The Man Who Stepped Into Yesterday

THE MAN WHO STEPPED INTO YESTERDAY
by
Trey Anastasio
July 1988

Submitted in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Bachelor of Arts at Goddard College

 

Lois Harris, Advisor (signed 8/24/88)
Christopher Noel, Second Reader (signed 8/25/88)

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Process Paper        ... 1
Part One: The Lizards... 5
Part Two: Tela       ... 14
About the Narration  ... 29
Narration            ... 29
Musical Notation     ... 39

Process Paper

About a year and a half ago, I received a letter in the mail from an old high school buddy. It was an odd letter, containing none of the formalities so commonly found in a correspondence between friends. Instead, when I opened the envelope, I discovered a poem. Here is what it said:

  • I've alternated my meager flock to the shores of the Baltic sea
    The teeth of time have stowed the rhyme of how things shouldn't be
    My cave, My house,
    My turning wheel... my little docking pup.
    The march of Colonel Forbin and his fleet hound called
    Mcgrupp.
     
    All times and seasons are the reasons people and their clans,
    have stowed the famous mockingbird with glue and rubber bands.
    We lie on frozen wart hogs, with its poison in our minds
    while the ferns that spot our children are encased in orange rinds.
    They writhe and cry in agony, as Rutherford the brave
    chokes Tela, and the unit monster, managing to save
    the spotted stripers, multi-beast, and thereby cheat his grave.
    I'd like to get his autograph, but he looks too much like...
    dave. {sic}

I mounted the poem on my door, where it remained undisturbed for about a year, until last semester. I was working on a musical for children, at that time, called " Gus and the Christmas Dog ." It was the story of a ten year old child who gets a dog for Christmas. The dog runs away in New York, and the plot revolves around the search for the lost dog in the city on Christmas day. The project was coming along fine, but I was yearning for something a little more engaging, both musically and thematically. It was at that time that I decided to do an interpretation of the poem as a musical.

The basic idea for the story grew out of a union of the poem and a song that I had written with the author of the poem and some other friends a few years earlier. The song was called "Wilson, can you still have fun?" Like the poem, it was primarily nonsense, and my first job was to interpret it. It went like this:

  • Oh, out near the Stonehendge, I lived alone
    Oh, out near Gamehendge, I chafed a bone
    WILSON, King of Prussia, I lay this hate on you
    WILSON, Duke of Lizards, I beg it all trune for you.
     
    Talk my duke a mountain, Helping Friendly Book
    in as far as Fifedom, I think you bad crook
    WILSON King of Prussia, I lay this hate on you
    WILSON King of Lizards, I beg it all trune for YOU.
     
    I talked to Mike Cristian, Rog and Pete the same
    when we had that meeting, over down near the Game (hendge)
    WILSON, King of Prussia, I lay this hate on you
    WILSON, Duke of Lizards, I beg it all trune for you.
    now you've got me back thinkin, that you're the worst one
    I must inquire WILSON,
             can you still have fun??

So with these two pieces in hand, I began to build a story that was utterly deliberate out of two poems that were completely unintentional, and over the semester I have discovered that this process is what I do best. I found that my strongest skills lay in taking small bits and pieces that fail to stand on their own, and designing a context in which they become purposeful. Throughout the process of writing, I found that each time I limited myself to a rigid, concrete story line, a sense of stagnation would set in. It seemed much more natural to let the ploy develop as the thing grew: song by song. of course, with each new song, the plot became less and less flexible, but even when writing the very last song I found that it was better not to get hung up on details. Eventually, the entire story seemed to fall naturally into place.

The Random House Dictionary defines composition as "The act of combining parts or elements to form a whole" and in this sense, my skills are the skills of a composer. Both musically and lyrically, I approached my senior study from a compositional angle. When writing music, I usually keep a pad of manuscript paper with me and record musical ideas when they occur. Later, when I begin work on a song, I will go back to the pad and utilize some of these ideas as I see fit. This semester I decided to expand on this idea, so I purchased a large hardcover book with blank pages that I carried around with me for the entire semester. I wrote lyrics, narrative musical ideas, and observations whenever something would come to me. I then used the ideas in this book to compose the musical. In this paper, I hope to shed some light on that process of composition.

Part One: The Lizards

Because of the nature of this project, I was able to incororate {sic} nearly everything that I have encountered as a music student. In "The Lizards," the first song in the musical, I focused on a few areas that I felt were of primary importance to a good piece of music. These were also areas that I felt needed a lot of work in my music. My main focus in writing the song was to create something that people could relate to. I wanted a strong, singable melody, a well designed structure with a down-to-earth chorus. I wanted an extremely danceable beat and memorable lyrics. These are things that seem obvious, but I have had a problem with relation to an audience that has only been aggravated by my years as a music student.

Being around an atmosphere of musical academia can have certain influences on musicality that I have sometimes had a hard time dealing with. I think that it's easy to fall into a rut where a musician puts theory before musicality and begins confusing theoretical/intellectual decisions for musical ones. A person may eventually lose sight of why he or she was drawn to music in the first place. A good example would be Milton Babbit, whose compositional theories are, as John Rockwell puts it in his book, [All] American Music, "largely incomprehensible to anyone untrained in the higher reaches of contemporary mathemetics. Those fearsome charts, those references to obscure recent advances in set theory, all are meaningless to the layman. And in this context, conventionally trained musicians are laymen themselves." I use Babbit as an example not because he is isolated in his musical views, but because he was an extremely influential man, and he represents a predominant school of thought in twentieth century American music, serialism.

Serialism is basically a reaction against traditional Western harmony. The late thirties brought a wave of immigrants because of war, and with this wave came a whole slew of great European composers. The musical state of the nation was fairly disorganized at the time, and there was a bit of a battle going on as to the development of an American "style" of music. "Americists" like Aaron Copeland worked with symphonic interpretations of folk themes, while John Cage and others worked to advance experimental music. There was also a surge toward a more French style of music, which was basically a reaction against Germany's long standing stylistic domination. The rise of serialism corresponded with this era in American musical development, and eventually overshadowed everthing else that was going on. I view serialism as primarily an intellectual, non-musical style of composition. In the words of Ernst Krenek, one of the composers who immigrated to America in the thirties:

  • The awakening of my interest in the twelve tone technique (serialism), which was internally plausible as a result of both my exaustion of the resources available from manipulating neo-classical and neo-romantic cliches, and my discovery of the challenges offered by the new technical procedures, coincided with my increasing disgust of the rise of totalitarism. Seen in this light, my adoption of the musical technique that the tyrants hated the most of all may be interpreted as an expression of protest and thus a result of their influence."

Even Arnold Schoenberg, the inventor of serialism, realized the non-musical foundation that serialism was built around. "Although Schoenberg sometimes dreamed of serialism as a reassertion of German musical hegemony, he more commonly thought of it as a purely formalistic ordering device, and most American seialists share this view."

The American academic music world has been contending with serialism and other intellectually-based music for some time now, and I am no exception. In this musical, for instance, I have an atonal fugue which wouldn't be possible if not for Schoenberg's "emancipation of dissonance." But in this first piece, "The Lizards," I opted to shoot for a completely accessible style of music.

I started work on this piece in Ireland, where I spent the break between semesters. Ireland's music had a profound effect on me. I spent a lot of time with a guitarist there, who would go from pub to pub night after night singing and playing with the people. It was a different situation than I had ever been in, and the main goal of the musicians was to bring people together. Everyone sang along wholehearedly, and the musicians played the songs that people wanted to hear. Everything about the experience seemed more real and more important than all of the mental masturbation that I had been doing with both my composition and my playing for the last few years. It was at this point that I started "The Lizards."

The first thing that I wanted was a strong opening line, which I felt would draw people into the story. I knew that the song would be based on the characters in the poem and the song "Wilson," but I had no conception as to which of the characters I was writing about. I also began writing with no ideas about music. I simply wanted a strong story, and I knew that the rhyme scheme would develop with the story, and the music would follow. In general I find that the opening line of a song is the most important one, as well as the most diffi cult to come up with. For this song I decided to use a line that worked like the opening of Peter Gabriel's "The Chamber of Thirty-Two Doors." In that song, Gabriel starts with "At the top of the stairs there's hundreds of people..." and then goes on to describe the pandemonium of all these people trying to figure out which of these thirty-two possible doors they should go through. I like the concept of the song's beginning being a continuation of a larger story. The song that precedes "The Chamber" ends with the phrase, "It's the bottom of a staircase that spirals out of sight."

What I came up with was "Passing thru the corridor..." which I felt was a really descriptive phrase on its own. I decided to write in the first person, and I decided that I should choose a character from the poem and meet up with them in the corridor. I chose Rutherford the Brave, as he seemed to be the most colorful of the possible characters. I decided that Rutherford was a knight in Wilson's army. At this point I was looking at my book that I described earlier, and I noticed a descriptive word that I had jotted down for possible future use. The word was "Knarly." I combined all of these ideas and came up with this:

  • Passing through the corridor I came upon an aging knight,
    who leaned against the wall in knarly armor,
    he was on his way to see the king...
    Wilson.

Now I had a basic rhyme scheme, and I started running about the music. I realized tha I could probably make the verse work with a guitar piece that I had been fooling around with. The guiter music in question was of Irish influence. Irish Guitarists often utilize the drone string, usually a low E or a string functioning as a pedal tone of sorts. I decided to borrow that idea and take it a step further. I came up with a progression that centered around a high E string drone in conjunction with a bass line that walked down chromatically. The progression combines what I feel are the two strongest motions in music: oblique motion and chromatic motion. As the chords change, the E drone changes in function from a third to a sixth to a major 7th to a 9th and so on. With a bit of modulation, I managed to combine the music with my first verse. The result can be found in example 1, measures 1 through 20.

With this as a beginning, I carried on with the story. The next verse of the story grew primarily out of an idea that I had to rhyme "crush a" with "Prussia." I wanted to illustrate early on that the song was set in "Prussia," because according to "Wilson, can you still Have Fun?" Wilson was the king of Prussia. I ended up with:

  • He led me through the streets of Prussia talking,
    as he tried to crush a bug that scurried
    underneath his boot heel.
    He told me of a place he could go.

