mrissa: (themselves)
Me: I was telling a story and mentioned her friend Harold and then turned to my mom and said, "Not actually a giraffe," and she broke up laughing. Grandma sort of patiently sat there and waited for us to start making sense again.
[livejournal.com profile] timprov: I hope someone's bringing her food.
mrissa: (tiredy)
Still sick and run-down, so have some of my favorite New Year's music:







For some reason I can't find a very important fourth song, Meg Hutchinson's "Being Happy," on YouTube.
mrissa: (mrischief)
So one of the things that's been going on here recently is that I was trying to figure out how to be able to make my good singing and my audible singing more...um...the same. Because I was not having a lot of success with [livejournal.com profile] timprov being able to hear me over the guitar, for one thing. I have talked before about how I do participatory music but not performance music, but that's a thing that affects participatory music. It doesn't have to be a big performance.

When I mentioned to [livejournal.com profile] timprov that this was something I was trying to figure out, he took me through a few things that were incredibly simple and worked. So yay for success! We have done a few things lately like having me sing a song for him while he tried to figure out the chords for it, since he can both play the chords and hear the notes now.

But it was sad to me because I realized that I had been actively taught wrong. Not just not actively taught right, but some of the things that my old church choir director, who was a very dear person, had explicitly taught us with teaching songs I can reproduce to this very day...were wrong. Were directly, exactly, the opposite of what you want to do when you're singing to get a good pure tone with volume control. What I was taught to do with my head and neck while singing was just exactly opposite. And now that I know it, I can look at footage of singers and go, "Uh, yah. They are all doing the opposite of what she taught us to."

Several of my experiences with this sort of thing were things I was aware of at the time and resented. I was, for example, taught that the Germans sunk the Lithuania, and that the Pentagon was on the Acropolis. I was taught that all electron shells after the first one contain eight electrons. And I fussed and fumed and fulminated against the teachers who taught me these things. But with this choir director...I'm just sad. I have fond memories of her. I can't dislike her. And yet she taught me a thing that has made an activity I enjoy more difficult than it had to be, with worse results, for literally thirty years, and I am only 33. I don't really know what to do about that except to be sad and baffled.
mrissa: (question)
1. If I put kiwi fruit in my skyr, is there some kind of ancestral retribution that will fall upon my head? I ask because I keep turning it over and it keeps being a good thing in my head (with almonds, but putting almonds in things is a well-established Ancestral Thing).

2. Do books all demand more than you think they will? Is there ever a book that demands just as much as you think it will, or possibly less? I mean this from the writing end. I have run into a great many books that have demanded a fair amount less of me than I thought they would, from the reading end, and that was sometimes okay and sometimes pretty sad but not actually relevant to the question in my head.

3. Why do the hands remember some hard things I barely played 15 years ago and have no recollection of other, easier things I played the living crap out of 15 years ago? Silly hands. (Some of my old music resurfaced when we cleaned out the basement, and now that the pianos are in an opposite bit of the house from all possible sleepers, I am playing more, because when I most want to play is when the house is empty and quiet. And also because when I have the urge to make music when [livejournal.com profile] timprov is awake, if it's the urge to make music rather than the urge to play the piano specifically, it often seems good to at least ask whether he wants to get out the guitar and sing with me.)

4. It is deeply creepy to feel that you have been rocking gently back and forth to some music and realize that, no, the rocking is entirely internal. Dear vertigo: you have not coordinated with aural input before, and I would appreciate it if you never did again. Also I did not need to live the Bab5 episode where Sheridan is trying to sleep on the Minbari bed. (Dear rest of brain: also did not need to dream the rerun of that episode to make the sensation make more sense KTHX.)
mrissa: (grandpa)
This morning I woke up with my grandpa's voice singing a medley of Credence Clearwater Revival songs in my head. He sang "Looking Out My Back Door" and "Up Around the Bend" and, just as I was waking up, "Bad Moon Rising."

Of course he didn't sing the right words to "Bad Moon Rising." He never did. He loved mistaken lyrics.

I think in some families this would be a disturbing experience, but I found it very comforting. Settling.
mrissa: (amused)
The Smothers Brothers didn't do this bit yesterday, and [livejournal.com profile] timprov had never seen it, so I had to dig it up on YouTube. Here you go:



It's the one with cravasses and the Folk Singer's Manual.

