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Archive for the ‘music’ Category

April 8, 2015 #writing101 Music and life

Today’s challenge is to write for 15 minutes about three songs which have influenced my life without editing or anything. First, I won’t promise to write for only 15 minutes, second I will go back and edit, and third, I may talk about more than three songs. Yes, I’m a rebel, but I’m also used to writing for an hour or two at a stretch without thinking much about it. I hope you’ll bear with me as I ramble and roam, at least in a literary sense.

I love the topic of songs which have influenced my life and have, in fact, on several occasions written on this topic and included a videos of such songs. The fact is, much to the disgust of my daughters, I can think of a song to go with just about anything you might want to say. In fact, I used to drive them nuts by demonstrating this unique ability on a regular basis, though I’ve since learned that an old high school friend, Joleen, did the same with her kids. Maybe it was just our generation.

One of my favorite high school classes was Mr. Litton’s English class in which we got to take the songs of the day and really get into the poetry of the lyrics. Lucky for us, we had the likes of Simon and Garfunkle, Bob Dylan and others to draw from.

But to narrow down which songs most influenced my life, you’d have to specify a time frame. For example, on the long walk alongside Sunset Blvd. from the dorms to the theatre building my freshman year in college, I used to sing while I walked. One of my favorites was Top of the World by the Carpenters.

At times in my life when I was sad or a relationship had ended, it might be Maybe This Time from Cabaret (did I mention I’m especially partial to show tunes?) or the silliness of Gary, Indiana from Music Man.

These days, I make up songs for everything from each of my cats to how much I love it when I get green lights all the way from home to wherever I might be traveling. You’ll never hear my songs on the Top 40, or frankly, anywhere near a radio or a place where people actually sing well, but music is the ultimate way (short of writing, of course) for me to express emotion.

But getting back to songs which influenced my life: Sounds of Silence by Simon and Garfunkel was a special favorite while I was young and full of teenage angst. Also, Scarborough Fair/Canticle for the haunting beauty of a love song interwoven with a song detailing the horrors of war, Done by the Band Perry, because don’t we all have times when we are just done with something or someone? In recent years, Why by Rascal Flatts has become especially poignant to me.

Why is actually intensely personal because it talks about someone who committed suicide, and how a friend and loved one is trying to cope with the decision. Perhaps having lost my parents to suicide makes me a lot more aware of songs and stories like this, but more, I want to help people understand that the stereotypical idea that suicide is selfish and cowardly is not only oversimplified but patently unfair, both to the victim and to those they leave behind.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful not only for being able to educate others about suicide, but to be able to educate myself.
2. I am grateful for the traumas in my life which allow me to give others support and understanding for their own trials and tribulations.
3. I am grateful for writing prompts which make me think, make me appreciate where I was and how far I’ve come.
4. I am grateful for the life I’ve lead and the path I now follow, neither of which would be possible without the other.
5. I am grateful for abundance: health, friendship, intensity, love, compassion, passion, words, inspiration, health (I am doubling this for the sake of my sweet kitties), peace, harmony and prosperity.

Blessed Be

And now for some shameless self-promotion:
I’d love it if you’d visit my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel and my website, http://www.shericonaway.com. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

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March 23, 2015 Where has all the music gone?

While watching TV last night, I finally figured it out

For awhile now, I’ve been griping about the state of popular music. I know I’m not alone in finding that what is popular today, at least on the country charts, lacks the creativity and depth we enjoy from many of the older artists. As I type this, I realize that the same can be said of a lot of popular fiction.

What really brought the idea home was when a diaper commercial came on using a song I’ve truly come to despise as being nearly as deplorable as what comes from the pen and mouth of Taylor Swift. I’m sure by now, you’ve heard that catchy little ditty, “All About the Bass” because it’s been splattered all over social networking, shown up (to my complete disgust) on award shows and is now even rearing its ugly head on “The Voice”.

When did Marketing begin to overshadow content?

Whether you’re talking about “All About the Bass”, any one of TS’s dreadfully repetitive whines about breaking up with yet another boyfriend or mean girls who never thought she’d make it, or what I’ve come to refer to fondly as “Fifty shades of Meh”, I’ll be the first to admit that these people are marketing geniuses.

