Talking Shop

This Wednesday’s podcast is an excerpt from a long conversation involving myself, Kelsey Chapman our Artistic Director, and Cooper Knutson our male lead in the ongoing workshop of my new musical Eden in Babylon.   If you’re interested in my personal story involving wealth, poverty, and homelessness, you probably don’t want to miss this one.   Toward the end, it fades after revealing the connection between my own story and that of the main character in the musical drama, whose name is Winston Greene.  

The song referenced by Cooper, called “Hunted,” involves Winston’s arrest in the second Act, which precedes his attempted assassination.  An instrumental version of it may be found here.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1654

(1) Taking a week off from EIB rehearsals was just about the best thing I’ve done for myself in a long time. I caught up on my sleep as well as on reading and housecleaning. Was also able to devote more time to my daughter and to my friends. Grateful for the power of rest.

(2) The first column in the five week series is beginning to take off, surprisingly enough. Though the essential message — having to do with stigma — is a challenge to articulate, I have confidence that after five weekly columns, I’ll have gotten the point across. Grateful for the opportunity.

(3) I’ve sold five new From a Distance piano albums already. Taking the cash bit by bit to the Dollar Store for groceries is reminiscent of a former time of thrift, when all throughout the 90’s I took my tip money four nights a week to a Lucky grocery store after getting off my regular gig at Gulliver’s Restaurant. Never had a food bill in those days, never had to go to a food bank, never went hungry.

(4) I was a new man when I arrived at the recording session yesterday. The spirit of professionalism was striking, and we nailed “Turns Toward Dawn” on the 3rd take. The way that Liam and Cody work together, both with expertise in their respective fields, neither having known the other before a few short weeks ago, is beyond impressive. After the session, we ran “Oracle.” This was the first time I’ve accompanied it since Cody took over teaching the choral parts, and it rocked. I was blessed — I was jazzed — I was proud.

(5) Grateful for my church, where I’ve been a member now for over 4 1/2 years. They have supported me in my best and put up with me in my worst. Very thankful for my new life in Idaho, after years of struggling on the San Francisco Bay Area streets.

Don’t lose faith. Promise yourself that you will be a success story, and I promise you that all the forces of the universe will unite to come to your aid; you might not feel it today or for a while, but the longer you wait the bigger the prize.   — George Bernard Shaw  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1652

(1) Health and self-care have been distinctly better since having finally finished a very challenging and unanticipated task. Actually got eight hours sleep the night before last, and six hours last night. Starting to run again – did three miles in the snow with my NanoSpikes. Sat down to meditate thereafter, and though I slept through most of the twenty minutes, it still seemed beneficial.

(2) Finished the first column for the five-week series on Spokane Faith and Values. Completed a draft of the second column, which I’m about to edit and submit. Grateful for the opportunity.

(3) It was nice to hear my daughter introduce me to a friend of hers yesterday by saying: “This is my dad Andy.  He was on the streets for like thirteen years and now he’s a published journalist and widely respected, and they’re producing a musical he wrote about youth homelessness.”  (A bit hyperbolic on both ends, but still nice to hear.) Grateful for a daughter who is proud of me.

(4) Big night tonight, if Cooper doesn’t get snowed out on the mountainous 30 mile drive.  Five musicians and five singers are going to be gathering with sound engineer and all kinds of recording equipment, hopefully to record “Sirens of Hope” and “Turns Toward Dawn” before we lose Cooper to a lead in a TV series.   (Asking for prayer).  

(5) Observed a very restful Sabbath on Saturday, which no doubt contributed to the unprecedented eight hours of sleep.  One thing I did do was fix the ending to Desperado.  It was a labor of love as opposed to all the stressful stuff that constitutes “work” in our high-pressure, fast-paced society.  You might check it out — we all need to let Somebody love us — before it’s too late.

The moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. Whatever you think you can do, or believe you can do, begin it. Action has magic, power and grace. — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1651

(1) Finally got that huge project concerning the time signature change out of the way.  Even got inspired in the process and heard some cool three part harmonies in my head that I was able to add to the score.   The result is a 12-page combined vocal, bass and guitar score to my song The Word from Beyond.  I’m not only proud of my work, I am relieved and thankful to have finished it.

