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Afterwords
solo piano and spoken word meditations
Afterwords Album Cover

Jump to: Liner notes, Disc 1Liner notes, Disc 2Bonus Tracks

Afterwords is my latest solo piano project (to be released in mid 2017). Each piece is presented as a kind of meditation, focusing one's thoughts around the interplay between words and music. The quotations come from some of my favorite novels, short stories and poems. The music flows directly from personal introspection, inspired by both the characters' words and my own memories of what it first felt like to read them.

Unlike most of my solo piano works, where only a short title heralds the musical story I am weaving, this project uses longer quotations from much larger books, so the listener has a far more detailed map of the story behind the music. The process is more like the music I have written for stage and film, where my music illustrates specific action or the inner thoughts of known characters. Afterwords illustrates the power of ideas within the context of stories and music. I hope it also becomes a window into how I view the world and the sounds I experience as I move through it.

Each piece flows into the next... forming a singular arc, presenting a life. I hope you enjoy the poetic nature of the flow and aggregate meaning as you move from track to track, disc to disc. Please embrace the project as a whole, even if that may require more than one sitting. Afterwards, feel free to reorder the tracks in whatever way that feels best for you. Create your own meditative session, as this modern age of digital playlists invites us to do.

To best illustrate each quotation, I employ varying musical styles and genres. I love projects that enable me to do this. Even though the ideas and perspectives presented in these texts differ wildly, hearing them introduced by a single voice gives them a unified foundation, bound as they are by the experience of one reader (me) and, now, one listener (you).

The interplay creates a rich multi-cultural tapestry. On a personal level, this collection also represents a soundtrack to my specific intellectual journey, from a waking pre-teen reading his first novel to an aging adult looking back on a world and life he still hopes to better understand.

In the past, I've paired music with Impressionist paintings (Impressions of Water & Light), Medieval masks (13 Masks), my own poetry (As Simple As Soap), Holidays (Midwinter Born, geographic locations (New England Suite and Morning Whispers), 19th century memoirs (Of Two Minds), Baroque histories (Flow) and modern events (The September 11 Project). I thought it was time to highlight another source of inspiration: world literature.

This project comes after a period of time in which I've consciously avoided the written word. For most of my career I cared deeply about language. Fourteen scripts, five books, hundreds of poems, thousands of letters and over 260 lyrics for songs are a testament to that. But all that time I struggled with words in a way I've never had to with music, on the level of a love-hate relationship. A few years ago, after being required to avoid stress for health reasons, I decided to stop working with words altogether. I concentrated on instrumental music.

An unexpected freedom resulted. Embracing music without the weight and stress of accompanying words was a delight. I moved through the day unencumbered by the gravity of definitions, the requirements of character development, the pressure of storylines and rhyming lyrics and correct spellings. Many ambitions and boundaries fell away. I felt closer to my own inner life, less cluttered, better able to "voice" the internal diary of my thoughts. I stretched myself more as a composer, focusing as I was on one discipline instead of two.

I loved living in a creative bubble divorced from word-worry, but also began to miss my partnership with the rigors of word-articulation. The melding of literature and piano in this project is an effort to breach the moat I had dug around the written word.

The challenge of representing through music my personal response to literature's varied and nuanced insights has been a great pleasure. From classics to science fiction to children's stories to contemporary novels, the books I've chosen represent moments of my own life, frozen in time and entangled in memory. I try to honor and cherish them the best way I know how: at the piano. I hope I have created synergy not just between words and music, but between recollection and imagination, contemplation and experience, searching and mindfulness. I hope the combination of unique texts, conceptual provocations, personal reactions, multi-genre music and juxtaposed stories results in adding meaning to the adventure in which we are all entangled.

I will be posting drafts of each piece as I finalize the arrangements. Please know they are not completed mixes, but are works in progress. You are welcome to check back for updates.

Disc One — Liner Notes by the composer
1.
In the Amber of the Moment

"That is a very Earthling question to ask, Mr. Pilgrim. Why you? Why us for that matter? Why anything? Because this moment simply is. Have you ever seen bugs trapped in amber?" Billy, in fact, had a paperweight in his office which was a blob of polished amber with three ladybugs embedded in it. "Well, here we are, Mr. Pilgrim, trapped in the amber of this moment."
― Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five

This piece is an homage to the existentialist satire of Kurt Vonnegut. It begins with a metaphor: the sound of free flying insects or, more accurately, the echo of that freedom captured in the rounded contours of polished amber. The shape of the amber is formed by a swirling cloud of sound that flows without any firm destination, much like life itself. Melodies try to escape, new moments try to invade, but the boundary of the amber remains unbroken. In keeping with the sci-fi framework of Slaughterhouse-Five, I had the quirky soundtrack from The Twilight Zone in mind before I sat down to write this piece, although little of it survived. Instead, the caught-in-a-twilight-separation aspect of Vonnegut's main character, Billy Pilgrim, who believes himself "unstuck in time", inspired the starry cage these chord progressions illuminate. "Player Piano" was Vonnegut's first published story; I'm honored to add my piano to one of his best books. One of the many eye-opening books I've had the good fortune of knowing as a youth, I read this one when I was 16 years old. I can thank my older rock n' roller brother Tim for making me a life-long science fiction fan.

2.
The Space Between Chaos and Shape

In the space between chaos and shape there was another chance.
― Jeanette Winterson, The World and Other Places: Stories

The chaotic opening brings to mind the progressive rock of Keith Emerson and the 20th Centrury experimentations of Igor Stravinsky, with just a touch of Count Basie and Bob Fosse thrown in. The second half is more Erik Satie and Stan Getz. The spoken quotation sits in the space between chaos and quietude. Jeannette Winterson is sometimes a confounding author, revealing unexpected insights with profound, well placed philosophical one-liners. For me, these revealed insights stay with me far longer than any of her plots or characters. The music is an esoteric personal journey, rather than an accompaniment to any specific Winterson story.

3.
The Unicorn and the Butterfly

“I have been mortal,” said the Unicorn, “and some part of me is mortal yet. I am full of tears and hunger and the fear of death, although I cannot weep, and I want nothing, and I cannot die. I am not like the others now, for no unicorn was ever born who could regret, but I do. I regret.”

[music interlude]

“Your name is a golden bell hung in my heart,” said the Butterfly. “I would break my body to pieces to call you once by your name.”
― Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

Based on the fantasy novel, The Last Unicorn, this piece combines jazz, tango and blues to create a sense of magic, struggle and redemption. In addition to motifs for the Last Unicorn and the oracle Butterfly, a bit of the menacing Red Bull has worked its way into the music, especially during the tango portions. For those who haven't read the book, the Last Unicorn was transformed by Schmendrick the Magician into human form in order to disguise her from the Red Bull. She is transformed back before the end of the story, but her human experience haunts her in many ways, thus her unfamiliar feelings of regret. Even though the Butterfly seems to be the star of the piece, dominating the movement of the right hand, it was Schmendrick who had the biggest influence on my writing. The bumbling, uncertain, yet crafty and occasionally brilliant (lucky?) magician is the character with whom I most identified – and still do 45 years later. The tension between springtime's enchantments and the mortal heartbreak of coming winter define the interplay throughout.

4.
Every Night a World, Every Morning a Circus

In the evening a strange thing happened: the twenty families became one family, the Children were the children of all. The loss of home became one loss, and the Golden Time in the West was one dream. And it might be that a sick child threw despair into the hearts of twenty families, of a hundred people; that a birth there in a tent kept a hundred people quiet and awestruck trough the night and filled a hundred people with the birth-joy in the morning. Every night a world created, friends made and enemies established; a world complete with braggarts and with cowards, with quiet men, with humble men, with kindly men. Every night relationships that make a world; and every morning the world torn down like a circus.
― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

I used an Oscar Peterson-style style of music that spoke to the hopes and dreams of the era, in contrast to the loss and struggle depicted in much of the novel's action. Each verse demonstrates a different kind of inner optimism, grit, devil-may-care delusion, shared desperation and unstoppable drive that pushed thousands of people westward during the tragedy of the dust bowl years. Steinbeck alternates between character-based narration and poetic commentary; my scenes change and change again, creating a kaleidoscope of lives, energy, hope. There is a dreamy quality to the realism Steinbeck chronicled; I hope my music mirrors that, especially the section under my talking and its recapitulation at the end when nearly all expectations recede into the swirling dust, just as they do in the book.

5.
Longing

Love: the longing for the half of ourselves we have lost.
― Milan Kundera, The Unbearable Lightness of Being

The inventive narrative style and multiple perspectives presented in The Unbearable Lightness of Being were a revelation to me when I first read the book as a young man. Profoundly haunting. I try to capture this essence with a simple left hand continuum overlaid by a melody that uses dissonance (as opposed to open harmonies) to highlight its beauty. Chopin influences emerge, yet there is something contemporarily cinematic about the piece which places it squarely in our modern world. Love takes patience, and these hidden phrases reveal themselves slowly. Kundera, a Czech-born French writer, was influenced by Kafka, Nietzche, Proust (and others). I've read every one of Kundera's books. I hope you can hear the Czech and French influences folded into the occasionally rushed phrasing, the the romantic melodrama and the hint of the ridiculous conviction that love is worth any amount of pain and ruination.

6.
The Old Man and the Sea

…I wish it had been a dream now and that I had never hooked the fish and was alone in bed. “Man is not made for defeat,” he said. “A man can be destroyed but not defeated.” I killed the shark that hit my fish, he thought. Now I do not even have the harpoon. The shark is cruel and able and strong and intelligent. But I was more intelligent than he was... Perhaps not. Perhaps I was only better armed.
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

The Impressionist opening creates a dreamy soundscape on the edges of insanity, like the effect the sea had on the Old Man that fateful day. Along with the Debussy/Ravel influence, there is a hint of Spanish melody and Latin polyrhythm during the whole-tone blues main section, an homage to Hemingway's Cuban setting. As in the book, the listener is presented with the motion of waves, floating disorientation and unmoored exhaustion. Yet perhaps the lasting impression is of an unfinished mythic journey. In this novelette, "the one that got away" goes far beyond the normal fish story. Instead of being a simple fable about loss, or stretching the truth, the greatest gift imparted to the reader is an example of noble pursuit, humbling fortitude and admiration that can only be found in defeat. And, perhaps, we witness the great hunter Hemingway admitting humans may not be the better being, after all.

