Some pianists compose a beautiful sunset with each key on the piano like a painter with each stroke of the brush. Others force their gift by working to meet a deadline that keeps bills paid. For me, the song that is a defining moment in an artist’s career usually happens in an odd moment, and often while noodling (improvisation). I found this to be true for my composition titled, Time, from Miracles – A Journey of Hope &; Healing (2001) and later put on Sacred Piano (2009).
Time happened while I was on a tour with author Richard Paul Evans who had commissioned me to create a soundtrack to his #1 New York Times best-selling book “The Christmas Box.” I came home for a few days and sat at any piano. I was noodling around with a little circus tune that made me smile. It had a melody that imitated the ticking of a clock. As I played this unheard melody that was coming through me, I realized that although at first I found it quite humorous it reminded me of time and that it was a haunting to those who sit and watch clocks. It reminded me that time seems to stand still in our youth and as adults time moves too quickly. This thought, of course, came to me while also reading Richard Evans pre-published work called Timepiece.
Terrorist attack (1995) Oklahoma City
One morning on tour, I was watching a memorial ceremony on NBC Today Show about the Oklahoma Federal Building Bombing that took place 5 years earlier on April 19, 1995. It was two minutes after nine when a 5,000-pound bomb, hidden inside a Ryder truck, exploded just outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The explosion caused massive damage to the building and killed 168 people, 19 of whom were children. Those responsible for what became known as the Oklahoma City Bombing were homegrown terrorists, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.
I remember the devastation and now here America was, on the 5th anniversary dedicating the outdoor symbolic memorial. After a few short sermons and prayer, families of the deceased walked to various sculptured “empty chairs” and placed flowers on the ground next to them. It was then that I heard my compositions from my “The Christmas Box” album being played at the memorial. I was in shock and grateful for the gift of music.
We later learned the organizers responsible for the dedication said families specifically requested that particular album be played through the sound system. Humbled by the grief and choice of music, I wanted to respond to with new music, hopefully to heal my own broken heart and possibly others.
I began composing songs and playing new ones. I asked my brother in law and music mentor Ryan Stewart to help orchestrate the album. After playing a lot of different tunes I had composed, I laughed about the circus tune that reminded me of clocks. He said, “Play that.” I replied that I thought it was a little goofy and didn’t’ know what to do with it. While playing the piece that Ryan got excited and thought it was brilliant. He began to be filled with ideas. Together we came up with a piece of art that somehow conveys the emotions associated with the haunting feeling of life and how quickly it moves along and yet we hope to maintain a sense of longing for time to stand still. It was beautiful to us.
While finishing the album, my distribution team and I decided on the day when the album would officially be released and available in store. Ironically, that day was Tuesday, September 11, 2001. Obviously, the excitement about the album faded as time stood still in that period of American history.
Listen to TIME on paulcardall.com or Itunes