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New Project: The Emotions

I am embarking on a long term project. The idea is to create works of music and/or poetry or the two combined that capture various human emotions. These works are to be relatively short, sketches of a kind. I will publish them on ccMixter.org under my name, essesq.

The first installment of the series was entitled "Sad." A lot of things have made me sad in the last few years and feeling sad is not something we tend to express very readily to others. It tends to be more that when certain events happen others assume you are sad and they may try to comfort you, as when someone close to you dies. People don't as a rule expect you to answer "sad" when they ask you how you are in passing.

It was funny because when I went onto ccMixter looking for music samples tagged "sad" there were not too many. I wonder if this is a function of the types of music created or the way the people making the samples wanted them to be seen. Lucky for me I found some beautiful music to back my poem.

I was away from the process of what I call pure creativity for quite some time. It feels good to be trying again. Over this time I suppose I have accumulated things I want to say in one way or another. Now I feel ready to start saying them.

I have some further tweaking to "Sad" to do before I do my next one, which will probably be "Romantic Love" in honor of Spring and all the juices it gets flowing. Besides I need to do something that will make people feel good when they listen to it.

In addition, I am also fighting my way through a couple of bigger remix projects that will take me quite a long time to complete. There's a lot to learn but I hope it will help my aging brain which I am told needs new challenges to keep it supple into the twilight years.

Long Time

I started this journal with the intent of having it be a place to discuss my creative process. One of the issues I suffer from is confusion over the sense of what is a "creative" activity and what is some other form of work or endeavor. "Creative" for me meant purely for the joy of doing it with no other purpose, and that meant a necessary shut down of operations when more pressing objectives were waving the flag.

My pure creative work though was fuel to my fire, and I felt that fire dying over the last few weeks and so I have returned. Ears warmed with headphones, laughing and smiling, my fingers hammering away on the keys. Words, music, emotions all call me now, as snow piles outside my window, I return to the hearth that is my creative home and bask once again in its warm glow.

Express Train...Warning...No Brakes

It's a funny feeling this one, but worth recording and sharing. After a period of feeling ill and slow-moving, then kind of depressed I am now experiencing an explosion of energy and ideas. The trouble is I am thinking so quickly I can't settle down long enough to finish a thought.

At the end of November of this year I was on a cruise with my family. I was trying to take pictures out of the window of a moving van (the vehicle was moving down the road) and none of my pictures was being captured as I intended. I would see a scene of a beautiful view over mountains and open ocean and I would capture an image of a rusted car. I later learned that my camera was set on a five second delay so the picture was snapping five seconds after I pushed the button. I feel a little of the same frustration now.

I am exhilarated but overwhelmed. I know that every project one wants to do should be broken down into doable segments, short reachable goals. One should find the point nearest on the horizon, go to it and then set the next point but I jump ahead, always ahead. I skip to the end of the book to see what happens. I always did the math problem without showing my work. I even cut the corner when running around the school track, but admittedly that was to get to the locker room in time to not miss my next class, I was so slow.

I am thrilled to have my world so full of opportunity. I only wish my vision was not so fragmented. I wish my sense of purpose in what I was doing was clearer. I want this energy channeled but it is scattered like shotgun pellets.

This blog is about being creative. It is about process and not about what gets done. I'm a funny one in that I am unlikely to talk about what I actually accomplish. I prefer it speak for itself to the big world and only my closest confidants will hear of my true feelings of pride or joy in my own work. I wonder if that sort of attitude also hampers creativity, but that is for another day.

On Motives For Creating

I often wonder why people create what they do. When something is made during the course of employment part of the motive is economic and the other to provide something useful to others whether it be an object, advice or service of some kind. But what about when it has nothing to do with money? What is it that drives the process? Exploring this question is a lot of the reason I started this journal. I have been beset with a desire to create all manner of things and to learn the skills I need to be better at creating and I find it both confounding an exhilarating.

In many ways this is a bad time for me to have all these creative impulses because I find myself having to suppress them a lot of the time because I have stuff I have to do. My time is a bit unstructured right now because I am between jobs so that makes things all the more difficult for me. I have basically set up a rule that says that all formal creative work, where my attention has to be 100% focused, is relegated to the later part of the evening when my kids have gone to bed and no business is being conducted. This means quite a few late nights, but I play catch up when I have to.

It would be easy to say the creative impulse arises when there is a clear void in identity, as when one loses a job. In my case though this all started a few years ago and throughout this time I have been both in and out of employment with no change in my fervor toward the creative. I think in my case being a mom has a lot to do with this. At some point I felt my individual identity was being swallowed up and I needed to build a model of myself so I could see myself and this is what I think a lot of creative process is about.

