Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Buddy's War: #14- A Year of Change Begins

    •    January 6 , 1944
Had a letter from Buddy and a picture of the meds in his division. Gee it is good.
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman
Note: Picture is cropped. Buddy is in center front.
We are now in the middle of March. Not much of consequence has happened with the 10th Armored so far this year. They are still in Georgia training and training and then more training. My grandmother’s diary is very brief and understated, as always. There’s not much about what my dad has been up to. Beula mentioned letters about every third day. Usually all she says is that she got a letter or that she sent one.

What was Buddy doing? What was the role of a medic in training? He has been with the 80th Armored Medical Battalion of the 10th Armored Division virtually since the beginning. He was also not a “new” recruit or trainee, having had his original training following the draft in 1941 prior to Pearl Harbor. I am continuing to research medic training, but I would think that by this point he was well-trained and as ready as it was possible to be after over 18 months on active duty. (If anyone has any stories or information from family or friends about this, please let me know!)

Two other diary entries give a brief and tantalizing glimpse at what might have been happening. The first:

    •    February 1, 1944
Buddy may get a furlough. wants to go to NY. Sent him $100.
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman

Why is Dad going to New York instead of home on furlough?  There is no hint in the diaries so far that he has been dating anyone or that he was interested in anything except the military. It is a more than educated guess that this diary entry hints at something that will make a huge difference in coming months.

The second entry, 75 years ago last week gives a slight glimpse at what might have also been taking up his time.

    •    March 10, 1944
Letter from Buddy. He said he is working in a big hospital in Augusta
- Diary entry, Beula Keller Lehman
Was this common? Remembering that he was not a new recruit, was he as trained in the duties of a medic as he needed to be and could go off-base? Or, and perhaps more likely, this was part of the training. From later information I have found that in Europe he was a surgical tech. His own profession in civilian life was as a pharmacist. It is very possible that they had him working in a civilian hospital to learn that aspect of the medic’s role. It even appears that he may not have been living on base. In the back of Beula’s diary is a listing of  his general’s name (Wm. H.H. Morris- commander of the 10th at the time), a phone number, and “the name of the people he rents from.”

This whole section highlights what for me has been my biggest regret in doing these posts- that I have come to this interest too late for many things to be found. It is only after I began this that I learned of 10th Armored reunions, now ended as even the youngest surviving veterans would be in his early 90s today. It is exciting to do the research I have been working on, but the many missing links are tantalizing and make me sad.

As far as the 10th:
 Checking in on the Tiger’s Tale monthly newspaper for the Division at “Camp Gordon”:

The February headline was that the division’s “Bond Drive Goes Over Quota.” The original goal was to sell $50,000 worth of US savings bonds. As of the middle of February they had raised $55,500. That is almost $800,000 in 2019 dollars! The top unit was the 11th Tank Battalion which bought over 10% of that at just over $7,000. Dad’s 80th Armored Medical Battalion was 11th on the list with just over $2,000 purchased. At that time an enlisted man’s pay started at $50/month and went as high as $138/month (between $700 and $1900 in current dollars.)

US Savings bonds were the government’s way of borrowing from civilians with the promise to pay them back. On February 1, 1935 legislation was signed that allowed the Department of the Treasury to issue savings bonds. In April 1941 they became known as Defensive Bonds to finance World War II.
After the attack on Pearl Harbor, Defensive Bonds were informally known as War Savings Bonds. US Savings Stamps in denominations of 10¢, 25¢, 50¢, $1 and $5 featuring a Minuteman statue design were also sold to be accumulated over time in collection booklets which when filled could be exchanged to purchase interest bearing Series E bonds. All the revenue coming in from the bonds went directly to support the war.  -- Wikipedia
(When i was an elementary school student in the 1950s, Savings Bonds were still popular. There was still the feeling of a patriotic and civil responsibility to bring in your dimes, quarters,  or even dollars to purchase the stamps. They are still available, sold only online and have different restrictions.)

