Sunday, June 02, 2013

Tracking Down The Music

I spent the afternoon today trying to track down The Music.  I came close to capturing it.  So very close...
It started after I came home working on a Saturday.  The week felt a lot longer than the calendar claimed it was due to the "month-end push."  I had skipped the gym for two days in a row and I was making myself go after coming home from the office because I knew going three days in a row could very easily turn into a week.  
On the way to the gym I looked down Madison avenue toward Colorado Boulevard and saw a tent.  A big yellow tent in the middle of the street.  And I could hear amplified voices... 
Music.  It was someone singing.  Singing...  Music.  
I love music.  All sorts of music.  I've kept an iPod in my pocket since they first came out.  "A Soundtrack for your Life."  That was the tag-line in the original commercial.  That's what hooked me.  The chance to have a soundtrack for my life.  
I have playlists entitled "Washing Dishes."  These are songs I listen to when it's time to wash my dishes.  And I believe heavy metal is the best music to play when it's time to clean my apartment.  Too bad playing that type of music will disturb the neighbors.  It kinda explains the normal state of my home. 
I heard this music and saw this tent and thought something was up.  After I was done with my workout, I made a point of taking a detour down Madison to see what was up.  
It was a concert.  In the parking lot of the Pasadena Playhouse, a well know stage theater in town.  A band was playing some weird, electrified techno-pop music.  I had never heard the song or band before, but I found myself bopping to the beat.  Trying it out for size, the way you'd try on a shirt before buying it at the clothing store.  Seeing if it had...  The Music.  
I spotted a couple of people in a booth by themselves and asked them what was going on.  They told me it was a city-wide music festival.  Make Music Pasadena 2013.  They had stages all over the city where bands were playing all day long.  
It was the first I heard of it.  It's the way it happens here in Pasadena. You can be walking down the sidewalk and find yourself stepping into art or culture the way people in other cities step into doggie-poop.  
They offered me a map.  I took it.  The map showed what looked like 20 or 30 venues all around downtown and Old Town Pasadena where music was being played.  
One of the venues was a three block walk from my apartment building.  When I got home, I flipped the map around and looked on the back where the schedule was to see what sort of music was playing there.  
The lead act was called the "Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere."  They were opening the venue in fifteen minutes.  
I had to go.  I mean, with a name like "Ukulele Orchestra of the Western Hemisphere," it might be my ONLY opportunity to see them play live, right?  I dropped my gym bag, grabbed my phone and headed out.  
I think one of the reasons I like music as much as I do is similar to the reason I'm such a baseball fan.  Because when I tried these activities as a younger person, I pretty much failed at them, fairly completely.  
I'm not tone deaf or anything like that.  And I have pretty good rhythm.  I performed in dance shows when I was a student, and my ballroom teacher had me dance for her in a tango demonstration when I was older.  It's making the sounds that I've never been good at.  
During my acting career I auditioned for one musical.  I was cast in the only non-singing role in the play.  Take that as a clue.  
I got to the venue and people were spilling out the entrance.  They had the doors open so people standing on the sidewalk could hear.  I never would have thought here were this many ukulele fans in all of Los Angeles, but here they were.  I stood with them.  I listened.  
It was fun.  Eventually some people left, and I was able to find a spot inside where I could hear better.  It wasn't what I expected.  No songs with "Aloha" in them.  No Hawaiian print shirts.  It was different.  When it comes to music, I tend to like different.  
For instance they did these medleys that were interesting.  Combining "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" from the Wizard of Oz with "Across the Universe" by the Beatles.  Or "Major Tom" with this song by Radiohead about going somewhere far away.  My favorite song they did was a cover of "Dream On," by Aerosmith.  Hearing it played by a dozen ukuleles made me realize how much I enjoyed the song.  And how much the lyrics said something to me.
Every time when I look in the mirror
All these lines on my face getting clearer
The past is gone
It went by, like dusk to dawn
Dream on
Dream on
Dream on
Dream until your dreams come true.
After listening to there set, I ran back home to grab the map I'd left there, and began walking all over downtown Pasadena.  I wanted to get to as many venues as I could.  I was trying to track down The Music.  
I listened to a band called Shadow Play that covered 80's big hair band music.  They looked like little children.  Like they were auditioning for School of Rock 2.  But they could play.  The lead singer, a skinny, dark-skinned kid with slicked back hair, was no David Lee Roth, but he did his best to show everyone he wasn't talkin' 'bout love either.  
In Memorial Park, I listened to a band called Haunted Summer.  I caught the last of their set.  A song about saving bees from extinction.  Very environmentally oriented.  I lay in the grass and looked up at the skin as they played.  Very So Cal.  
I was hoping to find something.  The Music.  Not just "music."  But "The Music."  The beat of the heart within the life.  The hiss of breath behind the words.
The closest I ever came to finding "The Music" by putting sounds together myself was with the program Garage Band.  It's a program by Apple that lets you string together music clips to create melodies.  You could record your own music and use it as a very basic mixing software.  It came with one the flat panel iMac I bought.  
I opened it out of curiosity the Sunday after setting up my iMac.  I ended up spending the entire day sitting in front of my computer.  I  created a theme song for a comic book story I was working on called Time Venturer.  It is a story about a warrior from a Celtic-like alternate universe being transported to the future.  When I was done, I had a two and a half minute song that came as close as I could imagine a bit of music could to capturing what I was feeling when I wrote the scripts for the story.  That bit of music still stands as one of my proudest creations.  
I have not opened Garage Band since then.  Not once.  It's like I had an affair with Marilyn Monroe.  Why try to top it?  
But that is what Music is.  It's a moment like that where you get stirred in such a way that...  You get stirred.  It's the reason why some songs get played over and over and over and over again and never get old.  
There was a moment that hinted at that today.  
I was walking past one of the venues.  It was down this alley off of Union Street.  It was so packed with people that they were nearly spilling into the street in front of the cars driving past.  
Looking at the crowd, I turned away, thinking I'd find another venue to try out.  I was halfway back the way I came from when I heard this sound.  A song.  It echoed off the enclosing buildings like the call of something alone in the wilderness.  It made me turn around.  I walked back.  I stood across the street.  I listened to this, I guess you'd call it a power-ballad.  When it was done, I applauded, then checked the schedule.  
The band was called The Lonely Wild.  I'm going to look them up.  If they have a song that can call me back like that, then they know about The Music too.  
For those interested, here are some photos of my song safari: Make Music Pasadena 2013.


Anonymous AnnD said...

That's the most creative excuse for not doing housework I've ever heard - 'I have to do it heavy metal and it will disturb the neighbours'.

I came to a similar conclusion about myself and music i.e. my role is to listen, dance, carry base drums, drive through a snowstorm to get the band when their truck dies, but NOT perform myself.

June 2, 2013 at 2:18 PM  

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