7.
Dignity; or, Collecting Scarves

Dignity is an affectation, cute but eccentric, like learning French or collecting scarves.
― Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Dignity can create the illusion that nothing, in the end, will deter you from being who you are. The same can be said for the playful elegance of wearing scarves. The music flows like a slow motion scarf in the wind, never striking exactly the same pose twice. Appropriately, there is a touch of cynicism in the graceful sophistication of the musical variations. Eggers is poking fun at "dignity" in this quote, but his characters courageously struggle to find it, to create it, although rarely with respectable consistency. Looking at them from the outside, society might see nothing dignified about them. But on the inside, they are splendid and confused and noble. Taking a page out of both Duke Ellington's and Brad Mehldau's stylings, I pay homage to them as well as Eggers. Side note: This quote and music also reminds me of when the character of Masha says, in Anton Chekhov's The Seagull, "I feel as if I had been in the world a thousand years, and I trail my life behind me like an endless scarf."

8.
Learn Something

"The best thing for being sad," replied Merlin, "is to learn something. That's the only thing that never fails. You may grow old and lie awake at night listening to the disorder of your veins, you may miss your only love, you may see the world about you devastated by evil lunatics, or have your honor trampled in the sewers of baser minds. There is only one thing for it then — to learn. That is the only thing which the mind can never exhaust, never fear or distrust, never dream of regretting. Look what a lot of things there are to learn."
― T. H. White, The Once and Future King

When I first encountered Merlin giving this advice to young Arthur, he might as well have been talking directly to me. The character of Merlin has been a Jungian archetype at the center of my identity for as long as I can remember. My father was a huge Le Morte d'Arthur fan, which I read in 5th grade. But The Once and Future King catapulted me into more fanciful Merlin encounters, from Mary Stewart's The Crystal Cave through countless other novels. Once I felt like I had exhausted the fictional aspect of the story, I turned to academic studies on the Arthurian legend, druids, shamanism, and Medieval history, books that provided research for my unfinished Celtic musical/opera, Merlyn. I began Merlyn as a college student in 1980, then revived the idea in 1994, but other projects intervened. Although this piece is in a completely different musical style, it is buoyed by optimism, nostalgia, playfulness, curiosity and the power of learning, all hallmarks of the magical wizard. There is even a darkly stygian section where you can hear him casting spells as time runs backwards in an effort to escape the tragedy he tried so hard to avert. Indeed, the anti-intellectual forces of the coming Early Middle Ages nearly swallowed the light that was Merlin's Camelot. Nearly.

9.
Under Your Boot-Soles

…Now I will do nothing but listen,
To accrue what I hear into this song.

My voice goes after what my eyes cannot reach,
With the twirl of my tongue I encompass worlds and volumes of worlds.

Writing and talk do not prove me,
I carry the plenum of proof and every thing else in my face,
With the hush of my lips I wholly confound the skeptic.

Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself.
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I make holy whatever I touch or am touch’d from,
The scent of these arm-pits aroma finer than prayer,
This head more than churches, bibles, and all creeds.
Divine am I inside and out.

I fly those flights of a fluid and swallowing soul,
My course runs below the soundings of plummets.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you.

I bequeath myself to the dirt to grow from under the grass I love,
If you want me again look for me under your boot-soles.

― Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself” (edited/rearranged), Leaves of Grass

I often wonder if I would have become an artist if I had never encountered the writings of Walt Whitman. More than any single author, he was responsible for me becoming a writer. It was a Whitmanesque-styled poem I wrote as a sophomore in college that proved to me I could write. But more than that, his all-encompassing love and courage inspired me to pursue honest self-expression. He is in my personal pantheon of saints – for his life choices as well as his words. I have rearranged and juxtaposed some of his more famous phrases from "Song of Myself," the central poem from "Leaves of Grass." The music I chose is the title track from my first solo piano album, Morning Whispers. The version on that album always seemed more an anthem than a deeply personal statement of intimacy and I've wanted to rerecord it for years. I've include a version without me talking as a free download bonus track at the end of Disc 2 (track 18 below).

Disc Two — Liner Notes by the composer
10.
One With Stars (entr'acte)

We sense in music an extension of ourselves, a reminder of our own potential. Music is an aural manifestation of the Universal; the Unspoken. Through its language, we become one... with stars, with the condensation of Disorder, with the Math of Existence; with Harmony, Dissonance, Resolution. It speaks importantly to the troubled, dispelling loneliness and discontent; and, sometimes spelling them out with empathetic honesty. It offers no excuses, no subterfuge; occasional perfection. Its voice discovers deep recesses of thought and feeling where truth implants itself. It transforms a map of the revolving, interdependent heavens into a heaven within – an Eden of unmasked joy and naked pain, of co-creation and shared destruction, of linkage and love. I've always dreamt that with my two hands I would touch the sky.
― Tobin Mueller, adapted from thoughts presented by Seymour Bernstein

These words are my own, although they are heavily inspired by the great piano teacher Bernstein and his outlook on life and music. The music is from my 1995 musical drama, Creature, and I cannot help but hear those lyrics as I play: "I won't leave you; what survives lives in your heart. I won't leave you; I will always be there. What is memory but the love you have breathed within? Sing it on your lips...to mine." There is something so romantic about imagining we are made of stardust, not just metaphorically but evolutionarily. I'm inspired by the poetic congruencies between celestial physics and the rigorous structures of music theory. Like gazing up into the stars, experiencing music transcends rules and theories. There is a deep magic in listening closely; an augmented magic in composing, in playing, in channeling music, an evolving magic passed down through the centuries. I experience a sense of magic every time I sit at the piano – a very old magic that, paradoxically, makes me feel very young. This piece is meant to represent a prologue to that kind of rebirth, an appeal to the cyclical wonders of life.

