Composer’s Counterpoint #3 – What Keeps Me Awake…

Posted: January 1, 2020 in Uncategorized

© 2020 G.N. Jacobs

Sometimes, I don’t get to sleep quickly. The mask to deal with the blinky lights on the surge strips and morning sunlight through the window goes on and I’m still awake. I switched over to decaf except when I hunt other people’s coffee out of the house. I exercise when I remember. So most days, I’ve eliminated the usual suspects and still…

Well, to cut through the build up, I think a lot on those nights when it may take a few extra hours to nod off. About story material. Or my own halting attempts at music, which lands these thoughts here in this music column instead of the Scribbler’s Saga. The most recent skull session screaming behind my eyes that kept me awake involved my most recent eschewing of my superhero/spandex characters as the subject for the opera that I have so famously claimed in this column give me ten years, Ducky (see post).

As you may recall, I didn’t want to do The Tales of the Angel Association as an opera, despite really wanting to see someone do Batman in the style of Siegfried or something. I fretted about the stagecraft required to put a soprano as the girl in the iron suit and a mezzo as the actual suit on the same flying rig. Dark litigious nightmares referencing the ill-fated Spider-man musical froze me in the door. All you need to know is that these fully conscious spitball sessions that happen between Lights Out and Get Up It’s Almost Brunch simply don’t give a shit.

Of course there are trigger cues for spending an unknown number of hours going over and over with what your children will do when you immortalize them in ink. I was at my regular writers group with a couple guys talking about music, including what we like, the resources available and how we learned. I’m pretty much slowly on track to learn the rock star way; pick up a guitar and go.

In the conversation, I mentioned Thomas Adès and Tom Cairns’ opera The Exterminating Angel mentioning and exaggerated the A over High C hit by the second female lead on the Met Stage as a G over High C. One of the guys said something like, “really, and she still has her throat?” And there was an inevitable reference to Spinal Tap that even in the opera world – “Ours goes up to eleven!”

So I get home after the session and I get to thinking about how I need the time asserted in the previous post to make sure I use all my music tools to do the notes up nice. But, Just Another Drunken Dwarf, which at the moment is just a title from story dice, is either going to be an opera or just another goofy idea in my list of ideas. I prefer the former so I get myself asking – “what’s my first step?” The word LIBRETTO promptly flashes before my eyes in red neon.

Ah, right, the same advice I give myself when contemplating a huge in scope screenplay or novel…write the pig and let the producers figure it out. I was just going to start Dwarf with the libretto, easy-peasy, lemon squeezy. But, I haven’t actually seen a libretto. Yes, Google is my friend; I find a PDF online where someone posted instructions for kids probably at music camp or something. I save it as a place to start and go to bed.

And you heard the part about how the night time story session doesn’t always give a shit? I roll to the right. I roll to the left. Am I composing/creating the drinking song that, by definition, defines the main theme of Just Another Drunken Dwarf? Without hitting too much of the obviousness of The Student Prince? Absolutely not. Characters that speak to you in the dead of night don’t take turns or wait in line.

Still, I roll right. And back over to the left. What I see on the screen made by my sleep mask isn’t fantasy dwarves raising steins and slaying orcs. I kept seeing my spandex people. I heard the blended part of Metal Goddess flying around stage; their duet admittedly still running towards the goofy like Kill the Wabbit (it’s early, I have time to shake off Wagner as interpreted by Bugs Bunny, or not).

I straighten out my posture sleeping on top the bed (Southern California during a scorching August, Ducky). I roll over yet again. I see an interesting duet for the secondary characters of Metal Goddess’ parents, a man that used to be Cicero and a woman that used to be Athena’s body. This is a marriage that has lasted a long time and somehow what I’m seeing is a tandem hug and something like Leo Delibes’ Flower Duet (again it’s early, we’ll see).

Finally, I sleep and get to enjoy the regular old and typically forgettable three-reel movies we call dreams. I don’t know how long the session went; I can’t tell time with my eyes closed and my watch on the table. It felt like it could have been hours. I woke up at the same time I would’ve had my spandex characters not shouted at me. I didn’t feel any obvious sleep deprivation. It could just have easily been forty-five minutes on a hot evening fighting for just a little more breeze.

So what does this mean? Did I just cave to the voices and agree to put Tales of the Angel Association on paper as the superhero opera the world seems to cry out for? I don’t know. I do all kinds of strange shit. But, in looking over the PDF for the libretto I realize that I could just write the libretto just in case I never do get my shit together to do the notes properly…

As always, we’ll see when we see.

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