peaanneoh pracktissing’s guide to cruelty-free bass drum
Our upright is tucked hard in the corner downstairs so when the boys are practicing, sound drifts in wisps upstairs like incense and also sifts through the old radiator holes in the floor, down into the basement. This means I can be almost anywhere in the house and still remind them when they’re playing too fast, missing or messing up notes though they’ll occasionally pretend to not hear my voice muffled out from the sound of the washing machine. When I’m in the basement is when I can tell the piano is really out of tune, we need someone to come to the house, bad. Dryer’s about to go, too. Nevertheless, Adam has been doing a wonderful job with Beethoven’s Für Elise, having mastered the entire piece with aplomb. Frankly, I’ve gotten pretty tired of it but his teacher continues to utilize the composition as a tool of itself, driving home various habits in miniature and every night Adam plays with his foot off the brake when he knows he’s almost done and it’s breathtaking. I’ve tinkered with guitar for years but I’m not a learned musician nor pianist like the boys’ mother, a technician who helps the boys sort out air bubbles. On the other hand, I’m the one who’s home every night, by turns begging and cajoling (the occasional threat added for good measure) if only they’ll prove they can really speak the language and Adam knows what I mean getting past the rote to closed-eyes sonic mania (and obviously some songs are better than others when it comes to this).
Last week, every day after school Adam brought his keyboard and pedals downstairs, hooked them up to the desktop Mac in the dining room and recorded multiple tracks for hours, producing countless layers interrupted only periodically by dinnertime, homework or skirmishes with Oliver. He recorded one piece that pleasantly surprised me there was so much subtleness in it, a relief after the pulsating ambient synthesizer he sampled earlier in the afternoon which had left me desiring to set afire every black turtleneck left on the planet. He would disregard my suggestion to tone down the gong at the end. Several weeks ago he told me how much he’d love to compose music for a living someday (he loves researching film scores) and my heart sank a little thinking as I was of that shadowy spectre, artificial intelligence, to wit the increasing lengths to which complicated algorithms of software are taking over yeoman composition and how much farther out of the city his piano teacher (a talented musician who has tried to make his entire life about only music) has had to keep moving, in order to pay the rent. That’s why I love it the most when Adam gets back on that terribly out-of-tune upright and improvises beautiful paths of sound that branch off and loop back until it sounds exactly like it’s supposed to.
Last week, Oliver Fern returned to school after spending Monday at home with me to more fully recover from the virus that left the four of us holed up like mole rats for several days in Victoria (although the boys and their mother were eventually recovered enough to visit the fine Royal BC Museum). At recess, some of the older children harangued him on the playground, insisting he’d contracted the novel coronavirus. If Oliver’s recounting is to be taken at face value, he took the taunts in stride. Can you believe some of those naughty little shits? We also have no shortage of those who will seemingly inflict as much collateral damage upon public and private property as necessary in their quest for meaning as evidenced here on our walk last Sunday afternoon in a dark, forested ravine in West Seattle (though hardly more offensive to me than a clanking high speed chairlift if you really want to know). Underneath this bridge has been getting illustrated (and more) for years, including work by some fairly notable street artists. This image appealed to me for the ugly, beautifully graphic truth it reveals about a trend in Seattle the past few years: The indiscriminate tagging of legacy trees, shrubs and plants. Simply unforgivable. We strolled out of the woods from here to Alki Beach where we looked for sea glass at low tide, mostly inferior broken beer bottle brown with some tiny greens and gauzy whites.