A Trip to A Spain, Pt.6: My Love, My Cataclysm

So many times, great inspirational high points are followed by stretches of the comically mundane. As long as they’re somewhat comic, or interesting, it’s bearable.But last night, I was truly moved by a force of nature. A force I live with every day, one that can seem quite mundane out of familiarity, but one that sheds its shell, its Clark Kent anonymity, and reveals itself: a glorious cataclysm.

Bear-conducts

Bear-conducts

Today, I’m sitting in the mundane. In a building that used to be a castle, next to a long line of fans lined up for autographs, on a long pew, in a long row of composer’s wives.

We resemble “ladies who lunch” though we don’t actually know each other very well.  There’s something very Donna Reed or something about this – all of us lined up looking fine, supporting our husbands. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s a positive thing, we do support our husbands, but I can’t help but feel a little like another in a row of paper dolls.

I’m sure I’m the only one. I’m still getting used to being a girl. If you believe in past lives, and you’ll allow me an inch of meta-philosophical license, I’ll admit I don’t think I’ve ever been a woman before.  It takes a lot of gumption, a lot of personal strength.

Being a chick ain’t for sissies.

But here we are and here I am. In all honestly, I am still so proud of Bear. Last night, with a flick of his wrist, he filled a palace atrium with passion, such that the worn stones themselves brimmed with full-heartedness. Some cried. Girls made eyes at him. I’ll allow it, they should.

When I met Bear at school, I was drawn to him because he was the only person I could find who was possibly more ambitious than I. We understood the insanity of our goals, and the impossible odds only propelled us.  We met each other at the beginning of our mutual leaps, and here we are still, in the mid-air of our inspiration, under candelabras and oil paintings of kings.  The path of life is not nonsensical, but it is beyond prediction.

I wonder if watching Bear is like watching me. Later, I asked him how it felt to conduct an orchestra, and it was hard for him to answer. I understand that. It’s hard to describe the way it feels to sing; it’s a thing unto itself, and I am other than myself when I do it – really, more myself.

But the Human Target Suite premier last night was enormous. When the piece began, I wanted to comment to the person next to me, but I don’t know how to say “Things jus' got REAL up in here!” in Spanish.

When Bear conducts, it’s as if his arms physically reach into the bodies of the orchestra, and together they unleash the full current of their combined vitality. A tempest in sonorous sway. An affront to cowardice. A dance on the surface of water, his shoulder tension drops to the French horns and rises to the tics and crashes of percussion.

Finally, open palms turn downward – slow decent – slow vibrato – hands of creation moving slowly over the ocean of a world of sound. It’s the End Of Days for just a moment: “turn out the light” echoes in my mind – down to the original singularity, quivering in all the potential energy of the cosmos…

…and ssssssshhhh.

Pause.

Bows frozen. Hands mute strings. Brass holds its breath. A man in the centre with his head pitched forward, arms parted like low wings, tendrils of dark hair hung like web over closed eyes.

Then a voice from the audience shouts, and the rush of applause begins like a monsoon.

A chorus of chairs react in squeaks and shifts, as asses…300+ asses fly upward from their seats, in support of their attached vocal orifices. I’m not saying the people are asses, I’m literally talking about their asses. The castle atrium was on their feet and Bear turned to bow. He is smiling, he brushes the hair from his face. Bows again. No asses in seats yet, everyone is still standing. And this was only the first piece.

So here I sit among the wives, the next day. Watching my man sign pictures and CDs for fans, but it’s ok. He deserves this lush spilling of adoration. He deserves more.

Last night, I was truly moved by a force of nature. A force I live with every day, one that can seem quite mundane out of familiarity, but one that sheds it’s shell, its Clark Kent anonymity, and reveals itself: my glorious cataclysm.

me-and-Bear-7_23

me-and-Bear-7_23

A Trip to Spain, Pt.5: Gods in Squares

7/23 I’ve been searching for higher ground. I’ve been too heavy for the wind to lift me, and now I want nothing more than to be light. This week in Spain, this forced vacation away from my own music, my schedule, my band, my city – I’ve had to “hang out” with myself. Something I don’t really do. But I found out, I’m an ok kid.

