Friday, July 31, 2009

A night at the Chamber music festival

The final performance of the Seattle Chamber Music's summer festival at Lakeside School was tonight.

I Was There!!!

What a study in contrasts. Supernal Bach and Desperate Liszt before the show even started. Played excellently by Ran Dank. Then at eight o'clock Jeremy Denk and Erin Keefe nailed Edvard Grieg's Sonata for Violin and Piano Op. 45.
Grieg's music has been called "chocolate covered snow" Chocolate covered snow my ill-carved dovetail joint.

Gin and tonic snow, perhaps.

Ludvig Thuille writes like Sarah Palin talks. Seemed like about an hour of notes went by refusing to consider becoming music. I know I got the best possible rendition of this boring turkey because Scott Yoo, Stefan Jackiw, Che-Yen Chen, Robert deMaine, and Adam Nieman played it brilliantly, I stood to applaud their courage and sacrifice. I wont tell you what the piece was so you won't be tempted to go listen to it.

I do this for your own good.

Then I went out side for a while and drank some lemonade. It's free and I think it has a soothing effect on the throat so the coughing is ameliorated.
Not that I needed any of that tonight. I'm healthier than Greg LeMond's left leg.

I'm going to ride tomorrow.

Stephen Rose, Richard O'Neill, Ronald Thomas, and Ran Dank (of the earlier magnificent Bach) played a nice Dvorak Piano quintet E-Flat Op.87. I like Dvorak. One of my favorite American composers. So did everyone else in the room. A perfect night, even some music for me to hate. Bravo, Brava, Bravi.

So We have a pianist named Dank, and a pianist named Denk, I assume, hope rather, that the rest of the vowels are called to similar duty somewhere in the world.
Dank, Denk, Dink, Donk, Dunk, and some times Dynk and Dwnk.

Goodnight and goodnight Ms. Ophelia, wherever you are.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


A violin I made with a fist for a scroll.

It's a pun. A scroll looks like a fist but without fingers.

Yesterday I got a notice that Jennifer Thomas had become my first fan on my Reverbnation site. I met Jennifer while I was volunteering at Soundbridge. She played violin on a piece I wrote for the composers salon. I gave her this violin.
What's strange about it aside from the fist is that I just tossed it together from all the wrong woods. I just used some scraps lying about the basement. The workmanship is not very good. Tony Stradivarius would have tossed me out in the street for trying to build such a thing in his shop, but there you go.

Here's what Jennifer says about it in her bio on her website.

I also had the opportunity to be a performer for the Seattle Composer... Read More’s Salon which is held at Benaroya Hall. As a gift for participating in a string quartet that performed one of his compositions at this event, I was given a violin as a gift from composer and violin maker, Doug Palmer. You may notice the violin in my photo shoot for my album, as it is a very unique instrument. Instead of a scroll at the head of the fingerboard, there is a fist. Let me tell you, I’ve been an instant hit with the elementary aged kids with that instrument. Especially the boys, as I usually hear “Whoa – that is the coolest violin ever!!” It also draws quite the crowd when I take it into violin shops for adjustments. And the sound on this violin is incredibly rich and deep. I loved it so much that I actually ended up selling my original violin to a guy in Austria, and keeping my Palmer violin instead. It is also the violin I used for the recording of my album.

Further news on the instrument building front.

Unbent strips of basswood and red oak.

Clamping and steaming with an iron and a wet T-shirt

Bent strips of basswood and red oak

Now I will glue all this together and carve the neck.

The Blue Angels are out hot-rodding around the lake in their little noisemakers, it must be almost time for the hydro races.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


I didn't read the book group book this month because it arrived in the library only yesterday.
But that makes no difference because I rarely make anything but joking comments anyway.

We are slurping up Gazpacho for dinner these days 'cause it's COLD and the weather is HOT.
Actually, I like the heat.
I like the cold too.
I slept in a tent in the winter in Alaska during the Cuban missile "crisis" and did some Army training in Georgia in the summer.

Today I go into town for my usual urban peregrinations.
I will be all sweaty when I get to class, but the room has air-cond.
ALL the time.
Even in the winter.

I dressed in all white for book group meeting hoping that someone would ask me "why are you dressed in all white?

But nobody did.

I have a snappy retort for that question.

But as Robert Burns kind of said, "The best planned jokes oft fall on their ass".

Only he said it in Scottish.

So there you have it, boys and girls.

And you're welcome to it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Apple pie

When I was leaving the house last evening with my six pack and bags of chips, (I am the official chips'n'beer provider) heading out to the book group meeting, (everybody else has to cook something) M was peeling apples from our scraggly tree.
I gave up on those apples a long time ago because they are always worm infested and have been munched on by a profusion of small entities who seem to have no respect for private property.
Also, a few years ago I spent hours peeling and cutting out the bad parts to make applesauce which is still lounging in the freezer.

