Tag Archives: DLKeur

Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas for Readers on Your List.

Looking for that perfect last minute Christmas gift for the readers on your list? …Something that costs under $10 and will delight them?

Here are a few suggestions:

For the who-dun-it fans on your list, here’s a top-rated, realistic series that features a uniquely perceptive lady detective.  Written by crime beat journalist Laura Belgrave, the entire 3 book series will cost you under 10 bucks.


Buy this 3 book series for only $7.98

 

For those on your list who love thrillers, lots of tension, steamy sex….  Michael Allan Scott’s Lance Underphal series is the ticket.  Dark, different, intense.


Buy this 3 book series now for only $5.98

 

And for that animal lover who likes moving stories with feel-good endings?  Meet Warren Jeffries, DVM, and his co-stars, furred, feathered, and human.


Buy Old Hickory Lane for only $5.99

 

Great novels by talented, accomplished authors, all under $10, and all available at Amazon.

Merry Christmas

from Laura, Michael, and E. J.
(…Oh, and from Dawn, too.)

Gravy Days in the Country

September and October are my favorite months. Yes, there’s November looming with its scramble to batten down the hatches, but September and October are those months where summer work is mostly done, and I can sit down and simply enjoy Earth.  Sure, there’s a bit of cleanup and tidying yet to do, but, all in all, it’s time to wallow in the relative quiet of kids gone back to school, tourists gone home — a time to embrace the Gravy Days, as my mother used to call them.

Our October this year didn’t start in gravy. There was a cold foreboding to the weather that promised a very cold, hard winter.  Everybody felt it.  Then, midway through, things changed.  And we got, not Indian Summer, but Gravy Days, all the same. Last fall clean-ups in pleasant progress and, yes, finally, the roofing crew, promised in Spring, here two days before the rains come.

My biggest project prior to November is … raking the drive and the pathways in preparation for snow removal this winter, manual clean-up necessary to get the bits of branches and fallen leaves cleared so they don’t get sucked into the snow blower with our inevitable wet snow and bind up the big machine, which, if and when that happens, makes me turn the air, not just blue, but purple with my cussing.

The Roofing Job, Done Late (Very), But Done

Hand-Raking the Drive

Halfway done (the rest, already completed, is behind me)

Three-quarters done

Done!

 

Gravy Days Pictures

Site Updates and Upgrades in Progress

Yeah. I know. It’s about time, huh! So, I’m working on EJRuek.com and CountryJames.com, then it will be DLKeur.com right after. Then, I’ll see about revitalizing Aeros’ site. Meanwhile, I did release another E. J. Ruek book. I just never got around to posting it up here on this, my main website. It’s titled Slightly Disturbing Stories and those folks who’ve read it seem to really, really like it.



Knowing the Next Note, Not Just Reading Ahead — Flute Technique

Dawn's Azumi flute


I haven’t seen this particular and helpful flute technique mentioned. There’s discussion about embouchure, about fingers, about breathing, about tone, but not much about something so simple and easy to do that it should go into every flutist’s (maybe even every musician’s) knowledge base. It was taught to me, so I’ll pass it along. It’s ‘knowing the next note’.

I’m not talking about reading ahead, where we are reading one, two, or more measures ahead of what we’re actually playing.  No. This technique has nothing at all to do with whether you are playing something that you are reading off a score or something you are playing from memory.

‘Knowing the next note’ means: Have the next note you are going to play after the one you are presently playing already in your head. When you do this, your brain already has set up for the transition.

A lot of players play ‘in the moment’ only, note by note. They may know the piece inside and out, they may read ahead, but they’re concentrating solely upon the note they are playing — its intonation, its quality, its dynamics…a lot of things, including quality and type of vibrato. But. They fail to ‘know the next note’, much less the entire phrase, both of which are exceedingly helpful, giving your body, via your brain’s mental preparations, a head start in preparing for the fine motor skill changes that lead to smooth, clean transitions, note-to-note, regardless of difficult fingerings or of interval jumps. Here’s how:

When playing, simply ‘know the next note’. So, if I’m playing a first register A and the next note is a third register E, I already ‘know’ that, next, I will be playing that third register E, no matter how fast or slowly that E comes after the A. And as I’m playing that third register E, I ‘know’ that the next note I will play will be a second register D. Then, as I’m playing that second register D, I ‘know’ I will be playing a first register C# after that.

The ‘know’ is an active ‘knowing’, instant by instant, note by note.

If it’s a run that comes after, then, ‘know’ the run, and, especially, ‘know’ that run’s target note while playing the previous note.

In essence, you’re focused on the note you’re playing, but, underneath, are actively aware of the note you’re going to next. And it also helps to know the entire phrase in your head in the background, behind the active ‘playing this, knowing that next is this’ technique.

This is a ‘brain technique’ that, once mastered, effortlessly does magical things to performance for smoothing out transitions between even the most difficult fingering changes and intervals one must play.

Hope this helps you.

Azumi flute

On Being a Member of a Great Orchestra

Azumi flute

I found this quote a while back when following a conversation about the future of classical music and classical music performers.

…Orchestral players are trained to become highly-skilled performers who can turn little black dots and lines and all kinds of mysterious indications into a free-sounding musical experience. The exhilarating experience of playing in the middle of a group of some 90 musicians with an inner freedom and [at] the same time, perfect inter-relatedness with the others as if being a member of one large body, as a communal achievement, an experience where the dead letter of the text has been internalized so strongly that the music freely floats as one voice in a communal synthesis, is the freedom which has been struggled for by years and years of study and training, carried by love for the art form. It is difficult to explain this if you are not an orchestral musician of a (good) orchestra yourself….  — JOHN BORSTLAP July 28, 2017

Yet, in my opinion, Mr. Borstlap describes only the very surface reality of the experience that is playing in a good, even great, orchestra, conducted by a good, and better, great conductor. There is absolutely no experience that I know of, save maybe that of performing in a seriously superior choir, that comes even close to it, certainly not the common experiences most players have in their performance history. It’s an immersive experience that transports the performer to heights and breadths of humble — yes, humble — awe and ecstasy. One is humbled that one has been gifted this experience, that one is worthy of it and of contributing to it.  And when it happens again and again, time upon time, then the realization that what you have in that group of musicians, bonded together by a conductor and by the scores you play, is priceless beyond scope. Everything else musical pales by comparison.

If there were one wish I could have for anyone who plays or yearns to play an instrument, it would be this experience. Sadly, that’s not possible. I could plant people amidst such an orchestral experience, yet they’d never really feel it. Oh, sure. They’d feel themselves immersed in the power of that sea of sound, in the energy of the musicians creating that sound, but they would lack one critical element — contributing to the creating of that moving sea of symphony. There is, in fact, nothing like it, and the proof comes at the end.

In the silence that follows the last note of the last bar played, breathing as one, the orchestra stills. And the audience, enraptured, holds that silence, seemingly interminably, until, all at once, something breaks the spell and, as one, erupts into applause, whistles, and cheers, tears streaming from some, laughter from others, giddiness or radiance from yet still others.

Or sometimes the music hasn’t even stopped when the audience breaks to its feet in wild applause, overwhelmed with the emotions stirred in them.

When it happens in rehearsal, though, and it does quite often when playing with a good orchestra, we all just sit, stunned by what we’ve accomplished, in a long moment of shared and humbled awe at ourselves and each other — at the fact that we just created a ‘moment’ in sound …that what we did was magical.

This is why I played. Those days are long over for me, but this is, to me, the ultimate experience in playing. It surpasses anything else one can do as a classical performer, and I wish, I really do, that every player could experience this, even just once.

 

A Followup on ‘Dawn’s Hands’

The responses have been interesting and mostly positive and supportive. It’s heart-warming when you find out that putting yourself on-the-line, front and center, for public response, nets you a crop of PMs via your website contact forms from people, young and adult, to whom your message holds significance to their own situations.

I think I really had no idea just how much ‘what you look like doing it’ would garner retaliatory remarks from the self-defined ‘beautiful people’ out there, not until we began posting our music videos. I really had no idea how many others had been negatively affected by people responding to their videos.  (People say I don’t get out much, in the real world and on the Net, and, yes, I guess they’re right. 😀 )   Since I posted the “Dawn’s Hands” video and “My Hands” blog post, though, I’ve got a better grasp, I think. These are just a sampling of the positive ones I’ve received via various contact vehicles.

“You answering that flute [expletive removed] has given my daughter new determination to start sharing her flute videos, again. Thank you.”

“I quit posting to [removed] and [removed] because people made fun of me. I still don’t think I will share anymore, but I like that you spoke up for us.”

“I uploaded a video of me playing and it was like I painted hit me on my face. It made me cry. Even my friends sided with them. You made it okay. Thanks for doing that.”

There are a bunch more, but the best, so far, I think, is this one:

“You made me brave again. Maybe it’s okay to be me.”

This comes all because I responded publicly to one of the critical private communications I’ve received about our music videos. I responded because I wanted to address the sheer mean-heartedness. I never wanted to do videos of us playing. That was my husband’s desire. I just enjoyed playing, again. But it all happened. And the Net being what it is, the negativity was bound to come, bringing the desire to retreat back to my safe, text-and-image-only world.

But, why should I be ashamed of me and the parts of me that has brought me success and joy in life? Why should anyone? So I responded, publicly. I wanted it known that, no matter the criticism, nobody, not me, nor anyone else, has to quit just because somebody’s mean. And, on the Net, you can very effectively respond in a way that calls the criticism out without getting into a private flame war and without publicly embarrassing the mean-spirited in front of others. Their anonymity is preserved, but their actions are front and center with public opinion, come what may, to the negative or positive, rendering judgement upon the situation.

I put myself on the line with my My Hands post and its corresponding video, and I’m happy to say that, yes, I think my goal is achieved. That these youngsters as well as the adults who have PM’d to say that my post and video has given them the reinforcement they need to be unashamed of themselves, despite negative feedback, makes it worthwhile.

And, to the person who said, “You’ve got a lot of chutzpah,” yes, I guess I do, and that’s a good thing, I think. 😀

Those Darned Holes!

Dawn's Azumi flute

Hover over the links to learn about them before clicking. The links are all set to open in a new tab or window if on a tablet or PC.

Both the flutes I play, my beloved new Haynes and my Azumi, are what we flutists call ‘open hole’.  Since suffering a broken elbow, one of my ring fingers doesn’t work quite how it used to.  So, for that particular key, I’ve had to resort to using a little silicon plug to fill the hole.  Plugging it brought about a discovery.  First some back history, though.

When I play, due to bad training at the onset of my learning way back when, I have ‘high fingers’.  A lot of flutists do, and it’s all from being started wrong.  I’ve got another problem that is compounded by my high fingers.  I’m indelicate, especially when playing intensely and with enthusiasm for a piece.  Happily immersed, I’m completely unconscious that I’m pounding down the keys with my fingers, fingers which are quite strong and ‘athletic’ from riding horses since before I could ride a tricycle, from mucking stalls, hefting heavy hay bales, and all the other associated physical labor that goes along with girls and horses, fences and barns.  That pounding of the keys wasn’t noticeable when I was playing classically, either solo or in an orchestra.  We never used microphones or amplification, so the sound didn’t carry out to the audience.

Enter husband Forrest who brings things like condenser microphones into my life.  Touchy, sensitive, can-hear-an-ant-walk-across-the-floor torture devices, condenser mics pick up everything(Please don’t sneeze, cough, or laugh, or you’ll blow the mic’s diaphragm, rendering this very expensive and intimidating piece of equipment to the trash bin.)  It didn’t matter if it was the huge monster mic that hangs suspended in its grotesque-looking mount or the tiny one on my headset hovering by my cheek.  Both picked up every touch of hand, breath, and finger on the flute, every shift of a sheet of music.  If I shifted my hand, it came through like a desperate grab for survival.  When I inhaled through my nose and my mouth, something we do to get as much air into our lungs as fast as possible, it sounded like a dragon sniffing out dinner, while inhaling just through my mouth produced a slightly better result — a gryphon readying to roar.  (We went with inhaling by mouth as preferable, though that significantly reduces the amount of air I can pull in the nanosecond usually allotted me by rock music.)  The fingers?  There seemed no hope for those, unless I really, really concentrated on finger technique instead of playing music, and, as any musician knows, no performance goes well if you’re not letting go every inhibition to ‘let it happen’.

But, listening, I noticed that one key wasn’t popping …or, should I say, wasn’t popping as much — the plugged hole.

Hmmm.  Time to experiment.

Plug the rest of the open holes.  …And, what do you know!  The popping was cut in half, a great improvement.

‘French’, or open holed, flutes have their advantages, especially up in the flute’s fourth register (piccolo territory).  It’s a register only used in obscure pieces that nobody much ever listens to or plays, unless in a flute competition or for a special performance featuring a composer’s works.  Of course, open holes do have other uses, as well.  They allow one to play a flutist’s version of chords, bend notes, and play quarter tones …among other abstract uses.  For standard playing, however, plateau flutes, that is, flutes which don’t have open hole keys, work just fine, and, despite opinion to the contrary, don’t negatively affect tone quality and resonance, at least not to any but the most infinitesimal degree, if that.  Plugging up the holes wouldn’t matter for most of what I’m asked to play now.

My experiment and opinion aside, the real test came when we had our next recording session.  And, sure enough, though my right hand’s index and, especially, my middle finger still smacked the keys with such vigor that, thanks to the condenser mic, you’d think somebody was popping bubble-wrap during the session, the sound was much, much quieter.  Darn.  If only I’d known before we started laying down tracks long months ago.

Update on Me & My New Digital Grand Piano.

It’s happening. Finally, something’s kicked open that rusted, locked door in my brain, releasing the sleeping skills therein stored so long ago. After weeks of scales, arpeggios, and interval training, after struggling to play well-known favorites and failing to be able to sightread even some of what I consider to be rudimentary pieces — Hayden, Mozart, Bach 2-Part Inventions — finally, FINALLY my fingers are finding and playing advanced level music without me having to glance at them and adjust my position. I’m reading, my hands moving where they should, as they should. Of course, what is listed as ‘advanced’ on the music books isn’t really. It’s about on a par with what I was playing at thirteen and fourteen — polyphonic and polyrhythmic — but my eyes are reading the music, my brain instantly translating what is read relatively accurately to my hands. Rachmaninoff’s Prelude in C# Minor is now within reach again, as are pieces by Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Schumann, Liszt….

Pondering Why I Write

I had an interesting discussion last night that made me think about the books I’ve written, the published and those sitting in files, real and virtual. An author friend, Laura Belgrave, whose website I manage, admitted that, yes, her books matter to her. I admired that when she said it.

I’m not sure why, but, for me, while the books I’ve written and published delight me when I happen to reread them, I don’t place them as ‘important’ in things I actively care about most: my husband, the animals I care for, the land and trees, friends, my husband’s musical compositions and his instruments, my brain, body, knowledge and skills, maintaining my father’s house, my own musical instruments….

The books I’ve written? They’re just things I’ve done and released into the world. So, too, when it comes to my artwork, and my musical performances.

Laura’s caring about her creative works in contrast to my own curious attitude about my creative outputs gives me pause to wonder at myself. It especially makes me wonder why I write.

I do feel quite happy, even proud, of the books I’ve self-published (not, though, the ones previously published by others). In my opinion, my books — the ones I’ve authored without interference from money men — are very good, despite errors missed in editing, some due to Microsoft Word’s auto word-replace penchant, errors that I should, but don’t, make the time and effort to go back and fix. They’re great stories, written with passion and skill. So why, I wonder, don’t I place them high on my ‘most valued’ list?

I’m not sure of the answer to that question, but I think it might be something of the zentaoist in me. Those books, though brought into existence by my hand, exist completely independently of me, their author. They are, in essence, each their own entity once created. I own copyright, but they are not me, nor I, them. I certainly delight when someone enjoys them, but not because I wrote them. Rather, it is a delight in someone appreciating them, the books themselves, and the animals, aliens, and people, that live within their pages.

And, now, I think I’ve touched on something pertinent: I write to bring the characters within to life, so you, too, can meet, greet, and appreciate them, whether they’re people, animals, the land and its lore, or aliens from other worlds and cosmoi.

In for a Digital Grand

So, for the last three months, I’ve been eyeing my pianos — my acoustic pianos — thinking, I really ought to get back to playing regularly …get back to serious practice. After all, I’m not writing novels or books, right now (though that itch has been making itself known, too). I’ve successfully resisted the idea, though. It would mean getting a piano tuner/piano repair person in to go through both instruments — expensive (VERY).

Yesterday, along comes my husband (via cell phone conversation), who asks: “What would you think about playing piano, again? …As part of zentao, the music. I mean actually performing.”

I gulp, thinking about all the work and expense that means, me getting my chops back along with potentially having to restring and refelt one or both of my pianos. I mean, they’re both antiques, now, the upright grand built in 1917, the spinet in the 60s. And they’ve been moved and moved and stored and moved, again.

Then Forrest starts talking his musical Geek Speak — MIDI triggering, patching into the sound system, and a bunch of other jargon that I don’t understand.

Ummmm….

He talks on, speaking dreams and wishes, visions and hopes. I listen, my brain reeling as it starts connecting dots here and dots there. He’s not talking acoustic piano. He’s talking digital. Wow.

As he elaborates, I’m getting more concerned, more wary, and, simultaneously, more relaxed to the idea. I have the training and skill, though, as mentioned above, I’m very out-of-practice. And I can hear his excitement at the potentials he envisions, the first tune he wants to do being a Michael Hedges piece. He’ll arrange it tonight for me to play.

Now, we own three electronic keyboards. But we don’t (…or didn’t) own a digital piano, which is a completely different instrument.

He’s set on a VERY expensive keyboard he’s read the specs on. Meanwhile, I’m frantically doing a search for digital pianos. The keyboard he’s talking about is or can be a digital piano. It has the weighted keys. But it is not a digital grand. It’s a professional keyboard, designed for triggering stuff I don’t understand. A digital grand piano, on the other hand, is, in fact, a fully sampled grand piano.

As he talks to me throughout the day, I feel the inevitability. This is going to happen. It’s only a matter of ‘when’, and, since we’re both ‘now’ people, I realize that, yep, I’d better find what I want, and it has to be something we’ll both be happy with.

Yamaha makes the very best digital grand pianos. I hit Yamaha USA. I study the specs. I also go check out the unit he wants, and, no, it’s NOT a digital grand piano, which is what I want. Back to the digital grands. I read through the specs, the features. I look at the reviews of the one that first caught my eye. I check out the one I tried over in Spokane in July, a unit sitting on the main floor at Hoffman’s Music. I liked that unit. A lot. And it wasn’t over-the-top expensive. My eye travels back to the top-of-the-line model. Sigh. It’s got the top-of-the-line sampling, the GHS keyboard, and the damper resonance enhancements, which makes it act, play, and sound like a top quality acoustic grand.

Without telling him of my decision, I order one, and I order the three pedal add-on, because I play Rachmaninoff, not just Bach and Chopin. I need all three pedals, thanks. Would feel lame without them. Deal done, I text him about it. He’s good about it. In fact, this morning, he’s excited — more excited than me.

Me? I’m okay with the idea. I’m resolved to the fact that, yes, once again I’m going to be working very hard to get myself up to speed …up to the performance level he needs for what he envisions. Luckily, the piano is an easier instrument to play than the flute. (Yes, really.) I’m in for a grand — a digital grand. It’s coming in Friday.