Tag Archives: music

A Song of Spirits (My 300th Post!)

 

Back from CON!

I just returned from a con. (Okay I have to stop there already. I can’t say, or in this case think “con” without chuckling… but I wanted to try it. I can’t even play it off. I attended a music educator’s convention/conference. Is that cool enough to be a “con”? Ha!)

Back to focus. I just returned from a music educator’s conference, which explains my longer than usual absence from the blog world. For years it was an annual event for me, but after an absence of four years, I decided it was time to get back… time to be inspired and refreshed. And as always, this is exactly what happened.

 

Reading Session…

One of the activities or sessions that almost always happens at one of these conferences is called a “reading session”, where groups of music educators, choir directors, and college students get together to sing through various pieces of music. Often it’s new music, but not always. It’s a way for directors to hear the pieces in performance and get ideas for programming concerts. Often times it’s just people who love to sing and look forward to making beautiful music with other fellow choir nerds.

 

Spirits

So here I am sitting on the floor (on the floor because it was so packed) in a JWPepper reading session led by the wonderful Cheryl West. As an adult man who spends his days singing middle school soprano and alto all day (Yes. It’s true.),  I don’t often have the opportunity to sing with adults, and I forget what it’s like to sing with my adult male voice with other adults. Singing next to a friend and colleague, I was really enjoying myself. Then Cheryl moved on to the next piece, a piece called Spirits, written by Douglas Beam (along with some additional text), with text by William Shakespeare. I was not taking notes, and so I wouldn’t want to take the chance of getting details wrong in this post, but Cheryl told us of the touching and sad true story that inspired this piece to be written. The whole time I was thinking Wow! How long have I been waiting for a piece like this?! Most of my students know that I’m a card-carrying paranormal nerd, and I just knew they’d get a kick out of this song. Finally, a way for two of my biggest passions, if only for a few months during part of my day, to collide. I knew I was going to purchase it before I even heard it.

 

Some of the text from the piece:

 

By the moon we sport and play, with the night begins our day,
As we dance the dew doth fall, Gather little spirits all!

Lightly as the little bee, two by two and three by three, 
and about we go, and about go we!

They whisper so softly a sweet refrain. 
Their voices surround me. They speak my name!
I reach out to touch them, I stretch my hand. 
Their figures slip through me like grains of sand. 

.

See the video below for a recent performance of the piece.

 

 

300!

Now if you’ll please allow me to be distracted by the passing chicken, this is also my 300th post! I simply cannot believe it, yet I can. It’s a big deal, right? Many blogs don’t get close to 300, and when I started out on February 5, of 2012, I never dreamed I’d get to that number. I can’t lie and say that every post came organically or easy, and I know it’s continuously growing and changing, but as I approach that two-year blogiversary in less than two weeks, I can promise you that I have loved every minute of the ride. The wonderful people I’ve met and the experience I’ve gained was not something I saw happening at the beginning of this journey. I thank you all! 

Peace!

PK

 

 

 


Skin and Bones

Some of my best and earliest memories from elementary school are from music class with Mrs. Thieman. In those days she would roll her music cart with a record player and a stash of records and instruments from room to room. We would get so excited! (So would our classroom teacher. That would be her only chance at a break.) We learned a lot in music, but what I remember the most is singing along to many of the songs, most likely from Silver-Burdett music albums. After doing a search online, some of the old album covers even looked familiar. Isn’t that crazy? How long ago was that? I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday, but I can point out the records my music teacher had on her cart in the early 1980s. “What would you like to sing today, children?” Goober Peas! We wanna sing Goober Peas! (I listened to that five times tonight.) I’m sure many people of my generation had similar music class experiences, and it’s likely that many of our teachers used some of the same albums. Mrs. Thieman has a lot to do with why I’m now a music teacher. The middle school world is a bit… well, “different”, but I often selfishly slip a cool folk song like “Old Dan Tucker” into my concert programming, just for me. That’s our little secret.

So why am I blabbering on and reminiscing about childhood music experiences when you’re waiting for the next paranormal themed post? I mean, we’re less than three weeks away from Halloween, right? Well one of my absolute favorite folk songs from Mrs. Thieman’s music class was a song most often called “Skin and Bones”, and it was one we’d sing around Halloween. It has been in my head a lot lately. In those days I couldn’t wait to sing it in class, and I remember singing it a lot at home. Hearing it instantly transports me to the Halloweens of my past.