At this point, I decided that the song would hold together best in a standard AABA form, and that I should modulate to the four chord of the present tonal center for the "B" section. Since I was in C major, I had to get to F major. The chord progression for the "A" section of the song ends on an E dominant chord before climbing back to C major thru a series of diminished chords, so I opted to move from the E dominant chord to an E diminished chord. The diminished chord also functions as a C dominant with a flat A which led me directly to F major (example 1, second ending).

At this point I decided to answer the "A" section by continuing with the E drone string, only this time having the chromatic line walk upward. So I moved upward thru a series of six chords (example 1, measures 23-29), concentrating on firmly establishing F as the new tonal center. The "B" section then concluded by moving back to C through G7, with the bass line now walking down scale tones instead of chromatically. Again, this was to firmly establish the new tonal center (C major).

When I arrived again at the original home key, the idea for a chorus simply jumped into my head. So I redesigned the lyrics to allow for Rutherford to sing the chorus duet, a simple 1-4-5 calypso type progression. This idea changed the song to an AABC form, but I found that worked much better. I stuck with this form and fininshed the lyrics, filling in the story as I went, and this is what I ended up with:

"Lizards"

  • Passing through the corridor, I came upon an aging knight, who leaned agianst the wall in knarly armor...he was on his way to see the king, Wilson. He led me thru the streets of Prussia talking, as he tried to crush a bug that scurried underneath his boot heel...He told me of a place where we should go.
    So, he led me through the forest to the edge of a lagoon by which we wandered till we reached a bubbly spring. The knight grew very quiet as we stood there he lifted up his visor and he turned to me and he began to sing. he said.. "I come from the land of darkness," he said, "I come to the land of doom," he said, "I come from the land of Gamehendge, from the land of the big baboon, but I never am going back there, and I couldn't if I tried, because I come from the land of Lizards, and the Lizards they have died!"
    He told me that the Lizards were a race of people practically extinct from doing things smart people don't do... He said that he was a Lizard, too. His name was Rutherford the Brave, and he was on a quest to save his people from the fate that lay before them. ..their clumsy end was perilously near. The Lizards would be saved he said, if they could be enlightened by the writing of the "Helping Friendly Book" in all of Prussia only one existed, and Wilson had declared that any person who possessed it was a crook.
         {repeat chorus)
    The Helping Friendly Book, it seeemed, possessed the ancient secrets of eternal joy and never ending splendor...the trick was to surrender to the fl ow. We walked along beneath the moon he led us through the bush till soon we saw before our eyes a raging river.. .He said "we can swing it if we try'.. .And saying this the knight dove in, forgetting that his suit of arms would surely weigh him down and so - h e sunk. And a s his body disappeared before me, I bowed my head in silence and remembered all the thoughts that he had thunk.
         {repeat chorus)

     

The Lizards ends with a narration over a chord and melody section in the background. This is probably the strongest melodic section in the entire musical, and it is based, like the song itself, on a chromatic bass line walking down. It is also in an AABA form. The form repeats over and over (see example 2), changing only in orchestration. With each new section, something is added: A new cymtal, an organ, a silt le volume swell, or an octave jump for a particular instrument. The last thing that is added is a choir of vocals.

Throughout this section, the story continues. Rutherford, who ended up in the river with his suit of armor on, is saved by the unit monster, who is Tela's sidekick. For this section, I chose to have the narration follow along with the melody almost exactly, which may not have been a wise choice. The melody is fairly slow, and the result is that the narration becomes somewhat awkward. In general, this section works well as a very visual description of Rutherford's rescue, and also as a smooth transition between "The Lizards," and the next song, "Tela." Here are the lyrics:

  • But Rutherford and Forbin weren't alone, and suddenly an unexpected movement caught his eye...on the far side of the river he saw a shaggy creature standing in the weeds, who stared across at Forbin with an unrelenting gaze...a gigantic mass of muscles and claws.
    The hideous beast reared back, and hurled himself in the water, and swam toward the region where Rutherford lay; and in a flash the beast was gone, underneath the surface to the frosty depths below, while Forbin, bewildered, waited alone. The seconds ticking by him seemed like hours, till finally the colonel felt it all had been a dream. Defeated, he bowed his head, and turned to go. Suddenly, with a roar, the creature emerged before him, and held the brave knights body to the sky! And the creature laid the knight upon the shore and the colonel fell beside his friend in prayer that he'd survive:
      and Rutherford.....
      brave Rutherford.....
        was.....
           Alive.

Part Two: Tela

"Tela," the second song, is my favorite of all the pieces in the musical. I think that both lyrically and musically it is an ambitious song that pushes a lot of boundaries but still holds together. "Tela" represents a turning point in my composition style in a variety of ways, particularly melodic construction, finesse in modulation, and development of a strong lyric.

"Tela" was unquestionably the most time-consuming of any of the songs in the musical, and a huge chunk of that time went into the lyrics. I really wanted to plow into some new ground for this song, so the first thing I did was decide that Page McConnel {sic}, the keyboard player in my band, would be the "designated singer." I had never written a song to be sung by a specific person other than myself, and I found that I began taking his personality into account while writing.

