Soundtrack for a 300 Mile Drive

  • Soundtrack to Waking Ned Divine
  • Soundtrack to Chicago (film, not original cast)
  • Count Basie – Lil’ Ol’ Groovemaker
  • Soundtrack to Mr. and Mrs. Smith
  • Norte de Havana – demo CD
  • Buena Vista Social Club – Buena Vista Social Club
  • Wayne Bergeron – You Call This A Living

That was the trip out. Trip back will probably look similar, actually. (Usually I fire up some podcasts too, but I forgot my iPod, so I’m actually listening to this stuff ON CD’s. GASP!)

What do you listen to on long trips?

Behold, the Power of Facebook

I am not a Facebook apologist.

I frequently am frustrated with it, check it mostly to delete invitations to parties from friends I’ve not seen in 12 years and who live halfway across the country and to block applications from sending me junk mail. No, I don’t want to play Mafia Farm Pets with you. Sorry. But even I have to admit there are some things that Facebook does well – amazingly well, in fact.

Here, have a cookie and some tea, and let me tell you a story.

When I was a little bitty girl, about 6 years old, my parents “inherited” a piano from my grandparents, who had found it in the basement of one of my grandfather’s churches.

It wasn’t a new piano – in fact, it was a pretty old piano. But it was in good shape, and I wanted lessons, and they needed a tuner. Through some happenstance of fate, the newspaper, a phonebook, and who knows what else (the internet didn’t really exist back then, and we didn’t have a computer anyway), they found a young man who was studying piano performance at … some university nearby, and his father happened to be a piano tuner.

I don’t really remember his father (other than a few mental images of him waist-deep in our piano), but Misha (the late-teenaged kid) came to our house once a week or so for the next 4(ish) years, to give me piano lessons.

He was, by all accounts, a superb teacher.

I remember never feeling like he was talking down to me, and that he had me start composing music from the very first time I sat down at the piano (I still have some of those compositions? and to be quite honest, they’re better than some of the stuff I did in Music Theory I in college). I was too short to reach the pedals, so I played sitting on an old wooden chair with two phonebooks and an encyclopedia set on top. In the winter, he’d come in from the cold, and banish me to the kitchen to run my hands under hot water from the sink until they were warm enough to play. While he waited, he would improvise on various jazz tunes and whatever else popped into his head. I don’t know if I ever heard him play “classical” music other than what I was learning.

Thinking back, I probably did, but it was the jazz I remembered.

Around the time I was 10 or so, I decided I wanted to play the clarinet in the band at school, and was asked to choose between clarinet and piano for lessons. I chose clarinet. Then we moved to Texas, where I continued to play woodwinds, but still tinkering on the piano until High School, where I played in the Jazz Band. I wasn’t the best pianist, but I had fun, and I loved the music.

Every now and again I’d wonder how things had gone for him, considering that he’d been a pretty amazing musician and was playing in clubs even back then.  But Misha’s last name was, to a 6 year old, nearly unpronounceable thanks to the haze of fuzzy memories, and as such, I could barely remember it properly, let alone figure out how to spell it. I tried a few times to see if I could find him, but Google wasn’t that good, and… well, I was guessing wildly at a Russian last name.

Fast forward to this weekend, visiting my parents for my mom’s birthday.

Mom has a huge old box of music, inherited along with the piano, and in it are the books I used learning as a little kid. I went through them, having a happy walk down memory lane at the sight of songs like Grasshoppers Jumping and 10 Little Indians. I got to the end, and there in the back, on my little “Certificate of Merit” for completing the first book in the series, he’d signed his name as my teacher (as well as doodled all over it).

Misha Piatigorsky

I went to Google.

Turns out, our assumption that he’d make it as a musician weren’t far off. You can hear Misha Piatigorsky in a few different clubs in New York, listen to his stuff on Rhapsody, or buy his music.  But Google isn’t the theme of the post. Google let me know he really did still exist, and that he’d been successful.

The power of Facebook is in connecting people.

So thanks, Facebook, for allowing me to say thank you, 15 (or so) years later, to the guy whose fault it probably is that I’m still hanging on to the music.

Or at least, I can blame him for getting me started.


Getting things stuck in your head isn’t exactly uncommon. Most people have, at some point or another, had a bit of a song running through their brain that just wouldn’t dislodge.

It’s not exactly a bad thing, though it can be a little annoying – especially if (like me) you hardly ever *don’t* have a song stuck in your head. And when you try to get rid of it (which is dubious at best, that whole “sing the whole song” thing doesn’t work), you just replace it with something else.

These things aren’t exactly sensible, either.  Last night, I had “Come Together” by the Beatles stuck in a loop. This morning? The intro to a random television show on The Learning Channel. And they switch all the time – or worse… they go stereo, so whatever I’m trying to replace the earworm with becomes a second earworm, going at the same time.

All it takes is a suggestion, and poof, something is now going to accompany me for the next several hours. I’m pretty sure it runs in the family too (my dad is the same way).

Anyway, I started thinking about it, and about how I wasn’t sure I really *want* to get rid of the earworms.  Granted, singing songs from Sesame Street is a little silly, but I’m not sure how well I’d deal with all that quiet! Who needs a radio, I’ve got the music in my head (even if it’s the same song stuck on repeat).

/wanders off, humming the background jingle from a car insurance commercial.

Thanks Mom and Dad, for all the Music

I’ve always loved music. Just about any music really, though I’ve spent the most time studying American music and Medieval/Early music.

Needless to say, my iTunes playlists are pretty diverse. And every now and then I have music that shows up that takes me very vividly back to another memory. It always amazes me how strongly I’ve tied moments in my life to the music that was playing (or that I was playing). Obviously many of these are pieces of music that resonate with me strongly… but I’ve come to think that sometimes the reason that they resonate so strongly is because of the memories associated with them.

I credit my love of music to my parents, both of whom love music and love to sing, though neither is formally trained. I think it’s to their credit that two people that loved music successfully raised two children that have made music a lifestyle. My brother and I both carried our musical careers into college, and though he is an engineer and I would be a historian, we both have strong connections to music – to the point that jazz is probably one of our “common languages”.

Listening back to my childhood, I rarely remember a time that there wasn’t some kind of music playing, whether it was the radio, the record player, a cassette deck, or the CD player – so I guess it’s not that surprising that most of my family memories involve some kind of music.

Today? My random iTunes Playlist turned up “Jessica”, by The Allman Brothers Band – a song I can’t listen to without smiling – a song that, just by sitting and listening with my eyes closed, makes me 4 years old again, helping my dad build a rabbit hutch in the basement.

I cant listen to The Beatles “Blackbird” or “Rocky Racoon” without tearing up a little, because those were my lullabies. I can’t hear or play Sousa marches without helping my mom make lemonade and some rediculously sweet berry dessert on the 4th of July. I can’t decorate for the holidays without hearing the soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, and my dad’s (horrible) punny re-dos of some of the songs.

I can’t hear Simon and Garfunkel’s “Sounds of Silence” or “Scarborough Fair” without having my mom help me with a high school project that referenced the songs, and listening to her stories about learning the guitar so she could play them.

I can’t hear “Hell” by The Squirrel Nut Zippers without belting the lyrics out in the car with my dad and brother, attempting to salsa dance when none of us knew how, and all of us were “too old” for such ridiculous things.

I remember my first piano lessons, being told to practice my clarinet outside because it was too loud in the house, listening to my parents sing while they did housework – one with lyrics, and one singing the background music, getting driven to school at 5am for orchestra rehearsals, helping my brother learn to play the clarinet after his years with saxophone, seeing my parents in the crowd as I stood on stage with a choir for the first time.

Right now my parents are away on their 30th anniversary trip (I’m horribly jealous, and hope that someday I get to go on as awesome a 30th anniversary trip as they’re having), and I’ve been thinking about them a lot. They’re a huge part of my life – as I suppose parents usually are – and I love and miss them a great deal. I live 5 hours drive away right now, and traveling is hard – even for a teacher who has the summer off.

But I hope someday, if I ever have kids, I can have the kind of relationship with my kids that I have now with my parents – and that maybe, just maybe, those kids might sit and remember mom standing in the kitchen, washing dishes and belting out some stupid song at the top of her lungs.