ALFRED NEWMAN guards my apartment. In my entryway, a framed, bronze, first-day-issue Newman postage stamp welcomes visitors. This used to sit on my desk but it often got lost among the CDs, papers, To Do lists, and Post-It notes with time-sensitive tasks that I always ignored. So I gave Al a place of honor. (I would have hung it above my desk, but it didn’t really work with the wall layout…as if my living space has any rhyme or reason to it anyway.)
Oddly enough for my favorite film composer, I don’t listen to Newman’s scores that much. Why? Because I can’t do anything else while I listen to them. There is something within Newman’s music that commands my attention.
It goes beyond the legendary Newman strings. Is it the melodies? The harmonic progressions? Sure, those all come into play. But there is something indefinable and the emotional currents caused by his music run astray somewhere on the path from the brain to the cursor. As a writer and music journalist, this is particularly frustrating since I’m supposed to be able to put those emotions and feelings into words. But when it comes to Newman, I get all finger-tied.
There’s also something intimidating about Newman. The man did it all–composer, arranger, orchestrator, conductor and administrator. When I listen to Newman’s music, I keep hoping just a fraction of that magical pixie dust rubs off.
And then I look around me. Dog toys take up precious, scattered, trippable real estate on the floor. A coffee table littered with books, unopened mail, glasses of half-consumed lukewarm beverages, and a pile of pens, all with varying levels of ink, that seem to reproduce of their own free will. Watson’s fur bunnies tumbling across the dusty hardwood floors.
After a series of mental tongue lashings about a “cluttered home equals a cluttered mind,” I sit back, put on some HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY or THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, usually have a good cry, and let my troubles wash away. With my eyes closed, there’s nothing cluttered about my life, thank you very much!
If there’s any composer I worship, it’s Newman. He never wore wings and, from all accounts, he was far from an angel. But like a trusted friend and mentor, he is always there, forever wise, guarding and guiding me. If I don’t always live up to his standards, that’s okay. But he helps give me courage to live up to mine, even when I don’t do so successfully. And for that I’m truly thankful.