Friday, August 16, 2013

The Time Has Come…

Hello, friends! A happy Friday to you all.

The time has come, as the Walrus said, to talk of many things
—well, perhaps not many, but one or two of some importance to this little corner of the internet cosmos. Today is the fifth anniversary of the Robert Frost’s Banjo blog, & I'm here to let you know that the blog will go on indefinite hiatus after this post.

Now please be assured: this blog isn’t going to go anywhere—it will remain online as long as Google in its infinite wisdom keeps Blogger blogs available & free; however, I don't anticipate adding any content either generated by myself or others in the foreseeable future. This is not an impulsive or precipitous decision—I’ve been thinking about it for some time, & it’s become clear to me over the past several months that the blog has simply run its course in terms of the content I can create for it & the engagement I can bring to it.

Of course, the blog never was just me. It’s always been a place for collaboration, & I have nothing but thanks & gratitude for the friends who have contributed to Robert Frost’s Banjo & who have done so much to make it a space people have enjoyed
—on alphabetical order: my old friend Audrey Bilger, who has contributed some of the most popular & widely read pieces; dear Barbie Angell, whose poetry & illustrations absolutely won me over, & who has been such a big part of the blog the past couple of years—Barbie’s poem posts are always popular, & deservedly so; Brittany Newmark, a cherished old friend & remarkably talented poet & fiction writer who’s been generous enough to contribute her writing;  Carmen Leone, who has conscientiously &  generously supplied me with his wonderful poems; Eberle Umbach, who brought the Weiser River Pillow Book, poetry, music, & stories about everything from Jane Austen to the Rock Band game & much more—& who was the source of the blog’s name, which was a stroke of genius in my opinion—the blog certainly never would have been what it has been without Eberle's major contributions, & they are much appreciated; L.E. Leone (or Dani as I know her), a dear friend whose poems have been a mainstay on the Tuesday poet’s corner & who also has contributed music as part of Homegrown Radio; my dear friend Mairi Graham-Shaw, who has such creative energy & for whom I envision such a bright future, has contributed her high energy poetry; & & Nancy Krygowski, who stepped in & contributed poems of first-rate quality. All of these people have been so much fun to work with, & I’m grateful to call them all friends. If I were to include all the many people who contributed to such series as Writer’s Talk, Homegrown Radio & Musical Questions, the list simply would go on & on. But check them out in the blog archives & in the label section! These are the folks that made Robert Frost’s Banjo a special place.

& thank all of you who stop by to read, whether regularly, sporadically, or once in a blue moon. You’ve also been a big part of the blog! I wish you all the best in your endeavors, wherever they may take you, & if we meet in this space again down the road, so much the happier.

So how shall we send the blog off to rest? Well, it is Robert Frost's Banjo! See below.

Happy trails!

Image is of course by John Tenniel—one of his illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass. It links to its source on Wiki Commons, & is in the public domain.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"Vagabond Thoughts…."

Vagabond Thoughts….

You were a part of my speech.,
the unexplained break in my voice.
You wrote the song in my head,
and I promise this wasn’t my choice.

You were the spin of the stars,
the sweet chaos of all I could see.
You haven’t uncovered the truth
of the wonder and magic of me.

You were the start of a thought
that I was too cautious to think.
Unable to fend off your charms,
you lured my heart to the brink.

You were a part of my speech.
A whisper too loud to ignore.
The voice that coaxed me to sleep,
the one this poem is for.

Barbie Angell
© 2011

Thank you, Barbie : )

Friday, August 9, 2013

“blood hymn”

blood hymn

my God
likes him some destruction
sodom and gommorah style

He says
you gotta beat 'em
til they stop moving
and then some

only through blood
and broken bodies
on the far side
of that all too carnal war

only there
is His joy
and your salvation

and His angels
have scars
that are mountains and valleys

and they count them
like blessings

but i said,
and i said
something about flies
and vinegar

and i said
can't you cut them
some slack ?
some fucking slack

and i wasn't really talking about
syria, or cancer, or anything
just about you

some fucking slack,
i said
some things are fragile
breakable, you know
handle with care
with fucking care,

and He said
but isn't it neat
how many directions
the shards fly in
when they shatter?

and i said yeah,
and get stuck in my foot
i said
get stuck in my fucking foot

(He smiled,
at that)

Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2013

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons - public domain image

Pieter Bruegel the Elder - The Fall of the Rebel Angels (1562)

Thanks, Mairi : )

Wednesday, August 7, 2013



Whatever it means,
how could you not love its squirming sounds?
The only place I’ve seen it used in context
is in a poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins,
so I still don’t know what it means.
He speaks of a falcon swooping,
And this reminds him of embers that
“fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.”
Vermillion then is something that can be gashed,
something that can be gold.

I could look it up,
But what if it doesn’t mean “a million tiny worms”?
I picture them in a bowl,
twisted and tangled like thin spaghetti
in bright red sauce.
If sprinkled with tiny cellos instead of cheese,
they become vermicelli.

Don’t, please don’t look it up.
Or if you do, don’t tell me what you find,
Or the word will be nothing more
than a city southwest of Cleveland.
It will no longer squirm
in my concave bowl of a brain
making me happy as Sunday dinner.

