Friday, May 13, 2011

Process of Writing 9: A Day Off

After two days of hot, humid weather, including major thunderstorms ripping through the area, the first big t-storms of the season, today it's cloudy, cool, bleak, wearying, oppressive. I've just been out in the garden, making more photos, and also some HD video, trying to catch the last of the spring blooms, especially the daffodils and tulips. Other flowers are just starting to bloom, and the hosta are still emerging from the mulch. The lilac bush is covered with purple buds that haven't opened yet: one of my favorite scents of later spring and early summer.

The wind and rain and thunder are shaking down the spring flowers. The pear tree is shedding snow across its skirts. The neighbor's crabapple tree has shed most of its profuse clutch of white blossoms in last night's wind and rain, and now several square yards of lawn and garden are covered with bright white petals, making it look as though there is snow upon the ground. A whole field of flowers and grass emerging from petal-snow, making a confusion of seasons, and some beautiful images.

More storms are coming, it's been promised. I try to capture what flowers I can, in the cameras, before they are all gone.

The world seems shaky right now. Cyberspace is acting stupid and unreliable today. The weather is unstable, neither warm enough nor cool enough to be comfortable, and with a restless breeze that is the foretaste of more storms yet to arrive. It reminds you how fragile everything is, from cyberspace itself, which has always been a friable medium, to physical and social infrastructure, to life itself. I can’t get ignore how fragile life seems right now. Everything can always spin apart. Everything is delicate and ephemeral, to be savored for the moment, for it will soon be gone. These flowers that have been glorious all this past month will soon be gone. They are already ragged around the edges; although there are new buds still to open. The day will soon be gone. Everything could fall apart, and that’s it.

I feel like nothing would be better for me, this moment, than to be in the desert. In the heat and sunlight. D.H. Lawrence wrote that New Mexico forever changd him, once he got past the surface of things. I have to agree. My time living in New Mexico forever changd me, too. And I keep wanting to regain what I first found in the Southwest, and in Wyoming: A kind of openness, of liberation, of carelessness, that I can’t forget. It has become part of living day to day, for me, now. I surround myself with reminders, like my own photographs, but really I want to be there. I think I’ll spend some time today going through photos from recent roadtrips out West, both hot and cold days, to remind myself of what really matters. It’s certain that little that I can see that “needs to be done” right here, right now, really matters.

So I'm taking a day off. A rest day. A vacation day, from everything.

I’ve taken a mental break from the writing of the new music. I needed a day away from it. Ao when I went down to Chicago earlier this week, for a night in the studio working on video and other music projects, I did not take the new music notebooks with me; I left them here, on the worktable. It is one good reminder that a day or so in Chicago gives me: working on other music, other creative projects, reminding myself that the world hasn’t really narrowed down to only one project, one medical situation. I have other things I need to make, even if they’re not all highest priority right now. They need doing, and I need to do them. A mental break. Today I want to work on photography. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get back to writing the music. Tonight, who knows, I might do some more papier-maché: a friend of mine who is moving gave me a thick roll of hand-made art papers. I want to see what's in there, and it might inspire me to make some new papier-maché pieces. I have been thinking about doing a much larger art bowl, with many layers, using fine art papers over a stronger matrix. So, who knows. The day is nowhere near over.


I've spent a couple of hours filming HD video in the garden. The second session was as rain was falling gently, wetting the leaves and the flowers on the trees. The pruneria tree in my front yard is so thick with pink flowers overhanging the garden's flower beds that it looks like a giant pastel explosion. The raindrops slick the branches in close-up images, reminding me of Japanese paintings of cherry blossoms. The light is cool and steady, making all the colors vivid and bright.

I've spent the evening watching inspirational moments on TV.

Tavis Smiley interviewing Bill Moyers, about Moyers' new book of selected interviews: "This is no longer a society that honors the evidence, that honors the facts." —Moyers, who has made a career of speaking truth to power.

