Posts Tagged 'Music'

Elis & Tom

I just got a great CD from a friend at work.  She’s from Brazil and so I’ve confessed to her my deep love for Brazilian music of the 60’s and 70’s.  She knows I consider Jobim to be a god of songwriting.  Well, she just came back from Brazil with a great album called Elis & Tom that is known by many to be one of the greatest bossa nova albums of all time.  This was not known by me or I would have surely already owned it.  Anyway, it’s really really good.  Elis Regina is the singer, one of the most popular brazilian singers ever and her voice is perfectly suited to the music of Tom Jobim.  Check out this youtube video of the most popular track from the album, Aguas de Marco.


Who died?

I’m not dead. Just took a couple weeks off of writing anything. I’ll spare you the litany of excuses. That’s not why you’re here. But I’ll let you know what I’ve been doing to get you up to speed before I return to celebrity bashing and book reports on science news.

A lot has been going on lately, professionally and personally. I’ve been struggling to get my lectures together for the spring semester. It’s all new stuff that I’ve never taught before so my self-doubt has turned into wicked procrastination. I’ve finally turned a corner on it though and I should be able to meet my printing deadline. It’s ridiculous that I have to have all of my lecture materials prepared months before I’m going to give them, just so they can make a billion copies for the students. Where’s the spontaneity and energy in something that overly prepared? tongue-deep-dissectionAnyway, what I’m teaching is the neuroanatomy component of the dental gross anatomy course (The image at right is from Grant’s Atlas of Anatomy, 11th edition, Agur and Dalley editors, LWW* citation added 3-18-2011). I’m pretty psyched about the subject. The muscles and bones of the body are interesting, but the nervous system is how it all actually works so you can go a lot deeper into the meaning of the anatomy. I think it will be alright if I can just strap myself down to my desk and finish this shit.

I started piano lessons again. It’s been almost ten years since I last took lessons at Concordia. It’s fantastic to be in it again. I’ve been playing quite a bit in the last ten years thanks to a very productive collaboration with a friend who is a great singer. We spent a few years making music together – stuff from all genres of the musical world, except gangsta rap and bluegrass. When she moved last year, that marked the unofficial end of my standing accompanying gig, so I thought that whenever I got my shit together, maybe I’d take lessons again and try to take myself to another level with the instrument. I never did actually get my metaphorical shit together, but J and I got a house and a pretty nice rhythm to our lives, so there suddenly seemed to be room for something else – something just for me.

It just so happened that J was working with a gal who teaches piano professionally (she works at the blood gardens in the mornings for extra cash). She was taking new students, J mentioned that I played and had been thinking about taking lessons again, next thing you know, I’m talking Bach with her over a pair of grand pianos in her home.

A big part of why I wanted to give this a try again was that I feel like I’ve changed so much in the last 8 years and I wanted to find out if I could approach the piano with a different perspective and be more successful with it. I think I’ve always had talent and a good musical ear, but problems in the motivation department. Part of me wondered if my growth and maturity as a scholar and teacher would make me a better student and a harder worker. Also, could my extreme knowledge of the musculoskeletal anatomy of the hands and the neurological pathways behind learning somehow help me think about the instrument and learning new music in a entirely different way? So far, I think the answer to all of the questions is yes. I’ve had more fun practicing the last few weeks than I think I’ve ever had preparing for lessons in years past. I don’t think I’ve been at it long enough to know if I’m actually getting way better or not, but in terms of sheer enjoyment, it’s a great success.

So that’s what’s new with me. Expect some excellent social commentary soon. I’m kind of over the whole election thing, so forgive me if I don’t weigh in on that one. Thanks for reading. Below is a quiz for all you pianists and anatomists out there. Which images represent which thumb movements – Abduction, Adduction, Flexion, Extension, Opposition?  Which movements are used in the passing under of the thumb in scales and long passages?pop quiz hot shot

I Heart Rockband

I rediscovered Rockband again this weekend.

For many months, the little drumkit, microphone and baby guitars have been gathering dust since Jason and I went on our fickle way and forgot about Rockband. When we first got the game, we played it quite a bit and I really enjoyed the cooperative aspect of it. We played in multiplayer career mode mostly, him on guitar, me on bass, only because singing and drumming was exhausting and a little embarrassing initially. We cranked through a bunch of songs and then came to “Enter Sandman” which literally ruined the game. In the team career mode, you have to do songs of elevating difficulty and continue to do well, or you start losing fans and money, and over time, you actually start losing the right to play certain songs. Does that seem crazy to anyone else? Anyway, we tried to just hack our way through that great Metallica classic and we ended up trying and failing about 20 times. I don’t know if you have ever tried and failed at something that many times in a row, but let me tell you it leaves a sour taste in your mouth. In addition to that sour taste, we lost all of our fans, all of our money and when it was all said and done, we could only play the easy songs. Boo.

So we put the game away only to bring it out with quiet bitterness when guests came over. A month or so later, I decided to get the guitar out and try to beat the game on Hard on the solo career mode. I really had to work for this. There’s about 60 songs on the game including the bonus tour, so I pretty much devoted a week to it. About 30 songs in, I had to breakdown and start using the practice mode, where you can take the songs apart and run drills on each riff and lick. This appealed to me in a big way because of my own background with music and doing that kind of mind-numbing work. Anyway, I managed to beat every song on hard except the very last one, which is so insane I’m not sure if I’ll ever be able to do it. It’s called “Green Grass and High Tides” by The Outlaws. Like most songs on Rockband, I’ve never heard it before, but I worked hard on that thing, putting in the time in the practice mode, working the speed up on the solos until I could almost get through at 100% speed. Anyway, the last solo is about 5 minutes long and it ultimately claimed my soul. I had to give up or risk permanent damage to my ego. Incidentally, with a little work, “Enter Sandman” wasn’t that bad at all by comparison.

So I put it away again and a month later decided to beat the game on vocals on Hard. This took me two nights of solid work, with Jason not at home of course. There’s no way I’d be rocking out by myself with him dying in the other room. The vocals were easier in one way, because the instrument is one that I’m already familar with, but also more difficult because in order to sing a song well, you actually kind of have to know it, which as I mentioned is generally not the case with the Rockband portfolio. In any case, I beat the game and got to see the big pyrotechnic display that is your “reward” for finishing it. Yay.

Then this weekend our friends Matt and Hilary came to visit and we played a good bit of Rockband. I reluctantly agreed to play drums on some songs even though it is my weakest instrument, and I kind of started to like it. So last night when Jason worked late, I cranked through the first 10 songs in the solo drum career playlist. It’s harder work physically and I can’t really play laying down, which is upsetting for me, but I think I’ll see if I can beat it. Right now the difficulty setting is on Medium, because I’m a pussy, but I’m also a realist. I want to finish it, not languish when I reach the 30th song.

I thought a lot about why I like the game so much. I don’t play most games all the way through, as I’ve mentioned before I’m kind of a quitter. On one hand, I’m trying to stop being a quitter, so I think that explains why I started the solo guitar career. However, the reason I finished it, and the reason I went back to the vocals and the drums is that this game appealed to me as a musician and when I took the instruments seriously, I actually got good at them. I would have never thought I would get as good at the guitar parts as I did, but I developed my own language of the technique so I could train myself in an organized way. I probably could have mumbled my way through most of the songs, but instead I thought about each song carefully and decided which octave and voice to sing in for each one, and I started totally rocking out. The jury is still out on the drums. They’re crazy, but you never know. The most exciting part of this game is that it has made me feel better about my abilities to try really hard to do something I don’t think is possible and just stick it out until it works. If that’s not a thinly-veiled life lesson I don’t know what is. I’ve also been pretty vocal about how cool it is that there is a game that kids can play with adults and everyone enjoys it equally. That is amazing and we’ve had some pretty great times with family and friends because of it.

I’ll keep you posted when I beat the drum career. Although there’s a Rush song on there with a crazy mixed meter, so that one just might claim me. And who knows, maybe one day the guitar part of “Green Grass and High Tides” will also be mine. I can only dare to dream…