The Making of The Mask

Four years ago, I was halfway into my third novel, The Mayor is a Gringo,  and gaining  momentum on a sequel to my memoir, Cinema Penitentiary, when my daughter. Estrella del Carmen, was born, and I no longer had the blocks of time neccessary  to continue work on either one.  I was able, however, to knock off 15 articles a day describing various auto parts, but that ended abruptly when my employer was imprisoned after being convicted on a non- violent drug charge.

Two years before the birth of my daughter, I had joined a group that set aside the month of February for its members to write and record an album.  I had always written songs erratically throughout the years, and the result was, excepting the instances when I was writing them for one of many reasons, a hit or miss randomness. I reasoned that by limiting my songwriting to one month out of the year,  the scattered impressions woud be replaced by a  more unified vision.

So I worked steadily on fiction and essays throughout the year, setting aside february for songwriting. This worked for the first two years, but with a newborn to care for, I could not focus on the fiction, and decided to express all my ideas through song.  Once I worked a song out in my head, I could write it down in an hour or so, then record take after take in stolen moments until it seemed finshed.  I joined another group that required one to write and record 50 songs in three months, and after the first year was writing a song every day. This last February, after my daughter turned four, and I had completed seven albums in eight months, I was certain that I had exhausted my musical and lyrical ideas and was intent upon leaving songwriting behind to return to other pursuits.  

My wife had just started a new job as co-ordinator of all mental health facilities in the northern sector of Lima. By the middle of March we had enough money saved to move to a new apartment across the street from the clinic in which her office was located.  We had been living with three branches of her family in her mother’s three story house and were eager to start life as a single unit family consisting only of mama, papa, and baby.

The day after we moved, the Covid-19 lockdown was announced, and neither Estrella nor I has left the apartment since.  Kelly spends most of her time across the street engulfed in paperwork, which she brings home and works on for most of her non-working hours.  I spend nearly all my time playing  on the floor with plastic animals and barbie dolls,  cooking and cleaning,  and coloring dinosaurs while cartoons and childrens songs fill the air.

In April, I was invited to participate in poetry writing month by writing a poem every day. This was a welcome challenge, as I had been planning to put in some time improving my weak attempts at lyrics that could stand on their own, without music.  When the month ended, and I had filled a notebook with poetry that reeked with coronavirus paranoia and speculation,  I couldnt help but reach for the guitar and digital recorder.

There was rarely a moment during the composing and recording of these songs that I was not under  seige by my daughter,  who demanded my participation in perpetual play, and often when i did manage to break away from her to attempt a recording, she would break into my room, yelling and laughing and ruining the take.  On one occasion,  she joined in singing with such gusto and a remarkabl feel for lyrics she was hearing for the first time, that I saved the mangled take and ultimately used it for the album.   On another song, I wrote a part for her to sing.  When  finished recording and sequencing the album  it sounded to me like it was recorded on death row, not in a child’s playroom.

It is a paradox that this most despairing album was created in such a childish and playful atmosphere.  But I am not a depressed person. I love life,  and hate to see it wasted.  The Mask is an affirmation of the neccessity for human consciousness in the universe, the holiness that shines from every human being, and the darkness that descends with each death.

A film maker from my hometown whose work I despised recently passed away, and news of her passing filled me with an inexplicable sorrow.  In my professional capacity as a film critic, I was merciless in my assessments of her work, but my critical appraisals no longer matter.  That so many loved her and her work is what remains.  After the lights went up on a press screening of her first film, I had turned to the critic sitting next to me and moaned that this was one of the worst movie I had ever seen.  “I loved it,” she replied.  “I mean, I really loved it.”  And I realize now that she is the better for her love, and I am the worse for my hatred.  And I know that the light that emanated from this film maker’s conciousness spread so much joy among so many people that it touched…and the prospect of the life force, so precious,  now being exterminated on such a horrifying scale……..

Well, this is what I have tried to express in The Mask. 

1.Fruit of the Flesh 02:37lyrics
2.Transmission Mechanism 01:29
3.The Mask 01:55
4.April 2020, New York City 03:03
5.Virus Free 01:54
6.Mother Country 06:47
7.A Suffered Soul 02:46
8.Handle Up the Roof 02:19
9.I See the Line 04:47
10.Ratification / Psychedelation 03:36
11.After All These Starry Nights 02:43

about

This is what a pandemic sounds like, feels like…it eats awayy at your miind, , body, and spirit as it brings you face to face not only with your own death, but with the possiblility of the extinction of all consciousness in the universe.

credits

released May 23, 2020

all songs written and performed by bill white during lockdown in lima, peru april-may 2020

license

all rights reserved

to stream or download album, click on link https://billwhite.bandcamp.com/album/the-mask , or listen to individual songs direct from playlist listed above

16 thoughts on “The Making of The Mask

  1. I don’t get it. I never saw this in the feed or I would have commented on your post. It shows I’m following you, but again, you’re not in my reader feed. I’ve clicked the box that says you will show up in my email. Sorry bout that!