11.
Violated By Insight

I can’t tell you exactly what I’m looking for, but I’ll know it when it happens. I want to be breathless and weak, crumpled by the entrance of another person inside my soul. I want to be violated by insight.
― Aimee Bender, "Call My Name," The Girl in the Flammable Skirt

This haunting melancholy piece plays out as if I, the pianist, am searching for something, only to interrupt myself before it can be found. "I can't tell you exactly what I'm looking for..." I confide in the middle of the song, as if I'm talking about the meandering music. This is intentional. I wrote this more as a study of the kind of women Aimee Bender portrays than to illustrate the specific words I quote. "I want to be violated" is a particularly jarring phrase, yet there is nothing jarring in the music. Bender's female characters are often overcome by melancholy, yet respond with volatility, as in the jilted young woman who goes to the local library and has aggressive sex with a stranger, betraying the quiet sanctuary of the books she loves. Or, sometimes they respond with powerless calm, like the woman who watches the lover she no longer loves slowly devolve into an ape, then an amphibian, then a primordial amoeba – and she still cannot leave him. So, instead of capturing the desire to be "violated by insight", I instead reveal the person who wants so to be filled with something she cannot define. I change keys at the end in a hopeful nod to a happy surprise perhaps waiting around the next turn.

12.
Real

“Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.”
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

It wasn't only wickedness and scheming that made people unhappy, it was confusion and misunderstanding; above all, it was the failure to grasp the simple truth that other people are as real as you.
― Ian McEwan, Atonement

Flourishes of garden faerie magic and childlike storytelling open the piece. Once the Wooden Horse explains the physical downsides of "becoming" real, however, I switched into a more adult blues style. The bluesy middle section is a testament to the fortitude and resilience required to be Real. I fashioned a certain amount of "rabbit hopping" into the lurching left hand in order to maintain a sense of play throughout. Devotees of The Velveteen Rabbit might be surprised by my coupling this famous passage with one from a far different kind of novel: Atonement. (Devotees of Ian McEwan might be even more surprised!) Forty years separated my reading of these two books but, for some reason, the McEwan quotation made me think of the Skin Horse. I felt like it could well be a speech she would share with the Velveteen Rabbit a little bit later down the road...

13.
Dissolution, a lullaby

One day I realized that I no longer dreamed of what I would do when I was whole again. My will burned to reach that point, and then suddenly was nothing… I had adjusted, somehow. I had evolved in that unfamiliar region, plodding my stolid way to where the scientists and Remakers of the world congregated. The means had become the end. If I regained my [whole self], I would become someone new, without the desire that defined me… I realized I was not looking for fulfillment but for dissolution. I would pass my body on to a newborn, and rest.
― China Miéville, Perdido Street Station

Miéville is one of the best new voices in contemporary science fiction. The worlds he creates, unlike most of his predecessors, are based completely on alien cultures and psychologies. They have no human characters to interpret them or to rule over them. The reader must suspend all sense of ethnocentricity and historical destiny. The result is a tour de force of imagination and uncommon storytelling. Perdido Street Station is an extremely dark tale driven by characters whose moral standards and pursuits for fulfillment would fit well into a Victor Hugo novel. Magic and steampunk technology exist alongside clashing ethical frameworks and a foreboding sense of inescapable doom. Guilt, the desire for redemption, scientific ambition and existential heroism in the face of tragedy make this a fascinatingly poignant tale. I chose an unusual harmonic structure to give the piece a slightly alien musical context. Having a lullaby slowly develop within the music was my way of bringing in a sense of optimism, a sense of the better future we all hope for even as our own lives come to a close.

14.
The Shape of Love

To lie beside him will be sufficient for me. There will be a wall of dust between us: that is true, and he is already dust these twenty years. But some day I shall be dust too. Who is he who will affirm that there must be a web of flesh and bone to hold the shape of love?
― William Faulkner, Beyond

There is a different quality to longstanding "old" love, a different pace, expressed best by a slow waltz. I've tried to capture the steadiness of doubtless memory without it being burdened by trite sentimentality or over-earnest passions. This style also seemed complementary to William Faulkner's straightforward realism. "The Sound and The Fury" was the first Faulkner I read, in high school, followed by "As I Lay Dying." So impressed, I purchased a complete collection of his short stories; it took me ten years to finish it. Faster paced and more thrilling writers always seem to intervene. Yet I would return to him when I needed to slow down, when I was in search of a touchstone. "Beyond" is about post-mortal experience, originally titled "Beyond the Gates." I could not resist placing this quote, this question, among the others on Disc 2.

