• music

    I Adopt Things

    _DSC4085_edited-1I was going to write a post about the government shutdown, but everything I would say is already apparent for those with my politics and unlikely to be interesting for those without. While I have been both entertained and disappointed by the legislative branch of my federal government this week, life has gone on.

    After years of swearing that we had no room for one, I finally reaching a breaking point with playing music on my digital keyboard and decided that it was time to find a proper piano.  This is entirely a result of a sforzando in Beethoven’s Sonatina in G, which he wrote as a fifteen year old.  My fifteen year old me also wants to bang on a keyboard and make that chord ring out, which I just can’t do on my keyboard.  So I started hunting on Craigslist and found someone who was selling a 1978 Hardman-Peck console piano for $100.  When I went to take a look at it, I discovered keys that didn’t work and was about to walk away from it when the owner lowered the price to free.

    Well, then.  It appears I have adopted a piano.

    One of the great things about the Internet is how large it makes the local community.  I had a need, so I went looking, and I was able to help someone out — someone who viewed the piano as furniture that needed to be removed, as he’s downsizing and moving to Florida.  And by helping him out, I was able to upgrade  my instrument for a reasonable price.  After paying the movers and the tuners, I’ll have a working instrument, and a piece of history, for about $500.  Symbiosis.

    Meet the Lady Gertrude

    My piano, who we will henceforth call the Lady Gertrude, actually began life in the same town that I live in now, when it was purchased new by the wife of the fellow who gave her to me, and was used by her until her death three years ago. I have the original documentation for the piano, as well as tune-up receipts dating back to 1979.  It is a console, so it’s a little smaller than a full upright, which is supposed to affect the sound quality, but the sound is still very decent.  Certainly the sound is much richer and fuller than anything but what digital keyboards can do.  I like very much that I know the full ownership history and that the piano was well-treated and loved for its entire life – and that it is much of an age with myself.  It feels a little bit meant-to-be.

    But it gets even better.  The Lady Gertrude’s former family contacted me this week to ask if I would like a bunch of old sheet music that had belonged the mother-in-law of the original owner.  Yes…yes….yes!

    My new collection of music has a lot of gems – it ranges from 1930 through 1977 in dates – and has a fair share of instructional classics and many songs from movies with Ingrid Bergman and Cary Grant on the covers.  It also has a 1960s edition of Songs from the Gilded Age, a copy of a 1970s era book of Christmas Carols that we had in my childhood home, as well as my favorite, a (sadly incomplete) set of instructions from 1933 from the U.S. School of Music.  These instructions not only give advice about how to improve your piano playing, but also how to live a better life.  My favorite philosophy note so far is this one:

    MusicPopularity “Play this piece for someone else.  Tell them it makes you feel.  See if it does not bring back to those the spirit of the times when they were — Just Kids–

    Aren’t they happy?  And you have made them feel that way with your piano playing after only five weeks of home piano study.  Aren’t you happy to be able to do that?

    When you play for others, it is for the distinct purpose of bringing more joy into their lives.”

    When you play for others, it is for the distinct purpose of bringing more joy into their lives.  Words to live by, even if you never play a single note on a musical instrument in your entire life.

  • music

    Beethoven “Moonlight” Sonata op 27 # 2 Mov 3 Valentina Lisitsa – YouTube

    Beethoven “Moonlight” Sonata op 27 # 2 Mov 3 Valentina Lisitsa – YouTube.

    Beethoven actually believed that people played his music badly on purpose just to vex him. Is that what genius is?  A total lack of understanding of the limitations of other people?

    The world may have their sports athletes that they admire for amazing physical feats; I have pianists.  The way those long-fingered hands dance across that keyboard is a thing of amazing endurance and skill.  I am in awe.

  • art,  culture,  music

    Team Beyonce

    I admit that I did not watch the Superbowl and the only part of that that I regret was not seeing Beyonce’s performance at the halftime show. I watched it the next day on Youtube, because I watched Facebook turn into a big furor about her. There was a rough division between Team Beyonce and Team What-Is-Beyonce-Doing-To-Our-Children?

    It brings up an interesting question. When I see Beyonce in this clip, I see a strong and powerful woman who could probably stand to put on a longer skirt. But it’s not the pornography I would have been expecting to see based on the reaction. (And it is not, say, singing about taking your clothes off, then having a “wardrobe malfunction”, oh, other superbowl performers…) I think she’s pretty amazing – to have the fitness to be able to move like that on a stage and also sing like Beyonce is the result of a lot of damn hard work. When I look at her, I don’t see an object – I see a triumphant woman who has worked extraordinarily hard at doing what she loves and is enjoying her success. I see a role model.

    I also can’t help but notice that she was wearing more clothes than the cheerleaders, so Beyonce probably isn’t the first place to start criticizing if you’re looking to discuss the objectification of women in football culture. Beyonce was there in her own right, with a fit and strong body in a dance costume and enormous musical talent on top of it.

    Team Beyonce, all the way. And if you’re worried your children are getting the wrong message, do me a favor and shield their eyes from the cheerleaders too, hey?

