Posts Tagged 'music'

Lets go down to the sunset bridge

sunsetbridgeLet’s go down to the sunset bridge

And watch the working barge go by

And watch the mosquitoes bite people,

And stare up at the maroon sky….

— with all apologies to Don Henley

A Day Told in Numbers

  • 4.5 hours round trip commute (thanks to rain and roadwork).
  • 9 hours typing frantically on a computer, trying to meet deadlines, and squinting at the screen. Perhaps computer glasses in my future?
  • 2.5 hours at choir practice, standing and holding a music folder in front of me.
  • Only 7 hours of sleep before I get to wake up and do it all again (except the music lessons will be at home, sitting, thank you very much). And I’ll have easy access to aspirin.

First Music

I remember sitting on the floor, wearing a buckled shoe on one foot and on the other a sock. In front of me was a square tin box with yellow, red, black, and blue diamonds painted on it and with a handle made of metal and a ball of wood. The square box was a hard thing for me to struggle with, holding it steady while I cranked the handle to listen to the creak of the mechanism and the galloping tinny sounds of “Pop Goes the Weasel” until the lid of the box flew off to reveal a clown made of crinkly paper with a bobbing, heavy face and outstretched arms.

If I dig further back, I remember being tucked into bed with a teddy bear that played a lullaby. The clockwork ticked away underneath the bear’s body until the key on its back when still. The bear broke when I was very young, and it was featured in photos from my first Christmas. I certainly have other memories, of people singing and playing the piano (my mother) or chanting silly rhymes over and over again (my father, who can appreciate music and sings quietly among the congregation at church, but rarely sings solo).

In each of these moments of memory, I’m rewarded with a reminder of how tactile music can be. It’s not just the sounds, but also the biting sharpness of the edge of a jack-in-the box as you crank the key [“Brahms’ Lullaby“]. It’s the woolly warmth of a soft baby’s toy that’s meant to encourage drowsiness. It’s the melody of a folk song [“Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley“] with the smell of chocolate cake in the oven and a bowl to lick. At live performances, it’s the feeling of being swept off your feet by the vibrations of the pipe organ behind your chair [“A Mighty Fortress Is Our God“]. Or the swoosh of air moving your hair as singers rush past singing the opening song of the second act [a medley of songs from Hair, including “Let the Sun Shine In”].

It’s this tactility, of acting within the moment of the music, that makes me join up for chorus and daydream about taking time off to catch a musical in NYC. To me, there are no performances of music that are just about the music. If nothing else, there is the feeling of open space and the hushed motions of listeners in the audience. So how about you? Do you find music to be just purely an effect of sound? Or do you feel as though you are living more deeply within life’s experience while singing, playing, or listening to a musical piece?

Young Republicans

… Yes, set that line to a David Bowie song, and you’re right about where my brain is right now. Well, that and boggling at the spectacle of well-dressed, young Conservatives dipping and swaying to “Come to my Window” being sung by a live band.

Irony is not dead. It’s just stuck in the 80s, with Alex P Keaton. Perhaps people did not know the words (or the backstory) and just loved the guitar bridge. [I do suspect few of them remembered critically analyzing a poem in college. Do they even teach that these days?]

Officially Feeling Old

The media keeps talking about the line between the boomers and the rest of us. I just tripped over the line between me and people born in the 80s. A friend just told me she never heard of Hall & Oates.

This is like catching a glimpse of yourself in a mirror while you’re talking with someone and thinking “Good GOLLY I’m short!” or, alternately, “when did I suddenly get tall?” Think I’m gonna just trawl teh Internet for some goofy, fun tunes. If you want come along on my nostalgia trip, visit: I Can’t Go for That (No Can Do), Out of Touch, and Kiss On my List. While we’re at it, who wants to play Chinese Jump Rope? Anyone else’s inner child need some exercise?

Gifts for Artists and Musicians

One of the things that get cut in a bad economy are the Arts — schools cut art and music classes rather than sports. One way to counteract this economic Grinch effect is to provide kids and kids at heart with the tools they need to practice their craft of choice. Luckily, it doesn’t have to break the bank.

