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 →
The officially stated theme for the 2016 Camden Writers Anthology #2.
Starting in January, I pulled about four pieces from my stash of vignettes relevant to the 2016 anthology theme – some started but unfinished, others already firmly written and in need of my critique group’s keen insights and suggestions, still others with germinal ideas and notes-to-self on how to proceed.
I discovered early on during critique presentations that even the one piece I thought was 99.9% ready to go, wasn’t. And that really was fine with me. I decided I’d use the submission deadline as the catalyst for getting those pieces and ideas in shape for publication.
Meanwhile I was deeply ensconced in a regular routine spent on the practice stool prepping in anticipation of upcoming recording sessions for my Swimming with Swans: the music project.
Progress towards both project milestones were rolling along smoothly. However, I didn’t factor in the possibility of Dad entering into hospice care in April.
Whether superstition, or relative to some innate programming within the natural world, death often occurs in multiples of three. My own family has recently experienced two losses close together and I hold out hope that the power of three will not prevail in our case.
However, in the musical world, I have a tally of three personal favorites who have passed within weeks of each other. Like my taste, each one is different from the other in genre, temperament and level of public awareness.
The day after my cousins and Aunt Dolores returned to Chicago from Dad’s funeral* in Colorado, my Aunt Betty fell, broke her arm and entered into hospice care within the week.
Unlike Dad, she and his other sibs were/are lifelong Cubs fans. And I confess I caught the cub-bug from them back in the day! Freshly back from Colorado** hubby and I settled into a regular routine of watching 2016’s historic World Series. It helped ease re-entry into our life away from loved ones, life’s new normal and tending to everyday living in our little rental here in South Carolina.
Meanwhile, my cousins and Aunt Dolores had the television on for all the games, too. They spent time with Aunt Betty during her last ‘dream-sleep’ days listening and talking with her about all the exciting baseball action.
On November 1st, Dad’s sister joined the increasing Family party up in heaven.
When news spread over the Bruno Grapevine about her passing, I took comfort in thinking she had the best seat in the Universe to see those Cubbies take the World Series in all its victorious glory***.
The very next day, Terry and I took to the road again to attend the wake/funeral mass on Chicago’s south side.
Going back to old family locations, rejoining the cousins and the last two remaining of Dad’s sibs proved to be an unexpected blessing in the midst of my own raw grief.
I received an extra gift from my aunt – a chance to honor her – standing for Dad – and a chance to continue in the healing and comfort with Family – Coming back to my roots and laying Dad to rest there, too.
Surrounded by Family still in mourning over the death of Dad; beginning the trail of sorrow again with the passing of Aunt Betty – shared sorrow, shared support.
Joining joyful memories with the present shifting of Family ‘residency’ – sharing in the double grief – makes me think Aunt Betty waited to sit at that Family Table till Dad would be there, too.
Technically, summer as a season is defined as being from June 1st through August 31st. Or in holiday terms, Memorial Day kicks off the start of summer while Labor Day marks the end of those carefree days.
I decided to define this summer as beginning April 22nd when Dad went into hospice care, and ending September 17th when my regularly scheduled visits will most probably cease (the key term here being: regularly scheduled).
On all fronts, this Summer of Dad has been cathartic, healing and fun.
On all fronts, this Summer of Dad is nearing its end.
note: the day before I was slated to return to SC from my third ‘scheduled’ visit with Dad in CO, he suffered a mini-stroke causing a paradigm shift in his state of decline. This piece was written several weeks ago and was to be pubbed sooner, but internet issues prevented that from occurring. I think it still speaks a gentle message so I am passing it on while I have a snippet of secure internet access.