Gratitude List 1310

This one’s from last Thursday morning, Halloween in fact.  

1. Slept five surprisingly solid hours between midnight and 5 am, was surprised it was already 5 when I first woke.

2. Took a long hot shower before bed. It still blows my mind how I’m able to do that now, without having to interact with multiple other men, many of whom have been suspicious characters. I still remember my friend George getting his Ibanez custom ripped off during the 5 minutes he was taking a shower at Multi Agency Service Center. Thankful those days are gone.

3. Meditation service was nice. It was gentle. Thomas mentioned liking the Prelude. I didn’t think I was playing very well, but sometimes that’s the best.

4. Did the door last night and got a $20 gift card to use at the cafe. Just used $5.50 of it on a doppio and blueberry muffin. Breakfast at the Courtyard is now obviated, and money saved.

5. The singer-songwriter, Julien Kozak, was also gentle. Very good guitarist and singer, reminiscent of James Taylor. Stopped on his way to Seattle. I am reminded of a gentle period in the 80’s when I used to tour different cafes in the Bay Area. Makes me want to do a tour.

6. You know, I have a really good church now. I’ve been at the same church for over 3 years. This is unusual, in my experience.  My church is a gift from God.

7. Got to talk with Danielle first thing in the morning, and we had a great conversation. There were so many spiritual insights, I was taking notes, and just finished writing down a whole bunch of stuff in my journal, lest I forget.

8. Not having heard from her for a while, I just got a substantial email from Lynne that looks very supportive and insightful. I skimmed it by reading the topic sentences of several paragraphs and am eager to see what all she has to say.

9. Had a nice conversation with Vern yesterday — not Vern the bus driver, but Vern the trumpet player. I’m grateful to be living in a town where everybody knows me as Andy, and where, whether it’s Vern the bus driver, Vern the trumpet player, or anybody else, Andy is ALL RIGHT.

10. God is Love.

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Bad Dream

I get tired of talking about ADHD & Dyslexia, let alone being on a autism spectrum.  Most people just wanna see & hear me hit the keys.  So let’s just say I’m a highly disorganized person, and that the hassle of trying to get these piano tubes together without a sufficient recording device (i.e. a smartphone) has been kinda like a bad dream at times.

On a brighter note, the problem should soon be solved, being as my daughter Angela will be arriving tonight for a two-month visit — complete with iPhone Six.  Henceforth, you can surely expect piano pieces promptly posted properly if not previously.  

Here’s her bold version of “Bad Dream” by one of my favorite, highly underrated artists, the great Chloe Howl. 

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Tuesday Tuneup 55

Q. What are you doin’ here?

A. I’m havin’ a great time, man!

Q. You’re kiddin’ me!  Really?

A. Really!

Q. What’s goin’ on?

A. I’m doin’ the door for a great jazz duo  who just rolled in from San Diego.  Guitar & bass, tight harmonies — what a great gig!

Q. You makin’ any money?

A. A little bit.  Same as I made last night.   Flat twenty dollars for me, all proceeds go to the band.

Q. Who was it last night?

A. Some jazz piano guy.  He did “Round Midnight” and “Pure Imagination” — among other nice charts.

Q. What about tomorrow night?

A. You got me.  I’d have to look it up.

Q. And the night after that?

A. Andy Pope Live.  Check it out:

Image may contain: 1 person

The Questioner is silent.

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Lonely Hearts

This one is from my daughter Angela (whom I call “Echo”).  We were talking on the phone this morning when she began to write a song about me.   This afternoon she expanded it into a larger song called “Lonely Hearts” and has now posted it to her youtube.   


 

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Norwegian Wood

The event  of the All Beatles show turns out so far to be a very warm gathering of medium attendance.  The Town Elders are there, a great rare appearance.  Then mostly my homeys whom I can identify among the visible audience members, if you wish.  I believe these videos are coming at me in chronological order, and these first two, Can’t Buy Me Love and Norwegian Wood, definitely took place before things got out of hand.   

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Can’t Buy Me Love

I apologize for the delay.  I’ve been waiting for clips from the All Beatles Show to start pouring into my inbox, which moment appears at long last to be now.   I’ll just post them in the order they come.  Here’s “Can’t Buy Me Love.”

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The All Beatles Show

For those of you who have been anticipating a musical offering right around now, you will not be disappointed.  I’ve only been waiting for a relaxed moment to report what’s been happening.

Beatles Logo Clip Art – Cliparts

I just returned from a two hour show where I and multi-instrumentalist Paul Anders were joined by the special guest arrival of vocalist Kelsey Chapman, who harmonized with me on a performance of nothing but Beatles songs for two hours.   Although we didn’t get a video of the entire show, Brandy Sullivan has told me that she has captured four or five key sections.  

My first response was: “Tell me you caught Eleanor Rigby!”  

“That I did,” smiled Brandy.

“Whew!” I breathed a sigh of relief.  It was too magical, between me and Paul when he was on his violin, bowing smooth arco passages throughout.   And the voicings Kelsey and I intuited into our harmonies, and the dynamic peaks and valleys of the piece.  It was one of those times that all musicians live for, when everything comes together, however mysteriously, and by surprise.

It was all in all a very high-spirited, warm-hearted occasion.  At one point the entire building was singing the chorus to “Yellow Submarine” repeatedly.  They got softer and softer, until I suddenly shouted “One more time!”  At that, everybody starting singing “We all live on a yellow submarine!” at the top of their lungs.  It was priceless.

Kelsey did “Imagine” — technically a John Lennon tune — and Dave and I sang harmonies, another one with an almost mystical ebb and flow.  “Lady Madonna” was one of the more rockin’ numbers, as was “Gotta Get You Into My Life.”   Then came “For No One,” “Nowhere Man,” and “The Fool on the Hill.”  Maybe you get the picture.  It got kinda dark.

We closed with “A Day in the Life.”  This, by the way, was a fundraiser, that happened to go quite well — in fact, even better than hoped.  I’ll be posting clips and videos as I receive them from Brandy throughout the weekend.  

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Rosy

Happy Independence Day, to whomever it may apply.   It applies to me in numerous ways, not the least of which is that I finished  a working script and score to my musical Eden in Babylon on Independence Day, exactly one year ago today.  And now, may I present you with a third version of my song “Rosy.”  This is from last Friday’s open mike.

Andy Pope on the Yamaha at the Open Mike
at the One World Cafe, Friday June 29, 2019.
“Rosy” from In Lies We Trust.
Copyright © 2019 by Andrew Michael Pope.  All Rights Reserved.  

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Simple Love Song

Before we go much further, I probably ought to let my close followers know how the radio show went.  It went great.  And not only that, but a couple of very interesting events occurred immediately before and after the interview.  

