Jeremy Smith is a friend and repeat resident at Azule. He is currently in his last year of graduate school at Middle Tennessee State University, where he is pursuing a Masters in Music Theory and Composition.

These are the journals I wrote the Summer of 2016 (my first Summer at Azule). I was writing the music for a ballet which premiered in Florence in April 2017. I also attached a poster for the event. The second long stay I had I was working on a musical which was finished, but did not receive the funding it needed to be performed.

A recent composition by Jeremy Smith
Volume I

June 5th, 2016

I got on the road this morning around 8 o’clock. I had planned on leaving at 7. I realized, upon waking, how ambitious of a goal that had been. Not long after starting the trip I noticed a slight incline on the road. Little did I know, it was just the beginning. The drive took a bit over 4 hours. The incline became progressively steeper the entire way. I got off of the interstate, and began to drive through thick forrest and fog. I looked down at my phone, which read “no service”, and that was it. For a moment I panicked. I had been relying on my phone for directions. I was afraid, in the absence of service, that the directions would stop. To make matters worse it had starting raining cats and dogs.

There I was. My tiny car, loaded so far down with books, clothes, water, and food that my bumper was scraping the ground. I was driving through a deluge in some god forsaken forest, and I had no clue where I was going. I remember thinking, “Good god… If I get lost out here they’ll never find me.” Luckily, my phone continued to point me in the right direction. I have no idea how that works, but I’m glad someone out there does.

For what seemed like hours, I careened through dense fog and rain on some of the steepest roads I’ve ever seen. Eventually, I found myself on a gravel path which seemed to go on forever. As my car bounced and jerked over every pebble and stone beneath me, I saw Azule in the distance.

It is a giant house, consisting mostly of windows. I pulled up, parked my car, and was met - almost immediately - by a very small older woman (who was wearing the funniest little yellow rain hat was missing a significant portion of her right arm). Through a thick French accent she introduced herself as Camille. I guess she is a groundskeeper or sorts? She welcomed me and began to show me around the house.

It’s an odd home. Three stories with a stained glass staircase that connects the top floor to the bottom. The top floor is mostly bedrooms. This is where I met the other current resident. She told me that her name was Jenna. She seems to be in her early 40’s, and has a very short haircut with a blue streak in the front. We spoke briefly. She was cordial and seemed nice enough (despite the fact that her appearance is that of someone I would see yelling at her kids at Walmart).

Camille took me to the ground floor then through a large open room that they call “the library”. There were chairs, plants, sculptures, and paintings. There were books shoved into every nook and cranny that books could be shoved into. Through the library we arrived at a door. Camille opened the door as I walked into a shell shaped room. The room, which was sparsely decorated, contained only a desk, a piano, and a twin sized bed. With that, the tour was complete. Camille said she would leave me to my work. I unpacked and started writing. After a few hours, I was hungry. I made soup then sat down to write this journal entry. I imagine that I will work a little more later. That is all for today. It is very quiet here. I am not sure what to think yet. ========================================================

June 6th, 2016

I worked for ten hours today. I got about 2 and half minutes of music done. That finishes act one scene one. Tomorrow is scene two.

That Jenna woman left around 10:30 or so this morning. She said she was going to stay in a hotel for the next two nights. She seemed distressed. She was complaining about the heat of the house. She bemoaned the fact that her room had no fan. Also, she talked to herself as she was packing her car. Made a real big thing of it. I don’t know, to me it feels fine. It could be cooler I suppose, but it isn’t an issue. Then again, I’m not a woman in my 40’s. Who knows?

My work went well, but I am very tired. After I finished, I went outside and talked with Camille. I had barely spoken a work all day. It was a welcomed conversation. She is working on a mosaic for a downstairs bathroom. It is this intricate scene of a lighthouse in the distance. The ocean is in the background. Two fish will circle the drain. This shower, which is not yet complete, will be located inside a large bay window overlooking the front yard. Seems like a strange place for a shower. She showed me how she cuts the stone piece by piece. She said that her goal isn’t just to create a picture, but a texture. I found it interesting how similar the process of building a mosaic is to writing music. I guess that anything is a metaphor for anything - if you try hard enough.

It was nice to talk to someone. I didn’t realize how quickly I would grow lonely. We are all just constantly slammed over the head with external stimulation. So much so that to not be, even for a day, feels strange. I don’t feel bored. It isn’t that I long to stare at my phone. I just a feel lonely. Going a day without sharing a conversation with someone is hard. It’s an experience unlike any that I have never had. For the most part, I am enjoying it it. They told me that, in 6 days or so, someone else is coming to stay. That’ll be nice. Here’s to hoping it’s not another heat flash prone patron.

Day two is down. I have 3 more days until I complete the first act. Maybe once that is finished I will take a day to wander into town. Apparently, there is a pizza place. Either way, I’m not looking forward to driving back up the mountain.


June 7th, 2016

I woke up this morning well rested and ready to work. Scene 2 is 98% complete. I figure the tail ends of each scene will change as the next takes shape. I’ve decided not to sweat the last 10 seconds or so.

My readiness to work wasn’t met with inspiration. For the better part of an hour, I struggled to come up with anything worth putting down. Camille dropped by to ask how my day was going. I said, “Sometimes it is difficult to find the starting point”. She just smiled and said, “The beginning is always very hard, but ven you find it, it vill go very quickly”. Not long after I found that long sought after starting point. Camille was right in saying that, once found, it would go very quickly. I thought of an interesting little motive which I was able to spin into a number of phrases. From there, my work went very quickly. I reached the 2 and a half minute mark around 5:00 o’clock. After some quick revisions I felt satisfied with the day’s work around 6:00.

Soon after I finished for the day about 5 people showed up and brought a new piano into my room. Some real rough and tough mountain men. They continuously hassled me to play the new piano for them. I told them I was no Glenn Gould, but they were incredibly persistent. I thought, “Well, I guess these folks just carried a piano a hundred yards or so. The least I can do is play for them”. I played the only thing I knew that I would perform without error, the first movement of Philip Glass’s “Metamorphosis”. I’ve always really liked that piece (maybe because of how easy it is to play). After about 7 minutes of the same 3 phrases over and over I could tell they had had enough piano (and enough Philip Glass) to last them a lifetime. They stayed to talk with me for a little while longer. They were very nice, humble, and unassuming. All very admirable traits.

After talking to them, and having been satisfied with my work, I decided to take a short trip into town. I stopped and had a burger at the local restaurant. It is a small one horse town. The sort of place where you either move away, work at the restaurant, or you work at the other restaurant. Either way, everyone seems content.

On the way back to my car I was stopped by a girl. She appeared to be my age. She looked as though she was about to give out under the weight of a large backpack. She asked, “Do you know where the hostile is?”. I thought to myself “Jesus lady, this town has all of 6 buildings. If one of them is a hostile it shouldn’t be hard to find”. I apologized and told her that I wasn’t from there. Never, in the history of spoken word, has such an innocent statement started such a conversation.

She told me that her name was “Unbreakable Kelly”, but I must say, she looked a little broken today. She confessed to having survived a bear attack this morning. She went on to say that she had hitchhiked to Hot Springs after hiking around 15 miles. The poor damned fool said she had nowhere to stay. She went on to say that she was low on cash. I advised that she sleep in the forest (where she had presumably been sleeping for the past few weeks). I think she just wanted money. I didn’t give her any (as I had little to give her), but I did assure her that she was unbreakable. How funny it is, yesterday I longed for conversation. Today my first instinct was to get out of this one as quickly as possible. What fickle creatures we are.

Tomorrow, I will stick around the house. That Jenna woman is supposedly coming back at some point. Let’s hope a few nights in an air conditioned hotel has done her some well.

