Posts Tagged ‘Life’


What I Did on Summer Vacation

September 3, 2012

I’ve been on a hiatus, obviously.

I’m still crossing my Rubicon.  I’ve just been writing other things lately.

I was informally commissioned last year to compose a Mass for my parish.  If you’re not Catholic (i.e. headed for hell) “composing a Mass” means that I set some of the weekly Mass prayers to music.  Theoretically, that music coordinates together as a suite.

I enjoy composing music—creating new melodies and playing them with ad libbed accompaniment for myself.  I’ll play in a stream of consciousness, or toy around with melodies or harmonies I’ve already written.  Adding constraints to the process—existing lyrics that must be incorporated or limits on singable ranges—somehow paradoxically makes the process easier for me.  An English writing analogy might be limiting a post to one hundred words, or writing a short story without using the letter “T.”  I’m more engaged when solving a complex problem than I am writing with no constraints at all.

Notating music, on the other hand, is a royal pain in the patooty.  I’m glad I was writing Rubicon before I started notating my Mass.  Blog posting has made me practice editing, adjusting layouts and polishing my output for public consumption.  In writing, the author strives to lead the reader to an idea through words, punctuation and paragraphs.  In music notation, the composer attempts to recreate his performance through another performer by handing him or her a sheet of paper.  Music notation, for me, has a lot more room for error than just writing words.  As an amateur hack musician, I don’t know exactly what I’ve written until I play it.  And I often don’t play what I’ve written, I play what’s in my head.

So I’ve been writing, rewriting, printing drafts and red-lining all summer long.  The project is almost complete.  My blog photographer Michelle Codarmaz-Booth created a fantastic cover for me.  When the Mass is finished, I plan to offer it for free online.  I’ve tried sending music to publishers before.  My submissions had no result, other than pummeling my frail ego. Like most industries—writing, art, engineering, etc.—music publishing is not about talent or ability. It’s about who you know and nearly limitless perseverance.

When the Mass is finished, I’m still going to be busy in musician mode. I’m playing for a cousin’s wedding in October.  I generally play weddings for our family.  I’m very opinionated about it.  But that’s another blog post.  After that I have yet another mixed media project that will limit my blogging output.

So, although I’m not producing many blog posts, I should have some nearly tangible alternatives to show you soon.


Seven Sentence Reviews: Les Misérables, 25th Anniversary Production

April 15, 2012


National Tour, Indianapolis, April 10, 2011

Previous productions I’ve seen: 9

The 25th Anniversary Production of Les Misérables is truly a revival—with reinvented sets, costumes and staging.  Galloping tempos and liberal editing (mostly verses and lines that casual Les Mis audiences won’t notice) cut the original running time by 40 minutes.

Some good changes included a hand-grab (one certainly can’t call it a shake) that leads Javert to remember Valjean, new antics for the Thenardiers, and a dynamic and versatile stage with projected backdrops inspired by Victor Hugo’s paintings.

Bad changes were the relocation Gavroche’s climactic barricade scene off-stage (?!?) due to the new set, an absence of chairs and tables during Empty Chairs at Empty Tables and an awkward exit for the pivotal silver candlesticks during the finalé.

The rapid-fire tempos bothered me in two particular instances—the instrumental reprise of Bring Him Home with Stars after the barricades fell and the finalé reprise of Do You Hear the People Sing—both felt entirely too rushed.  But the heart of Les Misérables, the characters’ intimate solos, remained largely intact.

Ultimately, I’m glad Les Mis has been revived and reinvigorated for a new generation to enact and enjoy, but I’m not glad to see and hear 40 minutes less of my favorite musical.


The Last Word

March 3, 2012

I was a dejected soul when I walked into Starbucks this morning.

I had been to the gym.  It’s usually a great way to begin a Saturday.  But I had placed myself right in someone else’s way while doing a bizarre bench press on an exercise ball.  The guy is someone I’ve seen several times in the gym.  He let out a string of obscenities, not quite under his breath.  I didn’t recognize immediately that they were intended for me.

By the time I realized my error, my fellow gym rat had left.  I may have lost my only opportunity to apologize.  I know from experience how frustrating it is to be in the gym with only one other person and to find said person directly in your way.  This episode will likely be one of those nagging memories that crops up when I remind myself of all my bad qualities and lousy life decisions.

So I sulked to the counter at Starbucks to order my latte and oatmeal.  I started jotting notes for a blog post to publicly flog myself in hopes that it might exorcise this new demon memory before it leaves a scar on my mind.

Then the strangest thing happened.

My oatmeal was sitting on the counter, sans the fruit I had requested.  My latte was still in production.  Then a guy—a cute, young guy I had noticed glancing up at me from his computer as I walked in—appeared at the counter.  He scooped up the oatmeal and quickly returned to his seat.

I was dumbstruck.  I’ve been to Starbucks enough to know that the oatmeal is an easy thing to make.  It was highly implausible that the stud had ordered an oatmeal and coffee, sat down, spread his study materials on the table, opened up files on his computer, and waited through the three people in front of me before his oatmeal was ready.  No.  He clearly had seen the unclaimed food on the counter, made tracks with his hot-looking gray and orange shoes, and commandeered my breakfast.

I looked around to see if anyone else had witnessed the grand theft that had just taken place.  One bearded gentleman in line was eyeing me.  I couldn’t tell if his expression said, “That thief stole your oatmeal! What are you going to do about it?” or, “I can’t believe I still pay more for coffee than gasoline.”

I stood there, maybe a minute.  I thought perhaps I was wrong.  Perhaps there really was an oatmeal for everyone.  Perhaps I was too quick to judge the fine young man with the just-large-enough-to-be-adorable nose.

But it wasn’t to be.  The current batch of oatmeals had all been distributed.

I’m an introvert.  I don’t like scenes.  I don’t like to be embarrassed.

So I found an empty table and sat down.

I wasn’t about to ask Starbucks to rectify the situation by making another oatmeal.  It was not their problem to remedy.

I thought this was punishment from God for my snafu at the gym.  I thought I deserved what I got.

I sat where the attractive kleptomaniac could see me.  I had to turn if I were to see him.  He didn’t seem to have any qualms.  I presume he ate my oatmeal with a steady hand and smug satisfaction that he had gotten away with it.  I’m sure he thought the oatmeal would not be missed.  He thought everyone would assume there had been a mistake and that Starbucks would happily dole out a second bowl without a second thought.

I was distracted for a while by the oddness of the morning and the scalding temperature of my latte.  But eventually, roused by indignation and caffeine, I felt a need for vigilante justice.  Even if I wasn’t going to demand satisfaction from the villain, I wanted him to know that his transgression had not gone unnoticed, that he was not so slick a criminal as he thought, that he was imposing on the wallets and gullets of others.  I wanted the karmic ledger sheet to return to equilibrium.

I mulled the possibilities while sipping steamy foam.  I hoped that the other tables would clear out before I did anything.  But the java drinkers just kept milling around.  I considered leaving and leaving well enough alone.

But if I did nothing, I wouldn’t have let myself write it in a post.

So I assembled my trash and grabbed my unopened book from the table.  I walked calmly toward the oatmeal absconder, and leaned down in mid-step.

I said, “You’re welcome.”

I straightened up, tossed my cup into the trash, and walked to the door.

I didn’t look back.  I didn’t care to see his reaction.  But I imagined that he was watching me as I left.

I dared anyone to cross me as I strode out of Starbucks this morning.

I suppose, after the door closed behind me, a woman at the next table leaned to the dashing young man at his Apple MacBook and said, “why did that weird guy say to you, ‘you’re an uncle’?”