I’m an insomniac, but only for short stints. I can, in fact, speak decent Spanish sometimes. I make friends with dirty little stray Spanish cats, just like pampered LA cats. Sometimes, my heart will not slow down unless I talk to it at night. I love good olive oil. I am not a drinker, though I sometimes try - folly. I love to sing more than anything.

me-singing

me-singing

Yesterday, impromptu, during Bears Q&A session with fans, he asked me to come up and sing “Apocalypse,” featuring the Gayatri Mantra, the opening music from Battlestar Galactica. I haven’t sung this song for over a year. Do I remember the words? A brown, stone, Spanish church full of Battlestar fans was waiting.

I sat on some steps near the pulpit, while Bear finished up a long answer to a multi-part question. The Q&A continued while I huddled in a small microclimate of my own sharpie fumes and note-pad sketch noises. I jotted down half of the mantra, but I could not remember the beginning.

How did it begin? I tried to visualize the opening credits to no avail. I looked up at the church ceiling – geometric religious symbolism, Gods in squares. Circles in squares. Petals in circles. Angels around petals. Reds and blues meticulously placed to form a greater geometry, a larger vision - a mandala, an infinite lotus blooming on the ceiling of an ancient Catholic edifice. I was possessed with a sense of oneness.

The dark Catholic infinitude opened to the light of The Now. Sanscrit verse devined through the ceiling in shafts of light like vaporous dove’s wings. The Vedic and the medieval spoke in unison. And I remembered.

By the time Bear called me up to the stage I didn’t need the words. I began the mantra a cappella. The spirit moved through me and out against the arc of the rectory. I felt the presence of the people in the audience and I loved them. I heard Bear play piano, and I wove my melody around him. It was a holy moment.

A blessing. A mitzvah. So say we all...

me and bear singing

me and bear singing

...And then we went to lunch

A Trip to Spain, Pt 4: First Night in Ubeda, Andalucía

7/20I’m watching a 3 year old named Neave, (composer, Chris Lennertz’s adorable daughter), splash in the hotel pool in a pink tu-tu bathing suit. Her mom and grandmother are with her, and it’s just the sweetest thing. I would get in there with them and splash around, but this hair takes a day to dry. We’re about to go to Bear’s first performance in Ubeda, a small city in the part of Southern Spain called Andalucía.

This city is unbelievable. Literally. I feel like I’m on a studio backlot, or Disneyland.

Ubeda-at-night

Ubeda-at-night

I had to fight my inner theatre diva not to break out into a full “Man Of La Mancha” review. In fact, I lost that fight, and released the song “Dulcinea” full voiced into the side of Bear’s fluffy head.

And that’s how you would’ve seen us - the full troop of Spaniards and loopy Americans, tripping over the colonial cobble stone streets, hugging the stone walls of slim medieval avenues, parting our group to allow for a speeding Citroën, pouring EU techno into our passage.

In my sleepless rapture, I thought I saw the music rising in a sonic wave - ones and zeros billowing up above ceramic roof shingles, till they crested above the plaster walls and wrought iron balconies. They mimicked stars, and fell. They feathered downward, their sex-pulsed origin tinkling into the twinkle of a billion nano-bot music boxes.

Me&Ubeda-at-night

Me&Ubeda-at-night

By the time Dopler had taken effect, we were rounding another world-worn corner, a sleep deprived rabble – and the particulate electronic beats and notions, settled forever into the rooftop dust of Andalucía.

me&ubeda-at-night-2

me&ubeda-at-night-2

Part 2, The Greenroom

If yesterday was a dream, this moment is very real. During the intermission at the first night’s concert, Bear and I headed back to the green room for some food. There was an assortment of bread-type-munchings, some green bananas (which actually were ripe, they were simply green), and two types of sandwiches labeled “vegitarian” and “normal.” The distinction between “vegitarian” and “normal” is ham. This is also a culturally true in Spain. Although in Spain, nobody will give you shit for being a vegitarian, it is not “normal” by far.