AUG 09

Carmen Leone
© 2009-the present

Image links to its source at Wiki Commons; public domain

Thanks Carmen!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013



I give you the wings of an angel
and make you to soar to great heights
unlike icarus
you are free to touch the sun
and I drop the currents of the air
send you to plummet into the cresting waves
and the depths of the sea

it is I who put the air into your lungs
and I will take it out again
you breathe as I will it
as though My hand were around your neck
to crush and release you
as only I desire it

You are My child
and My touch is on you
in the rain
which falls on your brow
as a seal to bind you
to My heart

I will give you
and I will take you away again

I water the garden
but you must work the earth

Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2013

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
The Garden of Earthly Delights, inner left wing (Paradise) - Hieronymus Bosch
(between 1480 and 1505)
public domain

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

"Gently Strumming"

Gently Strumming

She holds the ukulele
like a mother nursing her child.
She bends her pretty face
and sings to it.

It coos back.

I watch and listen:
soft voice,
gentle strums,
feeling out the chords.

What's next? she looks up to ask
when nothing she tries works.

Try G, I say.
I don't really know what's next,
but G is clean, G is clear,
G moves sweetly higher,
almost fretlessly,
like her.

Carmen Leone
© 2000-the present

Image links to its source at Wiki Commons:
A Kohala Seminary student poses with her ukulele in this 1912 photo.  (1912)
Public domain

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

"Lullaby with Green Rowboat"

Lullaby with Green Rowboat

for Sheila

immemorial silence before you were born a
full moon fluorescent thru blinds

then sound—raindrops syncopating outside
your window a banjo plucked in a room next door

in the woods the jack-in-the-pulpit’s purple &
brown inflorescence unfurls in May’s green

dusk air off the river these vegetative
ghosts clustering above an island the island

catches your eye without fail these
raindrops pooling beyond the window these

notes absorbed in a flow of quavers the
same shade of green as the rowboat that

floats atop sawhorses thru night’s
larger dream about rivers & full moons blooming

Jack Hayes
© 2013

Saturday, May 25, 2013

“O Cantador”

“O Cantador”—the singer, the poet who gives voice to the essential & elemental: life & death, grief & love in song. Archetypal, mythic, always familiar, always a stranger. The poet whose love & loss is intensely personal, but also existential & universal.

This is so beautifully presented in one of my favorite songs, “O Cantador” by Dorii Caymmi  & Nelson Motta, a song I first heard sung by Flora Purim on her album recorded live at the Montreaux Jazz Festival in 1974, Five Hundred Miles High. "O Cantador" is a standard in Brazil, & it has been covered by such great singers as Elis Regina & Gal Costa, but I always liked Purim’s version best. The song also exists in an English version titled “Like a Lover,” with lyrics by Alan & Marilyn Bergman, but the English lyrics bear only a tangential relationship at best to the Portuguese original—the Portuguese is existential, the English, a mostly conventional love lyric. It also misses the central pun of “O Cantador” ("the singer”)
& “eu canto a dor”: “I sing of grief.” From a musical perspective, versions I’ve heard of the English version even by top notch jazz singers seem always to “square the song up,” & miss the lilt & flow of the Brazilian versions.

So Purim’s version was my favorite—until I heard this version done by Anna Setton  accompanied on piano by Evaldo Soares. This is transcendent music, & if a singer as young as Setton can be said to have rendered a definitive version of such a deep song, then she has certainly done so here.

A beautiful performance—enjoy!

Image links to its source

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

"the meeting"

the meeting

i bumped into Truth on the subway,
his clothing was ragged and torn,
and he looked with dismay
at Hatred and Rage,
and with pity at Anger and Scorn.

it seems he had left with the world in this mess
and had given up trying to try.
and he gazed up at me,
with this look so serene,
and the tear of Fate caught in his eye.

he had hidden himself in the details
by sealing up all of the doors.
he retreated inside,
just a new place to hide,
far from the violence and wars.

he had lost all his faith in Humanity
and Humanity lost faith in him,
as he started to fear for his sanity,
seeing children abused
and the face of Love bruised
while Ignorance lied on a whim.

’cause he needed a decade to think
and mix it around in his brain.
the Hurt we inflict,
the Evil, the Sick,
the Torture, the Horrors, the Pain.

he returned with a sense of frustration
that no one could help him defeat.
quite unable to find
a Peace in his mind
that would aid his attempts in the street.

see he couldn’t abide by Injustice
and he didn’t find Racism fair
and he just couldn’t see
why someone like me
could’ve found any reason to care.

i bumped into Truth on the subway
and our meeting just doesn’t seem real.
to encounter blind grace
in such a chance place,
that’s made up of concrete and steel.

Barbie Angell
© 1995

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


Carinhoso: affectionate—desire distilled to its sweetest & most gentle manifestation in a choro from 1930 by the great composer Pixinguinha, choro being an instrumental form, & according to Villa-Lobos, the true musical incarnation of the Brazilian soul. The lovely lyrics were added in 1937 by Braguinha.

& what a warm & lyrical interpretation here by Anna Setton, her voice floating & weaving through Toquinho’s intricate & delicate guitar accompaniment. Music for the heart & the soul—enjoy!

Image of Anna Setton links to its source at Circuito Musical is the record label for both Anna Setton & Toquinho.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"astral pickup truck"

astral pickup truck

the girl
with the astral pickup truck
might be kind of a redneck
because she says 'y'all' a lot
and she thinks those jeans
are an outfit

but her exhaust
sinks down to earth
as fog
rolling off your bay

and she drives on roads
even satellites can't see

there's an angel riding shotgun
and nowhere she can't go

you sleep

they park
their red pickup truck
over your dreams


they fuck in the bed
regardless of the shovel
and salvaged stars

Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2012-the present

Image links to its source at Wiki Commons
Fish Market At Intersection Of Illinois. 100 And U.S. 36 (1973) – National Archives & Records Administration; public domain

Monday, May 6, 2013

"Flor de Maracujá"

Passion flower, intricate, iconic, sexual, allegorical, medicinal—& sea breeze across a vernadah in the bright light of noon or in the moonlight…all coming to us through a dazzling voice & a jazz trio’s élan—Anna Setton, one of Brazil’s rising stars, here backed by Evaldo Soares on piano, Lito Robledo on bass & Jorginho Saavedra on drums & percussion.

