What if you had a dream, and it didn’t come true?
This happened to Linda Perhacs, a California hygienist and child of the ’60s, whose dream was to make music.
“I was raised in beautiful Mill Valley, just north of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge,” she says. “Even as a child, music and nature attracted me, and they are forces that have shown up throughout my life. They are as natural to me as breathing.”
In the mid 1960s, Linda went to the University of Southern California on a full scholarship. She chose dental hygiene because it was in the healing sciences and allowed a flexible work schedule.
“I wanted time to explore life, and hygiene provided that flexibility.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree, she went to work for one of her instructors, a periodontist.
“My first 15 years working for a top periodontal practice gave me a solid foundation. The training was superb, and the patients taught me so much. I still prefer a big practice with patients from all over the world.”
Linda and her husband, who is a sculptor and designer, moved to Topanga Canyon to take advantage of the innovative atmosphere.
“It was a rich environment full of artistic people, and the creative levels were unbelievable. We would go out into the wildest, untamed country for inspiration, and I began writing songs.”
One of Linda’s patients was film composer Leonard Rosenman. One day during an appointment, he looked up at her and said, “I can’t believe this is all you do.”
Linda replied that in addition to hygiene, she traveled and wrote music about the wilderness. When he asked to hear a sample, she gave him a homemade demo tape. The rest wasn’t exactly history, but it was interesting.
“At 8 a.m. the next day, Leonard and his wife woke me up and asked, ‘How soon can you get here? The songs are beautiful!’ He offered to produce my album.”
Parallelograms included 11 songs, all written by Linda and one co-authored with Oliver Nelson. She performed all the vocals, and composed original guitar chords with unique individual tuning for each piece. The songs were intensely personal, ethereal, and full of nature images. Linda was disappointed with the title track and felt that the technology available to her wasn’t enough to convey the full meaning of the song. Still, it was her dream.
Imagine how making an album would have affected a young hygienist from Topanga Canyon in 1970. Did she dream of smoky concert halls, million-selling albums, or an artistic life far beyond the dental operatory? Whatever she dreamt, reality was cold and hard.
“The album was complete, but the large company involved never promoted it. Parallelograms was artistically done and never meant to be a pop album,” she says.
Her dream sank into nothingness, and Linda refocused on dental hygiene while staying close to nature and music privately.
A search for the voice behind the music
Fast-forward 30 years. Linda’s dream had been stirred into life, although she didn’t know it yet. Michael Piper, a music producer in Brooklyn, N.Y., ran across an old copy of Parallelograms. He was entranced by the music, calling it a “timeless work of magical power and beauty.” He decided to re-release the album in 2000, and set out to find Linda.
For a long time his search was fruitless. He couldn’t find the singer, engineer, or producer. The original publisher, Hawaii Music, had distributed the record under the Kapp label, which claimed it had never heard of Parallelograms. (It was learned later the information was filed under “Perhaps” instead of Perhacs.)
Because he couldn’t find the original masters, Piper decided to reissue the album from a mint vinyl copy.
“It still needed to be run through a Cedar Systems unit and other noise reduction software to remove the noise of the poor pressing quality of the original album,” he says.
After the new CD was released, Piper decided one more time to try to locate Linda, and this time he was successful. He told Linda that Parallelograms had found new life.
“At first I was stunned,” she says. “I learned that the album had been reissued on CD because it had become an underground, word-of-mouth Internet phenomenon. I was totally unaware of its steady growth around the world. What a surprise to learn that I had a worldwide following!”
One fan called Parallelograms “Folk music seen through a prism of late ‘60s psychedelia, like a Greenwich Village coffee shop with the beans lightly dusted with hallucinogens.”
Linda gave Piper her copies of quarter-track reel-to-reel tapes dubbed from the original masters, and he used those to improve the quality of the songs even more.
“When Linda gave me her copies of the tapes, I had to ‘bake’ them because the emulsion had stuck them together,” Piper said. “Then I completely remastered them. I found tracks I never knew existed, and the result was, as Linda said, ‘Finally, the sound I heard in my head.’”