15.
Stone Water Trough

But this man had set down with a hammer and chisel and carved out a stone water trough to last ten thousand years. Why was that? What was it that he had faith in? It wasn't that nothin' would change. Which is what you might think, I suppose. He had to know better'n that. I've thought about it a good deal... And I have to say that the only thing I can think is that there was some sort of promise in his heart. And I don't have no intentions of carvin' a stone water trough. But I would like to be able to make that kind of promise. I think that's what I would like most of all.
― Cormac McCarthy, No Country For Old Men

No Country For Old Men is the only book included in this collection that I read after seeing the film. Much of the film is harsh – and I wasn't sure I would have read the book until I watched the final speech by Sheriff Ed Tom Bell (played by Tommy Lee Jones). That's when I realized why my daughter, Sarah, wanted me to read it. Magnificent. The story does not end with a confrontation between the hero and villain, like most westerns. Rather, Bell is sitting with his wife at the breakfast table and relates two dreams he had the night before. In the second dream, Bell explains that his father is riding ahead to start a fire for them in “all that dark, all that cold.” Bell knows death looms in the future, but he trusts that his father, who had passed away years ago, is waiting for him somewhere out there in the great unknown. Like his father, Bell now realizes he is living in “no country for old men.” His time, marked by cleaner innocence and straightforward encounters, has passed. Although this is a moment to which I strongly related, I chose instead a passage from the book that displays a kernel of hope that had driven Bell forward throughout his life, even if he could not define that hope in words. It's an innate heroic faith that dwells in certain people, as deeply seeded as DNA. I had considered using country & western music stylings for this track, but settled instead on Hard Bob. (It is a wonder of the passage of time that Bebop can now be considered the music of old men.) The angular phrases reminded me of the strokes of a sculptor. Each modulation felt like a chisel being reset, a new layer of stone being carved out. There is also something unsettling about the shifting jazz meters, even as certain phrases repeat specific rhythms, like Bell's life. The music also makes the quotation more of a momentary musing, philosophical questions posed as random thoughts while on a walk. Sometimes these sorts of thoughts end up meaning far more to us then we might imagine. Perhaps this is why, at the very end, the motif of the Butterfly from The Last Unicorn visits, fluttering over the stone trough, considering it now in a new light.

16.
Never Left Behind

Had I been dulled in the brain to match my lungs of dust
There'd be no recollection I could trust.
Yet I, despite my guilt, despite my grief,
Watch the Pacific sunset, in glowing colors and sharp relief,
Painting the white clouds when the day is spent,
As if it were my will and testament ―
As if my first impressions were my last,
And time had made them more defined...
But the sky is overcast, here in autumn, and my mind
Basks in the light I never left behind.
― Clive James, Sentenced to Life

I was drawn to this quote for many reasons. The first was James' reference to "lungs of dust." My own lungs of dust have freed me from much of life's previous ambitions, enabling me to reorder both what is important and what is viewed as beauty. His last line is fabulously unexpected yet perfectly framed, which is why I tapped it for the title. There is so much light inside our minds, so much that will never be released, recorded, heard or understood by others; so much that can never be shared. Yet it illuminates such a wondrous space within. The music layers major 7ths and 9ths over minor 3rds and 4ths, creating a sense of open light floating over an other-dimensional dusk. Clive James is known more for his humor and social critiques, but this honest passage written as he confronts his final years is precious and true, perfect for the end of this collection.

17.
Afterwords (An Epilogue)

On a night without moon or stars you can't see a thing, but you can imagine anything.
― Chuck Palahniuk, Survivor

There's a place beyond words where experience first occurs to which I always want to return. I suspect that whenever I articulate my thoughts or translate my impulses into words, I am betraying the real thoughts and impulses which remain hidden.
― Jerzy Kosiński, The Painted Bird

Although I've positioned this piece as an epilogue, it is structured more like a prelude, heralding something new as opposed to distilling what has come before. But aren't all endings a kind of beginning when viewed from a different point of view?

Survivor is a satirical novel about death cults and celebrity, guilt and the desire to live innocently. Not only are the chapters and pages numbered backwards, the story has a clever cyclical quality, both aiding the satire and the profundity it contains. It is a marvelous journey that ends mid-sentence, leaving the reader wondering if the major character, Tender, lives or dies. I believe Tender lives happily ever after, which for him means he and his wife, Fertility, will finally be able to have better sex. More importantly (perhaps), it also means Tender will not be falsely viewed as a mass murderer; he will be free to live without attention or harm.

The Painted Bird was Kosiński’s first novel, yet its controversies may have led to his suicide 25 years later. The harrowing story is told from the perspective of a “stray” Jewish/Gypsy boy wandering around small Polish towns following WWII, surviving cruelties, torment and betrayals with heart-wrenching innocence. The book was banned in Poland, his homeland, by the Communists in power. He and his family suffered continual verbal and physical attacks by Eastern Europeans who considered the book slanderous to their culture. The novel was originally introduced as autobiographical. Decades later, it was discovered that the story was not only plagiarized, but Kosiński engaged in willful charade in order to corroborate biographical claims he had pretended to be true for his entire career. Regardless, The Painted Bird is a celebration of individual will and remains a magnificent work of art.

I share these two quotations without connection to either writer or story, for they stand on their own as wonderful musings. Together, they form an ideal ending to this collection. But I also find the story of Tender somehow informing the life of Kosiński, both by way of contrast and shared irony. The chord progression and tonality of the piece is inspired by Miles Davis' "Green In Blue" (the modal intonations he crafted in 1958-59 remain my favorite of all jazz styles). When the piece turns more New Age, it represents that moment when a vision of "happy ever after" becomes possible. The melody has a bird-like quality as it searches for freedom and innocence, like both Kosiński’s Gyspy boy and Palahniuk’s wronged and manipulated protagonist. It combines the open spaces of a starless night with shooting stars and lamplight spilling out from curtainless windows. Disc 2 began with a piece about stars; it ends with a piece beyond them. Beyond words as well. Beyond author’s insights and poetic context. It rests within the impulses that remain hidden, beyond any attempt to consolidate and present. Within experience. Within the residue of living that can never be truly captured.

Bonus Tracks
18.
Morning Whispers (revisited)

This piece is a replaying of the background music to Under Your Boot-Soles, the last track of Disc 1. The music is the title track from my first solo piano album, Morning Whispers, which I always wanted to re-record. I present it as the first Bonus Track available exclusively on this web page - a nice audio bookend for both this project and for my other piano works recorded over the past dozen years. Additional instrumental-only piano Bonus Tracks are presented below...

19.
Learn Something - piano solo

20.
Never Left Behind - piano solo

21.
One With Stars - piano solo
Afterwords 4-panel

Extra Quotations

Good books were the best protection from evil that Brother Pepe had actually held in his hands — you could not hold faith in Jesus in your hands, not in quite the same way you could hold good books.
― John Irving, Avenue of Mysteries

Words... They're innocent, neutral, precise, standing for this, describing that, meaning the other, so if you look after them you can build bridges across incomprehension and chaos. But when they get their corners knocked off, they're no good anymore... I don't think writers are sacred, but words are. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little...
― Tom Stoppard, The Real Thing

Special Thanks

Richard Schletty, Sarah Mueller, Suzanne DelTufo, Patrick Wayland, Jeffrey Price
Factory Underground Sound, Tom Stewart and Kenny Cash, engineers

Tobin's Solo Piano Collection
Of Two Minds cover
Of Two Minds: The Music of Frédéric Chopin and Tobin Mueller is the final addition to Mueller's "Masterworks Trilogy" in which he explores the intersections of classical and jazz piano. Mueller reinterprets Chopin's most iconic piano solos (Disc 1) and uses the preludes to inspire three original jazz piano sonatas (Disc 2). Seductive, rebellious, heroic and beautiful, Mueller embraces Romanticism at its core, creating music that's distinctly personal and deeply poetic. Jazz, Blues, New Age and Romantic, Mueller weaves all strands of music into a single fabric. Achieved Fanfare Magazine's 2016 Editor's Choice Award.
Flow cover
Flow: The Music of J.S. Bach and Tobin Mueller is a double album featuring Mueller's reinterpretations of Bach's greatest hits (Disc 1) plus two original jazz piano suites by Mueller (Disc 2). Inventive, playful, joyous, beautiful, full of emotion and intelligence. Mueller embraces the sense of timelessness one achieves when in the state of flow, bridging the centuries, letting Bach's 300 year old manuscripts inspire through new expression. Modal Jazz, New Age, Neo-Classical and Baroque all combined in seamless synergy. Achieved Fanfare Magazine's 2015 Editor's Choice Award. Flow is second album of "The Masterworks Trilogy".
Impressions of Water and Light cover
Impressions of Water & Light is an exploration of the cross-inspirations between Impressionist and jazz piano, including adaptations of music by Debussy, Ravel, Fauré, Satie, Ibert and Carpenter. Tobin uses the written notes as if they are light and his imagination as if it is water, creating all new interpretations. This post-Impressionist music illustrates the intimacy between jazz and Impressionist music. You will never hear these works the same again. The gorgeous CD booklet is a work of art in itself, pairing an Impressionist painting with each piece. Impressions is second album of "The Masterworks Trilogy".
Impressions of Water and Light cover
Midwinter Born is a collection of jazz piano interpretations of traditional Christmas carols. Mueller captures the quiet simplicity, expectant playfulness and over-riding joy of the season. A delightful and sometimes surprising album destined to become one of your annual holiday favorites. The wonder of Christmas unfolds as Mueller takes you on a yuletide journey through his musical imagination. The 18 track album includes: First Noel, Bring A Torch Jeanette Isabella, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, O Holy Night, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, Carol of the Bells, Lo How A Rose E'er Bloom, Good King Wenceslas, Still, Still, Still and many more.
Morning Whispers cover
Morning Whispers is Tobin's first solo piano collection, a song cycle of tragic beauty. Music of healing and introspection, these New Age and Neo-Classical pieces do more than evoke emotion: they tell stories. The use of key changes, unusual time signatures, and other variational devices makes this work involving, not merely New Age background music. Its gentle intensity, however, does not detract from its healing essence, its sense of inner joy. Influences include Frederic Chopin, Claude Debussy, Aaron Copland, Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, Bill Evans, David Lanz, Liz Story. Several of these piano pieces have since been used in film and documentaries.
13 Masks cover
13 Masks is Tobin's second solo piano collection. This project evolved from discussions about the role the subconscious plays in creativity. It is also an exploration of the links between avant-garde 20th Century music and jazz. Tobin used his illustrations of 13 Masks to inspire songs combining ragtime, jazz and 20th Century avant-garde classical. He let his subconscious lead the way, creating phrases and variations that pleased something deep inside, often avoiding normal forms and variations. Influences include Thelonious Monk, Dave Brubeck, Art Tatum, Scott Joplin, John Medeski, as well as classical composers Shostakovich, Ligeti, Bartok. These pieces will startle and delight. An eclectic mix of original of songs.
Afterwords cover
Afterwords - Combining spoken word and solo piano, Tobin "illustrates" his favorite works of literature with a wide variety of new musical compositions. Paying homage to classic authors like Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut and Faulkner, as well as contemporary authors such as Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, Aimee Bender and China Miéville, Mueller spins musical stories that will make you consider each author in a new light. Every track is a musical meditation, guided by inspiring and insightful quotations recited and underscored by Mueller. Taken as a whole, the album becomes a personal memoir of Mueller's life journey. The 18 tracks combine to represent the true breadth of his musical influences and accumulated experiences.
Tobin's Other CD Collections
Tobin's Jazz Collection
Come In Funky cover
Come In Funky Old School Funk and and small combo Jazz featuring legendary bassist Ron Carter. This eclectic blend of Jazz and Funk is the second collaboration between keyboardist Tobin Mueller and saxophonist Woody Mankowski. Half of these tunes will transport you back in time to when most everything (music, clothes, language) owed its hipness to the Funk wing of 1970s jazz. The other half resonate with intimacy, playfulness and humor. A delight. For more information, see: Come In Funky Project page. Released May 4 2014, in honor of Ron Carter's 77th birthday.

"You guys can play! These are, almost without exception, very complicated numbers in terms of rhythm and the general sync of solos with ensemble playing, a stellar set of recordings that, I believe, adds seriously to the body of jazz that this represents... A remarkable work in every single way I can think of. This is such a bright and happy album that is played with a spirit of invention and joy from the first notes to the last." - Paul Page
The Muller's Wheel cover
The Muller's Wheel is a collaborative project combining the talents of pianist Tobin Mueller and saxophonist Woody Mankowski, featuring their jazz quartet and larger ensemble. These original tracks represent their personal journey through jazz influences -- from swing to bop to fusion to funk. The styles of Count Basie, Charlie Parker, Lester Young, Herbie Hancock, The Brecker Brothers, Weather Report and more influence this homage to the jazz greats. Even the blues are given Mueller/Mankowski's uniquely bop-funk treatment. In all, the duo's originality permeate each track, each jazz sub-genre.

This is joyous music. It reminds us of the happiness we relive when returning to our musical roots. Mueller/Mankowski remind us how the personalities of certain eras continue to assert their influence and power.

"The Muller’s Wheel" title is based on the biological concept that mutation and DNA recombination creates cycles of growth and loss. It serves as a metaphor for the ebb and flow of the synthesis and creativity Mueller and Mankowski apply to their musical influences. The tracks are arranged in historical sequence, and the listener appreciates the cross-pollination between each of these genres. Listening from beginning to end creates a cyclical pilgrimage. It's rhythms and inventive flights of fancy invite the listener along for many return trips.
Rain Bather cover
Rain Bather is a jazz ensemble 80 minute long play CD. It features superlative solo performances byan all-star band members. Most of the tunes are in the jazz-funk-fusion vein, but many others try to break new ground, defying easy labels.

Tobin Mueller - B3 organ, electric piano, synth; composer
Woody Mankowski - soprano saxophone
Chris Mueller - acoustic piano
Jeff Cox - acoustic bass
Dane Richeson - drums & percussion
Tom Washatka - tenor saxophone
Doug Schnieder - tenor sax
Ken Schaphorst - flugelhorn
Bob Levy - trumpet
Sal Giorgianni - flute
Bill Barner - clarinet, additional sax
McBoy - electric guitars

