The Not So Green Room

September 21, 2011 Uncategorized 2 Comments

Wurlitzer spinets make Baby Jesus cry.

The weather has changed dramatically in DC. The hurricanes and earthquakes have given way to Fall-like temperatures, and the temperatures are in the low 60s.

That’s right, friends. This here is recollecting weather.

Sorry I haven’t written more. I’ve been focusing a lot on composing lately: two orchestral scores for short animation projects, six commissioned works for solo piano, plus the pieces I’m notating out so that I can finish my first folio by the end of the year.

It’s been a busy time for my muse in general. As sexed and satiated on contriving new melodies as she’s been, I’ve also been doing some freelance video work, continuing to add to the word count of my novel, and developing a deep, lustful appreciation for hypernicum berries and the way they really tie a flower arrangement together.

Turning 29 came with a strange sense of urgency, like the time for dawdling was over and it was time to start making things.

It’s kind of wonderful to feel like a Real Composer, I must say, especially since my level of formal music theory is somewhere between that of a 7-year-old and a tea cup. The last time I felt like a Real Composer was on a Thursday at the Scott Joplin Festival this past June. It was one of those little moments that, in the scheme of the world, doesn’t measure on any scale but in the scope of my own life is quite cherished.

Some context is in order.

As part of the performer’s modest compensation, local area businesses donate food for the performers to eat during the festival. It’s a brilliant and much-appreciated gesture – fed musicians are happy musicians, after all – and so all the performers tend to trickle throughout the week in and out of the “green room” for coffee and bagels in the morning and sandwiches at lunch.

What also draws performers is that in the green room, which is actually green but in mildly frightening places (the carpet, for instance), there is a little Wurlitzer piano. Wurlitzers, for those keeping score at home, are the burnt kernels in the bag of piano popcorn, but this piano is unpretentious and mostly inoffensive and the pianists use it to warm up for performances, work out a last-minute detail, etc.

This particular Thursday, I found myself in the green room alone with three phenomenal composers – Brett Youens, Max Keenlyside, and Bryan Wright – each of whom has written a rag that I believe is is not just good but Great. Not “oh wow that’s really good” great, I mean like “that should be in a movie and enjoyed by millions” great.

The best part was that we coalesced totally by accident, had what was likely the most sophisticated 15-minute conversation about ragtime composition that’s been had anywhere ever (I’d recite it but it’d implode your brains), and then proceeded to perform not our own but each other’s pieces.

Think about that for a second. Yeats and Longfellow and Cummings and Hughes are in a room together, talking about poetry and reciting not their own but each other’s poems.

I was dazzled by the commonality of purpose, the profound shared interest. Here were four men who had all risen to the same question. We all wrote in different styles and emphasized different things, but there was an unshakeable likeness to our passion and a deep mutual respect for our talents. That we would learn from and steal from each other was a given. And that we celebrate each other’s creations was another.

I don’t know if this kind of Mutual Admiration Society exists in other endeavors, but in a green room in June, it certainly was made very real for me.

2 Comments to “The Not So Green Room”

  1. Will Perkins
    I remember watching that happen.. One of those epic ragtime festival moments!
  2. Max Keenlyside
    easily in the top 10 cool moments of my life. you played a super-swingy version of Euphonic Sounds after that too, and even JPJ himself couldn't have played it - and left it that smoldering - in a bluesy way.

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