They look just like that now, too. Only maybe a little different.

It was a good birthday in several directions. And now I am trying to figure out how I could fill meringue castles with fudge or whether there's something else nice that can go in a meringue castle.
mrissa: (Default)
Well, this time it worked: I made all of dinner myself, except for the bits where [livejournal.com profile] markgritter got the hot things out of the oven and carried them to the table. If I'd been vertigo-free, I would barely have counted this as cooking: chicken breasts in the oven with bottled barbecue sauce on them, a pot of jasmine rice on the stove, and steamed broccoli in the microwave with a bit of lemon juice and butter and tarragon. This is the level of cooking that nearly slips into not-cooking...except that, hey, you do what you can do, and this is what I can do, and it was an edible and reasonably nutritious meal at the end. Take that, vertigo.

One of my friends made a locked post this week assessing her own recent actions as bitchy. I'm reading a lot of strain on my friendspage from people for various very sensible reasons, ranging from personal to international in scope. I've found myself repeating, "I'm sure she didn't mean it that way," or, "That probably didn't come out as he intended," for all sorts of people around me (and I don't necessarily mean people close to me -- the person doing the estimate on our back door replacement, for example). I have no reason to think that it's everybody else and not me, so for the times lately when you've bitten your tongue and given me the benefit of the doubt lately, thanks.

Here is my unsought secret weapon for dealing with troubled times, whatever their cause: Buddy Holly. Does he fix things? Um, no. Not so much. But really, when does Buddy Holly make things worse? Awfully rarely, in my experience. I mean, there's a good hot beverage, and there's learning new music, and there's all sorts of other stuff that's good, but much of my other stuff for dealing with trouble takes a fair amount of energy. Whereas listening to Buddy Holly is really a pretty low-energy sort of boost. You can just click a link and get to a live 1959 recording of them performing Peggy Sue, complete with totally stationary background debutantes and a brief quasi-apologia for rock music as the intro. Mostly I'm getting my Buddy Holly fix in purely audio form, but I couldn't resist throwing in the leg-twitch for those of you who are really having bad weeks.
mrissa: (tiredy)
There is a poll over at [livejournal.com profile] minnehaha about the upcoming US election. Please go answer it. I was thinking of doing a similar poll myself before I saw [livejournal.com profile] minnehaha's, so I'm curious about the results.

I went and checked YouTube to see if there's a decent vid of "I Am Changing My Name to Chrysler." There isn't, just this, which I think is pretty mediocre in terms of images chosen. But then I watched Lyndon Johnson Told the Nation and George W. Told the Nation and Presidential Rag (no video, just sound) while I was there. It turns out that Mandy Patinkin does a decent Al Jolson (not visually, thank heavens, just vocally). (Also, hands who's surprised that I approve of a beard on Mandy Patinkin.) The thing about YouTube for political stuff is that just when I'm feeling angry that we haven't gotten past some of the problems in the older songs, I get so darn happy that I live in a future where I can compare and contrast Al Jolson and Mandy Patinkin at the click of a button. It isn't everything, but it's something.

(Notice how I told you what you'd be watching with each of those links, rather than just saying "here" or "watch this"? Yah. Funny thing about that.)

In other news, I am not getting a cold! And a good thing, too, because that wouldn't be any fun. I am just drinking lots of juice and tea because I like to. Also tissue boxes are terribly stylish; I think everyone will be carrying them around for fall.
mrissa: (Default)
Ever since I saw the relevant movie, I've been going around mentally questioning people's commitment to Sparkle Motion. All sorts of people. The mailbeing. The arborist's secretary. My great-aunt. You; you are not exempt. Sometimes my physical therapist says, "Do you think we could try this with your eyes closed? Because that's more of a challenge to your vestibular system, if you can do it safely." And my mouth says, "Sure," but silently I question her commitment to Sparkle Motion.

In a very silly way, this makes me feel better.

Also it makes me happy in a very silly way when we both sing the same wrong words to Amazing Grace. This happens with my parents and also with [livejournal.com profile] timprov, though not with Amazing Grace itself, as we all sing the same right words to that, I'm pretty sure.

