Music from many places

17 February 2012 @ 09:31 pm

Richard Thompson

Valentine’s day in New York City at the City Winery. Richard Thompson doing an all-request show. Bliss.

The City Winery is a wonderful venue, tightly packed to be sure, but good food and drink at those tiny tables and shows that go from 8 to 10 or so, for us folks who have to go home and go to bed.

I have been listening to Thompson all my life (and his, we are about the same age) but had never seen him live.

It was awesome.

He had a silver bucket full of the tiny slips we each filled out with our requests. He did all four of my group’s choices: Dimming of the Day, Turning of the Tide, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, and Persuasion. He also did the Beatles’ I Feel Fine.

His voice, an instrument burnished and strong, has lost none of its seductive power. But the guitar work! My dear folk, I am not a musician, but he was magical. I wish I could have gone all three nights. I found nice reviews for two of the shows:

http://www.cliffviewpilot.com/good-life/55-in-tune/3397-richard-thompson-at-city-winery-playing-your-song-and-yours-and-yours

http://burnwoodtonite.blogspot.com/2012/02/richard-thompsons-all-request-residency.html

 

11 July 2011 @ 04:56 pm

Rock and Roll

I took my younger twin brothers to their first rock concert: it was the WMCA Good Guys, it was during the day, and it featured the Animals and Chuck Berry and probably a few other people. The year was somewhere around 1962, when I was about 14 and they were three years younger.

The boys were in a band called The Discords during high school and after. Nat played drums, Fred played bass, and the band played all over the Bronx and Westchester for schools, parties, and proms. They were famous for their five-part harmonies.

My brothers have always played. I remember them banging on pots and pans when they were toddlers.  I have been to hear them play many times. For their 50th birthday, they played for themselves. I had always dreamed of playing keyboards and singing harmony with them, but that never happened. I was just a little too late to learn, and a little too timid to be Patti Smith.

They have played in bar bands and wedding bands over the years, but often they have played with The Sundown Band, a Southern rock group. Fred was their regular bass player for awhile, and Nat has had regular gigs as their drummer. That band has been playing for an astounding 35 years, and they celebrated that occasion at BB King’s in New York City on Saturday July 9, 2011.

I love BB King’s. It’s a great, relatively small space, it has pretty good Southern-style food, a lot of bourbon, and the sound and sight lines are good. I got to hear my brothers play in that space, separately and together – and Nat’s duo drum solo with Bam-Bam was awesome – and I could not help but think for how many decades I have been listening to them play.

They played a very fine “Green Grass and High Tide” and they played a kick-ass “Whipping Post” and they ended (of course) with “Free Bird” which I don’t think I have ever heard live.

Rock and roll, guys. Rock and roll.

http://thesundownband.net/

http://www.pellegrinlowend.com/discords.html

Current Music: Glory Days

 

07 February 2011 @ 06:07 pm

Let’s Have a Rhythm Band

I have a lot of vivid memories of grammar school, but they tend to be set pieces: a moment, an object, a conversation.

My teacher in kindergarten was Miss Eva Mirchin, in a public school in the Bronx. She was probably in her sixties then, with a halo of white hair. She managed to handle me, an overly sensitive, bright five year old, brilliantly. One day I sat down at the piano in her classroom and played the notes of Brahms lullaby on the high keys while she played the real music. I do not know why or how I did that, but I loved the music, and I loved making music on the piano. We had a little band in the classroom, and I was the band leader. She called it a rhythm band, and I was the child who pointed to each instrument in turn to play the triangle, or a small drum, or whatever. It seems to me that every child played something.

Miss Mirchin wrote a letter to my mother at the end of kindergarten, telling her that I had musical aptitude and that I should have music lessons of some kind. There was no money for that, and it never happened. (I did have a short stint taking accordion lessons, of all things, and my much younger sister got the piano and the lessons, but those are other stories for other times.)

But I never stopped loving music. It is too late for me to make music now – I always had the fantasy of playing keyboards in my brothers’ bands – but the music has remained with me.

Today I searched Eva Mirchin on the internet. I found that she had written a pamphlet about such music for children.

From WorldCat
5811728

Let’s have a rhythm band.

by Eva Mirchin

Musical score : Songs : Juvenile audience

Language: English  Publisher: New York : Reynard Pub. Co., 1958.

I also found a genealogy record for an Eva Mirchin who was born in Odessa, Russia in February 10, 1899, and who died in New York in September 1983. I believe that was my teacher. I was touched and humbled to find this information.

30 June 2008 @ 09:01 am

Words musical words

Sometimes I fall in love with a word. A long time ago, I fell in love with the word hocket. A hocket is a musical term, a kind of movement between two voices that gives the effect of a call and answer like bells ringing. The musical group http://www.anonymous4.com/ uses hockets a great deal, to beauteous effect. My first laptop was named Hocket.

Today, I fell in love with another word, another musical term, hemiola. A hemiola is a grace note – actually the definition is rather more complicated. Then there is melisma, another honeyed musical term, of which Wikipedia writes “Music of ancient cultures used melismatic techniques to induce a hypnotic trance in the listener” and so it does. I love these words. I love the taste of them in my mouth, and I love the sounds they evoke.

 

16 April 2008 @ 02:30 pm

How my son Keith got his name

The soundtrack of my teens was the British Invasion. I was a Paul Girl. I loved the Beatles, and Peter & Gordon, and the Stones, and the Dave Clark Five, all of them. I loved their names: Nigel and Colin and Keith. They sounded exotic and sexy to me. I vowed my first son would be named Keith. I was, I think, sixteen.

When my son was born, I was 21 and just finishing college. We proudly named him Keith. It sounded strong and Celtic, and you couldn’t make a nickname out of it (we did anyway, but it was a baby name and will not be repeated here). What I did not realize then was that not only is there no letter “K” in Italian, but there is no “th” sound in Italian. The best our Italian relatives could do was Keet’. It was embarrassing. I felt really dumb, but I didn’t stop loving his name.

In 1988 I got to hear Keith Richards at the Beacon, having won free tickets on one of those put-your-business-card-in-a-fishbowl drawings, were in about the sixth row. It was deeply awesome and very loud. But it was then that I realized I had probably named my son after Keith Richards.

We saw Shine A Light a few days ago, and were thoroughly immersed in a rock concert, Scorsese’s brilliant and fluid camera work, and the beautiful sound. It was humbling, seeing these guys, older than I am, doing what they do. They don’t apologize, either. They make music. And there was Keith, disreputable as ever, playing that guitar. My son Keith was with us, enjoying the hell out of the show.
The NYTimes review of that Beacon show

 

 

04 April 2008 @ 04:12 pm

Music is in my blood. My brothers, my nieces, my son and I, all share that need to hear a particular chord change, or a particular harmony. We listen to music a lot and we talk about it a lot. Some of them sing, and all of them play.

Periodically I become obsessed with a song, and I need to hear it over and over. Periodically I become obsessed with a piece of music, and want to hear different versions of it. I adore live music, and find chamber music and early music concerts simply thrilling. I suspect my days of stadium concerts are over at this point, but I saw Bruce Springsteen this year, so you never know.

I have been struggling to describe how radically my iPod has affected me, and how glorious it is. It’s not just that I can make playlists of all my favorites, or mix up the classical, the Celtic, and the guitar chords, although I do all of that. It isn’t just that I can bring those into the kitchen, or to my home office aerie, or to the bedroom. Nor is it just that I can carry it with me traveling on the train or subway. I just love being able to get a piece of music right away, as soon as I want it. I have gone straight from a radio program to iTunes, to buy a copy of a song for myself and also to send it to my son. It’s lovely. Last night I discovered the Tallis Scholars have a new recording (Josquin’s Missa sine Nomine), and I bought it and listened to it and burned it to disk before bedtime.

It is listening to music in a public place like the train, on headphones, that most astonishes me. Something about that practice seems to channel the music directly from my ear to my emotions, without anything in between. It’s lovely. It’s also a little scary, to be feeling something so essentially private in a place that isn’t.

