Diary of an Orchestrator, April 3: Back in L.A.

It’s close to midnight at the end of my first full day in Southern California. I’m about to shut up shop mentally, but have to write a few words about coming back to my birthplace.

It’s strange, but I’m feeling a lot circles closing with this performance – returning to places where ideas and thoughts and even myself began. For instance: the performance will be held in Santa Monica, a mere mile from St. John’s Hospital where I was born. And the music will be delivered by a host of doctors. Another resonance is that the concert will support autism research: several members of my family are affected by spectrum disorders, including one cousin who is nonverbal. But don’t think for one minute that I’m finding any transcendent meaning in this – more that after a life in music, I start to see patterns in the flow of events, and resonances between different times of my life.

Who am I, when it comes down to it? A desert boy, who was born in the basin, raised in L.A. and SB County, and spent every other weekend in the Mojave Desert. Coming back to this area, I look past the busy streets and the arc lights at the dusty, waterless hills for the real meaning of this place. It’s the most successful oasis in the history of human culture. But it’s still an oasis, fed by borrowed water and the imported investment of ingenuity and resources to harness the nearly constant sunshine and tempered warmth.

I think that’s why I’m an almost unreasonable optimist. I expect the sunshine, and try to make the most of any tiny opportunity, like a twig of creosote bush growing in the crack of a boulder. But being raised in the desert makes me feel that this huge engine of a city is also growing in the crack of a larger boulder. 

That perspective (hopefully) keeps my feet on the ground, most of the time. But perhaps that’s a way of thinking that not all denizens share. I went to a big store today to purchase a temporary cellphone, and dealt with a clerk who was auditioning for a part more than giving me a sales pitch. It reminded me of this one time that I helped out at a big Oscars party at the Hollywood Athletic Club. As the S.O. of one of the organizers, I was sent out on little harmless errands, one of which was to make sure that the line gathering outside the event was orderly. As I walked down the street, looking at the queue that was now starting to circle the block, I observed one of our security guards deep in conversation with a motorcycle cop. Somewhat alarmed, I walked a bit closer to see if there was any problem with our event. Then I heard the cop tell the security guard, “It looks like a pretty good screenplay to me, but if you really want a producer to read it, it’s got to be double-spaced, on single-sided sheets…”

I’m also on a bit of a shopping hunt for various items which are either very expensive or unavailable in my adopted country of New Zealand. I got a good price on some US measuring cups and spoons (in NZ, they only sell these with Imperial measurements, just enough bigger to spoil a recipe). I also need to find good swimming noseclips (an outrageous $9 apiece in NZ), some office supplies, a USB hub, cap erasers (unknown in all NZ office stores now), and lots and lots of dried chiles.

What does all this homecoming and bargain shopping have to do with orchestration, you may well ask by this point in my post? I’ll answer that tomorrow, when I make the best purchase of them all, and visit the origin of all my music-making.

Thomas Goss is a professional composer and orchestrator with an international roster of clients. He has worked with such talents as Billy Ocean, Melanie C, Sharon Corr, and Nikki Yanofsky. His compositions, orchestrations, and crossover arrangements have been performed by such ensembles as Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and San Francisco Symphony Chamber Ensemble.

Thomas lives and works in Wellington, New Zealand, with his wife Erica and son Charlie, and one very unappreciative cat.

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