Comments, anyone?

At the urging of several readers, I am going to experiment with allowing Comments. If I’ve got the settings right, comments will not show up until I see and approve them, not for censorship but to protect us all from the gazillions of spam messages. So let’s give it a try.
To comment on a particular blog post, click on the Comments link shown on the right side just below the headline, date and category lines for that post.

Party Excuses and Sleep Deprivation

I don’t have time to spend trolling the Internet for sillies like this one, but my daily dose of news story ideas and resources (Al’s Morning Meeting: Story ideas that you can localize and enterprise) sometimes includes an amusement such as this online Holiday Party Excuse Generator created by a company called Enlighten.

Answer a few simple questions and in the time it takes to warble “fa la la la la”, you’ll have an excuse that will either endear or enrage a prospective host….

Al said: Always trying to be helpful, I want to get you out of attending the crummy parties that you want to avoid. Thanks, Al.

Of course, I can’t imagine why you wouldn’t want to go to a party. Maybe you don’t like the host, or maybe you’re a Scrooge, or maybe, just maybe, you have so much work to do that you can’t take time out to play. It seems that time is the issue for lots of folks who want, or need, to pack more into a day, and they are using drugs to keep them going and to help them sleep. This is nothing new, but the drug choices are new…some still in the research phase. My friend, Phil, who remembers “the programmers anti-sleep potion of choice, Mountain Dew,” pointed me to “Get ready for 24-hour living,” an article at

Mind you, I am a self-confessed workaholic, and as it is my natural sleep cycle these days averages 6 hours a night. Would I be interested in a pill that would let me get 4 hours of good, refreshing sleep, and do me no bodily harm? Let’s forget for a moment that bodily harm part, because there are always three-dozen side effects, the worst of which won’t be discovered for 10-20 years. I might be tempted. But at this stage in my life I am pondering how I should be spending my time and questioning the endless hours spent at the computer. Having more time in the day is useless if it is not time well spent. And therein, as they say, lies the rub — how to define well spent. What’s your definition?

Words To The Wise

I’m beginning to receive a lot of press releases promoting events and products. Whether or not these announcements might be of interest to you, I do not make a habit of posting the majority of them because my blog is not a public broadcast station and I do not consider myself to be a news service with a capital N as in The News, even when that news is entertainment-related. At those times when I am writing for “the press,” I do consider myself to be a journalist, and no matter what the outlet, I do hold myself to journalistic standards when writing nonfiction, but DevraDoWrite is a blog, and as such it is no more and no less than a platform for my thoughts and ideas, which hopefully hold some modicum of interest or entertainment value for you, my readers. Why else would you be here?

You might then wonder why I post the occassional press release and review the random CD, performance or movie. Usually it is because the annoucement has triggered some related thoughts that I wish to explore and share. Sometimes my discourse is right on point, but often times, like today, it is merely tangential. Today’s case is vocabulary-driven, truly an act of simple curiosity aroused by a press release from the USAF Band regarding “Acapella Music of the Empyrean.” I love coming across words that are new to me, and empyrean was an unfamiliar word.

“Acapella Music of the Empyrean featuring Members of The Singing Sergeants” is the title a December 9th concert that is part of The United States Air Force Band Chamber Players Series held at Anderson House Museum (2118 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, D.C.). This free concert starts at 1:30 p.m. but because I live on the left coast and have no plans to be in D.C. next month, rendering me unable to attend, listen, and learn, I turned to an alternative source of enlightenment: the Internet.

Looking it up in the Word of the Day Archive, I found the following definitions and examples:

empyrean \em-py-REE-uhn; -PEER-ee-\, noun:
1. The highest heaven, in ancient belief usually thought to be a realm of pure fire or light.
2. Heaven; paradise.
3. The heavens; the sky.

1. Of or pertaining to the empyrean of ancient belief.

She might have been an angel arguing a point in the empyrean if she hadn’t been, so completely, a woman.
— Edith Wharton, “The Long Run”, The Atlantic, Feburary 1912

In the poem — one he had the good sense finally to abandon — he pictured himself as a blind moth raised among butterflies, which for a brief moment had found itself rising upward into the empyrean to behold “Great horizons and systems and shores all along,” only to find its wings crumpling and itself falling — like Icarus — back to earth.
— Paul Mariani, The Broken Tower: A Life of Hart Crane

In my experience, the excitement generated by a truly fresh and original piece of writing is the rocket fuel that lifts Grub Street’s rackety skylab — with its grizzled crew of editors, publishers, agents, booksellers, publicists — into orbit in the empyrean.
— Robert McCrum, “Young blood”, The Observer, August 26, 2001

Empyrean comes from Medieval Latin empyreum, ultimately from Greek empurios, from en-, “in” + pyr, “fire.”

