Just when I thought I was out? They pull me back in. Is working on two projects at the same time cheating? Is re-using material in another project ethical? Pacino. Rossini. The Lone Ranger. A Clockwork Orange. Laziness. Michelangelo. David. Trailers?
Roger CortonSo after last week’s digression into finance, we agreed to get back to ‘music’. How’s the new record going?
JCHWell, I keep getting pulled back…
RCLike Al Pacino
the older I get the more I keep wanting to borrow from one piece to use in another. I’ll just think, “This works better over here. And I don’t care that I already used it there. I’m gonna use it again. In this other place.”
JCHUh, yeah. Just like that. I keep getting pulled back and forth between the new record (Progress) and the new opera.
RCWhich we keep meaning to discuss.
JCHBut something keeps pulling us…
RCYeah, yeah, yeah. But let me get this straight. The new record is due this winter. The new opera isn’t supposed to be for a couple of years. Doesn’t this smell of the kid who in school with poor study habits? I’m imagining one of those Disney animals that are easily distracted.
JCHI know. I know. And that’s not the worst of it. I’m cheating on myself.
RCWell hopefully your right hand doesn’t know what your left hand is doing.
JCHWOW! You told a dirty joke!
RCDid not. That’s your dirty mind.
JCHDid so. But I keep borrowing material from one project to use on another. It’s sick.
RCI’m not sure I understand.
JCHWell, going back to Detroit where I re-used ‘What A Wonderful World’ and ‘Hey Johnny!’ from Superpower. They were obviously songs about the city so I thought it would be lazy to use them again. Worse, I thought it would be cheating to do so. And I felt this way for a looooooooooong time.
RCJust filling in because they shared the same subject, right?
JCHRight. But I finally decided that I wasn’t cheating. They turned out to be keys to the whole story. Same with ‘Joy, Joy, Joy’. That was a song I had sold to a gospel group back in Detroit over twenty years ago. I was thinking about that opera before I even knew I was thinking about that opera.
RCOK, so you feel it’s ‘cheating’ because you didn’t feel that the songs were part of your writing process? So they weren’t ‘organically’ part of ‘Detroit’?
JCHRight. I thought it was, at minimum, lazy to do this, but far worse, I was forcing people to try and be a genuine family simply because they happened to be staying in the same apartment building. But as time went by I couldn’t help but keep hearing them in the story. They kept tempting me. My own children tempting me. Damn them, I am so weak!
RCBut as Woody Allen might have said, “The heart wants what it wants.”
JCHYa had to go there, didn’t ya? But off-topic, after 20 something years, I think people should stop trying to ride that train.
RCI actually agree. If a marriage appears to thrive, who am I to judge.
JCHAmen, brother. I sure ain’t (laughs). Anyhoo, the older I get the more I keep wanting to borrow from one piece to use in another. I’ll just think, “This works better over here. And I don’t care that I already used it there. I’m gonna use it again. In this other place.” There’s something that feels so wrong about that. I agonize over it. It’s like I’m asking some pieces to have a sex change. “Gee. I didn’t know you were a boy. I always thought you were a girly girl. That’s why I sent you to Miss Drysdale’s Academy For Debs. I am so sorry. But don’t you worry, honey… er… ‘Butch’. We’ll get you over to that Military School ASAP!”
RCYou really do need help. Not the kind you think, however. So I don’t know what to say about all that. But this idea of being ‘lazy’…
JCHOK, let’s talk about ‘lazy’ for a minute. You know the Rossini Overture to William Tell?
RCThe Lone Ranger theme? My favorite part of Clockwork Orange (laughs).
JCHNo doubt. That overture has zero to do with the rest of the opera. He used that in like six operas. Strictly to get paid. Six times. That was just the fashion at the time. The whole idea of struggling to create an ‘organic’ two hours of one hundred percent original material would have struck those guys as ridiculous.
RCWell, since I’ve never heard the rest of the opera (Thank God) I can’t comment on ‘organic’, but I like that factoid because I think Rossini
JCHActually, that is relevant. The full opera is rarely performed these days. So the rest of the material probably isn’t up to scratch. History decided that the one bit was OK and just shit-canned the rest.
RCSo perhaps ‘history’ knows ‘inorganic’ when it hears it. Anyway, talk is cheap my friend. When do we get to hear some of this stuff?
JCHI could start posting some ‘work in progress’
RCWho does that?
JCHOh like that ever stopped me before. Come to think of it, I often wonder how they do those movie previews a year ahead. I mean even before the film is finished they have a trailer that looks totally awesome. Everything I do is in an almost complete state of disrepair right up until the bitter end.
RCWell, they have a whole team of people and millions of dollars. But still. Why couldn’t you do something like that? Surely you finish some songs early on and could do a ‘trailer’, right?
JCHYou’ve hit on a key personal failing. I get so jazzed with creating stuff that I just keep doing more and more ‘creating’ and less and less ‘polishing’. The really crap part of every project I have is when the fun part is over. And then there’s the actual polishing.
JCHIt’s not like building a house, you know where there’s a ‘plan’ and then you build a foundation and then fill in the details. It’s more like blasting rock to find a diamond.
RCIs that how they find diamonds?
JCHNo idea. Look, just work with me here. It’s that blasting–you know, thinking up the raw idea. THAT is the fun part! Unfortunately, blasting is also the quick part. Maybe ten percent. Then after ya find the rock, you spend the other ninety percent, chip, chip, chipping at it to get to the final (cough) ‘gem’. And it’s about as fun as it sounds. Chip. Chip. Chip. I recall something attributed to Michelangelo about ‘David’: “Three months to think it up. Unfortunately, then another three years to bring it to life.” That’s how it works. Chip. Chip. Chip. It’s soooooooooooooooooooo boring after a while.
RCSo all this whining is basically about your inability to buckle down, young man?
JCHThat’s exactly right. There’s no one looking over my shoulder telling me, “OK, that’s cool. Let’s polish that bit and make a trailer. After that, you can get back to blasting.” I rarely have the self-discipline to do that.
JCHOn my tombstone it might well say, “There were a lot of things he shoulda done.”