A Song for RJ

A Song for RJ

The character of RJ PLOM is based on my father, so I approached this song with special care. In writing the melody for this piece, I thought long and hard about what RJ’s journey from this mortal world to a new one beyond might sound like. It needed to be reflect various emotions as he traveled.

RJ was now a man alone and sad, surrounded by his little plane and his thoughts about everyone and everything he had left behind. He first ascended through the fog and clouds. He became aware that all he could do now was move forward. RJ embraced the feeling of freedom that accompanied that reality. Once above the clouds, there was time for RJ to cruise along at a peaceful pace. He was able to enjoy the wondrous view of the cloud blanket beneath him as he tried to figure out where the ride would take him.

above the clouds

RJ’s peace was eventually interrupted by a swaying sensation that progressed into a less comfortable, more tension-filled space. He soon found himself tangled in a wild storm that forced him down onto unstable ground. When the tension of the storm finally subsided, the clearing sky revealed to RJ a sight that was brilliant, colorful, and surprising…a wondrous new world.

The melody components for the various stages of RJ’s flight actually came rather easily. Trying to add my own accompaniment was another story. I wrote what I could to add a little texture and harmony to the piece. I realized after a little experimentation that there was an opportunity to blanket a verse of the Heaven’s Wait theme over the main “A Journey Above” melody, so I wrote it into the final verse of the song as best I could. It didn’t sound too bad, considering that my orchestration skills left a lot to be desired. This was all years before Aki entered the picture.

I put the files from my music creator app for this song into Aki’s hands, where he was able to see how I had delineated the different sections of RJ’s flight. He took it from there, finding instrumentation and chords to make each section sound appropriate to its mood. We went back and forth with ideas and corrections until we felt we had done it justice. Aki turned this special piece into something I will always hold close to my heart. I sincerely thank him for that.  We are especially proud of the way the two songs melded during the final verse. It still makes my heart swell whenever I hear it. Enjoy “A Journey Above,” otherwise known as “RJ’s Theme.” B


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Heaven’s Wait Theme: The First Piece of Music

Heaven’s Wait Theme: The First Piece of Music

Allow me to tell you about the origin of HW’s first piece of music, Heaven’s Wait Theme.

Once the fantasy world of Heaven’s Wait had an established name, an idea entered my mind that this world should have a theme song.

I started tinkering on my piano, and the initial melody for the song came to me in bits and pieces. The song, which would establish the initial mood for the fantasy world, needed to be something that portrayed grandeur, a sense of the faraway and mysterious, and a heaven-like essence. I wanted the song to sound somewhat classical yet a little otherworldly. I had no idea how to achieve the treatment I desired.

The melody progressed nicely, and I was able to jot down a simple accompaniment. But writing the notes was a grueling task, because I wasn’t skilled enough to do it efficiently and accurately. I trudged along writing one note at a time, losing parts of the song as the notes traveled from my head to the sheet music. I didn’t know much about the chord progressions, and I certainly didn’t know which instruments to use for the mood I was after. At that point, I was simply happy that the melody sounded lovely to me.

Enter Aki Ross! I found it somewhat hard to expose my elementary work to someone who obviously knew so much about the world of music. It had been just as hard for me to send the first draft of my Heaven’s Wait manuscript to my professional story consultant, Brad Schreiber, many years ago. Back then, the fear of failure had been overwhelming. And I did fail miserably time and again until I learned some valuable writing skills and wrote numerous revisions. By the time Aki entered the picture, I had overcome the fear of criticism, and I welcomed his suggestions with open arms. I was still a little shy about the exposure, but I knew that anything he had to offer would do nothing but make it better than it was. And “better” was something I was eager to embrace.

Aki was full of ideas and suggestions. He took the piece and dug into the orchestration. It was our first time working together, and it was during the 2021 winter of COVID distancing. We passed the files back and forth and had a few Zoom meetings along the way. We discussed the progress and made sure the process was working for us. This was new territory for both of us. I was amazed by his ability to transform my simple work into something I think is now beautiful and something we’re both proud of. Please enjoy the completed Heaven’s Wait Theme. B

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Aki and Me!

