I thought the final drafts and final rewrites of pieces critiqued by two different writers groups in two different states, edited, reworked and rewritten over a time span of close to four years would be the easy part of finishing my Goat Suite Saga set of 7 vignettes. Never mind the larger project of Swimming with Swans: vignettes of our three year journey between homes set of at least 2xs that amount.
While I’ve stamped four of the seven vignettes as final, it’s this fifth one that’s got me up against the wall as mentioned in a previous post. It’s a good thing I took that quilt break as it helped refresh my writerly juices to get back in the game.
However, it seemed like I just wasn’t making any progress. So, the other day I decided to passively gather data on how long it’s taking to actually do specific rewrites. The numbers were kind of scary.
Let me explain.
There’s this one musically technical paragraph that I was told was confusing to non-musicians. However, I insist upon it staying as it’s important to the totality of that particular vignette. One paragraph, out of one vignette with an approximate word count of 2000 words took me over 12 hours to rework, reword, rewrite and stamp as final.
Waiting on the final studio mix of my lone recorded piece (out of four total) left to be mixed before sending all to the mastering lab has been frustrating. Yet, it gives me an excuse to focus on the written part of the GSS of which an abbreviated form will be featured in the cd insert booklet.
Never did I ever figure on spending so much time on one paragraph.
When I first heard this poem, my mind immediately flashed on a photo I took during my Summer of Dad – that of a lone rose thriving in the midst of Ma & Dad’s overgrown and neglected garden.
“…for my blooms have served a purpose…”
From Just Thinkinga collection of “little writings which may produce some little thoughts” here is Colin Chappell reading his poem, Just a Rose.
Note: All proceeds from book sales will be directed to Colin’s daughter who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2007. She is still fighting, but the treatment programs have taken their toll and she is unable to hold down a paying job for a variety of reasons. She is therefore dependent on benefits from her disability provider…She uses her time to volunteer for non-profit organizations, and has been involved in giving some dignity to the women who are living on the streets in Vancouver’s downtown East-side…She has also written a number of poems, two of which are included in the book!
Been up and down with that lousy respiratory bug for the past four weeks…Hubby, too…Been unable to taste or smell for at least the last two weeks (well really only ten days and counting but still)…Hubby has his back…Been on a self-imposed coffee fast because I can’t taste it so why bother?…Hubby doesn’t get the coffee thing…Gettin’ kinda cranky…
Okay, so maybe I’m going through a good healthy coffee purge/cleansing – Sooooo: should I still pick up that first cuppa once I get my taste buds back?
I Miss My Coffee!!!!
I’m going psychedelic-crazy without my hot-shot brew
Like many others, I feel at a loss to shape words into coherent phrases expressing outrage, sorrow, compassion and balanced thinking in the midst of our current flood of events in today’s world.
In light of this, as always, my medium of choice is music…and music as protest/social statement has a long history. Yes indeed I, myself, did the singer-songwriter scene in my early adulthood. Coming of age in the midst of another time of social unrest – I still embrace that genre.
Life goes on and in today’s world, my own current brand of compositional expression tends towards instrumental music. Personally, I feel it allows for individual interpretation, un-dictated by lyrical suggestion.
Which leads me to Max Richter, a favorite contemporary composer of mine.
Some time ago I stumbled upon an interview-article with Max published on Fifteen Questions. This on-line journal engages “production experts, performers, journalists, scientists and composers to discuss what music means, how it’s made, where its limits lie, and why it affects us all so differently and yet remains universal” rather than discussing the private lives of artists or their latest releases.
Here are a few of his thoughts to which I relate and are relevant to the subject of this blog post. I encourage those of you interested in musical composition and the driving forces behind it to read the full interview.
Max Richter – interview excerpts and short musical clip
Music for me is storytelling, so I usually start with an intention or something I want to say. From there I kind of struggle around in the dark, trying to find ways to say that. Sometimes it’s a linear thing where I have an idea and then go about trying to find ways to express it. Other times I will discover things along the way and the idea ends up turning into something else altogether. It’s a mixture between intention and chance.
I think the reason I write music is because I’m trying to say things that I find difficult to encapsulate verbally. Music is its own kind of language and it’s very good at saying things that words struggle with, so that’s often the impulse for me.
