Thursday, November 22, 2012

On Thanksgiving Day 2012

I am thankful for my family: in particular, my wife of 41 years (and counting); my daughter and her own family; my mom, still going strong at 84.

I am thankful for all my family, even those who might be less then thankful about me. I am thankful for having grown up with a brother and a sister; for all the wonderful nephews and nieces that I have as a result. I am thankful for having had a dad who was also a friend and a mentor.

I am thankful for having been allowed to work at my music for all these years; and thankful for every one of the musicians with whom I played and worked, those who influenced me, those who encouraged me. Thankful for close friends: Doug Rose, Joe Connolly, and Scott B. Adams, all three of whom I have had the privilege of creating music with.

I am thankful that there are people who work hard to achieve peace in the world.

I am thankful that I have today, and the prospect of tomorrow.

I am thankful for my faith, and I am thankful because of my faith.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Lawrence of Arabia

In a few days, the 1962 grand epic film “Lawrence of Arabia” by David Lean, and starring Peter O’Toole and a cast of huge names (Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, and Arthur Kennedy), will be re-released in an all new digitized format. This movie is not only celebrating its 50th anniversary, but also celebrates the life of one of the amazing people in history.

Thomas Edward Lawrence was born in 1888; he was the son of a Lord but his father never married his mother. As World War I unfolded across Europe, there was an equally intense conflict in the Middle East, particularly centered in Arabia, Syria and Turkey. Lawrence, who had spent his early professional life as an archeologist in that geographical area, found himself as a lieutenant in the British army in the position of cartographer in Cairo. Through his archeological studies, he had also become conversant with several Arabian languages and dialects, and in 1916 was publishing an Arabic newspaper through which he tried to gain attention to the Arab struggles for freedom, not only from the Turks but from the British also.

T. E. Lawrence had a definite distaste for the limelight and for bloodshed; however, his role in the Arab Revolt covered him with both on a daily basis. He was a most reluctant hero.

During this war, Lawrence kept a journal of his thoughts and observations, and eventually published them in a book called “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” which was finally published 1926.

In 2009, after having read Seven Pillars for a second time, I was impressed with Lawrence’s use of imagery and poetic language. In homage to the Seven Pillars of the title, I chose seven particularly beautiful phrases from the text and composed instrumental music to express each short segment:

  • Silences of Stars
  • Off the Pilgrim Road
  • Granite Spires
  • The Mirage Had Begun to Dance
  • The Hallowed Ground Re-echoed
  • Circle Beyond Circle
  •  Last light of the West/Dance of the Sunbeams

These pieces, amounting to around 23 minutes of music, are collected on a CD which I also titled “Seven Pillars of Wisdom” and are available through Amazon .
There is also a video presentation of section 2: Off the Pilgrim Road, on Youtube .
I hope that you will take a few moments and watch the video, and share it with friends.

And although the film is somewhat fictionalized, it is amazing how much of Lawrence’s writing, and some of his dialog, are included in the context of the film. If you haven’t seen it, go see it (or get it when it’s released on DVD. If you know the film, now is a good time to watch it again.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Settling In

When we moved to Chenango County in upstate New York, there was a gentleman who regularly asked us if we were settling in…for about the first 5 or 6 years he asked us that.

Now we find ourselves in a new area, southern Indiana. We’ve been here now for about 2 months, and the answer to the question is: Yes, we are settling in.

In many ways, it’s like starting all over again from scratch. None of the acreage around the house was plowed up for a garden; much of the lawn was overgrown; there were no structures that would house any animals so we had to build one. Musically, because I know so many people all over the country, I wasn’t at so much of a loss, although having to establish my teaching studio is going to be harder than I thought. After all we were in our last location for the better part of 25 years.

The internet has been very useful in helping me find names of organizations and people; my email program has been working overtime these 8 weeks.

Composing music and working on recordings has taken a back seat to getting the homestead in working shape. In the past 2 weeks I have begun working on two songs: a new baseball song and a church anthem. It feels good to get back to it.

We have met so many really nice people out here in the Hoosier State, many of whom have helped us out in ways that surprised even us. Like for instance, how many people do you know who have two (2!!) neighbors who own backhoes with bucket loaders? It restores one’s faith in humanity.

So, yes, we continue to settle in, and continue to rebuild our rural paradise in a whole new geographical and social setting. As things unfold, and we finally break all the ties with New York, we will begin to see this Midwest reality as normal. Until then…we’re still settling in.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Thirty Seven Cents!

