Category Archives: Articles

The Swingle Singers

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In 1963, around the time the Beatles became popular in the United States, I began listening to the radio, and occasionally I’d hear a jazzy vocal arrangement of a Bach piece, like this one:

In Paris in 1962, a musician named Ward Swingle assembled a group of fine vocalists who sang lush arrangements of Baroque repertoire with no or minimal instrumentation, often just a drum set and string bass, using jazz techniques such as syncopated rhythms and scatting. When I was in my high school chorus, we sang one of their arrangements, maybe this one:

Bach, Sleepers Awake:

I recently googled The Swingle Singers and discovered that they are still performing and recording. The makeup of the group has changed, with new singers auditioning every time a vacancy occurred. Here are some of their more recent work.

Piazzolla’s Libertango:

Beatles’ Blackbird/ I Will:

Ciao, Bella, ciao is an Italian song that was featured in a Korean movie, Han Gong Ju:

Narnia:

Mozart: Rondo Alla Turca:

William Tell Overture:

Peter Gunn theme music:

Mozart Symphony No. 40:

I’d Rather Be Dancing Armenian Folk Dances

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Armenia is located in western Asia. It is bordered on the west by Turkey, on the North by Georgia, on the east by Azerbaijan, and on the south by Iran. It was the first state in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion in the late third century. One hundred years ago, during World War I, Armenians living in their ancestral lands were exterminated in the Armenian Genocide.

Armenia has a rich musical and dance heritage. My very favorite Armenian dance is Sirun Aghchik, which is also known by the English translation of the name, Sweet Girl. This wonderful video includes instruction by Tom Bozigian. Pinkies are joined.

My second favorite Armenian dance is Armenian Miserlou, Racine version. I found these notes by Michael Kuharski on Folk Dance Musings:

This dance was developed by Tondee Akgoulian and her family in the 1960’s in Racine, Wisconsin. The Akgoulian family band played for Armenian weddings, parties, picnics, and other events in southeastern Wisconsin for a number of years. This dance was apparently developed for the dance group which sometimes performed with the band. The dance is a mixture of steps found in other Armenian dances done at that time. This description represents the version of the dance currently done in the international folkdance community of Madison, Wisconsin.

My third favorite Armenian dance is Yar Ko Parag. The music is so haunting.

My fourth favorite Armenian dance is Ooska Gookas (also spelled Uske Gugas).

Those are the only Armenian dances I know personally. Luckily, I found lots of videos of other Armenian Dances on Folk Dance Musings.

Very graceful: Aghcheekneroo Par.

Beautiful Armenian costumes in this video: Beejo.

A simple dance, Eench Eenamaee.

A couple dance, Eloo Yar:

Guhnega. This is an old video, and the dancers’ heads are cut off for much of it (but you only need to see their feet, don’t you).

Haire Mamougeh. This is a wedding dance. The two lines represent the two in-law families.

My Writer’s Manifesto

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My Writer’s Manifesto

What is a manifesto?

When I read about writing, one term that often comes up is the writer’s manifesto. That word sends me back to 1995, when the unabomber sent his manifesto to the New York Times. It revives suppressed memories of anarchistic memories and maniacal demands. Why would I want to write a manifesto?

What is a manifesto, really? The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines it as a written statement declaring publicly the intentions, motives, or views of its issuer. Oh.

Writers can examine their intentions, motives, and views about writing so they can come up with something like a mission statement, something they can refer back to when they need focus or encouragement. Why do we write? What are we hoping to achieve with our writing?

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Why I write.

I write because the written word is an art form I enjoy. I love to read. I love to learn, and I have insights to share. I am analytical and creative; writing is an excellent outlet for me.

When my children were young, I hoped to be able to help support my family with my writing. That didn’t happen, and eventually I had to take a day job which left me no time to write. In my retirement, making money is less of a concern. Yes, it would be nice to have healthy royalty checks coming in, but even if they never do, we’ll get by. I don’t need to write what sells; I can concentrate on what’s in my heart.

I am a follower of Christ. I’ve adopted this scripture passage as one of my life verses:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things (Philippians 4:8 NIV).

That verse summarizes what I write about. ARHtistic License acknowledges beauty and quality in the arts. I try not to rant about the ugly stuff. My fiction always has a redeeming message.

My Writer’s Manifesto

  1. I will write something every day, even if it is only an idea for something I will write in the future. Daily writing is a discipline that will exercise my creative muscles.
  2. Other writers are my colleagues, not my competition. I can learn from them, and I can promote their work and share what I know with them.
  3. Making money from what I write is not my major concern; I am more interested in sharing ideas and insights and stories.
  4. I will write pieces that inspire or that celebrate excellence. I will write stories with a positive message. There is enough horror in the world already.

