Rendered Fat Content


Mary Cassatt: Under the Lamp (c. 1882)

" … evidence of criminal conspiracy afoot."

Each song in a thirteen song collection of my original compositions evokes its source when I perform it. The situation, location, and conditions then present flood me, often almost overwhelming me, and sometimes succeeding in absolutely shutting me down. I am not always able to finish a song I've started for it transfers such an emotional load I cannot bear it in some moments, and I just have to stop. Other times, I'll get so distracted by the ginned up context that I'll forget the words. It's helpful, if deeply embarrassing, when The Muse reminds me of the next phrase after sensing that I somehow got lost on such tenaciously home turf. The scene of the original crime reappears each time, if, indeed, the birth of each song constituted a crime. If they were crimes, I could claim that they were innocent crimes of omission rather than of deliberate commission. I never once intended to capture that time, or any time, in any kind of bottle, but writing a song, any song, seems to inadvertently produce just that sort of result.

Room 327 in the La Posada in Alburquerue, originally built by Conrad Hilton, lord knows when, and featuring the most wonderful Spanish tile lobby.
I was facilitating a workshop there when a song, arguably my best ever, decided to manifest. It seemed like a momentous event, but then they all seem special at their moment of manifestation, though creation always takes more than any mere moment. Time slows way down then, such that a week might remember as a minute. The felt sense of that time imprints itself in the lyric lines and the chord changes to become an incantation. I do not so much perform a song as reincarnate it intact from whatever far distant past it first inhabited. It's eerie as Hell and curiously satisfying, too, to cycle through a living autobiography every time I perform a set of my songs. Crafting that organization, which one comes first and which last, must take into account more than birth order. Ten thousand little considerations might color each selection, my brain fogged by flooding memories when choosing.

Fortunately, I think, that I never fell into writing songs about teen-aged angst or suburban rage. My tunes seem gratefully genre-less, not pop, not blues, not hardly rock and roll. I was always stumped when asked what sort of songs I wrote, for I was never attempting to recreate anyone else's style, and each style, however originally alluring, came then went out of fashion. Early Bob Dylan hits seem almost as evocative as the missives I created, anchored in times and places to which only those then present can really properly relate. An aging songwriter, one who's written for half a century like me, must be haunted by their long history, able to transport themselves like some genie backward then forward again on demand. Each vamp, each lead-in riff, casts a spell or commits a crime every damned time. There are no superficial performances possible. Each one's just as serious as Hell and as evocative as Heaven; excuse me, please, if each one seems to stun me with emotion!

The set list, then, amounts to a map of CrimeScenes where infractions I committed occurred. It does not take a trained detective to spot the guilty shadow falling across my face. Whether each amounts to a felony or a misdemeanor might be in the ear of the beholder, for each crime was different although each was also very much the same. Same perpetrator, you might suspect, with different victims, but the perp was different, too, for he was unable to remain unchanged, unaffected, through his extended series of crimes. He never once got away clean. He left footprints leading to their source. Of course he expects some hot shot detective to one day, any day, show up at his door to arrest him for his many past crimes of undoubted passion. Performing the evidence almost makes no sense, given the proof of guilt they represent. If creating a song commits a crime, then performing it amounts to an admission of guilt; performing a full set, evidence of criminal conspiracy afoot. I'm clearly guilty if charged.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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