(2) Really enjoyed the Coffee Talk on Saturday morning. I always enjoy hearing the perspectives of all the religious journalists, and often more so, the atheists who are clearly freethinkers and untainted by dogmatic doctrine.

(3) One of the Kids came over and helped me clean up the house.  Got a jump start anyway – still gotta do the bathroom.  She sang while she worked, too.  Nice to have supportive people in my life.

(4) I agreed with my editor-in-chief to a five-week series on a certain theme, to begin on the 17th and run for five consecutive Wednesdays.   Also, my Hobo, Homeless or Houseless piece will be published this Wednesday.   So I get six in a row — this could lead to something even better.

(5) I hope you enjoy this rehearsal version of The Urban Elegy that we did yesterday.  It’s a rough recording, but the essence of the song is there.   You can hear the Wendt Brothers harmonies as well as solos by Zazen and Keva, and four part harmonies throughout.   I’m proud of these young Artists.  We’re all proud — and I’m grateful.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

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.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

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.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Take Two

Just a brief note to whom it may concern. We did a second take of my song “Secrets” with better sound equipment. I went ahead and replaced it on the previous post. But this is all just a tease because we’re posting a video tomorrow at 6pm PST. It’s a work-in-progress and something of a sidetrack. But I’m fairly sure it will have progressed a bit further by then. Stay tuned.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1647

(1) First full band rehearsal tonight at 7pm.  We’re rehearsing the opening number “Sirens of Hope” and the ballad “Turns Toward Dawn.”  Everyone seems stoked, and I’m down.

(2) Still getting more exercise, mostly brisk walking of fairly long distances.  Still losing weight, still spending less time on the Internet and more time outdoors.   Cold weather hasn’t been too much of a deterrent, though it does help me not to overdo it.

(3) Grateful for the stimulus check, being as it has helped me to rationalize four Domino’s pizzas already, not to mention the nice meal from the Co-Op I’m about to indulge on the way out the door to rehearsal.

(4) Rehearsing the “Urban Elegy” yesterday, there were spots where we all came together so nicely, and with a nice kind of driving feel throughout.  It was such a great, unexpected experience we decided to do it a second time so Keva could record it.  And then, lo and behold, the second time was even better than the first.  (Eager to hear the recording, once it materializes.)

(5) I find myself looking forward to packing up my stuff and heading into town on a slow trek toward rehearsal.  I find myself grateful that I live in such a peaceful community.  For all the insanity going on in the world today, I’m grateful for the little pockets of sanity, wherever they can be found.  Grateful for the warm and very accepting community in which I live.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Christmas Offerings from the Team

First I’d like you to hear a couple of the musicians I’m fortunate enough to have landed for our Eden in Babylon workshop.   That’s Liam Merchant on saxophone (he’s playing sax, flute, and keyboard synth in the EIB band).  Bobby Meador is the guitarist, as they do an intriguing version of “The House of the Rising Sun,” sung to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” 

On a more traditional note, here are the Wendt Brothers — Cody, Ian, and Tyler — with their charming Christmas Special.   Numerous carols are here displayed, evoking the signature Wendt harmonies and piano stylistics.  In addition, Cody narrates the Christmas Special with accounts of how these carols came into being.   

May the warmth of the season embrace us all, and God bless us — every one.   

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Tuesday Tuneup 97

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Disruption.

Q. Disruption of what?

A. Of the natural flow of things.

Q. What is the natural flow of things?

A. Oh, it’s the flow of like, going to bed at around 9:30 at night, getting up at around 4:30 in the morning, having a cup of coffee, going for a run, eating breakfast, and — hey wait a minute!  Why do you ask?

Q. Why do you ask why I ask?

A. Because everybody has a natural flow of things, don’t they?

Q. I don’t know.  Do they?

A. Well maybe not.  But I do.  Or, at least I like to think I do.

Q. Well how has it been disrupted?

A. I think it has something to do with the arrival of the musicians.

Q. Musicians?

free clipart, clipart, american flags clipart ...

A. Yeah – musicians.   They’re unlike the other people I’ve been working with.   I’m having a little bit of trouble switching gears — you know, changing hats.

