Just Jazzy 197

soap-lock (n) a lock of hair worn on the temple and kept smoothly in place by being soaped:  hence, any lock brushed apart from the rest of the hair and carefully kept in position.

sackbut (n) a medieval musical instrument of the trumpet family

"I wear my soap-lock on my forehead and play sackbut in a marching band!"  How totally awesome is that for an answer when somebody asks what you do?

“I wear my soap-lock on my forehead and play sackbut in a marching band!” How totally awesome is that for an answer when somebody asks what you do?

Jazzy Words

Music Lessons

piano

365 Days of Writing Prompts from WordPress:  Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse.  How is your life different today because of him or her?

My mother bought a second-hand upright piano when we were kids and announced that all of us were going to take lessons and learn how to play it.  I don’t remember being given a choice about that, but we embarked on the process willingly enough.  Music lessons must have been something my parents discussed and dad agreed to simply to make mom happy, although even buying the piano would have been a major expense for them and certainly was not a necessity.  Like all good parents, they sacrificed to give their kids opportunities.  And like all kids everywhere, we did not always appreciate the things we had to do for our own good.

Mr. Rhodes was short and round and serious and I never saw him dressed in anything but a suit and tie.  He had black brush cut hair, big dark rimmed glasses and a stern and scowling look, but he was, underneath all that, a gentle man.  He played the organ at our church and his wife was our choir director.  She was also an Avon Lady, and he was a high school industrial arts teacher who taught music in his spare time. They lived in a little white stucco house near the high school and although I must have visited it a hundred times, all I remember is the tiny living room with a table chock full of Avon stuff and the piano lesson room around the corner where I would sit on a hard bench for an hour at a time in the interests of obtaining a well-rounded education.

From the first lesson he had a lot of patience with me.  I had none at all with myself.  Much like how I wanted to be able to read books after a couple of weeks in grade one,  I expected to be able to play the piano well and to do it quickly without a lot of effort.  I wanted short cuts to mediocrity.  He was more bent on slowly fostering and developing an appreciation and a love in me for all things musical.  Music delighted him.   Lesson after lesson he painstakingly taught me how to read the notes on the page, the proper fingering and hand positions, and a lot of boring stuff about dead composers and sharps and flats and major and minor keys and keeping time.  I thought all the practicing would kill me so I did as little of it as possible.

Despite my best efforts to merely survive the tedium, a lot of knowledge sunk in and eventually some talent oozed out.  He told me I was one of his best pupils, although now I think he was being rather generous with his praise.  I did get very good at sight-reading, sitting down with a brand new piece of music in front of me and playing it through without difficulty.  But I never felt like interpreting what was written into anything beautiful or sad or joyous with feeling and real emotion.  Watching a concert pianist play something classical and emote all over the keyboard with closed eyes and a rapturous face made me extremely uncomfortable.  I had no ambition whatsoever for that to ever be me.  When Mr. Rhodes would wave his pencil in the air and cry “Dolce!  Pianisimo!”  in the middle of a piece,  I would often just bang away all the harder to drown him out.

Less dedicated teachers might have thrown up their hands, but he looked for ways to encourage and motivate me.  He went out one day and bought me a big music book full of John Philip Sousa marches and told me to take it home and play my heart out.  Suddenly music was a beautiful thing.  Our piano took a real beating for a while after that.  Grandioso and fortissimo were definitely my thing.  I was never what anyone would describe as a loud or forceful person, but for whatever reason, playing the piano brought that out in me.

My brother got to quit the piano lessons when he’d had enough of them, and one of my sisters decided she wanted singing lessons instead.  I often said I wanted to stop, but I could see how much it meant to mom for me to keep going.  And Mr. Rhodes pronounced me almost good enough to take my grade eight practical and theory exams if I chose to work a little harder.  So I kept going for music lessons longer than I ever expected I would, with no real plan for ever putting them to any use.

You may find it strange to learn that I went on to play the organ at church after taking lessons on that instrument as well, and adding deep bass foot pedaling to my repertoire.   I learned to do soft and quiet background pieces, slow and funereal dirges, the kind of soothing music that can put some church goers to sleep.  But I lived for the glory hallelujah Onward-Christian-Soldier marching hymns putting fire in everyone’s soul, never mind leaving a lot of the older parishioners a little breathless and blue in the face.

My music teacher had a heart attack and died in his backyard on a summer afternoon when I was halfway through high school.  I don’t know if there were any warning signs but that wouldn’t have changed the fact that it was sad and shocking news.  I never got to tell him how bad I felt for not passing the music exams, although I brushed it off as totally unimportant at the time.  I did tell everyone I didn’t want to take them but they urged me on so I went through the motions in my usual lackadaisical fashion.   Even though I knew how disappointed he would be if I didn’t do well, I didn’t work hard enough and I’m sorry for that.  I passed the sight reading part with flying colors though. That was the only thing that impressed my examiners.

How is my life different because of him?  Well I didn’t really have much of a life going on before he and his piano were in it, so I can only imagine how different it would be without all my miscellaneous musical knowledge.  It drives me nuts to hear wrong notes and anything played or sung off-key.  I can still look at a piece of music and read it and hear it in my head.  Maybe I could still play it, but these old hands are certainly out of practice.  We couldn’t be hauling a piano all over the place when my kids were growing up, so they never got to be “Rhodes scholars” like me.

I’ve heard people say they wish they’d kept up with their music lessons, but I don’t mind that they stopped for me when they did.  It was never one of my passions.  I’m simply happy to have known someone who loved it all so very much.

365 writing prompts

Thump Ripe Melons

joan baez

365 Days of Writing Prompts ( WordPress) for January 4:  Quote Me 

Yes, I know I am a day behind, but I’m skipping the one they suggested for today because it involved the phrase ‘favourite book’ and for me there just is no such thing. Or possibly favourite anything, but for the sake of sanity, I’ll just pick a quote I like and everything will be back to normal tomorrow.  Or, you know, as close as it gets.

Do you have a favourite quote that you return to again and again?  What is it, and why does it move you?

Life is a thump-ripe melon, so sweet and such a mess.  (Joan Baez)

Found out yesterday I have been getting this quote wrong forever.  I thought it was “life is like a soft ripe melon, so sweet and such a mess” but the words are from the song Rexroth’s Daughter, and the original version of this quote (which is actually what one is supposed to get right, because, duh, it’s a quote)  is a lot better than the one I appear to have messed up. Because thump-ripe is an incredibly fun thing to say, and stating that life IS something is so much more emphatic than being vague about what life might be like.

The whole song is quotable.  It’s so sixties and folk-song-y. I also found out it was a song originally done by Greg Brown, and Joan Baez did a cover of it, so it’s not even her quote!  See??  Life IS a big mess.  Sometimes I think that’s exactly what makes it sweet.  And thump-worthy.

Anyway, enough making things up for now.  Here is the song, sounding to me at the beginning as if her guitar might have been used a few too many times for melon thumping.

Coldest night of the winter, working up my farewell
In the middle of everything, under no particular spell
Dreaming of the mountains where the children learn the stars
Clouds roll in from Nebraska, dark chords on a big guitar
My restlessness is long gone standing like an old jack pine
I’m looking for Rexroth’s daughter. She’s a friend of a friend of mine
Can’t believe your hands and mouth did all that to me
And they are so daily naked for all the world to see
That thunderstorm in Michigan I never will forget
We shook right with the thunder and in the pounding rain got wet
Where did you turn when you turned from me with your arms across your chest
Yeah I’m looking for Rexroth’s daughter, saw her in the great northwest

Would she have said it was the wrong time if I had found her then
I don’t ask very much, a field across the road and a few good friends
She used to come and see me, she was always there & gone
Even the very longest loves don’t last very long

She’d stood there in my doorway smoothing out her dress
saying ‘life is a thump-ripe melon – so sweet and such a mess’

Well the murderer who lived next door seemed such a normal guy–
You try to swallow what they shove at us, you run out of tears to cry
I heard a man speak quietly, I listened for a while
He spoke from his heart to my woe and then he bowed and smiled
What is real but compassion as we move from birth to death
Yeah I’m looking for Rexroth’s daughter and I’m running out of breath
Spring will come back I know it will and it will do its best
so useful, so endangered like a lion or a breast
I think about my children when I look at any child’s face
pray that we will find a way to get with all this amazing grace

It’s so cold out there tonight, stormy I can hardly see
I’m looking for Rexroth’s daughter and I guess I always will be.

Noise of the Day and Night

saturated noise

saturated noise (Photo credit: aalbinger)

I work in a noisy spot.  Sounds are constantly assaulting my eardrums – beeping scanners, crying kids, moms yelling at them, one-sided phone conversations, pages and announcements, random snatches of private discussions in a public place.  One afternoon we had a power outage for half an hour and the sudden lack of the cacophony of all the things usually running was just plain weird.  Sometimes my head feels like it’s humming in an attempt to block out the background pandemonium. My ears buzz.  All that noise makes me irritable and tired.

