Category Archives: musical talent and development

Sample of Basque music at Smithsonian Folklife festival

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Here are a few clips of Basque music and show from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, opening day on June 29, 2016, on the Mall in Washington DC.

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Concert at 3 PM: Concluding song with accordions, winds, and percussion (four segments)

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Earlier clips from the same group

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Earlier clips before the main event; last two are folk dances

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A cappella singing

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(Posted: Friday, July 1, 2016 at 9:30 PM EDT)

Reid Ewing’s recent podcast interview ties a lot of themes in psychology and art together

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I found an interesting podcast recorded by Dr. Dave Verhaagen and his Champion of Mental Health award, of actor Reid Ewing.  The article is here, and the podcast, running 40 minutes (worth it to listen to in entirety) here.

Reid was known as the handsome, lanky and goofy character Dylan for some time on Modern Family. He has starred in several comedies, in the horror “Fright Night”, the web sci-fi comedy TV series “The Power Inside”, and has made a number of music videos, like “Traffic Jam”, and an intriguing three-part series of short films “It’s Free” in mockumentary style, but somehow tied up with a company Igigi Studios.

Reid, now 27, got media coverage in November 2015 with his essay in the Huffington Post disclosing a previous issue with body dysmorphia.  He also announced on Twitter, almost as an afterthought, that he is gay, saying “I was never in”, Advocate story.

The podcast is interesting to me for several details.  I’ll leave the reader to listen to Reid explaining his own account of the experience, as well as his situation now as a college student and his circumstances in the film world (toward the end of the interview). If I understood right, his father of the same name is a well-known professor of city planning in Utah.

Also, before moving on with my own perspective, let me note that some of this is not about Reid (or me),  It’s a biological fact it takes until around age 25-28 for the brain to be fully grown.  Chess players reach their biological peak at about age 30.  By the mid 20s, people often wonder how they were taken in and manipulated by others promoting certain ideas (about body image, for example) when they were teenagers.  He even mentions wanting a “conversation with his younger self”, right out of relativity.

Now, I did want to note that as a young man I experienced a kind of dysmorphia, but it was expressed in almost a flip-side manner of what he describes.  While I was sexually attracted to young men who fit a certain cultural stereotype of “masculinity”, I was surprisingly disconnected from awareness of my own personal appearance and of my own body most of the time.  By the time I started paying a lot more attention in later middle age, it was already “too late”, as I had melted away.  Reid’s own report of dysmorphia might seem surprising in light of his MF YouTube video “Imagine Me Naked” (2011), not as well known (also from Modern Family) as his song “In the Moonlight (Do Me)”, which actually works as a music prelude if you play the music alone by ear on a church organ (without the words). The “naked” does have telling lyrics, talking about never having to “fake it.”

His comments bear a certain relevance to the topic of psychological growth, the way it has been discussed at the Ninth Street Center in New York City, now known as a remnant, the Paul Rosenfels Community.  Rosenfels had developed the theory of character specialization or “polarities” (masculine and feminine, power-love, right-truth, objective-subjective, unbalanced-balanced, fun-pleasure, masochism-sadism, guilt-shame, and other axes).  Rosenfels’s analytic writing style follows from Eric Hoffer, and is best known for his 1971 book “Homosexuality: The Psychology of the Creative Process” (earlier review ).   In 1986, the Center made a black-and-white video “The Paul Rosenfels Video Anthology”, of which it printed a DVD in 1998, about an hour of talk-group footage.

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The Center opened in 1972 and remained so until 1991, between 2nd and 3rd avenues on E 9th Street in the East Village.  (I think Matt Damon and Anderson Cooper live somewhere in the general area and may be familiar with the history of the place.) The space had two basement rooms.  Originally, there were talk groups on Wednesday and Friday nights, and an acting class on Mondays, and potluck suppers on Saturday.  Over time, the talk groups expanded.

