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…


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):


April 2nd, 2013 § Comments Off on Slomped § permalink


Driving the bus.  4 minutes down on my third trip of the day.  The 4th trip at 8:30 can be crazy on a Tuesday.  All the kids go to their Tuesday classes, I guess.  I say to myself, “I better pick up these 4 minutes or I’m going to get slomped.”

“Slomped.”  Where did that come from?  I thought about it for a few seconds and figured it must have been some kind of a synthesizing double elision between “slammed” and “stomped”.  I thought about John Lennon’s advice to George Harrison about finding the right word for a lyric – “you just keep saying the line over and over and saying whatever comes to mind in the empty place.”

Something in the way she moves

Attracts me like a rutabega


I thought of Pete Maravich’s game when no one, least of all Pistol Pete, knew what physical genius was about to instantiate.

Stevie Wonder’s melisma.  Charlie Parker’s phrasing.

And then I thought, “hey, I bet my elision was actually between ‘slammed’ and ‘swamped’.”  I hadn’t even had immediate access to my own thought processes in retrospect.

Take a flyer.

Trust the universes to provide for the completion of the gesture.

Embark upon the worthy gesture at a moments notice.

Here lies Genius.



On the Library Lot

April 10th, 2011 § 0 comments § permalink


Time to weigh in on this one. What do we want on the “library lot” here in Ann Arbor. It seems self-evident that we need a public social space for Ann Arbor residents. OK. Let’s think about it. How do we get there? » Read the rest of this entry «

The Beatles Were Theater

February 28th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink


The Beatles were a theatrical presentation.  Yes, they were a pop or rock and roll band, but when they went on stage, it was as The Beatles, and the conceit was sufficiently fanciful to promote and/or require an essentially theatrical suspension of disbelief.  Once the ball was rolling, even their records were part of the essentially theatrical act.

(The preceding is an example of a post where I am sleepily torquing a provocative idea onto theWheel.  Little editing, no critical thinking.  Lots of room to be corrected, contradicted, extended, discussed or ignored.)  It’s OK to be wrong, though it helps to be wrong about something interesting…


February 22nd, 2010 § 0 comments § permalink



Ahh yes, it has been some time since I posted regularly at theWheel – how could that be…?  Truth be told, I’ve been swamped, and theWheel was also at a transition point, so it just seemed best to let it go for a bit.  And how was I swamped?

In a word, Gravity.  This winter I’ve had the good fortune to write music for the world premier of David MacGregor’s play Gravity at the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea Michigan.  It’s been a great experience, and sufficiently consuming that I just didn’t want to be distracted by theWheel or anything else.  The play is about the great Natural Philosopher Isaac Newton at a critical point of his life in 1693, when he was 50 years old.  If you live in the South Eastern Michigan region, or even anywhere close, you will be well rewarded if you come to the show.  Being involved with the play myself, I hesitate to say much more than that I believe that David MacGregor has written a Masterpiece – it is really really good – and that a very talented Purple Rose team, led by Artistic Director Guy Sanville, has delivered a loving production.  Here are a couple of reviews.  Do come if you can.

Per theWheel, I’ll have more to say later in the week.  I’ll be posting again, and you are invited to join me.  Till then…

Why Theater?

September 7th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink


Today, just an observation.  Natural Science – what I hesitate to call Physics because in my opinion that which is most essential about the subject matter of what is usually referred to as Physics is not physical – has led me to Theater.

How very interesting that Physics and Theater resonate with each other.

Why Theater?   The live audience is the key. From my post Night Flight:

It recently occurred to me that what was truly special to me about live theater was the way in which a group of people, including – especially including – a live reactive audience as an indispensable component of the magical dynamic – a group of people “self consciously” agree to surrender to a theatrical dream within the dominant shared “reality” dream.  Within the magic circle of a suspension of disbelief (or is it rather an affirmation of belief?) all are creating together, all are aware of and swept up into the common alternate reality that all are purposely – I won’t say mindfully – dreaming up together.

From Listen to the Moon:

In fairness, Science has indeed generated a concept, the Anthropic Principle, which explains the conveniently life-friendly physical constants and attributes of our universe by noting that only universes that have laws that facilitate the generation of observers will ever be observed. But I don’t think even the Anthropic Principle can have anything to say about why the discs of the Sun and Moon appear to be the same size as seen from Earth.

I say this because this synchronicity of observed disc size plays out in a realm of aesthetic rather than physical necessity. There is no physical necessity for the discs to be the same size. For instance, the moon could be farther away and a bit denser and achieve the same gravitational and tidal effects on Earth with a smaller apparent disc size.

There are, however, aesthetic reasons for the discs to be the same size. As currently constituted, solar eclipses look strikingly cool. Furthermore, the current arrangement of Earth, Sun, and Moon is also balanced and symmetrical. We have two lights of the same apparent size, one for the day and one for the night…

It seems that the audience in a theatrical system plays a role analogous to the role of observers in a physical system.  Hmmm….


August 24th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink


Dreamt It Through the Grapevine – Night-flight.

I’ve had a lifelong fascination with dreams.  I can remember some very vivid BIG dreams from very early in my childhood – two in particular from a time when my family lived in a house in Ohio from which we moved when I was 4 years old.  My early intrepid experiments in expanding consciousness, my interest in and identification with Native American cultures, my love at first sight when I was finally exposed to Carl Jung (Man and His Symbols was my first contact), my full speed ahead obsession with lucid dreaming at a time when science, before Stephen LaBerge at Stanford, still insisted we lucid dreamers were self-delusional or just plain nuts, my later embrace of Joseph Campbell’s work identifying Myth as Public Dream (and Dream as Private Myth) – all this has been an ongoing central theme throughout my life.

» Read the rest of this entry «

Extreme Sheepherding

April 30th, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink


Why do I post this?  Dunno – this is our species?

Reeling in an Audience

January 31st, 2009 § 0 comments § permalink


This makes sense to me – Frank Langella on Reeling in an Audience.

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