Not having done a radio interview since 1987, I was extremely nervous.  I was so nervous, I had a hard time praying before the show.  I was grabbing a bite to eat at the Courtyard, when I prayed: “Lord, please let me run into another believer who will pray for me, because I cannot pray.” (Ironically, when I said, “I cannot pray,” I was praying.) 

I believe that prayer was heard.   I had barely taken one step out the door of the Courtyard, when someone locking their bicycle said hi to me.  But I didn’t recognize her with helmet and haircut.  As she took off the helmet, I realized she was Amanda from my church.

So I explained the situation and asked her to pray.   Then I got to the studio right on time, and the entire event flowed beautifully.   It wasn’t perfect, of course.  But it was a lot better than I’d feared!

Immediately after the three hour event was over, I went to the bathroom and thanked the Lord.  Then I asked Him what I should do next.  (I’ve been doing that a lot lately, because I’m such a space case I often don’t know what the next logical thing to do is.)

The still small voice clearly said: “Relax and rejoice.”  I’d never heard that combination before.  But it sounded right to me.

As I left the studio, an incredible peace came over my entire being.  It was the most peace I had felt in my spirit since the day when I played the entire score on the piano of Dan Bukvich, the noted composer and percussionist.   His reply had been: “We gotta get this thing staged!”

After that, I was at peace for about six hours.  I’m not a person who ordinarily experiences that depth of peace.  (In case anyone hasn’t noticed, I’m one of those “high strung space cases.”)

This time, the peace was not quite so enduring.  But while I was immersed in a blissful peace, approximately five minutes after I had left the studio, I saw a fellow with a backpack, and I heard a familiar phrase.

“Hey, you dropped your smile!”

This expression was used a lot by panhandlers in Berkeley, during the years when I was homeless there.   Sometimes people were offended.  In this case, the young woman merely smiled.  You see, we have only one visible homeless person in this entire town.   So it’s very unusual to run into a homeless chap up here. 

Smiling, I asked him: “Did you just say, ‘you dropped your smile?””

“Yeah!  Are you homeless?”

“Not anymore.”

“Me neither.   I just got myself a small house on the edge of town, after being homeless in Seattle for years.”

After a brief but warm conversation, we parted ways.   I then reflected on how this sudden radio show had come about.   I had played a song at the Open Mike which we hold on the last Friday of each month in the quiet little Art-positive hamlet in which I dwell.   Then I found myself shooting the breeze with one of the other participants in the event, and it turned out he needed somebody for his radio show the following day.

The song that he heard, by the way, was this:

“Simple Love Song” © 1976, 2019 by Andrew Michael Pope

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Pinnacle

If anyone has use for a CD in this day and age (and I’m almost sure there are those among us who do), my new Pinnacle CD is on sale for $10 on the local market and $15 if I have to mail it to you.

And just in case you don’t happen to have any particular use for a CD in your hyper-modern mode of existence, my music doesn’t cost a whole lot to access in general.  As a matter of fact, here it is.

pinnacle cover

One way or the other, your kind donation is always appreciated.   Here’s to the “Heart of the Arts.”

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Tuesday Tuneup 46

Q. What’s really bugging you this morning?

A. Not much.  Not much at all.

Q. Anything bugging you just a little bit?

A. Well, if you must ask, I suppose there are a couple things.

Q. Like what?

A. We didn’t get a very good turnout at the second round of auditions last night.

Q. Why not?

A. Probably because we haven’t advertised very well.  This all came up rather suddenly.

Q. What else is bugging you?

A. Well, my dyslexia is very inconvenient.   I’m doing a very important task that involves two separate computers, and saving files in two separate ways on each computer.  It’s sort of like dyslexia upon dyslexia.  These kinds of tasks take me five times as long to accomplish as the normal human being even if only one dyslexic factor is involved.  Now it’s taking twenty-five times as long.  It can be discouraging.   But you know what’s bugging me the most?

Q. What?

A. The fact that I even am expected to discuss what’s bugging me this morning, rather than what I’m really happy about.

Q. What are you really happy about?

A. My daughter!!

The Questioner is silent.   

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I Am the Blues

I received this unexpected video gift in my inbox yesterday.   A guy named Paul Anders is playing the cajon while I’m doing a song I wrote called I Am the Blues on a Yamaha electronic piano.  The beginning was chopped off, but I’m posting it anyway, since it’s the first thing I’ve posted musically other than solo piano since having miraculously been resurrected from the Grave of Homelessness after twelve years of turning over in it.  

You can click on the song title above for the complete lyrics.  By the way, this is from last Friday’s Open Mike at the One World Cafe, and the person who videoed it was Brandy Sullivan, the co-owner of that venue.   

I’ll post another solo piano piece, as usual, on Friday.   In the meantime, I hope you enjoy this “snippet.”  :)

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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 IS 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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A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

Interim

My new piano album Interim is now available on CD, including the following songs:

1. “Awake the Dawn” – Andy Pope

2. “Billy’s Blues” – Laura Nyro

3. “Cities” – Andy Pope

4. “Hey Jude” – John Lennon & Paul McCartney

5. “Shades of Happiness” – Andy Pope improv referencing “Happiness” by Clark Gesner

6. “Somebody Loves Me” – George Gershwin

7. “Sounds of Silence” – Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel

8. “You’re a Holiday” – Robin & Barry Gibbs

9. “Fumblin’ with the Blues” – Tom Waits, involving “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love” by Peter Schoates

10. “A Day in the Life” – John Lennon & Paul McCartney

Hymn Sing | St Andrew's Presbyterian Church

If you’re reading this and you’re local, the deal is that you get an Interim CD for ten bucks and I’ll throw in and Exile or Abstractions CD for five extra bucks.   If you’re reading from online or elsewhere, make that $15 and $20 rather than $10 and $15.   You can just hit here to pay me for it, and I’ll mail them to wherever you are.  

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

 

Gratitude List 1023

I’ve been doubling up on my gratitude lists lately, usually doing two a day instead of one.  I tend to do that when times are hard, because they really do help me keep my spirits up.  And then, ironically, I sometimes realize that times are not so hard after all.

1. Though I only slept 3 1/2 hours from about 10pm till 1:30am, it’s really okay.   There’s nowhere that I have to be today, and I can make my own schedule.  I’ve paid all my bills, and I’ve got food in the kitchen.  Thankful that I have a place where I can sleep, and that I’m not outside in the 32 degrees of cold.

2. I just remembered feeling a real sense of peace when I was walking home from the café in the drizzle last night.  When I was at peace, I saw a vision of someone whom I love, that she’s totally depressed right now, and I was able to pray for her with compassion.

3. When I was in the space of #2 above, I no longer felt threatened by this person whom I love.

4. Reading Proverbs 7 is reminding me it’s probably not a good idea to go out with any particularly flirtatious married women.   ;)

5. Really glad I decided to go to church yesterday after all.  Everything about it was nice, including the fellowship afterwards.  I didn’t know Tom R. could play the 12-string like that, and it was also the best I’d ever heard Mary R. play the flute.  Also, Amy P. got up and read very nicely.  I remember thinking her mother Kathy must be proud of her.

