February 3, 2017
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February – Open & Shut

I found myself on the defensive once again in a conversation with my wife.  This was not really contentious but merely an after dinner conversation.  I was for the umpteenth time supposed to remember something that was planned or had happened or was going to happen that we had talked about recently.  But once again I had no clue about the incident.  My mind was a blank.  This has mystified me for a while now because it  has become a regular occurrence.  Things that I should know, but don’t, won’t resurface into my consciousness unless I really concentrate on a particular time, event or conversation. And this requires a key word or event or date which I rarely have.

Just recently I was talking with someone else about writing and arranging music. I said casually that when a piece that I had worked on for maybe weeks or months or even years, and that I knew intimately was finished, and I went to work on another piece for another period of time, I totally and completely forgot the previous piece. This allowed me to completely concentrate on the new piece without the interference or distraction of the previous themes or keys or structures that might cause confusion.  I believe that this has allowed me to stay mentally balanced or even sane.

When I started writing and arranging for bands in the middle 50s, I wrote constantly.  I filled music pads and folders with ideas.  My school notes were filled with musical doodles which I would try out on our piano when I got home.  When these ideas were more formed, I tried them out at rehearsals with small bands and bigger bands that I was playing dances with.  My notebooks kept my ideas organized.  Everything was there for my referrals.  But when I started arranging for more bands in the 60s I fell into a new process.  There was no time for notebooks.  My mind had to keep things organized.  I was writing for dance bands, sometimes whole books of 30 – 40 songs. I was writing arrangements for jazz and stage bands for high school and college concerts and events. And I was writing for high school and college marching bands and the occasional drum and bugle corps.  Eventually I did over 40 pieces for publication for all of the above bands and ensembles including a tuba sextet.

After college I took a position as band director at a small high school in Ohio.  I became immediately aware that the arrangements that I was buying did not always work for me. They were rarely the current songs that I wanted to perform.  So I started arranging the most popular songs of the day for my band, then other high schools, and then colleges.  At first I was doing just single arrangements of pop music from the radio. Then I started doing entire halftime shows which had a theme or some kind of continuity.  At my peak in the summer when everyone was preparing for their fall shows, I was doing 3 or 4 arrangements a day just to keep up with the deadlines.  Ultimately I did over 500 arrangements of deadline work until the demand came to rest in the late 70s.

The only way that my mind could process all of this work was to “shut the door” on each previous arrangement.  I would completely block it out of my consciousness.  When I wanted to return, I had to revisit the arrangement itself.  How else could I do 10 or 12 arrangements of MacArthur Park or a Chicago or Beatles song that everyone wanted, and keep them all different?  So closing the door on previous information became a lifelong habit, and a lifesaver for my mind. And closing the door on previous projects has also helped me in doing work of any kind, but particularly work involving a mass of material or schedules, events, etc.  This has saved my mind and my life.

On the other hand, closing the door can be very inconvenient when my wife asks me about an event that has happened or is going to happen and I don’t have a clue what she is talking about because I have closed that door.  Because, (and here is the kicker), I finally figured out that marriage is an “open door” commitment………  And implementing this means that:  “Our Love is Here to Stay!”

January 5, 2017
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January Jabberwocky

January is not really an important month, but it is the first month of the calendar year.  That makes it the beginning of a new tax year, the start of another quarter, the reason we buy new calendars, and the time when I get another flu shot and begin a new cold with sinus draining, sniffles, coughing, and just feeling lousy.  This does not recommend January as the exciting new start of anything useful, except to get through it as quickly as possible (AQAP).

Contemplating a cold brings the worst foreboding of all to anyone who sings.  It means that you have no control over your voice, and its normal sound. The notes that should issue don’t always cooperate and with the addition of a stuffy head, everything sounds different and “off” anyway.  Nothing good can come of this.  Your work can come to a halt and your normal routine becomes nonexistent.  It seems that there is nothing to do but wait it out. Or else be proactive and attack the cold.  Go after it with everything possible.

There are so many cold remedies that the mere thought can bring on a major headache.  Start with the things we used when we were young, the natural cures.  Vicks, herbal tea, echinacea, whiskey, cough medicines of all kinds, heating pads, inhalers, pills, and almost any combination of the above ingredients have been recommended and used for generations.  Sometimes some of them work, and sometimes they don’t work.  It always seems to take the same amount of time to get through the cold whether we medicate or not.

