Amor: A One Act Closet Drama

img_1858Act I Scene I

A studio where a podcast is recorded.

INTERVIEWER

This month we are celebrating the tenth anniversary of the legendary songwriter, Lysander. In this interview, we will be focusing on his last EP, the underground sensation, Amor. Initially, Amor was not well received by critics or fans, but after his passing, three years after its release, the EP was rediscovered, and the true beauty and complexity of his music was more present than ever. Here in the studio today I will be talking to his wife, Marcy, but before we get into the interview let’s listen to the first track entitled “Distance Is Only Physical”.

The studio lights dim until all is black.


 

INTERVIEWER

Hello Marcy, thank you for being here today.

MARCY

Thank you. It’s a pleasure.

INTERVIEWER

So, Marcy, what does Amor mean for you? Are there any initial reactions?

MARCY

My initial reaction is how insane it is to hear his voice. Not just his actual voice but his voice in the instrumentation and the production. Wow! It brings tears to my eyes. . . it’s been so long. . .

I guess for me Amor means several things: walking the city streets hand in hand, driving over multiple horizons while singing along to the stereo, drinking coffee in a blizzard, admiring a loved one while you stare into each other’s eyes, or feeling an overwhelming absence when there is distance between the both of you. It means multiple things, and those things keep multiplying as the time goes on.

INTERVIEWER

Needless to say Amor was special to you.

MARCY

All of his stuff was special to me. I was, of course, his biggest, most devoted fan. I supported him through it all. I know he was my husband so this may sound biased, but I really enjoyed seeing him create. It meant the world to him to know what he could achieve through music. I think even he was surprised at what he was capable of. It was magical. Oftentimes, we would both sit back in his studio after a track was finished and lay in each other’s embraces while the song played on repeat. But Amor was different. Amor stood out from his other records.

INTERVIEWER

How so?

MARCY

Well, if I’m to be any authority on the subject, then it’s to say Amor was the most personal project my husband took on. Amor was the blending of bodies and souls. Amor was everything he wanted to achieve.

INTERVIEWER

That’s interesting! Can you elaborate on the meaning of the blending bodies and souls?

MARCY

Simply, Amor is Lysander and me. It is a symbolic representation of the two of us together.

INTERVIEWER

Intriguing. Now most artists use a piano or an acoustic guitar to, how should I say, provide a window to their soul. I suppose the timbre of those two instruments seem more innocent, or naked, and help the artist reveal their true nature. But your husband chose to use the electric bass as the primary instrument. Was there a reason for this?

MARCY

There was. He wanted to prove himself as a bass player because it was his primary instrument. Most people don’t know that since he was often praised for his keyboard work, songwriting, and production, but he wanted people to know him as a bass player so that was why.

INTERVIEWER

I’m sensing that isn’t the full answer. Is there anything more you’d like to add?

MARCY

Well, that’s the reason but that’s only part of the reason. Because his primary instrument was bass, I believe he wanted to use his primary voice to convey the ideas and themes of Amor – it kept his heart close. The concept of Amor was thought of first, and then he told me how much he’d like to make the electric bass more prominent on the album. I believe the latter was inspired by the former.

INTERVIEWER

I certainly think that his choice with the bass made the album a lot more unique, for sure. It took the music to different places and extended the range of his songwriting.

Marcy, would you like to set us up with the next song?

MARCY

I would love to. This next track was the first song my husband wrote for Amor, and it actually inspired the rest of the record. So here is the title track, “Amor”.

The studio lights dim until all is black.


INTERVIEWER

Okay, so the track “Amor” inspired the rest of the EP. Is there anything in that song that we can be privy to? I think by knowing that this is really the first track, and all the rest follow suit, the genre weaving and production throughout the EP makes a little more sense. Can you elaborate on this?

MARCY

So, it’s like you said earlier, with the bass being the prominent voice on the EP, the music was able to explore different genres and textures. The title track, “Amor”, illustrates this concept. The first half of the song is instrumental and it was my husband just showing off his bass playing skills. The second half he wanted a love song. He and I were still newly weds when he was composing the track, and so the second half of the track was just dominated by the tenderness of our new life together. “Amor” set the tone and the rest followed suit. “Distance Is Only Physical” follows the exact same formula as “Amor.”

