10 September, 2003

It has been one unholy freakshow of a month, and the worst part is that the month isn't over, which is what really scares me. The month is not over. That is why I don't even really want to talk about it. The month isn't over. There is plenty of time for things to get worse. Much, much worse.

I try not to think about it. I try to make do. I try to get by. Not much time for thought or energy or anything when I get home from work. Too much is going on. Too much left that could still go horribly, horribly wrong. The month isn't even over. Yuck.

There should even be some fun stuff to talk about, but I can't get excited about it. I mean it should be fun, and I should be dancing in the isles. But, I'm not. I can't muster the strength.

The good news? Oh, well, I discovered that the latest generation of music notation software actually lets you make MP3 recordings of the music. Yeah, I know, that is probably old news, but I missed the boat since I don't tend to move in such circles. Anyway, I didn't know. But, who cares? I know now, and this is really cool and exciting news. It means I can make recordings of music without needing to spend the hundreds and thousands of dollars for real musicians. I don't need fancy synthesizers or recording equipment. It is all being done by my computer with maybe the sound card's help, but I don't know how that all works. It is a software synthesizer making the recordings, which is about all I know or even care about for that matter. The piano sound is halfway decent, and the woodwind sounds that I have listened to are pretty good. The string sounds suck. No help there. I guess I won't be doing much string music anytime soon.

Now, all I have to do is scrape off all the rust and the barnacles and the dust, and maybe I can accomplish something. I'm going to focus on piano for a while since the piano sound isn't bad and writing for a single instrument isn't a bad idea when you are trying to get back into the groove. I'm actually hoping that enough time has passed since I graduated that most of the horrible godawful crap they tried to cram down my throat in graduate school has evaporated. All the lousy writing. All the lack of technique. Form and design? We don't do that kind of thing here. Structure is for pussies. So, crap, I have to unlearn/rediscover/relearn form and design all by myself. Pisses me off. It reminds me of something the one composition teacher I ever trusted and liked once told me. Now, I'm seriously paraphrasing here, but he basically said that the reason they don't teach good technique and discipline in that hoity-toity excuse for an institution of higher education that I went to is because the idiot faculty don't understand what the hell they are doing. In other words, you can't teach it if you don't get it, and there are some people employed by certain California State Universities who don't understand the first thing about music. Sure, they know theory, but theory is like—trying to think of a good analogy here—maybe, if I rephrase.

People came first. They made noise. They banged on rocks. They warbled. If you remember your Mel Brooks and your Two Thousand Year Old Man, you can sing all the words to help! A lion is eating my foot off! The people came first, and they made music because it just sounded good. And, then, along came the theorists trying to understand what the music makers were doing. I'm not really trying to knock theorist; even though, I rank them right up there with critics. It's just important to remember that theory is theory. It just lies there on the page. It doesn't sing, and it certainly doesn't dance.

I remember back when I was first getting into all of this my old comp. teacher would complain and complain and complain that my theory exorcises were static and unimaginative, and I never understood what he meant. I mean, after all, I was doing everything I could to make sure that I followed the theoretical constructs. I kept all of those old exorcises. I don't even really know why. Maybe, I figured I would dig them out some day and look them over, which I actually did a couple years back, and I discovered the most amazing thing about them. They stank. They were awful. I mean they were truly godawful. They were static and horribly terribly regrettably unimaginative. Damn, I don't know how my old teacher ever put up with me. I almost feel sorry for him. But, at the same time, wow, I get it now.

Actually, in defense of the poor pathetic school I have been saying such mean and terrible things about here, they did finally hire one awesome teacher, and I actually got to work with him in my last semester. Too short a time, but oh well, what are you going to do? Oh, but my point. I have a point. He said something great. Actually, he said several great things, but there is one of particular relevance here. Now, I am horribly paraphrasing again, but he said something along the lines of he had spent the better part of his life learning all the form and technique and theory that he could stuff into his poor brain and now his goal was to compose music without actively thinking about a single solitary bit of it.

And, now that I've gotten that out of the way, there is something new in the music section of this here website of mine. I composed one song back in my school days. I used a poem that a friend of mine had written. The song was never performed, and I don't even really need to wonder why. That song was the beginning of the end. It was the first time I really started to clash with my professors. It wasn't even that I was against them or what they were doing or anything. It was simply that I was trying to experiment. I was trying to do different things. The best way to understand a technique is to get it under your fingers and to play with it. You don't try to make a perfect copy of a style that existed in the past. You take the pieces you like, and you play with them. Maybe, you keep them. Maybe, you throw them away. The point is that you tried to hear how they sounded in what you were trying to do. You shaped. You molded. You threw stuff out when it didn't work. Isn't that the point? To learn through experimentation and not only in the strict and stuffy confines of a class devoted to that particular style of music? You need to play with it in your own original work. Well, the faculty were just trying way too hard to make us all sound exactly like them to allow us to do that kind of experimentation in workshop. Heaven forbid, we might develop our own styles, and horror of horrors create music that didn't sound as if our professors had written it.

Sorry, obviously, I haven't gotten it all out of my system yet. It must be September. Like I said, this has been one really lousy awful terrible could still get much worse month.