Q. Why should you have to change hats at all?

A. Because the other people are not so much like musicians.   They may sing and even play music, but they’re — a different type of people.

Q. What type of people are they?

A. They’re musical theatre people.

Q. How are those types of people different than musicians?

A. I don’t know — they’re more like me, I think.   I don’t feel like I have to play a role.

Q. But isn’t theatre all about playing roles?

A. Sure it is.  But that doesn’t mean you have to play a role in order to play a role.   You can be yourself, and be authentic – and reserve the roles for the stage.

Q. But isn’t all the world a stage?

A. Maybe.

Q. Don’t musicians also perform on stages?

A. Good point.  But musicians are different.   They have a different energy than theatre people.

Q. Why are you stigmatizing musicians?   Aren’t they all unique individuals?

A. Yeah – but they all got something in common.   Can’t quite put my finger on it.

Q. Are you saying you don’t feel comfortable among other musicians?

A. Not quite, no.   I guess you’re right.  I don’t.

Q. Why not?

A. Past experiences.

Q. What kinds of experiences?

A. Late nights.

Q. You don’t care for the night life?

A. Morning person.   Theatre gigs get me out at ten or eleven max.   Music gigs?  Party till the cows come home.  Groupies.   Partying.   Uh, er — drugs.

Q. You think your musicians are on drugs?

A. Not at all.  It’s just an association with past experience.   I haven’t played with other musicians in a really long time.  Not with a whole band of them anyway.

Q. Are you afraid of musicians?

A. Come to think of it, yes I am.   First rehearsal tomorrow afternoon, and yeah I’m a little on the nervous side.

Q. Why?

A. Intimidated.

Q. Why?

A. They’re — seasoned.  Disciplined.  Cultured.   And they have a strict code of conduct.   They’re impressive — and they have —

Q. What do they have?

A. They have —

Q. What do they have that you don’t have?

A. All right, I’ll come out with it.  They have training.  They have college degrees.   They went to jazz schools and conservatories.  They probably have biographies in Wikipedia.   They’re too —

Q. Too good for you?

A. Yeah kinda.  That’s it.   They’re too good for me.

Q. You do not deserve to play with good musicians?

A. Not really, no.   They’re out of my league, to be honest with you.

Q. Then why do they want to play music with you?

A. Uh –

Q. Are you paying these cats?

A. Uh, no  . . . not at the moment, if you know what I mean . . .

Q. So why do they want to play music with you?

A. I don’t know.

Q. If there’s no money in it, why are they bothering?

A. Um — good question.  I don’t have the answer.  Do you?

 The Questioner is silent.  

Gratitude List 1643

(1) A period of holiday-related depression appears to have subsided, and a healthy holiday spirit is upon me once more.

(2) I was distracted both by a personal dilemma and by the need to finish script revisions in order to better display why my protagonist would pose such a threat to the authorities as to motivate his attempted assassination.   I forgot to create my Monday morning gratitude list in the process, but I find something gentle and healing in expressing my gratitude at the end of the day.   Grateful to have resolved my dilemma — with the help of a friend and a counselor — and grateful to have finished the revisions, thus generating Draft 5-P and submitting it to the team.

(3) Just learned today that the church will be holding an outdoor service on the front lawn on Christmas Eve.   I invited everybody to come.  Usually the neighbors show up for the lawn services, and it promises to be a warm and peaceful gathering.

(4) Had a great Zoom meeting with Kurt Q. the recently retired linguistics professor.  He recommended a book called The Argument Culture: Moving from Debate to Dialogue by Deborah Tannen, and sent two of her essays.   Also recommended the work of Peter Elbow.  Kurt is great for intellectual stimulus, and we decided to meet every Monday now.  

(5) My daughter found a forgotten book of her poetry from the year 2011 and already has written a new song based on one of the poems.  It’s poignant.   Things have been rough, but we seem to have alighted upon a strong bond.     God is Good.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

What Child Is This?

Here are the Wendt Brothers, Cody to the right and Ian to the left, who are portraying the characters Benzo and Timothy in our current workshop of my new musical Eden in Babylon.  This is their charming version of the old English carol, “What Child Is This?”  



