The Haunted Heaven: Chapter One: God's Great Fools
By Michael Moriarty
"Here I am!"
And after covering his face, the child cries: "Here I am not!"
Does he believe he can't be seen?
If he's born an artist he can.
What I've seen in my 70 years has only fulfilled my expectations of life during my retirement. It is only now, in these golden days of memory, that I can savor my extraordinary existence.
However, the only final comment on my life must wait for my death. My life as a creative artist, as versus my years as an interpretive one, is far more exciting for me. Composing for symphony orchestra is the ultimate joy of my life.
Since my musical creations may not be performed much during the time I have left on earth, thank God for my computer and its playback. I can fill in, with my imagination, the massively missing artistry of a great orchestra and a great conductor.
Let me first share my love of the contrabass' low E. For an erstwhile jazz musician as myself, it is the sound I find most comforting, the low E on a bass, or contrabass as it is known in the great halls of classical music.
I first heard a live bass in my parent's living room as I crawled over its floor, listening to music, music, music of all kinds.
Johnny Frigo, a Chicago jazz musician and artist, would pay occasional visits to our home in Detroit, occasionally bringing his violin, bassist and a few of his drawings with him.
Little did I know that Johnny Frigo also played The Holy Fool for much of his life.
"Any tempo … except that one!"
Ah, the bassist's low E!!!!!
The concert A off of a symphony orchestra's oboe is not what I experienced most as a child. No, it was the well-tuned, low E off of a few great jazz bassists I have enjoyed and, at times, even played piano with.
Unfortunately, many Jazz giants, including my boyhood hero Miles Davis, proved to be the ultimate among "Cool Progressives". He, unlike all the others, however, was heard to say, at the end of his life, that the Universe was "perfect".
With all of us being "perfect", in our own inimitable ways, one can hardly agree that "change", which is an eternal part of the Universe, is necessarily "Progress".
Many of my readers already know what I think of Progressives, both with and without their genius. There are, of course, Progressives of the concert halls such as Leonard Bernstein that dabbled in what Tom Wolf called "radical chic". This is one of the main reasons I no longer perform as a jazz musician. That art form has been owned by Progressives since the day in which the Modern Jazz Quartet became a household word.
Bernstein's performance of Ravel's La Valse, thank God, has nothing "cool" about it.
The only thing I find more mesmerizing than this low E on the first measure of my Haunted Heaven is the full measure pause, or tacet of what I now and perhaps temporarily can call measure nine.
We all end in measure nine so to speak.
I call that measure the Silencio Tutti!
This Italian indulgence is an opening tribute to my stepmother, Matilda "Mitzie" Pavane, and my adoptive mother, Maria Luisa Calla of Modena Italy.
Since the adoption came in my sixties, sixties with a small "s" … well … it is hard to know who adopted whom first. God sent me another "Mitzie"!
This memoir does not seem to be flowering in any chronological pattern. I am, as a former William Morris agent once described me, and still continue to be, "the cowboy riding off in all directions … at the same time!"
The only thing to limit my ambitions in that regard was heart failure over four years ago. It accelerated my retirement as an actor, for which I will be eternally grateful. I would have much preferred spending my entire life in music and musings on America's plight under Progressivism.
That is what I am blissfully engaged in now and … well … I live in The Haunted Heaven.
What does that mean, really?
"Unless you become like little children, you shall not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!"
That is what our Lord said … and if He is not your Lord yet, I feel sorry for you.
The Fool in William Shakespeare's King Lear? He makes his very brief, first trumpet entrance in my Concerto For Orchestra in measure 103 of the Fourth Movement with the melody from this eternally haunting reminder:
He that has and a little tiny wit,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
Must make content with his fortunes fit,
For the rain it raineth every day.
Odd and possibly prescient that I bring that bit of advice to my listeners in a movement described as Andante Orientale.
Later on, in my Second Concerto For Orchestra, The Fool, as mainly the wind section, appears frequently to comment upon the "Progress" of the movement's main theme.
And the main theme?
Americanized Shostakovich, that Russian enigma or yurodivy.
The Holy Fool.
