I’m Back

Clearwater Festival Friday Evening Sunset

I’m too tired to think of words, so this picture will have to do until I get my thoughts together.  This was taken Friday night when only the volunteers and site crew were present. It was a good omen for the festival, which paid off for Saturday.

Unfortunately on Sunday severe thunderstorms, both current and threatening, caused the festival to be canceled.  At around 2 pm they started sending home the festival attendees.  Of course, two hours later it was gorgeous and sunny and the threatened storms missed us completely.

I’ll try and write more about my experiences when I am firing on more than one brain cell.  If you cannot wait that long, my pictures are here, and yes, there are lots of Mike and Ruthy.


I’m off for a few days

So where did last week go?

I had lots of plans for posts and other things to get me going a bit more and whiz, it is now Friday and I am about to depart to go to this festival.  If you are also attending; stop by the shop, where I am volunteering, to say “hi”.  And do not forget to catch Mike and Ruthy who are performing on Sat pm and Sun am.

I am off to pray to Thor, Zeus, Chaac and any other appropriate dieties to keep the rain and storms away from Croton Point, NY.

In the meantime, here is some lavender to wish you well:


Mike and Ruthy, Tin Angel, April 5 2008


On Saturday Mike and Ruthy came down, with Will, to open for Jeffery Gaines. They only did about six songs, but what a great six songs. And I got to meet the baby.

I still need to work on taking photos in venues like the Tin Angel where the lighting is poor. Perhaps if I had been using my more powerful camera, it would not have been such a problem. I did accidentally take one with the flash:

Mike and Ruthy

As it was an accident, they have red eyes!

At least the Tin Angel lets me take as many as I want. Here is one of Mikey in the dark:


At least there is only one of him. Some of my other shots were blurry and others showed two or three of images imposed on top of each other.

Of course their show was great. They are coming back to the Philly area in June. Check out their website for details.

Jeff Gaines, who was the main act, was good. He was very funny. I liked his spiel as much as his songs, even so he was an excellent singer. As he was new to me I have to listen to more of his music to appreciate it.


William Puck Merenda:

I love it when I get a picture my knitting with the recipient. Especially when, in this case, getting the picture was a question of waiting for the baby to arrive. Above is Ruthy Ungar Merenda with Will wrapped in his blanket. What a sweet heart!

There are more pictures of the little one and the proud parents at:

Mike and Ruthy – myspace

Ruthy – myspace

And more pictures of the blanket (yeah, right you really want more of the blanket when there is a baby to be seen) at Flickr.  One day soon, I’ll write up the pattern.

Moon at Sunrise Photo and Two Quotes

I saw this great picture this morning out of the kitchen window

Moon at Sunrise

Later a conversation at work today with a colleague who has stopped smoking reminded me of this Chinese proverb:

The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago

The second best time is today.

Finally with the Yarn Harlot being sick and taking to her Chesterfield, and every one else coming down with winteritus (we get so stressed about the Christmas season, afterwards our bodies just go STOP! in whatever why they can), I was reminded of these few lines from Michael Merenda‘s song Quiver:

“[…] you must remember, please for me,

That solitude is medicine

And it’s not a sin to sit and Quiver”

House Concert

The house concert by Mike and Ruthy that was held at my house was great. Mike and Ruthy put on a superb show despite the small audience. Every one enjoyed themselves, me especially as it was a dream come true. Thanks to everyone, especially Mike and Ruthy, for coming. If you weren’t there you missed a treat.

This picture was taken by Bill Kinkle – Ruthy is checking to see if the baby has anything to say to the rest of us.

I’m not feeling very bright and the server is working intermittently, so there is no lengthy run down of the whole evening.

Books: Your Brain on Music

I am reading lots of books about music at the moment. It is becoming a bit of an obsession. I read Eric Clapton’s autobio [bleuh] and followed that up with Bob Dylan’s [wow]. I might review them in the future and explain my asides. For now I am reading Oliver Sack‘s Musicophilia and last month I read This is your brain on Music by Daniel J. Levitin. There is too much information in this book to write just one post about it. So this is my first. Do not hold your breath for the second. Just in case you have not noticed, science posts are sporadic around here.

The major elements that Levitin considers to make up music are pitch, timbre, key, harmony, loudness, rhythm, meter and tempo.

A discrete musical sound is usually called a tone. Tone and note typically refer to the same thing unless you are a scientist or musician when “note” refers to the thing on a score of music.

Pitch is the primary way that music can convey emotions – a single high note can trigger excitement and a single low note may trigger sadness. Different instruments have different ranges in pitch available to them. For example, the piano keys range from 27.0 hertz as its lowest note to 4186 htz at the high end. These images show the ranges for different instruments and the human voice.


musical ranges

another musical range image

Arranging pitches in particular ways leads to the formation of scales and these also can effect our moods. Major scales are happy and triumphant and minor scales are sad or defeated. Key is related to the hierarchy of importance that exists between pitches within a musical piece and harmony is the relationship between pitches being played at the same time.

The most important feature about music is timbre as it is the principal feature that separates the voices of the different instruments. Timbre is caused by presence of the overtones, which in turn are influenced by the material making up the instrument. For example, wood is less dense than metal so gives lighter overtones. I was always proud of the fact that I could do this as a child – I was especially delighted because I could tell an oboe from a clarinet, apparently difficult instruments to tell apart. Timbre also allows us to recognize the voice of a friend from that of some one unknown.


Loudness is purely a psychological construct that relates to the physical amplitude of a tone. Loudness is partly the volume and also how the dynamics change within a musical piece. Brahms, who I am singing at the moment, deliberately changes the dynamics from loud (forte) to soft (piano) from note to note to emphasize his point. He’ll build up a crescendo to forte and the next note is sung piano. Beethoven is another composer who uses contrasting dynamics in a similar way.

Rhythm refers to the durations of a series of notes and to the way they are grouped together (duplets, triplets). Tempo is the overall speed of a piece of music and meter is created by our brains by extracting information from rhythm and loudness cues, refering to ways in which tones are grouped with one another across time. For example, waltzes have meters in three and a march has a meter of either two or four.

Introduction to music and neuroscience to follow.