Tobin's Rock Collection
Progressive Rock
Audiocracy cover
AUDIOCRACY is an international progressive rock collective. Their poetic writing and virtuosic performances make their high energy music life-affirming and uplifting, even considering the apocalyptic nature of their first release. Revolution's Son has been called "a masterpiece in the Epic Prog tradition." Progressive Magazine gave it 4 out 5 stars. Th story follows a revolutionary who comes to The City to be a catalyst for change and a prophet of truth. He falls into an Underground that urges a less innocent approach to change, leading to a post-apocalyptic finish. High energy, impressionistic prog.
Alternative Rock
A Bit of Light cover
A Bit of Light - A progressive folk / cross-genre collection of songs Tobin's been accumulating for a decade, A Bit of Light includes some of his favorite collaborations with saxophonists, fiddle players and guitarists, mixing jazz, bluegrass, tango and folk-rock. World renown violinist Entcho Todorov, Grammy winner saxophonist Danny McCaslin and L.A.'s Woody Mankowski, Enlish fiddler player Martyn Kember-Smith and guitarist John Luper provide fabulous highlights. The CD comes with a digital booklet in PDF format.
If I Live Long Enough cover
If I Could Live Long Enough - Previously unreleased outtakes from earlier projects, including the 1998-1999 Rain Bather sessions, the 2004-2006 MacJams collaborations, and selected songs from two of Mueller's musicals: Creature and Runners In A Dream. Featuring acoustic guitar by Grammy winner Michael Hedges, vocals by Woody Mankowski and Emily Rohm, and some of Mueller's best songwriting. Six free Bonus Tracks available here.
September 11 Project
September 11 Project cover
September 11 Project: Ten Years Later - Music written following 9/11/2001. Tobin was asked to participate in the 10th anniversary at Ground Zero ceremony and revisted these songs. He decided to put them out as an album instead of keep them to myself. Since he was unable to sing at the event, after contracting a lung disorder, this music gained layers of poignancy. Recorded in the months following the tragedy.
Tobin's Standards Collection
Song Of Myself cover
Song Of Myself - Tobin's favorite songs from The American Songbook, reinterpretted. Intimate, heartfelt, devistatingly honest music. Complete lyrics and song notes are linked from Tobin's Song of Myself page. Ballads, blues, showtunes, folk rock, jazz - the music of Tobin's roots. These are songs he's song for decades, arrangements that have evolved and matured with him.

"American Tune" by Paul Simon. "Blackbird" by Paul McCartney. Bob Dylan's "Dignity." A Joni Mitchell and an Elton John medly. "Being Alive" from Company (Stephen Sondheim). "Impossible Dream" from Man of la Mancha. "Oh Danny Boy." "Frozen Man" by James Taylor. Many more, plus two original songs by Tobin Mueller.
Hard Place To Find cover
Hard Place To Find - Tobin has released a second volume of his favorite songs from The American Songbook. Complete lyrics and song notes are linked from Tobin's Hard Place To Find project page. "Still Crazy" by Paul Simon. Bob Dylan's "Shelter from the Storm" and "Bob Dylan's Dream." Richie Haven's "Paradise." "Dulcinea" from Man of la Mancha. "Alfie" by Bacharach. "Somewhere" from West Side Story. Many more, plus one original song by Tobin Mueller. All songs have to do with journeying, questing, searching. Released June 2nd, 2013.

"Tobin Mueller is something of a Renaissance man of the arts, and 'Hard Place To Find' presents another volume in his prolific and impressive output. More of an art-music album than a pop release, I recommend it if you are looking for something different and deeply personal!" - Kathy Parsons, Mainly Piano
A Bit of Light cover
A Bit of Light - A progressive folk / cross-genre collection of songs featuring Mueller's vocals and a long list of his best friends and collaborators, including world renown violinist Entcho Todorov, Grammy winner saxophonist Danny McCaslin, L.A. saxophonist Woody Mankowski, English fiddler player Martyn Kember-Smith and Texan guitarist John Luper provide fabulous highlights. The music melds jazz, bluegrass, tango and folk-rock. The CD comes with a digital booklet in PDF format.
If I Live Long Enough cover
If I Could Live Long Enough - Previously unreleased outtakes from earlier projects, including the 1998-1999 Rain Bather sessions, the 2004-2006 MacJams collaborations, and selected songs from two of Mueller's musicals - Creature and Runners In A Dream. Featuring acoustic guitar by Grammy winner Michael Hedges, vocals by Woody Mankowski and Emily Rohm, and some of Mueller's best songwriting. 6 free Bonus Tracks available here.
September 11 Project cover
September 11 Project: Ten Years Later - Music written following 9/11/2001. Tobin was asked to participate in the 10th anniversary at Ground Zero ceremony and revisted these songs. He decided to put them out as an album instead of keep them to myself. Since he was unable to sing at the event, after contracting a lung disorder, this music gained layers of poignancy. Recorded in the months following the tragedy.
Poetry / Spoken Word
As Simple As Soap cover
As Simple As Soap - Del lends his deep voice and unique personality to Tobin's award-winning poetry. Love, fatherhood, history, death and daily meanings are all touch on in this combination of poetry and short story offerings. Each spoken word selection is accompanied by Mueller's visually stimulating background music that adds great emotional depth. The force and color of Del's voice earns this collection a high recommendation; the breathtaking and varied accompaniments make this a truly fascinating addition to Tobin Mueller's collected works.
Afterwords cover
Afterwords - Combining spoken word and solo piano, Tobin "illustrates" his favorite works of literature with a wide variety of new musical compositions. Paying homage to classic authors like Hemmingway, Steinbeck, Vonnegut and Faulkner, as well as contemporary authors such as Dave Eggers, Chuck Palahniuk, Aimee Bender and China Miéville, Mueller spins musical stories that will make you consider each author in a new light. Every track is a musical meditation, guided by inspiring and insightful quotations recited and underscored by Mueller. Taken as a whole, the album becomes a personal memoir of Mueller's life journey. The 18 tracks combine to represent the true breadth of his musical influences and accumulated experiences.