So exactly how do we wait out the cold?  One way is just to feel miserable, and cough and sneeze and plod along as if everything were normal.  And make everyone else sick who is near to you.  This is the “misery loves company” approach.  No one likes either you or this approach.  The most humane alternative is to take some time off from whatever kind of work that you do.  Your co-workers appreciate this, but it can become very annoying to whomever is stuck at home with you.  Coughing, sneezing, watching TV and expecting service doesn’t last very long.  But doing this while reading a book in a spare bedroom with the door closed might work better for awhile.  Or checking into a hotel.  Alone time with your misery seems to be the answer that works for everyone around you.

So at last you are alone with your miserable cold.  Now what works?  Books, music, television, phone, iPad, iPod, etc?  All of these are short term fixes. There is really only one answer.  Sleep.  And plenty of fluids.  Dreaming is good.  But be careful of ear worms.  They can be devastating when you are already miserable.  So, take a drowsy pill and try for dreamless sleep.  Not only will you be happy when this is all over, but you will still have your friends, coworkers, and your marriage.  So the light at the end of the tunnel for me seems to be February.  And looking forward to Valentine’s Day.

December 1, 2016
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December’s Family

December in my mind is actually a composite of holidays which extend from Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Year’s Day.  It is a corpulent month filled with many things, but especially family.  The traditional get-togethers are Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas dinner and New Year’s dinner with all of the traditional foods we prepare and eat.  The family is close together for each of these holidays and it is this concentration of personalities that can cause friction in even the happiest of situations. I realize that not all families exist this way, but in my younger years, mine did.  And, I must say, it was never boring.  As a means of self-preservation I developed a “fight or flight” attitude.  But mostly it was flight, meaning: always plan for a quick exit no matter where you are.

A more normal attitude during these holidays is to relax and talk or work puzzles, or reminisce and catch up on nostalgia with anyone who will listen.  Words like celebrate, commiserate, re-connect or re-hash come to mind rather than annoy or pile onto the weak. There are many different styles and traditions, but all during this time involve family.

Family is where ideas are sorted out and either trashed or passed down through the ages. Ideally, we build bridges when there has been separation.  We heal.  We pray together before meals.  We acknowledge growth and the passage of time.  We listen. We offer opinions for discussion with acceptance or rejection.  Then at some point the general volume is raised to near deafening because everyone is talking at once.  And, at last, because of the large meals and desserts, the volume decreases as one by one everyone drops off to sleep.  The only ones who avoid this are those who are watching a football game.  Nothing deters an avid fan of the game.

However this plays out in the individual situation, the most important part of each get-together is the family itself coming together and re-connecting and perpetuating its own ideas and feelings of love through each generation.  The family is the basis of our love.  And love is the acceptance of each individual no matter how “over the top” or “out in left field” he or she has become.  Unconditional love, however, is reserved for the immediate family.

So as we near the middle of this season and the month of December, let us think more deeply than usual.  There are many who are disconnected and have no family, and consequently no love.  There are many reasons for this unfortunate situation, but the result is always the same when there is no love – depression, and a yearning for the things that someone else has. Let’s try to help these souls in some way before they get to this last resort. Everyone benefits from love. Most of our popular songs tell us this is so.

So the next time you meet someone in need who is without love, sing to them.  And then run as fast as you can.  Not everyone likes to be sung to.  Happy Holidays! Merry Christmas! And have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

November 1, 2016
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November Sliding

November is a very slippery month.  It has been for as long as I can remember.  All of the major holidays are ahead, and Halloween has just occurred.  Now Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve and Day are looming ahead.  It seems as if time itself is suddenly tilted and we are collectively sliding toward the New Year with no control.  This is the reason for stores, magazines, etc,to begin to overlap their decorations.  There is very little time between the holiday events.

When I was young and still in elementary school, the time went very slowly between holidays.  Much too slow.  The waiting was maddening.  I suppose that my mind was so uncluttered that this was all I had to think about.  This is, of course, unimaginable now. Everyone’s mind seems to be cluttered.  If our thoughts were visible as flowers, we would all probably look like large peony bushes.  I wonder if the ideal mind at this point in time would be somewhere between cluttered and uncluttered.  Maybe a chia plant growing from our heads.

