The birth of A Handfull of Quietness

Some number of eons ago, all the way back in the last millenium (aren’t we lucky we get to say that?!), I recorded my first album, Topaz, for release on cassette (see, I said it was eons ago).

Before recording Topaz I had never spent time doing a studio recording. I had recordings of various performances, which of course were live events: however I played the music, that’s what ended up on the tape (see, I said it was eons ago).

Since I both practiced and performed the Topaz music often, and generally was pleased with my results, I believed I’d waltz into the studio, record all the tracks once or twice, get the mastering done and waltz back out at the end of the day with the master in hand. And that is more or less what happened.

I was completely unprepared, though, for the kind of editorial pickiness I could get into now that I was in a studio with an engineer who could edit my playing. Suddenly, nothing that I played was quite good enough. And my playing deteriorated too, the more I tried to play everything “just right.”

I did walk out of the studio with master in hand, after a mere 7 hours or so, but it was a long and very draining process. Fortunately, I had at least anticipated that I would not want to drive back home that evening, so I had a hotel room waiting for me. I went there, intending to relax for a bit, then meditate, then go out to dinner, then relax more, maybe read a little, then to bed.

Relax! Hah! There was no relaxing for me, I was far too “tired and wired” to do anything like kick back. And forget meditating; for the first time in my life, I actually felt that I could not meditate. There was just no option for settling down in my physiology at that point.

So after an hour or two of becoming increasingly animated/agitated/unbalanced, I decided maybe I’d do well at least to get some dinner. I found a nearby restaurant, bolted down some food, dashed back to the hotel room.

I tried to watch television. Nothing held my attention for more than 20 seconds, so I gave that up pretty quickly. I pretended to meditate and mostly just twitched. I opened the book I had with me and couldn’t turn the squiggles into words that made sense.

My nervous system was seriously fried!

On toward midnight, wondering if I would even be able to drive home the next day, I found a Gideon Bible in the nightstand. I decided to open it up “at random” and see what I got, hoping it might help me somehow.

Here’s the passage I opened to:

“Better is a handful of quietness, than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” — Ecclesiastes 4.6

Hmm, I thought, that’s my next album. I’ll make What the Stars Saw on the Prairie the centerpiece and compose new pieces to go with Stars.

With that thought, I finally let go of the strain of the day and fell asleep. Deep, blissful, restful sleep.

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