biography music innovation fun/games musings

The Stars, the Moon, and Everything
by Diana Chapman, September, 2006

When I was a little girl my father, Emmett, would take me out at night into the backyard at our house in North Hollywood and show me the moon and the stars. It is one of my earliest memories of him. I was just a baby, I don't know if I was even talking yet. I have this basic imprint memory of him holding me in his arms and we are looking up into the sky. He points to Mars and says in a quiet, nighttime voice, "Look Diana, that's Mars. It's the red one. Mars rules Scorpio. You are a Scorpio!" I look up in wonderment at the tiny little point of light that didn't look very red to me at all, and look back at him, full of wonder and awe. And so I learned the planets before I knew my numbers. It's in my bones.

This ability to think abstractly and to creatively use my mind and imagination came directly from him. He would play with me like this all the time. We would talk about the world and dinosaurs and Greek myths and boys and Jungian symbolism and polyrhythmic times and handwriting analysis and what colors matched what people we knew, all with the background calliope of music of Coltrane and Miles and Stravinsky and Cream and The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and Tim Buckley and Debussy, and whatever he was listening to at the moment, which was everything. He would always present me with the hidden or the mysterious, the scientific and the philosophical. Any subject was fair game and we would romp and roll through conversations like puppies with a bone. We would talk about cell structure and DNA and how sound travels through water from the perspective of a dolphin. We wondered and discussed the great questions of life like, was it important to dance, or vote, or go to school.

One of the first books that he made both my sister and I read was The Naked Ape - A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal by Desmond Morris. I think I was about eleven, which would have made Grace about six. We plowed through it somehow. The next one, a couple of years later was, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, by Julian Jaynes. Good grief! Still, what a gift. He was sure we would love it as much as he did. He always talked to us about ideas and God and colors and science, and I am truly a better and broader person for it. It was like being home-schooled by a mix of Socrates and Jimi Hendrix.

There's not a day that goes by that I don't appreciate how this young training set me up for the rest of my life. I learned to think abstractly. I understood archetypes and patterns before I knew the alphabet. He taught me about the universe and the stars and everything. And there's not a day that goes by that I don't actively use this ability in everything I do.

I have known many astrologers during my time. My father is one of the best of them. His ideas, like in everything he thinks about, are unique and his own. His view on the planets and their relationship is based on a blending of the most ancient understanding of astrology and their strict, geometric, astronomical relationships - and, of course, it all directly applies to music. The cover art of his first album, Parallel Galaxy, has his horoscope on it, and this you may not know, he figured out a way to play it on The Stick! (See this hyperlink for more on this: www.stick.com/articles/mccollam_parallel

One of our ongoing debates in astrology/astronomy has been about the planet Pluto, which he has always maintained (and was way ahead of his time about) was just two ice balls orbiting each other. Well, in traditional Western astrology, Pluto is the other ruler of Scorpio, and considered pretty important. Over time, he wore me down to the point that I had pretty much dismissed Pluto as an important aspect of a horoscope - even though it's supposedly my own co-ruling planet! Ultimately, he was right. Just last month the New York Times reported that Pluto had been officially demoted in status from a planet to a dwarf planet, barely beating out asteroid status.

Emmett's mind is always turning things inside out, upside down and rightside up again. He wonders about things. He wonders about everything.

My big question as a child was, "Why?"
His big answer back to me was always, "Because."
His big Because comes from a place in him that wonders why, too. And I admire that in him so much. My dad will as happily engage a nine-year-old as a fifty-year-old. He loves to stretch thought and bend ideas around. He just loves a thoughtful conversation. I call people like him astronauts. They fly way out there and then come back to earth and tell us what they saw.

Next time you are outside at night, look for the brightest white star in the sky, the one that is low and rising. That's Venus. Venus rules Libra. Venus is the planet of beauty and love and music. Emmett is a Libra. When you see Venus, I hope you think of him.

Diana Chapman is a yoga and meditation teacher, spiritual counselor and author in Los Angeles. She read this story aloud at Emmett's 70th birthday celebration in September, 2006.