Monthly Archives: November 2007

I never feel more given to than when you take from me

A Music-for-People friend sent an email yestraday including the following poem and quote. The Bebermeyer poem sums up so well why we musicians need audiences, why we teachers need our students, and why we all need friends. The Nin quote ties it all together.

I never feel more given to
than when you take from me-
when you understand the joy I feel
giving to you.
And you know my giving isn’t done
to put you in my debt,
but because I want to live the love
I feel for you.
To receive with grace
may be the greatest giving.
There’s no way I can separate
the two.
When you give to me,
I give you my receiving.
When you take from me. I feel so
given to.

by Ruth Bebermeyer

Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until
they arrive. ~Anäis Nin


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Best Thanksgiving Joke Ever

We (my kids, my ex-wile/best friend, her dad, my parents, and a former student visiting town) at a great Thanksgiving, held at our next-door neighbor’s house, where there were 5 more adults plus two small children. And at some point after dinner, two more families dropped in. Lots of great food, wonderful company, when the 6-and-under population was highest, plenty of noise. No Thanksgiving is complete, I told my former student (who studied with me in middle school, later in college, and now is just a couple of months shy of 30 and prematurely bald, which reminds me of how middle-aged I really am), with old people, screaming children, and an eccentric gay uncle or two. (My former student had taken temporary refuge with us from his sister’s house with the screaming baby.)

I purposely went carb-crazy and allowed myself to overeat. It was wonderful. And I gained 2 pounds, although (I’m quite thankful for this) my blood sugar is the same as it was yesterday morning.

There aren’t many Thanksgiving jokes, but this one my friend Claude sent to many of his friends is the best one I’ve ever heard:

A man in Phoenix calls his son in New York the day before Thanksgiving and says, “I hate to ruin your day, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are divorcing; forty-five years of misery is enough.”

“Pop, what are you talking about?” the son screams.

“We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the father says.

“We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Chicago and tell her.”

Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone.

“Like heck they’re getting divorced,” she shouts, “I’ll take care of this,”

She calls Phoenix immediately, and screams at her father,

“You are NOT getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, DO YOU HEAR ME?” and hangs up.

The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife.

“Okay sweety,” he says, “they’re coming for Thanksgiving and paying their own way.”

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Marcio Mattos

This guy is cool, too. Obviously I’ve gone off the deep end. (And the water is fine, thank you!)


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Zeno Gabaglio

Found this guy on YouTube as I’ve been exploring the other cello improv videos there. I love the spaciousness of this soundscape piece. And the camerawork is cool as well.

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Demanding wounded vets return their signing bonuses?

I’ve never understood those who say you can’t be opposed to the war in Iraq and simultaneously “support the troops.” Thanksgiving Day is less than an hour away as I write. I feel profoundly grateful to the men and women who put themselves on the line. Even if this war was a colossal, tragic mistake, those who serve when called by their country do something few of us have the courage to do.

So it is a genuine outrage to see that those who serve, get wounded in action and discharged, are being asked to return their signing bonuses.

I have a 19-year-old son. I am grateful he is not at risk. And at the same time, I’m actually in favor of resuming a draft for military service. It is far too easy for those of us who don’t have family members in the service to sit by and shake our heads. Everyone in the country should take responsibility for the mess that has been created and for creating a climate to bring it to a responsible, sane end.

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Iowa Concert Parts 2 and 3

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U of Iowa Improv Performance, Part I

After a good bit of trial and error, I have finally managed to get video from my camcorder all the way to YouTube. Here’s the first part (2 more to come) of the solo improvisation set I did at the University of Iowa School of Music Contemporary Improvisation Weekend two weeks ago (November 3).

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Raspberries and Cream

As of today I have lost 20 pounds following an Atkins-style low carb diet. 263.5 at the start, now 243.5. That’s a BMI (body mas index) of 32.1, considered “obese” (ick). People tell me I don’t look obese, but I definitely have a ginormous belly! My target weight is around 180-185, which would give me a BMI in the upper end of the “normal” category. So there are still 60 or so pounds to go. But, wow, if that means I need to lose about 80 pounds total, I’ve done 25%.

Before I ran out of testing strips for my blood-sugar meter, my fasting blood sugar levels were running in normal ranges (they had been up in the pre-diabetic range).

