Category Archives: Music

Attention Span

While I was standing next to my car last week, filling up the tank, I realized that the screen embedded in the fueling station didn’t just have some pop-up ads showing but an actual video stream of a basketball game. TV.

At my gym, there is a speaker OUTSIDE that plays music as you are approaching/departing the building. Equipment like bikes and treadmills all have individual tv screens and for the weight-lifting machine there are big screens hanging from the ceiling.  There is even a TV in the locker room.  In most airports you can’t find a space that doesn’t have something blaring at you. With everyone glued to their phones these days, it seems a waste of electricity.

It made me think that we have become a society with such a limited attention span that we need 24/7 entertainment. There are several folks here at my office who use earbuds all the time – even when they are away from their desks and I often see people walking along, looking like they are talking to themselves, but of course they are on their phones.

In college I had a professor who had memorized all of Paradise Lost by John Milton.  Today he’d have it downloaded to his phone so he could access it whenever he wanted!

What the largest thing you have memorized?

Smokey and the Patent

Today marks the anniversary of two important happenings in history: The patent of the phonograph by Edison in 1878, and the birthday in 1940 of Smokey Robinson.

I was a little young to really appreciate Motown  in the early to mid 1960’s, but I liked the sound once I was in high school in the mid 1970’s. We had a big stereo with a turntable in the living room. It was mostly used as a piece of furniture.  On Halloween in 1973 my dad bought my first stereo in components that I kept in my room-two big speakers, a receiver/amplifier and a turntable.  I listened to Elton John.  I thought I was in heaven.

What Motown vinyl did you like to spin?  What kind of sound equipment did you have?

Traveling with Bells

We are finalizing the details of a trip we are taking next November to play in a massed hand bell choir at Carnegie Hall. We will also play in Central Park for a short concert the day before the main concert on December 1.

We have our bell assignments, and are figuring out if we will rent bells there or travel with the bells we have here. The organizers assure us that bells do pretty well in suitcases as long as they are thickly padded, and that TSA is prepared to find bells in our luggage.  I sure hope so. I have traveled with some odd things, but I think bells will be some of the oddest.

What are some of the more unusual things you have packed in a suitcase while traveling?  What are your experiences with lost or destroyed luggage?

Rhapsody in Blue

Today is the anniversary of the 1924 premiere in New York City of George Gershwin’s Rhapsody In Blue by Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra. As a clarinet player, I always loved the opening clarinet slide, and was always so frustrated when I couldn’t replicate it.  I recently learned that Gershwin initially wrote the piece for two pianos, and it was orchestrated for Whiteman by Ferde Grofe, yes, he of the Grand Canon Suite.  Grofe was considered quite a jazz composer and arranger, which I also find surprising.

I love Gershwin’s music, especially his popular songs.  I wonder what would have happened if he hadn’t died so tragically young.

What is your favorite Gershwin music? What contemporaries of Gershwin do you like?

Keeping Warm

Photo from IMBd.

I’m not sure why but the cold weather this week found me yearning for our old Monday morning song by the Sons of the Pioneers. Luckily you can find this kind of thing on the internet.  I’ve played it several times over the past few days.  It doesn’t warm me up physically, but gives me an inside warmth that comes with good memories.

Here’s another:

Just one more:

What warms your heart?

Rituals

Today’s post comes to us from Port Huron Steve.

The debut broadcast of CBS Sunday Morning aired January 28, 1979. Because I was a fan of the host, Charles Kuralt, I made a point of watching that first show. I’ve seen many of the broadcasts that have aired in the 40 years since. While my life is mostly unstructured and variable, I try to catch that show. It pleases me to have something in the week that is fixed and predictable. Watching it has become a ritual for me.

Most of us have rituals. They can be annual (like how we celebrate Christmas) or monthly, weekly, daily or something altogether different. If I can believe his songs, a ritual for folksinger Greg Brown is drinking coffee in the morning. My parents couldn’t go to sleep until they had told each other, “I’ll see you in the morning.” Some people meditate. Many folks couldn’t feel right about a week that does not include going to church.

For several decades our family had just one ritual. On Saturday nights we gathered to enjoy the Prairie Home Companion broadcast. We were heartbroken when Garrison quit—was it two times or three?—and thrilled when he came back. I used to walk dogs with a woman who was close to Garrison. She assured me that he needed to do the show as badly as I needed to hear it.

In 2000 I acquired a puppy, an exceptionally affectionate English setter. Katie and I both needed exercise, so we adopted the daily ritual of hiking the off-leash dog park that lies between Minnehaha Falls and Fort Snelling. We had many friends there, human and canine. Our route took about an hour to walk. I used my time in the park to reflect on my life. I couldn’t afford a therapist with an office and a couch, so I relied on the park walks to help me sort out my past and make plans for the future. Katie and I walked that park virtually every day of her life for eleven years.

Like many fans of Trail Baboon, listening to The Morning Show was once an essential ritual for me. I remember thinking I couldn’t bear starting the day without the help of Dale and Tom. Even so, I always knew that someday the show—wonderful as it was—would come to an end. Shows do not live forever, although The Simpsons carries on as ever. The LGMS remains one ritual I’ve never been able to replace.

What role does ritual have in your life?

Surfing Pluto

It’s amazing what happens sometimes when you’re surfing the internet. I started with my daily dose of Sci Show Space, which led me to Gustav Holst’s Suite of Planets.  I realized that Holst wrote The Planets before Pluto was discovered, so he can’t be blamed that after 1930, he was missing a planet (of course now he’s OK again if you want align yourself with the Astronomer’s Union).  Over the years composers have “added” to Holst’s work with various songs about Pluto.

There are serious attempts like Pluto, the Renewer by Colin Matthews):

and very silly (yet funny) pieces, like For the Planet Pluto by the Music Tapes:

And I particularly like this one, Plutonian Nights by Sun Ra:

Then my lunch break was up and I had to get back to work!

Any unsung heroes in your life?