Crazy Shifting

Day 334 Week 49 Q4  Thursday, December 1, 2022

Have you ever found yourself in a situation where you just got rolling on a project or a lifestyle change and had almost solidified the set of habits and routines needed to ostensibly get you where you wanted to go and found something looming threatening to wipe out the entire path?

Sure, you have. We all have. Well, all creative outliers have, at least.  And there were large parts of you wanting to say no to whatever was looming, but you had just been telling yourself that Whatever is happening in the outside world does not have to negatively affect you? I mean, have you ever gotten to a sort of transcendent chill kind of place where you felt ready for anything but wanted to adhere not to just anything but to a specific thing?

Okay so here is where I found myself yesterday and determined to do a Crazy Shifting exercise. I decided to come up with something so outlandish and improbable, that if I was very likely about to seriously perturb the entire painstakingly established pattern and path, I might as well shoot for some nonlinear gains out of the deviation and turn it into an adventure.

And completely by accident, it seems to be occurring close to the beginning of the New Year, which begins a month from today. Okay so here is the Crazy Shifting thing I decided to do faced with taking my first airplane trip since before the pandemic began, to go and visit some people I like but have never spent more than a day with. And if one is to fly to a destination a thousand miles away one would not just stay for lunch. Somehow the powers that be manifest this long overdue trip as a week-long affair.  

So here is the Crazy Shifting part. I play a few instruments and am a composer singer-songwriter who, somewhere along the way was told by some teachers that a good way to write better orchestral parts for a family of instruments I was inexperienced with to get one. As a mostly self-taught and involuntarily improvising pianist and guitarist, I never learned to play any stringed instruments. Now bear with me, because yes guitars and pianos do the strings but when classical musicians, composers and conductors refer to strings they mean the family including violin, viola, cello and double bass. So I rented a cello and took some lessons, not to become a cellist but to write better string parts.  When an ensemble performs, the pages of notation handed to each player are called parts. A part is a score for one, as the notes and directions you hand to a cellist has different notes on it than say for a violin unless you want them to play the same thing. 

Back to cellos. I am still renting and not playing the one I took lessons on six months ago, and I have accumulated and modified a nonstandard cello with five instead of four strings to entertain some fantasy about being a bass-playing cellist even though when a cellist gets s five-string cello, which is rarely, they assume they are getting a high string to get up into the viola territory to play higher notes. 

So, now I own a modified five-string bass cello and am renting a four-string cello to have a reference instrument that is known to work properly. And yes, I have written pieces with string parts that made more sense but have wanted to figure out how to play five-string bass cello because I like bass notes and bass parts. Well, it just so happens that the people I am visiting next month, are relatives I like very much and my cousin mentioned we have this cello which belonged to his father, my brilliant and somewhat renaisanceman uncle, and do I want it?

Well, this seemed like a perhaps crazy opportunity to explore. Except for two things, I really do not know how to play the cello, and the cello does not have a case to permit me to bring it home on the airplane. Here is where the crazy shifting kicked in, internally before agreeing externally to make this routine perturbing trip.  

Basically, I need to learn how to play the cello and buy a TSA-approved airline cello case in a month. Because it is crazy for a person who does not know how to play the cello to have three of them, right?

Okay, so why is this not an insane and very distracting endeavor? Because I have no intention of playing conventional cello classical music which I can not learn how to do in a month. But I do have an unrealized concept and plan to play something I call Stride Bass Cello. And yes, I know there are not really any bass cellos, and there is no such thing as a stride cello either, and yes, I do not know how to play the cello.

But here is what I do know, at least a little. I can fake some stride piano which is a style that alternated bass notes with chords in the left hand while the right-hand plays a melody. And I can play bass guitar, not upright double bass (yet). And since I am a composer, I can write music that I could learn to play. And this will kill several birds with one stone.

On the way to stride bass cello, I need to learn to play bass cello which is sort of on the way to playing double bass, and that might be handy. And if you have ever gone to an open mic, you will usually see performers strumming guitars and singing, and occasionally piano players, but certainly never will you see a stride bass cello player accompanying themselves singing original tunes. 

So this morning, I thought I would shake things up for myself, and while my wife was booking the plane tickets, I ordered a cello case suitable for airline transport of a cello. And then all three cellos can be transported (not at once) to a gig or an open mic. Also I have no idea if this cello is wonderful or terrible and am only barely able to tell the difference, but I do assume this instrument will need some work and has not been played for at least twenty years.

Well, now I am going to have to write something for the stride bass cello and wait as a composer, I must have already written something I can adapt to this new instrument and situation. Ah yes, I have just the thing, an instrumental tune which I can write lyrics for, to sing while I play the cello.

Sounds crazy, right? Except I can do this and am now on the path, so I am beginning the New Year a month ahead of schedule on the New Month, which is today, December 1st.  And no, this was not going to be a project I was going to begin in the new year, there never was a clear start date, but now there is. And by doing something so crazily shifted away from what anyone expects, after all, there are no references for this sort of thing, I get to continue being a creative outlier which I have never had a choice about.

We will be visiting a household with, I think, a once very nice piano, that I believe I played once, more than fifty years ago, when it lived more than a thousand miles away from where it is now, and I kind of like this off the charts brilliant uncle who not only played cello but violin and piano as well. He also painted and sculpted, and oh yes his career was as a brilliant engineer and inventor who founded several companies with my aunt. 

I think having this cello in my life will connect me with some part of my past with my present, and my family members will probably not think it is not crazy at all that I am going to do something as crazy shifting as this. This crazy shifting behavior runs in the family.