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.
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.
Please donate to Eden in Babylon. A little bit goes a long, long way.
The priests then withdrew from the Holy Place. All the priests who were there had consecrated themselves, regardless of their divisions. All the Levites who were musicians— Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives— stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets. The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang: “He is good! his love endures forever!” Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the Temple of God.
2 Chronicles 5:11-14
Please donate to Eden in Babylon. Anything Helps – God Bless!
Every morning I get up and make a pot of coffee, equaling four cups in my cute little coffee maker.
Then, I pour the entire pot into this gigantic cup I have, which holds one quart of beverage.
So, when I claim to be down to “one cup of coffee a day,” know that I am not exactly lying. However, I am not exactly telling the truth either, since the single cup is actually four cups worth. In other words, every morning I get up and drink a quart of coffee.
This, combined with forgetting to hydrate, might have something to do with why I had a splitting headache all day yesterday. So I drank a lot of water throughout the day, especially last night before bedtime, and also in the morning. The headache went away eventually – but it sure lasted a long time.
In a way, it’s a good thing I got the headache. It served as a buffering force to keep me from becoming too overjoyed after receiving the shock of my life, and seeing that another one of my articles has been published, this time in Street Spirit. The thrill of having two articles published in two different places two days apart — after not having anything published for my entire life until five months ago — would have been too much for me, had I not been granted the annoying headache, which effectively distracted me from my budding over-elation.
I suppose I shouldn’t have been too surprised by this, because I had earlier sent reams of work to Terry Messman, the publisher, permitting him to use any of it that he saw fit, and edit it in any way he felt was appropriate. I made that decision after discovering that I completely trusted his editing, and also completely concurred with his vision. But I was still stunned by the sudden publication, partly because of its proximity to the previous publication, and partly because of the hugeness of the way that I was personally gifted by his use and placement of this particular article:
For one thing, he gave me the entire back page, so that somebody could easily see my name simply by picking up a paper and flipping it quickly front and back. For another thing, he selected an article based on a blog post of mine that clearly led up to a plug for my musicaland a request for money to help me move this project forward. Finally, the article selected was just about the most revealing thing I’ve ever written in my life.
And this is a good thing. There’s something about honesty that has power, especially when the honesty is consistent, and extended over a long period of time. I’m also finding that, in this world based largely on appearance and affectation, real gut level honesty is relatively rare. I think that we as Writers are fortunate in a certain regard, because when we sit alone at our desks and pour out the pieces of our passion, there is nobody there to filter or judge our words, to tell us that our beliefs are unwise or socially unconventional, to discourage us by telling us that we’re full of malarkey when we’re doing our darndest to get the salient truth out to a conceivable readership with whom those particular truths might resonate.
So anyway, I’ve been doubly blessed this week, and this coming on my having locked myself out late at night a couple days ago and felt forced to rent a hotel room for the night before finding my keys at the grocery store lost-and-found in the morning. My Starving Artist status will be assuaged somewhat when I get the two paychecks for the articles. Hopefully it will be enough to pay my Internet bill and buy groceries, without which I’d have been totally strapped.
Speaking of which, the topic came up the other day at the Recovery Center where I volunteer, how there are two subjects that are considered taboo in our culture, and yet almost everybody has issues with both — sex and money.
Sometimes, when I talk about either of those subjects too much, someone will become really frustrated and even tell me to shut up — which reaction is probably a large part of why these subjects have become taboo. We’re just not comfortable discussing them, and we’re not often comfortable hearing about them.
I say this — and yet there is a donate button on almost every page on this site. Why? Because I finished a certain musical a matter of months ago, and I am not able to package the musical and send it out to theatre companies, with a decent demo recording sampling some of the songs in the show, because I simply do not have the money to do so.
Believe me, I hate the sight of all those donate buttons, and I cannot wait till the day comes when I can joyfully remove them all! The idea of promoting a project about which I am passionate in the same manner as one might sell a used car frankly makes me nauseous. Once I get the money, can hire the singers, can buy a microphone, can make the demo, can afford postage to send out the packages, etc. etc. etc., all those obnoxious buttons will be removed, and I can breathe a sigh of relief, go on to the next stage, and hopefully never have to ask anybody for a buck and a half again. You know why?