 

09 January 2008 @ 09:00 pm

Tam Lin

Some time in the past – it was probably in the late 1970s when there was only vinyl – we came upon a folk festival on television. A female singer got up, and with her hands at her sides and at the top of her voice, sang “Tam Lin.” This is a powerful ballad, of course, and she sang it a capella with riveting intensity. Her name was Frankie Armstrong, and we despaired of remembering her name or ever finding the recording.

We did remember it though, not her name, but the performance.

Some years later – there still was only vinyl – we were in a women’s bookstore somewhere that was not our home in New York City. We came across a record with that song on it, and we thought, “Frankie Armstrong? This could be the one.” We took it home, and it was, that same powerful, compelling rendition of that scarily beguiling song.

I was besotted with my iPod mini, and I am currently besotted with my iTouch. These pretty tools enable me to keep a fairly vast array of music with me all the time. And on iTunes is that astonishing performance of Frankie Armstrong’s “Tam Lin” so now I have it not just in memory but in my hand.

25 July 2008 @ 04:09 pm

music, the net, e-buddies, NYC

Every so often, a phrase of music bubbles up into my consciousness, usually from my teen years, and I have to track it down. This can usually be done by Googling the group, if I remember the group, or the phrase in the lyrics that has turned into an earworm. This time, however, all I had was a phrase that wouldn’t come up on Google. I knew it dated from the early Sixties, and I knew I loved it and wanted it back.  Current Music: Sun Arise, by Dana Gillespie

A Revival Meeting of the Church of Rock & Roll

03 October 2007 @ 07:10 am

My son, two of his friends and I drove the three hours to Hartford CT to see Bruce Springsteen on the night he opened his current tour. I have seen Bruce perhaps five times over 25 or more years, and I never cease to marvel at his prodigious ability to turn a huge arena into an intimate shared experience.
He covered his canon over his whole career – Badlands to Magic, Darkness to American Land. He did, bless me, my very favorite Springsteen song, “She’s the One.” The set list can be found here

http://backstreets.com/setlists.html

Bruce and the band all look their age, but it is a good age: they know what they are doing, and they do it with care and love and tremendous power. Patti is astonishingly beautiful – she glows onstage, and we could tell this because of the huge overhead screens that offered close-ups of the band as they performed. It was about two and a half hours long – none of them is under 50 at this point, I don’t think – and the mix was a bit rough. The voices sometimes were muffled under the clarity of the music, but it is a pleasant arena, not too huge, and filled with crowds from teenyboppers to boomers (although most of the audience was closer to my and Bruce’s age than not).
This is a political concert. There was not a lot of patter between songs, but what there was stressed Bruce’s desire to take the country back (“Livin’ in the future … this ain’t happened yet.”) and find reason to believe in the American land. He was Bruce the preacher, exhorting, laughing, singing, praying, and we were worshipers in the revival house of the church of rock & roll.
I am definitely too old for this. The crowds were all so tall (I am under 5’ myself), I had to punctuate the concert with timeouts for my allergy and bp meds, and there was the standing and dancing part for hours. But it was undisputably great.

 

 

21 September 2007 @ 11:10 am

We saw Across the Universe.
It is just lovely. Julie Taymor’s magnificent imagination has shaped and formed a really elegant film, and she has spun the magic of the Beatles songs into a narrative of love, war, and the 1960s.
The casting is superb — the actor who plays Jude, Jim Sturgess, is not only twinkly-adorable but sings well enough to tear your heart out — and cameos by Eddie Izzard as Mr Kite, Joe Cocker, and Bono are brilliant both musically and visually.
I love the Beatles. I love their music, from the Persuasions doing them a capella to Cirque du Soleil. This is another alchemy – the songs live and the movie is a delight. Go. Listen. Watch. Fill yourself with joy.

An excellent article about the movie, the songs, and the references is in Wikipedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Across_the_Universe_%28film%29

 

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Reading, How to

After food, and sex, and occasionally, sleep, the deepest and most sustaining pleasure of my life has been reading, reading stories.

