The Rest is Noise – book review

I have to be away for a few days, so I am having my husband guest blog.  For those of you who don’t know him, he is a visual artist and musician.  If you would like to see his work, his web site is Buns on Mars.  In the last year or two, he has been writing and he has his own online journal: Buns on Mars Journal.  This was an exciting year because he self published a book: How I met Van and Numan Future, Present and Past: Or my first impression of the future by So Cal Punk. I hope you enjoy his first blog here on April Sewing Journal, I believe it will be rare he will write here, but he will be a regular contributor to April Journal , my literary blog. -rb

I have recently read Alex Ross’s book, “The Rest Is Noise: Listening to the Twentieth Century” and would recommend it to anyone who appreciates serious music, especially the music student who is being introduced to the Twentieth Century canon. I have read many music history books like this, and I must admit at first, the title put me off. I thought, “here goes another historian who will be exclusive with the difficulties of contemporary music.” Gladly, I was wrong. Ross is gracious with the full canon of contemporary composers and gives everyone their due. For me, it was a satisfying feeling to read about the composers that I have appreciated but of whom are given a passing glance in other history books. These books, like that of the high art coffee table variety, are usually dominated by well-known composers, and the historians, while going through the motions, sift through their worn out writing with the same, safe, predictable history. Ross not only has his perspective from his research, with fifteen years in writing this book, he gives color to the composers private and public lives. He writes about how they functioned within their musical and political culture. But more importantly, Ross is a music lover and a fluent, informed listener. And as a historian, he is able to articulate on a formal level what is happening in the music and why it is significant. Ross begins his story with Strauss and Mahler and ends it in the late 1980s with John Adams. There is enough biographical information on each composer that the reader gets a sense of the artist. For example, Ross writes about how Strauss (a Jew) lived under Nazi Germany and his relationship with Mahler and Schoenberg. He does the same with Shostakovich and Prokofiev under Stalin. Ross’s writing is succinct and lively throughout the whole book. He may give some composers too much biographical emphasis like Britten, and some too little attention like Varese, Berio, and Xenakis, (I was somewhat disappointed with this), but at least all the composers are given their due. Also Ross isn’t afraid to personally criticize some composers like Boulez, who comes off as an elitist tyrant, setting the agenda for serious music after the war. Ross’s writing gives a cultural and historical context for each composer and  why their music is significant. For example, he will give the reader an idea how other composers reacted at the time to Schoenberg’s 12 tone row, and not just a glib historical fact. Ross’s focus moves from political and personal to more serious matters, giving the reader a nice well-rounded ride. In other words, his story isn’t didactic or stuffy. There are no suspicions here, just a matter of fact voice tone and clarity in historical perspective. Ross fully tracks the continuing drama of the position of atonal music in modernism.  After you read the book, you’ll  know what Ross means by his title; he is writing about all that is important in serious twentieth century music and the rest is noise. As an afterthought, Ross has a short suggested listening list. You can find these well known examples at the library. Also, if you are not familiar with the pieces that are discussed in this book, you can find them played on You tube.

how our garden grows

We are all gardening this year, except maybe Paul.  This is Eliott’s plot above and there are two tiny pumpkin seedlings already coming through.

This is Steve’s garden.  I laid down the messy rhubarb leaves, but  you can see Steve’s hand with the neatness.

Because I was a little burned out from last year, I didn’t get my garden plot ready until last weekend.  So, I planted some carrots in a pot about a month ago, and now the tops are about 3-4 inches.

Here is my raspberries.  It is going to be a super bountiful year for the raspberries.  I cut them way back a year and half ago, and then again last spring.  This year I have done nothing and they have come back with a vengeance.

Finally, this is my real surprise.  A bud on my peony!  I moved this struggling plant from the back yard to the front.  It really looked sad last year, but this year it has a blossom!

That is a quick tour of my garden.  I will try to get some pictures again in the summer.

stars and plaid forever

I started these shorts in April for Steve, and yesterday we finished them.  He chose the fabric and had the idea for the contrasting cuff.  I don’t do a lot of clothing construction, but these were super easy.  If you want to make them, I used New Look pattern number 6059.  I did view B but without the cargo pockets.  I created the cuff myself.  These don’t have true fold down cuff, instead they are a mock cuff, really just a wide trim.  To create the mock cuff, I cut the shorts about and 1 1/2 inches (approximately the width of the cuff) shorter than finished length.  I cut two strips of the contrasting fabric twice as wide as the finished cuff.  I edge finished one long edge.  Then I sewed the raw edge to the bottom of the short, right sides together.  If you are good at measuring you can sew the cuff fabric into a loop first.  I just sewed it on until I was about an inch from my starting point, then sewed the vertical seam and then the last little part of the join between the cuff and the short.  I also started near the crotch seam, so in case I flubbed this part it would be less noticeable.  Then I pressed the seam allowance down, and folded the cuff fabric around. Finally,  I pinned it and topstitched through all the layers in the ditch.  We both are pleased with how they turned out.

a peek inside

So hopefully, if all goes as planned by Monday this will be part of a quilt sandwich.  However, before I take out all of the paper patterns I used to piece this thing together with, I wanted to show you them and the short hand history of the past few years they create.  In the photo above you can see the orange papers that Paul’s elementary school with good and bad behavior.

