Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Element

Brain Pickings continues to come up with great posts once a week.

The one that struck me today is by Sir Ken Robinson, author of The Element: How Finding Your Passions Changes Everything, "one of seven essential books on education," as stated by Maria Popova in her post. This Brain Pickings' blog post is an hour long presentation by Sir Ken Robinson to the audience in attendance at The School of Life. It's an engaging presentation that is punctuated time and again by Sir Ken's wit, humor, anecdotes, and wisdom. A lot of it many of us may have heard before but is well worth hearing again. Sir Ken speaks of climate change in a different light.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Latest Craving!

There's been a desire for me to pursue Scottish fiddling for some time now but I've just not found the right stimulus. I'm intrigued by Neil Gow. Read a bit of his history, which I found quite interesting. He lived in Scotland during the mid late 1700s into the 1800s. Strathspey's are always intriguing and daunting to look at on the printed page.

A few weeks back I came across a Scottish fiddler, Bruce MacGregor, who is part of Blazin' Fiddles. Bruce has four, brief, but, very complete, YouTube tutorial videos on such aspects of Scottish fiddling as grace notes, triplets, bow control, and, the one below, ringing strings.

As for strathspeys, I found out the Irish, especially Tommy Peoples, enjoy playing strathspeys as much as the Scottish. A strathspey is a uniquely Scottish fiddle tune and dance. Strathspeys are named for the highland areas of Scotland from where they originated. They are set in 4/4 time, a bit slower than a hornpipe but more stately with exaggerated Scotch Snaps (a short note before a dotted note) within the structure of the tune. The few previous sentences and some more info about strathspeys can be found on Wikipedia at

James Scott Skinner, a 19th century musician, fiddler and composer with over 600 compositions published. Below are several examples found on YouTube of "The Laird of Drumblair,"an easy tune and one I hope to learn. The first is a slow version performed by Sarah-Jane Summers who teaches fiddle at the Scots Music Group in Edinburgh.

This version is by Katie Henderson of the U.S. who learns a new tune a day and posts them to YouTube and her New Tune A Day (NTAD) blog. She's quite good!

Then there's Tommy Peoples playing the same tune and who Katie credits as her source for learning this tune. This is a Irish (RTE) tv video from 1981.

A killer version of the tune, played in a traditional style where the strathspey is followed by the same tune played as a reel and the reel The Musical Priest," is performed by Johnny and Phil Cunningham, some of Scotland's finest traditional musicians of the 20th century. It can be viewed on YouTube at

And, for my concertina playing daughter, Heather, here's a version of tune played on a C/G concertina!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Stephane Grappelli and You Are The Sunshine of My Life

Today an email from Jazz On The Tube came to my inbox. It contained a favorite song of mine played by one of my most favorite musicians. The song is You Are The Sunshine of My Life, composed and written by Stevie Wonder. The principal musician is jazz violinist/fiddler, Stephane Grappelli.

Grappelli was considered the "grandfather of jazz violin" who played concerts into his 80s. He died in 1997. He was one of the founders, along with Django Reinhardt of the gypsy jazz band The Hot Club Quintet of France, one of the first all stringed instrument jazz bands.

Play the video below and let the music speak for itself and see if you don't become a fan of Stephane Grappelli. Or, understand why I'm a fan.

Brain Pickings and Flash Rosenberg

Brain Pickings is this amazing blog by Maria Popova, a gal that always has these blow-my-mind topics. She's a very diverse person. The post for March 26, 2012, The Importance of Frustration in the Creative Process, Illustrated about a recently published book Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer. What's really cool is Flash Rosenberg's Vimeo video promoting the book. Flash is a "Guggenheim Fellow, New York Public Library (NYPL) artist-in-residence, live-illustrator extraordinaire." Flash's an illustrative video teaser for the book is embedded below. Enjoy!!!

IMAGINE: How Creativity Works from Flash Rosenberg on Vimeo.

Another of Flash's illustrative video works is of John Lithgow reading Who Is Mark Twain at the NYPL and embedded below. I found this on Maria Popova's post of June 13 2011, John Lithgow Reads Mark Twain, Live-Illustrated.