6. Finished the polished draft of #2A The Age of Nevermore”  in my vocal score. Really got into it, how all the extended notes acting like drones against the melody lines in the quintet are like the “sirens of the damned” that the lyrics reference.  Can’t wait to score the instrumental ending with all that cacaphony and synth-brass counterpoint over wailing guitar solos while my protagonist is in torture on a gurney at the psych ward.

7. I love that cute café, the way they just sit there and let me work, and they don’t kick me out or anything like they would have when I was homeless down in California.

8. Grateful for that Friday night meeting at the Recovery Center, and for Cindy being the secretary.   I think I’ll try to go every Friday now, and just go once a week between now and April.

9. Just saw a notification of a new email reply from Lynne Fisher.  This will give me something to do before I go back to bed.

10. I’m in a good mood now.  God is Good.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
A little bit goes a long, long way.

Hermit

I believe that we who write lyrics and music tend to remember the music we write better than we remember the lyrics.   At least, that is true of me, and especially if the song was written long ago, and then more-or-less abandoned.

The song that is featured today is something I wrote in April of 1976 in an effort to come out of a long period of isolation and creative famine.  I remember it took me a month to write the song.   This was also the first month of my now 42 years as a long-distance runner.  Writing this song was part of a complete lifestyle change.

Since it took me so long to squeeze it all out of me, I remembered the music very clearly, and continued to remember it over the years, even though I hardly ever played it.  But I forgot a lot of the lyrics, which I never sang.

At some point in the 42 years since I wrote the song “Hermit,” I forgot all about it.  But this past week, the song for some reason resurfaced in my consciousness.  This time, it had been so long, I didn’t even remember some of the music.   But as the week progressed, I remembered more and more of it; and I practiced it several times on the piano.

As for the lyrics?  Here are the ones I remember:

Shifting back and forth
Between one reckless thought and the next,
Trapped inside a rented room
Behind a world that’s too complex.

And later:

Your life is just a rented room!

Still later:

We all need our time to think –
But how much?  That’s all I ask!
You could spend a lifetime claiming you’re close to the cure,
But when life itself is such a task,
You’re never sure . . .
Never sure . .  .

Interesting.  I was 23 at the time.  I wonder why the song came back to me this week?  I hadn’t thought about it in years.  Here’s what it sounds like.

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

The Template of My Dreams

There is a lot of pent up frustration inside me right now.  My computer pretty much crashed earlier, and I lost it emotionally. I’d just gotten geared up to use a new template I’d created for the instrumental accompaniment score to this most recent release of Eden in Babylon obviously the winner in my book. With added instruments from the original score, it amounts to two drum sets (midi trap and electronic GPO kit), Fender jazz fretted bass, clean Gibson electric rhythm guitar, distortion Ibanez electric lead guitar, solo viola, string section, Steinway grand piano, Hautwerp all stops organ, tenor sax section, trombone section, trumpet section, harpsichord, and flute solo.

I was gleeful as I created a new sound for Winston’s central number, The Word from Beyond until all of a sudden BAM! I overloaded the system entirely and soon was faced with a total crash.

I was able to recover my file, and start over after I let the machine cool down a bit, but things were pretty dicey there for a while. The old 2011 Dell Latitude was distinctly complaining. I, meanwhile, freaked out, as I said. Screamed and yelled and cussed. I was pretty pissed.

While I was still angry, I called a friend at my church for emotional support.  After a lengthy conversation, he agreed to help me with a new computer — although that was not the initial reason why I had called him.  He believes in me.  He feels that I truly need a new computer by now, and that my project is of value. I sent him my tune in its current condition. (I don’t dare add the singing to it — even my own measly voice — at this unstable, highly tenuous stage.)

So, when he asked what my requirements were, I decided to err on the side of caution.  I woudn’t want to get a computer with similar specs to the current one.  So I shot for bigger and better than that.  Boldly, as it were, I asked him to get me a Windows 10 machine with 6gb RAM and at least a dual core 2.7ghz processor, hopefully one with a wide screen.  I asked this huge boon of him in a spirit of necessity — because as far as further future Finale music scoring is concerned, this puppy is toast.

“The Word from Beyond”
from the new musical Eden in Babylon

Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope.
All Rights Reserved.

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

 

My Pitch

I have been flagrantly panhandling online for far too long for the sake of the advancement of my project.  I suck at marketing, sales, and advertising.  In fact, all those departments annoy the living daylights out of me.  I rock at playwriting, singing, playing the piano, writing music, musical direction, and homeless rights activism.  Blogging probably falls somewhere in the middle.

online-business-to-start-nowIt has occurred to me that if people perhaps knew why I’ve been asking for money, and where the money would be going, it might help me to get some donations from sympathetic people who can afford to do so.  So here goes.

I’m a person who has written a musical, and I would very much like to see this musical produced.  The musical paints a picture of the effects of homelessness on the youth of today’s America.  It is a very positive, upbeat show with an extremely encouraging, happy ending.  I have written the entire script, all of the music, and all of the lyrics.

But there I stop.  It will not be possible to move further toward the production of this musical without getting the kind of green stuff that doesn’t grow on trees.  This stuff is not known to come wafting through the window.  So I need to make a pitch.

There are numerous hurdles I need to surmount before anyone is going to take a look at this show — that is, anyone having the power to produce it.  First and foremost, I need to make an adequate demo recording of three or four of the songs, with real singers singing with their real voices, rendering the melodies and harmonies I have so meticulously created in the musical score that I have painstakingly composed, over a number of years, as I have been passionately absorbed in this project.

Talking around campus, and especially at the local School of Music, I get the feeling there are competent singers who will get behind me.  But like all singers, they will need to be paid.  My songs are catchy, urban, progressive show tunes, Broadway-influenced, and according to many, Broadway-bound.   However, it’s not the kind of stuff that even the quickest of studies are going to be able to pull off with minimal rehearsal.   No singer worth their salt is going to want to lend their voice to this endeavor without at least two or three rehearsals, prior to recording.  The very least I feel I should pay such a singer would be $125 for the whole shot.   I also need five singers to pull this off.  Even some of those five voices will be doubled or tripled, in order to replicate the chorus sections of the musical numbers that I have scored.

I am a serious composer who emphasized in Music Theory and Composition at a major Conservatory, and I hung out with my composition mentor, Dr. Stan Beckler, till shortly before the day he died.  My music draws from folk, classic rock, hip-hop and rap as well as from traditional comic light opera, but by no means does it entail your typical, tired old  1-4-5 progressions.  I have taken great pains to honor the genre of my youth, and bring fresh life and vigor to my favorite Performing Arts Form.  So basically, I need $625 to get started with this leg of the project, and create a decent demo of at least three songs.

