I often wake up in the morning with an idea, image, story or sentence in mind that unravels of its own momentum into the Blog post du jour. I imagine many composers have the same experience, hearing something in their head that they need only play or write down to birth it into being. I know Mozart often spoke of taking dictation from some otherworldly Muse and Wagner said composing for him was like a cow giving milk.
That rarely happens with me in music, but following a practice evolved during the free jazz period, I sometimes just set my hands down on the piano and play a random notes, series of notes or groups of notes. From that impulse, I try to follow where the music seems to want to go. (Very much like “the secret song” activity I’ve written of before). And sometimes I do the same with writing. Begin from zero and just start typing and see where it leads me.
And so here I am, at 10:47 in the last hour plus of 2023. My friends in Australia are well into the New Year, my European friends just waking up to the first day of 2024, friends in New York or New Orleans perhaps still partying past the stroke of midnight, those in Colorado wondering if they can stay up for another hour and 11 minutes.
For a number of years, my New Year’s routine was to see Paula Poundstone at Herbst (or Norse) Theater, then go on to a party-in-progress, toss some bread dough around in a circle and then go out the door at midnight with the hosts’ collection of Tibetan bells and ring them raucously for a minute or so.
But no Paula since the pandemic and likewise, no party at the usual house. So stayed at home and watched “An Affair to Remember,” having just seen “Sleepless in Seattle” with the grandkids two nights ago. Both movies held up. And I had forgotten that the heroine in the older movie ended up becoming a music teacher! Sweet!
On Saturday, I drove 9 hours straight from the Palm Springs area to San Francisco and that night felt an alarming dizziness. It stayed with me this morning while I tried to remember how to play piano after a week away, but started to settle while walking around the neighborhood doing errands. Now I thankfully feel back to some semblance of normal.
These days, every superstitious opportunity to make a wish has me intoning “Health, health, health.” I feel mostly in control when it comes to my work, my play, my relationships with others and with myself, but when it comes to the daily news and to health, I feel at the mercy of forces outside of my control. Don’t we all. Of course, I do my part with diet, exercise and such, but none of that is foolproof.
So as turn into the New Year, my main petition to the gods is to grant me continued health so that I can continue to be of use in this broken world. Bring some happiness to others and myself any way and any time I can, be it through music, teaching, writing or simple acts of unasked-for kindness and smiles at strangers. The 2024 calendar is filled with opportunities to do all of that and more, here, there and everywhere, and I look forward to every day of it. Which means I want to be here for it. Please.
And I want you to be also. Forget the diet and the great American novel— let’s just be kind to each other, to ourselves and savor each moment we can of this precious, precious life.
As good a send-off as any to a most marvelous year, with hopes for more to come.
Happy New Year, my friends.