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Jan. 11, 2020

(con't from Part II)
Laurens Hammond (1895-1973), the never-to-be-forgotten genius of the Hammond electric organ, was one of the most inspired scientists, mechanical engineers, and inventors in history (photo).
The Hammond electric organ (1934) was only one of his many inventions but is the one for which he is mainly remembered today.
Besides the Hammond electric organ with its tone-wheel generator and system of sliding drawbars he also worked on the synchronous motor which led to the creation of a mechanism for a silent spring-driven clock; he also invented the world's first polyphonic musical synthesizer (Novachord), the Teleview system for shutter glasses in association with 3-D films, and, during World War II, helped design guided missile control systems, light-sensing devices for bomb guidance, a new type of gyroscope, and controls for the glide-bomb, the forerunner of today's guided missile.
Following the War his company also worked to develop the Solovox and Chord Organ which used vacuum tube circuitry instead of an electric tone wheel to generate musical tones.
No other type of organ operates like the Hammond electric organ, and the many types of Hammonds still in use in the 21st century and still being manufactured after 80+ years in production is a testament to its popularity and success.

Jan. 10, 2020

(con't from Part I)
Better to look down to find the intended pedal key at the start of a passage than to start it on something else.

Dec. 11, 2019

(con't from Part I)
A beautiful specimen of a ripe banana taped to the main manual ... the latest in Organ Art.
Whether the organist ever eats it or just wonders about how good it might taste, it's still a Great Banana.

Nov. 22, 2019

Let's say that an important event is approaching at year's end at which we will be expected to perform twenty holiday songs that we don't know, it's all new music, we've been given only two weeks notice, we're already up to our ears in learning other new music, and there just doesn't appear to be enough hours on the clock to work up good arrangements of everything in time.
Or again, let's say our teacher has assigned some new "work horse" piece from the repertoire that we don't know, it's a major work that we're expected to bring to our next lesson, we're already working on five new big pieces, and there just doesn't seem to be enough time for us to get this extra assignment under our fingers and feet before then.
Given this kind of time frame, a task like this can seem beyond the realm of possibility and flat out overwhelming.
It can even throw some of us into a mild panic.
If we try to learn all of it at once our limited practice time will seem grossly insufficient, but if we break that big assignment down into smaller chunks and narrow our learning down to just a couple of these smaller bites a day and learn them well -- every day for two weeks -- at the end of that time we're much more likely to see results.
Whenever a task seems more than what we have time to take on, we find it counterproductive to tackle the entire thing from the get-go.
The strategy that makes the most efficient use of time is to divide a huge task into smaller ones, spread these chunks evenly across the available time span, and then concentrate our effort on one or two of these chunks each day.
Whether it's learning a new piece, a new group of pieces, composing a new piece of music, or digesting our way through any new reading material, the entire foundation of the educational system of Western civilization from pre-school to college is founded upon breaking things down like this into more diminutive tasks upon which the learner's attention can be centered in regular sequence.
This approach to management of time may seem a little old-fashioned in this free-wheeling society in which we live, but there are a lot worse things that can happen to someone's thinking than for it to end up being a little old-fashioned, especially with respect to learning.
Anything old-fashioned is old because it's been around long enough for it to have been battle tested by more than one generation to produce the right results.

Nov. 19, 2019

The subconscious mind is the seat of memory, and it will function automatically for us in a performance situation if fear is taken out of the way.
It's important therefore to focus down on what's happening in the current measure of music as we play, concentrate, and NOT let things distract us -- like a sudden unexpected burst of applause -- like someone asking us questions -- like someone wanting to shake hands (yes, they do this to us even when we're trying to sight read!) -- like mistakes -- or maybe some tricky place up ahead.
All of these things can trip us up by hijacking our eyes, ears, hands, mind, and attention.
From a purely mechanical standpoint there are no issues (save for physical limitations) which practice and having the right tools cannot solve.
When we play, if we make a little mistake, we don't dwell upon it -- we just leave it behind and keep moving forward ... it's in the past.
If we begin to start thinking about why we just made the mistake then pretty soon we're making a few more because we're getting distracted and not staying with the moment.
It can be aggravating when we know we can play it better and have done so countless times -- interference can enter the mind from any direction -- but we just need to chalk it up, forget about it, and keep moving, just like we would when we're sight reading.
The more we can cultivate the habit of NOT getting provoked with ourselves if a little blemish happens in our playing, the better our memory will function through the remainder of the music.
Some of the best advice we can receive is to let go of that perfection thing ... to forget about playing it "perfectly," and just play it.
It's important to acknowledge spontaneity and believe in it because, no matter how many times we practice a work, each time we play it there will be a difference.
We also need to stop thinking about that difficult place two pages ahead; our hands, feet, mind, and memory all need to be in sync with what's in progress so that what has been learned and stored in the subconscious can be accessed without interference.
Thinking about some tricky spot pages ahead of the present instant and wondering if we're going to play it correctly when we get there diverts the attention and disturbs and inhibits our ability to play in the moment of time that's unfolding and now exists.
It's important therefore to stay right with the moment.
The present moment will save us.