The last snippet from the new opera, The Boats: Tower Hill? Why is it taking so long (again)? No fun factor. Getting the band back together? Too Old To Rock & Roll. Trump Virus. The American Dream.
Roger CortonIs it possible? The last snippet?
JC HarrisAnything is possible.
RCIt seems like it’s been going on…
RCYou said it. I didn’t.
JCHI did say it.
RCI seem to recall at certain times we’ve done rants titled “Why is it taking so long.”
JCHI vaguely remember those. Like a bad fever.
JCHWell in twenty five words or less, there’s health and then there’s inspiration and then there’s the related ‘fun factor’.
RCFun factor, you say.
JCHYeah, we’ve beaten that to death. Look, when I work on ‘normal’ stuff, I’m working on stuff based on what I’m enjoying. But this opera is essentially a work for hire, with me as the client. I’ve got a story and I have to come up with music that fits that material. I can’t just wake up and start noodling and go wherever my little heart takes me. Thus…
RCNo fun factor.
JCHRight. I have to keep re-focusing on the story at hand.
RCBut what I don’t get is why you kept bouncing around. You do understand that I couldn’t keep track of where all the pieces fit. If you were working as a client, why not do it in a linear fashion?
JCHPart of it depended on the ol’ inspiration that particular week. And part of it was architecture.
JCHIt’s a bit like building a house. I’d work on one side and then as I’d futz with it, I’d see how it threw the other side out of whack. And then I’d have to go back to the other side. Rinse. Repeat. About five hundred times. It’s totally pazzo.
RCIs that the technical term?
RCSo on to today’s snippet. Describe the action for sports fans.
JCHSports fans? (laughs) So if you look at the story you’ll see that Pól meets up with his fiance Máiréad at Tower Hill before he heads off to the bar to meet his brothers. This is her aria as she waits for him. This is her version of something the guys do a lot–a bit of self-pity.
JCHJust, you know, if only I could go back and things could be simple again. Etc.
RCIt sounds like a dance.
JCHThat’s right. It’s a little dance. Like kids do when they’re small. She’s just wigging out a little bit. (laughs).
RCAnd that screaming at the end is Pól?
JCHRight. He walks in on her reverie and he’s just frustrated. They’ve got this big decision to make and he can’t go back to when they were kids. It’s not his fault but he just doesn’t have any patience. It’s one of those moments where you and your partner pick exactly the wrong moment to be out of sync. Just when she needs ‘x’ he’s fresh out of ‘y’. You know what I mean?
RCOh yeah. (laughs). So now that we have all that out of the way. What’s next?
JCHMan, I’d like to say “Vacation!”, but in reality I’m just gettin’ warmed up. This is about half of the work to be done.
JCHYeah half. What were you expecting?
RCWell if you want the honest…
JCHNo lie to me! I never get tired of that joke..
RC…So what about gettin’ the band back together?
JCHWell I’ve had a couple of conversations with ‘da boys’.
JCHYeah. ‘Da boys’ (laughs). And I’ve screwed them over so many times…
RCHey, let’s not go there.
JCHIn any case, it’s a bit premature, but…
RCBut you’re staying in touch.
JCHYes, DAD, I’m staying in touch. Jeeez (laughs). We gotta see how my health holds up. I don’t know how much longer they want to do this sort of thing. Hell, even if my health comes together I don’t know how much longer I want to do this sort of thing.
RCSay it ain’t so!
JCHWell, seriously. Last year was a wake-up call when it comes to dying. If you take my meaning.
RCYou mean like Bowie and Prince and Chris Squire and on and on?
JCHYeah. I mean, everybody is starting to look pretty damned decrepit. I’m sick of old people trying to look young. I think I told you I had a drink with Ian Anderson a coupld of years ago when I was doing that play and I really thought he was done. But I see where he’s back for another FIFTIETH ANNIVERSARY TOUR!
RCMr. Too Old To Rock And Roll himself.
JCHIt’s getting to be time. I’m also sick of the fact that there’s so little through-line between the music I dig and ‘now’. I’m having trouble finding a link. Even less now than between my generation and the previous generation.
RCHow do you mean?
JCHWell shit. Not to put too fine a point on it, but at least my generation still had chords and melody and so on. I mean I could still make a living playing music from a bye gone era because the chords were the same and so on. But the current world is now basically rhyme and rhythm and samples and that’s IT. I no longer see that through-line between the generations.
RCYou sound even more despondent than usual (laughs).
JCHAnd that’s another thing. I’m finally ready to admit that I’ve been infected by the Trump Virus.
JCHYeah. I’m officially Trump-depressed. I finally realized that I’m cynical and have less energy and basically don’t give a shit about anything these days and I am about 100% sure it’s because I’m just sick of that guy’s ass. He makes me ashamed. I mean seriously. Just ashamed.
JCHI’m ashamed of America. Seriously. And I’m doubly ashamed that I let that twerp get to me. But I finally had to admit it: I’m not immune to this sort of stuff. And I hate feeling that way. And perhaps this is a good way to bring this on home.
RCGo for the gold.
JCHIf there is one thing I want to express in this opera it’s that these people in this town lived for literally HUNDREDS of years feeling that life operated according to certain rules. Where I grew up we kinda laughed at the outside world to a certain extent. It didn’t really touch us. And then when that all gets upended, it’s just a motherfucker. For me, it has created an amazing level of mistrust. I’m the kind of person that needs to believe in America and certain norms. It just suuuuuuucks for me when America isn’t behaving in a ‘worthy’ manner. Maybe that sounds naive to you.
RCNo, I get you. I thought Detroit was sort of about that. ‘The American Dream’.
JCHDetroit was definitely about the American Dream. But after I got done with it, I realized that there was a piece missing; Why people came here in the first place! The nobility of work. Pride. All the routines we had taken for granted. Detroit was about people obtaining that opportunity. The Boats is about what happens when it all gets taken away.