong things.  I get the feeling they should be talking to a professional, and yet — every time somebody’s told me that they couldn’t help me, and I needed a professional, I took it as personal rejection.

Q. Do you feel like a hypocrite?

A. Yes.  If I feel rejected because a friend is telling me that my issues are “too much of them” and that I need “professional help,” then what right do I have to suggest that some friend of mine needs professional help, rather than to talk to me?

Q. But if they talk to you, won’t you just stick your foot in your mouth again?

A. Yes.   And that very well could be the reason all those other people told me that I should see a professional.   They meant well, but they didn’t have the facile or expertise to help me.

Q. Would you consider seeing a professional?

A. I already do.  And I got a stack of bills higher than the ceiling.

Q. Andy – what is the bottom line?

A. You keep asking me that.

Q. Andy – what is the bottom line?

A. See what I mean?

Q. Andy – what is the bottom line?

Andy takes a breath.  

A. The bottom line is that, for a variety of reasons ranging from my being a social imbecile, a dork, a clutz, an unemployable space case, disabled, scraping my nuts off trying to keep up with the rising cost of living, not being able to get around, not having a car, and just generally being a weirdo,  I just don’t consider myself to be very effective.  And I would like to be more effective.

A. So with all that working against you, how can you be effective?

Q. By doing one great thing before I die.  By doing one great thing that will reach people — and that will make a positive difference in their lives.

A. Wow — do you have any idea what that thing might be?

Q. I know exactly what that thing might be!  And by the way, so do you.   Daylight’s burning.  Time’s wasting.  Money doesn’t grow on trees.  LET’S GET THIS SHOW ON THE ROAD. 

The Questioner is silent.

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Gratitude List 1063

My list from yesterday morning.

1. I feel kinda “normal” this morning.  I like it when I’m at my norm, when nothing is setting me off.

2. I noticed, as of this morning, that I’m able to pray again. When people have come to mind, I’ve been able to pray for them rather than just worry about them or (worse yet) be indifferent toward them. It’s the evidence of a prayer life that I associate with the state of sobriety that I find to be the best, most useful state.

3. Slept during a normal time frame. I forget when I went to bed (8 or 9) but awoke at around 4am feeling rested and refreshed. Dreamed a lot too.

4. Heard from my daughter for the first time in a long time.   All she said was “hey daddy, love you hope you’re well” and then didn’t reply to any of my following, very immediate, most excited texts. Still, that’s better than nothing.  Grateful to hear that she is (1) alive, and (2) breathing.  It does make a difference.  ;)

5. This coffee is great, from the Sunset. I enjoyed jogging to the store and back in the 18 degrees. It didn’t feel oppressively cold, and the nice guy was working graveyard shift. Got a large Hi-Rev coffee, still working on it.

6. This is a really nice spot, where my apartment is. I like my desk, and where it sits, and the view. The seclusion really sits well with me, if truly appreciated and used properly. I like the early morning hours.

7. Nice chat with a good friend, one of the volunteers at the Center.   

8. Soon I’ll be in the cafe, probably at the Round Table, probably writing music, probably smiling.  Looking forward to church this morning, too.  And you know — my life is good these days. There really is a lot to be grateful for.

9. Working on a big number in Act Two for the vocal score.   It’s intriguing.  There’s an interesting tension between the powerful statement of solidarity and the weird campy musical theatre show tune aspect. That’s the tension I’ve got to work with, in order to make this number truly great.  And I will do so.

10. His blessings are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness.

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Announcement

I debated whether to post this announcement, or just to drop off the face clandestinely.  I chose the former, because when others have chosen the latter, it’s always made me want to buzz them and try to find out what’s up, which is not always appreciated.

Life is such that I can’t possibly keep up the blogging commitment earlier propounded.  I’ve got so much else that needs to be done, the blog just seems more of a hassle than anything else.   I really would like to just be free of it.

I’ll still post, and I’ll try to stick to the days I announced earlier — piano stuff on Fridays, and so forth.  But it’s not going to be regular, and I’m not going to bind myself to have to come up with something six days a week.  There just aren’t enough hours in the day.

Anyway, just thought I should say something.  Life is good, I just finished the first Act of my vocal score, I’ve started on the second Act, and after that I have the instrumental parts to score.   This is just stuff that needs to be done if one has written a musical and has any hopes of it ever being produced.

I also have articles to write for a number of major newspapers who may or may not publish them.  But I’m being strongly recommended by some people who have written for those papers.  So it seems to be the door that’s being opened right now.

And then of course, there’s life in general.  Church, family, everything else.  Blogging would be great if it were a full time job with a paycheck attached to it.  But it’s basically become a full time job with no monetary recompense whatsoever.  And I have other such jobs that are more rewarding, in other ways.  

So ta ta for now.  I’ll be back when I’m back.  

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Open Mike

So apparently somebody heard me playing at the Open Mike last Friday and posted this picture on his Facebook: 

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I don’t personally use Facebook, but I knew something was up as soon as I hit the downtown main strip this morning.  All these people who know me as a social activist were coming up and saying: “I didn’t know you were a musician!”

By the way, the song I played and sang was The Word from Beyond from my new musical, Eden in Babylon.  The link is to the lyrics, and if you want to hear an instrumental rendition of it on my SoundCloud, be my guest:

Otherwise, I must confess the obvious.  I mainly posted this here in lieu of a piano video because I once again didn’t get it together.  I didn’t get it together because it takes two people to produce those vids — one to play the piano, and one to make sure the recording device (i.e., the smartphone) is mounted in its proper place.  And each of the people who usually help me happen to be on extended holiday vacation.  :(

So, after much consternation, I have decided to postpone the piano posting till next Friday.  At that time, I hope to provide my unique rendition of “Wintertime Love” to whoever is available to receive it.  And may Jim Morrison be rolling over in his grave — with laughter. 

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A little bit goes a long, long way.