Even last year, watching Taylor coach the Voice contestants, I could see that she really knew her stuff when it came to packaging a bucket of shit and convincing people that it was French perfume (Not that I would ever, in a million years, put the Voice contestants in that category.  They’re all amazing!).  Meaghan is no different. They’ve done their homework when it comes to knowing what sells, and are doing a phenomenal job of…well…let’s not sugar coat it, dumbing down the music industry.

The message we’re hearing loud and clear is that it is no longer necessary to write a song which reaches straight into your heart with both its words and its incredibly complex instrumentals and melody, nor is it about writing a well thought out, well written novel. With the right marketing strategy, “See Jack Run” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” could be massive commercial success stories.  What it comes down to is that what sells today will be tomorrow’s commercial jingle.

Writers and Song Writers need to write, but they also need to eat.

We’re faced with a truly moral dilemma. Do we quit or day jobs to do what we love, knowing that it will likely not pay the bills, or do we work all day doing something we hate just to give us the roof over our heads and the ability to create something meaningful? Or worse, do we give in to the pressure, learn to market to the lowest common denominator and write something we hate nearly as much as that day job?

I used to find it mildly amusing that my daughters and their fellow band members chose Queen, Santana, Chicago and the Eagles over more contemporary music when we had car washes or other somewhat social events. In hindsight, I think they figured it out long before I did.

Every cloud has a silver lining

What saves us from the complete collapse of literacy and music is that some of the true artists have embraced the need to market and are using the same tools those short-cutters have learned so well. It might be a tougher road as their songs don’t make for good jingles and their books don’t leave as much room for a director to put his own mark on the story, but they do keep inspired music and stories that make us think alive. I’m sure those people are working a lot harder for their living than those who are bent on selling us baby food for the brain, but I, for one, am incredibly grateful that they remain true to their craft.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful that there is still a modicum of integrity in the arts, and hope that the few who support that integrity continue to raise their voices loudly and proudly.
2. I am grateful that we have the choice; we can listen to the brain numbing, jingle worthy top 40, or we can listen to music. We can read mindless pap or we can read something which makes us think.
3. I am grateful that given the right spin, just about anyone can make a mark in the world.
4. I am grateful for a forum in which to share my observations, and that people do not have to agree with me. I really wont’ take it personally.
5. I am grateful for abundance; choices, family, love, friendship, encouragement, opportunity, harmony, peace, health and prosperity.

Blessed Be

January 6, 2015 Music: It really is everywhere

You can find music in the most extraordinary places…

It’s easy to recognize the music in birdsong or a train whistle; a fire truck siren or a doorbell. But if you listen…really, really listen, it’s in everything

When the wind is whipping through the trees howling out it’s melancholy song of life ended too soon or lost loves or loneliness, then finds that almost imperceptible crack in your carefully built house and the howl becomes a slightly more joyful whistle. When your cat curls up on your lap and begins to purr contentedly (or in my case when a second one joins in and you really hear the highs and lows in their throaty voices). When the water zings out of the shower head to plip plop on the floor of the tub, singing a merry tune as the droplets dance to music of their own making. When fresh vegetables hit the oil sizzling in the bottom of a wok, their voices higher or lower, louder or softer depending on the density of the vegetable.

These sounds, this music is what I’ve become incredibly attuned to lately. I’m hearing something beyond just the sounds. There’s a melody which runs through our lives, through our world, which usually goes unnoticed.

Don’t just stop and smell the roses. Also, stop and hear the music!

In our world of fast cars, faster computers, electronic everything, I believe we lose sight of the simple wonders all around us, patiently waiting for us to tune back in. I’m sure we noticed them as children, but like the baby in Mary Poppin’s who grew up and could no longer speak to the birds, we’ve simply forgotten. It’s time to reverse the process.

Start with something easy.

When the wind howls, moans and whistles, listen. Try to hear the melody in it’s song. When sirens pass nearby, listen to the rise and fall, the melding of voices as each vehicle’s siren makes a slightly different sound. Stop and enjoy the sound of birds chattering back and forth, mocking the cats in the window or cursing the one who raided their nest.

When you hear the easy ones without effort, push yourself.

When you’ve retrained yourself to hear the obvious songs around you, push a little harder. Hear the music in the water pulsing out of the shower head and dancing in the tub. Explore the different tones the vegetables make as they hit the hot oil or listen to the meat and vegetables sizzling as you prepare chili or pasta sauce. Tune into the cadence of a helicopter or a diesel engine as it idles.

Now that you’re hearing the music all around you, what do you do with it?

I know, it’s all well and fine to hear the music in everything, but we can’t just stand around listening, right? Of course not! Once you can hear it again, you need to rebalance yourself, tune back into that rhythm and follow it…be that rhythm; be that music! If we could all tune back in, I’m convinced that there would be no more wars; no more abuse; no more mistreatment of Mother Earth and in it’s place, love and respect because, no matter what our beliefs, we would be in harmony. Harmony brings acceptance, even appreciation of our differences because without harmony, we would just be a single note, alone and uninteresting.

If you ask me, Barry Manilow had it right all along while being way ahead of his time.

One of my favorite Barry Manilow songs of all time, maybe favorite song period of all time was “One Voice”. I never really knew why, but it always made me feel joyful. I realize now that it also makes me feel connected to everyone and everything; every person, every animal, every freaking blade of grass and every rock! I realize now that the connection is the music in everything around us and the music inside of us. But more, it is our ability to recognize that music if we just retrain ourselves so we remember that wonder we had as a child but were taught to ignore. It’s still there! Pull it out. Examine it. Feel it. Own it.

If a single voice sings its song loudly and confidently, but nobody listens, will the song be wasted?

Frankly, I don’t think it’s possible for even the smallest song, the weakest melody to go unnoticed by someone. We just need to get away from all of our electronics long enough to hear those tunes without amplification, without dubs and remixes, but in their purest, most elemental form, because when we do, our own voices will join in harmony of their own accord. There will be no thought to whether we’re on key or sound right. We’ll simply do what we’re meant to do: blend with the music and add our voice to the fundamental, elemental, universal song.

My Gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful to have been shown the reason I’ve been hearing the music in everything.
2. I am grateful that I have a place to share the things I learn.
3. I am grateful for the loving energy I’m feeling after writing this post and listing to “One Voice”.
4. I am grateful for, and humbled by my part in the harmony of the Universe.
5. I am grateful for abundance: harmony, cooperation, love, music, joy, friendship, peace, health and prosperity.

Blessed Be

October 18, 2014 What a difference the music makes! #shericonaway #blogboost

Dance like nobody’s watching, sing like you don’t need the money.

Words to live by, although, in my case, it might be amended to “sing like nobody’s listening”. My poor cats have been subjected to my off-key but exuberant renditions of my favorite songs as they poured forth from my computer speakers the last couple of days. And yet, when I start to sing, instead of heading for cover, they all come into the room to join me. I guess Joy is attractive, no matter how pitchy it sounds!

Bringing back the music has brought on an incredibly productive period. Laundry is done, cat boxes cleaned, floors vacuumed and scrubbed (and re-swept since certain felines are incapable of using the sandbox without throwing the sand all over the bathroom), client work completed for one client. I even had time to change my dancing look tonight, which received very positive responses from my friends. It’s amazing that two days ago, I went dancing in what I’d worn all day, not really caring what I looked like. Today, it was a 180 degree turn. My hair was braided (which I never do unless Heather is here to do it for me), I wore a skirt instead of shorts, and a sparkly shirt. I forgot how much fun it is to line dance in a skirt! It spins and twirls and you can play with it, flicking it around…ok, so I’m like a kid with a new toy, even if it was a very old skirt!

Even more disturbing, is that I’m excited about going to the gym tomorrow! If a little bit of music can induce such dramatic changes in only a couple of days, what might we expect after a week???

The tiniest of changes can change your whole world

I’ve heard it said that a small change can have an enormous impact, but I’d never thought much of it…until now. Such a simple thing has changed my entire outlook. There is no limit to what a person can accomplish if they start by improving their outlook. Esther and Jerry Hicks talked about a continuum of emotions, with the deepest, darkest despair at the bottom, and complete and utter joy at the top. Each small step up or down that continuum has the power to impact our entire life. Though it is possible to stay at the very bottom indefinitely without concerted effort, it is difficult if not impossible to remain at the top 100% of the time. Life interferes and our joy slips. For each of us, it has to slip to a different point before we stop and say “Now wait a minute! What’s going on here? What did you do with my Joy?”