Because I don’t want any bucks. I want to live a quiet, reclusive, healthy life for the rest of my days, as modestly as possible, until the day I die. It’s not so much that I don’t like what money does to people, because I’ve met an awful lot of really nice rich people, as well as a few pretty mean and nasty poor people. So it’s not that (in case anybody’s ever wondered.)
What I don’t like — is what money does to me. And if you knew some of the whacked out decisions I have made on a couple rare occasions when I suddenly received a lot of money out of the blue, you wouldn’t like it either. That’s why every penny of these donations goes to my friend Danielle, who knows how to handle money — which is one great gift that I do not happen to have.
Another great gift I don’t have is the Gift of Brevity. Therefore I will close. But if you want to know how much money I need and exactly where it will be going, go ahead and fill out the contact form. You might be curious as to my immediate budgetary needs, whether you personally can help or not.
Please donate to Eden in Babylon. Anything Helps – God Bless!
If I can possibly give you an idea of how many times I had to delete a version of my song The Very Same Worldand replace it with a more evolved version, please know that I routinely save all previous versions of everything I compose or arrange, and that the version posted as of 11:20 last night was Version 2-G.
This means that, beginning with Version 1-A, I must have created 33 different versions of the piece before posting the one that remains. Thirty-three equals twenty-six plus seven. That is, I went from Version 1-A to 1-B all the way through the 26 letters of the alphabet, then added 7 more till I got to 2-G.
How do I know that it’s done now? Because I started working on 2-H and burned out on the notion. You see, I can always think of something to adjust, to make it better. What I can’t always do is decide that it’s not worth it any more. Once I make that decision, I am done.
I actually did not know that this quote was first attributed to Leonardo before I ran a google search on it a while back. I had heard it from Marcel Duchamp, and also from E.M. Forster. Whatever its origin, the idea seems to find common credence among certain kinds of Artists, myself included. While I may not always easily reach the point where further obsession on perfecting the piece is no longer interesting enough to motivate yet another revision, this is still easier than having to decide that the piece is ever good enough to be released for universal inspection by all eyes and ears. In short, it’s easier for me to eventually burn out on making it any better, than it is for me to ever believe it’s good enough.
So the criterion for completion has changed hands. In lieu of my ever being motivated to come up with anything better, the Thirty-Third Versionis where it stands.
On perhaps a more progressive note, it looks as though I may have found a female singer for this demo project. I’m not exactly certain yet, but a couple different people suggested I approach her. She’s a barista at the local cafe. I had asked the entertainment manager there if he knew of an easy way I could track down a decent female singer for a recording project that would involve little or no financial recompense, and he told me to talk to “Cooper” or to “Aubrey.” Cooper being a musician might just know of a singer, and Aubrey? Well, it turns out that she is herself a singer – and a rather good one, at that.
I knew it even before he said so. You see, I had overheard her singing — in something akin to a musical theatre voice — when I came in for coffee the other morning. But when I naturally queried about this intriguing activity, she merely brushed it off: “Oh! In the shower, maybe. Just make believe.”
Then I quipped:
“But isn’t the whole genre of Musical Theatre founded on make-believe?”
That got a grin out of her, but I still wasn’t thinking of asking her to sing for the project. That didn’t happen until the other two other people suggested it, the one being the entertainment manager, the other being the young woman’s boyfriend. Both of them characterized her singing as “fantastic.” They both said she would be shy about a live performance, but probably down for a studio recording. I myself am also shy about such things, as evidenced in the fact that I am even writing about it without having taken any pertinent prior action.
Still, I never cease to revel in that I have somehow found myself in a community where the faith is high, and there’s a sense that Artistic projects will always find the support they need in order to get themselves to happen. So all of this is a step in the right direction. I’ll talk with her Aubrey soon; and I do have the young man, Josh, from downstairs as well. If I can find one more female vocalist, I can probably just teach the parts and even use my own space here for the recording. The hardwood floor provides good acoustics — I’ve already tested them.
I’m starting to use up minutes on my free SoundCloudaccount. It’s because I’ve been using it as storage for all these different versions of my tunes. I’d have to pay to upgrade, so instead I deleted one of the earlier versions of this same tune that had become outmoded. That meant deleting the post here that featured it as well. Otherwise, it would have included an empty link.
