Archive - Apr 2012


April 16th

The Old Clarinet

It has been a long frustrating day, lengthened by too much work and a vendor providing substandard service. It was a day of record breaking heat, which for mid April wasn't unbearable. To decompress, I walked down beside the Connecticut River at lunch time. There were plenty of people to say hello to, and soon, I was back at my office, ready to face the second part of the day.

The commute home was mostly uneventful. I left the office late and there was little traffic. However, as I approached Wallingford, smoke covered the road and traffic slowed to a crawl. Off in the distance you could see firetrucks gathered to fight a brush fire. It has been hot and dry and there have been more fires than usual.

On my way home, I stopped at the Sam Ash music store in New Haven. Sometime ago, I had dropped my old clarinet off to have it fixed up. Some of the cork was coming off and a few pads were loose. I had gone to pick it up on Saturday, but found it wasn't completely repaired, so I left it, and they finished the job today.

After my frustration with a vendor earlier in the day, I was pleasantly surprised at the good customer service Sam Ash provided.

Kim was working late this evening and Fiona was staying with her grandparents, so I was home alone. I did ate, did some chores and checked out a few things online. Yet I was restless. So, I took out the old clarinet and gave it a test drive. It has been years since I played the clarinet and I never was all that good at it. My embouchure is all out of shape, and I barely remembered the fingering. But, I played a few scales, and picked out a tune by ear. Soon, my mouth was sore, and I knew better than to push things. So, I put away the old clarinet, contented to have reconnected with an old friend.

(Categories: )

April 15th

The Harpeth Rising Quadrille at The Buttonwood Tree

Rebecca stood in front of an old brick wall covered by paintings made by animals from the Beardsley Zoo. She quietly plucked a few notes on the strings her banjo, as if trying to remember a long forgotten tune. Facing her were a couple dozen fans of the band Harpeth Rising who had come to The Buttonwood Tree in Middletown, CT to hear them perform. They leaned forward waiting for the tune to emerge.

The melody emerged. It was then picked up by Maria on the cello. Chris added the rhythm and Jordana took up the melody as others moved to the counterpoint. It was almost as if Bach wrote bluegrass for the banjo.

The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival has interpreters signing the lyrics of songs in American Sign Language and I've often wondered what it is like for hearing impaired to experience the performance of musicians. The lyrics are but a part of the performance. Yet, with Harpeth Rising, I could see a beauty in the performance that those just listening often miss. It was as if Maria was dancing with her cello as she leaned into her music and her arm and bow moved perpendicular to the strings. The dance was mirrored by Jordana, Rebecca and Chris. The four of them, with their musical instrument partners were performing an intricate dance, something between a quadrille and a square dance, with the only caller being the smiles and glances they exchanged amongst themselves, as one followed another's lead.

I thought back to Falcon Ridge. One of the most enjoyable aspects of the weekend is Friday afternoon when the emerging artists perform on the Mainstage. Each performer is given ten minutes and those who get the most votes from the audience are invited back as part of the 'most wanted' for the following year.

This year, it seemed like many of the performers sounded the same; young female singer songwriters, who I noted in the bulletin as GFV, generic female vocalist. Perhaps that was unfair, because each of them had their strengths and weaknesses. Each of them had their idiosyncrasies which made them interesting and stand out.

Harpeth Rising launched into one of the songs written by Jordana's father, with tight vocal harmonies. I don't have a category that I can easily lump them into, but the way their voices worked together made me think of Red Molly, an "Americana/Roots Female Trio" that formed at Falcon Ridge that also has tight vocal harmonies.

Other than going to Falcon Ridge, and a few local venues, we rarely make it out to hear live music, but Harpeth Rising, like Red Molly, are two bands that are well worth the trip and we try to hear whenever they are in the area.

(Categories: )

April 14th

Harpeth Rising, The Foresters, and Almost Famous

I realize that what kids are interested in often changes from their pre-teen years to their interests in high school, college, or their first careers. I also don't want to be one of those parents with all kinds of expectations on my pre-teen. Yet recent events have caused me to think of Fiona's Radio Show in terms of the movie Almost Famous.

