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I am posting this as a benchmark, not because I think I'm playing very well yet.  The idea would be post a video every month for a ye...

Friday, December 14, 2018

Idioms and Proverbs

I'm giving my "Idioms and Proverbs" course in the Spring; I just found out this morning.  This will be a linguistics course rather than a literature one, so emphasis will fall on phraseology rather than "the short form" as a literary genre.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018


I get to play in a piano recital today. The other students are mostly younger than me by about forty years.  I am playing Mompou's Música callada # 22 and a composition of my own. I think that my playing is far better than a year ago, when I probably wouldn't have played even in a kids' recital.  I was playing at a party the other evening and got a lot of compliments.  I am still not good in the sense of being able to play very difficult music, but I am good (not yet great) at executing easy music with sensitivity.  And what would you rather hear, someone playing a simple, beautiful piece beautifully or someone butchering a difficult piece? As I like to say, I have delusions of mediocrity.

Monday, December 10, 2018


I was listening to a cd of Keith Jarrett that I picked up at an estate sale for a buck. It is a solo album of standards, with a lot of sensitive dynamics and chord voicings.  I am sure I can hear it better because I now play piano better than a year ago. I can just hear things that I couldn't before, with more specificity and richness.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

The Concert

The concert was fun.  We sang arrangements of "Here we come a'caroling," "Deck the Halls," "Silent Night." A version of "Twinkle Twinkle."  "Stars" with a text by Sara Teasdale (Esenvalds). "Jessye's Carol." "Brightest and Best." Things like that.  And "Something like a star" by Randall Thompson.

Saturday, December 8, 2018


Here is my productivity tip.  Get up, have coffee and shower, whatever else. Do a few puzzles, and then open up a word document, a chapter of your book, and start working on it. Then stop.

See, you have been productive. It is 9 a.m. now. Days where this does not happen are not productive. Do this several times a week, then the week is a productive one, and the month.  

Thursday, December 6, 2018


Here is my idea: create a series of appendices to a book that, taken together, would be a book in itself. In other words, collect tangential subjects as you do an extended piece of research. Write a short essay or other genre (glossary) about each one.

Hornet's Haiku

Flamencology is a hornet's nest in many ways.  There aren't books in English about it that talk about it in musical terms straightforwardly. It is all filtered through sociological and anthropological discourse. The works in Spanish are more from the point of view of the aficionados themselves.  

There ought to be someone who writes about the lyrics of the cante as poetry. One guy I was reading recently said that they were haiku like.  Well, no, they are not, unless you just mean short.  I think I'm going to have to do it, at some point, since nobody else is going to.

There ought to be someone who writes about the major figures. Imagine if all the book on the shelf on jazz never really got around to talking about the music of Sonny Rollins or Mingus, Trane or Bird, Ella, or Sarah, or Billie.  You would think of that as odd, I think.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

How to make friends

My new colleague A. asked to borrow my books and actually read one of them all the way through and complimented me on it, saying that she laughed out loud at the funny parts.  Often, we don't read each others' books and articles the way we should. Just saying she knows how to make friends in an academic environment.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2018


In the Niedecker piece I decided I can also just play it as wordless song. So each section refers to a poem, with that as the title, and follows the rhythm of those words, but the piece is instrumental rather than vocal. In part because my singing is not yet where I want it to be.



Things are often counterintuitive for me.  I approach things from the opposite direction as I should. I could give examples from both music and visual arts as well as life in general. For example, I played the piano as though it were typing on a computer keyboard, hitting keys in a particular order, until a teacher pointed out that  I should relax my wrist instead.

9 measures

I was writing down a piece of music. I decided not to use Sibelius, and am now using a free program I downloaded on line that is much easier to use. Any way,  I noticed that the phrases are 9 measures long, with a structure A B A B.  Both A and B section have a structure of 5 + 4. It is kind of interesting that I didn't notice that until I started to notate it.  I never thought even of the bar lines at all. I won't know what my Niedecker piece is, either, until I compose it on paper.  I don't even think of quarter notes or eighth notes, though I do think very self-consciously about harmony.


My chair said that a graduate student had told her that I was the only professor who made him feel good about himself.  I certainly didn't tell the student he was great. My method right now is to be hard on the students' writing but very gentle in personal interactions. It seems to be working, and there is some pushback about cancelling my class.


In other good news there is an article by me here.