Gratitude List 1180

1. Awoke refreshed at 4:40 am, my median wake-up time.   Grateful for my sleeping spot in my place of residence, and for the early morning hours.  It’s pleasant to see the sky grow light, and to hear the birds chirping outside my open window.

2. Grateful for this close-knit, creative community.   I read recently where this town was rated the best place to live in the entire State.

3. 48F degrees and perfect running weather.   Jeremiah said he would leave a pair of whole shoes for me at the church.   Grateful for the runners I’ve met recently – Jeremiah, Cody, Brandy — and the motivation I’ve received talking with them.  I remember if I wanted to run when I lived in Berkeley I had to always ask another homeless guy whom I trusted to watch my back pack and all my stuff while I ran.   It’s nice becoming a runner among runners again.

4. Nice cup of Instant that I made here at  home.

5. Heard from Lynne Fisher just now.  Grateful for our ongoing correspondence and friendship.

6. The cafe here in town where I get most of my work done.  It’s not only not problematical, like most cafes where I’ve attempted to hang out in the past, but the people who own and run the place, and the regular customers whom I’ve gotten to know, are genuinely very supportive of me and of each other.  I’m really grateful for that cafe, and for the round table where I sit.

7.  It’s great to have a new computer that is not interfering with my process or slowing down to a huge degree, like the old one was.  It’s also great to have a single computer with everything on it, and not to have to go back home to (say) burn a CD, for example. Thankful for there finally having been a solution to an aggravating computer issue that had hindered me for so long.

8. Everybody is on board my project, and rehearsals are going well.  It’s nice to be a worker among workers.

9.My church. Thankful for their letting us use the facilities for rehearsals, before we all move into the Kenworthy Theatre at the end of the summer.

10. God is Good. :)

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A little bit goes a long, long way.  

 

Gratitude List 1161

(1) Although my obsession with my current project kept me up till 2:30 in the morning, I managed to sleep fairly solidly between 2:30 & 7:30. Very thankful for the restorative power of sleep.

(2) Succeeding in solving about eight different problems with one decision, I finally have a full cast for the show. I am now wearing two hats — not three — and am greatly relieved.

(3) Latah Recovery Center. The camaraderie in that building is like no other place I know.

(4) My new computer will be arriving tomorrow.   Grateful for the compassionate assistance of all the people who pitched in to make sure I would have a computer capable of handling the work I need to do for this project.

(5) It’s a beautiful day here — more like Summer than Spring.   It’s Memorial Day, and no matter what that may mean for different sorts of people, I can’t help but have noticed that all sorts of people are smiling all around town.  

(6) I’m grateful for my friend Danielle, who has been helping me tremendously with the managing of my personal finances.

(7) My new bicycle.  Grateful for the friend who gave it to me.  Grateful for how it gets me to places I need to go so much faster than always having to walk everywhere.  Also grateful for the many fine bike paths, and for being able finally to get myself to some of the neighboring towns.  It feels like a “stepping stone” between my former ways as a total pedestrian, and the long-awaited day when I will finally have a car.

(8) My friends Marilyn and Melissa, whom I met at the Center a couple years ago.  They’re both doing so much better now than ever before.

(9) In a flash, I figured out how to solve all the problems in Act 2, Scene 3 that have kept me hassled and stymied for months now.   I immediately reported my “flash” on my Twitter in two successive blasts as follows:

Capture2

(10) In a somewhat gentler flash, I realized why I’ve felt so hassled with regards to my work.  I’ve been acting as though my work is the top priority, the be-all-and-end-all.  This is not the case!  Life is full of other aspects.  All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.  Not sure if I’m dull ‘yet — but if I keep working so hard to the exclusion of all other things, I’ll be dull as can be in an untimely grave.   So I want to say that I am grateful for this revelation, and of all the colors of the rainbow that is Life.  

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A little bit goes a long, long way.  

Turns Toward Dawn

This has been a very strange and telling phase in my life.  While I’ve not seen myself make much headway in the areas where I have typically been placing my focus, I have noticed that progress appears to be taking place on a completely different level.   This is the second time in recent months when the desired progress toward the production of my new musical appears to be at a standstill, but yet an unexpectedly bright happenstance is seen taking place on an entirely different plane.

The first time was during August through October, when I saw five of my short pieces on the homeless phenomenon in America become published in Street Spirit, a Berkeley-based periodical dealing with such issues, distributed throughout the East Bay Area and in Santa Cruz.   (A sixth article, by the way, was published in the November issue, which unfortunately has not yet made it online.   The article is called The Class Gap, and is based on my blog post The Voices That Count.  The link on the title is to a pdf of the full page devoted to my story.)  The sudden opportunity for publication in the hitherto unexplored periodical coincided with a dry spell in my own efforts to persist in pushing my musical toward production.

