Monday, February 11, 2019

Tuning Slide 4.30- Precision or ?

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

A strange art – music – the most poetic and precise of all the arts, vague as a dream and precise as algebra.
— Guy de Maupassant

I have a good friend trumpet player who has one of the most precise styles I have heard. His precision at hitting the notes with a clean attack, solid tone, and good sound is excellent. His playing has challenged me in recent months to work on my precision as part of developing my own sound. I am not a precise player. I use the reason, uh excuse(?) that it’s close enough for jazz. I say I like to play and the sound is what counts and, well, you can guess about the rest. Precision is lost.

Fortunately my friend, in his precision, is not just playing mechanically. That is the real issue with some players who insist on being precise. It is too perfect and sounds too automatic. That can happen in studio recordings. There was one brass group quite a number of years ago that had a superb sound on their recordings. It played well, sounded right on with each note, and never slipped in any way shape or form. I actually found their recordings boring. There was no life.

I was then given the opportunity to see them in person. It was like I was watching a completely different group. Some of it was the difference in acoustics, of course. An auditorium has a much different ambience than a recording in a studio being played in my living room. But it was also that, in person, the musicians were able to put themselves into the music. They were just as precise and just as accomplished in person as they were on their recordings; now they were also there in their personalities and interactions with each other and the audience.

A number of years after I saw them they switched either record labels or producers (or both, I am not sure any more.) Their newer recordings had a different sound. They were now alive, their precision still there, but it wasn’t dull, automatic, mechanical.

There are all kind of ways that we can end up playing mechanically, even when playing well. (Not including that awful software that does “auto-tuning.”) Precision isn’t the same as perfect. Precision is, in my definition for this post’s sake, being able to consistently hit the notes on the right spot with clarity and tone. Yes, precision is a mechanical action. It is also a learned action- muscle memory; a learned action- aural memory; a learned action- developing Self 2 intuition.

I have never had that kind of precision. Many players do not have that kind of “preciseness.” Listen to Miles Davis on “So What”; Chet Baker on “Summertime”; Dizzy or Freddie in their best “bop” style. They are not precise. They will slip and slide into, around, and through notes. Sometimes it’s on purpose, other times it’s not and they have to adjust. I would guess that they can play with that precision, but have learned to adapt it to their style. But I would also guess that they had to learn that precision if they were going to change it.

There go all my excuses out the window! The more I write this blog, over 4 1/2 years now, the more I find myself challenging my own formerly best thinking- or, more precisely, my own former excuses. So, while listening to a recording of our quintet and my friend’s precision, I decided that I better work on my precision. As I do so I remember that I want to keep the sound solid and musical. I also want to have my personality and life in it. I do not want to be mechanical, but fluid. That’s a lot to do, but I have a few things on my side by this time.
  • First, I have an idea of what precision sounds like. I can hear it.
  • Second, I have skills (and a routine) that can be built upon to further the process.
  • Third, I have the time this winter to work on it.
So I came up with a plan.

Since the sound is always number one I started with long tones. I always start my playing day with long tones, expanding up and down the scale from G at the bottom of the staff. But now I am paying closer attention to the fullness of the sound and having it maintain the center of the tone. I have done this for a long time, but I am paying attention from a different angle now.

On the days when this precision work is my focus I move on after only five minutes of single note long tones. I then go to my Getchell First Book. At a very slow speed (45 bpm) I play #1, rest, and then #2. The goal is to move from one note to the next with, yes, precision- hitting solid and clean, healthy tones. Resting I go back and play them again up a step from the key of C Major to D Major. Same speed, same focus. Finally I go back and take the same two exercises down a step from C Major to Bb Major. Finally, depending on endurance, I rest and then go back and play the first exercise slightly faster and up an octave, still listening for the precision. I end by playing both pieces at speed.

This takes between 20 and 25 minutes. The process moves from single notes and tones to settle into the sound, then moving notes at a slow speed to catch the changes, scale and chord movements, and the way the sound has to settle in. Then I hear the notes in different scales and how the relationships stay the same in the midst of the differences. Finally I want to hear the upper register tones and then end with the etudes as written at speed.

I have been doing this particular set three times per week. On other days I substitute some of the Arban’s early exercises slurred and tongued in place of the Getchell. Same theory, same precision direction.

I have been amazed at what has been happening.
  • First, the sound is smoother and has a precision until I start to tire the embouchure which means I didn’t rest enough between exercises.
  • Second, I notice that Self 2 is doing his job keeping me on target and turning the intellectual ideas I have described above into intuition.
  • Third, because of that I am more relaxed in my style while still maintaining the precision I am looking to build.
Accuracy, clarity, on target. Add “life” to it and it becomes music. Which is why we do it in the first place.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Tuning Slide 4.29- Getting Technical Beyond Will

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Be stubborn about your goals and flexible about your methods.
–Unknown

One of the great fallacies of human endeavor is the idea of “willpower.” We often will hear that all something takes is enough willpower and we can do whatever we want. I did a quick Google-search on willpower and found many quotes that will tell you that willpower is what makes the difference between success and failure. Well, sadly, this is a myth, misconception, and almost surefire road to failure in the long run.

Willpower alone won’t do it.
No one has enough of it to get everything done.

Yes, you need the “will” to do something; you have to have the drive and desire to do what needs to be done. But just depending on willpower alone won’t cut it. Researchers in a number of fields with different experiments have shown that willpower is a limited quantity. If you spend your whole day exercising willpower to make sure you can get everything done, you will get home at night exhausted- your willpower will be shot, gone, depleted. It is actually more like a muscle than some hidden secret strength.

If I want to ride thirty miles on my bike, it will take more than exerting my “willpower” to complete it. I will not have the stamina, the physical strength, or the mental endurance to accomplish it. At least not without training.

Which is what my musical practice routine is- training to accomplish more. But there’s the catch of finite amounts of “willpower.”

Over the past month I have been focused on my physical exercise. I am working hard to losing weight and improving my overall health. I have been exerting more “willpower” to motivate myself to get to the gym and do my routine. During that time I was having a more difficult time getting beyond my basic daily trumpet routine. In fact, to be honest, I missed some days on the trumpet- often the days when I had to exert more “willpower” to get to the gym. It also impacted the time I have spent writing- the third of my personal trinity of self-growth.

Sometimes we have to suck it in and Just Do It!

Which is what I finally managed to do last week. First, I sat down and just played the horn with iReal Pro to get my creativity going again. Second, I pulled out the computer and just started writing. Third, I got in enough exercise to boost the energy. But I still need some work on how to fit all these together- the balance.

It seems to me that “willpower” is not one thing; it is several.
◆ Desire- the “want-to-do-it”;
◆ Discipline- the “plan-to-do-it”;
◆ Habit- the “do-it-every-day” pattern;
It is the combination of the three, as well as others, I am sure, that make what we call “willpower” successful.

Josiah Boornazian, one of the regular contributors at Learn Jazz Standards (https://www.learnjazzstandards.com/), had a post two weeks ago that explained why the habit part of “willpower” is important. The post is about what he calls Three Pivotal Exercises that can help one’s jazz technique. These three exercises are learning how to utilize technical studies of intervals, chords, and arpeggios in jazz. He makes sure to point out that there are many good and very useful technical studies that one can use, of course. (Link)

First, though, he gives his philosophy of using technical studies and urging people to think on three levels. While he is talking from the jazz genre, it applies just as well to any kind of skill we want to get better at.
#1: Firstly, we want to develop muscle memory and sharpen our physical intelligence. I call this “thinking with our fingers.”

#2: Secondly, we want to improve our ability to recognize chords and melodies by ear. I call this “thinking with our ears.”