An interesting story on page 2 in March told of two underage soldiers being discharged. The older of the two was just six months shy of his enrollment-eligible age of 18. He couldn’t “see why age has anything to do with the qualifications for being a soldier.” He had faked his mother’s name on his application- and she is the one who turned him in. He hoped to convince her to sign permission now. The younger one was only 15 years old and turned himself in since he was afraid of the consequences of falsifying his age.

Also in March we hear of two members of the Division who had previously fought in the Spanish Civil War- both on the Republican side, also known as the Loyalists, against Franco and his Nationalists.

There’s “gossip” of events in different battalions and companies and lots of news about sports and activities.  There was
    •    Basketball championships,
    •    Ping-pong, volleyball, wrestling,
    •    Boxing, polo, bowling,
    •    Rifle team and plans for the summer.

When you think about the task of keeping 10 - 15,000 troops occupied, especially in off-duty hours, this all makes a lot of sense.

And one little piece of trivia I saw:
The fresh milk for the division comes all the way from St. Paul, Minnesota.”
In a front page column in February, the General reviewed the high standards for the Division, his own take for the troops on the standards set by the Army. These were called “Preparation  for  Oversea  Movement  of  Individual  Replacements"("POR"). As the General wrote:
If you are POR qualified you are fit to fight and rarin’ to go; you are physically hard and tough; you can drive a tank all day and take the bumps; you can run, jump, hit the dirt and you can take advantage of cover to get up on your German or Jap enemy, surprise him with blade or bullet.
But the reality of war was also included in being POR Qualified. The General continued:
…your identification tags are correct and your wear them, your clothing and equipment are properly marked, well cared for and you are proud of them; you are protected from disease by inoculations against small-pox, typhoid and tetanus, taken within the past six months. You have provided your dependents with insurance and allotments; you don’t know where you’re going but you do know what you’re going to do when you get there; you are confident and ready.
D-Day was less than 90 days away, though no one yet knew the timing. The 10th Armored was less that six-months from leaving. For the 10th, a lot was still ahead. For Buddy and family, changes were on the way.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Tuning Slide 4.34- Applying Experience

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Music is … A higher revelation than all Wisdom & Philosophy
― Ludwig van Beethoven

I keep saying that this blog is “reflections on life and music”, but then I have to admit that most of it is about the music part. Sure, I have put many connections into the posts, but I don’t often just take aim at the “life lessons” from music. I thought I would take a few weeks to talk about some of the life lessons I (and others) have gotten from being musicians. I started with a Google search, of course, and found three pages in particular that have given me the foundation for this and the next two posts.

Of course it could be argued that many of us bring these life lessons into music and not the other way around. Many of us do know that some of the things we have discovered in life are very applicable to the music side of our lives. It may be the case that people who have certain ideas, ideals, and habits more easily become musicians, but I think it more often works the other way around since most of us started music before we developed these lessons, habits, and traits. If we stayed with music after high school or college, chances are these habits grew together and became woven into the fabric of who we are.

So, with that as an introduction, let me turn to the first set of lessons. These are from a website, The Odyssey Online, where Amanda Gribbin reflected on "Eight Life Lessons Through Music."
1. Do not expect instant gratification.
2. Mistakes are okay.
3. Wholeheartedly pursue your passion.
4. Have people to look up to.
5. Keep an open mind.
6. Challenge yourself.
7. Set personal goals.
8. Working for something that you love will never feel like work.
(— Link)
Some of these are obvious, though easily forgotten (instant gratification). Some we have looked at in different ways and the application to life from music is clear to see (challenge and goals). Let me reflect on several of them. (This is something I learned from jazz, by the way. I start with an idea and then riff on it, improvise on the theme. Or is that one of the reasons I life Jazz? See how it goes both ways?)

✓ Instant gratification
I love guitar. If I want to learn any other instrument and be able to play it at least reasonably okay, it would be the guitar. Back in high school, after I was already an established trumpet player (and therefore a musician) I bought a guitar and started taking lessons. I was doing okay and, since I played trumpet in a Tijuana Brass-style group with my guitar teacher, he actually had be learn the chords for one of our TJB songs and I would play guitar when we did that song. My problem was that I was not able to be as good at guitar as I was at trumpet. At least not able to do it overnight. Instant gratification! I have since taken lessons several times and still own a guitar. There was a point when I did play more, but I never really got it. I would get frustrated and quit. In many other areas of my life I have learned to wait, be patient, do what needs to be done. I just never had the time (or took the time) to do it with guitar. I know why I am not a good guitar player today. But it never became a goal. That’s how these go together. I know there isn’t instant gratification. I also know that there are other things more important (higher priority) than being a guitar player.