Wendt Brothers Facebook Page

Wendt Brothers YouTube Channel 

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1642

(1) Yesterday three new musicians joined the team.  Now we have all five members of the band that can accompany the whole show.  This will be better than the fully interactive accompaniment envisioned earlier.  Richard the bass player has been learning the music already, and practicing with me.  These three new players, all musicians he currently performs with in various bands, will fill out the sound we need.

(2) I’ve been absorbed in making sure that instrumental parts were handed out to the three new musicians who just joined up yesterday.  So I haven’t surfaced till now, but am very grateful to have finally gotten all this stuff done — having done nothing else all day long.  

(3) Beautiful snowy weather in which I don’t mind exercising, when the spirit is right.  Recently however I’ve found more reasons to stay inside than to venture outdoors.  Grateful for shelter from Winter weather.

(4) My recent article published in Faith and Values has been shared 193 times and viewed over a thousand times:

Capture

(5) Meeting with Tom and Vanessa tomorrow, who are playing the parts of the father and mother in the Audio Show.   Then I should be ready with the lines.  The whole project is expanding.   I’m pretty grateful.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Tuesday Tuneup 96

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Disorientation.

Q. How so?

A. Thrown off.

Q. Thrown off track?

A. Not sure I was ever on track to begin with.

Q. Well, what happened?

A. I walked into a building I seldom frequent, and I had a bad experience there.

Q. Why did you go there?

A. Because I had left my glasses there.

Q. Why had you gone there in the first place?

A. Because that’s where a guy was who could fix my iPhone for free. He fixed it, and I left hurriedly because I didn’t feel safe there.

Q. Why not?

A. Somebody who usually hugs me wanted to hug me, and she seemed not to accept my reasons for not wanting to touch her. It made me uneasy.

Q. What happened when you went back to get your glasses?

A. Another person wanted to hug me. When I explained my reasons, she asked if I was serious.

Q. What did you do then?

A. Realizing I had a mask and gloves on at the time, I gave up and hugged her.

Q. How did that feel?

A. Weird.

Q. Why?

A. I didn’t act according to principle. I caved in under social pressure.

Q. Does that happen often?

A. Not as often as it used to.

Q. Why not?

A. I don’t go out as much. I stay inside most of the time, and conduct most relationships on the Internet or on my phone.

Q. Doesn’t that deprive you of social contact?

A. Not really. I have social anxiety in public social situations. I am very comfortable with Zoom meetings and other forms of Internet interaction. My social anxiety is not aggravated that way.

Q. But you don’t stay in all the time, do you?

A. Not at all. I exercise vigorously outdoors, usually once a day. On Tuesdays and Thursdays up to ten of us meet in the sanctuary of a certain church and rehearse a couple musicals I’ve written, while social distancing.

Q. A couple musicals?

A. Yes. At first there was only one, then they became interested in another one. So we’ve got a lot of music to do, and we find this very rewarding.

Q. Don’t you want to hug each other? Isn’t that what musical theatre people do?

A. We want to, sure. But we don’t. We stand six to ten feet apart from each other, and obey the laws.

Q. The laws?

A. The laws. The mask mandate, and the governor’s rulings.

Q. But the people in that other building don’t obey the laws?

A. Many of them do. But enough of them don’t that it makes me uneasy.

Q. Have you always obeyed the laws?

A. No I have not.

Q. Do you always obey the laws nowadays?

A. Yes I do.

Q. Then why hang out with people who have no regard for the law?

A. That’s a very good question.

The Questioner is silent.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1641

(1) After nearly two weeks of enduring a totally erratic sleeping schedule, I believe I have finally returned to my preferred early-to-rise routine. Already, I am feeling calmer and more confident than I did throughout the week last week.

(2) This also blessed me to see an absolutely gorgeous sunrise, which unfortunately I failed to capture on camera. The sight of it reminded me of new beginnings, and hope for new blessings in the week to come.

(3) Someone left a workstation and an executive chair about a block down the road, with a sign that said “FREE.” As I paled at the task of dragging the items down to my apartment, a kind couple across the way asked if I needed help. The upshot is that I was finally able to replace my large collapsing table with a very nice black workstation, creating more space in the apartment and making me much more comfortable at my new desk.

