AN UNCOMMON THOUGHT

"The real trick to life is not to be in the know, but to be in the mystery."
-Fred Alan Wolf

16 January 2018

Responsible.


Whenever one honestly defies a tradition, one becomes, in reality, the more responsible to it.

Glenn Gould

15 January 2018

Responses.

Goldsworthy, Snow Shadow, 1985


13th Jan - Swindale
Snowing - as moving [near?] by snowed more heavily - Tried at first to make a shadow in snow but felt too cold after very ill - tried other things but decided to make a shadow again. cleared a large area of snow/rolled into snowball - laid down and waited for [while?] - shadow looked a bit gingerbread man but that's the way I was - Snow provokes responses that reach back to childhood.

Andy Goldsworthy

Right.



He had every right in the world to, he pulled a knife on him ... that long.

Uncle Ted, "Great White Buffalo"

Danke schön ...

Technique.


Technique is the proof of your seriousness.

Wallace Stevens

Existence.

Patient.


Gradually it became known that the new race had a definite purpose, and that purpose was to chart and possess the whole country, regardless of the rights of its earlier inhabitants. Still the old chiefs cautioned their people to be patient, for, said they, the land is vast, both races can live on it, each in their own way. Let us therefore befriend them and trust their friendship. While they reasoned thus, the temptations of graft and self-aggrandizement overtook some of the leaders.

Dr. Charles A. Eastman, from Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains


CONNECT

Excellent.

An excellent book ...

Happy birthday, King.

Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born on this day in 1929.

From Dr. King's "Blueprint for Life" speech at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, October 26, 1967 ...

And when you discover what you will be in your life, set out to do it as if God Almighty called you at this particular moment in history to do it. Don't just set out to do a good job. Set out to do such a good job that the living, the dead or the unborn couldn't do it any better.

If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.

If you can't be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley. Be be the best little shrub on the side of the hill. Be a bush if you can't be a tree. If you can't be a highway, just be a trail. If you can't be a sun, be a star. For it isn't by size that you win or fail. Be the best of whatever you are.


Dr. King's wisdom is sadly missing from the conversations of today.

Tchaikovsky, Symphony No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 17, "Winter Daydreams"

Paavo Järvi conducts the Frankfort Radio Symphony ...

14 January 2018

Traced.


JACK FROST

The door was shut, as doors should be,
Before you went to bed last night;
Yet Jack Frost has got in, you see,
And left your window silver white.

He must have waited till you slept;
And not a single word he spoke,
But pencilled o’er the panes and crept
Away again before you woke.

And now you cannot see the hills
Nor fields that stretch beyond the lane;
But there are fairer things than these
His fingers traced on every pane.

Rocks and castles towering high;
Hills and dales, and streams and fields;
And knights in armor riding by,
With nodding plumes and shining shields.

And here are little boats, and there
Big ships with sails spread to the breeze;
And yonder, palm trees waving fair
On islands set in silver seas,

And butterflies with gauzy wings;
And herds of cows and flocks of sheep;
And fruit and flowers and all the things
You see when you are sound asleep.

For, creeping softly underneath
The door when all the lights are out,
Jack Frost takes every breath you breathe,
And knows the things you think about.

He paints them on the window-pane
In fairy lines with frozen steam;
And when you wake you see again
The lovely things you saw in dream.

Gabriel Setoun

Flowering.

Laugé, The Flowering Tree, 1893


Thank you, Jess.

Encouraged.


In the past thirty years, I have had the good fortune to teach thousands of bands and an incalculable number of students in diverse settings. Though each situation is unique, students share many of the same concerns in pursuit of a more profound relationship with music and with life through music. Every style of music presents distinct challenges which demand the development of different skills. Jazz requires creativity, communication and community.

Through improvising we learn to value our own creativity; through swing we coordinate our communication with others; and through the blues we learn to find and celebrate ‘meaning’ in the tragic and absurd parts of life that afflict every community. Certainly three things worth learning. I believe jazz revolutionized the art of music by vesting the individual musician with the authority to ‘tell their story’ and by positing that an even larger ‘story’ could be told, by choice, by a group of equally empowered musicians. Our educational system has yet to be retooled to accommodate that revolution. Of course there are some educators pointing the way, but many still view this music as exotic, mysterious and unteachable. Some jazz lovers believe the music can’t be taught in schools when, truth is, it can’t be taught THE WAY we are teaching it.

How many decades must we watch these faulty methods fail? It’s time to begin an earnest national effort to teach our kids the glories of jazz. Not a way to play scales on harmonies, or some jazzy misrepresentation of rock tunes, but an engagement with the stories, songs, rhythms, and the lives of those who made this music so vital— from the inspired dancers who blanketed this country in the 1930’s to the many earnest and eager kids now in jazz programs all over the world, to the local musicians playing their hearts out in small clubs everywhere.

Jazz is life music and education is not anti-life.

To achieve greater success in producing students who play inside the reality of this music, the modern teacher should consider combining various methods of instruction:

1) The gradual, graded, literature-based method employed in most traditional music education. Students should perform music of the great composers and arrangers, from Bill Challis to Don Redman, Duke Ellington to Gil Evans and Charles Mingus and so on. A selected and graded canon makes the compositional victories of the music obvious and provides a practical way to assess progress; performing the ‘best of’ of all eras creates a more informed, sophisticated, and technically proficient musician who is better equipped to influence the tastes of listeners as well as develop and defend a comprehensive art.

2) A method that focuses on the substance of all periods of jazz instead of segregating them by decade and arbitrarily assigning greater value to later styles. In this way, free expression (which encourages experimentation and the focusing of personal intentions) and early New Orleans music (which is rich in melody, danceable groove, and triadic harmonies) is taught concurrently to beginners. More structured and/or rigorous harmonic and thematic material is covered later. The initial instruction should be entirely aural in imitation of how we learn to speak our mother tongue. (By the time we study the mechanics of English we have employed them for years). Teaching jazz is sometimes confused with teaching theory. Instead of learning what scales to play on which chords, we should be thinking about HEARING ideas in the context of harmonic progressions and understanding what those ideas mean.

3) A method that teaches vernacular grooves and dance as integral to jazz. For example: a New Orleans two groove is different from a Texas two, or the Kansas City two or a Nashville two. The 12/8 blues-rock shuffle is different from the Afro- American church 12/8…. on and on. Each groove has its own characteristic, meaning, and dance. I call this ‘root groove’ teaching. Many of these grooves were achieved after years of distillation. It’s a shame to discard cultural victories in lieu of grooves that machines can play, or old-timely, corny reductions of the actual groove, or no groove at all. A jazz musician should be able to convincingly play a wide cross section of American vernacular music. Let’s teach our kids how to play the most essential part of our music—-the rhythm—-with authority and feeling and lets encourage all kids to improvise. Of course most are shy at first because it sounds so bad, but any activity (playing ball or singing or doing almost anything) takes time for little ones to develop. The seeds are always there. It’s up to us to tend to them with love, concern and intelligence.

In all of my years of teaching, I have encountered all types of directors. Regardless of philosophical differences, I have found them to be principally concerned about the education of their students. They often ask me to comment on the most common problems confronting the modern jazz ensemble (after improvisation). These are a few suggested solutions to issues I have encountered with bands throughout the world:

1) Implement good listening habits. If students don’t listen to the type of music they play in band, there is no way they will sound good playing it. You want your students to develop their musical taste as well as their playing. At the beginning of each rehearsal have the students listen to a great piece of music. Assign weekly listening and put aside time to discuss what was heard.

2) The band is just too loud! The median volume of a jazz band today is a soft f. It should be an intense mp, with a powerful and dramatic f. Rehearse the band at pp so they become accustom to hearing each other while playing. Also, the acoustic bass and rhythm guitar are a great check to balance the power of drums. Checks and balances in the rhythm section were developed over decades of playing. Why should they be discarded so easily for a less favorable result? Jazz is constant communication. Above a certain volume communication becomes very difficult.

3) TEACH a piece of music when rehearsing. Students should know how we get from one theme to the other and what musical devices are used for what effect. Knowledge of form and function lead to a much more listenable performance. Furthermore, improvised solos require detailed listening because you are required to respond with some degree of appropriateness to music as it’s being invented. After playing a piece, ask members of the band to recall what the soloists played, then have the soloists explain what they were doing.

4) Embrace the dance beat orientation of jazz. There is such a proliferation of non-swinging styles bearing the name of jazz; it’s hard to know what to teach. Samba has a principal rhythm, mambo has a rhythm, rock has a rhythm, Jazz has one too: Swing! It is such an elegant, supple, and dynamic rhythm constantly evolving; it must be tended to with care in the same way the most serious Latin musicians tend to the clave.

5) How to make students want to learn … hmmm …. My father used to say, ʻYou can bring a horse to water but you can’t make him thirsty.’ The best way I’ve found to combat the haze of uninspired participation that engulfs some of our young is for the director to be aggressively Inspired. Yeah, that’s what we need to do out here: stay inspired no matter what.

And encouraged that we are not alone.

Wynton Marsalis

Me.

Nicholson, The Hill Above Harlech, 1917


The EXPLORER

"There's no sense in going further --
it's the edge of cultivation,"
So they said, and I believed it --
broke my land and sowed my crop --
Built my barns and strung my fences
in the little border station
Tucked away below the foothills
where the trails run out and stop.

Till a voice, as bad as Conscience,
rang interminable changes
In one everlasting Whisper
day and night repeated -- so:
"Something hidden. Go and find it.
Go and look behind the Ranges --
Something lost behind the Ranges.
Lost and waiting for you. Go!"

So I went, worn out of patience;
never told my nearest neighbours --
Stole away with pack and ponies --
left 'em drinking in the town;
And the faith that moveth mountains
didn't seem to help my labours
As I faced the sheer main-ranges,
whipping up and leading down.

March by march I puzzled through 'em,
turning flanks and dodging shoulders,
Hurried on in hope of water,
headed back for lack of grass;
Till I camped above the tree-line --
drifted snow and naked boulders --
Felt free air astir to windward --
knew I'd stumbled on the Pass.

'Thought to name it for the finder;
but that night the Norther found me --
Froze and killed the plains-bred ponies;
so I called the camp Despair.
(It's the Railway Cap today, though.)
Then my whisper waked to hound me:
"Something lost behind the Ranges.
Over yonder! Go you there!"

Then I knew, the while I doubted --
knew His Hand was certain o'er me.
Still -- it might be self-delusion --
scores of better men had died --
I could reach the township living,
but ... He knows what terrors tore me ...
But I didn't ... but I didn't.
I went down the other side.

Till the snow ran out in flowers,
and the flowers turned to aloes,
And the aloes sprung to thickets
and a brimming stream ran by;
But the thickets dwined to thorn-scrub,
and the water drained to shallows,
And I dropped again on
desert-blasted earth and blasting sky ...

I remember lighting fires;
I remember sitting by them;
I remember seeing faces,
hearing voices through the smoke;
I remember they were fancy --
for I threw a stone to try 'em.
"Something lost behind the Ranges"
was the only word they spoke.

I remember going crazy.
I remember that I knew it
When I heard myself hallooing
to the funny folk I saw.
Very full of dreams that desert;
but my two legs took me through it ...
And I used to watch 'em moving
with the toes all black and raw.

But at last the country altered --
White Man's country past disputing --
Rolling grass and open timber,
with a hint of hills behind --
There I found me food and water,
and I lay a week recruiting,
Got my strength and lost my nightmares.
Then I entered on my find.

Thence I ran my first rough survey --
chose my trees and blazed and ringed 'em --
Week by week I pried and sampled --
week by week my findings grew.
Saul, he went to look for donkeys,
and by God he found a kingdom!
But by God, who sent His Whisper,
I had struck the worth of two!

Up along the hostile mountains,
where the hair-poised snowslide shivers --
Down and through the big fat marshes
that the virgin ore-bed stains,
Till I heard the mild-wide mutterings
of unimagined rivers,
And beyond the nameless timber
saw illimitable plains!

Plotted sites of future cities,
traced the easy grades between 'em;
Watched unharnessed rapids wasting
fifty thousand head an hour;
Counted leagues of water frontage
through the axe-ripe woods that screen 'em --
Saw the plant to feed a people --
up and waiting for the power!

Well, I know who'll take the credit --
all the clever chaps that followed --
Came a dozen men together --
never knew my desert fears;
Tracked me by the camps I'd quitted,
used the water holes I'd hollowed.
They'll go back and do the talking.
They'll be called the Pioneers!

They will find my sites of townships --
not the cities that I set there.
They will rediscover rivers --
not my rivers heard at night.
By my own old marks and bearings
they will show me how to get there,
By the lonely cairns I builded
they will guide my feet aright.

Have I named one single river:
Have I claimed one single acre?
Have I kept one single nugget --
(barring samples?) No, not I!
Because my price was paid me
ten times over by my Maker.
But you wouldn't understand it.
You go up and occupy.

Ores you'll find there; wood and cattle;
water-transit sure and steady,
(That should keep the railway rates down;)
coal and iron at your doors.
God took care to hide that country
till He judged His people ready,
Then He chose me for His Whisper,
and I've found it, and it's yours!

Yes, your "never-never country" --
yes, your "edge of cultivation"
And "no sense in going further" --
till I crossed the range to see.
God forgive me! No, I didn't.
It's God's present to our nation.
Anybody might have found it --
but His Whisper came to Me!

Rudyard Kipling

Excellent.

Excellent albums ...



13 January 2018

Bewitched.


Harry looked upward and saw a velvety black ceiling dotted with stars. He heard Hermione whisper, “Its bewitched to look like the sky outside. I read about it in Hogwarts, A History.

It was hard to believe there was a ceiling there at all, and that the Great Hall didn’t simply open on to the heavens.

J.K. Rowling, The Sorcerer's Stone

Ensanguining.

Homer, Sunset, Saco Bay, 1896


How clear, how lovely bright,
How beautiful to sight
Those beams of morning play;
How heaven laughs out with glee
Where, like a bird set free,
Up from the eastern sea
Soars the delightful day.

To-day I shall be strong,
No more shall yield to wrong,
Shall squander life no more;
Days lost, I know not how,
I shall retrieve them now;
Now I shall keep the vow
I never kept before.

Ensanguining the skies
How heavily it dies
Into the west away;
Past touch and sight and sound
Not further to be found,
How hopeless under ground
Falls the remorseful day.

A.E. Housman