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Quincy Jones -- letter to Quincy Jones from Dainis W. Michel


August 30, 2005
Quincy Jones Music Publishing
6671 Sunset Blvd. #1574A
Los Angeles, CA 90028

Dear Quincy Jones,

I'm a vanilla-flavored fella who went to Kenwood Academy in Chicago, played on the football team there, spoke Latvian to my mom and German to my dad, now living in Vienna, Austria, studying and teaching music composition. My father still lives on Drexel Avenue in Hyde Park, and the neighborhood kids call him Santa Claus. I've had snowballs filled with glass thrown at me, and at one football game, the chant from the opposing team (I think it was CVS, or it might have been Hyde Park) was "Get the white boy! Get the white boy!" They were probably talking about the quarterback, not me (I played center).

I've felt a significant distance from the racial problems in the US due to my upbringing as an exile Latvian. Latvians were being oppressed by the Russian soviets while I was growing up. Latvia was occupied by the Soviet Union. Contact with relatives was very difficult. There was racial hatred, ideological warfare, and everyone doing the hating and killing was white. So racism is racism, and skin color is one of the most superficial ways of qualifying our differences.

When I'd be somewhere as a token vanilla person, sometimes friends would say "he's not really white, he's Latvian," and frankly, one of the worst things about living in Europe is this sea of white people...but now that I've introduced myself a bit, I guess I'd better get to the main reason I'm writing. Oh, before I do, though, I can't believe you used to go to Drexel Wine and Liquor...we used to go to Gil's Liquors on 47th street with empty milk jugs, and they would fill them up with beer. Didn't matter if you were 14. Sometimes my friends would drive me through neighborhoods where I had to duck and hide, so that no one would see there were white people in the car.

Still, I was a white kid with two professors as parents basically following my heart. I wasn't about trouble. It was an adventure, but there was a line I never even came close to crossing. Actually, now that I think of it...I guess I did a bit of dancing on the line, but I'll save that discussion for another time.

I'd like to present myself to you as an artist and composer. I wrote a song about 2 years ago that might present some alternatives for the current war debate. The song is the result of deep meditation and prayer about the war and the fallen soldiers and civilians on both sides.

Words and Music © 2003 Dainis W. Michel

I had to, I had to go
they told me, they told me so
but only for a while
just for a while
to fight for
what they said was right
I had to go
go robbing souls

but what I died for
what I died for
what I died for
is to find another way

I lay my, my weapons down
my guilt is, my guilt is gone
the pain I've caused
the blood I've shed
is not squandered
and I
I know the way
'cuz I've, I've passed away
I've come to say

that what I died for
what I died for
what I died for
is to find another way

Dear Soldier, dear loyal soul
You have a, a right to know
You can choose to refuse
and not to win or lose
and all sides, across enemy lines
can trust their guiding light
and claim true power
the love that's in our souls

'cuz what I died for
what I died for
what I died for
is to find another way

The character(s) speaking in the song are fallen soldiers in the current terror-driven wars. Soldiers from both sides. During the piano solo, the song moves into a Latvian folk melody, which basically, as gracefully as I can...says goodbye to those who've fallen.

If you feel moved to listen to the song, it's available here: (Soldier/Another Way).

Note: The recording is as raw as things get. It's just me at the piano with a MiniDisk recorder. There's some clipping on the recording, as I couldn't find a mic placement that would prevent that (where my voice would still be heard), and the MiniDisk recorder didn't have an anti-clipping feature. The MP3 file chirps a bit due to the compression, and I'm open to finding different "feels" for the song.

I decided to make you aware of this song, regardless of its audio quality. In the rock-pop arena, this link shows what I sound like in a studio session (but these songs are from 7-8 years ago) I've grown from a singer-songwriter into a composer since then.

I might change the title of "Soldier" to "Another Way," as it might be helpful to come together and seek another way, a new alternative...something besides "pro-war" or "anti-war."

What could "another way" be? Would it be "pro-peace?" or "conflict resolution?" Is it possible that with heartfelt and sincere cooperation, a more effective alternative could crystallize that would allow both "sides" of the debate (and of the conflict) to set differences aside and work together for mutual benefit?

I am writing several new songs which I truly feel would interest you, and I'd be more than happy to set up a time to speak with you on the phone personally. My dream is to present myself as a composer and as a singer/songwriter at the same time: to put out powerful orchestral pieces, to continue my surround-sound compositions, to create composition competitions, and to truly access the power of communication through music.

I made the premiere performance of one of my surround-sound compositions available for you here: (DWM -- check link). It is written for 6 flutes surrounding the audience, it's a bit over 13 minutes long, it uses strict 12-tone rules, incorporates jazz, blues, and hip-hop elements, and has one exception per section -- it's also just a real "ride" for the audience -- ha, I never thought I'd even care about a 12-tone composition. I've made the piece a bit less shrill since the premiere by dropping certain elements by an octave, and unfortunately, the players couldn't get the multiphonics I had specified, so the piece kind of dies in that section...but if you listen to the piece and imagine the themes flowing around you in circles, pulsing to the left and right, front and behind, and you soften certain sections...then you'll get an impression of the journey I intended with this piece.

Before this letter turns into a ramble, I'd like to say that for a long time, I've felt like it was the right thing for me to get in touch with you, and now, I'm glad that I've finally done it. I believe that you can play a critical and mutually beneficial role in bringing my music to a wide audience.

It would be a significant honor just to know that you've read this letter, even more so to know you read my lyrics and listened to my audio samples, and the best result I can imagine would be a discussion with you that leads to working with you personally.

Please feel free to contact me via my contact form at this homepage.


Dainis W. Michel