(4) In the process of excitedly hurling the many items off the previous very messy table, I created such a horrific mess in the living room that I was finally motivated to perform a thorough tidying-up thereof. No doubt I will soon continue this happy trend with the kitchen and bathroom.

(5) Tears of joy put me to peaceful sleep the night before last, after receiving the greatest show of respect I believe I have ever received from a group of people in my entire life. Somehow, a musical I’d almost forgotten I’d written came up during a meeting of my Eden in Babylon team. Noticing that the current team consists of four very fine male singer-actors and three equally talented female performers, I saw how the seven Artists corresponded almost magically to the four male characters and three female characters in The Burden of Eden.

It then was not long before the complete piano-vocal score to that show had been submitted to them, and my team was excitedly going about learning their songs. After years of having my work written off as that of a “crackpot,” I have finally found good people who believe in me. I’m crying now, just thinking about it. It’s almost too good to be true.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Secrets

I don’t have a piano piece for you tonight, or any clips from our current workshop. However, a stroll down memory lane unearthed this studio recording of my song “Secrets” as performed by people involved in a workshop of my previous musical, The Burden of Eden, in June of 2006. You’ll have to click twice to get full credits from my SoundCloud.  But I will say that the 18 year old woman named Lauren Mack who sang this solo learned it in San Jose while listening to the musicians from Marin County playing it on an mp3.   She then arrived in Berkeley and recorded this fairly dazzling rendition in a single take.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Gratitude List 1634

(1) For about a day and a half, I found myself in a place of self-pity, in which past regrets played a greater role than present hopes. The way I got out of it was through prayer. I twice prayed on a walk to the nearby twenty-four market, and when I got back home after the second prayer, I noticed that the regrets over past mishaps and breakups had disappeared, and had now been replaced by an appreciation of the present day and an enhanced sense of hope for the future.

(2) I am grateful on this Thanksgiving morning for my church. In the past four years, they have put up with my unusual personality and have seen me through all kinds of trials. My pastor/counselor has been particularly patient with me, and I have learned that I can be completely honest and open with him, without fear of judgment. The church has given me my own code to enter the building, they have let me play their Baldwin grand piano whenever I choose, and they even have let my musical team rehearse our project free of charge in the sanctuary. No other church I have known in my life has offered me any of these things.

(3) This may sound trite, but as an extremely absent-minded person who loses at least five masks every month and has taken to buying multiple dollar readers at the beginning of every month at the dollar store (since I can’t possibly hang on to a single pair of glasses throughout an entire month), I want to give thanks that in the past four years, I have never once lost the gray beanie that I wear “for security reasons” at almost all times. (Currently, however, it is hanging up to dry in the bathroom, after I unwittingly wore it in the shower.)

(4) In a few short hours, I will observe the Thanksgiving tradition I’ve held sacred since 1976. I will go out for a four mile run, having missed only three years that I’ve counted since I first began running on April 9, 1976. (It’s always possible I counted wrong about there being only three years I missed. In this case, however, a “recount” is not possible.)

(5) There’s a lot for us all to be thankful for, and to look forward to after many of us got the crap kicked out of us by 2020. It looks like there’s a vaccine on the way, and the upcoming administration is at least putting an emphasis on unity and healing, rather than on perpetuating division in order to retain power. But in my personal world, I have to give thanks that, after basically being laughed at for years and told that my priorities were all screwed up, I have found a number of talented young people who believe in me and in my work. It may not seem like much to my naysayers, but it’s a start — and a good one. And my naysayers have nothing on me. I’m thankful that I’m a survivor, and that I’m not the kind who gives up for good.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.

Vocal Score

Finished this last night. It’s the third draft of the vocal score to my musical. Music, lyrics, and vocal arrangement.  Maybe you just heard that song “Daylight?” Here’s a screenshot:
And here’s what a considerably more complex page looks like: Capture You may not read music, but there are plenty of words involved, too!  If if you feel like checking it out, you can always click on the link with the title below.   This way you get the whole 90 pages of it:

EDEN IN BABYLON VOCAL SCORE

Hm, it just crossed my mind that maybe you do read music.   You probably even know how to write it.  In that case, don’t judge me too harshly for my many peccadilloes.   I’d rather have you help me score all this stuff out, because believe me, getting all those little black dots in the right places with Finale software can be a real pain in the you-know-what.

