Music and Writing

I can’t have background music. Either I’m listening, or I’m writing. Music totally absorbs me. I attended a concert of the Southwest Chamber Winds in an art gallery, and the effect on my mind and energy was profound. Pattern itself has energy, and has emotional and intellectual effects. Through pace, implied directions, unexpected transitions that somehow flow, mood changes, and pauses, music can create humor or suspense, can make you  wonder with every note what will happen next, and it has to both surprise and satisfy by the end. If it was predictable, it would be dull, but if it had no pattern or resolution, it would be noise, not music.

The concert made me want to write with the complexity, fire, and subtlety of classical music.

 

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Five More Things I Love About Truth or Consequences

Music. The quality and variety here is incredible, all within walking distance of my apartment. I’ve danced to blues and rockabilly at the T or C Brewery; listened to the Southwest Chamber Winds at Grapes Gallery, admiring the art during the concert; attended open mic night at Seba Gallery for original acoustic music by local singer-songwriters—again mingling music and art; was immersed in healing music in a church; and was surrounded by the vibrations of healing music again in an amazing sound-space designed especially for such events. This last concert, Matt Venuti’s, was like nothing I’d ever heard before. He plays a tuned drum, an instrument that is both melodic and percussive. I may have to incorporate that instrument into my books. Jamie would love it.

Full circle sunsets. Even with no clouds, there can be as much or more pink in the east over the Turtle as in the west. In the summer when there are storm clouds, the bowl of color effect is breathtaking and constantly changing. Orange, blue gray, rose pink, salmon pink, yellow-gold—all encircling the town.

Freedom to be yourself. Two of my neighbors happened to paint their houses blue and purple at the same time without consulting each other. (One house was previously pink paisley, the other solid lavender.) One of the purple-and-blue houses has a statue of an alien in saint’s robes on the porch. Self-expression in outdoor art is everywhere, and in the way people dress. I was at a meeting with my fellow yoga teachers, sitting outdoors at one of the downtown establishments, and I kept seeing various colorful folks pass by, such as a stout Santa-Claus-like man in red suspenders riding his bicycle with his dog on a long red leash trotting down the middle of Broadway. One of the other teachers, who was facing in toward the windows rather than out toward the street, would see that look cross my face and ask, “T or C?” And that would sum it up. Yep. T or C.

My outdoor “gym.” I take exercise tubing down to the Rotary Park on the Rio Grande and attach it to a pole of a picnic shelter for resistance training, and use the benches for various bodyweight exercises, while enjoying a view of the river, Turtleback Mountain, and wildlife ranging from ducks and herons to huge orange dragonflies. In keeping with T or C’s freedom to be oneself, no one has ever looked at my funny for doing this.

Too much to do. Especially at this time of year. The weather is perfect for running and hiking, and of course the end of October and early November are festive, too. First there was the costumed dance party at Grapes Gallery, a fundraiser for Friends of the Pool, with live blues music and the creative people of T or C dressing up and competing for the best costume award. (Artists do great Halloween outfits. My Gumby costume was pretty plain compared to the winners.) Then there was Day of the Dead in Mesilla, with all the beautiful shrines to loved ones on display in the old plaza under a classic New Mexico blue sky while musicians played from the bandstand. ( I know, this was not in T or C, but only an hour away.) On Halloween, the children’s costumed safe walk took place on Broadway, and I had to go around and admire everyone. The street was closed, business owners and employees were in costume on the sidewalks handing out treats, and families in Halloween finery were trick or treating. People here love to dress up. A man dressed as a baby doll stood in the doorway of his shop sucking on a lollipop. I even met a tiny dog in a Harley jacket and little black doggy jeans. Later, I went to a showing of Nosferatu, the black-and-white silent vampire movie, at Rio Bravo Fine Art. Three classically-trained musicians improvised an amazing, intense and spooky score live. (Surrounded by great art, once again.) Some of the audience members were masked or painted. One was, of course, entirely black and white. I stopped by another dance and costume event on my way home, but I didn’t stay. A writer has to go home and write. But last night, there was more good music to go out and dance to. I call it research. My protagonist likes to dance, too, after all.

Conscious Listening

Sound can be noise, it can be distraction, it can be enjoyable, beautiful or soothing, and it can also be a direct route to clearing the mind. Sound reaches the brain faster than thoughts, faster than images or sensation. So, if you listen mindfully, you can silence the inner chatter and be. I recently attended a concert of healing music, a sound bath, in a St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Truth or Consequences. It wasn’t religious music, but it was sacred. I started out with thoughts of writing, of possible scenes and settings, since one of my ongoing characters is a musician who composes healing music. He would have loved the event (writers think this way about their characters), but I forgot about him during the performance. The beauty of the experience was getting past verbal thought altogether and into pure sound—bells, electronic tones, rain sticks, non-melodic music created to promote a meditative state or an inner journey. The composer/performer encouraged the small audience to close their eyes and go inward, and I did. The music came through eight speakers in patterns that gave it a spatial structure and a quality of movement that triggered flowing abstract color visions in my mind, and yet I was always grounded and present in my body, aware of my own energy. The next morning I still had a lingering sense of deep clarity, as if I had been meditating. And that is not the way I normally feel before coffee!

