“Don’t tell me I’ve stumped you?” said Roni, framed in the doorway to my small-but-mighty studio, where I had been depicting family members musically in an impromptu command performance for her. She says a name, I improvise a musical depiction on my unplugged Strat…just a quick game we fell into to pass a minute. Hey, some people golf.
First our Basenji, Roo: Dark and cryptic, yet lilty…angular and fairly atonal, but with a pervasive element of mischievous playfulness…it’s hard to tell what he’s thinking, but he’s a good sort.
Then Moby, our gigantic golden retriever. Moby is a life support mechanism for exuberance, so I gave it a happy, gallumpy demented waltz-like thing, sort of like the Alfred Hitchcock theme song, but more in a comedic-sounding dominant-sharp-eleven tonality with a measure of tongue-wagging elation.
“Play Zane.” Zane is the neighbor’s horse; we feed and take care of him for her and he’s pretty much family. I’d need a bass for Zane, though…or at least a baritone, in lieu of writing something for contrabassoon. So I got away with a horse-whinny-tremolo-arm-harmonic…a cop out, I know. For now.
“Play me…what do I sound like?” Well, Roni is my fiance; the reason she’s my fiance is that she brings light and joy to my life, plain and simple. I played light and joy, with just enough contrast to make it real. Next.
For those of you who don’t know, Britt is my daughter. She’s the best thing that ever happened to me and the next version of me…I really can’t encapsulate her any more than I can myself. This resulted in a very sudden, unexpected screeching halt, with an audible sound of locked up brakes and screaming tires in my head…Roni might as well have beaned me with a lead pipe to debilitate me so, unable as I was to reply verbally or musically. I was sent spinning three-sixties through a waterfall of unexpected, very strong emotions.
Why had this effected me so? I had to think a bit to get at it.
Okay, so part of the problem is that I can’t encapsulate her anymore than I can myself, we covered that…what else?
Well…Britt, like her dad, contains multitudes. Any music I could write to try to represent her would have to contain little birdie flourishes, weightlifter grunts, outbursts of laughter, deep substantive insights, heartbreakingly beautiful choral music, pointy cactus hits, serene stargazing, feathery pink feminine stuff, pedal-to-the-metal adrenaline, New York Funk Fusion, the sound of wind through pine needles on a High Sierra ridgeline, animal noises, mortar fire, high-tech electronic beeps, fuzzy puppy love whines…and the sound of rifle bullets hitting the center of a target in a very tight grouping from three hundred yards out. They’re all there in her.
Startled out of my introspective reverie by Roni’s voice, realizing she was standing in front of me awaiting a response, all I could do was look up at her with a stupid, lame expression, shrug and say “Hell, I wouldn’t know where to begin.”