Sunday, September 25, 2005


So, here I am, awake way to early. The dog can thump around, and scratch, and sigh and shift positions, and make all kinds of noise, and I don't hear a thing. But when Jack suggests to her, quietly, mind you, in the gentlest possible whisper, that she stop making such a racket, that's the thing that wakes me up.

Thursday I fulfilled my self-imposed obligation to write, and found it entirely possible to create a complete song over the course of a few hours. It, of course, needs to be further combed through, and then produced, but the lyric, harmonic structure and melody are all there in rough draft form. The piece is kind of a screed in 6/8. As the lyric flowed out, it became clear to me that it was a piece grappling with obsessions, or addictions, (or even possibly sin). Here are the opening lines:

Cancel my calling
Cancel my debt
Cancel my feelings of rue and regret
Cool hand on forehead will quiet me down
Take all of have, and don't let me drown in the (...)

The lyric goes on, with the ends of each verse attaching to the front of the next. (I'm sure there is a technical term for this kind of rhyme scheme, but I don't know what it is.)

After I was done, and had played through it and tweaked and modified it for several hours, I stood back to survey my work. I was suddenly struck by the confluence of the core concept of the piece and the timing of Elul and Selichot. Elul is the month leading up to the High Holy Days, culminating in Selichot services, which includes prayers petitioning for forgiveness, and for taking stock of one's own weaknesses and asking for cancellation of mistakes and sin. I attended Selichot services last night. This is a prelude to Kol Nidre. Believe me, the last thing I was attempting to do was to write religious music. I get enough of that every day in my work. During my Tuesday and Thursday writing sessions I want to create my own body of work that has nothing to do with religion or even matters of the spirit. I want to explore the secular, the dark, the impure. I have ample opportunities for expressions of the spirit in my work at the temple, and need some personal balance in my musical output. Creating touch points with the Jewish festival cycle is most definitely not a goal for this music. (It seems to fairly reek of uncool.) But spiritual matters are hard to disentangle from the topics I'm hoping to explore in this work, it seems. It appears that there is simply an Elul-ness in the air that I find inescapable on an unconscious level.

So now I’ve written a completely secular and unintentional Selichot piece. I wonder what's next. Perhaps a ditty concerning the particulars of Sukkah construction..?

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