#3: Thirdly, we want to sharpen our understanding of jazz theory, especially scale/chord theory, because it is so helpful for learning how to improvise fluently. I call this “thinking with our (theory) brains,” “thinking with our intellect,” or “thinking using concepts.”
I like his phrase “physical intelligence” to describe what we often call “muscle memory.” I have often been amazed at how practicing some of the basic technical studies like he recommends can apply so quickly and easily in so many different settings. It happened again recently in the community band I play in for the winter. We are playing the Carmina Burana suite which I surprisingly have never played before. In the 3rd movement there is a four measure run of tongued and slurred quarter notes in the basic G major scale. My brain with Self 2 recognized it immediately, although not consciously. My fingers responded with little hesitation and got it right the first time through. That is muscle memory, developed from jazz and technical studies.

The technical studies in the back of Getchell’s First Book of Practical Studies give a way of training for the physical, but also with the intervals to recognize the chord structures. I have been amazed at times how working these allows me to know what a piece of music is going to do- or at least be prepared for it. Whether it is a standard wind band piece or some comping behind a solo in a big band, that “aural” intelligence and awareness is invaluable.

That easily leads to Josiah’s third level, theory. We practice the technical studies, hear, and then experience the theory. Somewhere in our Self 2 we go- “Oh yeah! I know what that means” which gives Self 1 no reason to jump in and get worried.

One more thought related to the technical studies and their importance is to make sure we play them conscious of their sound and their musicality. It is difficult at times to get beyond simply playing it technically correct but with dull sound or poor musicality. Without looking at the sound and music, we will get bored. But with that awareness, we will develop the ability to play musically, no matter what the study!

It is always the music; always the sound. But more on that another time!

Monday, January 28, 2019

Tuning Slide 4.28- On Being a Student

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

You are always a student, never a master. You have to keep moving forward.
— Conrad Hall

Yes, I missed last week’s post. As has been said by a number of people including both John Lennon and myself, “Life is what happens when you are making plans to do other things.” I had a month of that from mid-December to mid-January. I had planned ahead and had a number of posts ready to publish, but I just couldn’t get to that one last one for last week. I will talk more about that next week. But for this week, it’s about being a student.

We are all students of something. Some of us are deeply involved as students in school, studying, reading, going to class. Some of us have left that regimen far behind. All of us are students of what we like and are interested in. Obvious statement, I realize. But it can be so easy to forget until we hit something difficult or hit one of those plateaus where it feels more like we are moving backward than getting better.

Things music students need to learn
Let me start with a slightly tongue-in-cheek list that speaks much truth. There are ten on the original list, but here are the five that I really liked

(Five of the )Top Ten Things You’ll Never Understand About a Musician (which means these are things we need to learn about ourselves):
✓ Music isn’t a dream. It’s a way of life.
✓ Just because you haven’t heard of us doesn’t mean we aren’t successful.
✓ Don’t hate us because we do something we love.
✓ Listening to music means something very different to us.
✓ You can take a musician out of music but you can’t take the music out of a musician.
(https://www.talkbass.com/threads/top-10-things-youll-never-understand-about-a-musician.1381134/)

We do need to get a little more serious about being a student in general.
Society restricts the formal construct of a “student” to mean a person enrolled in some sort of academic program. It is an identity you take on when you’re in school and abandon once you graduate. But the world continues to change at a rapid clip, requiring us to learn new things constantly — this situation requires us to expand the definition of what it means to be a student.
A student is anyone who wants to create new neural pathways by exposing themselves to new information and experiences. You become a student when you feel the desire to do something you can’t and start taking actions to turn that around. To be a student, you have to be a combination of a researcher, a craftsperson, an artist, a manager, and a writer.
He goes on to expand on each of those from his point of view.

◆ Researcher
The path to learning complex skills is nonlinear and ambiguous. The most effective compass to help you navigate this ambiguity is your curiosity. It’s hard to figure out where to go next, but an effective way to determine the right direction is to come up with hypotheses and test them.
◆ Craftsperson
Being good at something means your output consistently exudes a sense of quality and attention to detail. How you get there is by showing up every day and practicing the fundamentals. This can be difficult, particularly if you have a chaotic mind with a short attention span like I do.
The problem is compounded if you consider that the rewards of working on your craft only become obvious months after you’ve put in the effort. This decoupling of effort and reward makes it hard to create powerful feedback loops to keep you coming back. But your success as a craftsperson depends on your ability to show up even if you don’t feel like it.
◆ Artist
Craft is important, but it is only the foundation. Once you have the craft nailed down, you have to figure out what to do with it. “Artistry” is the ability to point your craft in a direction — to expand your audience’s minds by showing them new possibilities, to provide warmth and comfort by letting them know that they’re not alone, or even create a whole new response that we haven’t yet discovered.
You can be the kind of artist that cuts through the bullshit and surfaces fundamental truths about the human experience. Or you can be the kind that creates perfect experiences of escapism. It depends on your personal motivations — what led you to embark on this journey in the first place?
◆ Manager
Good managers don’t just allocate resources and impose schedules. They create conditions in which awesome work can happen. The best manager I’ve worked with describes himself as a “shit umbrella.” Managing is as much about creating positive feedback loops and support systems as it is about staying on schedule and tracking progress.
The trick is to not overdo it. It can be very tempting to draft long project plans and get very granular with scheduling tasks. The first step is to acknowledge that no plan will be followed exactly as intended. The second step is to try and identify all the ways in which things won’t work out. The third step is to create mechanisms that pull you back on track if you ever go off the rails.
◆ Writer
If you don’t take a moment to pause and reflect on where you’re going and what you’re doing, you run the risk of running in circles. Writing is a great way to formalize new knowledge as you acquire it, and also create resources that can help others who are on their own journeys. Writing can be incredibly difficult if you aim for a finished piece on your first attempt. You can make it easier for yourself by working in different levels of fidelity. The first draft should be an outburst. Just sit there and pour out everything that’s in your mind without any regard for sense or structure. That way, you have a collection of ideas you can start curating. In subsequent drafts, you can refine and arrange these ideas in a way that ensures impact.

Next week I will dig a little into each of these areas and look at applying some of them to what we all do as musicians. Until then… think about your goals and directions and how you are a student of what you want to be doing.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow.
Learn as if you were to live forever.
— Gandhi

Monday, January 14, 2019

4.27 Tuning Slide- More Time In the Zone

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
When the zone calls, you must listen. You never know how long being in the zone lasts. It is a cardinal rule - you must take advantage of every second that you are in the zone.
― John Passaro

There is a family story that my wife has enjoyed telling since, well, for a long time. It goes back to right after we were married. It was a wondrous Sunday afternoon and we were doing nothing. We were both in the living room. I was reading and she was doing something. I was aware she was talking to me. I would make a sound of assent and keep reading. Suddenly she stopped and was laughing.

“Did you hear what I just said?” she asked.

“Uh….[pause] [guiltily] No, what?”

“I said that the pink elephants are coming down the street trampling on all the flowers.”

Which I had said “Uh, huh” to without hearing.

I didn’t know about “flow” at that time. But I was in a state of flow in my reading. A few months ago I talked about flow as part of Barry Green’s music mastery pathway of “concentration.” He called it the “spirit of the zone. In that post I wrote:

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi named the concept of “flow in 1975 and been widely referred to in any different fields. It is also known as “being in the zone.” Flow
is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does, and a resulting loss in one's sense of space and time. (Link)
Requirements for flow can be:
◆ Intense and focused concentration on the present moment
◆ Merging of action and awareness
◆ A loss of reflective self-consciousness
◆ A sense of personal control or agency over the situation or activity
◆ A distortion of temporal experience, one's subjective experience of time is altered
◆ Experience of the activity as intrinsically rewarding

Very clearly I was in some kind of zone, or even state of flow as I was reading. I still experience that feeling when involved in a book- I am hyper-focused, I am not all that aware of what is happening around me, time is lost, and it is intrinsically rewarding. You can begin to see why this can apply to playing or listening to music, I am sure.

