Monday, September 12, 2011

damn, it's been a long time, or, no time at all, or something

Damn - it has been a very long time for this blog, but it seems to start up just where it left off: after a summer of composing some material for the quartet, I got back home for a summer break up north in NH. Though, to be honest, that's nowhere near as far north as here at the Lazy K (51 degrees as opposed to 43-44-ish). I suppose it's a state of mind, what with the mild weather and landscape here, versus the space, hilly bits and real winters there, that still makes me think of home as up north. I suppose, because when I was young and hitching or gigging in the lower 48, the final leg of any journey would always be northeast-ward. Checking out the live Mt Washington webcam , I can already see the snow along the top of the Appalachian trail, even though the trees below haven't started to turn yet.

One of those highways would be Route 6, the one that Sal Paradise gets stuck on (although he was headed in the opposite direction) in On The Road:
"Five scattered rides took me to the desired Bear Mountain Bridge, where Route 6 arched in from New England. It began to rain in torrents when I was let off there. It was mountainous. Route 6 came over the river, wound around a traffic circle, and disappeared into the wilderness. Not only was there no traffic but the rain came down in buckets and I had no shelter.

Finally a car stopped at the empty filling station; the man and two women in it wanted to study a map. I stepped right up and gestured in the rain; they consulted; I looked like a maniac, of course, with my hair all wet, my shoes sopping . . . . But the people let me in and rode me north to Newburgh, which I accepted as a better alternative than being trapped in the Bear Mountain wilderness all night. "Besides," said the man, "there's no traffic passes through 6. If you want to go to Chicago you'd do better going across the Holland Tunnel in New York and head for Pittsburgh," and I knew he was right. It was my dream that screwed up, the stupid hearth-side idea that it would be wonderful to follow one great red line across America instead of trying various roads and routes."

Although I never got much further on it than mid-upstate New York (roughly where Kerouac maroons his protagonist), I often got stuck somewhere, late at night, in the middle of nowhere. My being there at all usually had something to do with a woman, and nothing that ever ended well. It nevertheless had the delicious (?) feel of a one way ticket to Palookville, starting and ending nowhere in particular; (Provincetown, Mass to Long Beach, California?) and religiously avoiding anything anything of note.... (much like most of my career) - a real meander through small-town America.

So back in NH for a couple weeks at the end of the summer, 80+ degree weather; this time I mainly cycled the back roads heading west every morning; as the temptation is to always ride the coast road, but in the summer it's just wall-to-wall tourist blockage - endless lines of chunky tourist couples in SUV's or Harleys (with straight pipes to advertise their presence) on a mission to sample 'real New England seafood', blatting slowly up Route 1a in between meals of over-generous portions. God bless overweight Harley owners with suspiciously shiny over accessorized bikes that only come out on sunny Sundays (..."only 3,000 dry miles..", as the ebay ad will say in a couple of years.)

"Like a siren's song, the sea beckons you to explore New Hampshire along Historic Route 1. Roll down your windows, breathe in the ocean air, and listen to the crashing waves and crying seagulls. Mingle with salty characters [such as me ed.] on picturesque beaches and in colonial villages — some of which are nearly 400 years old. Discover a charming brew of history, theaters, restaurants, and shopping."

yeah, right....they've bought into it - especially the fresh hell of olde-time-y over-fried seafood and charming sales-tax-free outlet malls; who believes this shit? Route 1 (not 1a), once a sequence of small town greens, the usual white Churches, orchards and dairy farms, is now just a long line of half-dead mall attempts, that, and as one dies, another keeps bursting out of the chest of the local landscape like the little creature in Alien. The area was destroyed by that kind of small-town-estate-agent-who-also-sits-in-the-planning-committee-greed mindset. You drive by vast empty parking lots with a dozen cars or so in them, full of boarded-up attempts at the alleged American Dream - each one a dead-end franchise someone squandered their life's savings after a high-pressure sales pitch in the hope of ' being their own boss'. I could weep. One of the ramshackle but still beautiful old farmhouses, set in orchards and rolling, stone enclosed pastures near the Great Bay that I used to live in with a loose musician's commune was bulldozer-ed for this kind of lapse of taste; a mall surrounded by 10 dead acres of asphalt which has collapsed and re-opened several times already under different guises. Once something's gone, it's gone. Historic Route 1?

So instead of the tourist-choked coast roads, heading west from my folks house rapidly takes me into quiet, wooded back roads. I love it that you can still find a few village stores in the small towns with porches with a bench, squeaky screen doors and cold sassafras-based root beer to allay the stifling heat when you stop after a couple of hours, hot and mildly lost.

So I sat on the back porch, listening to music and reading in the afternoon, beer in the evenings with friends. The shoulder (damn torn rotator cuff, since you asked; weird and painful - no, I had never heard of it before either) is getting better, and I've been been doing more than a moderate amount of composing.

I re-wrote my piano-violin duet, which just had an excellent performance. (youtube link soon) And then started work on a choral setting of the Diamond Sutra. I've also now got most of the material done for the next album, modifying about a dozen sketches for the poetry events and turning them into full-blown-stand-alone pieces. The main problem there was converting dozens of sketches and individual gestures making up the poetry settings into viable quartet instrumental numbers without the structural crutch of a spoken narrative. The whole project has been hanging for the last 5 months, waiting for Russ's back to get better, but we're going to start rehearsing in the next couple of weeks. I'll stick more of the usual cheesy synth-ed samples up soon, but here's one I made earlier....Sighting the Tiger

And finally, I had a busy-ish summer gig-wise, and along with that there's a general feeling of returning to 'player' status (no, not that kind of player, as shown here in the Def Jam trailer). The cycling is recovering, and with that my general mood; although I lost out about 2 months of training through bad scheduling, attitude and weather. - I'm only just now returning to something like the form I had this spring, which is not saying much; and chickened out of the Mildenhall 200k, as the shoulder was freezing up after 3-4 hours, but that seems to be going.

Last week, back in Blighty, a huge cloud of swallows milling noisily over the meadow announced the end of the mild weather, and eventually disappeared to the south; back to work.