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).

March 2020 - Schmitz Park 96-2Last 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.

7 thoughts on “peaanneoh pracktissing’s guide to cruelty-free bass drum

  1. I enjoyed this warm slice of life entry – – I asked my mom, because she had years of piano lessons, and yep, her teacher also used Für Elise, seems like that should be an automatic qualification for parent sainthood, listening to that on repeat without snapping & getting out the chainsaw! But it’s great that you can hear your son mastering it, and especially great about him creating music, that’s wonderful. I know what you mean about struggling piano teachers, etc. and I don’t know any musicians who can support themselves fulltime by playing/composing, but maybe doing soundtracks isn’t a totally crazy goal. I wonder if he’s listened to “The Source,” a public radio program from Portland, all about movie scores, he might get a kick out of the host’s plummy English accent. I’ve got some CD’s with Bernard Herrmann, Ennio Morricone, Brian Eno, etc. – – not my usual diet, but sometimes pretty fun, especially Morricone, even if some of it is definitely black turtleneck only. I don’t play video games, but I’ve actually heard some very decent music off them, too.

    There are so many old movies, that it’s always struck me, could be re-scored, and made so much better. I watched some ‘60’s spy flick this winter, lots of guys running around on rooftops and cobblestones in suits and shiny black shoes, neckties were never loosened even under torture, and the soundtrack was apparently a lounge bar band, playing bossa nova (the movie was set in Europe, not Brazil). The movie was pretty good but I had to turn off the sound – if someone re-did it with Peter Gunn theme, etc. you could actually put it in theaters again.

    Well, enjoyed this snapshot of life in Seattle, and the cool photo. Despite the recess bullies, I hope the schools stay open, sounds like your area is starting to shut down gatherings?

    • I was looking for The Source last night and couldn’t find it (there are a billion things by that name and I will parse more) but that sounds right up his alley. And ah yes…..Adam has familiarized himself with Brian Eno and some of those other names. It’s amazing to me how much more kids (or anyone) can know about music, these days. It’s easy to hang various curses on streaming music (and the internet in general) but isn’t that access a miracle? Think of the years and years it took to accumulate certain knowledge depending on where you lived or who you knew and what their record collection was like…

      There are some school districts around us that have made the decision to close but ours is staying open on the premise that shutting down opens up various cans of worms. A lot of children in our district rely quite heavily on schools for critical access to front-line social services, meals, after-school care, etc. Many other childrens’ parents are a critical part of our excellent local health care systems which are important not just to the city but the region and they might be thrown into situations where it’s impossible to go to work if their kids are suddenly at home, throwing things into further disarray for the community. There are certainly divergent, equally valid opinions about the wisdom of the staying-open approach. I have particular faith in the expertise of our local Public Health (the problem is how wider systems work together). As of today the University of Washington is moving classes off campus, to online. I offered to drive Adam to school this morning but he insisted upon riding the bus, refuting my claims that being cooped up in a damp, hollow metal tube might fall into the category of risky business. At this point, social distancing is more than common sense for the bigger stuff. The Emerald City Comic con is this weekend (we had no plans to attend to begin with) and the convention is offering people refunds if they don’t want to go. On a somewhat humorous note if there is any levity to be had in all this, ferry travelers are being asked to stay in their cars on the boats…… or in the case of foot passengers, keep a distance of six feet from other people. I’m imagining passengers crossing their fingers at each other and carefully slinking around corners to observe the six foot bubble rule.

      • That’s a great image, “Avoidance” the new game show. I guess it wouldn’t be much of a stretch for folks who like to have conversations at least arms-length away, or just avert their eyes and stay in the Cone of Silence when you pass on the sidewalk. We could get those giant hamster balls, that I’ve seen in promos for resorts, with kids inside them, floating around on the water.
        I should’ve thought, The Source would be hard, but the host’s name is Edmund Stone, and really sorry, I just looked it up and it’s “The Score” not source, sorry about that.

  2. From the moment I started following your blog TF I knew you were doing some really special child raising in your home. How awesome that your boys are exposed to so much culture and are being schooled in the appreciation of the natural world, as well as the energy of the City environment. The fruits of your labors are beginning to ripen. How sweet it must be to raise up children well and watch the world reveal it’s potential in their young lives! It’s so enjoyable to read about it in your lyrical words and writings.

    • I’m doing my best but oftentimes (let’s make that pretty much all the time) I wonder if I’ve done it completely wrong and squandered everything, especially now that it seems my oldest can see right through me, to the utterly flailing wingman who’s flying upside down with the manual in one hand. And that’s what I am but the boys’ mom is the most steady, grounded and smart person you’ll ever meet. We’re currently being longitudinally studied as a family by MIT, Stanford and Johns Hopkins to see how two diametrically opposed emotionally intelligencized and intellectual capacitated individuals can raise children together without causing unstable nuclear fusionated reactions. It’s good to hear from you on here like always after I’ve been gone so long, Ilona. In all seriousness I always appreciate your optimism and perspective on things.

      • It sounds like between you and their Mom, your boys have a really good chance at being very balanced and successful adults. My own mother was extremely steady, a real gem, and Dad was kind of nutty in his own right, and look at me…I turned out, um, well, okay I think. LOL TF, I just love reading about the time you take with those boys and I know that it is an integral part of them growing up right. I have every faith in you–that you play a huge part in the good human beings they are becoming. And having a wonderful Mom/partner to boot, the one who is the steadying and grounding influence to complement your creative and adventurous nature, is pretty awesome for all of you guys!

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