I remember reading Joe Brainard

I remember being out in the forest.

I remember my mom cutting my hair.

I remember being told I should play oboe.

I remember the music teacher saying I had to start with flute.

I remember the doctor telling me my upper lip was too big to play the flute. 

I remember wanting to play the drums.

I remember some special friends boldly playing instruments they didn't know how to play. 

I remember being awed by the stars.  

I remember wondering who I'd be when I got older.

I remember thinking I was old when I wasn't.  

I remember dreaming that I was sitting at the piano playing a piece my brother often played, one I would never be good enough to.

I remember being astonished.

I remember every once in a while being moved by a small bit of music I was practicing.

I remember forgetting what I was supposed to be playing.

I remember crying.

I remember regretting that I hadn't become a musician.

I remember thinking, why not just pretend you are playing Chopin.

I remember the teacher saying, play the black keys. 

I remember playing for 3 hours.

I remember rejoicing.

I remember being ashamed.

I remember realizing I didn't need to be.  


It Takes Courage

My mother-in-law tells me about a friend

Who is off doing an amazing thing,

Overcoming fears,

Enduring pain,

Pushing harder, faster, further.

And there are many notes of congratulations,

And cheers of encouragement,

And proclamations of how brave she is.

Meanwhile, back at home,

The partner of the woman who is doing a most amazing thing,

Takes care of the house and the lawn and the bills and the pets.

And nobody's cheering, admiring, praising.

My mother-in-law asks,

"Which takes more courage?"


Preparing for the Improv 2020's: Make Your Practice a Priority

be determined to make your practice a priority

(you will always be able to find excuses not to practice)

so don't accept excuses

(sometimes you miss out)

but always you gain

respect your practice

(and everyone else will too)

sorry, i can't today

(clean or shop or wash or email or cook or organize or plan or meet)

because i must practice

(this thing whatever it is)

that which drives me

(maybe you don't even know

what your practice is)

still, by making it a priority

you will (someday) find

(with patience)

what you didn't know

(was there)


On Obsessing about the Ill Way I Behaved in Writers Group

I said a dumb thing and now I can't get over it.

Is it because I know better?

Is it because of my reputation of coming on too strong and later regretting it?

Only one arrow I tell myself and launch two dozen more.

The details really don't matter.

It's the general trend that is of concern.

I get all wound up by the energy in the room,

All these people, just like me, 

Suspended by this fragile thing.

Obviously, I'm still learning how to channel it.

Encourage and ask questions.
What's so hard about that?

The writer advised me: Stop making assumptions

and telling other people what to write.

And of course,

she is right,

a reflection of myself. 


In Search of the Unifying Principles of Composition

I ask my cousin:

Is there a unifying principle of composition that stretches across all arts?  Whether choreographer or filmmaker or painter or writer or musician etc., shouldn't it be that the principles of composition are the same?

He says:

It sounds intuitively correct, but you'd have to ask experts from all those fields in order to really know.

I thought that was a good idea.

But other things happened.

In Twyla Tharp's book, The Creative Habit, she, a choreographer, suggests an exercise she likes to do to warm up.  She arranges coins on paper.

I tried it with a couple of classes, adding pebbles, push pins, rubber bands.

What art is not an arrangement of something, whether objects, sounds, ideas, experiences, movements, words?

What are we if not arrangers?

Why do I prefer making nonsymmetrical arrangements?

Why are symmetrical arrangements so pleasing?


A Few Things I Remember About Thomas Riedelsheimer's film Touch the Sound

When Evelyn Glennie was young, she lost her hearing.
Her doctor said she would have to give up piano.
 Evelyn's parents didn't agree.

I remember finding the movie at the library.

I remember thinking that a deaf person couldn't be a musician.

I remember thinking there was such a thing as silence.

I remember thinking, for a good ways into the documentary, that I must have misunderstood the blurb on the cover because clearly, this is a hearing person.

I remember trying very hard to understand.

How do you hear?

How do you?

With my ears.

I hear with my whole body, says Evelyn Glennie.

I remember being riveted by her snare drum solo in Grand Central Station.  She played with her whole body, her face, her hair.  When she was done and people clapped, she seemed suddenly embarrassed.  Out on the streets she is easily confused by the many sounds coming from everywhere, whereas in an empty warehouse, or a concert hall, or a quiet restaurant, she's a star.

I remember thinking Fred Frith seems like a great guy.

I have many favorite scenes, but one I especially like: Evelyn playing in a restaurant in Japan, with an impromptu drum set she assembled with cups and kitchen utensils.


Another Lucky Little Free Library Find: Lady Murasaki's The Tale of Genji, Written One Thousand Years Ago

Lady Murasaki 
mentioned only three times in her diary
The Tale of Genji
her masterwork
which some argue
is the world's first and best novel
written in early 1000's Japan 
the story of the lady chasings of
the handsome Prince Genji
who travels the land
spying on beautiful girls
whispering through paper screens
falling desperately in love

(page 57)

"Take me to where she is hiding!"

"It is difficult," (his boy servant) said. "She is locked in and there are so many people there.  I am afraid to go with you."

"So be it," said Genji, "but you at least must not abandon me," and he laid the boy beside him on his bed.  The boy was well content to find himself lying by this handsome young Prince's side, and Genji, we must record, found the boy no bad substitute for his ungracious sister."

blossoming blossoms
flowering flowers
always sending poems

fine handwriting
making quite a good impression
on our handsome Prince Genji

In chapter 5 entitled "Murasaki", Lady Murasaki writes how, while visiting his wet nurse who was old and ill, Prince Genji becomes curious about the house next door because of its lovely garden, drawn shades, and the ladies he spies inside.  

He arranges an affair, and causes in the chosen one such an emotional stir that she dies.  The prince chases about seeking council and formulating stories to cover his tracks, least his wife find out.

Prince Genji becomes so emotionally drained that he too falls ill and eventually travels to the remote mountains in search of an old medicine man.  While there, Prince Genji hears about an old hermit whose estate nearby is so lush and currently housing a number of fine ladies and girls. 

Prince Genji is revived!

He goes to visit the hermit and when he catches sight of a 10 year old beauty and imagines her grown, he proposes to adopt the girl into the Emperor's palace.  The girl's maid is appalled by the idea and refuses, which only fuels Prince Genji's obsession.  He becomes so desperate that when he hears that the girl's father is planning on retrieving the girl the next day, Prince Genji arranges to kidnap her under dark of night and take her as his own, to the Emperor's palace, where the prince delights in watching her play.  

And I am only half way through the first of six volumes.  


Rare Strawberry Moon - Always a Work in Progress

listen to a new improvised song by 
Tad Neuhaus, Loren Dempster, and Joanna Dane:

Our practice is to spontaneously make songs,

lyrics lifted from my notebooks

sung to whatever Tad starts playing on guitar.

That seems to be the easiest way.

And now Loren joins us with his cello.

Every song is flawed and unique,

of the moment,

a bird flight,

a cloud rolling,

a river flowing,

a rare strawberry moon.

"For me personally 
strawberry moon 
at 38 seconds 
sounds pretty bad on my end 
for a few seconds, 
but the cello solo sounds good.  
Overall blog post worthy.
Maybe it would work
for you to call it 
a work in progress 
or something like that 
to explain your process?"

Loren Dempster on Strawberry Moon


Love Letter to an Urban Planner

What do you see while you walk around the city?

What does an empty street tell you?

What messages do you read in the patterns people walk?

Why do I turn here rather than there?

Is it true that these streets create our lives 

or is it our lives that create these streets?

If water flows in the direction of least resistance, 

doesn't it make sense for us too?


Strange Summer Reading Coincidences

first published in 1936,
this second printing of the first paper-bound edition
published 1971

In Minneapolis, at a Little Free Library in the Lake Harriet neighborhood, I find The Diary of Vaslav Nijinsky, a famous Russian dancer of the early 1900's who I've never heard of, who winded up in an insane asylum after being dumped by the man who made him famous.

He obsessively kept a diary during the time leading up to his asylum stay.

He wrote about loving everyone and about god and how he is god and how he loves everyone and how everyone thinks he's crazy because he loves and does not hate and how angry he is at Diaghilev for cheating him and how much he loves his wife.

The book is divided into two parts: Life and Death

Nijinsky writes in Part One, Life (page 13):

I know if everyone thinks I am a harmless madman they will not be afraid of me.  I do not like people who think that I am a dangerous lunatic.  I am a madman who loves mankind.  My madness is my love towards mankind.

And then, in the mailbox is the latest New Yorker and an article by Joan Acocella with the sub-title:

Baryshnikov plays Nijinsky in the grip of insanity.

Mikhail Baryshnikov, the world famous Russian ballet dancer of my youth who rose to popular American fame with the movie White Nights, my father forever impressed, "He does that wearing jeans!"

The New Yorker, June 27, 2016

Baryshnikov, now in his late sixties, is playing Nijinsky in a one man show by Robert Wilson. According to the caption, they both "share a fascination with Nijinsky's diary".

Me too, picking it up every evening and reading a few paragraphs thinking, maybe he wasn't as crazy as everyone seemed to think, until the thought dissolves and I can not remember what I was just thinking and I fall asleep.

Nijinsky writes in Part Two, Death (page 119):

I will behave like others because I want people to take care of me.  I am not an egoist, but a man of love, and will do everything possible for other people.  I want to be looked after.  I hope that people will love my wife and my child but I want love for everybody.  I want to act in plays which will interest the public because I know that people like to be pleased, but in this excitement I will make people feel what love is.