The role of the composer has always been subject to change. What’s your view on the (e.g. political/social/creative) tasks of composers today and how do you try to meet these goals in your work?
Music is a social art, kind of like talking, but in a way, music as a vehicle for political critique has evaporated in the last 20 years and that’s disappointing.
I think if we’re talking about something in music, we should be talking about the big things that are worth talking about and those things are: the state of the world; how we live and how we spend our time. That’s something that really drives me. For example, the track The Shadow Journal on Blue Notebooks, for me, is a protest song. It was composed and recorded the week after the first big anti-Iraq war march in London. And even though Czeslaw Milosz’s words are actually describing the Second World War, the imagery he used resonated with me at that particular moment in time and so social comment was most definitely the primary motivation behind this piece of music.
Generally speaking though, people are not thinking about music in those terms anymore, not if you compare it to the counter-culture movement of the sixties, when social commentary was one the absolute driving forces of music. It’s a shame and a lost opportunity in many ways.
Herbie (and the Headhunters) Hancock – interview excerpts and musical clip
And then there’s Herbie. Rummaging through some of my paper files a few weeks ago, I came across a Music and Musicians (June 2010) article I kept on hand entitled, “Herbie Hancock: Imagining the future with a plan, a piano and a vision of peace.”
I first heard of him as Herbie and the Headhunters in 1973 during my second year of college (University of Colorado at Boulder, 1972-1977). I fell in love with his ‘new’ funk sound while listening to his Chameleon on the then ‘underground’ Denver radio station KLZ FM.
Give the piece a listen as you continue reading excerpts from that article.
I wanted to make a global record. Although I’ve recorded with artists from other countries at various times, this truly was about emphasizing global collaboration as a path toward peace. I started thinking about America basically being an immigrant country.
Most of us have ancestors who were not from these shores. So we have these issues that are happening now about immigration and closing the borders and locking things down. I understand the motivation – the fear from 9/11 and terrorists. If you couple that with the insecurity that has come about because of the economic downturn, it’s drawing people into a state of chaos.
They’re trying to find ways to blame something, to put it on somebody. I think it’s time to stop looking outside for who to blame…now is the time to proactively begin the process of creating the kind of future we want for our children and for our children’s children.
How did you translate those ideals into music?
The first thing you have to do is be willing to be open and to embrace cultures outside of our own. The second thing is respecting the cultures and the people of those cultures. What other ways can we show our respect for other cultures? One of them is through language. It’s why I decided that if I truly wanted a global record, the record couldn’t just be in English…
Today’s World – in conclusion
Max and Herbie’s comments reveal the motivation behind much of an (he)artist’s work.
Communication – whether of a personal social statement or expression of some inner emotional response to life’s experiences – is often the result of a composer’s work; intentional or not.
For most musicians, even if performing non-original pieces, interpretational nuances shape one’s own message to be received by the audience as a gift from the heart.
For myself, my Swimming with Swansproject is one such work…to give voice to the fact that those of us who have experienced or are currently in the midst of a period of displacement in a living situation or even state of mind, are not defined by that but live day-by-day and create works of beauty regardless. And share it with all who will listen.
That’s just who we are and what we do – we count, we matter and we make a difference.
“I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33 NIV
This year I opted to not send out Christmas cards, offer a winter solstice meditation blog post (see a great one here and here) or decorate our little rental in the spirit of the season. It’s not a big deal, just the way things are for me this year (and without little ones, I have the luxury to choose that option). And no, I’m not depressed it’s just that – heck, I still haven’t finished writing thank-you notes after Dad’s funeral in October. And I feel worse about that than my decision to not fully participate in holiday traditions this year. The pull for me to formally acknowledge my deep appreciation to those who offered support during that time – by whatever means – is nagging at my sense of etiquette along with a desire to just say thanks; let them know their sympathies mattered.
Quite frankly, I think I’ve gone a bit too long in finishing them so I am trying to just let it go rather than dwell on my increasing feelings of guilt.
breathe in – breathe out – release the burden
Yet here it is Christmas. My heart is not cold, just a bit into itself and kind of relieved to have what some might deem a boring celebration. Spent more as a bystander rather than active participant. Continue reading →