Creating something outside the self takes some of the stuff we are made of and forces us to mold it and shape it to say something about who we are. Sometimes the statement is clear. It may be saying something about our emotions: I am happy, I am sad, I am thankful, I am angry, I feel love for this or that person. It is an affirmation of what we know about ourselves. Sometimes it is very obscure - like a movie soundtrack without an image to go with it. It leaves us wondering what is going on. It is a revelation of what we have yet to learn. Is it about navel gazing? I don't think so, especially if we elect to share what we do.

Creativity in all forms is a risky behavior. Ultimately it may fail our own expectations both for the process (the technique and experience of creating) and for the result (the item created). For these reasons many people avoid creating for creativity's sake. I am battling my own demons on this very subject on a daily basis. I don't want to waste my time on an experience that I won't be happy with. Which is why I had to write on this topic tonight so I could exorcise that part of my personality, toss it out into the light of day and look at it. Having done so, I can smile a little more.

On The Joys of Remixing Communities

Some days, despite some less than desirable circumstances, I feel blessed to be alive. "Blessed" being a peg higher than "happy" or "glad." The past few days have kind of been like that.

It started about a week ago when someone made a very thoughtful remix of one of my recited poems. What was unusual about this remix was that the creator of it had added his own poetry, written in German and the poem had roughly the same rhythm and cadence as my own, which was in English. The music was sensitive in mood and well timed to my piece which is true to varying degrees with remixes of my stuff.

This same remixer then contacted me and sent along beautiful images as well as another piece of music that he hoped I would write a spoken piece for. I was very touched. Struggling over a language barrier and crossing it with such warmth and grace to a total stranger moved me almost to tears.

It's a little over three years since I joined my first remixing community. There I found wonderful people, amazing artistry, and a great sense of community and support. When that community started to fracture many of us moved to ccMixter where we still hang out. We have since expanded our associations and activities, each according to our particular interests. I went from just blending content to providing raw material in the form of my spoken poems and musical samples. My spoken pieces have been remixed into every form imaginable, just about. Without exception I have been moved and touched every time I get a notice that someone has engaged my work to build something of their own. It always surprises me what people do with my work.

But even more astounding is what people are doing in general and how open they are to share their creative output and bits of themselves. In this incubator I have become a much more open person than I once was. I feel a sense of trust because so many of us are casting our fragile souls into the pot of the community. I wish that I could find an analogous situation in my everyday life off the Net, but so far that has remained elusive. I say here that it is my hope and dream to someday be part of a community of artists that can meet regularly for drinks and to swap stuff and stories. For now though, I am a very lucky soul indeed to have what I have.
So tonight I decided to hammer away at a longstanding (about a month or two) remixing project. I started this a while back for various reasons but I've been taking it very slowly. Remixing for me is about taking bits of music created by others, often bits of one cohesive song (easier that way), reconfiguring them and combining them in different ways and then adding my own bits and pieces of music to create the new whole.

Unlike some of my remixing colleagues, I am not yet ready to take a naked acapella sung vocal and create a new song. If I have one or two more elements to add to the pella I can cover the rest but bake from scratch is not for me. I guess I am the semi-homemade remixer (go look her up on the Food Network site - Semi-homemade with Sandra Lee).

I am working with a collection of musical parts created by a dear friend of mine, one of the most creative and talented people I have ever encountered. The samples are compelling and they are complex. Their rhythms clash mightily when combined incorrectly and sound ghastly when they are made to lie in the same bed but do not share affinity. To make matters worse I have edited some of them and then recombined the edited parts and now some of them are tripping over their own feet where before they danced perfectly.

A long time ago someone said save every version of what you do because inevitably you will decide at some point to go back to an earlier version. Supposedly my computer does that for me, but I have never used my so called Time Machine for my music.

I don't have a plan for this mix, I am letting the sounds dictate the journey and the ultimate destination. When the sound is right I can't suppress my grin and when it is wrong I can't suppress my grimace. I don't have the musical vocabulary of some to draw upon, so that a genre or band will pop into my head when I hear something that will dictate the character of my work. Like Michelangelo saw his figures emerge from within the marble, I see the song emerge from within the samples or musical parts.

Form and pattern are hard for me to stick to yet I am learning that they are vital to all music. Things have to repeat and cycle and come back according to a plan, the listener's ear and indeed their soul demand it. But the listener also must be surprised, cajoled, led on and seduced. A really good piece of music leaves you feeling hungry for more until the last second and does not let you go. As a composer with little confidence, it is hard to keep myself in the game because I'm not good at leading myself on when I am repeating myself. It's a little like hearing "yadda yadda yadda."

Patience and persistence are the novice remixer's best tools. You have to keep trying all sorts of things until something clicks. It's like driving somewhere unfamiliar without a road map. You spend a lot of time feeling lost and thinking you will never arrive at your destination. Sometimes, you just have to give up and go home, but sometimes the journey proves worthy.


