Saturday, January 31, 2015

From Noise to Music

Yesterday I had a great time presenting at Old Cabell Hall's Music Library as part of their "Making Noise" series.  I talked about my experience of learning to hear again anew with a cochlear implant (CI). Many people don't understand that it can be hard work to learn to hear again with a bionic device. I showed with powerpoint slides some of the aural rehab I did. Things like listening to NPR radio shows, going to CI forums, ESL (English as second language) websites, audio books.

Then I talked about what I did to regain music perception. I published an article that documents all of the things mentioned in The Hearing Journal.   I worked with a music teacher and friend, Aila Juvonen doing a series of ear training exercises. For someone like me though, ear training was more about creating new neural pathways and engaging other sensory input. We worked with tuning forks to enable me to feel the vibrations of frequencies of pitches. We also did some interval recognition exercises and sight singing. It was a challenge and also a lot of fun!

After my talk, I played some of my own songs. I hope to do more presentations like this. Thanks for coming by and reading! I hope your new year is going well so far.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Guitar Woman

Do you remember that old song by the 70's band Bread called, "Guitar Man?" It was a favorite song that describes a traveling guitar man who is always drifting to find another place to play.  Here are some of the words:

Then you listen to the music
And you like to sing along
You want to get the meaning
Out of each and ev'ry song
Then you find yourself a message
And some words to call your own
And take them home

This week found me playing my guitar in many different places and settings.

At my gym I played in the lobby so that those weary from workouts and errands could take a breath and sit and listen.  At the nursing homes for those with dementia, I played my "sundowning serenade" to help calm them as they got ready for bed. Today at a clubhouse in town, I played some instrumental tunes while others sat around a table making crafts and writing poems.

I watched to see their eyes light up with recognition when hearing the first notes of, "Here Comes the Sun" by the Beatles. For those needing something energetic, I like to play "Classical Gas."  There is a tune for all moods and I like to provide all different shades of color and feelings.  I like to sing too but playing guitar where my instrument is the singer is just as satisfying.

Pictured above is my beloved classical guitar made in 1984 by Richard Brune in Evanston, IL.  My cat Jasper could not resist getting into the picture.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Happy New Year!

Hi everyone! Happy New Year to one and all!  2014 was a pretty good year for my music endeavors and I thank all of you for your continued support. A lot of good things happened for me this past year that I summarize on my webpage at this link.  In the meantime,  I am really jazzed up about this new year ahead. I have some new music programs I will be doing that I'll be reporting here about to let you know how they turned out. In one project, I will be collaborating with an art teacher, bringing music to her room while the kids do expressive drawings to the melodies I play on my instruments.

For now I am enjoying a bit of a holiday before next week's new gigs begin. Something I really have fun doing is making what I call " sonic scrapbooks." I do that by going through some of the music I have of other composers and find motifs I like. I grab that motif and instead of learning the piece as a whole, I go to different musical places than they did in the piece. It is such fun to do but hard to describe. Imagine you have an interactive mystery book and at one point there is an action that is taken that will change the plot significantly. Sometimes you have had hints of this change to come, other times it takes you by surprise. You can wonder what would have happened if another thing _____ (fill in the blank) had happened instead. It would change the story.

This is what i like to do musically. I read a melodic passage on a page and instead of continuing to play it as written on the page, I go off in my own direction, in my imagination. I reinvent the piece and come back to the original motif later.

I find that as a working musician, it's important to continue to "play" and take an experimental approach to grow and continue to learn. 

The picture above was taken at UVA hospital lobby on Christmas day. I was playing holiday music on my guitar when a woman (pictured) approached saying she had planned to play the piano. So I suggested we play together and we did! Then a man came and sang with us and we made a fine, merry band. A nice way to ring out the old year.

I wish you all good health, happiness and success in the coming new year! Thank you for stopping by.