I am technically situated so that I can record the singing over the instrumental tracks you hear on this page, eliminating doubled melody lines when necessary, to emphasize the live vocals.  This will sound a lot more authentic than one might think, and any irksome complaints regarding the “canned” use of the “electronic” sounds wll be instantly jettisoned, once my project is heard.   If I had the money to hire musicians and schedule studio time, I would probably go that route instead.  But I don’t have the money, and it would take quite a bit more rehearsal time — so this is the starting point that I propose.

It has not been easy to write these words tonight, much less paste them in three different spots on this web site, and blast them all across the Internet, to the expected ridicule of those who don’t believe me.   But because I know what I am doing — musically, artistically, and theatrically — in the realm of Musical Theatre where most of my lifelong experience lies, I can confidently tell you that I will back up my claims with action — as soon as I have the bucks to make it happen.

hippies singingWe can take it from there.  I am not above self-producing the show locally, and directing it myself.  But all these moves will require money, which a mere church musician in between jobs on a fixed monthly income cannot possibly conjure.  Rather, if I could conjure up that kind of capital, I’d neither have the time nor the energy to pursue my passion, and the dream of my lifetime will land in my grave.   Daylight’s burning.  I’m in my sixties already.  Let’s get a move on.  Let’s get this show on the road.

If you’ve been reading this blog, and listening to my music, and reading my posts about the Homeless Phenomenon in America, then get the word out to those who have the power — assuming you don’t have the power yourself.

And power to the people.  Power to all the people!  Power to the Homeless People of the United States of America.

Please donate to Eden in Babylon.
Anything Helps.

 

My Choice

I’ve never written a novel before.  All I’ve written so far are a number of plays, some of them musicals, numerous short stories that I lost in a storage unit (unless the English department at U.C.Davis happens to have kept a hold of them, which I doubt), thousands of blog posts and diary entries (for whatever that’s worth), the couple handfuls of poems posted on this web site, and zillions of songs, complete with lyrics everybody seems to rave about and music that nobody likes at all.   Oh – and I also wrote a couple “rock operas” when I was younger, two movements of a flute sonata, and scattered piano preludes.  No first symphony, as of yet.  Typical story of a lifelong burned out starving artist. 

That said, I read the first paragraph of my new novel to the other members of the Palouse Writers Guild this morning.  All of them agreed that if those were the first words that befell their eyes, they would keep on reading without hesitation.   One guy I showed it to later even said he’d probably buy the book right off the bat.   But the problem with all of that is, of course, that there’s no book to buy.  Will there ever be?  Am I capable of writing an entire novel, just because I happened to get off to a good start?

I’ve been advised to barrel out 10,000 words as rapidly as possible, just the way I churned out the first five pages.  But I don’t know that I can.  Or even want to.

nothing-in-the-world-is-worth-havingOr even should.  Since feeling the worst impacts of all the demons that have come storming down my stairwell ever since I finished the script to Eden in Babylon, I wonder what my next course really ought to be.  It is clear that for lack of a definite, disciplined project I have practically let myself be devoured by all the local wolves, and whatever strange poltergeists inhabit my creepy confines in the dead of night, full of trickery and tripe.  But should I really dive head-first into an entire novel, just to hide my head from all the hunger, the hysteria, and the hurt?

Why not just notate my piano-vocal score like a good little musical comedy composer?  It would seem the thing to do, if anyone other than myself is ever to attempt to play such bizarre tunes.

There’s also this third idea hovering over my head, haunting me.  It has to do with the themes that were left hanging when I suddenly dropped the Berkeley project some months ago and dove head-first into my musical script.   Not that this was a bad thing to do, for I did, after all, finish the script.  But as I took from the Berkeley music those songs that seemed most to fit the Eden in Babylon style — the showiest, the most “musical theatre” of them all — I find that what is left is an intriguing set of strains.  The remains seem much less show-tune, less schmaltzy, more seriously operatic in nature, and somewhat other-worldly.

But this causes me to recall the neuro-physiological conditions under which I placed myself in order to conceive of such music; specifically, highly altered states of consciousness.  Somehow I just “heard” the music in those unnatural states of mind.  It fascinated me so much that I promised myself I would orchestrate it all once I “came down” (and once I had regained access to a laptop and a regular power outlet in which to plug it).   So I did that until the thrill wore off.   Yet, on examining the music of Sirens of Hope, and of The Royal Rhapsody, I must admit that the thrill returns. 

So – if I went by what others think I should do, I’d have to say that the other Writers in the guild probably would like to see me follow through with the novel, especially seeing as I got off to such a surprisingly good start.  That would probably also be the easiest and most absorbing thing to do – at least, in terms of generating a very rough, rough draft.  Who wants me to write music?   A bunch of stoners in a flop house who won’t even listen to it anyway.  Nobody ever listens to my music.  It makes me feel like all the huge effort I put into writing it is all for nought.

Now, the arduous task of painstakingly notating my piano-vocal score is something I’ve been avoiding for a good month or more.  Obviously, it’s what I’m supposed to do.  Otherwise, I won’t be able to live with myself.  There it would be, even should I die before my time: a complete piano-vocal score that conceivably some conductor could pick up on, some group of singer-actors sing and act from, and some pianist, other than myself, actually play.  How gratifying.  Worth its weight in gold.

The first chapter of the novel looks good, but knowing me, it would degenerate into mindless pornography before Chapter Three.  I’ve made my choice.  And you know what?  I’ll start tomorrow.  Today’s the Lord’s day and I’ll do my best to rejoice in it — even if it means putting on my headphones and rocking out to the music that no one else will ever hear.

Sacrifices with Strife

I had to go back to the post The Next Step to find out exactly where I had begun to veer off course. For it was clear that I had strayed, and very clear what kinds of elements had characterized the diversion.   I only lacked a decent starting point, in order to resume my course, and avoid those elements that earlier had polluted the purity of my path, and had instead instilled a sense of paralysis and meltdown.   The deleterious elements of which I speak involved, invariably, the ill-timed and often ill-equipped efforts with which I most awkwardly attempted to enlist the allegiance of local talents of various sorts to assist me in some way in promoting my project.

First. there was the concert that never came about.  We had to cancel our earlier show when it came clear that my musicians could not possibly get enough practice to turn in a decent show by the predesignated time.   It was suggested we reschedule; I, for one, insisted we cancel entirely.   My music seemed intimidating to them, and theirs to me.  I would have to listen to them first for a while, and they to me, before thinking about making something like we had all earlier envisioned come about.  So that was rightly set aside.  Instead, I would set about to try and find singers for my demo.

