We’re Only Worth Who We Know

I’d never heard of Amie Harwick before today. I’d only vaguely paid attention to the name Drew Carey. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to identify them, or said what they were known for. A friend posted on Facebook this morning about her death, and it was odd because the headline spoke of her as the latter’s ex-fiancée. It was hard for me to understand why I should care about the ex-fiancée of a second-tier celebrity I barely knew.

I had to do some digging to discover that Amie Harwick is a therapist in Hollywood, primarily focused on sex and relationships. She had helped a great number of people with overcoming abuse and difficult mental health issues, and was apparently killed by a former boyfriend, Gareth Pursehouse, against whom she had had a restraining order.

It seems to have been a senseless, tragic death, but the fact is I only know about it because of a tangential connection to someone the media thinks people care about. If she hadn’t once been engaged to Drew Carey, it would have been a second-tier back page new article, or possibly just an obituary.

Of course, people die every day. People are murdered, commit suicide, die of old age … it’s literally part of the world, and part of life. It isn’t possible to be as upset about the death of a stranger as it is about the death of a loved one. But, when someone with a greater sphere of influence dies, there are naturally a wider range of people who are affected by it. Think of when Robin Williams died, or more recently, Kobe Bryant. Their families were presumably devastated, but so was the world.

It seems that the greatest celebrities in the world – those with the greatest influence over strangers they’ve never met – are entertainers. Perhaps it makes sense that we mourn our entertainers the most; after all, they provide us escape from the pain of the world around us. But when someone who truly did the world good, who made life better for other people through their dedication and work, it seems unfair that they aren’t mourned for their work, but rather for who they were in relation to others who were better known than they were.

What’s particularly upsetting is that most new outlets seem not to have even bothered to reference who she was; only who she knew. Her worth to the media was in her relationship to a comedian – an entertainer. Not even an active relationship – a past one.

It’s enough to make me wonder – who am I? Am I myself, a person of my own with my own virtues and values? Am I just a husband? Am I a father? What is it that defines me?

I can’t pretend to have answers to these questions – they’re going to be different for every individual, of course. But it just seems sad to me to only be known as an attachment to some other person, as if you were owned by them, a part of them, and not a whole person of your own. And this sadness only enhances the tragedy of death, because it devalues who the person was in life.

Amie Harwick was a therapist, a child, and adult, and a whole person of her own. She deserves to be mourned for her own death, and not someone else’s loss.

Writing Music – Where to Compose?

Following my post the other week about composing, songwriting and producing music, I started thinking the other day that I might want to take a shift in my music back toward more ‘classical’ music – that is to say, I’ve always wanted to write a symphony. I actually did write most of one back when I was, like, fourteen, but it was awful and I never finished it anyway.

For a long time, I’ve considered whether or not I should try to write something in a more contemporary classical vein. I don’t mean like Beethoven or Brahms – I’ve done enough pastiche in my time – but something that is genuinely original, true to my own musical influences and style, and that could stand in its own right at a concert amongst other contemporary music.

A symphony is an opportunity to explore the textures and dynamics of an entire orchestra, which is something you don’t usually get the chance for in rock and metal (outside of those instances where bands are backed by an orchestra). I’ve always loved the sounds possible from flutes and violins and trumpets and timpani, and with over twenty different instrument lines to work with (consider that, despite there often being over a hundred instruments in a full orchestra, many of them play the same thing, such as the string sections), there’s an enormous range of complexity available.

But this is where things get complicated when it comes to actually writing the music. Conceptually, I understand the idea of composing at a piano and arranging the composition for orchestra. But I find that when I move to try and arrange/compose in a music production application such as Logic Pro X, I lose track of the harmonies, the melody lines, and I don’t end up with music that is as interesting or detailed as I think it could be.

So then I wonder – should I be composing in notation software again? I used to use notation software – Finale, in particular – exclusively, and whilst I still have a copy of the program on my computer, I’ve really not used it in over ten years. It doesn’t have the same level of sound quality for playback, but it helps me ‘visualize’ the music better, so I’m wondering if I should return to Finale for the composition of my new symphony.

