Monday, April 17, 2017

Magnolia Blossoms_ 2017


My annual collection of magnolia blossoms appear below. This year the early springlike temperatures that we were having caused the magnolia tree in my yard to bloom several weeks earlier than usual. Not all of the blossoms had opened when the weather changed, bringing several days of below freezing temperatures. I was lucky to get these pictures when I did.














Saturday, March 11, 2017

Music & Memories of Turkey

Recently, I discovered that my blog has gotten a few hits from Turkey. I suspect that the mentioning of Derya Turkan’s recording Letter from Istanbul, which is listed in the sidebar, has been sending people to my blog.

I enjoyed the time I spent in Turkey, beginning at the age of nine and lasting until I was twelve. As an officer in the US Navy, my father was stationed for two and half years in Istanbul, from January 1960 to the summer of 1963. We spent about two months in a hotel before we found an apartment to rent. Later, we rented a stucco house down the street, with a mulberry tree in the side yard and which overlooked the hills that prevented us from seeing the Bosporus except for a sliver visible from our second-floor balcony.

At one end of our street, a narrow footpath led to the Bosporus. It was located next to a field where sheep often grazed. The main road, lined with shops and containing a boys’ school where the students wore blue uniforms and remained in class even in the evening, was a few streets away and led into the city center. The names of the street where we lived or the names of the nearby road escape me. 

My elementary school, one meant for military dependents whose parents were stationed in Istanbul, was several miles outside of the city. The bus used to pass a training facility for the Turkish army.  During the spring, we often took excursions to some of the historic sites in the city, including Hagia Sophia, the Sultan Ahmed Mosque (the Blue Mosque), Topkapi Palace, Dolmabahce Palace, and Rumelihisari, a fortress overlooking the Bosporus. It was a great place to be a kid.

My parents often spent a few hours on Saturdays visiting the Grand Bazaar and accumulated a sizable collection of rugs and copper. My sister and I played with the kids on our street, some of whom were Americans and some of whom were Turkish. I often roamed the neighborhood with Sherif, my Turkish friend. One summer afternoon, for some reason, we decided to help pull loaves of bread from the oven at the local bakery. We weren’t offered any money or a loaf of bread to take home. His mother served us cucumber sandwiches for lunch sometimes but didn’t take kindly to his breaking a leg when we were jumping off a hillside next to the footpath. I had to run and get my mother to help get him to his house.

What I probably remember the most from Turkey are the sounds. We lived close enough to one of the local mosques to hear the calls to prayer, which is especially pretty, even after hearing them five times a day. The man selling Turkish pretzels and walking through the neighborhood in the afternoons called out what he had to sell. The man who sharpened knives walked through the neighborhood carrying his sharpening stone and yelling out what he had to offer. When I moved back to Maryland, I at first thought the screaming from the kids playing outside was in Turkish. It takes time to re-adjust.

Toward the end of our time in Turkey, after having absorbed some of the culture, we attended a dance and music festival and had a great time. What we were seeing and hearing wasn’t nearly as foreign as it might have been two and a half years earlier. Wanting to keep those memories fresh, my father bought some Turkish music when we returned to Maryland. My interest in hearing Turkish music began in earnest once I started listening to the music of Anouar Brahem, whose albums brought back those memories and associations from my childhood. Sometimes, now, while grading my students' essays, I listen to Turkish classical music. I discovered Derya Turkan’s recording of Letter from Istanbul soon after I started listening to Sokratis Sinopoulos’ Eight Winds.  About ten years ago, I took my family to hear Salaam, an ensemble playing North African and Middle Eastern music, at the Nelson Gallery of Art in Kansas City. It was soon after the American invasion of Iraq and proved to be solemn occasion for the musicians who were celebrating a culture that was being destroyed.

Personally, I think that it takes education and/or travel to be more tolerant of other cultures. We Americans certainly could use more tolerance of others.

Once, as an undergraduate, I was in the cafeteria and behind one of my Middle Eastern classmates who was pouring sugar into her cup of coffee, the only thing she was purchasing for her lunch. “Are you fasting now?” I said.

“You know about that,” she replied.

“Yes, I spent two and a half years in Turkey,” I said.



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--https://redmooncafe.blogspot.com/2006_06_01_archive.html.  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.