Digging a little deeper in that Wikipedia article I came across Owen Schaffer’s list (he studied under Csikszentmihalyi.) In 2013 he proposed 7 conditions for flow that summarize the above list:
◆ Knowing what to do
◆ Knowing how to do it
◆ Knowing how well you are doing
◆ Knowing where to go
◆ High perceived challenges
◆ High perceived skills
◆ Freedom from distractions
(Link)

Again the connections with music are hopefully clear. One thing it means is that to get into flow is not just something that happens on its own. It is not some magical, mysterious event that occurs when Self 2 gets in charge. Even the best Self 2 cannot get in the zone playing trumpet if it doesn’t know anything about the trumpet, music, or whatever. The Inner Game doesn’t just happens, it is planned for, developed, and, of course, the result of deliberate, focused practice.
Flow can come from, as the list indicates:
◦ Knowledge from learning (being taught), experience, and time. (What to do and how to do it.)
◦ Self-awareness and trust in Self 2 as you have grown and improved. (How well you are doing and where to go next.)
◦ Moving beyond the basics and pushing yourself to new heights that you know you can achieve. (High challenge and perception of your skills.)
◦ Focus, focus, focus, or mindfulness, mindfulness, mindfulness. (Freedom from distractions.)
When these conditions occur whether in the practice room, rehearsal hall, or on stage, the possibility for flow increases. Of course you still have to pay attention. We cannot forget in a performance that we are not observers. I remember a concert a few years ago when the band was playing an incredibly wonderful piece. I had a long passage of rests, probably at least 32 if not 64 measures. I fell into a listening zone (as opposed to a performance zone)- and almost missed my entry. But, as a result of working hard at knowing the piece and some of the above conditions, I heard the music moving to where I was to come it. It was intuitive as I picked up the horn and played. (But it was close!)

The Inner Game and Flow both show that “attitude” in an important piece of moving in the right direction. Attitude and action go together. Most of the time before we get into flow it is the actions that propel us forward. The old saying is that it is easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than think your way into a new way of acting. That can be called developing a habit, or experiencing the joys of what you want, rewiring the brain, or just plain grit. Attitude must come. If you continue to think you can’t- you won’t.

I found the following list on the Website “Play in the Zone” that we can take into the practice room and rehearsal hall to get us ready for Self 2 to work us into the zone.
9 Attitude Tweaks That Hold the Secret to Playing Your Best
1) Play freely. Don’t play to “not play badly”
2) Love the challenges
3) Accept what happens rather than getting frustrated or upset
4) Don’t care too much
5) Trust in yourself
6) Hear each note clearly before you play it
7) Be decisive, and commit fully to every phrase
8) Be relaxed about nerves
9) Focus on process, not outcome
(Link)
Three of those stand out for me this week.
• Play freely Don’t play to “not play badly.”
⁃ What a way for me to undermine and sabotage my goals, my practice, and especially my sound. I can only play as good as I can today, of course, but I have to play as good as I can today. It is not healthy to say “Well, as long as I don’t suck too badly…” I can’t go there. It won’t work. I will always suck.

• Love the challenges!
⁃ Sometimes the challenge is playing the Arban’s single tonguing exercises as well as I can play them, good sound, clarity, etc. Sometimes it is playing Arban’s Characteristic study #1 better than I did last time. Both are challenges. If I don’t take the challenge of the beginning of the Arban’s Book (or Clarke, Goldman, Getchell, etc.) I will never get to the challenges later in the books.

• Focus on process, not outcome!
⁃ Process does not mean doing it mechanically. It always means playing musically with good sound. Those are assumed. But how do I improve my skills if I don’t have a plan and a direction to what I am doing. Process, the steps and stages from here to there?

Which of the above are things that are important for you? These are all the marks of being a good student of your instrument. I will look at more of that next week and do some expanding on this.

Until then- build your attitude and enjoy what you are doing.

Monday, January 07, 2019

Buddy's War: Interlude


Over the past few months I have posted the first of the series following my dad in World War II. The next two years will be the remembrances of the 75th Anniversary of the big actions and winning of that war in 1944 and 1945. My dad was a medic in the 80th Armored Medical Battalion, an organic part of the famed 10th Armored Division. My goal up to this point was to catch up to the calendar dates to match the 75-year anniversary. I have given some background and some of the family history.

These will continue as I move forward. I also  hope to fill in some of the gaps in the earlier story. Since I have been following some of the entries in my  grandmother's diary, that left one whole year out, 1941- there was no diary. I am hopeful at finding some more information about his training and plans that year before Pearl Harbor. If nothing else I am digging into the training and activities. the Army was involved in.

I will also try to fill in some of the earlier information on the formation and training of the 10th Armored Division. It was officially activated in July of 1942 and my dad arrived with them in August. They had two full years of training until the fall of 1944 when they left for Europe. I will be filling in some of the background and activities during those two years as we move into the early part of this new year.

My main goal, though is to go through these next 22 months of World War II with my dad and his band of brothers.

I have set up a separate blog for Buddy's War, but will continue to cross-post all the entries here as well.

As has been the case before, here is what was happening 75 years ago this week in 1944 in World War II:

January 4: The United States launches operations behind Axis lines, delivering weapons and supplies to anti-Nazi partisans in France, Italy, and the Low Countries.

January 7: In preparation for the invasion of France, Allied planes drop airborne operatives into the occupied country to help train their partisans in guerrilla tactics to support regular troops.

January 9: Winston Churchill meets with Free French leader Charles de Gaulle to discuss the role the Free French will play in the Allied invasion of France.

4.26- Tuning Slide- Halfway in a Tuning Slide Year

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Believe you can and you're halfway there.
— Theodore Roosevelt

Well, we’ve made it to post #26 in this year’s Tuning Slide. That means we’re halfway there. Which says a great deal about music. Believe it and you are on the right road. I have spent the last several years believing that
1. An old dog can learn new tricks
2. Making music is fun, and
3. They both go together to make life even more joyous than it otherwise would be.
I got my first trumpet when I was in 8th grade in 1961. I was thirteen-years old. There have been very few years in the past 57 when I haven’t played trumpet for something. I went through all kinds of times of not practicing much (if at all) for months and months. I may even have gone a year or or so when I didn’t touch the trumpet. It was always there calling me, reminding me of its joy and wonder. I never stopped being a trumpet player- and for that I am extremely grateful. It is how I live my life.

When I started on this part of my trumpet/musical journey in the last ten years and then connected with the amazing musicians at the Shell Lake Arts Center/UW-Eau Claire, new doors opened that enhanced, then multiplied the wonder of making music and how it relates to my life.

I am the kind of person who likes to share what I learn. As I have been learning I have been writing; as I have been doing research I have been telling you about it; as I have been playing more music more often I can’t help but share it. That is what the Tuning Slide has been all about. Nothing is changing about that.

This post is at mid-point of year four. Lots of things have been covered, some more than once. The whole idea of the “inner game” has been at the heart of what I talk about. Mindfulness and deepening awareness are an essential of that. Trusting Self Two and quieting Self One build into that. The joy of playing is one of the results.

As I look at the next six months of this year’s Tuning Slide here is what I plan to work on. I confess it here, by the way, to keep myself accountable. Even though it will change, at least I am setting it down for me- and all- to see.

First, I am currently working on “precision.” I am not a precise trumpet player. I tend to have that “jazz” sound that never quite lands the note the same way every time. (I don’t think that is an excuse, by the way, but more on that in February, I think.) What this boils down to is awareness of sound. It is always sound, so I am back at that level, playing the single-tongue Arban’s and Getchell exercises in slower, more precise ways. (When in doubt, always go back to Arban and Getchell.)

