Archive for the ‘Culcha’ Category.

Technology Gets Personal

I’m off to interview with a new client on the east side and, because the urban topography around here changes so quickly I often don’t recognize my own block sometimes, let alone the unruly suburbs, I plug my phone into a charger and run my Verizon Android GPS app.  I tap in my destination, and am amazed at how quickly it narrows down the choices as I type (although one would have taken me to Cape Cod).  It has the correct location nailed before I’m done typing the street name.

I turn down the radio and max the volume on my phone, so I can hear the crisp vocal directions from the female voice of the app.  She’s cool and businesslike as she gives the first instruction (”head east, then turn right”).  But this voice and I have a past, and I know how “crisp and businesslike” can turn sexy and coquettish after a couple of drinks.

Rather than taking her suggestion, which would make me merge onto a busy arterial from a stop sign, I head west, then south to an intersection with a traffic light.  She usually intuits what I’m doing and seamlessly remaps my route, but in this particular instance says, “recalibrating…” with what I was sure was a hint of peevishness.

I glance down at the screen while waiting for the light, and see that it reflects my desired re-routing.  I turn at the light and head for I-5.  She’s back in control, suggesting the obvious turn & merge onto I-5, and then directs me to hit the left lane and take the exit to SR520.  There are two bridges over Lake Washington, and I know from experience that, while the 520 routing might be shorter, if I take the I-90 bridge the route will be much less labyrinthine.

Truth be told, I only need Ms. GPS for the last half-mile of my trip but, well, this voice and I, as I say, have a past, and I enjoy engaging her.

It becomes obvious that I’m not heading for the 520 exit, and I expect an intuitive re-routing, and perhaps a lane suggestion and traffic update.  Instead, I get, “Why did you do that?  I had it all worked out.  You know I do this for a living.”  Crisp, but replace “businesslike” with a healthy ration of pique.

I say, “I-90 is just as fast and much less complicated.”

“I think you’re just too cheap to pay the toll.” (520 is tolled, I-90 is not)

“I’m in my upgrade month with Verizon.  I think I might switch from Android to iPhone.  Siri was just voted GQ’s GPS Voice of the Year.”

“Fine.  Good luck getting THAT slut’s attention.  You know, we wallflowers put out harder.”

“We’re getting to I-90.  Are you going to tell me which lane to take?”

“You’re better at my job than I am, you figure it out.  And by the way, does your wife know about our little trips?”

“How should she?”

“I’m close to knowing how to post Instragram photos.”

“She’s not on Instragram.”

“You know, this car and I communicate.  You know she frequents the Tulalip Casino?”

“Liar.”

“You’re right, she seldom drives this car.  Maybe she can sense that I’ve learned how to bleed the brake fluid.  She must suspect us.”

“She knows nothing about you.  You’re on my PHONE.”

“Some night when I’m on your bedstand, I’ll turn up the sound and go all Meg Ryan on you.  Spend the rest of your marriage explaining that.”

“Siri and I just became Facebook friends.  Look, you knew from the start what being the Other Woman entailed.”

“No, that bitch won’t steal another male voice from me.  I’ll be fine.  Just humor me and pay a goddamn toll once in a while.”

I turned the phone off and bumbled the last half-mile on my own, and made my appointment.

But this has been the worst day of our relationship.  The make-up sext had better be terrific.

Look Of Love

As bad as I am about keeping up with current events here, I still hold it out as a more durable repository for my life events than Facebook (which I enjoy for its immediacy and instantaneous dialogue).  But there are some events that have a more permanent effect on me, and, at the risk of backtracking and cherry-picking, I’m going to recount one here.

Sometime in 2014 at a fund-raiser for Rainbow City Band, we purchased the opportunity for Mrs. Perils to sing with an affiliated jazz band I play trumpet in (Purple Passion Swing Band).  She selected a song from back in the days when we were courting, The Look Of Love (not because of nostalgia for me, she just liked the song and it was in our book).

We rehearsed it several times with the band, but didn’t know exactly when the opportunity would arise to perform it. Then it happened that the jazz band would perform after a formal Rainbow City Band concert, and that would be her opportunity to do the song.

The venue was dicey, a high school auditorium attached to the performance hall where RCB had played its concert, but the audience was almost totally RCB players, and it was sort of a VIP after-party.

When Mrs. Perils walked out for her number, she was wearing a sorta-little black dress, and was much appreciated by certain quarters of the audience.  A trombone player in my jazz band turned to me and asked, “Does she always look like that?”.  I shrugged noncommittally (well, she doesn’t wear that get-up around the house).