“Many people have called the title song, ‘Parallelograms,’ a sonic masterpiece,” Linda says. “It’s my personal favorite because it is a three-dimensional sound sculpture rather than a linear song. To me, it has always meant a sculpture of moving sound and color and light. The lyrics are geometric words with surround sounds that move in the shapes of the words. The geometric words are all a natural part of our universe. A parallelogram is a geometric shape similar to the DNA molecule that pervades our whole universe. There’s even a NASA photo of an entire galaxy in the shape of a parallelogram. There are so many repeat patterns in nature, so many interlocking balances and patterns that compose the entire system.”
For years Linda knew there was no musical equipment to perform “Parallelograms” to its full extent. However, last year she was able to collaborate with composer Ron Shore of Los Angeles and use the latest equipment and redo the song.
“Ron is a genius at multidimensional music sculpting and layering of harmonies,” she says. “’Parallelograms’ has sounds that are both wild and wonderful, and these are the sounds I originally envisioned.” (A demo of the song is on Linda’s Web site, www.lindaperhacs.com.)
She has been amazed and overwhelmed by people who have contacted her from all over the world.
“They have brought me an indescribable joy. They have become the best part of all this. They’ve inspired me to answer many requests for interviews in magazines and on radio stations.”
Linda has been writing new music because “Our world is in need of help. Everywhere I look I see need. And every one of us can help in some way with our abilities.”
Linda believes that hygienists help people every day, not only with our technical skills, but with who we are.
“We limit ourselves when we do not understand that what we express outwardly has tones and energy shapes. What we express reaches others and truly has an effect on them. It is important to understand this and feel a responsibility to others, and to express that which uplifts and energizes in a positive way.”
The creative spirit, she believes, inspires passion.
“For me, it is a reverent, deep love for our natural universe and all its complex, yet intelligent and interweaving systems. The beauty of it all staggers me. When I write music, I am immersed in this love for the entire universe.”
In her professional hygiene life, Linda turns to nature as well as conventional methods of learning.
“We have many technical journals, but none of them surpass the balances and wisdom of the universe and nature. Our journals are very young. We have much to learn. The balances in our universe are intelligent and complex. Listening inwardly and tuning into these higher energy levels helps us find better ways to help our patients.”
Because of these beliefs, Linda sees music and healing as one.
“There is no compartmentalization in my life. Energy is the key; it pervades all that we do. It flows from room to room, from person to person, from one task to another. As we keep this flow moving, creativity shows up in all that we do, and in all the people we associate with. This is why I see no division between creating music and working with patients. Music and the healing arts are all one to me.”
Since the re-release of Parallelograms, Linda has continued to work as a hygienist for Dr. Edward Rosen in Woodland Hills, Calif., but she is also developing her long-delayed music career. She has been interviewed in international music magazines. In a recent article in Entertainment Weekly, members of the band “Sonic Youth” listed “10 CDs you’ve gotta hear,” and Parallelograms was number eight.
Linda is now writing new music and planning a second album. A music video of “Parallelograms” can be seen on her Web site.
“New music will be out very soon, and will include the new 2005 version of ‘Parallelograms’ plus video. It will be available on both CD and DVD,” she says.
“This will also include an unusual composition I completed a few months ago for a special called ‘One World’ for the BBC 1 FM Radio (UK). It is a beautiful piece about man and his relationship to the environment, and is very global. ‘One World’ was a special that was live on air and then ran for five days worldwide as streaming audio from the BBC 1 Web site.”
Because she still works full time, Linda has concentrated on composing and recording rather than performing her music. “I am carefully considering how to respond to the many requests I’ve received to perform live. All this takes lots of energy!”
So dreams really do come true, even if they aren’t the way one pictured them. Linda’s dream took three decades to come to fruition, but here it is, and she’s enjoying every minute of it. The bonus to this story is that the long delay of her dream allowed Linda to enjoy a 30-year career in dental hygiene.
Cathy Hester Seckman, RDH, is a frequent contributor based in Calcutta, Ohio. Besides working in a pediatric dental practice, Seckman is a prolific freelance writer and book indexer. She can be reached at [email protected].