INTERVIEWER

Alright, let’s go onto our next track, “A Mapping Of The Stars.”

The studio lights dim until all is black.


INTERVIEWER

Okay, so we are halfway through the EP. Now is it true that your husband wrote this album completely on his own, and played all the parts? I mean when Amor came out their wasn’t any hype for the record and your husband didn’t discuss the EP at all. It was as if he buried his dead child. Can you verify this for us?

MARCY

Yes. He buried his dead child. Smiles.

INTERVIEWER

Laughing. Yes, it seems he did!

MARCY

But, yes! He did everything himself. It was that aspect I was talking about earlier. Amor was an extension of himself and I believe he wanted complete control of the project because it was very personal to him.

INTERVIEWER

It’s amazing! I mean, it sounds like there’s a full band on this record. Okay, let’s talk about the lyrics now. The first time I listened to the record I didn’t realize how poetic the lyrics were until “A Mapping Of The Stars” came on. I know that you were an inspiration for the whole record, including the lyrics, but was there any other inspiration for the words? They seem simple at first, but with a closer listen, they have a sophisticated charm to them.

MARCY

Well, I’m sure it was because my husband was well read. He read all the time. His stage name, Lysander, comes from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

INTERVIEWER

Why did he choose a name from that play?

MARCY

Well, A Midsummer Night’s Dream is my favorite which in turn became his favorite so that’s why.

INTERVIEWER

Alright, that’s cool. So the EP begins with two songs that start off with groovy instrumentals then eventually they turn into tender love songs, but then “A Mapping Of The Stars” comes in and the placement of the track is perfect. It’s just magical. It’s a tender love song but the atmosphere he creates is relaxing and cosmic. The imagery in the song is stunning and the sounds only enhance this. I mean, it’s only about gazing into the stars with your loved one, but the music reveals more emotion than the words provide. Is there any insight you’d like to give us about this track?

MARCY

Well, you’re completely right. It’s just about two romantics gazing at the night sky. I do remember the night that inspired him to write it though. We drove out south of town to get out of the city’s light pollution. We packed some sweaters, coffee, and some wool blankets and found a nice spot to just lay on the earth. My husband, I swear, should have been an astronomer instead. He was pointing out all the constellations in the sky and tracing them with his finger. He would also direct me to his favorite stars and tell me how many light-years apart they were from us. I remember him telling me, passionately, about Betelgeuse. Betelgeuse means armpit and the star is Orion’s right armpit which is exposed because Orion is drawing his bow, and he told me to stare at it. Just stare, he said, and I did. He asked me what it was doing, and I told him that it was gently flickering in the sky. Then he said, “I wonder if it has exploded.” I asked him what he meant by that, and he reiterated how Betelgeuse is 400ish light-years away from Earth. He said that if Betelgeuse exploded into a supernova right now, the Earth wouldn’t know about it for another 400ish years. It felt wonderful laying next to him on the Earth. It was one of those moments where we both realized that we could fall further in love with each other. I’m sorry, I’m crying again. . .

INTERVIEWER

That is so lovely. Do you think your husband was a star?

MARCY

I do. It’s taken a little bit of time for his light to reach us, but now everyone sees his magnitude.

INTERVIEWER

I’ll agree to that. Let’s leave “A Mapping Of The Stars” with that perfect sentiment. Up next is “The Forest Parts I & III” so let’s go ahead and roll.

The studio lights dim until all is black.


MARCY

I love that opening. I remember him tapping out that bass line for hours while I sat on the couch looking at my photos.

INTERVIEWER

That bass line is amazing. I remember being so proud of myself when I learned how to play it. I remember sitting in my bedroom and playing it for hours on repeat. I would plug my headphones into my amp, lay on my bed, and tap away. I played it so often that, I swear, I could put myself to sleep with it.

MARCY

He would’ve loved to hear you say that.

INTERVIEWER

I would’ve been honored to tell him that myself.

The first thing I want to ask about this track is related to the title. Why parts one and three, what happened to part two?

