Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's BĂȘte Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Haven't had much to say about music lately because I've been absorbed in finishing my album. Finished the first draft of mixing last Tuesday and have been listening to the sequence. A few things in the mix to tweak, and I've switched 2 of the songs around in the sequencing. We had friends over last night for dinner and the album made reasonably plausible background music, except maybe one song with a dissonant riff and some harsh vocal harmonies. "The album" -- minus 2 topical songs with violent imagery that I don't play when my son is around. So we heard 8 of the 10 songs at dinner last night.

I've sometimes wondered how so many people could get up onstage and play such mediocre songs. One of the byproducts of the "write your own" ethos of post-Dylan, post-Beatles rock. But, really, I know how they can. Playing is a rush. Playing is a thrill. Playing is cathartic. When I'm in the middle of doing it, my own far-less-than-virtuoso performing satisfies me similarly to hearing a real virtuoso play. People in the middle of that rush imagine that listeners are feeling the same rush. Now, I've performed a lot over the last 25 years. I've seen audience members laugh, cry, spontaneously sing along, slam dance till they bleed, boogie till they're dripping with sweat, listen at the edge of their seats. I've written a couple hundred songs in myriad styles; written music for plays and film and video and choreographers; put a lot of thought into how a song works. I'm confident about this batch of 10 songs, not that everybody will like all of them, but that somebody will like each of them, and that some people will like some of them a lot. I have an idea of where the songs' weak spots may be and I know what I think of as their virtues, and hope their virtues will carry them. And I'm pleased with the arrangements and the performances, blown away by some of what my bandmates did with my songs; grateful for their artistry, humbled by their unremunerative collaboration. But still, there's always this fear that the idea that people will like my music is a fantasy, that I'm, in effect, waiting for Guffman.

But hell, seriously, when Guffman does show up, I just know he's going to love it.

The recordist and I did the bulk of the mixing while my beloved spouse and our son were in Michigan visiting my parents. They had a really good trip and got back last Wednesday night. My son's speech noticeably improved in the 6 days they were gone -- young children are amazing in that way. (In anecdotes on this blog, I have translated his toddler dialect into more-or-less standard English. For example, he can't pronounce Y's, and "yes" sounds like "wes." S's and F's sometimes still get mixed up. His dialect is very cute, but I don't think it would look so cute written down.)

The other morning while the 3 of us were lounging in bed (he has his own room but sometimes comes in and chats with us in the morning) we talked about going to visit Grandma and Grandpa again. He was enthusiastic about the idea of the 3 of us going together next time, on the big airplane. I said some day I'd like to drive there. I didn't go into detail, but I've always wanted to take Route 2 along the country's northern border, from Everett, Washington, to St. Ignace, Michigan, and then south across the Mackinac Bridge and on to Kalamazoo from there. My spouse and I told my son that we wouldn't do that until he were bigger.

"When I'll ride in a booster seat?" he asked.

No, when you're too big for a booster seat.

His eyes got big and he had a dreamy smile. "When I'm a big big big big big big boy!" I basked in the warm, joyous glow of his vision. Then he said, with the same dreamy reality, "I'm a chicken! I laid an egg!"

It was as real to him as the idea of becoming a big big big big big boy, but it was one of the funniest things I'd heard in a long time.
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