Saturday, February 11, 2017

A Web Discovery

I discovered recently that someone used one of my poems as a response to someone's blog post about music. There is really only the slightest connection between the poem and the blog. The author of the blog thanks me, but I was not the one who posted the poem in response. The poem used is titled "Spelunking," and it was posted on this blog almost ten years ago--  Whoever posted the poem was kind enough to acknowledge me as the author. Go to this link to find the blog post.

Only those poems of mine that have been published in print form have been shared on this blog of mine.  It has probably been years since I shared any of my poems. I am happy to report that I have been writing with somewhat more frequency. Because I am not teaching as many classes as I used to, I have somewhat more time available.  Even an hour, when time is short and one's days are devoted to other things, can be enough time to get something written or revised. I cannot think of a better way to spend my remaining years than in writing poems.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Transferring Analogue Recordings

A few years ago, I started converting some of my out-of-print record albums and burning the resulting MP3 onto a CD, my preferred medium. It is a project that I have put aside but one that I need to return to. I wasn’t using the right software program previously because it wouldn’t separate the individual tracks, which is something that makes the transfer easier. As a record collector, I have some jazz records from the 70’s and 80’s that have not yet been released on CD or as a digital download.

There are a number of arguments regarding the superiority of vinyl over digital. Some people claim that vinyl contains a warmer sound and that analogue contains a more accurate transfer rate. Some of the opposing arguments say that there is virtually no difference between vinyl and CD and that so many other things contribute to the overall sound quality, such as the turntable, the needle, the amplifier, or the speakers.

I began moving away from vinyl in the late 80’s. Storage, the listening experience, and convenience are what concerns me. Unless one has shelves made expressly to hold records, records are difficult to store and often warp when they are not properly cared for. The overall listening experience is determined by the quality of the medium, with scratches on a vinyl recording ruining the experience—for me, at least. I also find digital copies more convenient because I can either place the music on my phone and use an auxiliary cable in the car or sync my phone and the car stereo, using Bluetooth. Bluetooth is also an option when playing music on the sound bar that is connected to the television. Another option, and one that I prefer, is burning the files onto a CD and using the CD in the car, in the kitchen, in the clock radio/alarm clock, or on the stereo located in my home office.

The quality of the vinyl recording wasn’t as important to me when I was listening to music with few, if any, lows or quiet passages. That changed once I started listening to ECM recordings in the 1970’s. On one occasion, I remember getting the record home and discovering that the scratch created during the manufacturing process ruined my listening experience of Keith Jarrett’s Arbour Zena

At some point in the future, I hope to hear Hubert Laws’ The San Francisco Concert, Zbigniew Namyslowski’s Air Condition, Pepper Adams’ Reflectory, and the Art Pepper Quartet at the Maiden Voyage, which is available on two other albums besides Road GameArt Lives and Art Pepper Quartet. These are just some of the albums that have not yet been recently released as a CD or as a digital copy. 

Some of the other albums of mine have since been released on CD, but I am reluctant to spend the money when I can instead transfer the music. The cost of the software is ultimately cheaper than replacing the albums, even when considering the cost of a plastic CD cover and the recordable CD itself. 

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Reading in 2016

During 2016, I managed to read twenty-two books. For several years now, I have been keeping a somewhat accurate record of how many books that I have read in a year’s time. Some people can read as many books as there are weeks in a year. My number of books read during a year’s time seems to stay fairly consistent—roughly twenty books but sometimes a little more or a little less.

Having downloaded the Kindle app to my Android phone, I now am able to read samples of books that interest me before I add them to my Wish List at Amazon. That's how I discovered Edward Humes’ Door to Door: The Magnificent Maddening, Mysterious World of Transportation, a book that contains frightening statistics and makes one a more conscious, and more careful, driver. I discovered Tracie McMillan’s The American Way of Eating: Undercover at Walmart, Applebee’s, Farm Fields, and the Dinner Table from reading a sample as well. Her book has made me more reluctant to buy much produce at Walmart, except for bananas and apples occasionally, and to avoid restaurants like Applebee’s. I have not yet purchased some of the other books whose samples I have read, such as Poison Spring: The Secret History of Pollution and the EPA and Elliot West’s collection of historical essays. Sometimes I am lucky to find what I want at a secondhand bookstore, such as Half-Price Books and the Dusty Bookshelf in Lawrence. I am not including these samples among my list of books read.

My only digital book is The Book of Women, a chapbook of poems by Dorianne Laux, which, unfortunately, is no longer available in any other format.

There are other books of poems that I dip into occasionally but have not read completely. I am still working my way through Jack Gilbert’s Collected Poems. Several of the poems in my copy of his book are bookmarked. I actually have many of the books that make up his collected poems except for Monolithos, which I originally read as an undergraduate. During the past year, I also picked up Ruth Stone’s Second-Hand Coat: New and Selected Poems, Kim Addonizio’s What Is This Thing Called Love, Sharon Olds’ Odes, Dorianne Laux’s Facts About the Moon, Adrian C. Louis’ Random Exorcisms, and Michael Heffernan’s The Night-Watchman’s Daughter. None of these books have been finished as of yet. It is difficult for me to actually say at what point I have read any one book of poems because I return to the poems often and keep the book on my nightstand or on a nearby dresser. These books of poems are not included in my list for 2016.

Only two works of fiction are included among my list. Sometime during the summer, my wife lent me her copy of Richard Moran’s Earth Winter, something that she picked up at one of the library sales. She thought I would at least enjoy the romance between two of the main characters and find the pages devoted to a Russian submarine interesting, knowing my fondness for submarine movies. (At one point last summer when I was re-watching U-571 for about the third or fourth time, a movie about a young officer learning to take command, I felt as if my father, who had died eight years ago and who made a career of the Navy, was sitting next to me and listening to me comment on the movie as we watched it together.)  I also read James Howard Kunstler’s The Harrows of Spring, the fourth and final book in his series World Made by Hand.  Some of the characters in the fictional Union Grove, New York are adjusting to their lives, after having seen their country destroyed by nuclear detonations, having lost loved ones in a flu pandemic, and having seen the conveniences that once made up modern life disappear.

The great majority of the other books read during 2016 can be classified as history, such as The Heart of Everything That Is, Prairie Indian Raiders, Apache Wars, A Terrible Glory, and Last Stand. I also read Trails: Toward a New Western History, a collection of essays addressing what was once considered the New Western History in the 1990’s and which provided a point of view to re-examine the history of the American West. These essays have provided a number of examples of good narrative history that I have neglected to read, such as Donald Worster’s Rivers of Empire: Water, Aridity, and the Growth of the American West, a book that has been sitting on my shelf for a number of years. Trails is a much better book than Old West/New West, another collection of critical essays that I read this last year but one that, although largely positive, presents a less accepting view of the New West, with Gene M. Gressley saying in the Prologue that the new history typically contains “an absence of archival research” and a “one-dimensional underside view of western history.” It’s those neglected elements of western history, no matter how critical of our past by revealing flaws, mistakes, and misshapen attitudes, that need to be examined more thoroughly.

Also included among the books read this last year are two collections of essays, Barry Lopez’ detailed descriptions and observations in About This Life: Journeys on the Threshold of Memory and David Foster Wallace’s A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. It’s unfortunate that David Foster Wallace ended his own life in 2008 because I would have liked seeing how marriage and parenthood, for example, would have changed his world view and would have altered his sense of humor when observing something like a state fair.

My LibraryThing account now says that I possess 905 books, the majority of which serve as remnants of the journey, and all of which are crammed into two rooms of my house. I added thirty-six books to my collection during the previous year and will be reading the ones that I have not yet gotten to. Although I try to limit the number of books purchased during any given year, I find it difficult to resist adding more books to my collection, already having added three more books so far this year.

For Christmas, my wife gave me a floor lamp with an adjustable neck to make reading in bed easier. It wasn’t until I assembled the lamp that I discovered that the bulb is not replaceable although the company assures me that it will last for 50,000 hours. More than five and a half years of reading await me, the company says.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Best Jazz Selections for 2016

My selections for best jazz releases of 2016 are limited to an EP and a reissue. Other releases during the year came to my attention but were ruled out for various reasons. It’s possible that I may return to some of the other music purchased during the year and find good things that I had not noticed previously.

Jakob Sorensen, Nomad.  This EP of almost twenty-one minutes, and four songs, is a second release for Jakob Sorensen. His Bagland was released last year. Nomad contains many of the same members, that is, Alex Jonsson on guitar, Mathias Jaeger on piano, Frederik Sakham on bass, and Jakob Sorensen on trumpet. Andreas Skamby now replaces drummer Frej Lesner from Bagland.  Like other examples of Northern European jazz, this recording contains a group dynamic with more emphasis on melody than on featuring the skills of a particular musician. There are instruments that appear prominently in these four songs composed by Jakob Sorensen.  “Eick,” the first song, opens with a haunting piano phrase that is repeated throughout much of the song. Midpoint or so, the guitar figures promptly on one channel while the trumpet appears on the other channel, both of which are accompanied by the phrasing of the piano. “Nomad,” the second song, opens with a strong bass line and features drumming that serves to accent the melody carried by the trumpet. Sorensen’s skill with his trumpet comes across the most in the third song, “Brave Men” and in the fourth song, “The Mountain That Disappeared.” Sorensen’s tone is strong, with no jarring or discordant notes altering the overall experience. Although it is unfortunate that the album isn’t longer, this EP hints at good things to come from Jakob Sorensen and the other members of his band.

Matthew Halsall, On the Go (Special Edition). This remastering of the album On the Go, released originally in 2011, has been expanded with the addition of three other songs, “Only You,” “Singing Everyday,” and “Breathless,” which add twenty-two minutes to the original album. These three additions are similar to the mood created by “Samatha,” a song that distinguishes the original release because of its meditative and melancholic qualities.  “Only You” is a trio effort composed of Gavin Barras’ bass, Adam Fairhall’s piano, and Matthew Halsall’s trumpet. Both “Singing Everyday” and “Breathless” place emphasis on Matthew Halsall’s trumpet, showing his mastery of the instrument, while “Breathless” also offers Fairhall a chance to solo.  Rachel Gladwin’s harp is noticeably absent in these additions to the album; her harp would have fit nicely in “Only You," for example. Even so, this remastering has improved the overall album and makes it more representative of what Matthew Halsall was trying to achieve with his album On the Go, the third release of his after Colour Yes in 2009 and Sending my Love in 2008.