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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...

Tuesday, December 31, 2019


On the one hand, I want to be badass about learning a lot of piano music and writing a lot of pages on the book. On the other hand, I want to have a feeling of self-compassion toward myself, forgiving all.  These sound like contradictory goals, but then again, does beating myself up make me better at anything?

For example, I am a terrible piano player and a very, very good literary critic (let's say!).  But the attitude I take toward these two activities is very similar. The frustrations and small triumphs I feel produce the the same variety of emotions, whatever the activity is. If you begin to play the piano, you will likely be terrible at it for a while, so the inability to accept that fact will deter many people from even starting. Either they suspect, rightly, that they will be terrible, or they start out and realize that they have to start out from that place of utter incompetence, and aren't very accepting of that situation. By the same token, being very, very good at something just means that the frustrations will be of a different, and more advanced sort.

So the idea of being good at something, or terrible at it, is kind of meaningless, at the phenomenological level of doing the activities from the inside, what they feel like to you. It's ok to know you are horrible at something, but in a humorous, constructive way.

 I am horrible at meditating, I could think, but I've gained these insights from my practice, so maybe I'm not so horrible after all.

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Edmund Wilson

I'm reading Axel's Castle.  The surprising thing is that he never uses the term modernism, in a book published in 1931, and dealing with Yeats, Valery, Proust, Joyce, and Stein. So modernism was not (yet) the term for this literary movement the Wilson describes, while modernism was still going on. There is an appendix, a memoir of Dada by Tzara, that had a substantial impact on me when I first read it around 1975. So the avant-garde seemed to exist for Wilson, but as an appendix.

I'm sure modern was used, by Laura Riding for example, and I think modernist too around this time. It would be useful to track it down.

Monday, December 23, 2019

In which I continue to be happy

The Lorca / music project opened up to me a whole world of music I was barely if at all aware of. Nono, Revueltas, Mompou. And to a whole world of research.  A lot of the music / poetry books are very recent, like Englund on Celan, Abbott on Baudelaire. This is an exciting time to be in this field. It is also the culmination of my own career (to date).

Someone should do a book like this on Wm. Blake, I'm thinking.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

January Goals

January goals:

Practice 5 standards I already know somewhat.

Finish intro to Lorca IV.

Record book I of Música callada.



Practice 5 standards.

Add one more standard: "All the things you are."

Begin work on Mompou book II.


Later in the year:  other standards

"There will never be another you"
"Body and Soul"
"Giant Steps"

1 more, to be determined...

If I can discipline myself to learn only ten standards, then I will know those.  If I try to learn 20, I won't even learn the first 10.

Saturday, December 21, 2019


I don't at all disdain revision. I frequently start a writing session by going over what I have written so far, on the chapter, and make minor tweaks. If I find a sentence I don't like, or that doesn't express an idea in the way I want it to sound, I rewrite it. If it looks like I've written a paragraph too quickly, or I need to develop a sub-idea in that paragraph, in a paragraph of its own, then I will do that.

I make an effort not to repeat words. I will see if I've used a word more than once in a paragraph, or twice on a page. Of course, my current book has LORCA LORCA MUSIC MUSIC LORCA MUSIC LORCA... I can't quite avoid that. But I do attempt to take out a few of those too.

What I object to in the idea that nobody can write a decent first draft, though, is that when pen and ink were expensive and cumbersome to use, people, not even professional writers, wrote fluent letters with few if any blot-outs. They just did. An ordinary college student can write an email with normal grammar and it is fine. Anne Lammott could presumably write a spontaneous email to her editor and not revise it, and it wouldn't be shitty as a piece of writing.

Everyone should be able to compose mediocre prose on cue. A good writer will produce first drafts that are good. A superb writer, first drafts that are a bit better than good.


I don't revise poems, because they tend to occur to me whole.  I don't like to make my poems sound "written." If they are over-written, even worse.

5 Standards

For my 2020 goal of learning 10 standards, I will start with 5 I already know to some extent.

