A couple of months ago I was working with my friend Wendelin on a spoken word piece. She provided the spoken words while I was one of the musicians accompanying her.
She generally had her infant son, Om, with her at rehearsals. So, of course, I’d play my trumpet a bit while he wiggled and grooved in his stroller. That, in time, evolved into a definite tune, “Om’s Groove.”
The thing about these tunes is that I don’t always remember them from one day to the next. Sometimes they’ll come back, sometimes not. It’s iffy. It seems to help if I give a name to these things – I’ve been through this drill many times before. I don’t remember just when I named this particular tune “Om’s Groove”, but it was certainly during rehearsals and probably two or three weeks before the actual performance.
Anyhow, once I’d named the tune I could call it up pretty much at will, though sometimes I’d have to work a bit. By that I mean I’d imagine the situation where I was playing this tune and Om was wiggling more or less in time to it. That helped bring it back if the name wasn’t enough.
But then we had the performance and I’ve not seen Wendelin or Om since. About a month ago, say, I tried to call up “Om’s Grove” and it wouldn’t come. Here we go again. No matter what I tried, the tune wouldn’t come back. Every few days I’d try to bring it back, but not, not coming.
The last time this had happened was a bit over a year ago, and the tune was “Skippy’s Blues”. Skippy is the pet dog of a close friend. I’d conjured up this tune for him and it would come and go.
Well, recently “Skippy’s Blues” and “Om’s Groove” seemed to be in the same place, and that place was lost to me. But about a week ago “Skippy’s Groove” started showing up in my inner ear. I just started hearing it for no reason at all and without having thought about it. It was just there and if I picked up my trumpet, I’d have no trouble playing – basically, if I can hear it my inner ear, I can play it on the trumpet.
Then last Friday, October 1, there it was, “Om’s Groove” streaming on the inner ear. It just appeared. For no reason at all. I got it! And then “Skippy’s Blues”. What a day!
And then, on Saturday morning, it was gone. “Skippy’s Blues”, no problem. But “Om’s Groove” was once again missing in action. Somehow, amid whatever else it was that I was doing, “Om’s Groove” put in another appearance that afternoon. Feelin’ good.
Sunday rolls around and I head over to The Ruins at about 1 PM. On the way over I try it out. I think: “Om’s Groove”. And, just like that, the tune appeared. I tried it several other times that day and each time the tune has come to me when I thought its name.
The same yesterday, Monday, Oct. 4, and it’s still here on Tuesday morning. Have I got it back permanently? That is, will I always be able to remember, and play, “Om’s Groove” when I think the name? Same with “Skippy’s Groove, which still comes when I call the name.
Do I have them both, permanently, or at least until my mind starts falling apart, if that every happens?
I don’t know. We’ll see.
The real point of this story, though, is that such things happen at all. This particular story is about the tricky relationship between verbal memory, for the names of these tunes, and sonic memory, for the tunes themselves. Verbal memory doesn’t always call up the associated tune. Why?
And then there’s the fact of the sounds themselves. Time and again I’ve come up with riffs and fragments in practice that I want to keep around. But conjuring them up a day or two later is often tricky. Sometimes they come, sometimes not. Giving these fleeting creatures a name helps a little, but only a little.
Anyhow, for the record, “Om’s Groove” is eight bars long, constructed in four two-bar phrases, in a moderate 4/4 time, in A minor (trumpet key). Each phrase has two sub-phrases and in each starts with the same sub-phrase: a four-note descending riff, 4th space E (trumpet key), C, A, E. The first and third two-bar lines have the same second phrase (4 notes up, F A C E♭, and then one down, D), so they are identical. The second and fourth two-bar phrases contrast with one and three, but also with one another. In these cases the second sub-phrase consists of two notes: (2) E♭ D; (4) G A.
So, “OM’s Groove” (B♭ transposition):
|| E C A E | F A C E♭ D | E C A E | E♭ D | | E C A E | F A C E♭ D | E C A E | G A ||Of course, this doesn’t give the rhythm, but I think I can remember that if I’ve got the pitches down.