Gratitude List 1798

(1) Ran five miles yesterday. First five miler in the past 35 days since I’ve been decidedly getting into shape. Also, first five miler at 2500ft altitude. I’m eager to get back down to sea level and run a 10-K.

(2) I’ve selected all five songs in order to complete the Keva album. It’s been a rush to find myself writing musical theatre lyrics again. I’ve written lyrics to two of the tunes I wrote down in Berkeley, and I’m happy with the lyrics. I’ve also resurrected a song called “The Joke,” and I’ve scored all three songs for female voice on Finale. Three songs completely scored, two to go.

(3) Also I’ve been coaching Zazen in singing for musical theatre. Cody let me borrow his Andrew Lloyd Webber anthology, also selections from Les Miserables. She’s working on “On My Own” and “Memory” now; also, my song “I Know Who You Are” that I wrote back in Berkeley, whose lyrics I just wrote last week.

(4) Tonight both of my theology groups are having a joint meeting at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Theology Afield hasn’t met for 18 months now, and we’re combining with Theology on Tap (a Lutheran group), for the duration now, meeting monthly at the church. Tonight’s material has to do with the Afghan refugees and the biblical stance concerning caring for refugees from other lands. I’m also really eager to see everybody again — it should be great!

(5) In general, I am really enjoying not being as stressed out as I often was throughout the time when we were workshopping Eden in Babylon. It’s been nice to do my running and do my Art – and do the things that I enjoy – free of time pressure and other stressors. It’s what retirement is all about, and I’m grateful.

“Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.” — Marie Curie

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Tuesday Tuneup 99

Q. What’s happening now?

A. Embarrassment.

Q. What are you embarrassed about?

A. I scored a song in the wrong time signature.

Q. What song?

A. A song from my show.   It’s called “The Word from Beyond” — but that’s beside the point.  Why do you ask?

Q. Because I suspected you were the composer, and if you were the composer, then how can the time signature be wrong?   Doesn’t the composer decide such things?

A. It was wrong, because the signature I chose made it hard for the musicians to read it.  A different signature would have made it much easier.

Q. And the song would sound the same way with either signature?

A. Yes.  But no other similar sounding piece would have been written in the signature I selected.

Q. Then why did you select that signature in the first place?

A. Because I simply did not know the correct signature.

Q. How did you find out?

A. From one of the other musicians.

Q. And then you became embarrassed?

A. A little bit.   I guess to be honest with you, I’m more informed than embarrassed.  And that’s a good thing.  I learned something.   Embarrassment is only a function of the Ego.   Information is a function of the Mind.  Mind over Ego – in all matters.

Q. May I quote you on that?

A. Spell my name right.

Q. Just in case there are any musicians reading, what was the signature you used to score the piece?

A. 6/8.

Q. What is the correct signature?

A. 4/4 swing.

Q. How did you find out?

A. One of the musicians told me.

Q. And you didn’t know?

A. Let’s put it this way.  It would have been my second choice.

Q. Why would it not have been your first choice?

A. I shot for the easier way of the two, because I was in a hurry.

Q. And in making it easier on yourself, you made it harder on the people you were working with?

A. Yes.  But this time I’l do things differently.   This time I’ll start early in the week — in fact, I’ll begin today — and I’ll block out my time – and do it slowly but surely, and get it turned in to the musicians by Thursday.

Q. Promise?

A. I promise.

Q. What if something comes up?

A. Well – Friday at the latest.

Q. Promise?

A. I’ll do my best.

The Questioner is silent.  

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Awake the Dawn

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

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Evolution of a Song: Part Two

In reference to Part One, I sent the post to my brother Steve.   I hadn’t heard from him for quite some time, and it was wonderful to receive this email in the morning:

Bro –

This is so nice and yes, it happened exactly as you
describe.

I’ve always said there are three phases in my musical
life (which is 99% of my life, or something):

Andy Pope
The Grateful Dead
Everything else.

Equally weighted –

And you can quote me on that.

S.

What a pleasant surprise to wake up and see my brother’s email!   But he did not say anything about the libretto.  This leads to a personal confession.