June 8th, 2016

Today began about 30 minutes later than the past few days have. After grabbing a quick breakfast, and a few cups of coffee, I got right to work. Seven hours of work harvested around a minute and a half of music, but I think it is some of the strongest material I’ve written. I stepped outside to watch Camille work on her mosaic for while. She asked how I was getting along.

“Strange music today, Camille”, I said. “Stranger zen yesterday?” she asked. I told her it was much stranger than yesterday. Her mosaic is really starting to come together.

Ginna came back around 2 o’clock (her name is apparently spelt like that). She gave me a book of her short stories. Her writing is good; very descriptive. I feel like I can relate to a lot of the things she is writing, but I’m sure she would like to continue thinking that no one can. Some people really enjoy being on their own island. I’m really trying to get off of mine. I ended up, during breaks, reading most of her book. It will be interesting to talk with her more tonight. Now I’ve read some of her writing and I am sure, between my banging on the piano and the playback from my speakers, she has heard more than enough of my music.

There is a basement here. It is enormous. They've used it to host events with 100+ attendees. Camille told me that, over the course of two years in the early 80’s, she dug the entire thing out by hand. I asked her how she managed to do such a thing. She just smiled and said “Little by little. Day by day. Big tasks become smaller, but you must stay at it!”. That is absolutely incredible.

Day 4 down. Still much work to be done, but I feel like I have done a decent amount of digging. ==================================================================

June 9th, 2016

The days are starting to fly by. With only 15 days remaining, I am truly beginning to dread the last. I can honestly say that I am getting used to this lifestyle. Camille left for Marshall (which is about 30 or so minutes away) very early this morning for a long awaited - and dreaded - dentist appointment. Ginna was gone to town by 9 o’clock. With the entire house empty I felt as though I had the entirety of the Smoky Mountains to myself.
Today I wrote some really beautiful music. I’m not quite sure where it came from. I got so wrapped up in it that, in fact, I think we might alter the story of this ballet a little. It would be a shame to let this music go to waste over something as trivial as a carefully crafted story arch (which took months to develop). Spoken like a true Composer.

I ran into town to send out some (very) rough drafts of the first act to my friend who wrote (and is now rewriting) the story. I grabbed another burger at the restaurant, and used their wifi to quickly check in with my friends at the Drum Corps. They seem to be making a good bit of progress. I wish I could be there, but I am here right now. I will be there soon enough.

Tomorrow, I have to do some work trade tasks around the house. Nothing so bad, just a little computer cataloging and maybe some weeding in the garden. After that, I will continue to revise Act One. I think I’m getting pretty close. I am excited about starting Act Two, but I can’t get ahead of myself. It will be nice to take a break from writing. My morning will be occupied in a different way. Nietzsche famously said “All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking”… let’s hope that the same is true of pulling weeds. ========================================================

June 10th, 2016

Today was a little of an off day. By “off” I mean a break from composing. I did a little organizational work, on the computer, for the residency. After that, I weeded the flower beds for about an hour. I had thought it had been pretty cold in North Carolina. That was until I spent an hour in the noon sun pulling weeds. Every time I do work like that I am instantly transported to the days of my teenage years. I remember my Dad waking me up, in the early days of summer “vacation”, to put up fences. He used to say that I needed to learn the value of a dollar. I have come to know, as I’ve grown older, that what he meant was that it was important for me to find that nothing comes easy, and that anything worth doing was worth doing right. He wanted to teach me that hard work is something to enjoy; something to be proud of. What I came to know - at the time - was that I hated being outside, I hated bugs, and that I wasn’t blessed with the physique needed to carry heavy stacks of wood and chain link (at least, not with the ease that he and my brother seemed to enjoy). I like to think that I have applied those hard earned lessons, which my father so earnestly tried to bestow on me, into the road that I am forging for myself. Nonetheless, I found working outside today to be a rather wearisome chore. I can confess, without hesitation, to counting down the minutes until I could return indoors.

I composed very little, but I thought quite a bit. I am looking forward to getting a running start at tomorrow’s work.

