Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘music

Music Memory

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As a latter-baby-boom fan of record albums, I have a number of milestone music memories from my coming-of-age years moving between middle school to high school in the 1970s. Admittedly, having four older siblings as in-home influencers contributed greatly to my exposure to music that was older than my years. The burgeoning rock scene of the Woodstock era was a little beyond my 10-year-old self, but the allure of the music was well-established by the time I reached my mid-teens.

Cyndie and I were recently gifted with access to Apple Music by our kids. The welcome message from Apple points out my song collection is now 60-million strong. This is a gift the kids will have a very difficult time surpassing in the future. Maybe a fiber-optic line of unlimited data access to our home in the rural countryside could top this, but that’s pretty far beyond the ability of individuals to achieve.

As it is, we are able to sip new downloads through a tiny straw on our current data plan.

However, my connection at work offers an alternate avenue for adding songs to the library on my phone. Yesterday, I downloaded the America album, “Holiday.” That record was released on my 15th birthday at a time when my interest in their acoustic guitar sounds and vocal harmonies was very strong.

It was to be my time. New music that was current to my adolescence. However, reality didn’t quite match my expectations. The band was evolving and I was disappointed.

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I liked the way they looked on their first album. I am embarrassingly influenced by album cover art. (Duly noting the incredible insensitivity of the somber indigenous tribesmen behind the gleeful white trio under the dual-meaning “America.”) The old-timey photo on “Holiday” didn’t appeal to me one bit.

The new album had less strumming acoustic guitars and more theatrical clarinet.

I tried to like “Holiday.” There were a couple of songs that wowed me, but the majority didn’t, despite listening to it over and over again. When I moved from LPs to CDs, “Holiday” didn’t get replaced. I haven’t heard most of these songs in 40-some years. Now, with the convenience of digital access, I get to revisit my youth.

Listening to the album again triggered a lot of memories. Riding in the back of a station wagon packed with teens and someone turning up the radio for the song, “Tin Man” and shooshing everyone because “John’s song” was on.

But, I wanted “Horse with No Name” and “Riverside” not “Sister Golden Hair” and “Muskrat Love.”

Luckily, at the time, I also had “461 Ocean Boulevard,” the return of Eric Clapton to recording after recovering from a 3-year addiction to heroin.

I’m looking forward to mining more lost gems and their associated memories of my youth among the other 60-million songs that hopefully include a wide variety from the 70s.

Thank you, Elysa and Julian! This was a brilliant choice for a gift for us both.

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Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2020 at 6:00 am

Lifting Spirits

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Amid the glut of dramatic economic distress and virus fears in the news every minute, there continue to appear glimmers of calm and inspiration. I can’t add any words to enhance the wonderful a cappella collection of student voices from Rome singing a Crosby, Stills, & Nash song that has been in my repertoire since the early days of my acquiring an acoustic guitar. They deserve your full attention.

Hat tip to Howard Rheingold for pointing me to this gem.

Claim a few minutes from the calamities of your day to sit and enjoy this. It is a worthy distraction.

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I’m going to find it difficult to sing this song alone from now on after having watched them.

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Written by johnwhays

March 27, 2020 at 6:00 am

Look Ahead

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Take a break from the growing fear and uncertainty embedded in the crest of this pandemic wave rolling across the globe and look ahead to the day when it will be a block of time in history. Turn off the news. There will be updated reports awaiting you in the morning. Check those and then get on with your day.

There will be a day when you once again get to hug those you love. Look forward to those moments.

My friend, David Keiski wrote a song about it and performs in this video he created for us all to enjoy at a safe distance. Let his words ring across the world!

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Don’t be embarrassed about deciding to set it on “repeat.”

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Written by johnwhays

March 22, 2020 at 8:50 am

Celebrating MacPhail

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Last night we met Cyndie’s parents downtown in Minneapolis again, this time at MacPhail Center for Music, where our daughter, Elysa, is Manager of Student Services. It was MacPhail’s annual appreciation dinner for supporters, which included a couple of award presentations and showcased some incredible student musician performances.

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Board members even showed off their singing chops with an enthusiastic rendition of a holiday classic, to which I’ve already lost the memory of the title. Student music performances included a group of harpists, an electronically enhanced cello and flute duet, a pair of powerful young singers with opera voices, a demonstration of a typical group lesson for beginning young cellists, and a smooth couple of songs from their Dakota Jazz Combo ensemble.