I watched a political commentator speaking the truth that no one wants to admit to: that to call oneself a Christian while living a hate-mongering, hypocritical life means that you're not really a Christian, because you're not walking even your own talk. That's what's wrong with the evangelical political right wing: they don't even listen to the teachings in the book that they hold up when they're shouting out hatred against gays. You're not a follower of Jesus if you don't live by the words he spoke, you're just a fan.

And I watched the finale episode of the series Smallville, in which the young man who is Clark Kent at last grows into the man we call super. It was actually inspirational; but what made we most appreciative was when, in the last minutes of the show, when the mantle was finally assumed, the musical score started quoting, first in bits and pieces, then in a full quote, the famous "Superman" them from the movies, written by John Williams. What a perfect way to connect those versions of the story all together.

Soundtrack music has the power to make such connections, both by association and quotation, but also by creating emotional resonance. The "Superman" theme by Williams is a genuinely inspiring melody: it makes you look up in the sky, it lifts up your heart, it excites your expectations of being both entertained and inspired, and it is on top of that an eminently hummable tune.

This makes me think of my own songwriting at the moment. If I can do half as well, even one-quarter as well, in a song I am writing for this new music commission, in uplifting emotions and inspiring people to both feel better about their lives and to go out humming a tune, I will be a very happy composer indeed.

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Blogger Jim Murdoch said...

I don’t think Williams always gets as much credit as some of his contemporaries. Not quite sure why because he’s written some damn fine tunes in his time. Perhaps, and I suppose this is true of Barry to some extent, he’s just been around so long that he’s also written some not so memorable stuff. I don’t know. But what I do know is that his music for Superman always makes the hairs on my arms stand on end. I once heard an arrangement for brass band played in a local shopping mall and it was outstanding. I’ve just gone through Wikipedia’s list of his film scores and even though I own a few of them I find that I can’t hear them with the same clarity as I can the music to Superman and not just the main theme – Lex Luther’s theme is going through my head at the moment – I can just about get A.I. and Jurassic Park but that’s about it.

I’ve not watched any of this season of Smallville yet – it’s all saved on a hard drive. We’ve got into the habit of recording stuff and watching it later. I watch more TV than most people would expect – some are even surprised I have a TV – but I do hate to waste my time watching adverts. While Carrie is in the States I’m not watching any of our usual stuff with the exception of Doctor Who which I’ll be happy to watch again with her and so I’ve been watching films mostly which has been a nice change. I have two versions of The Trial that I’d like to watch back to back and a copy of Pinter’s The Birthday Party which I’ve not seen in ages. Plus a copy of Kick Ass which was actually pretty good I have to say.

3:34 AM  
Blogger Art Durkee said...

I'm sure I watch more TV than folks think I do; especially since I've become chronically ill, there are times I've been housebound and unable to do much, so I've watched more. There are series I like, although I miss episodes because I don't watch all the time. I DID want to watch the series conclusion of "Smallville," though; they tied up a lot of threads rather nicely. And thank heavens for the movie and documentary channels on cable.

In preparation for recovering from the upcoming surgery, one of things I've been doing is stalking up on movies and TV series, on DVD, so I can watch something I WANT to watch, while I'm stuck at home for awhile, recovering. So I've got some TV series on DVD to watch all the way through; and since my sister will be here helping me for a month, no doubt we'll be watching "Doctor Who" together.

I have a whole section of my CD collection devoted to soundtracks. One of my current favorites to listen to is "The Last Samurai," by Hans Zimmer, who has done several good ones.

I agree with you about John Williams. I think people don't take his music as seriously as they ought. I have a couple of CDs of his "serious" concert music, including the cello concerto he wrote for Yo-Yo Ma. He's quite gifted in a lot of ways. I suspect he'll be like Eric Korngold was last century: beloved in the moment for his film scores, and only taken seriously as a composer much later. I hope so, as he's quite good. His "Close Encounters" soundtrack remains something I can hear in my head almost anytime.

11:08 AM  

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