Okay, back to the song that was never performed. Not that long ago, someone told me that they might entertain the notion of performing shit that I composed. Of course, things have been all quiet since then, and I don't even know if anything is ever going to come of that. But, it got me excited. It got me thinking, and I started trying to work on stuff. It's almost funny. I mean here I have been for the last half-dozen years not giving a flying freckled fuck about composing music, and all it took was somebody mentioning they might have a passing interest in some shit I might happen to write. Suddenly, I'm jazzed. Surprisingly, I want to fit it into my impossible to squeeze blood from a stone schedule of mine. Funny, that's all it took. I must be out of my mind to think I have the time or energy to do this. I'm going to drive myself into an early grave. Suicide by emotional exhaustion and the desire to create something goddamnit. So, I bought the latest version of this music notation software and discovered that it can make electric recordings. So, I'm running with that. Check out the music section of my website. You will find that song I composed and clashed with the music faculty about rescored for Piano and Oboe. Sure, I know, it is only an electric performance, but damn, at least it is something. I suppose I should warn you that I was seriously trying to get into the soul of the poem, which you don't have access to, so I hope this retelling for piano and oboe doesn't suck the big wet popsicle stick too badly.

Not much to report on the Etymology of Fire front. I think I finished a scene. It only took three months? Four? Fuck!

Episode three of String Finger Theatre is starting to scare me. It is so different from episode one or two. I don't know if it is any good. I mean it started really good. I love the bridge between episode two and three, but I'm worried. Mike is the star of episode three, and that is it. We've got Mike, and this chick. Shit! I don't even know if she's got a name yet. Anyway, I was just staring at this and staring at this and staring at this, and I didn't know what to do. I mean I knew what I wanted to do, but I didn't know if it would work. I mean the plot isn't inherently amusing like episode one or two. What? You don't think pudding-based ink is funny? Wait until you meet the beast that forgot time. You'll either love it or hate it.

So, I've got a whole page of notes and scribbles and whatnot. I know where I want to go. But, is it funny? So, anyway, last week, I reread most of String Finger Theatre and even laughed at a couple things. There is one joke near the end of episode two that I had completely forgotten about. I got to it and just laughed and laughed and laughed. Anyway, that seemed to help, and I scribbled out two more comics. They are even cute, and I'm starting to think. And, I just hope that I might be able to pull this off. There is humor to be found in this situation.

Now, I just have to hope that September doesn't get any more fucked over.

25 September, 2003

Sigh, September got worse.

28 September, 2003

Man, I was starting to wonder if I was going to have a comic to post for Monday. Everything has been all busy and crazy and depressing. Fortunately, I found the time today. Nothing much going on. Nothing much planned. Something of a change from recent days. So, of course, the day went by much too fast, and I'm still wondering where the rest of my Sunday is and when I'm going to get it. Oh, well, at least today didn't register too bad on the suck-o meter.

Then, of course, Saturday night was non-stop nightmares. No really, nightmares woke me up at 6 AM Sunday morning. I thought about getting-up so I wouldn't have to sleep but decided it was too early. Slipped right back into the nightmare where it had left off. We were in a small town next to a desert, and we were hearing on the radio that talks had broken down and the missiles were on their way. I remember there were three of us in a bedroom with one of those sliding glass door things. Maybe, it's a motel. I'm not looking but there is a flash. The others gasp. It takes a moment before I catch on and look out at the desert. Way off in the distance there is what you might expect to see, which wakes me up. I look at the clock. 7:30 AM. Okay, that's enough. I'm not going back to bed. It's time to get up.

Damn, I can't remember the last time I had a death by nuclear war dream. It's probably been more than ten years.

But, don't you hate that? Nightmares that pick-up exactly where they left off when they shook you awake. And, I was thinking that this never happens with good dreams. I have enough trouble remembering nice dreams much less having them be continued. It's always the nasty ones that refuse to go away. Haunting you. Letting you think you can escape by waking-up. Get a drink of water. Go back to sleep and wham! there it is again. I guess the awful evil dreams just stick in the brain more.

So, I forget how much I've said about the new episode of String Finger Theatre. It's creeping along. I've got notes. I haven't had a lot of energy for creative stuff of late as maybe you can tell. So far, I've found more amusement in the storyline than I was expecting. I think I mentioned that I was starting to worry there was too much plot and not enough non-sense. Well, I'm lucking out with the non-sense, and I like how telephones work in this place. Oh, yeah, and the new female character has a name. Of course, she is just here for this story. I don't really have any thought of bringing her back when it is over; however, now that I think about it. If this storyline turns out anything like I think it might, I just might be able to bring her back.

Actually, it's kind of funny to notice that I just wrote that I know where this story is going because I don't. Not really. I think that has been part of the problem. I mean I was just going over my notes and realized that my notes never actually got to the big finish. So, I guess I'm still toying with the ideas. Which is really unusual for me. I don't like starting something without at least some idea of where it is going to end. Of course, I shouldn't worry too much. Episode one had its planned ending thrown out at the last second, and I had to scramble to at least think of something. Episode two's ending was planned way back while I was still toward the beginning of episode one.

Not entirely certain where episode three is going? Well, that is okay. It'll make a nice change from one and two.

Of course, one of these days I'll get back to work on The Etymology of Fire. Just as soon as things calm down a little. September is almost over. Here is hoping for the best. No nuclear annihilation, please, thank you.

copyright © 2003 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved
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