My Musical Journey: The Message

The Message

When I was nine, my sister Ria had piano lessons. Being the little brother, I thought I should be able to have piano lessons, too. To me it looked like fun, and I wanted a turn. So mom signed me up.

A lady in our neighborhood, who was also in our ward, taught many kids piano lessons, and for only $3 a week, it was a pretty good way to go, though I didn’t find out until later what a generous teacher I had to charge such a small fee for those valuable lessons.

The lessons were fun, and I learned all the basic musical terms and skills, and obtained a very basic piano proficiency. By the time I had been taking lessons for a year, however, I was tired of practicing, and after a few weeks of dragging my feet, I stopped going to piano lessons.

Years went by, and I didn’t touch my piano books. They were a thing of the past, and any time I considered playing, I remembered how boring practice was, so from the time I stopped the lessons, I stopped playing the piano entirely.

As a young man of fourteen, I loved listening to music while drifting off to sleep. I would stick in a favorite cassette and let it play through to the end. However long it took me to fall asleep, I would always get completely wrapped up in the music. As I made a habit of this, I soon found that the mere act of turning on music and closing my eyes did something to me. It was as if the sounds were wrapping around me, filling me. I don’t know how to describe it, but that simple, quiet music had an overwhelming effect on my whole system.

It was at that time that I came to a realization of the power of music – just a few simple notes, played at just the right… well, everything! The tempo was perfect, the notes were perfect, played at the perfect volume at just the right moments. What was it about this mix of sounds that drew a person in so completely? Was it the flawless skill of the artist, or was it something independent of the musician? Did the music itself somehow convey the sense of completeness and power that I felt?

Much of the music I listened to was religious music, and the powerful feelings I felt while listening to that music were always accompanied by an intense spiritual high that made me want to be better, do more good, and reach out more to bless the lives of more people. But a lot of the music I listened to was simple New Age music, which at that time was sometimes called Easy Listening music.

One night, while listening to some of this gentle music, I felt something unique – or I heard something, but with my feelings rather than my ears. It was as if someone or something was sending a clear message through while my mind and heart were in such a susceptible state. The message was simply this: “You can give this gift to others.”

I lay motionless, still wrapped in the feelings and power of the music. The words had been clear. You can give this gift to others. What gift? Music? The ability to play music? The feelings that the music expressed? Though the message had been clear, I didn’t know for sure what it meant.

The more I thought about it, the more I felt that it was time to go beyond simply listening to and enjoying music. I needed to make music.

But how? I didn’t play any musical instruments, and my voice was nasally and boisterous. I would have to learn to play an instrument. A flute? A brass instrument? I didn’t have any instruments, and I didn’t have access to any instruments – except…

Yes. The piano. The family had a piano. I would would get out my old lesson books and start learning to play first thing after school the next day.

A Musical Language: Speaking through Music

Here’s a crazy idea – though it’s not exactly a whim, since I’ve had the idea floating around in my head for about eight years now. I’ve always been fascinated with the capacity music has to communicate feelings and convey messages in a way that is often more powerful and effective than written or verbal communication. What if we were to come up with a language that was spoken through music? A system that actually uses notes to communicate detailed information. It would have to be detailed enough that someone could translate the Bible into the language, and yet simple enough that it wouldn’t take years of training to get it. Not a code, exactly, but something between a code and a language.

In a sense, what I’d like to see is someone pipe a tune, and someone else understand the detailed message.

Some ideas have been explored along these lines. Probably the biggest is Solresol, invented by François Sudre in the 1800s, which is simply a language that uses words spelled with different combinations of notes in the basic piano scale. It has its own dictionary and grammar, too.

But I would like to see a language that is more than a code that uses notes for letters. Ultimately, the ending product has to be both beautiful music and a clear message. It has to be as artistic and aesthetically pleasing as it it literary.

While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and make its written form as beautiful artistically as its sound is musically. So in other words, Continue reading A Musical Language: Speaking through Music

A Musical Language: Speaking through Music

Here’s a crazy idea – though it’s not exactly a whim, since I’ve had the idea floating around in my head for about eight years now. I’ve always been fascinated with the capacity music has to communicate feelings and convey messages in a way that is often more powerful and effective than written or verbal communication. What if we were to come up with a language that was spoken through music? A system that actually uses notes to communicate detailed information. It would have to be detailed enough that someone could translate the Bible into the language, and yet simple enough that it wouldn’t take years of training to get it. Not a code, exactly, but something between a code and a language.

