the show

Click a title to expand it.
[expand title=”Characters” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
LEO, a successful entrepreneur in his 50s (baritone)
LEONARDO, an artist/engineer in his 30s (tenor)
GEN, Leo’s spouse (alto)
LUCY, in her 30s, Leo’s daughter (alto/soprano)
MAN, plays the DOCTOR, an EMPLOYEE, and a JOURNALIST or FAN (bass)
WOMAN, in her 40s or 50s, plays an EMPLOYEE and a JOURNALIST or FAN
YOUNG WOMAN, in her 30s, plays an EMPLOYEE and a JOURNALIST or FAN

[expand title=”Production Notes” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Sets are minimalist, suggested with as few props as possible.
Central to the production are three equally important elements working seamlessly together: the performers/characters, the songs/musical ensemble, and a third element: a projection screen at the back of the stage providing visual accompaniment. The screen is deep in the background, unlit, allowing visuals to waft, dreamlike, in and out of scenes.
The production is divided into two halves, two acts. Each act consists of short three song cycles that form tableaus capturing specific points in time. There are approximately nine original songs in each act, with several reprises and repetitions of themes.
There are short musical interludes between each scene or tableau – with accompanying visuals – that help to reset the palette and convey the passage of time between each scene, while also presenting an alternative story thread – played out among the office workers – as counterpoint to Leo’s private struggles.

Act I

[expand title=”Prelude” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]


Scene 1: A tech industry trade show in the near future

[expand title=”It’s Coming/Kaleidoscope” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Main stage of the trade show. Leonardo is center, singing and working a mixing table like a DJ. Leo is offstage, and the rest of the cast is lined up behind Leonardo, snapping fingers, with choreographed moves, as backup singers. They are accompanied on the screen by the ultimate corporate slideshow: smooth, gliding, high-quality visuals provide sexy, provocative hints – all edges and curves partially revealed – of the consumer product that the team is introducing to the world, mixed up with barely discernible subliminal messages.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]

woot  woot
woot woot
woot woot
woot woot

it’s coming soon
it cannot wait
it’s newer than new
it’s greater than great

it’s movies and music
and summer and sand
it’s the light of the sun
in the palm of your hand

love, love,
feels like love
love, love,
feels a lot like love
love, love, love

it’s shiny and smooth
with the curviest grooves
it hides in your folds
it follows your moves

it’s lighter than light
it’s truer than true
it’s brighter than bright
and it’s coming to you

it’ll change the world!

that’s somewhat debatable…

it might last forever!

it’s biodegradable!

in case of disaster
it’s fully inflatable!
it’s coming, yeah
it’s coming to you

now to tell you more
to show you the way
he started it all
and he’s here today
he’s the bread to your butter
he’s the zeit to your geist

with an entrance not unlike
the coming of Christ

with a thumb on your pulse
and a voice in your ear
here he is

the man of the hour
the man of the year!

in the beginning
or so they say
there was light
light, the first day

we’ve learned since then
we’ve come a long way
our scientists have spoken
and here’s what they say:

life is light splintered
a billion ways
reflected, refracted,
and spliced into days

from flora to fauna
and on and on
everything living
that thrives on the sun

spectrum of hues
life is the rainbow
that shines
inside of you

beads and baubles
and mirrors and hope
the world is just
a kaleidoscope

it all breaks down
to the simplest things
photons, electrons
and chlorophyll rings

agents of energy
driven by light
a source so abundant
there’s no end in sight

so here’s what we did
we went straight to the source
we broke it all down
to the purest life force

we mastered the trick
we fit it all in
all of the angels
on the head of a pin

phosphors and crystals
and je ne sais quoi
a dash of selenium
and then, et voilà!

beads and baubles
and mirrors and hope
the world is inside
this kaleidoscope!

isn’t it beautiful?
it’s really this small
it spins and it glows
and it does it all

we employ the full spectrum
It runs on pure light
the charge lasts forever
no wires in sight

every person’s a network
all passwords passé
you can friend all your besties
from light years away

this is it, folks,
the world with no hands
for a ridiculous price
and a two-year plan!

now to demo the goods
to show where we are
here they are again
our young rising stars

It’s Coming (Reprise)

so, we’ve got it right here
we’ll show you its tricks
uh, it seems there’s an issue
ya know, sometimes it sticks

it’s in alpha or beta
I’m not quite sure which
we’ll circle the wagons
we’ll get this thing fixed

come back for a demo
Thursday at noon
Thank’s for your time!
it’s coming real soon!

it’s…coming, yeah,
it’s coming soon
it’s coming, yes
it’s coming…real…soon!
[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
This song is a Beatle-esque medley, with a dash of Donovan, in search of the big “opening number” atmospherics found on albums like St.Peppers and Magical Mystery Tour. The lead in to “It’s Coming” steals a rhythmic structure from Flynn Cohen’s intro guitar work on the Annalivia tune “Up in Smoke.” In “Kaleidoscope”, you might hear a hint of “Norwegian Wood,” but the harmonic structure of the song is quite different, wheeling around like a “kaleidoscope” of keys through the circle of 5ths.
[expand title=”F-Bomb/Aftermath” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
A meeting room, backstage of the trade show. The staff enters – WOMAN, YOUNG WOMAN, MAN in role of employees – and gathers around the table, singing and muttering in a kind of round.
They trail off as Leo enters at one end, Leonardo at the other. Leonardo stands in back, watching. Leo begins to stalk about as he did on stage, but this time malevolently.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]

fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck
he’s gonna flip, he’s gonna freak
yup, we’re all up shit’s creek

what the hell just happened here?
Ya listening now? Do I have your ear?

