Thursday, January 19, 2017

MY MUSICAL PAST

I seldom write about my musical past. It lingers on the misty edge of a distance that no longer seems real. It is impossible to ever fully recapture those times, and - to be truthful - it's heartbreaking for me to remember what was....

...my youth in California when I was inspired, exuberant, energetic, optimistic. To say that I was a professional musician is no exaggeration. Despite my reckless, shiftless Hollywood years, I also managed to (later) go to college and study with some of the finest teachers in the country. I composed, conducted, worked as an accompanist, and gave solo concerts. I also performed with numerous orchestras.

After I left California at the age of 34 (for too many reasons to go into) I embarked on a life far removed from any semblance of excitement, fulfillment, glamor, or inspiration. I lived in the Missouri Ozarks, West Texas, and now Tennessee. During this time I encountered more problems, obstacles, and incredibly bad luck than I'd care to remember - which eventually expunged my heart and soul. I was rendered nothing more than a bitter, cold relic - a pale shadow of my former self.

Despite everything, I still had my music and my memories to hang onto. When I moved to Tennessee, however, the movers lost all of my diaries, journals and mementos. They also lost many of my California photos and more than half of my music manuscripts. That's when I finally completely gave up. My past was rudely severed forever.

During my active years as a musician, I made over 300 piano recordings (all are catalogued). Many of them were lost, but - fortunately - I still have some of my ancient, original cassette tapes.

The other night I started listening to some of the tapes, and somehow my spirit was rejuvenated. They are completely unedited, crude, and in mono - but at least they retain glimpses and glimmers of my musical past.

I'm presently in the process of transferring (some of) these tapes from cassette to 3MP files - via Audacity.

Last night I made two of these files into videos for YouTube. The videos themselves aren't very good, and the audio is extremely poor - but at least it gives an idea of my former piano virtuosity.
These piano tapes were both recorded in Los Angeles when I was in my very early 20's.



28 comments:

  1. I loved this post!!!!! Music always has the power to stir feeling, bring people together and rejuvenate the soul I think. I enjoyed both recordings, but Mendelson is one of my three favorites. My cousin who lives in Tennessee, plays violin with the Chattanooga Symphony, and I always enjoy hearing Mendelson when he plays too. I also love the images in the videos.

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    1. My cousin plays the viola I meant to say.

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    2. Music is definitely a great unifier and a powerful emotional healer. I always think of it as the ultimate universal language.

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  2. the left hand of the Chopin piece is a bitch!

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    1. The left hand of the C minor etude is definitely a bitch. I'm suddenly remembering all the times I strained my hands when practicing the piano....

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  3. Having a more permanent way to store your recordings is a good move. Cassettes eventually get stretched out and break.

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    1. I'm thinking of how primitive things were when I was a young musician compared to now - - everything was recorded on tape. It's really wonderful to be able to transfer my old cassettes. The audio quality isn't good, but at least they are preserved.

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  4. Sound like you have been grieving a long time, but that you are now tentatively starting over. Chin up, Jon. We are all there for you. MaggieB

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    1. I've been deeply depressed for a long time over many things that I never write about in my blog. Small positive things - like the rediscovery of my music tapes - always brighten my gloomy attitude. Thanks for being there.

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  5. Music beautifully rendered --Chopin etude, a personal dramatic favorite. Graphics perfectly selected. Thank you, Jon. Both clips knocked me right out of the nervousness that plagues me tonight --it's after 1 a.m. here-- and I'm thinking about going to bed again. Mark Twain thought the best way to make yourself feel better is to help someone else feel better. You've managed that quite well.

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    1. Geo, it's very seldom that I ever knock anyone out of nervousness. I usually have a knack for knocking them right into it...... I'm so glad that my music had a positive effect on you. Thanks!

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  6. Hi Jon: I was an organist. Just a hack, but I knew what people liked to hear and I knew what they liked to sing and I knew how they liked it sing it. I was in the closet as a young man. My impression of the gay world was Mr. PhooPhoo who worked at the beauty shop. I married a woman who couldn't stand the thought that I'd be dedicated to anyone but her. So, I gave it up. I still dream about it night. I hear the creak of the steps to the choir loft. I smell the dust and furniture polish and the scent of wax from the burning candles and the stale smell of incense. I feel the rumble of the walls as I play the 16' and 32' pipes on the pedals. My family never came to hear me play. I was always alone. That's why there is just one photo of me standing next to the organ. Life takes us on strange twists and turns. Frankly, I've sucked at planning things out the way some people seem to. Giving it up is the greatest regret of my life and it will follow me to the grave. I was never so high as when I was playing. I loved being the center of attention if just for the duration of the mass and my postlude. For those moments I was somebody. Yes Jon, I know how you feel.

