Eleutheria (Song for the Next Fifty Years)

November 4th, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

My dad is dying tonight.  

I’m in Ann Arbor, Michigan and he’s in Green Bay, Wisconsin and he’s dying and there’s nothing I can do about it.  I saw him a few weeks ago and made a real good connection.

I love him.  Him.  Joseph Thomas Bilich.  Born in 1933.  Grew up in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania.  Great Musician.  Husband.  Father of my two brothers and two sisters and myself.  A good man.

And I don’t want to write your obituary while you’re still with us but pretty soon, this week, next week, you’re going to be dead and it’s going to hit me like an iron fist and it’s going to take me years before I collect myself enough to do you justice in music.

Now, this is odd.  Really odd.  I started writing this piece about my dad because my actual project for tonight was to post a pod to theWheel about a song called The Immigrant, which is about my grandfather – my dad’s dad’s life story.  And it felt odd to be celebrating my grandfather, who I never met, while my dad lies in what is very possibly his death bed in Wisconsin right now.

And then I remembered.  I wrote a piece of music for my dad’s 50th birthday back in 1983.  I guess I turned 26 that year, and I remember I wanted to do something special for my dad’s 50th and I wrote – well, wrote is not really the word, I was not much of a notator – but anyhow, I composed a piece of music that was actually somewhat beyond my capacity to grok in fullness.  It was a piece inspired by the music my father brought into my life, which was in large part the music of the Balkan peninsula.  I had heard this music all my life, but found it more necessary to come to terms with the American music of my immediate experience.

So I didn’t have a great grasp on what I was trying to accomplish.  Just my ears and my heart and an immature composer’s technique.  I just barely hung on.

But it’s beautiful.  And there’s a whole ‘nuther story about this piece of music – two stories actually, but tonight I remember I called it “Eleutheria” – ancient Greek for liberty or freedom – and subtitled it (Song for the Next Fifty Years).  I think I meant, “may you live another fifty years, as majestic as this music.”  And you know, he made it for thirty-four plus more years, which is a pretty damn good ride for a human of our century.

I love you Dad.  Joe.  My father. My friend.

Here it is.

THE FROGS AT THE RAINBOW’S END

November 3rd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

 

I first saw Arnold Lobel’s picture books in the late 1990’s, when my first daughter was little.  The first one I ran across was OWL AT HOME, a collection of five or six little stories about an owl.  I liked them a lot – at any rate enough to seek out other books by Lobel.

 

Eventually I found Arnold Lobel’s FABLES at the public library.  At first the FABLES mostly just seemed eccentric.  I liked them, I liked the pictures and the vibe and the clarity of the writing, and I could sense a great depth and energy and MUSICALITY about them, but it took me quite a while to appreciate their full potential.

 

 

Here I must digress to mention that I have a love/hate relationship with musical drama.  On the love side, I have some kind of idiot savant talent for the form.  I usually more-or-less automatically do the right thing as a dramatic composer.  I get right up into the NOW of the story, and I can do no wrong.

 

Musical theatre can be loads of FUN and oh so musical.

 

Unfortunately, with musical theatre the bad stuff can also be really really bad.  The worst of it leaves me feeling like I need a shower to wash the treacle away.

 

So though I knew I was good at musical drama, and I knew I needed to become a better  Composer (with a Capital C) in order to write a certain play about a certain eccentric lady poet with a favorite number 7.4, I wasn’t chomping at the bit to find something to write.  Also, the assumption when you come across something with theatrical promise is that somehow I will adapt this story for the theatre.  I will grok the essence and then flesh it out into a story told theatrically.

 

Not so with these FABLES.  They had musical promise, but not obvious theatrical promise.  I set them aside.

 

A few years later, back home in Ann Arbor, I picked them up at the library again.  By that time I had a second daughter – I spent the better part of a decade buried beneath little girls – and I found myself stretched pretty thin entertaining the two of them.  One day I sat down at the piano with a little girl and just started improvising music along with the text of the FABLES exactly as they were written – verbatim. 

 

They worked.  Not only did they work, they came alive in a way that I am convinced would have delighted their author.  It was raining musical soup.  Really good musical soup.  And so I continued to sit at the piano, often with a little girl, with my brand new mini disc recorder turned on Record to slurp it all up.

 

After a while I convinced myself that I should finish one of the FABLES, mainly out of sheer curiosity, although it also a kind of “proof of concept”.  The first one I tackled was “THE FROGS AT THE RAINBOW’S END”, both because of the promising start I already had on it and because of its cautionary Moral – The highest hopes may lead to the greatest disappointments.

 

And I do have high hopes for my musical settings of Arnold Lobel’s settings.  I’ve written music for all twenty of them.  They are delightful, and in a sane universe they will be shared with the world in all their glory.  Let this post be a first gesture towards the realization of my high hopes.

 

I present to you my second pass at THE FROGS AT THE RAINBOW’S END, recorded on a 4-track cassette machine probably in 2003 or so.  Enjoy…

 

Time Vanished (Before I Knew It)

November 2nd, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

I’ve been writing songs to David A. Mason’s lyrics since 2006.  Dave and I were both founding members of the Lunar Glee Club back in 1983, but the Lunar Glee Club didn’t sing so we didn’t write songs back then.

Now we do.

 

 

In fact, we have a whole bunch of really good ones to share, and it’s a bit hard to pick just one to share with you today.  But it’s not that hard, because “Time Vanished (Before I Knew It)” is such a good example of everything that works in this collaboration.

Dave and I get together most Monday nights.  Sometimes we work on various unfinished stuff. Sometimes we get a good start on a song and then have to really grind it out to the finish line.  Sometimes it takes months or years.  Yes, I do contribute to the words sometimes, and of course Dave is a wise and inspired musician who does not hesitate to help me with musical matters.  But, for the most part in this collaboration Dave brings me lyrics and I set them to music.

That’s what happened with Time Vanished (Before I Knew It).  Dave brought it in pretty much exactly as you will hear it, and this one just wrote itself.  Sometimes they write themselves.  I have an intuition about whether I should pick up a guitar or sit at the piano or whatever, and then they just spill out.

This one just spilled out.

 

Here’s the lyric:

 

TIME VANISHED (BEFORE I KNEW IT)

 

I BOUGHT MYSELF A BLUE GLASS BOWL

I FILLED IT UP WITH OCEANS

SPUN IT – LIKE A ROULETTE WHEEL

JUST ROLLIN’ THROUGH THE MOTIONS

 

I BOUGHT MYSELF A BIG GLASS HOUSE

I FILLED IT UP WITH STONES

PEOPLE CAME FROM MILES AWAY

JUST TO SMASH IT DOWN WITH BONES

 

I BOUGHT MYSELF A CLEAR GLASS CLOCK

JUST TO WATCH THE TIME PASS THROUGH IT

THE HANDS WERE QUICKER THAN MY EYE

SEEMED LIKE THERE WAS NOTHIN’ TO IT

AND THEN TIME VANISHED – BEFORE I KNEW IT

 

BEFORE I KNEW IT

 

TIME VANISHED

 

I TRIED TO GO BACK TO THE PAST

BUT THE FUTURE BROUGHT ME HERE

I THINK THAT I’M IN NOW AGAIN

SO DISTANT THAT IT’S NEAR­

 

HOW DID I THINK THIS WHEEL WOULD ROLL

THIS SWAPPING TIME AROUND

HOLD THE LINE WITH ONE HAND CLAPPING

BLINDED BY THE SOUND

 

I BOUGHT MYSELF A CLEAR GLASS CLOCK

JUST TO WATCH THE TIME PASS THROUGH IT

BUT THE HANDS WERE QUICKER THAN MY EYE

LIKE THERE WAS NOTHIN’ TO IT

AND THEN TIME VANISHED – BEFORE I KNEW IT

 

BEFORE I KNEW IT

TIME VANISHED

BEFORE I KNEW IT

TIME VANISHED

BEFORE I KNEW IT

 

 

Turn It Up!

November 1st, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

 

I’ve written a musical play called “7.4 ROCKS!!!”  It’s real.  Two acts.  Lots of music, lots of songs.  FUN!!!  It hasn’t been produced yet, but it will be.

One of the reasons for my confidence in 7.4 ROCKS!!! is the sheer energy and TRUTH that flow through the song I’m sharing today, Turn It Up!

 

 

 

 

Turn It Up! is sung by the show’s hero, Reggie Spinkler, an aging Program Director at a Classic Rock radio station circa 1991. Let me share my show’s premise:

7.4 ROCKS!!!

 

Back in the day, when Reggie Spinkler was a disc jockey at 7.4 WHYTZ, rock ‘n’ roll radio was heaven on earth, every night’s show a unique home town event in the Tri-State Area. But then Reggie’s home town radio station at 7.4 was purchased by Bellicose Breweries CEO Byron Bel Canto…“We’re Here to Sell Beer”…and just like 262 other stations owned and programmed by Bel Canto’s Bellicorp, Reggie’s home at 7.4 WSTPD became just another cookie cutter franchise.

Now that rock ‘n’ roll radio at 7.4 is a homogenized mockery of its former transcendent self, program director Reggie Spinkler punches the clock and prays for the weekend, all the while doing the bidding of his Corporate Overlords.

Then one day local poet Mildred Maloney begins broadcasting from her living room on pirate radio station 7.4 WMILD, sharing her poems with all her Tri-State neighbors – and interfering with WSTPD’s signal.

Call the FCC!!! Shut her down!!! NOW!!!

As battle lines are drawn, erased, and drawn yet again, Reggie begins to see in Mildred a way back to his first passion – unique and fresh home town rock ‘n’ roll radio. Can Reggie stand up to his Corporate Overlords in support of Mildred and find redemption?  

I’ll be sharing more from 7.4 ROCKS!!! in coming posts.

 

Here’s a link to Turn It Up! on Soundcloud  (by the way, that’s Richard “Radio King” Dishman on drums):

The Storm Is Here

October 31st, 2017 § 0 comments § permalink

 

I wrote “The Storm is Here” back in probably 1989 or 1990 . My recollection is that I tried to contact a not very close music biz acquaintance who I hadn’t spoken to for several years, and in the course of trying to track him down found that he had died violently a few years earlier.