“Flor de Maracuja,” a Bossa Nova song composed by João Donato & Lysias Enio—what a lovely thing on a lovely May afternoon!

& stay tuned for more Anna Setton right here on Robert Frost’s Banjo!

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
Flor de maracujá by Ismar Schein, who has released the image into the public domain

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

"A View of the Gulf"

A View of the Gulf

Fourth floor condo at the beach,
Kids bounce over waves,
parents standing guard
or reading under blue umbrellas.
Occasional walkers rush by,
or stroll, hunting shells.

Clouds of different shades of gray
watch at the horizon
as I watch from this side
the constant waves
lunging at the varied humanity below.

The clouds and waves could not care less.
I could not care more,
though I,
like them,
am helpless.

Carmen Leone
© 2012-the present

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
German postcard circa 1900 - public domain

Monday, April 29, 2013

"tromba marina"

tromba marina

tango pink queen conch shell aperture
the drone within like a radio all shades of
static—serape draped on a folding chair

scarlet maize emerald indigo next to a
flamenco guitar silent at this moment—
back & sides cypress wood like amber

enfolding quavers—the asian pear bloom
white & crimson where bees would hum on
a blue May morning that hasn’t taken place—

chromatic harmonic—birds unseen in
hedges their ultra violet feathers existing on a
spectrum the eye can’t see—you have listened but

heard not—crunch of kwanzan blossoms on
concrete I couldn’t prevent them falling

AK Barkley
© 2013

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
illustration of a tromba marina (marine trumpet) from Olga Racster's "Chats on Big and Little Fiddles" Frederick A. Stokes, NY 1922 - public domain

Friday, April 26, 2013

"amnesia 4 (physics and flow)"

amnesia 4 (physics and flow)

like the smoke
that parts from her lips
and has no more cohesion
unity and sense lost
to air flows and physics
and a butterfly
no sooner landing
than taking off
so her thoughts
even those most intimate
imagings of self
are no sooner thought
than gone

Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2013

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
"Cabbages & Butterflies" – Nianyi (Chinese, active ca. 15th-16th century) – ink & color on silk
Public domain

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

“Bedtime Story”

Bedtime Story

for Jeremiah

Come hear a sory, children,
   and help me make it real.
Take the path that Alice took
   and spin the golden wheel.

Come chase that odd, white rabbit
  down to the Mad Hatter’s place,
then search for the grinning cat
   who somehow lost his face.

      Let’s go meet Cinderella.
   Let’s shake the Prince’s hand.
Let’s take the yellow brick road
         and fly to Neverland.

      Come meet Christopher Robin
   and nap with Winnie-the-Pooh.
Let’s fret with piglet and Eeyore
   and romp with Tigger and Roo.

      We’ll fight of witches, dragons
         and a ticking crocodile.
Let’s find out where the sidewalk ends,
         then sit and rest awhile.

We’ll drink from a chocolate river
   and care for Paddington Bear,
then stop and watch the tortoise
         outrun that lazy hare.

Just listen to the stories children,
         and listen to them well.
Just sleep and we will go there
      to see them for ourselves.

Barbie Angell
© 2012

Friday, April 12, 2013


Happy Friday, friends! A short post in terms of words, but some very beautiful music.

If you checked in last Friday, you know that I’m featuring the music of guitarist Kaki King this month on the blog. Indeed, Kaki King is a personal favorite guitarist, not only because of her amazing chops & stunning compositional skills, but also because of her singular & intense creative spirit.

Actually, the video I wanted to use for today’s post has been disabled for embedding—something I discovered in the eleventh hour (literally true in more ways than one), & that’s part of the reason for this post is a bit short—there was some scrambling involved at an hour when I didn't intend to be doing any such thing. But I found King’s performance of “Goby” from the same concert as last week’s post (“Playing with Pink Noise”), & that is also a fine version with good audio. If you’d like to listen to my first choice, you can watch it on YouTube here. The audio on that one is really high quality. There are also some cool versions of King playing “Goby” with her guitar rigged to a synth set-up—great fun! One such performance
—& a good one at thatis here

“Goby” was released on Kaki King’s third album, Until We Felt Red on Velour. As I understand it, the tuning is CGCFGC  (again, as with the tuning I mentioned in last week’s post, this doesn’t come from an authoritative source, & I haven’t double-checked it.) Those who are familiar with alternate guitar tunings will notice that this is a full step down from the D suspended tuning, better known as DADGAD (these being the notes of the open strings), & I understand King likes that tuning, so this all seems quite plausible.

While “Playing with Pink Noise” featured much of King’s percussive playing—fretboard tapping, slapping the strings, drumming on the guitar, “Goby” is a bit more of a “conventional” fingerstyle piece, though it very much carries her individual stamp, & her playing is both powerful & exquisite.


