Category Archives: Music

Creative Juice #197

Creative Juice #197

ABC: Art. Beauty. Creativity.

Video of the Week #260: A Blessing from Hawai’i


Creative Juice #194

Creative Juice #194

Amusing. Beautiful. Interesting.

Monday Morning Wisdom #258

Monday Morning Wisdom #258

MMWWhere words fail, music speaks. ~Hans Christian Anderson

Sculpture Saturday: Musical Instruments as Sculpture


I think these instruments at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix qualify as sculpture:


Dramnyen (plucked lute)


Detail of head carving


Slit drums


Tlalpanhuehuetl, Aztec drum (this one made in the 20th century)


Baryton (bowed and plucked lute), Austria


Detail of head carving

More Sculpture Saturday.

The United States Army Band


When I was a student at Holy Cross School in Rumson, New Jersey, if my memory serves me correctly, every year we’d have an assembly put on by the United States Army Band. They’d play a varied program along the lines of what a college marching band might play at half-time during those days, and also patriotic standards and Sousa marches.

By the time we were in sixth grade, my female classmates particularly noticed the drummer and tried to catch his eye.

I recently did a little research and found out the Army still has bands and is actively recruiting and auditioning for them. This is their mission statement:

The United States Army Band “Pershing’s Own” provides musical support for the leadership of the United States, to include all branches of government, and to a wide spectrum of national and international events in order to connect the Army to the American people.

To celebrate Armed Forces Day today, let’s listen to the United States Army Band:

The United States Army Band was founded by General John J. Pershing in 1922. His idea was inspired by the European military bands he witnessed during World War I. In the beginning, the band played concert tours across the United States, and performances were played on the radio. During World War II, the band visited battlefields in North Africa and Europe. After World War II, The United States Army Ceremonial Band, The United States Army Chorus, The United States Army Herald Trumpets, and The United States Army Strings were established as regular performing units.

During the 1950s, several well-known entertainers were band members, including Eddie Fisher, Robert Dini, Steve Lawrence, harpist Lloyd Lindroth, Metropolitan Opera tenor George Shirley, and announcer Charles Osgood.

I dare you not to cry:

The United States Army Bands continue to perform all over the United States and the world. To learn more, check out their website.

Musicians, How is your Practice Going?

Musicians, How is your Practice Going?

You’d think that with the stay-at-home order, I’d be able to get in some consistent practice time on piano, guitar, and recorder. But noooooo. I’ve practiced piano twice. Guitar and recorder not at all.

I wish I could say it’s because of all the writing and artwork I’m doing. But the truth is, I’m barely keeping up with my blog. I’ve made almost no progress on my other writing project (a rewrite of my novel, and a story that might be a short story or a novella or novel, but I’m stuck). The only art I’ve made is my catalog o’ Zentangle® patterns.

I’m finding it difficult to focus these days. The pandemic is one reason. My husband being in the hospital and then a skilled nursing facility is another. Also, by the evening, when I normally practice, I’m toast. I just want to watch TV.


Piano 9


I know that if I sit down at the piano and just play, eventually I’ll focus and everything else will drop away. You know how when you’re in the zone, you’re one with the music? So why is it so hard to walk to the piano, turn on the light, and begin?

What do you do when you’re not feeling motivated to practice? Do you go to your old favorites? Run through your scales? Start that piece you’ve been saving for after you’ve mastered the Pathetique?

I went to the internet and googled How can I motivate myself to practice piano? Three videos popped up, but I hated the voices of the vloggers, so I didn’t finish listening to any of them.

Piano 8

But I also found these articles:

I like the idea of just committing to a short time, like five minutes, and seeing what happens. I think I’ll try that tonight.

Now it’s your turn. What do you do when you don’t want to practice? Or have you been practicing more while stuck at home? Share in the comments below.

V is for Viola



She is the less-well-known cousin of the ubiquitous violin. Slightly larger and with a deeper voice, she hardly ever gets to sing the melody or a solo if a violin is around.

She is one of the only instruments whose music is notated in alto clef (sometimes called viola clef), which looks like a bracket with its point centered on the third line of the staff. (When the viola has a whole chunk of notes in its high register, the notation switches to treble clef.) The strings are tuned a fifth below the violin’s, and an octave above the cello’s.

Just because a person can play a violin does not mean they can play a viola. Because of its size, it requires a greater reach of fingers and arms. The notes are spread out farther along the fingerboard, so they may have a different fingering than on the violin. The strings are less responsive, so the bow is heavier and the violist needs to use more pressure. Smaller models are made for smaller musicians. Amihai Grosz plays the Brahms F minor Sonata:

Kim Kashkashian premieres György Kurtág’s In memoriam Blum Tamás:

Debussy, Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp, 1st movement:

The size and shape of the viola has been tinkered with for centuries, and innovations have been tried, such as electrification:

Another design tweak is adding a string and cutting away parts of the body:

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O is for Organ


The earliest pipe organ originated in Greece in the third century BC. Called a hydraulis, it was powered by air compressed by water pressure.


This photo of the Zliten mosaic is attributed to Nacéra Benseddik and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 1.0 Generic license.

Bellows were added to organ design by the sixth or seventh century AD.


St. Cecilia playing a portable organ; her left hand operates the bellows. By “The Master of the St. Bartholomew altarpiece.”

Charlemagne was the first to request a pipe organ in his chapel in Aachen in 812, which established the organ as the premier instrument in Western European church music for many centuries.

In the 12th century, the organ began to evolve into a complex instrument capable of producing different timbres.

Typical modern organ console 640px-Yoke

Typical modern pipe organ console; located in St. Patrick’s cathedral, Dublin.

My favorite organ piece is the Toccata and Fugue by J.S. Bach:

And my second favorite has got to be this one:

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M is for Masks and Marsalis


Joann’s Fabrics has sent links for mask-making directions to all its email subscribers, so sewers can make protective masks for hospitals and for their families and friends. Unfortuantely, the directions I like best (see video below) call for 1/4″ elastic. There is no 1/4″ elastic to be found anywhere. (Amazon had no-name spools of elastic from 3rd-party sellers, but the comments indicated the quality was disappointing.)

So I opted to try this design with ties. I like it, but it took me an hour and a half to make one.

face mask; Covid-19

After making three of these, I thought, there’s got to be a quicker way. So I watched lots of YouTube videos, and decided to try this one:

I bought 4 packages of hair elastics at the dollar store. (I was very optimistic.) It took me 30 minutes to make one. (I guess I’m a slow sewer.) However, it’s very uncomfortable to wear; the ponytail holders keep slipping off my ears. So don’t set up an assembly line until you’ve made one and tried it out. (The purple and green one below.)


My original plan was to make a bazillion of these, first for my husband and me, then for our kids, and finally for our neighbors. Now I’ll be happy if I can just get a few more done before the pandemic is over (and I’m praying for it to be over soon).

I made one more mask last night. This time I used 1/4″ bias binding for the ties so I wouldn’t have to make them. It didn’t save me any time, since it was very hard to sew neatly on the skinny binding:

If you don’t like the masks I made, maybe you’ll like some of these.

The news program I watch has a segment about the remarkable people whose lives have been taken by this virus. Ordinary people who were loved by their families, communities, and coworkers, distinguished by accomplishments of excellence and kindness. Most were relatively unknown outside their own circles, but one hit me especially hard.

Ellis Marsalis, Jr. was born November 14, 1934. During high school, he played saxophone, but switched to piano while majoring in music at Dillard University. During the 1950s and 60s, he played professionally with jazz greats like Al Hirt and Cannonball Adderly. He was a greatly respected teacher at New Orleans Center for Creative Arts (where one of his students was Harry Connick, Jr.), University of New Orleans, and Xavier University of Louisiana. He recorded 20 albums, and was the patriarch of a great musical family. You may have heard of some of his sons, including trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and saxophonist Branford Marsalis (who was the bandleader for the Tonight Show with Jay Leno for a time).

On April 1, 2020, Ellis Marsalis, Jr. succumbed to pneumonia brought on by the Covid-19 virus. Rest in peace. You are so missed.

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