Second, I am working on being more relaxed in my improvisation. I will be doing more with iReal Pro and Aebersold in the next couple months. (I also hope to do some more composing. That should go together with the improvisation as well.)

Third, as always I will be expanding what I know about the Inner Game. Always being a student, working on improving whatever it takes to be better, continuing to take the time to keep moving and not get stuck in any one spot.

So to get started, here is something I found posted on Facebook. It will be a good thing to think about in the next week as I settle in to the second half of this Tuning Slide year. It is a reminder of the Inner Game:



And, so as to not take ourselves too seriously, here is a list from The Trumpet Blog. Here are a few of them.
1. Trumpets most often play the melody so everyone knows if we play the wrong notes. Unlike the Bassoon, which plays notes that only Canada geese can hear, the trumpet is expected to play every note the way it was intended.

4. Trumpet players rely on their air to sustain a long slow, painful phrase, while an organist could place a book on the keys and go out for lunch and no one would know the difference.

6. The fingering of a trumpet is very complex. For a clarinet player to play a corresponding scale, the clarinet fingerings are simplified because of their use of nine fingers. The trumpet play is limited to only three and is expected to be able to play the same notes.
And then the best reason I can think of (with tongue in cheek, of course, which makes it even harder to play the trumpet:)
10. Trumpets have a much more difficult time working within their section. Nowhere in music is this more challenging for every trumpet player has to put up with other trumpet players and we all know what that requires.
Take a moment and go see the whole list and the truth about why the trumpet is the most difficult instrument to play. Then pat yourself on the back for being so great! (Link)

Have a great week and we’ll kick off the second half of the year next week!

Halfway means there's no sense turning back. It is just as far back as it is to the goal.
— Unknown (Well, actually, I said it.)

