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Gerard de Lairesse: Bacchus and Ariadne (c. 1680)

"I can sometimes hear my former selves whispering."

Creating this Set List involves reincarnating past work. My work freezes time and place in the same way as might any book or film. I watch old black and white movies expressly for the purpose of Reviving the time and place within which they were created. A Hitchcock film seems forever frozen within its time, and cannot escape into the here and now, no matter how many times I might watch it. It takes me back instead. In this same way, Reviving a song I wrote thirty years ago invokes that place and time, reanimating the me I knew so well then, one I might not have seen since. Of course, I'm older if not necessarily wiser now, so I cannot fully immerse myself into that vessel, but I get a taste, a "snootful", anyway. These excursions might feel delightful or painful, or, more probably, simultaneously both. They prove to be emotional roller coasters.

I remember the dismay I felt when I saw some once-favorite character actor twenty years after they played that role.
They represented the most prima facie evidence that time does indeed flow, never slowing down or stopping. That person who once was, no longer existed, yet their successor stood there, declaring him self to be the same person as before, an obvious misrepresentation. This experience left me wondering if any of us are ever the same person once. I write my daily stories to capture that which cannot ever be captured, to give myself the sense that I'm not simply evaporating even though I am. My songs also serve as evidence of past lives lived, and when revived, I seem to come alive again with them. They drag a me into being.

I sincerely wish that my past could remain present. I think it a waste that days get left behind when many of them still held so very much promise. When I performed more regularly, I wore my pasts as my wardrobe, my Set List, a collection of period self portraits which I could summon up at will. I suppose that made me an actor, always playing the very same character but in differing periods. Songs of innocence and songs of relative experience combined to create each performance and I smoothly shifted from persona to persona as if changing costumes. It was serious pretending, for I was none of those characters, but the actor Reviving each in turn. Performance renders the performer meta to himself, somebody else altogether than himself.

As I'm Reviving my old songs, my old selves, I feel progressively wealthier. Puzzle pieces start refitting together. I sense a better orientation toward from where I came and by extension, perhaps to whom I've become, too. My trip has been more than merely long and strange. I can't quite put a name to what it eventually became. I am clearly no longer whomever I was and I continue to not quite yet be whomever I might become. I'm suspended between those two untouchables, Reviving what might prove to be anchors to my life. Relearning a tune will not bring back either time or place but it might replace an empty spot with something more tangible. A memory, perhaps, or a particularly satisfying inductive trance. If I close my eyes and listen, I can sometimes hear my former selves whispering.

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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