This year even more clutter than usual has come from a very important presidential election.  The commercials and advertising have been out of control for months and months, an inescapable daily input, like vines growing everywhere which threaten to strangle everyone and everything.  Election Day is important, and everyone who can, should vote, but I look forward to the day after Election Day.  All of the vines disappear.  Television commercials are just about Thanksgiving and Christmas, and there is an exciting feeling of anticipation of holiday madness, a time when we collectively lose our sanity and drain our checkbooks and fill our credit cards.  This is the yearly price of anticipation and excitement.  And beware.  This can be habit forming.

So, as we slide mindlessly toward the New Year, let us hold on to the one little bit of sanity left in our holiday confusion: music.  Music for all of the holidays will be playing everywhere starting now.  Either enjoy it or use your iPad headphones and enjoy anything you carry around with you.  But listen and hang on to your sanity through your favorite vibrations and frequencies.  And slide carefully into 2017 keeping control of your plastic, your sanity, and your tax deductions…!

October 5, 2016
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October in a Splint

I love Autumn. It’s my favorite season of the year, and October is right in the middle of it.  Granted, here in California we really have to look closely to see any signs of leaves turning, cooler weather, grayer skies, or any kind of precipitation.  We just have to deal with it and enjoy pictures and videos from the east.  This year, however, I am experiencing autumn differently. My right hand is in a splint.

The reason for this began on a warm day in August.  It was a Friday about 8:30 in the morning.  We had contracted a man to come and clean our windows and carpets, an annual and sometimes bi-annual task.  Nothing unusual, almost routine.  Ahead of time we clear the spaces around the windows for easy access, and clear the carpets of furniture, tables, chairs, etc, to make the steam cleaning easy.  The key word here is “easy.”  Routine.  But this year there was a slight wrinkle in our routine.  Unforeseen and life-changing.

We have two cats, a male named Rusty and a female named Riley.  They are normally docile and flexible to some extent, but Riley can get cranky at times, like when her front claws need to be trimmed.  She can get upset during the brief process and has to be held tightly by the scruff with the paw to be trimmed accessible.  This is the normal extent of her crankiness.   In the past few years, when the cleaning is to be done, both cats are put in the bathroom with their toys, food, water, and litterbox.  When the cleaning is finished and things are starting to get dry enough, the cats are let out and everyone is happy again.   But this day was different.

The bathroom was prepared for the cats.  The only other task was to insert the cats themselves into the upstairs bathroom.  Rusty is always curious so, seeing him downstairs, I took a package of cat treats and shook some out on the carpet.  He came right over and started munching, so I picked him up and took him upstairs to the bathroom, opened the door, set him inside, closed the door and left to find Riley.  Back downstairs  I found the treats, shook the package to get her attention, and shook some out on the carpet.  Nothing.  No sign of Riley so I started looking around and under things and finally found her behind the couch.  I’ve done this before, just move the couch out from the wall and the cat comes out.  Easy.  But instead, she bolted out in a flash and ran upstairs.  All of the doors are closed.  She is cornered, so I gently pick her up and walk over to the bathroom, and, as I release my hold slightly to insert her, she gains her footing by scraping her claws into my skin and takes off.  I am now bleeding in various places on my hands and arms.

I’m now realizing that this is not going to be so easy.  Downstairs I again start looking around and under things.  It’s now after nine o’clock and I’m getting a tad frustrated.  Finally I find her behind the fridge.  Extraction is not going to be easy.  So I shake the (seemingly giant) fridge from side to side.  Nothing.  I push and pull it back and forth.  Nothing.  So my only option is to do this more strenuously, and in the process, the water line behind the fridge breaks.  Water is spraying at an alarming rate.  The cat is out but I have bigger problems.  By the time I get the water turned off the floor is covered with water.  I find towels, dishrags, anything that will absorb water.

So then back to the cat.  She is not downstairs.  I find her upstairs in the utility room behind the washer and dryer.  Same problem as with fridge, but stronger water line and machines not so heavy.  The cleaning man comes in and closes the door.  Being helpful, he shakes, and I grab the cat who, also being upset, rakes me with her claws while biting my right hand.  I toss and she jumps to the counter where the cleaning man tosses me a small carpet so I can wrap her and put her into the bathroom.  It’s now 9:30.  The whole process took an hour.  The two incidents with Riley took about 4 or 5 seconds each.  I am now bleeding from both hands, but mostly from my right hand.  Aftermath:

Later that day I go to my GP doctor and get a tetanus shot and antibiotics.  See him again on Sunday and right hands is swollen and looks bad.  He sends me to an infection specialist who after seeing me twice, sends me to a surgeon, who takes one look at my hand and says: “Surgery.  Tomorrow.”  That was September 2.  I have been in therapy ever since, trying to get control of my right hand so I can play piano again.  I have basically been “shut down” as far as the piano is concerned.  The take-a-way:

Get a dog.  Cat viruses are the worst.  Never corner an animal.  Wear gloves when near anything with claws.  Hindsight is invaluable after the fact.  And, remember that your life can change in an instant.  Be prepared!

September 5, 2016
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September Social Identity

What is and isn’t cool has been a factor in all societies since there were people on this earth. We all, either consciously or unconsciously, tend to imitate that or those which we admire.  Sometimes this is a harmless spread of a trend, and sometimes a dangerous escalation of the radical or even a societal virus.  Most of the time these trends catch on quickly and spread like an out of control fire.  The extent is indeterminable.  The effect can be comedic, stylish, bizarre, innocuous or ultimately harmful. Both the cause and the effect are unpredictable. While styles, fashions,  catch phrases, body movements and language itself may not have much lasting effect on society in general, there are other things that may be harmful, if not in the short term, then possibly in the long term.

The glorification of subcultures is prevalent in our global society at this time, and has been evident for hundreds of years.  Outlaws, bandits, highwaymen, gangsters and gangs have been terrorizing societies since recorded history.  They have caused death and misery to large numbers of people, and yet, until printed communication, have been fairly localized.  Their evil ways were in the realm of the fairy tale.  But, as soon as it was possible to spread the printed word, the fantasy started to spread to larger masses of people.  The nascent newspaper found a way to use sensationalism to sell a larger volume by increasing the intensity of each story.  Books, pamphlets, plays, and music found the same formula as a way to increase profit.

Robin Hood, King Arthur and Aladdin spawned Jesse James and Billy the Kid who morphed into the turn of the century gangster and the more modern criminal and serial killer.  This chronology has now permeated our society and affected our attitudes, morals and ethics. The role models for our children have changed to the celebrities of several subcultures.  This has caused an erosion of our whole value system, belief in a supreme being, and even our own constitution and government.  All of this has caused many in our society to live in a fantasy world consisting of a myriad of drugs, attitudes that shift with the wind and political leanings into cults and socialism.  In other words a surrender of the individuals right to think independently.  All of our media are infected.  Movies, television, books, the internet, and all of our communications promote the dark side of life as being exciting, living on the edge, being cool.

The above causes everyone, but particularly our young, impressionable and callow offspring, to fear reality because of an unrealistic view of life.  And being unbalanced makes it easy to be seduced by lies, misinformation and various political aberrations.  Seeing the truth is much more difficult when unbalanced.  So how do we restore balance?

As difficult as it is, we always have choices.  Our young need to understand this.  When we are inundated with misinformation and fantasy, we can still choose reality. We have the right to say no to addictive substances and unhealthy situation.  It is still possible to be an individual and to think and to question the popular trends and authority itself.  It is still possible to “Make your own kind of music,” and to  chase the clouds away and “Let the sunshine” in to our lives. So together let us start turning over old rotted logs and rocks and let light chase away the infections in our society.  Let us glorify our real culture.  Let us deal more with facts than just emotions in our decisions. Let us begin to think again…!

August 1, 2016
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August Adversaries

“When idealism meets common sense and they clash.” (just think about this for a moment)

Respect for law and order has been necessary from prehistoric times through the present. Humans have always needed safety and security and order from chaos and anarchy.  No society has lasted without law and order.

The exact opposite of this situation are the mentally deficient humans who crave chaos and anarchy.  Originally they were banished from the tribe to exist on their own.  We have sensationalized the outlaw in our own society in all of our media: newspapers, books, pamphlets, movies, videos and songs, etc.  This has only encouraged the outlaw to prey upon the innocent.  It has also encouraged those in our justice system such as judges, attorneys and elected officials to be lenient instead of firm which exacerbates the problem. When this is the case, the jobs of law enforcement on the ground: police, FBI, military and various security organizations are made extremely difficult, if not impossible at times.  Our security and safety are assured and supported from the top down.  Citizens support but have no real authority.  Government at all levels support by assignment and funding. Our safety and security need to be the highest priority.

The outlaw, whether thug, gangbanger, common criminal, white collar or terrorist is a bully. And all bullies have the same misguided mentality.  I found out personally in elementary school that there is only one way to deal with a bully.  Force.  You must stand up straight and not back down.  If you are pushed or knocked down, you must get right back up and confront in exactly the same way you deal with an out-of-control dog:  a folded newspaper or a firm smack on the nose.  And you must firmly back this up with whatever degree of force is necessary.  The best illustration is the character of Ralphie in the movie “A Christmas Story.”  He and his little brother are badgered throughout the movie until he finally snaps and confronts the bully with force.  He is never bothered again.  This same scenario happens in schools, colleges, and workplaces at the state and national level and also between nations.  When the leaders at any of these levels are strong, there is very little problem.  When they are weak, things at any level start to fall apart.

The infiltration of the “politically correct” movement into our society and government has made us weak at every level.  Everyone is afraid to confront and back it up out of fear. And this is the legacy of  PC:  fear of lawsuits, fear of the media, fear of grassroots movements and gangs and thugs, demotion and job loss.  And this is backed-up by fear of, and in, the departments of justice for the same reasons.   Censorship goes hand in hand with fear. Fear of saying the wrong thing or even being accused of saying the wrong thing. Censorship strangles free speech, and fear strangles freedom.

The preceding are the basic tenets of socialism along with liberalizing (dumbing down) education and muzzling gun owners.  All of these tenets very gradually pave the way for the benevolent dictator to enter and fix (control) everything.  Keep in mind that no society has survived the evils of socialism and its inevitable result – communism.  No independent thinking, inventing, art, music or advances in technology have survived this evil anywhere in the history of the earth.

We are creeping dangerously close.  WAKE UP!  We are sliding, edging, being nudged into full socialism.  It is time to stand up and confront the aforementioned basic tenets of socialism and say Stop!  Enough!  We already have laws and a constitution and a bill of rights.  We don’t need a bully or any form of outlaw to show us a better way.  We need to say Halt! Or we will use whatever force is necessary to stop you and your movement.  We the people are singing the same song of freedom as our forebears who fought in our own Revolutionary War.  Yankee Doodle. Don’t tread on me. And now, “God Bless America.”  For ourselves and our children, God bless the United States of America!

July 2, 2016
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July Patriotics

We crave control, but live through a lifetime of changes.  We seek organization and order amidst chaos and disorganization.  Our societies create laws and rules so that our haphazard lifestyles blend instead of conflict.  We have clocks and watches and computers and iPads and smart phones and even traffic lights to create order from disorder.  We have work schedules, sleep schedules, time on and time off, appointments and scheduled meetings… all so that our lives fit together in some sort of harmony.

Disruption causes our problems:  bumps in the road of life, people who disregard our rules and laws and time itself.  These waves cause us to scurry around to restore order both in our lives and in our society.  Restoring order is one of the reasons that we need doctors and psychiatrists to deal with all of the stress that we constantly face.  Sometimes we are successful in lessening this stress or even eliminating it.  Sometimes not, and even though we should always  expect the unexpected, we are rarely prepared.  Our lives are just too entwined and complicated.  There are just too many conflicting vectors from too many sources.  We can only juggle so many things at a time.

Interacting with many different personalities in many different situations is also stressful.  People think differently about how we live our lives and conduct our business and raise our children.  This can be difficult to deal with, but these constant interactions are necessary to continue the smooth day to day flow of our daily lives in our society.  People who drop out:  the homeless, the mentally compromised, the political extremists, can cause major bumps in the road.  To counteract this, the orderly and organized must figure out how to deal with these problems and their inevitable effects.  Bumper cars and pool balls don’t always go where we would like for them to go.