Monday, December 31, 2018

Buddy's War: #13 New Year's Eve 1943

This is part of a series that over two years will follow the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. I did this five years ago in the series Following the 10th Armored, but I have been doing more research and expanding the ideas. The beginning posts will set the stage for the events of 1944 and 1945 when he was in Europe as part of the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.
~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`
◆ December 31, 1943
New Year’s Eve
75 Years Ago Today…
Hitler delivered a New Year's message to the German people admitting… that 1944 "will make heavy demands on all Germans. This vast war will approach a crisis this year. We have every confidence that we will survive." British Deputy Prime Minister Clement Attlee broadcast a New Year's Eve message of his own to the people of the United Kingdom. Attlee declared that the "hour of reckoning has come" for the Nazis but urged the British people not to be complacent, stating: "We do know that in 1944 the war will blaze up into greater intensity than ever before, and that we must be prepared to face heavier casualties.
~~~~~~~~
I hope next year will bring peace for everybody. Hope we all stay well.
— Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman

4.25- Tuning Slide: The Old and the New

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.
— Confucius (500 BCE!)

Music has been around a very long time. (How’s that for an understatement?)
This appears to be borne out by the archaeological evidence. While the first hand axes and spears date back about 1.7 million years and 500,000 years respectively, the earliest known musical instruments are just 40,000 years old. (Link)
I love that phrase that the earliest known musical instruments are JUST 40,000 years old. Wikipedia tells me that this is in the Upper Paleolithic Era which is the third and last subdivision of the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age. The OLD stone age- as if the stone age wasn’t saying enough about how old it was! What were some of these old instruments? Flutes, of course. An easy instrument to make.
Music is found in every known culture, past and present, varying widely between times and ... It is probable that the first musical instrument was the human voice itself… A wood-lined pit contained a group of six flutes made from yew wood, between 30 and 50 cm long, tapered at one end, but without any finger holes. (Link)
Of course no one was writing any of this down for many, many millennia. But cuneiform tablets from Mesopotamia have been found which contain the Hurrian hymns, a series of hymns to the goddess Nikkal that date back 3,400 years.
“Hurrian Hymn No. 6” is considered the world's earliest melody, but the oldest musical composition to have survived in its entirety is a first century A.D. Greek tune known as the “Seikilos Epitaph.” The song was found engraved on an ancient marble column used to mark a woman's gravesite in Turkey. (Link)
We do know that there were musical instruments in Biblical times, but in these histories that is kind of late. The Psalms were hymns that were probably chanted and/or sung. Our favorite instrument is far older than the Biblical times.
In Denmark, by 2500 BCE an early form of the trumpet had been developed. This trumpet is what is now known as a "natural trumpet." It is valveless, and depends completely on manipulation of the lips to change pitch.

One of the most popular instruments today was created in 1500 BCE by the Hittites. …the guitar. This was a great step; the use of frets to change the pitch of a vibrating string would lead to later instruments such as the violin and harpsichord.

In 1000 CE Guido D'Arezzo made many improvements in music theory. He first improved and reworked standard notation to be more user-friendly by adding time signatures. Then he invented solfege. This is the vocal note scale: do, re, mi, fa, so, la ,ti, do. (Link)
So why all this?
First, some humility. Here we are about to start the 3rd decade of the 21st Century. It humbles me to think that what I and many of us are doing with music is part of a very long history. It is almost something that seems to come naturally, inbred, into the human race. If those ancients could make music that was, to them, inspiring and even “great”, who am I to think that I am something special?

Second, some continuity. Music is a long tradition. As a musician I am in that tradition, as small a part as I may play in it. So what? I am still part of it. So are you. Last week one of our local musicians/writers/journalists called for all the musicians of the Rochester, MN, area to gather for the third annual picture. There were about 75 or so of us. I could probably name another 45 or 50 who I know weren’t there. We were singers and instrumentalists, classical and pop, jazz and rock and country. As we were standing there getting the picture set up the Christmas song, The Little Drummer Boy, came over the sound system. Appropriate, of course, but we all started singing along. In harmony!

Third, the possibilities! Music is a varied tradition that can speak to any moment and any time. It moved the ancient Hittites as it moves us.

It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.
— Confucius

What’s old can be new again? Perhaps it is better to say that in many ways the new is always built on the old. It can be the continuation, the growth, the evolution of the old.
At the end of a year there are many things that we look back on. We are grateful for some, with some never happened, and will forget 99% of the events. But they inform and form us into where we are today.

At the beginning of a year there are many things to look forward to. Most of them are unknown! Many things will happen in the next twelve months that we have no way of anticipating or even specifically planning for. Music will be there to become a soundtrack for our lives.

By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.
― Confucius

◦ Music can turn us inward in reflection, the noble way of learning Confucius tells us.
◦ We imitate some of the greats of music in our learning process. I am not sure that in music that is as easy as Confucius thinks it is.
Experience can be bitter, because we will not always succeed at what we try. We will make mistakes we wish we didn’t make. We will hopefully learn from that experience. Music is a building of experiences. Which is what we look forward to for the next 12 months.

Go- and put your life into it! It’s worth it- as it has been for millennia in every culture.

Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.
— Confucius

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Christmas Story 2018

Click the link for a pdf file of




My Christmas story for 2018.

Enjoy.

Monday, December 24, 2018

4.24- Tuning Slide: The Never-Ending Gift

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Music is an outburst of the soul.
Frederick Delius

It is a week of gifts. No matter how we celebrate Christmas (or don’t) the season reminds us in both crass commercialism and in profoundly soulful ways that it is a blessing to give as well as receive. As a musician I have found that music is a two-way street. I most certainly enjoy playing music for an audience or a dance. It is my gift to them and watching people enjoy music is incredibly satisfying. But just putting it that way also indicates that when playing for others I get something back as well.

But just playing and listening to music, exploring it, figuring it out, letting it flow around and within me is in and of itself a gift to me. Perhaps more than that- a way of having my life enriched so that I can share it. If music were only about what it did for me, I would not have as rich an experience of music. The wonders of music are never ending. On any given week I come across numerous articles, studies, and personal reflections talking about how music can make a difference in life and in the world.

So for this Christmas Eve Day edition of the Tuning Slide I did some digging into the wonders of music from a number of different and quite diverse sources. What is it that music can do. Here from the magazine/website Business Insider are nine ways that music makes our lives better:
Music Can Help You Relax
Angry Music Improves Your Performance
Music Reduces Pain
Music Can Give You A Better Workout
Music Can Help You Find Love
Music Can Save A Life
Music Can Improve Your Work — Sometimes
Use Music To Make You Smarter
Music Can Make You A Better Person

Most importantly: Music makes us feel good, and in the end, that's worth a lot. (Link)
Lifehack.org came up with "7 Proven Ways Music Makes Your Life Better":
1. Listening To Music Reduces Stress
2. Listening To Music Improves Endurance
3. It Can Make You Healthier
4. Singing With A Group Of People Makes You Happier
5. Learning To Play An Instrument As A Kid Makes You More Successful Later
6. It Makes You Smarter
7. It Improves Your Memory
(Link)
I can attest to these powers of music. Take the time to check these two articles out and I will expect that you will agree.

If music be the food of love, play on.
William Shakespeare

In November the Space Weather news and web site informed us that the universe- or at least our near neighborhood produced music:
On Nov. 18th, however, something quite different happened. Solar wind hit Earth and produced ... a pure, almost-musical sine wave!… Rob Stammes recorded the event from the Polarlightcenter, a magnetic observatory in the Lofoten Islands of Norway. "A very stable ~15 second magnetic oscillation commenced and persisted for several hours," he says. "The magnetic field was swinging back and forth by 0.06 degrees, peak to peak, with the regularity of a metronome. … This was a very rare episode indeed." (Link)
The music of the spheres is not just a metaphor!

As one who works in addiction treatment I found this next piece more than a little interesting. It is from Recovery Unplugged, an addiction treatment program that bases its work on music. They are applying some of what the earlier links mentioned. On their website that talk about:
Why music works:
✓ Music is a core utility in the brain. Our brain responds to and process music in the womb. Music leads to language and all forms of communication.
✓ Our bodies and it’s rhythm. Every notice you’re walking to the beat of the music that you’re listening to?
✓ Music taps into our emotions. Have you ever listened to music and just felt happy? Or felt sad? See what I mean?
✓ Music enhances learning. Do you remember how you learned your ABCs? Through a song!
✓ Music taps into our memories. Have you ever been driving, heard a song on the radio, then immediately been taken to a certain place, a specific time in your life, or a particular person?
✓ Music is a social experience. Music experiences are shared with a group, whether playing in band or going to a concert. (Link)
To which I can only add, “Amen!”

At the Website BetterHumans.coach.me, Niklas Göke reviews some of the changes in the way people listen to music and the repercussions. He suggests several ways to become more intentional in his article "How to Make Music a Useful Part of Your Life Again". He suggests:
✓ Conscious Listening- This is awareness building. Take the time to just listen to music. Sometimes I find that difficult. I am using music to do so many things, just listening doesn’t always just happen.
✓ Web App: Listen on Repeat- This is a technique to put a You Tube video on repeat so you can perhaps dig more deeply into it. I know there are other ways to do this, but this will remind me that I should look into those, too. (Link)
