Let me tell you about my amazing week…
Not last week, but the week before, I had one of the most incredibly musically fulfilling weeks I’ve had in a long time. I had two different music projects to work on that week: one, the new musical I’m playing at Diversionary Theatre called The Boy Who Danced on Air, and the other, the re-debut of the Rockett Trio.
In the first half of the week, we had a couple rehearsals for The Boy Who Danced on Air. We had already gotten together as a band once before to read through the music, so we had a sitzprobe one night and then another band-only rehearsal the other night.
This show was kicking my ass. I’ve never practiced this hard for a musical. Ever. I mean, last week and the week before, I was spending a few hours a day just working on this show. Not practicing anything else, just working on this show.
You see, the show is set in Afghanistan, so all of the music has a big Middle Eastern flair to it. It’s super fascinating because it still mixes in some contemporary feels with it, but it’s pretty difficult to play. On top of that, my two guitars (nylon and steel string acoustics) are actually supposed to be (or at least sound like) a rubab and a dombura (traditional Middle Eastern stringed instruments). Those guys are strung and tuned differently, so making what’s written for those instruments translate to the guitar and be playable (in addition to comfortable) has been a big undertaking.
What’s nice, though, is that the composer and writer, Tim Rosser and Charlie Sohne, respectively, have been involved with every rehearsal and Tim and I have been working together to make everything playable but still carry the flavor and tone that he wants. So, sometimes it meant me really having to shed out a part and get it down as written, other times he came up with a new part that was much more playable.
The funny part is that my ego got the best of me a lot of the time and I just HAD to learn what was written. Even when he was willing to simplify something or come up with something different, I still locked myself up at home and figured it out. I just had to beat it!
One night, actually, I was pissed. There was this 4 bar phrase that I just couldn’t get (I probably spent 45 minutes — maybe more — working on 4 bars out of the whole show. 4 freaking bars! A musical that is over two hours long … 4 bars is nothing in that!) and I was just so down on myself that I couldn’t get it. I was playing it so slow, and gradually increasing the tempo, and every time it got to a certain speed, it just fell apart.
Anyway, I was losing it. I was super frustrated. And then Meag said to me, “Just think, when you do learn it and get through this show, you’re gonna be THAT much better of a musician.” Damn. She was right. Words of wisdom from my beautiful wife, the non-musician that still totally gets this crazy musician.
As frustrating (and I mean truly frustrating) as this music was a couple weeks ago, the work has paid off and it’s all starting to really come together. Yes, selfishly, I’m going to be a better musician for getting through it. But, even more so, it’s just a beautiful work and I feel privileged to be a part of it. The music, especially with how complicated it is, is so gorgeous and riveting to play. Tim is some kind of genius and has written such intricate, beautiful music. I’ve gotten past the frustration, am feeling confident in playing it, and now am able to sit back (just a little … we still have to be on our toes for this one) and jam with the other musicians, really listening to everyone and how we’re working together. It’s seriously some good stuff. Everything, every part gels so well with every other part. From being frustrated, I now find myself thinking, “Oh man, I’m so glad I spent the time to learn that part exactly as it was on the page. How could this song have anything different? This is so COOL!”
The frustration is gone and it’s become a super rewarding experience.
I’m truly looking forward to settling in with this one and going strong for a month. The Boy Who Danced on Air has two more previews this Thursday and Friday, opens this Saturday, May 14, and runs Thursdays through Sundays at Diversionary Theatre in University Heights until June 12. If you’re in San Diego or close by, you should seriously check this one out. As you can tell, I think the music is great, and I didn’t even touch on the story. It’s a heavy one, but so important and fascinating to watch and learn about.
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you all about the second half of that week. From a crazy new musical kicking my ass (but more than making up for it in its beauty, meaning, and passion) to playing some familiar tunes with a great old friend. If every week could be like that, I’d have no complaints!