Saturday, January 20, 2018

I stand at the gate waiting

I stand at the gate waiting,
Watching as you saunter away from me.
I can’t help wondering how soon you’ll return
Or if you’ll think much of me while you’re gone.
Loneliness is a cloak: tight, dark, and cold
Best burned away by reunion’s bright fire.

Embers drowse, memories of fire,
Not sleeping, quite, but fresh fuel awaiting.
Absent your heat, now quiescent, the cold
Cuts into my center, slows me, tires me.
My equilibrium disrupted, gone
The peak, in trough I await your return.

How long until the return?
Two weeks? A dozen? Time enough for fire
To touch the roses? Petals drop, are gone
To winter’s heart a new spring thaw waiting.
Speranza del mio cor[1] do not leave me.
Dolce desio in absence is cold.

As darkness to light so cold
Stands by heat, empty until your return.
You are the original cause, for me.
For all my actions you spark the first fire.
T’en vai haime, alas, alone, waiting
Sola mi lasci, addio. You’ve gone.

“Please, oh please” I beg. “You’ve gone!”
Now I know why Demeter felt the cold,
Brought winter when Persephone, waiting,
Ate those seeds and failed three months to return.
In anguish she cried and drowned the sun’s fire
For a season. Just so have you left me.

But the myth brings hope to me.
Anesidora, when all else was gone,
Left at the bottom of her jar a fire.
When my passes through all the cold
Of separation I see your return.
The sweetest fruit is born of that waiting.

Now let me embrace the cold
While you are gone, that when you here return
That fire that animates me is waiting.

20 January 2018
To Mai Hong

[1] From “Da le belle contrade d’oriente,” a madrigal by Cipriano de Rore (1516-1565), on an anonymous text.
Speranza del mio cor, dolce desio, / Hope of my heart, sweet desire,
T’en vai, haime, sola mi lasci, addio. / Alas, you leave me alone, goodbye.

We dance and we leap, erratic and bright

We dance and we leap, erratic and bright,
Frolicking joyous against winter’s drear.
We are the sparks that challenge the night.

By morning you waken us, strike in us right.
You teach us, beseech us to stand and be clear.
We dance and we leap, erratic and bright.

Quietly growing at edges of sight
We court you, we warm you, and all who are near.
We are the sparks that challenge the night.

At noontide displaying our fettle, our fight
We kindle your yearnings to learn and to hear.
We dance and we leap, erratic and bright.

Now swaying now shrinking with heat and with light
By golden hours feasting, we sing with good cheer.
We are the sparks that challenge the night.

In evening, ere fading to embers contrite,
We hand out our passions to those we hold dear.
We dance and we leap, erratic and bright.
We are the sparks that challenge the night.

16 December 2017

Monday, November 20, 2017

Classical Music Video

I'm not dead yet. In fact, quite the opposite. It was a rather productive summer, though not one when I wrote much. Instead I concentrated on recording. If you're familiar with my Studies and Inventions you'll know that they aren't studies in the traditional "if you do this you will learn to play better" sense, but rather more in the "I'm playing around sketching stuff with new techniques" sense that visual artists might use.

The first piece, Study No. 8: "Scherzo," plays with a heavy front loaded double dotted rhythm in the Russian style and some "black key/white key" games in something of the manner of early Stravinsky, which is to say the left hand and right hand aren't always in the same key precisely. Stravinsky sometimes called such pieces "scherzi" or jokes, so I've taken that title.

Next is Study No. 9: "French Moment." This one is a little more straightforward. It's mostly an experiment in modality, dancing between the Phrygian and Aeolian flavors of e. (Mostly settling on the former.)

At this point I started to get a bit more daring with my video production. (Marginally.) For the next piece, Study 10: "Something Jazzy," I decided to use that distinctly American style of splashy signage which is roughly coaeval with the music I wished to evoke.

I should, perhaps, confess that I actually shot this next video before the one above. But it is a much more complex and ambitious experiment. It accompanies a piece called Study 13: "Slate Grey Skies," to which end I felt obliged to play with light in more complicated ways. It doesn't precisely tell a story, but I hope it evokes a strong mood. I have particular adjectives in mind, but I will leave it to you, dear listener, to name them.