So the last thing I want to hear when I get home is the satellite radio blasting out freaking Christmas music.  The first thing I want to hear is a big fat nothing, the beautiful sounds of silence.

W, on the other hand, tells me he likes background music.  He has freely admitted this bit of insanity.  He has the radio going ALL THE TIME, night and day, because he LIKES THE NOISE.  I come home to the radio playing upstairs and the volume on the t.v. turned up downstairs.  I’m not even going to begin to try to figure out why, but it’s obvious that we need to come to some kind of noise compromise here, other than having me stomping around turning things off all the time.  I don’t want to get up to put the coffee on in the morning and have some stupid song immediately grinding on my nerves.  It’s not a great way to start the day.

This morning, once again enduring the Christmas music, I made some snarky music/noise related remark which caused W to turn off the radio and go outside to spend quality time with his snow blower.

I suppose that should have made me happy, but it didn’t particularly, so I decided to search for a channel I could tolerate for more than five minutes.  What I found, just this side of giving up in exasperation, is a modern jazz station that plays broadway hits.  Seriously.  So now who’s insane?

This is the piece that caught my attention – The Music of the Night.

The noise has been reverberating ever since.  Like for two hours.  This is some kind of record for me. And so it continues, and W isn’t even at home now.  Maybe I’m coming down with something.

English: This is a written sketch for "Ra...

English: This is a written sketch for “Radio Noise 24”, by PolyNeon. All rights belong to Dywane Thomas Jr. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something for Sunday

Dentist Humor

Dentist Humor (Photo credit: MTSOfan)

My dentist is a funny guy.

He is also gentle, efficient, quiet, skilled, calm, and altogether very pleasant.

It is really hard to hate him.

I didn’t intend to go back to see him again so soon, but a chunk of a very old filling came loose so I made an appointment, without having a mild panic attack.  It’s about time I outgrew this fear, wouldn’t you say?  My dentist is not all that scary, after all.  The night before I was scheduled to see him, (and the only good thing about this is the timing) another chunk of another very old filling also broke away from another molar.  My teeth are falling out of my head as we speak.  Or at least I am living with that stupid worry.

As much as I distress myself about all the work that has to be done, I’m very thankful to be in a place and time where it’s all possible and to have dental insurance that will pay for some of it.  The prep work for a permanent bridge to fill in a gap (which I’ve had for years but before now never agreed to have fixed)  has already been done.  Ouch, physically and financially.  Two more visits to completion, including a temporary and then a permanent crown.  I can do this.

He told me I made a good impression.  HAHA!  They took about four of them with that weird pink goop that hardens and sets and feels like it’s never going to come loose without cracking your jaw. He assured me that only a couple of teeth came out with it, no worries.

I came home feeling a bit sorry for myself, had a liquid lunch, took a couple of pain killers and went to sleep.  And after all that I felt a lot better.  I forgave the dental assistant for gagging me with the suction pump, or whatever it’s called.  The freezing came out of my eyeball and my nose.  Frankly I don’t care if they freeze my entire head, but why do dental people always ask complicated questions when your mouth is full of plastic and clamps and pink goop?

So what does all this have to do with Sunday?  Well, nothing really, it’s just what day of the week it happens to be, and the dentist visit happens to be what popped into my head.  And now I would like to pop it right back out again and listen to something that has nothing to do with drills and bridges and bibs around the neck.

There have been many covers of this song, but nobody comes close to Etta James.  Enjoy, and have a lovely lazy Sunday.

Dancing In The Moonlight

dancing in the moonlight

dancing in the moonlight (Photo credit: AlicePopkorn)

Daily Prompt:  The Full Moon -When the full moon happens, you turn into a person who’s the opposite of who you normally are.  Show us the new you.

The new me, under the light of the full moon, will be dancing her little heart out with beauty and grace.  (The old me is a terrible and awkward dancer with heavy duck feet and a clumsy body which bumps into things and knocks them over.)

I found this picture of opposite me, wearing a fluffy white dress, on a pedestal, taking a breather from all that manic prancing around in the middle of the night.  And still smiling even though my bare feet are wet from the dewy grass and I have no idea how I’m going to get down from there.

It appears that moonlight also makes one young and gorgeous with great hair.  Wow.  That’s better than the magic of candle light, hey?  Get out there in that moonlight, people!

To quote some lovely moony lyrics from King Harvest –

When the moon is big and bright, it’s a supernatural delight

Everybody here is out of sight, they don’t bark and they don’t bite

They keep things loose, they keep it light, it’s such a fine and natural sight

You can’t dance and stay uptight.