I’m a little biased, but the highlight for me was visiting Elysa’s office while we were there and seeing that she has Beatles figures staged in her bookshelf. It was also a treat to witness a glimpse of her workplace in action and meet some of the people she works among.

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One additional surprise bonus was the unlikely chance sighting of a fellow Tour of Minnesota cyclist, John Toomey, who also happens to be a MacPhail student and often uses rehearsal space there. What are the odds we would cross paths in the short time we both happened to coincidentally be near the main entry last night? I would say, long.

We are proud of Elysa’s many years of contributing to the success of an organization that is improving the world via music, “transforming lives and strengthening communities through exceptional music learning experiences that inspire.”

It certainly inspired me, providing hope that good will triumph over evil from the transformations MacPhail is producing in so many lives.

Music makes the world go ’round, and MacPhail is making sure the world will keep spinning.

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Written by johnwhays

December 6, 2019 at 7:00 am

Enchanted Evenings

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There is something extra special about simply spending time among friends for no other reason than the treasure of being together.

My good friend, Himalayan trekking partner, and fellow annual Tour of Minnesota bicycler, Gary Larson biannually hosts gatherings for dinner and music with long-time friends at his home. This past Saturday was our most recent celebration of food and tunes, with more than a few story-jokes that elicit as many groans as chuckles.

It is a priceless event to be a part of.

The food was divine. I’ve never met a stew served by Gary that I didn’t absolutely love. This time I was reduced to demanding a recipe. Not because I would be able to make any use of it, but Gary knew that and presented a printed copy for me to give Cyndie.

I thought it was the dijon mustard that provided the irresistible flavor I savored but Gary quickly corrected me that a second mustard ingredient is what I was tasting.

After dinner, a few of us bring out our guitars, banjos, and an occasional mandolin and delve into the depths of our memories to resurrect a variety of occasionally sing-along-able songs from years gone by. It truly does make for some precious enchanted evenings.

 🎵  look what Gary has created

he’s done it again

gathered all of us together

to feast among friends

then we revel with some music

and lush sing-alongs

well maybe not so lush

we can’t remember the songs  🎵

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Hail, hail, our friend Gary!

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Written by johnwhays

November 18, 2019 at 7:00 am

Out Again

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Feeling quite the bon vivant event-goers of late, last night we found ourselves out on the town again. We took a chance with our chickens and left their coop access door open long after dark in order to head downtown to Minneapolis for dinner and a concert with Cyndie’s brother, Ben.

Highest accolades shout-out to Mercy restaurant for superb food, great service, and fine ambiance.

Oh my gosh, the salmon and fixings were sublime. Shared bites from Cyndie’s and Ben’s plates revealed their choices were just as good.

Conveniently, the restaurant was just steps away from the State Theater where Ben had tickets for a solo acoustic concert by guitarist, Trey Anastasio. I am most familiar with Trey’s electric guitar artistry on his self-titled album, but I’m sure he is better known for his role in the rock band, Phish.

I’ve seen plenty of performances that were advertised as “acoustic” but stretched the definition to a variety of degrees. Trey’s show held reasonably close to the genre.

Our seats in the balcony placed me appropriately between two levels of interested fans. There were two guys behind me who I assume came with dates who were in love with the guitarist. These guys decided to have a full-voiced conversation about the mundane, …about one of their dads, something down in a basement, how the truck was performing… in the middle of some fascinating finger movement across frets.

Two people in front of us were being moved to the highest levels of euphoria upon hearing the opening notes of every song, unable to keep their hands from floating into the air in joyous rapture, occasionally rising to their feet to dance, as if powerless to resist the bliss unleashed by the connection their minds provided to the Phish song Trey was acoustically covering.

I couldn’t join the Phish faithful in singing along, because I didn’t know the lyrics, but I was thrilled to be witnessing the live-performance virtuosity of such an accomplished musician.

It made it easy for me to overcome the urge to turn around to tell the guys about my deck and the power tools I was learning to use in replacing all the rotting cedar boards with new green-treated two-by-sixes.

