Category Archives: musicians

Yesterday.

 

I love the past.

1970’s superstar Billy Joel has his own SiriusXM station. Unlike the breadth of his continuing career, he gets to keep Channel 30 for just a few weeks, kind of like a feature. I’ve been enjoying his retrospective, while driving to the Food Co-op, or out on errands – every time I’m behind that wheel. Along with legions of others, I get this brief chance to travel across his repertoire with him, in between snippets of commentary and gems from his recollection.

Of particular interest is the story of how he became a songwriter. Apparently, his mother always played her favorite records, at home. She loved Gilbert and Sullivan, and others from her era. Billy absorbed solid songwriting from these masters but, as he recounts, his fire wasn’t really lit until he heard the Beatles.

And, the other day, while presenting his Songs I Wish I’d Written segment, he invariably cited one of them: Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday.”

Now, everybody knows that the popular song is the capsule for every memory, in our lifetime. And, most of us have a narrative for every favorite we can name. But, only the psychologists have warned that nostalgia isn’t particularly “healthy”; they, along with those Be In The NOW proponents, argue that living in the past is oppressive, even toxic.

At least two songwriters might challenge that.

Here we have legends, in their own time – Joel, and McCartney. I’m betting neither of these song meisters are wallowing in whatever happened to them. Their respect for the past is a real religion; they both know that, if we lose faith in what has made us who we are today, we’ll have little upon which to grow for tomorrow.

The Millennials, who live in a world of instantaneity, may not have a concept of history. They may be missing a reverence for that which is foundational, upon which the new must be built. They may not realize that what they deem worthy may have come from the mind of one for whom effort to produce it was lifelong. From their perspective, that which isn’t current is both passe and dispensable, devoid of value. Displacement has supplanted any concept of what used to be termed “classic.” Yet, how many of their pop celebrities are producing music which will endure? Whatever happened to “the test of time”?

We may long for that which is past, but we can hide away, even believe, in our yesterdays. I’m grateful, today, to be part of a generation which can still embody what it can also remember.

Sing on, gentlemen.

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© 10/21/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.

 

The Prolific.

 

Beethoven was a loner.

Reports are his hair was often dirty. He’d wear a long top coat, pencils in the pockets, and pace the streets, muttering under his likely foul, acidic breath. His personality was neither warm nor appealing. To use contemporary vernacular, he was not well liked. Had there been a club, he would not have been invited.

Upstairs, where it all happened, he’d pore over his scores, for hours on end. The man was a driven perfectionist; his original manuscripts show so many scribbled erasures so as to have damaged the paper upon which his markings were made.

The totality of his compositions, while many, were not what one would call evidence of a prolific; rather, they were each in their own way masterpieces. They were masterpieces because, whether Beethoven himself realized it or not, he was changing the sound of music for ages to come.

And, in fact, there is hardly a civilized person who cannot name the 9 Beethoven symphonies as placed among the pearls of creative treasure for all of history.

Bach preceded Beethoven, by a stretch.

His output was enormous.

Each Sunday, there was a new Chorale for the church. Bach wrote 600 of these. And, within the mainstream of cultured society, although they are among the most beautiful of musical creations he isn’t even known for them; most cite his volumes of two and three part inventions for keyboard instruments, his partitas, his chaconnes, his toccattas and fugues.

Two singular composers, both creative geniuses.

Is one of higher value than the other?

In matters of taste, two constituencies may form. Under Beethoven, those who prefer to be moved by chordal harmonies and driving rhythm; under Bach, those affected by the intricate complexity of voicing and counterpoint.

But, each contributed not by the collected volume of individual works, but by sheer artistic impact. Regardless the quantity, the power of their affect lay in the quality.

Let’s not ask of our artists that they fulfill our time based expectations. Let us cast aside judgment against the frequency of their contributions. Art needs neither justification, nor critique upon its merit. The next masterpiece may already be in progress. All we have to do is wait, and prepare our hearts.

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© 10/18/18    Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  Thank you for respecting original material.

littlebarefeetblog.com

 

 

 

 

 

Put A Stake In It.

 

The last of the tomatoes were done.

Unlike squash, they wouldn’t have survived creeping across the garden soil; their vines required staking, this year by aluminum wire cages. Stepping into the collapsing mess of metal, I reached down and plucked the final fruit from its stem, inhaling for the last time that distinctive, acidic scent.

This season, everyone seemed to have had a stake in something.

I was a professional musician. Roughly half of my colleagues either’d had contracts with an established organization, or hoped for hire; the rest were investing in a newer venture, because it served them in familial ways.

After having taken a tally of all concerned I’d discovered that, just as my beloved would suggest, none of those involved had wanted to risk their own potential benefit by standing against anything – least of all, it seemed, any moral component in actions taken. None of them, that is, but me.

And, so, I’d been left facing my remaining options. They were few.

1.) Take whatever I could get, which would likely be a rare to never hire by the established organization’s newly created collective of contracted members;

2.) Join the new venture, which clearly served first those already attached – by either employ, or enrollment – to a local institution.

In short, both actions sidelined me. The possible motives had emerged, and none of them were attractive: a.) I was perceived as aging out? b.) I was not accepted, because I did not submit to those who sought authority over me?

The third option only became clear after I had confronted the initial two and found them both undesirable:

3.) Walk away.

Facing the reality that my net income would only be marginally affected, seeing as that generated by both options had never, in the past, even remotely covered the number of uncompensated hours, the likelihood of garnering more creative time had begun to feel more like a reward than a punishment.

And, so, the decision was actually easy.

The outcome, however, I could not have predicted.

First, there’d been the sheer relief. Had there really been that much pressure, and stress? Being locked into a work schedule, occupying weeknights and weekends, pre-determined by those outside of myself. Yes; yes, there had. The release of this weight was euphoric in its effect; I felt as if I’d just been granted an unlimited vacation!

But, secondly, I’d begun to note a silence. Nobody seemed interested in remaining in touch, even those I’d thought were friends.

My declaration of intent was never challenged, no attempts made to persuade a re-consideration, only two polite assurances of future, independent collaborations from among dozens. Stock replies, and more silence.

The stakes were just too high.

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A favorite metaphor among Biblical apologists is the fruit of the vine. Believers, so called, are to bear it; if they do not, they are cut off from the host.

I love tomatoes. I eat them, nearly every day when they are in season. But, maybe I am more like a squash, or a pumpkin. Meant to grow on another vine, close to the soil.

I’ll stake my life on that, instead.

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© 9/24/18   Ruth Ann Scanzillo.  All rights those of the author, whose story it is, and whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting original material, however unimportant.

littlebarefeetblog.com