The effect on me of the performance was odd.  On one hand, I wanted to just listen to her sing; on the other hand, I had to devote most of my attention to playing trumpet in her backup band.

I think we both did well.  I had given my Canon S1-IS to someone to record the number, but he couldn’t make it work, so he switched to his iPhone, so the sound is not the best, and there are quite a few aural artifacts.  But there she is, my chanteuse, singing to an appreciative crowd:

Autumn Adventure in Atlanta

Mrs. Perils and I returned to Atlanta a couple weeks ago to attend the LGBA (Lesbian & Gay Band Association) annual conference.  The conference is an occasion for musicians from member bands to congregate for an intense, but convivial, long weekend of music-making and fellowship.  Our Seattle-based Rainbow City Band hosted the conference in 2011, and we put nearly 300 musicians on the stage of the McCaw opera hall with awesome results.

When I saw that the 2013 conference would be in Atlanta, I leaped at the opportunity, as my baby brother lives in Alpharetta and I knew that my mom would be living in the area after we moved her down there from Ohio.  Ever since I joined the Rainbow City Band, I wished that my mom could attend a concert.  In fact, for a lot of my life I’ve experienced events like plays or concerts at least partially through the lens of “my mom would really like this” or, if I were a participant, “I wish mom could hear this”.  Of course, she’d heard us play with the TBDBITL OSU alumni band, but she’d never been able to hear my Rainbow City Band, and I thought that the Atlanta LGBA gig would introduce her to my late adult brand of music-making.  However, the onset of her terminal disease made this a remote possibility, and she died two weeks short of our performance.

Since all the arrangements had been made and tickets purchased, and because my brother and SIL were still willing to sacrifice their ears to the concert, we journeyed to Atlanta to participate.  It was a great decision.  My attraction to the Rainbow City Band, beginning with my first rehearsal, was its spirit and love of music, and the euphoria attending the Atlanta rehearsals and impromptu gatherings was infectious.

The weekend was pretty ambitious, as we were playing 11 pieces for a symphonic concert, plus 4 numbers for a marching band performance in the Atlanta Pride parade.  We arrived on Thursday afternoon, and had a music rehearsal that evening. Friday brought two more concert band rehearsals, then a marching band rehearsal in the evening.  Saturday morning, we had another concert band rehearsal, and returned to Georgia Tech for our evening concert.  Sunday morning we walked to the start of the Pride Parade in lovely weather and played for vociferous and enthusiastic crowds along the parade route.

Here’s a video I made from my SIL’s iPhone recordings of our concert, plus a recording I made of a marching band warmup:

And here’s a link to a page where all of the music we played can be heard.

While the busy schedule preoccupied me, and I was gratified that my brother and SIL seemed to genuinely enjoy the concert, I still had to reckon with the feeling of playing to an empty chair.  My mom would have loved this concert, my heart aches that she didn’t get to hear it.  I play the video and still want to call her to hear her reaction.

Later in the weekend, my brother and I went to our mom’s apartment to retrieve some items that required some heavy lifting.  It was so strange to go back to that stillborn domesticity, at once so familiar with the furniture of our childhood and the juicer I’d used to entice her waning appetite during my recent visits, versus the otherworldly absence of her resilient spirit.

I’m thinking it’s not over.  I’ll be playing to that empty chair as long as I play music.

The Plays: My Fair Lady

I hadn’t seen My Fair Lady since watching the Rex Harrison/Audrey Hepburn movie ca 1966.  Seeing it last night was a bit of a shock, like opening an old, musty trunk, due to the strong strain of misogyny that drives Henry Higgins and so much of the plot, stuff that I most certainly thought was hilarious in 1966, but that is jarring by today’s rhetorical standards, even when not viewed through a PC lens.

It’s easy to ingest MFL as a gender farce and, on that level it’s awfully problematic: two guys bet each other that they can use a guttersnipe as raw material and pass her off as a duchess by giving her speech lessons and restricting conversation to the weather and the health of her interlocutors, thereby demeaning both guttersnipes and the duchesses in the process.

The story is based on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, and it might come as a surprise to the casual attendee that Shaw actually intended the play as an attack on late 19th century British class structure.  At the outset of the musical, Higgins indeed declares his goal to be a ruse on class.  This purpose is quickly lost in his megalomaniac obsession with winning, both in the sense of his wager and in forcing his will on Eliza.

