Step Back, Sister from Realities (Day 168)

Girl fight! Lots of commentary after the lyric below…


CYBIL: Nothing but trouble,
That’s what I saw the day you came.
Since you began on your plan,
The man just hasn’t been the same.
We’ve got the chance of a lifetime here
And Alex needs to get his ass in gear,
But he can’t think of anything but you.
STEP BACK, SISTER
I got a job to do!

Miss Pollyanna,
You’re messin’ where you don’t belong!
Alex is mine! He was fine
Until the day you came along.
I see you acting like you know what’s right
But you’re distracting him both day and night
The man needs help but you don’t have a clue
STEP BACK, SISTER
I got a job to do!

Back off, baby
Clear out!
I don’t mean maybe.
I don’t like wasting my time with you.
I got a job to do.

ANNA: Alex’s welfare
Has always mattered most to me.
He needs to rest. I suggest
He focus on his therapy.
He can’t support you if he can’t get well.
What good’s impressing people from BL
If he can’t function when the deal comes thru?
STEP BACK, SISTER
I got a job to do!

Mind your own business,
You dirty little so-and-so.
Think I’m a slut? well, guess what:
You weren’t there and you don’t know!
I’m here for Alex and I’ve always been…
Now don’t be givin’ me that nasty grin!
Why should I justify myself to you?
STEP BACK, SISTER
I got a job to do!

Both women: Back off, baby
Clear out!
I don’t mean maybe.
I don’t like wasting my time with you.
I got a job to do.
I’m not afraid of you.
I got a job to do.
I’m not afraid of you.
I got a job to do.

Listening to this track brings back vivid memories of the technology that was used to create it, tools that seemed like the state of the art 20 years ago.

I was an early adopter of the Macintosh computer, and my collaborator, Steve Hochman, had generously helped me out by selling me an early Mac laptop – actually one of the very few examples of a piece of hardware not built by Mac that ran the Mac OS. I’m afraid I can’t remember the name of the manufacturer now, but I remember being totally thrilled to own something that cool and totally grateful to Steve that he let me pay him for it in installments. That laptop got stolen when my house in Wilmington was burglarized, but it wasn’t long before it was replaced with a very early edition MacBook.

The software I used was called Performer, later Digital Performer. I continued to use Digital Performer until a few years ago, when I totally succumbed to the ease and power of Garageband. Performer required a MIDI sound source, and it wasn’t til years after Realities that I could use the computer as a sound source as well as a sequencer.

The sound source used in this track was a Korg 05-W, a little box that was one rack space high and half a rack space wide, or about the size of my laptop computer. I bought the 05-W around this time to provide a source of synth sounds for the production of Sondheim’s Assassins I directed in Philadelphia in 1993. The music director for that production, Michael Kaulkin, was a skilled pianist and composer but needed my help in the technology department, so I did the synth programming for that show – probably one of the very few cases where the stage director did double duty as the synth programmer. The 05-W had a readout panel that could show two short lines of text, and accessing its menus required an interminable amount of button-pressing. If one was patient, however, one could create sixteen different sounds on multiple MIDI tracks for a composition.

Primitive though it may have been, it was not my first sequencing setup. I remember running a program called Cakewalk on my IBM PC in the late 1980’s, using a Yamaha DX-7 as a sound source; you can hear those marvelous distinctive sounds on the songs from Goosefeathers.

When we performed the reading of Realities, I played back Performer sequences for a number of the groove-based tunes, like this one, tomorrow’s song (Double Yellow Line), the music from the Cutting Edge, Miles’s song Smash N Grab, ALICE’s song Behind the Screen, and the second half of the quartet Aflame.

Realities was one of the very first projects where I used a computer music notation software. I always found the hand-copying of music manuscript to be exceedingly tedious, and composing involves constant rewriting and recopying of material, so when I was able to afford notation software, I plunged in. My software of choice during the 90’s was Encore; I made the transition to Finale in 2000, about halfway through working on A Tiny Miracle. Finale came equipped with a converter that read Encore file for many years, so I used to be able to open those old Encore files and turn them into Finale files, but Finale phased out that feature after 2008. I thought I was clever to save my old install disk of Finale 2008, thinking that one day I’d want to go back and convert all the manuscripts for Realities and the early songs of Watch The Birdie, but when I went to install and run it recently, I discovered that Finale 2008 is no longer compatible with the version of Mac OS now running on my very new, very fast Mac Book Pro. Such are the challenges that vex the technologically reliant composer. I do have printouts of all the Realities songs in a binder, and it amuses me to see how crude the layouts look compared to the ultra-polished engraving options that Finale now offers me.

For the record, I’m writing this post on a mini iPad with a tiny Bluetooth keyboard, sitting on a plane in flight from Philly to San Francisco. My complete computer setup on this flight weighs about a pound and is smaller than the hardback book I have stashed in my knapsack. The iPad doesnt really offer good music apps, though I do have a copy of the iPad version of Garageband installed. I suppose it’s only a matter of time, though.

After all this blabbing about technology, I should say something about the song: Girl Fight! I was delighted by the way that Deirdre Finnegn and Valerie Morel sounded rocking out on this song.

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