Rhythm Changes
Bemsha Swing
One Note Samba
Satin Doll
Autumn Leaves

I will practice those in January, then I will go on to 5 others that I don't know as well.  TBD....

Thursday, December 19, 2019

A Dirty Secret

The dirty secret of productivity is that you only need an hour a day on writing. It is almost impossible to spend an hour a day writing and not produce 200 words. 200 x 365 equal the length of a scholarly monograph. Since nobody writes a book a year, this means that nobody is doing this all the time, or even a considerable amount.  

Now you don't want to be doing this all the time, only when you want to be writing a book. You need time to do some research on what you are interested in, or simply rest between projects. Some projects won't work out, of course, and life gets in the way.

The secret is consistency; that's why the Seinfeld chain works so well. Two books that took 10 years each to write, I did without the Seinfeld chain. The one that I wrote in a year, well, you know how I did that.

When you wrote yesterday and the day before, and the day before that, then you wake up today full of ideas and you immediately write them down in your book manuscript. If you didn't write in the last month, it will take some time to get back into it. Working through weekends and holidays is easy, because it is just an hour. You never get burned out even; you just live the project all the time.  Taking every Friday and writing seven hours doesn't work, because I can't write for seven hours at a stretch.

It is dumb not to do this during a sabbatical, but it is harder to do, because you aren't at a desk. Writing while teaching is actually brilliant, because the writing fits into the daily schedule of work. '

I am setting an absurd goal: to write the book in 2020 and to learn all 28 of the MC by Mompou and come up with a decent recording of them.  I also want to learn 10 jazz standards to a point where I an improvise on them. Not only that, but those are my only goals for the year. There is nothing else. Later on, I will blog on which standards I want to learn. I've learned that goals should be ambitious yet realistic, and finite in time.


I sometimes view myself as underutilized by the University. I could do so much more. And yet my salary is low too... But instead of focussing on the salary, I need to focus on how my talents can be used, which means looking beyond my employer. I shouldn't worry about the money part of the equation, but on the utilization of talent part. Of course, everything we do in this respect is unpaid labor, or too sporadic. I think I just have to not care, and do more, and see what happens. It can't be bad.

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

I Read Myself

Once in a while I go back and read posts written several years ago. I just go to my stats and see what older posts have gotten some hits, and see what the posts are. I like this because I have forgotten writing these things. Sometimes these posts are good, but I can see how good they are from the outside, having forgotten them.