In a sense, what I’d like to see is someone pipe a tune, and someone else understand the detailed message.

Some ideas have been explored along these lines. Probably the biggest is Solresol, invented by François Sudre in the 1800s, which is simply a language that uses words spelled with different combinations of notes in the basic piano scale. It has its own dictionary and grammar, too.

But I would like to see a language that is more than a code that uses notes for letters. Ultimately, the ending product has to be both beautiful music and a clear message. It has to be as artistic and aesthetically pleasing as it it literary.

While we’re at it, let’s go ahead and make its written form as beautiful artistically as its sound is musically. So in other words, it would be a language that looks like art when it is written, and sounds like music when it is spoken. There would be little or no need for tongue and mouth articulation, as is present in every language I know except Sign.

Mind you, this would be a MAJOR undertaking. If it leaned more toward the side of code, then it would take very careful rules that would maintain beauty and simplicity while allowing a detailed message without taking too much time to convey it. If, on the other hand, it leaned toward the side of language, then it would need its own dictionary and grammar rules.

Just think how fun it would be to write a detailed message, and then put it to music by simply translating it into this musical language. If it was really well made and well planned, such a language could shape the future of composition in the future for thousands of people. It would completely obliterate the question of whether or not it is possible to convey a message using music alone. It would not only supply the usual feelings and subconscious patterns, but it would speak words with as much clarity and accuracy as this blog entry. And if a picture paints a thousand words, this would paint a hundred thousand words.

I have toyed with (as well as started on and off) to create this language/code, but time has limited me from really diving into it. But here are a few rules that I think would have to be kept constantly in mind for it to have any chance of being what I envision it:

  1. It has to sound beautiful – or at least any message spoken would have the potential for sounding like decent music, and in written form, looking like decent art.

  2. It would have to be fairly simple to learn. How many people do you know that can speak Klingon? Sorry, but complex language systems intimidate people, so this has to be fairly simple.

  3. It has to be able to carry as detailed a message as the composer (or speaker) needs to speak.

  4. It has to be able to convey the message in a time-frame comparable to living languages today. (IE it can’t take 5 minutes to say, “I went to the store and bought a burrito.)

  5. It has to be able to be spoken by a single individual without the aid of others. Harmony and chord structures may be used to emphasize, expand, or provide multiple levels to the message, but a basic communication has to be able to be spoken by one person by either voice or instrument.

  6. Just remember the most important things are that it’s spoken and written form is beautiful, and its message can be detailed.

  7. Other elements, such as rhythm or note-length can assist in speaking the language, but they probably ought to be used more in grammar rather than individual words in order to allow the composer or speaker as much creative liberty as possible to compose a piece of music using the language.

So there you have it. Any thoughts? Ideas? Criticisms? It’s a kind of wild idea, but we’re living in an age of wild ideas, and if we pull together, we can make some wild ideas awesome ones.

The Synergetic Novel: Episode 15

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A plump little man in hospital scrubs shuffled his way into the door, pulling a tray with a platter. He looked at Matt, showing an odd lack of surprise at seeing Matt awake.

“Wakey, wakey, eh?” the man said with a gruff scratchy voice, his face leaning in toward Matt’s. “Why it’s about time. You must be right famished. What’s it been, a day?”

“A day? How long have I been here?”

“Pshhht.” The sound was like the mix between a sneeze and huff, “that’s a doctor question, ‘fraid. I’m just a low nurse I am. Be needing your breakfast you will, I am sure.”

“Uh,” Matt said, looking up at the single muffin on the platter. It looked fairly appetizing, but Matt didn’t feel like eating at the moment, “I don’t think I’m hungry, really.”

The man eyed Matt wearily, and Matt could see a rather hastily shaven Continue reading The Synergetic Novel: Episode 15

Episode 14

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Matt had very few memories of his parents, and he couldn’t tell how many of them were genuine and which were formed by a mix of old photographs and his own imagination.He had always had vivid dreams, too, especially in the last moments between sleep and waking. It was in such a moment that Matt saw his parents at a distance, wrapped in each others arms, just like in his favorite photo of the two. They were wrapped up in each other, as if they had the whole planet to themselves.
As he watched them, he felt a sudden urge to come to them, and began to walk toward them. With the great distance, Matt expected it to take a great deal of time to reach them, but as he walked, the distance closed so quickly that in only a few seconds he was nearly close enough to reach out and touch them. They turned, as if to look at him, but their gaze stopped at something beyond him. He turned around. Someone stood only a few feet from him, but as he looked, his vision blurred, and he couldn’t make out the face.