IMDB describes the story line as:

William Miller is a 15 year old kid, hired by Rolling Stone magazine to tour with, and write about Stillwater, an up and coming rock band.

Well, last night we took Wesley over to the Bethany Dog Park, where Fiona ran into some members of the band, The Foresters. Fiona got invited over to their house where she listened to the band practice, and toasted marshmallows. It was a wonderful mix of childhood fun of playing with dogs and roasting marshmallows, and the up and coming young writer hanging out with members of an up and coming band.

No, I don't think any of the kids were claiming to be 'golden gods', and instead of panic calls from the young journalist's mother, Kim was texting with the parents of the band members.

Fiona got home late last night, but was up in time to watch the World Premier of The Legend of Korra this morning, and then head off to the birthday party of a classmate. If we have enough energy, Fiona will switch back to her young entertainment journalist mode this evening to go hear Harpeth Rising this evening at The Buttonwood Tree.

So, I read through the quotes from Almost Famous, and try to find some words of wisdom, either from the young journalist's mother, or his mentor, to end off the blog post with, but in the end, what really matters is having fun, creating things, while trying to make the world a little bit better. So, I hope that Fiona is having fun at the birthday party and that we'll have fun this evening, soaking up some of the creative energy of a really great band.

(Categories: )

April 12th

Internet Avatar

Hardware, Software, Pixels, Sound. Long ago, the four nations lived together in harmony. Then, everything changed when marketers from the Pixel Nation tried to take over the Internet.

My daughters love the show, Avatar the Last Air Bender, and are eagerly awaiting the The Legend of Korra. Through the fan site, my eldest and youngest daughters watched the first two episodes. Afterwards, I told Fiona that she needed to work on her pixel bending. Later, I talked more about it, and it occurred to me that following the four elements of Avatar, there were four elements of the internet and video games.

Hardware, Software, Pixels, Sound. A good internet experience, or video game experience, is likely to be based on most, if not all of these elements. As I thought more about it, it seemed that each of these have long histories.

The Hardware Benders, are the craftsmen and artisans of ages ago. They were the blacksmiths, shoeing horses, later, creating sculptures, moved over to gear heads, ham radio operators, and folks building computers in their garages.

Then, there are the Software Benders. These are the writers, the poets, the bards. They've gone from creating experiences with words in ancient languages to using new languages like Java or C++.

The pixel benders are the painters, from the caves of France to the post-impressionists, and on through photography, videography and animation.

And of course, the sound benders are the musicians from their didgeridoos to their digital synthesizers. The internet experience and the video game experience brings together all of this.

Perhaps this provides a useful way to help get youth to work on their pixel bending and sound bending.

(Categories: )

April 10th

Change and Stasis

Life is what happens while you're waiting for something else to occur, or so it seems these days. I drove to work in the usual way. I tried to keep my eyes open for the unexpected, or at least for moments of beauty that it is reasonable to expect these days. The flowers; spring's first gold, are still around, though the land is dry.

I've been watching YouTube videos of poets reading their poems at festivals across time and across our nation, it helps me to stop and look a little more closely. Yet my life is still dominated by waiting expectation. It seems like we should be in Advent and not Eastertide.

Projects at work proceed, with important events drawing near. At home, we wait for news about our impending move. How will the timing work out? I look at the grandfather's clock, as the weights sink closer to the floor. How many more times will I hoist those weights before it is time to move?

In the evenings, I distractedly visit various websites. I scan the news and social media in hope, and sometimes in fear, of the sign of times to come. And while I expect important changes imminently, and while others talk about the end of time, I don't expect the changes I will see to be cataclysmic.

No, the more things change, the more they stay the same. My mind wanders to absurdest plays and poetry reflecting on change and stasis.

If is happening around me. Hopefully, I can manage to see it and take it in.

(Categories: )