Recommended listening: Tom Montagliano

If you have a chance to hear his music in person, don’t miss it.

Inner Beauty

I’m a people-watcher. My fellow humans are endlessly fascinating and the fragments of their lives that I observe have the seeds of stories in them, maybe even new characters. They also give me an opportunity to practice what Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield describes in his book The Wise Heart as seeing the inner nobility in in others.

On a recent run in a park, I noticed a romantic young couple setting up a hammock, and they asked a man who was walking his dog to take their picture in front of it. The man had a pair of hot pink headphones parked on his neck. He was around six foot three, wearing a baggy old T-shirt over a broad chest and prominent belly and khaki shorts that revealed thick, powerful calf muscles. They thanked him and he walked on with his stubby-legged little white mutt, a comical creature that looked all the smaller and stubbier for being his dog. As I finished one lap, I encountered the dog sitting patiently while the man fiddled with his MP3 player, pink headphones now attached to his head. On my next lap, he and his dog were in the middle of the green space, and he faced away from the couple in the hammock, who had vanished deep into its blue embrace. The man was singing. I realized the headphones were providing him with his accompaniment, and he was … rehearsing? Creating? He had a huge soaring tenor voice, classically trained, sweet yet strong and passionate, filling the air with a song about lost love.

You never know what’s inside another person. The pink headphones were a hint that music mattered to him, but the sound of his voice, the feeling and beauty with which he sang, expressed far more than anything on the outside. The inner depth, the inner nobility.

Joy is Healing

There are days that don’t promise much. Too busy. Too cold. And then there is the endless business of being human, being a body. It’s a resilient organism but it’s also vulnerable to the strangest injuries from the most random, unlikely sources. On a day like that, where will joy come from?

I was stuck having to run indoors today due to all of the above. One of my most reliable joy sources, nature, was only outside the windows. I decided to make up for it with music. Most people who like Krishna Das’s music use it for yoga, but I needed the uplift of his voice while I ran. His voice is a gift to the world, rich and warm, full of feeling. Because the songs are in Sanskrit, I don’t get lost in words, I simply respond in my heart.

The catharsis of joy mobilizes the chemistry of healing. It also broadens the spirit, touches the soul. Spirituality is hard to define, and yet when I hear this music, I know it, and sense that the singer lives it. It’s not solemn or rigorous, but full of melody and rhythm, love and life.

Listen at http://www.krishnadas.com

Have a joyful day.

Sparky’s is Real

In my endnotes for my books, I explain few details about settings and research. At the end of Soul Loss, I mention that the other businesses in the story are fictitious, but Sparky’s in Hatch, New Mexico is real. I got an e-mail from a reader who found that fact—quite understandably—hard to believe. Not that she thought I was lying. She was simply marveling that such a place could exist.

For those who have had a similar reaction, or have not yet read the book, here’s an update on that wonderful place from my latest visit to Sparky’s:

In the middle of a 100 degree Sunday afternoon, in a dance hall that serves no alcohol, the Desperadoes played Western swing while couples two-stepped on a dance floor framed by walls full of antique advertising signs and shelves and glass cases crammed with old piggy banks, cookie jars, radios and little robots. High on one wall, a Rajah Motor oil neon sign glowed between a couple of other neon antiques and a mounted deer head with a big hot pink butterfly perched over its right ear. An old metal diving helmet was displayed at the other end of the neon row. The bas-relief of the skeletal rider on a skeletal horse that I mention in the Sparky’s scene in Chapter Two is still there, but there’s always something new or rearranged.

Sparky’s is a living organism of sorts. The interior has expanded to include a third room between the restaurant counter area and the dance hall, and the décor there is Sparky’s best. The skeletons who used to occupy the passage to the restrooms are once again in somewhat piratical garb, and have joined a tableau over the door of the new room along with an old wooden jukebox and a collection of Catrinas, the elegantly clad skeleton ladies of the Day of the Dead.512px-Catrinas_2

You will never run out of “whoa, I didn’t see that!” discoveries at Sparky’s. The giant advertising statues outside have new companions. On top of a monster KFC cup, a green chile wearing lipstick and a bridal veil holds hands with red chile in a top hat as they beam at each other in nuptial devotion—a match made in Hatch. Sparky the robot, his fountain espresso cup ever-flowing, gets new decoration. Sunday he was wearing goggles and some red-white-and-blue stars. Inside, more musicians have autographed the wall behind the stage, where the one thing that never changes is the sign that says, “Do one thing every day that makes you happy.” If you’ve set foot in Sparky’s, you have already done that.

Need pictures? Check out Sparky’s Facebook page.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sparkys-BBQ-and-Espresso/74823382942?sk=timeline

Good food and good music in the strangest-best place for both.

*****

Catrina images courtesy of Wikimedia Commons