Monday, August 3, 2015

Seattle called, they want their rain back

It rained here continuously all weekend. Woke up this morning to a hard rain, and it's still coming down steadily. That's 22 days in a row of rain. We're more than half way to breaking a Biblical record. Parts of Tampa and other nearby counties are being evacuated due to river flooding.

So I decided not to let all the water get me down. I found an old, short piece of video I recorded a couple of years ago at the Liz Carpenter Fountain in Butler Park in Austin, Texas, and I just looped it to make it long enough to make a music video of my song “Pour” from my CD “Happy Jams,” just for fun.

In case you're not familiar with me as a musician--only a few friends are, lol--after trying unsuccessfully to learn guitar several years ago (my weak fingers just couldn't fret cleanly to eliminate the string buzzing sounds), an older woman in my church gave me a little $99 Casio keyboard. She had bought it with the idea of relearning how to play piano, but given up pretty soon after. When she gave it to me, she stated firmly "I couldn't do anything with it, and I doubt you will, either."

I love a challenge. And to prove strongly-minded people wrong. So I took her up.

I had a little bit of music theory knowledge I'd learned while room-mating with my good friend and fantastic musician Ed Elliott a few years prior. Mostly just how to construct major and minor scales by counting from any given note. I had no teacher, no books, and not even an Internet connection at the time. But I went to work.

I didn't have any music (existing songs) to work from, either, so I was forced to learn to write my own, in order to learn to play them. Three months later, I performed an hour-long recital of my own work on a real piano at my church, and drew an enthusiastic standing ovation.

I continued to practice and write occasionally on my own over the next couple of years. But I took an even more demanding position as the maintenance manager of a large apartment complex, and didn't have a lot of time for it. Then, something terrible happened.

My Chief Assistant and best friend, Chris Jackson, died on the job of a major heart attack.

Chris was a wonderful person, full of life and love, strongly liked by everyone who met him. He had the deepest, richest, loudest belly laugh I'd ever heard. Everyone who worked there spoke on many instances where we could hear Chris break out in a huge laugh all the way across the complex, and regardless of how stressed we felt at the time, it made us instantly feel good.

Chris was also a wonderful piano and keyboard player. He had that natural, effortless, soulful touch that my music totally lacks. But he daily encouraged me to practice, and reassured me not to play to impress anyone other than myself, that is the ticket to truly enjoying music.

So, a few months after he passed away, during which I hadn't played even once, I forced myself to drag my keyboards out again and start it up. After regaining my basic fingering skills, I began to actually enjoy it again. Somewhere along the way, I decided to push farther, and more fully exploit the capabilities of my equipment, which now included an older Yamaha PSR-510 synthesizer I'd been given. I had a computer with a copy of Wavelab, a high-end multi-track recording, mixing and production software suite, and I purchased a cheap ($89) Midi software package, for a few extra voices.

I began to take my basic piano songs, and learn how to orchestrate and arrange them for multiple instruments. I then laboriously laid down the drum tracks, and played that back as I recorded each instrument individually in time (sort of and mostly, lol) to it. Some tracks took me well more than 100 tries to get it right, as I'd only played solo before, and expressively, never trying to stay in time to a rigid, none-forgiving, machine-generated rhythm.

I was quite surprised at what resulted, not only satisfied that I'd done okay for a beginner, but that the music is all Pop music, having grown up with a decided affection for Rock and Roll, as most of you know. But it is what it is. What comes out of you is what is supposed to.

And it's all for Chris. I sure do miss that brother. I hope you enjoyed this story, and maybe even the music, a little. :)

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