doug was not above admitting that there was indeed an initial period of confusion. I know this because he admitted it to me. he received a commission that he was afraid he might not be able to see through to completion. (as ridiculous as this might sound, he admitted this also.)
doug, a composer, received a commission from the geological society at the uw madison to come up with the score for a documentary feature it was planning to release in the summer of 2019. the working title of the film was black star. the working title of the score was black star salsa. doug was not above confiding to me in complete confidentiality that he had no idea what a black star even was. would there be sufficient time for research? no, there probably wouldn't. would the internet itself ultimately be able to deliver the goods? probably not. there was a period of confusion, verging at times close to panic. so many possible strategies! so many potential approaches! I told doug, over and over, to just go with his musical instincts. he found this advice rather unhelpful, and was not above gently letting me know that he felt this way. we'd been friends for quite a while. I realize that a statement such as that, coming at the critical point of the narrative, is non-committal and vague, and most likely not appreciated by a largely anonymous readership. nonetheless, for the time being, I think I shall stay within those parameters. after all, like it or not, I had been sworn to absolute secrecy.
a star is a funny thing. an oblique, jagged shape, seldom found out in nature, and not always recognized right away when it is. certain crystals, perhaps, some marine life, some plant life, some molecular structures, something to do with the cornea, maybe- doug simply didn't know where to begin! a film score is a funny thing also. people expect instrumentation. they crave cinematic mystique. I suggested that he look through an old book of photographs centered around mining technology of the early industrial era. astonishingly, he told me that this was the best advice he had ever received in his life. I don't think he was being sarcastic, but with doug it is certainly not always perfectly obvious.
gears, pulleys, pistons, whistles, furnaces, coal cars, ladders leading to nowhere- grinders, sandpaper, forklifts, millions of uniform parts, echo chambers- drills of all sizes, dredges, sledgehammers, conveyors. miraculously, the black star salsa gradually began to take shape. it was a soft star, a muted star, a "strange community" star, one might call it.
it appeared as though the documentary would be finished on time. hooray! did this put extra pressure on doug? not one bit. he had assumed all along that it would be finished according to schedule. he was delighted to inform his friends and family that he had rediscovered his groove. many of them didn't believe him at first, and not without solid reasons- doug had been confused about these things many, many times over the years. his groove was not well-worn, but neither was it brand spanking new. I guess it's fair to say that, all in all, it was your typical 21st century groove.
the documentary was released, it was a box office favorite, although the score was more or less passed over without comment by the more prominent critics. again, doug was prepared for this, and simply returned to his photographs. I have no idea where he is now or what in god's name he's doing. it was a bizarre little friendship for both of us.