Category Archives: Music

Magic in the Time of Conventions

mr bloghop cropped

A year ago, when I contributed to Zoe Brooks’ wonderful Magic Realism Bloghop, it was so easy to post about that literary genre in relation to my fantasy series, 1001, The Reincarnation Chronicles.  But just a year later, how do I write about fantasy and wonder when the Realism of the world is so violent, dire, and contentious — not Magical by any stretch of the imagination?  But stretch I must, so for starters I bifurcated my thoughts into one post pursuing this question of the current reality, which you can see here, and this post affirming Magic in our world, even in the time of Conventions, Revolutions, Hacks, Attacks, and Donald Trump.  With a free story at the end!

Giving my imagination permission to stretch, I asked myself, “In what daily reality can I find magic anymore?”  My own daily reality is working as a musician accompanying dancers.  During the school year I work at the fabled ‘Fame’ school.  Dealing with the most talented adolescents in New York City is itself a dose of reality, but no day goes by without moments of magic.  Aha!  Magic Realism at the High School of Performing Arts!

Following this theme, this summer, between long hours of editing 1001’s  Book Three, The Qaraq and the Subversive Manuscript, I played a few classes at the Martha Graham School.  Martha Graham was kind of a choreographic Magic Realist (maybe a stretch right there), combining the arcane magic of mythological characters with the shadowy realism of modern psychology.  It is embedded in the technique of her movement, which was what I strove to support with music.  Even in a basic dance class at the Graham School, I witnessed the Reality of the dancers struggling in a Manhattan heat wave, alongside the Magic and joy of working with Susan Kikuchi.  Susan is the daughter of Yuriko, one of Martha’s first important dancers and teachers, still a legend at 96, who worked on the mesmerizing choreography of the first production of The King and I.

I have also worked at Juilliard and many other dance conservatories, so I transformed the reality of my experiences as a dance accompanist into a fantastical world within my series.  My contribution to the bloghop is a free story from 1001, which merges my personal everyday reality with a magical fiction series.  The Reincarnation Chronicles follows a group of intertwined souls, called a qaraq, who recall their past lives in various worlds and puzzle out their karmic history.  In this world, on the planet Aklanon, the qaraq worked as performing artists in an alien arts conservatory called Draill U.  In Book Two, The Qaraq and the Maya Factor, the qaraq remembers their dramas as students in a volatile class.  In this tale, a generation earlier, they recall an experimental dance workshop that bred romance and vulnerability.

“The Tale of the Indaki and the Neuromistressa”

The excerpt can be found on the Stories page.

You can read this excerpt and try to decipher the alien terms for fun.  Just know the tale is told in the second person, from I-zaea’s point of view, speaking to himself as “you.”  But if you’d like help navigating the halls of this alien arts school and its technical vocabulary, here’s a Glossary:

Indaki  —  dance accompanist  (I-zaea)

neuromistressa  —  dance teacher  (Fughini, and later, beyond the excerpt, Daywa)

whakatan, whakatani  —  music, musicians

tarakan, tarakani — dance, dancers  (Daywa)

neuroscore  —  musical composition

Nerve Dancing  — basic Aklanonian dance technique, firing the nervous system as well as mind and muscle

whaka  — arts

Pr, Do’en  —  Professor (Ctatlo), Dean

multiperf  —  interdisciplinary performing arts work

freshling, sophmorist, junieur, senieur  —  the 4 years of college

Heyatt uy Budoyr  —  Heyat and Budor, tale from the 1001 Arabian Nights

sounding holes, plectra plane  —  well, imagine an alien keyboard instrument, y’all

 

Enjoy my personal dip into Magic Realism.  If you’d like to finish the complete story, there are instructions at the bottom of the excerpt, again on the Stories page.

 

The Tale of the Heavenly Music Room

I’m proud to say a story of mine has been published in January’s WritingRaw, an online literary magazine.  “The Tale of the Heavenly Music Room” is one of the Path of Heaven stories that pop up during the 1001 series. Here’s the synopsis: Bored with walking serenely down the Path of Heaven, two musician souls, Stint and Loquat, come upon… Continue Reading

The Magical Harmony of Andalusia

I heard an extraordinary concert recently that was a breath of fresh cultural love and harmony in the midst of all the hate and violence in the world now.  It was a collaboration between: al-Bustan Takht Ensemble, an instrumental band playing Arabic music, Dalal Abu Amneh, a beautiful and mellifluous Palestinian vocalist in the tradition… Continue Reading

25 New Beatles Albums, Part 3

Now that I’m done with 1001, Book 2 capitalism for a bit, I can complete my summer promise to share my playlists for fantasy albums by The Beatles.  Fantasy because the albums came from after their break-up, using the best songs from their solo albums in any given year. Given the great response to my initial post-Beatles article, which you… Continue Reading

Why (or why not) I Need Music to Write

I’m happy to have a guest post for the second time on Roz Morris’ wonderful Undercover Soundtrack, where authors talk about how music influences their writing process.  Cheekily, I confess that music may have no influence on me whatsoever.  But genuinely, I explore why I constantly listen to carefully constructed playlists as I write, if not… Continue Reading

25 New Beatle Albums! Part 2

One of the most popular posts on my website was about the trend of creating fantasy albums by The Beatles.  Fantasy because the albums come from after their break-up, using the best songs from their solo albums in any given year.  I’ve been gratified that the post was so popular, even if the site is… Continue Reading

Scheherazade.2

I was excited to attend the premiere of John Adams’ ‘dramatic symphony’ at the New York Philharmonic.  Scheherazade.2 at the very least proves that the tremendously evocative female character of Medieval Arabic literature still resonates, inspires, and empowers artists to create great works.  Since the main character of my 1001 series is a modern day Scheherazade,… Continue Reading

A Movable Golden Age

My task this year is working on several books at once in the 1001 series, and with that comes the pleasure of tracking an idea like The Movable Golden Age.  As I humbly learn how to entice readers to discover The Qaraq, Book One of The Reincarnation Chronicles, I wait for my editor Debra Ginsberg to do… Continue Reading

Best of 2014 Qaraqbooks posts

If you’re just now following Qaraq Books, or have been a loyal fan and want to look back at a ‘novel’ year, here’s what I consider the best posts of 2014 (just click on the post title). If you’d like notifications of 2015 posts, plus book news, free stories, and promotions, please subscribe to my… Continue Reading

Hidden Forms That Tell a Story

There are eleven hidden structures in 1001: The Reincarnation Chronicles.  What does that mean?  What do they have to do with music?  And mostly, why?  For example, in the past life tale in each chapter there is a hidden reference to one of The Thousand and One Nights. For an overture into how hidden forms… Continue Reading