Stories Without Words

butterflies
(I forgot where I got this gif. If you know, contact me so I can add the credit)

This is my new album, a long time in the making. I have posted the music in posts since I started this blog, but now you can kick back and listen to it in it’s entirety. This is not the music for  for Jamie’s book, Inside The Forbidden Outside, also a long time in the making. That music has special meaning for certain chapters. When everything is done I mean for that music to be listened to while you read so you can feel the emotions of what he has been through all these years in prison.

Someone who hasn’t been through juvenile detention or prison, or doesn’t know someone who has been inside, can’t understand, not really. I never knew; how could I, if all I had to go on were TV shows or movies that never really told the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God? We assume we know, but we don’t. All of my writings, including the blog posts here are what I have learned over the years.

This first album has selections that have been recorded over the past three years as I developed my ability to improvise. You can  listen, but you can’t download it because I still need to copyright and license it. It will then be sold – hopefully. That is the plan. That is the mountain I am determined to move.
 
I believe my music has a different quality that is all my own because it is 100% improvised when I record, based on emotions I felt at the time. The second album will be a soundtrack for the book. I don’t believe anything like this has been done. A soundtrack for a book? Can I do it? This first album is a way of getting my feet wet and see if others  enjoy listening to what I play. Will other people see the value in it? If you want to, leave comments at the different music websites so I know.
 
The music comes from a place in me I didn’t know was there. How can music be played with a beginning, middle and end with a recurring feel and theme without knowing what is going to be played – and plan of what is coming next? I feel it and let my hands play it. Most of the time I don’t listen back for days or even weeks. I want to listen to it as a stranger would.
 
If I do listen back right away it’s because it hit me hard and I had to hear what I played. It’s hard to explain. The piece “K’lee” did that to me.  I sit on a stool when I play. Almost standing. When I finished playing I felt like I had been punched in the gut and all the air was pushed out of me. It swallowed me. Where did that music come from? I grabbed my husband, who was walking through the room and made him listen. “Close your eyes. What do you see? Put it into words.” At first he said he did listen while I was playing it.  He said it was nice. I said, “No, listen to it – not passively.” He did. When it was over he thought for a minute, then described a sunrise, bursting in color as it broke the horizon. He did see it. It was really the first positive, real feedback I had gotten from him that told me he heard me.
How can I do that? I never used to write like this. I wrote songs. Although I do write poetry, where before I wrote lyrics, it is now the only way I play music.  I could never do cover tunes again. I have no interest in redoing someone’s music. Maybe someday, but not now – not to just get gigs. My goal is to play gigs again, but it is me they get, not my ability to copy other songs.
 
People like to hear old songs because of the memories that come with it. Oldies take you back to a time and let you relive a memory. If I don’t do cover music will that make it harder to find work? Maybe. It will depend on how well I brand myself and how people respond to my music. At this point in my life I think I’ve earned the right to play my music not copy something someone else wrote
 
Music is my passion. I hear it in everything, even when no one else can. I hear it in the air as life unfolds. Life events evokes emotion. If music surrounds something in our life and when we hear music that was played then it takes us immediately to that time and we let it wash over us. In those few moments we are once again at that age or in that time no matter how long ago it was.  We want to remember. Sometimes that memory is painful and sometimes it represents love. Music let’s us feel the emotion again however brief it is. At that moment it is real again.
 
After I record, the music is gone, out of my head. But I can play for hours going from one emotion to another. Sometimes I lose confidence and wonder if I can play ” on demand” for a couple hours so I go to the piano, and yes, I can do it. When I tap into this part of me that gives form to the emotions I feel, those feelings are real. I’m an overly emotional person. I rarely play happy music in a major key. I usually play in a minor key  which is often melancholy,  painful, aching and deep – yet peaceful and relaxing. Beautiful melodies. For me it is like meditating.
 
The best way to listen is in a dark room. Speakers on a device or laptop don’t play quality sounds. I tried ear buds. They were just as bad. The sounds were tinny, but maybe I used lousy earbuds. For me, head phones resonate with feeling – or if you  have good computer speakers. To feel the story in my music, listen to the entire thing. The end pulls the beginning back together. To not hear the entire story is like not finishing a book. I know this from my own listening when I hear it as a stranger, like you.
 
I have been writing music since I was a child and it has grown and changed as I’ve aged. I could hear and feel music then but didn’t know how to express it. I didn’t have the technical skill to play what I heard in my head. I knew had had to figure out how to let go, trust that my hands knew what to play. When we speak we don’t think of every letter in every word before for speak a sentence so we can structure our thoughts. We just speak. We trust that the words coming out will mean what we want them to mean. Music is a language.
 
During my life I learned everything I could, like a person learning to speak another language. I have written songs most of my life but for decades I can’t honestly say it came from inside me. They were written because technically I knew how to put them together because I knew the theory. My arrangements were very classically oriented. I wrote charts and piano arrangements for others, long before computers spit them out. Anyone can “learn” music theory and can practice until they are competent but take away the music and they can’t play something new.
 
Knowing music theory knowledge you can always always make it come out right.  But something will be missing. My improvisations don’t work right when I sit down at the keyboard without knowing the emotion of why I’m playing. I can’t force it. I might as well practice scales and finger exercises, which I often do.
 
There are different kinds of musicians. Those that practice until they can play a piece perfectly – like classical musicians. They are lost without the music. They learn the emotion of the music by reading the symbols on the music which tells them how to play the note; very softly (pp) or to linger a second (fermata) or gradually get louder (<).
 
Young musicians seek fame and fortune. They haven’t been players long enough. Musicians today often don’t take the time to learn their craft. So much is all electronic. Freddie the drum machine is used too much, not understanding drums is the heart beat. Drum machines are stale.  They don’t breath. There is no split section human element where a drum may be hit with a slightly different touch. I’d like to hear hip hop use a real drummer. That’s why most people my age don’t like it. There is no life. Just fast talking and a drum machine.
 
I ruined my voice singing in clubs. I pushed it too hard. Clubs were smoky.  I had to stop – for awhile, thought. I was arrogant. I could have continued and played keyboards. I had both a piano and a synth. But my ego didn’t want to be someone’s side man. I was used to fronting the band.
 
My life flew by while raising my kids. I began to get sick and doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong for a long time. I had Hepatitis C. It wasn’t well known then because AIDS dominated medical news. I tried the only possible remedy. Interferon with ribavirin. It made me very sick and it didn’t work. I didn’t know what else to do.
 
I packed up my life, my kids were grown, pulled a U-haul behind my white Mustang and drove from California to Key West. To start making money right away I got a job as asst manager at a Ripley’s Believe it Not Museum. I bought a bicycle for transportation. I took care of my health the best I could and went into denial. I moved many times in my life. If I needed to call any place home it would be Key West. I was there for ten years. I knew deep down I knew my health was in trouble.
 
My last paying gigs were in Key West in 2002. My voice couldn’t hold up. Callouses on my vocal cords would swell and nothing came out. I was a good player but there was something missing. I retired. I didn’t know how to play without singing. I was lost. I felt like my legs were cut off. I lost my identity. I had no right to call myself a musician anymore and that was devastating.
 
Two things happened that changed my life. I met Jamie in 2005. He was my daughter’s boyfriend. The second thing is my Hep C fell of a cliff and took me with it. Every possible thing that could go wrong, did go wrong. It became end stage liver disease, I developed two cancerous tumors and I swelled with 60 lbs of fluid and looked 9 months pregnant.
 
My husband and I decided, unfortunately, to move closer to my family which was within driving distance of a good hospital known for their transplant team. I say unfortunately because my family really didn’t want me there and let me know not to expect any help from them, or any help for my husband my husband. I was bedridden for two years. Soon after surgery my back fractured so add a back brace to the mix. But I didn’t die and things began to change. After it seemed pretty certain I was going to make it the doctors explained how close I came to not making it.
 
Beginning in Key West Jamie and I had been writing letters. I was his support in prison. He was getting no support, emotionally or financially from his family, either. How was he supposed to buy hygiene products or stamps? Why won’t anyone answer his letters. How was he to handle his depression. A 17 year sentence is a long time if you have no one. We became reach other’s family. It will be 13 years in January. He’s in the home stretch.
 
I sat down at the piano one day, sad, thinking about what Jamie was going through. I wasn’t thinking about writing music in any particular key, I just played how I felt. It was amazing. My hands DID know what they were doing without my telling them what to play. I had no way to record it. I put a recording app on my Nook and put it close to the speaker. It would have to do. It sounded so tinny. This is the first piece I recorded in 2014.
I titled it “Jamie”
After that I got a better program and recorded it into my computer. Then I bought a better piano. I got better. My piano improv tells stories. You can’t tap a beat with your foot. I play with a lot of syncopation. Sometimes I hit a wrong note. It now belongs there. It took a long time to put this album together, choosing what to put in You won’t know why certain songs were played. I always record when I play. I don’t keep everything. Now I am learning what to do to license and copyright and sell it on any of the music sites like CDBaby or iTunes. I don’t know if anyone would want to buy it. But if I don’t try then I can know for sure that no one would buy it.
The benefit of getting sick and living through something brutally hard, was I now appreciated the value of living on a whole different level. Life isn’t to be wasted. There are no do-overs. We shouldn’t worry about what others think because they don’t live our lives, we do. It’s our life to live. Do what makes you happy. Don’t live with fear. We’re all going to die anyway. So here I am, 63 and I “unretired” my music career.
Sonni Quick improv piano
I recently had a photo shoot and there were several shots of just my hands on the keyboard. My husband said, “Don’t use them, your hands look old.” So what? They still work. I can’t pretend I’m in my 30’s, because I’m not – and I’m going to get older. I had to get over that thought real fast or it could make me cave in to it.
 
