© 2008 -- 2011 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Random Friday and The Disciple

1) Things haven't settled down yet, but I have been able to venture out into Blogland with a little more frequency over the last few days. Gee, there's a lot of posts to catch up with.

2) I'm still being held hostage by a cute puppy. Saturdays when S is home, I volunteer to run the most mundane errands while she watches the dog. It just feels good to be out of the house and on my own. I did take her for her first real walk today. I've been walking her back and forth in the driveway and letting her sit at the end of the driveway to watch the cars go by. Everybody waves at us. One of us must be really really cute. But the vet told us not to put her down on the ground where other dogs were until after she built up her immunity from her second shot. She got her second shot a week ago, and the vet said we could walk her on a public sidewalk a week later. The walk wasn't as exciting or interesting as the walks Cloudia takes in Hawaii (And if you haven't read her book ALOHA, Where You Like Go? yet, you should). We just walked down to the street sign we can see from our driveway and back. But there can be beauty in mundane as I've been discovering on Saturdays. And I'll tell you, she was one happy puppy.

When we lived in Massachusetts, Friday was my piano lesson day. It was a couple hours for me to put aside all the editing and boring contract writing I do and do something for me. I took lessons from the owner of the music school I went to, and after the second lesson, I understood chords like I had never understood them before. I even sat down one Sunday and started writing out all the chords in order for each major and minor scale. I was liberated. But I still couldn't play. Nevertheless, I knew that Dave, my teacher was good for me.

The lessons were never just simply learn this because that's the next thing in the book. In fact we didn't have "a book." He asked me what I wanted to learn. I told him. And he found things to help me learn it. It was very organic, and music was a good thing. After I had been taking from him for a while, I walked in for my lesson one day and said, "Look, I don't want to keep going the way we're going. I wrote a song and it's like the first song in this blues opera I want to write about John the Baptist, and I'd like to use this lesson time to work on the opera."

He said, "Okay, play the song."

I did. He got interested and took out his guitar to play along with me, and after telling me about what surprised him in the score and that he liked it he said, "Okay. If you want to work on composition, that's what we'll do." That's when The Disciple was born. (Actually, it had been born a few nights earlier when, after having drunk a little too much bourbon, I sat down at the piano and began improvising what I thought was sacred music but then decided it worked a hell of a lot better if I made it bluesy. But that's another post.)

So I caught The Disciple fire, and with Dave's mentoring, I became possessed. I had at least one new song a week, or the core of a new song, or a revision of one I had already written based on his response. I'd bring in what I did, try to play it for him, and then he'd play it and say, "was this what you were hearing?" 95 % of the time, it was.

I never was more convinced I was going to complete a work than I was this one. I basically finished the first act, began working on songs for the second act, completed the overview of act 2 and act 3, and listed the missing songs in act 1. Then we (S and I) moved to Atlanta. There is no Dave (that I've found) in Atlanta, and the work ground to a halt. I try to get back to it, but without Dave, I'm not sure what I've written was exactly what I was hearing. Plus, I have no one to tell me why it wasn't when it wasn't or why what I heard wasn't as good as what I could have heard. I've tried to jump start the process. To no avail. Then, the other day, Rene reminded me it was a worthwhile, or at least an interesting, project. Maybe the collective energy of the blogosphere, maybe some specific people on the blog, will become my Dave.

When I break down and buy better composition software so that it plays what I hear, I'll post the actual songs on the blog. In the meantime, keeping with the theme of random Friday, here are some random things about/from the disciple:

Nate: The title character. A disciple of John
John: A tall lanky itinerant preacher
Jesus: A former disciple of John who rises to prominence as a charismatic TV evangelist
Peter: Another disciple of John
Herod: A county sheriff in Alabama
Herodias: Herod's second wife, also his niece
Salome: Herodias's 16-year-old daughter by her first husband, Herod's brother
Several deputies, including the executioner
Several high ranking state officials
Chorus: at variable times other disciples, camp followers who come to hear John preach or who follow Jesus, artisans and craftsmen, ordinary citizens, children who seem to be constantly around Jesus


Every butterfly that you see
Knows that it's where
It needs to be
Birds that fly
Never ask why
They have wings
Just see all the flowers
Think how many colors
Each season brings
You don't need a why for everything

You don't need to know
Any more than
Day will always follow night
You won't always know when
You'll get it right
Just listen and you'll hear
That song that lives
Somewhere inside
Ev'ry one's got a song
That can't be denied
You don't need a why for everything

Hawk and robin
Sparrow crow and wren
All gliding through the sky
Watch them riding
On the early morning wind
They don't ask
How they know
They don't wonder why
You don't need a why for everything.

© copyright 2007, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved

There's more, but this is Random Friday


  1. This is a revealing post and it only makes you even more interesting, Grandpa!

    Been missing your posts and comments. Then to find this post: Cute puppy, a budding opera, and a nice word about my little book (with links, no less!)

    You are one of my great blog-treasures1 Warm Aloha to you, puppy and family!! Happy Valentine's Day!!

  2. Very interesting process, isn't it?

    I took piano lessons for years, from a more traditional teacher. I learned lots of songs from "the book" but never did learn to understand music theory or chords. Now my daughter is taking piano, from a much better teacher, and after only a couple months of going to her lessons with her, I know more about music theory than I learned in the years of lessons I previously took.

    I hope you find your "Dave" in Atlanta.

    Keep looking. It's worth it!

  3. You got to get cracka-lackin' with this Grandpa! It's amazing.

    Your Dave is out there. Maybe brooding in a coffee shop or tucked away in an underused music department at a school. He may even be a she.

    Find 'em!

    Peace - Rene

  4. Aloha, Clodia and mahalo. You are quite a treasure yourself. I will be back online with more regularity soon.

    Thanks, Legal Mist. One of the best things about my daughter growing up was being able to go with her to her piano lessons. Just like you, I learned so much more just by watching and listening to her lessons and her practice than I ever did as a kid. Of course that was a long time ago. And my main focus was just watching her become a musician. That's why it felt so amazing when I found Dave. I'll keep looking.

    Thanks for the encouragement, Rene. You make me think I can actually find him/her. It's the search, though, that makes us keep going. And as long as I keep going, then I'll be cracka-lackin. Thanks for the great phrase. I'm going to write it on the first page of my manuscript of the score.

  5. More please :) About the opera, and the puppy!

  6. That's impressive. The fact that you knew how to compose after just a few lessons.
    I have had piano lessons for years, did end up playing parts of the well-tempered clavier, but I never learned to read sheet music. Which limits a piano playing career.
    I'm sorry you feel a little lost without your teacher.
    But I guess as long as you play and the puppy doesn't howl and hide beneath the bed, you're fine.