I awaken in my bunk on the tour bus with foggy, cobwebbed faculties, not up to the task of chasing out the horrible song in my head by just mentally replacing it with something I like…I assuage the gods of morning tasks then brew a large java press of Peet’s Uzuri blend; the despicable noise is there between my ears throughout.
Laptop, phones, coffee mug, couch..the best tools available on the bus for chasing evil spirits out of my brain.
Copland. Fanfare for the Common Man, recorded by Cincinnati, the only way to responsibly listen to The Aaron. Cincinnati has a fine S.O. and they take their Copland very seriously; he was that city’s prodigal son, and Fanfare was premiered there.
It strikes like thunder every time, shaking my soul like a dusty throw rug and ridding me of any musical impurities. It mixes with the coffee in my bloodstream to make such a heady brew, suddenly even Texas spilling by outside the window looks good, as the bus bobs over swells in time with the music and all things in the universe drop into place.
I owe Aaron Copland a debt of gratitude for this and many other times he’s purified my soul; alas, I’ll never get the chance to thank the man.
I’ll never forget the day in the 90s, when out of desperation I took a gig with a 70s band—the unmentionable kind, playing a genre that starts with “D” and ends with “O”—and they actually required rehearsal (unpaid) to play that nauseating dreck. To make things worse, the rehearsals were an hour away; clearly unacceptable by any reasonable standards.
As my ’67 Mustang Coupe accelerated up the onramp to head west on the 210 to the first rehearsal, I felt a nasty pollution in my innards and a deep sense of shame and foreboding in my soul. I turned on the radio just in time to catch the first Tympani hits of Copland’s Fanfare, and a few seconds later, as the opening peal of the Trumpet delivered its powerful, timeless spiritual exultation—kid you not—the sun literally burst through the clouds right in front of me, with “What the f*ck are you doing with your life?” rays piercing the world in a stunning display of majestic beauty.
“Elevate yourself”, I clearly heard the sky tell me.
In tears—the good kind—I got off at the next exit, went home, unloaded and made the awkward phone call backing out of the gig.
When the bandleader answered, he heard something like “Hi, I’m so sorry to do this to you, you seem like a really cool guy and I’m sure it’s a great gig for the right cat but I just can’t bring myself to do it because I just realized what an incredible honor it is to be alive on this Earth and to be a musician and I don’t want to squander my time playing music I hate. And thanks for hiring me but I’m sure it’s best for me to bow out now rather than later.”
Then I listened to Copland for over an hour while contemplating what the hell to do next.
Thank you, Aaron.