Swimming

There is a place you must go, and though you cannot see where it is, you know it is, know the distance you must travel is vast and unknown, and there is no sun to serve you as a guide, nor any guarantee that you will make it there, and instead be condemned to dwell in the darkness of infinity, and while there, you ask yourself: “How much more must one endure? How long can one endure?” 

But these questions do not suffice, for you know the answer is obscured by the shadows of uncertainty, and so you grasp what you can, to guide you through the night, and hope you will return to see the sun again.

And so you turn to the memory of the notes that still exist within you, for darkness has no power over them, for these notes reside far above the clouds, above the sky, above the heavens, where the shadows of light are bred and born and transformed, from the greater darkness within the universe, which we will never reach or fully know, but still know it well, for those notes, though born in darkness, are overcome by the power of light that breaks apart from the darkness from which they were issued, and sheds.

And with this light, you know darkness will never win the war, for light is far greater than the birth of night, and so you arm yourself with those notes as your guide – The Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G, which stirs in you the will to live and swim towards the light.   

 

Sanctuaries: The Many Moods of a Room

Sometimes we have to build our own sanctuary, not with our hands, but with our minds, a room we can access whenever life poses excessive challenges, those times when we need a break, a safe refuge. I chose to travel into another age: Vienna, 1783…

And into a single, but immense, room, on a Sunday afternoon. Its architecture? My version of Baroque. The entrance to this sanctuary consists of white double open doors, not far below a ceiling high enough to elevate the mind. I step into the room, wearing my fancy but comfortable crimson flats, and I feel the bounce and vibration below of hickory floors, bathing in the sunlight, and bouncing off white-washed walls, trimmed with gold leaf. The double windows are wide and open, and I can feel a fresh and gentle breeze fill the room with the scent of exotic Spring flowers.

I sink into the cushions of a plush couch, and with my eyes closed, I listen to a greater vibration fill the room, the sound of a fortepiano, direct from heaven, and with a light so intense, I can see it, though my eyes are closed. This light pours into Mozart, who will leave us in eight years, and whom we will mourn until the end of time, and I listen to him finish the unfinished Fantasia for Piano in D Minor. I am in heaven now, interrupted only by the footsteps of a young boy who walks through the door, and I cannot help but feel his joy, for he has wanted to be in the same room as Mozart, though he may not even know it yet, and I cannot resist opening my eyes, and I smile, for I have always wanted to meet this child, and it fills me with joy to embrace Beethoven.

Music for the Soul to Dance to

When I first awaken, I head to my tiny kitchen and fill my French Press with coffee and boiling water. I press beyond the water level, and although the instructions say to leave it there for 5 minutes before you press it to the bottom of cylinder, I rarely make it to the 5 minute threshold.

It is the moment between wakefulness and sleep, and I need a nudge to push me through that door. I sit by the window, sipping my coffee in darkness and wait for the eastern light to appear through my window. And with the glow and warmth of the nuggets a salt rock lamp creates, I press the key for the music to begin playing the music for the soul to dance to. This, for me, is a sacred and necessary ritual.

The list is long, but I begin with Threshold, as it takes me through the range of experiences, from high to low, and low to high, sometimes hitting the middle note, but not often. Within this range, I surrender to the trance, without the corresponding human experiences associated with this spectrum of emotions, through the nuances of each note, until I am closer to wakefulness.

Then I move into Mozart’s Fantasia in D Minor, K 397, for a taste of melancholy, which doesn’t quite satiate my appetite, but still, I cannot resist his movement, and prance with him into higher notes, guided by the nimble fingers of Gould’s interpretation.

And finally, Beethoven opens the door to a glorious version of flight. This, I am compelled to listen to more than once, for it loosens me from the stubborn chill of darkness, now moving into the first notes of dawn, whilst the night begins to fade, until it reaches a full eclipse of the black sky above me. And below the sun, I shift into the rhythm of a canter, absorbing endless rays of light. This, my friend, is Beethoven’s Piano Sonata #15 in D, Op. 28, “Pastoral” – 2, Andante.

Then I hit shuffle on a playlist, which I have named, Music for the Soul to Dance to. This list takes me through a historical journey expressed through music. The list below is according to recording artist.

However, before we advance into the set below, it is worth mentioning, this morning musical ritual is not rigid, but flexible. And so, some mornings, instead of adhering to the musical sequence noted above — patterns have shifted overnight, a new cycle has evolved, a new set of rhythms pound the keys. And so, I head straight to Bedbugs And Ballyhoos, for example, by Echo & The Bunnymen, and tumble and rock into a new day — for nothing is constant when you wake up dancing. 

