Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Fourth Interview - Sisyphus takes a nap

First, a note about reading and the lengths of some of these posts:
For those who will not read, no matter how lengthy, I have nothing much to say. For those who insist on getting “sound bites” or infer that knowing anything amounts to getting a piece at a time so as to avoid getting bored, I may suggest that this is not the place for you. We can only make adjustments to people's gut responses as far as they get our messages across, otherwise … let Nature take its course. For the interested, the following conversation is submitted for your edification and pleasure. There will be breaks in it so as to accommodate those who are not habitually used to reading a lot of material at a time.


It's been several months. What's going on?
There have been some changes. I've traded my land line for a new cell phone with a camera. Those who need to get in touch with me can still use my e-mail address. At about the same time, the battery in my wristwatch ran out. As some know, a few years back eye operations eliminated my lifelong need for glasses, now my cell phone eliminates my need for a wristwatch. Anachronisms are created by the advent of new technologies all the time, especially when the new combines or displaces the work done by the old. That's real evolution.
How about your agenda, your piano practising, etc.?
We'll get to that. But there have also been a few changes to my personal computer, one which should become noticeable on this blog; from now on, as near as possible, all spelling shall be in British English, which in my opinion no other English speaking nation has the right to change.
You've thought that for some time.
Yes, I'm a radical on many fronts, one of them that since the English language originated in Britain and is still used there, how they decide to spell things should be adopted universally without objection by everyone throughout the world.
You would advocate many other practices carried on by the English too?
Not really. I drink tea instead of coffee and have loved the change.
So much variety.
Yes, even in the so called breakfast teas.
And you seem to be joining a trend in that many are waking up to the health benefits of drinking tea.
And maybe some of my British and Canadian readers will understand my particular liking for some traditional British food, especially over the upcoming months.
That stuff will make you fat.
Depends on how much of it one eats. An old friend of mine with a real knack for cuisine is fond of saying that it's not the rich food you have to be careful of, but the poor food.
You eat a lot of poor food.
I eat a lot of cheap food. I'm gradually moving toward an eat less diet with a greater emphasis on freshness and avoidance of certain really terrible additives.

Diet and obesity and the trap for not accepting criticism:

You really want to talk about food on this blog?
Not really, but over the last few weeks I have been out and around and have some observations that revolve around food. For instance, just last night I was invited to dinner and they had what I'd describe as a typical mid-America family meal; roast chicken (or was it turkey since they did serve canned cranberry sauce, no these were farm raised free range capon chickens), stuffing, mashed potatoes, then macaroni and cheese and the two vegetables most people on this kind of diet ever eat; corn, whether in kernel form or creamed, and peas, usually canned.
Sounds pretty typical.
Oh the food was certainly well prepared, the mac and cheese all by itself would have been a meal to me. But here in America the typical person regards a second helping as something like proof they are prosperous.
So they end up by wearing their prosperity.  
They asked me if I'd like seconds, which I declined, to some surprise, as if the food wasn't good enough, belied of course by my empty plate. I noticed something else that's probably typical of certain strands of our society; men wearing caps at the dinner table. What dinner table? Sure some of us sat at the table to eat, while some, the kids, were in the other room watching TV or playing video games. Oh, and there were pets occasionally scavenging about under feet, something that no doubt goes back into neolithic times.
You think this is typical?
I do. It will of course be of no surprise that the adults at this dinner were by the usual standards overweight.
We've talked a lot about this lately.
Well I think it's time to make some clear sense of things regarding excess weight as it relates to general health and attractiveness and energy levels.
Does this have any bearing whatsoever on music?
Oh it certainly could have. Just the other day two young men came over, brothers a few years apart, the same height and build, but one was 160 pounds heavier than the other. Nowadays, although the media coverage is intentionally critical of this problem, nobody in private society says anything about people being too fat. On Facebook, a friend made a comment on obesity and I acknowledged what she said; that many people thought so too, but would of course say nothing. My friend's comment was no longer there within a day so either she deleted it or Facebook did, so you can see that even talking about anything personal has become a minefield these days.
Well, oh boy, you're going to, aren't you?
I'm going to say a few things about the obesity problem, maybe the biggest facing this country or the advanced nations of the world; we're by and large too fat and it affects everything else we do.
So these brothers …
I told them what no one else is likely to dare tell them because we live in a society where if they don't tell you when you are three or four years old or certainly before you enter your teens what's good or bad for you, no one else is likely ever to tell you ever again, so you end up in a trap, encased in your own viewpoint, your own body, yourself and live out the consequences of your actions whether they be too much food, too much booze, too many cigarettes, or whatever else you have decided is your right to consume.
People hate criticism.
It's part of our make up, in our own minds from the time we come into this existence as babies, we believe we are gods that never make mistakes, each one of us rules our own universe and woe be unto anyone who dares criticise us, even if it means something to our benefit. Our oldest sages, and who bothers to listen to them much any more, caution that only fools reject criticism.
So what did you tell the brothers?
Well first off I used the analogy of sacks of ready mix concrete which usually come in 80 pound sacks. I told the one who needed to know that he was too fat, like he didn't know already, that he was doing the equivalent of carrying around with him everywhere two sacks of concrete. This meant that any time he got up from a chair or out of bed, he was lifting those bags of concrete. Moreover if he changed nothing, he wouldn't be able to carry those sacks around after a few years, or they would grow into more to carry around and it would probably shorten his life.
How nice of you.
How compassionate of me. I offered him a suggestion, which I doubt he'll take. You see the problem one gets into when one denies anyone the right to criticise is that you hear the advice but rarely take it, which is part of the same deal; you get off on the wrong road and stay there too long and it becomes impossible to ever get back on the right road, so that the destination to which you'd like to arrive becomes impossible.
Your suggestion?
For just one meal a day, preferably lunch, eat nothing but vegetable salad, all you want. But you can only put olive oil and vinegar on it, lemon juice if you prefer that, but nothing else. You can't drink anything with it but water or tea, no soda. Do this regularly every day, day in and day out, and you will lose weight.
Really.  I used to be much heavier than I am now.  And something else that needs to be punctured is the relationship between weight and exercise. If one is holding two extra bags of concrete all the time, one is never going to benefit from exercise, in fact it may lead to physical injury which carries its own health risks.
So is exercise unimportant?
No, but it can't really accomplish anything for toning or athletic benefit without getting rid of those bags of ready mix concrete first.
And to do that you eat salad?
You eat as close to fresh as possible and plenty of water, not water substitutes like coffee and soda either, just plain water.
We spoke about weight being related to water retention and the need to remove excess water. Can you elaborate?
About the first thing the obese person needs to do is get their bodies to cast off more water. There are numerous natural remedies for this. Colon cleansing would be part of this too, again with natural remedies.  I have been and am over weight. Getting rid of it is not about starving, exercise or anything like that, it is about getting back to the right road of eating fresh and natural as much as possible. It is a gradual process. In many cases the obese want their size etc. to vanish right away when it took years to get that way, so anything that requires a radical approach usually leads right back to obesity.
Summing up …
Find out what you're supposed to weigh for optimum health and efficiency and avoid patterns of consumption that tend to make you fat, like second helpings.

What one learns from farm life:

You have been sort of between situations lately, can you say anything about these things?
I'm in a transition. I used to work in the private portfolio management field, but the present economic situation is historically unique and I frankly saw myself unable and moreover unwilling to sacrifice my personal integrity for financial gain either for myself or my clients.
What did you advise them to do?
Everyone is looking for this kind of free advice and again, for any of the same reasons we already discussed, advice that's free is never taken and moreover one often gets blamed for it.
So you're …
I'm not dealing with any of it now, though I do watch it.
I'm guessing you're through with it. Will you ever decide to do it again?
It depends on the course of history and where I happen to be or who I might know that's interested.
So what are you doing now?
I'm helping a friend with farm chores and some minor renovations to turn an old farmhouse into a set of nice apartments.
This has put off your trip to New York?
For the time being, yes.
Your impressions?
Farm work is not hard, though it is arduous. I usually deal with it on a level akin to learning a new piece of music, slow and steady. As a pianist, I'm used to using both hands at once so I'm noticing that I like to involve both hands in any chores I'm doing; like picking up a piece of firewood and then handing it to my other hand to be thrown into a bin while I pick up the next with the other hand, etc.
Interested nod.
I'm reminded as I work that practically everyone before 1900 had some familiarity with farm work and that maybe history will require more to become reacquainted.
You think?
I am certain that in America anyway, and perhaps other advanced countries, more people will get involved in raising there own fruits and vegetables and for those that can even their meat animals. For those who can, they'll even raise their own food inside their homes.
So a trend. Perhaps conservatories will be rooms in every upscale house?
More likely than conservatories being the future of music.
More laughter.
I anticipated many trends a long time ago, that the internet would gradually assume both news and education as well as entertainment to the detriment of other institutions; physical school campuses (as nice as some of them are), the TV networks and other mass media (newspapers are another anachronism), even libraries and books. I had hoped that the music I enjoy and love most would not also be so relegated, but alas that is real evolution and what I am about to describe is another wrinkle in the fabric of time, society and culture.
Fewer are interested it seems and those that are, would seem to be the ageing and aged.
People will increasingly find themselves typed by the music and culture they adopt and that through the internet they will find each other and establish links of mutual interest to form what has been called techno-tribalism. To the extent their membership in this tribe is engrossing, distinctions will be made regarding other preferences as well.
You see those interested in classical music being a techno-tribe?
Yes, with certain sub-tribes; the opera buffs enjoy one such, the pianists pretty much another, etc.
So when do you think you'll be going to New York again?
Can't be certain. And of course as I do things, others do things, the world changes so that what I might have wanted to do yesterday turns out to have changed into something less efficacious.

Music and pianism:

I hope you haven't changed course regarding your piano repertoire.
No, not much. I've decided to concentrate on the Chopin nocturnes (may add a few more) and drop for the time being the waltz. The rest of it for now is languishing. I'm just too busy.
You said you've been working on your own compositions again.
Yes, a sonata for bassoon and piano, my Op. 8 from 1976-1977 and my first string quartet, Op. 6 from nearly the same period.
Did you need to make many changes?
Not many. I've long known there were some things that needed changing and so I've made those corrections.
What do you imagine will be the results?
They'll either languish unplayed forever or they may be picked up by someone interested in performing them for the continued refreshment of “the tribe.”
All right, but can you say something maybe about what goes through your mind as you work on your own music or learning the piano music you've decided to add to your repertoire?
Pointing to the interviewer - This guy wants me to hand him maybe more than the world, the universe.
Well …
I usually think of all the people who have played the same music before me and imagine what they thought upon their first few reads through. These days I'm pretty certain they all knew about the care and upkeep of horses, where their food, good, bad, wholesome or otherwise, came from, etc. Sometimes I imagine how wars, political events and social changes made things difficult if not well nigh impossible for some and how that reflected on the way they may have played some of it. Most of the time I'm just trying to play the pieces well enough on my piano.
You still want to sell it?
Of course, but I wont consider anything less than $2,200 and these days who even has that to spend!
You still have an electronic keyboard.
Not the same at all. The keys, as piano like as they may be, still lack the feel of a real piano. And yes, I really never play it at all.
So why not sell that?
A few hundred dollars maybe. At this point I'd let it go for that.

Musicians and their music:

You've made contact recently with an old friend.
Haven't spoken with him yet, shall soon. Have many of his CD's and when I've got time, I shall put up my reviews of them.
We also spoke briefly about musicians and society.
You mean that our present society will not accept a composer or musician who arises from middle class or better cultural surroundings? This was a cultural trend inherited from our European ancestors who a few centuries back used to get all their music form wandering vagabonds classed not much above common street criminals. In fact in England in particular being a musician was so out of fashion that for nearly 150 years Englishmen made no sizeable contributions to music; all their greatest composers, Handel, Haydn, Clementi, Field, etc. were all foreign imports.
You think this bias continues?
Fortunately, it didn't in England as during the last century they decided it was fine to be a musician and composer and it was somewhat through the fashion setting of their aristocracy that this was accomplished. We still haven't exhausted all the great stuff these English masters began writing before 1900 and thereafter.
You tried learning the Enigma Variations at one time?
I still have the score of Elgar's original piano version from which he made the orchestration. It's rigorous and majestic and I don't have the piano for it, though with practice might have the technique.
You had a few messages for others in the field?
To the piano makers, to the honest and competent piano rebuild technicians and their store and sales staffs, my heart and hat is off to you all. Whether the world at large cares to recognize it or not, yours is adding true value to our world, more than has been accomplished by those in half a dozen other professions I could name, but wont. To the accomplished musicians who work very hard for what they do with very little prospect of reward or recognition, my personal gratitude for all that you do. To some of you, that you decide not to assume a mask of superiority to shield you from accepting that the world around you doesn't get it or doesn't care. Acting as if you or what you do is better than what others do, isn't going to cut it any more. Our music isn't about being superior to others, and to all those who think perhaps that it is a cachet to that effect, be advised that many of us have you pegged as worthless snobs as it is and it doesn't suite you well or further the cause; keeping our music alive and well and developing, and not through “crossovers” either.
Well, ok.  I guess we'll let our not so vast audience chew on some of this for a while.  David is still receiving e-mail at dpbmss@aol.com.  Just indicate your interest in the subject line.