The book on discussion was Sarah Vowell's "Assassination Vacation". There seemed to be no disagreement about the book, so the discussion wended it's meandering way through history, politics, health care, Abe Lincoln, Henry Seward, Dredd Scott and who knows what else?
Oh yeah...Cats...Cats always get talked about.

Then, after my monthly sojourn down the banks of the mighty Lake Washington, flowing through the thick humid air, twilit scenery floating past the open windows, with the all blues program blasting from the Prius's speakers, (something I an never allowed to do when M is in the car), I arrived home in time to catch the last three quarters of a Mrs Marple Mystery.
As I was sitting there watching the pictures on the TV move and wondering just what was being said by the folks in the story with their mumbled, whispered, and just plain unintelligible variety of British accents, Keth asked if it was time for apple pie.
"You betcha", to quote our next president, (once the nation tires hearing sentences that are both complete and convey some meaning and is easier to make fun of).
And it was delicious.
Served with the usual caveats, i.e. "I put too much lemon in" she said.
No you didn't, it was a great pie.
As soon as I'm done with this post I think I'll have another slice.

Anyway it really doesn't matter about the dialogue in an Agatha Christie story It never makes much sense who did it or why.
At the denouement, somebody is picked to be the villain and an incredible back story is invented.
And it's always somebody.

And ain't that the truth?

Sunday, July 26, 2009

A tale of two chambers

After all this chamber music festival activity, we began to tire of all the dead white guy music. Sure it's great and all, but you can get tired of anything.
So we decided yesterday to drive up to Snohomish for an evening of live music in a small room not unlike a chamber to listen to a friend play his tribute to John Denver who if you recall is a dead white guy. But it was a nice evening. The music paints a warm and cheerful outlook on life and the audience consisted of mostly John Denver fans. There was applause after every movement and folks even sang along. Not the sort of thing tolerated at Lakeside.
the last lakeside event featured a fantastic Liszt piano reduction of some of Bellini's music for his opera "I Puritani", a jaunty, quirky Darius Milhaud suite, some Brahms, (a trio for piano, horn and violin and an odd piece by Taneyev.....I hate this, now I've got to go and look up the program, research...phooey... ah yes, a quartet for piano and strings. I kind of tuned out on that one 'cause the first movement was kind of dramatically flat and meandery.
It got better but I got a bit distracted by the tardive nature of the evening and the ever growing distance between the immediate point in time and the decanting from my dreams and bed on awakening in the morning. Getting a bit sleepy, if you know what I mean.
As always, I would appreciate being notified if you do know what I mean, it's always a bit hazy from my personal viewpoint.
Yesterday morning we ate blueberry pancakes.
We are still getting over 54 mpg with the Prius.
I bought a bunch of thin stripe of wood for the mandola neck some basswood and some red oak. I will laminate them alternately to make a striped neck. Also, I ordered a banjo fingerboard and fretwire so I won't have to calculate the spacing of the frets.
I now have seven of the caprices for piano and clarinet and am desperately trying to learn to play some of them on my clarinet with the hope of recording both parts and, through the miracle of digital electronics, combine the two parts into a lame version of these pieces.
The piano bits are easy.
I am also planning on learning how to sing, dance and play piccolo at the same time.
I do now know three different and distinct ways to finger a C# on my old thirty dollar Buffet.
This has been a major revelation in the latter years of my dim glow of creativity.

One of the songs on the John Denver concert was by Chuck Berry, who is not a dead white guy.

Once again, I reach the point where it behooves me to go back and read this over to see if it makes any sense. Of, course, if it makes any sense, it's not what I really have in mind.
So.....publish post.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Don't feel much like writing today.
I've recovered from whatever was keeping me down, so I'll be in the shop chopping wood into musical entities.
On the spur of the moment Sunday, we priused out to the UW and listened to the Northwest Mahler Festival Orchestra play some Wagner, some R.Strauss, and Mahler's 6th.
The 6th is the one the one that features a sledgehammer.
Punk music at its most profound.
I've finally heard enough Mahler to start to get some kind of idea what it's all about.
Not very "funky", if you know what I mean.
And if you do know what I mean, please let me know.

Bye for now, I've got clarinet practice to attend to.

Friday, July 17, 2009


The branch was rotten, I'll actually have to buy wood for the neck.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

More Chamber music

Several reasons for my disaffection with Monday.
My throat infection is becoming annoying.
I took Contac and cough drops to make sure that I didn't cough during the concert.
I didn't cough during the trip to the concert and didn't cough at all until we were seated and the lights went down on the recital of the new piece by Christopher Theofanidis.
I managed not to make too much noise and anyway, it was a talk by the composer and excerpts, not a performance.

