Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

As I get older, I find that I both enjoy things less and less fully than I did when younger, and also that I feel less emotional connection to people. Its hard to admit, but true.

And, at the same time, I find that my short-term memory, ability to concentrate and sustain concentration, and withstand discomfort and stress, is declining.

I’m not old, but I feel it. I understand my mother’s repetition “Its tough to get old”.

I’m living more by routine and habit than in the past. I need it. A story that unfolds itself, that I don’t have to remember to guide. Its only relative, so it will get worse, and at the same time, I AM able to enjoy “my favorite things”, just differently than prior.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll be able to take significant responsibility in a job or project, the way that I did earlier in my life. That, my period of significant contribution is over. I hope not. I haven’t completed what I started, really only a very small percentage of committed ideas and concepts.

My faith in human creativity and reason is tested, in observing how slowly social institutions change. Even ones that people have warned about consequences of former stresses continuing, aren’t responded to.

The world is changing, but not very much by collective or institutional will, more byentropy.

An example. I had an interview with an economic development organization in northern New England yesterday, and I asked where they saw growth and what did they see stressed.

They told me of the demise of the timber and paper industries. They expressed that the communities in northern New England were impoverished for the lack of work. The only growth was in tourism, and that is very limited.

So, what that means is that one of formerly great stresses on forestland is no longer as relevant as previously. After many years of increases in the rate of forest depletion, and cost of timber and fuel wood, the cost is now stabilizing and even decreasing, and that through no intentional effort to shift from fossil fuels or nuclear  to wood heating (split wood, not atoms), society is economically shifting back to wood heating (but in much more efficient stoves and/or pellet stoves -much less particulate emissions).

Its definitely not my picture of a rationally planned economy/society, but is ironic good news. Particularly, the organized management of forestland is still market driven rather than ecological science driven, but at least the cumulative stresses on forests are reduced, at least temporarily.

But, it also says that there is a growing class difference along urban/rural distinctions.

In Western Mass, I live in the threshold region. We have the problems of both rural and urban life, and the only a few of the benefits of both, and the confusing debate of which way to teeter.


One common feature of urban and rural life with good access to libraries in particular, is the ability to enjoy music.

My tastes extend all over. I’ve been really lucky in my life to have been exposed to good music throughout my life.

My father was an amateur musician and a music collector. His tastes varied. Naturally, he emulated Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw (two Jewish jazz clarinetists, that each “idealistically” integrated their orchestras early. ) His favorite recording was a Jim Hall record with Paul Desmond on alto sax entitled Concierto, based on the Concierto de Aranguez that Miles Davis recorded in the album Sketches of Spain.

Music was the focus of my early and late teenage life, and we competed for the most sophistication in musical tastes, so I got exposed to a lot, and with relatively high standards. Sifting through some of the less skillful musicianship of the early 70’s (Grand Funk Railroad, Deep Purple – even if Jeff Beck played with two of their band members later), I loved Hendrix, Allman Brothers, Jeff Beck, Santana, some great musicians.

So, now my collection is so large, I don’t trust myself to listen randomly. I program a listening selection process that is not rocket science, but too difficult to explain verbally.

As an example, today I’ve selected songs from albums by the Chieftains, John Scofield, Smashing Pumpkins, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Greg Brown, Rolling Stones, David Byrne, Bebo Valdes, Emmy Lou Harris, John Abercrombie, The Supremes, Marianne Faithful, Susan Angeletti, Bo Diddley, Graham Central Station.

Really a wide range, my own private radio station collection.

With the addition of classical music (chamber, orchestral, choral, opera) those selections represent the types of artists that I love.

Now and then, with classical music, I’ll take out two very different interpretations of the same piece, listen to one just to listen, then listen to the second with the score in front of me, then maybe even listen then to a third rendition also just to listen.

I need that to continue my musical breadth to be able to improvise jazz. I have to get the technical chord changes, timing, landmarks in a song or more involved piece, and at the same time be able to shift to “just playing”, even in chording to just play, not investing in self distrust that I’ve understood the music.

I’m still a relative paraplegic in that regard though. I’m really only considered good in very forgiving settings. For my living room band (that does stretch out at times), my approach is wonderful, fun with no potential of criticism.

But, I’m not a professional. If I delivered the same standard of business consulting product as my musical product, I’d be sued a thousand times with grossly negative net worth.


Read Full Post »

Playing Music

Every now and then I have a musical epiphany. Its entirely private, an opening, a permission.

I have a few friends that I play music with regularly, and recently a few of us have been meeting to experiment with jazz standards. I’m the most experienced player with standards of the three of us, but the territory is new for all of us and we learn and illuminate freshly.

The biggest psychological shift, the great liberation of playing improvisational jazz, is the PERMISSION to explore without feeling that one has to perform.

The structure of jazz standards has only a few necessary landmarks, and that leaves a lot of room.

A melody (often very simple). Some basic chord patterns (with only a couple critical notes as landmark for the movement). Thats it.

Permission. Permission to play a simple melody, without a lot of notes, without any vanity. It enables me to concentrate, to excitingly and meaningfully interact with musicians of all experience levels. To spontaneiously sing through my instrument, simply and with complexity if thats what comes.

In soloing, we rely on one person to be the navigator. Everyone else’s responsibility is to listen, to listen to what their original melodic line is (simple or complex, whatever they sing without force), and to listen and interact with what the others’ are playing. The only discipline, the only even gentle force, is the navigator reminding “this is where we are harmonically”.

Two notes here. A passing tone off a chord there. A one-note tempo change suggestion there.

And, at the end there are no possible mistakes in our living room, and each iteration gets more intentional, more honest (not more vain).

And, then when we play publicly, its really a shared living room, friends singing to each other.

Read Full Post »


I love music. I select music the same way I select what to write about. I use a computer with some selection algorhythm.

So, tentatively for today, I’ve selected tracks from Beethoven’s Fidelio, Louis Armstong – Plays WC Handy, Beatles White Album, Charlie Christian, Hot Tuna, Charles Mingus – Live, Moody Blues – Days of Future Past, Oregon – Out of the Woods, Saint Saens – F major Symphony, Stevie Wonder – Talking Book, Richard Wagner – Parsifal, Hendrix – Electric Ladyland, Pete Seeger – Where Have All the Flowers Gone (covers), Phil Ochs – In Concert, Lee Konitz – SubconsciousLee, Led Zeppelin 1, Sun Ra – Atlantis, David Doucet – Gran Parti.

All over the place. Classic, Woodstock rock, traditional cajun, bop, swing, experimental jazz.

I’m playing tonight with my living room music circle. We have to come back from some discord. Hopefully we’ll make it. They are too good friends to let musical politics to get in the way.

What songs do we play? How long? Do we listen to each other, or just push? Who is loud (why anyone)? Do we try things differently or always the same?

Read Full Post »