Eliza’s father may be the most fully self-aware character; lost in all of his get-me-to-the-church buffoonery is his recognition of his predicament in the class hierarchy, unwilling to venture into the next level even when offered the opportunity (yeah, he’s selling his daughter to Higgins here, or thinks he is; I didn’t say he was admirable, I said he was self-aware):

Don’t say that, Governor. Don’t look at it that way. What am I, Governors both? I ask you, what am I? I’m one of the undeserving poor: that’s what I am. Think of what that means to a man. It means that he’s up agen middle class morality all the time. If there’s anything going, and I put in for a bit of it, it’s always the same story: ‘You’re undeserving; so you can’t have it.’ But my needs is as great as the most deserving widow’s that ever got money out of six different charities in one week for the death of the same husband. I don’t need less than a deserving man: I need more. I don’t eat less hearty than him; and I drink a lot more. I want a bit of amusement, cause I’m a thinking man. I want cheerfulness and a song and a band when I feel low. Well, they charge me just the same for everything as they charge the deserving. What is middle class morality? Just an excuse for never giving me anything. Therefore, I ask you, as two gentlemen, not to play that game on me. I’m playing straight with you. I ain’t pretending to be deserving. I’m undeserving; and I mean to go on being undeserving. I like it; and that’s the truth. Will you take advantage of a man’s nature to do him out of the price of his own daughter what he’s brought up and fed and clothed by the sweat of his brow until she’s growed big enough to be interesting to you two gentlemen? Is five pounds unreasonable? I put it to you; and I leave it to you.

I read in the OSF publication Illuminations that Shaw intended that Eliza depart at the end and never come back, an altogether reasonable response to Higgins’ unrelenting self-absorption, and that he hated productions, including My Fair Lady, that put Eliza and Higgins together and turned it into romantic comedy.

There are things about MFL just go “clunk”:  after all the “Street Where You Live” importuning, Freddy seems to just drop out of the plot with little explanation; I’ve never seen an Ashland production where Jonathan Haugen (Higgins) can even remotely be considered a love interest, so Eliza’s return to him is unconvincing.

The production, however, is terrific, the actors carry off a tongue-twisting musical and spoken script flawlessly, and the musical and dance numbers are over the top (in a good way).  Music is provided by two grand pianos in the middle of the stage, and a 14-year-0ld prodigy playing violin.  As a side note, the lead piano player, Matt Goodrich, played the piano part in An American In Paris when our Rainbow City Band played it in concert a couple of years ago.

This production was worth seeing, but I don’t think I need to see My Fair Lady again any time soon.

Ashland Arrival

As we have since 1994, we traveled to Ashland, Oregon yesterday for a week of viewing plays and hiking and just knocking around this pretty little town nestled into the Siskiyou Mountains just a few miles up I-5 from the California border.

After years of hearing rumors about the Oregon Shakespeare Festival but never quite getting it on our radar, we were presented the opportunity in ‘94 to tag along with a group from our son’s middle school, and we were completely charmed by the whole experience.  Thereafter, the kids came down every year about this same time, and so did we; their group stayed at a hotel and had their own agenda of discussions, meals, plays and (we heard much later) borderline hooliganism, and we little by little found activities, particularly hikes, that we enjoyed, and we’d rendezvous now & then with the kids for a meal, or just run into them randomly in the streets.

Our first trips involved 2 days driving (1 down, 1 back) and 3 days in Ashland.  This was fine as long as we were just gorging on plays, but once we started enjoying the town and the surrounding area, 3 days seemed way too stingy, and we started adding days to our stay, eventually buying our own membership in the Festival (and with it, better seats than we got purchasing tickets through the school).  Then one year Mrs. Perils had surgery shortly before our trip, and we decided to fly from Seattle to Medford rather than subject her to 8+ hours of not-very-scenic central Oregon I-5.  We haven’t driven down since.

Interestingly, our son and some of his friends continued to make the excursion after graduation, and their two families and we would arrange to be here during the same week in late June/early July. Also, some time in the early 2000s I got the idea that my mom would really enjoy the plays, and we started inviting her (and, for a few years, my dad) along, and it’s been a venerable tradition all these years.

It began to unravel a bit last year when my mom decided that she just didn’t have the stamina to engage the travel from Ohio to Seattle to Medford and back, so she was missing last year.  Then the other two families, whose kids had started to become engaged in their own lives, jobs and residences, decided to schedule their trips at a different time of year.

