The Middle Ring

Ringmaster concept art by Kimmberly Miles.

Ringmaster concept art by Kimmberly Miles.

The Ringmaster was first written 25 years ago. I recently found the original handwritten lyrics, based on a circus accident i saw in Kentucky from the sidelines after where I was performing. I saw all the animals, mingled among the crew, and watched the patriarch of a family of circus performers hit the ground as we looked on in shock.

20 years later I rewrote the lyrics in a slam-poetry Facebook thread, then spent 3 months composing the first track of a concept album called The Middle Ring. Along with it, the story of three Russian clowns, Alex, Dimitry & Niccolo. A little boy, an uncertain character Angel up in the rafters running the lights, a runway game dummy named The Turk and an endless succession of Ringmasters on the railways of Eastern Europe leaving victims in the wake of the trains.
Cue the lights. The ringmaster opens the show, there’s a scrim behind him so you can’t see the stage. He sings the opening stanzas in the spotlight. When it gets to the Hungarian Traveler’s theme he crosses the stages & a map renders on the scrim, tracing the route of the train. When the big rock break happens the scrim goes up & you hear the first stanzas of the story from the boy:
When daddy was a little boy
He always hid his favorite toy
A circus made of wood & lace
He kept it in a special place
Ringmaster concept art by Kimmberly Miles.

Ringmaster concept art by Kimmberly Miles.

Niccolo’s character is inspired by Niccolo Paginini (Italian). Alex & Dimitry are two clowns that get drunk & honk their horns, do cartwheels & smack each other. The crowd loves them. Niccolo rides a unicycle & plays classical violin at the same time. He’s background music, tracing the arcs of the aerobats & marking the pace of the purple elephants. Meanwhile there is Angel, and the boy looks on.

All of those elements are present in the first & only recording that I’ve made to date. There is no percussion. It stands alone as an operetta for 3 voices & 5 guitars in Db minor, recorded & performed in my home studio in Lynnwood 5 years ago.

I intend to record it again this year in my new studio space, all new instruments and equipment, with full percussion.

Prologue opens with the Ringmaster singing stage right. Hungarian Traveler’s theme fades in at 1:34 & the bass (cello) lays down the tracks. The Ringmaster’s theme is laid over top starting at 2:08. At 2:34 the bass throbs & the scrim comes up on the full band, all the nights. After the opening stanza (from the boy’s perspective) the Ringmaster theme fades in again at 4:01.
At 4:20 you get to the clowns. You can hear Alex & Dimitry tumbling around as poor Niccolo works his ass off & the aeriealists soar. At 5:20 is the hardest solo work I’ve committed to dirt, those chromatic runs all the way up & down the fretboard, then syncing with the clown theme to stick the landing. At 5:44 the purple elephants come in & Niccolo is on his way out. The boy sings again, then at 6:45 the Hungarian Traveler returns. Ringmaster’s theme is laid over top starting at 7:00, then denoument to curtain.



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