Tuesday, December 01, 2020

Your Daily Dose of Christmas

Well, it's December 1, do let's get started with this year's musical run-up to Christmas, shall we? I know, I know--this ghastly year is more limping toward Christmas than anything else, but there's nothing we can do about the calendar, and all we really can so is try to find what light we can.

Longtime followers will not be surprised that I'm featuring this particular song, because I do every year...but never on the very first day of December. I usually wait on this one, because it's not obviously cheery. Lontime followers of mine will also know that I always accompany this song with my objection to the changing of the lyrics, at the behest of Frank Sinatra, that has become pretty well standardized ever since he figured that part of the original lyric wasn't sufficiently brimming with Holiday cheer. And this year is no different...in fact, if ever a year made the case for keeping the original lyrics, this is the one.

Someday soon we all will be together,
if the fates allow;
Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow,
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.

What lyrics could we possibly have this year, when so many of us are unable to be together at Christmastime (or any other time)? "If the fates allow," indeed...and indeed, all we can do is "muddle through somehow". That's all we can ever do, really...but 2020 has made it manifest.

So let's enter December, trying to find what hope we may...even as we muddle through somehow.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Photos from a four-day weekend

 As I'm sure most people did, we enjoyed a quiet and socially-distanced Thanksgiving this year. But since Thanksgiving is always quiet and socially-distanced for us, it really wasn't a big deal. Thanksgiving is always a small event for us, in terms of numbers of people; it sure isn't small in terms of food!

Anyway, even though I had no intention of attempting any shopping, I also took Black Friday off as I always do these days; Thanksgiving Weekend has become over the years one of my favorite weekends of the year. It was pretty nice actually this year as well, even with COVID trying to ruin everything.

Here's some photographic evidence of what transpired this weekend:

TWO gray cats, ah ah ah ahhhh.... #WhichIsWhich #catsofinstagram #graycat

The Dee-oh-gee wanted back in. Remy and Rosa were not sold on this. #Cane #dogsofinstagram #greyhound #greyhoundsofinstagram #Remy #Rosa #catsofinstagram #graycat

Morning coffee yesterday #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #GuessJeans #GuessOveralls #denimoveralls #overallsarelife #vintageoveralls #sweatersandoveralls

Mirror hound #Cane #dogsofinstagram #greyhound #greyhoundsofinstagram

Adventurers #nofilter #Cane #dogsofinstagram #greyhound #greyhoundsofinstagram #KnoxFarm #eastaurora #wny #autumn #nature #hiking #trees #overalls #dungarees #biboveralls #vintage #key #keyoveralls #hickorystripe #vintageoveralls #overallsarelife #denimov

Knox Farm adventures, 11-29-2020

Knox Farm adventures, 11-29-2020

Knox Farm adventures, 11-29-2020

Knox Farm adventures, 11-29-2020

Knox Farm adventures, 11-29-2020


Saturday, November 28, 2020

Fifteen Years Gone....

 Fifteen years seems like a lot, and sometimes it feels like a lot.

Other times it feels like yesterday.

We miss you, Quinn, and we wonder what kind of life you might be living now. How much fighting would you have done? Where would you be? You should be sixteen, not forever frozen in my heart and mind at fifteen months and two days.

Alas.

Father and Son, early on


Friday, November 27, 2020

National Pie In The Face Day!!!

 According to somebody, November 27 is "National Pie in the Face Day". The last few days I've been posting some of my favorite photos of myself in a pied-face state, with nifty quotes attached, to social media because let's face it, if ever we lived in a time where humor of any kind was desperately needed, even if it's an old staple like the pie in the face, it's now. So here are a few selections!








And finally, here is an amusing item from an artist who creates surreal images mixing elements of classic art with real life. Given the apparent state of affairs as I write this, especially in the United States, it's hard not to think that God, if They are out there, is in precisely this kind of mood with regard to humanity:



Indeed.

Stay safe, everybody, and at least try to keep laughing. It's really all we can do in the face of disastrous times, until they end!

Pick My Author Photo!

 Hey, folks! I'm doing this on Twitter and Instagram, and since this blog is the granddaddy of all my "social media" ventures, I should do it here, too. I am in the cover-design phase of The Savior Worlds, Book Four of The Song of Forgotten Stars, which means it's time to update the author photo on the back cover! I've pre-selected these four images, and if a consensus forms around which one is best, I'll go with it. (If it roughly breaks even then I will pick.) What should be my author photo? Let me know!

Hey #WritingCommunity and fans and followers! Help me pick my author photo for the back cover of THE SAVIOR WORLDS! Drop a vote in comments to this post! #amwriting #writersofinstagram #writerinoveralls


Thursday, November 26, 2020

Thankfulness in 2020

 This has been a truly ghastly year, and even the weather today as I write this is metaphorically on point: it's drizzly and rainy and the screen on my library window is filled with raindrops so I can't really even see outside very well.

I won't write my usual long list of things I'm thankful for, but suffice it to say that even in a year like this, it's still quite a long list, when I really put some thought into it.

Stay safe, folks. Please don't take unnecessary trips and please oh please oh please, keep your masks on. It looks like we might very well get through this all right, but if this pandemic is a baseball game, we're only in the bottom of the fifth. Let's play the whole nine innings, folks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Oh, and here's a sleeping dog.

Having gone outside twice, eaten her breakfast, extorted from me a bite of my donut (a PAULA'S donut, no less), and chased her kitty, Carla settles in for a nap. #Carla #dogsofinstagram #pitbullsofinstagram #pitbullmix #pittie #staffordshirebullterrier #s


Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Working....

 If you're wondering what I've been up to in terms of writing of late, here's what! I'm doing some revision work on Stardancer, The Wisdomfold Path, and Amongst the Stars as part of a relaunch effort, at the same time that I'm getting The Savior Worlds ready for release. Yay! New stuff!

What's new in the first three books? I'm adding a "Dramatis Personae" to each book, and each volume after Stardancer will have a brief "Our Story Thus Far" summation of the story to that point. I'm also redoing the interiors with some new fonts, and I'm redoing the covers. Watch this space (or the Official Site) for more info as it comes along!

As soon as I get the proof of AMONGST THE STARS in the mail and verify it, I'll reveal the NEW COVERS to THE SONG OF FORGOTTEN STARS I, II, and III! #amwriting #writersofinstagram #WritingCommunity #sciencefiction #spaceopera #forgottenstars #bookdesign


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Tone Poem Tuesday

 First off, I think it's high time I admitted that this series has morphed away from an exclusive focus on tone poems toward a general focus on whatever piece of classical music I'm grooving on at any point in time, so that's what it's going to be, even if I continue to call it "Tone Poem Tuesday" for reasons of alliterative nature (and the fact that I don't really feel like launching a new posting series with new title). OK? OK!

So, naturally, let's turn our attention to a piano concerto.

Florence Price, a Black composer who lived from 1887 to 1953, has appeared a number of times in this space over the last several months, and when 2020 is over, I wonder if her music might not be the finest musical discovery I make this year. Every work of hers I hear is vibrant and full of drama and color, and this concerto is no exception. It is lush and romantic in its orchestration, but distinctly Black in its musical language and its thematic material.

The work is in a single movement that nevertheless has three distinct sections within: the big first "movement", the slow second movement, and a spritely third. We open with a solo trumpet sounding the first notes of what will be the first section's main theme, a tune that is redolent of a spiritual, and that theme does in fact dominate a movement that is as big and bold in its statements as any great Romantic concerto. Then, in the slow movement, there is another gorgeous melody with a strong folk-like character (its pentatonic nature makes it even sound less moored in a specific time and place), before the final dance-like allegretto begins. It sounds like ragtime to me, but on reading a bit, apparently the finale is based on the juba, a specific dance from the plantations that predated ragtime.

Price's concerto is one of the most delightful things I've heard all year, and I've heard a lot of delightful music this year. There is sweep and energy and emotion and lyricism and, in the end, a compellingly rhythmic dance that leaves the toe tapping, if I may invoke a rather tired cliche.

And it does all this in roughly eighteen minutes. Florence Price does something wonderfully economical here.

The work was performed in the early 1930s, with Price herself as the soloist, but unfortunately it appears to have utterly disappeared since then, until apparently in 2012 a composer named Trevor Weston was commissioned to recreate the work based on orchestral parts. Price's own autograph score is long lost. Once again I am struck by how tenuous our grip truly is on the artistic work of our forebears.

Here is the Concerto in One Movement by Florence Price. Please give it a listen! And really, give it at least two. It deserves it.


Monday, November 23, 2020

"Stuck at home"

 A quite lovely article appears in The Buffalo News by Jeff Miers, describing his struggle with the degree to which the COVID pandemic has disrupted his lifestyle. It's not just his leisure that's affected; it is literally his entire life. Miers writes about music and the arts for the News, and with a beat like that, he's required to be out in the city almost all the time, interacting with music and art and musicians and artists. This has been his life for decades, and now, all of a sudden, he's been forced to...stay at home.

The Wife and I often comment that it's strange how this particular pandemic has basically forced so many other people into our lifestyles: we don't go out a lot at all, and when we do it's mainly to eat someplace, so getting takeout is just fine with us. My trips out by myself tend to be solo trips to the library, or jaunts to a local park to walk The Dee-oh-gee in solitude. We simply don't find ourselves often in situations that involve lots of people are in social situations. But our lifestyle isn't the only lifestyle, and Mr. Miers (who is, by the way, quite a fine writer whose work I usually enjoy) had felt the pinch very keenly:

After months of telling myself that I was far too fortunate to demand such a luxury, I finally admitted that I needed some help, that the ways in which I warded off depression and anxiety in the past – all of them involving music – were no longer enough. I began seeing a mental health therapist, virtually. She immediately pointed out that, in addition to the difficult situation with my parents, I was also quite likely in a state of shock resulting from a core feature of my existence – the live music experience, which has occupied my time an average of five nights a week for 30 years – being ripped away. Allowing myself to admit this, and to mourn it, in a sense, has helped me greatly.

In the course of his article he notes how he discovered that his son's girlfriend is actually the granddaughter of a noted jazz musician named Roosevelt Wardell. I found an album of Wardell's on YouTube, and though I am no expert on jazz by any means, I greatly enjoyed it! This record is quite a compelling listen. You never know which direction art will take in reaching us. Some guy asks a girl out, introduces her to his parents; Dad turns out to be a local writer who mentions her grandfather in a newspaper article, and now I'm listening to a jazz record.

The wheel turns, man.

Here's that album, by the way.


Sunday, November 22, 2020

22 November

 Fifty-seven years since President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. I'm surprised to note that I've never written a long piece about Oliver Stone's film JFK, and it's been so long since I last saw it that I don't want to try to write one now; maybe next year, after a rewatch. For now, here's my review of Stephen King's amazing novel 11/22/63, and here is John Williams conducting a suite of his music for Stone's film.

I wonder what kind of America would have emerged from the 1960s had Kennedy not been murdered.


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Adventures in Moonlight

 The Moon put on a show at the very end of last month. Here's a bit of how it looked from my backyard.

Luna

Moon, through tree

Tree, with moon

Moon, Halloween night

Moon and Mars

That last is of the Moon and Mars, visible as the bright light off to the right. (The green is just a photographic accident...or maybe the mythical "Green Flash", meaning that some sailor has returned from Davy Jones's Locker to the world of the living...but more likely the first thing.)


Monday, November 16, 2020

Beethoven at 250: The Violin Concerto

 I've been listening to Beethoven's Concerto in D Major for Violin and Orchestra a lot over the last few months, and I've been struggling to frame how I want to write about it. It's such a scintillating work, full of wit and sparkle--qualities one doesn't always associate with a composer who, while on his deathbed shook his own fist at the thunderstorm raging outside--that stands out all the more when one considers that the Concerto was a failure in Beethoven's lifetime and did not take its rightful place in the repertoire until several decades after his death.

But last month, Edward Van Halen died, and that gave me a new way to think about this piece. Bear with me!

Mr. Van Halen was a self-taught musician, but he was also a curious one who had a strong love of classical music. He would even sprinkle quotes from favorite classical works into his solos on occasion. While his father, a musician himself, encouraged Eddie (and brother Alex) to learn music, Eddie never learned formally; he never learned to read music from the page. Everything for him was done by ear, and he had the kind of ear that only the very greatest of music virtuosi can boast.

Not unlike the inner ear of Ludwig van Beethoven, who would continue composing his greatest works even after his own physical ears had stopped working entirely.

My main thought in drawing Eddie Van Halen into a discussion of Beethoven's Concerto for Violin and Orchestra isn't just that both men had amazing ears, though. A concerto is as much a work designed to put a performer's virtuosity on display as it is a musical work with specific architecture. What makes the concerto such a compositional challenge is that the composer must balance the virtuoso's need to display their skill with the task of crafting a work that is satisfying musically. Plenty of less successful concertos exist that allow for all manner of virtuosic pyrotechnics, either from the piano or the violin or some other solo instrument, while failing to incorporate the soloist into the musical aspects of the work.

(Then there are works that go the other way: Hector Berlioz's second symphony, Harold In Italy, had been specifically commissioned by Nicolo Paganini, who wanted to show off his skill on a new viola he'd acquired, but Berlioz turned in a symphony with little to offer by way of virtuosic display opportunities. Paganini never performed the work.)

Beethoven's Violin Concerto does for the violin what Eddie Van Halen would do with all of his blazing guitar solos. Even when Eddie was "shredding" as hard as he could, there was always melody in his playing. You can always pick out the tune in an Eddie Van Halen solo, and sometimes a Van Halen song will feature a second solo, shorter this time, that is nothing but pure melody ("Dreams", which might well be my favorite Van Halen song, does this to wonderful effect).

Beethoven does the same thing in his Violin Concerto. Whenever the violinist plays, even during the cadenzas, you never get the sense that they are simply showing off. Every note that Beethoven writes contributes to the whole, for one of the most complete concertos I know. The concerto begins surprisingly, with five soft taps of the timpani before the woodwinds give us our first hint of melody. Beethoven's symphonic hand is firmly guiding us, to the point that when the soloist finally enters, it's almost surprising as we remember that we are actually hearing a concerto and not a symphony.

The first movement, comprising more than half the entire concerto's total time, is an epic movement in itself, and yet it teems with the kind of optimism that we don't always associate with Beethoven. This is assuredly the same composer who wrote the Seventh Symphony, and if the inner movement isn't as meditative as that great symphony's amazing second movement, it is still a lovely movement of introspective beauty before it closes not with a resolution but with an unresolved minor chord that leads to a short cadenza that is likewise unresolved--until the soloist brings us into the rondo of the last movement. And that last movement is full of Beethoven's humor. Again, a facet of Beethoven's that is often overlooked--but listen to how that rondo theme seems somehow to put the beats in the wrong place (until you hum it and realize that it's quite correct). Hear the way the soloist must make very wide leaps in the violin's register, and one musical joke where the soloist has to pluck two notes, pizzaicato, before bowing the next immediately.

Near the end of the work, when Beethoven almost gives the soloist free rein, there is a remarkable sequence of passages in which the soloist plays three brief flashy runs that soar into the upper register, alternating with brief orchestral passages. Even there you can hear melody, as those soaring runs are a part of the work's musical fabric and are clearly not just there for a violin virtuoso to enjoy. Even the concerto's very last bars contain good humor, as the soloist leads the orchestra to its final chords.

This approach to writing for a soloist in a concerted work, in which the soloist is musical partner first and virtuoso second, really does put me in mind of Eddie Van Halen's best work as a rock guitarist. There really is a line that connects the two. So it seems to me, anyway.

Here is violinist Hilary Hahn, performing Beethoven's Concerto in D for Violin and Orchestra, with Leonard Slatkin conducting the Detroit Symphony Orchestra.


Sunday, November 15, 2020

Any time things wanna get BETTER would be great by me.

 So, about that lack of updates in this space for something like nine days...this month has been rough, folks.

First, there was the final run-up to the election, which was nerve-wracking in itself. Then Election Night was its own category of annoying, as a hoped-for Democratic landslide resulting in the defeat of some of the more odious Republican voices in Congress failed to materialize. And then the results of the Presidential race just dragged on and on and on. Granted, we all knew that was going to be the case, given the giant emphasis on mailed-in ballots, but it would have been a lot less of a nailbiter if I wasn't also disgusted that the likes of Lindsay Graham, Joni Ernst, and Susan Collins weren't all going back for another six years of being singularly terrible people in the Senate.

Of course, the Presidential result looked more and more favorable as the week went on until finally all the news organizations concluded that yes, Joe Biden had won, and that yes, America had rejected another four years of Donald Trump. Good news, absolutely! That Trump won't be the one setting the nation's agenda is an unabashed good thing. But it definitely gives me pause to note that America seems to have said with this election not "We're rejecting that guy and his agenda," but rather "OK, we don't like this guy, but we do like a lot of what he stands for." Disappointing.

Through all this, The Wife had been suffering some increasingly obnoxious health issues, which finally led to her hospitalization this past Monday when her vitals got seriously out-of-whack. She's home now, having only stayed two days, and doctors are homing in on treatment options moving forward, and none of it is life-threatening...but still, that was very difficult. And now, as I write this, COVID numbers are relentlessly climbing as millions of my fellow citizens seem to have basically thrown in the towel and embraced life whether they get sick or not, and my government has likewise thrown in the towel in favor of election-related court cases that are not likely to do anything other than get tossed out.

I'm ready for 2020 to be over, folks. This entire year has been ghastly, even as the current crisis seems tailor-made to someone with my particular lifestyle: we're not particularly outgoing, and when we do go someplace it's always by ourselves. But still, this level of world-induced anxiety is not something I'm remotely used to. I was reminded just the other day, on the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald, that the final transmission from the doomed ship was the Captain saying, "We're holding our own."

Friday, November 06, 2020

What day is it?

 So, on Monday I made a post here, invoking the Les Miserables song "One Day More", as did many of my left-leaning friends on the Internet. And why not! It's a song that so ably lends itself to a Monday before a major election. In the show, all of Act One is building and building and building to a group of events, and then Act One concludes as the entire company gears up for the big day to come:

Tomorrow we'll be far away,
Tomorrow is the judgement day;
Tomorrow we'll discover
What our God in Heaven has in store,
One more dawn,
One more day,
One day more!

Of course, it wasn't just "one day more", was it? As I write this it's looking promising, though everyone on my side of the fence was hoping for more out of this election. There will be time enough to figure out the way forward, but there's a reason that the first rule of treating injury is "stop the bleeding". We've probably done that. I hope.

What I can say definitively, right now, is that "Three days more!" wasn't nearly as catchy.


Monday, November 02, 2020

One Day More

This is the photo I took on the morning of Election Day, 2016. It seemed like a bright and optimistic day. I captioned it on Instagram: "Looks like a nice morning to make some history happen!"

Looks like a nice morning to make some history happen! #sunrise #sky #clouds #imwithher

The next morning, in the midst of reeling with the eventual result of that election, the hulking husk of Bethlehem Steel, the old steel plant on the shore of Lake Erie south of Buffalo, caught fire. The blaze was enormous, and I was able to take this photo of the smoke cloud from the roof of The Store.

/PHOTO_20161109_082611

It was hard even then to not see these two photos, twenty-four hours and some change apart, as some kind of metaphor for what my country had just done...or, maybe if I'm feeling charitable, what my country had allowed to happen through various questionable voting decisions by her citizens and the fact of her simply nonsensical approach to the matter of electing presidents.

I've had various essay-ish thoughts in my mind about the nature of the 2020 election, but obviously I haven't written any of them. Every time I've sat down to do so, I've checked out. While I don't feel a great sense of impending doom just now, I know what America is capable of doing and I know that we still have a chance to snatch epochal defeat from the jaws of hopeful victory.

Suffice it to say that I hope every American who can will vote, and that I hope that when the dust settles, not only has America decided to scuttle the ongoing disaster that is the Donald Trump administration, but that it has also decided to harshly rebuke the party that gave him to us, the party that has been stampeding in this authoritarian and irrational direction for more than fifty years. I know that American voters love to balance things out: "I voted for a Democrat for President, so I'll vote for a Republican for Senate," for example. This is not the time for that. The Republican Party needs to be ruthlessly quashed at every single level for which it can run for things. Every ounce of what is wrong with America can be traced back to either their ill-advised action or their apathetic inaction, and as a party American conservatism needs to be banished to the wilds for years.

I hope that when the dust is settling, America can start to do things like address climate change, the horrible inequities in our economy, the pandemic that holds our country in its tightening grip, our centuries-long struggle with racial hatreds, and more. I hope that the 2016 election will eventually prove to have been a very strange historical accident, not truly indicative of anything other than the last gasp of a political paradigm that has been far too long in passing.

I hope we elect Joe Biden.

[Comments are closed on this post.]

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Something for Thursday

 It's late and I gotta get to bed, but it's still Thursday and I don't want to miss this week's Something, so here's Something that really doesn't need much by way of introduction. Take it away, Gloria Gaynor!


A quick apology about comments

 The way this works is that when someone comments, I get an email at my Gmail address telling me there's a comment to check. I do, and I publish it if it's not spam. Every so often that system gets screwed up, either by not sending the emails or by Gmail plonking them all into the spam folder. The result is comments that sit in moderation forever, until I notice by checking the "Pending Comments" thing in Blogger. I do not do this very often, which is why I just found a bunch of comments stuck in moderation. I have now published them all, and apologies if anyone was wondering why their comment didn't appear. It's not entirely my fault....


Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Democracy: I Did It

Annnnd, democracy achievement unlocked! #vote2020 #voting #DemocracyWhiskeySexy

 Specifically, I did the democracy thing the other day, on Saturday, when early voting started in New York State. I got to the polling place (a local community center) about ten minutes before it opened, and at that point there was already a line, which extended into the parking lot. This was strange; the building is big and is surrounded by very ample sidewalks, and yet the people queued up in the parking lot. It took a cop to come along and tell everyone to queue on the sidewalk instead of the parking lot. People are weird.

I waited in line for probably about half an hour before I finally got inside. The attendants looked up my name and printed my ballot on the spot (hooray to New York for not passing some dumb-assed Voter ID law!), and then I voted. It definitely felt a little bit strange to vote early. With the exception of my very first election, when I was in college and thus had to vote via absentee ballot, I have always voted on Election Day at my designated polling place. It does seem odd, having joined with millions of my fellow citizens in having already voted, and yet we won't have any idea how this all turns out for at least another five days. Here's hoping it's only five days, and here's hoping that we Americans are sweeping the forty-sixth President of the United States into office on the strength of numbers too big to challenge.

We'll see.

Oh, and this was the first time I ever got an "I voted" sticker, so huzzah for that! That sticker is a nice accessory for my overalls, isn't it?


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Tone Poem Tuesday

 Charles Lucien Lambert (1828-1896) was born a free person of color in Louisiana. A talented pianist and composer, he moved as a young man to Paris where his son Lucien-Leon joined him in music-making, and their compositions were received warmly in Europe and later in Brazil, where they eventually settled.

As always seems to be the case, I can only find the very sketchiest of biographical details about these composers. This work is an overture, apparently: it's called "Ouverture de Broceliande". I didn't even know if "Broceliande" is an opera, or an operetta, or a ballet...or if the piece if a concert overture with no theatrical work associated...until just a few minutes ago, when I turned up the fact that it's actually an overture to a grand opera about the Arthurian legend.

The work itself is a compellingly melodic and exciting piece that certainly feels like the overture to something good to follow. It even felt to me rather like the opening credits to an old-school swashbuckler movie, like a spiritual ancestor of Korngold or Steiner. The sound isn't heavily Wagnerian, though; Lambert's overture sounds more like Chausson or Saint-Saens. I hope more of the music of both Lamberts comes to light.


Friday, October 23, 2020

Life goes on....

 It's been...a week. I've had stuff to blog about, but frankly I didn't want to start pushing Julio's memorial post down the page just yet. I'll start posting again in the next few days, but for now. here's just a tiny taste of what's been going on at Casa Jaquandor:


Yeah, more on them later.

(And early voting in NY starts tomorrow! Here I come, Democracy!)


Monday, October 19, 2020

Julio

Fifteen months after his brother Lester departed, we have had to say goodbye to Julio today. They came to us as a package deal, and I hope there's some realm beyond the rain and the clouds where they can be so again.

Julio got sick recently and never really got better, and yesterday he had the kind of day that's hard not see after the fact as a farewell. He curled up in my legs last night on our bed while we watched a little teevee--one of his favorite things to do--and then he barely moved again. Today, we all agreed that it was time.

We don't know, really, how old he was, though when he came to us in early 2006 we surmised that he and Lester (who were obvious littermates, brothers through it all) were around a year old, maybe a little more. Fifteen years isn't so bad for a cat...except for it being too short.

We are not catless...but more on that another time. For now, goodbye, Julio. I guess now I'll keep my feet warm when I'm sitting at my desk by wearing socks. Seems boring and inadequate, but you're off for new adventures now.








 

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Something for Thursday



 The other night I was looking for some new Celtic music to listen to, so I hopped on over to Google and searched for "Best Celtic Albums of 2020" (or maybe it was 2019). This brought up several articles, and in one of those articles I found mention of an album by a band called "Soulsha". Soulsha hails from Boston, MA, and they aren't just a Celtic band: they perform a fusion of Celtic and African music, which is a mix that just sounds fascinating, doesn't it? Can you imagine blending those two highly melodic and rhythmic musical heritages?

Well, Soulsha can imagine it. This is from their website:

Soulful call and response singing, masterful improvisation, traditional Senegalese and Scottish dancing and incredible energy make every Soulsha show an unforgettable live experience. Intricate rhythms, soaring bagpipe melodies, and New Orleans-infused horn lines come together seamlessly, and the joy of music rises above all differences, reminding us that we’re all in this together.

The band formed through a series of serendipitous meetings in the thriving and intersecting multi-cultural melting pot of Boston. Many of the members are virtuosic and highly esteemed tradition-bearers in their styles. In Soulsha, they saw a chance to bridge divides. The music they’ve created is a conversation between cultures that breaks down all the boundaries, moving the audience to abandon their assumptions as they lose themselves on the dance floor.

While it shares obvious roots with Afro-Celt Sound System’s electronic fusion, the funk-inspired sound of Soulsha puts tradition and interchange center stage, bringing the party energy of Rebirth Brass Band, and the cultural gravitas of masters like Malian Toumani Diabaté.

I listened to their debut album, Carry It On, and I found it an absolute delight. Their music just teems with energy, and the influences of both the Celtic side and the African side can be distinctly heard, and those two styles play together much more easily than one might think at first. Here is "Rhythm's In the Melody", a single from Soulsha's debut album. Enjoy!


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

i carry your heart

 Today I heard a striking choral work on WNED, but I missed the piece's introduction. I'm old enough to remember when this kind of thing was a pain! If you heard a song or piece but you missed the radio personality's intro, you had to wonder what the song was and hope to hear it again. Nowadays, with WNED, I can go to the station's website and look at their playlist to figure out what I heard...or I can actually hold my phone up to the speaker and let it listen to the piece and try to identify it. This works a surprising amount of the time. Yes, I'm still vexed that we don't have moonbases and giant spaceships under construction to launch Phase One of our colonization of Mars, but a device in my pocket that can (among other things) identify music? Now that is something.

The piece was "i carry your heart" by Eric Whitacre. It's a setting of a poem by e.e. cummings, whose birthday it is today, which I suppose is the "hook" that WNED cited to play the piece. You can read cummings's poem here (I would reproduce it here directly, but it's cummings, which means that the typography is important and I don't want to screw it up), and the ever-brilliant Sheila O'Malley has a big post about cummings here.

And here is "i carry your heart" by Eric Whitacre. It's quite a wonderful piece, at times evocative of plainchant or a medieval madrigal.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Tone Poem Tuesday

 Admittedly, I am phoning it in a little this week. Here's a virtuoso showpiece for cornet and wind band, setting the Italian folksong "The Carnival of Venice", as played by Wynton Marsalis and the Eastman Wind Ensemble, conducted by Donald Hunsberger. Many a high school and college trumpet player was driven to heights of hero-worship which Marsalis released this album back in 1988 or so.


Monday, October 12, 2020

Fall In WNY

 Autumn is turning out to be quite lovely this year. I remember a recent October--maybe last year's?--where it was just kind of rainy and unpleasant the whole month and then it was November and all the leaves fell at once and it felt like fall never actually happened. Anyhow, here's a photographic glimpse into how Autumn has been going in my neck of the woods. I hope yours is as lovely!

Bridge #ChestnutRidge #wny #orchardpark #autumn #fall #nature #hiking #trees

Reflective #ChestnutRidge #wny #orchardpark #autumn #fall #nature #hiking #trees

Reflective, the other way #ChestnutRidge #wny #orchardpark #autumn #fall #nature #hiking #trees

Stream #ChestnutRidge #wny #orchardpark #autumn #fall #nature #hiking #trees #stream #runningwater

Knox Farm and Mill Rd. Overlook, 10-11-2020

Knox Farm and Mill Rd. Overlook, 10-11-2020

Knox Farm and Mill Rd. Overlook, 10-11-2020

Knox Farm and Mill Rd. Overlook, 10-11-2020

Knox Farm and Mill Rd. Overlook, 10-11-2020

Knox Farm and Mill Rd. Overlook, 10-11-2020

Knox Farm and Mill Rd. Overlook, 10-11-2020