Does anyone else remember this tune? What songs did you sing around Halloween growing up?

 

Skin and Bones

There are several versions, some with a very different melody, some with different verses, but that’s a folk song for you. The version in this video is the closest to what I remember singing growing up. I love her “Boo!” at the end.  For more info on the history of “Skin and Bones”, click HERE

There was an old woman all skin and bones,
Oo-oo-oo-ooh

She lived down by the old graveyard,
Oo-oo-oo-ooh

One night she thought she’d take a walk,
Oo-oo-oo-ooh

She walked down by the old graveyard,
Oo-oo-oo-ooh

She thought she’d sweep the old church house,
Oo-oo-oo-ooh

(She saw the bones a layin’ around,
Oo-oo-oo-ooh)

She went to the closet to get her a broom,
Oo-oo-oo-ooh

She opened the door and BOO!

 

 

You might also like:

 

A New Spin On Your Halloween Altar and Decorations (Big Séance)

A New Spin On Your Halloween Altar and Decorations (Big Séance)

Planning a Halloween Party (in 1911) (Big Séance)

Planning a Halloween Party (in 1911) (Big Séance)

Why do we assume? (Big Séance)

Why do we assume? (Big Séance)

 

 


“Spiritual” and “Religious”…

Here are a few questions to ponder today. 

Are you “religious” or “spiritual”?

Do they have to be different? Are you both? Neither? 

Next question.

How did your upbringing or early life experience lead you to where you are now and how you classify yourself?

If you’re wondering what brought this on, bear with me and I’ll attempt to explain. Sometimes I get going on these things and I wonder if I’m even being coherent. In recent weeks I’ve gotten a few comments here, mostly polite,  from people who I would consider “religious”. For the most part, these comments have shared concerns that spirit communication is from the Devil or evil. I apparently need to find God… which is weird, because I feel like I have a pretty close relationship with him, actually. I have no intention of censoring these comments, providing they stay respectful. And just to be clear, I have comments set to be approved mainly due to the fact that I have students out there. They’re free to read, but they don’t need to comment. 🙂 

In one of the comments, the reader discussed how she was once into “the occult” (a term that is SO misunderstood and is often confused with “cult”), but now she’s Christian. It was suggested that I repent and “seek God, rather than demonic spirits.” 

Well… I realize it is dangerous to go here, but I’m going to. As soon as I read the comment discussed above, I couldn’t help but think about how my path has been the opposite of hers. And, I suppose, we both would see each others paths as backwards. I grew up and spent a LOT of time in a Southern Baptist Church. My sister and I were the third generation of our family to go to this church. By the time I was in high school, I was a staff musician and was getting some great experience. But it was also around this time that I learned some disappointing things that were going on in the congregation. Not only that, but nationally there was a lot of controversy going on with the Southern Baptist Convention spreading and teaching hate. Ellen Degeneres had come out of the closet and so of course they boycotted everything having to do with ABC and Disney (their parent company). Ring a bell? People can be so very hateful in the name of God… and they’ll follow anyone who refers to themselves as a “pastor” or “preacher”. So I think my family determined that there was more love and acceptance at home than in the church. But I decided to stay until I left for college, gritting my teeth the whole time… and I made that decision for one reason only… music.  In college I worked in two or three different churches as a staff musician and for a year was a director of music. I’ve been known to say that the only thing I got out of these church experiences was music, which has ended up being a huge part of my life, but that’s not exactly true. There were many people who helped raise and support me in my hometown church, people who I have lots of love and respect for. There were many nice people who I worked with in college. But… you can lose a lot of yourself in organized religion. And most definitely, not everything shouted from a church pulpit is good… or even true, for that matter. 

Around 5 years ago I began what I refer to as my “spiritual shift”. I am so much closer to God now than I ever was before then… and I don’t regret leaving organized religion. I don’t think anyone is ever truly enlightened… and I definitely have my flaws (oh boy, that’s another blog post), but I’ve certainly come a long way since then. It’s like my eyes are opened now. I can’t imagine going back to a time where I knew nothing about a spirit guide… or meditation… or energy, or the fact that we’re all loved, no matter what and no one is judged! And… I can’t believe there was a time when “ghosts” were just people wearing bedsheets on Halloween. Aren’t we doing our children an injustice by teaching them that there is a physical land up in the sky covered with clouds and angel wings where only some of us go? I remember praying a lot growing up… begging to not go to the fiery place where the red guy with horns would torture you. And if we’re teaching kids that to get them to behave (Jesus on the shelf?), then we have serious issues. To me, closing my mind and going back to a world where dogma is kept alive to keep leaders of churches and religious organizations in power would be a giant leap backwards. I know too much now. And spirit communication? I’ve yet to have a negative experience. Why wouldn’t we want to learn more?  (Side note. Check out MOSS’s two investigations [HERE and HERE] of a church that DID want to know more. Cool experience!)

