Music Is Life, Death and Everything In Between

Piano, Life and DeathI recently came across a welcome address given in 2004 by Karl Paulnack to freshman students at The Boston Conservatory. In his address, he explains why music matters in life, in the midst of tremendous pain, suffering and even death. And the account of his most important concert is truly amazing and worth the time to read through the entire speech.

A couple of lines that resonate with me are:

    "Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can't with our minds."


    "Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can't talk about it."

There are plenty of other lines and paragraphs that I could highlight, but I would probably end up just quoting the entire speech. So instead of doing that, I encourage you to read the Full Text of Karl Paulnack’s Welcome Address. It’s worth a few minutes of your time to gain a better understanding of how music is life, death and everything in between.

Nostalging For Comic Books

marvelcomicbookcharactersLately, I’ve been feeling rather nostalgic for my childhood. Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, maybe it’s because the current state of the world is such a mess, or maybe it’s just something inexplicable. Whatever the cause, the past month or so, I’ve been getting back into comic books. It’s been at least 20 years since I’ve purchased any, so unsure of what changes have occurred during that time, it’s been with a tad bit of uncertainty that I’ve delved back into the world of super-heros and their nemeses.

One of the biggest changes is the current retail price of comic books. Typically, they are $3.99 per issue. When I last collected them, they were around $1.50 to $2.00 each. Nice to know inflation remains a life constant.

Another change I’ve noticed is in the artwork. I grew up on comic artists such as Jack Kirby and John Byrne who tended towards naturalism in their work. These days, although some realism is portrayed, the drawing is typically more stylized than not.

One last change I’ve noticed is that most of the major titles have been rebooted and their issue numbering has been restarted in recent years. For instance, The Amazing Spider-Man had gotten up to issue #700 and Detective Comics reached #900! The nice thing about the reboots is that there isn’t yet a large catalog of the second volumes of these titles to catch up on so it isn’t prohibitively expensive to pick up back issues.

There are hundreds of titles to choose from, and I’ve settled into four that I’ve always liked: The Amazing Spider-Man, Batman, Detective Comics (another Batman title) and Fantastic Four. I enjoyed these series growing up, and after several weeks of catching up with several past issues, I think I’ll enjoy the current versions, too.

Why do I collect comic books? It’s simple. They’re fun. Some people collect them as an investment, but I’m not one of them. Yes, I bag and board each of my comic books to preserve them, but I don’t have any grand purpose that in 25 years I’ll be able to sell them for hundreds or thousands of dollars. That’s just not what it’s about. It’s about briefly losing oneself in a world of grand imagination, where good overcomes evil, where heroes give their all to protect mere mortals and where one can hardly wait for next month’s issue of their favorite series.

Stuck In A Rut? Ignore Everybody.

Book CoverBeing a creative-type, inspiration plays a large factor in my work. Sometimes it’s just not there and there’s not a thing I can do about it. But when it is, it just flows and it’s difficult to keep up with.

We all get stuck in a rut from time to time and recently I was in mine. The inspiration was just not there. The well was dry and seemingly there was nothing I could do about it. Thankfully, while searching the internet for some tips and solutions to jump-start some creativity, I came across a post at recommending Hugh MacLeod’s book Ignore Everybody And 39 Other Keys To Creativity. It’s a quick and easy yet valuable read for anyone needing a “kick in the pants” to get moving again creatively.

Some of my favorite passages from the book are:

• "It was so liberating to be doing something that didn't have to impress anybody, for a change. It was so liberating to be free of ambition, for a change."

• "If you have something to say, then say it. If not, enjoy the silence while it lasts. The noise will return soon enough."

• "The best way to get approval is not to need it."

• "Work hard. Keep at it. Live simply and quietly. Remain humble. Stay positive. Create your own luck. Be nice. Be polite."

What I came away with after reading this book is that I have to be motivated and inspired to do what I do creatively whether or not anyone else ever knows about it or approves of it. Personal sovereignty over one’s art is much more important than being commercially successful.

Since having finished the book, the creative juices are starting to flow again. Those little bursts of inspiration have started to fire up again. And I believe this book had a part in helping to bring this about. I’m planning on reading it through again soon and I’m looking forward to seeing some things I may have missed the first time.

It’s The Little Things

It’s the little things in life that bring happiness. This past Friday, I received my copy of the March 2014 issue of Keyboard magazine. Lo and behold, I find that I’m mentioned and quoted in the Editor’s Note. I finally made it into the pages of one of my all-time favorite magazines! Honestly, I was as thrilled as a little kid on Christmas morning. 🙂

Yeah, I realize that in the grand scheme of things it’s not really a big deal. People have their names printed in stuff all of the time. But it is kind of cool to see one’s name printed in a periodical one grew up reading and devouring every word of.

Yes, it’s the little things. And this little thing made my weekend.

Keyboard Magazine Mention

The Forthcoming Introvert

Neil PeartI love what Neil Peart, drummer for the band Rush, has to say about introverts in this interview with Mike Doherty of Maclean’s:

Q: You have a reputation for being a private person, but in your blog posts and memoirs, you’re quite forthcoming. In some ways you’re the most open member of the band.

