Thought Trafficking

Nook and cranny
October 9, 2012, 12:09 am
Filed under: music, Toronto | Tags: , , ,

The summer winds down, reels in. I’ve probably written before about how much I love fall in Eastern/Central/Upper Canada (designation depends on your point of view).

This fall, I invite strangers into my (now tiny) living room two days a week to teach them piano. I am delighted and puzzled by my own choices: delighted by the schedule, by the things I must now read, by taking regular lessons again, and puzzled because since I was a teenager I figured that this was the easy way out, that if nothing else, this was the back-up plan, not the success. So is this the joy and enlightenment that comes with giving up, or is this a reversion to some kind of basic programming that includes regular trips to buy puffy stickers?

If nothing else, I will remember the last few months as a period in which I read a lot of books on child rearing and discipline. In a 1/2 hour piano lesson, I find that there are generally three levels to which a student corresponds: slacker, steady progress, or overachiever. Each of these has its own challenges and rewards, and I can structure my lesson plans around these personalities. What no one, ever, anywhere prepared me for was surly, hormonal teenage girls. Forget pedagogy; the only thing I think about during that half hour is the virtue of staying calm and not giving in to how much a want to scream. They have two primary powers in a lesson setting: first, to contradict everything I say, no matter if that contradiction contradicts one of their previous statements. Second, to sincerely believe that everyone in the world is actively working against their happiness. Too many scales? I hate them. Too few scales? I think that they are stupid. Too much to practice? Everyone gives them too much work, they have no free time. Too little to practice? I’m making them sit on the bench with nothing to do. And the advice that I’m getting from my favourite teachers is only this: be extra, extra nice to these kids. Do everything in my power to forge a bond. Come up with a way to do it before I wear down my molars grating my teeth. I practice this for half an hour with each, per week.

I prefer this direct, one-on-one, approach better than the larger university classes I’ve been a TA for. It’s harder to justify piano lessons as a savvy life choice, as piano is not yet considered a pre-requisite for a decent job. Your lesson time and office hours are the same thing. I can ask parents flat-out if they think it is worthwhile to keep paying for lessons for a student who is uninterested or mailing it in. My job is fostering a relationship to the instrument, in simplest terms. Maybe I can relate more easily to this curriculum.

In more personal news, I seem to be catching up on all of the reading I should have done between 2001 and 2005. Wasted youth?

If you are reading this, please suggest books to read as the days get shorter.


“I could spend my entire life portraying such a landscape.”
September 18, 2009, 5:15 pm
Filed under: listening, living, music

The mailman is still wearing shorts, but it is coming on fall. Of course you know that; the equinox is in a few days.  The trees are breaking out in a kind of sunny yellow acne. And a bird just bounced off of the window and then skittered away and took off again, confused.

“Meanwhile, here we are, usually forgetful, occasionally aware.”

-Charles Le Gai Eaton

As if the picture of this guy wouldn’t predispose me to like his music:

At first I was wary of his voice, raspy and a little reedy. A couple of songs was enough to convince me, though.

I wrapped my heart in concertina wire and sold it for a song
July 15, 2009, 10:15 pm
Filed under: living, music, Uncategorized | Tags:

If you asked me to say what I liked about this picture, I probably couldn’t articulate it. I think it has something to do with the fact that the reflection of fingers in the dark of the piano is more definite than the fingers themselves. new-york-2009-homecoming-131

Mondays are important for a number of reasons
July 13, 2009, 7:59 am
Filed under: living, music, outside, Reading | Tags:
And the first reason is that they are not Tuesdays. Bless ’em for that.
Here are some things for a good Monday:
Amazing music, and quick-streaming at that:
Something for the summer hours:
Time expanded. The day widened, pulled from both ends by the shrinking dark, as if darkness itself were a pair of hands and daylight a skein between them, a flexible membrane, and the hands that had pressed together all winter–praying, paralyszed with foreboding–now flung open wide.
-Annie Dillard, The Living

And finally, some things that you can find outside:


Jelly something?


Indulge me.
June 9, 2009, 7:43 pm
Filed under: music | Tags:

I feel like a fangirl for uploading two videos of The Mountain Goats in a short period of time, but I can’t stop liking this song. John Darnielle does fabulous things with (and for) the English language. I think that what I like most about him, however,  is that though the majority of his songs are not autobiographical, if there were an encyclopedia entry entitled “Sing it Like You Mean it”, you would find his name beside it.

Kait and I are roadtripping to Bellingham for a Gregory Alan Isakov concert this weekend! It will have to be a very quick trip, but go to his MySpace page and listen to That Moon Song. You’ll understand why we’re doing it.

If we never make it back to California, I want you to know I love you
June 1, 2009, 6:51 am
Filed under: music | Tags:

I love this video, I love how John Darnielle introduces this song, and I love seeing him and the people around him rock out.

You must watch this video, not just listen.