Image of Kaki King at the 1st Adelaide International Guitar Festival links to its source on Wiki Commons. Its creator is Mandy Hall, & this file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

"not titled yet"

life takes blood
and blood takes life

it's the only real circle
she says, with a laugh
that's only a little bitter
a touch too sweet

you heard about her
from a woman who drinks
with the grandfather
of your friend's friend
from down the block

so here you are
(down more than one block)
where she holds court with no one
gesticulating smoke
and menacing you
with a can of beer

you brought her offerings
out of necessity if not respect
most of a bottle of jack
a pack of unfiltered camels
a lock of hair
(it's not really yours
but you can both pretend)

you just hope it's enough
it's not like you have more
(you wouldn't be here
if you weren't desperate)

she takes what you have
laughing like she's taking you
(she probably is
this is probably a scam)

and promises you
that life takes blood
and blood takes life

Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2013

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
Kniende in orange-rotem Kleid (Kneeling Female in Orange-Red Dress): Egon Schiele - 1910
public domain

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Sonata in D Minor, K. 213 – Domenico Scarlatti

Happy Sunday, friends.

The guitar as we know it today was most certainly not an instrument used in early music. The modern classical guitar (& all its various descendants) is in many ways a 19th century invention, a thorough re-working of an instrument that lacked many of its current properties, especially in terms of sound projection.

Of course there was the baroque guitar, which is an ancestor of our modern instrument, without question, but there were a number of dissimilarities, & also the baroque guitar was primarily a continuo instrument, & as such its voice often was not featured. Of course, the classical guitar as we know it today is primarily a solo concert instrument.

Still, much music from the Baroque period & even earlier has been adapted for the classical guitar. The repertoire of Gaspar Sanz, Sylvius Leopold Weiss & Robert de Visée, who all wrote for both baroque guitar & lute, is often adapted, as are works by the well known Baroque composers—obviously, Bach, whose cello & lute works in particular have been transcribed & often performed, but also other well known composers of the time, such as Vivaldi, Handel & others. & so, rushing in where angels fear to tread, I’ll be featuring classical guitar performances of Baroque music this month on Early Music Sunday.

Here we have guitar virtuoso John Williams' performance of Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata in D minor, K. 213, originally written either for harpsichord or the early form of the pianoforte. If you’re curious, you can hear this piece played on a piano at this link.

Domenico Scarlatti was Italian by birth, but lived much of his life in Spain & Portugal, where he was music master for both royal families. He was the son of Alessandro Scarlatti, who was a renowned composer himself, especially in terms of the early opera.

Scarlatti arrived in Lisbon in 1719, & became music teacher to Portuguese princess Maria Magdalena Barbara. After spending some time in Italy in the later 1720s, he moved to Sevilla in 1729, & in 1733 he traveled to Madrid to be rejoined with his pupil Maria Barbara, who had since married into the Spanish royal house. He is thought to have composed most of his keyoboard sonatas during his years in Madrid, where he stayed until his death at age 71 in 1757. Scarlatti, like Johann Sebastian Bach’s son, Carl Phillip Emanuel Bach, is seen as a composer who bridged the Baroque & early Classical periods.

A lovely version of this lovely piece of music—enjoy!

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
Retrato de Domenico Scarlatti (Portrait of Domenico Scarlatti), Domingo Antonio Velasco, 1730 – public domain

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Photo of the Week 4/6/13

Peace Mural - "Practicing Non-Violence is a Way of Life"
SE Belmont, Portland, Oregon
Friday 4/5/13

Friday, April 5, 2013

“Playing with Pink Noise” – Kaki King

Hello, friends! What do Acoustic Guitar magazine & the Robert Frost’s Banjo blog have in common? Easy: we’re both featuring the music of Kaki King this month. Now I know that for quite some time banjo music has held sway on Fridays, but at least for this month I’m giving that series a rest in order to feature a performer whose music is, to my mind, as exciting as anyone on the scene today.

As is the case with so many exceptional musical performers, Kaki King showed an inclination toward music at a young age, & was first introduced to the guitar around age five. She also played bass & drums starting in adolescence, & one can hear & see this background in her approach to the guitar both as a player & as a composer. As Kaki grew up, her musical tastes broadened, & she notes that performers like Nick Drake, the Red House Painters & some of the Windham Hill artists were early influences.

Kaki King signed her first record contract, with Velour in 2002. Her debut album, Everybody Loves You, which was released in 2003. From this album on, much of the basics of King’s style already became clear: a percussive technique with both the right & left hand, as she employs fretboard tapping as well as flamenco type soundboard percussion; in addition, King employs altered & open tunings to great effect.

Kaki King followed her first release with Legs to Make Us Longer on Sony in 2004, which was also a solo effort but one that involved more looping & multi-tracking with other instruments. After this, Kaki King moved into a band setting with a more electric sound for Until We Felt Red (on which she returned to Velour.) King has produced a string of high quality recordings in the past few years, with Dreaming of Revenge, the EP Black Pear Tree (both 08), the Mexican Teenagers EP in 2009, Junior in 2010, & Glow—which is an amazing record at so many levels—last year. In fact, King is currently on tour in support of Glow, in the wake of the successful Traveling Guitar Freak Show (which I stupidly missed here in Portland
—still kicking myself for that.)

“Playing with Pink Noise” comes from the Legs to Make Us Longer record. King is playing her customary Ovation Adamas guitar—she has a signature model, the 1581-KK model, tuned CGCGAD (as I understand; I haven't tested this, & it's not from an official source), which is almost like the guitar simply being taken down a whole step from drop-D tuning, except that the 3rd string remains at concert pitch. For those of you who are inclined to take a shot at playing this tune (hint—you need a guitar with low action to do all the slap style & hammer-ons!), you can listen to Kaki King explaining the tune here on YouTube. I should also mention that King played this song as her contribution to Guitar Art Show at the Littlefield  in Brooklyn with her hands covered in pink paint. That 2009 performance can be seen at this link.

This is truly exciting music from an important contemporary performer & composer! Hope you enjoy it.