As our car barreled east on I94 through St. Paul after the show, a call came in from Ben. He just wanted to let us know he was a few blocks from home already and wondered how we were doing. Funny guy. We had about 40-minutes left to get to Beldenville.

Happily, I found the chickens all safe and sound on their roost, cooing at my arrival to close the door.

Another smashing success of a night out on the town. Thanks, Ben!

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A Weakness

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When there is a Ken Burns documentary on PBS, I seem to lose my ability to turn away. And when it is a series of 8 two-hour episodes over two weeks, my nights vanish in a blink.

Last night, I barely noticed the storm that rolled over us because I was fixated by episode 7 of “Country Music.” Luckily, we didn’t need to move to the basement for cover.

I never considered myself a “fan” of country music as presented by radio stations, but the portions of this epic documentary that I have seen in the prime time broadcasts this week and last are showing me how much of the music that I do like is interrelated. The performing artists, songwriters, and recording engineers frequently cross over the artificial boundaries created by radio stations and record companies intended to compartmentalize their “product” and maximize profits.

The music that works the best for me comes from the fringes of Country Music where there is more artistic control and less broad commercial appeal.

In general, I could say I have a weakness for Ken Burns’s documentaries, but this one on the subject of a particularly American style of music, much of which has occurred in my lifetime, is almost overpowering in its demand for my attention.

I hope the universe will forgive me for getting nothing productive accomplished while this show is making its broadcast debut.

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Written by johnwhays

September 25, 2019 at 6:00 am

Remembering Woodstock

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Ten years ago, on the 40th anniversary of Woodstock, I wrote a blog post musing about how that event influenced my taste in music. In honor of reaching the milestone of 50 years hence, I’m going to re-post those thoughts once again…

Have I mused on music already here? I don’t remember.

It was 40 years ago now that the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was held. Three days of peace and music. I was 10 years old. I don’t have any recollection that I had any clue it was occurring.

I’m not clear about what point in my life it was that I got hooked by the music being made by artists like the ones that were so well represented at the Woodstock concert. The first album that belonged to me was a gift from a sibling or siblings (anyone remember?). It was the Monkees, “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd. That album was released in November of 1967, so maybe I got it Christmas of that year. I remember they pranked me with the trick where they taped the album to the cover of the box the present was wrapped in so when I lifted it and looked in the box, there was nothing there.

The next record I recall getting was one that my sister, Linda, allowed me to select for myself, as a gift from her. I didn’t have a clue what to pick and went with what I saw before me when walking the aisle of the local record store. Black Sabbath’s “Ironman” was something that I recognized as having heard on the radio and it was in the front of a stack down at my eye level. I picked it and remember her trying hard to make sure that was what I wanted. I’m pretty sure she could sense it was not a well thought out selection. But I held firm, trying to portray that I was making an informed decision. I wasn’t.

Eventually, I came to revere the music of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The first concert I ever saw in person was The Allman Brothers Band. I was a fan of The Beatles, Derek & the Dominos, America, Loggins & Messina and a wide range of related groups. I have always liked live recordings and I think my favorite albums from all the above artists or groups are their live concert recordings.

     Impressionable years

Somewhere in my very impressionable music years, I heard the live recordings of Santana, The Who, Richie Havens, Country Joe & the Fish, Canned Heat, Ten Years After, Crosby, Stills & Nash, Joe Cocker, John Sebastion, and I’m sure others who performed at Woodstock, and those songs all locked in my consciousness as foundation blocks.

I probably heard them on the soundtrack of the documentary film released after the concert. From those songs, I built a fascination for Leon Russell and records like Mad Dogs & Englishmen, The Band, “Rock of Ages” and “The Last Waltz”, Little Feat, “Waiting for Columbus”, George Harrison and the musicians he recruited for “Concert for Bangladesh”.

This wasn’t music that was played on popular radio (remember the AM band?). This is what record albums and FM radio were all about. Eventually, I got a job at a retail record store for about a year and became immersed in more albums than I could comprehend.

I wasn’t old enough to be aware that the Woodstock Music and Art Fair was happening at the time, but later, it became a very significant part of my music world because of the recordings made there. And the music that was made there came from the spirit of that moment. Woodstock was a very important event for me, after the fact.

Increasingly more so, in the accumulating years following that August weekend back in 1969.

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Written by johnwhays

August 20, 2019 at 6:00 am

Please Stop

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Just make it stop. Please.

