And one more thing...

There might be some personal nonsense in here, too...


Inspiration & Bio


Philip Winthrop:Is there no end to your horrors?
Roderick Usher:No.  None whatever.
~ from The House of Usher, produced and directed by Roger Corman,
screenplay by Richard Matheson,
music by Les Baxter


If my biopic were a B-movie, it would be called:  I Was a Boob-Tube Baby from South Jersey!

I grew up on a small country road outside a small town.  I wasn't allowed to ride my bike on the highway, which cut me off from socializing with most of my peers.  I wasn't much fond of the three kids of my age in my neighborhood.  And when you hit 11 or 12, your younger brother is no longer a viable playmate.  So I disappeared — into books and music, but also into television.
 And television did not disappoint.
 This was the pre-cable era of UHF and VHF options, of rabbit ears and static, of 3 major networks and PBS; when black-and-white TVs could still be found, even bought; when home video players and home computers were a thing for the rich folk (poor, poor Betamax and Laserdisc).  And on Saturdays and Sundays, our local UHF channels presented chains of B-movie horror and sci-fi, badly dubbed martial arts flicks, and second-rate westerns.  My boon companions, all.
Dr. Shock delivered hours of entertainment and commentary to my eye-holes, while Creature Double Feature largely skipped the personal approach and went straight into it.  They showed the greats and the not-so-greats, from Universal (classics like Whale's Frankenstein and The Bride of Frankenstein, Legosi in Dracula, and Karloff again in The Mummy), Hammer (you couldn't swing a black cat without hitting Christopher Lee or Peter Cushing), American International Pictures (all over the board, these folks), and Toho (Gojira!  Monster Zero!  Gamera!) — and I absorbed them like the adolescent sponge I was.  For every excellent film, like The Day the Earth Stood Still or The War of the Worlds, there were a couple dozen doozies — Fire Maidens of Outer Space, The Mole People, King Kong Escapes, The Brain That Wouldn't Die...  Oh, the crap I watched.  And loved!

I had always preferred older, darker, speculative, and "weird" fiction, which is why these films were right up my alley.  My mom kept a book of Poe, and I acquired more on my own.  Sometimes I had difficulty understanding everything going on, but the stories never failed to entertain me.  And the Corman adaptations always sent me back to them, to nail down where he went his own way.  Then I discovered Lovecraft, Chambers, and my all-time favorite, Clark Ashton Smith.  I read more science fiction than fantasy or horror, but Smith, Lovecraft, and Poe remain dearest to my heart.

By the time I was falling into weekend TV comas, I was already fostering a deep interest in music, mostly old-fashioned sorts and especially "Classical".  A fair number of the old films used standards from the repertoire, rather than original scores — the Flash Gordon serials featured Liszt, Fire Maidens used Borodin, Dracula included Tchaikovsky, etc.  But when Star Wars came along, orchestral film music became a much bigger "thing" for me.
 I was never much of a performer, despite piano and clarinet lessons, but I was keen on composing.  I was on track to pursue architecture in college, but that changed when I joined the marching band at 16.  After two years of various bands, choirs, and music theory study I was fully converted.  Despite the very reasonable arguments against it, I majored in music composition, specifically with the goal of writing for film.  Suffice it to say, that never happened.  But in college my tastes were both broadened and honed, a trend that has continued over the years, even as my meager composition skills have atrophied.

Now, as I enter the second half of my life, it's time to return to those loves that have been with me all along, to rekindle and reinvent.  And what project could better represent these than an opera written for screen after a classic tale by a favorite author, and filmed in the style of those flicks that saturated my youth?  The answer: none!

Usher is intended to be the first in a triptych: American Madness: Three Tales from the Public Domain.  I've already selected the second story, but won't reveal it here.  I will say that it re-entered the consciousness of American high school lit classes about five years after I finished, and since then has been treated operatically about a half-dozen times world-wide; but those I've managed to review have been disappointing, so I don't feel it a waste of time to try my own hand at it.  If I feel the same when Usher is done, I'll start on that immediately.  In either case, I need to find at least one other story.  The only criteria are that it be by an American author, concern good old-fashioned madness, and be in the public domain.  Any suggestions?