Aki and Me!

The time came when I needed to find help to bring my melodies and lyrics out of my head and computer and into the real world. The music in my files wasn’t anywhere near presentable for the outside world. The information I had fed into my music creator app wasn’t at all what I heard in my head. I decided that my amateur collection of tunes deserved more than to die in my computer. I asked friends for suggestions for someone who might be able to orchestrate my music for me. A couple of possibilities popped up and then faded. The onset of COVID didn’t help.

One day at my family’s coffee roasting company, I asked my co-worker, Les, who happens to be a guitarist, if he might know of someone who could do the work for me. He said, “Yes, I think I know someone who can help you. His name is Akira Ross. He’s done some arranging for high school music programs. He plays trumpet in my jazz group. I’ll ask him.”

Les, Barbara, Aki

Aki, a bit hesitant because he hadn’t previously orchestrated original music, agreed to a Zoom meeting with Les and me. February 2021, pandemic precautions were still in place. Fully bearded and working from home, he taught private music lessons over Zoom. Professional trumpet performances for him were non-existent during this time. His work in the high school music programs was non-existent as well. My husband and I were also banned by our sons from our family workplace due to COVID concerns. Our first meeting was successful, and we figured out how to start the process of orchestrating my songs remotely.

Aki and Me Remote

Aki has been so gracious in receiving my terribly orchestrated songs without comment. He has had a decent challenge ahead of him to make each of the pieces sound beautiful. With substantial knowledge of music theory, a keen ear for instrumentation, and a creative side of his own, Aki has taken on the songs in my files one by one and turned them into beautiful works of art. We have developed an easy give-and-take collaboration that is working well for us. I am so proud of the work we have done and the lovely music that has emerged.

It so happens that Aki now works for our coffee company too. An opportunity arose during COVID restrictive times, and he readily jumped on board. I must say, it was quite strange for us to finally meet in person, after many months of collaborating through a computer screen. I kept checking through the office windows to make sure he was a real person. As a result of our close proximity, it is now easy for us to quickly meet during work breaks on new pieces of music. We have just completed our 19th song, which wraps up the music for the Tales from Vowella book series. Again, find out more about our musical journey by following upcoming blog posts on this page – Music of an Imaginary World – and in other spots throughout the Heaven’s Wait website. There is more to come! B

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Music in My Head

Music in My Head

I admit I’m a creataholic, though I don’t try to be. Ideas are always popping into my head, sometimes simple in nature, sometimes detailed, dumb, or outlandish.

Years ago, I learned to keep a notebook in my nightstand so that, during the night, I could jot down the ideas and thoughts, therefore releasing them from of my overworking mind. If I didn’t, the ideas would nag at me and keep me awake. If there was music my head, however, there was a problem because music notation was not my strong point. I’d sometimes get up in the middle of the night and do enough tinkering on my piano to allow me to do simple notation, so I wouldn’t forget the melody that kept playing in my head. Otherwise, by morning, the melody would be gone when I turned on my music creator app.

As I started writing little tales that would eventually become novel chapters for Heaven’s Wait, situations arose where I thought to myself, if this was a musical, here would be a good place for a song. And some of the characters themselves began to write their own lyrics, based on their storylines. My mind would either concoct lyrics that fit the storylines, or a melody would started formulating in my head. I found myself having to put the brakes on the writing so I could give the songs a chance to become something tangible. I filed them away knowing I would someday find a way to make use of them. Some of those files are 15 years old.

The music, in its elementary form, continues to come to me. I’ll work on a story character or situation and think, a song belongs here. It would add life to that character or situation. The question, however, has always been…how do I integrate these songs into a printed book series? Who does that? I guess Tales of Vowella has always been a movie or musical in my head, so I needed to figure out how to convey that concept to a reading audience.

If you are interested in the reading more about the evolution of the music of Tales of Vowella, and to listen to the music itself, bookmark the main music page – Music of an Imaginary World. Ongoing blog posts will introduce the musical pieces and their history. I invite you to enjoy the music from the Tales from Vowella series. B

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