Decidedly a creature of his own origin. How could he endure so much of his life under Stalin? I could not even endure life under President Clinton. I left for Canada during that man's first term. After Stalin's death in 1953, Dimitri Shostakovich remained an ostensibly loyal member of the Soviet Union until his death in 1975.
Hmmm … an anomaly?
Not when you consider Shostakovich as playing The Fool to Joseph Stalin's homicidally megalomaniacal King Lear.
Returning to that low E, its rather ominous setting in subsequent measures?
Life now, even from the ostensibly safe haven of Canada?
Certainly something way beyond our human understanding.
However, I wouldn't have it any other way.
God willing the great event spoken of so fearfully in the Bible, of Armageddon? It will, if not happening on my watch, be in full swing in the ominously near future, hopefully before I die.
Why would I wish such a thing?
What human, with even the slightest joie de vivre, would want to miss the climactic moment on earth for the entire human race?
The day when Evil, as divinely predicted in the Bible, is driven off of the earth for one thousand years?
Knowing the Bible's version of our comedies and tragedies, certain of the ultimately safe havens our human family will finally reside in, I can honestly call the likes of Stalin, Mao, Hitler and the American Progressive Movement's own attempts at a New World Order 4th Reich, I can label them all The Devil's Boogey Men.
How can the American franchise of a 4th Reich be so charming? They're "internationalists" and so very attuned to the Gorbachev School of Rule, a Softer Stalinism or Milder Mao.
A seemingly softer version of Marlon Brando's Don Corleone, when, indeed, it carries all the spoiled-brat ruthlessness of Al Pacino's Dartmouth-graduating Michael Corleone. What do we have as President of the United States now?
A Harvard-graduating, Red Islamic Michael Corleone.
Meanwhile, I have a memoir to get on with.
My Haunted Heaven Symphony's literary first movement?
A childhood flashback through the encroaching nightmares?
We've only just begun.
And my childhood? Judging from the earliest pictures of me, I was a divinely spoiled infant. My parents had already made their "first-child-mistakes" with my older sister.
The first five years of my life, those most formative ones? Heaven itself.
My ears had been filled with the bliss-inspiring perfection of the world's greatest orchestras, musicians, composers and the mystery of their divine love affair with each other.
My father, a surgeon, has been a frustrated conductor all of his life. The only loving tones in his voice came when he spoke of music and musicians. His eyes would tear up listening to Tito Schipa or Sergei Rachmaninoff.
My father's only admiration for my music came too late, after I had arrived in New York. Long after his contempt for my earlier musical efforts had driven me into acting and the theater.
However, all has evolved perfectly!
I would live a life, running in all directions at the same time and leave this legacy from the heaven I'm in now: The Haunted Heaven.
Why doesn't my Haunted Heaven, which I am composing now, sound more like Rachmaninoff if, indeed, my music is autobiographical?
The quality of my life, despite exile from America or perhaps because of it, reminds me more of Shostakovich and Béla Bartok than the oceanic romanticism of Rachmaninoff.
I cannot trust the lyrical as much as I would have wanted to.
What lyricism that now does exist within me has, like the soul of my life, had a rather more bitter than sweet transformation.
Surrendering to that sometimes dark reality has mysteriously brought a more solidly grounded bliss into my life than ever before. An ecstasy even greater than that I would experience in Florence, Italy, 1964.
That memory is roughly a twenty-year leap forward and an over forty-year hurtle backward from where we are in this chapter and within my present bliss in British Columbia, Canada.
The musical and, dare I say, spiritual subtext to come allows me to do that. No, God didn't really enter my life as a reality until "The Domestic Nightmare" began.
In short, all was heaven for the first five years of my life.
The slow but unrelenting descent to hell was, I imagine, obligatory. Why?
One cannot reach heaven believing that even one second of your life was either avoidable or unnecessary, including hell itself.
After hell is entered, one faces The Haunted of Heaven as soul mates.
As for the downright villains within this haunted heaven?
We shall see.
Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe and Emmy Award-winning actor who starred in the landmark television series Law and Order from 1990 to 1994. His recent film and TV credits include The Yellow Wallpaper, 12 Hours to Live, Santa Baby and Deadly Skies. Contact Michael at firstname.lastname@example.org.