who said this thing was ready now?
the where, the when, the why, the how
they just don’t mean a fuckin’ thing
if you can’t make this sucker sing!
nothing? nothing? anything?

we gave it our best, our very best try

we flagged all the issues, we didn’t lie

we thought for sure this was demo ready

we’ll get this thing down, we’ll make it steady

let’s be clear: there is no “we”
there’s all of you, and then there’s me
and without me there is no you
you’re toast, you’re history, you’re through!
ya got it? am I getting through?

this technology is really tough
and the circuits, they’re so circuitous

this bug report, it just won’t quit
thought we knocked it off, or just enough of it

“just enough”? That’s not enough
there is no diamond in the rough
the only diamond anyone buys
is the one that’s perfect in their eyes

perfection is our stock in trade
the currency we can’t degrade
that bug report’s a fuckin’ crutch
perfection, is that asking too much?
that’s all I ask, is that too much?

I don’t give a shit if you think I’m a jerk
just get the fuck out and make it work!

fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck

we’ve never failed, how can this be?
am I losing my touch, is it me?

we’ve all worked so hard
to push this thing through
of course, no one more than you
(Staff members grumble as they walk away from the meeting room)

the man has no clue…

this plan is insane…

We said this might happen, there’s no one to blame

Working like dogs, and still he wants more

24/7, but who’s keeping score?

we’re getting close, we’re so damn close
if only these fools would act like pros…

you know that your illness, it’s starting to show
when are you gonna tell them? they have to know

ask me, I’d say that man is not well
and it’s not just in his head – his face looks like hell

so maybe he’s tired? Well, we’re tired too!

what does he care? We either die or we do

I have another operation today
can you help me, can you stay?
You are the rock, and you are the glue
do what you can, I trust only you

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
This number developed during a period discovering the soulful, dark tones of Hozier’s music on his eponymous debut album. The electric guitar work employs slack-string tuning to add to the heavy feel.
[expand title=”Regret” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Leo is alone with his thoughts. A flat-picked guitar improvisation begins.
Leo slowly gets up, goes to examine a white board. He starts to scribble energetically at the board.
Meanwhile, low lights go up elsewhere on stage, where Leonardo walks into an office area and sits at his drafting table, working in the background while Leo sings. Technical diagrams that Leonardo is reviewing begin to display on the screen in the background. Mixed in with CAD renderings and circuit board diagrams are drawings from Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebook pages. Leonardo draws doodles and faces in the margins.

[expand title=”Deadly Sins of a Modern Man” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
As the song intro begins and the music picks up, Leo backs away to reveal his notes on the whiteboard to the audience as he starts to sing. He continues to draw arrows and circles to emphasize. On the board is a humorous calculation, something like: 100% perfection/flaws = 80% | I really try -> +10% = 90% | angels:demons = 10:2

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]

okay, so I’m not perfect
but you know I really try
yes, I have my demons
does that come as a surprise?

as a child I had religion
and we learned about the sins
at eleven I learned the seven
and ignored them ever since

lust and greed, sloth and envy
what do they mean to me?
I like my food and wine
but I’m no fool for gluttony

lately though I’m thinking of
a few they might have missed
like addiction, or distraction
or this gift for violence

lack of faith — well, that’s the eighth sin
that our science might replace
but we could be wrong, and so I have
these conversations just in case

Oh, I wanna know – Why?

pride and wrath? pride and wrath
well, you might just have me there
the first one I can manage, but
the second’s another affair

six sins out of seven
From all these I can abstain
but forgive me, it’s my anger
all this anger that remains

oh it’s the ugly unexpected turn
the sucker punch in life
the blow out of the blue
that’s the thing that I despise

and it seems to fuel this temper of mine
that follows me like a curse
the fight against a random fate
that seems to make it worse

it doesn’t matter who you are
what you’ve said or done
how many sins you’ve beaten back
how many wars you’ve won

monks and kings and paupers
say, I’ll take the straightest line
only to see their fortunes
always turning on a dime

some might say there’s nothing out there
no God to hear my plea
still I have these conversations
where I’m asking, why? why me?

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
This tune is influenced by the rugged rhythmic guitar work of Bert Jansch on songs like Poison, with a bit of Ian Anderson (Mother Goose) thrown in. During the period of developing the song, my guitar guru Flynn Cohen was encouraging exploration of odd time signatures and “crooked” timing on songs like the wonderful “Traveling Case”. That suggestion seems to have emerged in this song that maintains an unusual 6/4 – 3/4 – 5/4 cycle during the verses, which adds to a sense of tension throughout — appropriate for a song about the anger-and-denial stage of an illness.
[expand title=”Transition/All We Imagine” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
A brief flute interlude plays during the scene change. The screen displays a mandala-like image of the face of the Kaleidoscope device as a work in progress, as the employees at their workbench labor to assemble it and get it working. It looks like a scene in a hospital operating room. Meanwhile Leonardo continues to work at his workstation, with lighting indicating a shift into night and then to morning, as music transitions.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
if all we imagine
could always be
as easy and free
as one two three

ideas come
and ideas go-oh

if all we imagine
could always be
as easy and free
as one two three

ideas come
and ideas go
the work, it goes
so slow

ideas come
and ideas go
the work, it goes
so slow

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
The four-part flute music used in the interludes between scenes was composed by Danish flutist, my sister, Chris Poole. In the second act, you’ll find the same melody transformed from this 4/4 rendition into a 6/8 dance rhythm.