The sabbatical continues

Lorca: The Musical Imagination belongs to a select genre of studies of the musical legacies of major literary figures. Books of this type are few in number, in part because most writers—even canonical ones—have not inspired enough music to justify an entire monograph. What is more, apart from a few older works on Shakespeare, Goethe, and Schiller, the genre is of relatively recent vintage, arising out of the interdisciplinary field of “word and music studies” beginning in the latter decades of the twentieth century. Typically, such books will be categorized in the Library of Congress system under subject headings like “Baudelaire, Charles—musical settings—history and criticism.” 
Recent books—some monographs and others edited collections—have been devoted to the musical afterlives of Baudelaire, Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Paul Celan, and Samuel Beckett—a group including only writers of great literary prestige. Samuel Beckett and Music (1998), edited by Mary Bryden, includes treatment of various aspects of Beckett’s involvement in music and collaboration with composers. Walt Whitman and Modern Music: War, Desire, and the Trials of Nationhood (2000) edited by Lawrence Kramer, is oriented toward issues of national formation. In Still Sounds: In and Around the Poetry of Paul Celan, Axel Englund focuses on Celan’s deep ambivalence toward “musicality,” examining the complex metaphorical relations between music and poet). In Baudelaire in Song (2018), Helen Abbott is more interested in prosody and the technical details of text setting. She includes, for example, charts about how composers have treated the mute vowel sound e
These volumes do not all employ the same methodologies, nor do they address identical issues. I take this variety of approaches to mean that the critical problems at issue in musical adaptations will depend upon who the writer being studied, how he or she has been set to music, and the proclivities of the interpreters. My own approach to musical settings of the work of Lorca is not directed to musicologists, but to readers of literature with an interest in music. To this end, I will pay close attention to the music itself, but without the sort of technical details that might alienate a large proportion of my potential readers. Since I am an amateur jazz pianist and songwriter rather than a trained musicologist, I am not tempted by such an approach anyway. My main concern, rather, is with the various meanings this music has acquired in its creation, performance, and reception.
In this book I will treat the meaning of a piece of music as contextual. In simplistic terms, I will assume that a piece of music means exactly what the listener thinks it does. Musical meaning is not the province of professional interpreters, but of all listeners. In this respect, at least, musical meaning is somewhat analogous to the concept meaning in literary theory. In vocal music, musical meanings will be closely tied to verbal ones.  Just as the title of a purely abstract painting might strongly condition our interpretation it, the lyrics of a song provide the context for interpreting the song as a whole. There is certain asymmetry, then, between musical and verbal meanings: music is emotionally powerful but semantically diffuse; words have more definite meanings, even when language itself is considered a less artistically expressive medium music.
Discussions of the meaning of music tend to be literary in nature, in part because they take place in a verbal medium. The remark sometimes falsely attributed to Frank Zappa that “writing about music is like dancing about architecture” ignores the fact that language is capable of discoursing about anything at all. From this perspective, the idea that music is ineffable—untranslatable by verbal means—is an unpromising point of departure. This does not mean that a verbal description or interpretation can stand in for a piece of music, or that music is paraphrasable. What is does mean is that we use language to discuss our interpretations of music. This effect is even stronger, of course, when the music in question is already explicitly linked to a work of literature: in interpreting musical meaning, we tend to turn first to the words of the song or to the narrative structure of the opera. The process, then, involves the interpretation, in language, of the musical interpretation of another verbal object, such as a poem or play.    
A focus on the interactions between musical and poetic meanings can shed light on the cultural reception of a poet, like Lorca, who has inspired music in a wide variety of contexts. In cases where a poet has not inspired very much music, the insight gained into his or her reception might be relatively meager. With Lorca, however, there is a large enough corpus to allow for generalizations about the larger patterns of resonance in his musical afterlife—broader tendencies that reveal why Lorca is such a pivotal figure, not just in Spanish literature, but also in other cultural contexts. What, then, are the issues at stake in Lorca’s musical legacy? Lorca, I will argue, is an object of desire for musicians precisely because of his relation to forms of Spanish vernacular music that have long been enveloped in a mystique. 

