Letters from the Muse Room #30 (November 2021)

The “Muse Room” is the room in my house where I make music and my wife makes visual art. Published the first Friday of every other month, each issue of Letters from the Muse Room includes news and updates about my music, as well as something that has inspired me creatively over the past month.

Dear friends,
Happy fall! Unlike (perhaps) last time, we are now fully into autumn, as dropping temperatures (I had to defrost my windshield a few mornings ago) and changing tree colors attest:

[A colorful tree in my neighborhood.]

[Two-toned tree in my neighborhood.]

I love two-toned trees like this.

[Looking out from a window of Shirley Bush Helzberg Symphony House, where I work.]

[Beautiful trees with a beautiful building in the background.]

Can you tell that I really like colorful leaves?

It’s been a bit of a slow month or two in the Muse Room. I am beginning work on an orchestra piece for a friend of mine; I can’t share any details yet but it will be unorthodox and fun. More to come.

Speaking of fun: While cleaning up my hard drive recently and deleting some old files, I was reminded of #illomusicfriday. What is #illomusicfriday, you ask? Well, Illustration Friday was a website (sadly now defunct, it seems) that used to post a single word as a prompt every Friday, and illustrators would create an illustration for that word. It was a fun challenge that was an easy way to practice creating art around a particular idea.

In 2015 and 2016, my wife (who is a visual artist) and I decided we’d take on this challenge together: she would create an illustration based on the Illustration Friday word, and I would compose some music based on the word, and we’d put them together into a video. Sometimes we would coordinate — one of us would do our part first, and the other would base their part off that — and sometimes we worked independently.

[#illomusicfriday 1/29/16: “Orbit”]

This was one of my favorite ones.

So if you’re looking for some fun music and artwork to kick off your weekend, might I recommend for you: #illomusicfriday on Youtube.

[#illomusicfriday on YouTube.]


I wish you could have experienced what inspired me this past month; it was so inspiring because it was an in-person experience. I attended the Kansas City Symphony’s first full-orchestra in-person concert since March 2020, and it kind of blew me away.

[The Kansas City Symphony.]

The major work on the program was Mahler’s First Symphony. While I enjoy Mahler, hearing the piece live, after not hearing a live orchestra for almost two years, was breathtaking and electrifying. That jump up to D major in the last movement — it gave me chills.

If you’re interested in the piece, the San Francisco Symphony made a terrific documentary about it in their “Keeping Score” series, which is free to watch on YouTube (and includes a full performance of the piece after the documentary): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v5DfYcT5icY&ab_channel=SanFranciscoSymphony.

[Good looking guy?]

But more than that, I encourage you, if you’re comfortable, to go see some live music in person this month. Performing arts organizations, ensembles, bands, all need your support and also are so excited to be playing for live audiences again. And after such a long hiatus, I can tell you: Live music is good for the soul.

Be well.

AJ Harbison

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