 

That was it.  Grief.  A clap of thunder.  And because I didn’t know this person – who I liked a lot – very well, the grief was somewhat general.  In other words, it wasn’t just about my dead friend, it was about us all.

 

 

I’ve always known this is a great song.   I had to sweat blood for a bunch of the lyric, but I always knew it was worth the effort.  This one was beautiful.  The line “Ghosts of broken thunder echoed in my mind till time stood still” is one of my favorites ever.  Here’s the lyric:

 

The Storm Is Here

 

I could see the lightning

Off on the horizon

Dancing in the distance

Underneath the corners of the sky

But the storm was far away

So far from now

Washing me clean tomorrow

Not today

 

Then there came a thunder

Rolling from the hills

Ghosts of broken thunder

Echoed in my mind till time stood still

Now the rain rolls from my eyes

A rising wind

Gathers the night and sweeps the dark aside

The storm is here

The storm is upon us

Tonight

 

When this act is over

Some will walk away

But I know you would stay to see the lightning

I believe you’d stay

So tonight use my eyes

You can see through my eyes

Touch the light in my eyes

Stay with me

The storm is here

The storm is here

The storm is upon us

Tonight

 

 

 

And a lead sheet PDF:

 

Download the PDF file .

 

 

 

 

 

….of Rabbits and Hats

January 20th, 2016 § Comments Off on ….of Rabbits and Hats § permalink

…or shall I say “in defense of crackpottery”?

I’ve said it before. I’ll say it again. Humanity is in a bit of a pinch just now. Need all the help we can get, yes?

It may be that in order to save our sorry asses we humans are going to need to pull a rabbit out of our collective hat any day now. And what if we’ve misplaced our hat? And what if we don’t believe in rabbits?

 

By the way, I don’t think Rupert Sheldrake is a classic Crackpot, though he intentionally plays the crackpot card often enough.  I admire him, and here’s why.  Sheldrake is playing Devil’s Advocate, and we need to hear it.

I’ve actually come to a bit of a decision, in part in response to Rupert Sheldrake’s latest book “Science Set Free”.  I do not have an academic job. Unlike many people who aspire to understand Natural Philosophy, I have nothing to lose by riding the crackpot wave.

It is arguably my duty to speculate.

If people in my position – at least moderately scientifically informed, and not economically dependent upon being perceived as scientifically orthodox – don’t have the courage and, let us say it, self-deprecating humor to take a chance on looking foolish or gullible, then who will?

‘Tis my duty.

 

 

 

 

The Sun and the Moon and Euler’s Identity

December 12th, 2015 § Comments Off on The Sun and the Moon and Euler’s Identity § permalink

 

Here’s a photograph of a solar eclypse.

imgres

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here’s a conventional typographic representation of Euler’s Identity

images

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here is a video about Euler’s Identity.

 

I have a serious suspicion that Euler’s Identity is somehow related to the totally weird anomaly of the sun and moon’s discs being unreasonably close to the same size as viewed from earth. Incidentally, or again, perhaps coincidentally, all of this resonates with the idea of the lotus arising out of the chaotic mud and achieving perfection, seeds of its own renewal at the ready.

So, from the infinite chaos of mathematics we converge upon Euler’s Identity. From the infinite chaos of space-time we converge upon the sun/moon coincidence.

Or are we emerging from Euler’s identity and the Sun/Moon coincidence into the chaos of mathematics as space/time as mathematics?

Perhaps they are one and the same thing.

 

 

 

The Sun and the Moon

November 7th, 2015 § Comments Off on The Sun and the Moon § permalink

Why are the discs of the sun and the moon, as seen from the earth, so remarkably congruent?

Explain this, and shake the world.

I believe there IS an explanation beyond “coincidence” to be had, and also that we have all the data and observations we need to do the job.

Read David Deutch’s books “The Fabric of Reality” and “The Beginning of Infinity”. Read Julian Barber’s “The End of Time”. Read Max Tegmark’s “Our Mathematical Universe”.

I’ll get back to this.

theWheel Rolls – Always

February 12th, 2015 § Comments Off on theWheel Rolls – Always § permalink

Here goes. theWheel awakens again. Why now? Because Andrew Sullivan just folded the Dish? That’s actually part of it. The Dish accomplished many of the things that theWheel envisioned for itself. I’ll miss the Dish. Interestingly, the Dish remained dependent upon Andrew for its identity. Do I aspire to something else with theWheel? Yes. I would like theWheel to have a life of its own, independent of Daniel Bilich. Will I publish this little note? Yes. Roll on, lightning wheel.

Per the Reality of Global Warming

June 1st, 2013 § Comments Off on Per the Reality of Global Warming § permalink

I believe the evidence is clear that we humans are causing climate change. I don’t like to preach about it, as I want us to do something about it if possible, and preaching just hurts people’s feelings. On the other hand, this is a big deal, and I want to engage skeptics respectfully, on the merits of the evidence. This video does a good job of cutting to the essential.