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Thursday, 18 November 2021
DON’T JUST DREAM ABOUT IT – DO IT by Rosie Hamilton McGinty
(This is an excerpt from the Audio & eBook)
Everyone wants success. We all live in a get rich quick society and are absorbed with keeping up with the ‘Jones’, designer clothes, private schools for our children, fancy cars and luxury holidays. These, all spell success for most people but are sadly supported by several credit cards, personal loans and fixed interest free mortgages.
You will at some stage in your life reach the conclusion that this kind of survival and ego based behaviour only leads to unhappiness. True wealth is about something different not one’s lifestyle or possessions but loving yourself, honouring who you are and your purpose in life from qualities such as good character, integrity, honesty, righteousness and a sense of justice and fair play. The character of a person is the foundation of their life, successes and home life.
Once your personal character is set and your dreams put into reality then success is sure to follow. Life is basically very simple or it’s supposed to be, it is sadly people that make it difficult. We all want to be happy, creative, successful and contented in our lives. Unfortunately, insecurity, negative thinking, opposition from others, fear of change and habitual thinking patterns keep us very stuck and unable to make the necessary changes towards fulfilling our dreams.
I hope this excerpt from my book allows you the opportunity to change your attitude towards yourself and your life. Your family will be amazed at the new confident person that has emerged and they will also change they behaviour patterns to fit in with the new lifestyle you are aiming for. Continually stay focused on your dream, set realistic goals and stages for development. Allow yourself time to develop the foundation for your dream through dedication and hard work.
Understand that there will be problems, but with every problem there will be a solution. Work hard to find the solutions to overcome any difficulties.
Until next time
Tuesday, 16 November 2021
Friday, 12 November 2021
Music and Disability
Yes this did, and does exist.
Most of us know about Beethoven and deafness in his early thirties, and writing some of his best music during this time, some would say. The Scottish percussionist Dame Evelyn Glennie is also profoundly deaf and feels the music through her feet, remarkably so!
But I’d like to talk about a more physical disability within the playing apparatus, namely the fingers, hands and arms. It is called ‘Focal Dystonia’ and has the power to end a musician’s career!
In this article I will be talking about musicians, techniques, disabilities, teachers, therapies and more.
What is Focal Dystonia?
Well it’s a neurological condition that may result from overuse or misuse of the playing apparatus namely the arms, hands and fingers, in conjunction with the ergonomics of the instruments and sitting positions etc. It’s fairly rare, although growing I believe. It’s usually brought on by a fatal cocktail of too much practice for too long, and with a technique that may be questionable, along with the wrong sitting position at the instrument, perfectionist personality type, and the list goes on. So what started as pain that is ignored by the musician who keeps going and going, actually develops into the wrong messages being sent by the brain to the fingers and becomes neurological. Once that happens, there’s no turning back and there is no cure.
It is manifested by two symptoms, firstly the fingers start to curl into the palm and the poor musician can’t get those fingers uncurled and placed on the keyboard as they would like, and secondly it can present as a general but complete incoordination of the fingers when the musician tries to play a certain pattern of notes that the brain won’t let it do … your fingers won’t do what you want them to do!
There have been four pianists I know of who have been afflicted by Focal Dystonia. The first is Leon Fleisher. A real virtuoso who gradually stopped performing and did things like masterclasses and teaching etc. In the picture below, look closely at his 4th and 5th fingers in the right hand holding on to the piano, they are fixed and pointing down like they don’t belong to the rest of the hand.
These two fingers would have also worked a lot harder as they would have played the main melody most of the time, and in general the right hand does that a lot, obviously there are always exceptions.
The 2nd pianist is one that I have been suspicious about before. Glenn Gould. Now it is not documented anywhere, but why at the age of approximately mid-thirties would you suddenly stop performing? Have a look at the pictures below, he sits on a very low chair, (not a usual piano stool) and is very hunched over with his chin almost touching the keyboard sometimes.
For the rest of his career, he made recordings only, where it is possible to ‘patch up’ any ‘not so good’ parts if you like, and he was always concerned about ‘uneven tone, or bulges of tone’ and this is also a symptom of FD.
The 3rd pianist and keyboardist is Keith Emerson, from the famous trio ELP.
Take a good look at this picture. As you can see in his right hand, the 4th and 5th fingers are literally curled into the palm of his hand, and he cannot get them up on to the keyboard. This is truly horrific and completely debilitating for an artist of his calibre. I saw him on Chinese TV, he was a musical guest for a daytime show. It was awful to see him struggling and I remember thinking how brave he was to continue the performance, but only playing with 3 fingers of the right hand. So brave.
