The Muse: Music
One lazy Saturday afternoon, a very long time ago, I was walking by the master bedroom my mother and father shared while on my way to our smallish apartment's living room. My favorite cartoon was about to be on and I wanted to settle down in front of the biggest TV we had at the time to watch it. A squat black and white 13 inch picture tube perched up on a gangly looking TV stand. We didn't ever seem to have much in those days but what we had was ours, it worked and that was good enough for me. As I was passing by I noticed the front door was slightly ajar and the opening strings of some grand operatic piece was playing.
My father sitting with his back to the door on his side of the room, as was his practice on a rare Saturday when housework didn't occupy him. He was playing one of the multitude of records of his vast classical collection. If ever that man was truly at peace it was at those fleeting times. In those long bygone days I was not a great fan of the work of those known as the “Great Masters”. My musical interests ran more toward Aerosmith and the like, but I found myself drawn to the piece that was playing nonetheless. It called to me, something familiar in the way the strings and woodwind instruments danced and flirted about worked the ever overactive imagination that lurked in the recesses of my mind. Always ready to whisk me off without a moments notice to some strange world filled with wild possibilities it took me like a strong wind right then.
I must have stood there transfixed for a long couple of minutes because the next thing I knew my father was turned toward the door beckoning me in with a wave of his left hand. It must be said, if this is to be an honest account, that my father and I never really got along and in my youth his attention on me would always invoke much anxiety and no small amount of fear. He was a big man, powerful, with a quick temper that was mercurial in it’s triggers. I, whenever able, made myself little seen or heard by him. But the look on his face this time was different, so with only some hesitation I walked into the lion’s den. The conversation that followed changed the way I saw ALL music for all my days to the present.
Music and storytelling
“Music tells a story” he told me that day his eyes glowing with a warmth I rarely saw, “it can drive a tale as much as any collection of words could. It introduces you to a hero, warns you of the villains approach and straps you in giving you the reins on a wild harrowing ride. Simple and soothing or grand and triumphant. It IS the story brought to life!” As I sat there with him that day marveling at the energy he was exuding I for the first time saw the one common thread we shared beyond simple blood. We were both storytellers, both moved by music!
He lifted the record that had been playing off the turntable with practiced ease and reverence replacing it with another well loved record for our listening pleasure laying the needle just so on the part of the record he wanted to play. As the vinyl spun a very familiar energetic triple horn blast erupted from the nearby speakers. I knew it from a favored after school TV show in reruns at that time. That song always heralded the arrival of the masked hero The Lone Ranger! I looked up in wonder at my father smile splitting my little face calling out the name of my TV hero, he just smiled back and asked “Do you know that song?” I told my old man where I had heard it and his smile got bigger, warmer rising to the chance to tell a story and inform. “Well before it was there playing for the Ranger the song was called The William Tell Overture!”
With gusto he proceeded to tell me the tale of the archer and his son and a act of faith so huge that it shocked me! As the music played on in the background all thoughts of watching my cartoon were now fully gone from my mind. Soon William Tell was replaced by the dancing lilt of the Flight of the Bumblebee as it buzzed busily about it’s daily duties. There my old man taught me to lend my mind to the music, to see with my mind how the music worked to craft the image of the bee as it looped and danced flying from flower to flower on its appointed rounds. Then and there a thought formed in my grade school mind that the song itself need not be only about one thing but the mood the song invoked in me, it could lead me anywhere my mind could take me! Any song! So long as I was willing and able to let it.
Now I didn't think that in those words (in fact I think my mind was stuck on, WOW!! SO COOL!!!) but the germ of the idea was now firmly set in my mind and the vista it would, and still does, open up were just around the bend. I had my key and soon the vastness of the human imagination!
I wish I could say that this moment lead to a miraculous healing between us, father and son, bonding through the realization of a common love but real life rarely has any happy endings. There would be other moments darker and sadder between us. Such is life. But the things I learned from him that day have stayed with me and helped me understand myself in ways I would never have gotten to without his input. So thank you Dad. Rest in peace.
A Muse My Muse
Inspiration and the creative impulse comes in many forms, each one often unique to a person as the way they choose to express themselves. For some it’s a walk in the park or the presence of a certain someone that frees the mind. Others it's the dance floor and the act of losing yourself to motion. Whether the impulse comes from a person place or thing an act of freeing the soul or destroying it everyone who works to understand that impulse in themselves sooner or later comes across the muse that fuels them.
For me it’s music. Often when I come up with a story idea the first inklings of it come from just walking around while listening to the radio. Some song or other will play, some I've heard before others for the first time and something in the tune with jump start my creative process. Soon I’m off! The idea taking form in my head as I replay the song over and over, skill and practice replacing the initial epiphany working and reworking it till I have a nice polished piece that I can either slot into place in an already existing story I’m working on or file away for some thing to develop later. But that’s my way to do it. There are many many ways to do this so as I close this little bit of self reflection I open the floor to the other folks writing and reading on this distant corner of the net. Tell us about your muse. Who what or where is it? How did you find it and how does it inform your creative process. Don’t be shy! step right up!
On that note I'm off. Oh! Let me leave this right here;
As I Sign Off
(How's THAT for a walk off song!!)
The floor is yours.