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

The sabbatical begins

Chapter 1
Lorca: The Musical Imagination
This is not a book about Federico García Lorca’s own extensive musical activities, but about the many works of music he has inspired after his political assassination, in 1936, at the beginning of the Spanish Civil War. I have devoted two previous volumes, Apocryphal Lorca (2009) and Lorca’s Legacy (2019), to the literary and cultural legacy of this central figure of modern Spanish literature. A study of his musical influence, in my view, is a logical extension of these other projects. In fact, the critical problems of interest to me here are similar, even when the materials and methodologies might vary.  
Like translations and other forms of creative adaptation, musical settings set into motion new meanings in new contexts of reception. As a consequence, they tell us about what the work of Lorca has meant to a wide variety of people across the globe, over the span of more than eighty years. The premise of almost all of my work on Lorca has been that creative adaptations are informationally rich, providing insights into his reception that would not otherwise be available. Jerome McGann has called this mode of interpretation “performative,” contrasting it with more conventional academic reading practices: “Within that general field of dynamic reflection we might usefully distinguish two kinds of interpretive action: a mode oriented in performative models, of which translation and parody are perhaps the master types, and a mode oriented in scholarship, which is our customary exemplar of interpretation” (137).  
This perspective differs from traditional views of a translation—for example—as a simply a  reproduction of content, to should be judged by its fidelity to the original. What is significant about translation, surely, is the new information it releases, not the degree to which it corresponds (or fails to correspond) with the original. I also believe that my work on Lorca’s reception has led to new insights about “Lorca himself.” In other words, studying his work indirectly, through its subsequent refractions, has generated ideas about his work that would otherwise not have occurred to me. What is more, creative adaptations like translations, parodies, film adaptations, theatrical performances, and musical settings all have an inherent vibrancy lacking in academic literary criticism. Writers who live on through these new acts of creation remain relevant in a way that doesn’t occur through scholarly exegesis alone. While the notion of the literary canon is usually discussed only in the context of academic teaching and scholarship, hypercanonical figures live on in numerous other ways outside the school and university.          
Why music? This is a logical object of study because of Lorca’s own musicianship, because of the inherent musicality of its poetry, poetics, and drama, and because of the abundance of music indebted to him. A large quantity of available material, in and of itself, is not sufficient justification for a work of scholarship. Yet surely it is striking that Lorca is the twentieth-century poet most frequently set to music, in both classical and vernacular idioms and in a wide variety of geographical settings—in Spain, other parts of Europe, and the Americas. In fact, he has few if any close rivals in this respect. There is no other modern poet, for example, who has a strong presence in the world of classical music and also in a vernacular style like flamenco. Clearly, then, it is necessary to explain why Lorca has been an extremely attractive figure for musicians around the world. At some point the sheer quantity of materials produces a qualitative effect, making Lorca a kind of point of reference or touchstone in a way only a few other poets have been. 
Lorca: The Musical Imagination belongs to a select genre of studies of the musical legacies of major literary figures. Books of this type are few in number, in part because most writers—even canonical ones—have not inspired enough music to justify an entire monograph. What is more, apart from a few older works on Shakespeare, Goethe, and Schiller, the genre is of relatively recent vintage, arising out of the interdisciplinary field of “word and music studies” beginning in the latter decades of the twentieth century. Typically, such books will be categorized in the Library of Congress system under subject headings like “Baudelaire, Charles—musical settings—history and criticism.” 
Recent books—some monographs and others edited collections—have been devoted to the musical afterlives of Baudelaire, Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Paul Celan, and Samuel Beckett—a group including only writers of great literary prestige. These volumes do not all employ the same methodologies, nor do they address identical issues. 

Monday, December 16, 2019

An extreme view

"The moment the composer begins to create the musical verses of his song, he destroys our appreciation of the poem as poetry, and substitutes an appreciation of his music as song. This is true of even such exactly corresponding pattern of poetry and music as the endlessly repeated verses of a folk song. In fact, it is in my opinion the absolute of the song as a genre. ... As soon as we sing any poetry to a recognizable melody we have at that instance left the art of poetry for the art of music."

Michael Tippett, "Conclusion" to A History of Song, ed. Denis Stevens.

I disagree, but I am glad to have a view stated like this by a composer. The main dichotomy is between a view of song as song, a unified art form, and song as a hybrid; in the latter view, the music usually comes after and is destructive of poetic value, or at least antagonistic toward it.

Usually vernacular traditions are more geared toward fusion, and classical traditions more toward hybrid views. But Tippett is uncompromising.

Elegant signposting

Signposting, though I do not like it much for my own writing, can be artful. When it is inelegant, it stops the flow of the paper and reveals a lack of organization, rather than a tightly marshaled argument. When it works well, it is obvious but at the same time unobtrusive; it doesn't impede the progress of the central line of reasoning.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019


The next step if finding a program that spits out the score of what I play.  I discovered in garage band that it will give you the notation of what you played, but with a catch. You have to play exactly with the measure lines and with a very precise intentionality to the note values--no rubato, no fermata.  My scores looked bizarre, with all the "ones" in funny places in the measure and funky sixteenth note rests and ties in funny places (not funky in the musical sense.) On my recordings of two classical pieces, let's just say the recording looked nothing like the original score. It would be like having an idiot transcribe your speech, and not because I played them incorrectly. Nobody in their right mind would want to read music written in this way. It is frustrating but hilariously funny at the same time.

Still, it is progress. If garage band does it, then other DAWs will as well, probably with better luck. I could also play with a metronome and make my notes line up mechanically, just for the purposes of having legible scores. Notating software programs are a nightmare.