There’s a song from the Musical “The Pajama Game” in which John Raitt’s character sang:

“I figured it out
With a pencil and a pad I figured it out!
Seven and a half cents doesn't buy a hell of a lot,
Seven and a half cents doesn't mean a thing!
But give it to me every hour,
Forty hours every week,
And that's enough for me to be living like a king!
I figured it out.”

(Song written by Richard Adler and Jerry Ross)

(The workers at the pajama were asking for a raise, and this song carried their message.)

So what difference could 37 cents make to me? Well…I’m glad you asked.

About 3 months ago I received a Royalty statement from OCP (Oregon Catholic Press). A royalty (for those who don’t know, is a payment for use of a writer’s work; in this case a song. My friend Bobby Fisher made a recording of one of my songs on one of his CDs a while back, and because he re-wrote some of the lyrics, I receive about 75% of the available royalties for that song. That means every time OCP sells one of these CDs (“If We Dare to Hope”), I get 11 cents, and 6 cents for each copy of the song book for the album.

That royalty statement I received 3 months ago told me that I had accumulated a royalty balance of $24.95, but OCP doesn’t make any payment to artists until it’s over $25. So when a new statement arrived today showing that they had sold 3 CDs and 1 book (!!!!) I had 37 cents added to my balance, and a check for the total ($25.32) was included.

I sometimes am dazzled by the big bucks that some composers of my acquaintance must be getting. The fact is that 37 cents doesn’t mean a hell of a lot; but if I was to make 37 cents every day for the next year, the total would be over $135. Again, not a lot, but not bad for one song.

By the way, Bobby’s CD is still available If We Dare to Hope

Monday, April 23, 2012

Life as a Church Musician

I go to church. I go to the UCC, First Congregational Church in Norwich, NY. I am a church musician.

Now under normal circumstances, that last statement would preclude that I am either the organist or the choir director or both. I am neither.

My position is Music Ministry Associate.

Being an Associate always reminds me of Wal*Mart because all their employee name tags say “associate” on them. I don’t have a name tag…what am I talking about? I don’t even have a blue vest! So what is this oddball position?

At UCC, First Congregational Church, we have an extremely talented and knowledgeable choir director, an outrageously talented organist, and a wonderfully gifted bell choir director. This photo shows us all with Pastor Joe.

So what I get to do is all the things that these three don’t have the time or energy to do. And believe me, as far as I’m concerned, that’s all the fun stuff.

Briefly, I get to write and arrange a lot of music, play the guitar as solo and accompaniment, preview all the choir music, work with the web site, do music outreach to other churches, and substitute for singers in the choir and sometimes for the bells too. Along the way, I have also completely refurbished the music office, weeded the music collection, and purchased some new instruments for the church, and done quite a bit of recording.

If that weren’t enough, I have written a Christmas cantata (The Child) with Pastor Joe Connolly, and we are planning on writing an Easter cantata for 2013.

And if THAT weren’t enough, I created a church music seminar called “Water from the Well” to which we invite well known church composers from all over the country to come and work with us.

I was offered this position back in 2007 and was given the opportunity to write my own job description. How many times does something like that ever happen?

And now it’s ending, and I am sure of two things:

1- It has been a great ride.

2- This situation is probably never going to be duplicated.

As relocation for my wife and I becomes a reality, I will be looking around for another church position, which (I’m sure) will be vastly different than this one, and (I’m equally sure) just as rewarding.

Note: I will be releasing a new vocal CD in a couple weeks. I will post an update on that here sometime in early May. In the meantime, I’ll remind you that my music is available through Amazon, CDBaby, Rhapsody, iTunes, Spotify and dozens of other outlets. You can usually find them by typing “Tom Rasely” into the search bar of any of those sites. Plus, there are 10 videos at Tom's Youtube

Friday, March 23, 2012

Spare Time

How’s that 1981 hit tune by Styx go?

Oh yes: I’ve got too much time on my hands. Well, I don’t know about the “too much” part, but I do have a goodly amount of time during the week to pursue a lot of interests. So, you’re probably asking yourself: what does a musician in the middle of nowhere do when he’s not doing music? And here’s the answer…

First, you have to understand that our home is more of a Hobby Farm than anything. My wife is the farmer. I sometimes refer to myself as the hired hand that lives in old trailer out in the North 40. It’s not that bad; we don’t have 40 acres.