Today I sat outside talking to Camille. The subject inevitably turned towards politics. It is interesting to talk to someone who has seen so much. I tend to side with Socrates in thinking that everyone truly wants what they think is best. Most people, in my opinion, do what they think is the most beneficial thing within their certain situation. The older I get, the more I realize that noone is ever sure which road to take. I’m not sure what to think. We all seem so divided. I think maybe what we lack is vision; the bigger picture. Where are we going? What does it take to get there? This issue seems to be where we are the most divided, but I think that the division comes much more so from a lack of vision than from a difference of opinion. I don’t have answers, but that doesn’t make the conversation any less enjoyable.

Tonight I have been working (and will continue to work) on a marching band opener. I have enjoyed my little reprieve from composing today. It feels like my first day in the mountains, rather than my sixth day in a room with a piano. I guess that you have to stop and smell the roses and so on. Tomorrow I will be right back at it, but tonight I will enjoy a little introspection. =================================================================

June 11th, 2016

Not much to write about today. After staying up until around 3:30 this morning, I was up by 9:30 and at it again. I worked for 13 hours today; only taking the occasional short break and eating meals while working. I spent most of the day locked away in my room. I am feeling determined, but very tired.

Tomorrow a new person is supposed to arrive. Apparently a sculptor. Should be interesting to see this person’s work. I hope this next resident is a little more fun than the last.

Tomorrow I will finish Act one. ===================================================================

June 12th, 2016

Today has been a really productive day. Act One is complete (at least for now). It runs around 10 minutes long. I will begin on Act Two tomorrow. It is a little shorter, and I am hoping to have it done in around 3 days. That will give me a little over a week to finish the third and final act and revise everything.

After finishing, I ran into town to send out some band arrangements (and to grab another burger. They’re starting to recognize me at the restaurant). I had driven all the way down into Hot Springs when I noticed that I had forgotten my wallet. I have driven up and down the mountain twice today, and although I still go well under the speed limit, I am starting to get used to the drive.

The new person arrived while I was in town. After I got back we spent around an hour or so exploring the house and talking. It is nice to have someone my age around. Tomorrow we are going to section hike some of the Appalachian Trail. Later this week we might make the trek to Asheville. I had hoped to make it to Asheville while I was here. I have never been, but everyone has always told me I would love it.

Today marks a full week since my arrival at Azule. I have loved every second. Only 12 days left. I am not looking forward to that last trip down the mountain, but I don't have to think about that just yet. ===================================================================== =

June 13th, 2016

I got a little bit of work done early this morning. Around 1 o'clock we went out hiking. Some of the views here are incredible. The mountains seem to go on forever. I’ve never seen anything like it.

By the time we got back, another resident had arrived. A writer in his very late 20's. He is here to work on his second novel. He gave me a copy of his first novel which I have read a little bit of. It is a very interesting idea.

Tomorrow I will sojourn on into Act Two. ===================================================================== ===

June 14th, 2016

Today was a pretty slow day. I got around a minute and a half of music done. For most of the day, I napped and lounged around.

The three of us all sat up talking last night until very late. It is nice to have some more people here, especially after being alone for a week. It has changed the dynamic in the house. Everyone stays very quiet and works all day on their respective projects.

It’s been really hot today. I think that it ended up getting close to 95 degrees outside, and probably at least 85 inside. I can hear thunder rolling in the distance. I hope it rains like crazy. ===================================================================== ===

July 15th, 2016

Today was a solid day of work. I’m actually far ahead of where I thought I would be in Act Two. I feel confident that I’ll be able to finish it tomorrow.

After we all finished for the day, we decided to go get pizza at the local restaurant. On our ascension back up the mountain we noticed, for the first time, a very small church which is carefully placed on the top of a long and winding byroad. We collectively decided that a church this far out in the Smoky Mountains must be one of those churches where they handle snakes. That topic quickly turned into a conversation about our mutual fear of snakes. The topic of fear lead us to an unspoken truth. One that had been on all of our minds since each of our arrivals: that we are staying in a house, in the middle of nowhere, with no locking doors. We began discussing, at length, the similarities that our current lodging shares with those of almost every horror movie ever made.

