Sunday, February 19, 2006

Changing Sky

February 12 : It's a gray Vermont Sunday. My plan is to get up and out for a morning run ahead of the looming nor'easter on the horizon. But after morning reading --and probably a little too much coffee (amazing Peet's JR Reserve blend that Robin brought back from a trip to San Francisco)-- I'm wired up and ready to work on BOOK OF JOURNEYS II. So I postpone the running, and start recording.
I begin with the piece that I've chosen as the first in the sequence. It's an instrumental piece that I recorded back in the fall, an odd, yearning little duet-- for a table organ I got for free at the end of a Bethany Church yard sale and an old Silvertone acoustic guitar that my friend John Goss converted into an electric lap steel and gave to me. I'd recorded the instruments with distant mics and with my windows open: the Silvertone was plugged into an amp, but the mic picked up as much acoustic sound as electric; there's the sound of trucks rumbling outside, and the motor of the little organ on the track, too. This morning I add deep, resonant chords played on tremoloed electric baritone guitar. Upon playback I find that the bari fits in the mix perfectly. But there's too much of it. I keep editing the part until it's only a few chords at the end of the piece. Just right: a duet resolves into a trio.
More coffee(!!!) and next up is the country ballad "Ghosts In This Dancehall." Though I'd been leaning toward adding a Dobro part to the almost-finished mix, I make a last minute decision to go with lap steel. I dial in a bright and glassy Bakersfield sort of sound, and track a pedal-steely part with lots of bends, bar slants, and a few behind-the-bar suspended 4th pulls. It fits the song just right.
But somehow, in the second half of the song, I lose the flow. Maybe I'm trying too hard. Maybe the coffee is reaching critical mass. Whatever it is, I've lost the feel. And then the computer locks up.
Like that impending nor'easter, clouds have formed inside me. A rush of negativity , previously hidden, rushes to the surface. Why do I waste my time with this stuff? Will anybody even ever really want to hear it? I could be reading a book, running, taking a nap...
Here's where it helps to have a partner in life who is a healer. I find Robin, who is reading peacefully, and I begin to vent. She puts down her book and brings out one of the many techniques she's trained in to help get people back in balance.
After a few minutes of this-- EFT is the particular method she uses today-- I'm clear and energized. I get back to work-- luckily, the program I record with-- Cool Edit Pro-- is almost always flawless in recovering from crashes and lock-ups-- and finish the steel guitar track. My playing is definitely wilder and more passionate on the second half of the track.
After making a couple of mixes, I take a break, just in time to catch a strange golden flash of light on the windows of the Vermont College twin towers across the river, on the skyline to the northeast. The sky behind the towers is dark slate gray, but the clouds to west must be broken, letting that illumination take place. And near dusk, when at last I get out for a run, the clouds in the northwestern sky are limned in filtered purples, violets, and reds. I run, watch the changing sky, and listen on my discperson to the day's work. The nor'easter never arrives.
Later I realize just what it is that today has shown me. When the flow is blocked and frustration knocks creativity aside, It's not the circumstances or the world outside that are to blame. No, it's more likely just me, getting in my own way.