Here is one of Eliott’s tests from high school.  You can see his handwriting.

Here is some of my college paper.  and you can see Paul’s homework below.

Here are some screen shots of training from my old job at the appointment center.

Here is the cover from my church’s bulletin.

Appointment center again!

I like this one, again from college, that says Leaves of Grass, maybe my quilt is like a poem.

I think this is one of Eliott’s papers from school, but I’m not sure, then church to the right and more work paper discards above.

Finally, a sort of label from who knows what.

public service announcement

So, if you were reading this blog for a while, you will know I had an eye injury a couple months ago.  Since then I noticed that my pupils were often different sizes.  Now, all I know about different sized pupils is that if your child has a head injury you should check if his pupils are the same size, and if not the same size it is very, very bad.  So based on that I thought:

A. I injured my eye and hurt my pupil in some way that will force me to have surgery.

B. I am crazy and I can’t tell what size my pupils are.

C. I have some kind of crazy tumor.

D.  My pupils were always different sized, and I never noticed it before because I really didn’t spend a lot of time gazing into my eyes until I hurt my eyes.

So, because it was driving me nuts, I went back to the eye doctor.  First, he ruled out B.  This was actually quite a relief, because it is really my go-to diagnosis for anything: “there is actually nothing wrong, it is all in my head”.  By the way, he did this by using a tiny ruler card.  Science is so awesome.

Then, he ruled out A, by turning shining lights in my eyes repeatly until I had a headache.  This also ruled out C in his opinion, because my eyes functioned correctly.  So, yes, D is the correct answer: my pupils are not the same size most of the time.

Here is the proof:This is a close up of my eyes from January 3, 2011.  Great red eye, huh?  Anyway, the left eye is 55 pixels wider than the right eye.  Scientific proof from the past.

So here’s my announcement:

Take the time to look at your eyes and your kids’ eyes.  If you or a family member are one of the dilated differently (the p.c. way of saying it), then you will know in case you hurt your eye or your head or whatever.  Trust me, it will make you less crazy in the future.

Happy Mother’s Day, especially you, my own awesome Mom!!! Miss you!

grandmother’s flowers quilt

So, here’s the thing I learned so far.  I will share them in case you ever want to make on of these quilt.

There are two ways to put these flowers together. I call them left and right although that is really not accurate.  If you sew a quilt like this together, just sew them all into one clump, do not make flowers unless you are careful to sew them together all the same exact way.  Don’t ask me to explain how you can sew them together differently but you can.  In any case, I sewed three of them one way, and four the other.  So now I have three that fit together and four that fit together but not to each other. (sigh) So now I plan to have the big cross clump in the center with four corners on the edges.

I plan to go get some satin and put what I am calling the center panel together this weekend.

strange omen

This has been an unusual weekend to say the least.  Eliott found this bird on the parkway, and carried it all the way home on a stick.  After Steve and I calmed down at the thought of it flying all around our house, he brought  it on the porch.  It was very docile, just sort of sitting there and we all kind of thought it was sick or perhaps injured.  Eliott very gently made it a little box with fruit, water and bits of things he thought it might eat.  He kept it on the porch for an hour or so, then he set it outside.  I wouldn’t have believed it myself, but the bird flew away!  Steve thought perhaps it was stunned.  I’ve never seen a wild bird behave that way, so docile to be carried like that then recover.

In other news, we finally got our sink and cabinets in!

It came out better than I expected.   I love the way the white sink brightens the room! It’s funny how it looks like it has always been there. The cabinets still need some touch up painting, handles and a little molding,  but by and large it is done!  Yay!  Now, today I just have to clean and put everything away.  Then, later I plan to go sweep the huge empty space in my garage where the cabinets and the sink sat since Christmas.

ducky quilt update

So, Saturday I decided to work on the ducky quilt.  I haven’t worked on it really since it was the ufo for the month.  I wanted to begin on the background.

I began by sorting through my ender leaders, then went on to pulling fabric out of my scraps. I had the idea of creating a backdrop that is green and blue like plants and the sky.I found a significant number of swatches that worked but weren’t exactly the kind of bright background I wanted.

So I broke open the dye and as you see in the first image at the top of this post, did a little low water immersion.

The results were really close to my intention.  The middle one was originally white.  It must have a significant amount to polyester in it because it just doesn’t pick up the dye like I would like.  The others I really like but there was not nearly enough.  So finally, I had to break down and go to the fabric store.

I’m so excited to start piecing this!