This year, we expanded our chicken flock to 11 layers, of mixed breeds. That makes for a lovely selection of eggs. We also built a fairly large shed for the goats that arrived last summer. Between that and putting up fencing, and repairing our hoop house, there was enough physically demanding activity to keep me occupied for a few days…weeks…etc.

Some of you may be aware of my vintage sci-fi space movie collection. I have strange space adventures films and TV show episodes from 1926 on up. Most of them are from the true classics between 1950 and the late 60s. “Aelita, Queen of Mars” (Russian, 1924) and “Woman in the Moon” (German, 1929) are black and white silent pictures that are absolutely precious. The 3 Flash Gordon serials with Buster Crabbe are favorites, and they led me to experiment watching “Star Wars: A New Hope” in black and white. You can try that by going to your settings and taking the color bar to the extreme left. This film has an entirely different feel to it in black and white.

My interest in the Civil War stems from an invitation from my good friend Douglas Rose to work on a video about the battle of Gettysburg. As things unfolded, I not only have read a lot about this conflict, but also have visited 5 or 6 battlefields; and I discovered that I had several relatives who fought for the North (Pennsylvania regiments), two of whom were wounded at Gettysburg.

The Marx Brothers are my all-time comedy heroes. I have all the movies that they were in with either 3 or 4 of the brothers. When I desperately need to be brought back to Reality, I put in one of their films.

Thomas Lawrence (AKA: Lawrence of Arabia) is also a hero of mine. Having read the Lowell Thomas accounts, and seen the 1962 film, I went on to read several other reliable histories about this amazing man. I even made a sojourn to his cottage in England called Clouds Hill.

Whenever I can take a few days off (really off), I try to get to see a major league baseball game. I’ve been to Fenway (Boston) twice, Wrigley (Chicago), the Astrodome (Houston), Turner Field (Atlanta), the old Cleveland Municipal Stadium (The Mistake by the Lake), Citizens Bank Park (Philadelphia), the Rogers Center (Toronto), and Camden Yards (Baltimore). I really don’t care who plays: I mainly want to see a game well played; it’s a beautiful thing!

Life is never dull, never stagnant. One of these days, I’ll expand on what my church music job entails. That’s a good story all by itself.

While you’re waiting, I’ll remind you that my music is available through Amazon, CDBaby, Rhapsody, iTunes, Spotify and dozens of other outlets. You can usually find them by typing “Tom Rasely” into the search bar of any of those sites. Plus, there are 10 videos on Youtube

So you see, it’s not all music out here in the Nowhere.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Where does an idea come from?

Recently on Facebook, I posted that I had written 62 pieces of music during 2011. That’s more than one a week! I should be exhausted. But I’m not. I find it exhilarating, and inspiring.

Inspiration is a much maligned word. It gives people the impression that ideas come from some mystical place like out of the clear blue sky. And I suppose that sometimes happens…or at least SEEMS to happen.

There is a truth: if you seek you will find. That’s another way of saying, keep your eyes open. Keeping your mind open at the same time helps too.

I’ve been inspired to write music by a friend’s last name, by the suggestion of a fellow music teacher, by marriages, by playing a ”wrong” chord, by the necessity of filling up a CD’s worth of music.

The photo above was taken one night as I was returning home from a day of teaching guitar lessons. As I crested the hill above East Pharsalia NY, this is the sight that met my eyes. Incredible. I immediately came home and was inspired to write…nothing. I just thought it was pretty.

On another night returning home from teaching guitar lessons, I was listening to the radio, and heard what I thought was a choir singing nonsense syllables. What with the static of the radio, the noise of the road, and the heater going full blast, I eventually found out that it wasn’t nonsense, and it wasn’t even a choir. But when I got home, I sat down and wrote a piece of music with nonsense syllables called “Dmm Dmm” for a capella 5-part choir. I refer to it as an instrumental song for chorus.

So, where do ideas come from? Anywhere, everywhere, anyhow and everyhow. Sometimes they show up when you aren’t looking specifically for them, and sometimes they do. Sometimes they result in something, and sometimes they don’t. There’s no pattern, no formula. But one thing is definitely true: if you are ready for a new idea, you’ll spot it quicker and clearer when it does come.

Here are some of my latest inspirations Tom's inspirations