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 02:37||lyrics|
|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|
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.
released May 23, 2020
all songs written and performed by bill white during lockdown in lima, peru april-may 2020
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