And finally, take the time to go to The Ascent and read this article that sums up a lot of what this post is all about. Why Is Music So Powerful?

In the end, music is a gift that is multi-dimensional, both practical and just plain fun. Without it I life would have so little going for it. It is how we and the universe can communicate and stay tuned in to each other.

Have a great holiday week no matter how you celebrate the season!

Music in the soul can be heard by the universe.
Lao Tzu

Friday, December 21, 2018

It Only Gets Brighter



It is now past 4:23 pm Central Standard Time.

For all intents and purposes the days will begin to have more hours of daylight.*

Happy Winter Solstice!






*Please note I did not say the days will get longer. Unless the earth's rotation is slowing down that won't happen. I'll just be satisfied with the increasing hours of daylight.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Buddy's War: #12- Christmas 1943

This is part of a series that over two years will follow the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. I did this five years ago in the series Following the 10th Armored, but I have been doing more research and expanding the ideas. The beginning posts will set the stage for the events of 1944 and 1945 when he was in Europe as part of the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.
~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`
◆ Seventy-five years ago this week
◆ December 18, 1943
Heinrich Himmler ordered new rules for arrest and deportation of Jews in Germany, revoking most previous exemptions for Jews who had married Gentiles. Most Jewish spouses were ordered deported to the nominally Jewish city of Theresienstadt in January, rather than immediately to concentration camps.
On the homefront, the Williamsport Sun-Gazette reported ongoing war news from both Europe and the Pacific and updated a railroad “strike” possibility from the non-operating union, including word that the government was considering taking over the railroads. Behind the headlines it was a Christmas season.

Beula sent Buddy a box on the 20th and did some sewing on the 21st.

They trimmed the Christmas tree on the 22nd and did some baking and cleaning on the 23rd.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, Ruth and Fred and Carl and Mabel came around. She reported it was “awful cold.”

Letters came and went from Buddy still in Georgia.

A war-time Christmas.

Monday, December 17, 2018

4.23- Tuning Slide: Why We Love and Hate Christmas Music

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Let us have music for Christmas… Sound the trumpet of joy and rebirth; Let each of us try, with a song in our hearts, To bring peace to men on earth.
~ Mildred L. Jarrell

It’s always fun to go digging and surfing on the Internet about music and musical subjects. For these few weeks I am moving away from the specifics of trumpet playing and going into the broader picture of music and life. Last week I started thinking about holiday music and focused on an old Hanukkah song by Peter, Paul, and Mary as well as a flash mob example for World Choral Music Day.

But it is Christmas that dominates the airways this time of year. Any attempt at deviation from the basics of Christmas music can bring the wrath of many. Who would have ever thought, before the Me Too Movement that a seemingly innocuous parlor song of a husband and wife over 74 years ago would be at the center of a controversy. A song that happens to also be an Academy Award-winning Best Song! Not to enter the controversy, but it does point out how music- and Christmas-related music- can be a hot button issue. Ignore the fact that the song, like a number of others that pass for popular this time of year have absolutely nothing to do with Christmas!

Anyway, music of the season is also a great tool to get you to buy, and then buy some more. Here is an article I found from a few years ago:
Scientists Prove Why Christmas Music Literally Drives You Crazy
That might be pleasant for a while, but soon you won't be able to escape it. Scientists have actually found out why it is that we love Christmas music in the beginning of season and despise it towards the end. It's called the "mere exposure effect," and it's coming for you this month. Because while it may be fun to hear once or twice, by the time you've heard "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" for the 13th time, you're liable to run someone over yourself.

According to NBC News, there's a statistically proven progression from love to hate during Christmas season. The chart looks like an upside-down U: Our familiarity with something across a couple of listens makes us think we love it, then it becomes oversaturated and we begin to hate it. It's like being tortured. The frustration and the boredom from hearing the same damn songs starts to become unbearable. Then the rage begins to boil, and all that cheery Christmas music playing endlessly on the radio starts to sound a lot more like the demonic carolers from the first Gremlins film.

It will play ceaselessly in stores and malls in attempts to encourage consumers to be more liberal in their spending. There's science to back that up, too. Shoppers spend significantly more time and money in stores playing slow-paced Christmas music.
Link
Yes, but… why does this happen and why do we respond? From U S News and World Report in 2013:
Here's a riddle for you: When is a song not exactly a song? When it's a Christmas song.

Sure, holiday hits will take cues from tried-and-true music moves – feel-good chord progressions or dramatic blasts of choral crescendo. But just try to exercise your inner music critic next time you hear that Christmas tune you love to hate or hate to love or just love (chances are, you are not neutral on this subject).

Because there's nothing like the power of music to plumb – and elicit – the depths of human emotion. And there's nothing quite like the holidays to do the same thing, especially since the season comes with a playlist.

Indeed, the classics are classics for a reason, explains David Ludwig, dean of artistic programs at the Philadelphia-based Curtis Institute of Music.

"A lot of these songs have existed for hundreds and hundreds of years and have survived the test of time precisely because they're so singable, they're so accessible, they're so flexible," that they can work for a jazz ensemble or group of carolers, he says….

And music, he explains, is fundamental to celebration, be it Christmas or any happy occasion in any culture around the world. "Every celebration we have, I think people feel like it's not quite complete without music," Ludwig says. With Christmas in particular, "music has been really inextricably linked, hand in hand, with the holiday." …

Ludwig adds that the winter holidays are a particularly poignant time for music. "When it's most cold out and the bleakest, is sometimes the time when people want to celebrate the most," he says. "[That's when they] want the most warmth and sense of community with each other."
Link
I agree. With both these articles. I love Christmas music for many of the reasons I like music in general. It can do so many things and express so many emotions. Kind of like Christmas itself. I started the season (in mid-November) listening to the “Holly” channel on Sirius XM satellite radio, but got very tired of it after about 10 days. Too many versions of Santa Claus is Coming to Town or My Favorite Things (incidentally, another of those this is not a Christmas song songs.) No, I don’t get homicidal with too many of those, I just go back to the Real Jazz channel!

On the other hand I don’t tend to get tired of the nearly 1,400 Christmas songs on my iTunes playlist. For one it is extremely diverse in almost every genre of music. Plus I can shuffle to the next one or pick an album that sets a mood that I am looking for. Beginning in 2011 I have produced my own Christmas video each year, missing only last year. I put them together as a way of expressing the many sides of Christmas as I am feeling it in any given year. (Here’s the playlist of my Christmas videos (LINK))

have done music slideshows and videos for over 45 years now. Music moves me to also put pictures to the songs. It is how I think and act. I never know what is going to move me in any given year for videos and for the Christmas video. This year as our quintet walked into the local Festival of Trees I was met with dozens of “Moravian Stars” and a big sign that said “Be the Light”. I knew where it was going.

So, to finish this week’s post, here is the 2018 video. I share it with the hope that something in the music and the words will move you. That is the power of all music. To move people, us, to be more than we have been and to move forward into whatever is coming next.

Monday, December 10, 2018

4.22- Tuning Slide: A Month of Holidays

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

December is full of the beauty of Light and love we can bring into our life.You can chose to be stressed or you can choose to let the small stuff go and be peaceful this Holiday season. It really is a choice you make.
― Eileen Anglin

Music and holidays go together. Music, as any of us who are musicians and music lovers know, can be the most expressive way to celebrate a holiday- or just daily life for that matter.
  • Love songs abound for Valentine’s Day.
  • There are the ecstatic sounds of resurrection joy on Easter.
  • We have elegies for Memorial Day.
  • John Phillip Sousa moves us to marching on the 4th of July.
  • The horse and sleigh carry us over the river and through the woods for Thanksgiving.
  • There are even holidays that celebrate different styles and means of making music. (- Link)
December is a great Holiday Month. It is a whole month when we usually do celebrate a holiday- namely Christmas. But there are others as well, the most famous being the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.

The darkness of the whole world cannot swallow the glowing of a candle.
— Robert Altinger

[Hanukkah remembers an event] that happened over 2000 years ago when the Holy Lands were ruled by the Greeks. A small army of faithful Jews defeated the Greeks and drove their army from the land. That was a miracle because the Greeks were very powerful. God had handed over the powerful to the weak. The Jewish people reclaimed their Holy temple in Jerusalem, and rededicated it to service to God. Part of that service was to light the menorah. There was only enough purified olive oil to light the candle for one day. It burned for eight days, until more purified oil could be made. God had done another miracle. To commemorate these miracles, the festival of Chanukah was started. Each night of the 8 day festival, a new candle of the menorah would be lit, remembering the 8 days that God kept the candles burning. By the end of the festival all eight lights are lit. (- Link)
The story of Hanukkah is one that reminds people to this day of the power of light. It also challenges people to this day to continue to keep their light shining. Like most holidays it isn’t just about remembering, it is also about living. (Kind of like most great music as well!) To celebrate then, here is an old Peter, Paul, and Mary song that celebrates the Festival of Light that Hanukkah remains to this day.


Light one candle for the Maccabee children
With thanks that their light didn't die
Light one candle for the pain they endured
When their right to exist was denied
Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice
Justice and freedom demand
But light one candle for the wisdom to know
When the peacemaker's time is at hand

Don't let the light go out!