This proved to be only another example of the same fruitless expedition.  It was far more stressful trying to get these singers together than it was to concede that it just wasn’t going to happen.  It would cost money – money that I don’t have, and that I knew not how to get.   As I began to endeavor to raise funds, a part of me that I hate rose into prominence, and I cannot feed that demon inside me in any way if it’s going to lead me to some of the preposterous propositions such as I began to entertain.  I was sickened with myself, infuriated, disgusted, disillusioned with my fellows, disaffected with society, alienated, isolated, self-abnegating, neglectful of my needs, abusive of my body, disfigured, disheveled, mistreated, misshapen, mortified, mutilated, and finally: majorly incapacitated.  I lay on the gurney in the Emergency Room, electrodes probing every pore, as the third EKG in my entire doctor-leery life assured me that this steady chest pain I’d developed was nothing more than pleurisy, and treatable by ibuprofen.

drawing-boardI believe I should leave the rest of the community out of the picture for a while, and dismiss any idea of enlisting their services.  Clearly, this was not the course.  The Next Step reveals exactly where I would be wise to begin.  Aside from talk of organizing a read-thru, which may or may not be necessary (or even wise, considering all I just wrote), the guidelines in that post paint a clear picture of a new starting point that doesn’t involve awkward attempts at creating new associations among my acquaintances, but only involves things that I can do all by myself.  I was thriving when intensely focusing on my music or my script, and their seeing me so thrive is what impressed them from the start — whoever “they” are, which is probably more irrelevant now than I’d ever thought before.

It doesn’t matter who they are, or even what they see, just so long as they don’t see what I’ve been showing them most recently.  “Better a dry morsel,” saith the Preacher, “and quietness therewith, than a house full of sacrifices with strife.” (Proverbs 17:1)

That’s the only house that I’ve been building lately.  It has no sure foundation.  If I sit still, and quietly proceed to notate my piano-vocal score, and look for reasonable revisions to be made in my script in the process, there’s something sure and steady about the construction of that house.  Whatever dry morsels I might chew on throughout, their cost will not be half the cost of what I just endured.   And maybe by the time it takes me to complete that score and second draft, I’ll have a thousand dollars in the bank to invest on hiring singers for the demo, not just trying to round up people in my midst whom I cannot pay and all have better things to do.  I risk being perceived a pest.  This will not do.

DONATE

Let’s throw some chicken gumbo soup into the microwave and make another turkey sandwich.  No sense in doing the town.  The town has just done me.

Resignation and Debut

On Monday I resigned my position as pianist and organist of a local Presbyterian church.  They haven’t found someone to replace me permanently yet, but they have two people who can cover the stretch of time between now and the end of summer.  I also told them I desired to remain a member of the church, but not an employee.  They then agreed that this is their desire, as well.

The main reason for my resignation was that the stress of the job reached the point of interfering completely with my day-to-day spirituality.  Being a church job, this is rather ironic.  But that’s why I decided to continue on with the church.  I found the church itself to be a great contributor to my spirituality – just not the job itself.

Here is the text of my letter of resignation, submitted by email to the entire congregation:

My physical health is good, and I am generally in good spirits, but there are some issues with my mental health that are hard to grasp and have me occasionally feeling very disoriented. These are aggravated by stress. I cannot explain why this is, but somehow the simple piano-organ position that I had expected to be very easy for me and full of joy has become associated with an unbearable level of anxiety that, when it reaches a peak, causes me to make irrational decisions that have enduring consequences. If you can fashion a prayer around these words, please deliver your words to the One who has power to heal.

Also, while I regret that I was too ill to fulfill the Holy Week services, Norman has advised me that they went very well with the substitute. I will not be in church this Sunday, but I hope that thereafter you will all accept me as a member in good standing of First Presbyterian Church but not a part of the music ministry. While I occasionally enjoy playing the piano and recognize it as a gift from God, I have decided that things like reading music, following conductors, turning pages, piano-conducting, etc. are basically in the category of health risks at this time. I will eventually find some kind of piano lounge where I can play at random while daydreaming, make a little more money, and live a bit more comfortably here. So I hope you all will take this in the spirit in which it is intended. First Presbyterian Church of Moscow is the greatest church that I have ever happened upon in all of my lifelong church-hopping, and I will hop no further, so help me, God.

Thank you all for showing me true Christian love. I need that more than I need a job, at this time.

Grace and Peace,

Andy

As a start to a new day-to-day foundation for spirituality, I picked up a hard copy of a book today called The Celebration of Discipline, by a theologian named Richard J. Foster.  I think that to become a little more routinized and regularized (but not “regulated,” mind you) might help with my musical work as well.  I agreed with Pastor Norman that I would still play the Wednesday evening Taize services on a volunteer basis.  Otherwise, I am mainly focused on putting my show together for my debut as a singer-songwriter in this area:

One World Cafe Downtown Moscow

Andy Pope and Friends, Saturday May 6, 7pm, One World Cafe, 533 S. Main Street Moscow Idaho. Be There.

Even the demo is on the back burner for now (although I have rounded up most of the singers).  Today I found all the band members for the show two weeks from tomorrow, so I’m diving wholeheartedly into creating a set list and writing out parts.  I’ve got an Ibenez custom hollow body, a Yamaha electronic keyboard, and a good percussionist on the Cajon who also plays fiddle and mandolin.  My bassist is from Lionel Hampton, and I’ll be using the house sound system for my singing.  If you’re for any reason in the neighborhood, feel free to cruise by.  I mean – don’t bust your back or break any laws, but you know where I’ll be.

There is a God

The piano-vocal score to my song “The Very Same World” is finished now.  If anyone wants to take a look at it, you can click on the title below.   (It will lead to an 11-page pdf file.)

The Very Same World

from the new musical Eden in Babylon
Words and Music by Andy Pope
Copyright © 2017 by Andrew Michael Pope

I’d hoped to get three of these finished and then approach a certain professor from the nearby School of Music.  A number of people told me that he would be the logical person to talk to, if I wanted to find singers to help me out with my musical demo.   But a couple things arose to deter me, much as I so desperately desired to proceed unhindered.  First of all, I got behind schedule.  I had been hoping to have two of them done by Friday, and the third by next Friday.  Instead, I only have one of them done — and it’s already Monday.   Secondly, I was somewhat intimidated by the man’s awe-inspiring credentials.  This played into my natural shyness, and I began to doubt my fortitude.

But then, a mysterious turn of events took place.  As it happens, the professor is actually coming to meet me.  You see, the departing Minister of Music at my church has to leave during Holy Week due to the poor health of her husband.  It turns out that she knows this professor, and so she called him to take over our rehearsal on Wednesday night, as well as the Good Friday and Easter Sunday services.   So by this Wednesday, I will be following his conducting on the piano as I accompany our church choir.  Naturally, I used this as a deadline to finish the score to The Very Same World I printed it out today, and after I make minor corrections, I can simply show it to him.  So my shyness and timidity are no longer an issue.  

