Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Twas the day between Hanukah and Christmas...

Twas the day between Hanukah and Christmas, 
and all through the town, 
not a sadness was stirring 
not even a frown…
A large bit of luck and magic was part of my day today. This morning, I was concerned that I had lost touch with a Hispanic woman who had worked at a snack stand at the hotel across from my work for twenty years or more. I had seen her each “work morning” for several years when I stopped by for a muffin or scone on my way to work.
We had always smiled and greeted each other warmly, an exchange I had with a number of great people who I met each day on the street, or working at the hotel. This was my little morning community and there were plenty of smiles and warm greetings to go around.
But during the summer, she let me know that the snack stand was closing and she was likely to lose her job, and there would be no severance package for her. She asked me for advice and I did some research and tried to advise about who she might talk to, to help her, but I also told her I was very optimistic that somehow it would work out, and she trusted me and was smiling again. The snack stand and my friend were there for many days after, and we smiled warmly each day.
But suddenly, one day the snack stand was gone, and there was no sign of my friend. For a few weeks, the snack stand site was under construction and I hoped that a new and improved snack stand would open and my friend would be back. But a few weeks ago the construction ended and there was a new lobby, no snack stand, and no sign of my friend.
I worried that I had guided her poorly and was too optimistic, but I still had some hope that all would work out.
Several weeks passed and still no sign of my friend.
This morning I shared my worry for the first time with another friend and felt somewhat guilty that I had not done enough for my snack stand friend. I rarely go to lunch on my work days because work has been way too busy, but today by chance was less busy at work and I went to lunch at another restaurant in the hotel. And suddenly my friend appeared with a huge smile and had warm words for me. She had been rehired by the hotel in their larger restaurant and was earning more, and fully safe and secure.
My day between Hanukah and Christmas was truly one filled (or philled) with a whole lot of luck and magic, and I felt that I was given this great gift.
We had “lucked out” this time. But in the New Year, I knew that while smiles and warm greetings can go a long way, we also need to do a little more for each other’s well-being. Happy holidays and to all a good day and night of warm greetings.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

ABBA Babble

Last night, on a beautiful fall-like night, I went to Wolf Trap's night of ABBA the Concert, with a cheery knock-off group of game ABBA impersonators. They even had a real ABBA side man sitting in on most of the ABBA like songs to lend some credibility to the performance--a nice touch. But as with other cover band performance, such as the Dark Star Orchestra's Dead on performances, you were conscious of their limitations. They would not permit themselves to extend their performance to anything outside of the originals and this group performing ABBA the Concert stayed within their concert lanes reasonably well. They did dig deeply into the ABBA catalogue of songs and did not stay with the hits, which made it a little interesting, but unfortunately, some of the deeper cuts were rather thin and formulaic, and ironically, knock offs of other's hits of the 60s and 70s. ABBA's music (at least the hits) lives on comfortably on the stage, in film, and in recorded music, and streaming and steaming in the exercise rooms of the boomers and gen xers and yers, and in the hearts of their againg audiences.

Earlier in the year Part 2

jaunary 13--It is time to pass on a pleasant tribute to Phil Everly of the Everly Brothers who recently died. The tribute was in the Wall Street Journal on Saturday and was written by Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong, who recently rerecorded an early Everly Brothers album with Norah Jones. The tribute is at:http://blogs.wsj.com/speakeasy/2014/01/04/green-days-billie-joe-armstrong-the-dark-traditions-of-phil-everly/ 

Billie notes the beautifully straight up and often elegant harmonies of the Everly Brothers that were a great influence on groups such as the Beatles, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Beach Boys. In addition to offering a pleasant contrast to the hard rocking rockabilly of Elvis in "Bye Bye Love" and "All I Have to Do Is Dream," the Everly Brothers also provided some innocent fun, and comic relief in "Wake Up Little Susie," and "Bird Dog" (although some parts of the country were not quite ready for "Susie" being up so late and not being home by 10, so they banned the record). Phil Everly was a key pioneer in the early days of rock and Billie Joe's tribute nicely captures the mood of that time.


December 14, 2013--Paul Simon shares some wonderful memories about his work on "Graceland" with South African musicians, and his connections to Nelson Mandela through Hugh Masekela and Miriam Makeba in today's NY Times. He is indeed "sharing diamonds on his soul," It is at:

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/14/arts/music/paul-simon-on-mandelas-role-in-graceland.html

For background, you may also want to read a Tom Friedman piece at: 

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/30/opinion/friedman-paul-simon-takes-us-back.html?_r=0


11/11--Music continues to flow through my veins after a great weekend of music in the Big Apple--Melissa Etheridge, Joan Osbourne, Counting Crows, Katharine McPhee, and Barbra ('like Butter') Streisand on Friday, and on Friday night and Saturday, wonderful folk and Israeli music, horas, and random spinning for the mind, body, and spirit at Romemu at a ruach-philled family bat mitzvah.

October 30--Winning pitcher John Lackey said it best: "A great team win for a great team." And it was great win for a great city--"Boston Strong; Boston Proud" First time in Boston for ninety-five years. Almost worth the wait.

December 8--
I want to recommend an interview with Santana that was on the PBS news hour tonight coinciding with his Kennedy Centers honors. He talked wonder-fully about the heart and power of good music of all kinds, and his remembrances of Nelson Mandala. The interview is at:http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2013/12/music-legend-carlos-santana-talks-to-jeffrey-brown-on-mondays-pbs-newshour.html

Earlier in the year 2014

July 5--It was a beautiful afternoon for the next to the last day of the 48th Anniversary Folklife Festival on the nation's lawn, the Smithsonian mall. It was in the 80s for the first time in recent Festival history--probably the first 80s day in early July since the 80s. There were the interesting crafts, food, and beverages of the two guest nations. But it was the mesmerizing Kenyan and Mongolian music that filled the mall with joy, rhythm, movement, and discovery. Whether it was Mongolian ofkhoomei throat singing, the mystical Mongolian stringed instruments, or the smooth Afro-popping Kenyan fusion, Benga, or coastal sounds, there was no way to keep from feeling the joy, and swaying to the beat, and dancing. Tomorrow is the last day of the Festival and I recommend it to anyone in the DC area.

July 5--I just wanted to capture and share a magical moment. It is a gorgeous Fifth of July, beautifully sunny and cool under the swaying trees (my parents anniversary playing in the background, with oh-so pleasant memories; it would have been their 78th). Playing in the foreground is "Sleepy Hollow" on XPN.org (a magical mix of music from every genre and decade narrated gently and wisely by a pleasantly-voiced host and tour guide), (right now a wonderful, cross-generational Woody and Arlo Guthrie duet on "This Land is Your Land" is on, in honor of the Fourth). The show gently wipes away the cobwebs out of my awakening blue eyes, as they turn their attention on Steely Dan's Donald Fagen's book of his life, "Eminent Hipsters." It is almost paradise for just a moment that I wanted to share. I hope you do not mind my intrusion into your life. I hope you are enjoying some magical moments of your own. Happy Fifth.

June 28--Meeting with a law school friend for dinner one night this week was a real treat. The DuPont Circle food was blandly average, but the night was just short of electric. We have not seen each other for 12 years or so, but instantly it was like we were in touch all along and did not miss a beat. We rediscovered so many mutual interests and opinions we shared, and even found new mutual interests that we have in common. And perhaps most amazingly, we newly discovered that we were likely at the same Bob Dylan performance that weekday night in May of 1963 at Gerdes Folk City in Greenwich Village, NYC, well before he hit the big time. Appreciatively,we both put a quarter (that was big money at the time; not really) in the hat he passed around, that obviously helped finance the rest of his career. And the rest as they say is his-story,

June 15--I love the intersection and confluence of Father's Day and the anniversary of my dad's passing this year. It makes the wonderful memories even more powerful. I wore one of his ties to the Yahrzeit service at which I commemorated the anniversary and his memory. In the years that have passed since his passing, I continue to learn more and more about the person he was and the times he lived in, and it brings with it wonderful and insightful feelings. I hope that all who are celebrating Father's Day today have a wonderful day being with their father or recalling those wonderful memories of their father.

May 15--It's a new morning, and a new re-do-over with Dylan doing Sinatra doing Rachmaninoff; the singer/artist ever changing and rearranging--from bobby sox to blue jeans and Bach again. There's an interesting articlle at:http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2014/may/14/bob-dylan-and-frank-sinatra-twin-titans-american-music

March 22--
What fun to watch baseball's opening day game from the Sydney (Australia) Cricket Ground between the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks. The world is shrinking as the sun sets on the baseball/cricket empire. 



http://resources3.news.com.au/images/2014/03/22/1226862/219995-e6100fd4-b15c-11e3-995d-6099a80e173b.
resources3.news.com.au




March 1--After an amazingly busy and rewarding work week, it's great to unwind with a night time replay of today's relaxingly lazy, non-consequential, spring training opener with the NYC/Port St. Lucie's Amazin's hosting DC/Viera's Matt-itudinal Nats. I feel an exciting comeback win coming on for DC's Natty Nine. The Kinks and Ray Charles had it right singing, "lazing on a sunny afternoon" (replayed "in the night time, it's the right time....")


February 22--So Facebook asked its usual question--what's on your mind. I usually resist, but today since brain research is on my mind, I thought maybe it might be a fitting question. There is very interesting research being done on education matters such as how we learn and are there greater or lesser aptitudes for learning certain subjects or languages at different ages. Today, in response to the usual FB question, I want to pass on some recent results of brain research on how male and female brains may work differently and on jazz improvisation. The first research is discussed at 
http://www.uphs.upenn.edu/news/News_Releases/2013/12/verma/ 
The second research is discussed at 
http://www.sciencenewsline.com/articles/2014021923480012.html
and is detailed at:
http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0088665

I welcome your thoughts on any of this, or whatever is on your mind.


Feburary 17--
On a cool crisp and sunny winter morning, I wonder about our ear-podded world in which we close ourselves in to listen just to the music and views that we like, and we often shut ourselves off from the beauty and diverse world around us. While commercial radio is not the greatest, it (along with public radio) provide an element of surprise in our lives, and a chance to discover new things and open ourselves away from just our comfort zones. There is a recent article in the NY Times that raised this issue and I wondered what my FB friends (and their friends) thought about it The article is at:http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/16/opinion/sunday/driving-to-the-music-of-chance.html?ref=opinion&_r=0 I am opening myself up to other views and welcome your thoughts and views...
Janurary 2014--
Touring Munster — with Phil Rosenfelt and Zell Berman Rosenfelt in M√ľnster, Germany.
Photo: Touring Munster
The MHS Philharmonic Orchestra in Amsterdam in January 2014! — with Phil Rosenfelt in Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Photo: The MHS Philharmonic Orchestra in Amsterdam in January 2014!
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Sunday, January 5, 2014

Recapping the Elusive 2013

Yes, it seems too fast, and it seems a bit arbitrary, but another twelve-month period of recorded time if not recorded music--another year--has come and gone (a little too quickly).  At least, I think it is a little too quickly.  Maybe I feel a bit conflicted on the time keeping, because we as a society may not have accomplished enough to call it a good year.  But how do we measure enough accomplishment; time is a measurable element of life and yet it seems so relative, and maybe a year may seem to be irrelevant as a point for recapping and measurement.  But it is a period that many use for reflection, so, we--you and I--the writer and the reader, will use the year as our current point of reflection, in any event.

For some, 2013 may have left not quickly enough.  After all, this was the year of a badly acted and poorly scripted set of political dramas that went just to the edge and back, several times--it was a time of budget cliffs, sequestration, and a shutdown.  And it was a time for rerunning and reconsidering some scandal-riden, see-through, plastic-seeming politicians such as Mr. Weiner, caught up in more selfie moments; Mr. Spitzer, just caught up again in his pleasures, selfishly; Mr. Sanford, looking for redemption in what turned out to be at least one of the right places; and Mr. Ford, an emerging Toronto mayor to the north, who was taking a crack at a new low level of hemispheric public and private behavior, and who could have been played all too well by SNL's late Chris Farley.  It was also the year of the health-related computer-glitches, the year of spotlighting the harvesting of electronic mega-data for security that drove some to insecurity and questioning of the role of government, and the year that Target records of you and me were targeted.   Most of these phenomenons may not have lasting negative impact, because Weiner and Spritzer lost their comeback bids, Ford lost most of his power, the health site and the Target mishap was and is being corrected (there's that time boundary issue again), and the mega-data gathering was opened to debate and possibly improvement.  And so, a free country lived on in a world of possibly more free nations (at least virtually, electronically, and energy-wise), with some scarred political figures thrown to the landscape of failed efforts, and our system may be stronger, maybe not.  It's all relative, after all, and what is time and measurement anyway.

Time is a signature in music, and as I revise this for the umpteenth time, it was no wonder that some of our pop icons also went to the edge and back.  Long-tongued Miley Cyrus took a "wrecking ball" to the innocence of her prior identity, Hannah Montana, by sporting a set of plastic indecent-wear with inflated accoutrements that stroked, tweaked, and twerked the body populus, if not the body of Robin Thicke, and established her plastic, elastic place in pop culture for yet another year.  Katy Perry and Lady Gaga continued "roaring" through their hit parades, but they both seemed a bit mainstream in the maelstrom of teen pop, and mildly auto-and "arto- popped" by comparison.  And then there the newcomers who showed a promise of freshness, like the talented likes of Laura Marling, Ariana Grande, and the New Zealand pop-savant Lordes who threatened to be part of a new "royal"ty of rock in training, standing in for the previously, unstoppable AdeleBrandi Carlisle continued to show poise and polish, while newcomer Lilly Mae displayed Joni Mitchell-like talent in just her "early days."  Civil Wars realized their promise and lived up to name and naturally split.

And then placed on top of this, is the multi-layered, and multi-talented Vienna Teng, who had a new album, lp, cd, group of songs, or whatever you call it, out in 2013, called simply, "Aims."  And it continued to show her goals, and her growth and development in music, while she continued to experiment with interactive voices and songs, and the interplay of musician and audience.  Her music continued to climb past boundaries as she continued her dual path of music and graduate education, and it was still not clear which path would win--both seemed to be growing in parallel.

A little to the south of me, since place is relative too, all of Nashville seemed to shift a little more pop-ward this year, led by forces such as Taylor Swift, turning "red" and sharing her "trouble, trouble," while the Florida Georgia Line toured with their windows down, and attracted Nelly to the mix dashboard.  Kacey Musgrave and Ashley Monroe added new energy to country.  And maybe pop tilted a little country-ward too, as Home Free, a gifted Minnesota country-tinged a cappella group topped the pop-oriented "Sing Off."

New efforts by Vampire Weekend, and the National showed their depth, while Arcade Fire's new work seemed like a mere "reflector" of past glory.  David Bowie surprised with a secret dropping of "a next day" that sounded a lot like the last day a few years back, while Paul McCartney's "new" work was refreshing rock that showed little sign of  time or age.  Haim, Tegan and Sara, and the new Chvrches of Glasgow displayed their sprightly indie beat, while French electro-robots, Daft Punk "got lucky" with a bright catchy mix of past and future.  And domestically-bred, The Lumineers and Capital Cities hit with catchy, "safe and sound" songs, while Bruno Mars showed his versatility as our "treasure."  Norwegian vocalist Ane Brun stripped down Beyonce's "Halo" to its pure essence, while Kurt Vile shared a "bright and mellow wakin on a pretty daze."  Jon Hopkins sounded a clean, new electro beat, while we were also pleasantly "awakened" by Swedish DJ/producer Avicii, featuring vocals from American soul singer Aloe Blacc.  And from eternity, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, and the Dead, all had pleasant issues of previously unreleased back material. 

This year's music books were a natural progression from last year's, with two promising books about the life, times, and music of the Beatles, one about the hectic life and loves of Johnny Cash, an entertaining autobiography of music and life by Graham Nash, the part-story of modern pop by Bob Stanley, and the wonderful historical "why jazz happened" by Marc Myers.

During the year in music, streaming became the first choice of listeners in and out of ear buds blossoming through the likes of Spotify, Rdio, Slacker, You Tube, and the ever popular Pandora, with new players poised to enter the free and paid field in 2014.  With more and more music so readily available, it is no wonder that listeners are exposed to more variety, more genres, more years, more decades, and more styles, and blends became the music of choice for some.  As with the last few years, all styles tended to merge towards each other--rock, folk, jazz, classical, world, country, pop, gospel, and the blues, and more.  Some performers tried to startle to stand out, but it was the quieter, more modest performers that are likely to withstand the test of time.

My musical year always ends with the effort to purchase the year-end special print edition of Billboard.  And just about ince rock began, I have been buying it, but for the last few years, it has gotten harder and harder each year to buy the print edition.  Even in NYC, there were less newstands carrying less newspapers and magazines, as the print media continued its downward spiral, and the material world continued to shrink through technology.

The year ended with a telecast of the annual Kennedy Center Awards.  And this year, it was a musical delight with contemporary tributes to Herbie Hancock, Santana, and Billy Joel by the likes of Rufus Wainwright, Brendon Urie, Tom Morello, Terrence Blanchard, and Marcus Miller.  It was a great reminder for the year ahead that the innovative and pure quality music of all genres lives on, while the more plastic, duplicated and manufactured sounds have only a short shelf-life.   It is all relative after all.