Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Not everyone is old like Bach

What is it about "classical" music that makes it seem so old? I've been watching a series of video podcasts by the Boston Symphony about Beethoven and Arnold Shoenberg. I didn't realize that Shoenberg died in 1951 and expressed surprise to Tonya that he died that recently. She mentioned that sometimes we don't think about the fact that the great modern composers lived in our lifetimes but that Dmitri Shostakovich did die in the seventies--1975 to be exact. So although I wouldn't have been listening to him, I would have been around two years old! In fact, there have been many great composers of the 20th century that were alive during our lifetime: Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Samuel Barber, Igor Stravinsky (but not for me--he died in 1971), and even Ralph Vaughn Williams who's music, when compared to the others in this list, sounds much more romantic in style.

Does classical music have that much of a stigma to it that so many people just can't get into it? I know a lot of American orchestras try to have outreach programs to try and engage younger audiences but there still seems to be something failing here. I guess that's partly why I am a musician. I want to bring great music to other people who might not have experienced it. Listening to recordings is not enough either; you just can't get that same vibe that you do in a live setting. When I was in college I listened to Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring" several times and never "got" it. It just didn't do anything for me. Then I went to see the Nashville Symphony perform it and was blown away. This is the music for a ballet and when the ballet was first performed in the early 1910's (I think) there was a riot. I could finally understand it because I was so electrified at the Nashville performance--I just wanted to jump up and down in my seat like I was at a rock concert! So why can't we take classical music in this direction? I think if more people realized how exciting modern classical music could be then there would be much more interest in it. In other words, it would be much more marketable, which evidently is another problem to a lot of musicians, even in the rock world. I don't really know his music but several years ago there was a lot of talk about how Moby was selling out because he was making such a profit from all the different things he was doing with his music, like selling it for TV commercials. It seems that a lot of people think that to be a musician you should not think about the money, only the art. But why? Musicians have to live, too, right? So if they can make a profit while doing something they love what's wrong with that?

So many questions, but I certainly didn't mean to turn this into a rant about marketing art. In the end the main thing is that classical music somehow needs to become more mainstream, more understood. This is why this Friday I'm going to North Carolina School of the Arts for an audition to their graduate music program. I want to be able to do my part to bring great music to other people. And I know it's possible! While I was an undergrad, I put together a contemporary music ensemble which to most people is an immediate turn off. I had several people come to the concert that I am sure had never listened to anything like what we were doing. After the concert I asked them how they liked it and they seemed surprised that "it was very different but it was actually interesting". I know that "interesting" doesn't mean the same as "beautiful" or "exciting" but from that point I realized that if people could be educated about music then more would be interested in it.

But really the main education is simply this: You just listen to it. It doesn't have to mean anything. Just listen to the sounds and how they make you feel.


Sunday, February 18, 2007


A few months ago I found an interesting website showcasing a now ten-year-old project: Art vending machines called Art-o-mat. The machines are refurbished cigarette machines where you pay around $5 for original art work the size of a cigarette pack. There are 82 machines in the America plus one in England. What a great way to reuse something that used to sell harmful products!

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

An Inconvenient Truth

I watched a documentary called An Inconvenient Truth today. If you've not heard of it you should check it out. It's basically a presentation that Al Gore has been giving all over America since 2005 about the dangers and effects of global warming. It is really quite a wake up call to what we are doing to the planet. There are lots of skeptics out there stating that what Gore says is not all true but as I watched the movie I kept thinking what would his agenda be to be telling us all of this information? I think the only agenda is that we are damaging our planet and it needs to stop. Even if what he says is only partially true (which I don't think) wouldn't doing what he says we should do be a benefit anyway? Watch this movie; you'll be amazed and maybe even disturbed by what is happening--and what is not being done because of political or financial reasons.


Thursday, February 8, 2007

A slight break from the cold

It's been really cold this week. Here's a haiku I wrote at the beach this past summer. Maybe it can warm us up.

Bay waves on the shore
Frogs hopping on the front lawn
cukes, tomatoes, corn


Wednesday, February 7, 2007


I've subscribed to a new podcast about the great saxophonist John Coltrane called Traneumentary. It's going to include interviews and commentaries about Coltrane and his music. The first episode was released this week and featured trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard. Blanchard said he had heard from stories from other people that Coltrane said, "You had to play in tune, and he didn't mean pitch...he meant that you need to learn how to play in tune to what was happening in the universe, to the vibration that was going on at that particular moment in time."

This is the whole point! I briefly touched that just the other day as I was practicing and it is unlike any other emotion a person can feel. I've always thought of it as being one with the music, like existing in the same space as the music. This is such a rarity but is the end goal of performing and why I am a musician. Not to just be in tune myself but to give people who come to a concert this transcendent experience. I want to share this state of nirvana, of heaven. Of course, sometimes eating a reaalllly good watermelon can be quite transcendent so maybe there are a few other ways to reach this...


Tuesday, February 6, 2007

A budding writer

Here's Nicholas's latest practice at writing his name. He started with his first name only and asked Tonya "Is that my whole name?" She then wrote his whole name down for him to copy. I know most of this is pretty faint but I wanted to at least make some of what he did available for you...but especially for his grandparents!


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Monday, February 5, 2007

Who's are you?

In Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince Harry tells Professor Dumbledore that he's Dumbledore's man, through and through. I think it was such a wonderful thing to say--such a great tribute to a person. You could tell in the book that Dumbledore was very moved.

In church this year we're studying the teachings of (past) church President Spencer W. Kimball. In the book we're using there is a quote by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the 12 Apostles: "President Kimball was the Lord's man and nobody else's. His deepest desires were to serve the Lord, and he refused to be compromised by other considerations." This is so inspiring to me, something to aspire to. I'm sure that our Lord Jesus Christ would be just as moved any time one of us would say "I'm the Lord's man". I've heard the phrase "He's his own man" but never thought what it really meant until now. Who's man or woman are you?

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Sunday, February 4, 2007

Uncle Walt

First prize goes to my sister Rayda for guessing via email that WW is Walt Whitman! I'm sure plenty of people could guess that anyway but he is one of my favorite poets and has been for a long time. Once upon a time I wrote lots of poetry and some of my style is modeled after him. I used to look around for biographies about him and it seems more people are interested in him being a gay poet rather than just a poet. I've read all of Leaves of Grass and there are definitely some homo-erotic poems there (yuck) but most of it is not. I think it's a shame that people might look at him that way but what I get from his poetry is his absolute love of America. He is all about being American and he captures every day life beautifully. One of my favorite poems about America is "I Hear America Singing". Otherwise, I just like his style of writing. The quote to the right is from a very long poem "Song of Myself".

Rayda also guessed correctly that LH is more modern than Whitman. Tonya finally figured it out but her first thought was Lionel Hampton. I thought this was interesting because Hamp and the other LH lived around the same time. Hamp was one of the great jazz vibraphonists of the 20th century. The other LH was called a jazz poet, maybe because of his style of writing or because he actually said stuff about jazz in his poetry a lot. In one of my favorites, Theme for English B, he writes something like "I like a pipe, Bessie, bop and Bach" (Bessie Smith, a blues singer; be-bop jazz; and J.S. Bach?).

Also about the title of this post, the quote below from HDT and part of the title of the blog--they are all related to each other by a movie. Can you guess which one and who HDT is?

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Friday, February 2, 2007

Hello there.

One of my teachers in college would often say the Internet is a mile wide but only an inch deep. I thought I'd continue to try and add some height to the internet and here are a few reasons for starting this blog.

1. Blogging is kind of like journal writing, except everyone can see it as it is written, not in 100 years. I've been thinking that this is an interesting phenomenon since modern day prophets have often taught that we should all keep journals. I used to write in my journal all the time and would have to start a new book on the average of every nine months or so. Since getting married and having kids the volume of my journal entries has been drastically reduced! By the nature of the internet blogs can be ephemeral but I've been thinking this could be an interesting way to keep a journal--one that's interactive.

2. I would like to keep in touch with my friends better than I do. Emailing seems like such a chore some times because if I don't respond right away (which often happens) then the continuity is lost. I don't like the unspoken rule that email, blogs, threads on a listserv etc need to be responded to right away. The thought is still there because it's still on the web page even though it may have been posted a year ago. Is the post irrelevant just because it's "old"? I don't think so. Feel free to comment on anything on here even if it's a few weeks, month or year late!

3. I thought this would also be another avenue to share with everyone about our kids and any new and interesting things they may do.

About the title: This alludes to two of my favorite poets. Can you guess who they are? There are clues on this page. Guess the answers and I'll write more about these favorites.