The most obvious difference between "Tela" and the large majority of my other songs is its lack of humor. Most of the songs that I write are pretty lighthearted, which represents an opinion that I hold that people are too serious most of the time; but with "Tela," I wanted to be able to express some of my more serious emotions through music, not just my jovial, carefree self.

"Tela" is sung by a man who has spent his life deprived of love. He is empty and ignorant of the experience. It is a song that tries to express the feeling of that first rush of emotion: the feeling of one's first contact with love. This is a subject that I think about a lot, and my feeling is that many people share the experience of that first young love. They become immersed in it as only someone ignorant about the pain of a broken heart can. once that person has experienced the pain of detachment, he or she will never leave themselves open in quite the same way again.

In "Tela," I decided that Colonel Forbin would fall in love with Tela the instant that he saw her. I view these characters as alter-egos. Everything that Tela is, Forbin isn't. Forbin is a naive, love-stricken man, and Tela is a streetwise experienced woman who understands the ways of the world better than most others in the play, save Icculus, the author of the Helping Friendly Book.

Forbin is entranced with the look in Tela's eyes, a look that speaks of knowledge of something more. She seems to have total control over the situation; he falls in love.

Tela, on the other hand, couldn't care less about this bozo, and the B section of the song changes its point of view and we see inside Tela's head. We see her past, her life under Wilson's rule, and her growing hatred for the tyrant over the years.

I based the song on these two themes, and ended up with an ABAB form that then takes off musically into a C section that I will discuss later.

When writing this lyric, I focused on the use of language, thinking of the song as poetry. This may or may not have been the greatest idea, because sometimes simple language is the best thing for a song in that people have to understand what you are saying. I think, though, that the results were successful.

"Tela"

  • The sky is burning in this lonely land
    and I kneel by the river
    and feel the sand
    and the wind from beyond the mountains.
     
    And she comes to me in this lonely land
    and looks down from the multibeast
    on which she rides like the wind
    the wind from beyond the mountain
    Tela was born in a vulgar crooked hut
    in the shadow of Wilson's castle
     
    Glorious steam fueled by her hatred it grew
    swelling to the point where it would burst
    at the seams
    There was nothing she could do

     

    Tela, Tela, Jewel of Wilson's
    Foul domain
    A lullaby the breezes whisper
    Tela.

    And I look into her eyes
    and my frozen heart
    Begins to thaw and burn
    till layer after layer melts away
    into a pool
    A sky blue mirror of her eyes
     
    And my soul is made of marble
    But in her gaze
    I crumble into dust
    and drift away on the wind
    the wind from beyond the mountain.
     
    Tela grew strong from her struggle to endure
    In the shadow of Wilson's castle
    Each passing day seemed to feed the brazen
    serpent locked inside
    And liberate the spirit she'd concealed
    for so long.
     
    There was no place left to hide.

Musically, "Tela" incorporates a huge variety of different techniques and styles. The opening verse is sung over a slow latin beat with a strummed guitar that goes through a variety of somewhat odd modulations (see music appendix, example 5).

The song goes from an A major tonal center in the introduction, to E Minor, to G Major, to A Minor, and then ends back on A Major. These changes are all smooth because of a strong melody line in conjuction with a variety of passing chords. I feel that this progression represents a departure from my old habit of jumping around from one key to another haphazardly.

In the "B" section of the song the beat changes from Latin to Swing, which is something that I picked up from listening to Jazz, particularly a standard called "Green Dolphin Street." The chord progression to this seciton is an interesting one. It goes G major, B flat major, D major, E flat major 7, to F, and then repeats. It is based around the note D, which is a common tone to all of the chords except F. The third section of "Tela" is quite different from the rest of the song. It is an atonal Fugue based on a very long theme (see musical example 4). This section is supposed to represent the sound and feeling of Tela and Forbin rushing into the woods on the multi-beast.

I spent a lot of time developing the theme of the fugue, and ended up with an eight measure theme that is divided into two parts. It is based on the rhythmic structure set up in the first measure, with a motif that consists of an eighth note rest followed by three eighth notes. The theme is "broken" at measure five by a dotted half-note. This is something that I view as a breath in the statement of the subject, and is essential in creating an overall flow.

The piece begins as a strict fugue, with the subject presentation followed by a substatement a fifth away, and finally the entrance of a third voice in the original key. The counter subject is essentially chromatic, which ties the piece together. Measures 25- 28 are an episode, based on the countersubject. Measure 29 has some cross voicing that I think is weak. At measure 29 we see an example of interrupted canon, which continues with the theme augmented in the bass. At measure 37 the theme is inverted in the middle voice and runs against the subject in the soprano.

At measure 41, the piece takes a turn away from strict fugal form. In this section the voices rest and float over a group of airy chords. I chose to abandon the fugue in favor of what I saw as a much-needed rest for the listener's ear. At measure 49, the theme is reintroduced, this time in the middle voice. It continues through a variety of stages, including running simultaneously with another theme an eighth not offset from the original (measure 65).

The fugue ends with a slow section where the voices never change at the same time (measure 74). I was focusing on the harmonic motion from measure to measure, and connecting rhythms. This turned out to be my favorite part of the piece, and I decided then to echo that style of writing in the chorus, so I went back and wrote the chorus in a similar fashion (see musical example 5). The result is a sort of spacey barbershop quartet, as the section is a cappella. Finally, the song ends by returning to the swing section, or the 3 section. The music builds slowly, and a three-part harmony is added for the last four times through the progression, utilizing the common tone that I mentioned earlier.