Also occasionally my brain asks itself what do I mean, William Blake? and I can answer with confidence that I mean William Blake. And that's good, too.

What really stupid or silly things make you happy or comfort you? They don't have to be movie things. Although these all are.
mrissa: (dad)
For my dad's birthday, we met a friend of his he hadn't seen in 37 years, ate green beans and chocolate cake (consecutively, not concurrently), and watched Smothers Brothers clips on YouTube. I know he's had more exciting birthdays, because I've been there for some of them, but this one certainly had its strong points.

Internet interactions will continue to be sparse through tomorrow, since my grands and Aunt Dor and Uncle Rudy will still be in town, so we'll get to do Father's Day stuff with Dad and Grandpa. Which may mean nothing more exciting than steaks on the grill, baseball on the TV, and trying to get a hot game of Blokus going amidst the domino-playing of the older generation, but sometimes it's the company that makes the difference.
mrissa: (Default)
On Monday, a good three or four measures of one of the Bach preludes I've been playing sounded like actual music and not just the right notes in the right places. This is good. This is progress.

I got a lot out of playing the piano when I was a kid -- not least that I believe in it for its own sake. I never liked the contrived stories of how One Kid's Music Brought About World Peace Or Whatever, because for me playing the piano well, making music and not just thumping through the notes, was a goal in itself. It wasn't about Bringing About World Peace Or Whatever any more than reading a book was about Bettering My Mind. So there was that, and there still is.

But when I was a kid, there was also the fact that I could work at my own pace, and my piano teacher didn't make noise about it. I knew that I was improving more quickly and spending more intense time on it than the other kids in my class at school, but it didn't have to matter one way or the other, because the piano was just mine. It had nothing to do with them. And my piano teacher understood that while her praise was nice, I was not taking piano lessons to earn praise, I was taking piano lessons to learn to play the piano. This seems really obvious, and yet a lot of the kids around me were extremely praise-motivated, and so it was hard to get a lot of the adults around me to let go of it. (Not my parents, thank heavens. My parents were -- are -- extremely committed to honest praise. So if I'd thumped and sweated my way through some poor fugue, my parents would say reasonable human being things like, "That's getting better," or, "It sounds like you're working pretty hard on that," rather than, "Wow!!! Excellent!!! You're a star!!!" or some other godawful grown-up praise, or, heaven help us, "That's a very hard piece for someone your age!!!" I never kicked grown-ups who said things like that in their bright and cheerful voices, but they fell substantially in my regard.)

And it wasn't just my piano teacher. When I was around other adults who were music teachers or musicians, for things like the PMI competitions in the area, they knew that I was an above-average little amateur. They knew that I was a moderately musical kid with a quick brain and reasonably dexterous fingers. And they did not leap from that to gushing that I should be a concert pianist. Because I shouldn't, and we all knew I shouldn't. And it was okay not to want to. It was okay with all these adult professionals that I wanted to play the piano well for myself and only myself. This was a motivation they could and did respect. At school it wasn't like that. At school I couldn't do well at anything without people leaping on me and telling me that I should become a doctor or a linguist or an economist or whatever it was. I maintain that it was equally obvious within a few minutes of conversation that I would be remarkably ill-suited for any of those professions. I had an enthusiastic, energetic competence in the related school subjects, and that is not at all the same thing as passion or brilliance. Some professions are possible without passion or brilliance, and some are remarkably ill-advised. And it was such a relief to be around the music teachers and the musicians, who knew it and were willing to admit it.

Right now it's very different. One of the things I'm getting out of playing the piano again, aside from playing the piano itself, which is important, is that I can have a fair amount of confidence that if I practice, I will improve fairly steadily. I have no idea how quickly the PT is going to work, and while we see no signs of impending plateau, there may be one. But with the piano, I know that I will, if I practice, get back to the level I want. There's so much I can't control in my life right now, but I can by God count sixteenth notes for half an hour a day. We are back to the all Bach, all the time program. And it feels good.
mrissa: (Default)
I've been generally trying to keep my reading material towards the low-angst and familiar. Ditto with my DVD viewing material. Now is not the time for dark and depressing.

...except.

