Write a Journal to Music
By Marvin Payne
I’m having an epiphany. Right now this very minute. Or a catharsis. Or a post-midlife crisis (already had the midlife one). Or a “defining moment.” Or a harebrained idea.
This is what’s happening right now this very minute. I went to Meridianmagazine.com to see if there was anything I could “appropriate” for my column. (In the music world, it’s called “paying tribute.” In the legal world, it’s called “plagiarism.”) I meant to scroll down the list of literary contributors who know more words than I do and render their serious observations of the universe funny. But when the magazine opened up, the first thing I saw was my name, as the subject of Steve Perry’s astoundingly successful (Meridian editors assure him that it’s heard not merely globally, but extra-terrestrially, given the technology and email response ((hard to read, sometimes, but apparently heartfelt)) ) audio feature, “The Cricket and Seagull Fireside Chat.” So I clicked on it.
And there I was, picking and grinning and crooning from Steve’s basement into a microphone that I frankly covet, getting interviewed and being like a radio guy. And so I have on some headphones and I’m writing this column to that underscore. It’s kind of wafting me along. Can you sense in these written words the lilt and often fervor inspired by the music? Not to mention “waft”? And the occasional flubbed F chord?
This is the deal. I want you to write in your journals, to leave behind honest, inspiring, heartbreaking, transcendent, even legible records of your sojourn in mortality. I’ve tried brainstorming with you, providing creative templates (“My Life According to the Moving Violations I’ve Been Issued,” “My Life According to the Progressively Dizzying Readership Estimates of the Meridian Editorial Staff”), appealing to your consciences, your sense of history, your sense of internal beauty and fire, your, well, vanity. Has it worked? I believe that, to a degree, it has, because people who are single-mindedly engaged in writing their journals would obviously not have time to sit down at their keyboards and compose passionate accolades for every trifling Meridian column that comes down the pike.
But to the epiphany: It must be assumed that I have not reached everybody, and that there are still some few of you who would rather read about my experiences backstage than write about your own experiences downstage center. So here it is: Do what I’m doing! Write to the accompaniment of Marvin Payne singing and playing his guitar! This could transform everything!
This is not as dumb as it sounds. Life proceeds to the pulse of music. Elevators would not run without Rolling Stones songs re-scored for violins and marimbas. Teeth would not be extracted. Groceries would not be purchased. Restaurants would close. (Confession: I often surreptitiously find the volume knob near the restrooms and turn it all the way down. Everybody in the place, without suspecting why, instantly seems to relax and enjoy each other more–so maybe digestion is an aspect of life that doesn’t exactly proceed to the pulse of music.) And what about movies? Nothing would happen without music. No knife-wielding villain would ever emerge from around the corner of the hallway if he didn’t first hear, “dum-dum-dum, dum-dum-dum, skreeeee!” (If you’re ever in a dark hallway all alone and a little bit nervous, don’t ever go “dum-dum-dum, dum-dum-dum, skreeeee!”)
Life proceeds to the pulse of music. And scripture does, too–almost. A few years ago a very fine composer named Marden Pond and I came up with the stunning idea of recording the Book of Mormon wedded to worshipful orchestral underscore.The idea bombed–the recording never got made. But we did record the fifth chapter of the book of Helaman (who was identified by my grown son David, when he was nine, as the first doctor in the Book of Mormon–get it?) with all sorts of stirring moods and colors and lovely invitations to believe.
Now when I’m reading and come to that chapter, I hear Marden’s music in my brain. It’s hard for me to imagine those verses having been written without the music playing in the background. Which is problematical, because one doesn’t know whether to imagine it accompanying the writing of the original record or Mormon’s abridgment. If both, you have the difficulty of the musicians sawing away behind the writer in 30 B.C. and then backing up Mormon, too, making said musicians over four hundred years old, by which time they would, presumably, have lost their chops.
Now a few words about sin. I’m reminded of this by the word “chops.” You’ll see why in a minute. (This departure is not non sequitur, because, I think, none of us is ever more than thirty minutes or so from thinking about sin, or doing it. The phrase “Non sequitur” itself, however, is really pretty non sequitur ((for me, anyway)), because I’m always a lot longer than thirty minutes or so from thinking about Latin, or doing it.)
The king of the Lamanites said that he would give away all his sins to know the Lord. I always thought that he meant he would merely stop doing the sins. Now I think it’s more than that.
Frequently failing at using myself for a good example, I’ll use myself for a bad one. I don’t need to go to pop culture, or even classic literature, which is worse, to confront orneriness, backsliding, and low-down ways (more politically correctly referred to in our culture by the single word “weetnissesnshartcumeens”). I just go to my own life. There’s nothing vicarious about it at all–it requires no imagination whatever. I no longer actually do the sins I did (at least, I haven’t for the last twenty-nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds–it must be the music) but they’re still there in the synapses someplace, bouncing around. “Forgive and Forget” is a good idea (a commandment, even), but it’s hard to do, especially the “forget” part, especially for yourself.
The Savior said that if our hand should offend us, we should chop it off, that if our eye should offend us, we should pluck it out. In the margin of my Bible I wonder in pencil if our sins, or our closely guarded memories of them, might have become as vitally a part of us as our hands or eyes. Hmmm…
So chop and pluck and know the Lord. There ya go.
Back on the subject of writing-to-Marvin’s-music: It might be inferred from this column’s exhortation that I’m suggesting you go to my web site and load up on my CDs. Not a bit of it. You have “Cricket and Seagull” for free, and it’ll be in the archives indefinitely (it should be taken as granted that if any web site is eternal, it will be Meridian). If, however, all the Crickets and Seagulls should ever fly with wild abandon (not to mention, for the crickets, desperation) into the ozone, I can come to your house! Like I did for Steve! I could even bring my best guitar, which I did for Steve! Unless I have to fly there, in which case I’d play yours–or we’d rent one. Heck, I’ll bring my electric, and we’ll have young people’s music! (If you go right now to www.marvinpayne.com and buy my old electric guitar ((really good one!)), I’ll bring the way super pretty one I’m going to buy to your house! ((Or I guess I could play my old one, because it’d already be there.)) ) Now tell me, isn’t this more than even President Kimball, who made journal-writing a commandment, would do?
Invite your friends! Tell them to bring their journals! If everybody’s writing, nobody will be talking, which is what we singer/songwriter types prefer. You can be the first to hear the song I wrote last night when I couldn’t sleep because I’d not yet plagiarized this column! It’s for my daughter Caitlin and it’s called “Cait’s Waltz.”
Cait, waltz with me now.
I’ll show you how.
Just put your feet on mine.
Cait, please won’t you try?
I know you can fly,
but just put your sweet hand in mine.
If you stand up real tall,
and I don’t bend at all,
no one will know
that I’m not Prince Charming, so
Cait, dance with me please.
You once danced on my knees,
so dance one more fleet memory.
The time slips on past.
Your slippers of glass
are pinching your toes.
The clock’s striking midnight, so
Cait, waltz with me quick,
and maybe we’ll trick
the pumpkin and keep you mine.
There, you could write to that, couldn’t you? I left a big part with just guitar, so you wouldn’t get waltzing mixed up with the testimony you’re bearing to your posterity.
But woh, don’t try to write to the sound of the third Harry Potter movie. Several paragraphs ago, Steve’s webcast ended with the last virtual Seagull musically devouring the last virtual Cricket, and now the kids have Harry Potter on upstairs and I have to stop. It’s more interesting than my life.