Archive for the 'music' Category


March 30, 2015

I have been listening to the Pine Hill Project’s performance of “Rain Just Falls” here, having heard it live at their concert last Saturday night.  I am mulling over the commentary with which Richard Shindell introduced the song at the concert, in which he pointed out that the song could be seen as making a case against intelligent design.

So I have been listening to the song, because I like the way it sounds and because I have recently discovered the treat of Larry Campbell instrumental solos, and trying to discern what I can hear behind the sung lyrics.

What I hear is that the rain does its thing when it falls — that’s its “job” or role, so to speak, to fall.  What happens next is not its issue, and if it supports flower growth, that’s a separate thing.  The focus on just falling maybe even allows it to fulfill its potential more effectively.

How to put together the fall of the rain with the nurture of the flower, well, I guess I would say that is done at a position outside that of the rain’s and the flower’s respective roles, if it is done at all.  The rain doesn’t fall with awareness of a connection between the rain falling and the flower growing.  That doesn’t exhaust the issue of whether a connection between the two activities is perceived at all;  maybe the question is really about whether putting together the two activities is done at all, according to the song.

The sequence of rain falling and flowers growing certainly forms an observable pattern.  If someone is there to observe the pattern, I think the pattern can have significance even if there’s no strong intentionality to it.  If we see sequence as completely random and coincidental instead, I suspect we have gone to far in the other direction and thrown out the baby with the bathwater.

That’s where I am right now in mulling this over.

Lovely concert musically last Saturday night, an extra perk to have given us food for thought.



August 24, 2014

While I was visiting my mother, I had to decide what day to leave.  I had come down a day later than planned, an idea that originated with my mother, due mostly to the weather, and I needed to decide whether to go back home on my originally planned day of departure or to extend the trip one day.

We had accomplished much of what we had planned — banking business; open house; sorting, shredding or keeping files that had been in the basement, sorting, folding, donating or keeping the contents of the linen closet …

I couldn’t tell whether we were done for this trip.  So I took a walk late one afternoon.  And what percolated up for me was to call my son to see how he was faring at home and to pack my car, to the extent possible at that point, with what I thought I needed to bring back with me, to see if it would fit (I drive a Ford Focus sedan).

And once I did those two things, it became clear to me to stay the extra day.  And when I did that, I found myself doing some work that hadn’t before occurred to me, including getting things off closet shelves, sorting them for donation, trash, or keeping — because I wasn’t sure who else would be able to get them down, given the limitations of the help my mother engages.  This project had not been apparent to me, but by clearing away the clutter in my mind about my decision (about when to leave), I was able to make that decision, and, subsequently, to see the next right thing I was being called to do.  Again, as in my previous post, this occurred in a mundane context, but I am here to say that my process works, at least for me.

I will add as a note here that my mother received three wonderful letters from the university that collected and received her donation of CDs, records, and books.  My mother read them to me over the phone last night.  Not only were we amazed by the number of CDs (over 4,000) and records and books (over 600 and 800, respectively), but we found it heartwarming that the writers were so appreciative of the collections.  I was also especially happy to hear that the writers mentioned that the CDs would be quite helpful in the teaching and preparation of music students.  That’s the sort of thing I had been hoping for — that the collections would go where they were appreciated for what they were and would be used in a way that allows them to reach their potential to help others.

The Wailin’ Jennys

August 8, 2014

I finally got around to listening to this group when I noticed they had a cover of “By Way of Sorrow.”  (Here it is live.)  I had already been taken by their name (a pun on Waylon Jennings).  And their music, in my opinion, lives up to the (high) expectations I had for a group with such a clever name.

A collection

July 28, 2014

I am thrilled that between the two of us, my mother and I seem to have found a good home for my dad’s extensive classical music CD collection.  He developed the collection in part as a result of his reviewing CDs for the American Record Guide.

I felt pretty strongly that the collection has greater value as a whole, that its value as a whole is greater than the sum of its (many) parts.  One example of the significance of its size is how it contains multiple performances of the same work (my dad would make reference to comparisons in his reviews) and so lends itself to in-depth study of a work.  I advocated pretty strongly that we should find someone to take it who would appreciate this aspect of it.

I did some poking about online while I was on the telephone with my mother, and I gave her some phone numbers of music departments or related departments at local universities.

The collection is going to a university library, as I understand it, and being handled by a person who really appreciates the collection (and even used to follow my father’s work).  As I said, I am thrilled.

I was going to write more about the factual details of what’s going on, but what really moved me was finding such a good match.  I wound up my father’s estate recently, and I certainly tried to do right by him on those matters, but this is a different sort of thing  —  it feels like settling something of the heart.  I think it makes me feel as though there are things we can still do for loved ones after they have died.

More on mosaics

July 23, 2014

When I was watching the co-owner of the mosaic studio begin to cut the broken cup pieces in preparation for reconfiguring them (see previous post), one of the things she showed me was how by cutting a curved piece, she could in effect flatten it.  (I think it was that by cutting the curved piece along one plane and making it smaller, the contrast producing the curve became reduced in each of the smaller pieces, and so they were flatter.)

Now that suggests to me a spiritual parallel, because I think we human beings are faced with trying to perceive more dimensions of the universe than our everyday world deals with.  So when we perceive something from another realm, maybe we hear it as music, maybe we channel it into poetry or a visual art;  but some of us plug into a small fragment of the much larger thing with many dimensions and try to translate it into linear rational thought and language.  When we try to do that, I think it’s only by limiting the attempt to bringing only a small piece of it into this world that we are able to bring it into this world at all.  It can feel as if we are flattening the idea in breaking it into smaller pieces while we are still remaining consistent with the curves of the original idea as a whole.

