Category Archives: Music

Poetry and Music

This has been a week of loss for us, with the deaths of Peter Ostroushko and Lawrence Ferlinghetti.  A musician and a poet gone.

I think this is a good weekend to think about and celebrate our favorite folk musicians and poets.  I had never in my life experienced folk music until 1981 when I first attended the Winnipeg Folk Festival. It was an absolutely magical experience,  and I was immediate  hooked. I attended every Winnipeg festival  every year I lived there, and many  after we left. When we moved back to the States in 1986, I finally had radio access to PHC, and not long after that I found the Morning Show. The rest is history.

Poetry appreciation has always been a stretch for me, but I have come to understand and love it with the gentle assistance of the Baboons. Thank you, all.

What are your favorite poems? What are your favorite folk groups,  festivals, and songs? What do you think is important for us to hear and read right now?

 

 

Intangible Treasures

I read with interest this weekend that French bakers want the baguette declared an intangible treasure by UNESCO. It seems the small bakeries in France are being driven out of business by large, commercial bakeries that mass produce a product the traditional bakers  dismissively call “bread sticks”.  They hope the designation will help protect the baguette and the art that goes into making them,  and draw attention to what is truly a national treasure.  They are in competition  with a wine festival and the zinc roofs of Paris. The French Minister of Culture will decide which she will recommend to UNESCO this year.

Intangible treasures are oral traditions, performing arts, social practices, traditional craft methods, and rituals.  https://ich.unesco.org/en/lists has a list of them.  They are absolutely fascinating.  I didn’t see a list from the US. I suppose many of our traditions and cultural practices were brought here by immigrants and aren’t exclusive to our country. I would have thought Jazz music would be on the list, but perhaps it isn’t considered fragile or endangered.

Check out the intangible treasures on the UNESCO list. What ones catch your eye?  What would you nominate for the US list?  How is your baguette technique?

 

The Soundtrack of our Lives

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

I’m passionate about music and life, so it is not surprising that the two often meld for me. Certain moments become inextricably associated with the music I was listening to at that time. The most familiar example of this is how couples can have a song or performance that becomes “our” song. But that sort of things happens over and over for people like me. We end up associating music with certain times places we have known. I keep hearing the phrase: “the soundtrack for my life.” And that, for many people, colors how they think of moments from their past.

The worst place I ever lived was a shabby little house on the West Bank near Seven Corners, but that place is also associated with the moment I discovered the music of Leo Kottke at the nearby Scholar Coffeehouse. As awful as that house was, Leo’s music was one of the happiest discoveries of my life. Some of the associations we make are complicated.

Sometimes the soundtrack we can’t help associating with something is wildly inappropriate to anyone else. I discovered the Lord of the Rings trilogy early in grad school. At the same time, I was listening to a lot of Ravi Shankar sitar music. Clearly, the epic trilogy is as thoroughly European and Nordic as Shankar’s music is Indian, but when I read Tolkien I keep hearing sitar music. It is, after all, exotic, and I found the novels exotic.

I think of these matters a lot now because I keep encountering two types of music that are linked in my mind to the pandemic. I discovered the music of the traditional jazz band Tuba Skinny just as the virus reached the US and changed our lives. When I listen to YouTube videos of the band, as I do for maybe an hour each day, I keep reading comments from others who say they could not bear the pandemic without the uplift of Tuba Skinny music.

Similarly, early in the virus shutdown period, Mary Chapin Carpenter began recording Songs from Home. She films herself with her animals (White Kitty and Angus, the golden retriever) at her farm home in Virginia. She delivers her performances (filmed on her phone, I think) with a breathy intimacy that is incredibly calming. Unless you somehow hate her music, I urge you to sample some Songs From Home to read the comments of all the people who say their sole salvation in this difficult time is the music she makes for them.

What about you? What music do you associate with particular moments from your past? Do you have “our song” with anyone?

Casting Call

Well, we have had non-stop national drama for the past four years,  and I am so looking forward to a respite.  I was imagining the other day what political figures I would cast in plays by Shakespeare, imagining who on the national scene would make a good Lear, Lady Macbeth, or Beatrice. The possibilities are endless and amusing, so go to it, Baboons!

 What roles would you cast current national or international political figures in plays, movies, musicals, or operas? Don’t limit yourself to Shakespeare.  What are your favorite  political dramas or comedies?

New Operas

I am not typically a big fan of opera music, but I love the stories they tell. The other day I heard a selection from Nixon in China  by John Adams on MPR. I think it was The Chairman Dances.   I remember seeing a televised performance that opera, and I found the costuming, with all those drab Mao jackets very amusing.

Operas do a good job of immortalizing important moments in history,  and I suppose that Nixon’s breakthrough with China was monumental.  I wonder what the opera repertoire  will be like fifty years from now?

What recent events would you like to see made into operas?  What is your favorite opera?

Standing Firm

Our grandson is 2 1/2. His parents are good about keeping a steady schedule for meals and naps and bedtime.  Prior to our visit he suddenly started a period of change into a new developmental level, and he became disorganized and his schedule became disrupted. His appetite decreased, he didn’t want to nap, and he did everything he could to delay going to sleep at night.

