Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I recently had to drive from Cape Cod to a suburb of New York City, to a suburb of Philadelphia, to another suburb of Philadelphia - all in a day.
The amazing thing about this trip was - I didn't use a map. Of course, I used GPS. But this got me thinking about the impact of this one, small little technology. 
On the positive side - using GPS was super convenient. My brain didn't have to work to calculate the proper route.
On the negative side - My brain didn't have to work to calculate the proper route.
Okay, I'm not a Luddite, but I can't help wonder if all this technology isn't making our brains (and bodies?) more sedentary? By abdicating our mental tasks to technology, what does this portend for our future?
It reminds me of a brilliant quote from Scott Adams (creator of "Dilbert") - "The biggest impact of technology has been to allow us to do more unproductive things at a far more impressive rate."
Which, leads to reason #48 of why I love the piano: It's natural and uses the brain and the body. Then again, so does walking, running, bicycling, hiking, gardening, etc..  Maybe the thought for today is that 'natural and organic' may not just be good for your body, it may be good for your mind too!
Wishing you a natural, organic April.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Once I dreamed..

I was looking through some old sheet music over the weekend, and I found a song that I wrote when I was in College studying Engineering (I would later change my major to Music). The song (called "Once I dreamed") spoke about childhood fantasies like kings & queens, moviestars, & musicians...the refrain went like this:

Once I dreamed a thousand dreams.
The world was oh so fun and new.
What has changed in my life?
What has happened to the boy I knew?
His dreams are gone...

How depressing!  I was studying Engineering at the University of Connecticut because I was particularly good at Math and Science. I have no doubt that I would have made a very good Engineer and I would have earned a decent living. But here's the problem: I would have been miserable! I can see now how lucky I was to switch my major to Music. Even if it wasn't the most 'prestigious' or 'profitable' vocation, I knew that I needed to dedicate myself to something that I truly loved. So... I quit Engineering. That's right - I quit! 

Too many times, we're told to "stick with it", "never give up"... This can be good advice if there is a long-term advantage to sticking with it. But, if the purpose is to stick with it just to stick with it - no thanks! That's like giving up your dreams...

So, as the ides of March approach (March 15th), I'm looking hard at everything I do to see if there's anything else I can quit - I'd like to keep the world fun and new!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

"Nice Work If You Can Get It"

I was playing the piano this morning and came across a great song by George Gershwin. You've probably heard it at one point or another, but it seemed especially poignant considering the dearth of 'bad news' that is being published these days. "Nice Work if You Can Get It" was part of the 1930's musical "A Damsel in Distress"- but it's the opening line that really caught my attention:
The man who only lives for making money
Lives a life that isn't necessarily sunny
Likewise the man who works for fame.
There's no guarantee that time won't erase his name.
The fact is, the only work that really brings enjoyment
Is the kind that is for girl and boy meant.
Fall in love, you won't regret it.
That's the best work of all if you can get it.
Yes, money is important. Yes, having a job is important. However, these things change over time. Real riches lie in discovering those things that are timeless. What this Gershwin song says to me is that Love is one of those enduring riches that is worth searching for. It doesn't have to necessarily be love for another person - it could be love for a hobby, or even a place. "Fall in love, you won't regret it"...
The next time I read or hear a headline about the "sour economy", "sinking profits", "fraud" and the like, I'm just going to think about all the things in my life that I love - and I'll feel like the richest man in the world! It's nice work - if you can get it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

December, 2008

This is the time of year that it's difficult to catch your breath. You know what I'm talking about. Holiday shopping. Traffic. Things to do. Places to go. We sometimes lose sight of today. Now. Right this second.

Gurdjieff - a brilliant Russian mystic of the first half of the 20th century - had an exercise that he used with his pupils to help them focus and engage in the present moment - it was the "Stop" exercise. Whenever he sensed that one of his students were mindlessly doing their work, he would yell "Freeze". The student would have to stop in their tracks and freeze. They'd stay in that position until they found sudden clarity - almost like 'remembering' they were alive. "Remember yourself!" Gurdjieff would say "your life depends upon it!"...

I find this exercise especially useful this time of year (althouth, I avoid yelling "Freeze!" and standing like a zombie whenever possible). It's almost like looking at yourself from the outside. It's easy - and only takes several moments. You're in line at the store - restless kids in front, anxious buyers in back. Stop. Remember yourself. You're in your car, stuck in holiday traffic. Stop. Remember yourself. You're stressed about bills, gifts to buy, what to wear to the holiday party -- Stop. Remember yourself. 