Last year I had my upper arm bone replaced with titanium as well as my elbow. I was told by my doctor,  “Don’t be  disappointed if you can’t use it,” He was trying to make me accept the fact that I was screwed. I wasn’t going to let it beat me. I am who I am and my music is what it is because of what I’ve been through during these years I lived. I’m not done yet. My age is a positive, not a negative. I’m going to play music until my fingers fall off.
 
Oh yes, I’m a bit crazy. I have plans. I’m alive. I don’t care if it is hard. Don’t tell me I can’t do something. It is up to me to decided that. If I didn’t believe in myself I’d stop trying. It took me this long to understand – you have to know where you are going or your life will just slap you around. It doesn’t matter if I’m not young. Youth is not the ball and end all of life, and life is over just because I’m getting older. Wisdom and life experience also has it’s place.
 
For whatever reason, Jamie and I met at a point in our lives that was the right time. We needed each other to survive. The road we need to travel is far from over. I’ve helped him keep it together. He gave me a purpose. Along the way I’ve been able to encourage many others going through this very same thing as their husband, children or boyfriend has gotten sucked into the system. There are millions of people who have been thrown away, many of them should not  have been.
 
I don’t think Jamie would have been okay. Knowing there is someone on the outside who cares has given him the strength to keep trying.  He has no idea any of the things I’ve done except what I have described it to him. He said, in his last letter, he would someday hear me play the piano. We have given each other something to live for.
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If you know an inmate who writes poetry or is an artist or has a story you’d like to tell you can email me at: itfonews@gmail.com

Sonni’s Pinterest

Jamie Life in Prison at Facebook . . .Blog posts and news about injustice in the world

Piano Improv Music of Sonni Quick . . . New facebook page of the past and present

ReverbNation . . . Website of Indie music not on traditional radio stations. Sonni’s featured page.

SkunkRadioLive . . . Indie radio station out of London playing music composed for  the book being written for Jamie.  If you can, help support by sharing the music and leaving a comment or following. Thank you to those who have.

 

Piano Impro Music of Sonni Quick – “Drifting on a Cloud”

Sonni Quick hands on the piano keyboard

This is my newest piano piece. My music is always improvised. I play what I feel. This is the perfect piece of music when I need to unwind from a stressful day.  I try to end my day and go to sleep – except I can’t.  Sleep doesn’t come. My day keeps going around and around inside my head as I search for ways for solutions. I have a lot going on.  different projects. They are never finished.

I have two blogs to keep going.  One, this one, is where I post my creativity and sometimes the work of others.  I rant and rave.  I write poetry and music. My other blog is on prison issues and Jami’s life.  I write a newsletter – ITFO News. the letters stand for Inside The Forbidden Outside, the book I am writing about Jamie’s life that is in a second rewrite as I polish it to make it the best I can.  I want to help him get hiss life started again when he gets out in about 4 years. This is all in my other blog My  Name is Jamie. My Life in Prison. My facebook page is very active for Jamie Life In Prison.

My music web pages take a lot of maintenance . One is SkunkRadioLive. – a indie radio station out of London. Also ReverbNation. – a very popular website for musicians. Another is Soundcloud. I’m putting an album out “Stories Without Words”.  When It is done you’ll find the album at CDBaby, Spotify and others that sell indie music. 

All of these sites take a lot of communication with other people, writers and musicians. When you are an indie writer and an indie musician there is no label or publishing house to do the work.  I have to do it all myself and hope those who  follow me on social media sign up for my newsletter, share a few things and help me push it forward.

And I love it all. 

I feel in control of my my life.  I make the causes. I’ll get the effects.  I’m not waiting for anything else out there to change my life for me I try as much as possible to help other people.  I share their work.  I encourage people.  it is easy to get discouraged. We put ourselves out there and people judge the quality of what we do.When I was a young musician it was different.  Youth try to be famous. They want to play big arenas and make gobs of money.  I know I did. But life got in the way.  it wasn’t to be.  Now it isn’t important.  I just want to play music.  I’ve have played the piano for many years and I like where I am now. I’m not trying to sound like anyone other than myself.  If you like it – great.  If you don’t?  Well, you can’t please everyone. I also think I am writing a book that will have an appeal to many people.  I have to have that confidence or I will never finish it.

Every day I spin my plates and while one is spinning I spin another and gradually all of my projects move forward. I believe in myself and having that confidence is have the battle.  too many people start something and quit halfway through with excuses for why they quit.  Not me.  life isn’t about getting to your going – it is the process you go through as you make your way there.  If you don’t love what you do you’ll find ways to quit.