It’s been about 5 weeks, I think, maybe a touch longer. It’s been extremely low-carb so far; meat, fish, eggs, and leafy green vegetables and salad. No potatoes. No bread. (Well, I think I have had half a piece of bread once, maybe twice.) And absolutely no refined sugar.

It hasn’t been all that hard. I just have to stay away from the bakery section, and by now I’ve lost the bread and ice-cream cravings, and am learning other ways to deal with stress than giving myself a sugar high.

I’m now absolutely convinced that I have the sort of metabolism and body chemistry that is not able to deal with refined sugar, white flour, starchy root vegetables, etc., well. So I see this not as a diet to lose weight, but as a life-style change meant primarily to keep my blood sugar under control. The weight loss is actually secondary, although certainly more visible. I do find my mood is more even, that I have more energy, and that I have greater mental clarity.

The weight is coming off fast enough that I am going to add more vegetables and an occasional bit of fruit. So I celebrated tonight with some fresh raspberries and cream.

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Improv Concert Video Coming

The concert at the University of Iowa on Sunday night went well. The (smallish) audience was quite enthusiastic, anyway. And my son Pete, bless him, who is a freshmen at Grinnell College, an hour down I-80 from Iowa City, came and videotaped the event for me. The concert had three “sets”–I played solo (with looping pedals) for about 25 minutes, then George Wolfe did a set, and then we finished with some ensemble improvisations including faculty and a student from U of Iowa.

I’m going to post my set on YouTube, as soon as I overcome certain technological challenges. I switched from PC to Mac lat spring, and it turns out I have no idea how to edit in IMovie (it seemed blissfully easy in Window Movie Maker). I thought all these Mac programs were supposed to be child’s play, but it isn’t intuitive for me, anyway. I did figure out how to import the video from the camcorder this evening (it involved a trip to Wal-Mart to buy a new Firewire cable).

Evidently I have to actually read the book. Or just ask one of my students!

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In the paper and on the road

I was extensively quoted in an article about cellist Truls Mork in the Indianapolis Star. And this weekend I am in Iowa City, as a guest performer clinician at the University of Iowa School of Music 2007 Contemporary Improvisation Weekend. The other main presenter/performer is saxophonist George Wolfe.

For some reason, I was under the impression George was based in Arizona, and he thought I was based in New York. So we were surprised and delighted to realize we both live and teach in Indiana, he at Ball State and I at DePauw. Just a couple of hours from each other, we look forward to some regular musical collaboration.

Last night (Saturday) we each gave a presentation and than had a panel discussion, with more questions from each of us to the other, it turned out, than from the audience.

I started by telling my improvisation story. While I’d been trained by two of my teachers (Denis Brott and Stephen Kates) to take a very expressive, creative, and imaginative approach to performing classical music, especially Romantic cello music, I’d never felt I had what it would take to improvise or compose. I had a roommate, Philp Manwell, for a couple of years, who could improvise a fugue on the organ. While that had shown me that classical musicians could improvise, not being at the fugue level, I gave up before starting.

Some years later, in a time of personal crisis, I started improvising atonal, aleatoric-style, highly dissonant, angry pieces as a form of therapy. It was an extraordinry release of emotion, and my passion for improvisation was born. I moved on to improvising calming, modal, chant-inspired pieces, and eventually to using electronics, including a looping pedal.

I focused much of my presentation on ways in which we can use improvisation to become mor comfortable with not just ourselves, but our instruments, the vocabulary of (in my case, classical) music, and also as a way to explore and practice actual composed pieces.

So often we tend to think of improvisation as an alternative to classical, composed music. To me, it is a wonderful compliment to it, and has done much to heal my relationship with classical music.

George has developed a motivic-based approach to improvisation, including a book, Motivic Improvisation: A New Approach to Improvising in the Classical Style” with a play-along CD, which can be ordered here. While the style of his music is not Hindustani, his philosophy and approach are very much influenced by his study of Hindustani music. He’s an extraordinary player, and it was extremely stimulating to hear his presentation and demonstrations.

Tonight we share a concert, and will (we expect) be joined by our host, Jeff Agrell, the horn teacher hear at the University of Iowa. I can’t wait!


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