Tag Archives: music

2 simple things you need to do with your 5 year old ASAP

(1) Play for them Sergei Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’.  Children love stories, they love music and they love animals and  sometime during the twenty-eight minutes this piece consumes, a magical thing happens.  The clarinet no longer represents the cat but becomes the cat, the oboe is the duck and those glaring, sinister French Horns are as terrifying as meeting up with a real wolf.

Of the senses, hearing is the least reliant on how you are  physically situated**.  If you lift your hand from the table, you don’t feel it anymore.   If you turn your head away from the television you are no longer seeing it and if there is nothing in your mouth, that is exactly what you taste. Enjoying this event however demands nothing but your attention.  Your ears you can’t turn off.

Limited only by the need for a free half  hour, Sarah and I often find ourselves staring deep into eachother’s eyes as the suspense builds.  She clings to me with her arms when the wolf is about to snap and we march triumphantly around the room at the end as Peter proudly presents his accomplishment.  As enriching as other events can be, you just don’t have this same freedom when you’re reading a book or playing a board game.

My infinite gratitude goes to Mr. Prokofiev for affording me this pleasure.  Were the themes not so brilliantly constructed, they would not suffice in capturing a five year old’s attention and I would not know the added delight of catching my daughter humming them to herself while it is not even playing.  The experience ranks among  the deepest connections I could ever hope to have with my child which is why I write of it; in hopes that it happens again somewhere.

**The sense of smell of course has rather broad physical boundaries, however, I would argue that its affect dissipates much more rapidly than that of hearing.

(2) Watch with them BBC’s Planet Earth documentary.  It is one of the most visually stunning programs I have ever seen and the content will both captivate your child’s attention and give you loads to discuss with them as well.  I let Sarah watch it tonight  and had her explain to me what the narrator was saying while I made chicken soup.  I was amazed at how many details she was picking up on.  “Whoaaahhh” she said at one point, “that bug is 20 centimeters long” which is hilarious to me because she has almost no concept of units…making it a perfect opportunity to stop chopping and show her something that is approximately twenty centimeters long.

The segment about caves came on and they showed how stalagmites and stalagtites are formed from limestone.  Then they showed a cave that had become submerged sometime after these alien like features had formed and Sarah said with excitement, “Dad, look at this world.”  Fireworks went off in my head and I turned around to look at an underwater landscape as foreign to me as it was to her.  “But Sarah,”  I said, “This is our world.”  Neither of us could really wrap our heads around this fact and again we found ourselves, happily, on the very same level.

We spend a lot of time as parents, teaching our kids that this is this and that is that and, inadvertently, I think we convey the assumption that we ‘know’ more than them.  At the tender age of 4, Sarah once asked me “Why are there so many rules and why are they always made by the grown-ups?”.  This well posed question stopped me in my tracks and I thought about it…for days and days and days.

As a student of Physics, I have developed a deep appreciation for all the minds that have brought us into the current era.  Einstein however, above all other scientists I know of, harnesses the most childlike wonder about the universe and contains it with a most mature humility.  Our children have very little context in which to judge the things they experience and in this respect, are afforded a relatively limitless potential to understand them, hence we refer to them as sponges.

I truly enjoy embracing these realizations and relish the opportunity to tell my daughter that ‘I don’t know’.  I love for her to see that the grown-ups wonder too and to be by her side as we ‘find out’ together.  As enriching a parent as I consider myself though, it is a fruitless endeavor unless you have a good catalyst to draw upon.  On Earth Day (April 22nd), Disney is releasing its ‘Earth’ movie which features much of the photage from the BBC program.  I can’t wait to take my child though I confess, I’ll probably go alone if I have to.

I am not a very good writer and so I often fail to capture the point.  I love my daughter and to share in her spark.  I love kids in general and to see their spark ignite.   The days go by and their clothes stop fitting and, as the parents of teenagers tell me, the next day they are driving.  While I am still in its presence however,  I can’t help but celebrate childhood and some of those events which illuminate its nature.