Wikipedia says empyrean can mean several things, and definitions range from the biblical to the brewery:

* In Christian theology, the Empyrean (also called the heavenly rose, or the mind of God) is the name of the highest heaven.
* In Paradiso, the final book of The Divine Comedy, the Empyrean, based on the above, is the abode of God.
* In Asheron’s Call, Empyrean refers to a race of highly intelligent humanoid beings inhabiting the planet Auberean.
* In Digital Devil Saga, Empyrean Halo is a powerful attack spell, the name referring to the heavenly rose in The Divine Comedy.
* Empyrean Brewing Company is a brewery located in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Although I do ponder the merits of using words that require readers to have a dictionary at hand, I am nonetheless on the perpetual quest to expand my vocabulary. To that end, I subscribe to a weekdaily email from that serves up a word with definitions and sample uses, each week’s offerings being thematically related. Sometimes the words are new to me and on occassion I make a note to add one to my vocabulary list. A few weeks back the theme was words about books, and here are three of those words:

auctorial (ok-TOR-ee-uhl) adjective

Pertaining to an author

[From Latin auctor (author, creator), from augere (to create). Ultimately from the Indo-European root aug- (increase) which is also the source of auction, authorize, inaugurate, augment, august, auxiliary, and nickname (“a nickname” is a splitting of the earlier “an ekename”, literally, an additional name).]

fascicle (FAS-i-kuhl) noun

1. Part of a book published in installments. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary was published in fascicles.

2. A bundle. For example, a bundle of nerve or muscle fibers, or a bundle of leaves.

[From Latin fasciculus, diminutive of fascis (bundle).]

The word fascism is related. It refers to the Latin fascis (a bundle or a group) and also to the emblem adopted by Mussolini: a bundle of twigs that was carried as a sign of the power of a magistrate in ancient Rome.

hornbook (HORN-book) noun

A primer.

[From horn + book. In earlier times, a hornbook was a book containing the alphabet or other material for children. Though it would be stretching the definition of book by the present standard — it had a wooden paddle with a handle that held a paper with learning material protected by the transparent layer of a cow’s horn.]

See pictures of hornbooks here

By the way, is also the home of the Internet Anagram Server that I had so much fun with early in my blogging days — Raison D’Etre (Monday May 02nd 2005), Word Trips (Friday July 08th 2005), and Caveat Lector Dictionaria/Encyclopedia (Tuesday September 27th 2005).

And in case you are wondering, the purpose of today’s tour-de-words is not to warn you off of sending me press releases. Au contraire. I love to read them, never knowing what serendipity-dowrite might stike. When my little gray cells are sufficiently stimulated, you’ll read about it right here. So stay tuned and keep in touch.

Son of Jazz Man To Be Governor

Laurie Goldstein writes in with this tidbit that is making the rounds of jazz afficiandos; she cites the original source of the info as coming from Ira Gitler via a mutual friend.

Laurdine “Pat” Patrick (1929 – 1991) was a baritone saxophone player best-known for his over forty years’ association with Sun Ra. As well as his long-term membership of the Sun Ra Arkestra, Patrick also played with John Coltrane (appearing on Africa/Brass in 1961), Mongo Santamaría (appearing on the hits Watermelon Man and Yeh Yeh), and in Thelonious Monk’s quartet in the early 1970s. His son is Massachusetts governor-elect Deval Patrick.

Laurie is a music publishing administrator handling the catalogs of Cannonball and Nat Adderley, Wes Montgomery, Gerry Mulligan, Letta Mbulu & Caiphus Semenya, Freddie Hubbard, Turbintons, Buddy Williams, Joe Williams, Joe Zawinul, Carl Allen, Skip Anderson, Donald Brown, Adela Dalto, Vincent Herring, Javon Jackson, and others. Her company, L’oro Music, is devoted to protecting musical copyrights while encouraging the licensing of its music in film, tv, recordings, print, commercials and other uses, and the website includes a very informative guide to obtaining licenses for mechanical, synchronization, print, performing rights, grand rights, samples and permissions, plus a FAQ with brief outlines of copyright, licenses, permissions and music publishing terms, and links to additional sources for more detailed information.

More Radio

While I’m on the subject of promoting good radio broadcasts, you should tune in to WBGO tomorrow night (Sunday, Nov 12, from 11 p.m. to midnight, Eastern Standard Time) and listen to the music of Bob Brookmeyer. Producer Bill Kirchner writes:

Valve trombonist/pianist/composer/arranger Bob Brookmeyer (b. 1929) has been a major jazz musician for more than a half-century. Only in the past 25 years, though, has he been widely recognized as one of jazz’s finest living composers.

We’ll hear recent recordings of Brookmeyer’s writing for his Europe-based New Art Orchestra. Plus a surprise.

If you are a WBGO regular you’ll recognize that this is part of the “Jazz From the Archives” series that runs every Sunday on WBGO-FM (88.3) presented by the Institute of Jazz Studies.

NOTE: If you live outside the New York City metropolitan area, WBGO also broadcasts online.

I’ve Got Mail

Mr. Rifftides and I are of like mind (he seconded my emotion here), as is pianist George Ziskind who sent me a Bravo for my radio remarks and added that he’ll be talking with Phil Schaap tomorrow morning on WKCR at around 9:30 a.m. EST. You remember George, don’t you? He sent in that great account of Sonny Rollins’ onstage interview at IAJE this past January. (If you haven’t seen it, here ’tis and here’s the ammendment that came in from Ira Gitler.)

Hooray for Edutainment

Well we’re just about half-way through WKCR’s four-day festival broadcast celebrating the musical legacy of Lennie Tristano. It began at noon on Tuesday and ‘airs’ continuously until noon on Saturday November 11th. You can listen to it online (there’s a Live Boadcast link at the bottom of their page). My esteemed blogging collegue Mr. Rifftides noted this event and included some basic Tristano data. I mention it today to applaud the station and bring to your attention the type of work a radio station can do if it so chooses — I know, it’s ‘a college station,’ but in today’s world the freedoms that came with that are dwindling as budgetarians eye all campus entities (radio, sports teams…) as potential cash cows. (Think KJAZ in Southern California…)

Anyway, an article in the Columbia University Record dating back to 1995 gives credit to Phil Schaap, who, at the time of that article, was celebrating his 25th anniversary at WKCR. “…Schaap is largely responsible for WKCR’s historic emphasis on jazz and he has also colored the station’s unique form by inventing the “festival” (events which pre-empt all regular programming to concentrate on one artist or theme)…”

A station press release says that in addition to broadcasting a chronological presentation of Tristano’s entire recorded output (presented uninterrupted throughout the day of Friday, November 10th), you will hear “in-depth features on his compositional techniques and teaching methodology, as well as interviews with the former colleagues and students of Tristano who represent his living legacy.

That’s amazing! I know a lot of dee-jays who are nearly in tears because their bosses, not wanting them to break the musical spell with any talk, won’t even allow them to tell us listeners who’s playing on a particular track let alone mention that the artiust might be appearing in town.

According to WKCR’s web site:
“Roughly 67 hours (about 40%) of WKCR airtime is currently devoted to Jazz music each week and, quite simply, we present American art music that no other radio station plays. We practice a ‘one foot in the past, one foot in the future’ approach. Unlike other ‘jazz’ stations, WKCR is deeply commited to the rich and storied history of jazz music and its numerous genuises, many of whom have been unfortunately neglected in recent decades. Additionally, we feature and interview cutting edge, avant-garde musicians who are seldom heard in more commerically-driven media. ”


Music In Protest

Politics coupled with music is a subject that fascinates me. You may remember my Spoils of War posting back in August. What I did not mention in that post was the civilian use of music as a form of protest against war.

In 1971 Eric Bogle, wrote And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda. “I wanted to write an antiwar song but didn’t want to denigrate the courage of the soldier,” Mr. Bogle recalled in a November 2005 interview for The New York Times. In that same article, Pete Seeger called it “one of the world’s greatest songs,” explaining “In a few lines of poetry he captured one of the great contradictions of the world: the heroism of people doing something, even knowing it was a crazy something. And he showed how the establishment has used music for thousands of years to support its way of thinking.”

In April 2002 a Silicon Valley weekly newspaper ran an article by Jeff Chang with the headline “Is Protest Music Dead?” Chang wrote

“When the United States goes to war, the musicians begin calling for peace. Opposing war hasn’t always been a popular position, but it has created some great music.” Then he listed songs from the Vietnam era, “songs like Edwin Starr’s War, Jimi Hendrix’s cover of All Along the Watchtower, Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain and Wars of Armageddon, Jimmy Cliff’s Vietnam, Country Joe and the Fish’s Fixing to Die Rag, Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising and Have You Ever Seen the Rain? and Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On turned defiance into a raging, soaring, brave and melancholic gestures of community….When Bush Senior sent troops to Kuwait in 1991, rappers Ice Cube and Paris trained their verbal guns on the White House in I Wanna Kill Sam and Bush Killa…”

But, he wrote, the muzzle is now on.

“We’ve seen dozens of acts quietly bury their edgier songs. We’ve seen radio playlists rewritten so as not to “offend listeners.” And we’ve seen Republican officials and the entertainment industry – long divided over “traditional values” issues such as violent content and parental advisory stickering – bury the hatchet. White House Senior Adviser Karl Rove has been meeting regularly with entertainment industry officials to discuss how they can help the war on terrorism. The result? Not unlike the network news, there’s been what a media wonk might call a narrowing of content choice.”

Later in the article Chang writes

‘Message music is being pinched off by an increasingly monopolized media industry suddenly eager to please the White House. At least two of the nation’s largest radio networks – Clear Channel and Citadel Communications – removed songs from the air in the wake of the attacks. Songs like Drowning Pool’s “Bodies” and John Lennon’s “Imagine” were confined to MP3 sites and mix tapes. And while pressure to maintain “blacklists” has eased recently, the détente between Capitol Hill, New York and Hollywood – unseen since World War II – has tangible consequences.”

Two+ years later (8-15-04) Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot wrote an article titled “Rocking the Boat.” The sub-head was “As a contentious PRESIDENTIAL RACE revs up, musicians from every genre are jumping into the fray with politically charged albums, Web sites and concerts”

So, as Chang wrote, “musicians must do what they do, and the story is not yet over.”

Indeed the story is not over. I have a friend, Margo Guryan, who is a composer and songwriter, and an fabulous poet (sadly unpublished in that last arena). Do you remember Sunday Morning? That was one of her songs. Here’s an excerpt from Margo’s myspace page (you can also hear Sunday Morning from her myspace page.)

Margo Guryan is a rare discovery — a songwriter and arranger with amazing vocal talent who had a brief – but nonetheless significant – impact on pop music. During the highpoint of her career, her songs were recorded by some of pop music’s most important stars: Mama Cass, Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell, Astrud Gilberto, Julie London, Jackie DeShannon, Carmen McCrae, The Lennon Sisters, and Claudine Longet. In fact, there were two hit versions of the Margo Guryan-penned “Sunday Morning” released a year apart in the late 1960s — the first by Spanky And Our Gang, and the second by Oliver (who had previous success with “Good Morning Starshine” and “Jean”). Although she preferred writing songs that others could record and perform, in 1968 Margo recorded and released an album entitled “Take a Picture”. Although the success of this record back then was limited, it has since become a much sought-after collector’s item….

She seized 16 Words and put them to music, and then a wonderful video clip was made and posted on YouTube. Here are the sixteen words – do they sound familiar?

The British government has learned
That Sadam Hussein recently sold
significant quantities of uranium from Africa

And here’s what the myspace site says about 16 Words

“Despite misgivings about the accuracy of the 16 words embodied in this song (these words had been previously removed from a Bush speech given in Cincinnati, Ohio in October ’02), the words appeared in Bush’s State of the Union address ’03. The words were among a litany used to gain the support of Congress and the American people for an invasion of Iraq. Fury over Joseph Wilson’s July ’03 NY Times article debunking the truth of the president’s statement resulted in the “outing” of Wilson’s wife by high government officials. The ensuing investigation is ongoing.”

Now click her to see and hear 16 Words for yourself; the animation is great and it’s a wonderfully produced satirical work in protest of the war.