  • art,  music

    Make Good Art

    Like everyone else in the world, I have watched, and been delighted by, Neil Gaiman’s commencement speech at Philadelphia’s University of the Arts.  He’s a hero to a lot of writers, including myself, because he’s lived the dream and done it extremely successfully.  He’s a very creative writer, which is what I admire most about him.  Left to my own devices, I tend to write magic realism, so I appreciate a man who can write a novel about the gods that came to America with the immigrants, or another one about a living boy being raised in a graveyard by ghosts.  His work is my kind of inspiration.

    My writing is a nearly constant point of frustration for me, as I am forever in that quest of *finding time*.  I did buy a Gtablet a few months ago to help me write on the train, which has definitely improved the amount of writing that I’m doing, as well as the number of times that I post to this blog.  I am on the train now, riding high above the streets and typing away.  But it doesn’t feel like enough.  I want to write fiction, but I never seem to be able to block out enough time to work with the inspiration.  Work (not a nine to five occupation, at that), keeping the Kid in line and fed and the housework from piling up, planning the wedding, even spinning and knitting and my piano practice – all are constant interruption.  They’re fulfilling, obviously, but I still have the nagging sense that I should be *doing more*.   And I should.  I should be writing every day.  I should write on the good days.  I should write on the bad days.I should be aspiring to make good art.  Every.  Single.  Day.

    High words and very inspiring.

    The other bit from his speech that I really took home with me was how sometimes sharing your art feels like running naked through a field for the entire world to feel.  This is certainly something that I struggle with; sharing my art with others is very difficult.  Posting in this blog is hard enough, despite its tiny readership.  For Gaiman, this feeling nearly promises success.  For me, it makes me spend a full twenty-four hours wondering if I shouldn’t take that blog post down, while I bite my fingernails and worry.  Sometimes I do.  My Mother’s Day post feels like that.  I am never quite sure if I want to be more successful of a writer, because then it means that people will actually read what I write.  Then they’ll judge what I’ve said and maybe change how they feel about me.  This is not a comfortable feeling.  But I think when it’s achieved, then honesty has also been achieved.  An uncomfortable honesty, but isn’t all honesty uncomfortable?  It takes courage, this writing business.  And when it’s honest and it’s courageous, then it begins to be art worth paying attention to.  At least if you’re Neil Gaiman.  I can only aspire.

    Anyway. Some inspirational words. And some beautiful music for a Sunday.

    Ravel’s Bolero

  • amusement,  feminism,  music

    Schumann: First Loss

    In this week of uncertainty, where the impossible keeps happening (I mean, not only is Osama bin Laden assassinated, but Newt Gingrich is actually running for President), I thought I might bring you a little music.

    So, without further ado, here is an 8 year old playing the piece of music that I’m struggling with for my piano lesson this week:

    I think…I’d better get back to practicing. For my own dignity.

  • cocktails,  house,  music

    Brooklyn Community Orchestra….and Paint

    We went last night to see a concert put on by a local community orchestra, which was held in a giant Episcopalian church, complete with flying buttresses and peeling paint. We haven’t gone out much lately, so it was nice to be out on the town (that’s twice this week for me – write it down!).

    The concert was absolutely beautiful – definitely a professional level, which we weren’t expecting when we heard the word community. Apparently standards are high for violinists in Brooklyn. One of my coworkers was in it and he performed beautifully, so that was added fun. Also, there was banana bread.

    I’m afraid that was the highlight of the weekend, as the rest was spent painting (and procrastinating painting) the basement. My only job in finishing off the basement has been occasional labor in helping with sheet rock and painting, so I was in high demand this weekend to bring in my skills. I admit that there is some skill there, as I no longer bother with painter’s tape at all, having found that I draw a better line by hand. This is accomplished by having done far, far too much painting.

    I haven’t had a cocktail update in a while now because in all the fuss with using power tools in the basement, we’ve been forgetting to drink, which is probably a good thing, as I hear power tools and alcohol don’t go so well together. But now, looking at the gleaming white walls and ceiling of the basement, I feel a sense of accomplishment and celebration coming on, which means we’ll probably have these lovely coffees that my fiancé makes.

    Fiancé being annoyed at me and demonstrating the height of our (beautifully painted) basement ceiling:

    Sorry folks, he’s taken. Irate looks and all.

    Macker Coffee

    Fra Angelica
    heavy cream

    Make coffee, add liberal shot of Fra Angelica (hazelnut liqueur), cover in slightly whipped cream. Hand out to others, become instantly beloved.

    Now I think I’m going to investigate my household’s potential supplies for removing ceiling paint from fingernails. I’d wear it with pride, but primer is so not my color.

  • art,  music,  nature,  new york

    My new love

    For $40, I bought myself a mandolin and have been having a blast.  It’s basically a violin that’s played like a guitar, so the learning curve has been pretty reasonable considering my years of playing the fiddle.

    And for those that don’t take it seriously, the mandolin is, in fact, awesome.  Just not precisely when I play it.  Yet.

    We have another snow storm coming on, which is our fourth in as many weeks.  It’s a very snowy January, even by New York standards.  I admit that I kind of like the perpetual snow, since it’s not something I’ve ever really experienced before.  It seems to provide a reason for the relentless cold, even though I have now reached the “oooh, it’s a nice and warm 30F day today!” part of winter.  This storm is a little strange in that it’s also raining, so we have a perpetual mix of ice and snow and….lightning.  It’s bizarre, but everyone’s at home and I have my mandolin and my wheel to keep me company.  And a pumpkin pie.

    Let it pellet, let it pellet, let it pellet.