Friday, February 02, 2018

Notes from the Cave

I'm not sure if my blog really has a point anymore. 2018 marks the 12th year I've been doing this and I'm feeling more and more like it's run its course. I mean, do people still blog? It's so 2008, right?

Whether I continue to maintain the blog or not, I've decided to end my annual reading list and Serene Musings Book of the Year. Does anyone really care what books I read last year? Or how many? Or which one was my favorite?

How about I just tell you I read 24 books last year, and if I'd chosen a book of the year, it would have been a competition between Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, by Yuval Noah Harari, the classic The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman about the start of World War One, and The Dome, by Stephen King. Sapiens probably would've won.

Last year, I also started an annual "Completed Piano Pieces," list, but again, I think I'll spare you and not make that a tradition. For what it's worth, I am continuing to play 2-3 hours per day, 4-5 days per week, and completed 18 pieces last year, including several of my own compositions (it's one thing to write them, but then you have to learn how to play the damn things).

One of my biggest accomplishments last year was re-learning (after 25 years) all three movements of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata. I had learned this originally in high school, and used to play it in college as a way to impress women and scare up some tail (not really), and had always thought of it as my "signature song" - the one I was most proud of being able to play. I officially marked it completed in December, although I'm still working on making it cleaner. If you're interested, you can watch me play the third movement below. As usual, let me qualify the performance by telling you up front there are some wonky notes here and there. Also, near the end, my camera tipped over and I had to stop and fix it. Oops!  It's also important to remember that I'm playing on a 600-dollar digital keyboard that has a limited touch and dynamic range, so don't expect freaking Alfred Brendel.  (I know, I know, no one knows who the hell that is.  He's a famous concert pianist and especially well-known for his Beethoven recordings.)



I've still got it in my head to publish a book of my own piano arrangements of well-known old-time songs - things like Home on the Range, America the Beautiful, My Old Kentucky Home, etc. I've arranged 10 so far, but have a few more on my list. I'm not actually positive that I've got the software I'll need to effectively get the pieces into the self-publishing platform that I use at Amazon, so I may end up not being able to do it.

As you may have noticed in the video above, I'm wearing a brace on my right forearm. I've started having to wear it at work too. I've jokingly been telling people I've been training for my third triathlon.  (Did you realize "triathlon" had no second "A" in it?? It's not "tri-ath-a-lon" but "tri-ath-lon." I'll be damned).

Anyway, it's not really a triathlon injury - it's a repetitive motion injury from piano playing. For the first year after I started playing again, I was doing scale exercises (the so-called Hanon exercises) that involved playing continuous, high velocity scales and arpeggios for 30-40 minutes. It was fantastic for helping me to re-learn finger dexterity and whatnot, but whenever I would do them, I'd develop tension in my right forearm - almost like a shin splint, like a muscle tightening up. Stopping and resting for a minute, and stretching my arm out, would usually help ease the tension, and it would go away completely once I finished my warm-up and started practicing and playing my regular songs.

When I started to notice I was having pain in the same spot while lifting heavy digital x-ray cassettes at work, I decided maybe I should quit doing the Hanon exercises (I had gotten to the point by then where I was probably ready to retire from them anyway). So I quit doing the exercises in November, but I'm still having the pain in my forearm. It doesn't really hurt when I play, but when I'm done my arm feels tight around the elbow, particularly when I extend my arm. The brace helps with the pain, but I'm concerned that it hasn't gotten better yet. I mean, it's obviously tendinitis, but how long does that last? (Why do we spell it "tendon" when it's just a tendon, but "tendinitis" when it's tendinitis? Shouldn't it be "tendonitis"?)

I haven't posted on Twitter in almost 3 weeks and as far as I know, no one has noticed. That always makes you feel nice, especially considering I typically post multiple times per day. I decided I needed a break from social media, but I'm so pathetic and needy that I keep checking it to see if anyone has mentioned me being gone. No one has said a word. Guess I'll just kill myself.

(I'm just kidding, don't everyone start panicking. And yes, you're right, suicide is no laughing matter.)

(Why do we add a "K" to panic when writing it as a present participle, e.g. "panicking"? English is dumb.)

Have I carried on long enough yet?

I got a real live record player for Christmas. I've always been dismissive of those "purists" who only want to hear music on vinyl - could you be a little less pretentious please? But over the last few years as I've gotten more and more into old music (70s and earlier), I've started wanting to listen to some of my favorite stuff on vinyl. Also, there are some old albums (Christmas albums in particular) that are long, long out of print, and I'd like to have the songs on them, and the only way to get them is to buy old vinyl records. So I got a turntable.

The problem is, I don't actually have any records yet. Anybody got any vinyl they want to give/sell/loan me?

Okay, you're off the hook. I'll stop now.

Serene Musings Books of the Year, 2005-2015