Archive for September 9th, 2007

I’m Singing the Praises…

September 9, 2007 @ 6:01 pm | Filed under:

…of Mama Squirrel. Look what’s playing in the Treehouse: a music study on pianist Glenn Gould, with emphasis on his Bach performances.

I showed the post to Scott and asked if he thought we should tag along, so to speak.

"Oh, absolutely!" he replied without missing a beat. (A beat, get it? I’m so very musical.) Scott’s the classical (and other kinds of) music buff of the family, and I usually look to him for suggestions on what pieces of music to play (over and over and over—that’s the sum total of our "music appreciation" method) for the children.

(No, wait, I guess there’s more to it than just listening to the music—we also listen hungrily to the interesting stories Scott tells about the composers and performers. All those evenings when I’m nose-deep in educational philosophy? He’s reading musicians’ biographies.)

"I’m kind of psyched to see some of those Gould performances myself," he added, still scanning Mama Squirrel’s list.

He says Gould is interesting to listen to, because he often hummed along—not in tune!—as he played. I’m intrigued. And also eager to hear all that Bach. I love Bach. Listening to Bach is like what St. Francis said about singing: It’s praying—twice.

(Scott just looked over my shoulder and told me—wait, say it again, honey, I’m taking dictation—that when Gould played Bach he didn’t use the sustain pedal, so it sounded very dry and crisp, like the harpsichord. And also! Rumor has it that his mother introduced him to the composers in chronological order, so he became intimately acquainted first with the Baroque, and then the Classical, and then the Romantic, and then the Modern composers, as opposed to the scattershot method most of us in this century are used to where we probably heard Mozart before Bach, or Tchaikovsky before—oh shoot, that’s as far as I can remember, and Scott just left for Mass. Ah well. You get his drift. See what I mean? Fascinating!)

So there’s that plan. Gould and Bach. :::rubs hands together briskly::: Gosh, thanks, Mama Squirrel!

(Another terrific resource for classical music studies is Helen over at Castle of the Immaculate. We rode the wave of her Elgar study last year. Oh! I still get goosebumps at the thought of that cello concerto played by Jacqueline du Pre!)

Reflecting Upon Nice

September 9, 2007 @ 1:50 pm | Filed under:

I’ve been thinking about being nice.

Wait, that didn’t sound right. I mean, I’ve been thinking about what it means to be nice.

Two very kind blog friends* have given me a Nice Matters Award:  Margaret Mary Myers and Michele Quigley (who knows me by my married name, not just my pen name, as you’ll see on her list). Both of them are awfully nice to have included me among such stellar company. Go look at their lists and you’ll see what I mean. Some of my favorite women on the internet (and in real life!) are included there.


And so of course this got me thinking about whether I’m as nice as those other wonderful women. If someone named me for a Well-Organized Woman award, or a Punctuality award, or a Never Gets Cranky award, I’d have to decline on grounds of honesty (after I picked myself up off the floor from laughing so hard).

But nice? You know, I really do agree with the sentiment behind this award. Nice does matter. Just ask my children; I have been known to holler about not caring whether they grow up to be smart or rich or good-looking as long as they are nice people. "DO YOU HEAR MEEEE??? JUST BE NICE TO EACH OTHER!! BEEE NIIIIIICE!!!!!!!!" (Thus do I qualify myself for the "Do As I Say, Not as I Do" Award. Heh.)

OK, so maybe that’s a lesson better modeled than screeched. I try to be nice, really I do. Sometimes being nice can get complicated, though.

There’s a Carole King song called "Child of Mine" which I’ve loved since Jane was a baby, but there was one line that always bugged me. "I know you will be honest if you can’t always be kind." When I crooned that song to wee Jane, I used to change the lyric to "I know you will be honest, but you also will be kind"—clunky, yes, but it scans.

I’ve been thinking about that line a lot lately, about the sometimes thorny marriage of honesty and kindness. Sometimes being honest doesn’t seem very kind. The kids and I watched an Andy Griffith Show episode the other day, in which the town drunk was turned on to mosaic art by an earnest young deputy, and his newfound passion for making pictures became a magical detox program—until the former drunk presented Andy with a perfectly dreadful picture to hang over the fireplace, and later found out Andy had hidden it in the closet as soon as they guy left.

It would have been kinder of Andy to leave that picture over the mantel, but the truth was he hated looking at it.

Of course the punch line of the episode was that the guy went back on the sauce—and began creating perfectly marvelous mosaics under the influence. But that’s not relevant to my train of thought here. I’ve just been pondering, as I said, what it means to be nice, and where that intersects with honesty.

Sometimes being nice means keeping your opinions to yourself. ("Those are the ugliest shoes I’ve ever seen.")

Sometimes it means speaking up in the face of injustice, even if you have to tell a friend a hard truth.

I guess what "nice" really means is playing fair, which is another way of saying "observe the Golden Rule." Doing unto others as I’d like them to do unto me sometimes means speaking up when there’s a problem. If I’m screwing up or hurting someone, I’d like to be made aware of it (gently), so I can put things right.

As hard as it can be to be the person being corrected, I think it can be even harder to be the one doing the correcting. There’s such an inner wrestling match involved in the process of discerning whether the little voice that urges you to speak out is the voice of conscience (to be obeyed) or pride (to be slapped down). When do you turn the other cheek, and when do you take up a cause?

I guess it depends on whose cheek, whose cause. We’re supposed to turn our own cheek, and seek to right wrongs committed against others. But that’s hard, too, both of those things, for lots of reasons and in lots of ways.

Maybe the lyric should be: "I know you will be honest, and you’ll try darn hard to be kind."

It doesn’t scan, but it speaks more to the point.

Because I do try to be nice, I find it impossible to name other deserving people for the Nice Matters award. There are too, too many of you out there who are far nicer than I am. I fear that if I start naming names, the people I leave out (for lack of space) will be hurt, and that wouldn’t be nice.

Actually, for that very same reason I ditched my blogroll this morning. It was long out of date, and when I started trying to catch it up I realized it was going to be pages and pages long, and still I’d probably miss someone I meant to include. So I scrapped it altogether. There are a few other link lists still lingering in my sidebar, but those, too, are out of date and incomplete. I’ll think about them another day. Sidebars don’t matter so much anymore anyway, now that most blog-readers are subscribed to a feed.

Anyway, Michele and Margaret Mary, thanks so much for the award. I’ll try darn hard to deserve it. I will certainly continue to reflect upon what it means, which I guess means I definitely qualify for the other blog award I was granted recently: the Blogger Reflection Award, compliments of two extremely nice blog friends: Elena and Alice Cantrell.


Thank you both. I do love a nice reflection.

*Make that three! It seems Christine nominated me for the Nice Matters award this very morning, before she read my post! Thank you so much, Christine. So nice!