So we eat our abnormal sandwiches, and Bear goes out back to center himself before the second half of the concert, when he will be conducting his smaller ensemble. Before, I begin the upcoming description, let me just say that I have been in a lot of greenrooms: club greenrooms, nasty club greenrooms, grand concert hall greenrooms, shared green rooms, old greenrooms, greenrooms where clearly there was a considerable drug presence in the 80s or so…a lot of greenrooms. This one was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.

greenroom-1

greenroom-1

Like my first reaction to the town of Ubeda, it takes all my focus to convince myself I’m not in one of those faux Italian restaurants, where they try to mimic that painted plaster technique. That style where the plaster visages of cherubs and naked rubenesque women lift their eyes in lamentation, ecstasy, and high drama, as if they’re exclaiming,

“O’ Lord in heaven!

This garlic bread, thou hast bestowed

wilt giveth me the four winds in mine gullet!

Alas!”

But truly, the frescos in Ubeda -  in the back room of a genuine castle turned hospital (till 1971), turned concert venue – were the real thing.

greenroom-2

greenroom-2

greenroom3

greenroom3

greenroom4

greenroom4

Best place for bandfood. Ever.

A Trip to Spain Pt.3: Last morning in Málaga

In the blanched heart of 4am, if you had seen me, I was tank-topped and illuminated in blue. Sleep was a tease and a bitch, so I sat down at the hotel room desk, in my Batman shorts, and joined the act of collective consciousness that is the Google search.

I screen capped a few shots of the 405 fwy (which appeared on my previous entry) and responded to my mother, who has been concerned for my well-being. Bear had mentioned to her, in passing, that I had slept in through yesterday’s rehearsal, and she was worried that I was sleeping through my entire time in Spain. A mother’s love is as true as it is exponentially protective, so I wrote back to her, assuring her that I was aiming more for Sophia Loren then Rip Van Winkle, and that I had slept through rehearsal because I hadn’t gotten to sleep until 6am the previous night – and if I am to be fabulous – and I am – I must get my rest whenever it comes.

fabulous

fabulous

fabulous, no?

Also, to paint more of a savory experience, I mentioned an almond based soup called Ajo Blanco – just delirious, shamelessly deluxe, smooth and salty with frozen mango bits. I wrote about my adventures speaking Spanish to the Spanish, that I’ve been told my accent is excellent –unfortunately, my talent for accent outreaches my ability to speak the language! For now.

So at some point before 7:30am, I sleep. I know this because the alarm clock burst into my consciousness like glass splitting into my solarplexus. The centre of me shot hot and cold adrenaline, I groaned and hugged my starched white pillow.

And now. Through the early eye marine layer which sits on hotel breakfast rooms, blue grey and dissonant with whispers of the faintly awake

And now. Through the European one way streets, labrynthine, fractured lines on asphault, following construction cones, following the ebb and flow of the Euro and the Dollar

And now. Nestled in this corner chair, in a rehearsal studio, in a vibratory ocean of rumbling bass drum, strings and winds, screeching up in velvet minor seconds and tremolo. I wonder how much of this I will remember like a dream.

2-view

2-view

3-me

3-me

A Trip to Spain Pt.2: El Joker es mi otro esposo

Ink is the transcendent element. Ink as clefs, rests, dots and dynamic markings. Ink as crosshatched shading under a wild bloodshot eye on the page of a comic book.

The cult of “genre” transcends language and cultural heritage, and brings us here today, under a cottage-cheese-plaster ceiling, between four walls stuffed with chamber musicians.

pic-of-malaga-musicians

pic-of-malaga-musicians

This is the first rehearsal for Bear’s chamber music ensemble here in Malaga, Spain, (the original home of Antonio Banderas, apparently). It’s good to finally hear the music being played after watching him work on these arrangements for the last few months. Really I’m just happy we slept at all last night  (our internal clocks are in bizarro land, after 15 hours in flight) and woke up for this with any kind of orientation.

The culture of Spain is one of late night comraderie. The weather is warm and breezy, very accommodating for the outdoor cafes, around every corner. Our hosts, a small group of upstart film music fans, would’ve talked and tipped the beer all night, had we not pleaded jet-lag and retired at 11pm (8am our time).

