Another snippet from the new opera, The Boats: Fallen Leaves. Post Turkey. Led Zeppelin III. Sticking out like a sore thumb. It’s all about frustration. Are we there yet? Turning in the keys. Alternative Opera Showcases. Health update. St. Christopher.
Roger CortonA rockin’ snippet. This sure doesn’t sound like no stinkin’ opera to me.
JC HarrisIt sure doesn’t.
RCHow come? I mean. Won’t it stick out like a sore thumb?
JCHI think that’s a good observation. As I’ve ranted many times, the last thing I want is to create the impression that the orchestra is just slapped on to the end of a rock band. Hopefully, just the one aria won’t take listeners out of the whole experience. But it’s a risk.
RCSo why even take the risk? Why does the opera need to sound like Led Zeppelin III?
JCHAnother good question. You’re just FULL of good questions today, sonny! And I like the Zep III reference. Very apt. At this point, Ciarán is laying in bed in the hospital after having a heart attack. He sees himself on TV along with all the other boat owners marching on the bank to protest the auction and he’s having one of those “what’s it all about?” moments that we all have, right?
JCHI mean, no matter how tough you think you are, at any moment you could wind up in a hospital ward with a gown on with yer ass hanging out the back.
RCVery dignified. (laughs) So what does that have to do with ‘rawk’?
JCHAlthough Ciarán is not really of the ‘boomer’ generation, I guess I associate that situation with Led Zeppelin now in terms of the hypocrisy of it all; maybe that’s not the right word. I used to think of rock and roll as ‘rebellion’, right? But now, when I hear Zeppelin? It’s probably being used as the soundtrack for a movie or a Cadillac commercial.
RCI get you. That’s probably true.
JCHSo I wanted to have a moment where Ciarán, this tough guy–I mean he really is a tough guy, but even he has his limits, right? Even he ends up in the hospital like the rest of us with his ass hangin’ out of the gown, you know, the petty humiliations. And to me, that felt like ‘rawk’; an old guy, feeling limited. A guy who wants to break out somehow… you know, like geezers who might buy a Cadillac to feel young again.
RCYou’re talking about a mid-life crisis.
JCHMaybe. But it’s a bit more than that. It’s more like Death Of A Salesman. Ciarán is having to come to grips with the notion that, like 400 years of history is going away. And he didn’t think it would bug him. But it bugs him. And he resents the fact that it bugs him. He resents that loss of control. That’s the guy thing.
RCThe loss of control. Not seeing crying or grieving as healthy. Just wanting to push it aside and keep moving. Thinking of grief as just an inconvenient pain in the ass. Absolutely.
JCHRight. And that’s what I was going for. Because to me ‘rawk’ is all about frustration.
JCHOh yeah. Rock is about tension. The best songs all have that. (sings) “I can’t get no. Satisfaction”. And that’s what I wanted here. Some tension and frustration. Just for a few minutes.
RCAnything you want to say about the music? You say that you’re writing this [opera] to be easy to play, but the bass part seems pretty busy.
JCHMaybe a little but I have to have fun sometimes. These kinds of songs need someone to pop in some fills or they can sound mighty dull.
RCOne last thing for today. If my count is right, you’ve now got about a dozen ‘snippets’ done for The Boats, right?
RCAnd… you must be getting somewhere near the end, right?
JCHWell, hmm, I guess I am. As I think we discussed before, there is a lot of connective tissue left to do besides the arias and recitatives.
RCSo would it be fair to say that you’ve got most of the arias and recitatives finished? It seems that way from your Story outline.
JCHGetting close. But like I’ve said a few hundred times, I got to this point before with Detroit, where I thought I was like ninety percent done. But then I ended up redoing so much of it that it was as though I was only maybe thirty percent done. So, who knows? I sure hope I’m better at this now, second time around! My goal is still to be done by the end of February.
JCH(laughs) Two years ago come February, I made the mistake of telling my then girlfriend that I was going to finish one act and then hand the keys to my house back to the bank and go live in the park.
RCHow did that go over?
JCHHow do ya think it went? So now that I’m on my own (laughs) the plan is much the same. There are a number of ‘showcase’ events for opera competitions in the fall which I missed.
RCLike with rock and pop bands?
JCHYeah, just like that. You bring yer score and a video and you pitch yer idea to various theater companies.
RCWow. I had no idea.
JCHYep. They’re out there. Lots of experimental theater and opera companies. There’s even one near you in Hotlanta, buddy. I’ll have to get some links for you some time. They are kerrraaaaazy.
RCWell, we gotta get you going, son!
JCHI’m itchin’ too. But I’m in this Catch-22 land. My health isn’t good enough to tour or even to market Detroit or The Boats so I’m just taking it one day at a time. But I’ll tell ya. Ninety nine percent of these are so crazy that what I do doesn’t fit.
RCOh… go on.
JCHYou’ll see. They’re just beyond stupidissimo. I know you think I’m impossible, but really I’m not trying to be difficult. It’s just like there are two speeds in the world: ‘nutty cuckoo’ and ‘normal’ and what I’m trying to do falls between the cracks.
RCSpeaking of cracks, how is the health thing?
JCHCute. Well, the good news is that they are trying all kinds of different shit on me now.
JCHAnd all these damned things take literally months to find out if they work. The best I can say is that they haven’t made me feel worse.
RCNot sure I follow you.
JCHWell, in the past, a LOT of these things had really awful side-effects that one has to power through in order to even determine if they ‘work’. So I’d not even be able to function while waiting to see if they did the job. A DOUBLE bummer. Actually a TRIPLE bummer because you’re still feeling the original pain and the side-effects and not making any money.
RCAh, I get it. But now?
JCHNow, I at least can keep cranking on The Boats while I find out if all these concoctions actually make me feel any better. There’s only a small amount of loopiness.
JCHSo far… only two car accidents (laughs).
RCWow. Somebody’s getting a St. Christopher Medal for Christmas. But until then. You be careful out there.