It is odd that you can download a video easily into blogger, just a simple one recorded on your phone, but not a purely audio file, without a lot of complication.

S****y drafts

Here is a nice take on my take on shitty first drafts.  I like the way Thomas frames my words and makes me look smart.

I was citing something from Jerome McGan in my introduction:

“Within that general field of dynamic reflection we might usefully distinguish two kinds of interpretive action: a mode oriented in performative models, of which translation and parody are perhaps the master types, and a mode oriented in scholarship, which is our customary exemplar of interpretation” (The Scholar's Art 137).  

I really like what this quote says, but I don't particularly like it from a prose standpoint. I'm sure it is the way he wants it to sound, because he is a guy who knows what he wants. It is not an accident. But if I wrote it I would take out some of the qualifiers and hedges to make it sound less clunky. Anyway, when Thomas cites me, I am glad that my own prose holds up to his. You can cite someone who writes worse than you do; if you cite someone who writes a whole lot better, then watch out!  I first experienced this in grad school, where I quoted something by Jonathan Culler and the prof. noted how much more gracefully I was writing compared to him.  Of course, this is relative to one's own taste. The clunky style is probably just a matter of comfort, like wearing an overcoat two sizes too big. 

Listening Without Ego

When I listen to my recordings without ego, this means that I am listening for what I like and do not like. If something turns out nice, and I like it, that is good. If things are not to my liking, then I make a note of that too. I hear myself overemphasizing something, being too much on top of the beat, rushing through a melodic phrase rather than giving it its full value. The voicings could be muddy, with too much bass.  Being a good musician is being able to listen for all of this.

The things I liked were some good voicings that sounded smooth and sweet, some melodic lines; the overall feel of things at times. The main thing is that it is my own taste that is the guide. I can hear something and say it is to my taste or not. The ego is out of the way in that I don't have to get upset or over-elated about what I hear. I can just try to keep the good stuff and not as much of the things I dislike.  I hear a lot of players much better than I am who are not to my particular taste.


I actually like playing scales.  There is a satisfaction in knowing all of them and improvement is very rapid. I want to be able to play all the major scales and then some other modes, like dominant lydian in a few keys. I think it will improve both my jazz and classical playing.

Monday, December 9, 2019


I watched some youtube videos to see how to connect my keyboard to my computer.  It seemed complicated. Then I read the manual and it just said use a USB cable. I was about to go and buy one when I remembered that I had one hooked up to my printer. I took that off and hooked up my keyboard, and it worked. I recorded myself using "garage band" and the sound was not that of my own keyboard, but of this program's "steinway grand." It sounds pretty good. I recorded a few songs and they sound fine. I didn't even have to do multiple takes. What was in my brain pretty much came out the way I wanted it to. There are some minor imperfections, but I don't really care as long as the overall concept comes through.

So something I thought of as difficult turned out not to be so. I had been getting in my own way.

One thing is a kind of dumb self-doubt. We worry so much about being good enough, but that isn't usually even the question.  I read a book by McClure and was thinking, this is not at all my cup of tea, but I'm sure that this opinion is largely beside the point for McClure himself. Not only would he not care about my opinion, but he really shouldn't care. Where would it get him to know that from a mentality like mine, his work cannot really fully speak. He already knows this, not because of me, but because many people probably don't dig it and writing for them would be pointless.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Dept politics

I can't blog about it in detail because I do not blog anonymously, but my department is going through a political crisis now. There was a particularly contentious meeting I walked out of the other day. The feeling among some is that a colleague should be shamed and publicly ostracized. I do not believe this is a good idea moving forward. This will not be a punishment for this colleague, as people think, but for the group as a whole, which will no longer be able to function collectively.

Saturday, December 7, 2019

Patterns of Resonance

I post more when I am working more steadily on research because I am at my computer and generating ideas. Coming up with one idea in a day is actually quite good. A few days ago I came up with the phrase "patterns of resonance," by which I mean tendencies traversing a large number of literary works.

Today I thought of something I haven't been able to name yet, but it is the extra something emerging from a text in its musical setting. The "value added." This is analogous to what occurs in the "domestic residue" (Venuti) of a translation. I got the image in my mind of a dried flower re-releasing its aroma.


A person in my circle of acquaintances is an artist. Up to a certain point, I hadn't had many one on one conversations with him, but on one occasion I started to talk to him about literature. He knew some of the beat writers from having been close to Wm. Burroughs who lived in Lawrence, and has read a whole lot of poetry by Ed Dorn or Robt. Creeley, what have you. The other people in our group don't really have this kind of interest, so it is kind of interesting that I can talk to WP about this stuff.  Yesterday he brought me some very rare books from the period of American lit.  We talked about Ted Berrigan too.


Today I repeated the exercise of singing the note at the middle of my range first thing in the morning. It was F#3 this time. It is never very far from that G3. !


When I am working on a book I regain that feeling of having something to say, of not being a bum. I have that utter self-confidence I once had, and lost, and regained again, and lost....


Musical Meaning

I think musical meaning is contextual.  It is meaning for someone particular at a particular time. The meaning of a piece of music is whatever the listener says it is, simplistically speaking. [This is true even if we have an internationalist view of meaning: we still have to posit a listener reconstructing an intention. It still has to be a meaning for someone.] It is pointless to invest too much in one's own interpretations, or to argue that others' interpretations are not valid ones.

The meaning of music directly tied to a literary text will be an extension of the meaning of the text. In other words, since literary meanings are much more directly semantic, they will strongly condition the reception of the musical meaning, providing a set of cues. We can talk about this musical meaning in tension with the meaning of the words of the text, but in that case we will talk about the setting as being inappropriate to the text, not vice-versa.

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Other degrees of canonicity

Being "best of category" or best-known representative of a national literature.  Cervantes for Spain. Shakespeare. Goethe, Dante. Or of a century: Lorca for twentieth century Spain.

Celan, for being the best-known European poet of post-war period. Baudelaire for being, well, Baudelaire.

The founders of disciplines or whole schools of literature. Borges.

My Memory

A few days ago I began to read a novel by Paul Bowles that I picked up at a used bookstore. In the prologue, an American man identified only by his last name is at the house of some Moroccans he knows well, in Fez. It is the mid-fifties of the last century. It is midnight and his hosts insists on hiring him a guide to get back to his hotel. There is an argument here, because he doesn't think he needs a guide, but they insist and hire a Berber man, paying him in advance. The streets are very dark and they take a circuitous route. Everything is focalized through the American man's consciousness, but in third person. He tries to take out a flashlight, but the Berber guide thinks it makes up too much noise. There is a discussion of the "Moslem mind" and two perspectives, one minoritizing and one universalizing. The minoritizing perspective is that Westerners will never understand the complications of the Eastern mind. The universalizing perspective is that people are the same everywhere, with just different rituals and gestures. The narrator refers to the minoritizing perspective as hypocritical. There is reference to another Western man, "Moss," who is English. There is a long discussion of how the American man can find his way in the dark very easily through a process almost like echolation, by listening to the echoes of own footprints and to the sound of water flowing in the river. There is obviously something different about tonight, when the city is darker than usual. There is an air of danger here, because of the darkness and what seems the excessive paranoia of the guard.

They get to the hotel. The Berber disappears as the hotel watchman appears quicker than usual. The watchman tells a lie, saying that he wasn't waiting close to the door. There is a narrative digression about lying.  Moss summons the American to his room, and when the door opens, there is another stranger there along with Moss... He wishes he hadn't come to Moss's room.  


I read this text carefully, reading the first paragraphs of the book several times and reflecting on everything I read, looking for tropes that I might recognize from other literary works. In short, I read it like a professor. Now I could come in to a class and teach this text easily, without even looking at a it, because I retained all of it. This is just a summary of some important things, but I remember more than this. I would have to look up again the proper names, (Denham?) which have escaped me, except for "Moss." I could do the same with a text of literary theory.  Things jump out at me and I take them to be significant.  

