I Want to Come Back

I guess you could say that I woke up in my 33rd year, that I was somehow mystically reborn. I’d spent a year teaching myself to be a genius (I'm still not quite sure how that turned out).  A composer is born. Or reborn. Or invented. It really doesn’t matter. The music poured out of me, covering 11x17 sheets of yellow card stock manuscript from Judy Green in Hollywood and I'd never studied composition. Who questions something like that? You don't. You go with it and let it take you down the rabbit hole...

At the same time, I was winding down my Celtic priestess/goddess phase. I’d spent the spring of 1984 writing and recording fifteen songs in the “Cali-Celtic” style that was sweeping the west coast at that time. Tales of elves, windswept beaches and lovers of indistinct gender. It was a good album and it sold well at my gigs. Dressed in embroidery and suede, my long red hair crimped, tresses braided with feathers, I looked every bit the Celt, and it was an image that went over well in Ventura County, especially in Ojai. They loved me up there. It was the 80s, after all, and California was in love with that kind of New Age/Neo-Pagan thing. But as good as that music was, it was my last hurrah to the familiar, safe world of folk music. At home, I sat up nights teaching myself fugues and sonatas. This was before the internet, of course, so I also spent long days at the public library studying music theory and analyzing Bach chorales.

I knew that my dream of fame and fortune was over. I was too old for pop music and besides, I didn't understand a lot of the music I heard on the radio. I was of a different generation and I was worn out from two decades of scratching and clawing on recording company doors. A friend of mine let me borrow his new Yamaha PortaStudio, an 8-channel mixer board with which I soon learned how to ping-pong 11 tracks, accompanying myself on a wide selection of folk instruments and layering my voice several times over in tight three-part harmonies.

The problem was, I couldn't write any of it down. My method of writing music had always been to write out the lyrics, with the guitar chords above them. If the bass note was something other than the root note, I wrote it beneath a slash: C - C/E - F - G, etc. That was all I knew about writing music. That's why it was more than a little disconcerting when a few months later I sat at my piano with some manuscript and emerged after ten hours with a fully-scored orchestral piece. That's why, once I got that first taste of composition I was forever after lost to anything else. That's why this decade-long dry spell is especially painful. I want to compose again, and I try, but my heart just isn't in it. Not since Frank died.

Will I ever get over his death? Probably not, but I know he wouldn't be happy with me, and he would cuss me out if he could. Instead, I've turned to the written word. It will have to do until my muse returns. Music doesn't like competition with the other arts, it's too demanding, too self-absorbed. You can't share it with anyone because most people can't sit down, open your score and say, "I love this part!" or, "Why did you do that with the oboe?" Frank was the only one who could do that for me. Without him, what's the point? I know I need to resolve this. I'm working on it. I have faith that I'll find my way out of this rabbit hole, but I have no idea when. One doesn't press the Muse.