When I stepped out of work yesterday, this is how my car looked:

It was snowing again, perfectly timed with the beginning of the afternoon drive. Lovely. Happy Valentine’s Day, indeed.

My commute home started well enough, considering the low visibility and slippery road surfaces, but in short order, progress slowed to stop-and-go, rolling along at a snail’s pace. That tedious speed lasted for more than an hour, during which I enjoyed a deep meander through my prized digital music collection on my phone.

With little in the way of driving decisions required, my mind was free to pay greater than normal attention to the music of my memories that was flowing from my car speakers. It served as adequate distraction from how extra-long the commute was taking, until the flow finally opened up and vehicles started moving at dangerous speeds again.

Somehow, I was able to steer clear of the two lunatics who were unsatisfied with the reasonable movement in the left lane and decided to race ahead in other lanes to cut back into the left again, disrupting everyone’s safety. One of them chose to cut off me, without the courtesy of a turn signal.

The other picked a driver who chose to “fight back” with a classic road rage tactic of “tit for tat,” racing ahead to cut back in front of the first jerk.

No problem, it gave me a chance to slow down even more to grant them plenty of space to take their grudge well ahead and away from me.

Beyond those two scares, the only other challenges of disaster I narrowly avoided happened to be three separate incidents of police and highway patrol cars precariously parked to protect vehicles that had crashed and spun out.

It took me twice as long to get home, but I did arrive without calamity.

Shortly after, the falling snow stopped, and the sun even appeared for a couple of brief glimpses before setting.

I’m going to visualize this as having been the last snowy drive I will suffer for the rest of the season. To help start this new run of luck in my favor, my goal this weekend (like it was on Tuesday, last), is to simply avoid driving my car at all over the entire weekend.

Here’s hoping I achieve that humble objective.

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Written by johnwhays

February 15, 2019 at 7:00 am

All About

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Cyndie. This Weekend, it’s all about Cyndie as we celebrate the milestone of her 60th birthday. With Jackie tending to animal chores at Wintervale, Cyndie and I are submersed in the loving energy –and I do mean energy– of the Friswold family. We are staying at her parent’s house in Edina, MN, but have twice in a row found our way to downtown Minneapolis.

Last night, it was dinner and music at the Dakota, where we ate like royalty and swooned over Shawn Colvin‘s very personal solo guitar song performance.

This morning, Cyndie is sleeping in. My brain is busy trying to process the onslaught of activity, memories, and emotions –not to mention distractions of mental and physical preparations for my biking and camping trip that starts on Friday– conspiring to confuse me over whether it’s all about Cyndie, or all about me right now.

I had the great pleasure of starting the day yesterday riding bikes with Cyndie’s brother, Ben. He rode over from about a mile away just as a rumble of thunder rolled over us.

We took pause inside to watch the radar long enough to see we would have a perfect window of opportunity after a very short wait. The tiny disturbance sliding south of us was just a precursor to the precipitation that would arrive in the middle of the day and hang around for the afternoon.

While the sky was watering the earth, more of the Friswold clan gathered for lunch at Jimmy’s restaurant near our old Eden Prairie stomping grounds.

After a little nap before heading out for the night, attention turned to a gift brother Barry presented to Cyndie. Her jaw dropped when she saw her younger face on the cover of a memory book of pictures he had spent many loving hours to produce.

Just as she finished a first pass through the overwhelming collection of memories the images trigger, we stood to witness Justify run for the triple crown. Then eleven of us headed out for dinner and the concert.

With noted local musician and song-a-day YouTuber, Zachary Scot Johnson opening the show for Shawn Colvin, we were treated to a range of guitar-accompanied stories, providing me with a second recent prompt to wonder whether I am still a guitar player, or not.

A variety of reasons have combined to allow months to pass without my spending time with fingers on frets. I am inclined to blame my yet-to-be surgically treated arthritic left thumb as the primary culprit for the hiatus, but deep down, I have a sense I may be giving that more credit than is due.

Somehow, while distracted with too many of my own concerns rarely focused on accomplishments, I have been granted the chance to flutter around the bright light that is Cyndie for 44-some years.

It makes for a tangled web that isn’t so much all about her or me in the end. It really has become all about us.

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Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2018 at 8:35 am