It was a man, he was Continue reading Episode 14

Celebrity(???) Look-a-like

Okay, so you’ve all probably heard of Celebrity look-a-likes.  If you look around, you can find them everywhere.  In our new neighborhood, we’ve already found Dick Van Dyke and Julie De Azevedo.  In our old neighborhood, we had a perfect Mitt Romney.  Patrick Swayze was one of the missionaries in my mission.

Have you ever wondered what celebrity you look like?

I don’t have to wonder.

I know.
Continue reading Celebrity(???) Look-a-like

SN: Episode 13

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(We apologize for our theme problems.  We’re in the process of getting them fixed.  If the audio doesn’t work properly, you can listen at http://chas.willowrise.com)

“Don’t be afraid!” the ghost said quickly, in a gentle voice, very unlike the violent tone he had used when he had last spoken to Matt.

For a moment Matt didn’t move, not sure whether to speak or run.  But before he could decide, the ghost said, “I’m sorry if I frightened you earlier – I should not have been so… abrupt.  But if you’ll give me a chance to explain, I think you’ll know why I did.  It was a mistake.”

“Who are you?” Matt asked, not sure whether to try to sound cautious or firm, “Why are you here?”

He walked closer to Matt, who again noticed that his footsteps made no sound.  But he was as vivid and real as any person, and his speech was clear, though he was now speaking low, almost in a whisper.

“My name is Nams Mourg, but you can just call me Mourg.  I have only been here a short time, but I have been watching you.”

Matt’s expression must have betrayed his thoughts, because Mourg said, “Oh, don’t worry.  I mean you no harm.  In fact, I am a friend.  I have only observed you enough to discover whether or not you could be trusted.  I am now confident that you can.”

Matt didn’t know whether or not he could believe Mourg, but what was he supposed to believe?  After all, he was speaking to a ghost, wasn’t he?

“You are here as… as a ghost, then?”

Mourg lowered his head.  “I am a ghost, of sorts, but I am not completely dead, either.  I’ll explain that in time, but yes, that is how I’ve been watching you.”

“Did you once live here?  Why are you here?”

Mourg shook his head.  He stared at Matt for a moment, as if deciding how much to tell him.  Instead of speaking immediately, he turned toward the living room.

“Perhaps we should sit.  We have a lot to talk about.”
“You are in great danger here,” Mourg said, sitting forward on the couch.

“Danger?  What kind of danger.”  Matt couldn’t help wondering how a ghost who walked through walls could sit on a chair without falling through.  Then again, shouldn’t he fall through floors, too?  He wanted to ask, but if ghosts were normally as sociable as this one, there was probably some kind of propriety issue involved with discussing what ghosts could and couldn’t do.

That thought made Matt wonder why ghosts seem to think it was acceptable to just come into people’s houses without invitation.  Didn’t they consider it trespassing?  But then, where would they go?  Certainly ghost culture would be quite different from living human culture.

Mourg stared at him.  His face was clear, and as Matt looked in his eyes, he felt an uncomfortable sensation.  Mourg looked quickly away.  “I hope you will come to trust me,” he said, “I know it must be strange for you to be talking to someone who… well, someone like me.  I understand.”

“What kind of danger am I in?”

“I’m sure you’ve never heard of Ions before?”  It was half statement, half question, and Mourg waited for a response.

“Only when you mentioned them earlier today.”

“They are pillagers.  They are constantly causing havoc and trouble.  But worse than that, they are organized and use strange magic to manipulate the world around them.  They are evil, and dangerous.”

Matt wondered if these Ions were ordinary people or ghosts.  They didn’t sound like a group Matt wanted to meet.  “What do you mean?  Who are they?  Where did they come from?”

“They call themselves Ions, but my people call them marauders.      They have a strange, twisted connection with animals, perhaps they are part animal.  They are from a distant land – a very distant land.  It would take some time to tell you everything, but know that they are both dangerous and powerful.”

