This is a story of tragedy turned into creativity, and a new creative process…
I’ve been playing this composition of mine… a happy tune for many years – since I was a teen actually. I tune the guitar strings in a special way that even if you don’t play guitar, you’ll be able to play something happy on this tuning.
And on no specific day, I decided “what if I changed one or 2 strings, and made sure that the song sounds sad” – we can do that as musicians, cause we know what works and doesn’t. So I changed 2 strings, and thought “what a great way to start this song” . And there, dabbling with a Open-minor-chord-tuning melody, I formed perhaps a theme or 2, some phrases… a section of a melody… but nothing really complete.
The next day, my father had a stroke. He was on holiday with my mom in China. And suddenly, aged 67, a stroke left him unconscious. News was: they weren’t sure if/when he’d wake up. And they were quite sure he wouldn’t be himself if he did wake up. BOOM!
… My father: My father is on his death bed?
I’ll tell you a little about my father:… a fun, witty, intelligent, hard-working & caring man. A gem of man.
Born in Egypt, but moved to Israel as most Jews did in the early 50s… Jump a few years later, in his mid-thirties, he was offered a one-year job contract. And so seeing an opportunity for adventure, he took us (the family) in 1985 from Israel to South Africa. To check things out. He never took us back.
He was the self-made man, who started his career in a textile factory floor, fixing machinery, to 30 years later, being a CEO of a 800+ textile company. I remember going around the factory with him in my early 20s, and he knew everyone by name – it was one of the first ‘real cheesy’ moments where I was so proud. He’s also the reason I started playing guitar, not only because there was so much guitar music playing in the speakers, but also because he taught me how to play my first chords when I was 11…
And now… he’s unconscious, and probably never waking up 🙁
But… His sudden stroke, from a musical perspective… the timing was unfortunately-perfect.
Basically… it was only yesterday that I created the foundation of a sad song. and so I had, one could say, a semi-structured platform, a framework of a melody to build on- and of course: a sore, confused, passionate & angry heart which was ready to write music.
From confusion to pain, to ‘get a grip’, to soft cries… Melodies and themes just started flowing. A whole journey of emotions. The themes I had build yesterday matured, with nuances that brought out my every thought. From sad classical music to fiery Tango, my fingers played while waiting for my plane to China the next morning.
I decided, 2 hours before I left to the airport, that I would film & record the melody. In my bedroom, with my Android phone, a decent microphone, and my girlfriend sleeping (it was 2am), I recorded a few times.
I didn’t make it in time to see my dad.
The story of my trip to China can be a story in itself. From no English, to a mom that refused to cry until we get my dad back home (South Africa), to the consular officer saying that no South African body has ever been taken out of China. You see, in China, burial is illegal, Cremation is the only way. And the process of getting Dad back, is so complicated and expensive, that bodies were just cremated in China eventually. From Quasi-Communist processes to “computer says no” moments, mom and I worked 20 hours a day for 5 days, until all the permits & checks were in place.
and when all permits were behind us, and we knew dad was going to be on a flight home.. I decided that I was going to inform the world about my father’s passing and funeral (on facebook of-course) by releasing the song. So I spent an hour editing a little, wrote a paragraph about the song… and sent it away.
And with that “authenticity is the name of the game” The song spread, and was shared, and spread a little more.. and although this was really the start of my guitar career, and I had only few hundred followers – the song was viewed 10K+ times in a few days. It resulted in a guitar magazine in the USA doing a piece on me… as well as discussions with a guitar label wanting to release the song through their channels.
I’ve learned so much through this process. About longing, and missing, but -here specifically- about being authentic as a creative. To be a musician, you need be a person first, and a musician 2nd. Often in my creative process now, I try to be Nir in a moment. To think about what I’m composing, feel what it means, see the beginning and end… Get Zen with the song (that is about to be written).
I’ve found that when I do that, when I meditate into the emotional state of the story… the music falls into place.