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a nice story about learning to sing

I came across a blog entry from John Stark describing how he learned to sing. The thing is, he was convinced he couldn’t do it. He had been lip-synching the National Anthem for years.

He considered himself tone-deaf. And yet he learned to sing.

This is such a good lesson to everyone. As his teacher, Hal Schaefer, explained,

“Most people can’t sing because they have psychological blocks,” Hal went on. “To sing, you have to put yourself out there. You can’t be afraid to open your mouth. Why do you think opera started in Italy? It’s because Italians are vocal. When we go to sing in front of others, we’re afraid of being criticized. We tighten our throats.”

Thanks, John Stark. I love your story.

PS You can read about Hal Schaefer and Marilyn Monroe in Stark’s article, too.

what if music notation were completely different?

I came across this music notation the other day.

Hummingbird is a new form of notation that communicates the same information as the conventional method does, but arguably in an easier-to-process fashion.

I looked at it with interest, but could not wrap my brain around it. I am guessing this has nothing to do with the merits of Hummingbird. It’s all about my brain and how conditioned it has become over the years to looking at things one way.

It’s not that I love conventional notation. Far from it. When I’m away from it for any length of time, I get ‘rusty’ and have to take the time to get back my facility with it. Anytime I am rusty, I look at it and it looks back, unhelpfully – it’s mostly gobbledygook. I wouldn’t argue that it’s simple or intuitive or streamlined or anything like that. It’s not particularly good-looking either.

Like MIDI graphic notation, Hummingbird uses horizontal lines to show note duration. Reminds me of the ‘player piano’ view in my recording and editing software (I use Logic).

Hummingbird also gives each of the note names from A to G an iconic symbol shaped like a notehead. So wherever you are, in whatever clef, you will know an A is an A is an A. Sharps and flats are little linear symbols attached to the notehead, aiming up, for sharps, and down for flats. Key signatures go away most of the time, and the key is written in at the beginning. Time signatures stay the same. The other markings like staccato, marcato, etc. stay the same.

I wonder if the world at large will make a change from conventional notation to this or some other system. Ever.

The current system has the advantage of being understood without needing translation, in most parts of the world. A new system might, however, be considerably easier to learn and teach to new musicians. So which way will it go? Which way should it go?

The Hummingbird Guide on its website has a short video, testimonials from kids (who love it) and downloadable music to give it a try yourself.

Any chance this will catch on?

it takes a village or a red/big room

We’re celebrating nine years of marriage this weekend.

Here’s how it happened:

Summer 2000, I went to Rosanne Cash’s songwriting workshop at Omega. It was an inspired and inspiring time. Rosanne and the crew changed my life. There, among strangers who became friends, I wrote a love ballad to a man I had not met.

Spring 2002, I met him and Fall 2003, we got married.

Couldn’t have done it without you all! That big room, the space we created for each other, well, they made a difference.

Big hugs to all.



back from vcca

So my three weeks at VCCA flew by, punctuated by gorgeous weather, photogenic sunsets, and wonderful glimpses into other people’s work – paintings, drawings and prints, readings of poetry, fiction and memoir. I even did a reading of a memoir I wrote about my history with salad dressing.

Oh and I dug deep on the Luna Project. I think I’ll give it a rest for a bit so it can marinate while I take care of some business and crank out some music books (written by other people). Then I’ll come back to it ready to go the final distance.

Met some wonderful people there. All told, a tip-top time!


PS Artist friends out there – look into VCCA as an opportunity for you to find the focus and space you know you could use.

VCCA said Yes

So excited!

This fall, I will pack up my files and keyboard and laptop and head about an hour and a half south of Charlottesville, to VCCA. There, for three weeks, I can do what I like. I’ll have a studio and a dorm room and three meals a day.

Haven’t been there in four years, and again will arrive knowing none of my fellow ‘fellows.’ But I imagine by the time I leave, some new people will have joined my circle, and I theirs.

Mostly, though, you go there to soak up the space and time, and, when you are full, to draw from the sources we draw from, to make something. For me, I hope the Something will be a Luna Project close to completeness. But I could be surprised.

It is just wonderful news!