“Stories Without Words” by Sonni Quick

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(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

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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.

Dreaming For Tomorrow

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DREAMING FOR TOMORROW

Where are you going?

I see you walking in the distance

In the open air, no walls around you

What are you thinking?

You move your feet in a tiny dance

A smile appears. There is no one to stop you

Stretch your arms, there is nothing to feel

but the wind through your fingers

and the sun on your skin

It’s been a long time since life felt so real

Where are you running?

so fast and so free 

You fall to the ground and look to sky

Watch the birds and the clouds moving lazily

You understand now what it feels like to fly

The piano music is titled “Inside The Forbidden Outsidecopyright 2015 by Sonni Quick.

If you want to hear any of the other music go to http://soundcloud.com/sonni-quick. As with anything online, stats are important. Share, like or leave a comment for others to see. It would be a benefit for me. When my arm heals I’m coming out of retirement from music 14 years ago and play again.

For those not familiar with my music, it is all improvised. If there is an error it becomes part of the piece. I can’t play it again the same exact way. I recorded this as I was writing Jamie’s book. As my damaged arm becomes functional I can continue recording and editing the book.

When I woke this morning I had a vision of Jamie in the distance and these words came to mind. I thought how  it must be to never be able to stretch out your arms and not touch something. His world is so small. No ability to run with abandon. We crave what we can’t have

Dreaming For Tomorrow. A little History And A New Improvisational Piano Piece

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DREAMING FOR TOMORROW by Sonni Quick
copyright 2015

Today,  I “talked”  with another blogger with the name of midimike.  He is a sound engineer.  He, like me, has been a musician for quite a number of years and we talked about our growth as musicians and the good and not so good music we have written through the years.  You have to start somewhere! He has posted a lot of his early music on his site so it’s easy to hear his journey. I started playing when I was seven knew by the age of ten I was going to teach piano – even though I really didn’t know how to play very well yet.  I  dragged my friends into my house from playing outside, because i was going to teach them how to play.

I didn’t get along with my piano teachers  because I didn’t want to play the music they wanted to teach me. I don’t think I had more than about three years of lessons if you put them all together. I wanted to play what I wanted to play.  I got out the theory books I taught myself.  One teacher actually fired me when I was about 13 and told me not to come back. I did go back at age 17, knowing I was leaving for college the next year as a music major and I needed him to correct bad habits, and fill in a few gaps.  I was his only student who ever turned professional.  I went back and visited with him when I was about twenty-five. I had to be careful though because he also liked me to sit on his lap when i was a kid.  I was so naive. He was such a letch. But he was a damn good piano player and a very good teacher.  He was a professional musician and played the piano bars in the area.

Early in my career I played many piano bars before I switched to fronting bands. If you ever want to take music lessons, or provide them for your children do not ever have them taught by someone who only teaches what they had been taught and never learned to create music of their own. If all they can do is read the notes on a piece of paper someone else wrote down, you will never learn to be creative. They will teach the creativity right out of the student because they don’t know how to do it. You will only mimic other people.  After age 13 I taught myself what I needed to know and practiced more hours than any teacher would have tried to force me to do. While everyone was out there singing “Jeremiah was a Bull Frog” I was immersed in Andre Previn and Van Clyburn. Proof of this for me is in my son, who is an incredible piano player, with the fastest fingers I’ve ever seen, because he watched me and developed his own style of playing.  A regular teacher would have destroyed that, unless he/she was a professional. Now his 8 year old son is watching him and playing, and his daughter does the same thing on guitar.  Amazing.

Now, the reason why I am posting this on Jamie’s blog is because the heavy emotions I have felt writing these posts and translating his letters is sometimes overwhelming emotionally.  Most of the music you will find on https://mynameisjamie.net/sonni-quick-improvisational-piano-music, which are twelve more pieces  written because of this emotion I felt when transcribing his letters. There are a few, though i wrote for other people.  “I’m Sorry” was written for my mother.  “Sadness” was written for my daughter.  But it was hiss letters that made me want to write again. I hope to include them with the book I am writing, “Inside The Forbidden Outside”.

I had been sick for a long time.  I had to quit playing. My brain wasn’t communicating with my fingers so I couldn’t even hold a pen and write my name, so I couldn’t play the piano, either.  I had to type with one finger.  I couldn’t scramble an egg.  My husband did everything for me. All I could was stand and look at my piano with a feeling of such sadness and loss. My last gig was about 12 years ago.  I didn’t feel I had the right to call myself a musician any longer.  I lost my identity. I lost everything. I lost myself. I lost a store I owned that catered to the tourists coming off the cruise ships in Key West. My husband and I had to downsize into a 10×10 room in my mothers house. I thought I was moving home and would have a family who cared.  That was stupid.  I was gone too long and they had no idea who I was and didn’t care to know.  At the first time of any problems while sick they erased me. I’m still erased. I wasn’t worth the time of trying to find out who I was. The have no clue.  I became easy to sweep under the carpet. I doubt, at this point, it can be fixed. Those were hard times, while I was waiting on the liver transplant list.

Those who have a profession built on who they are will understand the grief that comes with losing something that represents who you are.  What if you were a painter who couldn’t paint?  An athlete who could no longer play a sport he trained his entire life for? An inmate who was denied  a life at all and was locked up in a box that was 5×8 big, smaller than most bathrooms?

Some people who get “laid off” go look for another job.  It is not the same.  Some people work a job and that pays them money, but that job would not define who they are.  They “leave” work and go home and go through the motions of living and trying to do things that make them happy, until they have to get up and go once more to a job that pays them, keeps their insurance going, pays the bills, but have an empty space in their life they can’t quite put their finger on and don’t know how to change it.  When decades pass the misery builds and you don’t know how to have a leap of faith and turn the apple cart upside down and start again while you still have a chance.  When I lost my music it cut my heart out. Getting it back made me whole again.

I can play again. In the last 2 years my playing changed.  It became a way to express the feelings I have inside so I can hear it on the outside.  Every one of my compositions has a story behind it that pulled the emotions out.  It changed because I lived through my illness.  It is a tangible part of me that I can leave behind that will tell people who I am.  It’s all there in the music, like photographs we look at of people who have passed.  What can I leave my grandchildren? And their children, to show that I was here. I am not here to many of my family who is alive today because they aren’t interested.  I have no value to them. I disappeared and will play no part in their future generations.  But it is my own future generations who will learn – it’s important to have something you have to fight for it.  You have to have passion.

Where do you get that passion?  The only thing I know is that if you continue to do what you’ve always done you will continue to get what you’ve always got.  Unhappiness breeds more unhappiness unless you change what you are doing.  The only legacy you can really leave behind is the effect you have had on other people.  All of the petty shit means absolutely nothing in a hundred years.  But my music can still  be here in a 100 years.  All because I lived through my illness.  It was the reason for it happening. This is what it taught me. It opened my eyes.  It was the cause and effect of shooting up drugs over 40 years ago that led to this.  But if you can take a negative and turn it into a positive, then there can be no feeling sorry for myself for going through this – still going through this today.  I have a mother who understands and sisters who don’t have a clue.  This is their loss.  But my life will go on.  Will theirs?  What will their life say about them?  I think everyone wrestles with this thought at some point in their life – usually at the end.  all I know is that I will have no regrets.  My life made me who I am and if I had the choice to do it all over again, I would do it, if this is what it taught me. Today there is an appreciation for my life that is different from what it used to be.  Life is not to be wasted.  You need to live as though today is your last day and use every drop of it.

Today, midimike gave me the inspiration to sit and compose another another piece of music, so this is for him.  Understand, I only improvise.  Played once and done.  If I don’t record while I play, it’s gone. Because of problems I still have, sitting and playing the piano is extremely painful after about 15 minutes.  Today I managed 45 before I gave in to the pain. I recorded five pieces back to back and this piece is one of them. One more thing.  It is pouring down rain right now and the sound is just the right background for this.

PLEASE – if you don’t have a good speaker system, use headphones so it doesn’t sound like it’s coming through a tin can.