I also just happened to  meet three decent singers who have expressed an interest in working with me on this project.  One of them, a mezzo-soprano whom I ran into at the local pub, looked over my score briefly, then said she would reply to my call if I “posted a notice.”  Being the new kid on the block here, I haven’t exactly found out where to post this notice.  She said it with such authority, I did not want to admit my naivete.   But then, I met two young men at a cafe who were working on theory assignments on music paper, so I invited them to come look at my score.  Turned out one of them was a baritone, and we exchanged contact information.  They also advised me that anyone can audit the Jazz Choir that meets in the afternoons throughout the week, and that I could pick up a bass part and sing with them.  I don’t have to be a University student to participate.  Finally, there’s this fellow Josh who works at the Bagel Shop downstairs from me, who has a degree in Acting and has sung professionally in musicals.  He seems eager to help me out with this as well.   So perhaps I already have two or three singers.  I only need two or three more.

All of this points to an eerie phenomenon that might best be explained once it’s understood that I have only lived in this particular city for eight months.  I came here from the San Francisco Bay Area, largely because the rising cost of living was getting to me on numerous levels.   Six years ago, I lived in a situation that was almost identical to my present digs, as far as basic specs were concerned, and it rented for $900/mo.  What do I pay here in Northern Idaho for the same set-up?   You guessed it.  $275/mo.   So I finally came up here on a lark, answering a Craigslist ad, looking for a mere hole-in-the-wall where I could plug in my laptop, unhassled by numerous disconcerting factors: high crime rate, distrust among neighbors, frequent homelessness, and so forth.

friendship squareI moved into small studio in an old-style apartment building, where there are business on the first floor, and residences on the higher floors.  What I did not expect was for there to be a running store in my very building.  Being a runner, this intrigued me.  I then noticed yoga centers and bike shops.  A health-and-wellness emphasis, I thought.  Very good.   I then learned about the School of Music, and that the State Repertory Theatre was founded here as well – in the year I was born, incidentally.  As you soon will find, that’s quite germane.

The second week I was here, I applied for a part-time church position, was hired, and still hold that job today.   Before I knew it, I was surrounded by Artists and Writers of all kinds.  And as for music?  I’m doing gigs all up and down the main drag.   And culture?  I heard more decent music my first five days in this small college community than I heard in Berkeley, California, in five years.

There is more to this story, so I might as well tell it.

Why did I choose Moscow, Idaho?   Out of all the small out-of-the-way villages where I could have sought affordable housing, why Moscow?   Because I was born here.  I lived here the first year of my life when my dad was teaching ROTC at the University.  Then his Navy career took us all over the country as well as to other parts of the world.  I didn’t want my whole life to go by without seeing what Moscow, Idaho was like.  When I came here, I was astounded.  This city seemed to be custom-designed for me.

BerkeleyIn the first four months I was here, I sequenced all the music I wrote internally after four of my laptops were successively stolen in Berkeley, and I could not afford to replace them.   In the next three months, I sat down and finished a draft of the musical I had been struggling, through adverse circumstances in California, for five years.  Now I’m working on the piano-vocal score to that musical.  I have the same laptop now that I bought shortly before I left Berkeley.   Had I stayed in Berkeley, I would never have been able to retain a laptop that long.  It would have been stolen by now.   In fact, considering the huge upsurge in violence that has taken place on the Berkeley streets since the election of our current clueless leader, I can’t help but wonder if I would even still be alive today, had I stayed in this unfavorable town. 

This is why my faith has increased as much as it has.   I was so angry and discouraged when I was homeless on the Berkeley streets, that I shouted out to God:

“WHY am I always forced to be hanging around thieves and hustlers and pimps and hookers and panhandlers and criminals and murderers?   WHY does nobody care about my Music or my Art?  WHY am I not hanging around Actors and Directors and Musicians and Writers and Artists??”

The question “Why?” is often moot.  But if the desperation in that oft-repeated query could be interpreted as an entreaty to an unseen God, then the proof of the answer to that twisted prayer is in the very experience I own today.  It happened in less than forty-eight hours.   I hopped on a Greyhound, alighted randomly upon this little town in Idaho, answered an ad for a studio, and three days later signed a one-year lease.   I’m where I am supposed to be.  There is a God.

Starving Artists

Just to keep you guys in the loop, I’m a bit behind on my goal stated earlier.  I’d wanted to get two of my songs done by tomorrow, and then take them down to the open mike at the Green Frog.  It’s looking as though only one of them will be done.  I’m basically done with “The Very Same World.”  It’s all scored.  I just have to format it.

It may seem that I set my goals too high.  Often this is the case.  But in this case, something happened that interfered with the progress.  I lost a good five days.  It’s not so important what happened.  The important thing is that I’m back on track.

Also, it’s important for me to remember that, no matter how reasonable my goals may seem to be in the ideal state, there’s this annoying nuisance called “life” that will occasionally get in the way of those goals.  Suffice it to say that life was in the way for about five days, and that it’s no longer in the way.

Starving_Artist_by_EbonyLaceI also take solace in the fact that I’m not the only starving artist in this world.  I do what I can to put food on the table and pay my rent.  But I have to admit it can be depressing when it all hits you at once.   You work hard on a project for a five years and you can’t even come up with $85 to register it with the United States Copyright Office.  You can’t buy a couple books you were eager to buy — including and especially the book called The War of Art.   It was recommended to me by this writer, and I’ve been dying to read it.  I’ve even recommended it to my daughter and to other writers.  I can’t buy a couple other books I wanted, just because life once again got in the way.

Does it sound like the Poor Boy is whining?   Well – get a load of this:

You can’t find your headphones you lost two weeks ago.   Your mouse broke and you hassled yourself for days over whether it was worth $15 to buy another one, or whether you were going to continue to stress your nerves to shreds trying to use the touch pad.  As if that wasn’t enough, you spilled coffee all over your computer keyboard.  Now you’re using an external keyboard that’s about five times as loud in public places, and getting dirty looks because you learned how to type on an Olivetti manual typewriter back in 1966 and never did quite get the hang of these modern keyboards.   All this is aggravating your class issues, and to make matters worse, people who have never been poor start laying loads of unsolicited advice on you, as if they have any idea how to maneuver the various details of abject poverty.  You seethe internally.  Your anger toward people in the privileged classes only increases, at a time when you’re trying to learn how to love them. 

As I write these words though, I curse myself inwardly.  What can I do in the month of April to keep life from getting in the way?   Here I sit in the local pub once again, indulging in a cup of coffee and a muffin.  How many external cups of coffee, how many scones and muffins, do I have each month?   But then again, if I stay inside my room and write, I run dry.   I need to see people – outside of church and work — I need to see smiling faces during the course of the day.  I can just hole myself up in my room all month.

Not to mention, I’m an Old Guy.  I worked hard all my life.  True – I made the unwise error of never saving up for any kind of retirement – I just worked, worked, worked until I had a total nervous breakdown.   Then they put me on this awful thing we have in America called Social Security Disability Income, which primarily robs people of their self-esteem.