What you have above is the full 4:47 version of The Very Same World, as it figures in the show. Now, I could tweak this a bit more — and no doubt I will. But it’s basically what the singers will hear as they record the song, give or take a few of the instruments that would then be doubling melodic lines unnecessarily. Also, once the singers have been assembled and have succeeded at recording the piece, I can always adjust the accompaniment track again afterwards.
So it stands to reason that now would be the time to proactively seek out singers. It’s possible I’ve been a little slow at this, being shy by nature. At the same time, I wanted to make sure I was sufficiently prepared. Now, I am.
I cut yet another version of this today. I didn’t exactly work all day, but almost. At one point I took a walk out to the Arboretum, just because everybody says to do so. There, it was very pretty. Shortly later, however, I came back, and resumed work.
I finished this a little past 3:24 of what is in reality a 4:40 piece. However, I faded it at around 3:02, just like its predecessor, because there’s a natural fade there where it won’t be anticlimactic.
I’ve been feeling angry over an attitude I’m getting from some people who knew me when I was in entirely different circumstances. These sorts of people don’t seem to understand that their ongoing attitude is unacceptable to me. By and large, they never actually listen to my music or appreciate the prodigy invested in it. All they do is notice that there are no vocals, and say something to the effect of: “My time is more important than this. I’ll listen to this once you have the singing on it.” In so doing, they completely overlook all the detailed scoring of instrumental parts I put into this effort. It’s extremely condescending, and I’m not sure why I put up with it.
I’m strongly compelled to equate this attitude with a “California attitude” that many people in other States find puzzling. However, it’s more likely that I myself was caught up in that syndrome when I lived there, and I can just thank God to have escaped it. Besides, another friend of mine, also from California, listened to this song from a sincere heart, without scoffing at me or dismissing me as though not worth his time. Not only him, but his wife and twenty-year-old daughter also appreciated my work. I could tell that their appreciation was genuine; then my friend also followed me on my SoundCloud.
This is a good thing. I’ll take the good with the bad, as my dad always used to say. I don’t know why I get hung up trying to please everybody. The truth is that I don’t have the female singers yet. I also don’t have the exact accompaniment down yet, to be heard by the singers, and support them. This, what you’re hearing today, comes close. What I’m hoping is that I can overlook the cynical voice of opposition enough to keep moving forward. My hope for the week is simply this. I would like for the much-needed singers to emerge at around about the time I’m finished with this instrumental accompaniment. In any case, it makes no sense to drop the accompaniment as a project and look full-force for the singers, if when I find them, I don’t have a complete accompaniment for their use.
In case anyone’s wondered, I’m still in the land of the living, and I have not yet dropped off the face of the planet. I realized earlier today that it’s been nine days since I’ve posted. I was planning to delay this post until I had completed the piano-vocal score to the third musical number in Eden in Babylon, the song called The Very Same World. But then I realized that even the completion of that score will only reflect a far greater pleasure — one that has already made itself manifest in my experience, and quite unexpectedly, at that.
Remember how I said I wasn’t looking forward to having to create an entire piano-vocal score for a musical so huge? I alluded to the tedious ardor of having to put The Burden of Eden together nine years ago, and not having attempted a score of that magnitude since. But to my pleasant surprise, I have found that I am actually enjoying the process of creating this score. I’ve been working on “Same World” since Monday, and I honestly believe I will have it finished tomorrow, which is Friday. (Or later on today, to be more accurate, since I am up after one in the morning as we speak.)
I think part of the difference lies in the software I’m using now, as opposed to back then. In those days I only had a general midi replica of a piano sound. Now I’m using a sampled Steinway grand. Believe me, it makes a huge difference. I’m also undergoing the intriguing challenge of trying to create a piano part the way that I myself would play these tunes on the piano. This challenge is made even more challenging by the fact that I have never played any of these songs on the piano. I don’t own a piano; and I wrote them, like I write all my music, “in my head.”
