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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

I am annoyed by headphones. 
I have decided that ear buds were created by a dyslexic guy that really meant to call them ear duds.  Could they be less useless?  

I suppose it depends on how you’re using them.  If you’re sitting perfectly still on your couch with no one around and the cord protected from any chance of movement, buds are probably fine. 

To begin with, I have never picked up a pair of head phones that weren’t mercilessly tangled, regardless of where they have been or how long they have been there.  You sit them down for 15 seconds while you wash your hands and they’re tangled.  You put them in your pocket for as long as it takes to tie your shoe and they’re tangled.  You sneeze and they’re in knots around your neck.  Is there such a thing as tangle-less headphone cords?  

I mostly use mine at the gym and am constantly adjusting them because they are slipping and sliding around at the slightest hint of sweat.  And boy, do I sweat.  The cord gets the slightest bump and they’re falling out of your ears; not exactly feasible when you’re on the treadmill.  I get to the point where I’m basically trying to screw them into my ears, jamming them in there.  I’m not sure if I expect them to catch on something in there or just get in there so far that they’re lodged.  I’ve probably got issues past tangled headphones if either one of those things actually happens. 

So I asked Hubby for a pair of headphones for Christmas.  He got me a pair with the little ear brace on them. 

I thought, “Great!  This is exactly what I need!”.  Turns out, they were made for someone with ears the size of Dumbo because they didn’t fit around my ears at all.  The ear braces were making no contact at all with my ears so they were basically buds with handles.  I tried to shape them … no luck (but isn’t that a great idea? bendy ear braces?).  Hmm … maybe I have small ears.  Regardless, I was back to adjusting and screwing and jamming those suckers in until I stepped on and broke them by mistake a month or so ago.  I was back to plain ole buds again. 

 

Recently Hubby found me a replacement pair of Sony phones.  They have an ear brace, like the pair from Christmas, but I actually have to tuck my ear into them a bit so they actually serve their purpose.  Maybe I have normal-sized ears after all!  They are still buds but don’t seem to go into the ear as far because of the ear brace.  And they stay put!  They might have only cost me $7 american dollars but they work for me and my seemingly small ears. 

 

Their cord still tangles, though, and it’s actually worse because now the cord can get tangled around the ear braces as well as with itself.  I guess one out of two ain’t bad. 

 

 

But wait … what is this??  While looking for images for this post, I came across this little goody: Retractable headphones! 

 

Yes!  This is what I was looking for!  Sony, work with me… can you make those with ear braces and for people with normal-sized ears?  Oh, and cheaper… make them cheaper. 

I’ll wait. 

 

EDIT 06/12/08 – Joe sends me this:  SmartWrap.  I like it.  It looks smaller and less cumbersome than the retractable device.  Hey SmartWrap, if I link to your site three times in one post, will you send me a free SmartWrap?  How about a SmartWrap for my cousin Joe too? 

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My tribute to Jeff Healey

Jeff Healey wrote my favorite song of all time. 

This song represents a time in my life when abandon and rebellion and yes, even love, manifested themselves in the form of a boy named Troy.  He wore a jean jacket, smoked cigarettes, and had a potty mouth.  He had eyes that sparkled this light color green that made me melt.  To my parents, he was wild and their worst nightmare.  To me, he was just the sweetest and most caring (and the hottest) thing on the school bus.  

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Jeff Healey was extremely talented, inspiring, and the picture of perseverance.  So much of his life was a battle and yet he was strong and he gave.  He gave to the world through music. 

To me he will always represent accepting your limitations and thriving in spite of them. 

He did a bitchin’ version of Badge, too. 

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Fa la la la la…

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Tis the season for concerts. 

Last night my choir performed one of our two Christmas concerts in a church in Woodstock, NB.  It was my first time in this church.  It is big; the crowd was a normal size and would have filled our normal venues but it seemed small in this church.  It is old; the ceilings are high and have the original wood panelling.  There is a big pipe organ at the front of the sanctuary but I was allowed to play their half or 3/4 grand piano (I’m not sure which it is). 

All of this lends to a rockin’ place for a 50+ voice choir to stretch their vocal muscles.  The choir has a huge sound on a normal day but the acoustics in this church make for an enormous, full sound that would make the hair on the back of anyone’s neck stand on end. 