After that conversation reached its end, we went for a walk in the vast wilderness that surrounds the house. Down the road a ways, we stumbled upon a house which was said to have been abandoned long ago. As we passed the house we noticed, in a window, what appeared to be the light of a candle. As we continued walking, and the angle of our view into the window changed, we saw about 15 candles (and a raging bonfire in the backyard). We quickly turned around to walk - at noticeably faster pace - back towards the house. All along the way, we frantically theorized on what we had just witnessed (which was obviously some sort of satanic ritual). After getting back to the house, and indulging our wildest imaginings concerning the oddity of those candles, we came to the agreement that none of us could sleep until we had an answer to this abandoned house once and for all. We fearlessly marched back down to the house to find that the candles (and the bonfire) had been extinguished. The house looked as abandoned as ever.

They say that imagination is a very important part of being an artist, but maybe when you get three imaginations together - in the middle of nowhere - things can get a little out of hand. All in all, with the talk of snakes, psychopathic ax wielders, witches, and rituals; it has been a pretty fun night. One that is unlike any that I’ve ever had. It is also, as far as I can remember, the first time I’ve seen a man in his thirties check under his bed for monsters.

July 16th, 2016

Act Two is complete. I am super happy with it. It runs a little over 6 minutes. That gives me 8 days to finish the third act and revise.

We ended up getting a definitive answer to the abandoned house. Apparently, it isn’t abandoned. Some wise mountain guru lives there and provides council over bonfires to the youth of the town. Strange. At least we know that it was our overactive imaginations (and that we aren’t surrounded by satanic cult members).

The two other residents and I have really hit it off. It is exactly what I had hoped for. We share meals, inspirations, and discuss our creative process. I feel like I have learned a lot just being around them. This second week has been a lot of fun.
===================================================================== ==

June 17th, 2016

134 years ago today, a man was born who would forever change the history of Western music. This man would go on to pioneer 3 distinct movements and become one of the most influential figures of 20th Century music. His name was Igor Stravinsky. Today, we all took the day off to celebrate Stravinsky's birthday... and Betsey's last day at the residency (Honestly, I was the only one celebrating Stravinsky's birthday). It was a much needed day of relaxation. A lot of sitting around outside and enjoyed one another’s company. We talked, ate, and la vie boheme’d.

Tomorrow I will jump into Act Three.
===================================================================== =====

June 18th, 2016

Betsey left this morning around 10 o'clock. After that, Shane and I both started to work. I finished around 2 minutes of Act Three, which was my goal for the day. It was a quiet day in the mountains. Nothing left to do but make dinner and wait for the sun to set.

Day 14 down.
===================================================================== ======

June 19th, 2016
I worked for about 6 hours today. I finished 3 minutes of music. I am at the halfway point for the final act. I hope I can finish in the next few days.
After the workday was over, Shane and I went down into town for some nachos that we had been eyeing for the past week or so. It his last night at Azule. He’ll leave tomorrow. After that, it will just be Camille and I for just a few days.
===================================================================== ==========

June 20th, 2016
Shane left around 9:30 this morning. Camille left for Asheville around 10:30. I had the entire house to myself today. I got a little bit of work done, and finished some more of my work trade. One of the tasks I’ve been asked to do is fix a guitar. I thought I had entered this program just a tad over my head by trying to write a ballet, then I started trying to fix a guitar. I think I can do it, but I cannot promise there won't be wood glue all over it.
4 days and 5 nights left.
===================================================================== ======

June 21st, 2016

Today was a good day. I finished Act Three. I now have a first draft of the entire production. Currently, it sits at 20 or so minutes. Tomorrow, I will begin the revision process on Act One. I hope, that after a few weeks away from the first act, I can expand a little more on the ideas I thought were lacking. The goal was to leave with close to 30 minutes of music. I feel very confident that this goal will be met.

