Thursday, April 12, 2012

More music... and girly V-bits

I attended my first rehearsal for "The Vagina Monologues" last night -- being performed to benefit the Women & Children's Shelter of Barrie.  (Earlier in the day, we were told the April 26 show has already SOLD OUT -- yippeee!  A second show will tentatively take place May 15 -- check for confirmation.)

I'd been asked to come on board to sing a couple of songs and play cello during and between some of the scenes.  The director, Mareka Martin, sent me the script and invited me to come meet the cast last night, and see if we could come up with some ideas for music.

This is all fun stuff for me.  I really enjoy doing theatre work.  In fact, for those of you who complain I don't toot my own horn enough -- the musical soundscape I created for Jeffrey Nisker's play "Sarah's Daughters" was nominated for a Brickenden Award (London's theatre awards) a few years ago.  Toot Toot!  :-)  Collaborating with people in other disciplines gets my brain moving outside of its usual pathways, and it's quite fun to just let loose in a field where I don't expect myself to be particularly awesome.

A little sidebar: on my way to rehearsal, a musical colleague had called the house for me.  Don told him "oh damn, you just missed her -- she's on her way to a Vagina Monologues rehearsal!", and gave him my cell phone number.  The stammering when he called me on the cell was a thing of beauty:  "uh, Don told me, uh... where you were... what you were... uh... the play thing you're rehearsing... uh..." and so on.  I tried very hard to not let my giggles loose on him.  I mean, the man's wife is a nurse, he's got three daughters -- SURELY he's had to say the word before?  Vagina.  Va-gi-na.  Not the prettiest word in the universe, but seriously -- is it THAT scary to say?!?

Apparently so...

Anyhow, back to me.  ;-)

Knowing that Mareka wanted me to open the show with a song of mine, Don challenged me a few weeks ago to write a new song.  A vagina song.

Now, I love challenges, but this one is eluding me so far.  And it's not that I can't find anything to say about the subject -- it's that I can't figure out a way to whittle everything I have to say into 2-1/2 minutes!  I mean, even the play just scratches (don't got there...) the surface.  I could approach it from sooooo many angles (I said, don't go there...)  I mean, my vagina alone has had over forty years of stories, and just think of how many vaginas are out there in the world!

There's good stuff, there's bad stuff, there's funny stuff, there's embarrassing stuff, there's clinical stuff, there's... WAY more than 2-1/2 minutes' worth of material!!!  It's been quite an interesting journey, exploring my relationship with this particular body part.  (hey, I said don't go there!)

I mean, seriously, where to start?  So much obvious stuff springs to mind, so many stories.  I almost want to make it a victory song -- incest-survivor-makes-it-through-into-adulthood-survives-further-abusive-relationships-to-finally-grow-into-a-happy-healthy-sexual-being-with-a-fantastically-awesome-sex-life-with-the-love-of-her-life is a pretty awesome story, I think (though perhaps not a light-and-cheery opening to a play).  There's the story about how shocked my grandmother was when my sister shouted from the bathtub "Alyssa stuck her toe in my vagina!" -- not so concerned about the apparent location of my errant toe, but scandalized that Tarah knew the word vagina.  There's all the OTHER names for this part of the anatomy (some of them cute, some silly, some of them downright NASTY -- I looked it up online, which is not a good thing to do when you're eating lunch in front of the computer, just sayin'...)  There's the joyous, celebratory side.  There's the lonely side.  There's the shameful side.  There's the "power tools" side.  There's the I'm-horny-as-hell-and-I'm-not-gonna-take-it-any-more side.  Not to mention the medical side, and my near-death experience last year when Big Ethyl tried to make a break out of my uterus through my cervix and crawl OUT my vagina into the free world.  I mean, seriously, if they made a movie about my vagina (which would be kind of a weird movie, but I'm just speaking artistically-hypothetically-metaphorically here), it would be an awkward blend of ridiculously-unrealistic-soap-opera, cheesy-uplifting-and-empowering-movie-of-the-week, gushy-romance, naughty-porno, riveting-suspense, psychological-thriller meets Cronenburg flick.

Try fitting ALL THAT into 2-1/2 minutes!!!

I'm still trying, but... fortunately, the gals last night loved my "Plan B" option.  Which is good, because I still have to finish my tax return and prepare a bunch of other performances, and I don't know how much more time I can spend attempting to write light and humorous songs about vaginas.

So... the opening song is going to be a few verses of "Sasha", as it stands now.  One of the women said afterwards, she thought I'd written the song about her (no, and I'm not telling who).  I think most of us have either been Sasha or known Sasha at some point in our lives.

               Sasha sashayed through our lives and our days, and not a soul had a clue
               Ain't it amazing what a swish of the hips can do?

     'Though all the boys wanted to touch her, they were too mystified to talk
     But they bragged about what they'd done with her anyway
     While nobody believed each other's stories, they'd relive them each night in solitary glory
     And by day, freeze like deer at the hint of her headlights
          They'd hold their breath with panicked hearts
          Yearning for a brush of skin as she slinked by
          And just the thought of her lit them up from the inside

               Sasha sashayed through our lives and our days, and not a soul had a clue
               Ain't it amazing what a flick of the wrist can do?

     Though all the girls wanted to be her, we wouldn't be caught dead with her
     'Cause who'd want to hang with that tramp anyway?
     While nobody had met a friend of hers, we knew they must all be tres glamorous
     So we scowled in her shadow, wordlessly praying for acceptance
          We'd hold our breath with jealous hearts
          Wishing her magic might rub off on us as she skulked by
          And just a word from her lit us up from the inside

               Sasha sashayed through our lives and our days, and not a soul had a clue
               Ain't it amazing what a lick of the lips can do?

     Though all the men wanted to own her, they were afraid to be alone with her
     But she could be their mid-life crisis any day!
     Nobody ever figured out where she lived, but many dogs were walked where they thought she did
     As they orbited 'round her oblivious sun
          They'd hold their breath with guilty hearts
          Praying for some inner strength if she swayed by
          And just one glance from her lit them up from the inside

               Sasha sashayed through our lives and our days, and not a soul had a clue
               Ain't it amazing what two fluttering lids will do?

     Though all the women wanted to protect her, they knew she was a threat
     'Cause what sort of men wouldn't prefer her to them anyway?
     Nobody ever knew anything for sure, but her eyes said she'd had a lot to endure
     So they all gathered 'round to shelter her flame from the wind
          They'd hold their breath with conflicted hearts
          Hoping they could be of help if she stopped by
          And just one grateful smile lit them up from the inside

               Sasha sashayed through our lives and our days, and not a soul had a clue
               Ain't it amazing what a little mystery can do? kind of sums up a lot of those issues -- and without even mentioning the word vagina!  :-)

It's almost like I knew, six or seven years ago, that I'd be stuck writing (or rather, NOT writing) a song for the Vagina Monologues.  Not only that, the director specifically asked for verses of "Breathe" to be interspersed with some scenes.  How perfect is that?  A song that was inspired by the birth of my niece, and all that I wished for her in life -- the first two verses are definitely childbirth-and-therefore-vagina-related, the remaining song about triumphing over hardships along your path and becoming a strong, empowered goddess of a woman.  Plus I get to sing loud in that song, and I like singing loud sometimes.  :-)

So... I haven't given up on writing a new song, but the pressure is off a bit.  I'm sure, though, that once I actually start working seriously on my taxes, the new song will pop out of me (birth reference intentional here) as a marvellous procrastination technique.

And with that, I'm off to do my taxes!

(Hey, I used the word vagina 14 -- nope, now 15 -- times in this blog.  Do you think I'll get flagged for adult content?  Vagina vagina vagina vagina vagina...  ;-)  )

Musically and vaginally yours (but not in THAT sense, buster!)

Friday, April 6, 2012

OK, back to music...

Sorry, been a while again -- juggling many things this past week-plus, including a wee bit of depression that was inspired by the same events as my last posting.  (Call off the suicide watch, I'm ok!  Just needed to give myself some alone-time to process through the muck.  And those damned lucid dreams are back...)

One of these projects is preparing for two upcoming performances of Missa Gaia, in Orillia (April 21) and Midland (April 22) with the St. Paul's United Church choirs.  It's going to be a big multi-media performance of Paul Winter's jazzy Earth Mass -- for choir, instrumental ensemble (percussion, piano, organ, guitar, bass, saxophone, cello), and a collection of wild animals.

OK, don't panic, there will be no wild animals at the show -- their performances were taped in advance.  But you will hear the songs of wolves, whales, seals and birds interspersed with the live music!

There is an extensive cello solo mid-mass, called "Stained Glass Morning".  The conductor, Blair Bailey dropped the score off to me last Thursday.  It's a meditation, very improvisatory -- I imagine the original cellist improvised the whole thing and then notated it after the fact.  I took a peek through the music and decided it wouldn't be terribly difficult to put together.

That is, until I made the quip about whether I got to be in a cello-wombat duet.

No wombat (damn!), but it turns out I DO have to play this along with a bunch of birds.  (Probably more musical than wombats...)  First is a 40-second recording of a musical wren.  Then a 19-second recording of a woodthrush.  Then a 1-minute-and-10-seconds recording of a dawn chorus of birds.

Nowhere in the score does it indicate how I'm supposed to interact with the recording -- i.e., where I should be in the piece by the time the birds do their best to drown me out.  Listening to the soundtrack isn't helping me, as the piece the cellist plays is very different from what he wrote down in the score.  So... I'm gonna do it my way!  :-)

The opening in the score has me playing around on a bunch of high harmonics.  I figure that'll be me and the wren.  Not a clue about the woodthrush, though...  it's a pretty quick tape.  Maybe that'll be my cue to start the improv.  The harmonics come back -- with a vengeance -- at about the half-way point, so I figure that's when the morning birds can start to go crazy.  Maybe they can drown out the really weird harmonics I have trouble hitting cleanly.  :-)  It's kind of an unusual experience, trying to figure out how to do a duet with a bunch of birds...

So, if you hear some strange whistling and squeaks and squawks coming from the music room in the coming days, it's just me, Lady Jo (the cello) and my new birdie friends.


P.S. -- to those of you who are going crazy waiting to hear the details about my new big-and-scary project (yes, you, Lisa!) -- I'm so sorry, I didn't mean to drag it on like this.  And trust me, I'm going crazier than you are (yeah yeah, I know it's not difficult...).  Things that were supposed to be in place before I could safely make the announcement are still dragging their sorry arses.  Working on it!  Hopefully by the end of the month, at the VERY latest.  With any luck, before the YRAP Gala next weekend!