The next song in the musical is "Wilson, Can You Still Have Fun." As I mentioned earlier, this song was basically nonsense to begin with, so in terms of the story line, it is fairly unimportant, except to take note of the way I manipulated it to make sense of the words. I decided that the song would be sung by "Errand woolfe," the leader of the revolutionaries, and for the sake of the story I changed a few lines. I added the line, "I talked to my son, Roger Rutherford the same..." Roger, I decided, would be Errand's dead son, hung by Wilson for treason. I put this in so that Errand would have a logical reason to start the revolution.

The music to Wilson is a progression, E major, C major, awkward and simple, but in its beauty. It is a powerful song, basic rock and roll A major, E major. It simplicity lies its one that people will remember. The next twist in the storyline involves a new character, Mr. Palmer. Mr. Palmer, I decided, would be Wilson's accountant. It turns out that the revolution is funded thru Palmer's extortion of Wilson's money. (shades of America in the eighties). Wilson discovers the scheme, and has Plamer hung in the public square.

The next song, "AC/DC Bag," describes the scene at the hanging. It is a duet between Wilson and Palmer, who stands on the scaffold with the "AC/DC Bag," a plugin electronic hangman with a bag over its head.

AC/DC Bag

  • Mr. Palmer is concerned with a thousand dollar question
    just like Roger, he's a crazy little kid,
    I've got the time, if you've got the inclination,
    so cheer up, Palmer you'll soon be dead.
     
    The noose is hanging, at least he won't die wondering...sit up and take notice...tell it like it is. If I were near you, I wouldn't be far from you...I've got a feeling you know what you did.
        AC/DC BAG
        AC/DC BAG
        AC/DC BAG
        AC/DC BAG
     
    Time to put your money where your mouth is,
    Put them in a field and let them fight it out.
    I'm running so fast my feet don't touch the ground, I'm a stranger here, I'm going down,
    Let's get down to the...nitty gritty
    Let's get the show on the road.
    I'll show you mine, if you show me yours.. .I'm breathing hard, open the door!
     
        AC/DC BAG
        AC/DC BAG
        AC/DC BAG
        AC/DC BAG
     
    BRAIN DEAD
    AND MADE OF MONEY
    no future at all
    PULL DOWN THE BLINDS
    AND RUN FOR COVER
    no future at all
    who would have thought it
    that's where I am
    no future at all
    don't sweat it
    that's where I am
    Whoa...carry me down

After "AC/DC Bag," the plot takes another twist. I decided that I wanted a tragic moment, so I worked the plot to allow for Forbin's love to be crushed. It turns out that Tela is a spy, and Errand Woolfe has Rutherford strangle her when he discovers this fact. Again, this comes form the original poem, which says:

  • they writhe and cry in agony, as Rutherford the Brave, chokes Tela and the unit monster...

It is at this point that Forbin decides to climb the mountain and find Icculus. The song "Forbin's Ascent" describes that journey. "Forbin's Ascent" was the other really time consuming song in the musical. Lyrically, I viewed the song as I did "Tele." I wanted the lyrics to hold up as poetry. I concentrated intensely on the use of language and phrasing. I took ideas out of my book that I had jotted down at different times. For instance, the word "quagmire" had just popped into my head and I wrote it down and used it later in the song. Actually, I had quite a collection of words and phrases in my book, and often times a word that I liked would dictate the direction of the plot or of a song. In "Forbin's Ascent" I started with a whole group of such words, including "quagmire," "devour," "thunder," and "knotted." Here is the result:

"Forbin's Ascent"

  • Colonel Forbin stared up at the mountain,
    and wiped away the beads of sweat that glistened on his brow
    his tired feet were buried in the quagmire,
    and his bloodshot eyes saw all that lay between
    him and fulfillment of his vow.
    And he felt his fingers wrap around a knotted root
    and pull his body upwards to a sea green mossy boulder
    and he dragged his weary carcass up the mountain
    and he climbed so slowly
    and he climbed so slowly...ahead
    Suddenly he heard the crack of thunder,
    and the rocks began to crumble overhead...
    and tumble down the mountain to the dismal swamp
    that lay beneath the jagged cliffs through which
    his path had led
    and the earth began to quake beneath his feet
    and the mighty mountain changed before his eyes
    and he stood amidst a sea of dust
    and rocks and stones cascading down the mountain...and a thousand birds were headed for the sky.
        and if you wait until tomorrow, the sacred creed will be yours to devour
        yours to seize
        and to obey
    When the dust had cleared the Colonel lifted up his head,
    and was driven to his knees by a blazing beam of
    light,
    and he saw the silhouette that stood before him
    and he bowed in reverence,
    trembling in the shadow of the mighty legend's form.
    Icculus the prophet stood before his eyes
    looking down on Colonel Forbin where he shuddered
    in the puddles and the muck...
      and he quietly addressed him...
        and he spoke so slowly
          he spoke so slowly
            he said
    Colonel Forbin I know why you've come here
    and I'll help you with your quest to gain the
    knowledge that you lack. I call upon my faithful
    friend the mockingbird
    to fly and seize the
    Helping Book and bring it to your shack
    and the tree of knowledge in your soul will grow
    and the Helping Friendly Book will plant the seed
    but I warn you that all knowledge seeming innocent and
    pure becomes a deadly weapon in the hands of
    avarice...and greed.
    and if you wait until
    tomorow, the sacred creed will be
      yours to devour
        yours to seize,
          and to obey.

The chord progression for the "A" section of "Forbin's Ascent" is of pure Jazz influence. I was after a specific sound that I hear in a lot of jazz songs. I wanted a minor progression that modulated and that used the sounds of the flat 9, flat 5, and minor chord with a major seventh (see musical example 6). I ended up making the vocal part very difficult, because I have the vocalist singing all of those intervals, but it is far from impossible. The "B" section moves to what I consider to be my favorite harmonic section of the musical. It is a Bluegrass sort of progression, going form {sic} a A major, to C sharp minor, to D major seven, to G major. The main point is the one to Major three progression, which is a very Bluegrass thing to do. The chords continue in much the same way for the remainder of the song. I often switch minor chords for major ones, and I use the sounds of two major chords a third apart more than once (see musical example 6).

The final section differs from the last of the song in that it is a completely diatonic progression with a small hitch. The progression is one that I picked up in Ireland; it walks down diatonically to A major through a two-five-one progression, but instead of ending on A major, it continues one more chord to C sharp minor where it rests (see musical example 7). It is a very beautiful progression that leads in nicely to the next song, "The Famous Mockingbird." As described in "Forbin's Ascent," Icculus agrees to send the famous mockingbird on a quest to liberate the Helping Friendly Book. "The Famous Mockingbird" is a musical description of that flight. The piece is based on an AABA chord progression in A major. The harmonic structure is defined by a single line melody in straight eighth notes played by the guitar (see musical example 8). The song has a 6/8 waltz character, and moves along at a brisk tempo. My original idea was for this song to sound like the "Flight of the Bumblebee" by Rimsky-Korsakov.

The chord pregression {sic} is fairly standard in the "A" section: A major, G diminished, B minor, D major, to E seven and back to A. The "B" section modulates to C major thru G7, another example of my tendency to go from major chord to another major chord a third away. The remainder of the song is highlighted by different bits and pieces intended to illustrate the story of the mockingbird's theft of the book. At one point the song modulates to E minor as the time changes to 4/4, giving the sense of a shift into a higher gear.

There is one vocal section in "Famous Mockingbird," and it is going to be sung by a chorus of people. The only words are "Fly, famous mockingbird," and the song modulates at this point to B fl at. The chorus sings over the same diatonic progression as in Colonel Forbin, only this time it is in the key of B flat instead of A major, and the time signature is 6/8 instead of 4/4.

"The Sloth" is the next song in the musical, and it is sung by a new character, the Sloth. He is the the meanest man in all of Gamehendge, and Errand Woolfe hires him to execute Wilson. The song is written in a time-honored traditional rock and roll chord progression, A major, D major, C major. I also used another rock and roll tradition, the call and response lyric. With each line that the Sloth sings, the chorus answers with a line of their own:

The Sloth

  • THE SLOTH:
    They call me the Sloth
         (way down in the ghetto)
    Italian spaghetti
         (singing falsetto)
    Sleepin' all day
         (Rip Van winklin')
    Spend my nights in bars
         (glasses tinklin')
    I'm so bad
         (he's so nasty)
    Ain't got no friends
         (real outcasty)
    stay out of my way
         (or you'll end up a cripple)
    I'll take this piece of paper
         (slice your nipple)

The middle section of "The Sloth" is interesting because I wrote it directly out of my head with no concern for harmonic or theoretical implications (see musical example 9). I started with the descending guitar line, going purely by ear. I then filled in the bass and keyboard lines. I was pleased with the result and I think it sounds very "slothful."

The final song in the musical is called "Possum," and it was written in conjunction with the other members of my band. It is sung by Icculus, who first gives an introduction and then goes into a story that, like the stories of all great philosophers, is a simple tale with a moral. He says:

"Possum"

  • I come from the top of the mountain,
    Where the people come to pray
    I come from the top of the mountain
    Where the people come to pray
    I don't see no truth in action
    Unless you believe it anyway
    I was driving down the road one day
    Someone had hit a possum
    I was driving down the road one day
    Someone had hit a possum
    His end was the road
    And the road was his end
    So they say
    Oh possum
    Your end is the road

The main point I wanted to get across about Icculus was his ability to see beyond triviality. I saw Forbin as the most trivial thinker, Tela as the least trivial, except Icculus. "Your end is the road" is supposed to mean that something that seems important at the moment is all part of a greater flow of things, and that to be happy, one must just realize the inevitability of things. Tela realized that Wilson would just be replaced by another tyrant, so she began t o respect him for taking advantage of an inevitable situation. Icculus says in the first song, "the trick is to surrender to the flow" and that is they key to the whole musical. I think that I had a very cynical view when I wrote this, because I really view Wilson, Tela, and Errand Woolfe as the ones who surrendered to the flow. By "surrender to the flow," I meant that they saw that no matter what action we take, the world remain filled with evil, and that it is a wise person who realizes this and subsequently takes advantage of the situation. I think of Forbin as a naive and ignorant man, who just wouldn't admit to the way that the world really worked. Maybe it's just a stage, and maybe I'll learn someday that the world really is black and white, good vs. evil, a simple place to live and make choices.

