Tag Archives: Arts

First the Path, Then the Companion

      In our dialog with other writers, we met D. Jean Quarles and traded some observations about the writing lifestyle.  Jean’s networking with additional writers generated a collection of observations, lessons, and confessions that she thought appropriate to share.  And thus, through Jean’s vision and effort, evolved an anthology that became the book, The Write Balance: Journaling The Writer’s Life now available as an Amazon download.

My short contribution is titled First the Path, Then the Companion.  The piece contains the kind of advice that an older writer might give to a younger one.  The first college professor who told me that I had the potential to be a literary artist tried to warn me about the detours to art that romance constructs.

Here then is my contribution to The Write Balance.  You might want to download the entire book to see what other writers advise.

Monty at the proverbial writing table

“After you have made the life-altering decision to travel in the direction of the literary arts, the next crucial decision is who will go with you as spouse or companion.  Do not put the second before the first, or you will create constant conflict instead of literature.

My second wife understood my passion to write, and she thus became
the great facilitator for a very productive writing period that did not depend on commercial success.  As my partner, copy editor, researcher, and manuscript preparer, we were able to produce novels, non-fiction books including a long two-subject biography, and libretti for an oratorio and two grand operas over a period now spanning 29 years.

First book in the Booker Series

Meanwhile, we operated a seasonal manufacturing and retail business to support ourselves and our three, now college graduated, daughters.

During those years, I wrote full-time six months and then worked seven days a week for six months in the business.  With the girls married, we sold the business in 1992 and have devoted ourselves full-time to the literature ever since.

Second book in the Booker Series

We count our satisfaction with lives lived in the dedicated pursuit of art not on published success, but rather by the manner in which we have remained faithful to whatever literary work was inspired for us to do.  We honored whatever talent we had in the completion of more than 50 major literary works. We fulfilled and continue to fulfill the will-to-art that provides meaning and purpose to our life together.

Monty with his wife Pat

As a genetically mandated writer, first commit to that path, and then find the very special someone who agrees to go that way with you.”

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The Celestine Prophecy Connection

Bart and Monty reviewing music and lyrics for THE AWAKENING OF HUMANITY oratorio

When James Redfield made the concept of synchronicity clear in his novel The Celestine Prophecy, people all over the world began to recognize it in their personal lives.  The ostensibly chance meeting between a classical music composer and me is a great example of synchronicity at work to achieve significant results.  In the summer of 2006 a native North Carolina composer and concert pianist named Edmund Barton (Bart) Bullock, who has lived in France since 1978, was staying in a donated mountain cottage near Boone to practice his piano concerto for scheduled concerts in 2007.

A reader of The Celestine Prophecy, Bart felt a sudden and strong urge to obtain a copy of the film adapted from the book.  A few nights after the viewing the movie, he was at a dinner party where he described the unusual urge to his tablemates.  One of them told Bart that he had recently been on a quiet Blue Ridge Parkway hiking trail when he encountered an acquaintance, Pat Joynes.  In the brief conversation, Pat mentioned that her husband (me) had his book The Celestine Prophecy: The Making of the Movie published. He told Bart that I lived in the area and that an introduction could be made to bring us together.

Telephone conversations led to informal dinner parties where Bart played his Appalachian Concerto privately for us.  Then Pat and I attended a summer concert where Bart performed his own compositions with a chamber group, and we obtained copies of his CDs.  In turn, Bart read my four Booker Series novels and the Celestine movie book.

By early 2007 Bart and I felt that the synchronicity of our meeting should lead to a classical music collaboration.  We decided on the form of an oratorio for four featured soloists, chorus, and symphony orchestra.  I went to the Hayes School of Music library at Appalachian State University to study the libretti of oratorios; and by December 2007, I had written the libretto for The Awakening of Humanity in six movements.

In early 2010 the Western Piedmont Symphony Orchestra and the Hickory Chorale Society became the initial financial supporters for Bart to compose our oratorio.  Public arts agencies and private donors would make up the balance of the commission, and our premiere target date was April 2012.  And then the recession decapitated the arts funding agencies, and all the commissioning support that we anticipated disappeared.  Nevertheless, Bart completed the first two movements of our oratorio, and the music was wonderful.

Bart returned to the US from France twice to work through lyric changes in the second movement, and I had to rewrite entire passages of the poetry to fit Bart’s music.  Trust me, I never felt so inadequate in my writing life; but through Bart’s patience and encouragement, I actually improved on the libretto.  I also learned that poetic meter on the page is not the same as beats in a piece of choral and solo voice music.

