Tuesday Tuneup 86

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Paralysis.

Q. Meaning?

A. I can’t move.

Q. Can’t?

A. Well — maybe “won’t” would be a better word.

Q. Can you tell us the difference, please?

A. “Can’t” connotes actual inability. “Won’t” only connotes unwillingness.

Q. Are you saying, therefore, that you actually can move, but only that you won’t move?

A. Actually, now that you mention it, I not only can move, but I probably will move — eventually.

Q. Eventually? What’s keeping you from moving right now?

A. I don’t know which way to move.

Q. Why is that?

A. I could move in a number of different directions. But I don’t know which is best.

Q. How can you find out which is best?

A. Obviously, by examining the nature of each different direction, and deciding which direction is the priority.

Q. Well then! What are the various directions?

A. I could work on the three columns of the five columns in the series that I have not yet turned in.

Q. Columns? Series?

A. You heard me! My editor wants to do a series of my columns, one after another I believe, with some regularity, between now and Election Day.

Q. What happens on Election Day?

A. God only knows. But the point is, I have three more columns to turn in before Election Day. And in fact, I have stated that I would get them done within the next three weeks.

Q. So – is that the top priority?

A. Not necessarily. But it’s the first thing that comes to mind.

Q. What else must you do?

A. I’m getting frightfully near the completion of a die-hard project that I began in June. Only a few short steps remain in order to complete it.

Q. What project is that?

A. It’s called the Ode Project.

Q. Ode? As in “Ode to Joy?”

A. As in “Ode to the Universe.”

Q. What is “Ode to the Universe?”

A. It’s a crazy concept I came up with about ten years ago. I had the idea to write a zany “ode” designed to be sung by anybody at anytime, anywhere around the globe, to the end that maybe we could get the entire human race together at one moment, and sing one song at one time — to the Universe.

Q. Isn’t that a bit ambitious?

A. I can do it! I truly can!

Q. Now is this really a priority on this particular morning, when you have all those columns to write?

A. No no – let me explain. So far I have nine videos of nine people performing the piece in different places and different times, accumulated over the past four months or so. I’m supposed to submit the videos to the videographer, who will then create a nice 3 by 3 set of frames, and —

Q. May I interrupt?

A. You already have.

Q. How long will this take you?

A. Well, I’m nearing the end — I have to do my video over — I think the mix of the nine performances needs to be synchronized a bit better — I can’t quite find the trumpet player’s video – and the trumpeter has not gotten back to me about it —

Q. So you don’t know how long it’s going to take, correct?

A. Correct. It may be nearing completion, but it depends on a number of unknown variables.

Q. So is there anything else you need to do today? I mean, on this very day?

A. Yes.

Q. What, may I ask?

A. I need to add three more piano tracks to this folder, so maybe my cast members will be able to listen to them before we rehearse them at 3:30 this afternoon.

Q. What time is it now?

A. About 10:30 in the morning.

Q. So you have five hours?

A. Correct.

Q. To record three songs on the piano?

A. Well, the sooner I do them, the sooner they’ll have them.

Q. How difficult will that be?

A. Not difficult at all.

Q. So what’s keeping you?

A. Nothing, anymore — now that we’ve thought it through.

Q. We?

A. Don’t you know two heads are better than one?

The Questioner is silent.

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Members of the Team

At this time, I thought you might like to see some work from a couple of the very talented young people whom I am so fortunate to be working with on my musical project. Here is Keva Shull, currently playing the part of Taura, the ingenue in my new musical, Eden in Babylon.

And here we have Cody Wendt, the man on the right hand side of the piano he shares with his brother Ian on the left.  Cody is playing the part of Benzo, one of the antagonistic characters in the show.  He and his brother do an enchanting rendition of “Scarborough Fair.”

If you’re interested in hearing other piano reductions of the musical score, I’ve placed them on a shareable link on my Box drive. These are primarily for the purpose of helping cast members learn the music, but you might find them enjoyable all the same.

Other news is that we have finally found a male lead for our emerging production. I’m eager to begin working with Cooper Knutson, who has been recommended very highly by a number of people in the area. Further information is on our Facebook group. Hope you all are gaining encouragement from our group effort, at this trying time in human history.

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Awake the Dawn

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

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Gratitude List 1615

(1) Yesterday I finished making all the adjustments in my musical script that were deemed necessary after an intensive three week reading and critique.   Grateful for the current team, without whose insights I’d have never made it.

(2) At the end of the day, I submitted the show to some people who might have the power to produce it.  And then, right after I did, I felt a huge sense of peace.    I felt relieved, realizing that I don’t have to mess with that script anymore.  Now I can focus on the music, and on other things.  

(3) Got my iPhone working that my daughter helped me to obtain.   Nice to have a phone again, and I can see why people like this one better than the Androids.

(4) This may sound weird, but I want to say that I’m grateful to be an Introvert and also the kind of person who doesn’t really feel a need to be in a relationship or very dependent on human touch.   It’s true that I haven’t touched another human being for about six months or so.  But it’s also true that I wasn’t very attached to human touch to being with.   So I didn’t have much to lose.   

(5) About to embark on a long slow run.   Very grateful for this particular form of exercise.  I always feel kinda “cleansed” afterwards.  There’s something about running that’s like a sacrament.   I’m glad to have rediscovered it at this time in my life.  It really makes a difference – it really does.   

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Progress

Ode to the Universe

Considering that this was done in about ten different places at about ten different times by about ten different people over a period of what almost seems like ten months by now, it’s not in too bad a shape. I’ll admit this is the “beta version.” Keep clicking on the link, and it will no doubt get better and better. There will eventually also be a big interactive video presentation. But mainly I just wanted you to hear where we’re at with the Ode. Credits revealed after you click.

Midnight Screams

The Ode is being done, like I said, by numerous people in various locations, using their respective smartphones. The nice thing is that it doesn’t cost me a cent. This version of “Midnight Screams” was done on a budget a while back, when I was able to pay for for professional singers at a studio. Quite a different product! (To be honest, I’m not sure which sound I prefer. The best of both worlds is my goal.) Again, more will be revealed once you click.

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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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Evolution of a Song: Part One

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah, the fond memories of misspent youth!   

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

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

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

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

TO BE CONTINUED

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The Very Same World

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

Andy Pope · The Very Same World

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

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

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

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

© 2019 by Andy Pope

 

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