March 2012 Archives

Equinoctial Thoughts

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Today our planet has made another full circle around the sun and our day and night are equal length. It's a public holiday in Japan. Following the Buddhist tradition, we clean graves and remember the dead today. 

I have no grave to clean but I honor my father every year on the equinox, the anniversary of his death in 2005. Buddhists believe that we are reborn within seven years after our deaths, so maybe Dad's spirit is making his way in this plane of existence once again. If so, the world is a better place now. He was a good person.

Making Music, part 1

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A couple of weeks ago I started casting around for someone to write me some music. I want an original tune for this year's World Hoop Day Dance project and so I was telling to my musician friends about it. I never thought this would happen but my ukulele teacher, Huw, suggested that we work together to make a song. I'd write the lyrics and he'd do the music. What a fantastic challenge.

Huw wasn't the only person I talked to. My darling friend, Jesse, upon hearing that I was going to be writing lyrics, presented me with a hula hoop song. "This is what a World Hoop Day song would sound like if I rolled out of bed and wrote one." I listened to it over and over. It was catchy and cute, plus I really love his singing voice.

Not only was his song sweet, it was inspirational. If Jesse can write a song in a morning, I surely can write some lyrics in a couple of days. Lyrics are poetry; I can write poetry. This should be fun. So I sat down and wrote a poem about hooping. It was complex, included lots of hooping concepts, and had a nice rhyming scheme, and I also used some of the lyrics that Jesse had written for me. Here's one verse:

There is no isolation;
None of us is alone.
Hoops bring us together,
Together we spiral in flow.
Face to face, heart to heart
I take your hand
Never let it go.

I sent it to Huw. He replied, "...way too complicated to set to a regular beat, a 7-6-6-8-6-4-5 scheme can be turned into an art song or opera, but not a catchy dance number." He suggested I try to think in rhymes more like Dr. Seuss.

So I tried again. This time, I stuck to a much simpler, singsong rhythm. 

Today we celebrate the hoop
A simple little plastic ring
We groove with it around our waist
Waste not a perfect chance to sing
A melody of joy and glee
So beautiful our hoops take wing

But it still wasn't right. When Huw read it through, the music he heard in his head was a waltz. And I don't think I can choreography a snappy hoop routine to a waltz, so no good. Back to the drawing board. Make it even simpler!

I came up with three more concepts, the simplest of which was


But that was perhaps too open. Huw liked the other two, though, and presented me with some chords a few days later. They are ones I can play on the ukulele, even. So now I have something to hang the words on and to find a melody in. Or to change the words.

It strikes me that this collaboration puts me in a completely different position than usual. Normally, I am in control of the creative work. Now, I am the "client". I have no idea about creating music; no clue what happens next in the process; no ability to listen to a half-finished piece and fill in the blanks. I am like a nightmare design client. "This is too blue; can it be more pink? What about a script font? My cousin says that we shouldn't use too much white space. Can we get a photo of a lion with a mouse for this part?" Instrumentation, arrangement, recording...I know these will happen. I don't know how or when. I don't know anything or how much I can influence the final product. 

But I sure am having fun feeling off-kilter and not in control. And my poetry is getting better, too.

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