Category Archives: Thoughts

Our Winter’s Hero

Under the weathered awning, the vagrant’s joints began
To ache, hiding from the rain, he scratched his
Roughened, feeble knees and cast his sunken eyes
Up and down the thoroughfare. Storm subsiding, and
Then a biting wind. He had sat there long enough
To know a cold snap when he felt it, twitched his
Hirsute upper lip, the rascal chuckled drunk, burped,
Then rose deliberate, striding in his rags, which
Now assumed a formal air, dignified indeed,
Scaling the fire chute to reach his tar-papered
Podium above, four stories up, where he could wreak a
Masterpiece. From there he saw the orchestra
Below his able hands, the soaked and groaning
Road, and willed the fallen rain, Jack helped,
Into a frosty fervor, slick as an Olympic rink.

Raised his arms in upbeat just as the featured first
Came ‘round the bend, solo, a silver-clad sedan,
Emblem donning, ready to perform. Aching forward,
Its arrogance began to show, and with a yawp,
Ha! the conductor thrust his hands into a downward
Beat, to begin his merry symphony. Down the
Gauntlet it lurched into the incline and tracked the
Master’s lead. A gesture, intense, accelerating,
Sliding, brakes be damned! then careening headlong
Into a parked surprise, scintillating, shattered glass
And space-age bumper busts, tickling the street’s
Aesthetic fancy. From there it spun into another
Dizzy trick, a feat that had not been rehearsed, yet
Right in time an icy branch, encased percussive
Batter, a bona fide tempura, cracked off its host and
Thumped our featured friend, centered on the hood!

Above our master danced as more fun turned down
The lane, a large black truck and two compacts, with
Waving arms were gestured into play. Confidence or
Caution makes no difference here! The ice reigns
O’er the righteous and the wicked, my good son.
Scooting on, their fates were sealed and each stole past
The point of no returning, then skated in such silent
Grace down the prepared stage until the wheels would
Lock and, crab-like, gyre sideways to
Hurtle down the hill. Like chromed pucks, yet
Bombillating beautiful and proud, each wrenching smash
Contained a crushing set of high-pitched overtones to
Match, and that truck, God bless! had his windows
Cracked so cursing gasps and expletives rose up and
Punctuated these magic crashing measures.

Fifty wresting minutes the director’s arms invited
Each and every guest to take part in his creation,
Eyebrows tracing paths expressive, of failed conquest
Down the route, following his sweeping knuckle
Lines, twitched wrists, and subtle fingertips, caressing
These, our favorites, through his storied time and place,
A gloried narrative took shape, woven through the
Morn’ and mind. Eyes closed in reverie, arms rest aside
Wet cheeks of joy accomplished, cathartic and
Exhausted, our winter’s hero took stock in what his
Hands had wrought. Such arose in him, his greatest
Work so far! At the bottom, just past the curtain of
Flurried snow, through streaming tears, he counted
Thirteen in all. By Jove, his lucky number!

He rubbed his now warmed hands in humble satisfaction,
Noble now descending, came out the alley, he
Clicked his heels, and thanked God for such a
Syzygy. When he took his place again, beneath the
Awning that fine day, he sat a new and changed man, of
Simple means, but now of work, of vision vast, and
Great creative prowess.

Sam L. Richards, January 2011

The desert island

I’m beginning to acquire a practical understanding of just how futile artwork is in a vacuum. I believed it before. I knew it in my mind. But I now feel it sinking into my gut. Actually experiencing it is something else entirely.

Although I would likely dance on a desert island, and probably clang coconuts together, I would not “compose” music. I would scribble lunatic poetry into the sand with carefully carved sticks. I would roast clams with the care of culinary craftsman. If I had a piano I would play it, if I had a soccer ball I would kick it, and yet if I had staff paper I would likely burn it.

Despite my affinity for creation and particularly my penchant for musical expression, composition, to me, seems empty and pyrrhic without some lucid notion of how or when such a work will be realized into an actual performance. I find no solace in note-driven pencil pushing, or in the fastidious, isolated, and supposedly autonomous justification of conceptual self-referential architecture splayed out across note heads and ledger lines. I would gather no satisfaction from sitting back in my chair generating overly-mentated masterpieces on paper that have no relation to the physical and social phenomenon of music making. Dehumanizing the process dehumanizes myself.

The end of the work is what pulls my means along.

Interaction with and feedback from fellow creators in crime (choreographers, conductors, filmmakers, quartets, and oboists) is what both drives my work, and assuages my artistic needs along the way. I work for the joy of creation, and when it comes to actually writing my music down, that act of creation is not complete until my sounds are heard by another. I like to share. In this way, each and every work is a collaboration, and any romantic fable of artistic independence is a pretentious fiction.

It is my artistic and disciplinary interdependence that endows my work with meaning, and there is nothing I resist more earnestly than engaging in a work which is meaningless.

There is a reason why desert islands are deserted.

Mahogany Gallant

Mahogany gallant
        Kinkade treasures
        giddy frappes and cappuccino cluttered corners
        contribute to it.
That’s what I say
        Am I in this triptych?
        Take me outside, tuckered up and running
        night’s pitch and stoking stars brighten shades.
Witness this, the best of all.