Playin’ the Harp

…a friend asked me some time about my harmonica playing. I’ve actually not declared myself to be “a musician” until very recently. What I finally got is that what I do with the harp is music even if I don’t have a strong grounding in the mechanics of the art.

The way I understand it (and my experience supports this) is that you can spend a lot of money on a very finely made expensive harmonica and you won’t necessarily get a lot more sound out of it. So my favorite is a “Blues Harp” in the key of A. I’ve also had one of those in B, and I think I had a C once. (It would make the most sense for me to get one of those again, now that I think more of accompanying others.) Right now the one I carry around with me is that A. I also have an A flat, Lee Oskar. It’s a beautiful harp with a pretty sound, but I don’t know much what to do with it.

That brings me to the question, what do I play or do with my instruments. I have been carrying them around for about almost 10 years now, only occasionally being intentional about the matter. And I’ve joked often that I know only one song. It’s called “The Song That Comes Out When Vincent Plays.”

I mostly improvise around a handful of riffs that I’ve developed for myself by just being with the instrument. I have this thing that I do sometimes. I take a harp, and just put myself in a place that I believe is beautiful. Then I start to play what comes for me. I move around and look at my surroundings, and the song changes as I see new things. It’s like stream of consciousness improv. I’ve never empowered it before by seeing what it really is. I’ve always just shrugged it off as “just screwing around.” And I’m not saying that it’s anything special. I just see that I’ve never given it the space to be anything special. It could be.

I do wonder what would happen with an audience if I just pulled out a harp and started riffing off of how they occurred for me.

Lately though, I’ve started to be more intentional about learning the lyrics to certain songs. If you’re keeping track, here are some that I’ve been working with recently.

Pilgrim Highway – Mark Erelli
Just Another Gringo in Belize – Jerry Jeff Walker
In the Palm of Your Hand – Alison Kraus
Let’s Make a Family – Mark Erelli
Yakity Axe – Chet Atkins & Merle Travis
Ford Econoline – Nanci Griffith

…there are others, it’s just the my brain is still a little bit of mush this morning.


I know that I’ve been away from the journal for a while, and I keep teasing that I have a bunch of entries saved up inside me. I am almost to the end of a writing project for work, and then I’ll be able to do a lot more of my own discretionary writing. Even before that though, I can scribble out a couple of seasonal entries and will do that soon.


Backlog starting to pinch

…I have about four, maybe five entries saved up to post here, but some more professional writing needs to get finished first. Life is on fire right now and I may need a whole crew to keep the flames safely in check.

Sign People, Silo, and the World University all look to ignite. Lots of writing will have to support them.

Meanwhile, I’m well. The hairy one awaits my service as he prepares to patrol the neighborhood in search of feline lawbreakers. We also hope to see racoons. We know they’re out there.

Work is almost done.


A tip: Listen to Mark Erelli ( if you have a moment. To me, he is the archetype of a modern bard. Listen to some of his tracks on MySpace and then look at his tour schedule. This man hustles, and he sings a lot. He’s doing what there is to do in our time of warmongers, cheaters, and gluttons. Spreading the word of brotherhood.


A Silly Question

…I started to ask myself, “is the phrase ‘sacred music’ redundant?” Lately I have found myself most appreciating songs that turn out to be gospel when I listen closely, or music of celebration from the holiday season, or simply songs of love and inspiration.

“Is the phrase ‘sacred music’ redundant?”

I think that there might be something to this, and then — somehow the song “Afternoon Delight” comes on, and I remember that this is a very silly question.


This is not a journal entry

…what would I write about today if I were going to write (which I’m not)?

I could wallow in a sort of regretful explanation about why I haven’t written a lot lately. I could rant against the world (like 1000 executions, or the Flight Attendants unions opposition to the new TSA guidelines that will actually allow you to travel with cuticle scissors and nail files , or the overall stupidity of TSA guidelines that imply that somehow secrecy on their part increases security) but I’m not going to do that.

I could celebrate that life has been a springtime garden lately with wonderful things cropping up in full blossom. I could observe how conversations I’ve created for possibility in the worlds of education, arts, technology, and innovation have all been producing inspiration (and soon results) all around me. I’m not going to do that.

I could write about the beautiful sunny day that’s beckoning right outside my office window. I could speculate about the joy ahead in the weekend as I’ll get to go on a historic home tour in old Santa Clara tomorrow, or enjoy a big College Football championship game with a friend. I could consider the joy I’ll find in trips planned to the City to see film and have dinner in the coming days.

I’m not doing any of that!

I guess I’d only write this.

Life Sucks!

(Did you think that was a bad thing?)