About the Narration

The narrator plays the key role in "The Man Who Stepped into Yesterday." I attempted to write narration that flowed well and told the story without being so obvious as to take away the influence of the listener's imagination. The narration all takes place over music that is designed to create a sense of motion. Often, the themes are echoes or songs from the musical.

Narration

Once upon a time there was a mountain that rose out of a vast green forest, and in the forest there were birds and cakes and rocks and trees and rivers. The forest was also inhabited by a small group of people called the Lizards. The Lizards were simple people, and they had lived in the forest undisturbed for thousands of years in ntter peace and, tranquility. Once a year, when spring came and the first blossoms began to show, the Lizards would gather at the base of the mountain to give thanks for all that they had. They thanked the birds and the cakes, and they thanked the rocks and the trees and the rivers. But most importantly, they thanked Icculus.

On top of the mountain, Icculus lived, or at least everyone thought so, for no one had actually ever seen him. But they knew he existed, because they had the Helping Friendly Book. Icculus had given the Helping Friendly Book to the Lizards thousands of years earlier as a gift. It contained all of the knowledge inherent in the universe, and had enabled the Lizards to exist in harmony with nature for years. And so they lived until one day a traveler arrived in Gamehenge. His name was Wilson and he quickly became intrigued by the Lizards' way of life. He asked if he could stay on and live in the forest, and the Lizards, who had never seen an outsider, were happy to oblige.

Wilson lived with the Lizards for a few years, studying the ways of the Helping Friendly Book, and all was well, until one morning when they awoke and the book was gone. Wilson explained that he had hidden the book, knowing that the Lizards had become dependent on it for Survival. He declared himself king and enslaved the innocent people of Gamehenge. He cut down the trees and built a city which he called Prussia, and in the center of the city he built a castle, and locked in the highest tower of the castle lay the Helping Friendly Book, out of the reach of the Lizards forever.

But the story begins in a different time. Not in Gamehenge, but on a suburban street on Long Island, and our hero is no king, sitting in a castle. He is a retired Colonel, shaving in his bathroom.

Colonel Forbin looked square in the mirror and dragged the blade across his cold cream skin. How many times had he done this? He saw the tired little folds of flesh that lay in a heap beneath his eyes. Fifty-two years of obedient self restraint, of hiding his tension behind a serene veil of composure. For fifty-two years he had piled it all on the back burner, and for fiftytwo years it had boiled, frothing over in a turbulent storm inside of him; it had escaped through his eyes, reacting with the cigarette smoke and the flourescent lights and slowly accumulated into a sagging mass. He ran his dripping palm across the studbble on the nape of his neck and thought again about the door.

He had discovered the door some months ago on one of his ritualistic morning walks with his dog, Mcgrupp. It had started out as a typical stroll, with Mcgrupp bounding joyously ahead of the preoccupied colonel. As they reached the apex of a hill, he saw it, and he knew it had always been there and felt foolish for overlooking the door for so long. At first he tried to ignore it, but it was impossible, and slowly his newly acquired knowledge transformed his dreary life into a prison from which there was only one escape.

Colonel Forbin stepped through the door.

[Forbin sings "The Lizards."]

But Rutherford and Forbin weren't alone. And suddenly an unexpected movement caught his eye on the far side of the river, he saw a unit monster standing in the weeds, who stared across at Forbin with an unrelenting gaze, a gigantic mass of muscles and claws.

The hideous beast reared back and hurled himself in the water and swam toward the region where Rutherford lay. And in a flash the beast was gone underneath the surface to the frosty depths below while Forbin, bewildered, waited alone.

The seconds dragging by him seemed like hours till finally the Colonel felt it all had been a dream. Defeated, he bowed his head, and turned to go. Suddenly, with a roar, the creature emerged before him and held the brave knight's body to the sky.

Forbin and the unit monster were cracked over the soggy knight carefully removing his bulky helmet when the colonel heard a sound behind him. He turned around and came face to face with an enormous shaggy horse-like creature covered from head to tail with alternating blotches of brown and white. It was a two-toned multi beast and atop the multi beast sat the most beautiful woman that the colonel had ever seen. After fifty-two years of undaunted bachelorhood, the colonel felt a feeling rugh over him that he had never felt before.

[Forbin sings "Tela."]

Tela reached out her hand and helped Forbin onto the back of the multi beast and together they rode off into the forest. As they rode, Tela explained to him about Wilson and the Helping Friendly Book.

She told the Colonel that she was part of a revolution to overthrow the evil king. The leader of the revolution was a Lizard named Errand Woolfe, who was out to avenge the death of his son, Roger. Roger, she said, had been executed by Wilson at the age of 14 on suspicion of treason. He had been abducted from his home, and hung in the public square.

The two rode on in silence. Deeper and deeper into the heart of the forest, until they came to the outskirts of a small community. Tela explained to Forbin that they had reached the base camp of the revolutionaries. The colonel looked up, and there, in the center of the clearing, stood Errand Woolfe.