MARCY

Well, as you observed earlier, all these songs were personal poems that he wrote. Part two was an erotic poem he wrote because I told him to write me a dirty poem, and he succeeded! He really succeeded with that one. He made me blush bright red. I still feel somewhat flush when I think about it. Okay, so he wasn’t embarrassed by part two, but he felt it didn’t fit in with the rest of Amor. I can agree with that. It would have felt out of place.

INTERVIEWER

Laughing

Why did you want him to write you a dirty poem?

MARCY

Why wouldn’t I? Laughing. He was up to the task anyway. Smiling. But, It was because he read Robert Herrick’s “The Vine.” We ended up breaking the poem down while laughing and flirting together, and so we got silly after that. I then dared him to write me my very own dirty poem. I actually have The Forest Part II here with me if you want to take a glance at it. We can properly disclose this information.

INTERVIEWER

Glances through the poem

Wow! He committed to it, that’s for sure.

MARCY

Laughing

I know! It’s so wonderful.

INTERVIEWER

I agree. I’m glad he didn’t incorporate part two into the track. It wouldn’t have meshed well together with the other two parts. It’s just interesting how he still titled the song as parts one and three. We as fans don’t have any clue to the existence of part two, he could’ve just named it The Forest Parts I & II. Do you know why he decided to name it the way he did?

MARCY

I guess he wanted to incorporate some mystery, even if it didn’t make any sense. I bet he did it knowing that people would ask him about part two and then he could brag about his erotic poem. Laughing

INTERVIEWER

Well, I suppose it worked. We’re talking about it right now.

MARCY

I know. Laughing.

INTERVIEWER

I thought there would be something more to it than an erotic poem. I’m not sure what, maybe a hidden track that got left out, but an erotic poem, that took me by surprise.

What I really like about “The Forest Parts I & III” is how it keeps the tender feeling from “A Mapping Of The Stars” but then it proceeds to an explosion of distorted slap bass and brings the energy back to us. This track uses a lot of bass – I mean, it’s all bass except for the drum track and one synth track. I remember being mesmerized by the first solo-lick during the tapping part. I thought those pinch harmonics came from a guitar, but when I found out it was bass, I was dumbfounded. I think I immediately went home to practice after hearing that. “The Forest Parts I & III” is, to me, similar to “A Mapping Of The Stars.” I sense that there’s more in the background than what the lyrics tell us. Is it based off something in your life?

MARCY

It was. Just a camping trip in the forest, but one of the most enjoyable moments of our life. It’s interesting how part two inadvertently works with the proceeding part. After the sex, part three is kind of like the orgasmic part, or the climax of the song, and it plays out before ending with tenderness again.

INTERVIEWER

I like that take on it. Well, shall we move on?

MARCY

Let’s do.

INTERVIEWER

Alright this next one is another intriguing one and it’s called “An Evening With You: The Carpet Floor.” Here it is.

The studio lights dim until all is black.


MARCY

I remember that night well. . .

INTERVIEWER

Something I’ve been meaning to ask is, was there a purpose to using auto tune on the record? Was there a reason he used it on some of the tracks? I mean, how did he decided which ones to use it on?

MARCY

When he showed me “Amor” he told me that the auto tune effect sounded dreamy; the electronic timbre gave the texture he wanted, that was all. It wasn’t to hide his voice or to follow a trend – in fact, the auto trend kinda died before “Amor” was even recorded. So I guess he just used his innate judgement to determine which songs were the dreamy ones and which ones needed his natural voice.

INTERVIEWER

After Amor came out, was it true that your husband carried his bass everywhere he went? That was a rumor we all heard and ended up rolling with and fantasizing about. I’m sure we are the ones that ended up making up the stories and rumors.

MARCY

Yes, he pretty much did. He had a gig bag with straps so he wore it like a backpack, but I’ve heard the stories and none of those are true. Most of the time he was trying to score gigs, but sometimes he did it to show off.

INTERVIEWER

Was that annoying at all?

MARCY

It got to be pretty annoying, yes.

INTERVIEWER

What was the reason for it?

MARCY

I’m not sure, I didn’t comprehend it. After recording Amor he just fell completely in love with bass playing again. It was like he found his long lost brother, or grew back a severed limb. He had new plans with music and was perpetually writing the next record; he became a bass prophet. There was one night when we were getting drinks downtown that he referred to his bass as Excalibur and the name stuck ever since.

INTERVIEWER

Excalibur?

MARCY

It was that or Mjolnir, but, being the humble person he was, I suppose he thought himself more of a king rather than a god. Laughing

INTERVIEWER

So the bass went pretty much everywhere. What was the most peculiar place?

MARCY

Anything outside of the bars and coffee shops where he would try to get a gigs. So, he would take it on our walks together, and he would even take it when we ran errands. If the bass was a woman, I would’ve been completely jealous, but I could handle his idolatry because in some cases wonderful things could happen.

One time we were getting coffee downtown and my husband spotted a homeless girl playing the saxophone on the corner of the street. He told me he wanted to do something for the girl so he told me to take Excalibur (rolling eyes) and to meet him where the girl was playing. I sauntered over there with his bass on my back and I stood there looking up and down the street waiting for him to arrive. While I waited I listened to the girl, and I gotta say she played beautifully. I thought to myself, if only people would stop and listen, she would enrich their lives.

Finally my husband came carrying a small amp. He asked the girl if he could play with her and she consented. Because my husband was known in the area, he drew the crowd, but my husband laid back. All he did was lay the rhythm, nothing flashy, and he let the girl soar. What I thought was beautiful before was blown out of my mind by her soloing. The girl had chops and the money was pouring onto the sidewalk. After they stopped playing, my husband helped her pick up the money and put it into her bag. We then walked with her to where she was staying, making sure nobody was following her, and then went back home. My husband laid down Excalibur, oh god! I’m saying it now (laughs). Okay, he laid the bass on the couch, smiled, and then went upstairs to the home studio.

After an hour, I went to check on him. He was asleep in his chair listening to a recording he just did on repeat. It was the simple bass line he played for that girl, and he was sleeping in peace. I imagine he was dreaming of the sax part playing over his rhythm.

INTERVIEWER

Do you still know the girl?

MARCY

Yes, we kept in touch after that night. Before my husband died he helped her get gigs and find people to play with.

INTERVIEWER

Does she still play?

MARCY

She does. She gigs regularly downtown at the bars and clubs, but I’ll occasionally see her playing on that same street corner. I asked her one time if she was in trouble. She said no, she just likes to play that corner for enjoyment. It’s become a ritual for her now.

INTERVIEWER

Let’s leave on that note and take a break. Here is the last track of Amor, “Look At Us.”

The studio lights dim until all is black.


Act I Scene II

A dark bedroom.

MARCY

Talking in her sleep

It’s funny, “Look At Us” was rewritten. The first time my husband recorded the song, it was an upbeat, light-hearted love song. The version we hear on Amor turned the song into something hauntingly beautiful. I don’t know if he did it on purpose, or. . . I’m sorry. . . can you hear me? Am I talking? Can you hear. . . Are you listening. . .?

Wakes up. A light flickers on.

A dream. It was only a dream. My Lysander lies next to me, he’s not deceased. His album remains where it had before, in our ears. Only our aural senses give life to his compositions. His head lies on the pillow top with dreams of success dancing inside his head. My love, if I had but one wish, it would be for an audience to grace you with the praises you deserve. Please don’t worry about a thing, my dear. Your music lives within us. Amor means more to you and me – it means the world, and that’s something an audience would never understand.

A massive star lies somewhere in the Milky Way. It’s only a distant flicker in the night sky, but does that mean its impact in the galaxy remains illusory? Gravitational forces are at play whether we observe them or not. It’s like the musician who carried his instrument wherever he’d go. On one occasion he accompanied a homeless saxophonist to help her make money then he packed up and left, walking silently down the dark street, eventually disappearing from the scene. He laid his instrument down and never picked at it again.

But, that star still flickers – an impact was made, and that’s what keeps your music alive, my darling. That saxophone still echoes in the streets. The wind and the garbage in the street sway to the hypnotic rhythms that dance the night away.

Don’t burden yourself, dear, amor is all we need. It’s a majestic thing that we only need. Good night, amor. Turns the lamp off.

THE END

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