✓ Mistakes are okay
We have to be careful here. Mistakes are okay if we correct them by learning from them. We must not get the attitude that if I make a mistake in a performance, eh, who cares? Expect to make mistakes since none of us is perfect. Don’t be satisfied with the mistakes and use this as an excuse not to improve. I can name many mistakes I have made as a counselor. I have forgotten important points, responded out of my personal motives, even been called on the carpet by supervisors. But I made sure I didn’t do it again- and didn’t beat myself up over it.

✓ Have people to look up to
Mentors, gurus, wise colleagues, experienced elders are all people to look up to. I still “look up to” a professor and a supervisor I had 45 years ago who set me on the path I have taken. I remember with joy a colleague who taught me more by his example how to be a person of humble spirit and soul. In all that I do, I try to incarnate the lessons they gave me. I still have people- colleagues, friends, and/or musicians- who come to mind when I need a personal reminder.

✓ An open mind
For me this is always a growing edge. In some ways it is the summation of the others. If I think I am always right, my mind is closed to opportunities and life itself. If I think I have nothing to learn from others, I am going the wrong direction. If I am satisfied with where I am today and not willing to accept challenges to grow, I might as well sell the horn. I’m done and will miss many things. Life itself is always changing. Just because it isn’t how it was when I was growing up in those “good, old days” doesn’t mean it’s wrong today. An open mind is one that is mindful of the world and able to move within it with a sense of personal acceptance and then to learn from it. Essential in our very difficult age.

✓ It will never feel like work if you love it.
This is a variation on the old statement, “If you love what you do you will never work a day in your life.” While that is an extreme statement that certainly leads in the right direction, it is a lesson we have to learn. The lesson is that even on the difficult or bad days, if you love what you do, you will find ways to enjoy it. A quote from one of the instructors at the Shell Lake Trumpet Workshop that I quoted a few weeks ago says the same thing. “If you don’t like playing long tones, you don’t like playing the trumpet.” Or at least you are playing it for some wrong reasons. Every job, every part of life, has its times of boredom and drudgery. You finish washing the dishes, and more are dirty; you get the wash folded, and there’s a new pile. Most of us in music know the feeling of picking up our instrument and having life change in an instant. That is an important lesson for all of life.

Monday, March 04, 2019

Tuning Slide 4.33- Keep the Rhythm

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
To live is to be musical, starting with the blood dancing in your veins. Everything living has a rhythm. Do you feel your music?
― Michael Jackson

As I write this I am sitting on a balcony overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. There is a hazy cloudiness, but still some diluted sunlight. The wind is coming at about 10 mph from the southwest. The palm branches sway with the winds rising and falling. I see reflected off my computer screen a kite behind me catching the wind. I hear the call of gulls and children laughing and playing. Later there will be the possibilities of thunderstorms and tomorrow is forecast to be at least 20 degrees colder, so I want to enjoy what I have at the moment.

But more importantly is the constant sound from the waves. The consistent rhythm of the tide and currents is what touches me and depths I have no way of touching in a conscious way. Some will say it’s because of the none months before we are born, hearing the watery amniotic fluid in it’s rhythm. Others will point to the heartbeat and the rhythm of the blood in our brains. Others still will point to the vibrating rhythms of the universe. It doesn’t matter how or why, it is simply to say that we live in a world of rhythm, pulses, movement of sound waves, most of which we cannot even hear.

We all have rhythm! Mickey Hart, percussionist with the Grateful Dead explained it as the movement from chaos to order:

In the beginning, there was noise. Noise begat rhythm, and rhythm begat everything else.

I did a quick Google search on songs with the word rhythm in the title. While there were many versions of some of the classics, here are six:

✓ Fascinating Rhythm
✓ Rhythm of the Falling Rain
✓ Girls Got Rhythm
✓ All God’s Children Got Rhythm
✓ Rhythm Nation
and of course,
✓ I Got Rhythm.

A few years ago I did a post on the idea of rhythm in expanding on rhythm as one of the three things every trumpet player (and musician) needs to have:
There are three characteristics of a great trumpet player:
1. Every time you play you have a great- not a good- sound.
2. You have great- not good- rhythm.
3. You have great- not good- ears to hear the sound. (Link)
In essence you have to have a sound that’s worth playing and listening to, a rhythm that turns the sound from noisy chaos into music, and the ability to hear it all.

This came up in my thinking the other day as I was “drumming” along with a song on the radio. I was attempting a steady beat that wasn’t just single drum beats. I was trying to fit into the style and rhythm of the song. What I discovered again, other than why I am a trumpet player and not a percussionist, is how difficult it really is to keep the beat steady AND interesting. Sooner or later I always miss a beat, come in late, or just generally mess up the whole thing.

Which brought me to the next thought about playing in a jazz big band. The “rhythm section” isn’t just the drummer. It is also the piano, bass, and guitar. Sure, they all get solos from time to time and some of them even get a melody, but they are, together, the rhythm of the band. They keep us moving at the steady and appropriate beat. Rhythm is far more than just keeping good time. It is the entire flow of the music. When we work together at the rhythm, when we get in synch or flow, music truly happens and we, I firmly believe, are in touch with the music of the cosmos.

Our biological rhythms are the symphony of the cosmos, music embedded deep within us to which we dance, even when we can't name the tune.
― Deepak Chopra

For me it is easier to keep rhythm on the trumpet than on the steering wheel of my car or the table I am typing at. It is my way of expressing rhythm. It is part of my “biological rhythm.” This is one of the important things I have discovered (and rediscovered many times) over the years. The music I make has rhythm- and I have to learn to feel, hear, and reproduce it through the horn. Which in both the short- and long-term takes me back to basics- yep, Arban, Clarke, Schlossberg, etc. As I work through those routines I begin to feel rhythm. I begin to know what it feels like to be in the right rhythm for the song. Self 2 just goes there and I work with it. Fortunately it doesn’t matter whether we are jazz, classical, or polka musicians. In those basics we learn what rhythm is. And we discover how it touches us.

Build the ear for rhythm by working the rhythm of the basics, then moving on. Feel the movement of the song. Watch for the unexpected that means the rhythm is changing. It is more than keeping the right tempo. Metronomes don’t provide rhythm, for example. They only give us a guideline for what speed something is to move. That may be helpful sometimes in practice, but it will never help us develop a sense of rhythm. Time in music is a structure on which the rhythm is built. You start with the sound and make sure you have the best sound you can have.

Then you let it flow. The world will change!

The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.
― Rabindranath Tagore

Monday, February 25, 2019

Tuning Slide 4.32- Beyond the Plateau

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
Plateaus are a manifestation of the law of diminishing returns, and when we reach one it simply means that it is time to adjust our methods.
― Chris Matakas, The Tao of Jiu Jitsu

Last week I talked some about the perennial problem of getting stuck in our movement forward as musicians- or in life, for that matter. I mentioned four of the main reasons that I have discovered for my “stuckness.” They were:

• Boredom
• Fear
• Exhaustion
• Lack of direction

Discovering some of these reasons behind my getting stuck may help find a way around them and into the next stage of growth. In order to do that I have to be willing and able to confront my plateaus and discover what to do next. Often what I am really facing is a decision point. In the musical world that question goes back to making a decision whether I am willing to settle for where I am. I have a hunch that any of us can always grow beyond where we are. Here is a famous quote from the great cellist Pablo Casals:

He was asked one day why he continued to practice four and five hours a day. Casals answered, “Because I think I am making progress.”
— Leonard Lyons

Who am I to disagree? So first I have to change my language to have a better, more positive way of describing the moment. Instead of being “stuck” I remind myself that I am at a “plateau.” I remember that in my past every musical or life-changing growth has been preceded by the plateau. A plateau is better than a stuck place- think flat land vs. a swamp or quicksand. Given a choice, I’ll take the flat plain. A plain or plateau tells me there is movement possible, even if for the moment it is at the same “level.” I am still moving, hopefully toward my goal.