The blind men feeling the elephant in the traditional telling of the tale generalize from their personal understanding, and my usual understanding of the tale is that we all need to communicate and share our understandings in order to get at a more profound understanding and peaceful relations with each other.  But today I got to thinking more along the lines of the difficulty of bringing the whole (understanding) into the world at all, no matter the method employed.  With the arts, something of the multidimensional experience I think is being reproduced, but it doesn’t usually become understood in rational thought and integrated into our mundane activities.  So it seems to me there is a trade-off even there, and that it is difficult if not impossible to bring the curved surface completely intact into a realm of flatness:  the universe is curved but our material world is in a sense flat.  When we as inhabitants of this material world poke our perception into, or permit our perception to take in, other realms, we perceive the curves of things.  Bringing them back into this world to share with others here is a whole other project.

Camp Gulliver, Pine Hill, NY

July 19, 2014

Well, who knew Gulliver was known for an SDS convention?  I don’t think I did when I went there.  I think I was 9 at the time, summer of 1967, when I went.  I was in the youngest girls’ bunk, I had an older sister, 2 older cousins, and a number of family friends’ children (also older than I) who were also there that summer.

I wonder if my father knew about the convention.  It had been held a couple of years before.  I vaguely remember that the camp had a new owner when we went, and perhaps I had a sense that the camp had been more controversial in the past.  Maybe the new ownership was part of the explanation for why we were allowed to go.  The camp song still talked about the original owner, though.

In any event, I only found out about this SDS convention business because I googled Camp Gulliver after thinking about it after I got an invitation the other day to help crowd-fund a CD project called The Pine Hill Project, which is being recorded near Pine Hill, NY, but is not named for it.

Maybe my family knew about the SDS convention — Camp Gulliver connection and I was just too young to take it in.

Here’s a picture of the main house at Gulliver:


The CD project can be found on  It sounds like it will be a great record.  Having been induced to help other people with projects under much murkier terms, I kind of enjoyed that the terms of participation are so clearly spelled out in this case.  That was part of what got me over the hump of hesitancy to engage with the technology and contribute.


Organ pipes

July 8, 2014

I was reading the quotation from the poet Hafiz at the end of Father Rohr’s Daily Meditation.  It reads,

I am a hole in a flute that the Christ’s breath
moves through—listen to this music.

The image comes to me differently, or at least I perceive the image differently.

For me, we are more like pipes in a pipe organ, and we have different lengths.  The hole part of the image for me has to do with our each having different holes in different places, according to how much of our ego we have cleaned up, how many and much of our flaws we have sanded down and polished.  For example, I have a small green jade Buddha and a small uncut green stone, and for me, that’s representative of spiritual development.

When the breath of spirit moves through us, we make our own sound, but in concert with everybody else.

A window into other people

June 21, 2014

I was reading Father Rohr’s meditation for yesterday, and I was quite surprised by the last line, equating surrender and contemplation.

I don’t equate them.  But I don’t dismiss Father Rohr’s understanding either, and I wonder whether for him and for some group of people, surrender is about contemplation, that one gets a particular kind of spiritual experience, and life, if one understands surrender in that way — maybe “serenity” and a serene life?

The kind of surrender I am more personally familiar with is a kind in which one is reminded that one could strive for serenity directly and at one’s own pace, but perhaps what is actually needed to serve the greater good in one’s own life is something else.  Perhaps it is to understand what is going wrong in the life or lives of people who are stuck — to empathically experience how they interface with the world, with themselves, and with others, and to try to join them and perhaps lead them in adjusting that.  One sticks with that development, or reclamation, project, one does not skip ahead of the group one is immersed with, because to do so would lose the point of the project.  But one would also lose the point of the project if one lost sight of the point of the project and of the understanding that the project indeed has a point.

Now, of course, one could get a swelled head and identify oneself in this role as an enlightened teacher, but I think most of us who are willing to do this sort of work recognize that it is true of all human beings that we have the capacity for serenity, the capacity for its opposite (self-exile?), and the capacity for everything else inbetween;  what “level” we live our lives at is a function of a lot of factors — and if we stop thinking of it in terms of levels, and use a concept more like notes on a scale instead, maybe we can understand that sometimes the note that serves the greater good for us to sing is not the tonic.  And sometimes that note turns out to be one that is very difficult to hold, but is necessary for the music to sound full.  One is just another person in the orchestra, functioning as some kind of pitch pipe, perhaps.

To agree to sing  — to be willing to sing — whatever note is needed is my idea of surrender.


December 3, 2013

When I was in eighth grade, my best friend got an 8-track cassette player for Christmas, and one of the cassettes she had was for “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the rock opera.  I had an LP of the album.*

Kathie’s 8-track version included a song on it that mine didn’t:  “Could We Start Again, Please?”  I never figured out the (technical?) reasons they didn’t put it on the LP edition, but I assume there was a reason.

I love Yvonne Elliman’s voice.  (Here’s her doing “Can’t Find My Way Home.”)  So it bothered me to be missing one of her tracks.  But over time I also found my attention going to the point about wishing we could start again when things go so sadly and awfully and nightmarishly and seemingly unnecessarily awry.

I’m not much on “woulda, coulda, shoulda.”

My turntables are in need of repair, 8-track players are a thing of the past, I haven’t been in touch with Kathie for years.  But it’s a time of year when anything seems possible, when even maybe past and difficult unfinished business gets resolved in some way, with a little bit of help from grace.  After all,

When through the window big and red

There hurtled by his royal head,

And bounced and fell upon the bed,

An india-rubber ball!

(from “King John’s Christmas,” by A.A. Milne)



*The recording with Ian Gillan as Jesus.


November 19, 2013

I came across this yesterday and I think it’s really amazing.  It’s Elton John improvising music on the spot to a text (and singing it).  Master class, indeed.