For the past few years, since chemotherapy and radiation treatment for Stage 3 endometrial cancer, I have read very little. Oh, I read online, in short bursts of 20 minutes or so, and most days I read the NYTimes in paper form, but my Goodreads page is looking pretty thin these days. I am wrestling with why.

My hands hurt. I have peripheral neuropathy in my hands and feet from chemo. They are tingly all the time, and sometimes I get sharp, shooting pains in my hands that startle me. I also have arthritis in several fingers, and those joints are swollen and often painful. It can be hard to hold a book, and sometimes even holding Teacup, my trusty iPad Mini, hurts my hands. The touch of plastic or metal feels unpleasant against my skin. Teacup has a beautiful leather cover, but that makes it heavy to hold.

My eyes hurt. I have macular edema in one eye, and many floaters like a spiderweb across my vision. I have had cataract surgery and have reading glasses, but my eyes give me a hard time anyway. Sometimes my shoulders ache from the tension that builds up around my eyes from watching or sitting too long. What constitutes too long varies widely.

I have very little concentration. That started with the infamous “chemo brain” and continued with the beta blockers I take for high blood pressure. Since my dosage has been reduced I feel once again like I might be able to focus on a whole story, but while it’s better it isn’t good.

I confess I loathe audiobooks. The sensation of being read to is a sweet one, but I can’t do anything else while I am listening. I get antsy (and uncomfortable) sitting still. It’s hard to concentrate on them, too.

There is so little energy. I have to carefully distribute what I have each day, and reading takes a chunk out of it as does pretty much every single daily activity. I miss the stories. I miss the books I continue to buy but have not started yet, and the books I have started and haven’t gotten past a chapter or two.

I don’t feel cozy anywhere. The easiest place to read a print book is at the dining room table, which is not where I want to be unless I am eating. My rocking chairs are as comfy as I can get sitting down, but it’s hard to hold a book in any format for a sustained period.

Then, sometimes I think it’s just wrestling with the idea of it. I have been reading and teaching and reviewing all of my adult life. Books were my jam, as the younger folk say. The person who did all of that, who had long hair and could walk for miles and navigated her city as if it were her private domain no longer exists. The person who is now, who moves with a cane and has a cloud of short silver hair, that person misses stories. I have not yet wrestled my way back to them.

 

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Hair story the last, probably

Since I was 14 years old, I had long hair, often nearly to my waist. I loved it. I was vain about it. It was lush and wavy and deep chestnut brown. I thought it was my best feature. In my late 50s and 60s, it turned grey, then silver. I liked that, too. I loved being a woman of a certain age with long silver hair.
When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, I had to have my hair cut. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done.
Cancer breaks you. How you heal at the broken places is different for everyone. In my case, every single activity, every single thing I was and did, changed utterly. However, I thought I would grow my hair back. I knew it might not work, but I thought it was worth a try. So I did.
What grew back, however, was not my old, cherished hair. It was thin, and brittle, and didn’t wave or curl much once it was past my shoulders. It wouldn’t stay pinned up, and it hurt when I tried.
Last week, I accepted that I was no longer that woman with long hair. The wonderful hairdresser who cut my hair before chemo cut it today. Now it’s fluffy and I think it will curl more. It is, as Howl said of Sophie, the color of starlight.
I am not the person I was. But here I am.

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HAIR: A Story

This is a series of short entries about my relationship to my hair. They take place over several years, so there is some repetition. They include a bit about cancer treatment.