He was a small man, but his presence was overpowering. He seemed to emit a kind of violent energy that sent chills down the colonel's spine, and as the multi beast moved toward him, he waved his fist in anger and his voice filled the forest.

[Errand Woolfe sings "Wilson."]

Meanwhile, in the main square in Prussia, the state of the revolution was taking another turn for the worse. A crowd of townspeople had gathered to witness the hanging of Wilson's accountant, Mr. Palmer. It seemed that Palmer had been a revolutionary himself, and had been extorting Wilson's money to fund the revolution.

Palmer stood on the scaffold with Wilson and the AC/DC Bag, an electrified robot hangman with a black bag over his head. Wilson seemed pleased with the situation, and he wore a satisfi ed grin as he spoke to the crowd.

[Wilson and Palmer sing "AC/DC Bag."]

By that night, news of Palmer's death had traveled back to the camp. Spirits were low and Colonel Forbin felt devastated. Even though he had only been in Gamehendge for one day, he had already developed a deep hatred for Wilson. He wanted desperately to help the revolutionaries, but without Palmer, it seemed hopeless. He wandered slowly through the camp and passed Errand Woolfe sitting by the fire with Rutherford who had returned that afternoon. He walked on, and soon found himself outside of Tela's hut. Forbin knocked and walked in.

Tela sat behind a makeshift desk in the center of a room that was littered with cages containing spotted stripers, tiny three-legged animals. The unit monster sat in the corner. The colonel took a step toward Tela and spoke. "I needed to come here tonight," he said, "to tell you that I've fallen in love with you." He looked to her eyes for approval, but her face remained frozen in an expressionless stare. An awkward blanket o f silence fell over the room and hung for a long moment, before being shattered by the sound of the door swinging violently open.

It was Rutherford the brave. The ironclad knight rushed across the room and gripped the throats of Tela and the unit monster in each of his mighty hands. They struggled to break free, but even the unit monster was no match for Rutherford's power and soon it was over. The bodies fell to the floor in a lifeless heap. Colonel Forbin stepped forward from where he stood in the corner, unable to contain his confusion and rage and screamed, "Why?" His question was answered by Errand Woolfe, who had quitely {sic} slipped through the doorway during the confustion {sic}.

"She was a spy," he said and explained to Forbin that she had been sending information to Wilson using the spotted stripers as carriers. Roger's death had aroused his suspicion, and Palmer's had confirmed it. The colonel stood in silence in a world that had turned upside down so many times that he no longer knew which way was up. It had all seemed so simple when he first arrived: Good vs. evil, and of course he had sided with good as he had done all of his life. And now he stood and stared into the eyes of Errand Woolfe, and he saw evil.

The entire picture began to seem puzzle with one piece missing, and the colonel knew that piece was. "Within 24 hours," he said to Woolfe, "you will have the Helping Friendly Book."

Even as the words were leaving his lips, he found himself running out of the door and into the forest, not toward Prussia, but toward the great mountain looming in the distance.

[Narrator sings "Forbin's Ascent."]

And the famous mockingbird swooped down out of the sky and landed on Icculusts shoulder, and Icculus whispered in the bird's ear, and it flew off toward Wilson's castle in the valley below.

The next morning at the camp, Errand Woolfe and Rutherford stood frozen in awe as the famous mockingbird flew out of the sky and dropped the Helping Friendly Book at their feet. The quest for the book had dragged like an colonel said to enormous knew what Errand on for so many years that its sudden appearance left the men staring in disbelief, unsure of what their next move should be. The shock wore off quickly, though, and Errand Woolfe shot into high gear.

He snatched the book with one hand and the famous mockingbird with the other, and began to inform Rutherford of his plan. He would first kill Wilson, and then put the Helping Friendly Book to work for him with Rutherford's aid. He fastened the famous mockingbird to a pole with glue and rubber bands to ensure the secrecy of his mission, and then set out to find the only man in Gamehendge who could handle the job of eliminating a king.

[The Sloth sings "The Sloth."]

Colonel Forbin stared at the fourteen bars that stood between him and freedom. He ran his hand across the cold, damp dungeon wall and thought again about the door. He had entered Gamehendge as a man looking for something more. He had slipped through his old life with blinders on, trying desperately not to have to admit to himself that his view of morality had become obsolete in modern times. In that world, it was the person who embraced immorality that came out ahead. The thought had been too horrible for him to admit, and he had eventually been forced to flee in an attempt to find a land where truth and innocence still existed. He had arrived in Gamehendge, and now sat imprisoned again by his ignorance, just as he had in his old life. He had gone nowhere and through the tiny window in the corner of his cell, he heard the distant strains:

        ERRAND

        ERRAND

And from the top of the mountain, Icculus looked down on all that went on below him, and he smiled.

[There are 38 numbered pages, counting the "Process Paper" cover page, and 4 pages of cover material prior to that - cover page, title page, signature page, and table of contents. Those 38 typed pages are followed by 12 pages of handwritten scores, referenced in the body above as examples, by number, in a "musical appendix" and referred to in the Table of Contents as "musical notation".]

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