July 4th is our celebration of Independence Day.  The opposite of independence is “dependence.”   These are two basic ways of organizing people on a mass scale.  Both of them imply different degrees of freedom.  While everyone has preferences, freedom and independence are  difficult to obtain and even more difficult to retain.  Differences in these philosophies tend to erode freedoms at such a slow rate as to be almost unrecognizable.  This is the danger in a large society with many different opinions and free speech.  Erosion left unchecked can get to the point where there is no turning back.  All is lost.  Before this happens the vast , largely dormant, populace must be awakened to the danger and encouraged to actively participate in their own salvation.

Everyone needs to know the price they pay for letting freedom and independence slip away.  Free lifestyle, free thinking, free mobility, etc,  would all be compromised.  The loss of any or all of these would reduce the individual to becoming  a mere pawn in the hands of whatever form the state would take.  Self-worth is squashed and nothing of value can be accomplished by the individual.  Everything is to be done for the state.

So, this is Independence Day.  Today and every day.  July 4th is just a reminder of our responsibilities.  With this in mind:  Wake up! Smell the roses!  Listen to the music!  Tune in to your inner thoughts!  Be a patriot!  Celebrate our freedoms and advertise the fact!  Protect our right to display our flags, and sing the “Star Spangled Banner” and our freedom to do this!  And…God Bless America!

June 1, 2016
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June Generations

Why couldn’t I have known you now when I am an inquisitive adult?  There are so many questions I now would like to ask you all: mother, father, uncles, aunts, grandmothers, grandfathers, etc.  Our family history with your own parents, relatives and friends.  What discussions we could have.  What insights as to why I am as I am.  Why the peculiar beliefs, superstitions and odd behaviors.

Our lifetimes seem so brief.  Neither my childhood nor my adulthood coincide with your own adulthood, and old age erases any possibility of relating as adults.  By the time the idea of relating becomes desirable, you are all gone in one way or another. And I never got the chance to ask “What were you thinking when…………”  We fail physically and also mentally and we also disappear into our own problems.  We disconnect and pull away or just think that the past is not important anymore…. just because it is fading, irrelevant or painful or embarrassing or too loaded with secrets that took so long to bury deeply that it will take too much effort to retrieve them. And furthermore, who would possibly  care anymore?  Is it history when you have actually lived through it?

So much is lost by not communicating with each other: continuity of the family timeline, familiarity of the family itself beyond just our grandparents, and rarely,  our great grandparents.  Even though we are in touch with a great part of the world, we seem to have lost touch with our own personal roots, our relations and our relationships.  Family reunions were once possible and even desirable in the not-so-distant past when families were closer both physically and geographically.  Conversations and games and meals and memories all brought us together.  Meeting for the first time the new members of the extended family by births or marriages wove a tapestry of the common bloodline, expanded by actually seeing and talking to cousins and aunts and uncles that were fading through a lack of familiarity.

All of this seems like  a fictional account of a fictional world.  Something we occasionally experience in a book or a movie. The close-knit family gave us continuity and security, meaning, and a reason for being, through exchange of ideas, the inevitable controversy, and a way to resolve conflicts in a controlled environment.  As desirable as this may seem, it was not perfect.  Nothing in this world seems to be perfect. But when we isolate ourselves from our family unity for an electronic network exclusively, we essentially become self-sufficient little islands, atolls in a sea of humanity drifting close by others, but rarely touching.  And we appear to be drifting farther and farther apart with no reason to unify.  With no evident solution.

Could music fix this?  I don’t think so.  Music is only a symptom of the problem. Music is drifting apart in the same way.  Everyone is doing their own version of what music “is” and in infinite variation.  The only continuity seems to be the addition of video and a story to the music itself.  This provides us with a temporary and illusive sense of “belonging ” in the virtual reality world.  The music and video  control our emotions, our intellect, and even the direction of our thoughts.  This becomes a release from the reality of our lives, and then the security of observing brings us into a new family, a virtual family, and it, like a new drug, can become addictive.  Our beliefs are suspended, we are almost totally vulnerable and ready to accept almost anything.