It’s at that point where we aren’t feeling as good as we’d like to that we start making those small changes which will put us back at the top of the continuum, one baby step at a time. I’m not at the peak of joyousness right now, but I’m several steps up from where I was two days ago. Isn’t that what’s called “progress”? I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that progress any day!

If my own baby steps weren’t enough, taking a little extra effort with my appearance drew so many compliments that I moved a couple more steps up the continuum with no additional effort on my part! How’s that for bonus points? I don’t think there’s a human alive who doesn’t respond to compliments. Yes, many of us do, or have at some point told ourselves that we didn’t deserve the compliments, but hopefully, by now, we’ve stopped trash talking ourselves enough to accept the compliments gracefully and enjoy the rush of positive energy, truly believing that we deserve it.

That really is the key to moving up that continuum. We have to begin by being kinder to ourselves, loving ourselves and seeing our own beauty. It doesn’t matter if we don’t meet society’s size standards, or if our features aren’t perfectly symmetrical. True beauty doesn’t lie in our outer packaging anyway. The most beautiful people I know are kind, caring individuals, both to others and to themselves.

As I sit here typing, thinking and reworking, the song “You’ve Got a Friend” is playing. “Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend? When people can be so cold, they’ll hurt you and dessert you. They’ll take your soul if you let them, but don’t you let them.” I think that says it all. That is where our true beauty lies: in being a friend, to others, to ourselves, to our animals, and to our planet.

Stepping off the soap box now to give you tonight’s gratitudes:
1. I am grateful for my friends who can be counted on to lift my spirits, even when they’ve dropped lower than normal.
2. I am grateful for my cats who love me (and my less than perfect singing voice) no matter what, and show me in little ways every day.
3. I am grateful for the lessons I began learning more than 15 years ago which allow me to recognize negative thoughts and behavior and turn them around before they can damage my life, or let me slide into a depressive state.
4. I am grateful for examples which show me where I don’t want to go, even more than those which show me where I do want to go. They inspire me to move towards the shinier, happier places.
5. I am grateful for wonderful nights of dancing, chatting with friends, sharing stories and most of all, the joy of just moving our bodies to music we love.
6. I am grateful for abundance: love, joy, music, friendship, caring, kindness, harmony, peace, health and prosperity.

Namaste

October 17, 2014 Figuring out what’s missing #shericonaway #blogboost

We all feel disconnected now and then, but what is it that we’re really missing?

For the last few days, I’ve been feeling disconnected, detached, as if I’m floating freely with no way to settle myself, even if I want to. I finally reached the conclusion that it would shake itself out when the time was right.

Meanwhile, I went about my business, going to the gym with Pandora playing music from my high school years in my ears. Meditating with Pandora playing ambient music beside me. Music playing while I made pots of soup or pans of mish mosh. Doing logic puzzles…in silence. Then it hit me! What I was missing was music. I’d gotten used to having silence while I write, silence from the voices of humans, peace and quiet from those who are not entirely satisfied with what they’ve created. Silence from cranky, impatient people in the stores when I run errands (though rarely, if ever, when I go to the farm to get my weekly veggies and fruits).

As the days become cool enough to open the window, the silence has been broken by the cawing of the crows and the squeaking of the squirrels who taunt my cats as they watch from the safety of the window in my office, tails twitching and occasionally emitting that distinctive cry unique to cats when they’re on the hunt. The sounds of life and nature, going about their business, uncomplaining, joyful as they float through the air or scramble up and down my tree; those are sounds I love. Dylan’s purr as he sits beside me on the desk, Scrappy’s as he settles in for a nap in the warm, soft blanket on my lap while I meditate. Munchkin telling me in no uncertain terms that I have not given her adequate attention in at least a million years. These sounds are music to my ears.

But so are the songs of Seals and Crofts, Loggins and Messina, Cat Stevens, Crosby, Stills and Nash (and sometimes, Young), Simon and Garfunkel, Elton John and so many more…far too many to name, but all who made me think, sing along, dance and more through the years of teenage angst and parents who didn’t understand.

I had disconnected myself from the music!

I had relegated the music to specific times: meditation, cooking and workouts, and forgotten about all of the other times. Yes, I will still turn it off when I’m trying to write (aside from my blog posts which either flow or they don’t, music notwithstanding), but I will remember to use the ever-lovin’ bejeebers out of that $36 Pandora subscription! Rock on!

Rocking out to the music not only boosted my spirits, but motivated me to get about four hours worth of client work done and make a big, healthy salad for dinner. It’s funny, though. As soon as I started singing along with the music, several of my cats came in demanding attention. I’m not sure if I sounded so bad to their ears that they were hoping to shut me up, or if they were attracted to the joy I was exuding as I sang those old, memory-filled songs. Either way, they kept me company while I sang and worked, and a good time was had by all.

What motivates you? What helps you stay in your joyful place while you accomplish the tasks you need to as well as those which are purely choice?

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for the insight which, I’m sure, is aided and abetted by my Guides.
2. I am grateful to have found the reason for my doldrums.
3. I am grateful for a return of my motivation.
4. I am grateful for the attention of my cats, even if they’re secretly critical of my off-key singing.
5. I am grateful for a body and mind which are back in motion and churning out ideas.
6. I am grateful for abundance: joy, music, motivation, inspiration, fun, harmony, peace, health and happiness.

Namaste

October 9, 2014 Finding inspiration in the Void. #shericonaway #blogboost

Day 10 of the Ultimate Blog Challenge, and inspiration has taken a hike.

This isn’t the first time, nor will it be the last when inspiration simply desserts me and I’m left with a blank brain while facing the expanse of white which represents tonight’s blog post. I even opened up the emails from the hosts, hoping that something contained within would trigger my muse. But in the immortal words of Terri Clark…”Nope…still nothing!”

So what do you do when your inspiration is busted? Like Elsa in “Frozen”, do you just “let it go”? Leave writing a post for another day when your brain isn’t a dried up husk? Do you drag something from your archives? Or maybe, jot down a few pithy remarks and call it a night?

Me being me, and the sort who often shuts off the conscious mind to write, I just stare at the screen until my mind begins to blur, then allow my fingers to just write whatever comes to mind. I realize that could lead to a page full of nonsense, but who’s to say it couldn’t also lead to something rather poignant or profound…or even profoundly poignant? No sir! I am not afraid to let my subconscious mind run amok. And look, I already have three paragraphs!

Reading back, I’m reminded of how much I’m influenced by music. It is certainly a major part of my favorite pastime, or at least one of them. Sure, we could all dance to our own drummer but if there’s music, we’re more likely to be following the same beat and refraining from becoming a floor full of human bumper cars. (not that we don’t achieve this on occasion, especially when there are either a lot of beginners or a lot of drunks on the dance floor.)

I often think in song lyrics, or find that an entire song does a better job of explaining something than I am doing with my own words. Music grabs part of my brain so I can use the rest of it to focus on the problem at hand, reaching a solution far more quickly than if I’d tried to resolve it in silence.

Music definitely impacts our moods. People in many industries have figured that out, and will use it to lead us quietly to a particular action. Take retail. Stores have background music. Is it random, or do they have a playlist which is designed to encourage us to buy what they’re selling?

What do you hear in a restaurant? A casino? A grocery store? Could they be using music to subtly influence our choices?

Sure, these things sound ominous, but the advertising industry relies heavily on human psychology when they design their ad campaigns. Meanwhile, we can influence ourselves with our choice of music.

I have created several stations on Pandora. One is “Ambient Music” which I use when I meditate. There are several country stations which are used for anything from doing accounting work to working out. There’s a “Loggins and Messina” station which I use when I’m cooking, a jazz station, my “Blood, Sweat and Tears” station which plays a lot of Chicago and Santana as well, and feeds my need for great horn sections. Whatever I might be doing, there is only one station which suits that activity, so it will be the appropriate station or silence.

Music can make us remember or forget, laugh or cry.

It’s music which can set a mood or change it. It can command our attention, or just linger in the background almost unnoticed. “Almost” because while our conscious mind may be unaware, our subconscious hears and responds.

What would our lives be like without music?

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for all of the music in my life.
2. I am grateful that I can find inspiration in the void.
3. I am grateful for my daughter’s unexpected but welcome decision to visit this weekend.
4. I am grateful for an increased workload.
5. I am grateful for abundance: inspiration, work, play, family, love, harmony, peace, health and prosperity.

Namaste

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