You Are What You Love

Today I reflect on all that I love. I wonder why I deprive myself of my joys when they could easily be woven into the fabric of my daily chores. For instance my greatest love outside of particular humans is music. For months now I have been avoiding sitting down to listen to music because it entailed setting other more pressing concerns aside. Tonight however I brought the laptop and headphones to the counter above the dishwasher and listened to the magnificent works of music while I emptied the dishes.

Music moves me always. If there is a beat in the air I dance. I just returned from a cruise and even while simply walking down the pool deck to a podium to return a few towels when the band was playing I was swaying my hips as I walked. I dance in the supermarket aisles in tiny movements as I shop.

I also love wine. I worry about becoming dependent. But what is dependence on happiness or joy, is that such a sin? There is a difference between the dulling of pain and the bringing forth of pleasure. I watched the movie "Julie and Julia" on a plane the other day. Julia Child was a woman of great appetites for food and wine. She derived intense pleasure from them. I doubt strongly that anyone would have the nerve to tell her, standing at over 6 feet tall, to lay off the alcohol because it might give her cancer, or butter because it would clog her arteries. No the danger lies in denying the lifeblood to flow through the veins, leaving them empty. Watching them shrivel and wither and die. The blood will not make it back to the heart. It will cease to flow.

I love to write, to drink, to eat, to listen to music and even to make it when I feel able, and not so. These are the things that bring the broad smile of contentment and joy to my face. These and the pride and joy I feel in closeness to my family. Tonight I sat flanked by my twin boys, each resting his body against mine so I could feel his warmth, one with his arm up around me as we read together. These moments and the ones I spend laughing with my teenage daughter, not as parent and child but as true friends delighting in each others' company, getting each others jokes, finishing each others' sentences. These are what give me real joy. This is what I love.

All this and the sweet smell of my husband on my cheek after he leaves for work that whispers to me, "I am here" long after he has gone. And the emergence of my parents' personalities within my own. The attention to the details of my personal appearance I get from my mom or the creative impulses I get from my dad. Their love and hope I feel for me surrounding me, my pride in who they are and what they have done for me.

Finally I love everyone who has noticed me or made an effort to help me. Teachers, friends, colleagues in work or in creative endeavors. I love all of you, past, present and future unconditionally because the love you give me is without condition and so I return it, without condition.

We are all what we love. Nothing more, nothing less.

5 Minutes At the Piano

Tonight I sat down for a little while at my piano. With headphones on I just played a few little lines over various chords keeping to things I knew went together. It's the musical equivalent of knowing that ketchup may be good on your eggs but maybe not so lovely with the maple syrup on your pancakes.

At one point though I got into slowly playing something that must have been in a minor key because it made me cry. I didn't have my recorder running on my laptop, which in fact wasn't even connected to the piano but I wish it had been and I'll never play without leaving the "tape" running again.

Why Am I Here and Who Am I?

I am beginning this journal because I have a deep seated desire to create all sorts of stuff but I can't resist talking about the process. My belief is that my struggle and techniques to keep going will connect and be shareable with others. Also in keeping a written record of what I am up to this distraction of discussion will become part of the creation.

I am a writer. I have always been a writer and always will be one. Writing is the one thing that I have done all my life and is the only thing that comes completely naturally to me. I am also a music lover. Music is the one art form that bypasses my brain and goes straight to my heart and soul. Lately I have begun trying to learn how to make music via the process of remixing. This has also lead to me reciting poetry aloud and recording it.

I love food, especially good food, made with fresh ingredients and distinct flavorings. I love ethnic food especially. I like to cook but lately find myself too lazy and disorganized to have the ingredients on hand to make the dishes in my recipe books. I have always baked bread and occasionally bake cakes and other stuff.

I love coffee and wine most of all. I know what makes a good wine and a good cup of coffee and really bad stuff makes me cringe - but I am quite ok with ok. I grind my own beans for every cup of coffee I make. It's cumbersome but the smell is worth it.

I love nature and animals. Often the only thing that can restore me when I am really down is to get out into nature. I love animals in their natural habitats but am not a big fan of keeping pets. I also love plants and one of my favorite places to visit is Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square Pennsylvania, about 1.5 hours drive from where I live.

I am a lawyer by profession, with experience concentrating in Family Law. I take my oath to defend and uphold the Constitution seriously. I believe in respect for all parties to the legal process including litigants and Judges.

I am Jewish by birth. Judaism defines the way I handle all life cycle rituals and informs my daily view of the world around me but it is a pathway to the discussion not the answer. I love Jewish music and the process of gathering to celebrate rituals and ideas that have been practiced for thousands of years by people all across the globe each in their own way but yet still tied together.

Lastly, but by no means least, I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend. I look forward to sharing this journal with you, whoever you are, dear reader.