The perfect music of the birds singing in the dawn is floating over the rustling sound of the wind in the tops of trees this morning. I find the bird sound exquisite at this time of morning in the summer in little old Helland where I live. Combined with the wind sound it is quite as appealing and wonderful as Bach to my ears. Now the train whistles in the distance.
”]I have spent this week composing the “Dead Man’s Pants” theme and patching together the rest of the piece from compositions from this year. Yesterday as I worked through scoring and composing for a theoretical (and fantastical to me) pallet of some 12 or 13 instruments it occurred to me where this piece lands in my own mental and artistic landscape.
It seems to be a piece about death in my mind. It is a futile waving of a jerky branch of protest in the face of the inevitable demise of us all. A defiant angry joy of being alive. It’s also a regaining of sorts, I hope, of my voice as a writer.
Watching and helping my parents through this last phase of their life has had a dampening effect on my personal mental resources. At the same time this period has held insights for me, about them and also about myself.
In my life I have turned to little guitar songs to work out my own mental struggles. I realize they have mostly served as therapy for me. I am quite content with this and there is actually one of these embedded in “Dead Man’s Pants” called “Tiny Lies.”
But the first forty measures or so seem to be a bit of a musical statement that sums up something for me. Not easy to put into words. But it is a resurgence something for me that was ebbing.
It also helped that my struggle at work seemed to come to a peak for me. I realize that the energy and direction and creativity seems to be mostly my own in my job as a church musician. Thus has it ever been for me. For whatever reason I have visions and dreams about what could happen in the work of a church musician. I’m sure this is partially a sort of latent adolescent romanticism around musicians who worked in the church like Bach and Healey Willan.
This week I failed to muster this energy and watched what happened. I experienced a strong sense of discouragement but oddly mixed with a determination that I could actually get my perspective and proverbial groove back.
This seems to have happened. Self-reliance, indeed, mister Emerson.
At our evening meal on Thursday my wife found my uncharacteristically quiet. She feared that I was gloomy but in fact something else seemed to be happening. It looks like gestation or something. I told myself I was trying not to rehearse my frustrations at work. And while accomplishing that I do think that somehow I was finding an independent strength in my own sense of who I am and where I am in my life.
So the composing has been interesting for me this week. I do hope I can pull off the performance but it is in the end the composing that is more fun for me. I have invited all of my participants to set aside the night before the performance for a sort of full rehearsal. In the meantime I am planning to rehearse and consult with them in smaller groups. I mean to consult with my drummer. My drum parts are sketches of the improvised nature of drumming. I also am curious to expand the singers from me to me and a couple of other singers. This will need some delicacy and energy but I think it will be well spent.
Last night as I went to church to do a quick practice of Sunday’s organ music, it occurred to me that the opening hymn would be served by a gaggle of percussionists. This seemed to be residual creative energy from my work this week. The hymn, “Halleylujah, we sing your praises,” hails from South Africa. Like many African tunes it is best served by voices and percussion. We have been singing this for a couple of years. So far four young people have indicated their willingness (actually their parents returned the call, ahem) to come early and prepare a percussive accompaniment to this hymn.
My strategy is two fold. To add to the moment of this sung hymn Sunday. But also to begin to connect personally with talented young people at church. I haven’t had much chance for this. It seems that not only I but others there think this would be a good thing. My energetic intense passion is difficult for cerebral cool Episcopalians to deal with however much they admire it. I think I am not the only one that observes that the positive side of this part of me has a bit of an echo of the impetuosity and immaturity of youth.
I actually dreamed about Peter Pan this week. Heh.
This residual siphoning of a bit of my inner compositional and musical non-church self has been something that has happened to me all my working adult life. It is in fact what has kept me going in this field. Also the fact that it is one thing I do that I can sometimes manage to get paid for. This seems like a trivial thing no doubt for someone as privileged and educated as myself, but more than once in my life I have noticed fellow musicians casting a slightly jealous eye that I have managed to make some money with music.
Indeed I feel very lucky this morning.