Category Archives: music

18 Strings of Awesome

Last weekend we went to the exhibit Guitars: Roundups to Rockers at the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art. There isn’t much point to reviewing an exhibit when you see it on the final weekend, but I will say that it was very interesting. It hadn’t been high on my to-do list, but we decided to go at the last-minute. I wish that we had gone earlier so that I could have persuaded more people to attend.

I was fascinated by the beauty and craftsmanship in the earlier guitars. I had no idea that they were so beautiful or that the shape was so varied. This particular guitar, an 18 string “harp guitar”, was made around the turn of the 20th century. I wish that I had heard someone play this. I imagine that it can produce beautiful music.

18 Strings of Awesome

18 Strings of Awesome

Photo taken with iPhone5 and Camera+. Image edited in Photoshop, with two textures by Kim Klassen: Music Lovin’ and Paperstained Music. Linking to Texture Tuesday at Kim Klassen Cafe.

Thanks for stopping by. Be sure to stop by on Thursday when I will have an announcement regarding a new feature at Four Deer Oak.

Conducting: Stop Motion

I found this video as interesting insight into what a conductor does — something that is a mystery to me. What beauty in the movements.

From the NY Times: Demystifying Conducting

Turn up your speakers!

There has never been and may never be anyone quite like Freddie Mercury:

But Miss Piggy comes close!

This post is part of the Blogging A to Z Challenge. Today’s letter is Q. Thanks for stopping by. Please leave a comment and let me know what you think. You can find other A to Z participants by clicking on the graphic. You’ll find an index of all of my A to Z blog posts here.

“You are someone else, I am still right here”

Been writing about Alzheimer’s and memory. Something that I might post here, or maybe elsewhere.

Meanwhile, listen to this moving cover by Johnny Cash of Nine Inch Nail’s Hurt.

I wear this crown of shit
Upon my liar’s chair
Full of broken thoughts
I cannot repair
Beneath the stains of time
The feelings disappear
You are someone else
I am still right here

I think this may be the most fitting description of the crazy mixed-up, kaleidoscopic world of broken memories.

A bit of music nostalgia

Not sure how it started, but some random thread of conversation led my husband and I tonight to listen to several Harry Chapin songs on You Tube. Although we didn’t know each other in the 70’s, we each consider the best concert we’ve ever attended to be one’s by Harry Chapin.

Chances are you were singing along towards the end of that clip, weren’t you?

While playing the clips, I found this studio version of Harry’s daughter singing his song I Wonder What Would Happen to This World

Its got a good beat & you can dance to it

Scene: Dick Clark, any day, the mid-60’s through the mid-70’s. You could have found me watching American Bandstand. I would sit in front of the TV, watching teens dance, observing their actions, studying their clothes, listening to the music, hoping to imbibe whatever it was that made one “cool”, something so unobtainable to me that I didn’t even know how to describe it. I suppose it is still that way: like jazz or pornography, you know it when you see it. But I can’t define it.

Rate-a-record was my favorite part of Bandstand. Two selected kids would listen to a record and then rate it. It was the part I was afraid to leave the room during commercial for fear that I would not return in time.

“Its got a good beat and you can dance to it”.

Yet, Rate-A-Record always disappointed on some level because I did not understand the opinions. In seeking “coolness”, I wanted to have the clues so that I too could rate records and know whether they were good or not, if they were worthy of some unknown-to-me, yet still subscribed to, teenage rating system. “It has a beat….”

I never learned to dance.

Sometimes, I think I feel the same way about performances that I attend. Last night, husband and I went to a chamber music concert. T knows far more about music than I would ever care to know. Yet, I enjoy going to hear music performed. After the first piece, he asked me whether I liked it. He went on to comment about how unusual a portion of the piece was for that type of music — let’s just say it was an adagio, or something like that, because it would have made as much sense if he used the word fettucini. My response could only be some equivalent of “It had a beat and …” I nodded my head and shrugged my shoulders.

At intermission, we stopped to talk to a professor I have known since I was 19. Frequently, we see him at this particular concert series, and we often exchange stories of what musical or theatrical events we have seen recently. Since this was the first concert of the season, it was the first time we had seen Bill since we went to the Royal Shakespeare Company’s performances in NYC last summer. “What did you think about the plays?” he asked. “I loved them” was my husband’s exuberant reply. But he quickly followed up with this: “But what do I know? I’m not a critic.”

In many ways, his response was much like mine was to him earlier regarding the violinist. But, whereas I simply said that I couldn’t discuss the music using his critical tools, it seemed to me, in retrospect, that he may have been apologizing for not having the equivalent theatrical and literary tools with which to assess. I could be wrong — we did not discuss it afterwards — but today I’m thinking about how often, as an audience member, it is easy to fall into a trap where we either only give the unsupported “I liked it” or we don’t comment at all because our experience seems less meaningful than that of a “real” critic.

How do you rate something if not on some internal continuum ranging from “Hate it” to “Love it”? I’m not talking about critical analysis but rather viewer — or listener — analysis. How do you talk about books, or theatre, or music, or art if it isn’t on how you respond to it?

I had intended to write about the plays I saw in New York last summer, but each time that I began to write, I felt that I couldn’t describe the experience in appropriate terms. I think what was stopping me was that I felt that I needed to do a critique of the performances. And I lacked the vocabulary and the expertise to do that. Besides, of the seven plays I saw, only two of them were not in their closing weeks. What was the point? It wasn’t as if I would be recommending these to someone who might choose to attend.

But maybe the point should be something else. It isn’t like the critics always review things in ways that are meaningful to me as an audience participant. Before we went to the RSC plays, we read several of the reviews. One that stands out was that King Lear was described as being a pretty good Lear for someone who hadn’t seen it before. What does that mean? Would I expect something different if I had seen Lear three or four times? Lear was the one play in the series I didn’t see. I knew when he returned from the theatre, because we had joked about the review, T would say that it was pretty good…for a beginner. The reality was that he still didn’t know what that reviewer had meant, but he did enjoy the performance. Likewise, I enjoyed the four RSC plays that I saw (Romeo & Juliet, As You Like It, The Winter’s Tale, Julius Ceasar), and although I can tell you which was my least favorite was Julius Ceasar and that Romeo was my favorite — even though as a play I like As You Like It better — I don’t know that I can tell you why in any sort of way that isn’t outside of my experience. Maybe I can tell you something more that “Its got a good beat…” but, like any theatrical performance, it would be up to each person who sees it to know whether she can dance to it.

Onboard story

Usually, on a plane, I sleep. It is my way of keeping flight anxiety at bay. I’m not terribly afraid of flying. Only a little bit. I like looking out the window, but then I see other planes and wonder if they are really at least a mile away. Or if I look at the ground too much, I wonder what the plane would auger into if it crashed, how many more lives would be touched than just the friends and relatives of those on board. And I’m never at rest over the ocean. I understand that logically the rates of surviving a crash mid-air are probably no different over land than over the ocean, but I worry about not really knowing how to swim. If I’m seated near a window, then I wonder if that is really ice that is accumulating on the wings, or if the flaps are really supposed to do whatever they are doing at the moment. And I wonder why on earth they need to paint “DO NOT STEP” warnings on the wings.

So, mostly I sleep.

Only occasionally do I read, but I can’t seem to keep up with reading a novel at 500 miles per hour. A diversion, sometimes, but usually only when waiting to leave the gate, is to look at the SkyMall magazine. I play a game with my cousin C where we cut out the most ridiculous ad we can find and send it to the other with threats to purchase for the next gift occasion. But, for the last year, the only contender has been the plastic Big Foot peaking out coyly from behind a tree. Even the jaded can’t find anything to poke fun at in Sky Mall anymore.

Last week, on a flight from New York to Chicago, I fell asleep before we left the runway. I didn’t look out the window and bid the Big Apple adieu, and I didn’t worry about those geese in the marshes at the end of the runway, or worry that we might land in Long Island Sound. However, I didn’t sleep for long, just long enough to miss the beverage service and stale peanuts, waking up as Cleveland was probably appearing on the horizon off the starboard.

Too lazy to climb over my seatmate to get to my bag for a book, I reached for the seatback pocket magazine. Although it was only the 4th, both October Sudoku puzzles had been worked. I’m not very good at them anyway. So I started to page through Spirit magazine, Southwest’s inflight magazine. I was completely taken with their main feature, Storytelling.

I’m working on my own story this evening, one that’s due for a workshop review tomorrow. While I’m struggling with my storytelling adventure, enjoy looking at Spirit’s storytelling. While the website has two great videos — the Nokia Shorts 2011 film “Split Screen: A Love Story” that went viral for about a minute a few months ago, and a moving music video “Copenhagen” by the marvelous Lucinda Williams — you really should download the PDF version, available via link at the bottom of the page, to see the entire spread from the magazine. The typesetting was great. The storytelling, even better.

Here is the Williams video:

None but ourselves can free our minds

Been thinking about this song for the past few days. One of my favorite versions:

We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind … Marcus Garvey, Nova Scotia, 1937

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery
None but ourselves can free our minds
Have no fear of atomic energy,
‘Cause none of them can stop the time
How long shall they kill our prophets
While we stand aside and look? Ooh!
Some say that’s just part of it:
We got to fulfill the book.

Won’t you help to sing
This songs of freedom
‘Cause all I ever have –
Redemption songs.
– Bob Marley

And she was… missing enough to feel alright.

Some days I really miss The Talking Heads.

The song portion of the video is only 3:51, but keep watching.

Are there any musicians doing innovative art like this today? Who are the talking heads of this generation? Please let me know.

>From my notebook….Ear Worms

>Scanning the channels for something I can actually listen to on the radio during the early morning drive to the airport. Metal is too noxious, news too chatty, and the station that passes for jazz just took the last train to the coast. Somewhere on the dial, during a brief airing, I hear church music. Bad organ music. Reminds me of the quasi-Mexican place in my college’s town that piped in hymns into the dining room. Onward Christian soldiers, marching towards the taco bar…. I hit the scan button not eager to hear what other audible atrocities awaited.

90 minutes later, I’m on the plane, starting to dose as the flight attendant goes through the security speech. What exactly is a cross-check? Whatever, I’m glad that it is done and we can pull away from the gates. I doze uneasily during take-off. Somewhere in my brain an ear worm has planted itself. Damn it! Of all the songs to have running through my mind, Amazing Grace is definitely not what I want to be humming during flight. Nor, did I hope the pilot might be singing:

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound/that saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found/was blind but now I see

Now, understand, I don’t have anything against church music, per se. I belong to a denomination with a rich tradition of great church music. I think back to when I was 20, studying in London: I would drag my then-agnostic self occasionally to Westminster Abbey to hear evensong. I didn’t care about the words spoken in prayer. I didn’t listen to them. I didn’t realize, at least not on any sort of surface level of consciousness, that the music was sung prayer. I only cared about how the music rose to the vaulted ceiling, bouncing off of the damp stones; how it seemed as if the notes blended with the filtered sunlight streaming in the narrow windows to transport one’s spirit to some sort of ethereal place. More than once I thought how it’d be cool to do yoga in the middle of the Abbey, or maybe in the cloisters, while listening to the chanting and singing inside. I would have laughed if anyone had told me that 20 years later I’d make an effort to go to evensong when I could, in places far different acoustically and culturally than Westminster.

But there are some hymns that I can’t stand. I don’t like the melody; I don’t like the words; I don’t like the pithy, saccharine distillations of faith. And Amazing Grace, with all of its well-intentioned meaning and historical reference, is one of them.

And it was going through my mind unceasingly. On a plane. At 6:30 in the morning. Bleeechhhh!

At dinner that evening, I joked with Catherine about the annoying ear worm. If anyone could give me another song to displace the current loop, it would be her. Most Annoying Songs or Show Tunes is her category. She did not disappoint.

Crackling Rosie you’re a store-bought woman. You make me feel like a gee-tar hummin. Come on now girl, our song keeps running on. Play it now. Play it now my baby….

I asked for this? Neil Diamond in an endless loop is worse than Amazing Grace. I’ve always distinguished myself from other baby boomers a few years older than me by their like/dislike of Mr. Diamond. Few, I’d say, under 50 would count him as a favorite. Only a few years younger than those boomers, my age-mates in school detested him. Two, three years older and one could claim to really remember the Kennedy assassination — and attending a Neil Diamond concert was on the calendar every August at the State Fair. I hadn’t thought of a Neil Diamond song in a decade. That night, those few bars replayed at least 10 years worth of music in my head. Still, it did displace the lamenting church song.

Throughout the next day, I cursed Catherine for making me think of this song. I would be concentrating at work; it would crawl in. I would be looking out my office window at the sail boats on the river; it would wiggle in to share my thoughts. I’d hear someone’s obnoxious ringtone, and my brain would transcribe the guitar chords into a MIDI file. Arghhhh!!!

That evening, returning uptown, I thought it was almost gone. The steady rhythmic sounds of the subway washed away all of my thoughts of the day. Work worries, what to have for dinner, silly pop tunes: all were gone.

I smiled as I switched trains at 42nd St. I had read something a few days earlier about observing where you walk. I paid writerly attention to my quick journey up the stairs and through the corridors. I made note of the people I passed — what they were wearing, how they looked, snippets of conversation. I paid attention to the smells and how the squalid air in the stairwell felt as the train pulled away. So many images: there would be much to write about in my notebook that evening. I was surprised when I got to the wide open mezzanine area that there weren’t musicians playing, just police officers with fierce-looking, but muzzled Alsatians.

I headed down the stairs to the 1. As I walked down the platform, I heard the lonesome sounds of a saxophone. An old Korean man, seated on a milk crate, was playing slowly. As I neared, I realized, too late, what he was playing.

Amazing Grace continued in endless loop in my brain for another three days until I boarded a plane to come home.