The Monotony of Politically Correct Art/Music

Setting out to create politically correct art and music.Capture18

I’ve heard a bit more discussion about political correctness come up in the news lately. (Definitions are found at the end of this blog). The former Bruce Jenner and the “Black Lives Matter” group helped push it to the front. I will only say, I believe, since we are made in the image of God, all lives matter. All lives deserve our love and respect until their ungodly, inhumane acts demand otherwise. If you don’t believe in God, nothing else I believe will matter to you. I could go on but this blog is mainly about art and music. I think art is nothing but communication without words. So, what is my art saying? Am I politically correct?

The PC Composition 

Music should be easy – it’s universal! So I start to compose.

If I use any half notes, would African Americans object? I better use an equal amount of “white” notes and “black” notes. In fact, they will have equal time value, because the black notes deserve equal time. This makes time signatures of no value now. This means there’s no need for bar lines. Forget the key signatures. Many can’t play them, so I better leave them out. In fact, all notes should be the same pitch because I know those who can’t carry a tune would be offended by those who can. There will be no words to worry about. Good. Also, include no instruments to remind some listeners of their inadequacy to learn an instrument. It’ll be like giving awards to every participant for their excellence (a word with no meaning – but don’t tell anyone!) Boy! That’s  All done!

The PC Canvas Has to Be EasyArt, like morality, consists

Art just has to be easier. After all, art critics swoon over exhibits containing a cross submerged in urine and embalmed baby parts. My art should be tame and safe. I started to draw a face – just any face. But then I thought, if I drew an Indian Native American maybe I’d offend a Black African American. But if I use only pencil, will I offend a Latino? I mean, how can I draw black lines on paper and not offend someone? Even if I chose paper the color of a Latino’s complexion, wouldn’t I offend an Asian? This is getting really complicated. No matter what I do, I am sure to offend someone. What do I do if I offend someone who has only one eye or has wrinkles?

I will settle on a safe rendering. I’m confident I have not offended anyone, but I am hardly pleased with what I see. It in no way exemplifies how I see the world.

994408_240134136163913_736443705_nThe Not-So PC Conclusion

When Daniel (in the Bible) was taken into captivity, the first things Nebuchadnezzar’s reign did to subjugate them was change their diet, their names, their words (language) and their religion. Fortunately, even the barbaric (is it okay to say this?)Babylonians recognized excellence, and Daniel and his friends were rewarded for their achievements. Life is full of contrasts. Hot versus cold, spicy or sweet, these foods are all praised. We need all the variety in life. We need the planners and nurturers and teachers and doers. We need high and low energy people, those that encourage and also offer helpful criticism to meet the various needs of our lives.

Yes, I have been brutally hurt by words. I am offended almost daily, but I know this culture is not friendly to my values. But I refuse to let it control me. I will embrace the high notes I will never sing, I will play my piano with no guilt because I put in the effort to learn how to play it. I will draw and paint the dignity of each life and the pleasures of creation with wonderful contrasts and colors and not be ashamed because I know in my heart I am not malicious. I am not a racist. I am loving and caring and honest and full of life!

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/politically%20correct

Full Definition of POLITICALLY CORRECT:  conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated

http://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/american/politically-correct

Politically Correct: conforming or adhering to what is regarded as orthodox liberal opinion on matters of sexuality, race, etc.: usually used disparagingly to connote dogmatism, excessive sensitivity to minority causes, etc.

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=politically+correct

#2 Politically Correct: 1. The laws of moral and ethical relativism; all systems of cultures and thought are equal in value, steming from a perceived guilt from white liberals who believe that the Western Civilization is the root of all evil to the exclusion of all else. 2. A powerful form of censorship. abbr: PC

Political correctness has a basic flaw. If all views are equal, why do some who embrace this view feel the need to push this agenda as the “correct” one at the same time demonizing other views as “incorrect”?

by tradesman March 31, 2003

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What should we do with talent?

Where does talent come from?

 

I won’t try to pull a fast one on my readers or string them along with scientific studies (though many are interesting). I can only say,“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”(James 1:17) Now, I know this text refers to God’s gift of salvation and care for His children; however, “And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?” (Ex 4:11)   If God decides who will be dumb or seeing, He can easily decide who is artistic or musical, or struggles to appreciate creativity.The source may not be so elusive, but the why behind creativity remains.

 

Maybe more important – what do we do with talent?

Don’t you find it strange how differently people react to the arts and talented people?

Capture1Some are totally clueless in understanding what goes into a performance or project.

When I was the sole musician for a church and was accompanying two choir numbers, two other musical pieces, playing three Offertories plus attending the rehearsals and accompanying worship singing for three services each week, the music director looked at me in surprise when I mentioned I had to practice several hours each week.

Someone asked an artist how long it took for him to paint a picture and he replied, “All my life.” What a great response that is a bit tongue-and-cheek and yet it is all very real at the same time.

There is a lot of loneliness, too. We are those as children who brought home reports cards reading, “Loves to daydream,” “Great motor control but unrealistic use of color,” “Loves singing and sings with authority” and “Work well independently.” I remember the lonely hours as a stay as home mother. It probably didn’t hit me as hard as those personalities that need socialization. My poor children went to bed at 8 in the evening and I would begin painting (When your spouse works 2nd shift, you are almost a single parent) and would paint until my husband came home in the early hours of the morning. While church members socialized, I was practicing with those preparing their musical specials for upcoming worship services. I don’t say these things demanding pity, I am speaking a reality. Artists paint, sculpt, compose, write and practice away while peers shop, party and go to sport/art events.

Life experiences can bring lack of understanding and appreciation on the part of the viewer/listener. So people at recitals and show openings romanticize over the exciting life of artists and refuse to see the reality when an artists state that it can be a bit tedious (Don’t think so, ask Michelangelo when the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling was “unveiled.”) Don’t get me wrong, the tedium is worth it to the artist who has the result in his heart and mind.

In the late 1800’s there were over 2,000 piano makers in the country! Every household wanted a piano. Sacrifices were made to own one. Almost every house that had a piano had a child who took lessons. Playing piano was not only a form of entertainment, it was a status symbol. To some people it portrayed wealth, to others it meant refinement and an extra incentive for someone to marry plain old Betty. You can almost feel sorry for the nine-year-old boy who drops his fishing worms when his mother pulls him by the ear into the house for piano practice (lovingly, of course!). Now there were the good old days of discipline against selfish impulses for long-term gains.

Girl with a Pearl Eariing - Vermeer

Girl with a Pearl Eariing – Vermeer

Today we are overloaded with art that seemingly has no cost to it. The painting may be beautiful, but it can be easily mass-produced. The rare voice can draw tears, however, with a touch of a button it’s gone viral and everyone hears it.

Thank God there are patrons who do appreciate the object that delights their eyes and the nuances of sound that move them emotionally. I’m glad there are museums. Those hallways of subtle lighting drown out the noise of cheap entertainment and busy lives and make the viewer focus on life as seen through the artists. Sometimes it’s a life we may have forgotten.  I often wonder what “the art” sees in us as we view it?

Wrapping up Christmas and Scoring Big in 2014

Do you remember the day-after-Christmas as a child?

It can be a big let down. As a child I probably got everything on my list. I didn’t want anything more, yet the let-down feeling was there. Why? Looking back, it probably was because there was no need to anticipate. The activity of anticipation brings excitement into the dull, everyday events of life. Children know these days as filled with chores of making of beds, washing dishes and the hated task of folding socks. (I still hate folding socks to this day. What’s the use, they never match!)

The value of anticipation.

Anticipation is part of “HOPE” when you think about it. You expect a change, hope for something different. The artist expects to be delighted with the finished project. Anticipation drives the brush or pencil towards the image in the mind. The same goes for the composer.

Maybe it’s the hopeful look of appreciation in the receiver’s eye’s that drives the giver to shop and wrap each present. I wonder what God anticipated that first Christmas. Does He even do that? Did He think of the joy of having a restored relationship with you? And me? The human psyche is a complex subject, yet I have confidence God understands it all. So much of His design for worship fills the needs of the human to understand his place in the relationship with God.

Long term VS Short Term Goals – IT’S RELATIVE

Mothers of toddlers have ONLY short – very short-term goals – such as going to the bathroom before the next catastrophe. For the child, each day drags on forever. Lunch is way out in the future. Supper will never come.

The act of anticipation is a serious, long term commitment to a six year old.

2013 ornament

The little track house made big memories.

I remember my siblings and I would insist on decorating the obligatory shrubs in suburban landscaping. The snow would settle on top of the large colorful bulbs and when they were plugged in, it looked like five, humungous M&M cookies lining the front walkway. We watched our Dad string them up and we waited for snow.  When it came we were ecstatic. So it made sense to give this memory back to our parents this Christmas.

So, maybe looking forward to meeting goals gives us the same excitement and sense of satisfaction as adults.

If that’s the case, I’m making both long term and short term goals to fill my life and keep me young at heart and mind.

Artistically, I would like to complete at least eight pieces this year – 3 acrylics, 2-3 pastels and the rest in graphite and/or  inks. Motivation for this should be easy since I’m starting a commission piece this week. Musically,  I would like to take 4-6 of my arrangements which have been floating around in my head (a dangerous place to store anything valuable) and notate them for solo piano. Some of my goals may be very dull to you – organization, for example – and one challenging – memorization of more Scripture. (I’m still working on Philippians 4:5-11).

What goals have you set? I’d love to hear of them.

May your days be blessed and have a joyous New Year.

How Does One meet A Day of Infamy? A Study in Contrast.

FDR said we will always remember this day as a day of infamy. The attack on Pearl Harbor was brutal, almost entirely unexpected and it roused the “sleeping giant.” The Great Depression and WW2 made the 50’s so much sweeter. But where is this giant the Japanese admiral spoke of? For the most part, today’s Americans are oblivious to the nation’s financial and leadership crisis. Many are struggling to find employment and cope with new governmental regulatory changes.We are in a darker period in America and many fail to see it, yet-

In all of this we are to still give thanks.

I am beginning to think God is One Who sees the glass as half full. (I’m slow.)

Our neighbor called this week to say their grandson’s Neuroblastoma cancer has returned. This is devastating. It is times like these we can focus on the good care available and the happy times Connor brings to those around him. For these we can be thankful. For those who care, updates on his condition and how to pray for him are in: https://www.facebook.com/PrayingForConnerHill.

Our lives are much like a work in progress. Good works or art consist of a delicate balance of light and dark, bright and somber. Can Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” draw the listener in if no notes on the bass clef existed? Visual artists know that beginning artists struggling with the use of contrast but it is the very use of this element that takes the artwork to the next level.  See the difference in the drawing below.

bad drawing Untitled-Grayscale-close-upGod puts the dark strokes among the light ones in our lives to paint a picture to glorify Him. It’s hard to appreciate the darker strokes in our lives, especially when it touches such young, innocent lives.

After all, if God can only be a good God in the good times, He’s not much of a god when the hard times come.  So have faith in God’s goodness and let’s pray for Connor and the many others like him -maybe it’s you – and give thanks to God for the blessings He has showered down on us and for holding His loved ones through the dark times.

                                                                                                                                 

Thanksgiving

What IS Thanksgiving?

Today, in the midst of baking rolls and pies, it is good to to rest the feet and reflect on what Thanksgiving means. Of course, we can say we’re thankful for family, friends, our freedoms as US citizens, health, possessions and jobs, but what if we don’t have them? Can we still be thankful? Consider this-

Martin Rinkart was a pastor at Eilenburg, Saxony during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Because Eilenburg was a walled city, it became a severely overcrowded refuge for political and military fugitives from far and near. As a result the entire city suffered from famine and disease. In 1637 a great pestilence swept through the area, resulting in the death of some eight thousand persons, including Rinkart’s wife. At that time he was the only minister in Eilenburh because the others had died or fled. Rinkart alone conducted the burial services for 4480 people, sometimes as many as 40 or 50 a day!

During the closing years of the war, Eilenburg was overrun or besieged three times, once by the Austrian army and twice by the Swedes. On one occasion, the Swedish general demanded that the townspeople make a payment of 30,000 thalers. Martin Rinkart served as intermediary, pleading that the impoverished city could not meet such a levy; however, his request was disregarded. Turning to his companions the pastor said, “Come, my children, we can find no mercy with man; let us take refuge with God.” On his knees he led them in a fervent prayer and in the singing of a familiar hymn, “When in the Hour of Utmost Need.” The Swedish commander was so moved that he reduced the levy to 1350 thalers.

This is the servant God used to pen the words:

“Now thank we all our God With heart and hands and voices,

Who wondrous things hath done, In whom His world rejoices;

Who, from our mother’s arms, Hath blessed us on our way

With countless gifts of love, And still is ours today.

O may this bouteous God, Through all our life be near us,

With ever joyful hearts And blessed peace to cheer us;

And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed

And free us from our ills In this world and the next”

Martin Rinkart (1586-1649)

Translated by Cathrine Winkworth (1827-1878)

(Taken from “Crusader Hymns and Hymn Stories. Hope Publishing. 1966)

Walled in, no freedom, no food, little or no family, jobs, possessions and health, yet they gave thanks to God. God tells us in 1Th 5:18 “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” It is obvious that a thankful heart is not based on circumstances but perspective and frame of (spiritual) mind.

My prayer for you this thanksgiving is not that you will have an abundance of things and happy circumstances, but you will know that no matter what your life brings, God is always the certainty of love, grace and forgiveness. Maybe that’s what Martin Rinkart knew.

As my husband, Glen, and my worlds fill with challenges, it is good to take pleasure in the small ways laughter comes to us. Since I have no piano students this year, art projects are filling the hours (as if they needed filling!) I leave you with a pastel still in progress of the one that spends the most time with me-Kansa.

Kansa - 9 x 12 pastel portrait

Kansa – 9 x 12 pastel portrait

Wedding Blues Pianist

Wedding Blues
A couple of blogs back I challenged musicians to be prepared so opportunities can be seized. Playing for funerals is easy. They generally start on time, and as long as you can play soothing music – you’re home free. Weddings are entirely different. Bridesmaids have other things to do half way through practice, ministers forget rehearsals and you have to drag them across the busy street to the church while they’re still wearing slippers and then there’s power outages that shut down the organ in the middle of the mother-of-the-bride’s appearance.

You better be prepared.

In fact, you’re the one in need of soothing music. I have played for brides who insist on both organ and piano music, though the instruments are on opposite sides of the platform. So I have vaulted over bridal trains as silently as possible while the preacher offers up solemn prayers. Some brides believe everyone owes them Oscar-level performances. My proof? One bride had five (5) solos, two (2) duets and two (2) instrumental pieces I was to play. This wasn’t a wedding-it was a full length Rogers and Hammerstein production. The rehearsals alone with all the vocalists tired me out weeks before the wedding. Probably one of the most frustrating times was when I played for a very accommodating bride only to have the rod controlling the damper pedal slip from the piano, clang onto the marble floor and roll loudly to stop a couple of pews back. Again, the mother of the bride was being seated. Umm. I had to play the remaining service without any damper pedal. Immediately I went into the organ method of fingering but wished I could have pulled off the music as I knew it should have sounded.

POISE is EVERTHING!
So, it’s a good idea to be prepared to play an additional 20 minutes of prelude before the wedding party marches down the aisle. Be alert – don’t think the accomplished vocalist won’t accidentally skip half a verse and don’t get startled if the candle starts to burn the tablecloth during your solo.

What experiences have you had in your weddings-as-a-musician?

Wedding repertoire
When it comes to the church service part of the wedding, I do not like to play show tunes and popular songs unless they sound very spiritually appropriate. If the bride insists on “We’ve only Just Begun” she can find someone else. You can decide what songs you will play for a wedding. That is YOUR choice. If the wedding is more informal and in a garden setting I might be a little more lax (as long as I am still comfortable with the words of a song and it’s rendering is compatible with a setting of vows exchanged before God. Again, as a musician, you must beforehand decide what you want to be associated with in your performances. As a church musician, I was very strict with my own choices but even I found no problem playing for a garden wedding where the ring bearers were two, well behaved miniature schnauzers.

Also, be prepared to improvise when emergencies arise. Take songs (vocal songs are more apt to fit this category) and practice playing them several different ways. Pull out the classics like Bach’s “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” and “Canon in D” by Pachabel and other traditional pieces.

But remember, it is a happy occasion so have fun with it. Play with a glad heart and smile.

Do more with Chords, Time & What to practice

Using Chords Differently in Improvisation.

It’s the last day of February and I left my readers in Impro Limbo. So check out the next step in my Improvisation pages.

Time and responsibility

A dear friend of mine, Sandy, lost her husband. JD’s heart gave out and he went to be with his Savior Saturday. Though they are in their 80’s, there was no age barrier – no matter what the age of the person they spent time with. Time. We all have it. We all have a limited amount of it. The “trick” to making the most of it is to know when it runs out. The trouble is, you never really know when life stops here and we become accountable to our Creator. These are sobering thoughts, but we must have been bad enough for God to send His Son to pay our sin’s penalty on the cross. The only uplifting thought in all this is Christ arose! And because of that, we too can live for eternity with Him – or without Him. It’s our choice. The freedom of choice. Freedom always brings responsibility. So, how will you use your time and responsibility?

What to Practice
So as a piano teacher, one of the most important “jobs” I have is to teach each student how use use their time effectively when they practice. Students are different and learn in various ways, but I usually find the following formula to work for the majority of pianist:

Warm up with a favorite. You would think it would be scales and such, but
playing favorites improves pianistic expression and puts the player ion the mood.

Play drills, scales, etc. Play them 3 or more times each to improve dexterity (quickness and accuracy). Play them in various ways like loudly, staccato, crossed hands, octaves apart, with either a crescendo or diminuendo, ritardendo or accelerendo. Think of them as as foes to conquer or friends to enjoy, but play them!

Play the method book assignment. Learn the new skills in these books and the repertoire will be easier to learn.

Play other repertoire. If a song is really disliked, I would probably suggest you play it before the method books. Nothing like getting the spinach of the plate and ending with the brownie.

Play other keyboard assignments and more favorites. Explore interval sounds and chord progressions. Make up a tune. Have fun!

Do written work whenever possible. Theory and Harmony assignments help the student understand musical construction and read notation quicker.

Does your teacher assign from the four areas (drills, method, repertoire, written work) plus favorites? Do you as a teacher use these groups? Try it and let me know what you like to do.

How Do You Open A Closed Mind?

Art Supplies

I’m getting excited about painting. I used all my Christmas and B-day gifts to buy some materials. Since I’m usually house bound, I shop online. It’s hard finding what I need in the Wichita area anyway, so I pulled out my Dick Blick catalogs, made my list and after some online comparative shopping, stuck with my original order. With all the lesson openings in my piano studio schedule and the upcoming summer slow down, I figured it’s about time to paint.

Now, I’m pretty good at graphite drawings but it’s been a long time since I just painted for fun. Some one who saw my murals for church-use said they saw my artwork and that put me off a bit. Large scale murals painted for illustration purposes does not at all represent the nuances of fine art. I didn’t bother trying to sway a mind closed to the idea of discussion.

Closed Minds VS Ambitions

So, that brings up an interesting point – How do you open a closed mind? How can a piano teacher convince students they can do it? There are many reasons for a closed mind.

Now, I’ve engineered decks, wired an entire house, sewn suits, and trisected an angle with only a straight-edge and compass before the other student did it and made the papers – so I can safely say I’m a person willing to try most anything (I will not jump out of planes and ride backwards on a rollercoaster – so don’t even go there). But when it’s been a long time since I’ve done something, I admit to being afraid of failure.

Now nothing closes a mind from opportunities like fear. Fear from failing to get that scholarship is often pure fear. There are the fears of making a wrong decision that make adversely impact others and the fear of injury and such. These are legitimate fears but still they are often overcome with the reward of great satisfaction.

More commonly encountered, though is the fear of being laughed at or fear of not delivering on an expectation and maybe the fear of disappointing my own image of myself. I suspect the person who didn’t want to talk about my art was afraid she would have found I was as good an artist as her grand daughter. There is always someone better than you. Some will learn faster, play faster, paint better, throw farther, etc. The question is, “Can I live with the fact there are others better than myself?” This reasoning reveals more than Fear. Pride is often the underlying cause of our fears. Acknowledging that there will be someone better than you and that’s okay really frees you up to try new adventures. You’re not doing it to be the proven best. You are doing it to better yourself and to experience life more fully. So, sorry students, you do have to improvise! So go out and try!

Politics, the National Endowment of the Arts & the Challenge

January 5, 2011

GOALS

Well, Christmas is over, the bowl games just about done (Ouch to the Big 12!) and most of us are fat and unhappy. Unfortunately my husband and I had the stomach flu and I went through a deep cleanse so complete my colonoscopy would have shone brighter than the North Star!  But – Now is the time to boost our morale by conquering something new.  Improvise!

Now, if you have never taken piano lessons – don’t despair. This is a great time to begin. Waiting lists to get into music studios are way down and many have openings for new students. Call music stores or churches to get contact information for teachers.

IMPROVISATION

Now, improvisation is a funny thing. If you can read music well enough to play the melody, you often have not learned to improvise. If you can only play by ear, you probably already know how to improvise – but you are also dreaded by most piano teachers who struggle to teach you how to read music. Let’s do BOTH. Learn those staff notes and read my page on improvisation. Let me know if you are hitting any snags (or wish to call me names) and I’ll try helping you over those bumps in the road.

A POLITICAL ASIDE – and challenge

The Climate

Our nation has gone through a great upheaval in political tolerance this last year. Let’s be honest and politically incorrect – a majority of Americans finally woke up enough to hate what Washington continues to do and decided ON THEIR OWN to do something about it. They voted. Some formed TEA PARTY groups that far underrepresented the number of citizens who agreed with them. They didn’t wait for Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and other talk show hosts to voice their opinions. They went bodily to town halls. They told their representative exactly what that representative member was supposed to represent. They cinched the belt tighter. They budgeted Christmas expenses. They stayed home for vacation. Thosee citizens pulled out their hair while Congress spent more on protecting union jobs and Congress cut defense and Congress blew the Health Education&Welfare budget. They seethed while Obama vacated again and again and again in our face and at our expense while mouthing empty, conciliatory words from a prompter.

The Challenge

Art and Music have always claimed my love and time, yet while China continues to mop up our spilled unfunded endeavors Congress refuses to budget. If the citizens (of which our lawmakers are a part) must cut drastically because of the economy, why are they exempt? They cannot be and still claim to help America. I propose a cut of at least 60-75% in the National Endowment of the Arts. Though only one department, if all NON-essential departments cut back deeply, then maybe we can survive. Let government come to a halt for a few weeks. As long as National Security and Social Security departments still move forward who cares.  Government officials are just afraid the citizen will find out how much of the government is non-essential.  Some of the 2010 NEA expenditures breakdown as:

$ 57,708,710 for 64 partnership grants to states, regional and national entities

1,050,000 for 42 individual literal writing grants for prose

1,690,000 for 169 Challenge America Fast-Track Review grants (whatever that may be)

8,395,000 for 254 Learning in the Arts for Children and Youth grants

4,020,000 for 53 grants for Arts on Radio and Television

275,000 for 16 Literature Fellowship grants for Translation Projects

The total from the above grants is $ 73,138,710 and still doesn’t cover millions more in dance/opera underwriting, visual arts exhibits and more. When a nation is bankrupt, they don’t dance the jig. Our deficit calls for only essential expenditures. There is something to be said of a culture when communities will fork down millions to build monuments to sport activities for their high school or college sports but leave little resources to allow the soul to rejoice, think and mourn. Let us mourn the condition we find our beloved nation and show our resolve by leaving our feckless lover-the NEA. Let artists beg forgiveness from our true lover – the connoisseur of the arts and the honest heart begging for self-expression. Let it not be said of artists that we bled our nation dry. Staunch the bleeding wound and feed the hungry purse by giving hope to Americans by our example and producing honest arts. When our nation is again strong, both the individual and the corporation will fund the arts.