A Lickety-Split Performance

We interrupt this program for a brief digression into the actual life of the Blogger.

Laura and I sang this song at the Musical Instrument Museum on Saturday. The sound quality isn’t tip-top, but hopefully you get the idea.

That’s a lot of words, ladies and gentlemen.

This is called mouth music, sung in Gaelic, and the sound of the words and the rhythm are more important than the meaning of the words. Makes you want to do a jig, doesn’t it? (That’s because it’s dancing music.)

As long as we’ve digressed into my life, I should tell you that I got the job teaching at Archway Classical Academy, North Phoenix. I am officially an elementary music teacher! I’m absolutely thrilled.

End of update. See you tomorrow for the Tract of Give Us Rest!


Big things, small things, and us in between

“Turn the radio down, ’cause you know it sounds better when all of us sing.” (While We’re Up, “Graduation.”)

This morning Janna, Sicily, Sarah and I met Janna’s boyfriend Jacob in Colorado Springs to see the Garden of the Gods. 

It’s a park filled with these humongous red rocks, just sticking up out of the ground in a grandiose fashion. The scale of the place really does make it feel mythical, as though it belonged to the Greek gods and somehow fell to earth .If there are wonders like this on Earth, imagine what heaven will be like, to be with God forever. It reminds me of the way CS Lewis portrays the new Narnia in The Last Battle. It’s a world where the scale of everything is simply awe-inspiring.

On the other end of the size spectrum, we had problems with a spool of thread today. Sicily is making a teddy bear and she lost her red thread between the car and Janna’s apartment, and we could not find it. We tore apart the apartment and the car, and finally gave up and decided to get more thread from target. We all trooped down to the car and opened the doors- and then Sicily spotted it on the roof of the car next to Janna’s.

What an odd place to find what you’re looking for!

Perhaps the funnest part of the day, however, was going to get candy from Target. More precisely, the drive back from Target. We drove through the beautiful fields and neighborhoods in the area with the radio blasting and all of us singing along. The air blowing through the open windows smelled like rain, and the sun was setting behind the Rockies. Music and friends make a beautiful world more beautiful.


Baseball is the stuff of legend.

“The fundamental truth: a baseball game is nothing but a great slow contraption for getting you to pay attention to the cadence of a summer day.”
― Michael ChabonSummerland

I’m not much for sports in general, but I do enjoy baseball. Baseball seems kind of magical to me. My perception probably comes mostly from the afore-quoted novel, Summerland. In the book, it’s a magical sport that means everything, but is still the stuff of joy; it never takes on so much meaning that it ceases to be plain fun.

Janna, Sicily, Sarah and I had front seats to a professional game today, Rockies vs. Athletics. Here’s a picture or two:

I won’t pretend to know much about the sport, but there’s one thing I do love: the musical traditions. Sports people and music people sometimes don’t understand each other (I do know a few people who are both), but the worlds collide in unexpected and interesting ways. Even at football games, chanting in rhythm is part of the culture. But at baseball games, Americans stand up and sing at the seventh inning stretch. “Take me out to the ball game….”

Even more interesting is the tradition of the baseball organist. In 1941 the Chicago Cubs brought an organ onto the field as a one-day-only gimmick, but it caught on so well that they kept it. As of 2005, half of major league ballparks used live organists rather than pre-recorded organ music. Even with the modern addition of  ‘canned’ music at baseball games, organ remains strongly associated with baseball. The worlds of music and sports are actually inseparable after all.

Synthesizers (and fajitas!)

This morning our friend Sarah arrived in town! We spent most of the day shopping and watching movies, and incidentally, I was introduced to the concept of dubstep.The speakers in Janna’s car are very run down and partially destroyed, and so bass comes out sounding like poppy static. We turned the bass all the way down in her car to reduce the distortion, which meant that when a dubstep song happened to come on the radio there wasn’t really anything to listen to. It’s a very heavily synthesized kind of music.

Synthesizer is an interesting element in modern pop music; I think it has the potential to make music sonically interesting, even if it’s not musically interesting. It introduces novel and unexpected sounds into the musical landscape, even though it isn’t typically innovative in terms of harmony, melody or rhythm. I’m not sure if I like dubstep, but it is a good example of a genre heavily influenced by and reliant on synthetic sound.

On a completely unrelated note, our friend Sarah is an excellent cook, and she made us fajitas. Here are some mouth-watering pictures:


Music from the mountains to the streets

“I look out the window; the birds are composing.” (Jon Foreman, “Your Love is Strong.”)

Yesterday Janna, Sicily and I drove to the mountains to stay with Janna’s grandparents in their cabin. We walked around the lake in the little mountain town and got some ice cream, followed by delicious homemade tacos, compliments of her grandma. Their house is the most beautiful place.

This morning I awoke at 5:22 to the sound of birds composing. One thing I love about being in quiet, unpeopled places is that it’s easier to remember that you have a Creator. The forest and the mountains are a testament to His glory. And so are his creatures. This morning we saw two foxes, coming to beg for hot dogs, and a doe. We also went and saw some buffalo at a farm nearby.

After having eggs and a gluten-free pancake (my birthday cake!) we drove through Black Hawk, where Janna grew up, and to the Pearl st. Mall in Boulder. Boulder is a wonderful hippie town. We tried on some goofy hats:

And we saw several street musicians. I love street musicians. There’s something very pleasant about walking outdoors in some public place, with live music floating about. We heard a drum ensemble, a flute, a clarinet, and even someone playing piano. The Denver mall also has these outdoor pianos, and even though it must be tough on the pianos, it’s really a lovely idea.

Music is everywhere!

Mystery Science Theater Threeeeee THOUSAND!

Sicily and I flew in to Denver this morning at 11:30 and immediately met our old friend, Janna, and her new beau, Jacob. We had such a fabulous day! Janna and Jacob meet up with some friends every month to watch a television show called Mystery Science Theater 3000, and since this Saturday happened to be the monthly meetup day, we went with them.

The MST3K group!

Mystery Science Theater 3000 is kind of strange. The premise seems to be that an “evil” scientist is torturing two robots and one human by forcing them to watch truly terrible movies, mostly from the fifties; a lot of B-variety science fiction. The original film plays in the background while the shadows of the robots and human make fun of the terrible dialogue, scattered plots, and poorly executed film editing and effects. It’s quite humorous.

I was reminded of the bizarre trends in film soundtracks as we listened to the synthesized weirdness in the backgrounds. Later we celebrated the strangeness of 1950s composition with a video of a cat playing a theremin.

Vegetable Instruments and Unusual Jamming

How to Make a Carrot Ocarina.

I don’t know where this guy picked up this hobby, but it’s fascinatingly strange. He makes musical instruments from vegetables. The carrot ocarina is only the beginning. You can watch a whole host of videos of him playing the cabbage slide whistle, the egg ocarina, the carrot pan flute, the broccoli ocarina, the cucumber trumpet, and much much more.

My friend Travis was showing me and Austin these videos yesterday after our nearly nightly Dominos pizza dinner. He’s been practicing his recorder skills lately and thought of these vegetable instruments.

For those of you who are not avid recorder fans or don’t teach elementary music, a recorder is that plastic instrument you might have played in grade school- remember? Travis has a wooden one, it sounds a bit nicer than my plastic one. But I digress. As we watched these intriguing and occasionally ear-splitting videos we hit upon a wonderful idea– to have our own ear-splitting jam session with our soprano recorders. We went to our rooms and found our recorders, Austin picked up my guitar, and we all met up to play.

The repertoire for the evening included “Oh Shenandoah,” “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” (I just played the weemboweps), “The Colorado Trail,” and best of all our own transcription of two themes from The Lord of the Rings films. Austin backed up our recorders with guitar, which was a blessing; Two soprano recorders, inexpertly played without supporting harmony, would have been really frightful.

It was really fun, especially when a stranger walked into the lounge and found us playing Lord of the Rings themes on recorders. I’m sure he thought we were really cool cats.