The hours of the day go by.  I forget to go to bed and when I do I lay there awake – thinking. As soon as I think I can go to sleep something startles me fully awake again.  I look at the clock. 4am, 5am 6am.  I blew it going to sleep.  When it starts getting light out I know I’m in trouble. I know there is no way I can get enough sleep now and I’ll feel draggy all day. I have gone through many days with less than 4 hours of sleep.

Now, when I have a night when I can’t sleep, I put on my headphones and pull up the website for SkunkRadioLive, click on the first piece of music, turn it down low and escape into the notes as they play.  It really is the soundtrack for dreams.  Beautiful melodies that melt into each other. I enjoy music as I play. I close my eyes and let it flow from my fingers. It’s relaxing and often haunting. I hope you enjoy it.  Let me know.  There is enough music recorded to play for a couple hours and never repeat.  Hopefully you’ll be fast asleep long before that. Z Z z z z . . .

Will Ya Still Need Me -When I’m 64

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The puzzle pieces of my life are coming together. I find life to be amazing. I don’t think I fully appreciated my life before now. Life slaps us right and left and often knocks us down. It’s up to us to pick ourselves up or complain about how difficult it is and give up. Especially when we’re older. We think it’s too late to begin again and settle for watching other people’s lives on TV. (I threw mine away 25 years ago)

 

Music band "Edison
1968 with Top 40 band “Edison” in Denver, Co.

It has taken a lot of work, time and patience. Earlier in my music career there was no “online”. If you weren’t signed, you couldn’t get your music out to the public except through live gigs. I became sick with an undiagnosed disease called Hep C. Eventually It put me down. I developed liver cancer, end stage liver disease, severe osteoporosis which caused bones to break and a few other illnesses.

I came very close to dying. I got a liver transplant and had a few body parts removed in the nick of time. After 2 years bedridden and an even longer climb to as much normalcy as possible I began writing the blog My Name is Jamie for a prison inmate who is also the father of one grandson. I beganto write music again and put it on blog posts. I then began writing a book, “Inside the Forbidden Outside” ( In second draft ) I knew if I wanted to help him when he gets out it would be through this book and music – promoted as a soundtrack to read by. I also started the newsletter ITFO NEWS also can’t survive on a disability check for the rest of my life. Working a regular job would be difficult because of pain from what osteoporis did to my vertibrea.

Music was always my love. For many years I played piano bars, worked in bands and taught piano. Now no one can afford to pay me for lessons in the small Pa town I live in that was close to the transplant hospital. So I made the decision to resurrect my music career and play again. I’ve been recording and working hard to create an online presence. My music is now on several websites

SkunkRadioLive

ReverbNation

Piano Improv Music of Sonni Quick – artist facebook page

Online stats will make or break a musician today. Becoming a “fan”, leaving comments and sharing will make a big difference on my finding a booking agent. Other people listen to music they see others have liked. Next week I have a photo shoot lined up. I’m not the young woman in the picture anymore. I’m 63. I no longer sing. Too many years of 5 nighters in smokey bars took care of that. But I also no longer do cover material. My ability to create piano improv pictures in your mind surpasses my piano playing of  It comes from a deep emotional place. It is who I became instead of playing someone else’s creation.

Today I classify my music as “Stories Without Words” which is the title of an album I am coming out with shortly. When the book is ready, another album will be released with the same cover and promoted together. If I do a good job and if it is promoted right, when Jamie gets out of prison I will have a business put together that will also include lecturing on the negative issues of prison that need to be changed. What he has been through opened my eyes to something I had never given a thought to. He can use his story to help others.

Those who have read my blogs have seen the progress. On many early posts you will many piano pieces – and  poetry. ln Over 3 years this went from being just a dream and a desire to help a man who deserves a second chance. We’ve been writing since 2006, helping each other through tough times. As a black man he was put through some awful things no person should have gone through. It is why mass incarceration and the destruction of black lives is so much in the media. It needs to change. We can’t just look the other way and wait for someone else to fix it.

I want my life to count for something. I want to help make this country – and the world – a better place. I don’t want to go out with a whimper. So I push myself – past my doubt and fears. I push myself beyond my physical limitations. I wake up excited every day and start spinning my seven plates in the air to keep them moving forward. I don’t ask myself if I can do it – I just do it.

My music is haunting, peaceful with beautiful melodies. At the end of a stressful day, put on head phones, close your eyes and let it be the soundtrack of your dreams, too. Never give up. Do what makes you happy. Do something different. We all have had dreams of something we wanted to do but perhaps life pulled us in a different direction. We don’t have to settle for that. No matter how old you are or how young you are, life is for living and no one else can live it for you.

Jamie Life in Prison Facebook page with parts focusing on injustice everywhere and blog posts

Twitter page