He came to London to study with Carola Grindea, a Romanian Piano Professor at the Guildhall School of Music who had studied Focal Dystonia and developed a new technique that completely bypasses the ‘finger problem.’
Take a look at the highest picture, where she has ‘put’ her student in a perfect playing position.
Anyhow, Carola’s method was to ‘not to think ‘finger action’ and bring in a ‘wrist action’ as the new tool. So rather than lifting the finger before pressing the key, she endorsed that the finger should already be touching the surface of the key, and depressed the key with an up-down movement of the wrist therefore bypassing the neurological problem of trying to control the fingers, and turned it into a wrist technique instead which is not affected by the neuro-problem. Brilliant! However, the musician would also have to adjust repertoire to a less demanding programme, at least for a while in some cases. But for a very physical and energetic performer like Keith, this may not be enough and I think he ended up shooting himself, (according to a Daily Mail article) because he knew that he would never be able to perform at the extremely high level he was used to. That’s what Focal Dystonia can do to a person.
Coming now, another artist, therapies, my advice on how to warm up, and a ‘conclusion’ that some of you may be surprised about.
The last artist is pianist and former harpsichordist Virginia Black. In my view one of the greatest performers and teacher of all time!
Many therapies were followed but I think it came to nothing and for 19 years she could not play her beloved instrument.
Virginia always gave 110% in everything she did whether it be performing, teaching, masterclasses and much more. She would practice for up to 6 hours a day for concerts, recordings etc. But I think this artist gave too much, and maybe it did not pay off in the end. Also, the harpsichord (which is what she played when having the condition) takes no prisoners as there are no foot pedals to enhance the sound, and the fingers have to fill in all the gaps, much harder work I would say.
(she looks so good, you would never think that in a couple of years she’ll be 80 years old!)
HOWEVER... something incredible happened in 2010, Virginia started to perform again! She ditched the harpsichord, got the piano out and hey presto no curling-under fingers. I went to her 2010 concert and there was no problem at all! So really I can come to only one conclusion... a miracle happened, brain surgery or something I know nothing about! Anyhow it’s so wonderful that she is enjoying global success yet again!!
T H E R A P I E S
Botox injections to the afflicted area that paralyse the muscles and temporarily release the ‘curling’, but does not last forever.
The Alexander Technique that promotes ‘no tension’ and can be a great preventer of getting injured in the first place. The only thing is, you have to be thinking about it all the time.
The Grindea Technique As I mentioned earlier, a healthy piano technique using the ‘wrist’ as the new tool. And a fantastic 5 minute ‘release’ method that must be done before you start practising.
KERRY BARNES ON WARMING UP
Before you even walk towards the piano, drink something hot, like tea, coffee etc. This warms the body from the inside out and will keep your hands and fingers warm, and carry on drinking throughout the session.
Start your scales etc at ‘pianissimo’ only, and very slowly at first.
Start with Chromatic scales first as these involve the smallest movements. Then gradually open the hands out a bit more with the usual major scales etc. Arpeggios should be practised right at the end because they involve the largest movements of the fingers, hands, arms and indeed the ‘pivoting from the hip’ because they cover a large area of the keyboard and much more quickly.
Treat yourself like an athlete, you would not see Ussain Bolt running at top speed without a warm up first!
Well, you may be thinking, how come Kerry knows so much about all this? Well, yes I have the disability in both hands, yes I studied with Carola Grindea and even had a lesson the day after Keith Emerson was at her house. Just missed him!
Everything I compose and play, is the direct result of what I call ‘possible-patterns’. Patterns that my brain will let me play, and I have been doing that since I was 33 years old and now I’m nearly 60!!
I must make an album called “Possible Patterns”
T H E E N D
Wednesday, 10 November 2021
How to Choose the Right Piano
When deciding to purchase a piano, there are a number of aspects to consider in order to ensure that you acquire the greatest piano that is appropriate for your requirements.
In this post, we will go through the most crucial considerations that you need to make when selecting a piano.
We spoke to a representative from broughton pianos, a company that sells grand piano kawai, they said, “When selecting a piano, it is important to consider the size that you need. The size of a piano has an impact on the sound it produces. This implies that if you want a piano that sounds much better, you must choose one that is larger in size. This is because larger pianos have more area for the chords to properly vibrate than smaller pianos, which do not have enough space for the chords to freely vibrate.”
The amount of available space
Apart from taking into consideration the size of the piano that you would want to purchase, it is also vital to evaluate the amount of available space in your home and if it will be sufficient to fit your piano.
Alternatively, you will need to consider the many kinds of pianos and which ones would work best in your environment. Consider the upright piano if you are looking to save a lot of space, which is a good choice for anybody who would want their piano to take up the least amount of room possible. Grand pianos, on the other hand, will take up a lot of floor area.
Recognize the differences between a digital keyboard and a traditional piano.
Because a digital keyboard may produce sounds that are similar to those of a piano, it is quite simple to get confused and pick the wrong one. As a consequence, understand the differences between the two so that you don't make the mistake of choosing the wrong one.
Use piano of piano
Another factor to take into consideration when it comes to choosing a piano is the actual person that will be using the piano. For example, is the person who is going to use a piano a professional or a beginner.
You might want to consider purchasing a beginner piano and upgrade it as time goes by. Beginner pianos are cheap and save so much space. They are a very good option for anyone who isn't a professional at playing the piano.
What kind of finish do you want?
When you think about buying a piano, another important thing to look at is the kind of finish that you would like your piano to have. Although this is not a factor to determine how good a piano is, sometimes you want your piano to match with the furnishings in your house.
There are so many brands that make pianos out there. Each piano has a different design and features. You may find some pianos are classy while others are not. You would also want to try comparing the features of the pianos from different brands before you choose your piano.
What's your Budget?
If you are planning to purchase a piano. You obviously have a budget that you would like to follow. It's a very important factor because it determines what range of pianos you should have a look at.
If you want an upright piano, they have an average cost that ranges from £5000 to £15000.
Grand pianos range from £10000 to £50000. However, not that the prices also differ depending on several factors. In addition to the initial costs, you also need to take into consideration maintenance costs that you will need to repair your piano at least every year after you buy it in order to make sure that they do not depreciate in value.
Steps to follow when buying a piano
Start by making sure that you contact a dealer around your region. Make sure that these dealers are registered. If you do not know, contacting them and finding out is a great idea. Here, you should start looking for deals as well as what warranties and guarantees they have. A reputable manufacturer offers a warranty.
Next, make sure you get assistance from someone that is an expert in the field. This person will greatly help you in selecting a piano that has good sound quality.
The expert will be able to look at the quality of the piano and actually determine whether or not they are in a good condition. They will also help you in making suggestions on durability of the materials used to make your piano.
Once you have decided on buying your piano as well as the kind of piano that you are getting. It's time to ensure that the dealer you are buying from is trustworthy and reputable. There are several things that could help you in determining the trustworthiness of a dealer.
For example, how long they have been in the business, if their business offers any warrants, if they are able to provide you with any testimonials when you ask and so on.
When you are buying, make sure you are buying because you want to and not because you have been bullied for making such a decision. Most of the time, salespersons may convince people to make purchases that are highly expensive. Therefore, what you need to keep in mind is that no matter the size or price, a piano is a very big investment.
Buying a piano does not mean that you don't have to have it inspected. That is why after making your purchase, you must call a piano restoration company so that they examine your piano and determine if it's in good working condition or not. This is because the piano may have certain problems that you would not have noticed but a specialist will be able to notice them.
Sunday, 31 October 2021
The Thing on the Stairs
I can feel the room growing darker as I write, a storm is gathering in the distance, rumbling low and ominous in a twilight that has become somewhat premature, and here I sit, I know not how long I may have before the thing on the stairs becomes, the thing in my room, but I will continue to breathe, write and explain for as long as I possibly can.
It started on my way home from a much needed holiday, I pushed the door open to find the stairs to my upper chamber completely covered with every single pair of shoes I had, including an old pair of tired worn out slippers, and a pair of wellington boots used for memorable fishing trips. Some of these items I hadn’t seen for years, some I thought I had thrown away, but here they were, all cast asunder upon my stairs from first step to last; needless to say my first thought was a burglary, but my first instincts were not to call the local constabulary, but to pick up the nearest heavy object and go a hunting for interlopers.
Of course none were to be found and the next two hours were spent tidying up this sea of errant footwear from my stairway, only then to fall into a soft arm chair, exhausted and holding tightly a very large whiskey. Glancing outside I could see the texture of the light of this late October day change palpably, what was once bright and sunny, happy and soothing, now began to take on a more oppressive and sombre mood, a storm was coming, however I had no idea at that point the severity and intensity of that on coming rage.
I reached for my remote thinking that some music may lift my mood and raise my spirits, with a sip of my single malt I pressed a playlist, magical new age tunes volume one, however to my surprise Billy Joel and Storm Front blared from the speakers, which was particularly strange as I did not have a digital copy of that album yet, but here it was.
In the distance I thought I saw a flash streak across the violently waving corn field, a distant rumble signified the storm front that Mr Joel purported to earlier sing about, was indeed a comin’!
I took both my beverage and my laptop upstairs to my bed room, a place where I was more than used to spending time with myself, through the window the sound of the wind rattled, just gently at first, just enough to whisper the portent of impending doom into my mind.
Opening the lid of the laptop I sat in my soft and malleable chair, I pressed a key that dismissed the Stonehenge wallpaper on my desktop, and sought solace in my music once more, I actioned playlist 2 and again to my confusion this time, I heard Andy Rogers and Halloween, a very intense dramatic offering that set the scene redolent of the subject matter with consummate ease, and then the electronic refrains of David Wright and Walking With Ghosts, which was quickly followed by non-other than Medwyn Goodall and Demons, quickly I pulled the plug from its socket, drained my glass, and reached for solace from mister Glenfiddich.
I had never been one to have ever thought of anything about Halloween other than it being a childish waste of time, based merely on superstition and tall tales, but here was I literally living inside one. It was at this point that I heard the first full crash of thunder, it rattled like a thousand sabres before battle commenced, the vibration shook my very soul, and the static in the air crackled like a hundred frying eggs.
Then time seemed to stop, each breath I inhaled felt cold, each one exhaled drifted across the room like fog on a November afternoon in eighteen century London, and then the first step on the bottom of the stairs. I discounted it to begin with, thinking that It was nothing more than my over active imagination, I laughed expecting to see either Kings Clown wanting some Candy, or Barkers Pinhead wanting something more than my dead lights!
However the second, third and fourth steps changed this cavalier attitude, each step was so heavy, so intense, so very vast, and if a step can be, so dark. The whiskey no longer held any false sanctuary for me, and as I sit, unable to move, I can sense the thing on the stairs behind me now, its black eyes burying into my still beating heart. Its grin, an ear to ear macabre sight that would be impossible to achieve with any normal human mouth, but its stench, oh it’s disgusting violent repulsive stench was just too much to bear, it hovered behind me now like a thousand dead bodies riddled with a multitude of eager, hungry maggots, and like Stephen Kings Langoliers, I swear I can hear them saying “We’re coming to eat you all up, because you’ve been a bad, bad, boy”
As the last clap of thunder raged across this pitch black landscape, my laptop started playing with only the power of the storm as its source, and the very last song I heard from its speakers would be more terrifying than anything I was about to face, more evil than Black Sabbath, far more scary that any song by Iron Maiden and Metallica would never be able to reach the sheer depths of fear created by my last listen ever on planet Earth, and now as my hands slip from the keyboard, and I can feel my eyes close, and my heart slowly ceases to beat, that last demonic devilish song, the last utterance of humanity I would ever hear, would be my own pit and pendulum, those two last words, sung with such an evil intent……………………..Baby Shark!
Thursday, 9 September 2021
Red sky at night
As I cross the fields of gold.
The sun falling through
As the autumnal breeze grows cold.
The sky is aflame
And the clouds call my name,
With glimpses of its kingdom within,
But on I must go,
For as we all know
Those lands are for immortal kin.
Red sky at night
As I watch the clouds paint a scene.
The skeletal trees
Shift in the breeze
As a tear falls for everything I've seen.
Yet the sky is aflame
As my tears fall again
At the beauty that must now sleep.
But on I must go
As the sun sinks so low
And the clouds into darkness seep.
And although I leave this place
And clouds clothe the starlit space,
I have been.
I have seen.
And, when I dream
I shall fly with the immortals
The clouds at my feet.
I shall fly 'till it's light
Into poet's delight.
Monday, 23 August 2021
Art and the Eventual Journey of Life
You often hear many people denying their own artistic abilities, “oh I can’t sing”, “I could never learn to play the guitar”, “I could never write like you”, “I am useless at drawing or painting”. Let’s just look at that, someone has told you that you cannot sing, everyone can to some extent or another, with application and a little training and a desire, you could play an instrument, no, you will never write like me, but try writing like you, again someone, more than likely a bad teacher or a negative friend has told you, that your art work was rubbish, more than likely because it was actually better than they could do, and they were jealous.
So when it comes to testing this, I am reminded of a story my father told me many years back, he was travelling home from work with passengers, and suddenly pulled over to look at the sunset, his work colleges made fun of him saying it was just a sunset, I mean you see them every day, my dad turned and replied “See them, do you really see them”
Think on that for a while, but my father was a good artist, he enjoyed his oil and water colour artistry, and that’s the main thing, for me I have had several instances like that throughout my life, and fortunately for me I was keen to never let them go. You see I came from a working class background in England, I loved my parents, but they did try and steer me in the only direction they knew worked, it was the mid 70’s and the open factory gates beckoned to me, like some monolith, a vampire of time, its doors opened wide and tried to swallow me up, in a bid to lead a similar existence to my father, of a 40+ years of servitude and little else..
The main problem that I had, was I had one thing that was a danger to all that was regarded to be normal at that time, I had an amazing imagination and a powerful urge to create something artistic from a very early age, sadly for me my parents sent me to a Catholic school where they literally tried to beat it out of me. Then I encountered my first angel, I felt it appropriate there to use a semi-religious term to emphasize this next statement. I was lucky enough to be taught English by a certain Mr’s Robbins, now anyone my age from England may remember the second name, if I tell you that she was the sister of Michael Robbins the actor from On the Buses, a classic TV situation comedy from the 1970’s, they were both truly wonderful people, and though she will never know this, she was the first person whom I’d met that would change the course of my destiny for good, because she, unlike the nuns who enjoyed telling me I was a waste of skin, she encouraged me to write, to use my imagination, to engage with the little artist inside me, I think I understood that, I must have done, hey, hey look at me now standing ten feet tall.
I never let those words go, now how interesting is it that
when I first encountered what I now call ‘halcyon moments’, those segments in
life that appear to be utter perfection in every way, I used to hurry home with
an insatiable desire to write poetry, to create something that would be so good
it would make someone else cry because of the emotion contained within, because
of the descriptive abilities and mental perambulations I had manifested. Sadly
for me, I would generally get home from a nature sojourn, with a fist full of
words, and get from my then wife the two words a man, or an artist would just
hated to hear, after reading with such passion, excitedly I would ask with hope
“How was that”? The two words, would usually be the two words you would least
want to hear, a sterile and unfeeling “It’s ok” when it would have been better
to have heard, that was utter garbage, or oh my that’s so beautiful, but no I
got “It’s ok”
Many a time I would take myself away into another room and simply cry, but then came 1999 and things changed faster and more quickly than even I had anticipated, as I found New Age music, interestingly enough Clouds by Kevin Kendle was my first album, and from that day onward I was entranced by an artist like Kendle, who could take a subject so close to my heart in nature, and manifest from his mind music about Spring, Autumn and life in the wilds of nature, that could have easily come from my own tormented brain, that day, the moment when I listened to Cumulus from the Clouds album, was the day the artist in me jumped out of the box, and made a run for it.
Never would I be caged into a life-style that wasn’t really me ever again. A couple of months on, I had duties as a Postman to perform, I liked that job, as it got me out on the road and sometimes into nature, it was late September, the leaves were beginning to turn and summers grip had started to loosen on the countryside, I stopped my bike and watched shards of sunlight drift down from a pastiche of fair weather clouds, and create a stunning moment of peace, beauty and calmness, something rare in my life.
I stood and watched the moment slowly unfurl, birds flapped into a dappled skyline, the sounds of the day floated around me, I now understand that for a short period of time I was completely in the moment, I had unknowingly accessed the power of now, and within my mind I could hear music, the music of Brian Eno and Harold Budd, specifically the track, an Arc Of Doves, and although I felt a familiar wetness on my cheeks, I was more happy in that moment than in many others in my life.
This happens constantly now; I stood by a pond and heard Kevin Kendle’s First Light, then on top of a hill on the Isle of Wight and his Gliders track played over and onwards, I used Eno’s Music for Airports when flying, all of these tracks have one thing in common, they kept me rooted in the now, the only real place any of us will ever be, and created a sanctuary for me away from the chaos of life’s turbulent roller coaster ride.
So knowledge gained and experienced, now some 20 years on from my postal experience I followed my own path, my true artistic path, away from the control and manipulation of others, and running hand in hand with my true spirit freely, so for my parents who wanted me to work in a factory, you had a son who is a writer, who owns a much loved online radio station, who had a successful career in media and broadcasting before that, and now a musician, who has now just recently just had his second number 1 hit single.
Life is something to be experienced; playing it safe doesn’t work as your always playing to someone else’s agenda, feel the spirit of artistic endeavour within if you if you wish to do so, and never, ever, let anyone tell you that you are not worthy, and you will never amount to anything, you are all sparks of a potential, that need to be turned into flames of undeniable desire. Go for it, you really have nothing to lose, and you will make the artist that hides inside of you so very happy.