Scene 2: The hospital, the next day

[expand title=”Here with You” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Leo is lying in a hospital bed, after surgery. Leo’s family — Gen and Lucy — are by his side. They sing an edgy lullaby.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
time is a riddle, the past a dream
tomorrow’s never the wish it seemed
summer flies like a fickle friend
winter waits around the bend
now’s the time that’s always true
all together, here with you

there you are, how do you feel?
it all went well, and look – they brought a meal

wait, why are you here? we have to go!
what time is it now? when is the show?
did you finally nail down the demo?

demo? what demo? oh, now I see
you’re confused, but look! it’s really just me
and here’s someone else that you might want to see…

hi there, Dad, remember me?
is this the only way we can be
all together, one two three?

oh, thanks for coming, thank you dear
you know I love to see you here
but right now can you help me up?
where are my shoes? can you take this cup?

oh great, that’s it, and now you’re done?
I shoulda known, why did I come?

you know you have to take it slow
you really have to let it go

you always say now’s the time
this living for the moment’s fine
but tomorrow I have a lot on the line

back in tomorrow? are you insane?
you can hardly move, you’re wracked with pain
once again, I have nothing to say
good, maybe we can keep it that way

do what you want, you always do
if only my words meant something to you
but the doctor – he has some things to say
then you can be on your merry way

sorry but we’re under the gun
it’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done
there it is, there we go
isn’t it always the biggest show?
don’t have to tell me, you know
I understood that long ago

time is a riddle, the past a dream
tomorrow’s never the wish it seemed
summer fades like a fickle friend
and so our song comes to it’s end
[expandsub2 title=”liner notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
This song was developed during a period of listening to the fine guitar finger work of the late great John Renbourn, around the time of his passing in 2015. To handle the conversation among characters following the lullaby introduction, each character sings in their own key, and the music moves between them with a simple major-minor chord shift.
[expand title=”Under the Blade” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
The doctor enters to work with Leo on his treatment. The radiological images that the doctor puts on the light box during the scene resemble Leonardo Da Vinci’s anatomical studies. Meanwhile Leonardo is still working at his drafting table in the background, producing the anatomical studies. During the song, he starts erasing marks, ink spatters, and flaws in his anatomical drawings. The spatters keep appearing. He can’t keep up — erasing, tearing.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
glad to see that you’ve come around
I’m also glad you’re sitting down
this news I have might be hard to hear
but I must make it crystal clear
what we found is what we feared
I’m afraid it’s what we feared

thought that all my battles would be
out in this wide world in front of me
but now this second front within
this war we wage now under the skin
this is the one that we have to win
we have to win this war

oh body of mine
always there for me
how can you turn
so suddenly?

under the blade now
what can I do
oh body of mine
be faithful, be true
be true

tell me now how these cells so small
can stay one step ahead of us all?
and tell me now what it means for me?
when will it end, this tyranny
of hope and pain and uncertainty?
uncertainty, oh-whoa

it could be months, it could be years
its time to think now about your affairs
there’s another trial that we can try
a host of drugs that we can buy
no guarantees, I cannot lie
I cannot lie

But you must also do your part
you need to take this all to heart
you can’t go on with so much stress
more time at home, you have to rest
and in the meantime I can run
just one more test

tests and scans and drugs and trials
needles and drips and pills and vials, so vile
dragging me through an endless haze
a blind and battered rat in a maze
a weary man who’s counting days
he’s counting days, oh-whoa

who would have thought
this could happen to me
so much to do, still to see

now it’s life on the edge
the edge of a blade
oh body of mine
don’t leave me betrayed
don’t leave me betrayed

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
This song developed while exploring the bluesy guitar work of Stephen Stills, having just discovered a great album of raw demo recordings from 1968, Just Roll Tape. I’m playing with modes here — the Dm Dorian mode of the verse includes a slight inflection of Dm Phrygian, which aids in the transition to Gm for the in-between sections. I tuned the guitar down a whole step to deepen the feel.
[expand title=”Flying/Falling” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Leonardo, still at his drafting table, is leaning back, taking a break, staring out his window and daydreaming. A low droning chant begins in the background. Dreamy aerial images waft onto the screen, mixed with drawings and studies of bird wings and the spinning sky that indicates passage from night to day. Lights rise on Leo the next morning in his hospital room, dressed and preparing to leave.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
I dreamed that dream again last night
the one I’ve had so many times
landscapes drifting all around
I’m floating through the skies

then the dream betrays me
so high above it all
just before I wake
I spin into a fall

it’s the wing that’s built of time and faith
that rests so easily on the air
the wings we build of string and wax
strap them loosely to our backs
can only fail
and plunge us into fear

it’s the thin, persistent edge of strife
that cuts a path, like the blade of a knife
between the churning earth below
and the floating, fortunate life
[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
This song takes a detour from Neil Young’s Helpless chord sequence, by way of K.D. Lang’s more recent cover. While employing Dropped-D tuning on the song, I was pleased to discover numerous droning Buddhist chant recordings also centered on D, which I used in the background. (Have the monks discovered that D is the tone at the heart of the universe?)
[expand title=”Transition/Finishing” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
A brief flute interlude plays during the scene change. The screen displays the face of the Kaleidoscope device as the work progresses. The final pieces and software fall into place, and the device lights up and spins alive.


Scene 3: Back at the trade show, the next day

[expand title=”Fanboys/If They Only Knew” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Fans and tech journalists – MAN, WOMAN, YOUNG WOMAN –chat excitedly among themselves, reviewing technical specs for the new product, displayed on their devices and the screen at back.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
mega giga tera exa
deci centi milli micro
mega giga tera exa
deci centi nano pico

this data sheet’s amazing
or, too amazing to believe…

he might be a magician

right, with something up his sleeve…

the thing weighs just 2 ounces

that’s slightly under 60 grams

you can clip it to your collar

you can hide it in your hand

the display has 4k lumens

that’s enough to light a room

with 30 cores of processing!

well that’ll make it zoom
mega giga tera exa
deci centi milli micro
mega giga tera exa
deci centi nano pico

I hear the demo is ready to go
at least for now, that’s what they say
the demo should work — the product itself?
that could be years away

how does the network subdivide?

where’d you fit that nano drive?

does it really respond to thought commands?

why’d you go with ultraband?

is there interference in a crowd?

can I assume it’ll backup to the private cloud?

it’ll all be clear, be sure to stay
and catch the demo here today

so close, so close, can you feel it now?
so much longing, so much desire
a few steps away, you make your play
this flame becomes a fire

the display is made of diamond glass
how will you pay for that?

how’d you fit these chips
into a circle so damn flat?

if the unit lasts forever
will the warranty as well?

can I roll my contract over
or combine it with my cell?

can we touch it? can we see it?
can we try it? can we try?
can we play? when can we see it?
when’s the release? when can we buy?

like I said, don’t miss the show
it’s about to start, now we have to go
that’s all for now, we have to go!

so close now, can you feel the love?
all these people, friends and colleagues too
is there anything better than this?
any better you could do?

I’m not so sure how I really feel.
if we do this thing, can we make it real?

that’s anybody’s guess, but now
if you take that stage
and sell them all this bill of goods
it’ll be all the rage

it’s everything you’ve worked for
it’s everything you’ve dreamed
it’s everything you wanted
all stitched together at the seams
mega giga tera exa
deci centi milli micro
mega giga tera exa
deci centi nano pico

Hung by a thread, all this that we made
if they only knew how thin the blade
so the saying goes, careful what you wish
all I ever wanted was to fly
so how did it come to this?

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
While searching for the driving, energetic guitar playing of an English Beat song, I thought I would also experiment with an added layer of percussive guitar sounds. You’ll hear me in the background tapping and hitting harmonics all over the neck of the electric guitar.
[expand title=”All Together Alone” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Low lighting rises slowly on the trade show main stage from scene 1, as the cast begins to assemble during the song, setting up for the demo. Leo pauses at the edge of the stage, clearly exhausted and in pain. He holds a hand to his chest.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
the world seems to want
this thing that I’ve got
or thought I might have
if the world really wants
this thing that I’ve got
who am I to stand down?

so many fans here
so many friends there
friends that I thought I might have
if they all want
this thing that I’ve got
who am I to hold back?

this thing that I’ve got
is this what I wanted?
thought that I wanted
might have once wanted
waited so long
it’s taken so long
I’m not so sure anymore

how did I get
all the way out here?
with this high wire ahead
where does it lead to?
why can’t I see?
I can’t see the other side

is there anyone
anywhere out there
to help me now?
is it all on me?
why is it me?
right here
altogether alone

but I know there’s a family
that waits for me, so patiently
why can’t they see?
all that I’ve done? how far that I’ve run?
just one more step and then they will see
it’s what I’m born to be

now the world needs to know
they all need to see
it’s time for the show
and now they will know
what I already know
their love will…just…grow?

so many others
so many like me
who’ve fought this fight
alone, but all here
we’re all here
all together and alone

yes, we can do this
I can do this
right here
all together, alone

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
There’s nothing like the Dorian mode with open strings on guitar to evoke the 70s! While working with A-drone chords, I discovered that by raising the 5th string to a B, I could achieve a similar drone effect here in Bm, with ambiguous 5 chords and SUS chords everywhere.
[expand title=”Meltdown” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Music kicks into the rock groove from “It’s Coming”. Visuals of the Kaleidoscope product waft through the screen at the back. Meanwhile, a silhouetted image of some creature with massive wings starts to grow and gradually crowd out the Kaleidoscope images during the course of the scene.
During the introductory part of the song, Leo attempts to perform another magic trick to produce the device into his hand, but fumbles it, just catching the device before it drops to the ground.
Leo swoons. The staff watches with anticipation. Leo lifts his hand from his chest to reveal that he’s bleeding profusely. Reactions of confusion.