So… I know everyone has their own path. I get that. I know very little about these readers other than their “religious” comments. They very well may be the nicest and sweetest  people one could meet. But… how does one respond? Do you smile and just move on? Do you write up a blog post about it? 😉 Am I even being coherent? Am I going to Hell? Care to start a discussion?

 

Related:

Christians and the Occult (kristinemcguire.com) 

 


Bring Out the Fire…

Because I know I have several readers that are either into, or experts in the area of dreams, at some point this week I was planning on describing a dream a friend and neighbor of mine shared with me recently. Shortly after that conversation, I had an interesting and similar dream. This was all a couple of weeks ago. But last night I had a dream like I’ve never had before. Because of its strangeness (or goofiness?), and because I don’t want to forget details, I’ll push pause on the other dream post and share the latest one. I’m not even sure how to present it to you today, really. Are you sitting down?

By the way, I’m assuming the details that I am able to remember now was the end of a dream. I don’t know how it all started.

I was apparently watching a movie. The camera angle was high in the sky and panning over a setting that looked like Oregon coastline. There was a large and beautiful dinosaur… FIGURE SKATING… on what seemed to be lightly frozen waters. Like a movie where a child runs out onto a frozen pond and you cringe because you just know the ice isn’t incredibly solid, I feared for the life of this giant creature. Was it an animated film? I’m not sure. It seemed very real to me. But even though I was uncomfortable and fearing the ice would break, the dramatic 1990’s Alan Menken-like Disney pop score (bring on Celine Dion and Peabo Bryson) soared beautifully as the elegant dinosaur made large figure eights on the ice. You could see every cut created by the giant ice skates. It seemed like the ending of a movie where you expect the credits to roll any second. Still concerned for the dinosaur, I wondered if we were being fooled and the dinosaur was going to crash through the ice. But the music score was beautiful and emotional and didn’t hint at any danger. I could even hear the melody and lyrics to the chorus being repeated over and over… “Bring out the fire.”

That’s when I woke up. And like my previous posts about being so excited about realizing I had been reading in my dreams, I was so very impressed with the fact that I could still hear the melody and the lyrics. I don’t remember it at the moment, but lying in bed this morning, the melody was stuck in my head for quite a while. I’m absolutely sure it’s a melody that doesn’t exist. I’d never heard it before. And “Bring out the fire”… what’s that about?

Just before writing this post, I searched “Bring out the fire” on Google. There were tons of links to what is apparently a very popular Usher song, titled More, that includes “bring out the fire” as part of the lyrics. I listened to the song. I’d never heard it before and it didn’t seem anything like the song in my dream. Also, just minutes ago I Googled “Peabo Bryson” to make sure I was spelling the name correctly above and one of the first links was a video for a 1978 Peabo Bryson song with the title Feel the Fire. Weird.

 

So there you have it. Do any of you hear newly composed music with lyrics in your dreams? And do you wake up singing it? I really should have recorded myself singing it into a recorder so I’d have it, but that seemed embarrassing. 🙂

Anyone in Hollywood interested in the movie rights to this story can contact me directly at info@mospiritseekers.com.

 

 

Related Article

Brown Bananas (The Voices Blog)

 


Paranormal Music Appreciation…

If I were a farmhouse built in 1901, owned by the same family, with a heyday that lasted until the early 1980s, what music would have been played inside my rooms? Can we assume it would be the genre of country? Maybe. Maybe not. What we know as country music didn’t exist yet in 1901. When would my occupants have first used a radio? Was there a record player? Did my occupants sing or play music themselves?

I’m doing some research for our upcoming investigation. I’m considering using some music as a trigger. If I were to play two or three recordings, what would they be? Will energies in the house want to hear Bessie Smith? Or… maybe I’m way off? Maybe it prefers to rock out to White Snake? 🙂

What would tug on the heart strings of anyone still occupying the home?

What about these? Take a listen.