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Reid mentions acting as if it were therapeutic, as he can become someone else and leave his own issues with the self and body image.  I have heard other actors (mostly stage) say similar things, especially at the Center in NYC, and later hanging out with IFP-MSP in Minneapolis and later Reel Affirmations in Washington (and even when visiting Mark Parrish [“Jerome’s Razor” and “Mustang Sally”] one time in Boston).  Reid expresses a healthy skepticism of established authority, as to “what truth they are speaking to”.  (Moral “right” is complementary to human “truth” in the Rosenfels polarity system.)

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I’ll mention a couple other things.  Reid is passionate about animals, and adopts dogs, and his twitter feed shows life with dogs and at least one very venturesome cat. Actor Jesse Eisenberg is mentioned in Wikipedia as having a similar interest in rescuing cats.  (Dogs and cats both learn to recognize the unique electromagnetic signature of the heartbeat of their owners, and find it stimulating.)  His Twitter feed has always contained a lot of drawings and mentions of literary subjects, and lately has been communicating a lot of material from Japanese manga, especially Danganronpa, where he adopts the names of some characters.   The podcast, toward the end, mentions the Japanese film ( 2000)  “Battle Royale”, which anticipates “The hunger Games” but that has some unusual storytelling structures (my review   has already attracted unusual volume of hits).

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With Danganronpa, as with other PlayStation games, people make “movies” or “web series” out of games played out with the characters.  I suppose a movie distributor or theater chain could buy a license to offer some of these in game film festivals.  I’m not a gamer myself, simply because there isn’t time in life for everything.


A lead good guy in “The Event”  Sean Walker (Jason Ritter) is a gamer who doesn’t know that he is actually an extraterrestrial alien with powers and who will not age.

I do mean this as a complement (or complment?)  Could Reid host SNL on NBC?  As Dylan?  As Mikan or Reba?  Maybe do a satire on how so many people want everything in life to be “free”?  But the problem is, that sounds like satire that would please conservatives (or maybe pseudo’s like Donald Trump as well as the “little Rubio’s” of the world).  Or maybe libertarians, best of all.  It’s hard to get tickets to SNL if you do the Amtrak Acela routine.  I’d love to get the same hotel room in the Yotel or Iriquois.

(Published Saturday March 19, 2016 at 11:30 PM EDT; some photos come from my just-moved train set, which is supposed to model the rama-like space station for my own screenplay, “DADT Ephiphany”)

“Everwood” was an important WB series about a possible teen piano prodigy, and a doctor who doesn’t need to charge

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The WB (and CWTV) ran several  series that interested me ten years ago, and another one for me to review is “Everwood”, which started in the fall of 2002 and ran for four seasons (ending in the spring of 2006).  Sometimes reruns appear on ABC Family.  The series was created by Greg Berlanti (also, “Jack & Bobby” and “The Tomorrow People”, to be discussed later, with the latter of these dealing with teens with “powers”, and reminds me of NBC’s “Heroes”).

The premise is that a successful NYC neurosurgeon Andy Brown (Treat Williams) loses his wife to a tragic auto accident in an ice storm.  He moves himself and his two kids to the town of Everwood, CO, deep within the Rockies. He sets up a general practice and doesn’t even charge (believe that in these days of Obamacare), which draws the ire of the competing doctor Abbott (Tom Amandes).

Brown has two gifted children, a younger daughter Delia (Vivienne Cardone), and her older brother Ephram (Gregory Smith), who is supposed to be turning about 15 when the series starts.  The family is Jewish but secular, but Ephram has already bad a bar mitzvah. Brown’s moral values are typical for his background, a kind of careful individualism, unsettled when right and wrong are not as clean cut as they should be.

Ephram’s gift is piano, and the potential to become a concert pianist.  Much of the plot of the series revolves around Ephram’s progress toward getting into Julliard.  In one episode, he has “learned” the entire Beethoven Appassionata Sonata overnight. Ephram tends to be moody, but clever, and has a faceted personality.