After I finished working for the day I started on my work trade. I have to finish 5 ½ hours of work over the next 3 days. As I’ve always said, one of my biggest strengths is being able to put things off until the very last second. Maybe one day I’ll get better about that.

3 days left
===================================================================== ========

June 22nd, 2016

Today was nice. I woke up and began work revising the first act. I added around a minute and a half to it (along with cleaning up a few notation and scoring issues). I am sitting at around 22 and a half minutes of music. Not a bad haul for a little over 2 weeks.

I did a little bit for my work trade. Part of what they wanted me to do, in addition the cleaning and outside work, was to interview Camille and write a little story about my time here for the website. She is remarkable. As a self taught architect, she wanted to design a place for artists to create. She kept saying this word (through her thick French accent) that had influenced her. At first, I couldn't quite make it out... she was saying cathedral. She explained that, like the cathedrals in the Middle Ages, she wants to build as much as she can before she passes on. After she dies, someone else will take on the responsibility of construction. In reality, she has plans made for this property that may take four lifetimes. Isn’t it crazy? Being capable of thinking that far outside of yourself?

There are all sorts of strange little features in this house that really make no sense. Doors in strange places and windows in the ceiling. The kind of things you look at and say, "Why did she do that?". Her and her husband were married on an airplane 2,000 feet in the sky. They drove around the country in a van for almost a year looking for a place to settle down. When they arrived here, they turned the van off. For 44 years they lived here. It started as a small cabin, but somehow turned into the structure it is now. He died in this house, around a decade ago, after a long battle with muscular sclerosis. Suddenly, everything made sense. The strange doors were for his wheelchair. The odd windows were so he could look up and see the stars from his bed. On his last night, she said, he kept saying "Drive me there. Drive me there". She said she has no idea what he meant. She shrugged and laughed while saying, "I drove him crazy his whole life. Maybe this is what he meant." He is buried just a little ways from this house, under a stone that is inscribed with the sole phrase, "Drive me there". She must have really loved him.

Today, I bumped into her as she busily scuttled around the house. I said "I'm sorry, Camille!". She just looked at me and after a long pause said "I am going to miss you!". "You are?", I said. She said "Of course. I think what it is that you are doing is very interesting. Plus, you are all around nice guy" (Her English is somehow still very broken). I just looked at her and smiled. I said "I'm going to miss you too, Camille". I am going to miss her.

Everyone seems to leave her something when they leave. All over the house there are sculptures, paintings, portraits, poems, and sculptures. Some of the work is of her, and some of it is for her. I wanted to leave her with something as well. I wrote a very short, and very simple, little piano piece in the form of a chaconne (a perfectly French form). I am going to print it out and give it to her on my last day (which will now be Friday). It is entitled "Drive Me There" with the subtitle "For Camille”.
===================================================================== ==============

"Drive Me There"

June 23rd, 2016

Today's journal comes a little early. I wrote the story about Camille. I gave her the piece that I wrote her. I took pictures. I finished my work trade. Swept, mopped, and dusted. I packed. I took a deep breath and looked around. My last day in this house. It has been an incredible experience. I have accomplished everything I set out to. A few weeks ago I entered this house a little nervous. Tomorrow, I will leave. It has become a home. I have made friends, had meaningful conversations, hiked, swam, thought, and wrote a 25 minute ballet.

Tonight, I will get to bed early. Tomorrow, I will pack the car and leave to meet my friends at Music City Drum Corps in Nashville. This will start the second leg of my summer. I’ll stay in Nashville for about 4 days before we embark on tour. On July 9th, I will take a bus back from Madison, Wisconsin to Chicago. Then from Chicago to Nashville. I will do 3 weeks of teaching (and 4 days back in Florence) before heading back for the last bit of tour. All things must come to an end; this residency is no different. It has been a trip. "Nothing behind me, everything in front of me, as is ever so on the road"