A typical bedtime would see Son or DIL getting him ready for bed, reading  the requisite three books, and putting on music to lull him to sleep. In the past it only took one song to do the trick, but during our visit it turned into multiple requests for “one more song”.  Many times after it was quiet and we thought he was asleep, we found him with his light on and his bed full of books. “I reading, Daddy” he would say with an impish grin. Then came multiple requests to use the bathroom, usually with no results.  Every time he got up, he also needed to be tucked back in bed. They wisely have a baby gate in the doorway of his room so at least he has to stay there and can’t come out at will.

Son and DIL took our advice to put duct tape over grandson’s light switch so he couldn’t turn on the bedroom light. He has a night light.  They also found longer songs and stories to play continuously so that he wouldn’t keep asking for one more song.  They even agreed to stand firm and not go up to his room when he made his stay-awake ploys once he was in bed and was supposed to be going to sleep.

On Saturday night after he had been put to bed after several attempted diversions on his part, I walked past grandson’s room  His door opened, and he looked at me with big brown eyes and he said in a very plaintive voice “Oma, will you tuck me in?”   Well, of course Oma tucked him in! That sort of plea is impossible to resist.  I am happy to report that his plea to me was the last of the evening, and he slept for twelve hours despite my failure to stand firm.

How are you at standing firm?  When is it hard for you to maintain your resolve?

Comfort Ye

Husband announced the other day that he considers Gjetost to be a comfort food. I have never considered it to be so, but he was really happy when he found some at the store earlier this month.  It is too sweet and chalky for my tastes.

This is a year that has screamed a need for comfort. It has been hard to find at times over the past ten months.  I think the worst day in memory was yesterday, as we anxiously waited to see if Daughter’s plane left Denver with her on it.  We hadn’t seen her for a year.  Her flight into Bismarck on Tuesday was cancelled, and she couldn’t get a flight home until Christmas Eve. She had an excellent  time with her grandmother. though, which was a comfort to both of them.

I was so worried all day yesterday.  I tried to distract myself with music. The King’s College Lessons and Carols service was a good start, but it was a really long day. I made some soup, cleaned the kitchen, played solitaire, did laundry, and wrapped some presents, all with a horrid sense of dread and apprehension.  Our cat must have sensed my distress, as she stayed unusually close by me all day.

The only thing that would provide comfort for me was to hear that she was boarding her plane, and then to give her a big hug (but not, she insisted, until she showered to get the Covid germs off her). She was texting us  in caps as she waited for the plane to take off.

What foods, books, music, people, places, activities, or  other things give you comfort these days?

Playing Naked

Husband and I played bells and sang in the choir in three church services yesterday, the last one our annual Lessons and Carols service with musicians from the local LDS Church. After each reading there is a hymn sung by the congregation and an ensemble performance.

Bell ringers wear gloves so that the oils from their hands don’t tarnish the bells. I inadvertently left my gloves in the pew in which I was sitting when I went up to play one of our pieces, and I didn’t want to hold up the service to run back to the pew, so I played naked, (without gloves,  in bell ringer vernacular). Everyone else wore black gloves.  I play in the back row, so I didn’t think anyone would notice. I  hate forgetting things.

How is your memory these days? When have you forgotten something important? How do you keep track of important things?

A Winner

It was on this day in 1934 that Ella Fitzgerald headed to the Apollo Theatre in New York for Amateur Night.  It was a weekly event that had only been started earlier that year and to get onto stage, your name had to be drawn from a hat.  Ella was just 15 and had gone on a bet with two friends.  She had intended to dance, but the act preceding her was a dance duo; she didn’t think her dancing would measure up, so on the spot she decided to sing instead.  She sang “The Object of My Affection” and brought the house down. 

Within a year she joined Chick Webb’s band with whom she scored her first big hit “A Tisket A Tasket”.  The rest is jazz history.      

Have you ever won a drawing?

Holding The Line

In my world/head, I don’t play holiday music or turn on holiday movies until the day after Thanksgiving, although every few years I might listen to holiday music in the car on the way home from Thanksgiving dinner.  This rule is mostly just to keep the Christmas/Solstice season within some kind of boundaries.  I think 5-6 weeks is plenty of celebration – no need for it to spill out into October and early November. 

So I was surprised to come home from picking up pizza yesterday to hear holiday music playing.  Loudly.  As we sat down to our pizza, I gave YA grief about playing Christmas songs.  Without missing a beat, she said “oh please – you’ve been doing holiday stuff since March”.   I have to admit that she is correct.  In the spring, when we all thought covid would be history by this time, I was expecting to be extremely busy at work, with all my spring programs bumping into the fall.  Since this was my mindset, I figured I should get all my Solstice stuff done early, so I wouldn’t be stressing out about it in October and November.  I did all my cards, my egg ornaments and my calendars in the spring.  I also worked on the family gift throughout the summer.  The last week I’ve done what I consider my “last-minute” stuff: the newsletter, wrapping, labels, cookie selection, etc. 

I consider all this holiday prep, but not holiday celebration.  No music or movies for me yet.  But I’m all ready for next Friday…. all my holidays movies are in a separate bin so I can get to them fast and YA’s “Alexa” will be on call every day (and I’ve finally figured out how to get her to play Radio Heartland). 

Will you be celebrating this year?  When will you start?