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When he is about 16, Ephram has a fling with a 20 year old college student named Madison.  He is naïve, and has his first experience, in a scene quite well done.  Madison gets pregnant.  Andy decides to keep her pregnancy a secret from Ephram, a soap-opera-like idea that can set up a final confrontation when Ephram approaches the Julliard audition.

Eprham writes a high school essay called “My Greatest Flaw” which is “my inability to change”.  Does this mean that there is a moral imperative to grow into someone that can support a future bigger than the self?  You hope “that you’ll never have to change again.”


There are several other compelling subplots.  One of these happens in season 1 when Abbott’s son Bright (Chris Pratt, later to appear in “Zero Dark Thirty”, “Moneyball”, “Her”) has an auto accident with another teen, Colin (Mike Erwin) in the car sustaining a head injury.  At first, Colin seems to recover OK, but then Andy discovers that Colin has a hematoma or aneurysm that must be removed or it will eventually rupture. Colin agrees to the surgery.  But he dies at the end of Season 1 when the risky operation fails, and the entire town ostracizes Andy for his playing “Ben Casey”.

There is another subplot where a female doctor patient has HIV acquired from treating a patient in Africa, and tells Delia.  Others find out from Delia, and soon her own practice is destroyed by fearful patients, and her gay ex-husband tries to get custody of her kids. Through complications, Dr. Abbott winds up being threatened with loss of his malpractice insurance.

Later in the series there is an extraverted Dr. Jake Hartman (Scott Wolf), a skiing enthusiast.

The series always started each episode with some music that sounded like the slow movement of a late 19th century piano concerto, but what one?  The music may have come from Eugen d’Albert’s first piano concerto, written at age 18 or so, and inspired by Liszt, and filled with many familiar themes for such an obscure work.  Hollywood knows obscure romantic music well. Maybe the work should be called “The Everwood”.

Toward the end, after Ephram has given up Julliard and has to work playing piano at clubs to support his child, and also gives piano lessons (at 18), he takes on a gay teen pupil, Kyle, (Steven R. McQueen, grandson of the famous actor.  Had the series continued, probably Kyle would have become the important character with a professional career.

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In August 2005, I drove (from DC) to a “party” at King of Prussia Mall near Philadelphia, where I met Gregory Smith and Chris Pratt.  Smith, now 30, stars in “Rookie Blue” and has directed two episodes, and has also produced a comedy “Wieners” for Screen Gems, and, in a change of style, a documentary about doomsday preppers, “Training for the Apocalypse”.

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Maybe the best outcome for this series would be a sequel movie based on the characters.  What has happened to Ephram, now in his mid 20s?  Has Kyle’s career taken off?  Or did Ephram somehow go to another music conservatory?  Yale would be interesting.  Maybe a movie, maybe a cable or web series.  Warner Brothers no longer has a separate brand for independent film (this would have been a logical release from “Warner Independent Pictures”, a brand that the company should bring back).

There is a newer series on CWTV, “Hart of Dixie” (2011- ), created by Lelia Gerstein.  about another transplanted (to Alabama) doctor (a woman, Zoe Hart, played by Rachel Bilson) that seemed rather underwhelming.

 

My own music history, mostly as a youngster

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I will be discussing the “timeline” of my own life and self-awareness on another blog entry soon, but a very important component of tracing this history is the music I performed and composed, particularly early in life.

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I was born on July 10, 1943.  I started piano lessons in February 1952, in third grade, at age 8.  I took piano lessons twice a week (Mondays and Thursdays) and had Wednesday class, in the home of a Mrs. McDermott in Arlington VA until her death in May 1958 from colon cancer.  Her illness was sudden.  The I took piano from a Mrs. Wheeler, also in Arlington, until after graduation from high school in 1961.

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I performed in numerous recitals, and according to scrapbook records, it looks as though I performed in the “Festivals” every March from 1953 (fourth grade), until at least 1959 (tenth grade).  The festival required performing a “required” piece for grade difficulty from a list and an elective.  The elected piece had to be composed by an American, or a composer who had lived in the United States for much of his or her life.  Sergei Rachmaninoff was included, and I played the B minor  and E Major preludes from Op. 32 in the last two festivals.  Records also show I performed the infamous C# Minor Prelude at least once.  I recall playing the Debussy Arabesque in E, and a Schumann piece called “May, Sweet May”.  I may have performed the Chopin G Minor Prelude.  It looks like I earned “Superior” ratings four of those six years.

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It looks like I had started composing at around 11 years old, in sixth grade. I have re-recorded much of this music on my Casio through Sibelius on a MacBook and preserved some manuscripts and mp3 records, published here.   A few of the works are shown in photographed documents converted to Adobe PDF’s.

For tracking my own sense of “who I am” (an upcoming posting) early in life, it’s useful for me to list everything I composed, or could reconstruct, and give the status of any manuscripts that I have.  All compositions are playable on piano

Year Composition Manuscript? Online?
1955 Inspiration Sonatina, F Major, 4 movements, 10 min L N
1956 (perf. 1957, 1961?) Sonata 1, A Maj., 4 movements, 14 min L,S,P, P
1956 (perf. 1957) Minuet, E Maj P P
1956 Anthem, “Lord Thou Art My God”, 3 part chorus, F Maj N N
1957 Anthem, Psalm 133, D-flat P P
1960 Sonata 2, D Min, 3 movements, 25 min P (photographed) P
1961 4 Modal pieces (4 min) N N
1962, 1974, 2012 perf. 1991 Sonata 3, C, 4 Mov., 50 min P(photographed) P, some excerpts as MPG
1972-1974 “Song Symphony”, 6 min, no key, 40 min S Exceprts as P and MPG
1962, 1974 Orch. Symphony, E Min. 4 mvmts, 30 min S Excerpts as P
1974 Polytonal Prelude (D and E), 4 min S P,MPG

 

(L refers to Apple Logic, which I got before Sibelius.)

I entered the first two sonatas and Minuet into composition contests in the period 1957-1960.  I think I composed the Sonata, which has its own Minuet, first.  The E Major Minuet won a prize, but the Minuet in the Sonata is more interesting.  I’ve given some history of these pieces on Blogger here.

I must say that in the “Song Symphony”, in an episodic “scherzo” movement, I experimented with taking a minuet theme, and then recasting it harmonically (by throwing in polytonality, which classicism can always “use”) and telescoping the rhythm.  It’s like a Haydn minuet (rather than Mozart), with lots of little surprises that come on.  It’s not literally adopted, but a movement from the “Farewell Symphony” figured in, as did the “Imperial”.

The most complete  big works are the Sonatas 2 and 3.  I must have written out the Sonata 2 manuscript on the kitchen table in black in in early 1960.  Much of Sonata 3 was written in the spring of 1962, after I had started at GWU from having returned home from WM.  My father had a “mild heart attack” and could not stand loud classical music from the basement.  The third movement was a reflection of that circumstance.

The scrapbook notes show a judge discussing an “Impromptu in A Minor”, but I recall no such piece. I think she mixed up the title with another contestant and was really judging the Sonata #1 in A.

I’ve discussed a William and Mary classmate’s (from 1961) compositions also, here.   Sometime in 1962, after I had returned “home” because of the “expulsion” from William and Mary that I have discussed on my blogs, I received a huge postcard from a high school friend from the old Science Honor Society, in which he sketched out eight folk songs.  They may be some of the Irish songs that Sir Charles Villiers Stanford, and later Amy Beach, used in “Irish Rhapsodies” and symphonies, or they may include some Czech melodies.  The card may still be lying around in the attic or in estate property somewhere. If I find it, I’ll get it converted to digital.

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