Image of Kaki King at TED 2008 connects to its source on Wiki Commons. The photographic image was produced by Steve Jurvetson of Menlo Park, California & has generously been made available & published under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Barbie Angell Wrestles Calista Flockhart Over Star Wars Legos & Much More!

A happy Wednesday, friends! I have a special treat for you today, which is an opportunity to get to know our own poet Barbie Angell in one of her other incarnations!

Most of you who follow Barbie Angell through Robert Frost’s Banjo probably think of her primarily as a children’s poet & illustrator, & indeed these are important parts of her creative life. But Barbie’s artistry & creative energies aren’t limited to those fields, as fine as they are in themselves & as beautifully as she practices them. She also writes poetry with a more adult slant, & is a talented performer of what she calls “bar poetry.” But beyond that, Barbie Angell is a bona fide social media wit, pop culture maven & more. If you follow her on Twitter (@barbieangell) – & if you are on Twitter you really should – you know that she tweets as a larger of life character on a mind-boggling range of topics.  It's not for nothing that we call her "rock star poet-in-residence" around here!

You’ll get a sense of Barbie Angell’s other side from this interview she recently did on the Figures Sold Separately podcast with hosts Ken Krahl, Jimmy MacKenzie & Plucky McFeatherton.  As the podcast’s very own Facebook page proclaims:

Figures Sold Separately is the pop-culture podcast & web show by the giant geeks behind Multiverse,, and Stuff Monsters Like! Join Plucky, Jim, and Ken each week as they tear into the latest topics in fan culture, give away cool swag, and roll out a new pop-culture-inspired cocktail!

& I send my own kudos to those folks, because they've put together a fine & fun podcast...& in the interests of full disclosure, I will say this comes from someone who as a kid owned the original-not sure-how-many issues of the Silver Surfer from the 1960s, & slowly trashed with gazillion readings, not to mention the many Avengers, Fantastic Four & Sub-Mariner et al. issues that all met the same fate. If I'd only known...

The podcast is taped at the Zapow in beatiful downtown Asheville, & produced by Zapow’s own Matt Johnson. & I should note that the podcast comes with an “explicit language” warning, so if that sort of thing is not your cup of tea, then please don’t partake.  

But I think those who give the interview a listen—it’s here in case you missed it first time! Will really enjoy hearing Barbie’s take on everything from Star War Legos to Harrison Ford’s hat!

Yes, that's what I mean; had both of these & many more. Comic book images links to their source at Wiki Commons. Photo of Barbie Angell (tweeting) by Plucky McFeatherton. Photo of Barbie & Plucky McFeatherton by Figures Sold Separately.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

"The Tire Swing"

The Tire Swing

I was made for lapping miles,
city streets and pikes and roads,
rolling free through days and nights
hauling folks and heavy loads.

But such a life has worn me bald.
I’m out to pasture, so to speak,
joined by a rope to a tall oak tree
between a farmhouse and a creek.

She bursts outdoors and leaps on me
and kicks as we ride high and higher.
I soar with her and hold her tight,
and I am more than just a tire!

This, after all, I now can see,
has always been my destiny.

Carmen Leone
© 2012-the present


Image links to source on Wiki Commons
"Girl on a Swing": Winslow Homer, 1879 - public domain

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Prelude & Fugue in G sharp minor BWV 887 – Chiara Massini

Sorry this week’s Early Music Sunday post is late & short—I’ve been dealing with a nasty cold all week, & am just now starting to feel marginally like a member of the human race again.

This month’s featured artist has been harpsichordist Chiara Massini, & each Sunday post has brought you her performance of one of the 48 sets of preludes & fugues that make up Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier. While I’d intended to go a bit more in depth in these posts, circumstances conspired against me. But the music is the main thing, & I know you will enjoy today's selection. If you’d like to learn more about Massini, all her relevant information is given in the four previous posts, which can be found here.

Hope you have a lovely Sunday.

Image of Chiara Massini links to its source at

Tuesday, March 26, 2013



I met a superhero
while I was in a bind.
He was really super strong
and very super kind.

He said he had two super kids
and a lovely super wife.
And they had a super dog
to complete their super life.

He told me all about
the super things he’d done.
He’d saved the world
five hundred times…
once using just his thumb.

For hours, while I dangled,
he spun his super tales.
I listened to his bragging;
turning minnows into whales.

It seemed he’d rescued everyone
that ever had been in peril.
He’d been honored in a thousand towns
for being such a hero.

He said he was the real deal,
and not a super fake.
But he couldn’t save me right away
because he was on a break.

Barbie Angell
© 2012

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Prelude & Fugue in Eb Flat Major, BWV 876 – Chiara Massini

A happy Sunday, friends. I have some wonderful music for you today—& a very short post to accompany it.

My life is busy these days, & I haven’t been able to put the time into the blog or the whole blogging process that I used to. Still, I continue to be happy that Robert Frost’s Banjo exists & that people still enjoying visiting it!

If you’ve been following along Sundays in March, you know that I’m featuring the music of Chiara Massini, a remarkably gifted harpsichordist, & specifically focusing on her performances from the set of 48 Bach preludes & fugues that we call The Well-Tempered Clavier.  Today’s selection is from the second set of 24 (each book of the two sets, which were published 20 years apart, feature a prelude & fugue set in each major & minor key.)

I enjoy Ms Massini’s playing a great deal, & you can hear more of her on her fine YouTube channel, as well as follow her on Facebook—though the latter page is in Italian—still, it does keep you up to date on her new videos. Finally, Chiara Massini has two albums available at CDBaby.

Hope you enjoy this splendid music & that you have a lovely Sunday.