Leo collapses. Music winds down. Shock and confusion as the staff rush to his aide. Leonardo looks on at Leo with pity. Fade to black.
[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
beads and baubles
and mirrors and hope
the world is just
a kaleidoscope

welcome back folks
my thanks to you all
for joining us here
again in this hall

yes, it’s true that
This product you see
it’s all we imagine
it’ll turn out to be

and yes, we believe
there’s great potential
but the truth is it’s not
much more than a demo

there’s a much bigger thanks
that I now need to share
with this amazing team
this team right here

they stuck through it all
but there’s much more to do
and I know that they will
see this thing through

its all in their hands now
nothing this team lacks
but now, my friends
I need to step back

I need to step back
and assess all of this
to work with my family
to work on my health

maybe with time
I’ll return to the helm
but right now it’s time
for me to go home

my thanks to you all
but I need to go home

Act II

[expand title=”Prelude II” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]


Scene 1: At home, months later

[expand title=”Here with You (Reprise)” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Gen and Lucy are with Leo at his bedside. They sing a sweeter version of the broken lullaby of Act I, as Leo begins to wake.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
time is short, the past a dream
tomorrow’s never the wish it seemed
summer flies like a fickle friend
winter waits around the bend
now’s the time that’s always true
all together, here with you

there you are, how do you feel?
you slept so well, we brought a meal
but meanwhile guess who’s home for a while?

hi there Dad, it’s Mom and me
now we really get to be
all together one two three

thanks for everything, thank you dear
I’m so glad to be right here
and now can you help me up?
and I might need a straw for this cup

time is short, the past a dream
tomorrow’s never the wish it seemed
summer flies like a fickle friend
winter waits around the bend
now’s the time that’s always true
all together, here with you
[expand title=”Awake” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Music transitions, as Leo turns to sit on the edge of his bed.

Lights up on Leonardo at his drafting table, reviewing works in progress: portraits and pastoral landscapes.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
as a child I would wake
with the sun streaming in
and watch the dust float in the beam
with hardly a care
I’d linger and stare
and wander inside a daydream

like a babe in a crib now
it all seems so rich
like a blind man who suddenly sees
the back of my hand
the bend of my wrist
what fine miracles are these?

awake, awake,
I feel so awake
how long have I been away?
deep, deep
a feeling so deep
how long have I been asleep?

now the light’s moved
all the way ‘cross my room
I’ve come to the end of my day
tho’ dreams may descend
when this evening will end
it seems there’s some time left to play

but the game I begin now
I’m not meant to win
it’s the one where the rules are not made
with the dice that I roll
the two sides of my soul
and the cards that I’ve already played

awake, awake,
I feel so awake
how long have I been away?
deep, deep
a feeling so deep
how long have I been asleep?

now I know why
behind the blue sky
there’s the darkness of space bleeding through
but I tell you my dears
I have no more fear
there’s beauty and everything’s new

the soil of the woods
might wait for my ashes
the white sun might wait for my soul
but this moment calls for
a new kind of passion
the hard work of making me whole

there’s a river I fished
all the years of my youth
it’s so bright and so clear in my mind
now I need to go there
and breathe the clean air
and who knows what I might find

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
Some bands immediately evoke the sound of the outdoors for me, and Lord Huron is one of them. Looking to set off Act II on a more pastoral tone, I developed this song about mid-life awakenings while listening to Lord Huron’s Lonesome Dreams album, and particularly the song Ghost on the Shore.
[expand title=”Daddy-Daughter Dance” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Lights up on Lucy in her childhood room, examining all her old knick-knacks. She winds an old clock, and we hear it ticking, leading into her song. Photos of Lucy and her Dad from her childhood play on the screen.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
step to the back
then spin to the right
I remember
our awkward waltz that night
white paper moons
and heart shaped balloons
at the daddy-daughter dance

On the hook of your arm
I was caught by surprise
by the flinty glint in your eyes
spinning, drifting, floating on the tides
I wanted to stay
I wanted to run
My own little life
barely begun
spinning at the daddy-daughter dance

then at the end
you let me go
with the same gentle hands
I once saw by the stream
releasing your trout
as we watched it glide out
swimming away so calm and so free

later at home
I hang up my dress
And breathe into
a new happiness
‘cause now I know
there’re waters that flow
so much warmer below
deep down below
the cool surface

in the grace of your hands
I’m caught by surprise
by the mirror of me
deep in your eyes
trapped here by these
I wait for release to the tides
I want to stay
I want to run
my young life
barely begun
spinning in this daddy-daughter dance
drifting in this daddy-daughter dance

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
This tune developed very suddenly while toying around with Flynn Cohen’s wonderful flat-picked tune “The Visiters,” and at the same time thinking of the themes in Ane Brun’s song “Undertow.”
[expand title=”Transition/Dance 1″ tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
A brief flute interlude plays during the scene change, but now the musical theme has taken on a dance rhythm. The office scene shows a new atmosphere of easy comraderie. Leonardo, no longer isolated at his drafting table, interacts animatedly with his peers. The device, on screen, continues to gently spin and flash and whirl, but something like veins or vines or roots have begun to creep in around the edges.


Scene 2: Back in the hospital, months later

[expand title=”Unfinished” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Leo is lying in his hospital bed, tubes in his arm, chest. Another operation, another recovery. He’s had setbacks. Leonardo is still at work at his drafting table. They begin a duet. A montage of images gradually emerges on the screen at the back, mixing images from Leonardo’s body of work with images of modern technologies and constructions.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
always a million things on my mind
so much done, still more to do
emptied, filling, still I find
the old and new

did we find our wings?
ride the winds?
did we get it right?
or did our crude machine
fall between
the rough draft and free flight?

will the masterpiece
painting last
pleasing every eye?
or will the marks we made
start to fade
when the plaster’s dry?

always, ever
hope and yearning
loss and learning
time and turning
wish and dream
forever stirring
empty, full

if I change this gear
place it here
I know this can fly
oh, but these schemes I hatch
will never match
the glory of the sky

and every blessed face
I contemplate
holds another key
and as my hand explores
another door
opens up to me

spinning whirling
winding turning
gears and springs
forever churning
time ticks on
but if I try
maybe I
will finish

did we build it high
touch the sky
sturdy, straight and strong?
is it a source of awe
or with its flaws
a target of scorn?

is the battle won?
victory song?
did we take the hill?
or did we just bait
foes in wait
to move in for the kill?