Any Old Place I Hang My Hat is Home, Sweet Home To Me (1901 by Will Denny)

Good-bye Dolly Gray (1901 by Harry Macdonough)

When You Were Sweet Sixteen (1901 by Harry Macdonough)

Some of These Days (1911 by Sophie Tucker)

Swanee (1920 by Al Jolson)

When You’re Smiling (1929 by Louis Armstrong)

Back In the Saddle Again (1939 by Gene Autry)

Buttons and Bows (1949 by Dinah Shore)

Jailhouse Rock (1957 by Elvis Presley)

Help me out. What would you suggest? 


Thoughts from Karla McLaren on Music & Emotion… a Follow Up…

After yesterday’s post on Moving Musical Experiences and the Meditative State, I thought of Karla McLaren, an author that I follow on Facebook. She is also a social science researcher, a cappella arranger, and an empath. Her most recent journey and writings are on The Language of Emotions.

Yesterday I contacted Karla. I mentioned the post, asked if she had any thoughts or opinions on the topic, and asked the following question:

“Are these just emotions or really truly a heightened state of awareness or meditation?” 

 
She graciously responded with the three links below along with the following message.

“As you know, I would never say that something was ‘just’ an emotion, since emotions are vital to every possible aspect of our cognition, decision-making, social awareness, relational skill, and intelligence. In the flowchart from emotion to feeling, which requires an emotionally evocative stimuli, music absolutely can be an emotionally evocative stimulus that will evoke a specific emotion.”

 

This link is from a blog by Maria Panagiotidi, a PhD student interested in cognitive neuroscience/psychology and science in general.

In my middle school vocal music classes we discuss just about everything in this writing. It’s true, kids recognize the modes of major and minor fairly quickly and easily. One of the goofy things that I’ve always done while demonstrating is put a giant smile or frown on my face as I play chords or melodies in either major or minor.

This site of abstracts makes me feel like a grad student again. 🙂 It gave me a physiological response that didn’t have anything to do with music.

And finally, this is a page from the Carnegie Mellon University website

Thanks Karla for helping us out and contributing to the discussion!


Moving Musical Experiences and the Meditative State…

Some recent comments by friends and readers of this blog helped to inspire tonight’s post.

These comments were in response to one of my posts on the topic of meditation. Ash mentioned how easy it was for her to reach a meditative state when she was a teenager. In one of her comments she mentioned how she “could block it all out and just float right out of [her] head..”. Marilyn discussed how music (without lyrics) was a good source for meditation.

This really got me thinking back to some of my early memories and experiences involving music, and I wondered if some of these moments were me being in some kind of heightened meditative state.

I don’t recall ever leaving my body or experiencing anything truly supernatural, but growing up I remember sitting in my room with my Walkman listening to John Williams’ Jurassic Park soundtrack. I used to really be into film scores and John Williams is one of my biggest inspirations. I’d listen to one or two tracks over and over… sometimes probably for hours (I still do that… get addicted to one piece of music and can’t leave it). I remember many times being moved to tears by the feelings and emotions that are brought out by the music. I don’t think this was ever sadness, just me having a moment with the music.

There were other moments, like the times I would watch my mom with the choir from my church rehearsing or performing their Easter Cantatas from the sanctuary balcony. It was always the last scene that got me… always a big song with powerful orchestration and harmonies. The scene probably depicting Jesus’ resurrection. This, of course, led to me listening to the recordings of those cantatas over and over on my Walkman in the bedroom. Just sitting… listening… imagining things in my head… cue the tears. 🙂

When it comes to words or lyrics in music, honestly most of the time I don’t hear them. Many times I’ll sing along with the most random instrumental part deep in the background that most people don’t hear. So most of the time my emotional response just doesn’t have anything to do with the words or lyrics. This is sometimes hard for singers to understand. For so many people, the words ARE the music… and that’s hard for ME to understand… they just aren’t as important. As a vocal music teacher, I’m kind of in a category on my own I suppose. I often tell my students that you never know how someone will appreciate a piece of music or performance, or how a singer is experiencing it. It may not have anything to do with the words. Or… maybe I’m the only one.

So, I ask you this question… When we are having moving musical experiences, are these experiences just overactive emotions? Emotions are often connected with the Ego (sometimes thought of as our “false self”). Or, are our souls off spending time in some other spiritual realm without us consciously knowing it?

I leave you with the theme to Jurassic Park.

 

**UPDATE – A follow up to this post: Thoughts from Karla McLaren on Music & Emotion… a Follow Up…


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