    Your report about your surroundings and the backstory to the new album was touching. Especially your reconsideration of the filmmaker whose work you despised but brought so much joy to others. I’m glad you have softened and found the silver lining in this pandemic. Out of despair and fear comes growth and wisdom. I’ve been–we all have been–reflecting and prioritizing. The sabbatical from my job has allowed me the time to write more on the third novel. For that, I’m grateful. I’ve been babysitting a lot since my granddaughter Milly was born seven years ago. I feel for you, the constant interruptions that keep you from creating. Yet, you are still prolific! I admire you, Bill, for your passions and creative pursuits.

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    1. uf i am softening, it is not because of the pandemic, which fuls me with sorrow and despair, but having a childm which makes me value the preciousness of life even more. concerning the death of Lynn shelton, it was my professional responsibility to call it as i saw it. my editor at the pper urged me to write an artice explaining why seattle film maers were so terrible, and i declined, sayng such an artice would be pointlessly mean. so im not such a hard ass. a good frieend of mune, the admurable storyteller Brother blue, answered me when i asked why he spent so much time teaching mediocre students, replied that if i landed on another planet and heard someone there telling a story, would i not be thrilled to listen to what they were sayingm regardless of the aesthetc quality. i have finally returned to finish my novel, the mayor is a gringo, and itis a pretty mean satirical attack on the state of things in the world today. im halfway throughit, and hav just solved the plot problems of ths second half..i think. it is difficult when one trues to pick up where one left off four years ago…but the goners was written intermittantly over a 20 year eriod, the bulk of which was a straight three year endeaor. but i had started itin 2000, onnly got past three chapters, then wrote seriousy from 2006 to 2009….. made a fanl draft in 2013..amd now this new edition in 2020. well, u am happy to see your progress with the third book research. leep the faith.

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      1. As we have talked about before, to not write is more painful than the writing process. I’m at a spot where I don’t know where to go. The first character, Barbara, is easy. She’s in a bad spot and moves forward based on the historical facts. The second character, Zorka, I don’t feel her yet. I throw things at her and see how she reacts. The research is fun and easy. Well, you hang in there, too! My heart is heavy with all the crap that’s going on. What a shitty way to start a decade. It feels as bad as 1968. Almost.

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      2. I’m preparing for the 13th. I’d like to feature Ira Levin. I’m reading/watching ‘A Kiss Before Dying’ and ‘This Perfect Day’ and ‘Sliver’. I’ve read his other works and seen several of the film adaptations.

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      3. I had planned on 1956. Is the 1991 version worth a go? Also, book haven’t arrived yet about Ira. I don’t want to rush it, so I’m moving him to July 13. I don’t know what to do for June. Any ideas?

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      4. sorry i made an error in my revious text. i do not recommend the 1991 kiss before dying. i cinfused ut wuth the 1995 kiss of death, which i believed to the 1947 original

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      5. I haven’t seen the 1972 Sleuth starring Caine again, so I can’t compare. I like Michael Caine, so it was good to see him in a play. I enjoyed the cast and their performances (Although, I’m not sure if Cannon was good. She was bubble-headed. Maybe she was supposed to be. ) Since I don’t go to many plays since I’m obviously not in NYC or London, it was refreshing to see it in a play format, albeit, missing something without an audience.

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      6. i never did care much for cannon.l have loved caine since 1966, when i saw him in alfie. u tought he was a new discovery, byt he had already been acting for 20 yeares. can you believe it? wekkm uts ot quite trye, he had only been acting regularly for 10 years..byt 10 years befre that he had a smal part in a television show.

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      7. he was so good in alfie that i thought he was a new discovery just playung himself…..didnt even connect him to the actor i had previously seen as harry palmer in the ipcress file.

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  2. i prefer the 1991 version. ideas for june? how about getting your followers into a discussion on the differences between home viewing and going to the movies? it mught be rellevant to the lockdown era, and i could write something for you to stimulate discussion. something on the order of 5 differences between the movie going and the home viewing experience.

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