The Music Of Sound





S ome people are more visual, some more audial. For me, it was always sound that penetrated my senses deeper than anything else.


I love sound, all kinds of sounds. Like young people everywhere, I found emotional refuge in music while I was growing up. Music was a drug that restored the chemical imbalances in my brain. I loved sound so much I even became a musician for a few years.

So many of the sounds in everyday life sound like music to me, even voices, and that caused problems in elementary school. I was never very good at math, but I had the added challenge of a math teacher with a Swedish accent, Mr. Westman. Every word he spoke sounded like a note. His sentences collected into melodies. His classroom lectures were sonatas some days, jazz improvisations other days.

Then, every once in a while my name poked through the melodic line: “Russell! What is the answer?” I didn’t even know the question. And even when he repeated the question, all I could hear was the music of his voice. I shook my head to signal my complete confusion, accompanied by the laughter of my far more attentive classmates.

Near the end of the school year Mr. Westman asked me to meet with him at one of the outdoor wooden lunch tables. “Russell, I’ll be giving you a grade of D on your report card,” he gravely intoned. “I want you to know that this is a gift.” All I could think to say was, “Thanks!”

One of my earliest memories is of the record player at my grandparent’s house next door. It was so tall I had to stand on a chair to turn it on. It was a 78 rpm record player on the top of a large mahogany cabinet that also had a small, black-and-white television and a radio. I managed to turn it on to play the record already on the turntable. The booming sound of the music was magic.

One afternoon I was listening once again to the old scratchy recording of the song,  “New San Antonio Rose,” by Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. My grandfather was from Texas and the record was one of his favorites. Suddenly the sound slowed down and I thought some kind of monster was emerging from the music. It sounded like the voice of some awful demon accompanied by a train wreck. It was incredibly frightening. That was the day I learned what electricity was, and what could happen if its magic flow was briefly interrupted, for the demon and the train wreck quickly disappeared, and like a movie run backwards, the music reassembled itself and rose again from the darkness of some terrible underworld.
Moon in all your splendor knows only my heart,
Call back my Rose, Rose of San Antone,
Lips so sweet and tender like petals fallin' apart,
Speak once again of my love, my own.
That was the day my grandfather taught me something about electricity.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved

Under The Bed




















I remember seeing a white, colonial-style building fronted with columns
    on the day I was left at the orphanage.

At least this memory was always in my mind, but knowing how insatiably curious I’ve always been about my biological parents, my biological circumstances, I knew that I may simply have been filling in the blanks of the great mystery that was my first two years of life. After all, I have absolutely no memory of the mother I'd lived with more than a year.

One day in my early twenties I returned to the Children's Home Society, the first time since being left there for adoption. I'd phoned a social worker who agreed to meet with me, to tell me some basic “non-identifying” information about my parents. As I searched for the address, the building came into view. It looked exactly as I’d remembered: A white building, colonial style, columns and all.

I don’t remember the foster family I lived with for the next six months and I don’t remember being taken to the home of my new adoptive parents. Many years later, my grandmother told me that during the first few months, every time the doorbell rang, I’d run and hide under my bed. It took me a long time to shake that fear, the fear of losing my home once again. Even now I still get the urge once in a while to hide under the bed.



~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Painting by Erin Payne
© All Rights Reserved

Notable People I Have Known ~ Part Three




Sherwood Rowland ~ Nobel Prize Winning Scientist

I first interviewed UC Irvine chemistry professor Sherwood Rowland in 1987 when I was a reporter for the Irvine World News, the first of many subsequent interviews. It was during the time of the Montreal Protocol On Substances That Deplete the Ozone Layer, a worldwide effort to limit and eventually ban the industry-wide production and use of Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). 

Rowland, with postdoctoral research assistant Mario Melina, discovered that CFCs were destroying the earth’s protective ozone layer, a conclusion that was heavily criticized during the early years of his findings.

When I first interviewed him in his campus laboratory, he told me that global warming was the most imminent threat to the planet. To my surprise, he said that in addition to the man-made chemicals that were warming the planet were gas emissions from cattle—cow belching!

He was very generous with his time during that first interview, despite the fact that I was just a small-time reporter for the local newspaper. He even showed me his ice core samples.

Rowland and Melina were awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1995.


~ to be continued


~ by Russ Allison Loar
~ Photo by Rick Loomis\Los Angeles Times
© All Rights Reserved

I Am Born




W hen did I start? What is my first conscious memory? You might as well ask when my Being burst out from Nothing and became Something.

Who knows?

I was warm, living in a dream. There was sound but not much light. There were thoughts and images without meaning. There was no passage of time, no wanting, just being.

There surely must have been some kind of struggle at the time of my emergence, but this I do not remember. I do remember being removed from my squishy cave into a bright blinding light. I remember crying, but it was more like listening to myself cry from a distance, rather than feeling any personal, emotional impulse to cry.

I was wrapped in cloth and put in what I now believe was the white metal cradle of a scale to measure my weight. I fell asleep, trying to fall back into that place from where I came.

I don’t remember anything else until thirteen months later, the day my mother left me at the orphanage and never came back.




~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved