Sunday, January 26, 2014

science, faith, and both

Most people would say that they want their children to be scientifically literate, and to have a chance at a career using science. Most people would say they want to raise children with the best attributes of faith, believing in something more than a purely material existence. Most people want their children to learn respect for other people, even those who are very different from them. It's possible to have all three. But right now....

Read every word of this article by Tim Stafford.

Monday, January 20, 2014

playing ink

An old friend called me to play piano for the pit of a high school musical, something I don't usually do. I'll be the professional anchor for the group. Today was the first run-through.

Broadway scores are so weird: you're very rarely playing anything other than standard patterns of the various pop styles — but instead of just saying "G-minor salsa, 12 bars," they actually write out every note for you, and sometimes don't even put the chord symbols in. (I have yet to discover the guiding principle for including and excluding chord symbols in Broadway piano scores.) The result is a score that takes up huge amounts of manuscript real-estate, meaning that one song can be 30 or 40 pages, which you have to furiously flip and flip while playing with both hands.

On the other hand, you can treat it as a discipline, a way of forcing oneself to be a better reader of ink. "Ink" is a term that musicians often use in referring to notation, as opposed to simple charts or chord symbols or lead sheets. So, you'll find someone at a rehearsal asking the director something like, "Should we comp here or do you want us to play ink?" Depending on your background, playing ink may be a completely foreign concept, or it may be all you know. Classical players are regularly impressed (and somewhat mystified) by the ability of jazzers to spin florid minutes out of a few simple instructions; jazzers are regularly impressed (and somewhat mystified) by classical players' ability to sight-read through pages and pages of sixteenth-notes with barely a clam.

Of course, the fun thing is to be able to do both. While my abilities place me firmly on the side of the jazzers, I'm looking forward to the experience of spending a couple of weeks buried in ink.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

a word about an offensive word

It's with a mix of feelings that I read about the latest change to Pittsburgh's branding.

I must say that as a person of Oceanic Redistributor origin, I strongly object to the offensive name "Pirates." Oceanic Redistributors are part of the rich cultural fabric of humanity's history, and to reduce them to a cultural stereotype with eyepatches and strong rhotic articulation is demeaning and insensitive.

Monday, January 13, 2014

music partners

Friday, January 10, 2014

dance move needed

The other day I did a song called "The Floating Fairy." What we need here is a simple dance move that a preschooler could do.

For example, in my literary masterpiece "Spinaround Kid," whose lyrics consist entirely of the words "spinaround" and "kid," the key dance move, intuited by every single preschooler who's ever heard it, is to spin around. It's a fun song.

So, all that's needed now is a simple move, to be called, inventively, "The Floating Fairy." Describe it in the comments!

Here's the song, which came about when I was playing with Greta and Clara, and stumbled onto this. It caught my attention so nicely, with its Debussian riff and direct poetry, that I had the good sense to grab the laptop and record it.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

today's music fact

Know the semi-reggae Blondie song "The Tide Is High?" The horn section is from Doc Severinson's Tonight Show band.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

to train a citizen

From G. K. Chesterton's All Is Grist:

"To train a citizen is to train a critic. The whole point of education is that it should give a man abstract and eternal standards, by which he can judge material and fugitive conditions. If the citizen is to be a reformer, he must start with some ideal which he does not obtain merely by gazing reverently at the unreformed institutions. And if any one asks, as so many are asking: 'What is the use of my son learning all about ancient Athens and remote China and medieval guilds and monasteries, and all sorts of dead or distant things, when he is going to be a superior scientific plumber in Pimlico?' the answer is obvious enough. 'The use of it is that he may have some power of comparison, which will not only prevent him from supposing that Pimlico covers the whole planet, but also enable him, while doing full credit to the beauties and virtues of Pimlico, to point out that, here and there, as revealed by alternative experiments, even Pimlico may conceal somewhere a defect.' "

Thursday, January 2, 2014

new years babies

Clara is now a year old. Wow! What a year it's been. And our sister-in-law Sarah Beth is expecting in a few months. What a year it'll be.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

new year's snapshots

What a way to end a year and begin a new one. Two things:

Greta and I were playing outside at our friends' ranch, having climbed trees, pretended we were on a ship, examined an ant-bed at length from afar, played with doodlebugs, balanced on logs, and generally explored the place. I was sitting down, and she said she wanted to sit on my lap. I crossed my legs and then she plopped down right in there, with her head just tucked under my chin. She said, "This is perfect." I said, "Yes, it is."

At tonight's gig, we were playing "The Nearness of You," a song that's all about not needing any of the typical trappings of love and romance, because you simply want the presence of the other person. I noticed something odd on the dance floor. It looked like someone was having some sort of emergency but I couldn't figure out what, and then one split second later my brain resolved it: a man was pulling his wife out of her wheelchair to dance with him. Her entire left side was paralyzed, so he was holding her up as they slow-danced to the entire song.

What a great way to end a year and begin a new one.