Break’s Over, Part 1: A Theme, a Piano, and a Spark

Funny thing, inspiration. It has a habit of coming out of nowhere and altering the course of any and all plans you may have tried to put into motion. More often than not, it’s best to accept the gift, give thanks, and go where it tells you. To me, this is how The Muse operates, and I choose NOT to ignore her, no matter what.

Five or so years ago, I wrote on this very site about my desire to record a project I called Planks, so named after the collection of relatively cheap music gear I planned to use to record it. This was the gear that replaced a much more extensive (and expensive) collection of instruments and related equipment that had been sold piece by piece to make tuition for my child’s private school (and other crises) a bit more affordable. Regrets? A few, but that’s the way it goes.

The new gear came into the house, but nothing happened. I wasn’t inspired. There were no ideas. The gear started to collect dust. Still, my guitars, effects pedals, and amplifiers made the trek with from St. Louis to Chicago. They were hung up and displayed in a prominent corner of my living room, stared at but rarely played. I talked to my Chicago-based music friends about jamming with them now and then, and they have been receptive. But still, no real desire to jump in.

Funny thing, inspiration. It didn’t show up by way of my guitars, despite some really fun effects for me to play with. Instead, it took a TV show and a cheap keyboard to kick things into gear.

Actually, those two things happened in reverse. I was wandering around on YouTube when I found a review for a very affordable (less than $70) digital keyboard that made a few interesting sounds. Not top shelf, mind you, but enough to keep one amused. I bought one, played with a few of the sounds, contemplated a few ideas, and then put it — largely unplayed — with the other gear. I wasn’t inspired.

One evening I found myself binging Westworld, the HBO series based on the 1973 film. It’s quite compelling and I’ve become a fan. The show’s dark mood and storyline are conveyed before the episodes start by the theme music, a gorgeous piece written by Ramin Djawadi. As it happens, he also wrote the music for Game of Thrones, which I also enjoyed. But the piano line in “Main Title Theme — Westworld” really put the hook in me. The melody would not leave my head!

I had to learn this tune. And I had to learn it on the keyboard, where so much of the soundtrack is based.* I dusted off the Yamaha keyboard and — with a little help from YouTube — started plunking out the song’s notes. It didn’t take long to realize I had a problem: I needed more octaves! Which led to the obvious thought: I need a piano.

Next thing I knew, the Reverb app was open and I was looking for an affordable entry-level digital piano. It took less than five minutes to find one at a reasonable price. A couple of YouTube reviews later and I had ordered it. Five days after that, my piano arrived.

The external speakers aren’t very loud, so I bought an equally affordable amplifier. Now, I could practice.

Once again, YouTube came to the rescue, as I spent a great deal of time going through Intro to Piano videos and Westworld theme song tutorials. It’s rather shocking how many there are. Clearly I wasn’t the only one captivated with this tune!

As I muddled my way joyfully along, two more thoughts occurred to me. First, I needed to hire someone to give me piano lessons. Second, the Westworld theme could take me to a place I haven’t been in a long, long time.

That’s when I heard two magic words in my head: Break’s Over.

And just like that, I had an idea for a recording project.


* — If you haven’t heard the soundtracks for the show — particularly Season 1 — you owe it to yourself to hear what they do with a player piano. Priceless!


Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram (cirdecsongs) My book, I Can’t Be the Only One Hearing This: A Lifetime of Music Through Eclectic Ears, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other fine book dealers. I’m currently working on my next book, The Wizard of WOO: The Life and Music of Bernie Worrell.

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