MUSIC HEALS SMOG
Dreamed 1994/4/28 by Chris Wayan
I drive through Montana, then Wyoming, Idaho, into eastern Washington. The air is clear as glass. Huge horizons. I angle southwest toward Portland, where my friend Zooop lives.
A hundred miles upstream, a faint blue haze appears in the Columbia Gorge. As I near the city, it thickens into a deep bluish-purple smog. Never seen one this color! Leaches all the warmth out of the distance; even the sun goes a bit thin. The horizon's gone, smothered half a mile away. Red yellow and green fade only a few yards off like undersea...
Zooop and Lance live in an apartment tower. We go up on the roof. I ask about this horrible blue haze. "Doesn't it depress you, isn't it unhealthy? How can we clear it away?"
She says "Oh I forgot about it. Your eyes adjust to the color balance I guess..." But she admits she never sees the horizon, let alone the huge peaks rising beyond it: Mt Hood, St Helens, Adams, Rainier. Lost her birthright--the long view. She says "It's like this everywhere. Name me one city that's better."
But I've just driven through a thousand miles of clean air, and I know she's wrong. The blue haze is a small dense blot, unique to Portland. "Is it worse downtown?" I ask, pointing vaguely southeast, toward the famous towers of Portland, some of the highest in the world, and certainly the most spectacular. I came to see those dreamlike spiderweb towers as much as to see my friend. And they're invisible. I'm not even sure where downtown is, or how far: disoriented in this blind blue smog.
She says "Oh downtown's not over there. We're IN downtown." I look around at the modest old buildings. No. I say "Zooop, I don't even recall crossing the Columbia. What side of the river are we on?" and she says "Uh... the Washington side?"
"So this isn't even Portland proper. This is Vancouver." "Well... yes, I guess you're right."
I tell her "I think we can change the blue haze by changing the kind of music your band plays." Lance and Zooop and half the people in the building have a band mixing Middle Eastern scales, rhythms, and microtones with electric guitars. It's cool stuff, a bit like Rai or Surf (which started from Lebanese folk mixed with rock, after all).
But they use birds in their music, too. They raise chickens on the roof, a breed of chickens that lays music instead of eggs. I worry they've taken too many eggs from the hens, and that's why it's all turned to blues... depression, from drained, overworked chickens!
I suggest they add new chord progressions to their chicken-harvest. They say "What new ones?"
So I have to think of some. They use a home-made form of musical notation I have to struggle with. I end up just playing along with some tapes they made, and start singing... and shift the music in new directions. Celtic major/minor modulations and sweeter cheerier harmonies, major thirds and fourths. The music I improvise is good, even extraordinary, and luckily someone had a tape recorder on. It's as good as anything being composed today and I know it. I'm a fool to be dabbling in the visual arts if I can make music like this! I should be writing songs and playing with these people!
And I wake, half-remembering the music, not quite well enough to write it down...
But clearly, mercilessly remembering that toxic blue gloom. From music laid by chickens.
NOTES ON WAKING UP
TEN YEARS LATER
I'd always dismissed music as a career. I'm a clumsy instrumentalist--the tunes in my head wouldn't come out my fingers. But after this dream, I started taking singing and music classes. I was shocked to learn a four-octave voice range is rare--and if I stayed allergy-free (which meant taking my health seriously!) I really could hit five C notes. And I could pick up chords and changes by ear that my (working, professional) classmates couldn't. After a few years I started composing, and now I'm in my first serious band, The Krelkins. On my way!
But to do it, I had to get out of that blue haze of "I can't." No, worse... "What towers? You mean the neighbors' houses, right?" Of thinking small. Of being... well... chicken.
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