books in the mail



It’s surprising how tiring travel can be. Yesterday, my energy went quickly, but we managed to get quite a few things done like grocery shopping, picking up my new glasses, and checking on Mom. I had thought about practicing organ but it soon became obvious that that wasn’t going to happen.

Image result for le guin earthsea

I am seriously thinking of reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s Earthsea series on vacation. I read the first chapter of A Wizard of Earthsea yesterday. I may have read these before but have completely forgotten the plot.


I am trying to get used to having to wear glasses all the time. I have bifocals and that is a bit weird, always having to tip up my head to see close. I never thought about how often I am using my eyes to read or see something close. It’s most of the time really.

A couple things came in the mail while I was gone.

Image result for twenty-four contemporary pieces for solo piano

I ordered Twenty-four Contemporary Pieces for Solo Piano because it included my favorite Phillip Glass etude (#11) and hoped it would have some other cool music in it. I read through the first nine pieces yesterday and was disappointed. These composers seem to be writing in a sort of simple modern style that owes a lot to new age  music. So far they haven’t quite descended into George Winston but his aesthetic is not too far off. Probably these writers see their music as growing out of a sort of post classical age or something. Someone made a play list of the pieces on YouTube. I’m listening to it right now. The first piece has some effects added. Anyway, if you’re curious you can check out the playlist.

Image result for contemplating music kerman

I first heard of Joseph Kerman when I was teaching Music Appreciation at Grand Valley. He wrote the text they use. He died a few years ago, but appears to have been a pretty prominent music dude. His Contemplating Music: Challenges to Musicology was published in 1985.  This book also came in the mail while I was gone. I read the first chapter.  Academic music and study is changing. For me, it is in a good way. Kerman attempts to broaden the discussion in his field, but is limited in this book by being pre-InterWeb.

In the first chapter try as he might he never completely sheds a fusty academic point of view. But since he was born in 1924 making him 63 when he wrote this book, he doesn’t do too bad a job of trying to reach out and connect different musics in Western culture. He admits to a bias that does not include Pop music and jazz but then attempts to discuss them a bit.

As the YouTube playlist continues to play, I notice that few of these tracks are actually solo piano but include other instruments and sound effects. I like the way so many people making up music these days do so in a freer manner. But if on the one extreme is a fusty connection to academic/historical/classical music, the other extreme dips into insipidity.. There is new music that balances these extremes and that is usually the music that attracts me.


back in holland michigan


I’m back in Holland. Eileen and I arrived safely at the Grand Rapids airport. She drove home. My sight has deteriorated to the point that when I am tired and it is night it is difficult for me to see the road signs. This is not safe. Eileen was not too tired to drive us home.

I go to pick up my new glasses today.  I’m looking forward to seeing better.

Image result for al franken giant of the senate

I read about a fourth of Al Franken’s new book on the flight home yesterday.

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I started Eddie Izzard’s new book but decided it wasn’t that interesting for flight reading. What I need for reading on a airplane is something light that will draw me in quickly and keep me interested. Franken’s book did this. It’s fascinating how he moved from a successful comedy career in writing and performing to being a United States Senator from Minnesota.

It’s also reassuring to read a book by a politician whose politics I largely agree with and approve of.

This morning working on my Greek I realized that I have successfully reviewed my way  back to where I was a year or so ago. Now as I begin work on the chapter which uses Plato’s prose I understand the grammar much better than I did. This is good.

I haven’t heard from my boss about the funeral today. I am going to assume that I am not needed. I think she forgot I was on vacation as well. She seems to be stage managing this funeral from Vermont. The funeral isn’t on the church’s calendar. I’d like to sneak over and get some practice time in today, but don’t want to run into a funeral. I emailed the office but haven’t received a response.

Image result for words are my matter le guin

In addition to reading Franken, I also started Ursula K. Le Guin’s Words are My Matter. I have admired her writings for years. I had to put her book aside because it was too thought provoking for a mind numbing plane ride.

However, this morning I gathered all the Le Guin I could find to decide which book(s) to take with me to the cabin. Here are a few thoughts from Le Guin that I did digest on the plane ride.

“So long as we hear about ‘women’s writing’ but not about ‘men’s writing’—because the latter is assumed to be the norm—the balance is not just. The same signal of privilege and prejudice is reflected in the common use of the word feminism and the almost total absence of its natural counterpart, masculinism.


“Reading is a means of listening.”


“Home, imagined, comes to be. It is real, realer than any other place, but you can’t get to it unless your people show you how to imagine it—whoever your people are. They may not be your relatives. They may never have spoken your language. They may have been dead for a thousand years. They may be nothing but words printed on paper, ghosts of voices, shadows of minds. But they can guide you home. They are your human community.”

This resonates strongly with me. My human community is not only my loved ones in the flesh but my loved ones who are ghosts, not only voices but voices that sing through the music I love.

Regarding how one reads these days, on paper or on screen, Le Guin observes

The technology is not what matter. Words are what matter. The sharing of words. The activation of imagination through the reading of words.

I love that.