25 March 2009 “Gimme a head with hair, long beautiful hair…”

The last time I had short hair I was ten years old. I hated it. I vowed I would grow my hair long, and I did. I had, for a few years, the longest hair in my high school.
I was a blonde child, but my hair was chestnut brown by then, fairly thick and somewhat wavy. I loved having long hair. It not only seemed a badge of the 1960s (as indeed it was) but part of my whole and entire self.
People told me I would need to cut it, once I had a child (no, I didn’t). I did wear it up, in many guises, most of the time, through my professional career. I found a NYC hairdresser, George Michael/Madora, that knew how to cut and to treat long hair. I bought lovely hair pins whenever I could.
My hair is no longer chestnut, it’s silvery. I like to think of it as Howl said to Sophie in the film Howl’s Moving Castle as “the color of starlight” but the truth is, it’s grey. It is not so thick as it was, nor as wavy, and it does not behave as it used to. A family member used to say, “your hair can only be mentored, it can’t be managed” and that is more true than ever. Yesterday I went out with two pretty silver combs in my hair and a small rhinestone rose barrette. By the time I came out of MetroNorth and walked six blocks, both combs and barrette had completely fallen out of my hair (but I retrieved them).
I met TheInfomancer for dinner and music and couldn’t decide if I looked like a spirited sixty-something year old with long shining hair or a sloppy 61-year old with no grooming or style.
I love my hair. I wish I could make it do what I want, or understand what it wants. I can’t imagine cutting it though. It would be like severing a piece of my own self.

6 May 2015 A Year Ago

The first week of May 2014 saw me having my long hair cut for the first time in about 50 years, and my first round of chemotherapy. It’s a year later. My hands and feet still suffer the after-effects of that first chemo drug (which was changed as soon as the symptoms appeared). I had several haircuts since that first one. I never quite lost all my hair during chemo, and it started to grow back with gusto around Thanksgiving.
I long for my hair to grow back. It is the only part of me that might possibly be restored to what it was before cancer.
This was a scary anniversary, but also a hopeful one. One month from today I will be 68 years old. I want to have energy and clarity of thought, and they are slow to return. Those things do appear some mornings, and I greet them with joy. I want them to stay.

Hair: an obsession, part 3a

I can feel the hair on the back of my neck.
This is amazing. From the time I was fourteen (over 50 years ago) I have had hair to the middle of my back and longer. I could always feel the hair on the back of my neck. I had my hair cut short, and shorter, and shortest last year, and lost most of it during chemotherapy, but now it is growing back vigorously, and I can feel it on the back of my neck.
This is weird, and strange, and wonderful.
Cancer, chemotherapy, radiation do things to one. What those things did in the most basic way is change or alter every single daily activity and habit. Every. single. one. When and how I shower, how I walk, using the toilet, intimacy, reading, getting dressed, preparing a meal. Things will not go back to the way they were. But it is possible, just possible, that I will have my long silver hair back again, the way it was. (It is growing back even whiter, and somewhat curlier, but the small bald spot I had before cancer is still there. That’s amazing in its way, too.)
This fills me with the possibility of joy.

15 October 2016 Hair Again

From the time I was 14 until May of 2014, I had long hair, nearly to my waist. It was my signature, the way I described myself to people who had not seen me: “small, round, pink, long hair.” In May 2014, just before I started chemotherapy, I had my hair cut short. (I had it cut three more times. The last time it was about an inch long all over.) I saved the hair is a silk bag and I put my many (many!) hairpins and ornaments in two boxes at the very back of my closet.

About six months ago I pulled out a few barrettes that I thought I might be able to wear now. A few silk scrunchies. A clip or two. That was ok. I could cope. I could use them.

Today my hair reaches my shoulders. Growing my hair back is a mission, a goal, a deep-seated desire. It is the only part of my pre-cancer life that I can actually get back. Everything else has changed. Everything.

I tried going back in that box at the back of my closet this afternoon. I took out a few more hair ornaments and then I had to stop. I was so shaken by this. All those pretty things were part of a life I can barely imagine any more. But. However. I am going to reclaim each of those pins and barrettes and clips. Those I can get back. And I will. An awful lot is lost, but some things can be found again.

2 February 2017 Hair again and again

My hair had been long since I was about fourteen. Then I got cancer, and had it all cut off before I lost it. I did lose most of it.
Cancer takes a lot out of you, changes your body and your spirit. Almost three years after my first surgery, I know that nothing will be the same ever again. Except, I thought, my hair. I could grow my hair back.
When my hair first came back, it was white, and curly. That was fun. It has been growing pretty fast. That was fun too. I had a bald spot even before cancer treatment, and I still do. Now it’s bigger. As my hair get longer, it gets straighter, still with a wave, but not the curls of before. That’s only to be expected. But unfortunately it is also thinner and more fragile: no doubt partly due to age, but certainly due in part to what it, and I, have been through.
So now my hair is silver rather than snowy white, kind of stringy and flyaway. It does not behave very well, and it strongly resists being pinned up or tied back in any way.
Damn. I want to have long hair again. I want it to be pretty.

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a joy from Twitter

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A Rose No More

GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
16 June 2013 @ 03:34 pm
We moved to the house I grew up in when I was six and my twin brothers were three, in the autumn of  1953, I think. One wall of our property was the double apartment building next door, upon which grew a large climbing rose. It bloomed only once each year, in early June, in time for my birthday.

How I loved that rose. It was strong and tenacious and had huge wicked thorns. The flowers were pale pink in bud and almost white when fully opened, and they smelled like heaven: a very light, pure rose scent that no soap or cologne ever matched. It was my rose.

We moved back into the house I grew up in three weeks before my father’s death, and the rose flourished. Every so often it would bloom early if we had a warm spring, or late if we didn’t, but generally it was as regular as the date of my birth. Twenty years and more ago, when we moved to our current house, I took two cuttings from that rose, and willed them to grow.

And they did. Our home had a small arbor, just made for the rose, I thought, and I anxiously waited several years while the rose established itself and began climbing. I also planted a cutting by the front door, with a small trellis for it. After awhile, it grew, too, both blooming in sync with my birthday and each other.

The arbor rose is a wild thing. It grows like mad, blooms profusely, and has twined itself in and around the arbor. The front door rose, however, while it grew in much the same pattern, tended to reach out to grab the delivery folk, or our hair, or to whack us across the cheek at odd moments.

It was time for it to go. The gardener of our household, who will do most anything I ask, would not touch the rose. It attacks him mercilessly. So I did it. I covered my hair and wore long sleeves and my leather work gloves, which are tiny because my hands are tiny. I spoke to the rose respectfully with each branch I cut away. I thanked the rose for being with me, I blessed it root and branch and thorn and flower, and reminded it that its greater sister still lived on in gay profusion. It was the work of an hour, until I had cut it down to the ground and made a box of cuttings that would not injure the garbage haulers who would take it away. Only one thorn penetrated those work gloves, when I grabbed at a thick branch that was falling out of reach.

I have a thing for roses. I tend to gravitate to rose patterns in fabric and leather and art. I call my iPad Rose. I love the word, noun and verb. I am grateful for this essay, the last gift of the front door rose.

I offer you a picture of the rose arbor today, and one of the front door rose taken a few years ago before it began menacing passersby.

Happy Fathers Day to all.

Roses16June2013RoseFrontDoor2007sm

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Georgia O’Keeffe

GirasoleAzzurra/The LadyHawk
07 September 2013 @ 10:42 am
We took two days to go upstate, to see a collection of 32 paintings by Georgia O’Keeffe in a small museum in Glens Falls, NY. The family of Alfred Steiglitz, whom O’Keeffe married, had an estate near Lake George, and they spent summers there for a time. Georgia painted there, some small, abstract, exquisite canvases, many of which I had not seen before. The Hyde Collection gathered them from many places, and it was truly wonderful to see rooms full of them.

She is one of the great abstract painters of the 20th century. Her work is extraordinarily controlled, the nuances of color minute and perfect. Her paintings of Jack-in-the-Pulpit, seen side by side, are monumental and almost hypnotic. I can look at her paintings for a very long time. They are intellectually engaging and emotionally soothing (most of the time). The blue Lake George on the exhibition poster is beautiful: small (most of these paintings are small), full of light that one can almost swear keeps changing, like sunlight on water.

I had never seen Lake George before, nor been to Saratoga Springs, where we spent a few happy hours walking around. But it was O’Keeffe I wanted, and it was a great gift.

http://www.hydecollection.org/events_and_programs/Modern_Nature_Georgia_O_Keeffe_and_Lake_George_291.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/08/11/arts/design/georgia-okeeffes-lake-george-paintings-at-hyde-collection.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

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