I could, of course, always re-produce it in Logic afterward, but that ends up being nearly twice the effort. I did that with some old metal songs originally wrote in Finale, and it took frigging forever. In the end, though, the idea of composing is to get the damn notes down, so perhaps Finale is the way to go; when it comes to making a living, breathing recording of the music, I might just have to bite the bullet.

For those of you with experience with music production and notation software, what’s your preferred go-to?

The Isolationism of Depression

I’m sitting in a brightly lit, crowded and noisy room. People bustle around me, eating, drinking, talking and laughing, and here I am in the middle of it, ignoring it all. I have noise-canceling headphones in, and the most I hear is a faint whisper of spoken word, the slightest hint of movement out of the corner of my eye, and the distraction of someone jostling me as they try to get by. Otherwise, I’m in a world of my own, oblivious to the people around me, focused on the music in my ears and the screen in my eyes.

In many ways, this is a perfect analogy for depression. I know there are things going on in the world around me, but I can’t connect to them. I know there are people who might be watching me, trying to talk to me, but I can’t pay attention. I don’t hear anything but my own focus, don’t see anything but myself. In the same way that the sounds around me are muted and distant, so are the feelings of people around me, and even the brightness of the day is somehow more subdued than it used to be.

Depression is very isolationist. It really doesn’t want me to interact with people, or do my job, or pay attention to my family. All depression really wants is to escape into a lost, solitary world, a place where no one sees me, and I don’t have to see them. Where no one hears me, and I can’t hear them.

This is a place I’m intimately familiar with. I’ve often felt huddled in a corner, looking out on the world from a place of dark loneliness; I frequently lapse into periods of nonexistence, where I’m not certain if I’m dreaming or not, if I’m in bed or at work. When depression steals over me, it mutes the whole world in both color and sound, and it’s all I can do to stay cognizant enough to make it from place to place, from moment to moment, until I finally get to retreat into the soft warm covers of my bed once more.

I’ve been told I get very self-centered when I get depressed. I think this is probably accurate; it’s difficult to assess others’ problems or empathize with their troubles when nothing seems to matter. When the darkness creeps over me, I just stop caring about anyone else. Perhaps it’s a survival instinct; perhaps I’m just trying to stay sane enough to live the day out. The same is true of duties and responsibilities; I’m having a really hard time focusing at work, convincing myself that any of it matters at all. I want nothing more than to go home, go to sleep.

Sometimes depression is a deep, overriding despair. These are the times when I can’t even get out of bed, never mind take a shower, or brush my teeth, or make it to work on time. This is when the world is black, I can’t see past my own feet, and everything is spiraling out of control to a point where there seems no way out.

Other times, however, depression is a kind of blank limbo, neither feeling nor unfeeling. I do things as though nothing were wrong, going through the motions of an otherwise normal day, but there’s no connection internally; no meaning to any of it. Do I speak up at that meeting or not? It really doesn’t matter. Do I go shopping after work? Who cares? Should I watch a movie or fall asleep? Same difference.

That’s kind of where I am right now. I haven’t written more of The Redemption of Erâth in a good few weeks. I haven’t written more music. I haven’t done … well, anything, really. I just keep plodding on, step after step, day after day, getting up and going back to bed with nothing in between. Leaving the house, going to work, having dinner with friends … all of it, nothing. It doesn’t mean anything.

I hate losing touch with reality like this. I don’t want to just go through the motions. In fact, I think I’d rather be utterly incapacitated with despair than well enough to do things, but ill enough for it to all mean nothing. I’d rather feel something than nothing, even if that something is misery.

Mostly, though, I’d rather just sleep the day away. Then I wouldn’t have to sit in this brightly lit, crowded and noisy room. Then I could just be on my own, in my little isolationist bubble, and feel nothing.

The night isn’t far away.