This concept when it is isolated should be frightening!  Combine this with drugs that already relate readily to certain kinds of music, and then extrapolate and carry this concept to its extreme in our own future, and realize that this situation can become a vastly debilitating cocktail in the near future in our society and culture.  We do not have to think too deeply to envision the very questionable possibilities which present themselves.  A very dangerous situation for our society and our culture.

So, if we are to retain any semblance of our humanity, we need to watch carefully what we view, and listen carefully to what we hear.  The future our own families and the families of our friends may fade, falter, and even founder in the footsteps of our forebears.  So, remember:  Forewarned is forearmed…!

May 2, 2016
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May Matrices

May reminds me of my growing up in the forties and fifties in Ohio.  My grandmother’s acre lot was in full bloom with many species of flowers, trees of all sorts and various animals. In a word, “teeming” with life.  My home was next door in a half-acre lot.  On this lot was a basketball hoop (regulation height), horsehoe pits, wickets set up for croquet, net for badminton, bale of hay for archery (with a target to distract us from aiming at small furry animals,) and a rudimentary baseball diamond.  Sports also in full bloom.

During my childhood, life was mostly outside.  My three siblings and I played outside all day, coming inside only for lunch and the occasional bathroom “pit stop.”  By the end of the summer each year, I was well-tanned and almost brown with bleached hair from the chlorine in the public swimming pools.  There were fences between all of the yards in our neighborhood, but there also were gates or just openings in the fences for kids to walk through.  In the spring and summer, kids of all ages wandered from yard to yard looking for things to do.  Our array of possibilities in sports allowed any number of participants from one to whatever, so there were times of great activity, and downtimes when we had to occupy ourselves with alternative entertainments.  The hose was very popular at times.  Drinking, sprinkling vegetation (and sisters), chasing small furry animals, etc.  (this was not a good time to be a small furry animal)…

With no electronics, how did we ever survive?  Our imaginations, our competitive natures, and our love of the outdoors helped a lot.  We were social and gregarious to a point, but there were inevitable disagreements which led to pushing or shoving, but we always seemed to work things out.  Without adults intervening.  How did we do this?  How did things get worked out among kids running around loose all summer, left to themselves.  Did we turn into our version of “Animal Farm?” No… we used common sense for the most part.  Elementary reason.  And a lot of this developed as an adverse response to how we observed adults interacting badly and frequently.  In self-defense we developed ways to interact which were better than what we were surviving under adult supervision, by using “common sense.”

We didn’t need laws from some mysterious entity to tell us to work something out.  We needed something immediately. A resolution that worked for all who were involved.  And, of course, there were bullies!  This happened when someone, usually older, tried to take over and dictate to the rest of the smaller kids using force if necessary.  (sound familiar?)   In these cases, we needed someone even older who understood peacemaking and balance of power, etc.  (sound familiar?)  Still we worked things out without adult intervention. Usually…

Our varied sports also taught us rules and discipline.  Relationships taught us a give and take attitude.  A neighborhood with many varied ethnicities taught us respect for each other, and all of this was both personal and healthy.  All of this transferred to music.

I started as a beginning trombonist playing with small ensembles, then small bands, then marching bands and orchestras, and I found that my previous experience in playground relationships and sports discipline was invaluable.  Working together (group), controlled aggression (dynamics), standing up to bullies (trumpets & drums), following the director (rules), playing an instrument while marching in time to the music and making left or right turns (as a group), or countermarching (working as a unit), all came together and made sense.  So what does all of this illustrate?  E Pluribus Unum.  One (unit) from many (players).  We learned and we loved it.  And there were no laws that told us we had to do this “or else!”  This, my friends is democracy and freedom – in action! At the outset.  Discipline.

Contrast this with the way our present society is headed.  Our own personal circumstances.  Think about this.  Are we on the road to a “better place?”  Or “idiocracy?”  Are we approaching a real breakthrough in societal interaction?  Or a break-up?  Think about this…!

And when you have time to think about it in those rare quiet moments, go to the internet. Type in billsvarda.com, and choose some tracks to listen to while you meditate.  Which illustrates (even though it is a commercial), that we can use music to improve our minds and our society.  Love the vibrations!  Love the rhythm!  And, above all, love “common sense!”