Archive for March, 2014

Music Monday: March roundup

Focusing on classical, particularly early sacred, music for Lent has had a markedly beneficial effect on my writing this month, both in quantity and quality. Good to know, and it’s about to come in really handy in April, what with three more weeks of Lent and Camp NaNoWriMo coming up.

1. Ensemble Organum (116)
2. Shirley Rumsey (100)
3. The Hilliard Ensemble (92)


The Spirit of a Place

ChaliceWellFrom time immemorial, the hands of men and women have built sites guided by both the earth’s life force and benevolent beings of light. It is because of this guidance that the sites we deem sacred have long served as repositories of wisdom, energy, and illumination that can be accessed by all. The needs that inspire seekers to converge upon sites known to be sacred vary by individual. Some crave spiritual fulfillment above all else, while others hope to draw upon a site’s energy for the purpose of enlightenment, healing, or deep meditation, awareness and knowledge of information long gone.

Sacred sites can appear insignificant to those who close themselves off from the notion of a living earth. But sites can provide us with a link to a unified consciousness that involves the living and the dead, infinite cultures, the physical plane, and the spiritual world. When we look beyond well-known sites like Stonehenge, we discover energetically active sites such as the Iron Age fogou caves of Cornwall, England, or the pyramids of Meroe in the Sudan. Similarly, it is easy to imagine that hallowed places exist only in remote or exotic locales. Yet many of the most richly vital sites are easily accessible, and visiting these lesser-known sites can be a profoundly moving experience. One such site, Serpent Mound in Ohio, was thought to be created by the ancient Adena peoples nearly 1,000 years ago to align with the summer and winter solstices. Its precise purpose remains unclear, but many who visit the site conclude that it was meant to be a conduit through which cosmic energy could flow into the earth.

The sacred sites that call to you from afar, capturing your imagination and resonating deep within your soul, will nearly always be those that can help you forge a deeper connection with the divine energy that sustains all life. During your pilgrimage, reaffirm your intention to accept whatever gifts are conveyed to you through the sites you visit. Your receptiveness will help you establish lasting relationships with these sites so that you can draw upon their peace and their power from wherever you are.


Foodie Friday: Cottage Pie

Cottage-pie(Serves 3)

50g slightly salted butter
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stick of celery, peeled and roughly chopped
400g beef mince
Small glass of red wine
2 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp plain flour
250ml beef stock
750g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
2 tbsp milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas mark 4.
2. Heat a large deep sided casserole pan and add 10g butter, the onion and garlic. Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes until soft. Add the carrot and celery and cook for a further 10 minutes.
3. Turn up the heat. Add the mince and break it up with a fork. Cook for 5 minutes until all the mince is brown. Add the wine and thyme, then cook over a high heat until almost all the wine has evaporated.
4. Stir in teh flour, then add the bay leaf, tomato puree, Worcestershire sauce and stock. Season with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper. Turn the heat down and simmer for 20 minutes. If the mixture starts drying out, add a little more stock.
5. Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a large pan of cold, salted water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain, return to the pan, add 30g butter and the milk and mash.
6. Tip the meat mixture into an ovenproof dish and top with the mash. Fluff the mash with a fork and dot over the remaining butter. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the centre piping hot.

How the Piano Changed Music (3/3)

Piano rolls and pianolas
In all essentials, Steinway established the principles of the modern grand piano by 1860; its strings were more than twice the diameter of those in the earliest pianos, and also longer, while its hammers were several times more massive. Since 1860, developments in musical styles have not influenced any major technical developments in piano building, though Steinway developed an ‘accelerated’ action for the great pianist Josef Hofman, Shura Cherkassky’s teacher. But the invention of the pianola, or player-piano, made piano music accessible to people who couldn’t play themselves. It automated piano-playing by means of a perforated paper roll and, as originally patented in 1897, rods fitted over the keys – later, the device was incorporated in the piano itself. The rolls could either be a faithful but expressionless transcription of the score, or they could be prepared from the performances of eminent pianists – and most of the great pianists, including Busoni and Rachmaninov, did make piano rolls – so that they reproduced an individual performance. Some of them have been realised on CD. In the 1920s the sales of player-pianos exceeded those of normal pianos. The craze, above all in America, died out with improvements in gramophone recording in the 1930s. But in the late 1940s, the classically-trained American composer Conlon Nancarrow started making ‘Studies’ of exceptional rhythmic complexity which could only be played on the old player-pianos; he punched the rolls himself, directly, without first playing the music on a keyboard. Nancarrow’s rhythmic innovations have influenced the recent Études of György Ligeti.

Two other innovations in piano music are also American. Henry Cowell’s pioneering use of clusters – in effect, ‘chords’ made up of all adjacent notes between given limits, which are played with the forearm, fist or fingers – dates back to 1914 and finds its ultimate expression, perhaps, in Stockhausen’s spectacular Eleventh Piano Piece, first performed by Frederic Rzewski in 1962: it requires special gloves. Cowell also introduced, in Aeolian Harp, playing directly on the strings with the fingers while keeping the dampers raised. John Cage’s invention of the prepared piano originated in 1938, when he placed bits of India rubber and other objects between the piano strings to simulate a percussion ensemble in Bacchanale. Ten years later, his Sonatas and Interludes required even more preparation.

Continue reading ‘How the Piano Changed Music (3/3)’

Wordless Wednesday: Who needs posh birthday cakes?

brownie pile

Month at a Glance

March 2014
« Feb   Apr »


Filed Under:

Hit On Me!

  • 410,650 hits

%d bloggers like this: