Mike and Ruthy 3212

Mike and Ruthy 3212, photos and collage by Lab Cat.

A great concert by Mike and Ruthy in support of their NY EP. It was marvellous to see them in concert after such a long while. Hopefully they will be back in PA soon.


Music is Transformative

Just before I go to bed, I wanted to make some quick notes about the thoughts I had at the Béla Fleck and the Flecktones concert Thursday night. As I expected Béla and crew played at the top of their form. They were outstanding. (I won’t say anything about the support act as I have recovered from the painful death it put me through.)

So here are these four guys playing their hearts out and living the music. I had an epiphany: “What can I do to perform at this level of excellence?” Music is not the way as I lack motivation to practice, let alone the talent. So I wondered how I could teach with excellence at all times. What can I do to make sure that I give my students the best possible experience in the classroom? What would that mean? Don’t get me wrong, I am sure to make mistakes on the way, but I want to try.

Later at the concert one of the Flecktones [sorry cannot remember who] shared a story about Frank Gehry. In a recent biography, Frank Gehry’s therapist was interviewed and was quoted as saying that while regular people come to him to ask how they could be better people, better parents, better investors, better ME Me Me; Frank Gehry came asking how he could change the world.

So can I change the world? How would I want to change the world? If I knew that, perhaps I could find the lever I need to change the world.

Food is the answer. More people should know how their food gets from the farm to their mouths and understand the effects food has on their bodies. Everyone should know this. Everyone should be yelling and screaming that the food supply sucks. Mass produced food is too full of fat, salt, and sugar. Many prepared food lacks flavor and is of poor quality. Until we understand the effect of this food and start to complain loudly, processed food will not improve.

Even though I am a food scientist, I rarely buy prepared meals as I prefer spending the time to make high quality meals at home. Oh, I don’t make everything from scratch. I buy bread and ice cream. I buy chips and salsa, humus and falafel. Given time I could make, and have made, these at home; maybe not the chips and I still often make humus.  However, most of my meals are home cooked; usually starting with me chopping onions and mashing garlic. I can make meals in 15 min, including boiling pasta and, for Thanksgiving and Christmas I make meals that need to be started a few days ahead.

Despite Listeria monocytogenes in cantaloupes, food safety is not the issue. Knowing how food is produced is important as it allows us to realize that cantaloupes are grown and processed before reaching the supermarkets and therefore at risk of being contaminated. Knowing that food with a long shelf life has to be treated with preservatives, and probably heat treated to the extent that few vitamins remain is incredibly important. Knowing that if you make your own food you can limit that amount of sodium present and therefore reduce high blood pressure and risk of strokes is important.  Rather than complaining about high fructose corn syrup, realize that it is not only cheap but also extends shelf life. Then make your own whatever with sugar or honey; which would taste better anyway.

The Food Industry is not completely to blame for the quality of the food supply. There are many good people working in those multinational corporations who are creating and manufacturing healthy wholesome food. On a mass produced level, this is very difficult with many challenges. We have to accept that a main objective of most food companies is not philanthropy but making a profit. Given the low prices we expect to pay for food, most profits are based on cents in the dollar so the companies make money by selling large volumes. One good thing is that the food industry is not controlling the story on the sustainable locavore food movement like it did for the GMO food. Thus, food manufacturers are running to catch up with the likes of Michael Pollan, Mark Bittman, Alice Walker and any customer of a local farmer’s market. So consumers and food activists can lead the way and, hopefully, change the food industry.

Béla Fleck and the Flecktones probably won’t tell you anything about food, but you should try and catch one of their concerts. Because of their extraordinary performance, I am going to be the best food science and nutrition educator I can.

Waltz of the Chickadee (CD review)

Cool CD Cover

Cool CD Cover

My friends, Jessica and Robert, sent me the lastest CD by Mike and Ruthy as a get well gift. They even got it signed.

I cannot imagine a better way of recuperating than listening to Mike and Ruthy’s great mix of music.  There are songs and instrumental numbers.  Some of the songs are great political commentaries, and the instrumental numbers include fast folk dance tunes, including a great mandolin solo by Jay Ungar on Dust Bowl Blues.  It was this mix that caused me to fall in love with The Mammals in the first place.    If nothing else, I am inspired to start playing my mandolin again.

My Mum even approved, which is high praise indeed as both my parents are committed classical music listeners.  They scorn other kinds of music, but Mum commented on this CD without me saying who it was.  She even asked who was playing the fiddle and said she could see why I liked them.

Hopefully, I’ll get to see them in concert before the year is out.

Music Monday: Mandolin

8 strings

8 strings

I just bought myself a new instrument.  I have been wanting one since Ashoken Camp.  Isn’t beautiful?


Peg Board

Now I have to find out if I can really play it.  At the moment I need to build up calluses on my left fingers so that I can hold those steel strings down.  I also need to build up strength in my left little finger so it can hold strings down.

I found a few websites for mandolin players. Folk in the Woods has lessons.  They are on everything from how to hold a mandolin right to how to play more complicated melodies.  I might just have to buy his DVD.

Mandolin Cafe seems to be the place for mandolin players but I haven’t had much time to explore it yet.  I would rather be playing than reading the internet.

Having the mandolin has already achieved my first objective – more music making.  As I cannot play for long without getting blisters, I found that I would sing once my fingers started complaining.  The mandolin got me started and then my desire for music making took over.

Here is a picture of the whole thing:



It is a Rover and I purchased it from Elderly Instruments. I love it!  Expect to hear more about this new music adventure of mine in the future.

Music Monday: Tom Russell

Tom Russell

Tom Russell

On Friday Aug 29th Tom Russell was in concert at the World Cafe in Philadelphia. He is a singer-songwriter from Texas who writes topical songs that are quasi-political.  Yesterday (Sunday Sept 7) he was on NPR’s Weekend Edition talking about the impetus behind the song “Whose gonna build your wall?” which was the first song of his that I heard over a year ago (?). I was impressed enough to purchase the EP which lead me to hear some of his other songs and and I finally attended his concert.

Naturally as I am very selective about who I go to see, the concert was excellent.  One exciting moment was when feedback from the microphone somehow caused his guitar to bust a string or two.  He did, thankfully, sing Whose Gonna Build Your Wall as I would not have forgiven him otherwise, but otherwise he said his show was mostly new songs, which were great.  He has an anthology coming out in Oct so I intend to buy that to catch up with my Tom Russell history.  Unsurprisingly, he seems to have performed or co-written songs with every one – that is the folk music world is small.

Michael Martin on mandolin with Tom Russell

Michael Martin on mandolin with Tom Russell

Michael Martin accompanied Tom Russell on lead guitar, mandolin and high harmonies. He was an amazing performer increasing my mandolin desires exponentially.  I want a mandolin NOW!  I am surprised that I did not phone up a music store and buy a mandolin the next day.  Probably doing my accounts before I made the call was a good move.

More photos.

As always photos copyright © 2008 cdavies.  Please ask for permission before using.

Music Monday: Ashokan Southern Week

Instruments at Ashokan

Instruments at Ashokan

I was thinking that I didn’t have any pictures for Music Monday, but if you click on the photograph it will take you to the set of almost 100 pictures I selected from the over 400 that I took two weeks ago at Ashokan Fiddle and Dance camp: Southern Week.

It was an amazing week. Due to the exhaustion I suffered working and playing hard at Ashokan, I rarely went to bed before 1 am and regularly got up by 8 am the next morning, I was unable to do any posts early last week! Next time I will have two weeks of posts lined up so I do not have to worry about neglecting my blog readers.

I should write any essay about the week, but it was very aural – even the pictures don’t satisfy the senses. You would have to put at least three CD players on all playing different music:


Courtney playing fiddle

Courtney playing fiddle

Appalachian Old Timey Music:

Radio Hour Initial Jam

Radio Hour Initial Jam

Playing alone on a guitar or fiddle



and don’t forget singing

Singing Group and Campers Night

Singing Group and Campers' Night

and dancing:



Conclusion for me:

  • As I suspected, the singing style results being very low in my voice so I do not find it as enjoyable as classical choir, but I can do it and it is good to use that part of my voice.
  • I cannot find rhythms easily under pressure and, while it looks fairly straight forward, flatfoot dancing is hard. As shown in this video:
  • I tried both mandolin and accordion and decided that a mandolin would be more fun and I could sing at the same time as playing. I have every intention of getting one in the next month or so.

As you expected all photos  copyright ©2008 cdavies. Can be used with permission.

Music Monday: Mike and Ruthy Videos and Pete & Tao Concerts

Ammuse has a review of Mike and Ruthy’s June 25th concert at the Colony Cafe, Woodstock and has posted some videos from the concert:

I also found out that Pete Seeger, Tao Rodriguez Seeger and Guy Davis are performing at Sellersville on August 6th.  What a night that will be.  Pete et al., are currently touring bits of Canada, one of their concerts was reviewed by Moose Wanderings.

M is for…


I initially thought of doing a music mosaic of my collection of music photos, similar to K is for…Knitting. However, these are pictures of other people performing – I wanted to represent my involvement with music. The photo represents some of my favorite pieces or composers/groups to sing. Unfortunately, currently I am having a rough time mentally with singing; it is not as clear cut as shown in the top photo:

Scores - out of focus

As I went to delete this picture I stopped as it represents my current relationship with singing and making music.  What is up with me?  Why have I stopped singing?  I’ll get it sorted out before I go to Southern Week at Ashokan.