Reviews   (2016Oct18)

20161013xd-babyday03-5

Tuesday, October 18, 2016                                               2:14 PM

Beautiful day. Leaves is fallin. Sun is shinin. Can’t beat that. Sarah McLachlan may be an acquired taste, but her music is fantastic—what a voice. I’m making a video—I just played Bach’s keyboard arrangement of a Vivaldi Concerto in D, an early transposition from an early influence of old J. S.’s.

Then I played an improv—I don’t know what I’m doing, but it felt good. Now if it only sounds good. I called it “High-End Stroller” because that’s what baby Seneca rolls in these days. There’s a break about a minute in—the camera does that every twenty minutes, making a new file, but it loses a second or two of recording. I took too long with the Bach, I guess—it’s not usually a problem because I rarely play piano for more than twenty minutes—and I often restart the camera recording when playing for longer. What I really need is a film crew, I guess.

 

Shall we discuss politics? No! It’s far too nice a day for that—and tomorrow’s the final Shootout at the OK Corral, so let’s wait, shall we?

Autumn preys on my weakness—if anyone ever wrapped themselves up in melancholy, it’s me—and that time of year (thou may’st in me behold, when yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang…) sorry, Shakespeare got me—this time of year makes me dive deep into memory, loss, and the unending cycle of change that is living.

I fairly delight in depression while the summer fades, the leaves fall, and the winter looms. We must remember that ‘clinical depression’ is an imbalance, that modest, occasional depression itself is natural—a way of crawling into bed and putting the covers over our heads, while working or relaxing. Chronic Depression, the problem, is much in the news nowadays—but if you get depressed, sometimes, there’s no need to panic—it is only when it takes over your life that it becomes a problem with a capital ‘P’.

I used to prefer the grey, rainy days—but now I settle for leaves falling—the wet weather chills me to the bone, making me stiff and achy. I still enjoy breezes—you’d have to be dead not to enjoy a breezy day. But enough about the weather.

I just read a sci-fi book called “Machinations” by Hayley Stone. I was disappointed that the plot was a straight rip-off of Terminator, but it was well-written, with good characters, so I finished the book. Dear Ms. Stone: It isn’t science fiction if you don’t have a new idea—it’s just writing, however good. I took one star off of my Amazon rating—because it was a good book, but it wasn’t good science fiction. (If I finish a book, I usually give it full stars.)

I saw the “Ghostbusters” re-make—loved it—loved everyone in it. I don’t see how they could have pandered to fans of the old original any more than they did—and it was nice. Anyone who wasn’t satisfied is just too hard to please.

I enjoyed a few episodes of “Lucifer” on TV, but as with all outlandish premises, they try to ‘mealy-mouth’ it down to a drama, instead of juicing it up into a comic-book fantasy. I watched nine episodes of “Luke Cage” on Netflix, but I’m getting too old for the kid stuff. I’m having trouble with stories that contain corruption, violence, and amorality—they just upset me. My options are narrowing tightly—I’m down to mostly biopics.

I’m trying to read the new Bruce Sterling book, “Pirate Utopia”, but it’s hard—I’m sorry, I just can’t stand ‘alternate history’ sci-fi—it’s a bridge too far for me. Woulda, shoulda, coulda—that’s all it means to me. But Bruce Sterling is heavy-sledding—I’ll keep on for now, and see if I get drawn in. It might be one of those books you don’t get until you re-read it. Sometimes, they’re the best.

Happy Anniversary To Us   (2015Aug29)

Saturday, August 29, 2015                                                12:27 PM

Claire and I have been married thirty-five years today. And as the world has changed quite a bit since August, 1980, so have we—but some things stay the same—I still feel incredibly lucky, Claire still puts up with me, and we are still both happy as clams when we know that our two kids are both fine and dandy. I feel a little guilty, however, since there is only one Bear—and the rest of male-kind has to make do with less-perfect mates—sorry, fellas.

Today’s first video is “Xper Dunn plays Harpsichord on August 29th, 2015 – J. S. Bach’s keyboard transcription of Antonio Vivaldi’s ‘Concerto in D Major’”. As you will hear, it takes me a minute to get me sea legs underneath me in the first movement. The second movement (the slow one, of course) is where I make the least mistakes. And in the third movement, you can hear the computer suddenly make a weird tone, apropos of nothing, which distracts me—while you can also see that I am tiring by this point—just as I’m supposed to be making the last movement all jig-gy and jocular. So, a pretty terrible rendition of one of my favorite pieces of music.

Why, you quite sensibly ask, would I post such a horrible excuse for a performance of a piece I love so much? Well, it’s not about me, really. I learned to love this piece by listening to it over and over again, incessantly, on an LP re-recording of a wax-cylinder master-recording of Wanda Landowska. Wanda Landowska was a legendary harpsichordist and a great proponent of Bach’s enduring legacy to musicians and to music lovers. Even on a scratchy, antique recording, she makes this Bach/Vivaldi piece sound like heaven itself—pure, sweet, perfect, simple. I highly recommend giving it a listen, either before, or in place of, my own awkward attempt:

Back to me—I first came across the sheet music in a library book which I Xeroxed and created my own copy of—years later I would buy a printed copy, which is much easier to sight-read. It tickled me, over the years, to simulate small moments of the beautiful sounds I heard Wanda make—even though I would practice it for years on a piano until I acquired the Yamaha Digital Piano P-95, with the harpsichord setting, that allowed me to make today’s recording. And, as bad as it is, this is by far the best performance I’ve ever made of the Concerto in D—or ever will make, most likely. And when I play this piece, I don’t hear myself making a hash of it—I hear Wanda making it sound like heaven. That’s the trouble with most of my music—I hear what I want to hear, and you poor suckers are stuck with what I actually sound like:

Then again, you’re not going to hear anything like today’s improv anywhere else on the web—at least, I haven’t found it. This leads me to a couple of alternatives—one, the most likely, that I’m a wanna-be New Age musician trying (and failing) to sound like Keith Jarrett or George Winston—while completely overlooking the fact that New Age is no longer new. Or two, that I have succeeded, against all odds, in finding a style that is all my own—which incorporates my failings and what few strengths I may have into a form of music like no other. That would be nice—though it still avoids the question of whether I’m worth listening to.

The Yamaha P-95 once again comes into play today, in that I find touching a ‘piano key’ and hearing weird electronic noises is very refreshing and inspiring to someone who has spent forty years playing an acoustic piano, where a key gives a tone, the same tone, timbre, and texture, always and forever. So, today we hear my usual guff, but rendered into something new by the simple use of a few ‘effects’ buttons—I almost like myself in this:

My mother-in-law dropped off some great blondie brownies—and later I’ve been promised Chinese take-out for dinner (my favorite). I hope you all are having as nice a day as I am.