Episode 3: It's Raining Outside

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It's raining outside and BuilderBoy, SquishyBaby and I are at home, busying ourselves with activities while ProfessorMom finishes grading term papers at the local gluten-free coffee shop. It’s 4:15 in the afternoon. I turn on the regional public radio station to alert us to any potential changes in the weather. But the rain continues.

“No problem, I have a series of planned activities to keep up morale." 

First, Snacks. Then Books. Crafts. Crayons. Markers. Play-Doh. Instruments. Toys I had been saving for their birthday. Snacks again. 

I check the clock. Fifteen minutes later. This brings us to 4:30pm. I feel trapped inside. I try to keep a positive attitude, but I’m not sure what to do next. The time between afternoon nap and dinner is stressful. 

Suddenly, I feel a mighty wind against the house. Is the storm picking up or is it… BIBLE, with another intense compositional challenge for me, ComposerDad. 

ComposerDad: Hello Bible, We meet again.

BIBLE: Hello ComposerDad, I see you and your little ones are all gathered inside this house. 

ComposerDad: Yes, it is raining a LOT so we are playing inside. 

BIBLE: This reminds me. After Jesus ascended into heaven, his followers huddled together in a house, on a day called Pentecost.  Suddenly, there was a mighty wind, tongues of fire rested on their heads and they were filled with the Holy Ghost. Peter shared the good news with everyone, with support from his entourage. I want you to create a song based on this event, in the style of 90s HipHop. GoodBye. 

ComposerDad: I knew Bible wasn’t far away with all that intense weather. “No Problem,” I say, but Bible is already gone. 

I turn off the radio and turn on some 90s HipHop via our wifi-enabled speakers. It takes a moment to connect. We wait.

While we listen, we use washable paints to illustrate the Pentecost account. BuilderBoy’s painting looks incredible. He places it extremely high up on the wall. How did he get it up there so high? What’s happening? Before I can figure it out, there’s another rush of wind. 

It's ProfessorMom, returning home from grading papers at the local gluten-free coffee shop. 

ComposerDad: How was the coffee shop?

ProfessorMom: At the end of a semester, I find it helpful to take a moment to update my syllabus for next year, while it is fresh in my mind. 

Suddenly, there is yet another rush of wind and our sliding doors open. The rain stopped. It’s beautiful day outside and ProfessorMom suggests we take a family walk before dinner. 

ProfessorMom: Let’s take a family walk before dinner.

As we walk, I am not distracted by my work, but focus on reconnecting emotionally with my family. See you next time on ComposerDad vs. Bible.

ComposerDad's secret identity is Jonathon Roberts. That's Jonathon with an O, and his music is available at jmtroberts.bandcamp.com. That's J for Jonathon, M for "mountain" or "muscly", T for "tiger", and Roberts dot Bandcamp dot com. 

Posted on July 18, 2017 .

Episode 2: On Our Way to Great Snack Rock

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Episode 2: On Our Way to Great Snack Rock

BuilderBoy, SquishyBaby and I are hiking a rugged trail behind our house. It goes up an extremely large mountain. SquishyBaby is strapped to me in a trail–tested frontpack. On my back, emergency supplies, water, and snack rations. Non-venomous red newts are on this trail. If we see one I will pick it up with my bare hands. 

Suddenly, a giant tree falls in our path. I shield BuilderBoy, and hold SquishyBaby tight. “That was a close one,” I say. Then I see a red newt. I reach down to pick it up with my bare hands. When I look up, the tree that fell in our path is gone. BuilderBoy laughs. What’s happening? Before I can figure it out…

There’s a huge rockslide! Massive boulders tumble toward us. We scramble to safety just before disaster strikes. 

“I want a snack” says BuilderBoy.

 “Let’s forge ahead. I want to cross Raging Rapids before we have our snack.” 

“I want my snack now.” says BuilderBoy. 

I feel myself getting frustrated.

No problem. I take a deep breath. I assess the situation. 

“I recognize you are hungry, Son. Take this handful of organic raisins now. After we cross Raging Rapids, we’ll get to Great Snack Rock and have some more.”

We traverse a massive stone slab and two switchbacks before arriving at Raging Rapids. 

Guess who’s also there: BIBLE, with another intense compositional challenge for me, ComposerDad. 

“Hello Bible, we meet again,” I say, standing tall. 

“Hello ComposerDad, I see you and your little ones are about to cross a river.”

“Yes, We are on our way to Great Snack Rock.”                                 

“This reminds me. In Deuteronomy chapter 32, Moses tells the people of Israel to take to heart all of his words, and teach them to their children so when they cross the river into the promised land they will live a long and fulfilling life. I want you to create a song based on this passage, something with a beat, maybe a ukulele. Goodbye.”

I knew Bible wasn’t far away, with all those intense natural disasters earlier. “No problem, Bible” I say. But Bible is already gone. We cross Raging Rapids with no problems. I set the red newt down safely next to Great Snack Rock and I get out the snacks.

After eating organic raisins and cooked sweet potato on Great Snack Rock we head down the mountain via the Emergency Vehicle Access Road. 

Back home ProfessorMom has arrived from teaching voice and speech class at the local university.

"How was class?" I ask.

"My students were having trouble with their consonants, but I taught them my simple approach to the International Phonetic Alphabet, and they improved greatly."

We continue talking about our day and reconnecting emotionally, while we check for ticks. Then we all start to jam. ProfessorMom lays down a simple groove on her ukulele. It sounds great. I play piano. BuilderBoy kicks in with the drums. It’s super loud and resonates across the mountain we live on. The sound brings in other musicians from the neighborhood. They all lay in their parts.

The whole band is rocking and suddenly we have recorded the first pop song ever from the book of Deuteronomy. I call it “Take to Heart” and post it to the World Wide Web. It becomes a big hit and DJs even play it on their podcasts.

Thanks for the challenge Bible, we’ll see you again next time on ComposerDad vs. Bible. 

ComposerDad's secret identity is Jonathon Roberts. That's Jonathon with an O, and his music is available at jmtroberts.bandcamp.com. That's J for Jonathon, M for "mountain" or "muscly", T for "tiger", and Roberts dot Bandcamp dot com. Take to Heart, the song from this episode, is available on BandCamp. It is part of the album, Spark & Echo, by Jonathon Roberts and Emily Clare Zempel. 

Posted on May 17, 2017 .

Episode 1: I'm a Composer and a Dad

ComposerDad Vs. Bible Podcast
Season 1 Episode 1: I'm a Composer and a Dad

It's unseasonably warm outside for February in the Northeast. ProfessorMom is out shaping minds, and I am with BuilderBoy and SquishyBaby at the Tot Park.

Suddenly, there's a stiff wind, the grass vanishes and the earth ripples. Right away I know who's about to appear. It's Bible with another intense compositional challenge for me, ComposerDad. 

"Hello, Bible, we meet again," I say, standing tall.

"Hello, ComposerDad, I see you have your little ones with you."

"Yes. I do. I am a composer and a dad." 

Bible knows all about me, but he likes to preface his compositional challenges with certain clues and wit.

"I want cheesy pasta," says BuilderBoy.

"Don't worry, Son, we'll have cheesy pasta when we get home," I say. "Right now, I'm about to receive a new challenge from Bible." 

Suddenly SquishyBaby is climbing on top of a playhouse. I rescue him. BuilderBoy smirks. What's happening? How did he get up there? Never mind, I'll deal with this later. I look back to Bible.

"Your familiarity with smallness, ComposerDad, makes me think of something," says Bible. "Micah 5:2 talks about Bethlehem being 'small'. Though it was small it was called to great things–the greatest of things. I want you to create a catchy tune on smallness, based on Bethlehem. Also you must use a saxophone. Goodbye."

Bible likes to drop verses in my lap in profound ways at surprising moments, and then challenge me to respond to them using my insane musical gifts. 

"No problem, Bible," I say. But Bible is already gone.

"Let's go get that cheesy pasta, Son."

We walk home. It takes forever because home is up a big mountain. After cheesy pasta, I jam with BuilderBoy and we find a hook. A hook is a part of a song that's catchy. Some of my songs have lots of hooks. This one goes like this: Mow mow, ma-ma-na-ma-na-mow-ma-na-MOW. Mow mow, ma-ma-na-ma-na-mow-ma-na-MOW. Perfect.  

I find a saxophone, then I find someone who knows how to play it. I hire more musicians: a violinist, a trombonist, a cellist. We sing together, "We are small, we are small, we're children of the King." We all sing in tune. Being small feels very BIG. 

When I'm done, I name my song for Bible, I'm Small. Then I post it to the WORLD WIDE WEB where everyone can hear it. Then I retire to BuilderBoy's room where I read about the extremely dangerous Island of Sodor. 

I await my next challenge. When and where will Bible appear next? What is he after exactly? What is he trying to say to me? And what were my kids up to at the Tot Park back there? Next time...

ComposerDad's secret identity is Jonathon Roberts. That's Jonathon with an O, and his music for Bible is available to the whole world at jmtroberts.bandcamp.com. That's J for Jonathon, M for Muscly, T for Tiger, and Roberts for Roberts, dot-bandcamp-dot-com-dot-amen. 

Posted on April 24, 2017 .