But hearing the sound of that Steinway, I’m eager to at least try to play them on the church piano, which is a Baldwin grand. Once I have the music written out, it will be much easier to do so. All I’ll have to do is change hats and read it – as though it were somebody else’s music, and not my own. I honestly think this process will fascinate me enough, that the tedium I’d earlier dreaded will no longer be a legitimate threat. More likely, this current fascination will morph into a gigantic labor of love.
So, I’m in the final formatting stages of “Same World” tonight. Our church secretary said I could sent the pdf file to her, and she would print it out for me in the morning. Then I’m going to examine the hard copy, pencil in any adjustments, and print out a final version. My goal is to have both “Same World” and Heart Songscored by next Friday, so I can take them down to the Open Mike, where I just might meet some interested singers for the project.
Many other nice things have been happening lately, and my goal to get this musical produced seems a bit more attainable now. The plans I’m devising to go about this are a bit less vague and a bit more fully baked than they were the last time you saw me. But I’ll save the details for a near-future entry. I want to take another look at the “Same World” score before I ponder the unappealing notion known as “sleep.” I’ve long been of the camp that contends something like sleep, in situations like these, to be for the faint of heart. Food also seems to be quite unnecessary. My theory, as expressed inthis post, is this:
What physical nutrition I lack is made up for in the spiritual nutrition with which this music is feeding my soul.
No wonder they bipolarizedme! But would I have it any other way? Probably not. They can bipolarize me till the cows come home. When I take care of my soul, the rest of me takes care of itself.
Practical realities have often managed to elude me, especially when I find myself feeling pressured or in haste. I’d rather do the thing immediately and do it poorly, just to get it out of the way, than exercise the patience and prodigy required to do it later — after sufficient preparation — and do it well.
Case in point. I mentioned in this entry that I’d realized the next logical step in the process of preparing my musical for production. So, I boldly walked into the School of Music to inquire randomly as to the availability of certain singers who would learn some of my music and assist me in recording a demo that I can present to prospective producers.
I carried no score with me. I didn’t even have a printed out copy of my script. I brought no items with me that could prove myself in any sense. Fortunately for me, it turned out to be Spring Break, and nobody was in the building. The office was closed and dark. I prepared myself to leave, when unexpectedly a man stepped out of the dark office.
Introducing and explaining myself briefly, I found the man to be very cordial. He pointed me to the particular professor to whom I should address my inquiry. I looked into the professor’s credits, was mildly intimidated, took note of his office hours, and determined I would return when school was in session.
Good thing I didn’t. It suddenly just struck me – wouldn’t it be far better if I showed up with a hard copy of the script and at least three of the songs printed out? That would show him not only that I’m serious, but he’d have a chance to check out the manner in which the piano-vocal score had been prepared. He’d realize at that moment that I know what I’m doing – at least in terms of creating a legible, functional musical score is concerned. So that would help, right there. Anybody can say they wrote a musical. To show up with neatly written music for the singers to sing would work much more to my advantage.
What I’m hoping is that some students needing a Senior Project might eagerly learn my music for a grade. This was in fact suggested in a blogger’s commenta while back. It’s crossed my mind since then that singing students in search of a good grade might actually do an even better job than more-or-less mercenary professional singers I might have hired who would be more likely to do it just for money. While it is totally against my nature to present myself as someone whose music might be worth a non-paid rehearsal or two, I think that to carry the actual music with me will no doubt work in my favor.
So – time to score about three songs. That’s about the minimum, I think, to demonstrate the score. If they ask where the rest of the score is, I can tell them I’ll come up with it if I know for sure they’re interested. Who knows? Maybe I could get a mild commission to notate the rest of the score. After all, it’s no small task. The last time I wrote a musical score without commission, it’s done nothing but sit on my shelf for the past ten years. Check it out:
Whether you know much about music or not, anybody can see that it obviously took a bit of effort to produce that 242-page piano-vocal score. It’s not the kind of task I’m eager to repeat unless there’s a good reason for going about it. In fact, even trying to score three of those numbers could throw me back into serious isolation. I don’t want to go there.
Well – the wheels still spin. Necessity is the mother of invention. Perhaps there is an easier, softer way . . .
