MUSIC STORIES for Short Attention Spans—The Story behind the Stories

This blog is a wee bit different from the others in that I’m sharing personal info that normally I shy away from. It has to do with the recent release of my instrumental album, MUSIC STORIES for Short Attention Spans, which includes fun instrumental anecdotes of my travels—the sights, sounds, people I’ve met.

To begin… My travels are not typical in that I avoid signing up with commercialized tour companies. Rather, I like to spend time in a place, living there, even if only for a few weeks at a time, so I can better understand the culture and people.

Arriving home from my teaching stint in China, out poured the compositions on MUSIC STORIES for Short Attention Spans (aka MUSIC TALES for Short Attention Spans). The trip occurred at a pivotal point in my life as a teacher, mother, spouse, and as a creative, gelling the present with the past.

The awkward, jilting, jolting, and general rhythms of life, as heard in CARTRIDE and LAUGHTER, flooded to the surface, overshadowing that steady breathing pulse of nature and survival. These two songs in particular express the sounds of the time I spent in the remarkable country of China.

At 6 o’clock each morning, noisy vendors would set up their kiosks in the market street below my apartment window, calling out to each other in Mandarin or Cantonese about this or that, the inflection of their languages adding melodic tones to the uneven clopping of produce-filled donkey-pulled carts on cobblestone. (Cartride)

At the end of a long teaching day, we professors would change our clothes for the third time—temps of 46 degrees Celsius (115o F) and 100% humidity with no air conditioning in our classrooms… you get the picture!—and head to a restaurant to enjoy local cuisine with our new friends. As our Chinese colleagues explained more about modern life midst their ancient surroundings, LAUGHTER often came in juts and spurts, depending on how good our understanding of Chinese was, or on the ability of a translator. Wonderful memories fill my spirit as I share this with you.

Central Asia was a different story altogether. The friendships there were built on compassion and understanding as I witnessed locals struggling to make sense of, while also trying to mark progress in, their countries filled with turmoil due to newly acquired freedom from under Russia’s steel umbrella. My new friends there would ask me to sing one of their favourites, Kumbaya, a song they felt connected to. They would insist I experience the resurrection of their culture and religion. (TEMPLE PRAYER and A DIFFERENT WORLD)

Greed, and the unquenchable thirst for violence, especially towards women, children, and expats, was unavoidable. CAPTURED reflects the pounding of my heart during the many close calls I had, which included the shoving of a machine gun into my sternum; or during the depth of sadness felt when seeing babies drugged silent, asleep on the street next to their mothers who were begging for bread.

A most distinctive sound was the RAIN clinking on roofs covered with lids from tin cans nailed into sheds that many called home, sheds where parents raised five to seven children, sheds without running water or plumbing, sheds the size of a single-car garage that in Canada would be condemned.

Moments of tranquility, though brief, were a much needed escape from the poverty and chaos. In spite of it all, the beauty, love, and generosity of local life-force can be heard in VESTAL.

My toes could touch his lips, he let me get that close! Pic by A. Riley

Travel experiences also included fun times such as racing across a road-less desert with the roof off the jeep, or BUMBLEling along bareback on a calm elephant that successfully ignored a buzzing bee, or hanging on tightly to the camel’s reins as it STUMBLEd, or watching PANDAs MARCH, or tossing a treat into the massive jaws of a hippopotamus that was an inch from my feet. That lovely hippo posed perfectly for my camera.

The five-hour wait in the Minneapolis or New York airport for a connector plane to Canada helped me to reflect upon the recent travel experience while finalizing entries in my travel journal. The ebb and flow of airports is yet another travel experience in itself, a hint of which can be heard in YEAH, CANADA, a song representing the sigh of relief to be returning home safely.

Well, there you have it. Thank you for sharing some of the thoughts and emotions underpinning my collection of original compositions in the album, MUSIC STORIES for Short Attention Spans. ‘Short Attention Spans?’ you ask… If the bustling rhythm of your life is anything like mine, finding a moment to listen to a sixty-minute musical exposé just doesn’t happen very often. May this thirty minute album brings you smiles and joy!

Oh, and just one more thing… I am ever grateful to my parents for including travel as a regular part of my childhood! From my birth to adulthood, we explored destinations in North America and abroad. Their push for me to be independent and a savvy traveler began at an early age… Four years old and I was alone on a bus, off to visit my grandparents two hours away—yes, it was safe to do such a thing back when! At sixteen, my sibling and I borrowed Dad’s car and traveled across Canada. At seventeen, I went to Europe by myself. The travel bug bit, and so it began.

There are a handful of places I still wish to visit, though with the fading of free-spirited wanderlust because of global turbulence strapped to the heels of a viral pandemic, I may decide to check out a few commercial travel organizations.

Arrow & the Song
May the Road Rise to Meet You
Nobody Knows The Trouble I’ve Seen
Looking Back
Can’t help Lovin’ That Man
Young As The Spring
Danny Boy | Too-Ra-Loo | How Ireland Got Its Name
ROSE in a BROKEN BOTTLE – Adult novel based on a true story
NINE GIFTS- with Study Guide
THE CURSE – with Study Guide
RUSH of the RAVEN’S WINGS – Youth short story with Study Guide
NO PASSPORT FOR ÉTIENNE – Short story inspired by true events
THEFT OF BABY ILY – Short story inspired by true events
MYSTERY of the SINGING GHOST – with Study Guide
MYSTERY of the TRACTOR GHOST – with Study Guide
MYSTERY of the THREE SISTERS – with Study Guide
MYSTERY of the LOST CELL PHONE – with Study Guide
TEDDY MEETS KIBOKO – Children’s novel with Study Guide
KIDNAPPED SANTA – Children’s novel with Study Guide


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