Posted in composition, COVID-19, creativity, Fathers, holidays, writing

Moving On….

Painting by Philip Froman

The painting above has no title. My father completed this when he was in his eighties, after taking up a brush for the first time in his seventies. If you look closely, and listen, you can almost hear the water crash against the cliffs, feel its force. Standing in direct contrast to this painting, is a lake scene he painted around the same time which conveys only silence and peace. Both represent the man he was, his reflections about his life, and acceptance of the choices he’d made.

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For over a year I’ve been trying to sustain the appearance of writing, while not having any interest in writing. Other than the words on this blog, and the occasional letters to family and friends, I’ve produced nothing.

I can’t blame the virus, as tempting as it is. The ideas, and desire to shape them, started drying up long before COVID-19. It just took a year of solitude to accept it.

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A composer friend suggested I should start composing again—tentatively, gently, as though he understood he was asking me to revisit a space I’d shuttered. I stopped composing after graduate school, for many of the same reasons I don’t write now.

I considered it briefly, grateful for the compliment, but then abandoned the idea. Sometimes we shutter spaces because they’ve become voids; and sometimes those voids become vacuums.

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For the present, I will keep this site going. Information about books will remain, as will old posts, interviews, and guest posts. From time to time I might even recycle old material I think would be of interest, or entertain.

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Wherever you are, please stay safe, be well, and care deeply for those you love. And thank you for reading and following.

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Posted in Music and Prose

Music and Prose: Just Passing Through….

painting by Georges Seurat
painting by Georges Seurat

Lately,  I’ve been noticing details, small things—pinprick brushstrokes, over-and-undertones in color. Look closely, focus on one confined area, and you can see them.  Observe from a distance and they blend, form a single image, or hue. In cooking, spices behave the same way. If you hold a spoonful of a complex dish on your tongue and concentrate, savor it, you will recognize the underlying essences. On their own, each spice has a distinct flavor, but in the act of combining with other spices and ingredients, they become traces of themselves, they transform. And, they transform the whole.

Small things. In prose and music, too.

Consider this passage, the little words in service to the idea:

How, in a houseful of shadows, should he know his own Shadow? How, in a houseful of noises, distinguish the summons he felt to be at hand?  (From “The Beckoning Fair One” by Oliver Onions)

“In”-“a”-“own”-“to”-“be”.  Each article has a life, a character.  But set within the sentences, they smooth the transition from one word to another, shape phrases, clarify purpose.

In music, “Passing tones” perform this function.

In the example below, from a Mozart piano sonata, passing tones are marked by parentheses.  In some measures, particularly #s 3 and 7, there are many of them. And yet, when you listen to the excerpt, rather than passing tones, you’ll hear line, movement, progress. Listen to the sonata in its entirety, and you’ll hear the whole.

Mozrtnon2When you observe your writing closely, which little words shape your sentences into lines? Which little words give it movement? Progress?  When you stand back, what makes it whole?