I wanted to write something about the affinity between science and the arts. I argued it in highschool (my favorite subjects were physics, psychology, philosophy and poetry – I didn’t think I could paint yet, thus not making a perfect penta… hmm, seems to be no word for a grouping of five p words). So many of my colleagues, including me, dabble in music and the like, and at times at a rather high level. But, as I was writing, this became more of a memory of a short period in LA. And, talent that has made no wider mark. Which may be true for scientific inquiry also.
Back in LA, in the 80’s, I worked the swing shift in a West LA direct marketing company that handled the fledgling United Airlines Milage Plus program. Down the road, the Beverly Center was not yet built.
The place was filled with 20 something file clerks and customer service agents who all were really there to do something else. Well, I was there to try to handle my depression and general sense of alienation, so my direct aim was not to “make it”. But, so many of them were. You got invited to their plays, or listened to their demos (and always said they were great, because, well, maybe a good studio engineer could fix it in the mix). They showed their paintings. Invited you to gigs. (I prided myself on never paying, always being on the guest list. And, as I didn’t drink…). They were also very positive and encouraging about any of the wild ideas you had about what you wanted to do with your life. So refreshing from the restrictive Sweden, where nothing was ever possible, and you had to think of the practical. (I seriously think I would never gotten the idea I could pursue a PhD if I had stayed in Sweden, even with my science bent, because, well, that was just not done).
I had a friend then. Actually, I was his pseudo-wife for years, before we ended up lovers and spoiled the whole thing. We both lived out west – he in Santa Monica, me in Venice, Mar Vista, West La – I moved around a lot- At times I caught a ride home in his truck. He threw my moped in the back.
I knew he had been in cover bands when he lived in the pacific north west, and he talked me into buying a cheap version Moog (I grew up playing classical music, and piano was one of my instruments). This one night, he wanted to play me a demo he had made. It involved a sequenced Oberheim synthesizer (at the time the dedicated sequencers were fairly new) and his voice, recorded on some fairly crappy equipment. He was kind of apologetic about the quality.
The song Fucking Blew Me Away!
Of all the demos, all the bands, this was so many miles beyond. Imperfect equipment. Simple sequencing. Doesn’t matter. A great song is a great song! (A couple of years later, Tim, my friend, talked me into taking an recording engineering course at the Learning Annex, so I could engineer in the studio he was building in his garage. I felt rather pleased when one of the teachers, who had actually engineered very well-known bands, said that he used to listen to demo tapes on his telephone answering machine, because if the song was good, the quality of the equipment didn’t matter. It was also fun distracting him into telling gossipy anecdotes about said bands. The course was also the site of a Major Feminist Epiphany for me, but maybe I’ll talk about that elsewhere).
I served as Tim’s extra key-board hands, although we always had mild clashes about rhythm and precision. He loved the computerized exactness of drum machines and sequences. I liked rubato and other dynamics from my classical schooling, and didn’t think the perfection of timing devices was something to strive for.
During the time we knew each other, he wrote a whole slew of great songs, that he kept tinkering with, and teaching me, and updating. I still really love them.
He tried to get me to write lyrics too (as I once had had pretenses at being a poet), but deemed my spontaneous lyrics as too “paranoid schizophrenic”, and thus we embarked on writing a series of really really really awfully crappy lyrics (usually over pie and coffee at Zucky’s or other 24 hour coffee shop) to his beautiful, wonderful songs.
It is eons since we broke up. Right before I was going to grad school, a mutual friend stayed with me and my (at that time fairly new) husband, to go to Tim’s wedding. I was finally able to tolerate that he was marrying someone else, as I had found someone for myself (who also smelled more compatible). But it was a hard loss.
Since shortly after the turn of the millennium, I have, periodically, looked him up on google. His name (Tim Lastname) is really really common, but he has an unusual middle name.
And, I get a glimpse of him these days – kinda. Not in an active net presence – no face book, no blogs, no you-tube, but things filed like patents and business things (he was obsessed also with trying to figure out a business plan that would make him independently wealthy, so he could concentrate on writing songs). There is nothing concerning his music. None of his beautiful wonderful engaging songs seems to have made it into a larger consciousness. Supposedly (from that mutual friend now 18 years ago) he did sell a song that was used in a sound-track, who knows where.
My beautiful, skinny, dark haired, brown-eyed, gorgeous, talented, funny friend, who was my rock and shelter in some of my most desperate times, and wrote some of the best songs I’ve ever known, has made absolutely no mark on a bigger world of music. I wish I had his songs recorded. I’m considering seeing if I still can recall some of them from my motor-memory, now that I have a piano.
But, they’re gone. Like tears in rain.