Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Casting about for inspiration

Sorry I’m a little later than usual this week. You see, I’ve been totally bereft of ideas for a blog topic, and rather than just ramble on about this or that in order to fill today’s space, I wanted a topic with some substance, maybe even substance with a capital “S”. (When one is in the publishing industry, for instance, there’s always something about which to complain, and that usually makes excellent fodder for a blog post – but not today.)

I searched the internet to see if anything was up in the book world. Not really. A quick trip through the news of the day. Nope.

Then I thought of a conversation I had yesterday evening after a rehearsal of the big band in which I play. We usually go to a local pub for a beer, but last night the new dean and the director of alumni relations of my “old school”, McGill, dropped by to meet the four of us in the band who graduated from there. My wife, Vicki, also being an alumna joined us, as well.

During the conversation, the dean asked about my new novel (McGill figures prominently in the plot at one point) and said something about me being “authoritative” about music because I am an “insider”.

That’s not the first time I’ve been accused of that.

I tend to downplay my musical expertise because, well, the art has dominated my life since I was seven (and I won’t tell you how long ago that was, either). Knocking around in various musical genres, as I also have, gives me a pretty wide range of knowledge. But I’ve been doing it so long, it all seems to me like everyone should know this stuff. It’s not until recently (after an interview that got on to this same topic) that I realized I’m not like most musicians. Most only know a lot about the type of music they play. On other types, they may know not much more than the man on the street.

And there was the topic I was searching for.

I am inspired by music, and being curious by nature, when something inspires me, I want to find out as much as I can about it. A recent review of The Fallen One talked about my “clear enthusiasm for the operatic world” (a compliment to be sure!). I am humbled that someone discerned and recognized me for that, but it only tells part of the story. I’m enthusiastic about a lot of different musical pursuits than just grand opera. Each of my novels has focused on other things: playing keyboards in a rock band, making your living as a jobbing jazz drummer, standing in front of an orchestra playing violin, and now, singing in the world’s great opera houses.

On each of these subject areas I’ve tried to shine a little light based on my knowledge and “clear enthusiasm”, use music as an exotic backdrop to amplify and explain my characters’ motivations and actions, and maybe even to teach readers a little bit more about what exactly it is that musicians in various fields do during the course of their work.

Why? Because even after more than half a century (Oops! Just dated myself.) I find music utterly absorbing. It still inspires me to pick up an instrument nearly every day and play the same scales, arpeggios and studies that I’ve been playing for years. Simply put, I enjoy the ability to make music.

If I can bring even a quarter of that joy to the printed page and present it to readers, I will have done a fine day’s work.

Considered in this way, inspiration is never very far away.

1 comment:

Charlotte Hinger said...

Rick, I share your love of music. It plays a large part in the Lottie Albright series too. Here in Loveland, I go with some friends to Met HD at Fort Collins. My daughters were going to take me to NY for my birthday, and I had opera tickets (Turnandot) and then Sandy hit. We had to cancel. They allowed credit for the tickets at least.