Photo of Chiara Massini’s harpsichord links to its source at

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Photo of the Week 3/23/13

Cherry Blossoms & Camellias
N. Failing Avenue, Portland, Oregon
Wednesday 3/20/13

It's rare that a photo of the week is in "portrait" orientation, but this was the best shot I took with my new iPhone 4, & I didn't have a chance to get out with my regular camera. Of course, the iPhone 4 isn't new in the technological sense, but it's a huge upgrade over what I had!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

"tanka chain for the spring equinox"

tanka chain for the spring equinox 
portland, oregon

weeping cherry unfurls a
blossom umbrella above the playground
the sky can’t make up its mind

finite or infinite or placid pond
pink blooms broken along the walkway

a side street’s camellias open generous
hands perplexing the breeze
a bicycle passing them by without comment

a hat blown down the sidewalk
change arriving in a whisper and a gust

yoshino’s coruscate white & abrupt
a memory overtakes you 
traffic’s red shift as the stoplight changes

a back lot white Buick swathed in mold
and the garden gate’s gray boards stand open

two magnolias gesture, their
fingers perfection cupping gray air
a half moon in afternoon for all that

surge of interstate traffic on I-5
the Failing Street bridge spans a handful of sky

A.K. Barkley
© 2013

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons:
Blossoming cherry trees-anonymous artist; from 1615 until 1868
Gold, ink, and tint on paper

public domain

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Prelude and Fugue in D minor BWV 875 – Chiara Massini

Last week I promised a short post for Early Music Sunday & then went on a bit at length about Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier & the question of enharmonic notes in meantone & well temperaments. But today’s post really will be short!

Our featured artist on Early Music Sundays in March is harpsichord player Chiara Massini. While Massini performs a diverse selection of harpsichord literature, she has made many recordings of Bach pieces, so I’m featuring her performance of various preludes & fugues from the collection of 48 by Bach now called The Well-Tempered Clavier. Today’s selection comes from Book 2, the later collection that was compiled in 1742, 20 years after the original Das Wohltemperierte Klavier.  Since the second compilation, like the first, takes us through all 24 major & minor keys, we again find ourselves in D minor.

Chiara Massini’s playing is a real delight. I invite you to visit her website as well as her fine YouTube channel, where you can hear a much wider range of her work than we can cover in five Sundays!


Image links to its source on

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

“as a bird longs for land”

as a bird longs for land
over the endless waters
so my heart turns
and turns again
seeking south

(for north
is never true)

Mairi Graham-Shaw
© 2013

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons.
"Noah sends off a dove from the ark." Miniature on vellum; from Aegidius of Roya's "Compendium historiae universalis" of Southern Netherlands (manuscript "Den Haag, MMW, 10 A 21")C. 1450-1460

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Prelude and Fugue in D minor BWV 851 – Chiara Massini

It’s late Saturday evening—& as we all know, with the time change it’s later even than it seems. As a result, I will make the Early Music Sunday post brief.

Our featured artist on Sunday this month is harpsichordist Chiara Massini, & the videos will feature her performances of five preludes & fugues from Bach’s masterpiece The Well-Tempered Clavier, which as it now exists is made up of two collections Bach compiled 20 years apart, with the Well-Tempered Clavier (Das Wohltemperierte Klavier) being compiled in 1722, & a book Bach called Twenty-Four Preludes & Fugues compiled in 1742. These collections are now considered book one & book two of the overall collection of 48 preludes & fugues—in other words, in each book one prelude & fugue in all 24 major & minor keys. 

Bach wasn’t the first composer to create a sequence of works that traveled through all keys, though his was early, coming at a time when tuning was shifting from a system we call meantone temperament to what is called well temperament, itself a precursor of the standard equal temperament used by modern Classical orchestras—not to mention midi & a high percentage of western musicians.

The problem well-temperament was trying to address had to do especially with a quirk in the meantone system. If you’ve ever taken piano lessons, you probably recall that the black notes can have more than one name—so the black note directly to the right of a C can be called C sharp or D flat. On a modern piano, the tones are identical, & that is the convention in western music overall; we call them "enharmonic" tones. However, that isn’t the case in all tuning systems, including meantone, in which it especially affected the enharmonic keys D sharp & E flat & also G sharp & A flat. Thus, to avoid dissonant intervals, one would need to retune a keyboard instrument when changing keys, especially in going from keys with several sharps to keys with flats. Well temperament addressed this issue, as displayed by Bach’s work—interestingly, the eighth prelude & fugue set in book one has the prelude written E flat minor, while the fugue is in D sharp minor, highlighting this.

Today, however, we just have regular old D minor, but played beautifully by Chiara Massini!

Image of Chiara Massini (with tuning wrench) links to its source at

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Photo of the Week 3/9/13

Mural at the Albina Yard
N. Mississippi Ave., Portland, Oregon
Thursday 3/7/13

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

“Wrong Genre”

Wrong Genre

The ride back home was dark and lonely,
It started cold.
The hood on his coat helped a little
but it blocked his side vision,
He pushed it off as soon as the car warmed up.
He’d forgotten to wave when he pulled out of the  driveway
and the thought of her waiting at the window
watching him go without so much as a glance
depressed him.
He wanted to call to apologize
but didn’t, and this depressed him more.
Then he thought,
Hey, this is the beginning of a short story
not a poem.
This depressed him even more.
He knew he’d never write the short story.

Carmen Leone
© 2012

Image links to its source on Wiki Commons
"Unter den Linden mit Blick auf das Brandenburger Tor, 1920er Jahre": Lesser Ury, c. 1920, public domain

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Prelude & Fugue in C minor BWV 847 – Chiara Massini

A happy Sunday to you friends! I have a fun series lined up for Early Music Sunday in March, & I feel sure you’re going to enjoy it.

