In 1992 I took bal­let at a lit­tle stu­dio in Mary­land, and at the end of the year we had a recital. Near­ly every­one who was born in the 1980s expe­ri­enced this first-hand at least once in their lives so you’d think that 30 years lat­er track­ing down some­thing like the name of one of the pieces of music used wouldn’t be absolute­ly freak­ing impos­si­ble. After all, it’s the inter­net age — you can find any­thing online. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve suc­cess­ful­ly tracked some­one down from some pre­his­toric part of my life to ask them some­thing ran­dom, I have actu­al­ly gath­ered quite a pletho­ra of ran­dom infor­ma­tion this way, it’s kind of awe­some. Well, I have met my match.

This fun lit­tle obses­sion goes back to 1992. I was 9 years old, but I will nev­er for­get the music that one of the advanced mod­ern class­es per­formed to in the recital that I was also in. Our music was Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flow­ers, from The Nut­crack­er. I remem­ber the chore­og­ra­phy, I remem­ber that Jen­ny Bun­ty, Kathy Delauney, Meri Price and Jes­si­ca Stakarows­ki were in it with me. I remem­ber the white satin dress­es with white tulle skirts and an off-the-shoul­der fringe (that wasn’t actu­al­ly sup­posed to be “off-the-shoul­der” but I didn’t let that stop me from repeat­ed­ly pulling the fringe off of my shoul­ders through­out the piece so my cos­tume would look like a “real bal­le­ri­na” (I was 9, once again, just remind­ing you). I remem­ber the weird plot of this pseu­do clas­si­cal sto­ry that we were telling,

the flow­ers, then the rain, then fire, then the fire cap­tures one remain­ing flower and is about to burn it to ash­es (it’s a pas de trois to music from Tchaikovsky’s Romeo & Juli­et) when a mag­i­cal storm hits and saves the day, blow­ing out the fire, water­ing the world and restor­ing life to the arid world. Or some­thing like that… it was nev­er actu­al­ly explained to me. But after decades of delib­er­a­tion, I have set­tled into this sto­ry.

The first time I heard the music for the Misty Winds (this was the name of the dance for this piece, per­formed by the advanced mod­ern class) it was one of those moments that sets the entire tra­jec­to­ry of your life into direc­tion­al motion.

I’ll go ahead and say it — I was a weird kid. I’m a weird adult. It’s not a new thing with me, the weird­ness. Over the years, I’ve learned to embrace and rock the weird but when I was 9 I didn’t think I was weird, I thought every­one else was just real­ly bor­ing. At that point in time I wasn’t remote­ly famil­iar with any pop­u­lar music with the excep­tion of a few Michael Jack­son and Richard Marx songs I heard on Baltimore’s Lite 102 on a night­ly basis.

What was I lis­ten­ing to? Well, ear­li­er that very same year Sis­ter Act hit the the­atres and I saw it at least 5 times, and I had mem­o­rized the sound­track with­in a week of its release…

What was I lis­ten­ing to? Well, ear­li­er that very same year Sis­ter Act hit the the­atres and I saw it at least 5 times, and I had mem­o­rized the sound­track with­in a week of its release… and no, I don’t mean the pop­u­lar songs from the movie (“Just A Touch of Love” C & C Music Fac­to­ry for exam­ple… I know, don’t even, ok? Let’s just move on… I’m old and lame, we know this) — I mean I had mem­o­rized the songs that the Sis­ters per­formed dur­ing Sun­day Mass after Mary Clarence (Whoopi Gold­berg) assumes direc­tor­ship of the choir. In fact, that was my favorite song at the time, Salve Regi­na from the Sis­ter Act Mass scene (yes, this car­ried def­i­nite social con­se­quences that I was nev­er able to com­plete­ly live-down before high school grad­u­a­tion).

I remem­ber sit­ting on the floor of the girl’s lock­er room at the pool with my red Sony tape recorder, lis­ten­ing to that song over and over again as I wrote down the lyrics, all of the parts, the rhythms and as much as I could with the musi­cal knowl­edge that I had. What was I real­ly doing? I was actu­al­ly doing my first tran­scrip­tion and arrange­ment — this project con­sumed my sum­mer, I spent hours and hours and hours work­ing on it, and no it was nev­er per­formed or shown to any­one, I loved every sin­gle soli­tary moment of it. I con­sid­ered this a sum­mer well-spent.

Why do you need to know this? Just try­ing to paint as an accu­rate of a pic­ture as I can of how far and deep this goes. Fun­da­men­tals, man! Any­how. I was geeky, I liked geeky music, I was real­ly into my geek­i­ness. Essen­tial.

The Misty Winds.

I was out in the audi­ence at our first dress rehearsal. This music was absolute­ly mes­mer­iz­ing, it was unlike any­thing I had ever heard before… and it wasn’t Tchaikovsky or any­thing from any clas­si­cal piece of any­thing I could iden­ti­fy. For some rea­son, I nev­er took it upon myself to look at the freak­ing pro­gram and see who the com­pos­er was (once again, I was 9 — a lot of things here are laced with child-induced stu­pid­i­ty) but by the end of the week with all the rehearsals I had com­mit­ted the entire piece to mem­o­ry.

Mem­o­riz­ing an instru­men­tal piece is a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent expe­ri­ence (for me) than mem­o­riz­ing a song with lyrics. With instru­men­tals, I rely a lot more on my feel­ings and emo­tions to keep the melody flow­ing in the absence of lyrics that cre­ate a sort of nar­ra­tive that aids the mem­o­ry. Dif­fer­ent tonal­i­ties and chords and pro­gres­sions and what have you cre­ate dif­fer­ent feel­ings, and so much of the way I expe­ri­ence music is through cathar­sis, so — in a nut­shell — I’ve paint­ed a sort of bio-pic­ture of the music. In all seri­ous­ness, I can still hear it in my head as if it were fresh — as if it hasn’t been 25 years since the last time I heard a record­ing of it. It’s a beau­ti­ful piece of music that’s become almost a leg­end in my head — I have noth­ing to go by but mem­o­ry. No title, no com­pos­er, no record­ing label (it sound­ed like Wind­ham Hill or Nara­da… so I lis­tened to EVERY SINGLE NARADA AND WINDHAM HILL record that was put out from the time of the labels’ exis­tence through 1992 (which was about a year longer than I need­ed) — that’s THOUSANDS of fuck­ing records, you have no fuck­ing clue… oh my GOD, and noth­ing — I got noth­ing, noth­ing but that mem­o­ry. Luck­i­ly, that mem­o­ry has become an enti­ty of its own. I even tran­scribed the melody for my first semes­ter pro­fi­cien­cy exam when I was a sax prin­ci­pal at Berklee. I can’t let it go.

I did try track­ing down the woman who owned the bal­let stu­dio — you know, the one that was respon­si­ble for all of the chore­og­ra­phy and the music. I was unsuc­cess­ful. Being com­plete­ly unsuc­cess­ful in this day of the whole liv­ing on the inter­net is strange — not that I couldn’t find her, but that I couldn’t find any­one relat­ed or any rem­nant of her. Any­where. From any­where. It’s like she van­ished off of the face of the earth. Actu­al­ly, it’s creepi­er — it’s like she nev­er exist­ed.

I’m guess­ing that was my last pos­si­ble avenue to go down in an attempt to find that piece of music, but I’ve got a freak­ing score for an ensem­ble in my head that’s been there for 25 years. I need to get it out. I need to hear it!! I need to put it out there.

I fig­ure one of three things will hap­pen:

  1. My song goes viral, every­one in the world loves it, I become famous, no one claims it, and it becomes mine. I can do this with­out feel­ing guilty because it has been 25 years and there is a pos­si­bil­i­ty that I’ve done some re-com­pos­ing over the years. I have absolute­ly noth­ing to lis­ten to as a guide so any­thing is pos­si­ble.
  2. My song goes viral, every­one in the world hears it, I don’t become famous because some­one claims it and attempts to sue me for copy­right infringe­ment and what­ev­er the hell you want to throw in there BUT I don’t get sued because I got what I’ve always want­ed — the name and com­pos­er of the freak­ing piece of music. I can let it go. I’m good with that.
  3. I put it out there, absolute­ly noth­ing hap­pens. I’m not sur­prised — this is the most like­ly out­come and if I were to believe any­thing else I’d be a damn fool. But I don’t see that as a rea­son not to do this. I’ve writ­ten tons of music over the years that no one’s lis­ten to, I’ve enjoyed that. It just seems like some­thing I need to do.

So, there you have it. The song that set the insan­i­ty in motion. I’ve heard tales of musi­cians going com­plete­ly crazy from not being able to stop obsess­ing over the pitch of a sin­gle note for pro­longed peri­ods of time. Well, I’ve had this whole damn thing in my head for 25 years now and I do declare I feel a bit bat­ty. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t look­ing for­ward to this.

Stay tuned, this will be fun. And tran­scen­dent, maybe. Def­i­nite­ly inter­est­ing. Oh yes.

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