It has been about six weeks since I've been able to even look at this blog—or even my book—because I've been involved in one of the cooler projects of my life: designing the nation's largest regional Burning Man-style burn from scratch! I won't bore you with the details here, but you can read about it on my personal blog here.
This weekend is one of the actual RITUALS of the Lichtenbergian Society: the Retreat. Every fall, as many of my brethren who can go to a cabin in the mountains for a long weekend for the express purpose of working on the work. Usually it's stuff we should have been working on during the rest of the year but for some reason haven't. It's kind of a last chance to get some work done before our Annual Meeting in December, at which time (in our major RITUAL) we will be held to account for our annual goals.
The shape of the weekend is interesting. We arrive on Thursday afternoon, claim space, unpack, and then have an informal meeting of cocktails and munchies. We share what we're going to be working on. We catch up with our lives, maybe watch a movie or play a game.
The next morning, someone makes coffee, and as each of us arises he gets to work. There's no conversation or socializing; everyone concentrates on the work.
Lunch is usually light, usually sandwiches that you can make on your own schedule. After eating, everyone goes back to work for a while, usually until about 3:00 or so.
Then it's time to get in the hot tub, or go for a walk, or sit on the verandah and admire the view. Build a fire. Have a cocktail. Someone cooks dinner and we conviviate. We talk about life, the nature of art, and everything.
On Saturday, we do it all again, and on Sunday, we clean up and go home.
Especially since I have retired, there's no real reason to have to go away to the mountains to get work done. I could do everything at home, of course. But the nature of the ritual is important: we cross into that liminal space where "real life" is excluded and where our focus can be on our art. We make a commitment to the work and to each other, and of course the value of being in the mountains—and in the hot tub—with friends is not to be misunderestimated.
So what am I taking to work on, on Retreat? Common sense would dictate that I work on this book, since I haven't been able to for a couple of months now.
However, something has been triggered in my brain. A couple of weeks ago, driving up to lay out the burn, I listened to an old piece of mine, a children's opera about penguins that I wrote for a competition in Germany. I had not listened to it for a while, and it struck a chord in me. When I found that the music was stuck in my head, supplanting even Hamilton, I realized that it's time for me to tackle a new work.
So I think I'm going to start looking at SUN TRUE FIRE. I think it's time to start exploring that random spam email text and seeing what ABORTIVE ATTEMPTS I can come up with.
All I'm planning on doing is creating piano sketches of phrases, etc.—for one thing, if the piece were ever to be performed, the chorus would need a piano score to begin with. For another, working in orchestration would mean lugging my cinema display all the way to the mountains along with my laptop and keyboard. Keep it simple.
And if the music won't come?
I'll work on the book.