Similarly, in the past two weeks, I really haven’t progressed at the desired rate with my usual push to produce the show.   But I have seen the community here come to embrace my piano playing on the local level, which is something for which I have been silently longing.  First, on Wednesday the 29th, I had the opportunity to play for the annual holiday dinner hosted by the Palouse-Clearwater Environmental Institute.

There were probably close to a hundred people there. All nice people. I played jazz standards like I used to play when I had a regular piano job in the 90’s in the Bay Area.  I got paid for the gig in cash, and made decent tips, too.  I felt so good about it all, and was so appreciated, that it made me want to do it all the time. Imagine if only I could make that kind of money on a regular basis! I wouldn’t have to do anything else in life, other than rejoice and relax, I suppose. I mean, I’m sure that binding obligations would arise as usual, life being life. But it would sure solve a lot of problems.

The most flattering part of the night was when a critic named Donna from the Tuesday Night Critics Group showed up. She put a tip in my jar and said: “I’m the one who emailed you raving about your new musical.” Then I remembered that I’d met her briefly when I had shown up for critique one night. She went so far as to read the entire show and write to me in detail. It was funny too, because she had an idea for a device in the last Scene that I had to admit was a good one, and I wound up using it in the second draft that I finished on November 8th. She hasn’t read that version yet, but I assured her it was in there.

Then, last Tuesday, December 5th, I played the piano for the Community Event of Remembrance, when every year people in the community gather to commemorate those who have passed away in our lives throughout the past year. Usually the music is provided by whoever does the stuff at funerals, but for some reason they had to back out at the last minute. So I was called.

I believe I did a good job, despite myself. I think I selected appropriate music for the prelude and postlude, as well as an interim processional when everyone was approaching the tree to be given an ornament representing the one who had died in their life.  There was a tenor from the Evangelical Free Church who directed the hymns and sang special music at the piano. I was otherwise at the Baldwin grand piano, and messages were delivered by the priest from St. Mary’s, the pastor from the United Church, and my own pastor.  It seemed very well-coordinated, despite little rehearsal.  Moreover, it was a very meaningful event, where people were in no way disingenuous or full of affectation, but extremely real and genuine, authentic, and without hypocrisy of any sort.  Afterwards, I received a number of very kind compliments.  People seemed genuinely moved by my presentation, which was a little odd, considering how detached I felt from it all. But it was definitely an honor to have been given the opportunity, and it was good that I rose to the occasion.

Otherwise, I’m on the new computer now. I found one like it on Amazon — it lists for $875. It’s a pretty amazing machine, came with 8gb installed RAM and an Intel i7 processor, 2.8ghz. It’s a real blessing. Having a new computer is kind of like having the new apartment. It gives me a chance to start afresh, and not make the same mistakes I made last time. It’s also about as much better of a computer than my last one as this apartment is a better apartment than my last. So there’s a positive sense of moving up in the world.

One of the first things I did with the new machine was upload this you tube of my playing piano at Moscow First Presbyterian Church on Wednesday the 30th.  It came out surprisingly well, especially considering it was recorded using my pastor’s iPhone.  But in a way, that gives it a raw, uncut quality that I believe informs its artistry.  It’s amazing what kind of effect a fine piano can have on one’s musicianship.

 

Well, I need to get to church and sing with the Choir.   I wanted to make sure I got this stuff to you beforehand.   I did – so now I can relax!   Hoping you all have a blessed Sunday.  Take care, and God bless.

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

Gratitude List 673

1. I slept for nine hours, between about 9 pm and six in the morning.  It was just showing 5:59 am as I got up.  So I got more sleep than usual, and I feel very rested in comparison with days prior.
 
2. Sky’s about to almost get light already.  Yes – much more rested.
 
3. Second cup of unusually strong Folger’s coffee – the last in the batch, on yesterday’s filter (which was the last filter.)  
 
asus4. People like the youtube, and we might make another one this morning.
 
5. Taize was strong last night, and powerful.  
 
6. New computer is great so far, and fast.  Started up quickly from nothing this morning.  It shows the familiar Windows 10 prompts and snags, but not for periods of gross delay.  
 
7. People have been letting me play the piano lately, and it’s a good feeling.  It increases my sense of belonging in the community, especially when my playing is so genuinely appreciated.  
 
8. Choir was good last night, and Susan was very helpful in taking us through the two new pieces.  The “Midwinter” arrangement recalls Dvorak (New World Symphony, the “Going Home” theme), and is also reminiscent of Copeland in places.  It is also quite unlike my own, which is derived from Jane Siberry on her Sushan the Palace album.  I’ve noticed that everyone claims Gustav Holst as the composer of all these widely divergent themes, of which I’ve heard many more than just the two now cited. I can and will investigate.  This is an example of why Jim the Janitor believes that we none of us should ever be bored.  Always something to challenge the inquisitive nature, cf. Genesis Three.  
 
9. Nice lentil soup last night, and bread.
 
10. I have so much more energy this morning than usual.  I want to go out, but at 22F degrees and high humidity I wonder if I will need my spikes?  I can wait a while.  Making sure all my former folders and their files are fully loaded onto the new system is a home-bound task, involving both computers, patience, and presence.  I have my work cut out for me, and God is good.   

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

 

The Spool of the Spirit

Haughty eyes and a proud heart — the unplowed field of the wicked — produce sin.
— Proverbs 21:4

It’s been pretty crazy in my world the past few days.    I’m feeling like I owe my readers some kind of explanation.  And, at the same time, I’m feeling that my readers probably have no idea what I’m talking about.

Yesterday I freaked out totally over my aging computer’s refusal to cooperate with what I had judged to be an inspired fifteen-staff template for the accompaniment score to my new musical.  The very concept of this score is something that suddenly dawned on me in a flash, giving it the feel of revelation.  In an instant, a solution to two separate problems was revealed to me — both of them longstanding issues that had kept me at a disturbing standstill with regards to my major project.   For a long time, I had been stymied by a pair of dark realities, acting in concert, one with another.  That dastardly duo of dynamics would probably best be described as such:

(1) My inability to motivate myself to create, not only a gargantuan piano-vocal score (the p-v score to my last musical taking up 242 pages on a single 6.4mb pdf file), but even a much less tedious vocal score, which probably would have consumed 100 pages at the most.  

(2) My inability to create an attractive enough package, in terms of a listenable instrumental recording of my show tunes, to attract competent singers to work with me on a demo recording.

Because I saw myself become extremely frustrated over both these issues shortly after I finished the first draft of my musical on March 4th of this year, I did not want to repeat the experience after finishing a second, more polished draft only a couple of weeks ago.  I would not want the upcoming months to be like the months following the March 4th milestone.  Yet I felt the frustration start to churn inside my belly, causing brutal upset at a time when I had expected to remain inspired! And behind that frustration was confusion.

I was confused which way to turn.  It seemed on the one hand that, if only I had sufficient money, I could attract singers to my demo project, simply by letting them know I had the cash to pay them.  But I wasn’t coming up with such money, and I could not realistically expect to do so.  So I began to contemplate that my appeal would need to pique the interest of these as-yet-unknown singers, without my having money, solely on the basis of the quality of my work.  This of course is a much higher, if not loftier, artistic objective.  So I began to ponder how to pursue it.

Although I was not too astonished that I didn’t want to embark on another 250-page piano-vocal score, it somewhat disturbed me that I was equally unwilling to dive into a mere vocal score. even though this would be a much less arduous task.  At first, I attributed my resistance to sheer laziness.  This disturbed me.  No one likes to think of themselves as a lazy person, and I would hope that my prolific prodigy, at least with respect to my own Art, would already have been adequately proven by now.

I could feel the deep depression seeking to take root in my spirit.  It was an all too familiar, and quite unwelcome, almost terrifying sensation.

But then, at approximately three in the afternoon last Saturday, something wonderful happened.  As I played with the Finale music notation file of my song The Word from Beyond — the central song of the charismatic protagonist Winston Greene — I realized that I could solve both problems at once in a way that would not cost me any money at the start, and yet keep my enthusiasm for my work renewed.   This realization was based on the revelation that a piano-vocal score, much as it would seem a basic requirement to package the show, is simply irrelevant to the kind of show that Eden in Babylon is, in a modern, technology-driven era.

What, after all, would be the purpose of a piano-vocal score?  It would be for a rehearsal pianist to accompany the singers during rehearsals, and a conductor to conduct the orchestra during performances.  But does Eden in Babylon need a rehearsal accompanist?  No, it does not.   And does it need a live orchestra?   No — it doesn’t need that either.  So why bother?

Many shows are rehearsed these days using a rehearsal CD of an accompaniment similar to that which the singers will hear during the actual performance.  Also, many shows are produced using a recording of a live orchestra.  I’ve seen such shows at theatre companies such as the Utah Shakespeare Festival and the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts.  The singers themselves provide the live element, and usually the audience cannot even tell that the orchestra is “on tape. “

In such performances, the role of the conductor has been altered from that of tradition.  The conductor now conducts the singers on stage, usually wearing a head-set, with which he or she merely listens to the orchestra on a recording.  

