About 6 weeks ago, while planning our extended stay in Colorado to continue the hands-on process of getting Dad’s estate settled, I contacted a longtime colleague about collaborating with me on the recording of my Goat Suite (Saga).
Her willingness to work with me under challenging circumstances – finding snippets of time to rehearse, then laying down tracks at the recording studio – was refreshing.
So, tucked in between sorting files upon files of papers, packing up shelves of books, trips to drop off never ending donations at ARC, lining up realtor interviews, meeting with tradesmen for quotes on needed repairs on Dad’s house, working around my brother’s schedule to get certain estate things done; as well as working around my colleague’s own teaching and wedding gig schedule, we did indeed get started on the recording of my Goat Suite (Saga).
Sometime during our only rehearsal on a Sunday afternoon before our Wednesday recording session, my colleague tossed out a casual comment about ‘working with the composer’.
Say, what? Are you talking about me?
Re-tuning my ears, I heard her say something about enjoying working with the composer for learning what is wanted in the piece or some such comment.
In essence, referring to me – Me as Composer.
On the day of our recording session, I enjoyed this new-to-me experience of being the composer overseeing a musician in the nuanced shaping of her part and finalizing its recorded form! This talented professional laid down 2 tracks – the cg2 parts to movement #1 & movement #3 of my Goat Suite (Saga) in less than 1 ½ hours!
With 1 ½ hours left on the session clock, it was my turn.
I laid down the cg1 part in a flash for movement #1 and worked with the recording engineer on getting a final studio mix ready to add the rain stick part at another time.
Terry W. Lilly playing the rain stick during my Swimming with Swans presentation at the Goodwill Cultural Center, June 2017
Interesting aside: hubby has agreed to play the rain stick on the recording – he did a great job demonstrating its use during the Swimming with Swans presentation at the Goodwill Cultural Center in June and I think it will add greatly to the personal significance of this project.
In the event that there’d be time left over from the GSS session, I held hope to record my original solo piece Gift for TWL.
Yes, indeed, I was able to slip it in and did four takes with the 4th being the pot of gold. Only had to ‘borrow’ a very few notes from previous takes and it was done.
I guess I’m back to being an on-the-road working musician – ahem – composer.
Me & the Goodwill Educational & Historical Society, Inc Board Left to Right: Ada Lyn Jones, Donise White, James Boyd, Laura Bruno Lilly, William Remmes (President), Louise D. Bevan, Rev. Carnell Hampton, Ruby Jean Boyd
I fully intended on posting a ‘thoughtful article on my first SwS presentation’ as mentioned here. Obviously, I haven’t been able to quite pull one together. Yes, the June 3rd featured event at the Goodwill Cultural Center was a huge success and the thrill of introducing the public to my Goat Suite (Saga), the related creative process and how it all occurred while in the midst of our non-traditional between homes journey was some kind of high. But what really makes this experience stand out for me is the fact that all of the Goodwill Educational & Historical Society, Inc board members attended it. In the world of the working musician, this is quite an anomaly.
I keep perusing these two photos* taken afterwards. The genuine expressions of joy shining through the faces of those photographed remind me of the spirit of the place; the delight of the moment.
On the steps of the Goodwill Cultural Center Mayesville, SC Left to Right: Laura Bruno Lilly, Terry W. Lilly, James Boyd, William Remmes
I have long since done my own personal ‘performance assessment’, ferreting out solutions to challenges encountered during the actual performance. Specifically: in the transition from spoken word performance to the focus required in performing on an instrument – a very real hurdle for the brain in switching gears.
Quotes and clips have been gathered for use in future marketing and grant proposal endeavors; bits of prose and musical phrases have been tweeked; new contacts have been made and old ones reignited…I’m ready to move forward!
*photos by Jayne Bowers used with permission; content of photos used with permission
Hello, hello from inside the mirror! This is my attempt at a practice session selfie – using a dinosaur of a camera, no less. Notice the placement of the pillow, the height of the footstool and yes, indeed, those comfy tennies. This is my normal performance set up; albeit with a change of clothes and shoes.
However, in the recording studio, my beloved Dynarette pillow makes plastic-y squeaks during my playing as I tend to move a bit from time to time while I’m ‘in the moment’.
This is not a good thing.
Hardly noticeable by anyone on stage or off during a live performance, those squeaks wreak havoc to one’s ears while listening to playbacks of pieces played to perfection in the recording studio.
Dad’s (Al Bruno) promo photo ~ Chicago, circa 1945 (?)
Shortly after my jazzman Dad passed away last year, I received a letter in the snail mail announcing a contribution had been made to the Bringing Music to Life’s instrument repair fund in his memory by one of my cousins* and her husband. What a perfect way to honor my Dad!
Founded in 2010, this non-profit organization not only provides musical instruments to students in underfunded schools throughout Colorado, but refurbishes each donated instrument before being placed in their eager hands.
“If you take a musical instrument that is in bad need of repair or even partial need of repair and put that into the hands of a 4th or 5th or 6th grader, they’re going to be very defeated when they try to play that instrument. They’re going to think it’s them – they’re not gonna know it’s the instrument.” (Dan Parker, pres. Colorado Institute of Musical Instrument Technology)
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
I look forward to sharing the entire article (entitled – Peace Post: Max Richter, Herbie Hancock and Today’s World) with you in the next few days.
“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.”
Max Richter, composer
“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.”
Herbie Hancock, musician
Long story short, several years ago I fell in love with a National Res Guitar at McCabes Guitar Shop in Santa Monica. At the time, I didn’t follow my gut (even though hubby encouraged me to just ‘get it’) but rather my more practical side. Part of that practical side being financial, but mostly wondering how in heck I could keep from compromising my cg-nails in playing it (even if I could always just use a pick, but still…) and the whole heaviness of the instrument and well, I ended up talking myself out of taking the plunge and entering into its wonder-world.
Zoom to Thanksgiving 2016. Hubby and I drove up to Lansing, MI for the Family Holiday at middle daughter and son-in-law’s new home. The day after our festive feasting, son-in-law and I took an adventure trip to Elderly Instruments just a few minutes’ drive into town. I like to think it was a great excuse for this mother-in-law and son-in-law to further bond as fellow musicians. We browsed the instruments, soaking in the eye and ear candy. Nothing much tempted me to pick up and caress until my gaze happened upon this gorgeous tenor resonator.
Fascinated by the four strings on a res body, I lifted it off its display stand. Son-in-law was playing a nearby steel body 6-stringer res but I was not impressed with its sound…curious as to tonal differences between the two instruments I sat next to him on the bench and began a simple strum on the tenor res. And yes, she spoke to me. That long ago urging deep inside tugged, and this time I followed my gut! Hubby encouraged me to take the plunge in honor of my folks.
I view this newest addition to my musical toolbox as a special gift given from my folks posthumously.