The Peregrination Suite is about a journey. It was composed while traveling across America. The voyage included such places as Chicago, and New York City, as well as the Eastern half of the Trans Canada Highway, a prolonged stay in Texas and a brief visit to my hometown of New Orleans. All of these places found their way into this composition.
I. The Outside People
I was in the small college town of Denton, Texas for three months. I spent most evenings doing research in the university library. When the library closed at two in the morning I frequently found myself heading to the Jupiter House, an all-night coffee shop on the downtown square. I wasn’t the only one to call to this place home. All through the night people came and went. Most sat inside, on sofas and at tables, with laptops plugged in or college texts opened.
But there was a special collection of people who always sat outside at one of the four small tables situated on the sidewalk in front. There was also a handful of homeless men who generally showed up, always thankful for an offered cup of coffee (always sweetened beyond comprehension by packet after packet of sugar, perhaps to compensate for a life lacking in sweetness). When the bar next door closed a new group of outside people appeared. Most of the regulars were college students, or at least college age. All of them lived outside of society's box.
Each had a fascinating story. Philosophies were espoused, as only those with their entire lives ahead of them can conjure, free from the double curse of practicality and reality. I found beauty and sadness, joy and despair, warmth and curiosity. I learned a lot waiting for the sun to rise outside the Jupiter House. I was touched by the many souls I met. This movement is dedicated to them.
II. Blues For A Great City
There is no place in the world that is like New Orleans.
Just what is it that makes New Orleans unique? Far better writers than I have tried to capture this enigma. The obvious things are easy to list: food, architecture, music, Mardi Gras. Did I mention food?
Special as they are, they are merely the results of something much less tangible.
In simple terms, the people of New Orleans think differently. Their thought process isn’t always for the best, but combined with low elevation, cayenne pepper and a let the good times roll attitude, and you have New Orleans.
In 2005 New Orleans suffered a catastrophe of unseen proportions. Virtually the entire city was washed away. No one escaped untouched in some profound way.
In December of 2007 I spent several days in New Orleans. Driving through the remains of my hometown was disheartening. Reading about the destruction, even seeing television accounts, did not do justice to the proportion of the destruction. Over two years after the water came, the city is still in shambles.
New Orleans will be back. In many ways it never disappeared. Because New Orleans isn’t about buildings, music, food and the like. New Orleans is a spirit and that spirit cannot be washed away. This movement expresses my feelings as I explored the many places of my youth. The somber theme that opens the homage returns in near the end of the last movement in a triumphant manner, evoking that spirit, and the inevitable return of New Orleans to its former grandeur.
III. On The Road
Much like Kerouac’s On The Road, this movement is about going places, and more specifically, driving places. It is off and running from the first measure. Keys change frequently as new melodies float in and out.
This portion of my trip took me from Virginia to Chicago, where a fall left me using a cane for a month. Though slow of foot, this didn’t slow down my journey. I meandered the Midwest before heading north to Canada. A week of rehearsals and recordings in Toronto was followed by celebrating Canada Day in Ottawa, Jazz Festival in Montreal, rain in Québec City, and a vista filled drive around the Gaspé Peninsula. There was lobster in Maine on the way south towards a month in Manhattan (a peregrinator’s dream locale). A leisurely drive returned me to Virginia three months later, to relax and repack for more. The finale expresses this journey: almost nonstop driving for two months, discovering something new every day.
Driving alone across vast stretches of land, lost in thought, mile after mile, is a form of paradise to me. It’s not really about the destination or even the magnificent views through my car windows. It’s the feeling. The bubble. The freedom to go anywhere. Stop anywhere. And like the white stripes on the road, the music never stops.
As the miles click away my mind is consciously, or unconsciously, working out compositional problems. I frequently stop at scenic views or coffee shops along the way and attempt to put those thoughts to manuscript paper. Composition is hard work. Fortunately a pen and paper are the only equipment required, and they travel quite well.
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