I am hopeful that my groove is returning as they say. I heard a train whistle this morning as I was outside putting garbage in the garbage can. It made me think of “Frickin Trains,” a song I wrote.
When I lived in Greeneville Tennessee, at first we lived next door to the church where Dad was the minister. Across the street was another row of houses and behind them was the railroad tracks. Hearing a train whistle was part of life then. It was this memory that helped kick off my writing “Frickin Trains.”
I always wondered why I came up with the word, “frickin.” I don’t use this word. I’m more likely to say “fuckin.” At the time I ascribed this usage to my youngest daughter, Sarah. (Hi Sarah and Matthew!) But as I think about it it probably also came out of the mouth of my son while he lived with us.
I just listened to my mp3 recording of Frickin Trains. While the recording is pretty bad, the song strikes me as pretty good. I couldn’t understand all of the lyrics but I remember that the first verse is about the memory of Greeneville, the second about meeting a desperate young man (boy really) on a bus. He had just got of prison and was on his way home. The third verse is about the call of the trains in the night and the eyes of the dead and reminds me of a sentiment that Mavis Gallen captured in her short story, “Voices Lost in the Snow.”
The main character who is a bit on the autobiographical side for Gallen is talking about her father and his decision to relocate the family from the city to the country in Canada. “He was, I think, attempting to isolate his wife, but by taking her out of the city [by doing so] he exposed her to a danger that, being English, he had never dreamed of: this was the heart-stopping cry of the steam train at night, sweeping across a frozen river, clattering on the ties of a wooden bridge. From our separate rooms, my mother and I heard the unrivalled summons, the long, urgent, uniquely North American beckoning. She would follow and so would I, but separately, years and desires and destinations apart.”
I wrote Frickin Trains years before I read this short story, but when I did read it, it reminded me of the song.
I have begun musing on my own composing. Virginia Woolf observed in her diary that “writing is the profound pleasure and being read the superficial.” I’m not the genius she was but I sort of know what she means, or at least I find something about the observation that fits me. Composing is my “profound pleasure.” Promoting my own work has always not been that interesting to me. Of course, I like to see my work performed. But often I want to be one of the performers. The more concrete the notion of how the piece is to be used the better for me. This sets limits to my ideas that include picturing specific people playing the music I make up.
Having retired from the church, living here in Holland a small provincial town where most of the musicians don’t see me as that relevant, if Rhonda doesn’t ask me to write something I’m not sure at this point I need compose unless I decide that’s it something I would rather do than read, practice, cook, or listen to music. This remains to be seen.
I don’t really have an outlet other than Rhonda asking me to write something or coming up with ideas of my own. Thinking about Frickin Trains reminds me that one thing I could do in retirement would be working with the many compositions I have made. I definitely have in mind organizing them. And I have thought that putting my songs into piano/vocal versions might be fun. If I did this they would probably be more accessible and usable.
And there is always the possibility inspiration will strike.
You can see I am begging to mull around how to spend retirement. Eileen insists that it’s too early to land on much or even do that much concrete thinking about it. My piano trio is waiting for me to contact them again and I probably will do so at least once and have Amy and Dawn over to the house for some playing. But honestly piano trio is not very high on my priorities. It’s as much if not more satisfying to sit and play piano/harpsichord literature by myself.
Some of this is colored by the fact that though I love my musicians, I live in a completely different musical/aesthetical world from them. I am sure there are people out there with whom I share a musical/aesthetical understanding. But I don’t know any of them personally.
More and more although there is historical music I dearly love, I find a lot of classical musical uninteresting. I could say the same about any “genre.” So much contemporary pop music seems dull to me.
I am feeling better. I didn’t realize how much of a struggle it was to maintain myself in the face of not knowing why I was covered with a rash. The diagnosis and subsequent shot and lotion is having an effect not only physically but relieving me enough to get some of my old fervor back.