But it put food on the table before I got around to realizing I could probably still work, despite what “they” said.  Anyway, if nothing else, during the ten years that I have been on disability, one thing I have done is what I always wanted to do — and what I never found the time to do, when I was working full time.   I’m only working part-time now, but at least I’m holding down my job.   Why I ever allowed the United States Government to be the entity deciding whether or not I was able to work is beyond me.  IF only I had known then what I know now!

Nobody can call me lazy.  One thing I have done in the past ten years — is write.  And I’ll keep writing.   I’ll see my Day if I keep at it.  But it never ceases to annoy me how the wealthy in this world have everything, and yet don’t know what to do with it.  I’m a guy who has nothing — but at least I know what to do with it.

I almost wish it were the other way around.   Ah well — back to work.

Another Scene Down

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Second Act

I’m currently lodged within an out-of-the-way fast food joint on the edge of town with a Wireless connection and a very limited number of customers on site.   I figure I’m removed enough from my ordinary itinerary that I’m not likely to be disturbed as I try to sink my teeth into the Opening of Act Two.

I did write four pages Monday morning before my first meeting with the therapist to whom I have been assigned.  I had been struggling for about three days with exactly how to begin the second Act, prior to its opening number: Hunted.   During those three days, there was a sequence of illuminations, each one drawing me closer to the point where I could confidently put pen to page.   Then, when I wrote those pages, I was rolling.  They were almost right.  However, the first time that new characters needed to arrive, I got stuck again.  Something was wrong.

I retreated into incubation; and arguably, into depression.  I really wanted to be rolling — to be flowing.  I don’t enjoy these lulls.  But once again, during the lull, I gradually received a substantial illumination.  It is now clear to me that if I want to know what the entrance of the new characters is all about, I’m going to have to go back and rewrite the first four pages.   Those four pages in and of themselves seem very effective, but they are not sufficiently continuous with the end of Act One.  The continuity that I need in order to proceed must be evident at the very beginning of the Act — not midway through the first Scene.  

light-goes-onSo the light had gone on, and I could relax a bit.  Still, none of this is as important to me at this moment as the substance of this first meeting with my therapist.  I had been nervous prior to seeing him.   I’m not a person who very readily places his trust in psychologists or psychiatrists.  At times, they have even seemed to be the very enemies of Art in my highly defensive view.  But this time, I had too much to get off my chest — and too much at stake.  Moreover, the doctor who recently diagnosed me as “mildly bipolar” strongly encouraged me to seek therapy in order to supplement the low dose of the mood stabilizer that he had prescribed.  So I was eager to meet with Dave, the therapist — though admittedly very nervous.  

To my surprise, Dave made me feel quite comfortable the moment I walked through the door.  As it turns out, he is from a musical family.  He himself is musical, as are his parents and siblings, and his daughter is a high school music teacher.  More crucially, he thinks like an Artist.  So I could tell that, as I discussed the dilemma of the Writer’s Block that had paralyzed me for three years, and its lingering effects, I sensed that he identified. 

When I finished my explanation, he said something very profound, and I quote:

Wherever Art is involved, the ego of the Artist
is something that the Artist will seek to protect at all costs.

His insight was that, in the manner in which I could not “take or leave” the perplexing implications in the professor’s critique (see this post), I was protecting my ego for the sake of my Art.  The manner in which I protected my ego was, unfortunately, to pester the professor, badger him, and possibly be perceived as a threat to his own well-being as I persistently tried to persuade him to clarify his mysterious review before it drove me nuts.  All the while, I was blocked against further work on the project, because I couldn’t rectify my respect for his opinion with the fact that I was unable to understand it.

His theory is that the professor himself, also being an Artist, had to protect his own ego, for the sake of his own professionalism.  He had hoped I would “take it or leave it.”  Had I been more professional, I most certainly would have left it.  Unfortunately, due to my very low station in life at the time, being lucky enough to have secured a 30-day stay in a homeless shelter during the Winter, with no possessions to my name other than the laptop which was, in fact, a gift from the professor, I was unable to ascend to the level of professionalism the professor expected of me.  In my downtrodden state of being, I considered that script to be all I had going for me.  Since the professor was the only person in the business who was paying any attention to me, I placed an inordinate amount of hope in his estimate of my work.  Then, when he “panned” me, I felt attacked.  So I protected myself – by fighting back.   He then protected his own self – by withdrawing, and eventually removing me from all Internet interfaces.

This all seemed somehow perfectly understandable.  Dave was able to help me see a broader view, in which the professor and I were more alike than different.  Our artistic egos are strangely locking horns in an invisible dimension of the Arts.  Both egos desire the horns to be unlocked.  It only takes one entity to unlock both horns.  I only have the power over the horns of one of the entities.  It’s time I unlocked the horns of my ego – and my ego will be at peace.

horns Dave then asked how the script was coming along now.  Perking up, I was able to convey the happy news, how the block first began to break at a cathartic Thanksgiving dinner, where a kind family from my church permitted me to express my angst without judging me or writing me off as some kind of petty bastard, wallowing in the bitterness of a broken friendship.   I shared how, gradually, more and more people in my community have tuned into my project, and have shown a surprising amount of support for my work.  But most of all, I shared how I had proceeded much further into the script than ever before, more slowly and carefully, reaching the end of Act One even, and on into the second Act.   The 91 pages now are far more evolved than the earlier 56 pages of relative drivel I submitted in haste to the previous professor.   Nor am I at an impasse or any kind of roadblock, but plowing steadily forward to the end of Act Two.  My creative life has been transformed far and away for the better, since the darker days of dejection, despair, and dependency upon the approval of a single, detached individual.  As I approach the end of the Second Act, I need neither praise nor blame.  My approval resounds from within and without me.  My God has accepted my work.

At the End of the Act

This will be very brief, since I have to be at Taize service at my church in 45 minutes, and I like to show up a half hour early to run through the music with the conductor. 

I didn’t write at all on Sunday, and in fact felt lethargic and innervated throughout the day.  Once errands and other life-related tasks were out of the way yesterday, I began writing with vigor, and stopped after finishing the first major confrontation between my protagonist and one of the two main male antagonists.

taize

Today, I am almost at the End of Act One, having completed 83 pages of text, which will extend to a greater number of pages once I fill in some song lyrics to the big showstopper at the end of the Act. 

In a way, I wish I didn’t have to go to work for the next four hours.  But in another way, it might be the best thing for me.  The Taize service, followed by a church dinner, and finally Choir rehearsal, will “get me out of my head” and give some of the quick decisions I have made in the past few hours a chance to ruminate.  I was hoping to get it all done before church tonight.  It’s a good thing I didn’t, because it would have been sub-par.   But it’s a good thing I rushed to a self-imposed quasi-deadline, because I got a lot done, despite myself.

I believe I will be finished with Act One later on tonight.   Doubtless, I will not let myself rest until I am. 