If you search on YouTube, especially along lines that stray from the pop & rock hegemony, you can make some marvelous discoveries—in many ways, most of the content on this blog as it’s been configured for the past year or two has been predicated on that. You can find in abundance artists like Jordi Savall, who is a major figure in a relatively obscure field; or you can find someone like harpsichordist Chiara Massini, an artist who’s much better known in her native Italy & elsewhere on the European continent than in the United States, but is overall an up & coming performer who’s making good use of social media to increase her exposure.

Of course, simply being active in social media is one thing; in Ms Massini’s case, however, she has the talent & the chops (if one can use that term in describing the technique of a harpsichordist!) to back it up. Her playing sparkles with delight & expressiveness. I know that some commentators on YouTube (often not the most savory group of people, nor a group always with the best of intentions) have criticized her use of rubato in playing Bach, but while I am no expert, the music sounds beautiful to me. & I’m reminded of an injunction I saw years ago in a piano instruction book as part of an introduction to a Bach piece. It noted something like “Bach is always musical, & should always be played as such.” Indeed, it seems to me that Bach’s music is not some mathematical problem waiting to be solved, but glorious music. It is expressed in complexity, but I know no aesthetic rules that state complex art forms should be shorn of expression.

There’s not a lot of English language information about Chiara Massini, but I’ll try to relay the major points during the five Sundays of March. Each Sunday I’ll feature her playing a Prelude & Fugue from Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier (& will also write about this master work.) For now, I can tell you that Chiara Massini has a website, which includes an English version, as well as versions in Italian & German. In addition, you can find her on Facebook, though most of these posts are in Italian, & she has a very active YouTube channel (if you want to read ahead so to speak!) Finally, her recordings are available both on iTunes & CDBaby.

Hope you enjoy this splendid music!


Image links to its source at

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Thursday, February 28, 2013

“Prelúdio in A minor”

It’s Thursday, so hope you’re ready for some great guitar music!

I’ve been featuring the extraordinary Brazilian guitarist Baden Powell in February, & here on the month’s last day we get to listen to his performance of his own composition, “Prelúdio in A minor,” from a concert late in his career. Baden Powell, who was born in 1937, passed away in 2000.

The “Prelúdio in A minor” is built entirely on groups of  sextuplets (also known as sestoles & other variations), which is a series of six notes played over a single beat. The most familiar such grouping to the general listener’s ear is the triplet, which is three notes played against a single beat, & is in fact the basis of the shuffle rhythm heard in blues & related types of music—the shuffle consists of the first & last notes of the triplet figure, with the middle note omitted, thus giving them a “swung” sound.

This type of note grouping is called “irrational rhythm,” because it divides the notes in ways that seem to work against the general feel of the music—the underlying pulse, so to speak. For a piece in 4/4 time (four quarter notes per measure, & a beat to each quarter note), the pulse would indicate that notes would be divided into groups of that will evenly divide four or are evenly divided by four, which six is not. Thus the flow of six sixteenth notes per beat in the melody plays against the steady four of the bass strings. It really is a masterful work & challenging to play—even once you would get all those 16 notes down, you still have to play those repeating figures in a musical manner, while keeping up the strong bass movement. For those who are interested, there two standard notation/tab versions on this page dedicated to Baden Powell’s music—it’s a delight to explore, for certain!

That’s a lot of technical music stuff, but don’t be dismayed! There won’t be a quiz; & hearing Baden Powell’s beautiful playing will be worth it.


Image of Baden Powell links to its source on Wiki Commons, which claims fair use for making the image available. There are instances of this same image in much higher resolution available elsewhere on the web.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

“If I….”

This is a special poem from Barbie Angell, as it’s her tribute to a very special friend who passed away recently. Please take the time to read Barbie’s remarks after the poem, because those also contain a touching tribute

If I….

If I don’t believe your voice ever spoke,
will your words fall out of my mind?
If I don’t look past all the mirrors and smoke,
will the secrets stay safely behind?

I can’t keep you here.
I can’t let you go.
I can’t stay asleep or awake.
My tears are half-empty when they aren’t half-full,
my voice was the first thing to break –

You gave me the world without even a pause,
you put it right into my hands.
You were not quite a father but more than a friend,
now I no longer know where I stand.

Because all that is left
are the scraps of your life,
fluttering past in the breeze.
Your smile and laugh,
and a thousand days past,
they’re flying just out of my reach.

If I can pretend that you’re just out of town,
will that ease the ache in my brain?
Can I come up with reasons that you’re not around?
Will it hold off the tears and the pain?

If I never start.
If I lie to my heart.
If I never cry
and try not to try.
If I sing this song,
will you somehow go on?
If I never grieve,
will you never leave?

For Steve Wolff….
February 19th, 2013.

Barbie Angell
© 2013

I moved to Asheville, NC in late August of 1999 and started working at Kinko's because I had experience and few small businesses would hire someone who had just relocated.  There wasn't a big "buy local" movement here back then, but over the next 13 years I found myself explaining why I would be happy working for a corporation.  The two stories that always stuck out in my mind were about my manager Steve Wolff.  He was hired in 2001 and, since he had no experience with the company, I trained him.  Steve treated our crew like a family.  Shortly after we met, my father came to live with me.  He was dying of cancer and I was apprehensive about asking my new boss for a little leeway with my time off.  I had just taken almost 4 weeks off work only a few months before and I was worried about my job.  Steve told me that taking care of my father would be the most important thing I would ever do with my life.  He talked to me for about an hour, advising me and consoling me, all the while assuring me that this was the right thing to do.  A month later my father passed away and Steve was there, supporting me and giving me whatever I needed to get through that difficult time.  "The world for you," he would say, and he truly meant it.

