domenica 9 maggio 2021

Blessed Itchy Anus.

 Prurito Anus knew from an early age that he was on a mission from god and that he was here to serve the lord as a humble servant.

Brother Anus

He found a calling that led him to join up as a Marist Brother and travel half away around the world. 

In his new country he was assigned a position in an intermediate school. His fellow teachers, who were also Marist brothers advised him to take a hard line with his students as many of them had not had a disciplined  upbringing and needed to be introduced to the hard ways of the lord and the seven mansions of the soul. They asked Prurito what his Christian name meant and he translated it as 'Itchy'. The brothers rolled around laughing but Prurito didn't understand why. 

Prurito worked hard at his new job - he was strict and caned frequently and took a little pleasure for himself. This, he knew, was god's intention for him. One day Teresa de Avila appeared before him and told him that he had earned the title Blessed - the highest title that a lowly Marist brother could earn. Prurito celebrated by strip searching a couple of his students. The search went well.

Unfortunately the name Itchy sort of stuck and his colleagues started calling him by his translated name. But, at least, now he was Blessed Itchy Anus.

Sunday morning.

 Peter was in a hurry. He'd promised to help Robert out at the church shop. 

He knew from last time that the condom vending machine was almost empty so he wanted to be early. Robert was already there when Peter arrived and he'd brought the bloody dog! Last time Jaxon had left a little surprise on the carpet just in front of the statues of St Fuck. Not a good look for an institution trying to hock off stuff in a church. 

Robert was in a very happy mood.

"Keep an eye on Jaxon. I'm going to quietly whistle a tune during mass. Let's see how many people recognise it. Most of them have little real knowledge of music. Some even listen to Neil Diamond and Val Doonican!"

Straight after mass the church shop became really busy, though the odd parishioner had sneaked out of mass for things like rosary beads and sweets. One even wanted an ice cream. Now the rush was on but where was Robert? One guy bought two statues of Mary and one of St Fuck. A woman got quite abusive when Peter tried to explain to her that the statues of St Penis hadn't arrived yet. An old nun wanted to buy all the condoms but had no change for the vending machine. 

Fortunately Peter had been a sacristan so he was able to cope. His days at Murray Roberts probably helped too.

A sacristan

Robert eventually showed up with Jaxon.

"You were supposed to watch the bloody dog!" his tone had changed. Evidently, as it transpired, someone had told him to shut up during Fr Orange's sermon. Robert already knew about the seven mansions of the soul and had felt justified in whistling on. Consequently Fr Orange had indulged in extra altar wine and was now stumbling around trying to find the little room where he gets changed. He was whistling a tune from Transubstantiation - The Musical. Robert knew it well and was temped to join in but he knew he was needed in the shop.

"So, when are the statues of St Penis of the fallen crown arriving Robert?" Robert chuckled. Though he did wish that he'd taken his wiser and older brother's post on violin fingering more seriously.

Saint Penis of the fallen crown.

 Of all the saints of his time Saint Penis was probably one of the most self obsessed.

Saint Penis

Jon Penisabero was born into a family of royal servants who lived in a small country where the catholic church had a lot of power over the monarchy. In his youth he worked as a court musician and played the violin. An older violinist advised him in the ways of playing that would make him play better but his head was too full with other nonsense. He wanted to be king - a saintly king. One day he stole a crown but it wasn't very comfortable to wear so he tied it to his belt and hid it under his clothing. Sometimes it fell off the belt and dropped to the ground. His mates at court started calling him Jon of the fallen crown. The king found out about the crown but didn't really care because it was really made out of brass and not a real kingly crown. He introduced Jon to the local archbishop who put him in charge of relocating priests who had interfered with young parishioners. Jon would pose as a shepherd and lead the 'fallen' priests to safety in neighbouring parishes. Jon prayed to Jesus for sainthood. Saint Teresa de Avila appeared to him and went on about seven mansions of the soul. Like the violin episode, Jon didn't listen. He started whistling some tune while Teresa was talking and she called him a penis. They both laughed when they realised that this was the first part of his surname. More as a joke Teresa named him Saint Penis but Jon took the 'sainthood' seriously. He started using his saintly name. Soon everyone at court was calling him Saint Penis. When Saint Penis died he went straight to Heaven because he had saved so many priests. Evidently he still carries the crown around but he now ties it to his penis.

sabato 8 maggio 2021

Practice and how to make it fun.


There is a big difference between practice and performance. 

A good performance is an exhilarating experience. You're often not aware of  too much, you're just in the moment and your 'good' practice is paying off. You see, there is 'good' practice and 'bad' practice. Sometimes, if you sound great at practice time it's because you're practising what you already know. Don't get me wrong - there is a place for this and it's not really 'bad' practice. I should have called it 'maintenance' practice or 'security' practice. However, if you want to get better at playing your instrument, you are going to have to do thoughtful practice - practice where you work on what you cannot do. The weird thing is that this thoughtful practice can actually be a lot of fun. It can be fun because you're crossing into new territory and taking on concepts that you (and others) didn't think you could ever add to your bag. You're discovering the genius (or something heading a little in that direction) inside you.

A lesson from Robert.

Quite a few years ago, before the Prowse Brothers band imploded, I was playing a PBs gig with Robert and the boys. It was not long after my return to the violin. An audience member came up after our set and complimented Robert on his violin tone. This reminded me that mine wasn't really up to scratch but it was a little while before I set about doing something about it. When I think about it now, what was I thinking? There are three things that everybody hears:

  • Playing (badly) out of tune.
  • Playing (badly) out of time.
  • The sound that you make.
I have added 'badly' because little indiscretions are generally forgiven or even go unnoticed.
Robert was the winner that day and he taught me a valuable lesson in the long run. A little while later I started working on my tone and I still am. I did a lot of study and practice. Thoughtful practice. I'm feeling pretty happy with my tone now but I won't let it slip from my radar. Thanks Rob.

I guess this is why I share some of my discoveries (like the one in my last post). Okay, I'm sure a lot of people have already worked out my 'one scale' thing* but for those who haven't it's a free gift. You don't get gifts like that from heat pump companies or retail stores. The down side is that you have to think about it and practise how you can use it to good effect. Good practice includes vision and the desire to succeed. Good practice comes when you want something a lot. If you want something a lot, you'll find time for good practice AND IT'LL PROBABLY BE FUN.

* I know that Paganini hinted at it first, but I actually worked it out on my own, many years ago, before I heard about what Paganini said.

venerdì 7 maggio 2021

The one and a half scales on the violin.

I'm only writing this because some violinists might not have put all the pieces together.

In our Western tempered music system there are only 12 different notes - A Bb (or A#)  B C Db (or C#) D Eb (or D#) E F Gb (or F#) G Ab (or G#). Tempering is the reason why five notes have two names. It's a nice, tidy little system and it has been accepted by a large part of the world.

When one plays a major scale, that's seven notes used up. A major scale can be played starting on any of the 12 notes - that's 12 major scales, all using the same fingering. Okay, there will be, for example, a Gb major scale and an F# major scale (remember those notes with two names?) but, if you play these two scales on the pianoforte, they will sound exactly the same. 

So, on the violin, a major scale has a fingering pattern that is made up of tones (eg. F, miss F# and go to G) and semitones (eg. E, go to the next note F). Here's the fingering; I'll use a dash (-) to show the semitones. The rest of the note have a 'missed note' (tone) between them. A violinist usually has four fingers. The finger closest to the thumb is called '1'.

Here we go:

1 2 3-4   1 2 3-4   1 2-3 4   1 2-3 4   1-2 3 4   1-2 3 4   -1 2 3 4

This pattern can be used across strings or up one string. The bold notes are the root notes (eg. the root note of C major is C. The root note of Ab major is Ab). 

Let's take the C major scale (7 notes with the first one repeated). If I start it of a different note, I get a different scale (or mode).

C D E -F G A B C    >    C major

D E-F G A B-C D    >     Dorian Minor



G A B-C D E-F G    >    Dominant 7th



All the scales have names (two names actually) but, to keep it simple, I've just named three. Remember that there are scales that use the other five notes too - C# D# F# G# A# - and these are great, colourful scales. I could call them 'the other half'. There is also a scale that uses all 12 notes, but that's another story.

The idea for writing this is to help you get around the violin fingerboard. It takes the guesswork out of things.

mercoledì 5 maggio 2021

Saint Fuck and the dog that didn't bite.

 In his later years Wolfgang Fuck became a bit of a traveler. 

St Fuck

He visited all of Germany's neighbouring countries and his reputation, along his name, had spread before him. In Italy he was known as San Fotto. On one occasion he visited a little town not too far from Verona. It was called Monteforte d'Alpone. He had a friend named Giovanni in the town who he liked to visit. Giovanni had a dog who didn't seem fond of Wolfgang Fuck, he would bark every time he saw Wolfgang, but who never bit him. Maybe it was the big axe that Wolfgang carried around or maybe god was protecting him because he was a saint. One evening, after a few vini, Wolfgang asked Giovanni if he knew why the dog never tried to bite him. Giovanni replied in Italian, "Cane che abbaia non morde."

Saint Fuck took this as a sign from god to write a book. He called his book Kennels and came up with the idea that our bodies are like a kennel that a dog can come into. Unfortunately he was not very good at English and had got the word god confused with dog. Along with his unfortunate name, the book was never used at catholic mass sermons. This made Saint Fuck a little bitter. 

I am the lord, thy dog.

Still, he was a saint. You can't have everything in life.

Saint Fuck is remembered as the patron saint of dogs and people who get English words confused.

May the fifth be with you.

 Well, it is May 5th and that's an old violin joke. Violinists certainly know how to have a laugh.

This old joke was around long before the Star Wars thing about May 4th. In fact, double bass players had a similar joke about May 4th but the Star Wars thing sort of got in the way.

For any non musicians out there, the violin is tuned in 5ths and the double bass is tuned in 4ths. The viola is tuned in 5ths too, as is the violoncello, but these two set of instrumentalists have never been very good at getting jokes.

* * *

Today is also the feast day of Saint Fuck. I know, but it's true. Saint Fuck was a German saint who lived long before the word took on its present meaning(s); though his personal action on one fateful day did bring the word closer to the path of notoriety.

St Fuck

Wolfgang Fuck was always chopping down trees in a forest near Regensberg. He was actually one of the first people (in the area) to make planks. One day he was out working with his axe and he dropped it on his foot. In order to avoid saying "Jesus Christ" he exclaimed his own surname. Other workers heard him and St Fuck's name became a popular choice of word when people around the Resenberg area dropped things on their feet. This was used less when shoes became popular. Jesus was pleased that his name was being avoided in times of foot accidents and made Wolfgang Fuck a saint.

* * *

It looks like I won't be working today. I think I might join The Curmudgeon in doing some home maintenance. I won't go into detail. We certainly don't need another series on house maintenance.

* * *

Well, that's me for this morning. The sun is out and it's time for me to prepare for the day. Robert will be on his way to Eastbourne now. The Curmudgeon will be sitting outside his old office and probably having breakfast. All seems to be well with the world.

The world