A: It is true, but I’m less comfortable in a gregarious social situation, and you can be introverted and still share everything. It just means that you’re guarded. Certainly there is a line that seems perfectly clear to me about what’s to be shared and what isn’t, but it’s not always so clear to others. Extroverts never understand introverts, and it was like that in school days. I read recently that all of us can be defined in adult life by the way others perceived us in high school. I know [people] who had the popular, good-looking path in high school; they tend not to do so well. It was a little bit too easy for them, where for those of us who struggled in every sense, perhaps our determination and self-reliance and discipline were reinforced by that.

Amen Professor. Amen.

Related post: Quiet, And Proud Of It

What’s Really Important?

Important! NoteLately, I’ve been thinking about and considering what really matters to me. What are the things that I need to remove from my life or simply move on from? What are those things that I want to focus on for whatever remaining time I have on this planet? What should be and are my priorities? What’s really important?

I’ve tired of the internet as entertainment. I don’t want to know how many mindless hours I’ve spent over the past 15+ years wandering from site to site. And most of what is on the internet is pointless drivel anyway (including, some may argue, this blog 🙂 ).

I’ve tired of all of the gadgets now available and the desire to always have the latest one. Seriously, do most people really use their latest iThing for anything productive or constructive? Look at the most bought and/or downloaded apps in the Apple App Store and you’ll have your answer.

I’ve tired of the cultural rot in movies and television. Hollywood rarely ever puts out an original story these days. It seems most new movies are adaptations of best-selling novels, comic-books or remakes of movies or television shows made 30+ years ago. And pushing, even exceeding, the boundaries of taste and morals using explicit language and overt sex in one’s medium is not art. It’s just laziness.

I’ve tired of politics. For many years, I’ve been a political junkie and rather enjoyed discussions about policy and how to best arrive at national, state and local goals. But our nation is more divided than ever with the parties focused on what separates them rather than what they share in common. I no longer have a desire to engage in it other than to perform my civic duty of voting.

Don’t misunderstand. It’s not that I don’t like exploring the internet, using my handy Apple product, watching an entertaining movie or discussing political matters, because I do. It’s just that they are becoming less important for me than they once were and are being relegated to a smaller portion of my life.

Here is what’s really important to me:

-relationship with God
-wife, family & home
-music & art
-reading & a love of learning

That’s where I’m at now as I work towards reducing the noise and clutter I’ve allowed to intrude into my life. I suppose it’s just another way of putting into practice Henry David Thoreau’s famous line, “Simplify, simplify.” It’s a timeless admonition each of us should consider and act upon.

Random Notes

Just some unfinished random unrelated notes floating about today:

1. It’s hard to believe that we’re heading into October already, but we are. I remember those days as a child when a year seemed to be a lifetime. Even after school let out for the summer, vacation seemed to last a long time. And forget Christmas. It took FOREVER to come around each year, but the season seemed to last months. It’s ironic how the longer we live, the faster time seems to move. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

2. I find myself growing weary (or at the very least a bit annoyed) of the continual desire/need/want to always have the latest update to the latest thing. The past couple weeks have seen the release of the iPhone5 and accompanying iOS update, an update to the music production software I use, an update to several websites I frequent, etc., etc., and on and on. Honestly, none of these updates were transformative; rather, they were just refinements to their existing paradigms. There’s certainly nothing wrong with refining and improving something and I’m a big proponent of reaching for excellence. My struggle is at what point do I have to draw the line and say, “You know, what I have is working just fine. No more upgrading until I need to.”

3. Candy Corn M&Ms prove that some ideas need to remain just that.

4. The word “meme” needs to be struck from the English language. I’m tired of hearing it used by those who want to sound intelligent (i.e. the media talking heads).

5. And finally, there are only 52 days until Thanksgiving and 85 days until Christmas.

Week from …

Solitary Person in Darkness
What a week it has been! An odd one for sure. It didn’t seem to have a definable rhythm, current or flow to it.

Yes, there was the unexpected showing on our home (yay!), the unpleasant several hundred dollar roof repair bill (not so yay, but the persistent leak is finally gone), and the call from the mechanic trying to upsell the basic oil change I was having done on our older car with a several hundred dollar repair that doesn’t need to be done (yet). But those are incidental to what I’ve been feeling. They’re not the cause.

Deeper down, the feeling is one of unsettledness or of being in darkness and not being able to see or understand exactly what is going on. It’s as though I can’t see beyond my nose. It’s as if everyone is a stranger, every topic is tedious and there’s no end or relief in sight. For sure, it’s something we all likely experience from time to time. But what is the point of the experience? At the core, every circumstance we go through, whether or not we understand it at the time, has a reason for us being in the middle of it.

This particular situation or feeling I’ve been going through seems to be teaching me to let go of my impatient, independent attitude and become more patient, and more reliant, more dependent upon God. Frankly, I have much room for improvement in these areas, which is likely the reason I’m experiencing it all in the first place! But it’s not an immediate change of circumstance is it? It’s interesting that sometimes, He’ll let us remain in the dark for awhile to see how we’ll react, positively or negatively.

Well, I can’t say I passed this week with flying colors. Others, including the missus, can attest to that. However, it’s not how many times one falls down that matters. It’s how many times the person gets back up, dusts themselves off, and keeps walking on striving to attain the goal set before them. If we never made mistakes, how in the world would we ever know what to improve on?

And I’m positive I’ll mess up again, perhaps even today! But when I mess up it’s a reminder that I’m not necessarily who I think I am, not a strong as I think I am, that I need Him to help me through the confusion and darkness, the indefinable rhythms, currents and flows that are Life.

Micah 7:19