I’m listening to my blogging playlist and thinking about just that. David Bowie’s “Heroes” got me thinking and it’s a real question – what does it mean?
I used to think that heroes were these people who were good and pure who rescued people and helped them. Now, I suppose, I am more of a cynic. Some of my favorite heroes in fiction are those who are dragged into it or are morally gray. I find that the virtuous heroes don’t appeal much to me anymore. I think that’s because I’ve found that the world isn’t filled with these virtuous people. Everyone is flawed, everyone has problems. But everyone has the potential to be a hero to someone.
I think that to be a hero, one has to possess one special quality. They have to make a positive impact in someone’s life. Heroes don’t always do physical rescuing, but that definitely could make someone a hero. Do you have to be pure and good to be a hero? That’s up for debate.
There are several people in my life whom I would consider heroes of mine, but I want to highlight one special hero. My psych provider up here is a liberator. She saw a problem and started to take action instead of standing aside or feeding it. The problem was that I was that I was overmedicated and she saw that in me. She knew her stuff and said that she had never seen a dose of one of my meds that high in her entire career. Because of her intelligence, intuition, and knowledge, I am where I am today. I am eternally grateful for her.
I don’t know anything about her personal life save that she likes plants and music, but I don’t think that that is necessary to be a hero. Sometimes heroes are just passersby. She is just one of my care providers up here who has changed my life for the better.
Now that I am coming down lower on some of the meds I’m on, I feel like I’m climbing a mountain and I’ve come out of a thick layer of clouds. The sun is bright, but I can see everything – the trail I’ve climbed to get here, the valley below, the next ridge over in the distance. It’s the best feeling in the world.
It’s also vindicating – I’m not crazy for having feelings that are larger than life. I’m alive, I am human. I’m not afraid to say that anymore. It’s liberating – I can find out who I really am. It’s exhilarating – I am blooming, I am not afraid to live. I was fine all along. I am able to bounce back and not drown.
I got some lab work done today and I didn’t panic or cry. I got out of bed on time. I took my meds on time. I talked with friends. I feel as alive as springtime. I ate a bagel, which was delicious. The proof copy of my poem book comes today. Life is good.
To my provider – thank you.
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“i’m afraid i don’t want to be out of control what if happiness scares me? she follows me like a shadow found in drumbeats and embraces and the feeling of pushing forward the song i’m listening to flutters i have fluttered before i will flutter again i don’t like it because my happiness comes out loud shout it to the heavens i’m happy and i don’t know why”
For some reason, people have always said I’m resilient, as if that’s something I want. All it meant to me was that I didn’t kill myself when my dad died, when XYZ happened, etc., that plodding on should be applauded. It didn’t mean that I was going anywhere. It didn’t mean I was proud of myself or living for anything.
When I met my husband, all of that began to change. I was living, at the very least, to be able to spend time with him and make sure he was happy. Even when I wanted to blot myself off the face of the Earth, he was there.
When I moved to Alaska, things changed even more. As mentioned previously, two psychiatric professionals took down the notion that I needed to be on hundreds of milligrams of meds a day, allowing me to cut back on my unnecessarily doses. He was the one who set all of this in motion. He was the first one actively involved in my care to challenge the idea that I could be crazy.
With all of these changes, I feel more energetic, hopeful, and happy. The happiness baffles me. It now rents out the space where sadness used to be, and it is almost persistent in its pursuit of me. It’s wild, loud, and feels dangerous. I still don’t trust it, and still confuse it with going crazy. It involves a lot of shouting for joy.
It can be compared to the end of a hero’s journey story where the hero arrives at the same place they started, but changed. It’s like, this is new, what do I do now?
I’ve been throwing myself wholeheartedly into my tutoring, which is awesome. Lots of new music has been made, and this long overdue thing is in the works…
People have been wanting to read my poems in a book for a bit, so I will make it happen.
This is a poem I forgot about that I had written during my short-lived Poem a Day challenge last year. I was a long way away from believing in myself then, and I remember speaking poorly about myself in poetry and everywhere, really. I still don’t believe in myself in many ways, but I am coming to accept my mind on fire.