Now it’s your turn.

Have you written a manifesto for your writing or your art? In preparing to write my manifesto, I read lots of articles on the internet, but I found this one to be especially helpful.

Would you like to share your manifesto with us in the comments below? (If it’s on your website or blog, just paste a link.)

Henri Rousseau

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Henri Rousseau

The French post-impressionist painter Henri Rousseau (May 21, 1844 – September 2, 1910) was largely self-taught and thought of by his contemporaries as primitive in style.

As a young student, he received mostly mediocre grades, but won prizes for drawing and music. He had a very brief legal services career, followed by four years in the army. After his father’s death, he moved back to Paris so he could help support his mother as a tax collector. He married, and he and his wife had six children, only one of whom survived infancy. Ten years after his first wife passed away, he married again.

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Henri Rousseau, Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!)

In his early forties, he began painting seriously. By age 49, he retired from his day job and began painting full-time, supplementing his small pension with odd jobs and playing his violin in the street. (Click on the smaller images to enlarge and read the captions.)

His paintings had a dream-like quality to them. He is best known for his exotic jungle scenes.

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Henri Rousseau, The Dream

In March of 1910, he developed an inflammation in his leg, which he neglected. By August, he had gangrene; a post-operative blood clot killed him.

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Henri Rousseau, The Sleeping Gypsy

Muzio Clementi

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Muzio Clementi

I know of Clementi mostly because of his piano sonatinas, which are among the classical repertoire for piano students.

But his contributions to the field of music are so much more than just the sonatinas.

Born on January 23, 1752, in Rome, the firstborn of seven children. His father recognized his musical talent early and arranged for music lessons for him. By the time he was 14, he was the parish organist.

Around that time, Sir Peter Beckford of Dorset, England, traveled to Rome, and he heard the young Clementi play. He persuaded Muzio’s parents to allow the boy to come live with him in England to continue his musical studies until he turned 21. During that seven-year period, Clementi practiced harpsichord eight hours a day, learning the works of J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach, Handel, Domenico and Allesandro Scarlotti, and Bernardo Pasquini. In 1774, he moved to London.

In 1780 he began a three-year tour of Europe. In Paris, he played for Marie Antoinette. On Christmas Eve of 1781, he participated in a competition with Mozart for the entertainment of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II and his guests, improvising and playing selections from their own compositions. (The emperor declared it a tie.) Clementi expressed enthusiastic respect for Mozart’s brilliance; Mozart responded with less enthusiasm about Clementi, yet imitated Clementi’s style in a set of variations and borrowed one of Clementi’s themes for the overture for The Magic Flute.

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Muzio Clementi

Clementi returned to England, and, except for a couple other forays around Europe, spent the rest of his life there, performing on piano, composing, and conducting. In 1798, he took over a music publishing house, and won a contract as sole publisher of Beethoven’s work in England. He also started building pianos, making innovative improvements that are still used today.

Beethoven was a great fan of Clementi’s piano compositions, recommending them to his nephew for study. Clementi was also a piano teacher, and one of his students was John Field, who became a well-known composer in his own right.

Clementi wrote over 100 sonatas for the piano. But I didn’t know he also wrote 20 symphonic works. His most famous, No. 3, is nicknamed The Great National Symphony, because it uses God Save the King as one of its themes.

Guest Post: How to Start a Book Review Blog–And Score Some Free Books!

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This article has been reprinted with the permission of Web Design Relief.  Whether you’re just starting out or a best-selling author, Web Design Relief will improve your existing website or build you an affordable, custom author website to support your author platform, boost your online presence, and act as a hub for your social media outreach. Web Design Relief is a division of Writer’s Relief, a highly recommended author’s submission service. Sign up for their free e-publication for writers, Submit Write Now! Visit the site today to learn more.

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If you are a ravenous book reader, you may be able to turn your passion for the written word (and your love of sharing your opinion) into a rewarding book review blog. Not only do book review bloggers get the satisfaction of reading and critiquing, they also often score free books from writers and publishers who want to generate some book review blogger buzz. Here’s what Web Design Relief wants you to know about how to start a book review blog!

How To Start Your Own Book Review Blog

Pinpoint a genre/readership. Although your reading tastes may run the gamut from quiet literary fiction to noisy international espionage thrillers, you may want to focus your book review blog on one specific genre. When you focus clearly on a particular target audience, you’ll have a better chance of connecting effectively with that specific readership.

Sharpen your hook. There are a lot of book review blogs out there. What makes yours stand out? Now is the time to think about how you might distinguish your blog from others.