The Experiment Continues

I wake up in morning and sing a pitch that I think is smack dab in the middle of my range. It is usually a G3 or a half or whole step off from that. Today I tried is a different way: in the shower of thought of One-Note Samba, which starts on F3. I then sang the first note into my tuner, and it was an F3. The tuner didn't even tell me to tune it up or down. It helps that that note is only a whole step down from the G, and that I often hit that G when I think of the magical middle note. If I think of the first note of All the Things You Are that will be Ab. The first note of Bemsha Swing will be G.

So the experiment is this. For someone who doesn't have perfect pitch, can you train yourself to come up with pitches like this out of the blue? Most people will start to sing a song they have heard many times on or about the pitch where it actually starts, because it is simply more likely than any other pitch, if they don't think about it too much.

If I could reliably hit the G, then I could sing up the G scale to C, etc....

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

3 degrees of canonicity

1. Inclusion on reading lists and academic curricula.

2. The existence of a critical industry devoted to this figure. Is there a Wallace Stevens society? If so, then he is probably a canonical writer. This critical industry will document everything about the writer, life and works.

3. The third modality is creative afterlife. includes performances, translations, and adaptations. A canonical playwright is one whose works are staged. A canonical composer is performed by musicians. Canonical authors are parodied or translated into other languages. And, what concerns me in my present work, some of them inspire music settings

A lot of the secondary literature on the canon only talks about (1). [!]. I think (2) and (3) are more significant, because they are the mark of writers who aren't merely included in a canon nominally but are hypercanonical.

This distinction also helps me clarify my own relation to Lorca. I am interested in (3) but have little wish to be part of (2) in its documentary aspects.


I've realized that the Seinfeld chain only works with a physical calendar. You have to have that physical object to keep yourself accountable. It doesn't work just to say that you will work most days. So I am starting a new chain now. I am on my second day, looking forward to keeping it going through the end of the semester and the sabbatical, etc...

A normal person would wait until the end of the semester, and perhaps after the New Year.  But I am not a normal person.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Dream of Nonnos

In my dream I saw Stan at the Merc. I asked him if he liked my contribution to the Nonnos translation, and he said "Not very much." I said "We'll talk later." When I woke up I realized that it was a dream and felt relieved. Maybe Stan will not dislike my translation.

I get good stuff in the mail

Monday, December 2, 2019

The other part of the routine

The other part of the practice routine is to stop once the timer rings. You can finish the musical phrase or even the piece if you are close to the end, but don't keep working on it once the time is up.

The reason is to keep the practice segments ultra-concentrated. The idea is to see gradual learning over the course of weeks or months.

Sunday, December 1, 2019


Here's a practice routine I have. I set the timer for 10 minutes, and practice one tune. I have a list of 9 tunes and I play all of them  Then for another 10 minutes I play another, random tune, a different one every day. This is 100 minutes. I can also halve it and have a 50 minute day. It doesn't have to be all at once, I can return to the piano throughout the day. What is important is that concentration must remain on the same tune for the entire five or ten minutes.

The tunes vary in difficulty and also in how well I know them. I figure that I could be doing some combination of three types of learning:  learning (for the first time), solidifying, or deepening knowledge. Thus it doesn't matter where on the spectrum a given tune is. If I don't know it well, then I am learning it; if I do, then I am deepening my knowledge of it. I have to be careful that I don't get stuck playing something the same way every time, solidifying when I should be deepening instead.  

5 or 10 minutes is enough to learn, better, one part of a tune, to develop some new improv ideas about it, or to solidify some parts of it. If I don't know the tune at all, it is enough time to play through the melody several times, or to get down a four-bar phrase with the chords.

If this works correctly, then I will have repertory of 9 standards. I could modify the routine by subbing out a tune for another one. The tenth tune is actually the most important part of this, because that allows me to avoid boredom, practice sight-reading, and to gradually expand my knowledge.

The tunes are these

One note samba
Rhythm changes in Bb
All of me
Mr. PC
Giant Steps
Autumn Leaves
Bemsha Swing
All the things you are
Satin Doll