I’ve been working my way down on some of my meds, and I am feeling…alive. I am feeling. Feeling like myself, kicking the sadness in the pants, being my intense self and feeling mostly okay about it.
The one thing that bothers me is that I am able to laser focus, laser focus to nearly the point of obsession until my project is done. That bothers me because I want my ideas to come to fruition right now and that involves pestering people a lot. I don’t want to be annoying, but I need to get stuff done! According to my brain, that is. This has resulted in a pair of pieces that are nearly album-length apiece. You’ve already read about Light Steps, and last night’s jam resulted in Benson Boulevard Under Cover of Darkness.
My project last night was getting them on Apple Music, Spotify, and the like. I was so focused that I didn’t write a proper blog post, I’m so sorry! They should be live in a few days, though!
Before that, my project was recording Light Steps to cassette, which failed miserably. I’m starting to question my cassette quest since the jams are so frequent, so I’m setting that idea aside. This is what happens when I don’t try and put out the fire in my brain, coupled with staying off social media. I’m probably going to record a few hours’ worth of music by the end of April. I feel a lot better about myself.
all these cars
in such a hurry to get somewhere
i spent the day drinking tea
and wondering what it would be
to be okay
the simple answer is that i do not know
maybe it’s like being so
tired you cannot sleep
seeing the thing for what it is
but being unable to touch it
or maybe it’s
something like the moment
of clarity a person
first has at the moment
they plunge into ice cold water
they feel alive, don’t they?
This poem is called “beauty from a burning house”, and that’s honestly how I saw myself – as a burning house. Nothing more. I was under the impression that that was all I deserved, to be put out by a rainstorm.
I felt for years like I had to summon the rainstorm in order to make beauty from the burning house that I was. I didn’t see that the burning inside was okay to have. It seemed that I had to moderate my emotions. I had to have a valid reason to be sad, angry, very happy, or else I’d see myself as crazy and I thought others would, too.
In hindsight, it doesn’t matter what others thought. I was so focused on “being okay” that I overlooked the times when I was “okay”, and even worse, was being my true self. These were opportunities where I should have been feeling alive, but I crushed them. I was trying to look without seeing. I was looking to feel alive in all the wrong places.
Writing this blog was the first step to feeling alive, but now I feel real.
Feeling real to me is being able to embrace who you are without fearing how others think and view you. It’s not putting on airs, it’s not doing stupid stunts just for attention. It’s being unafraid to be creative and inventive and to also care for yourself. It’s being able to say “this is who I am” and roll with that.
I know I’m weird. I know I’m eccentric as all hell. I am excitable, I am smart. I deserve far more than to be put out by a rainstorm. You don’t deserve that, either.
There have been several game changing points in my time of making music. The first game changer was the release of Little Voice by Sara Bareilles. I happened upon that record when I was looking for another song that I had heard in the video game Thrillville. For a kid, that game had a great soundtrack, and I still listen to many of the songs from the soundtrack to this day.
I heard “Love Song”, the album’s main single, first because it was that day’s free download on iTunes waaay back in late 2008. In hindsight, that was a lucky day because it would eventually change the way I think and write musically. Even though I didn’t find the song I was looking for, “Lovesong” by Annie Stela, I did discover Sara Bareilles, and my life changed forever.
A couple months later, I was in a store called Hastings, which sold all kinds of electronics. This included CDs. My Mimi had a tradition of taking my brother and me to Hastings, where we could buy one item and get one drink from the cafe. It was getting late in the day and we’d already been there for an hour or two and I still hadn’t found anything I wanted. Just as we were about to leave, I scanned the tracklist on an album called Little Voice and saw that it had “Love Song” on it, the song that I had played on repeat for the last few months. I snatched it up and bought it with a gift card.
To say that that album was well loved was an understatement. I only liked the opening few tracks at first, but as time went on, I played the album all the way through at least once a day.
I was baffled by the album, especially when I read through the liner notes and found that Sara had had a hand in writing all of the songs on the album! How was that possible?
I asked my mom that same question, and her answer was that songwriting is poetry set to music. I was still baffled until one day I sat down at my keyboard after playing far too many hours of playing the video game Wii Music and the melody of “Ride of the Valkyries” flowed out from under my fingertips. That really threw me through a loop. How had I done that?
That didn’t stop me. I picked out melodies whenever I could, and a few days later, I achieved what I once thought impossible – I wrote a song. I poured my twelve year old soul into a few notes and composed an ode to my first crush. It was a hit among my classmates, and was actually called “Ode”.
Here is the original recording, recorded onto a Creative Zen MP3 player in 2009. I can’t believe I actually found it.
The next big leap was when I discovered Pandora Internet Radio.
Pandora fueled the writing of an album, two books, and helped me discover music on my own. I was raised with the music of the ’60s though the ’90s, and listening to modern pop music was discouraged by my dad, who preferred to listen to U2, the Police, REM, and the like. My mom listened to a lot of disco, ’80s pop, and ’70s folk. My dad even went as far as to say that he did not marry my mother for her music taste. Even today, my music taste leans more toward my dad’s, but I did inherit my love of ’80s pop from my mom.
Pandora helped me discover my own styles of music, and eventually they influenced my songwriting and poetry. It took several flops and another year for me to compile an album’s worth of music, and I took to my 100-year old piano to record. It took 3 months and take after take to get some semblance of an album. It was never finished, because a producer took over and turned my happy songs into poppy wonders. I don’t consider them my best work, because my songs aren’t happy as a whole. The Mellon Session, my first album-length recording, spare though it may be, is a better representation of my style and body of work than Sweet Pea (the EP we recorded) is. But it was a start.
The EP dropped in November of 2011, and remained on the Internet for a year until we took it down. It was never rereleased.
My dad died in 2016, and that sparked a whole new level of creativity within me. In many ways, it was the final push I needed to record albums 4-8. Add that to the toxic environment of Idaho school, and the albums flowed fairly quickly.
Candy for Trees is a different story, however. I believe it was in this post that I spoke about how CFT was formed. Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring helped my instrumental style come together. In many ways, I feel as though I’m coming out of the melancholy that dominated the last eight vocal-and-instrument albums and entering a new era.
My last release, Light Steps, was me exploring the sounds of my keyboard and creating landscapes with it. It was recorded last night.
I listened to a lot of experimental music last night as I was trying not to fall asleep, and they all struck me deeply.
Some might think that this would not be considered music, but I think it is. It’s just a different way of using the sound as a canvas, much like some people debate and wonder whether abstract art is truly art.
If I had to describe myself in song, the genre would be experimental, or even atonal.
While I am a musician and enjoy making tonal music, I believe that my personality is best described by abstract, wilds sounds. It’s part of who I am. I’m offbeat, for lack of a better word. This abstract music was something that my soul seemed to be drawn to. Now, to get in the mood to write this post, I am listening to a shared favorite of my dad and me – the Bad Plus.
Their music is crazy. While it’s not quite atonal, they certainly do whatever the hell they want to. Shown above is a cover of a David Bowie song, “Life on Mars.” Some of their music is somewhat straightforward, but then songs like this and another perennial favorite, “Silence is the Question”, completely take me to another level.
It’s a whole other level of feeling. I find a sense of freedom here, whereas the best tonal, rhythmic music I have heard doesn’t feel as raw and real for me as the abstract sounds of these experimental artists do. They’re doing whatever they want, and they don’t give a damn who judges them. That’s a goal of mine right there.
So yes. While some might dismiss abstract music as utter nonsense, I find an emotional and artistic connection to it that I don’t often find elsewhere. It’s a newer way I have found to stick it to tradition and make music with raw emotion without saying a word.