Then I stopped coughing.

I didn't cough again until the second half of the concert proper when as soon as the performers entered the stage I got the tickle in the throat and could barely manage to keep my mouth shut.


The thing I wonder about is that the second half of the concert was Theofanidis' piece, so I wonder if my cough was not psychologically based.
Deep seated anxiety about composers who get performed, and are probably better than I.
When you're retired, you've got time to think about stuff like that.
Otherwise known as "Too Much Time".
But then again, I've always been neurotic.
And a hypochondriacal whiner.
So I stayed out side after intermission and didn't cough at all.
It was nice listening to the Brahms Quintet al fresco. The speakers were a little heavy on the bass but watching the children doing their gymnastic routines and chasing each other around the trees more than made up for the lack of absolute fidelity and not being in the same room as the musicians.
There were no stars in the sky.
Wonder why?
Anyway, the concert also contained some Ravel blues work. Excellent use of the jazz idiom. My favorite part of the show.

Another part of the Monday downer was due to a book I'm reading.
"Team of Rivals" by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
All about Lincoln and his cabinet.
I had just gotten to the part where the country is being sucked into the maelstrom of that insane, stupid, and useless war.
But they're all insane, stupid and useless, aren't they?
I'm not happy about being reminded of that.

I will miss class today because my voice is still filled with sawdust, but that is a complaint about today, not Monday.

On a lighter note (pun intended) I managed to post a video of myself playing the baritone clarinet rakett.

If you're reading this, you've seen it there on the previous post.

Which brings us by a commodious vicus of recirculation back to the MANDORA project.

Body, unfinished soundboard, and branch of a cherry tree.

If the branch is not rotten or otherwise unfit, I will trim it down and use it for the neck.

Is this gonna work?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Mandora and Bloch

The Mandora project proceeds.
The shape I had in mind when I made the mold doesn't seem to have come out in the finished shape. I was trying to make a pear shaped instrument but it looks more like an onion or garlic shape.
Innovation through incompetence.
My research showed several instruments called mandora, except that the heads and peg boxes were different designs and they had from four to twelve strings.
Mandolas and mandolins and others in the lute family had the same range of variation so who knows what exactly a mandora is anyway.
Maybe this will be an entirely new kind of lute.
Call it allium because it looks like a giant pod of elephant garlic.

We didn't subscribe to the whole series for the Chamber music festival so we missed the wonderful performance of the Ernest Bloch quintet for piano and strings no 1.
Heard it on the radio and wished we could be there.

Monday we are back again and get to hear a world premier of Christopher Theofanidis' "Summer Verses" with movements labeled 'very,very happy', 'lyric, wistful', 'Robert' (?), and 'noble, resolute'. I guess we'll find out what that's all about tomorrow.

I hope it's awful, most "new music" is, except mine.
The worse the competition is, the better I feel

Not that I feel so hot right at the moment anyway. Right at the moment my throat is all clogged up with a cold or some malady caused by all the wood dust I've been inhaling. My voice is the coffin with Caesar and I must wait 'till it come back to me.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Chamber Music Festival. Second night.

The recital that started the evening was an outstanding display of violin virtuosity by Augustin Hadelich. He played two fantasies by G.F. Telemann and followed that with a Paganini Caprice and a fantastic sonata by Eugène Ysaÿe. (1858-1931, Belgian violinist conductor and composer)
This crowd is more than sophisticated enough to refrain from applauding between movements but did so anyway, spontaneously, just because Mr. Hadelich played this piece so well.
We were somewhat embarrassed by this outburst, but sometimes it is appropriate.

The main part of the evening's entertainment started off with Felix Mendelssohn's Trio for violin, cello and piano. A typical bit of perfectly constructed music by F.M. enjoyable enough I guess.

After which we were taken back to the movable feast of between war Paris with Darius Milhaud's "La Creation du Monde" replete with Le Jazz Hot riffs, with a fine nose of blue scale aromas and hints of George Gershwin and the Apollo.

After the intermission, I got lost in Dvorak's trio for violin, cello, and piano "Dumky" "dumky" is the plural of "dumka", which are folk songs of the region in an eastern, or Gypsy, or Jewish scale. Kind of melancholic, one of my favorite sounds along with the blues scale.
But there was too much of it and my blood sugar was running low so, even though I loved the music, I heard too many places where it would have been a good place to stop.

Which it eventually did.

Like this post will do now.

A much better review written by R.M Campbell may be found on the following link.

Gathering note

Thanks are due to Steven Lowe for the informative program notes.

Next show for us will be Monday.

My apologies to Mr. Dvorak for the lack of diacritical marks in his name, but my HTML chart doesn't list them.

I've linked Gathering Note so you can go there any time you're here and find out what's happening on the music scene hereabouts.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Jackson, Amadeus

There was something in the way he moved.
A child of exceptional talent raised in a controlling and exploitative world and used by the jungle for any purpose other than his own welfare.
Never allowed to develop his own survival strategies other than a bizarre external life.
The only peace, the only escape, being fantasy, the neverland of childhood.

Sound familiar?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Chamber Music Festival.

Monday evening I attended the opening of the Seattle Chamber music's 28th season and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

The evening started (after a meal at Macaroni's in Northgate mall) with pre-concert recital of Ottorino Resphighi's Sonata for violin and piano.
James Ehnes-violin and Andrew Armstrong-piano.
Not too terribly impressed with that, seemed pretty vague, but whadda I know?

I know that I really liked Claude Debussy's Sonata for violin and piano which started the main part of the concert.
Amy Schwartz Moretti-violin and Andrew Armstrong-piano.
It is a tautly constructed piece which sparkled with invention.
A display case of lovely gems.

After which we heard Robert Schuman's Trio for violin, cello, and piano.
Augustin Hadelich-violin, Robert deMaine-cello, and Jeremy Denk-piano
The first movement seemed to lack the energie und leidenschaft promised, but the middle two movements were rich, sonorous and moving.
The last movement labeled "Mit Feuer" definitely was fiery.

After the intermission we were treated to Johannes Brahm's quartet for piano and strings (violin, viola, cello) the final movement of which was as energetic and exciting as Brahms gets.
James Ehnes-violin, Richard O'neill-viola, Bion Tsang-cello, and Adam Neiman-piano.
It's hard to say why Brahm's bothers me as it does.
Maybe it's just that it seems to try so carefully not to be Beethoven.
Wish it could be a bit more heedless, I guess.

Duo, trio, quartet, nicely arithmetic and rhythmic at the same time.

So anyway, the most interesting bit, aside the excellent page turning, was, as usual, Jeremy Denk.
Our seats were to the far right of the hall so there was no chance of seeing Mr. Denk's hands but we had a beautiful view of his head and shoulders framed by the piano lid and the cellist.
The man has terrific embouchure, so very important to any endeavor involving the use of ones hands.try gluing a couple small things together without making a face, just try it. And it's more than the face work, he uses his whole body to direct the piece.
His conducting choreography really helps me to follow and understand the music.
Great blog site too.

Anyway, I've got to stop fooling around with raketts, mandoras, facebook videos, (I posted a video of myself playing a wheezy version of "Sing, Sing, Sing" on my facebook profile) and get back to writing music, something I promised myself to take seriously.
I'm beginning to sense a symphony looming. I should try to resist, considering that the first ten were garbage, but what is life if not challenge?

It's getting late, I should proofread, but I'm tired.

More chamber music tomorrow.

Good night and goodnight Ms. Ophelia, wherever you are.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

3rd 4th 5th

I dressed up for the salon this time, don't know why. I guess it's just that I have all these jackets and black slacks and black t-shirts with Seattle Chamber Music Society logos on them and if I put them on all at once, it looks dressy.
Some interesting music, as usual. My favorite was the violin solo featuring eastern, Gypsy sounding music accentuated by the colors of some Chagall slides. Very effective.
Gavin Borcherd also had an interesting piece for cello and violin. Based in part on the sonorities of the hardanger fiddle, a Scandinavian instrument which is basically a violin with four drone strings running under the bridge to give it some uh...extra texture.
Confirmed my spot on the next salon. I'll be presenting a piano reduction of the 2 violin concerto. That oughta be fun.

Fourth of July had the family over. Janet, Mack, Leah, Wally, Ruby, Wyatt, and cousin Gary. Beer, barbecue, chips, hamburgers, hot dogs, sausage, watch all the fireworks lining the shores of the lake.
Made a video of me playing my rakett to post on my Facebook site.
Read a book too...about Roald Dahl's time during WWll in Washington spying for the Brits, hoping to get Us into the war.

Today laid around, glued strakes to the mandora (or whatever it might turn out to be)
Almost done with the hull next is the neck and the sound board. Sound board will be made from the soundboard out of my old $100 piano I had to disassemble to get out of the Queen Anne house when I moved out.

Not really in a crazy mood tonight, feelin' all mellow, can't think of a punchline for all this that turns it all into a absurdist satire on the state of my mental processes.

So, good night to all my loyal readers, the disloyal ones, too.
And goodnight Ms Ophelia, wherever you are.
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