As I remembered this modern fact, I saw how it applied nicely to my own new musical, and how I could employ my expertise with Finale music notation software to inform a superior production.  For with Finale, I can replicate the sound of a pit orchestra, using the sounds of the Garritan Personal Orchestra that comes with the software.  With only a few more instruments to the template, and I would have my fifteen piece pit orchestra — without having to hire or pay a single musician.

So I set about to create the fifteen staff template described in the previous entry.   Unfortunately, however, the result of my inspired fury will live in the annals of infamy.

icarus fallingMy archaic computer simply could not handle the stress of the added instrumentation.  As it complained beyond repair, my sense of inspiration plummeted to new depths of despair.  I likened myself to Icarus, who dared fly ever higher and higher, and finally too close to the sun.  As a result, his wings were scorched, and he fell unsupported down to the Earth.  His highfalutin plans now “toast.” 

As my computer collapsed, so did I myself collapse in kind.  For what are our computers, really, but extensions of our own selves?  My self-collapse turned quickly into rage, as my class issues were aroused.   

“A rich man,” I thought, “could very easily replace his broken computer.  But me?  This could set me back for months!”  A bizarre combination of envy and indignation engulfed my spirit.

So I called a sympathetic friend from my church for emotional support.   The upshot was that the fellow gave me far more than mere consolation.  He actually wound up offering to help me with the purchase of a brand new computer!

What an unexpected relief!   For now, the bizarre boulevard on which broken dreams are strewn shall neither sport nor boast my own dreams so abruptly spawned.  For the spool of the Spirit on which such dreams are spun is a spectacle of wonder, cherished like a treasure buried deep within my core heart of hearts, in a place hitherto invisible to others, and now, in a way most mysterious, somehow becoming unearthed.  With the emergence of supportive friends in my life, the energy with which I go about constructing the Template of My Dreams need not be aborted or delayed.   I can move forward still, and mount the music of Eden in Babylon in a manner befitting the marvel that I have inwardly dreamed it to be.

I can easily extract the vocal score from the much larger score that I’ve already endeavored to build.  It will be nothing compared to the larger edifice in which it rests.  If people chide me for going about this the “hard way,” they know nothing of labors of love.  Yes, it will be a lot more work — but it will be a work of wonder that I attack with passion, not a work of drudgery that I avoid with dread.

I can also again rejoice in the miracle that is Moscow, Idaho in my life.  Back in Berkeley, people would understandably look at me and shrug, thinking: 

“Andy sure has a problem!  How can we help him to solve it?” 

They would shake their heads at a loss, and I would shake mine with them.  But here it is a completely new and refreshing dynamic: 

“Andy’s got something to offer! How can we help him to offer it?”

If you can feel the force of such a huge dynamic difference, then you can feel the fact of a former futility transformed to new promise, and purpose, and joy.   I wouldn’t trade my life today for my life of many sorrows past, for all the riches flaunted by every wealthy fool on Earth.    

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Anything Helps – God Bless!

 

A New Season

I’m over at the North Berkeley Senior Center, where they have a nice Yamaha U-2 console piano, one of my favorite non-grand pianos.  I don’t quite understand why two of the other pianists here prefer the Baldwin.  To me, it plays like an old Hamilton workhorse.  The keys can’t take normal rough pressure in the least; they keep breaking on me.  Well, this one hasn’t yet – but I feel it’s about to.  And the other pianists caution me to go easy on the keys.  It’s true that the nice nuances of its action come at a much softer range; but still, where is the tone?  The Yamaha, notwithstanding that for me, its action is far more subtle, precise, and superior, sounds like a damned Steinway in places.  It’s just a sensational piano – like the C-3 baby grand that I played for all those years at Gulliver’s.

I played a couple of my very newer tunes, then for some reason drifted into my standard New-Age improvisations around “Feed the Birds.” After that, I more-or-less dared to play three songs from The Word from Beyond that I really have only hitherto played in my head, those being “Adytum,” “Another Round of Fear,” and “Rosy.”  title: These songs reflect a spirit more consonant with the current phase in my life than the earlier music from Eden in Babylon, which was mostly written between 2010 and 2012.  Although by and larger their tone is more romantic and passionate than my earlier work, the most recent song that I’ve written, “The Very Same World,” has a very upbeat, optimistic feel to it, almost bubblegum in places.  As I played it, two of the guys working at the front desk tuned into it, and seemed to perk up a bit.  When I was done, they both asked me: “What was that last song you played?”  So  I explained everything, and linked them to this web site.  

It’s not that I don’t want to finish the very nearly completed script of Eden in Babylon, and finally tie it all together.  It’s just that I see no reason to rush into it, even after five years, and plow away at it as though there were a deadline, thus compromising its integrity at some point.  There’s a right script out there in the Universe, and it will get dropped down upon me at just the right time–just like everything else, in Art, and in life.