As I get older, I appreciate more and more the effects of music on a person’s soul.  I’m not speaking of the soul in spiritual terms here but rather of that essence that is deep within each of us and makes us who we are.  Our self.  What makes us an individual.  We all have a soul, regardless of how deep it may be buried or how much attention we may pay it. 

Each of our souls is stimulated by different things.  What turns you on does not necessarily turn me on.  For you it may be watching a lively football game or pushing yourself extra hard on a jog.  If that gets your motor running, I’m glad to hear it. 

For me it is music.  And while I appreciate a good tune on the radio as much as the next person, in this case I am talking about making music. 

I have always been musical.  It has always been close to me and part of my life, whether it was piano lessons at age 6 or accompanying the high school choir at the parliament buildings in grade 11.  Lately, though, the effect it has on me feels much deeper, like it’s striking a chord within me that I didn’t know I had. 

At the concert last night, in addition to our choir, there were two solos performed by young girls aged about 7 or 8 I would guess.  They were simple Christmas carols.  Nothing fancy.  Maybe it was the acoustics in that church but I imagine that’s what angels sound like.  Their little voices were so strong and so clear and so brave (I did it when I was young but now I wonder how a 7-year-old ever drums up the courage to stand in front of 100 people, look them in the eyes, and sing).  As cheesy as it sounds, I saw my future daughter or son in those little girls and hoped that music would enter into their lives in some way.  The thought brought tears to my eyes. 

On one of the choir’s pieces I leave the piano to play a djembe hand drum alongside a string bass played by Wes, a high school student.  It is different but fun to set aside the exactness of playing a piece on the piano and switch to the randomness of pounding on a drum instead (although there is a knack to those drums; if you are actually pounding randomly, you might as well be banging your fist against the wall). 

The choir performs many selections but none of them are as stirring as the Hallelujah Chorus from Handel’s Messiah.  The accompaniment is complicated and loud and impressive.  The vocal parts are urgent and loud and perfect for a venue like that church. 

On a regular Tuesday, rehearsing at the high school (where sound is quickly swallowed by low ceilings and bad acoustics), the Hallelujah Chorus moves me.  In that church, the 50+ voices became 150.  Every high soprano note went straight through me.  Every strong bass line underscored the sheer scale of that song.  The music filled the high ceiling of that church and danced there. 

As the song moves along it just gets stronger and bigger and more fervent.  The final page is a melee of soprano, alto, tenor, and bass parts that are all made up of different notes but that come together in a passionate conclusion.  Voices are stretched and my fingers are pounding out the notes and then, in the third-to-last bar, everything comes to an abrupt stop for two beats. 

Last night, in those two silent beats, the voices of the bar before echoed through the church.  They echoed.  The only other sound was the gasp of someone in the crowd. 

It was awe-inspiring.  Impassioned.  The air was charged with the music we had created and it was such an emotional thing that, after the final two bars of the song, I was trembling.  My breath was literally taken away. 

There isn’t much that speaks to my soul like that. 

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Is nothing sacred?!

Just when you think all is right in the world, they pull crap like this …

Bryan McKnight singing Janis Joplin’s Me and Bobby McGee. 

I heard about 12 seconds of it and that’s only because it took me that long to find the remote.  And yes, my ears bled a little.

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My ink

I have alluded to a tattoo a couple of times… here, finally, are a couple of pics. 

I got the music note while attending a conference in Kissimmee, FL a few years back.  Sitting around in a hotel room?  Bored?  Why not go get a tattoo?! 

While I was in Montreal on training a couple of months ago I decided it was time to add to it.  No, it wasn’t because a few people decided that “music from the butt” was just too funny not to mention everytime they saw it.  Okay … so it wasn’t just that.  Believe what you hear … tattoos are addictive! 

So I designed the piano keys that you see, went to a tattoo parlor called Adrenaline on a Wednesday night, looked at many artists’ photos, decided on Ron (yes, that is an udder in his hand), and booked the appointment for Thursday evening. 

I liked his work, it was as simple as that, but Ron turned out to be the coolest guy … we found lots to talk about including the Dominican and some of the oldtime rockers he has met.  He was just all around easy to talk to.  I couldn’t have been more at ease and would definitely go back to him … no question. 

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And YES… it hurt!  Let’s think about that for just a moment before asking me, mmmkay?  I can say it isn’t a crazy, unbearable pain … it’s more of an aggravating scraping that makes you grit your teeth a bit and then it’s done and he’s moving on to a different line.  The lines definitely hurt worse than the color.  Don’t let anyone tell you differently. 

I am definitely a fan of the Adrenaline shop.  It was very clean, not at all intimidating, and the staff was really friendly to me. 

I will would definitely go back when  if I get another tattoo. 

<Ahem>

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My cousin Joe is in town.  Saturday night we headed to Keith and Tina’s house for a little bonfire and chili by the lake.  It was fun and relaxing but pretty uneventful other than having a couple too many drinks.  But the funniest part of the night came from Keith’s stereo. 

Now, anyone that reads Joe’s blog (linked from my own) knows that he is quite an aficionado when it comes to music, especially the not-so-mainstream stuff that we in Carleton County will never hear on the useless 96.1.  Keith was often skipping through songs that came on (looking for “Time After Time” by Cyndi Lauper, but this particular story is meant to pick on Joe, not Keith, so I digress…) and, this particular time, a song started that I didn’t recognize.  Joe comments, “Hmm … I like that.  That sounds pretty good.  What is that?”.  It took Keith a moment to remember but then he gleefully responds “Hilary Duff” and a roar of laughter erupts!  I told Joe that it was definitely a blogworthy moment so here it is, Joe… 🙂

On Sunday most of the same crew headed out on the north branch of the Miramichi for another day of paddling.  We had a great day despite the pouring rain that started about halfway through the trip.  Just when we thought it was letting up the sky would open up again.  It was a fairly warm day, though, so we managed to laugh about it in the end.  I think Joe’s virgin kayak trip was fun enough for him although I wonder if the adrenaline junkie in him was hoping for faster water.  I’ll get a few pics up on facebook when I get them from Keith. 

I thought it was a great weekend and loved hanging out with Joe.  For anyone wondering, he is super dedicated to his training program.  Beer/Rum = Unnecessary calories.  I couldn’t imagine floating down the Miramichi without a beer or two … I just didn’t think it was possible!  But he made it … he made it just fine. 

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… Carleton County Music Festival time! 

I love this week:  Young’uns all dressed up in their fancy clothes, walking confidently up to the piano to play the song they have practiced feverishly for weeks (well… some of them anyway).  It’s so great to see the pride on their faces when they’ve nailed the song.  And quite heartbreaking to see the disappointment all over their faces when they’ve struggled through a song due to nerves or simply not having enough practice.  I love going to the final concert on Friday nights and watching how children react to the crowd of people all gathered to hear their little song.  It’s priceless. 

It is so nostalgic for me.  I remember so vividly being one of those performers.  You get one shot to show them what you’ve got.  It doesn’t matter if you could play that song in your living room, in your sleep, backwards, and with one arm tied behind your back.  Sometimes, in the moment, your nerves get the better of you or you are thrown off by having just watched four kids play an interpretation of the same song or your fingers just plain out won’t do it that day.  It’s disappointing, knowing that if you could just get up and do it again… but no, you just have to walk away. 

There are those moments of perfection that make the hours of practice so worth it though.  To get up and play a piece well gives you confidence like nothing else I’ve experienced, especially when it’s a piece that you have really had to work at.  I still get a rush onstage, playing with the choir, when those few tough bars just roll off your fingers.  No one else in the crowd will ever know that you worked and were sweating over that piece but that doesn’t matter… you know and that is all you need to hold your head high and keep at it. 

The music festival was such a great experience that I will always urge my students to participate.  It gives them confidence, shows them what playing in front of an audience is like, and lets them hear and see other students at the piano.  It is an invaluable lesson when you compare it to the student and I sitting at a piano alone, hammering out a song. 

And another added bonus?  Having my piano teacher of many many years watch one of my students perform.  Whether they performed well or not, having the woman there that was with me from age 6 to age 17 is really special.   

I can only hope that some day my students will experience the thrill and satisfaction you feel when someone tells you that they really enjoy listening to your music.  This year I’m learning that it is as much of a thrill to watch one of your students perform well and, even more importantly, enjoy it.  That’s what it’s all about… sharing a love of music.    

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