About to Advertise

So I finished the fix-its earlier alluded to, and am reasonably satisfied with all the music you can now hear on these links:

Ode to the Universe – 4:40

Urban Pathos – 17:52

Berkeley Playlist

But let’s face it.  I’m not ever going to get either of these scripts written.  All I’m ever going to do is keep writing music.  My mind is going to continue to generate new music, despite myself, no matter what else I set about to do.

So this is what I should do.  I should advertise for a lyricist and a librettist.  Somebody to write the lyrics, and somebody to write the scripts.  Maybe two different people.  But they need to be competent.  They can’t be only in it for the money.   Probably, there should be no money involved.  I want somebody who resonates with my music.  Who recognizes that these are show tunes – they’re Musical Theatre.  They suggest witty lyrics with sophisticated internal rhymes.  They suggest movement and dance.  They suggest more than mere mood.  They suggest dramatic action.  They suggest scenario.

Either I advertise on someplace like Craigslist, or I go to the nearby University music departments and drama departments, and post notices.  Or both.  But it’s got to be done, otherwise all this music will go to waste.

And there’s  too much of it to go to waste.  Also – it’s not worthy of being wasted.  There’s decent music here – but like I said, it’s show music.  It suggests a certain kind of lyrics, along a certain kind of theme – and it suggests action. 

There’s no sense in postponing “action.”  Now’s the time.

 

A Manifestation of the Divine

Because this blog is supposed to be about the creative process and how it fits into my spiritual perspective, I must report that I had another mysterious experience of affirmation and synchronicity that validated, for the time, my path.

As I probably have mentioned many times, I wrote a number of tunes “in my head” while I was walking about the notorious college community in which I once attempted to live.  I had no computer in those days, and I’ve never been very good at writing by hand.  So I kept track of all the different parts in my mind and resolved that when I was better off I would obtain a computer and notate the music using my Finale software.  One such song is Bubbles Taboo.

If you bothered to click on that link, you no doubt noticed that it led to a song of standard studio length, approximately three minutes long.  But it was supposed to involve both a lengthier introduction and a substantial instrumental break prior to the recapitulation of the main theme.  I just hadn’t gotten around to sequencing those sections at the time.

The instrumental break involved many modulations – so many that I had never even bothered to count them until tonight.  Their number is twelve.  Observe:

C  – G – F – C – Bb – F – G – A – G – D – G- C

See?  Twelve separate keys.  (Now some of those keys might be more majory than minorish, but since they’re all bluesy, I left out those details.  If you’re a musician, you probably understood that statement.  If you are not a musician, you probably aren’t reading this blog.)

Not only did I have no idea how many modulations were involved, but I also had no idea what key I was going to wind up in.  But look: I wound up in the same key – C – from which I started.   Now what are the chances of that?  Since there are twelve tones in the chromatic scale, the chances are one out of twelve.  In other words, the odds are eleven to one against it.

If you don’t believe me, check it out.   The break with the twelve modulations takes place between 3:50 and 5:00 on this 5:36 clip. 

“Bubbles Taboo”

Copyright © 2016 by Andrew Michael Pope.
All Rights Reserved.

See?  It lands on the same key it started on, the key of C, after all those modulations.  Ir could have landed on any other key – but it landed on C, against the odds.  But that’s not all.

What are the chances that the number of keys in the break would be the same number as the number of pitches in the scale; that is to say, the number twelve?  Or that the mystic-laden break would end at exactly 5:00, for that matter?  Quickly, things becomes astronomical.

Although there is a chance that it is all a coincidence, isn’t there a far greater chance that this was on some level the process of elegant unconscious creative incubation, or – better yet – a manifestation of divine principles?   I hold the latter to be self-evident.  Music, as I will attest to my dying day, is a Manifestation of the Divine.

The Artist as Public Servant

I’ve been thinking lately about the popular concept of “people-pleasing” and how it relates to my lifelong function as an entertainer and a songwriter.   It seems to me that. as a musician and composer, I am naturally concerned with reaching the largest possible audience.  I measure the success of my compositions and performances based on how widely they are acclaimed.  This is only natural, and in this respect I don’t differ widely from any other Artist.

However, there is something amiss in this standard.  Although there are many who differ with my view, I am one who holds that there is an absolutely objective standard whereby all Art may be judged.  The success of an artistic enterprise is not merely a matter of personal taste.  There is a God up in heaven whose artistry is superior to that of any human Artist.  Whether we are concerned with the Performing Arts as I am, or with Fine Art as others are, or any other form of creative endeavor; surely His assessment as to the quality of Art is perfect and divine.  People may argue till kingdom come as to whether it was Leonardo, van Gogh, or Picasso who produced the finest Art; but were God to intervene and state his most righteous piece on the matter, no one on earth would dare to contest it.

While I may have put much thought into the matter, all the thinking in the world cannot come close to approaching God’s thoughts on the subject.  While I may attempt day by day to hone my craft to impeccability, none of my efforts could ever be on a par with the God’s most effortless perfection.  Could I have orchestrated the music of bluebird, hummingbird, or even mocking bird?  Could I have sculpted the Pinnacles, or Mount Everest, or even Vesuvius upon eruption?  Or have painted the many masterful sunsets we all have beheld in awe?  Certainly not.  No mortal could come near to the manifestation of such marvels.

So, while this is the standard to which I aspire, how is it that I would still be concerned with pleasing the multitudes?  Especially when one considers how much disagreement there is among them?   I believe the words of St. Paul impart, in part, the answer:

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them.  1 Cornithians 9:19

Paul was of course referring, not to personal artistic triumph, but to the far more important matter of eternal salvation from judgment.  But there is an analogy here, also aptly illustrated in the words of Jesus:

Whoever wants to be first must be least of all and the servant of all.  – Mark 9:35

It frees me from stubborn adherence to an unapproachable standard to consider my artistry as something like a public service.  If someone for example says that a certain passage sounds “harsh,” I can serve them by making the passage softer, without in any way affecting the rest of the piece.  If another person says the passage is too weak, I can strengthen it.  While it is true that not everyone will be pleased, I can at least consider that each criticism reflects an aspect of a common standard, and in taking in them all, I stand a better chance of serving the multitudes, rather than of forcing my own impossible standard upon them. 

To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. – 1 Corinthians 9:22

To the modern mind, this might seem like the ultimate in personal compromise.  However, there is a liberation here on a spiritual level that is able to inform my Art.  Rather than contend with a God whose standard is unattainable, I will consider that in serving others, I am serving God. handel-hudson-faberAn example of a composer who served both God and others is George Frideric Handel.

It is said that the response to the Opening of Handel’s Messiah was so overwhelming that political enemies actually hugged each other in the foyer after the performance, and even made gestures toward resolving their differences.   That would certainly be an example of a composer being of service to humanity.  To be of optimum service to humanity is to be of show the greatest love; and to show the greatest love is the highest service of God.