Except I was a teenager in the '90s. All of my high school years and all of my college years began with 199-. (All of my junior high years, too. Huh. Busy decade.) And so I began thinking that musically, maybe the warm and fuzzy and cuddly thing was...oh, say...Alice in Chains. Nirvana's Unplugged Album. Maybe some early Tori Amos. Ooh, and is that Alanis Morisette I spy there? Haaayayyayayyoow appropriate.

"'Country Death Song' is what this playlist is all about!" I said to [livejournal.com profile] timprov. "I thought you didn't like 'Country Death Song,'" he said. "I hate 'Country Death Song'!" I said happily.

So now I have the first playlist I've ever made with no member of the Guthrie family on it. It is lacking in both Simon and Garfunkel. Dar Williams? No. Ella Fitzgerald? No. Buddy Holly? No. So many lovely things, not on this playlist. Boiled in Lead makes it in on a technicality, since I had a single cherished album of theirs ("Old Lead," if you're curious) when I was in high school. And I couldn't resist a few Mountain Goats songs, because nothing says, "I'm not sure the songwriter made it home from the recording session without stopping off to slit a few wrists, some of them his own," like John Darnielle. He has the grunge nature.

I'm not sure how long this is going to be the thing. Next week it may be singer-songwriters of the early 1970s, folk songs against war, or some other segment of my personal musical history. But at the moment, I have a playlist that includes things I haven't heard or wanted to hear in years, and it's making me grin.
mrissa: (helpful nudge)
(not an exhaustive list)

1. Backstrom, honey, you are just not allowed to trip the other players like that. I'm glad you fellas won. Hurrah. But whipping your stick around the corner of the goal: no, dear. No. Very smooth, very wrong.

2. Joan Baez has aged beautifully. Holy crap, we should all hope to age as well as Joan Baez.

3. There is sort of a squirmy happy feeling I get on rereading the first book of a favorite series. Even if the book itself is not a favorite within the series, there's the memory of, "Oh, right, this is how it all begins, this is what I first started to love about this series, and these are the bits I couldn't fully appreciate then," that comes creeping in.

4. This is some consolation for not having Murder Must Advertise, which is what I thought I wanted. This approach of trying to get all the Lord Peter books for less than $1 each, used, has not gone well lately. It was fine when I didn't care how soon I had them. Now the bloom is off the rose that is the thrill of the hunt (I'm sorry, I couldn't think of another metaphor to mix in there, so you'll have to make do with two), and I want the remaining ones and wish I'd spent $1.50 or even $2 on them when I was steady and in a bookstore and they were there in front of me. Let this be a lesson to you.

5. It apparently is possible for me to come up with YA SF novel ideas that don't involve spaceships or virtual reality, those being perfectly respectable SF things that are rather overused in YAs, in my opinion. Down side: did I need another novel idea sketched out? Not so much. But here we are.

6. You know all those "[your interest here] is love" graphics that were going around lj awhile back? Pete Seeger really is love. Really. Our PBS affiliate played an hour and a half biography of him this evening, and it was just exactly the thing. Just exactly. He got me all choked up at least three times and bouncy with delight a great deal more than that. Also: Pete's belief in the long run means the long run, not the slightly-less-short-than-short run, not "the long run" meaning "day after tomorrow, Sunday at the latest." This is extremely useful to me at the moment.

But I wasn't going to talk about that part, so I won't.
mrissa: (hippo!)
"If it wasn't for diagnosis, I wouldn't have any gnosis...."

Except I don't. Oh. No gnosis for me.

Darn.
mrissa: (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] timprov got a guitar for his birthday in February (and not, as he initially wondered, a machine gun in the same case), and we went to a Josh Ritter concert this fall. And as a result we have a new New Year's tradition this year: singing "Empty Hearts" together while [livejournal.com profile] timprov played. I looked for a YouTube video of it, but the only one available was really not very good, did not do the song justice. But the refrain is, "Don't let me into this year with an empty heart, with an empty heart; don't let me into this year with an empty heart." It is a good song any day of the year, but it is particularly appropriate for this day. And we added on other songs with good New Year's lines, and it was good, and I want to do it again next year.