My wife and I discussed this last week. She has been on an exercise development program following a period of medical concerns. At this point her goal was simply to walk a mile four times/week. Two days in a row she had some difficulties and I could sense she was on the edge of giving up. She was at a stuck point. I didn’t say anything specific, I just encouraged her to try it one more time. As it turns out the next time we went, she had made a step toward a better place. She was pleased and energized. She had been at the point I described last week as the “darkest before the dawn” point. She has continued to move forward.

I doing research on this topic, I found many websites that give thoughts and directions. One, the Every Day Power blog has five game-changing strategies for when you’re feeling stuck in life from Erika Boissiere. ( They were:

◆ Challenge your assumptions- every last one of them!
She says that we may believe we have explored all the things that are happening. If we are still on the plateau of stuck, we probably haven’t. She suggests brainstorming more ideas, even crazy ideas. The goal is to come up with as many things as you can find. She adds, “Stop ruminating on the ideas you’ve already come up with!”

◆ Talk yourself through your worst-case scenario
Boissiere continues then to look at the worst-case options. What if this is as good as it gets? Could you continue? What might happen if you did continue? Could you survive? “If the answer is YES, you will un-tether yourself from fear of the worst case happening – and move forward.”

◆ Learn about courage
Sometimes it might take a bit of courage to move on. If fear is one of the main reasons behind this plateau, this one becomes especially important. Courage is the ability to do the next right thing, the next important thing, even if it is challenging or uncomfortable. Chances are that in my musical life, this will not kill me, that I can survive the next step and move forward anyway. For me that continues to be those solos that can trip me up. That I why I continue to play in the quintet and work on it. I am more exposed and my errors could be more devastating than playing fourth in a big band or being a section player in the concert band. Again from Boissiere, “Allow yourself to be scared. If you fall flat on your face, believe that you will pick yourself up again.”

◆ Use your village
Our individual “villages” are those people around us who we trust, who have our best interests in mind, and know something about what we are doing. So go ask them. Trust them. This what my wife did the other week when she was stuck. She trusted me and continued on her journey. It might mean finding a mentor or teacher and taking a lesson or two. Broissiere tells us to “[g]o to your strongest allies, and get their input.”

◆ Create your vision
At this point it usually comes back to what I talked about last week, make some goals, give myself some new direction. It might be learning a new piece, working on a specific technique, getting back to some basics and building on them. Broissiere remind us that “[y]ou must look beyond your short-term anxieties and create a vision for yourself.” It is, as she says, looking at the horizon instead of down at your feet. Where am I going?

I have been taking my winter season to work on these things. A few weeks ago I talked about my work on improving my precision and sound. As I said then it has been working, although there have been plateaus. That in and of itself is one of the best motivators to keep moving forward. I have also been working on my jazz language skills. I am building my vocabulary of jazz and learning how to be more free-flowing in improvising. While this may sound like it’s at odds with the “precision” goal, at this point they are beginning to merge, much to my surprise. Because I worked on my sound and attack, I feel more comfortable to working with chord changes and trusting the sound I am hearing in my mind. It all begins to meld into something new and different. My two goals are working together. They give me a direction.

Life is not a bunch of disconnected boxes. Life and music are all the things that I am and all that I can learn. I have a hunch that it is still an endless and growing path in front of me.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Tuning Slide 4.31- On Getting Stuck

Weekly Reflections on Life and Music
We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.
E.M. Forster

In the past couple posts or so I have been talking about being a student, how to improve what we can do, some ways I am working on a particular direction, i.e. more precise playing. It is always exciting when I get started on something new or different. I can hardly wait to pick up my horn and do that day’s exercise and routine. That goes along well for awhile until I reach a point where I get stuck. There are two things that can happen. First, I stop progressing. While I have been doing well, hearing and feeling the changes and growth, one day it seems to just stop. Over a period of a few days I notice that there is no more change. It’s all still good and I am doing better than when I started on the new goal, but it hasn’t improved any more. My natural response to that I simple. “Well, I guess I’ve gone as far as I can go on this one. That’s it.”

Which leads almost naturally into the second thing that can happen- I feel like I’m going backwards. The sound isn’t as good as it was last week; the endurance has decreased; my range has suffered. I then become more self-critical and less motivated. I cut corners on the particular routine that I was working on and I get stuck. So I start looking around at the music in my books, the routines I have available, the etudes and lessons that I have worked on- and start practicing without a goal. It will keep my endurance up, my embouchure in shape, but it won’t necessarily improve what I’m looking to improve. I become complacent, satisfied with the status quo. While that status quo is light years from where I was even four years ago, I stop growing.

It is all in my head, sort of. Attitude and self-defeating thoughts can do a lot of damage to our growth and movement. Self 1 has taken over and is telling Self 2 that we’ve reached the end of the journey. We can’t go any further down the road. Just sit back and take it easy.

In the end, when you feel like you have gotten stuck, just move on. In order to move on I usually do the following:
◆ I remind myself why I am playing trumpet in the first place- and why I have continued to play and to find ways to grow in these 57 years since I got my first trumpet. It’s all about the music!
◆ I remember the line if you don’t like playing long tones, you don’t like playing the trumpet for its own sake. If it’s all about the music, it’s also all about the sound!
◆ I then remind myself of something that I wrote about way back in the earlier days of this blog- that one often reaches a plateau or even a step backwards just as one is about to make the next move forward. I call that darkest before the dawn theory of growth. Just when you think you can’t continue- you can. With deliberate practice and direction.

The “Aha!” moment has been reached and I can take a look at what has happened, what I have accomplished, and where I can go. It’s at that point I discover a number of things about myself and my growth. I get stuck when one or more of the following things get in the way
◆ Boredom
Playing those long tones and scales can get very dull. Boredom is actually the inability to find the new that is right in front of you. Boredom is unmet expectations telling you that this is crazy. That’s why, if I do nothing else with my horn on a given day, I play those long tones - and I try to play them with as much life and soul as I can. Soulful long tones? Yep. It’s all in my head and how I hear them.
◆ Fear
The fear is the one mentioned above- what if I am at the end of my ability? What if I can’t get those intervals down right or that lick to fall into place under my fingers? Maybe at my age I should just be satisfied with all that I have done in the past few years and be satisfied. I am afraid to fail, afraid to lose, afraid to not be able to grow and improve. So why try? I can recognize the craziness in that statement the minute I say it or write it. Yes, there may very well come the day when I am at the end, but a quick look at Herb Alpert (age 83) and Doc Servinsen (age 92) will quickly remind me that if I keep going I will grow!
◆ Exhaustion
This is a flip side of boredom which is a form of mental exhaustion. It comes because I have been working and working and getting nowhere. It is also possible to overwork your willpower which can lead to both mental and physical exhaustion. This leads, I think, to some of the leveling off of improvement or even the steps backward we take before making an growth jump. This means I have to take a look at how I’m practicing and how I may be over doing some aspect of it.
◆ Lack of direction
These all lead to this fourth reason for getting stuck- I don’t know for sure where I am going. I’ve lost my way, gotten off the path, been distracted. It is time to look at my goals and what I want to get out of- and give back to- my music. It is a two way street and I need to develop my self-awareness, mindfulness, and goal-setting.
These are not just specific to music. I mentioned in a previous post that I have difficulty at times in my physical exercise routine. When that happens I can look at these same four things to discover a possible underlying issue with my exercise, or my writing routine. Fortunately there are ways to deal with them after we have taken a look at ourselves and what we are in the midst of experiencing. I will deal with that next week.

Until then, find out where you may be stuck and what have been happening. It may be one of those four things above, or it may be something very specific to your situation. Don’t be afraid of it- none of us can grow unless we look at what may be holding us back. No matter what, keep moving; don’t stop. Go back to the basics until you discover what you need at this moment in time.

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.

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 (, 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.

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

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
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.


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) 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
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, 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.