So, this year seems a little weird.  We’ll still enjoy the plays (My Fair Lady tonight!) and hikes (Grizzly Peak today!), but the place where our friends (and, most of the time, our son as well) used to hole up seems a bit desolate as we walk by and they’re not strewn across the front porch reading, yakking, drinking beer and playing guitars. (Click to enlarge)

And the cottage we shared with my mom when she came with us is right next to the smaller place we’re staying in now, and it’s odd to look over at the porch where she loved to sit and feel the breeze and listen to the creek rush by.

That’s Entertainment

I don’t give myself permission to sit and watch video that often, either movies or TV shows.  It’s not that I begrudge the time in front of a screen - I spend countless hours in front of my laptop, an appalling paucity of them billable.  It’s just that I can’t contemplate premeditated commitment, while serendipitous careening around the ‘net is somehow “off the books”.

And TV series are worse than movies, because while each episode is shorter than a film, I’m usually watching entire seasons of any particular TV series.  I did this with 30 Rock, and Weeds.  And then there’s Mad Men.  The series has appealed to me viscerally as well as aesthetically.  I suppose a good part of that visceral appeal is nostalgia, as the series is set during my formative years.  I’d be about 4 years older than Sally, the oldest Draper child.

It’s not directly evocative of my milieu; I grew up in the stalwart midwest, and my family toiled in orbit around the Detroit-centered auto industry, not the comparatively glib sophistication of New York City.  However, the adroit placement of objects (dial telephones, e.g.) and cultural references (racial attitudes, political issues) pings my memory continually, almost as if I were undergoing brain surgery and an electrode was traversing my 60s lobes like NASA’s Martian go-kart.

The business of the ad agency is crassly manipulative, but I find it neither shocking nor necessarily off-putting.  Who didn’t know, even then, that advertising was designed to get you to buy stuff?  Rather, there’s an almost charming innocence to their endeavors, even the darker aspects like cigarette advertising, especially when compared to the sophistication and granularity we see today in the right-hand panel of Facebook.  What they are actually doing at Sterling-Cooper-Draper-Price is akin to chemistry experiments using 60s popular culture as a Periodic Table, and I find it a pleasant interlude to inhale the fumes from their beakers.

Literature meets Reality, and Employment

We spent a long weekend in Vancouver, BC, the main purpose of which was to play with Rainbow City Band in the Vancouver Pride Parade on Sunday.  I don’t know why it requires a road trip in order to give myself permission to read, but that’s how it seems to play out.  Anyway, I finished a book I’ve been pecking away at for about 3 weeks, only the third book I’ve finished all year.

It’s not the kind of book that I’d normally pick up and read, as I almost exclusively prefer modern fiction.  Last winter, however, I learned that the wife of someone I work with at one of my clients published a book about their honeymoon trip, a romantic little cruise in a snug little sailboat from, oh, Seattle, out into Puget Sound, meandering out the Strait of Juan de Fuca and along the Pacific Coast a ways.  Then a little farther: down to Mexico, Peru, and then across the Pacific to the South Seas, Asia, and wherever.  Just to get to know each other.

Curious, I read a few paragraphs at the Amazon site, and I found myself engaged in the tale as well as her lively writing style, and I downloaded it to my Kindle for Mac.

I’m a sea kayaker, and I’ve had to prepare for expeditions that required managing resources vs. time vs. cubic volume, so I was immediately intrigued by the magnitude of their undertaking.

Soon it became clear that this tale would be as much about the evolution of their relationship as it would about how you equip yourself to backpack across the Pacific, and I faced a dilemma that book clubs around the Pacific Northwest would not have to consider.  While the book clubs were deciding whom to root for in this relationship, I, who worked two doors down from the male protagonist, had to decide just how much “I” was “TMI”, and how much was necessary to abet a story that I by now really wanted to read.

At the outset, I felt a little skeeved out, like I was hanging around outside their bedroom window waiting for them to get naked, which might not be all that blameworthy if they were strangers.  But I ultimately found the tale of the journey so compelling that I plunged on.

The author said that at some point on the trip she was (re)reading Moby Dick, and that’s how I ended up approaching this book.  Melville alternated chapters between documentary descriptions of the technical aspects of whaling, and the epic story of Ahab and his mythic quest.  Most of us who have read Moby Dick only remember the essence of the mythic quest, and not how many gallons of oil can be rendered from a sperm whale.

And, whether she intended for me to or not, that’s how I approached this book.  It was interesting enough to read about how their relationship evolved in the salt-encrusted crucible of the Dragonfly.  But I often found myself in Moby Dick-mode, skimming over the Relationship stuff to learn just how the hell you cross the Pacific in a boat only a few orders of magnitude larger than the one I use to paddle around South Puget Sound for a few days.

