S’cuse me…


Nobody ever tips the poor ward and stake organists…

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You can’t waltz in 4/4!










… or 7/4 or 5/4 or 13/16.

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Sharps and hashtags

More theft from my Facebook feed…













Which reminds me of my most favorite stupid musical joke:

Q: Why is a banana peel on the sidewalk like music?

A: Because if you don’t see sharp, you will soon be flat.

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For potential future reference

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Everybody… knew it was going to be a hit except Keith Richards

I once played the distinctive and immediately recognizeable ten-note bass line from “In-a-gadda-da-vida” as part of the intro to the closing hymn (“Choose the Right”) in Sacrament Meeting, and while there’s probably a long list of bass lines that are as immediately as recognizeable, there probably aren’t very many as high on that scale as the fuzz-guitar lead-in to the Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”.

According to an interesting story at TheAtlantic.com, Keith Richards work up in the middle of the night to record that intro on a low-tech (well, maybe it seemed high-tech at the time) little portable tape recorder, then promptly fell back asleep and didn’t know what he had created until the next morning when he saw that he had recorded something but didn’t know what it was.  But we apparently have that little recording device to thank for what some have called “the greatest rock-and-roll song of all time”. I’m not sure I’d agree with that assessment myself, but I’d be unwilling to make an argument against the idea that it’s probably pretty close.

Anyway: musical inspiration is a darned interesting thing. Did God put those notes into his head?  Would God write lyrics containing a double-negative?

The mind boggles at the possibilities.

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Three Blind Mice

Behold Jack Russell Memorial Stadium in Clearwater, Florida:

Jack Russell Memorial Stadium 2
They’ve been playing baseball here since 1955, back when it was built.  Marty McFly could have visited it when he made his original trip back to 1955, if only Marty had gone to school in Florida and not California.

Why do I bring up Jack Russell Memorial Stadium here? Well, I came across an interesting fact about the stadium in the book “10 Things You Might Not Know About Nearly Everything: A collection of fascinating historical, scientific, and cultural facts about people, places, and things”, and is composed of some of the columns from the feature titled “10 Things You Might Not Know” that are published in the Chicago Tribune, written by Mark Jacob and Stephan Benzkofer.

A gentleman by the name of Wilbur Snapp (who passed away in 2003, at the age of 83, his NYT obituary can be found here) was playing the organ (aha! here’s the link) at said stadium one day in 1985 (another important year in the grand scheme of all things “Back to the Future”) and found himself disagreeing with a call made by an umpire at the game on that day.

Wilbur Snapp

Wilber Snapp, organist extraordinaire

Well, Wilbur was apparently not one to let this kind of thing slide, and let his feelings about the umpire’s call be known to one and all at the park that day via the organ: he started playing “Three Blind Mice”.

The umpire was also not one to let this kind of thing slide, and ejected Wilbur from the game.

So I guess when it comes to organist/umpire confrontations, the fact that the organist is not on the field but is up in the stands somewhere making musical commentary on the game doesn’t mean he’s not subject to the umpire’s powers of ejection.

Let that be a lesson to us all.

The biggest tragedy with regard to Mr. Snapp’s career as ballpark organist is that in 1997 the stadium switched over to using recorded music to accompany the ball games (boo! hiss!), thus ejecting him from his job one final time. Mr. Snapp, being a true baseball fan however, continued to attend the games as just another face in the crowd.

So, this year marks the 30th anniversary of Mr. Snapp’s ejection from the game of baseball for having the temerity to challenge the ump at his job, long may his baseball pennants wave.

And, for what it’s worth, the wikipedia has an informative article about the origins of the “Three Blind Mice” poem and it’s influence in popular culture here. Mr. Snapp gets a mention therein as well.

UPDATE: According to this obituary from the St. Petersberg Times, Mr. Snapp’s loss of his ballpark organist position was only temporary.  It says that “the Phillies had a change of heart and rehired him, returning him and his organ console to the park. He missed six games.”

Good to know.

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Follow the Prophet

Well, I guess it’s time to add a new verse to everybody’s favorite minor-key Primary song, “Follow the Prophet” (#110 in the Children’s Songbook) because I just noticed (I’m behind the times on this, given that there are almost 77,000 followers) that President Monson has his very own official Twitter account. So the phrase “follow the prophet” now takes on new meaning given that one can “follow” someone else’s Twitter account.

As an aside, now that I’m looking at the lyrics to “Follow the Prophet”, I’m amused by the line in verse 9 that says “If you don’t believe it, go and watch the news.” Like Primary children would even be encouraged by their parents to watch the news on TV, whether it be Fox, CNN or MSNBC.

Anyway, I’m going to attempt to add a new verse, right now, off the top of my head, that would be in keeping with the style (but this will probably be a bit of a stretch) and meter of the other 9 verses we already have.

Here goes:

With the exception of verse 4, all of the verses begin with “[two-syllable name] was a prophet”. Verse 4 is different because “Abraham”, having 3 syllables, throws off the whole rhythm. Fortunately, President Monson has a two-syllable first name, so that pretty much forces us to start off with

Thomas was a prophet,

Or, we could conceivably go with

Tommy was a prophet,

If one searches the Church website for General Conference talks where President Monson refers back to incidents in his youth, he often has other people referring to him as “Tommy”. I admit it does seem a bit familiar to be referring to the Prophet of the Lord as “Tommy”, but we have no problem in the rest of the song being on a first-name basis with the prophets of the Old Testament, so… why not? And since this song is, after all, a Primary song, I think “Tommy” is just slightly better-sounding on the ear for Primary-aged children, lyric-wise, than “Thomas”.

Let’s keep going. Since all of the other prophets mentioned in the song are, in fact, OT prophets, we can finish the first line by emphasizing how we’ve moved on from the OT and we’re now dealing with a 21st century prophet.

Tommy was a prophet in the latter days,

Sounds OK so far; we just need to remember the end of the second line is going to need to rhyme with “days”, which doesn’t strike me as being a difficult thing to do, but we should probably leave ourselves open to the idea of changing it to “day”; the phrase “latter days” already does show up at the end of the first verse, so we’re probably in good stead by sticking with the plural, but going with the singular would probably be OK as well.

So now we need to pick out a defining attribute about President Monson that distinguishes him from every other latter-day prophet. We already know that he has his own official Twitter account, which is kind of the whole point of this effort, so what can we do with that?

Here’s where a rhyming dictionary comes in handy. Let’s Google “words that rhyme with days” and see what comes up.

The first link points us to www.rhymezone.com, so let’s see what they’ve come up with.

Well, I can see how “Rutherford B. Hayes” might fit nicely at the end of the second line and actually matches the rhythm of that part of the song, but… no.

Other words that seem like an obvious good match are, “prays”, “rays” (thinking “Jesus Wants Me For a Sunbeam” here), “praise”, “obeys”, “ways”, “stays”, “strays” and maybe even “yeas”.

I’m sure we could have even more fun with “buffets”, “filets”, “craze” or “daze”, but… no.

Maybe we should go back to using “day” at the end of the first line.  Back to the rhyming dictionary… oh, if only we could find some excuse for using “Jean Baptiste Pierre (rest) Antoine de Monet” in there somehow; it would take up one whole line!  But… no.

“Digital display”… hmmm.  And what the heck is a “quaigh”? Besides rhyming with “day”, we find out that it’s variant of “quaich”, which is a Scottish word for “a small shallow drinking vessel with ears for use as handles”.  Since President Monson has on at least one occasion related a story about his ability to wiggle his ears, this could conceivably be worked in somehow, but… no.  (However, throwing in a Scottish word like quaigh would certainly be a nod to President McKay, right?)

All right, let’s get serious here.  How about:

Tommy was a prophet in the latter day,
Preaching the commandments, asked us to obey.

That’s not too bad.  Now we should throw in something from his history, although we still haven’t done anything about the Twitter thing.  OK, I can see I need to finish this off.

Follow him on Twitter or lds-dot-org,

Oh, that’s probably a dead end; what rhymes with “org”?  Besides “borg”, I mean? “Morgue”?  Nope. Definitely nope.

Tommy was a prophet in the latter day,
Preaching the commandments, asked us to obey;
His Tweets on Twitter tell us all about God’s plan
To sanctify His children and share God’s joy with man.

Well, there you go: a new verse 9 to “Follow the Prophet”. The existing verse 9 would become verse 10.

Oh, well. Now we know why I don’t write lyrics to hymns. If you can do better than this (and you probably can), put your own verse here.  I triple-dog dare ya.

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Babies like surprises, and don’t we all?

I’ve written other blog entries here about the element of surprise and how it makes music more interesting, but I just found this article at theatlantic.com about how the element of surprise is important to the learning process in babies.  I submit that this applies to non-babies as well. We all tend to shove our brains into second or third gear when something happens that we’re not expecting; we tend to have a “wait a second” or “what was that again?” moment when we suddenly have a new puzzle that needs figuring out. As a lifelong fan of magic and magicians, I can remember many a David Copperfield special on CBS where he’d do something seemingly impossible and this exact moment of surprise and wonder would hit me, and then you can’t help but start to try to figure out how it was done.

The same kind of thing happens for me when a piece of music I’m listening to will pull off an interesting and unexpected key change; an example of this for me is in the Barry Manilow song (written by Ian Hunter, just for clarity’s sake) “Ships”, where the song starts in the key of A flat, jumps to the key of B for the chorus, and at the second ending it jumps in 4 chords to the key of F for the big finish. Those 4 chords get me every time, even though I know they’re coming.  I guess it’s because the distance from a B to an F is a diminished 5th, so it’s a chord progression you don’t hear all that much.

But it’s magical and surprising all the same, and the kind of thing that keeps me interested in music. When an NPR listener can ask the question, “have all the good songs been written?“, and even though we know the answer is obviously “no”, it’s still nice to get a musical surprise from time to time.

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Stolen from a friend’s facebook post

If one is generally not enamored of rap music, one might find the photo here of a piano used for composing rap songs to be fairly humorous…


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Who Wants to Take The Shot?

I have been a game show nut all my life.  Some of my earliest memories are of network game shows on morning TV before I went to school (meaning before I was attending kindergarten). I loved the Concentration game board with its motorized “trilons” revealing prizes and puzzle pieces to the contestants. I loved Concentration’s cheesy organ music that opened and closed the show, introduced new contestants from behind the “elevator door” entrance to the studio (“Let’s meet your new opponent”, Hugh Downs would intone at that dramatic moment) and played the background music as a new puzzle-solver would listen to the show’s announcer rattle off the descriptions to the prizes he or she had won in the latest victory. If one of those prizes was a chance to spin the “cash wheel” or to read the contents of “The Envelope”, it was even better. And when “Concentration” advanced to being, at least for a little while, a game show with slightly better prizes you could watch somewhere in the evening’s prime-time viewing schedule, well, that just showed how magical “Concentration” really was. (And I love how, to this day, David Letterman will sometimes throw the phrase “and the board goes back” into his conversation with the rich and famous who sit at his desk to briefly chat.)

I loved “Captain Kangaroo”, but I loved game shows more. I loved the giant real-life game board of “Video Village”, with its “Miracle Mile”, its jail and its bird-cage dice roller; at that point, no one had any idea that the host of Video Village (Monty Hall) would someday turn into the iconic host of “Let’s Make a Deal”. I didn’t quite understand the rules to “Surprise Package” or “Double Exposure”, but I loved the blinking lights and the feel of excitement generated by the shows. I was still too young to be able to spell four-letter words or to be able to put them in a crossword layout, but I still loved Jan Murray’s “Charge Account”.

As I got older, I loved the slot machine graphics and action of “The Joker’s Wild”, still blissfully unaware of Jack Barry’s historical place in game show scandal history. I loved Wink Martindale’s stereotypical game show host’s smile and big chin, and how he genuinely seemed happy when someone on “Gambit” or “Tic-Tac-Dough” won big money and prizes.  I loved the psychology at work on the short-lived “Temptation”, wherein contestants would select the prizes they wanted to win, knowing that if they selected the same prize one of the other contestants selected, they’d both lose the prize.

I secretly resented “The Price is Right”‘s success as a game show, figuring that they were just capitalizing on “Let’s Make a Deal’s” earlier grab-a-contestant-from-the-audience format, but still enjoying Bob Barker’s continuing employment on TV’s early morning small screen. I had watched Barker on “Truth or Consequences”, getting a kick out of “Beulah the Buzzer” which would always signify that a contestant had failed to tell the truth and must therefore suffer the consequences, and Bob’s “TPIR” presence was a somewhat comforting reminder that the more TV game shows changed, the more they stayed the same.

I loved Jack Narz of “Seven Keys” (the only game show taping I ever attended in my life was as a youngster at the ABC studios in Los Angeles for “Keys”) and his brother, Tom Kennedy, who gave contestants a daily opportunity to go home with a new car on “Split Second”, who had found earlier success on “You Don’t Say” and who brought down the house on “Split Second” one day when he used the phrase as a topper to a contestant’s rejoinder to one of that day’s game’s questions.

And boy, did I love the home game versions of these shows. God bless toy and game manufacturer Milton Bradley, maker of many a home version of TV game shows, which eventually got swallowed up by Hasbro in 1984. An ominous year, indeed.

I could go on and on. Much as I’d love to do so, the point of all of this is that I want to draw attention to an article I just found at Slate.com, in which Justin Peters recounts his recent experience as a contestant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”. It’s a marvelous story he tells, and like all good stories, it contains a rise, a fall and another rising.  Did he win the big money? No; as the story makes clear, the show has made it extremely difficult to walk home with a million bucks any more (during the show’s first season, “the insurance company that paid out the big jackpots actually sued the show’s creators because the game was too easy”).  But the most important thing he got from it was that sometimes, you just need to take the shot; worrying about winning or losing doesn’t have to be the most important factor. Sure, everyone wants to be a winner, but the game’s structure actually rewards cowardice when you get up to where the big-money questions are: do I really want to risk $250,000 on a guess and the chance to go for a half-a-million bucks, or wouldn’t it really be more prudent to go home with the quarter-mil?

Anyway, here’s the link: I Wanted to Be a Millionaire. If you’re a game show fan, like me (or even somewhat less fanatical about game shows than I am), you should read this.

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