Ruminations post-Busman’s Holiday

August 30, 2012

Just got back from a free show at the library featuring Busman’s Holiday. As with all live performance, I spent as much time critiquing and seeing if there was anything I could steal as I did actually listening to the music.

I love Busman’s Holiday. They have a clean, clear, major-chord-soundin’ sound. The band consists of two tenor brothers, one of whom plays acoustic guitar and the other who plays the most stripped-down drum kit you can imagine. I’ve heard them play at the Farmers’ Market and am always amazed at how full the sound is, produced by this minimal instrumentation.

They were late starting the show because the drummer was AWOL. So his brother kicked it off with a solo song and then rang him from the stage to tell him to get his butt inside. Throughout the show they kept the snappy banter going. They’ve got a really enjoyable personal style as well as sound.

I don’t know if they consider themselves singer-songwriters, but they had two as guests. One named Mike did three songs in the first half of the show and then another named April did a few songs in the second half, then she played with the Rogers brothers. I am not a fan of the whole singer-songwriter genre. “Singer with guitar.” I feel like I’ve heard it all before. (I’m so jaded.) Really, the genre just doesn’t appeal to me.

My mind kept wandering through the show (spelunking for bits I could rip off for Kaia) but I finally realized I just couldn’t follow the lyrics to any of the music I was hearing. Part of it was that I just couldn’t hear the vocals as clearly, but I swear part of it is these bloody meds that I’m on. I just can’t get inside music the way I used to. It’s maddening. I’m very bitter about it. I wonder if someday I’ll wake up, able to hear it all and surf it all again, only to find I have no voice left.

All that original music of course made me wonder what’s up with my own songwriting. When Bush/Cheney was the name of the game, I had no shortage of songs in me. But I haven’t written anything for a long time. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while—wondering if I should just set myself the task of writing something new. But then I feel empty. What do I have to say?

Jane says Kaia should write a song about all the medications we’re on or have been on. She could rival The Ring Cycle just by herself. I am tempted. What rhymes with “Xanax”?

I am desperate to do more with music since it’s become apparent that Kaia is only ever going to perform about once a quarter. I have tried for years to get into the music scene beyond Kaia, without much success, perhaps because I’m not good enough. I auditioned for the Bloomington Chamber Singers last week out of sheer desperation. I was supposed to hear back last Friday but no word yet. To my horror, the director intimated that I am an alto. An alto! My lowest note is an E! I was flashing back to The Sound of Music where I was relegated to the second sopranos. I was ultimately able to make it work but it’s very difficult. I have trained my entire life as a first soprano and my ear is keenly attuned to the highest line of any piece. And being classed as a second feels like a failure. This is the drama of the diva soprano. Wait, I’m being redundant.

Anyway. I remain stuck in this no-man’s-land of grey, desperately hungry for more and better music and not finding it within myself. I had the deep pleasure of playing around with Doug Hanvey last weekend (we kept with tradition and broke into Recital Hall over at the music school and played for 90 minutes). But my voice just isn’t what it used to be. My world is shrinking and there doesn’t seem to be anything I can do to stop it. The meds leave me half-catatonic and Kaia singing hurts my chords, so I’m slowly devolving as a musician. I feel like Salieri in Amadeus—filled with the insatiable desire to make music but being cursed with the inability to do so.

No happy ending to this post—just an ongoing whinge.


Creative doldrums

July 8, 2012

It’s summer, everyone’s traveling, the heat is causing us to hide like bugs under nice cool rocks, and I’m at a low ebb. Kaia is on hiatus for another week and then we’ll be frantically prepping for our Third Street Park gig on the 19th. Can’t wait.

I’ve been thinking a lot about songwriting lately. Especially songwriting when you don’t have to do it. I try to think about the times when I’m deep in writing mode and it’s usually an obsessive passion that grabs hold of the nape of my neck and forces me to engage fully until the work is complete. But I go long periods without this passion and I feel like a dried up old husk of a woman, waiting for rain.

How do professional writers do it? Do they just set down every day and work on something, anything, just to keep the creative muscles flexed? Or do they just inherently have a lot to say?

I am sooo thankful for the meds that keep me calmer than days past but I swear they numb my creativity. I used to be a much more interesting person. I used to do interesting things, interact with interesting people, and tell interesting stories. Now all I do is work and water my plants. Not much fodder for creative genius here.

Someone’s trying to get a circle sing set up with Janiece and Nell is long overdue for a trip down here. I need something. When Kaia comes back, I have nothing for us to do except finesse songs that have long been in our repertoire. Nothing new happening.

How boring! See, I bore myself! Can’t imagine what I’m doing to you. Shutting up now.