I’m just a man
and so I stand
level with the ground
but still my mind does soar
to take in store
the wonders I have found

there’s a better way
to seize this day
I know it can be
and so I slow my mind
to move in rhyme
with seasons and the sea

always, ever
hope and yearning
brook and stream
forever churning
sun and stars
forever turning

moon and tides
earth and skies
you and I

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
Not sure where this one came from, but probably a channeling of my experiences with Paul Simon’s finger styles, or more recently, John Renbourn’s and Bert Jansch’s.
[expand title=”Body Betrayal” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Leo’s glaring hospital room lighting resumes. The doctor enters.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
Glad to see you’re once again awake
Oh, and I see that you’ve had some cake
and some of our finest ginger ale
guess that means you’re feeling well
pulse is good, you’re not so the pale

so many visits, you might just think
that I return for the food and drink
as if this place were some fine hotel
rather than a prison cell
or some circle of hell

body gone bad
how can this be?
these rebel cells
takin’ over me

body betrayal
you’d never know
we used to be one
body and soul

there is good news, at least in part
we took the tumor from your heart
that should help to relieve some pain
now if we can just clear the brain
we’re on to phase 1 trial again

another month, another mile
another test, another trial
and still it seems this jury’s out
sentence, verdict, both in doubt
and no conviction we can tout

I know it’s only a matter of time
these cold machines, these plastic vines
will grip and grow and and trap me here
and this body, that was once so dear
will dissolve in this jungle of fears

now it’s time to cut me loose
enough of treatments, trials, and tubes
this special pain I feel, I’m sure
these other things that need repair
no blade can reach, no drug can cure

Oh body of mine
what can I do?
we had our run
and now we’re through

now I turn to the light
that might just be
forever alive
inside of me

[expand title=”Acceptance” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
During a brief instrumental interlude, the screen displays the passage of night, with turning stars, a big yellow moon in the middle.

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
“Blue blue windows behind the stars…”
[expand title=”Flying Free” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Lights up on Leo, the next morning, dressed and preparing to leave the hospital. He stands looking out the window.

Leonardo, at his drafting table, is now leaning back, staring out his window, daydreaming. The screen displays his view: the beauty of the outdoors on the cusp of spring, newly returned birds flitting here and there. During the song, fellow workers interact and mingle, in and out of Leonardo’s space. They discuss the project at hand animatedly, and pantomime joking, laughing. As the song progresses, they interact in ever more precise choreographed movements, pulling Leonardo in.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
my mind returns to those blessed birds
survivors of the dinosaur’s demise
they coax their flight straight from the air
and write their stories in the skies

how is it that they meet the winds
without machines or medicines
but through the striving of their limbs
in time they find their wings

free to fly, free to roam
they sing and soar, preen and prune
they feel all nature to the bone
at one with sun and moon

they live and die a natural death
complete a circle rich with love
share a seed and pass it on
and maybe that’s enough

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
This song is a reprise of the “Flying/Falling” tune, but recast in a brighter tone, with major chords and upbeat finger-style guitar work.
[expand title=”Transition/Dance 2″ tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
A brief, flute interlude plays during the scene change. The dance theme is more pronounced, and the office workers break into a full scale renaissance-style dance number. The device on screen is gradually becoming infused with veins, vines, roots.


Scene 3: Back at home, weeks later

[expand title=”If We Could Go On” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Lights up on Gen standing alone in a single spotlight. As Gen sings the first verses of the song and the chorus, light slowly rises on Leo in his wheelchair, looking through bookshelves in the next room. Leo and Gen perform the remainder of the song as a fractured duet. They sing privately in separate rooms, moving ever closer, a thin wall between them.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
love of mine
we thought we had time
lulled and complacent
isn’t that the way?

now I just can’t recall
how it was that we’d fall
into secrets and silence
while love stole away

was it something we heard?
this wound, or that word?
What seemed so important
it’s nothing today

should we laugh or just cry
over half-truths and lies?
now the joke is on us for
the games that we play

and now that it’s ending
I just have to say

if we could go on
would we rewrite the rules
so there’s no way to cheat
no way to be cruel?
would we make a new game
we both can begin
no longer a contest of
whose dreams will win?

would we make a new game
would we make a new song
if we could go on?
if we could go on

love of mine
there’s no need to remind
me of all that we made all
those good years ago

standing together
in all kinds of weather
like horses that pull
side by side, row by row

the yoke was so light
then, the season so bright
the soil was so rich
in the wake of our hoe

now I just can’t recall
when we started to drift
in different directions
‘til nothing could grow
but now that it’s ending
I just have to know

if we could go on
in the forgiveness of spring
are there seeds we would sow?
are there bulbs we would bring?

would we make a new bed
rich with blood meal and lime
parsley and sage and
rosemary and thyme?

would we start a new garden
would we make a new song
if we could go on?

should I wail at the skies?
rail against fate?

tell you all this?
admit my mistake?

break through these walls?
or is it too late?

