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Words and Music

November 9, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

Words and Music
Ronald Roy  -November 9, 2011

I was about 3 when I started tracing, with one finger on mom’s keyboard, melodies coming from her record player. Pretty soon, I would be doing the bass notes with the finger of my left hand. Two fingers; that’s how my self-instruction in piano playing started.

By age 10, my fingers learned to produce simple melodic lines patterned after symphony excerpts, opera arias, sonatas, etc. But my passion for music somewhat waned as my infatuation with water colors, paints, crayons and pencils blossomed at six. At 11, I was described by Kislap Magazine as a child prodigy.

At 12, I commenced prying into the wonders of literature and poetry, while escalating my skills as a pool shark in Manila’s disreputable recreational halls. At 16, Boy Rodriguez, my nom de guerre— a tag I chose to protect the respectable name of my father, Congressmen Jose J. Roy— was the country’s best in the 15-ball rotation format. But that’s another story.

As I write this piece today, November 8, I am extremely depressed by some people’s warped penchant for scandalous stories about sordid tragedies that have befallen high-profile show-biz families. Through this space, I’d rather scale the musical stairway for a heavenly dose of tranquilizers.

To some, music means ballroom dancing. To others it is an aphrodisiac, a bugler’s call to attack, or a nostalgic flashback to a first dance. To Longfellow, it was the universal language of mankind.

But to Supreme Court Justice Renato Corona, who a few years ago had riled the bashers of the LYING Pgma because of his perceived closeness to the same LYING Pgma, the Lettermen’s genre of pop music must have been sheer trauma at the Araneta Coliseum.

Seated on the same orchestra row with a two-meter-wide aisle separating us, the Justice impressed me as a friendly gentleman, as he nodded and smiled whenever our eyes met.  Then, after a musical number, came the booming baritone of a Letterman: “Thank you! Boy, are we enjoying ourselves in Manila, your happy faces, warm hospitality, and oh—your delicious, tangy coconut-flavored dish called… (pause)… LAENG!!!

I thought the big dome might implode amidst the deafening roars. Then, as if from nowhere, four swirling spotlights froze on Mr. Corona, and suddenly his congeniality was gone, his face buried in his chest and hands. The poor man somehow managed to slip out unnoticed before the show ended.

A song is a marriage between words and music, and it is a good song if its spouses are compatible. Thus, it is a doomed match between a happy tune and a sad lyric which, e.g., laments a departed relative during burial rites.

My piano keyboard compositions almost invariably spring from an emotional state called a mood, not an inspiration. An inspiration, which is more cerebral, is fictional, like an imagined sunset, or real, like a drowsy baby, about whom I may be stimulated to compose a lullaby.

My usually romantic moods stir unrestrained sensations of love, usually in the vein of an intense excerpt, such as from the artistry of Niccolo Paganini or Sergei Rachmaninov. The music done, I shall then indulge in the mental task of solemnizing the marriage with an appropriate set of prosaic and poetic words.


I think it was in Los Angeles in 1988 when Anthony Castelo gave Becca Godinez one of my piano compositions. She liked it so much she wrote into it lyrics reflecting her emotional and mental state that preluded a divorce from her first husband, Morris Albert, the famed composer of “Feelings.”

During a recent reunion at the wake of her father Billy, Becca and I agreed to record a blend of her lyric and my music. She chose a catchy title, “So Soon”, for a ballad guaranteed to evoke Julie London’s cool rendition of “Cry Me a River”, or Diana Krall’s sultry drawls in her soulful hits. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that only Becca— that 24-karat WOW of a warbler— can do justice to “So Soon”.

A talent is a divine gift that is desecrated if not shared with others, and its reward comes when appreciated. Imagine the thrill of my life when Henry Mancini shook my hand after hearing Joselito Pascual’s keyboard interpretation of my work, “A Touch of Summer”.

The romantic melody won me a very special friendship with President Quezon’s daughter-in-law, Lulu Casas-Quezon. Probably it was also Bubby Dacer’s favorite, since he frequently hummed it the last time I saw him at Manila Hotel’s lobby lounge— which was around three days before he was abducted. But that’s another story.

The Lord used me when he created the following LawAsia Anthem in majestic three-quarter’s time.

Asia the realm of mystic charm / mankind and time her lores disarm / chosen hearth of the rising sun / each day hope beats anew Asians as one!

To think with one mind to feel with one heart / peoples of Asia aspire / fortunes abound in your waters and lands / LawAsia fights for your common weal!

To dream just one dream forever will break / barriers of color or creed / through law let us seek whether mighty or small / our fulfillment and justice for all / our fulfillment and justice for all!

We can’t conclude this column without singing a Jack the Ripper spoof to the melody of “Strangers in the Night”, a parody that drew guffaws from Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford, Joey Bishop and three others, to whom I sang the song a capella at the Waldorf Astoria in 1966.

Stranglers in the night exchanging glances / wondering in the night what were the chances / would they share a broad before the night is through!

Something in their eyes was very fright’ning / something in their smile was so beguiling / something in their stealth moved all the girls away!

*Stranglers in the night two schizophrenics / they were stranglers in the night then came a drunken lesbo / ambling down a road little did they know / heaven was a step away / just one eye-popping squeeze away!

Ever since that night they kept together / squeezing pretty necks their thing forever / it turned out all right / for stranglers in the night!

*Stranglers in the night two woman-haters / they were stranglers in the night then came the moment / when a laundress waddled by little did they know / that their prey would come to be a made-up wigged and high-heeled bobby!

Ever since that night they shared a cold cell / looking sad and tight until the blades fell / it turned out so bad for stranglers in the night!

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