Even this morning, through the round port-hole windows in the doors behind Bear’s conducting stand, I can see the festival organizers pressing their faces to see in, like bunched up shirts behind the dryer glass. They’re so excited, they’re such fans, they’re so sincere, they’re such… nerds.

It hit me last night over dinner. We traveled thousands of miles to bring music to a foreign and historic land, an exotic land, the birthplace of Picasso, the home of stony austere Catholicism, yet here, in the stomping grounds of Cervantes, we found more fanboys.

The-guys-(small)

The-guys-(small)

Right to left: David, Juanva, David (De Barcelona), y Sergio

What began as a discussion of film music, quickly morphed into a “What’s your favorite movie?!” bro-down geek fest. As the tapas disappeared, the genre love crested in recurrent waves of laughter and dénouement. “’Aliens’ is your favorite? ‘Aliens’ is my favorite!” Squealed David, the festival president, across the table. It became our own mini Comic Con, played out in broken English.

It really didn’t sink in until we were discussing the Conan The Barbarian remake at dinner, across from an Iron Man T-shirt, a Nightmare Before Christmas T-shirt, and a Green Lantern T-shirt. Then this morning’s rehearsal brought a harp, a vibraphone, two violins, one viola, a clarinet, a flute, a piano, a double bass, a French horn, a Superman T-shirt, a Batman T-shirt, a Simpsons T-Shirt , a white Joker T-shirt, and a green Joker T-shirt. I called one of them aside .

David, the festival president, was wearing the early 80s looking Joker rendering, on a white backgound – complete with sparkly hair, and the criminal’s devine, maniacle revelry, in open-mouthed glee. It was a very cool shirt.

I got his attention,

“Oye.”(Hey)

“huh?”

“Me gusto su camiseta.” (I like your T-shirt)

“Oh, heh heh, gracias.”

“El Joker es mi otro esposo.”(The Joker is my other husband)

“Oh, me too, ha!”

I’m not sure my Spanish was correct, and even if it was, not sure my sense of humor translated. Even so, it was a moment of trans-cultural geek love. We took a picture of the Joker’s loopy eyes, peeking out over the top of a Walking Dead score.

David-y-Oscar(small)

David-y-Oscar(small)

Oscar y David (with fab T-shirt)

After this we’ll break for lunch until 5, no doubt we’ll drift back into the realm of our collective ink-stained imaginations, but right now the strings are holding dissonances with the willowy quiver of the undead, opening up to hopeful strains above the rumble of a bass drum. This is, after all, why we are really here.

why-we-are-really-here

why-we-are-really-here

Part II: “Un Poco Tarde”

After lunch: Walking into the first full orchestral rehearsal, two festival coordinators, David and Oscar greet us. Everyone seems refreshed. They ask us if we need water or coffee, we tell them we brought water, and we just had some coffee, so we decline. Then I thought again, I might want some coffee later if things go as late as they did last night. I rehearsed the Spanish in my mind, “Yo quiero café un poco tarde.” (I want coffee a little later) I think that’s it. I tried it out on David (Of The Sparkly Joker Shirt),

“Um…quiero café un poco tarde…es correcto?”

“Quieres café?”

“No…si…I mean, es correcto?”(No…yes…I mean, is that correct?)

“huh?”

“Como se dice…en Espanol, ‘a little later?’” (how do you say…in Spanish, ‘a little later?’

“Oh, si ‘un poco tarde.’”

“ok cool.”

“ – en Espana, todo es ‘un poco tarde.’”

And we laughed, a joke! I got a joke in Spanish! He said “In Spain everything is ‘a little later.’” It’s true, even at this orchestral rehearsal players are just rolling in at the supposed start time, all in good humor, sandled, tan – but their playing is spot on, so maybe the Spanish are on to something. And later we’ll have dinner around 9:30 and probably finish by 11:30, I suppose, with beers. That’s Spain, alive in the moment – even if that moment stretches a little later, and later, and later….