oh love of mine
you know that in time
I’ll heal, I’ll be humbled
and yet I’ll be strong

but with each passing day
I wish I could say
that the feeling will fade
but it won’t be long
till the things that I’ll miss
like the taste of your kiss
will hunt me and haunt me
for all that’s gone wrong

the small of your back
the curve of your cheek

your warm breathing shape
in our landscape of sheets
the touch of your hand
when I’m reading my book

the smile that blossoms
with one single look

if we could go on
if we could go on

those things that you wanted
I’d do them your way

that thing that I’m thinking
I’d actually say

I’d fuss and I’d fight
and I’d find us a way
if only we could go on

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
This song plays heavily with major-minor chord substitutions, which I thought matched the ambiguous longing of the theme, but with a shift from Am into D major bringing a wishful lift to the chorus.
[expand title=”Nine Afterlives” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
A slow meandering instrumental improvisation begins. The screen at the back comes alive with swirls of mandalas. The improvisation winds down as the song kicks in. Fade up on Leo in his wheelchair, surrounded by books. He’s been reading.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
hallelujah, hoshiana
hare krishna hare rama
namo siddhanam
tathāstu, amin and amen

cats get all of nine lives in this world
and it seems that I just get the one
perhaps in the next
they’ll give me the rest
for all the hard work that I’ve done

and from what I’ve seen right here on this earth
should be at least nine different heavens
there’s shinto and buddhist
muslim and jewish
tao, sikh and hindu makes seven

then christian and jain makes a full nine
and you know there are so many more
so let’s say they’re all true
and I get to flip through
once I get past the heavenly doors

hare krishna hare rama
tathāstu, amin and amen

or maybe you just get to take your pick
in a manner to match the life lived
so when foodies succumb
they get to pick from
a menu that’s totally hip

or reality stars who arrive in white cars
get to dress up their death to the teeth
they choose a dream coat
that they want to promote
while the naked truth lies underneath

literature isn’t much help in this matter
there’s not a lot there you can use
cause most writers know
while they wait for godot
they’re mostly obsessed with their muse

hare krishna hare rama
tathāstu, amin and amen

now the multiverse comes in nine different types
in the theories of particle physics
but I sure can’t divine
why they stop at just nine
it’s a number that’s oddly specific

there’s cyclic and brant, quantum and quilt
the holographic one sounds the best
maybe death plays a role
like a hinging black hole
from one universe to the next

but if I must pick just one afterlife
I’d choose one that offers rebirth
cause I tell you my friend
I’d do it again
I’m still so in love with this earth

lord send me back here
as soon as you can
cause I’m still so in love with this earth

tathāstu, amin and amen

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
This tune – with its multicultural references in the lyrics – attempts a mingling of spiritual musical styles from Indian classical, middle eastern, and Judeo-Christian traditions – topped off, of all things, with a bit of a celtic jig rhythm during the verses! The guitar employs DADGAD tuning, which, according to legend, was developed and later popularized by British folk guitarist Davey Graham upon hearing an oud player in Morocco.
[expand title=”When We Started” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
As the previous song ends, we hear the low roll of thunder in the distance. The screen at back transitions to images of storm clouds mixed with Leonardo’s deluge drawings.
Leonardo’s voice rings out of the darkness nearbyand he begins the introduction to the next song, followed by Leo, joining in a duet. Leonardo walks out of the black as lights come up and Leonardo takes Leo’s side at his wheelchair.
During the song, Leonardo takes Leo on a fun journey in his wheelchair, rolls him out beyond the walls of the scene at home, merging with the imagery from the screen at back, spinning, turning, as they sing in harmony. Leonardo stops at one point and lifts Leo out of his chair. Leo proceeds to move and sing as if he were in perfect health.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
how long have we been at this game?
now it seems like centuries
seizing the day and making our way
through this carnival of dreams

and what we dreamed, we made it so
with our wits, our work, and our spine
the rides, the lights, the dips, the heights
raised up for all to climb 

but we were the ones out running the show
so how did we do, and how did we go
from there to here?
it was all so clear
it was a labor of love
when we started, when we started

what about all of those we enticed
and brought along for the ride?
lost and found on the merry go round
were they thrilled, were they all satisfied?

turning so fast, the ride could get rough
back and forth and up and down
everyone reaching to grab the brass ring
every time the turn came around

we buy our ticket, we see it through
what more can one person do?
it’s hard to be bitter
when you consider
it was nothing but a notion
when we started
when we started

chasing each other
through the years
a million reflections
in funhouse mirrors
running through flames
jumping through rings
racing through

remember the way we drank in the day
back then when we were young?
a rainbow was a rainbow
the sun was just the sun

the colors so bright in that brittle light
all yellows, blues and greens
long before our days indoors
with dark and dull machines

the glitter of the graceful river
the flash of jumping fish
fireflies in the purple dusk
a star to make a wish

we made our wish, we did our best
those who follow will do the rest
I’m done with regret
but I’ll never forget
the way it was
when we started
when we started

wasn’t it so beautiful?
it was so damn beautiful
it was all so beautiful
when we started

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
This song is meant to be an anthem of stubborn pride in the long ambitious journey of a career, despite regret and loss. I was looking for something anthemic, like the Lord Huron song Brother, and settled on a big bold mingling of various parallel modes on G (G major, G minor, G mixolydian, including a track in open G tuning), which to me has always seemed like the grandest chord/key on guitar.
[expand title=”When We Started Coda” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Leonardo seems to evaporate into the darkness. Leo sinks back into his wheelchair, back in his home, and the atmosphere returns to the ordinary.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
and when the summer storms would come
we’d run out in the rain
lightning and thunder were a thrill
the downpour was a friend
now it seems the thunderclouds
are gathering again
let it come
I might just go and run
and let it wash away the pain

[expand title=”Transition/Seeds” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
The workers continue their celebration of the coming spring, expanding beyond the office space, pantomiming the act of sowing seeds. On screen, seasons and stars continue to turn. The device at center – now completely fused with growth of vines, veins, roots – now resembles a flower.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
if all we engender
could always be
as tasty and tender
as fruit off the tree

seeds are so easy
to reap and to sow
it’s labor and love
makes them grow

seeds are so easy
to reap and to sow
it’s labor and love
makes them grow


Scene 4: At home, weeks later

[expand title=”Every One” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Leo’s illness has advanced to late stage. Gen is settled in, spending some minutes with him in his wheelchair. They sit looking over old photos and photo albums. Lucy reads, under the headphones, in a chair nearby.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
I used to feel so all alone
but now I think it may well be
that all our loves are never lost
alive right now in you and me

these faces found across the years
they shine like jewels in memory
reflected now, so bright and clear
no greater gift in life than these
no greater gift than these

every window on my world
from the first breath to the last
mother, father, sister, brother
present now or passed
line of love above the years
with me now so close, so dear
with me now
every one

some will say it’s chemistry
that makes us do the things we do
I know that it’s my heart and soul
that sends these smiles to you

when the heart is strong and true
and the feeling is sublime
every hug’s a hint of heaven
and every kiss a stitch in time
stitching rips in time

every wonder of my world
from the first love to the last
friends and lovers, with all the others
in the present and the past
bonds that cannot be undone
line of love above the sun
with me now
every one

stay with me now, don’t turn away
our time is short and the world is wide
you know my soul, and I know yours
and there’s nothing left to hide

we already know
what we might say
there’s no need now for platitudes

I’ll say just this, that you gave me life
and all I have is gratitude

our scientists search for a missing piece
some dark mysterious matter
I say that it’s our deepest loves
that hold the universe together

and now I know I’m not alone
cause every love comes down to you
so now let’s add just one more stitch
one more time, just we two

one more time
oh, one more time
one more time, just we two
me and you

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
The structure of this song developed while attempting to play the Nic Jones’ cover of “Humpback Whale” utilizing A-drone chords. The guitar rhythm is basically stolen from Cat Stevens’ “Wild World,” with an identical tempo.
[expand title=”Outside” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
A gentle kiss, as the previous song ends. Lucy emerges from her reading, joins them, as the next song begins. During the first verse, they wheel him outside for a brief jaunt in his wheelchair. The screen projects the beauty of early spring beginning all around.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
let’s go outside
outside in the air
been too long in this cave
of worry and care

let’s go outside
outside in the air

been too long in this cave
of worry and care


let’s go play
play in the sand
like we did years ago
I’ll hold your big hand

the kaleidoscope
it’s there in your eyes
it was always right there
there in your eyes

let’s go down
down by the stream
and launch a boat
a boat full of dreams

we’ll let it float down
all the way down
we’ll catch it around
just around the next bend

we’ll bring it back here
and we’ll do it again

we’ll come back here
and we’ll do it all again

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
Here’s a reprise of the tune from “Daddy Daughter Dance,” with a very different pacing and feel.

Scene 5: Deathbed

[expand title=”Facing the Sea” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
Leo goes quiet — he is dying. The entire cast approaches gently, singing an atmospheric lullaby in soothing four-part harmony as they wheel him over to his bed, lift him in, and make him comfortable. 

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
facing the sea
I see

facing the sea
I see

between the sky and sea
there is no boundary

it calls me

the sky and sea

the salt tides within me

there is no why
salt sea and sky
and me
[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
The gorgeous flute music at the foundation of this song, originally titled “Lady from the Sea,” was written by Chris Poole for a production of the Ibsen play of the same name at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, San Francisco. The music was voted Best Dramatic Score of the year by the Bay Area Critic’s Circle. The sounds you hear behind the voices were all created with nothing but concert flute, alto flute, and the breath.
[expand title=”Prism’s Edge/Solace” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
As the previous song ends, the screen projects gathering clouds to the sound of rising winds. The cast moves off stage as the storm breaks, and Leonardo Da Vinci’s sketch (from the deluge series) of pots and pans falling from the sky is projected along with images of consumer devices raining down.
Transition into a sound experiment over a bed of atmospheric flute music. The visuals on screen match the aural experimentation, in a mingling of flashbacks of sound and images from the past five decades – the fever dream of a generation. The screen resolves to pure white at the end, then fades to an image of the calm spring morning, with a light spring rain.

[expandsub2 title=”Liner Notes” rel=”extras-highlander”]
The flute music and chant underscoring this piece are based on Chris Poole’s life-long fascination with the technique of harmonic singing, perfected by monks in places like Tibet and Eastern Europe, that allows the individual voice to create several tones at the same time.
[expand title=”Start Again” tag=”b” rel=”songs-highlander”]
The cast re-emerges and assembles center stage – Gen and Lucy front and center – and sing a reprise of the tune from “When We Started”.

[expandsub2 title=”Lyrics” rel=”extras-highlander”]
how long have we battled on?
now it seems like centuries
the stress and the strain
the hurt and the pain
will fade to memories

here we remain washed by rain
the ground around our feet
wet and alive, as hope now revives
in time to embrace a new dream

and what we dream, we will make it so
with wisdom and work we’ll make it grow
the sun draws near
the skies will clear
together we will
start again

the wind of your legacy
strong at our backs
together we’ll all
start again

During audience exit: Proof of Love by Paul Simon