It's lasted for so many years!
Don't let the light go out!
Let it shine through our hope and our tears.

Light one candle for the strength that we need
To never become our own foe
And light one candle for those who are suffering
Pain we learned so long ago
Light one candle for all we believe in
That anger not tear us apart
And light one candle to find us together
With peace as the song in our hearts

Don't let…

What is the memory that's valued so highly
That we keep it alive in that flame?
What's the commitment to those who have died
That we cry out they've not died in vain?
We have come this far always believing
That justice would somehow prevail
This is the burden, this is the promise
This is why we will not fail!

Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!
Don't let the light go out!
Songwriters: Peter Yarrow
Light One Candle lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc
I’ll dig more into holidays and music the next two weeks. But for today, turn on the music for you and celebrate.

But before you do that, yesterday (the second Sunday in December) was one of the music holidays: National Choral Music Day! Perhaps the new “tradition” of flash mobs may be one of the better ways to celebrate music in public and many of them are choral. I found this neat one on You Tube from UNASP EC which is an engineering school in Brazil. Yep, engineers singing! A choral flash mob of the Freddie Mercury/Queen classic- Somebody to Love.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Buddy's War: #11- In the Greater War

This is part of a series that over two years will follow the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. I did this five years ago in the series Following the 10th Armored, but I have been doing more research and expanding the ideas. The beginning posts will set the stage for the events of 1944 and 1945 when he was in Europe as part of the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.
~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`

In dealing with my father’s story of involvement in World War II, I don’t want to overlook the fact that during this time there was a lot of war happening. In 1943 the Eastern Front collapsed on the Germans, fighting was fierce in the Pacific, and Italy and Africa were centers of heavy warfare. The Germans continued their “Final Solution” when they were able. While many of the troops destined for Europe in 1944 were still in training, the war was as active as it had been. Here are some of the notable events of 1943: (Link)

◆ January 14, 1943
The Casablanca Conference between the U.S. and Britain begins. Roosevelt and Churchill agree that Germany must surrender unconditionally, and plan the Allied invasion of Sicily.

◆ January 31, 1943
Over 90,000 German troops at Stalingrad surrender to the Soviets. It is a significant turning point in the war against Germany.

◆ February 8, 1943
U.S. troops complete the capture of Guadalcanal from the Japanese .

◆ April 19, 1943
The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising begins after German troops attempt to deport the ghetto's last surviving Jews. About 750 Jews fought back the Germans for almost a month.

◆ May 11, 1943
The Trident Conference between the U.S. and Britain begins. Roosevelt and Churchill decide to delay the Allied invasion of France and in its place plan the Allied invasion of Italy. In Alaska, U.S. troops land on Attu in the Aleutian islands to retake it from the Japanese .

◆ May 12, 1943
Axis forces in North Africa surrender.

◆ May 16, 1943
German troops crush the last resistance of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and kill thousands of Jews. The rest are sent to the Treblinka concentration camp to die.

◆ July 10, 1943
Over 160,000 Allied troops land in Sicily, beginning Operation Husky.

◆ July 25, 1943
Benito Mussolini's fascist government is overthrown in Italy. The new Italian government begins peace talks.

◆ August 15, 1943
U.S. troops retake Kiska island in the Aleutians.

◆ August 17, 1943
Operation Husky, the Allied invasion of Sicily, is successfully concluded when American troops take Messina.

◆ September 3, 1943
British troops land on mainland Italy, beginning the Allied campaign in Italy. American troops land six days later. The new Italian government formally surrenders.

◆ September 10, 1943
German troops occupy Rome. Mussolini soon declares himself the head of a new fascist Italian government in German-occupied northern Italy.

◆ October 13, 1943
Italy declares war on Germany.

◆ November 20, 1943
U.S. Army troops land on Makin island in the Gilberts. The next day, U.S. Marines land on Tarawa. Within four days, both islands were secured, but at the cost of thousands of casualties.

◆ November 8, 1943
The Teheran Conference between the U.S., Britain, and the USSR begins. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin meet together for the first time.

◆ December 1, 1943
The Teheran Conference between the U.S., Britain, and the USSR is successfully concluded. Roosevelt, Churchill, and Stalin agree that the Western Allies would invade France in June 1944 and that when it began the USSR would launch a new offensive from the east.
◆ December 5, 1943
◆ Seventy-five years ago today.
The Allies began Operation Crossbow in an all-out effort to stop Germany's V-1 rocket program. The first launch sites targeted were near Ligescourt, France, where U.S. Army Air Force B-26 bombers made an unsuccessful attempt to put a dent in the program. (Link)
◆ December 24, 1943
Dwight Eisenhower is named supreme commander of Allied Expeditionary Forces.

(Link)

Monday, December 03, 2018

4.21: Tuning Slide- Creativity: Beyond Mastery

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

Passion is one great force that unleashes creativity, because if you're passionate about something, then you're more willing to take risks.
— Yo-Yo Ma

We come to the tenth and last of Barry Green’s ten pathways to music mastery from his book, Mastery of Music.

10. Creativity: The Journey Into the Soul

Green starts right out by naming the problem:
Creativity is elusive. It is hard enough to describe, and difficult if not impossible to command. And yet when people tap into it, their thoughts take on a universality that can touch all of our lives.
He goes on to say that creativity fueled by curiosity that leads to answers from within:
[T]his business of looking inside is the key to an exploration of one’s own creativity. When we learn where to listen for the answers, we may hear the answers more often.
The end, he says, is to find a path to travel “deep into the soul.”

It would be nice to think that creativity is simply “do what moves you.” While that is part of it, it is only a very small part. Creativity, as Yo-Yo Ma says, is built on passion that allows one to be willing to take risks. But I for one don’t believe a pathway into the soul is aimless, narcissistic, or chaotic. There is, as we talked about a few weeks ago, a flow to it. There is getting “into a flow” and not just some wandering with no aim or hope of resolution. (Though sometimes in the midst of creative moments it may feel like that.)

Reading through Green’s chapter on creativity I found the following four ideas as essential on which our creativity is to be built in music.

✓ Sound
The perennial starting point of music. Sound is always the most important. But in creativity it is different than pulling out the tuner to be sure the sound is “in tune” whatever that might mean. Sound is the overall picture, the image the music is presenting, the emotions and feelings.

✓ Structure
Then there is the structure. What are your ideas that your creativity is forming? Structure is the dwelling place of the sound. It sets the boundaries, the highs and lows, the extremes and the solid base on which everything is to be built. Structure is not limiting, but gives the creativity the room to grow and move. Only then can creativity reach new ideas and new directions.

✓ Harmony
After structure we get into the next basic of music- harmony. Structure may tell us the key we want to play in, but harmony tells us how the chords and keys and notes relate to each other.

✓ Rhythm
This is where “flow” begins to be felt. How does the creative flow? What is its tempo, its variations in sound, its cycles of chords in a particular order? What does the movement of the idea feel like? I have been playing around with some composing and I found myself starting with a rhythm, a particular movement of different length notes. I didn’t know what structure it would have (eventually it became a variation on 12-bars). I didn’t know when notes would ascend, descend, or strike into dissonance. In this case it was the rhythm I wanted.

Last- but always:
Don’t forget the Soul!

That’s where we move beyond just creating, or just being creative and getting content. It is time to make some decisions. It is time for the depths of our persons and ideas and experience to begin to apply to what we are creating. Recently, the blog/newsletter Brainpickings referred to writer/doctor Oliver Sacks who talked about the early stages of being creative but who then understood that
Often, creators — be they artists or scientists — content themselves with reaching a level of mastery, then remaining at that plateau for the rest of their careers, comfortably creating more of what they already know well how to create. (Brainpickings)
Then they quote Sacks and his reflections:
Why is it that of every hundred gifted young musicians who study at Juilliard or every hundred brilliant young scientists who go to work in major labs under illustrious mentors, only a handful will write memorable musical compositions or make scientific discoveries of major importance? Are the majority, despite their gifts, lacking in some further creative spark? Are they missing characteristics other than creativity that may be essential for creative achievement — such as boldness, confidence, independence of mind?

It takes a special energy, over and above one’s creative potential, a special audacity or subversiveness, to strike out in a new direction once one is settled. It is a gamble as all creative projects must be, for the new direction may not turn out to be productive at all. (Brainpickings)

Sacks is telling us that in the end the growth and movement of creativity goes beyond simple mastery of the instrument, the form, the rhythm, whatever. It can, if we are willing to go there, tap the energy of your own life. He is telling us to keep at it. Let it grow, incubate, rumble, until, when ready, be born.

Barry Green ends the chapter, in essence moving beyond mastery:
When we open ourselves and our souls, by practice and inspiration, but also by listening and letting go, music comes to us not as something we command, but as a gift. It is a gift, too, that we should pass the gift of music along.
Music is your own experience, your own thoughts, your wisdom. If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn.
— Charlie Parker

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Buddy's War: #10- Building an Army

This is part of a series that over two years will follow the story of my father in World War II 75 years ago. I did this five years ago in the series Following the 10th Armored, but I have been doing more research and expanding the ideas. The beginning posts will set the stage for the events of 1944 and 1945 when he was in Europe as part of the 10th Armored Division's 80th Armored Medical Battalion.
~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`~`

◆ November 28, 1943
◆ Seventy-five years ago today:

The Tehran Conference was held. President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill met with Soviet leader Joseph Stalin met in Iran to discuss war strategy.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the early 1940s the United States faced a seemingly daunting task. Build a world-class military from next to nothing. Beginning with the first “peace time draft” at the end of 1940 and then expanding almost exponentially after Pearl Harbor in December 1941, the US Armed Forces underwent a transformation perhaps unprecedented in history. From top to bottom the military needed to become an unbeatable force. The reason was simple and now, almost 80 years later, almost overlooked. By Pearl Harbor, the United States was all that stood between world peace and the demolition of everything Western Civilization stood for! One of those who answered the call in 1941 was a surgeon names Brendan Phibbs. Over 45 years later he wrote a memoir of the time, The Other Side of Time: A Combat Surgeon in World War II. I came across it in my research this past summer and was blown away by its power. It was another piece of information about what my Dad was facing. In the early chapters of the book he reflects on the world at the beginning of World War II.
It’s hard today to remember the glow that bathed our armed forces as the country hitched up its weapons for the Second World War. It was a springtime, a virginal encounter when a generation distracted and sometimes desperate could turn happy and relieved to the ancient simple virtues…. Because sometime during the twenties and thirties the United States Army had disappeared. While the rest of the world rumbled and flamed through a tortured decade, [Old pictures of the US Army] certainly didn’t seem any match for the well-drilled hordes that thumped and banged their way across the newsreel screens, flaunting the terrors of Germany, Russia, Italy, and Japan…. Out of the radiant past came the army we have forgotten.
Help was needed. The pictures from Europe and the Pacific were horrendous. How could the United States compete with that kind of military power that was at once brutal, overwhelming, and in control of a great deal of the world?
Maybe we should never use total black or clear white to symbolize the capering of the human animal, but in 1942 we … knew we were marching out against the closest approximation of total darkness the planet had ever known.

We were a reenactment of American history, from Louisburg to Chateau-Thierry, a levee en masse around a skeleton of barely competent professional soldiers, when somehow, always, the carpenters and salesmen and tavern keepers and foundry workers got themselves sorted into ranks, most of them to become adequate and some of them to become heroes…. It was going to be our army, we were prepared to love it, and I suppose we would have felt even more strongly if we had known what we really were: the last American crusade, an army marching out with the cheers and blessings of a whole people, to save our country and the world from black, unrelieved villainy.

We were marching out to become the last people’s army in the history of the United States of America.
— Brendan Phibbs, The Other Side of Time: A Combat Surgeon in World War II. 1987.

As we move into 2019 (and 1944) I will expand on some of the ways the United States accomplished this miraculous task. To the point of this series I also did some digging into the needs for medical personnel as well as training the medics in combat. On Quora I found some of the history of the process:
The Army, on the other hand, primarily managed their combat medic training pipeline by earmarking medic candidates from the very first day they joined the Army. Medics went through a combined basic training, infantry class, and medics school, taught continuously for the student. Prior to the war, Army Medic training (combined with basic training) was 13 weeks. In the 4th quarter of 1941, the Army truncated the school to 11 weeks. Since 1942 saw the enlistment of millions & millions of men, Army Basic/Medic school was cut to just eight weeks for ten months. November and December 1942 saw the program extended back to 11 weeks; May to August 1943 increased the class to 12 weeks. From August 1943 to war's end, combined basic training/medic school stabilized at 17 weeks. Whatever curriculum was cut short, was picked-up by field training detachments after the apprentice medic arrived at his first duty station. (-Link)
From a U.S. Army history of the growth of the medical corps in World War II came this information:
Despite the country’s desire to avoid involvement in another European war, the US Army had been gradually expanding in the years before Pearl Harbor, from 191,450 troops when Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939 to about 1.5 million when the Japanese attacked on December 7, 1941. The National Guard had been mobilized in 1940, the same year Congress approved a peacetime draft. Guard units faced several obstacles, however. Industry was not producing enough military equipment, and troops had to train with limited quantities of outdated items. Medical training itself was a bottleneck; for instance, not enough brick-and-mortar hospitals existed to provide full training for all newly enlisted men, and courses had to be shortened to ensure at least some hands-on training for all enlistees. (-Link)
In short, there was a lot going on in those years- and by the end of 1943 U.S. Military personnel were fighting and dying in many areas.

They had only just begun.

Monday, November 26, 2018

4.20- Tuning Slide: Confidence, Ego, and Humility

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music

If you got a trumpet, get on your feet, brother, and blow it!
— Nick Cave (punk-rock musician)

That’s a call to confidence if I ever heard one. Barry Green in the book Mastery of Music that we have been looking at over these months lists the eighth and ninth pathways to mastery this way:

# 8: Confidence: From Bravura to Integrity (Trumpet)
# 9: Ego and Humility: From Fame to Artistry (Opera, Jazz, and Theater Singers)

What really is confidence? Green quotes a definition this way:
An accepted and unheralded evidence within a person that gives a person the unconscious knowledge that he/she is able to produce outstanding results in his/her chosen career under almost any circumstances. Full technical control is a must: this “evidence to oneself” provided by preparation and determination is what fosters confidence and it becomes stronger with experience.
He then lists some of the ways we develop confidence. Among them are:

◦ Preparation by Overpreparing
We are back at practice, practice, practice. If we think we can escape from that or make it optional because of how far we have advanced, forget it. Right now. Some truly advance players may get by with a daily “warm-up.” But that “warm up” will always include scales, chromatics, long tones, and all the basics. And it will usually be at least two to three hours a day. So practice is where confidence must start, not on some self-interpreted view of how good we are. This also includes knowing more than just what we are doing. Sometimes that means studying the music, reading about it, listening to recordings in order to find out where and how your part fits in. It’s all in the over preparing! As Green puts it, we are not just a “right-note” playing machine. We are making music.

◦ State Your Case with Passion and Meaning
Because of the over preparation, one does move beyond just playing the right notes. One also beings the excitement, the passion, the meaning of the music to life. My interpretation of that will be different from yours. If we are in a group together, we learn to state our understanding in relationship to the other musicians. That brings in the ability to listen and learn.

◦ Confidence is a Journey of Learning
Learning is what confidence opens us up to do. Paying attention in practice, rehearsal, and performance opens us to know what we need to do to move forward. Since we have over prepared, we have moved beyond “right-notes” to expressing ourselves. But that doesn’t always work. We get lost, make a mistake, get stuck. So learn from it. The next time, when we get it the way we want it, our confidence will be back.

◦ Stay Within Your Limits, (then) Don’t Think, Just Play
Needless to say, Green, as one of the teachers of the Inner Game, brings us around to allowing Self 2 to be in charge. Thinking is Self 1. By this time we have learned (Self 1) that we can do what we want to do. We then trust ourselves (Self 2) to do it. If we are honest about what we can do at this moment, we will know what is ready for public performance and what isn’t there yet. Staying within limits is NOT about only playing what you used to be able to play, it is about not moving on until Self 1 can shut up and let Self 2 move on.

How do we maintain and continue to build confidence? If we only rest on what we did last time, we will not grow as a musician nor develop confidence to do more than we did last time. Here are some of the ways Green mentions to help confidence grow:
◦ Focus on the Music, Not on What People Think of You
◦ Focus on What You Have Accomplished and What You Can Do
◦ Enjoy Your Anxieties- You are Not Alone
This last one can be tough. This may be where many give up, lose confidence, stop growing. I am not the first player to have flubbed playing Taps on Memorial Day (an old story.) But when I allowed that to become m identity as a solo trumpet player, my anxieties became too great and I couldn’t move beyond them. We grow in confidence when we we are honest with ourselves and move on.

Look, man, all I am is a trumpet player.
— Miles Davis

Confidence can build the image that trumpet players have been accused of. Green calls that “bravura,” the swagger and overt confidence we present even when we don’t have it. Trumpet players are not known for their quietness and humility. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that! If anything it is a call to maintain our proper place in the band. That leads to humility. Humility, of course, can have a couple definitions. One is humility means that we are willing to be teachable. A second is to have a proper knowledge of our strengths and weaknesses. Confidence, built on humility is powerful. It will ring out with the sound of, well, trumpets.

It takes a healthy ego to become confident enough to be humble. What a seemingly paradoxical statement that is! Low self-esteem does not build confidence. Low self-esteem presents our weaknesses and uncertainties and set in stone. “Poor me, that’s just the way I am.” Healthy ego allows us to be truly humble. Oh, by the way, I am not sure we can work on becoming humble. “Look how hard I’ve worked and how successful I have become at being humble!” Not!

I have put these two pathways to mastery together because I believe that when one reaches the pathway of confidence the logical next step is moving away from negative ego to true humility. One cannot, or better not, become so enamored of one’s own sound on the instrument, especially trumpet, that we think we are far and above others. THAT is not confidence. That is unhealthy ego. But neither should the musician, especially the trumpet playing musician, be so shy as to hold back when they need to stand up and blow! Humility does not mean taking a back seat or being reserved when the situation calls for leadership. Musical leadership, whether one is a lead trumpet player or third clarinet, is found in the attentiveness to the music, the focus on one’s sound, and the ability to play well with others.

The very essence of leadership is that you have to have vision.
You can't blow an uncertain trumpet.
—Theodore Hesburgh