A Little Ray of Sunshine

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Last Saturday we went out to a lake near here. (There are about a thousand of these.) My husband fished. I picked rosehips. For about five hours. He caught two. I picked a couple quarts. Beau and Hemi 'fished' for about five minutes. Picked rosehips for about ten. Wandered up and down the shoreline the rest of the time. Fell in the lake. Cried. (The lakes here are cold.) Sat in the sun to dry off. Hummer stayed in the Kelty on my back except for nursing.
I got to thinking about the transmission of knowledge. I come from a University-Degree-is-Everything! background. It drives my folks just batty that my husband hasn't finished a college degree. But in all that college, I didn't learn anything about putting food on the table. Well, I take that back: I lived in a co-op dorm, and our cook had congestive heart failure one year. While she was in the hospital, the cafeteria at the main dorms took to sending over food. Inedible. I remember a batch of taco meat that was half raw and half burned. We girls took to cooking for ourselves. I learned how to cook for 52. But that wasn't a class.
I didn't learn about rosehips from my folks. I learned from a book. (At this point, I can't recall which. I was fascinated with pioneers as a child. Still am.) I think, for a society, this is a dangerous way to pass down knowledge to the next generation. It's good for the individual within the society who can seek out knowledge they don't have, but it's not good to rely on.
I've been studying lately on how cleaning and cleanliness were handled pre-antibiotics. Compared to our ancestresses, we are absolute slobs. We can rely on magic drugs to make the bacteria go away. Except that we can't anymore. But the old standards and techniques of cleanliness are gone, and except for book archives, no one remembers how it was done. (Which may be why we have so many antibiotic resistant strains: we have higher rates of infection.)
What if the books weren't there? What if I didn't have time to read them? I can see this happening easily: my husband has no time for reading. (His little computer repair business is keeping him up til 1 am most nights, after he's already worked eight or nine hours at his job.)
I am one of those people who is interested in absolutely everything. How do I transmit the things I learn to my children?
How do we define education? Is it that stuff you learn in a classroom that leads to a degree? Is it only when I thunk Beau down at his desk that he's getting educated? (For the record, sweeping is harder to teach than printing!)
I think literacy is one of the most important things he's learning. But I'm not sure. Sweeping might be. Recognizing rose hips and how to prepare them might be more important.
Books are so easily lost to us. The knowledge in our heads is not. How do we ensure that we pass to our children what they need to know? How do we make sure that we learn the things we ourselves need to know, when our ancestors have forgotten what they knew?

(Ah, the miracle of the laptop: the power just went off. Hurray for batteries and wireless! This is a very common happening around here, as in multiple times a week.)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

I really wish

I had a microphone and recording software package.

Oh, well.

'Cellists are, you understand, lazy by nature. But we're practical-lazy. We prefer to learn to read three clefs (bass, tenor, treble) rather than count leger lines for ever. (We are also practical jokers, but that's another story, actually numerous other stories.)

This occasionally leads to trouble, like just now. I realized I'd written the last line and a half in treble, and it was supposed to be in tenor. Grrr. Rewrite! At least, when composing, I always work in pencil. It means I have to recopy later in ink.

That said, I've tried Finale and Sibelius, and sorry, but they both, well, suck. I can write more accurately and faster by hand. Even with recopying. And I am not a professional manuscripter. We simply convinced one of my university's composers to offer us a single semester of manuscript class. (Scheduled at ten pm or after any recital was over, whichever was later!) There's a reason why the sheet music you buy at the store is still hand written and mechanicly copied, not computer generated. By people like me, only with more practice. Using a caligraphy pen on vellum, usually. I understand that the copying is accoplished by the same technique as house blueprints.

I use a ultra-fine sharpie on paper, white out for mistakes. Photocopy when I need copies. And even writing in pencil, recopying in ink, it's faster, more legible, and more accurate than music software programs. I suppose that tells you something abou the complexity of the written musical language. I tell my students that it's like learning a foreign language: you wouldn't expect to be able to read Mandarin flawlessly in your first year. Or your second. Brain research backs me up: musicians use the same part of their brain for music as for language.

Like writing, copywrite on music is automatic when you write it down. You don't have to file it or pay any fees.

I still wish I had recording software and a microphone. Then I'd have to figure out how to put this little peice up. It's not anything like done yet, but it's just pouring out today between poopy bums and housework. Well, there'd be another step in there: practice!