MIM: Musical Instrument Museum

A history lesson

What do Elvis, Pete Townsend, Stevie Ray Vaughn, Johnny Cash, Ray Orbison, and Carlos Santana, have in common? Well, their famous electric guitars are in a featured exhibit at the Musical Instruments Museum in Phoenix.  Our family spent the day there yesterday. It was very impressive; we felt like we had traveled the world when we were through. The museum features all instruments from around the world. It’s massive. So let’s play a little game, guitar enthusiasts. From the guitar greats listed aforementioned, who belongs to the famous guitar?

ONE
TWO
THREE
FOUR
FIVE
SIX
SEVEN

Focusing on random guitars, here are more random shots. 

1938 Electric Model M Hawaiian Guitar
1950s Quad Stringmaster electric steel guitar
Not a guitar, but Ravi Shankar’s sitar.

 

1. Pete; 2. Johnny; 3. Elvis; 4. Elvis; 5. Santana; 6 Roy; 7. Stevie Ray 

 

 

IMO: Blues and Rachmaninov

As a person not schooled in music, it doesn’t stop the instinctual draw to the beauty of different genres. Music is like wine. Either it tastes good or it doesn’t. Your palette is in charge of you, not the other way around. Like wine, I like how music speaks to me regardless of whether someone says this is excellent or this is garbage.

With music, I enjoy different viewpoints. Why is this piece good? How did the artist create it? The appreciation grows, and my initial like turns to love. Time plays a part. A song I loved at twelve makes me cringe when I hear it today. Basically the entire Carpenters collection. So what? At twelve their music depressed me and somehow that made me happy. Anyway, when I investigate a genre of music, learning about the layers of its history and composition alters me at an emotive level. Rachmaninov is a friend of mine. In fact, his music invades me and becomes a part of who I am. Even if, like me, you can’t play a note.

Blues

I don’t claim to know much about the Blues other than it is the great influencer. I can tell you a famous name like Muddy Waters who played an important role. But I couldn’t tell you why, other than when he migrated to Chicago, he influenced others to play like him. Blues influenced Rock and Roll. I have listened to Bonnie Raitt, Janis Joplin,  Eric Clapton, and Stevie Ray Vaughan all my life. They all link their beginnings to previous blues greats. In the historical timeline, who is first? .

On Netflix last night, I watched a brief documentary (48 min) about Robert Johnson, a legendary Mississippi Delta Blues player called ReMastered: Devil at the Crossroads. I enjoyed hearing from other blues artists like Taj Mahal and music scholars who researched Johnson’s life and attempted to explain his importance. Surrounding the biography was the legends about him. The supernatural slant gave it a flavor that coincides with African American mythologies. Then, add to the mix Robert Johnson is a member of the 27 Club. Well, you can see how the man and the myth are a theme within the story.

It was his actual technique with the guitar which interested me. With huge fingers, he managed to sound like three players playing at once. Dexterous fingers illustrated. Though Robert Johnson recorded only one record of approximately 29 songs, his tragic life earned him the right to play the blues. He influenced a host of subsequent blues musicians.

Blues is a world where the gritty aspects of life are made better by its escape. Blues has a life of its own and the artists and the audience are connected. When I listen to blues, I’m on a trip where my mind and heart sit side by side. It’s a fine journey.

Rachmaninov

In the same 24 hour period, I switched from Blues to classical piano. Sergei is my man. In chapter one of my recent book, Fritz Lang’s wife, Thea von Harbou, is an accomplished pianist killing time on a set at UFA studios. My anti-hero, George, discovers her playing Rachmaninov’s Prelude in C Sharp Minor. As she bangs the death march, she swears at her husband in sync with each chord. It was a challenge to write the scene expressing the beat of the piece.

This morning I discovered “Rousseau” on Youtube. It visually shows you the chords and their beats. It’s stunning. What a great way to experience classical music! Different genre, another trip. Add the visual to the auditory–it made me experience Rachmaninov on a different level. He wrote this piece apparently when he was only 19. He had a dream, the story goes, where he marched forward to a casket. He opened it up and it was him inside.

This prelude best describes what my mind and heart feels like inside. It’s loud in here.

And you? What do your mind and heart sound like as if it were set to music? 

Vote for favorite song from German class

Zwei Lieblingslieder aus Deutschklasse

If you live in Europe, you’ve probably heard of Namika and Johannes Oerding. But not so for my students and I who live in Arizona. I’ve been introducing  “das lied der woche” (song of the week) since the school year began. I took a poll in German class yesterday, and these two are top contenders. Please join us by watching and listening to the videos and casting your vote.

  1. Namika, “Lieblingsmensch” 

2. “Einfach Nur Weg” by Johannes Oerding 

Maybe spit in Paris from the Eiffel Tower.

Take a taxi to London to look at the jewels.

I have never been anywhere in Africa.

I have never been to New York.

Oh, it’s really shit, I want to go somewhere else.

I just want to go away, only away, just away

Where everything is easy

I just want to go away, only away, just away

Where everything is easy

Oho Oho Oho ohoho

Maybe hide on a lonely island.

How to check in Lindenberg for a while.

Jump on other trains without a ticket and

Sing my songs on a gondola in Venice.

I have never been anywhere in Africa.

I have never been to New York.

I want to go somewhere else.

I just want to go away, only away, just away

Where everything is easy

I just want to go away, only away, just away

Where everything is easy

Oho Oho Oho ohoho

Drop by ship from the port of Hamburg.

Spend the last bit of money in Las Vegas.

Where everything is easy, Until I know what I miss here.

I just want to go away, only away, just away

Where everything is easy Just gone, just gone…

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