“But what are they doing here?”

“I wish I knew for sure, but I can’t help thinking that you have something to do with it.”

“Me?” Matt asked, confused. “What connection would I have with them?”

At that moment there was a knock on the front door, and Mourg rolled back into the couch – IN to the couch.  Seeing it made Matt’s stomach turn over, and he hoped this was all some mistake that would clear up soon so he could get back to normal life.  Though completely out of site, Mourg’s voice was clear, “Remember, you’re in danger!  Do not trust anyone!  It could be Ion marauders, or a messenger.  Be careful!”

Matt opened the door slowly, ready to press it closed again if necessary.  When he recognized Alice from the library, he opened it further, but glanced behind his back. He didn’t want her to see Mourg, so he stepped out and pulled the door closed behind him.

“Hey!” he said, trying not to bump into Alice.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, backing up and nearly stepping off the porch, “I didn’t mean to interrupt anything.”

“What, oh, no, I was just… no, it’s fine.  How are you?  It’s Alice, right?”  He felt silly, though he wasn’t sure why.

She smiled, and nodded.  “And you’re Matt.  I hope it’s okay I stopped by.  I found something I thought you might find interesting.”

“About my Uncle’s books?”

“And Nigel.  I guess I could have waited until you returned, but I found something that I couldn’t wait to show you.  Do you have Internet access at home?”

“Yeah, what did you – oh, uh, I mean, we had the Internet.  It’s not offline, er, online  – it’s down.”  Why couldn’t he bring himself to tell her about the ghost?  Was he just trying to protect her, or was he afraid of sounding stupid in front of her?  He had already done that.  What if she was an Ion?  Mourg didn’t get the chance to tell Matt much about Ions before Alice came.  His first time meeting her was this morning.  Maybe she had been set there to get information from him, which he had just handed over.

But that didn’t make sense.  First off, what would his uncle’s books have to do with Ions?  Second, Alice had been at the library when he met her, and no one knew he was headed there.  But then there was that whole thing about her acting like she already knew him.

“Oh, that’s okay, I’ll just tell you,” she said, “ I was looking at Google Maps, and I – what’s wrong?”

Matt didn’t look at her.  He was staring across the street.  Then in a low tone, he said, “Don’t turn around, but there’s someone watching us.”

But he said it too late.  She had already turned, and the moment she moved, the figure ducked behind a bush.

“What?  I don’t see anyone.  Where?”

Because it was now sunset, Matt had only seen a silhouette, though Matt thought it had looked more like a boy than a man.

“Wait here, I’ll be right back.”  He looked at her.  Her face showed amusement.  Did she think he was being silly?  Of course she did, but what could he tell her?  If he was being watched, followed, or pursued by someone, he didn’t want her in danger too.  “It’s probably nothing, but Alice, if anything happens…”

Now her amusement turned to suppressed giggles.
“What?”

She laughed out loud, “I’m sorry Matt, I couldn’t help it. You’re just acting so dramatic!”  She leaned in, and with a playful tone, whispered, “Should I play along?  I could act frightened if you want.”

He stared at her blankly.  “What? No, I’m serious, Alice, we could be in danger!”  If there really was a kid watching them, Matt wanted to be able to recognize him, and identify him.  If it was just a neighbor kid, so be it, but if it was an Ion, how would he know it?

He looked at Alice, suddenly wishing she hadn’t come over, but not sure what to do with her now.  At least if she saw Mourg, she would realize that Matt wasn’t just being paranoid.  “I’ll be right back.”

He moved quickly from his yard into the street, thinking his best chance was to simply startle the kid and get a good look at him.  Matt knew if he didn’t hurry, all chance of finding him would be gone.  Was he a spy of some kind?  Or perhaps a decoy?  If so, then he’d better be careful, there could be others waiting.  Barely had the thought formulated when a horn blazed and Matt turned in time to see headlights.  There was a loud screech, and after a sudden momentary impact, everything went dark.

This entry is originally from…

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Reflections of a Mazda: Dealing with a Driver who is a Lemonhead

Guest blogger: Lilo, the 1993 Mazda 626

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Don’t ask me what Chas is trying to accomplish in this photo, but I have noticed a funny taste in my wiper fluids lately…

So I finally got around to reading Chas’s entry on cars that are lemons. But the thing I find ironic is that there is little mention of his own problems – oh, he makes it clear that he knows a great deal about car personalities, but did he ever bring up his knowledge of car maintenance? Of course not. Why not? It is for the simple reason that he doesn’t have any.

Don’t get me wrong, Chas is alright as a person, but I think Chas has about as much knowledge of car mechanics as a duck – a mentally challenged duck… a dead mentally challenged duck.

Why do I say this? Well, I’ve been driving Chas around for about two years, and all I can say is that I’m jealous of Ourtwo, who is now in lemon heaven. If his wife didn’t offer him five bucks for every time he did an oil change, I’d probably be there myself.

But my point here is not to rip on Chas. My point is to give advice to all you cars out there who have lemonheads for drivers. It only takes one to ruin a car, so if you are driving a lemonhead around, here are some tips for making the best of whatever time you have left.

  1. I know it’s standard to turn off your “Check Engine” light after you are repaired. Lemonheads don’t see that light, but their spouses do. If you keep that light on, their spouse will probably nag and bribe them to take you in to get you checked. When, after three months of pestering, they finally take you in, the mechanic will lecture them about keeping the fluids up and getting regular oil changes. They won’t do both, but they will either get you an oil change or get you fresh fluids. After they do, just turn your “Check Engine” light back on.

  2. Being low on oil can get tiring fast. To prevent your driver from spending more than the absolutely necessary time driving you, make sure your heater and air-conditioning never work. This is vital if you drive a lemonhead. The life of a lemonhead primarily consists of eating, sleeping, and puttering. The less puttering they do while driving, the better. You will get the recuperation time you need.

  3. Make lot’s of external noises. Rattle your muffler, squeal your pulleys – anything that will get the attention of passersby. Your lemonhead will just think you are talking to the other cars, but the common Joe will recognize that you are in need of help. They will recommend to your driver that they should tighten your pulleys or check the brake fluid. Of course he won’t do that, but if he hears this advice enough, he will start getting worried around inspections time. Be sure that when that time comes around that you play it up good – conk out a few times if you need to. He’ll get you into the shop – he won’t want to, but he’ll do it.

  4. Whatever you do, do NOT make the solutions to your problems too obvious! While it would be nice if your driver was savvy enough to fix the problem, don’t forget that he is a lemonhead.  His idea of obvious and yours are quite different, and if he feels confident he can fix it, he will try. And if he tries, you have a problem. In fact, you’ll have many problems. Anything that requires more than adding fluid ought to be done in the shop for you, or you’ll be in the junkyard before inspection day.

So if you are dealing with a driver who is a lemonhead, your prime directive is to get into the shop as OFTEN AS POSSIBLE. It’s your only chance for survival. This will also keep him from ever saving up enough money to buy a new vehicle, which is good for you, because as a lemonhead, your driver knows about as much about selling a car as he does about fixing one, so he’ll just junk you.

I’m proud of my adopted brother, Buzz, who has just conjured up enough problems to keep him in the driveway for several months while Chas saves up the money to get him fixed. That will keep us both around for awhile – I get to continue being the primary vehicle and Buzz gets a rest.

I’m not worried about Buzz, because he’ll be the only vehicle big enough to carry the whole family once Chas’s new baby comes along, and I’m not worried about myself because I get to be the primary vehicle for a while.

Besides, it’s almost inspection time.

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Episode 12

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Alice sat down behind the information desk, exhausted at the end of a full day.  In the early afternoon, a school class had come on a field trip to the library, and Alice was the only one available to give them a tour and read to them.  Then after school let out, one of the local scout troops had come for some merit badge… something.  Somehow it felt like she was catching up on everything else for the rest of the day.  But now it was 8 pm, the library was closed, and the doors were locked.  She slumped back in the chair, tempted to fall asleep right at the computer.

She looked down at a paper next to the keyboard.  She had nearly forgotten about her research on local history.  The sticky note had the names of the books Matt Robinson had brought in.

There was something strange about Matt.  When he had come in the library that morning, he had been dressed in an outfit that Alice would have described as being appropriate for a mountain-man, and he was accompanied by a young kid of ten or eleven.  His attitude had been very direct and determined, though she had assumed that he was a foreigner.  He acted like he’d never seen the inside of a library before, and was very conscious of everything happening around him.

But when he returned in the afternoon, he was Continue reading Episode 12