I have been terrible about devaluing the songs I wrote when I was younger.  At one point I wrote a song called “Apologies to Peter Pan.”  It was the year 1974, and I was 21 years old.   Well, I thought the music was okay, but I didn’t like the lyrics.   So, later on in life, in the year 2004 in fact, I stole my own song.

I stole the music of “Apologies to Peter Pan” in order to place that music in a show I was writing, while changing all the words and, in fact, the entire meaning of the song.  One person was honest enough to object.   He explained that the lyrics were not better than the lyrics of the original song (which I do remember, by the way, in full.)

That person was right.   But what he does not know, and what no one knew till now, is the reason why I would do these things:  low self esteem.  

I simply did not believe, at around 2004 or so, that I was capable of writing a brand new song.  I had been involved in the workaday world, zipping from gig to gig on the San Francisco Bay Area Peninsula –  hustling, teaching, doing my gigs, and not really writing much at all.   I viewed writing as something I did as a Kid.   As an adult, I worked.   I taught.  I played music.   I went to PTA meetings.   I taught Vacation Bible School.  But did I write any music?

No.  Not at all.   Why not?   I no longer believed that I could.  

So instead, I thought: “Well – when I was younger, I wrote all kinds of music.   I always remember the music, but not always the lyrics.  Why don’t I just take all the old music I wrote, rearrange it, and rewrite the words?

So I stole my own music, in this pathetic and cowardly fashion, until one night, there was a psychic change.

It was the year 2010.  I was renting a hotel room at a reduced rate, in exchange for working the front desk.   I had time on my hands, and I still made visits to my mentor, Stan Beckler.

Stan Beckler

I had studied Music Theory and Composition with Stan at the U.O.P. Conservatory of Music in the 70’s.  I reconnected with him later in life, and began to pay him visits, during which my orchestrations were analyzed.   He was a wonderful man and a brilliant composer whom I admired very much.  Then in March of 2010, at the age of 86, Stan died.

That night, I couldn’t sleep.   Stan had always wanted me to write a string quartet.  But I never did.  He had also often suggested I remove the drum parts completely.   He appreciated and drew out the classical composer in me.   He’d have rather I had not gotten so heavy into the show tunes.   But he was never discouraging, always warm and wise.  It was hard to get Stan off my mind that night.  But I decided to try.

I opened the file of the piece I was writing.  It seemed that the song, “Child of No Emotion,” might make a better song with different words, to be called: “Cloaks of Art.”  As I began to arrange the music, I decided to begin with a string section.  And I tried not to think about this man whom I had loved, who had always been with me, and who now was gone.

Editing the arrangement, I would often stop and start the music over again.   My perfectionism was at a staggering peak.  I could not get it right, no matter what.  But I kept hammering away, till just before dawn.  And then — something happened.  Something entirely new, unexpected, unprecedented.

As I tried to keep stopping and starting the music, the STOP command ceased to function.  I wanted to stop the music.   But the music would not stop.

It kept playing, even after I repeatedly pressed the STOP key.   So I could no longer mess with it.  I was forced to listen to it all.   I listened to the strings, and then suddenly I realized:

This is the string quartet that Stan always wanted me to write.  And Stan is here right now.   He won’t let me keep messing with the music — because he wants to hear the whole thing!   His spirit is here, approving of me — telling me my work is complete.  I have finally satisfied my mentor.  I have written the String Quartet!

I fell down on my knees.  I thought about how when the prophet Elijah had died, Elisha was sorrowful.  And he asked God to give him a “double portion of Elijah’s spirit.”

I cried out: “Lord, give me a double portion of Stan Beckler’s spirit!”

And I don’t know how to explain it, but never again did I ever feel that I could not write music that was new and fresh.   As for “Cloaks of Art?”   The string quartet is not very long.   Twenty measures or so, before other instruments enter in, and it swells into a more symphonic sound.   But it satisfied Stan, and it marked the beginning of a new life of new music, new words.   I may not be an “entirely different composer.” But the song I sing in my heart today is an entirely different song.

Cloaks of Art

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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.