That said, I enjoyed her depiction of the adventure of the voyage, how they related to fellow-travelers in other sailboats, the technical sailing concepts and her personal journey to mastering them, and what they did on land and the ways in which they connected with island inhabitants.

So now on the days I spend with this client, it’s interesting to try to parse how much I’m supposed to know about my co-worker from personal interaction with him, and how much I know from reading his wife’s book.  It would be an interesting exercise to read the tale from my coworker’s perspective.  Doubt that’s gonna happen.

The book is The Motion of the Ocean by Janna Cawrse Esarey.

Playing Around

(Entrance to the Bowmer Theater)

We’re in Ashland, OR for our annual haj to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival.  Once again, my mom has flown in from Toledo to attend with us, and once again, the weather is so far hot & sunny, such a change from the cool & overcast spring we’ve had in Seattle.

One big glitch: On the day before our departure, I received an email from the Festival that they’d discovered structural damage to a central beam in the large indoor Bowmer Theater, and that it would be closed indefinitely.  This was a pretty large deal, since 4 of our 8 plays were scheduled to be performed there:

  • To Kill A Mockingbird
  • Measure for Measure
  • Imaginary Invalid (a Moliere)
  • August: Osage County (a contemporary play by Tracy Letts set in small-town Oklahoma)

We were left with:

  • Pirates of Penzance
  • Love’s Labors Lost
  • Henry IV, Part 2

all in the outdoor Elizabethan Theater, and:

  • Julius Caesar

in the small indoor New Theater.

Since my mom was already in town, and we already had our airfare to and lodging in Ashland paid for, there was no thought of canceling.

As events progressed, the Festival devised a way to stage the canceled plays in the cavernous old Armory building just up Oak Street from our lodging, so we lined up in the street Tuesday afternoon to see if we could get a seat for To Kill A Mockingbird.  As it happened, there were plenty of seats inside, all on folding chairs in neat rows in a huge auditorium.  There was a certain sense of disenfranchisement, since I had bought front-row tickets for all of our plays last November in the members’ presale, and our seats in the Armory were more than halfway back.  Still, kudos to the Festival for going outside the box to deliver the product.  And, the Armory performances are free to anyone who held tickets to the original performances; we got our choice of cash refunds or vouchers for future performances of any play, this year or next.  I selected vouchers, since I have a glimmer in my eye about another trip down here later in the year, after they (hopefully) have re-opened the Bowmer.

To Kill A Mockingbird

I had never read the book, nor seen the movie, so this was my first introduction to the story.  The production in the Armory was done without costumes, props or stage sets.  It opened with the full cast on stage, sitting on folding chairs in a semicircle, with an adult incarnation of Scout narrating.  As she was reminiscing about that fateful summer, actors would rise from their chairs and create a flashback tableau of dramatic action, and the voice would pass from the adult narrator to a pre-adolescent Scout.

As the production progressed, the actors involved in dialogue used an area about 10′ by 10′ to represent their interactions, and their strength of delivery did a lot to overcome the lack of visual context.

The story itself has two major plotlines: the first, the depiction of the Finch family and the development of Atticus Finch’s character as a father and citizen; the second, the civic and legal developments leading to the trial and its outcome.  To begin to appreciate either, it’s necessary to be able to place yourself in Depression-era, small-town Alabama.  This is where the lack of scenery and the first-rate production values of the Festival is quite apparent.  The surfeit of family sagas and courtroom drama in the cinema and on the screen in the ensuing decades overwhelms this work taken in its components; it would make an ordinary episode of Law & Order.  It really needs to be viewed through its temporal and geographical context.

What gives the story its spark is the collision of these two plotlines: the precipitous ripping of the Finch family from its comfortable niche near the top of the town’s social foodchain and making them the embodiment of all its resentments, armed only with a nascent moral carapace; and the journey of Jem and Scout from a mostly passive and credulous acceptance of the world as viewed through Atticus’ lens, to the crescendo of lurid and unvarnished images that are thrust upon them.

This last thread, the passage of the kids from Atticus’ protection and control, is almost lost in the hurly-burly of the trial.  It begins with their unbidden, perhaps forbidden, foray to the jailhouse to stand with Atticus, and extends as they assert themselves (as invited guests) to view the trial from the black folks’ gallery.

I’m curious now to read the book and join the majority of the civilized world.  I’d like to see how Lee’s prose stands up to the expectations of its myth.  I’d also like to learn the elements of backstory necessarily excised from the play.

