Music and Muses

I enjoy good music on some good headphones while I write. Especially when I write in a public space, like at one of our Peninsula Writers weekend retreats. Earbuds just aren’t sufficient to dissuade interruptions by fellow writers who are more sociable than I am. One of my recent discoveries is an American band with an international flavor, Pink Martini. Smooth and delightful. I’m building up a suite of their albums. Or CDs. Or downloads, as the case may be. I was recently thrilled to find I could tune in a Pink Martini channel on my phone with Google Music– even more thrilled to find I can stream it on my 1.5mbs “high speed” wifi.

But my pick for theme music for Tales of Life in Deathe would be Joe Satriani’s The Forgotten, Parts 1 and 2:

Especially fitting for A Cold Winter’s Deathe. Actually, I hear it running over the closing credits for the movie adaptation, but don’t hold your breath for that. On the other hand, I know Big Authors with things like promotional budgets and fans create video promos for their books. As if. But if ever, my vision would require a drone. Imagine zooming over a vast U.P. forest, such as the Porcupine Mountains, following a narrow two-lane that winds through the trees, until we finally spot an old piece of classic American iron flying along down the road… maybe an AMC Eagle wagon, or an International Travelall, or even a rusty, battered old Bronco II with bent wheels. The archaic proto-SUV finally comes to a tiny village, on the edge of a lake, surrounded but a ring of ridges. As we rise into the sky and veer away, Lake Superior can be seen in the hazy distance. Storm clouds smudge the horizon…

Where was I?

In my alleged spare time, when I should be writing or doing other more mundane and productive work– or maybe attending to personal hygiene– I’m trying to teach my new guitar some music. (I might have that backwards.) This is hard for me, because I don’t actually play guitar and I don’t know any music. I have no musical background, no natural ability, no skill, no sense of rhythm. I can’t read music or carry a tune. What I do have is a tin ear and sore fingertips– from trying. (You might have thought I would say What I do have is optimism and determination. Or maybe a good work ethic. All that remains to be seen.) As hard as it is to say it… God bless the Internet and YouTube. I would be as lost without them as I was the last time I picked up a guitar some 45 years ago.

fprA couple years ago we were passing through southern Ohio on our way to North Carolina, and as luck would have it the route took me through Meigs County and within spitting distance of Jorma Kaukonen‘s guitar camp, the Fur Peace Ranch. I made arrangements to stop in for a visit and missed Jorma by maybe fifteen minutes, but the staff, including and especially his wife, Vanessa Lillian, was so warm and accommodating that we came away feeling like long-lost family. Only Disney World could be better. When Vanessa asked if I played, I admitted it had been decades ago. I stopped short of bragging that Back in the Day I knew at least three or four chords by heart! And I thought I could still not only name them, but play them! I was right. But I guess I’m just a modest guy. And it turns out there’s a lot more to playing a guitar than that. I know now there are at least half a dozen important chords.

But with persistence and the Internet, I’m stretching my reach, strengthening my fingers, getting blisters, even developing a little hand/eye/finger coordination to boot. Sometimes I can even tune the strings in less than an hour without breaking any. I’m no Jorma Kaukonen, but I can sometimes get almost all the way through Those Gambler’s Blues (AKA St. James Infirmary Blues) without messing it up too badly.

No personal recordings are currently planned.


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