I'm writing a piece for the Anaïs show that takes place at the Folies Bergère in 1924. She was a young newlywed and had recently moved back to Paris from New York with her husband Hugh. He took her out to experience the Paris nightlife. She was, apparently, shocked. Anaïs Nin. Shocked. By dancing that she saw at the Folies Bergère. Nin. Let that sink in for a moment...
So -- we decided that I should write a piece that apes the style of the period, with Anaïs singing about how innocent she is, and how she's never seen anything like this etc.
How many times in my life have I heard that jazz combo sound?? So many times the song was writing itself in my head faster than I could get it into my iPhone Voice Memos. And then -- dun dun DUN -- THE COMPOSING BRICK WALL. Um... I DON'T KNOW how to write jazz horns!!! What was I thinking?? I have ZERO instrument fear. I mean, I'll pick up anything and try to play it. But everytime I go near a brass or wind instrument and I start to blow into it I get dizzy, then see stars, then fall down etc. Honestly, I wasn't even sure I knew what instruments were supposed to be there. And then, I wasn't sure that if I figured that out, if I would be able to figure out how to write reasonable arrangements for those instruments.
So. I felt SUPER STUCK. I did craploads of research. I listened to a LOT of stuff from the period. I downloaded books on small jazz ensemble orchestration. I read that and tried to make sense of jazz music theory. YOU JAZZ GUYS ARE KIND OF NUTS. [Aside -- why does a 9 chord have a root on the 2, and NO 9 IN THE CHORD?? Explain me that, please... I mean, I KNOW 9 and 2 are the same, but it's written as 2 and not 9 and there was no 9 in the chord, no root in the chord, so, like, how do you know that the 2 isn't the root, or that the chord isn't some weird inversion of another chord. WHY IS IT A 9 CHORD?]
Anyway, I settled on piano, string bass, acoustic guitar, drums, trombone, tenor sax, clarinet and trumpet. I set up my Logic file and stared at the tracks with the correct instruments in them in the correct order with NOTHING on the tracks. Just tracks like the clarinet one mocking me with, "Nyah, nyah! You have no idea what to do with me! Ha friggin ha..." No! Please don't hurt me Mr. Clarinet Track!! I will be nice to you. I swear... You'll love me in the end...
And then, like any other time in my creative life, I held my nose and dove in. I set up a chord progression on piano and then I started to pull out parts from that and assign them to the instruments. Pulled in some great drums from Stylus. Started singing. Melodies revealed themselves. Lyrics started to flow.
It was so JOYFUL!! I discovered that I love writing for these instruments. They sound, I dunno -- right to my ears. Right for the period.
That kind of music sounds so innocent now. Just kind of a dead music played by long dead people. Listening to musty recordings of this stuff you can almost hear the dust settling into the rooms and feel the current lack of life of the people who so lustfully played the music back then.
But digging into it when writing, I really felt how effervescent it is, and how odd and incredibly new it must have seemed. Everything was on the ups. Super fast shuffle feels. That stuff must have sounded earth shatteringly different. So much so that people just took off their clothes and danced around in public, apparently -- shocking the proper young Catholic wife who had wandered into the scene.
How little she knew about how far she would go...
Writing this show is a lot of fun. Challenging. Interesting. I'm always learning.
I like it.
All for now!
"Tidying up." It sounds SO genteel... But it really is more like taking giant forklifts and bashing through the house like mad things throwing away ANYTHING that is either not completely necessary, or that doesn't bring on a feeling of joy. JOY, people. Doesn't bring you joy? TOSS IT.
So. We've gotten rid of bags and bags of clothes. Learned how to fold things so that they are sitting up on their sides like this:
These are some shirts. Actually they are ALL of my short sleeve shirts that did not need to be hung up. All of them. I love clothes and I love fashion and it might seem weird that this is all that's left, but I love each piece, and my world feels so much lighter.
Why doesn't everyone fold like this? On end where you can see every piece of clothing? Why fold things in piles where only the topmost item is visible and the rest needs to be retrieved through what feels like an archeological dig?
Ok, now, check this out:
This is my family room. Just a few days ago every single shelf was shoved with crap that I would never read, nor want to even look at, again. The hundreds and hundreds of books that we removed from the shelves are being picked up by a veterans' charity on Wednesday. I needed permission to throw away books. One doesn't just throw away books, DOES ONE???
This is not supposed to be a thing. But Jack (that's my husband) and I are reading THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo, which sounds like a ridiculous claim, but so far so good. My daughter woke up this morning, came into this room, threw her arms out like Julie Andrews at the top of a mountain and proclaimed, "It feels so light in here!", which, indeed, it does! So this book gave us permission to throw away books and clothes, feeling grateful for whatever role they'd played in our lives, but enabling us to part with our STUFF. The author is Japanese, and all of this "tidying" (aka bulldozing through rooms) feels very zen and open and Japanese in feeling
Here's what's next: PAPERS. Her advice is to throw away EVERYTHING except important papers, and things that need to be dealt with right now. That's it. So we're going to have nearly everything shredded. I can already start to feel the level of relief this will bring into our lives.
Happy Spring, everyone!
I feel a real kinship with Anais Nin. I mean, I'd wear a birdcage on my head like that! Wouldn't even think twice...
She died in the 70s. Did you know she died in Los Angeles? Did you know that her archive resides at UCLA? Did you know that she lived here in a mid-century modern home designed by Eric Lloyd Wright, the grandson of Frank Lloyd Wright? Her second (bigamist) husband, Rupert Pole, was his half-brother. Did I say BIGAMIST? I did! (This is NOT a reason I feel kinship with her, ok?)
There's a LOT to her story, and I'm writing a new work about her (and coding a Kinect). I'm about 1/2 done! (Maybe a little less.)
We're back in rehearsal with 6 ridiculously talented dancers. I came home late last night from one such rehearsal.
Dancers are magical beings. My co-creator/director/choreographer Janet Roston put together a complicated dance phrase that they all got within moments. I swear, it would take me a month to internalize all of that. I get to be on stage with them, and sing the pieces I've written about Anais' life and walk around looking like I know what I'm doing. Don't get me wrong -- I love being on stage and moving my body. I'm quite comfortable with that. (Usually.) But they are artists at an incredibly high level. It's inspiring to watch them all at work knowing that they speak a secret language to one another.
Janet looked at me when the trumpet part started in the intro. I had added it since the last mix I'd given her. When she reacted to it I told her that I had been fooling around with some trumpets there. And the dancers found that comment pretty inscrutable. I love this intersection of alien beings into one seamless piece of moving art. Yes.