Music For The Soul To Dance To
Let’s Stay Together, Take Me To The River, I’m Still in Love With You, I Can’t Get Next To You, Back Up Train, (Al Green)

Let The Good Times Roll, Thrill is Gone, Nobody Loves Me But My Mother, (B.B. King, Live At San Quentin, 1990)

No Reply, I’m A Loser, Baby’s In Black, Twist And Shout, Eleanor Rigby, When I’m Sixty-Four, (The Beatles, 1962-1967)

Blowin’ In The Wind, Forever Young, Things Have Changed, The Death of Emmitt Till, Desolation Row, (Bob Dylan, 1962…)

Is This Love, Get Up Stand Up, Stir It Up, I Shot The Sheriff, Jamming, (Bob Marley)

Know Your Rights, (The Clash)

Round Here, Raining In Baltimore, (Counting Crows)

Bedbugs And Ballyhoo, (Echo & The Bunnymen)

the boy with perpetual nervousness, moscow nights, (The Feelies)

Reach out I’ll be there, If I were a carpenter, It’s the same old song, I’m in a different world, Seven rooms of gloom, (The Four Tops)

Moon River, For Once in My Life, My Kind of Town, Fly Me To The Moon, It Was A Very Good Year, (Frank Sinatra)

Fire Coming Out Of The Monkey’s Head, (Gorillaz)

Night Train, (James Brown, Live at the Apollo, 1962)

Cry Baby, (Janis Joplin, 1973)

Manic Depression, (Jimi Hendrix)

Hurt, (Johnny Cash)

Joy Ride, Smile Like You Mean It, Somebody Told Me, Everything Will Be Alright, This River Is Wild, Why Do I Keep Counting?, Exitude, (The Killers, 2004-2008)

Bamboo Banga, Hussel, Mango Pickle Down Down River, Come Around, (M.I.A, Kala)

Leave Me Alone, Beat It, Billie Jean, (Guess who)

On The Run, Lingo With The Gringo, (OMC, How Bizarre, 1967)

(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay, Let Me Come On Home, Tramp (With Carla Thomas), Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out, (Otis Redding, The Dock Of The Bay, 1968)

Track 05, (Patti Smith, Horses)

I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), (The Proclaimers, 1988)

I Never Came, Go With The Flow, (Queens Of The Stone Age, 2002-2005)

Oh, Pretty Woman, Only The Lonely, (Roy Orbison)

Send Me in My Way, Lost in a Crowd, Laugh as the Sun, (Rusted Root, When I Woke, 1994)

You Send Me, Sad Mood, Summertime, Twistin’ The Night Away, Shake, That’s Where It’s At, (Sam Cooke, 1957-1964)

Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, (Santa Esmeralda)

All For You, (Sister Hazel, 1967)

Just My Imagination, I Wish It Would Rain, Cloud Nine, Run Away Child Running Wild, Papa Was A Rolling Stone, (The Temptations)

Moon Dance, Brown Eyed Girl, And It Stoned Me, Cleaning Windows, Whenever God Shines His Light, (Van Morrison)

One Headlight, (The Wallflowers)

Threshold

 

Piano Composition by Hood & Gudgalis (1984)

Musical Influences: Vivaldi, Bach, Beethoven 

Art by BB Hood

 

One day, many years ago, not long before I would give birth to my first child, and then my second, I waited for the man I would later marry, who was editing a film at a studio in Chicago. Had I stayed put, I could have spent that time reading a heavy load of English Literature for my final quarter in college. Instead I wandered through the silent suites of the night and discovered another room. That’s where I remained long after the sun had set, for a period of three weeks, perhaps — alone in a room with a piano. That is where I conceived the theme of Threshold.

I shared that theme with a friend of mine, Judy, who was trained in Classical piano. And so I sat beside her, while she occupied centre stage, and together we inhaled and exhaled, until the piece fully came to life. At that stage, I was nothing more than a mere speculator, another ear, tuned into hers, but perfectly synchronised. The composition developed quickly, and within a couple of months, we recorded at a studio in Chicago. Her condition was that she would only do one take of the score she had stored in head.

The studio had a Yamaha Grand, which she immediately tested, and expressed her displeasure about. The instrument was significantly inferior to the Chickering she had. And I agreed. Later I also discovered there was a technical imperfection, a glitch, and which created much distress for me, especially — you can hear the pedal work. 

Judy has long since been gone, and what I lost when she left was not only a dear friend, but a musical collaborator, whose death I still mourn. 

And so here it is, the door below for all to open, a room to visit, however briefly, and listen to the imperfections of beauty.


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