Letters from the Muse Room #40 (July 2023)

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 (though it’s late this 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 two months.

Dear friends,

I hope you are all enjoying your summer! It’s hard to believe July is almost over.

Speaking of which, this Letter is late — this isn’t the first Friday of the month. That’s because we took a family road trip to Chicago the first week of July; read more (and see some pictures of really tall buildings) below.

[The Harbison family in Chicago with skyscrapers in the background.]

I don’t have much music news to share this time; with the vacation and being between projects at the moment, I’ve mostly been doing some composition study and some melody and harmony exercises (as I mentioned in my radio interview on Classical KC). But I do have something to share with you!

I wrote last year about the Olympus Choirs Elements sound library, and how I wanted to share a before-and-after comparison of how it sounded for my piece Seal Lullaby. But I had deleted the before version in my excitement about the after. Well, a little while ago I redid another of my choral compositions, Adventus, with the Olympus library, and I did save the before version of that. So you can hear some before-and-after comparisons at this link!

[The opening system of the Adventus score.]


I was certainly inspired by our trip to Chicago. There’s something about having to crane your neck all the way back to see up to the top of something that inspires a sense of grandeur and even awe.

[Looking up the steep side of a skyscraper in Chicago.]

We took the architecture boat tour and it was filled with beautiful buildings and fascinating history. Everything from older, ornate buildings:

[An older, ornate skyscraper in Chicago.]

to futuristic buildings (the way the future was envisioned in the 1960s):

[The Marina City Towers in Chicago.]

to a building designed to look like a bottle of champagne, built at the height of Prohibition:

[The Carbide and Carbon Building in Chicago.]

to the world’s tallest building designed by a woman architect:

[The St. Regis in Chicago.]

We also went to the Skydeck at Willis Tower, and spent two minutes in a glass box sticking out from the side of the building 1,353 feet above the ground.

[The Harbison family seemingly suspended in midair.]

On the way back we stopped at Starved Rock State Park in Illinois, where we took in the beauty of natural creation after a week of the beauty of human creation.

[Wildcat Canyon in Starved Rock State Park.]

This canyon is 125 feet deep, and it was very quiet at the bottom. It was a magical spot.

These two places didn’t inspire anything directly, though they certainly “filled the well.” My other inspiration did, however.

[Matchbox Twenty performing at the Starlight Theater.]

Two weeks before our trip, I saw Matchbox Twenty perform live at Starlight Theater in Kansas City.

[Rob Thomas on a video board at the concert looking half crazed.]

I’ve loved Matchbox Twenty for more than 20 years now, but it was my first time getting to see them live. It was a fantastic show and I had so much fun.

But it also inspired me to do some pop music songwriting and recording again. If you’re interested in my pop music and you want to hear some new stuff — stay tuned.

[Matchbox Twenty performing.]

I hope you find inspiration in creations this summer — human, natural, musical, and otherwise. I’ll see you in September!

AJ Harbison

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