Music & Song

Written November 27/28, 2016

      “It’s a fundamental urge,” the father of the young adult George Bailey tells his son.  He was trying to convince George that the Savings and Loans institution he ran was necessary to meet a basic human need.  A house.  A place to make a home.  Your very own (“It’s a Wonderful Life,” produced by Frank Capra, based on the short story by Philip Van Doren Stern, “The Greatest Gift “).  Here I write not about that urge, but of the discovery humans made long ago.  Music.  Lyrics.  Combined into a song.

     A fundamental urge.  It’s kind of like A, B C, or 1, 2,3.  I think of the wonder leaping out of the eyes of the first to discover musical notes.  Then to be amazed when the thing you’re hitting makes another sound again.  Then to see that playing two notes together creates a pleasing plume that delights.  On the one hand music and song are not something we need to survive, like oxygen or water.  On the other hand, what would life be without it?

     My growing up family once was dominated a talent show.  Whether we sang, played an instrument, or both, I recall at least four out of six of us involved ourselves in some sort of performance that evening.  Music sings to me tunes that communicate depth of emotion and thought together.  I started learning piano when I was a tween, experimented with guitar for about a year in my forties, picked up piano which I had abandoned for a time.  

     Excuse me a moment while I try to exalt the praises of some technical aspects of music.

     I’ve written some music of late, some with, a growing number without, lyric.  I marvel at how most songs can be played using just three chords.  A person could play the very same chords in different order, or emphasize one note instead of another, and come up with completely unique tunes for each.  So many songs, all with the same notes, all with their own rhythm, and sounds.  All the variations make for a variety that is truly astounding.  All from just (in Western music) seven basic notes, plus five more from sharps and flats; twelve in all, so much potential!

     A lot of songs carry the same themes.  Some time back one such sang this lyric in my head.  “These wounds won’t seem to heal/this pain is just too real/ There’s just too much that time cannot erase” (“My Immortal” by Evanescence).  As I reflected on that heart wrenching sorrow I realized we can pile up other songs like it.  Johnny Cash did a cover of a Nine Inch Nails tune, the first line with this confession: “I hurt myself today/ to see if I still feel/ I focus on the pain/ the only thing that’s real” (“Hurt” by Trent Reznor).  R.E.M. sings out another, “When your day is long/ and the night, the night is yours alone/ When you’re sure you’ve had enough of this life/ well hang on/ Don’t let yourself go/ because everybody cries/ And everybody hurts sometimes” (“Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.).  I remember also one by Good Charlotte, the honest cry of betrayal, “So here we are/ we are alone/ There’s a weight on your mind/ I wanna know/ the truth/ if this is how you feel/ say it to me/ if this was ever real/ I want the truth from you/ Give me the truth/ even if it hurts me” (“The Truth”).

     Music and song are another one of the gifts from the Creator.  Tunes, combined with lyrics are a powerful healing force in the world.  They have a way of stretching, reaching, touching us in those places that help us make sense of life.  Again, they combine to reach around our natural defences and assist us in working through the chaos of emotion and anguish we move through.  I love music and song.  I wonder what your experience with such is?



Birthdays & Anniversaries

Written November 27, 2016

      It’s a tradition we started when the children were small.  When a birthday prances in, why just remember it for a day?  We call that time, “birthday week.”  

     Every day I went hunting for something special for my beloved.  Monday: flowers, of course; not just one type nor colour, but a flourish of fantastic bunched beautifully into a bundle.  As long as there were daisies in there, I was set.  It was a great start.  But what to follow up with?  My answer waited in line as I stood to pay at my favourite grocery store.  There she sat, a pretty little package of her favourite pie, lemon meringue.  It was just enough for her to eat.  Since the weather is moving away from the heat and into the cooler, the pie remained in the back seat in my PT, while the flowers — oh, those fragrants of delight — made their way to the easy chair where my beloved received them, smile opening up her face to joy.

     So every day that week following work time, a new present presented itself to her, walking on my legs, carried by my love for this woman I have known for so long.  The only day that differed from all the others went like this.  She had spoken lots of a sight she saw as a symbol of herself, the insect dominated by two features: its long wings that allowed it to hover as well as speed along like a highway driver of sports cars; and its enormous eyes that take up most all of the head.  I wanted to search and find something that carried an image of the dragonfly.  A tea towel perhaps?  A decorative piece for the living room?  I wasn’t exactly sure, but when I saw it I knew I would find what I was looking for.

     I didn’t find it.  I had to settle for a box of chocolates.

     We came at last to the day of her birth.  This would be the best of all, a full day of joys and gladsomeness.  It turned out to be a day when I was out of sorts.  I felt as if I were carrying a heavy load of paving stones, not in my arms, but on my heart, pressing down on my mind like the stench of the awful mill nearby, what you can smell when the wind is wrong.  Leonard Cohen’s last album of songs released just before he died has a phrase that resonated with my mood that day.  “I’m tired and I’m angry all the time” (“Treaty,” by Leonard Cohen).  Just before I went to bed I was speaking to some family members about my life, and I said something that emphasized my despair, my hopelessness.  “It doesn’t matter what I do, ” I lamented,  “because sooner or later someone will say it’s not good enough.”

     Sleep could not be found easy that night.  Early the morning that followed the birthday, I was counting.  I wasn’t counting sheep in attempts to fall past the line between awake and asleep.  I was counting Sundays left in 2016.  The birthday marked 7.  That’s when the weight lifted a bit.  That Sunday a year before was when my family sat with me to hear the announcement.  It was decided that my services were no longer deemed needed.  I would be released.  From that Sunday to the last of 2015, 7 weeks would prance by like a warhorse in the rage of battle.

     It’s interesting, on one side of this, how I had forgotten the trauma and the grief that came with it, of that time.  It had fled from my mind, but my body — my heart, my deepest mind — had remembered.  I have heard of others who saw such anniversaries approaching like a cloud of deep thunder, and dreaded the coming of it.  Grief calls to deep, and the hurt lingers like a gnawing wound.  The wave hits, and we didn’t see it come because we didn’t feel the earthquake that struck just before.  Such sadness overwhelmed me, yet I wasn’t aware of why it suddenly appeared.  Until I was shown the truth.

     Usually birthdays and anniversaries are joyous events.  Sometimes they are just reminders of times when life turns sharply away from what had been usual.  And it becomes something completely different.

Water Colour Sunrise 

Written November 23, 2016

I used to write songs with lyrics, and have gone back recently and revamped them.  Here is one I wrote some years back.  I was walking to work, down a steep hill, when I saw a sight that drew away my breath.

It was winter, the time of year on Vancouver Island when the mountains in the valley I live in like to dress up in fog.  Above me the moon was making its way to the place it sets.  At the same time, the source of light for that moon was peeking up over the horizon.  It was a beautiful piece of art.

I have yet to figure out how you can hear this as well, but here you can read it at least.

Water Colour Sunrise 
Walking down                                                              Here I see not                                                                                       I tilt back to see                                                           of this earth                                                                             Such brilliant Art                                                        a Light switched on                                                                                   I let my breath out.                                                    set on a Dome of blue.

What a lovely sight this                                                                                                                         Water colour sunrise                                                                                                                              Trying to peek through                                                                                                                               the hood of fog:                                                                                                                                                       Up above the moon is sliding down                                                                                                           to the left the Greater Light is busting up.

Sweeping shadows to the side                                                                                                                 exposing greens and frosts and muffled brights.