With the libretto and the music for the first two movements available to share, Bart’s colleagues in France rallied to support the completion of the oratorio and its ultimate performance.  The Toulouse Conservatory of Music, a center for classical music in France and all of Europe, endorsed our oratorio project and offered an exchange of musicians and singers with an American music school to facilitate its performance.  The emerging possibility is for as many as three performances in France at world-class venues and two performances in the US.  The Franco-American cultural exchange, however, will again depend on financial underwriting by both institutional and private sources so that Bart can complete the composition.  The hope is for a full score by June 2012 with orchestrations soon to follow, and a premiere and subsequent performances in February and March 2013.

Pat and I are among those who consider Bart a musical genius as a composer and as a pianist.  You can see and hear him play his own compositions with symphony orchestras, chamber ensembles, and in solo recitals at www.edmundbartonbullock.com.

Monty and Bart resize

Bart and Monty

 

2016 Update

When the funding for The Awakening of Humanity dried up, Bart returned to concert performing and commissioned composing, and I wrote two books that were published in 2014 and 2015. There was, however, interest in the completed score of the first two movements, and they were performed three times (January and July 2015) in France by the Ensemble Vocal Unité under the artistic direction of Christian Nadalet. A professional DVD of one of the concerts was made with subtitles in both English and French. It can be seen and heard here.

Bart continues to be recognized as a significant composer. In 2014, the Danish Royal Family commissioned Bart to compose and perform a song cycle based on the Prince Consort’s poetry. In 2015, Bart completed a Te Deum commissioned by the Catholic Church that will be premiered with an 80-voice choir on April 17, 2016, in the cathedral at Auch, France.

Interest in performing the completed oratorio, The Awakening of Humanity, has been expressed in both France and the United States. The orchestras and choruses, however, while willing to underwrite the performances, do not have the resources to commission the final four movements and its orchestrations. Bart and Monty need funding for a six-month period that can be entirely devoted to completing the work. They hope that patron support and participation in 2016 will allow them to complete the oratorio and schedule premiere performances in both the United States and France in 2017.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Keeping Faith with William Faulkner

Monty writes longhand at the dining room table

When I sat with William Faulkner at UVA in the last year of his life, he still believed that his literature had been about the human heart.  What other purpose could there be for a serious writer?  What higher goal worthy of a lifetime of creative devotion?  I trust that I have kept faith with Mr. Faulkner and revealed to the extent of my talent the heart of the human experience in my every novel and screenplay.

While actors, directors, and producers networked in the pursuit of film careers, I devoted my creative life to the writing of novels suitable for filmmaking far removed from their working environments but not removed from how films could be adapted from my stories.

 I am of a generation raised on weekly movie going; and as an elementary school child, I kept a daily 4 p.m. television appointment to see the MGM film catalog where, at the age of ten, I became a fan of Wallace Beery.  It was little wonder that my first professional credit after college was the writing and directing of a movie in Europe and that all my subsequent short stories, novellas, and novels were written from a visual perspective easily adaptable to screenplays.

 The reason that I did not enter the mainstream of writers and filmmakers was that my purpose in writing was to attempt to produce an enduring, hopefully important, literature.  It was not that I wanted to write literary novels for academic or critical praise, because I judged that milieu as limited as the popular culture of irrelevant books and films.  My audience, as I still view it, is the great middle ground of individuals in search of a meaningful literature that will inspire awareness of the American experience in the last hundred years and provide a conscious alternative for philosophical and psychological change in the future.  That’s what important literature and films do—they elevate the human dialog across the social spectrum, and ultimately, they inspire ideas whose historic time has come.

While other creators have built careers on appealing to the age 15 to 24 film-going audience, I have prepared a body of work that speaks to adults; and as the baby boomers come into their own as the greatest U.S. market force, I hope that they will dictate a revolution of taste in books and films.  They will require more than scary thrills, adventure escapes, and adolescent comedies.  They will want more mature expressions of passion, drama, and humor.  And for those adult generations just behind them, the word-of-mouth recommended books and films will be the ones that serve their interests and concerns, too.

If I have seemed out of commercial play for most of my writing life, it is only because the devotion to the work itself was always paramount.  Now, in 2011, the precise cultural moment has arrived to roll out the products conceived and created for this emerging era and the substantial audience that is waiting to absorb them.  I realize that I am not the only agent of this creative and sociological change, but I am certainly one of the most prodigious of its progenitors with more than fifty major works.

 Don’t fear that the message will override the storytelling, because there is no art in that form; and I am, if nothing else, a craftsman.  My characters are real within the creative moment, and they act and speak in ways that always amaze me.  And as I laugh and cry with them, so will the reader and the theater audience because of the common dilemmas that we share.  But real art is universal, and the portrayal of the contemporary human condition is relevant in the UK, in France, and in Japan, China, and India as well.

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