After church yesterday morning, I spoke with my pastor briefly. He said he had listened to some of the Eden in Babylon score as posted onthis page. Anticipating his objection, I waited for him to elaborate. He phrased it positively when he did, and I’m also certain that he would never have characterized his observation as an “objection.” It’s just that I’ve heard it all too often before, so I tend to be on guard. And for good reason – for he basically said what everybody else always says: that he would like to hear it all put together – meaning the singing as well as the instrumentals.
That’s a friendly way of saying that it’s hard to tell from hearing the music alone just how the words are supposed to fit in. People look at lyrics I’ve posted; they listen to the music I’ve posted; and they think “OK – these words are supposed to match up with this music? How, exactly?” It really does put a damper on people’s ability to appreciate what I’m about. I can deny that obvious fact no longer.
So – a logical next move would be round up some singers and put them over the instrumental tracks. But who are these singers? It is one thing for me proclaim: “I will round them up.” But what does this mean, precisely? Round them up – from where? From whom? Will they sing for free? The pastor suggested I might be able to use the church facilities, meaning the sound board, the mixer, and the microphones. He hinted at my even using members of the Choir, and I’ll admit there are some awfully decent voices there. But can they handle my style? Well, perhaps. But will they truly vibrate with the groove? Doubtful. There’s a certain type of worldly, non-churchy vibration in the music itself that lends itself to something a bit down-and-dirty at times. It’s kind of the pastor to have offered, but it’s also uncomfortably recalling how I could easily find the right singers and pay them what they’re worth – if only I had the money.
But since I don’t, it strikes me that the School of Musicmight be a more likely place to find competent singers who can sing in the style of my characters and who would enjoy learning this music and recording it with me – possibly even to the point of doing so for free. About paying them, I can sort of “feel it out” when I talk with them, and definitely seek to make an impression on an academic musical level, so that they’ll recognize me as a composer-theoretician, and we can all mutually vibrate on that level as amiably as is to be expected. Money can be brought up at around about that point.
Also, to sort of wade gently into the unknown waters here, this “rounding up effort” can be realistically restricted to a small number of “character singers” at first. I need Winston, Benzo, Mortalis, and Taura – that’s four. Throw in a fifth woman for other female parts, and me doing the other male parts, and we have ourselves a pretty decent blend. So that would be five people to concern myself with having to pay, five people with whom I would have concerned myself with “rounding up” to begin with. Whether the field I tap is the School of Music or anywhere else, if it’s a matter of advertising, then I’ll need to word my advertisements in a compelling manner, as well as cultivate an appealing approach, in general.
I’ll need a legible score, but that shouldn’t be too much of a problem. I can extract parts from my Finale files. It will only be a problem if I become perfectionist about it, and allow it to enclose me back into isolation. This I can avoid by churning out one number at a time, while in the process of slowly gleaning singers. If we’re only talking about a handful of singers besides myself, whom we may assume will need to be very decent musicians and/or musical theatre people who have a real, built-in reverence for the kind of prodigious accomplishment to be found in the flagrant manifestation of remarkable musical score; then these being the caliber of people whom I seek probably wouldn’t mind working for free at this stage. It’s also possible that maybe I can simultaneously seek some small measure of financial support, so that they won’t have to render their services for absolutely nothing.
The wheels are spinning, anyway. I have a complete script now, so it doesn’t make much sense that the next phase of the project would entail too much more isolation. I ought to be able to use the fact of the completed script to encourage further human involvement, such as by holding a reading. But I don’t want to just focus on that, at the expense of connecting the musical dots, because I feel that to do so is a higher priority. Although it’s true that I’ve now completed a libretto, I don’t even have a full vocal-score to present to singers or to a musical director, nor do I have (especially) samples of the music including the singing as well as the instrumental accompaniment, on which anyone can clearly hear what the score is all about. So despite that I’ve completed a script full of text, I still don’t have a completed package. It’s still not quite marketable.
It does seem, however, that to prepare the next piece of the package will need to involve about five other people, to do it decently, by whom I mean singers, who can sing the different character parts, along with myself, and I can maybe just accompany all the songs on the piano, if that’s the easiest way for them to learn the music, and for me to put it across. After all, it’s what I’ve been doing all my life – so I might as well go the extra mile here. As to exactly where to find these other comrades of the Arts, this is another story. But I am firmly affixed that this is the next step.