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    1. What a beautiful comment - you've provided a delicious personal description of being an organist, which ignited some of my own memories. Life indeed takes on MANY strange twists and turns and - much like you - I was NEVER good at planning them out. Almost everything I tried to do would backfire. I never had the golden touch....
      Thanks for your thoughts.

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    2. Whew....glad you liked it. It sounds a lot more down than I am. I've found many wonderful things and opportunities and people which give meaning to my life. Once in a while, I go on gay websites. I see younger men tell the world they're bored or they want to be entertained. They can sit on that site until the internet collapses from its own weight and they'll never meet anyone to fill that void. Why? Because first you have to fill it yourself.
      My husbear bought me a nice keyboard and it sits dusty in the extra bedroom. I don't have what it would take to go back and I think I hurt his feelings and tarnished his good intentions when I asked him why he did it. It's a reminder of what was and it has no place in what is. You know what? I am going to dust it off when I get home tonight and I'm going to play Cole Porter's Night and Day until he pukes because he'll be so sick of it. Then, maybe I'll play As Time Goes By and I'll look at him and say here's lookin' at you, kid. Then, I'll say of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, I'm glad you walked into mine. I think I owe him that.

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  7. I'm so encouraged to hear your spirit's rejuvenated ... even a glimmer. Baby steps!

    Because I'd rather submit to a root canal-sans anesthesia than perform before an audience - any audience - I find your recollections fascinating.

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    1. My soul (unfortunately) has always been deeply brooding and pessimistic - but this "rediscovery" of my music has indeed brightened my spirits.

      I've always had severe stage fright. I'll write more about this in a future post.

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  8. Both are invigorating and have a wildness to them. I can't imagine fingers flying that fast. I am so glad you are listening to them and they lift your spirits. Seems like all of us when we age have past lives that seem like another world--another person. Your memories are quite extraordinary. :)

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    1. In my memory I can see my past as if it were yesterday. The sobering shock is when I realize how very long ago it was. It definitely was like another world and another person...

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  9. Wonderful, and I found the combination of the music and your own passionate playing very inspiring.

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    1. I truly appreciate that, Jenny.

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  10. Glorious!!! Your fingers literally flew over that keyboard. Such energy and feeling.

    Know what? Nobody can ever take that away from you. Not time, and not some careless moving company. Your musical talents are more than most of could ever realize, and you've still got it, cowboy, even if your audience only consists of your cats and an under-the-house possum. Bravo!

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    1. Susan, you are absolutely right. I'll always have my talent (until I'm senile, anyway) - all I need is the inspiration to ignite it again. Thanks for your kind words.

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  11. I could have sworn I thanked you for these yesterday, but I guess I didn't, so...thank you!

    Mistress Maddie reminds me that way, way back in my yoof, I, too, played viola. Matter of fact I was a founding member of the what went on to be the Queensland Youth Orchestras. But my poor old arthritic fingers can't do anything about it now, and the viola itself was washed away in the 2011 flood. As if I could have still played it anyway. Ah well. Cheers, mate, and keep playing.

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    1. It's a shame that your viola was lost in a flood. Fate often has a cruel way of parting us from our cherished possessions. At least we can keep the music in our hearts and savor the memories.

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  12. I listened to Mendelssohn, love it what I cna hear and understand. with deafness and Cochlear implants it is impossible to ever 'appreciate music' again. Of course to we outsiders to real musical talents, never understand someone who relinquishes the hold. Great place to get lost, I have met a couple folk from the mts around Coker Creek. I enjoyed that area. Anyway best to you. Imma thinking you have a treasure in your head & fingers.
    also, reading your blog at times, I do know you have the ability of a wordsman!
    Stay dry and warm in the hills.

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    1. I enjoy reading your comments on some blogs that I follow, and your books are delightful. You are certainly multi-talented. I don't know much about the devastating tragedy of hearing loss, but I have heard some very positive things about Cochlear implants. It is encouraging to know that some progress is being made in helping the hearing-impaired.

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  13. Jon . Your views are your own, and this is your own blog to do as you want, but only because you said "you had a few beers" is why I am suggesting you might want to take down your blog from today, 23rd Jan, concerning the Trump demonstrations. If when you wake up tomorrow you still feel the same way then re-post again. Just a suggestion. There have been times in my life when I have wished somebody had done that for me! MaggieB

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  14. Me again.......I only knew you had posted your post of today 23rd Jan because 'should fish more" mentioned it on John Grey's blog. Can't spell it but German word 'schadenfreude' (sp?) comes to mind. Would appreciate it if you didn't post this comment on your blog. Don't give him the satisfaction of the subsequent fall out from that unfortunate blog entry. MaggieB

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