I'm never much for New Year's resolutions, as I tend to fling myself into doing things when I think of them rather than saving them for new years of whatever calendar, and also I can't really see how all you people have the energy for this right now. I haven't even put away the black clogs I got for Christmas. I tend to go into January with a cold (improved enough to let me sing today, yay!), and this is the second January out of the last three years in which I've had an important (and long) appointment with a new specialist about something that's playing havoc with my health. I'm having great difficulty seeing what would be reasonable to plan here. I don't really know where to put my feet at the moment. But I can put my head back and sing the line, "And she'll know me by the sound of my hoping," and that, that's okay. That I can do.

And an empty heart does not look like it's any part of the picture, whatever else might come.
mrissa: (question)
Q: What do Josh Ritter, [livejournal.com profile] coffeeem, and my grandfather have in common?

A: They can all make me care about myths and tropes of the American (Cowboy) West when precious little else can.

(I don't have the data about [livejournal.com profile] coffeeem to say whether "A2: They are all good company when driving across Souther Minnesota" is accurate, but I played Josh Ritter albums through the misty hills and prairie, and I've enjoyed talking to my grandpa in similar circumstances.)
mrissa: (happy)
Hey! It's my birthday! I'm 29! Happy my birthday!

[livejournal.com profile] the_red_shoes wants me to be happy on my birthday, so she linked to all the Pete Seeger videos on YouTube. Eeeeee. I am listening to them with bouncy glee while I finish my birthday scone. One of them got me all sniffly and excited, because it's Pete and his grandson singing "Well May the World Go," and oh wow oh wow, especially when you hit the choruses, Pete's grandson has his voice and his exuberance. And an obvious love of his grandfather and his grandfather's music. And a band. Whose albums I must now own.

Also, we should all age so well as Pete Seeger, fierce and energetic.

Later I will open presents, take a dip in the hot tub, work on the book because I want to, have a good lunch but I don't know what yet, read something good, have dinner at Rice Paper and ice cream at Sebastian Joe's with two of the people I was with 29 years ago today (plus [livejournal.com profile] markgritter). I might bake something. I might not. Depends on what I feel like doing, because it's my birthday.

What are you making today? Stories, lunch, earrings, amends, programs, a living, a better life, connections, a garden, a bit of room to relax?
mrissa: (geek shirt by the falls)
Surely there are more cheering things in the world than the idea that Buddy Holly songs can randomly show up on my playlist while I'm working. I can't think of any, though. I love Buddy Holly. It's not even the leg-twitch thing. Well, okay, it's not just the leg-twitch thing.

Also, having poodle assistance for the writing of this book is very cheering. She's gotten better about putting her head in the crook of my elbow rather than trying to hold my wrists down, now that she's figured out that if she stops me from typing, I'm likely to get up and do some horrible monkey thing like running to Target or sweeping the floor, whereas if she snuggles in and encourages me to keep typing, she will get a stable lap for hours.

Also I have decided that today is the day for Unfortunate Thematic Echoes and Foreshadowed Plot Points. They are good ones, by which I mean that they are bad ones, of course. I hum happily to myself through the Unfortunate Thematic Echoes, a-hey-hey.

I am not nearly as cheered as some of you are by the impending arrival of The Last Harry Potter Book, but I'm not as annoyed as some, either. Babble on about HP and what you loved and what you hated and why it was so satisfying/disappointing/heart-rending/dull. I'm not really interested, but I'm not really interested in knitting or karate or motorcycle stunt riding, either -- and I am when my friends do these things, because I'm interested in hearing what has my friends excited and enthusiastic.
mrissa: (question)
More questions! Okay. One of you asked if there are factoids with which I'd prefer to be introduced or prefer not to be introduced. Not really; I trust you-all to choose appropriately for the specific introduction, and to remember that I am Upper Midwestern, and therefore a string of positive adjectives is likely to make me want to hide under the table.