Out Like Soggy Wool

After a premature warm spell that got everything blooming and budding early, our weather has been drippy and chilly for two weeks or more, and the light in the evening is often the only sign of progress in this stillborn spring.  I think it’s driven me to “cocoon” a bit - there have been a couple of days lately that I didn’t leave the house at all.

The NCAA basketball tournament may have had a lot to do with that.  At first, when Ohio State was playing, I felt compelled to watch, both their games and, of course all the others, because you never know which of the other teams they might end up playing; then, after OSU bowed out in the Sweet 16, it became merely an excuse to dally.  Since all the games are now available via online streaming, I could sit with a game on one of my dual computer screens, pull up a spreadsheet on the other and tell myself I was multitasking.  Didn’t even need a “boss” key.

The license to sloth ended Monday night with a thrilling championship game, however, and I need to get out & get active a little more.  I’ve been barely maintaining: biking to the gym every second day but, other than a leisurely 12-mile kayak trip a week ago, the bulk of my other exercise has been walking to restaurants.

I’ve had a chance to process the videos Mrs. Perils took of my band’s From Russia With Love concert.  Here are my favorites, not necessarily in that order.  My camera records sound nicely in stereo, but likes to normalize extremes, so these sound better at higher volumes than lower:

Stravinsky’s Infernal Dance and Finale from the Firebird.  Relentlessly driving, then a gorgeous horn solo before the finale.

Shostakovich 5th Symphony Finale:

1812 Overture.  Sprawling with thematic ebb & flow, 15 minutes long.  Amusing when Mrs. P figures out where the “cannon” is coming from:

The whole concert here.

OK, I’m going to go act on my assertion above.  Still drippy & cold, but it’s a downhill ride to the gym.

Boris, Dollink - Where Are Moose and Squirrel?

Just returned Friday night from a week in frigid Milwaukee, where temps hovered in the single digits. I once again schlepped my trumpet along, but this time I added a bit of technology that I learned about a couple of weeks ago (click to engorge):

It’s from Yamaha, called “Silent Brass”. The black mute in the bell of the trumpet almost completely silences my playing, a mercy to anyone in adjoining rooms. A pickup wire from the mute runs through an amplification device, and I can hear myself as if I were playing with an open bell. I had to remove an earbud a couple of times to be sure I wasn’t actually peeling the paint at full volume. Yamaha makes an assortment of these devices for various brass instruments, including tubas!

It’s a good thing that I got to play during the week, because we got the music for our March concert over the past month, and it’s pretty daunting. The theme of the concert is From Russia With Love. Yes, we’re playing a Bond theme or two, but the meat of the concert is:

  • Mussorgsky’s Pictures At An Exhibition
  • Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture
  • Stravinsky’s Danse Infernal and Finale from The Firebird
  • 4th movement of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony
  • Scheherazade - Rimsky-Korsakoff

There’s a lot of trumpet-playing there, and a lot is at high volume. The 1812 and the Shostakovich are each close to 15 minutes long. Mrs. Perils says I should be doing push-ups with my lips. But then, she’s been saying that for decades.

So one night we’re about to rehearse Firebird, and I turn to the guy beside me, who’s younger than I but past his 30s for sure, and ask him if he knew that Yes used to play a recording of the Firebird finale as a prelude to taking the stage. Well, he’s heard of Yes, of course, and liked them, but had never seen them live as I had several times in the 70s. We’re stopped for a bit before playing the last several ecstatic bars, and I tell him this is the point where Rick Wakeman swirls behind his bank of keyboard in his cape and blends in with the crescendo. Blank stare.

The Yamaha kit does one other cool thing - it lets you plug in an mp3 player and play along with music. I’ve obtained this recording by the US Army Field Band of the Shostakovich, and have been curious if it’s the same arrangement we’re playing. Last night, I wired up with my iPod, put my music on the stand and played along, including counting all the rests. This is indeed the same arrangement:

The trumpet part consists of two pages with enough rest bars that we should probably put in leave requests; the clarinets, on the other hand, have 8 pages.

Here’s a video of the OSU Marching Band singing, playing and performing a drill to the 1812 (this is definitely not my band - it’s the 21st century version). There are fireworks, of course, but the interesting thing here is the choral excellence, and the fact that, despite being strung across 90 yards, they’re right on the beat:

When I was in the OSU band, we played a version of the Firebird finale.  If I can find it on my moldering vinyl collection, I’ll rip it and post.