Maybe that will be my New Year's resolution - to try even harder to "be there". Right now. This second.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Those digital pirates...

Just found all of my CD's being pirated online... kind of timely as I just finished reading a book called "Pirates of the Digital Millenium". The thing is, it's hard to be angry as digital content is so easily pirated, swapped, downloaded, etc...


It's still 'stealing'. Stealing from the identity that owns the copyright - and for my music CD's, of course, thats' ME!  I do rely on income from my music, and I put a lot of time, effort (and money) into creating it. I'd like to be compensated fairly for it. I don't think downloaders realize that there is a real-world impact on what they're doing... I've asked that the music be removed from their 'free' service, but who knows if it will. I can file a claim under the DMCA (Digital Millenium Copyright Act), but there are no assurances it will help. For now, we must rely on the good nature of others...

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Announcing "ERATA" - the great muse of Piano

So we know that "erato" is the muse of lyric poetry.... and as far as I know there is no muse that is specifically attached to the piano --- although, there ought to be. Really -- many of the original muses had musical qualities and were attached to various musical instruments of the time -- but since the muses were created in ancient Greece, they can be fairly inappropriate for today's musicians....

So I hereby announce the latest, greatest "muse of the piano" - "ERATA" --- how did she come to be? Well, let's start at the beginning with her ancestor "ERATO":


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In Greek mythology Erato is one of the Greek muses. The name would mean "lovely" if it were actually derived from Eros, as Apollonius of Rhodes playfully suggested in the invocation to Erato that begins Book III of his Argonautica. Erato was named with the other muses in Hesiod's Theogony. She was invoked at the beginning of a lost poem Rhadine that was referred to and briefly quoted by Strabo,[1]: the love story of Rhadine made her supposed tomb on the island of Samos a pilgrimage site for star-crossed lovers in the time of Pausanias,[2] and Erato was linked again with love in Plato's Phaedrus[3]; nevertheless, even in the third century BCE, when Apollonius wrote, the Muses were not yet as inextricably linked to specific types of poetry as they became[4].

Erato is the Muse of lyric poetry, especially love and erotic poetry. In the Orphic hymn to the Muses, it is Erato who charms the sight. Since the Renaissance she is often shown with a wreath of myrtle and roses, holding a lyre, or a small kithara, a musical instrument that Apollo or she herself invented. In Simon Vouet's representations (illustration); at her feet two turtle-doves are eating seeds. Other representions may show her holding a golden arrow, reminding one of the "eros", the feeling that she inspires in everybody, and at times she is accompanied by the god Eros, holding a torch.

Erato is certainly an appropriate muse for pianists, but there's something seemingly 'masculine' in the name. Much of music terminology of today is based on latin and Italian text -- words that end in "o" are usually masculine, and words that end in "a" are usually feminine --- wouldn't it make more sense if our modern-day musical muse were called "Erata"?....


It's obvious that the muses had already been created by the time the piano was invented (circa 1700 by Bartolomeo Cristofori). But here is the interesting part -- if you ask most pianists about their experiences with their pianos, they'll begin describing this relationship almost as if the piano were alive -- THE essence of their soul and creativity.

The word "Erata" seems a much more appropriate name for such a beautiful beast! The piano has a 'feminine' quality - with it's curvaceous design and delicate mechanics - with momentary bursts of fortissimo -- truly wonderful qualities indeed! But the most important part of Erata is that she truly encapsulates the raw beauty and emotion of creation - a seductress in wooden clothing. For in the end, the pianist is powerless to the emotions of love and passion -- and ERATA sings her soulful tone!!!! ERATA, I pledge thee my most profound affection and devotion!.....

Friday, February 16, 2007

Fiorentino - the musical angel says it all...

This painting is the perfect way to open this blog - it's titled "musical angel" - but there's a lot more to it than it seems... This was painted by Fiorentino - an Italian painter during the Renaissance period.

I first saw this painting at the Uffizi in Florence. There was something 'magical' about the painting, but what was it? Was it the colors? Was it the style? I couldn't quite figure it out.

The image of the musical angel stayed with me for years - until one day I received a framed copy as a present.

As I spent more time with the painting, I started paying special attention to the expression on the angel's face. More time went by, and I noticed the connection between the lute and the way the angel was holding it. His face said 'pure bliss'. But why?

One day, it came to me: the angel was deaf! He had to hold his head against the instrument so he could FEEL the vibrations. As a musician, this discovery had a profound impact on me. I always knew music was more than 'notes' - it was about 'feeling' - but here it was, expressed in art!

So, in the end, this musical angel wasn't just another chubby cherub....