Another of you asked if I'd ever sung in a choir, what part, and what some favorite pieces were. Well, I was in choir from 9-13 in school, and that was good fun. I liked that a lot. Our middle school choir director in particular was very good at picking a mixture of songs that were interesting and fun to sing in different ways -- fun in a "technically difficult but satisfying" way for one piece and fun in a "songs that you know but not in detail" way for another and so on. She had us do a medley of songs from Les Mis, cut for the junior high crowd. Interestingly, what this mostly means is that the character arcs of Valjean and Javert pertaining to evil and redemption were almost completely cut, and we were left with political stuff, leavened with child abuse and abandoned pregnancy. You know: for kids. When I was in middle school, you could do band and choir both, and so I did. In high school, one could, theoretically, but the choir director was not known for doing anything fun to sing or listen to -- lots of 19th century secular hymns about fields of graaaaaaaaaaaaaaain, was the reputation -- and I was enthusiastic enough about the flute to be willing to pick band over choir. The band director was pretty bad as well, and I only stayed in band one year, but I didn't reconsider and join one of the choirs later.

I was a soprano at the beginning of that interval partly because I still had my kid-soprano range and partly because in our grade school choir, soprano meant "any girl who could carry a tune in a bucket or the rare boys who had a great classical kid-soprano." (Yeah, hi, you.) Around the end of sixth grade I lost about five notes off the top of my range, and by the middle of seventh grade I had them back on the bottom of my range and was a full-fledged (very happy!) alto. And as I recall, Mrs. Haight's talents extended to classifying people by their actual vocal range and picking pieces that had interesting bits for all vocal parts, so that the altos weren't stuck going, "oooooooh," and the basses, "bum bum bum," for every single song. So we were mostly willing to cut her slack if there were one or two songs like that, because it'd come around.

As an adult, I was browbeaten into singing in a church choir because my friend Lisa, the accompanist, was a dirty rotten traitor and told the choir director I had a good voice and could sight-sing harmony lines. (Since I had no intentions of ever attending practice, this latter fact -- about which Lisa was treacherous but not dishonest -- was key. It also taught me a valuable lesson: do not make excuses if you don't want to do something. Simply say no.) "Good voice" is debatable, but certainly I have a good enough voice to sing in your average church choir. I've described my role in that choir as "alto border-guard" in the past, and I stand by that. Would that we'd been handed machine-guns: "No you are not a soprano, and you will not slide up to try to sing that part because you are not a soprano for a reason, and right here is where your note goes, no, dummy, here, or else."

This particular choir was undersized and under-talented, and I was not enthusiastic about a single one of the songs we did.

The problem with choirs for me is twofold, and I'm not sure which is a bigger problem: first, they have people in them. Lots of people. They are a many-people event that requires a frequent time commitment. I have difficulty with those. And second, I stopped enjoying performance singing. I can do readings -- that kind of performance is fine with me. (Especially if people laugh at the right spots.) But I just don't enjoy dance performance or musical performance. I can enjoy participation in dance or music, but sometimes the line between performance and participation is a little shaky, and then I stop having fun. I sing around the house a lot -- a lot -- I am singing Ben Folds Five's "Philosophy" right this minute as I type -- and I was raised in a house where singing around the house was extremely common. Some of my earliest memories are of holiday evenings -- really any time my folks had Monday off -- how they'd put me to bed and finish whatever grown-up chores they had to do, and then they'd pull me out half-asleep, and Mom would sit with me in the old blue velour armchair, and Dad would sit in the wooden rocker, and they'd sing, and I would drift in and out of sleep while the sun set outside and they sang together. And now there's a [livejournal.com profile] timprov, and as I've mentioned other times, we make up little songs at each other and sing musical jokes and references at each other. [livejournal.com profile] markgritter was not raised singing folk songs, but seven and a half years has done a fair bit for his repertoire, and apparently for his enjoyment of same.

But performance creates expectations that I am not interested in fulfilling. There are skills related to performing a song that are entirely in addition to being able to sing it well. When my mom and I sing tight harmony -- which we can do because we have essentially the same voice in two bodies -- I am doing something with just-her, and we know each other's expectations, and if Dad listens or if he comes in with a deep grounding line, he's still part of the thing we're doing in a very comfortable and familial way. And choir audiences aren't, and they can't be -- and that's not a defect in them. It's not a problem. It's just something that makes me, specifically, want to avoid singing in a choir, the same way I want to avoid performance singing of other kinds. The audience collaborates in a different and much less active way in a performance, and they're still right there. So. That's me and choirs.

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