Here’s the music I’m using for my next dance under the moon.  Come and join me!  I swear I won’t bark and I won’t bite.  Beyond that, I’m not making any promises about my behaviour.  A full moon does strange things.

August Post For Peace

love & peace
This month the Bloggers for Peace challenge from Kozo at everyday gurus is to invoke the power of music, and to post something about the intersection of music and peace.

After my husband got satellite radio and set it up in our house to blat away 24/7, our son, here on a weekend visit, wondered aloud why we kept it tuned to a station playing such bizarre and eclectic random stuff.  Those weren’t his exact words, but close enough. W told him “because that’s the only station your mother doesn’t turn off.” 

That was rather enlightening for all of us, illustrating, among other things, what a joy I am to live with.

I used to wonder why my dad seemed to be so sensitive to what he called “a bunch of damned noise” when it came to our teenage tastes in music, but now I get it.  There is music I like a lot and will listen to selectively when the rare mood for it hits me, but over all I prefer the sounds of silence.  Listening to nothing greatly reduces the chances of getting a song stuck in my head for hours on end.  Or maybe my longing for quiet is a throwback to the days when we all took music lessons and hammered away on the piano giving the entire household pounding headaches.  It was a great relief to walk away and escape outside for some peace and quiet.  I’m pretty sure that’s how I got a beautiful heart out of the whole piano lesson experience.

So what kind of music do I find peaceful?  Lullabies are lovely.  Anything soft and slow and barely audible.  Deep wind chimes in a summer breeze.  Something with beautiful lyrics, or no lyrics at all.  There are some classical pieces (like Chopins Nocturnes for instance) with the power to soothe the soul.  I like R&B and Jazz.  I especially love instrumental mood music with background water falls and thunder storms.  Yep, I’m one of those people.

I also like Gregorian chant, and its immitators.  And the pure, clear, incredibly beautiful and haunting Celtic solo voice.  Put these two together and it’s hard for me to imagine music any more easy listening and peace inspiring than this.

I hope this video gives you a few moments of blissful peace and relaxation.  And then, I promise, you can go back to your polkas or hip hop or hard rock or whatever it is that works for you.

 

Come now, come by our side
A place where you can hide
We are the sunshine
Rest your soul here and you’ll find
We are the energy
We give the world to thee
Hold up your heart now
We will ease pain from your brow

In a world without dangers,
Where destruction is near
You can come with us here.
Where the people are strangers
You will rest here with me
In a moment of peace.
In a world without dangers,
Where destruction is near
You can come with us here.
Where the people are strangers
You will rest here with me
In a moment of peace.

Light up the dark below
See through the stars
Reach to the earth’s flow
Drift in the joy of our hearts
Unleash the energy
Taste of the wine
Drink as a soul that knows now
The power divine

In a world without dangers,
Where destruction is near
You can come with us here.
Where the people are strangers
You will rest here with me
In a moment of peace.
In a world without dangers,
Where destruction is near
You can come with us here.
Where the people are strangers
You will rest here with me
In a moment of peace.

bloggers for peace

Love A Rainy Night

Paris in the pouring rain

Paris in the pouring rain (Photo credit: david.nikonvscanon)

The only thing better than a rainy night in Paris is a rainy night here followed by a rainy morning which turns into a rainy day.  And then a rainy weekend.  My little patch of the world is very green.  And extremely wet. Okay, maybe that’s not better than Paris.  But I can’t imagine their rain is any more fun than ours.

With two days off to stay in out of the rain, I am happy to report that Operation De-Clutter is going swimmingly!  Two big purple bins are full and tucked away in the basement.  I no longer feel like the walls are falling in on me. I can see the surfaces of things.

Still lots to do, but I may have to slow down in the next few days because the middle toe on my left foot is badly bruised.  You know how it is when you bang some part of your body on something and it really hurts, so you continue to bang into things with it several more times over the course of the day?  Just to make sure you can go through your entire repertoire of curse words?   That was my Sunday.  Hallelujah.  God gets you for doing housework in your bare feet.

I wanted to post some great rain music on Sunday, but I never got around to it, so it’s been bumped to Monday.  We’re not expecting to see much of the sun until Thursday this week, but I like the rain.  You can sing in it.  And laugh.  And walk hand in hand with the one you love and get drenched and catch pneumonia.  I put that last bit in to see if you were still paying attention.  It’s okay, I’m done, so you can go ahead and listen now, and let these rain songs make you feel good.