What Are Things About?

Or, What Things Are About, Or, The Identity Of Things, Or…or…or….


The Met: Musical Instruments

Sea Dragon

The Crosby Brown Collection of Musical Instruments, 1889
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY http://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/501492

This image by the Met Museum Art Collection quite attracted me. I’ve seen many marvelous and antic instruments, but this one really struck me as something more unique in its definition of form. Clearly a dragon. In fact, if you look closely at the inside of the dragon’s mouth, isn’t that a fish hook? Is that meant for us, should we dare poke a finger inside?

Is it also that clearly a musical instrument? I don’t think so. It’s there, the tube and the mouth piece, and the thumb place (the gold pad under his neck) so we know it belongs to the horn and flute family. Or does it? There are no holes from which the notes can flow, the air pulsing out from the Dragon’s spine. But maybe they are on the other side, just not visible from this angle of the photo.

In the interest of scientific research, I asked the neighbor’s visiting child—who is eight years old—what the thing was. (Age might matter in this experiment, as does music knowledge, which he has, playing in a school orchestra.)  He studied it quite seriously in a zoomed large photo of a photo. “Well,” he said, “It is a dragon for sure.” “Anything else,” I asked. “Well,” he said again, “You can see he’s still alive, even though he’s been stabbed.” “Stabbed?” I asked astounded. “Yes. See this?” He pointed to the tube extending curved, from the Dragon’s neck. “They tried to kill him with this but his hide was so thick and tough they couldn’t make it all the way through. That’s how they bent it.” He nodded, more to himself than to me. He seemed satisfied with his assessment. He didn’t even ask me if that was correct. (Kids rarely do.)

“And how do you know he is still alive?” “Well, he doesn’t have his head on the ground and he looks like he’s growling. He’s going to start shooting flames any minute.”

“How do you know he’s going to shoot flames?” “Well, see this?” He points to my fish hook. “That’s what his flames come from. When that goes all down, boy watch out! There’ll be flames for sure!”

Well, there you have it.



Writing The Next Note


“For me Beethoven must be the Greatest composer ever Lived. Probably he was the only Composer who never failed to realize what the next note should be.”

Leonard Bernstein

That seems mainly true of all great or fine—or even just purposeful pursuits—yes? Sometimes I know the next note, sometimes not. When not there’s a flatness to it, a lack of energy. But we mere mortals must plod along.

The Descending Scale

From a YouTube video, concerto attention by Classic fm.

This is how a Ludi (Beethoven) concerto should be played. Quite impressive. As an aside, but related: my take on her thin is that of course she is built that way—we have to know she doesn’t eat. There is no time left after all of the practicing. The pianist is Alice Sara Ott.

To check out the pièce de résistance, tune in to the time mark of 9″30. Enjoy!



Posted by NPR

She died some time this week, 47 years ago. Forty-seven years. I was driving down some street in Iowa City on my way to university when I heard the news on the radio. And there it was. The first thoughts are…No…No…what now?…who will sing those songs for us…who will know?…No…

When I got to the classroom it was silent. No one saying a word. The students in their chairs, the prof standing in front, leaning against the desk. In that silence, in that room on a beautiful day in Iowa City, we were struck. In the confusion of loss and sorrow


AP—Janis Joplin, Woodstock

it was as if we all knew, all at once, that words could not—should not—be spoken. There was that current underneath, that whirlpool of something else that made words insignificant. There would never be enough, never enough of anything. No one else spoke Soul to Soul. No one else could sing the Blues. She was lost to us, and it was we, we who could not save her.

Breath, to breathe, to exhale…

And then somewhat returned from the semi-dead. Oof duh!

I have been in a penitent huddle with myself. The misery of Asthma & ever fluctuating temperatures. Between the sofa shuffle and the O2 misery of mind over matter, I breathe. I did not consider pain or inconvenience or emergency rooms when I smoke smoke smoked that cigarette. And maybe it’s not even all my fault. And you know what? I don’t think it matters one whit. It is what it is. The return is slow, but on the way!


Posted by Classical FM

And I also don’t think that Ludie was sloppy, just that he couldn’t quite get it all out quickly enough. (Maybe no one told him to breathe through it?)




Consider those most difficult: piano pieces, orchestra pieces, double bass, all of them, yes? I wonder if it was intentional by the composer—to make something so difficult that very few musicians even attempt the piece, score, or presentation. I don’t know how some composers had the required stamina to actually write the piece. Take for example, The Mysterium, scheduled for the end of the world. Seriously. That is when it is to be played. And everyone who attends will have a part to play—there will be no observers. I don’t know when the rehearsals are to be held. Obviously I will not be there. I cannot get through the entirety of the piece as a listen. I get it, I really do, it’s just not for me.

La Campanella is at least welcomed by most everyone. And it is as equally enjoyed and played. Playing it however, is indeed a bit of a challenge.

There was a reason Bottesini was known as the Paganini of the double bass. For extra difficulty points, be true to the period and play it on three strings. Personally I’m delighted that I don’t play the bass and have nothing to be challenged by. And it is lovely. Enjoy.

Last for this go ’round, we simply must play some Bach—J.S. Bach – Chaconne in D—The absolute daddy of violin showpieces. SO exposed.

This entire set, plus a few more (later), was presented by Classic FM.