: lower black pain
: lower black pain.


Time is a pumpkin eater.

Have you ever had that dream where you’re back in school and it’s suddenly finals time and you haven’t finished the work? So have I! Also, I’ve had that happen to me when I was awake, more than once.

The first time was in high school, when I decided to try to write a piano concerto. I did not know how to write a piano concerto. But I had MOXIE.

I approached my music teacher with the idea that my school’s concert orchestra might play it for me. He regarded my request with ardent curiosity. I don’t think he took me seriously, which may have been my fault. In the spirit of Bugs Bunny, I was known for a predisposition toward “harmless antics”, which he may have misinterpreted as a predisposition toward “general madness”.  He actually signed my yearbook “You are abundantly talented. Lots of luck in all you do. I’ll be looking for your name in the headlines, “7-Eleven robbed by good natured black kid who sings and dances.” “which was ridiculous, because I’m much more of a “brilliant plan to burgle Nakatomi Plaza” kind of guy.

But he did teach me an most important lesson: when I wasn’t able to play a particularly tricky saxophone part in concert band, he gently shouted,

“Jd! Think!”

I focused hard enough to telekinetically move the music stand, and played the part correctly, but incredibly mechanically, so he (less gently) shouted,

“Jd, Don’t Think.”

And that did it, because music is right between thinking and not thinking. #formativemoment

He told me it would take longer than a couple of weeks to instruct me as to how to score a concerto. I did not have a great deal of instructional options as there was no internet, only the Kansas City Kansas Public Library and the Waldenbooks at the far end of Indian Springs Mall, neither of which had a book on scoring classical music. But I had MOXIE.

I got some fancy staff paper and a red pen (no idea what I was thinking). I set about it with a piano after school for a month or so. I copied the finished score on a Xerox machine, and cut that into strips which I scotch-taped to letter size pages to make individual instrument parts,.

And my music teacher did allow me to distribute this Frankensteined mess to the concert orchestra, a room full of confused midwestern faces behind rented instruments. And let me be clear that the music they were attempting to read was a maniacal travesty of time and key signatures. It must have been like trying to play a Mandelbrot set. They feverishly attempted to jot down the correct rhythms and notes. But I stood on the podium, and eventually we played about two pages of it.

Was I embarrassed? Heck, no. I knew what it was supposed to sound like, even if it wasn’t written down correctly. “I’ll hear it someday!” I said, with the same dreamy tone of that African American kid who swept up the diner in Back to The Future, when he says, “Mayor! You wait and see, Mr. Caruthers, I will be Mayor!”


Perhaps it was that very passion, so elegantly represented by Hill Valley’s Goldie Wilson, that pushed me forward in my own journey through time, but I have discovered a little secret I’d like to share with you. Because we’re close.

Time cheats.

Time doesn’t abandon the past, it brings it along for the ride. That score has been with me since then, a sturdy piece of paper, virtually unchanged. But technology changed around it, and I did too.

So it occurred to me, after wrestling with the ballet that I still owe you, that I had never actually heard, outside my head, the first major piece I’d written.

And neither had my music teacher. I was supposed to turn it in at the end of the year. 39 years ago.

So I’m sending it to him this weekend. I tried to keep it exactly as it was “written”originally, but even I couldn’t read some of that anymore, total mayhem, the scribblings of a madman, unrealistically enthusiastic –

– but not entirely delusional, because I never did stop believing that I’d hear it, someday. And now I have.

Just like at the end of that recurring dream, I realize that I don’t actually have to turn this in, I’m done with high school. But it’s strangely satisfying to close this loop, to honor possibility, and celebrate a life’s path entirely free of musical theatre based convenience store heists.

If you’d like to listen, it’s at the end of this week’s recording. Thank you for your time.

finaledellarte: a piano concerto. ©1984 Michaelsongs
℗ 2023 Jd Michaels/The CabsEverywhere Creative Production House (ASCAP)

: lower black pain
: lower black pain.
Life’s lemons into rich, dark chocolate.
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