Random or Design

(Reynold Philipsek 7/2/2019)

I suppose you could say I have written these thoughts down at this time from a position of autumnal repose.

Since my first communion in second grade (age 8), I have been grappling with the eternal question as to whether this universe is governed by random or design. I am not saying I was some sort of precocious kid. It is merely a fact that this was the start of my lifelong contemplation and angst concerning the possibilities of whether the universe was random or design.

Mere contemplation on this rather vast subject didn’t give me many answers. It was through the experience of songwriting that I began to gain some confidence and insight.

I have written 237 songs that have been recorded, according to the BMG catalog. Many, if not most of these pieces of music have been the product of trial and error, much thought and hard work. However, some of these songs just occurred to me in very spontaneous way. I am not implying that these pieces are works of greatness but they are, I am certain, among the best things I have been a part of.

These songs came to me out of the blue. It was as if I was taking dictation. To my knowledge, I was not in any way, planning to write music like this when they just “happened.”

Often the style and form invariably seemed, at the time, to be very far removed from what I was contemplating.

One piece, in particular, comes to mind. This piece is called “Prelude.” It is a very short piece of music and in a way very simple and direct. “Prelude” has a very strong strain of “Slavic melancholy,” and the chord voicings are totally unlike anything I had ever done before. I simply sat down with my guitar, tuned the sixth string down to open D (something I rarely do), and the whole piece came out.

It’s fairly difficult to get an inflated ego or sense of accomplishment about an act you feel more of an observer of, or passive participant in, than the actual source of. When things like this happen, it is hard not to think something bigger than yourself is at play, no matter how cynical you are by nature.

These experiences helped me go beyond my protracted period of agnosticism and come to my own personal variation on “Pascal’s Wager.” In other words, I now incline toward a belief in some sort of spiritual existence beyond the shedding of the mortal coil.

As I said, not all of the songs I have come up with had this sort of genesis. But the songs that did have this sort of spontaneous birth have a special glow to them for me.

Those songs are:

Chartreuse, Through Rose Colored Glasses, Sasha and Dinu, Prelude, Holy Fright, Silesian Mist, Tempus Fugit, Butterfly, Sans Souci , Tango Blue, Mary and Time.

Hong Kong Harry

“Hong Kong Harry”
(Composed by Reynold D. Philipsek, 1994 copyright)

I originally wrote this piece for “Global Home Movie,” which was inspired by my 1994 trip around the world. On that trip, I visited Japan and China first, then Hong Kong.

I wrote tunes for nearly every leg of the trip (China, Hong Kong, Bangkok, Athens, Rome, Switzerland, Paris, Amsterdam, Bonn, and London.)

For some reason, Hong Kong put me in mind of a film noir scene or Raymond Chandler story replete with hard-boiled detective voice-over narrative.

I started to parody the type of repartee these film noir sleuths spoke and tried to back it with appropriately orchestrated and typical American film music of the period and genre.

It was great fun.

I lean hard in the humorist style of my favorite writer S. J. Perelman in the spoken lyrics. 

Link: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5-YynqFtrUw

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