This piece of mine, “Limping Dance”, is an example of what I want to do. It was improvised almost in its entirety, with a few notes stolen from other pieces, like the opening few seconds sounding a bit like “Habanera” from the opera Carmen and snatches of some pieces from previous albums of mine in there, too.
There’s another improv for y’all – a piece on my ukulele called “Misspeaking”. It’s tuned so that the open strings make a chord, and that makes for some odd sounds. This should be going up on my Bandcamp page today. It sounds lonely and scary to me.
You might be wondering what on Earth this has to do with anything, all this abstract music and whatnot. My point here is that I think I’m dancing – limping or not – into a time where I shed the notions that I have absorbed throughout my youth, “don’t play off-rhythm” being one of those. Rhythm isn’t everything, people, and saying otherwise can be lonely and scary.
I remember getting an MRI once for these headaches I was having. The tech asked if I wanted earphones so I could listen to the radio while the machine was going. I said no, because my dad had told me that morning that MRI machines weren’t scary and that they make awesome rhythmic sounds. And he was right.
I emerged from my MRI having fallen asleep, I was so relaxed. When the same tech asked how I had done the session without music. My mom piped in, saying that for me, it is music. She couldn’t have said it better. Even that clunky-sounding MRI machine was magical because it made awesome sounds.
I know there’s music all around me. What I have to do is take my thumb off the mic and listen.
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I haven’t changed out of my pajamas today and have been feeling quite lonely and sorry for myself. My husband is in Anchorage working and I miss him. He shouldn’t have to go to Anchorage on the weekends* unless it’s for fun! The man works way too much. So even though I have already posted today, I’m going to post again.
I’ve been listening to the Rite of Spring far too much lately. It opens with a solo bassoon and is known for brutal time signatures and dissonance – what’s not to love? It’s what the kids call a hot mess, and it’s like me, but in classical music form.
I love songs written in odd time signatures, and my favorite movement of the Rite so far, “The Augurs of Spring”, causes me to geek out beyond words. The opening, pounding chord just gets me every time. Call me weird, but the Rite really causes me to think instead of just going along with the piece. It is layered and complex. It’s not for everyone.
Listening to one song by another complex group of artists is enough to make my mom nervous. The group is The Bad Plus, and the song is called “Silence is the Question”. It was a favorite of my dad’s, and it is a favorite of mine. I’ll show it to you.
It’s a bit on the long side, but it’s worth every second. If it makes YOU nervous, feel free and give it a pass. I’ll love you just the same.
These pieces are like me because they are frenetic, all over the place, and don’t always make harmonic – or even rhythmic – sense. I make sense in some ways, but I definitely don’t have enough common sense, I’ll admit that straight off. I change my mind a lot and still don’t really know what I want to be when I grow up. I’ve been playing with the same energy that makes up these songs and myself, and have come up with what could be a musical self portrait. My strumming finger has been out of commission, so I haven’t been able to practice my ukes. I have taken to writing sheet music on my computer instead. Here’s what parts one through three sound like.
The title of Part One is Clusterf**k in C# major (pardon my French here) and it says so on the header of the score. It lives up to its name – two pianos bashing against each other rhythmically and melodically for nearly a minute. It’s in 5/4 and is as crazy as me.
If that’s not crazy enough, I switched things up just to be sadistic for Part Two and wrote in 7/4 with the same seven sharp key signature, my old friend C#. If you’re not musical, all you need to know is that I’m insane. If you are musical, you need no explaining. You already know. On top of that, there are very few parts of Part Two that actually make melodic sense. It’s kind of representative of my manic side.
Part Three is simple compared to the first two parts. 2/4, but same key signature and with a recorder this time. I like recorders. Recorders are nice. I want to see these parts played by someone who knows what they’re doing. I feel like a supervillain cackling in the wings. Or at least I will be.
I now need to write a fourth part that resembles my depressive side, or maybe two. I can see them being very slow and somber. I’m going to keep in C# for as long as I possibly can. I also think I’m going to cool it with the crazy odd time for these next sections. More villainy awaits!
Until next post,
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*Anchorage is about an hour away from where we live.