  • If there’s a kid in your life who loves trombone, clarinet, violin, and you know the family can’t afford lessons, see if you can get other family members to help you cover the cost — maybe split it up so each person covers one day’s lesson.
  • Match sheet music to the musical taste of budding performers — sheet music from Wicked or Pirates of the Caribbean may fill a young musician with joy.
  • Paintbrushes, sheets of disposable palette paper, and refills of paint colors that get used up quickly (for instance, titanium white) are welcome additions to any painter’s studio. Ditto for pastels, kneaded rubber erasers, and tortillions for other artists.
  • If they’re learning to draw, provide them with art pencils, colored pencils, and paper.
  • Little artists need refills of paper for painting easels, child safe paints, inexpensive brushes, glitter glue, crayons, and modeling clay.
  • Teens might enjoy a book on drawing cartoons and caricatures, along with some of the tools mentioned in the book.

And, of course, give the gift that’s free — encouragement. If your niece or nephew want to play their violin, drum, or clarinet after dinner on Christmas Day, sit and really listen. If they want to show you their latest artworks, smile and look for things you can identify and talk about (like color choice, if the art is abstract). Remember — even really great performers like Wynton Marsalis, Yo-Yo Ma, and Marian Anderson and famous artists like Mary Cassatt probably needed encouragement when they were young.

Life’s Little Ironies

… working in an office filled with people nattering on about the stock market (updates from the US markets every 5 minutes, direct from a website someone’s watching like a hawk), what their funds are doing, and how the whole world is slowly tipping into oblivion…

Luckily I get to listen to my IPod with its steady stream of Starship, Bruce Springsteen, and songs that were popular during the Crash of the late ’80s. And then the Pet Shop Boys show up with, “I Love You (You Pay My Rent)“. So close to all the conversation I was hearing behind me. Who knew Ipods on shuffle have a sense of wicked timing?

Hopefully soon I will have light to take a quick photo of the Amazonian sock, now with added toe.

A Folk Singing Household

I grew up in a house that’s hard to define as part of the 60s and 70s, if you believe television’s focus on the Bandstand [the music’s hopping… ] era. Mom loved folk music, even minoring in it in college. Dad loved classical. So the sounds of my childhood were filled with Brunnhild dying on a pyre, the Kingston Trio, and Peter Paul and Mary (Puff the Magic Dragon was one of my favorites). Mom was almost always in a choir, and I have fond memories of her practicing at our upright piano.

YouTube (and Nick Reynold’s promotion to the heavenly choir from his role in the Kingston Trio) is bringing back the songs Mom hummed to, while she looked wistfully at the air in front of her while washing dishes. I can even see the kitchen we had before we moved, down to the little catchall nesting bowls that had a glass lid at the top of the tower, filled with wine corks [a slow growing collection for a corkboard], rubber bands, pins, twine.

A favorite song I remember her singing is a wistful, haunting melody called “Four Strong Winds”. Here it is, sung by The Brothers Four. I look at the audience singing along, and realize how young my mother was before she even met my father. And even though she didn’t go to UCLA I couldn’t help looking for her singing along too. More audience signing for their version of 500 Miles (from the 1960s). btw, the Hooters also covered this song (1980s), and it is very different.

I’m in a choir now that’s singing socially relevant music. Kind of a modern spin on all those songs that were background during food prep or while I did my homework on the dining room table. Thanks, Nick, for the music. You really did make your light shine.

Anytime You Feel Overwhelmed by Work

….Just imagine the day of a chorusmaster.

Much of the blog is in Danish. It is, after all the opera blog of the Royal Danish Theatre (Det Kongelige Teater). I look at their schedule and think, “Someday, I’ll get to go, when I’ve saved up enough for an amazing European vacation.”

Original link brought to my attention by Angry Professor. Hey, thanks, Angry!


I live on a block with the requisite odd people (cue random yelling woman or the people with dogs the size of elephants). We even have loud, odd visitors (cue drunk guy shouting F– that! at least once a night. It always sounds like the same guy too, which makes me worry that he’s really killing his brain cells with beer if he’s this surprised each time he has a bad time with his friends).

Meanwhile, neighbors have chosen to move their piano out on the front porch, and then leave it outdoors during yesterday’s tropical storm. It looks like a perfectly good upright, of uncertain vintage. I wonder what it ever did to them.

It’s a little bit too eccentric — like Elizabeth Eliza’s piano in the Peterkin Papers.

Should I sneak onto their porch and use the piano to practice chorus music by their porch light? The honeysuckle is in bloom, which adds an air of romance to plans of skulduggery.