In 2004 our store flooded.  The local paper ran a story about the destruction of the Biltmore Village area and the article started with Steve.  While other people were gawking at the rising water, Steve was there on his cell phone calling other Kinko's in the region to find jobs for all his employees.  He had shown up around 3am to make sure that the third shift person got out safely and then did what Steve always did...he took care of the people he cared about.

Steve Wolff passed away on February 5th, 2013.  He leaves behind a lovely, gracious and incredible wife and three brilliant, funny, wonderful children.  He also leaves behind a mountain of friends.  As the manager of what is now called FedEx Office, he touched the lives of most of the Asheville community.  Always with a big smile, remembering the names of our customers and knowing just the right thing to make them laugh.  Steve was every cliche.  He would literally give you the shirt off his back.  He absolutely had a heart of gold.  He never met a stranger and was fiercely loyal to everyone he cared for.  He was loud and hilarious and was very much a father to me and many others...and I will miss him more than I can possibly explain.

Thanks, Barbie, for this beautiful tribute. Here is a link to Stephen Wolff's obituary at Asheville Citizen

Monday, February 25, 2013

“Tá Combinado”

I’m a bit behind my time today, but here we are with the wrap up of this month’s series featuring the great Brazilian singer Gal Costa.  As I mentioned last week, in March there will be an installment of Any Woman’s Blues each Monday, so that’s something exciting to look forward to!

Choosing four songs to somehow give an idea of a singer with such a long, diverse & rich career as Gal Costa is challenging at the very least, if not a fool’s errand. As I planned for the series, & even into this month, my selections changed. At one time, I thought of the series as all Gal Costa performing Tom Jobim’s songs, & certainly that would have made for a great set of videos too. Costa is a fantastic interpreter of Jobim’s material. But I decided to try to show more of her diverse range. Still for quite some time I planned on ending the series with Gal Costa covering “Wave” at a concert in the 00s—in full full & beautifully melodic voice in her 60s, & I do recommend that video for those who’d like to hear more of her music.

But in the end I decided on a video recorded in 1996, in which she duets with her longtime friend Caetano Veloso on his lovely song about love & connection, “Tá Combinado.” Costa’s friendship with Veloso dates back to their youth in Bahia, & continued through to the present day—in fact there’s a recent interview with them available on YouTube, but it is in Portuguese without subtitles.

Caetano Veloso, like Gal Costa, was a major figure in Tropicália, the Brazilian psychedelic counter-culture music of the 1960s & 70s (also, as I have mentioned in previous posts, a movement that included all forms of art.) Veloso’s songs at that time were seen as subversive by the military dictatorship that took power in 1964, & he was sentenced to exile (along with Gilberto Gil) in 1969, & lived in London for a few years before returning to Bahia in 1972. I should note that Veloso’s sister, Maria Bethânia, was also a major figure in Tropicalismo.

This is a beautiful song & the performance by two seasoned performers with impeccable delivery & pure melodic voices is a great pleasure. It is also, in my opinion, a deeply sexy video—proving that sensuality doesn’t cease being available just because you’re in your 50s!


Sunday, February 24, 2013

Toccata Arpeggiata (a duet version)

Greetings! I have some lovely early music for you on this final Sunday of February—which means of course, that the month of duets on Early Music Sunday is drawing to a close.

Our final duet is quite intriguing, & that’s one reason I had no qualms about posting a piece that was posted not that long ago in solo performance, namely Kapsberger’s “Toccata Arpeggiata.” We had the pleasure of listening to David Tayler’s version of it as a theorbo solo back in mid January, & I’d refer people who are interested in background on Kapsberger & the piece itself to that post. What I’d like to focus on in today’s text portion is one of the instruments in this duet performance, because it’s unusual even in early music circles.

The instrument is the lirone, the bass member of the lira family of instruments, hence related to the (slightly better known?) lira da braccio, which is a descendant of the medieval vielle, a proto-violin. The lira da braccio is held on the shoulder, not exactly in the way a modern violinist holds her/his instrument, but in the ballpark. According to Wikipedia, the lira da braccio “was used by Italian poet-musicians in court in the 15th and 16th centuries to accompany their improvised recitations of lyric and narrative poetry.” Again according to Wikipedia, the  lirone was devloped in the 16th century as a bass version, to be used in continuo playing, & played “da gamba”—held between the knees like a cello or viola da gamba.  The lirone could have as many as 16 gut strings!

In today’s video, the lirone is being played by Lucas Guimaraes Peres, a Brazilian native who re-located to the European continent to pursue his interest in early music. I do note that his website doesn’t list any performances since 2007, & there is very little information about him online. In Wikipedia’s article on the lirone, it notes that there are very few musicians who play the instrument, & he is not one of the “notable performers” cited in the article.

The theorbo is played by master lutenist Eric Bellocq, whose website is here (in an English version), & who also has the YouTube channel MMEBellocq, where you can find some other excellent early music performances, & some fun items as well—such as a snippet of bossa nova on the Renaissance lute!

This recording is from a performance at Souvigny in October 2006. It’s a beautiful piece of music beautifully rendered—enjoy!

Just as there aren't many lirone players, there aren't many images of the instrument. The image above is from Wiki Commons, is derived from a German postage stamp, & is marked by Wiki Commons as being in the public domain. Image links to its source.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Photo of the Week 2/23/13

Street Art Portraits in the Rain
SW Yamhill Street, Portland, Oregon
Friday 2/22/13