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Daylight

This is just a snippet of a much larger piece we pulled out of Tuesday’s rehearsal.    Keva Shull sings “Daylight,” the second movement of “Awake the Dawn” (the opening number of Scene Five in Eden in Babylon.)   All very informal — I’m at the piano.   Lyrics here, if you want them.   

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Gratitude List 1632

(1) Though a more devastating blizzard has been foretold, thus far it’s not been a deterrent to my getting out of the house.  Peak winds have been 17 mph so far, and on each day the weather’s been conducive to a long brisk walk or jog.

(2) Having determined new functions for three of my team members, we now add to the previous roles of Cody, Richard and Zazen the duties of musical direction, orchestral direction, and stage management respectively.  This not only takes a load off of me, but also it enhances the overall team spirit, giving a couple of our Actors and one musician more of a role on the team outside of that of being a performer.  It’s all about optimizing each individual’s  contribution while gradually reducing the size of my own role.  And this is a good thing, for the overall team.

(3) Zazen reports that people have sent their schedules to her, and she’s already scheduled a big “Sirens of Hope” rehearsal tomorrow afternoon.  The delegations — and semi-delegations — appear to be working.

(4) Somebody whom I probably need not identify was there for me at my lowest moment, and I felt the love and support that’s real, that’s based on something that’s not only promising in the long run, but tangible in the here and now.   In fact, a number of supportive people then arose to encourage me, and that included most of the members of the team, and beyond.  It has been this great, unprecedented experience of massive love and respect.  Moreover, to top it all off, yesterday there was another unexpected anonymous one hundred dollar donation.

(5) In pastoral counseling this afternoon, it came about that I am to be thankful for this new sense of community that has been formed in our Eden in Babylon team.  And there’s no reason for me to deprive myself of a due experience of enjoying that community, even to the casting aside of reservations and doubts.

“Unity is strength. Where there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved.”
— Mattie Stepanek

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Turns Toward Dawn

Cooper Knutson and Keva Shull singing the song “Turns Toward Dawn” from the new musical Eden in Babylon at a rehearsal this past Tuesday afternoon.   I’m on the Baldwin GP-190 concert grand, and we used one “snowball” mike, situated approximately twelve feet away from the piano, with the two of them standing six feet apart on either end.   It’s raw and real — I hope you enjoy it.   

Andy Pope · Turns Toward Dawn

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The Show Must Go On

The current snowstorm is coinciding with a sudden urge to remain horizontal as well as unconscious. I have now slept for fifteen hours, barring brief periods of time when I arose only to send concise texts (and in one case a lengthy text) to people whom I hoped would be concerned.

I thought I was feverish again but it appears to have passed. Moreover, the feverish fervor with which I have forced my fantasy upon an innocent group of young people also appears to have passed. I saw myself through new eyes at yesterday’s rehearsal, and what I saw was not a good man.

Admittedly, it was a difficult number, and I could have been more prepared. At one point I left the musical direction up to Cody. I observed him at that point to be a much more competent musical director than I. I had taken a break, ostensibly to use the bathroom, but more poignantly to see if someone other than myself could possibly take over that function. That is, the function of Musical Director (not the bodily function involved in going to the bathroom — I still have competence in that area.)

When I had been trying to teach the big choral number, “Children of the Universe,” even though I had written and arranged the piece myself, I could not possibly keep track of all its nuances. At one point, I was reading notes as though they had been written in bass clef, whereas in fact I had written them in treble clef. This shows how little ability I have to remember even my own music that I myself have composed.

The voice inside me that kept telling me I was “not good enough” was so strong and ever-present, it actually generated a self-fulfilling prophecy. I could not possibly focus even on the aspects of the project on which I remained competent, for all the noise in my head advising me how incompetent I truly was.

When Zazen agreed to position the iPhone for me so as to video the piano piece for Friday, as she has been doing every Thursday, I found I could not get through an entire song. Tears fell thereafter – but now I’m getting personal.

I like my home piano, the Howard upright, and I have playing it more frequently for emotional release. If I can figure out how to position the phone, I may still produce something today. I’m not going outside. The weather suggests hunkering down.

My internal climate is like unto the weather. It suggest some form of retreat and deeper reflection. As of today, I have no remaining energy to be involved in my musical project. I feel that, in trying to get the concept of my story across to these very talented and dedicated young people, I have unwittingly engaged them in my undying personal fantasy — a world of my imagination, quite incompatible with the reality that we all must share.

It is unconscionable that I have done so. But God may have been merciful. If any group of people could possibly determine how this show could conceivably be engineered without me, it is they. I will henceforth seek to remove myself gradually from any involvement with this musical.

That said, the show must go on.

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An Interview with Matt Perez

This Wednesday’s audio presentation is an interview with Matt Perez, who is currently playing the part of John James — a street hustler, drug dealer type — in our current workshop of my musical, Eden in Babylon. I know that not all of my followers take the time to listen to these talks, but if you can manage to fit this one in, I think it’s unusually strong. Then, if you feel like backtracking for further info, all six of the interviews have been posted on this playlist.

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Gratitude List 1630

(1) I’m feeling more peace about things than I’ve felt for a long time.

(2) I’ve been playing piano tunes lately from my set list at Gulliver’s of San Francisco, the gig I held throughout the 90’s. They seem to reflect a happy, more contented spirit than the earlier, more tumultuous, more boisterous stuff.

(3) Finally made it to Winko’s last night. Nice of Susan to give me a ride there and back. I had planned to buy $260 worth of groceries, eyeballed it at the store without a list, and came home with $261 and change. Pretty sure I’m good for the month.

(4) The team had a great meeting yesterday afternoon, in which our direction was clarified. We’re focusing on the Audio Show now, and I’m enjoying receiving lines that everyone records into their phones and mixing them at home using Audacity. Also, we’ve been getting more donations lately on the site here — some from entirely unexpected sources. It’s encouraging to see us all having a good time with the project, and it’s a good feeling to know that people are drawn toward it.

(5) I don’t know how to say this, so I’ll just say it. I’m thankful that I don’t live in California anymore. It can be a beautiful place, but it’s just so nice not to be struggling to survive in that chaotic, cut-throat culture. People up here are just nicer enough and I have just enough more breathing room, that I no longer feel incapable of doing the things I enjoy, for all the struggle I was having down there trying to “make it.” I’m thankful for my retirement income. I’m thankful that this month marks three years where I’ve paid rent on a place of my own, where I’ve lived in peace and quiet. I would have died in a gutter down there. I’m thankful for my life.

“Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” 
-Harriet Tubman

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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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Gratitude List 1627

(1) Though I was running on empty for quite a few days, I slept ten hours last night and feel like a new man. Thankful for sleep and its restorative power.

(2) Richard the bass player brought over some home-cooked curry and rice last night, which was a welcome and healthy restbit from my usual diet.

(3) Thankful for the smile on Cody’s face during the crescendo to the second repeat of the chorus in “Turns Toward Dawn” at rehearsal on Thursday. I’ve seen that smile before — and I know what it means — but not for a long time. It was refreshing.

(4) Ran into Kurt, the retired linguistics professor, on the way home from rehearsal yesterday. We wound up talking for about an hour. He’s a person whose biblical exegesis and overall unique political worldview makes for extreme intellectual stimulation, not without true inspiration. We arranged to meet again on Zoom on Wednesday, and I’m jazzed.

(5) Just met with the team on the group chat on Messenger. We’re going to put this week to good use — and that involves my slowing down quite a bit. I tend to push myself a bit too hard sometimes, and we all understand that. But I gotta say, we’re making the most out of all the theatres being closed for the pandemic. The team spirit is like nothing I’ve ever known — and I’m thankful.

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Gratitude List 1625

(1) As I heard the rain outside my slightly cracked window last night, I felt a sense of peace, knowing that I have a roof over my head.

(2) Although I’ve not had phone service for a few weeks now, I am finding more and more that I don’t miss the modern day mobile phone device. There are lots of other ways to communicate, and there is great joy in the simplification of life.

(3) Come to think of it, it’s now been almost fifteen years since I’ve driven, and I don’t miss driving a car either. Thankful not to have to deal with car payments, cost of gas and maintenance, road rage, gridlock, and (above all) falling asleep on the road and rear-ending an SUV.

(4) Yesterday afternoon was nice in terms productive meetings with Z. and Kelsey. I’m glad I take the Sabbath on Saturday and glad my church lets me use the building.

(5) Grateful for my two computers and hi-speed Internet. My daughter and I have been chatting every day on Facebook video chat, which is also how I met with Kelsey, who’s important. I’ve also been using Finale 26 to score vocal parts. Many things can be done at home, while sheltering, while raining. Life is full of possibilities, even still.

“The superior man is distressed by the limits of his ability. He is not distressed by the fact that people do not recognize the abilities that he has.” — Confucius

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Gratitude List 1624

(1) I just turned in my October column for Spokane Faith and Values concerning the use and abuse of Holy Scripture. Grateful to have gotten it done, and grateful for this ongoing opportunity.

(2) I recently channeled an insane crush by writing three stream-of-consciousness sonnets in iambic pentameter. Seems a good thing to do when strange feelings occasionally distract. Got them posted on the Sonnets Page in case anyone’s down to take a peek. (Go ahead and laugh, by the way, I won’t be offended.) Grateful for WordPress, since it gives me a nice place to post my various pieces.

(3) Began pastoral counseling again today. My pastor and I are meeting on Zoom every Monday at 1:30 now. We got off to a really good start, and I’m grateful.

(4) A lady from my church gave me a ride to Winko’s and back so I could stock up on a month’s worth of groceries. Grateful for the help, and for my own kitchen, and for the pleasure of being able to eat my own kind of food — the kind of food I enjoy.

(5) Last but not least, I am moved to tears with gratitude for the talent and devotion of the current musical team. These wonderful young people remain a joy and inspiration to me at this trying time in all of our lives.

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Keva’s Song

This morning I’d like to present a one minute audition video recently created by Keva Shull who is playing the female lead Taura in the current workshop of my musical Eden in Babylon. Keva had approached me earlier in the year when I’d offered to tutor Music Theory and Composition and Creative Writing of Fiction over Zoom as the pandemic first put us into quarantine.

It turned out that she had written a musical about the stigma surrounding mental health disorders. I naturally asked her how she chose me of all people, because I have written a musical about mental health conditions myself (my earlier musical, The Burden of Eden.)

Must have been meant to be. I eventually cast Keva in the leading role.  As you can see and hear today, I am very happy to have done so.

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Gratitude List 1623

(1) I’m developing good friends in this town among vibrant young people who I can relate to –people with ideals and values not unlike my own. Had a three hour Zoom conversation with one such person on Saturday when she was on a long drive. Hadn’t had such an in-depth meaningful talk with anyone for a long time. It was reflection of God’s love on the Sabbath, and it made me feel warm inside.

(2) My four mile course is becoming my favorite loop to run. I’ve done it on three consecutive runs recently – and it’s starting to feel a lot easier, too. I walked four miles last night, am going on a bike ride today, and I get to run the course again tomorrow. Exercise is good.

(3) People are starting to tune in to the Zazen Interview– with some happy results. I then asked Keva if she wouldn’t mind being interviewed this week. I’ve never done any audio interviewing before — it’s kinda fun, and as well as useful. The acoustics are really good in the church sanctuary, and the iPhone 11 that my daughter got for me has a fantastic microphone. Plus, I get to edit it and spice it up with Audacity later, which is even more fun. Thankful for new horizons.

(4) My daughter Angela wrote a new song that I love. She’s also doing really well these days. New horizons seems to be the order of the day.

(5) When I sat down on the lawn chair for the outdoor evening service last night, I realized I had not even left the house since Thursday, except for running four miles on Friday night. Getting out for errands on my bicycle now. I don’t mind sheltering in place, and I don’t mind being alone. But making sure to get outside once a day really helps. Which brings up another thing I’m grateful for — I’ve got decent snow boots, I like cold weather, and I don’t mind the snow. Every cloud has a silver lining.

“Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” — Helen Keller

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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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