A transcendental day

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Last night I opened yet another transcendental Pandora’s box not realizing the irony of the fact that, being 2 o’clock  in the morning it was officially Pi day.   I have this rather unpractical habit you see of trying to resolve ancient mathematical paradoxes in a single evening.  It’s ambitious, while largely unproductive yet educational and entertaining all the same.

While driving home I thought it quite unsatisfactory that the year has a fractional number of days in it and so resolved to look at the numbers and see if anything could be done about dismissing leap years, normalizing the length of the months and things of this nature .  My apologies to Kepler, Galileo and the mathematical community in general for assuming this would be within my capabilities.

Half an hour after I got home I found myself entering data in the excel spreadsheet I’d created to compile all the many categories of numbers I found.  Our understanding of our position in the universe, of course, is a relative one and so even the question ‘How long is a year’ is a subjective one.  Furthermore, none of the lunar months or astronomical years I looked at were divisible by an integer number of days (or even seconds in many cases) and so I found myself once again in transcendental quicksand, with no foreseeable end to the quantity of significant digits that would suffice in pulling me out.

This afternoon I am patting myself on the head thinking ‘nice try killer’.  I will have to rank this excursion with the time I tried to calibrate integers such that Pi and Euler’s constant would be whole numbers or the time I tried to reinvent music by splitting the difference between Pythagorean tuning and Equal Temperament.  I concede for now.  1 is 1 and Pi is Pi.  Regarding musical temperament however,  I’ll get back to you.

I put a spell on you – Nina Simone

This performance, as it should, could not be more haunting.

Please resurrect Jimi and Miles for just one day.

Rumors that Jimi Hendrix and Miles Davis were planning to record together when Jimi passed away in 1970 are not easy to stop thinking about once you consider the idea.  Yesterday I was listening to ‘Live Evil’ and thought (ironically), if there were a God, and he were a kind one, he would have let us hear Jimi and Miles play together.   Were he a vengeful one I still think he would have chosen to make this one small concession.  Today I am thinking, if there is a God, let him show me a sign.  Let some recording of these two surface after 40 years.  (I’m just kidding.  Please don’t let this heresy offend you.) Can you imagine what Jimi would have done in this group for example?

Q-Tip – Let’s Ride

Today’s song of the day comes from the album ‘Amplified’ in 1999.  Dig the Coltrane changes on guitar over these beats and under these rhymes.

Miriam Makeba – Click Song

Today’s song of the day comes from South Africa via Stockholm in a live performance from 1966.  In a separate interview, Ms. Makeba relates “Everywhere we go people ask me, how do you make that noise?  It used to offend me because it’s not a noise, it’s my language.”  She laughs as she explains this and goes on smiling as she demonstrates the pronunciation of some words.  Click on her picture to see and hear ‘Click Song’ and enjoy.

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Intellectual Property Rights

Intellectual property – legal rights over the creations of the mind.  This trend has great inertia and promises to accelerate at a feverish pace.  I have objected to it since I first noticed its evolution and, though I have been convinced to soften my stance a bit, I’d still like to call to attention some potentially negative effects.  All the laws on the books  today are forged with the well being of certain people in mind.  Often they injure others and in special cases, have adverse effects on those they were intended to serve.                                                                                                                                                                                                                Milton Friedman expressed this point far more clearly than I can in the interview I’ve attached to his name.

That we can grant intellectual property means that the state has approved and promises to enforce a more or less temporary monopoly on an artistic or commercial idea.   The intent I suppose is to allow the posessor of an idea a period in which he can recoup the expenses he endured in the design and execution of it.

In a conversation on the subject, a participant whom I respect introduced the example of the envelope with a window on it.  The patent perhaps is to be considered the original guise of intellectual property as it related to tangible designs; the many other types of property we now recognize did not exist a century ago. Continue reading