Lastly I wrap up with a simple but playful piece called Study 14: "Syncopated Rhythm." It's quite short, so there aren't any fancy cinema tricks here. Just a pianist. In a hat.


I did also record a few pieces by other composers. Since I, of course, play other people. Several of them can be found on the youtube channel. Along with other sorts of endeavors entirely. But I will wrap up there for now. Thank you for following along.

The Composer

Recording Poetry

Among other things I spent my summer and early fall experimenting with recording and crafting short videos of various sorts. Most were musical and told no story apart from a mood. But several were meant to accompany poetry, and this told a story of sorts. (Since I tend to tell a story with my poetry. Usually. Not always, but far more often than not.)

The videos aren't all that. Two are little more than glorified slide shows, really. But the third involved some location shooting and a bone-fide actor. Unpaid. Volunteer. Which is to say me. Fortunately, the acting was quite simple. (I walked. I can't do much, but I'm a reasonably competent walker.)

Without further ado, three poems:

a tiny flower

Westward Through September


All three can be found elsewhere on this blog, should you wish to see them in print. But I present them here more as they were intended to be experienced. As always, thank you for joining me.

The Composer

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Poetry for Springtime

My lover is the storm tossed sea

My lover is the storm tossed sea
And the calm after.
She is waves
Cresting and falling in nearly
Rhythmic succession.
Each mounting taller,
The sea spray
Broken from her by
Wind that curls her peaks
Down onto my decks,
The troughs between, so deep
They bear my keel,
Threaten to break me,
Bow unsupported as I
Steer my course into the

My lover is the oasis
And the mirage.
I am mad, dehydrated,
Sun blind from her brilliance,
Thirsting for the water
She shows me lying after the next
Slipface, down the next
Dune, in the secret garden
Nourished from her hidden

My lover is the winter mountains
And the avalanche.
She is granite feet,
Cedar thighs, obsidian
Glances, sharper than knives,
Snow and the sunlight on
Snow, movement like
Glaciers unstoppable,
Carving my world,
Cutting me asunder and
Lifting me up, her springtime
Waking my desert and filing my

21 March 2017

Friday, April 7, 2017

Morning in the Sun and Other Distractions

So it seems that in the midst of all the hubbub of the new year there were a few things I'd meant to post and never did. And now it's April.

Wherever has sweet time gone while I wasn't looking?

I've posted these one or two other places, so if you've already seen them I beg your indulgence. All are motion picture experiments of one sort or another. All are accompanied by music I've written and haphazardly recorded after a fashion. Two use my toys. One video was even intentionally designed specifically to go with that music, in that MTV way . . . if rock bands had no budgets and stood an inch and a half tall. All tell a story in one way or another. So, hey, they fit, right? Anyway . . .

Let there be video!

I call this first one Christmas on Tartarus. The toys you'll have seen. The over-scale tree in the middle of town? What was that about sweet time? The two piano pieces aren't particularly recent, both hailing from the early aughts. But the video was from last December, so it's new enough.

This next one is more of a story, and less "classical", save possibly in the rock sense. And hey, that's 28mm me and my 28mm sweetheart, so maybe it's a love story.

(Word of warning: this one's a little longer and starts out slow.)

This last one is more of an "art" piece. It's really just a Koyanisquatsi reference if it were a video for Short Ride in a Fast Machine. (Which . . . has been done, of course.) But hey, I think of this as Rachmaninov meets Glass, so maybe that's not altogether inappropriate. The piece probably owes something to both.

Anyway, thank you for watching. And listening.

The Composer

(See? I really do compose. Honest.)

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ars Contra Tyrannus

Here's a somewhat special moment: a back to basics moment. I started blogging to write about music and got carried away with gaming instead. I do not wish to lose my sci-fi chi, but events can sometimes catapult you back to places you'd forgotten. This is one such case. For some reason I feel as though those of us who appreciate that magical spot at the end of the rainbow where we can feel welcome need some music to march to. We have a long walk ahead of us. In fact, a friend asked me to write some walking music for just that purpose.

I'm not really by nature a pop song composer. I'm a fugue and symphony guy, so I had to venture into slightly unfamiliar territory to do this. I've done a few before, but not whole heap tons of 'em.

So this last week or so has been something of a learning experience. Not only did I write that walking song, but I also made some demo-ish recordings of it and several other popular songs that have been sitting on the back burner. First, let me give you a glimpse inside the Empty Pocket Studios . . .

Please note carefully the expensive recording equipment dangling off the music stand. If it looks like something you might expect to see someone wearing in your finer Midwestern truckstops, it is. It's the headset off my low-budget smarty phone. And the cymbal is the same frying pan lid I played when I was four or five and climbing in and out of my mom's kitchen cabinets. Yeah, the instruments are real enough, and yeah, they mostly cost more than a microphone, so maybe my priorities are misplaced, but . . . well . . . whoopsie daisy. Emptied my pockets buying things that make noise and had nothing left for things that detect noise.

So I started last week off by making recordings of a couple of older things that I've wanted to render more presentable for a long time. The first was originally intended for a radio play that has, thus far, remained unproduced. It was somewhat the easier, as I let my computer do all the complicated instrumental performance work and I just sang. The second was more adventurous. I decided I wanted to play it myself.  That's where the frying pan comes in. (It will be back later.) This one is a very odd bit of fan service: a song for a band called Mushrööm Klöwd.

I'll try to give these other pieces proper posts of their own later, but we're here to talk about protest. I'd been struggling with what to write until I looked over at my wall.

This is a painting by a friend of mine, Kerry Hirth, called "The Unfortunate Rake." My progress has been slightly more tangential to Bedlam than directly towards it, but this could well have been me at several points in my life. Still, Kerry insists there's no connection. Instead, she reports that it's based on a piece of music by the same title. An Irish fiddle tune, I believe she said.

Kerry has an interesting way of sensing the world around her. She strongly associates colors and harmonies. She can literally see the colors in a piece of music. This is a form of what's called synesthesia. I don't want to get into the technical woods here, as it's complicated, not my specialty, and there's quite a bit of debate anyway. Suffice it to say, however, that while somewhat rare, there's quite a history of it among famous artists and musicians alike. Kerry uses it as the basis of many of her paintings.

I, on the other hand, am not one of those synesthetic artists. I appreciate where she's coming from, and I'm darned interested to see what she sees when she hears my music, but to me, it looks more like an odd rainbow than music. I looked at it and I thought . . . rainbows: "The colors of the rainbow are hanging on my wall. The colors of the rainbow, don't ever let them fall."

So there it was, the beginnings of a song about rainbows. That's a good start. Of course, my wall was a little specific, so I worked to generalize the chorus a little better and wrote some verses for  the details largely cribbed from the life stories of friends with some small artistic license. The stories are mostly painted in pretty broad strokes that would doubtless be similar to lots of folks. (Actually, a couple apply equally to several of my friends. Everything but the raft episode is pretty general, and that's the one I changed the most anyway.)

Without further ado, let me present to you the "Rainbow War Song":

. . . . .

The Colors of the Rainbow
D. Ackerman

When I was a young man I felt I walked alone,
A shining spot of color in a world of monochrome.
I fought to be my own man, to sing a different tone.
Little did I know then of the shining rainbow home.

The colors of the rainbow are standing proud and tall.
Each color of the rainbow, don't ever let one fall.
Let the people of the rainbow sing of peace and harmony
Know that if we march together our colors can be free.
Each person of the rainbow has a place inside the whole.
We will carry one another to reach our rainbow goal.

My friend, she was a young girl trapped inside a stranger's skin.
The preachers at the churches told her changing would be sin.
But she found the rainbow nation and she learned a different way.
The great big rainbow family had a different way to pray.


Let me tell you of my old friend and his tremendous craft;
To escape from fire and flooding he built himself a raft.
By the light of our great rainbow he sailed across the sea
To a land of milk and honey he builds with you and me.


The young woman fled the jungle where the war had taken hold.
She paid the price for transport with eight pieces made of gold.
In the belly of the trawler she was smuggled 'cross the sea
To the shining rainbow nation where her colors can be free.


. . . . .

There is, of course, an audio version recorded by some half competent singer and pianist. (Maybe even three quarters competent if he would ever practice, but he did not.) This is really just demonstration grade stuff, not actual performance grade. Empty Pocket is largely empty of sound equipment, so I didn't invest that much time in the recording. The idea is to get this piece at least out there so folks as need it can use it and perhaps add their own verses if they so choose.

Anyway, so that's my last week or so. Thank you for listening.

The Composer