  • Do you want to write a “shock jock” style book review blog that invites controversy by both delighting and enraging readers? Are you willing to risk being alienated by certain writers or book review-seeking publishers by having an in-your-face style that cuts to the heart of reader concerns?
  • Or do you prefer a milder, more moderate approach that focuses on the positive, supporting the authors who inspire you while choosing not to devote attention to those books that don’t spark your interest?

Find your voice as a blogger. The tone and style of your book reviews will help define your future readership. If you are reviewing books that have an academic or literary focus, you may be able to get away with writing long, formal, winding sentences in your book reviews. But keep in mind that the most popular bloggers often embrace a witty, chatty, casual style, because the way people read using a computer or mobile device is different from how they read print. Learn more: Author Website Copy: Five Essential Tips For Writing Web Text.

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Establish a format for your book reviews. The traditional publishing industry format for book reviews includes dedicating the majority of the review to the facts of the book in question (story/content/synopsis/background). Only in the last few sentences, would you share your personal opinion and include both strengths and weaknesses of the book.

But you don’t have to stick to the traditional style of writing book reviews. As a blogger, you can take creative liberties with your book reviews. You may decide that the bulk of your review should focus on opinion, with only a few sentences dedicated to summary of the book itself.

Develop a book ranking scale. Another thing to consider is how you will rate or rank the books on your book review blog. You can use a traditional five-star system, or you can develop your own rating guide—using anything from emojis to color schemes. You may want to link each of your book reviews to an explanation of your personal book ranking system so that readers who are new to your blog can understand it.

Focus on value. Whatever the format/style/voice you choose for your book reviews, keep in mind that the most successful book reviews are those that are practical and helpful to readers who are trying to decide whether to read or buy a given book. Readers who are looking for the next great addition to their TBR list may not want to waste their time reading a lengthy diatribe about a book you consider a “don’t buy.” They might prefer to spend their time learning about a book they will actually want to read.

Select which books you will review. Your choice of book titles to review will say a lot about who you are as a blogger and what you value as a reader. Will you choose to join the conversation by reviewing nationally released, buzzworthy books that are already being discussed all over the Internet? Or will you focus on hidden gems from independent presses? 

Keep reviews short, memorable, and quotable. Book readers want you to cut to the chase and let them know what makes a particular book a great read. Witty insights, pithy phrases, and unique perspectives can make your book reviews memorable. Plus, authors who are happy with your turn of phrase might just feature your book review quote and URL on the cover of their next book release—which will help spread the word about your book blogging efforts!

Reach out. Book bloggers rarely succeed by writing in a vacuum. To generate an audience and increase the likelihood that writers and publishers will send free books your way, you’ll need to do some marketing. Here are a few ideas:

  • Connect with other book bloggers
  • Reach out to writing groups to invite book submissions
  • Cross-promote with other bloggers
  • Host book giveaway contests
  • Feature writer interviews/Q&As/guest bloggers
  • Integrate your book reviews with social media feeds 

Final Thoughts: Are You A Book Reviewer? Or A Writer?

If you are active in the creative writing community as an author, you may want to be aware of how your book reviews will be received within the community of your peers. What you write today about a given author’s book could affect you tomorrow if you sit down at a luncheon and an author you once lambasted is seated right beside you. Also, if you come down hard on a particular publisher’s title in a way that makes a big splash, that publisher might not be particularly receptive when it’s time for you to pitch your own book for publication.

Your words have power—as both a book lover and an author, you’ll have to make decisions about your priorities and values if you decide to start a book review blog. Learn more about what it means to be an author who also writes book reviews.

 

Question: What most influences your decision to buy a book?

I’d Rather Be Dancing Roma Folk Dances

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The Roma people are bands of nomads who originated in India but have migrated world-wide. It is estimated there are 5 million Roma today, but it’s hard to verify, since they are by definition itinerant and aren’t generally counted in censuses. They are sometimes known as gypsies, a term that is disliked for its pejorative connotations.

The Roma people are accomplished musicians and dancers. The composer Franz Liszt was deeply influenced by the Roma music he heard. And folk dancers cherish the dances in Roma style.

Mahala Mori Shej, performed at the Phoenix International Folk Festival in 2018:

Chaj Zibede:

Chef is a Roma dance from Romania:

Chikulata Chickita is a Greek Roma dance:

Cine Are Noroc Are is a Roma dance from Romania with an interesting toe-heel figure:

Dana is another Roma dance from Romania. Listen for the call of the loon in the beginning of the music:

E Shukar Romnji is a Roma dance from Hungary:

Mori Shej is another Roma dance from Hungary:

Opa Cupa is a Roma dance from Serbia:

Phiravelman Kalyi Phuv is a Roma dance from Macedonia:

Sherianqe (to the song Ketri Ketri) is a Roma dance from Albania: