January 28, 2022
Updated: Jan 31, 2022
My mother used to cook for our large family every day. But once all seven of us left the nest, she generally abandoned what had become a well-honed skill, and years later she would almost panic at the idea of recreating a large celebratory dinner on Christmas Eve. I’ve forgotten how to do this, she would exclaim! How in the world could this year’s stuffed cabbage match up to what we’d been treated to in the past?
I would smile and dismiss her worries, confident the rust would wear off almost immediately once she put her mind to the task. And sure enough, she always came through. My sister Jacky would often be in the kitchen to help out, but this new tradition of late night family reunions before the big Christmas party at my sister Marilyn’s house was always a complete success. We could barely imagine why my mother allowed such worries to surface in the first place.
But I’m understanding this idiosyncrasy much better as time goes on. Mainly because, well - I have a feeling this same trait has been bestowed to me.
I tend to forget things, especially if they’re computer-related. Years ago, I’d become quite proficient with the Tascam 4-track recorder and began an annual streak of recording demos of original songs (all now available in “The Demos” part of the michaelaba.com music section!). When that piece of equipment finally broke down, almost two decades would pass before I’d gather the fortitude to learn this new computer program called “GarageBand”. With a huge backlog of material, I was eventually recording at a pace of one song per day. All 73 (!) of these songs were then distributed into the five different collections comprising “The Never-Ending 8” (this being my 8th collection… and 8 being my lucky number…). One would have thought I’d permanently regained an expertise at recording original songs.
But then I continued to write stories. A couple more working summers on Martha’s Vineyard had me out of practice, musically speaking. Creating the original website had my mind going off in a completely different direction. By the time I noticed there were enough new songs for another collection, I was deeply unsure whether or not my “skill” with GarageBand would return. And yes, the initial progress was unsettlingly slow. But eventually, “Maybe it’s the Moon” came out far better than I dared to expect.
A couple of years later I knew full well I’d be presented with the same start-up difficulties for “Thank You For Your Letter”. And much like my mother on those Christmas Eve dinners, self- doubt would almost overwhelm me. If one doesn’t practice every day, there’s no way to be forewarned when a gift has finally gone on permanent vacation. But thankfully, I’m proud of the way those songs ended up sounding.
In fact, this time last year I was pretty much hitting on all cylinders, recording-wise. But progress came to a complete halt when the need arose to get a new version of michaelaba.com up and running. And those three hard-working months were followed by another seasonal pilgrimage to Martha’s Vineyard. I’ve been back since October, but doubts have come to the surface in all sorts of areas. My brother Tom encouraged me to abandon “GarageBand” for the superior “Logic Pro” and, well - how the hell am I supposed to learn something new at this point? And lots of these songs in front of me STILL don’t have completed lyrics - do I really think I’ll be as lucky in divining what the words are “meant to be” as I was the last time around? And I’m a self-taught musician; sometimes a few months away from the piano has me feeling as if my ability to hit the correct notes was just a lucky streak that was bound to end sooner or later. One of these days I’m bound to dig in deep, only to discover there’s nothing there…
(And, you know - I sometimes feel the same way about these blogs. Sure, I’d finished one every month before, but fruitlessly staring at blank computer space always remains a distinct possibility.)
Knowing full well my tendency to get a late start on these things, I issued myself a challenge four blog posts ago in the form of a deadline. ALL these new songs would be recorded by the end of the year! But sadly, January is almost over and I’m still on the first one.
Sure, there are reasons for this delay. My piano needed to be fixed (took forever for the technician to come over) and I was waiting for this new laptop to arrive. I’d resumed my daily walks, couldn’t find all those little wires and adaptors, needed to change the strings on the guitar, started a new job, the holidays were here, and my self-taught musical skills were in serious need of some time-consuming practice. And “Logic Pro” wasn’t accompanied with easy-to-learn instructions.
But nevertheless, here I am, plugging away. And I have a feeling a corner is finally being turned; I wrote down a few words just yesterday and was able to record an acoustic guitar part free of unwanted distortion. There are reasons to have faith that, much like my mother on Christmas Eve’s past, I’ll soon be able to rise above my own doubts.
(If I ever manage to finish this blog, that is…)
I’ll keep you posted on my progress!