Curtain

Curtain: (n) a hanging piece of fabric

I can’t think of an occasion when the word “addicted” can be used in a positive way.

Yet I will tell you, there are certain things to which I am addicted.

One of those revolves around a curtain.

I couldn’t have been more than twelve years old the first time I stood backstage at a theater, right next to the beautiful velvet curtain that swept its way across the stage to close the production or open up to new story possibilities, encouraging the audience to use its imagination.

No matter where you are, there’s always that small space where the dressing rooms and the gathering areas empty out onto holy ground, where the actors, singers and musicians stand and wait to enter the stage and share their best.

I remember at age twelve, putting together a song with three other guys to sing at the school talent show. We had searched all over Columbus, Ohio for just the right ties. We all went to the same barber shop to get our hair cut two days earlier. My singing buddies had come to my house to dress and prepare for the evening. We had rehearsed our song over and over again, trying to fine-tune the musical excellence to the greatest extent of our pre-adolescent acuity.

There we were.

The small-town audience sat waiting, as we stood nervously backstage.

I remember being so close to that beautiful red velvet curtain that I laid my head over, resting it on the soft fabric. It was comforting.

Yes, it was at that point I knew I was addicted.

I wanted to spend the rest of my life backstage somewhere, waiting for the curtain to open so I could come and share the better parts of myself, hoping that the audience could find the better parts of their hearts.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Combo

Combo: (n) a small jazz, rock, or pop band.

Being clever is similar to setting a bear trap down in a room full of balloons. It is so easy to spring the trap and bust all your balloons of hope.

In my early years I had a music group and was desperately trying to promote us–at least to the point that I could make enough “jack” to pay for “Jill.”

Money was rare.

Now, opportunities and gigs seemed to pop up everywhere–but when the subject of remuneration was suggested, there were offers of free coffee, “help yourself
to the day-old pastry,” or “we have a garage where you can sleep overnight.”

I knew I needed to do something drastic to set our group apart from the rest of the marauding musicians trying to fend for the single crust of bread, so I put together a damn good press release.

Now, wait.

Understand–this was an era when bands did not advertise themselves via printed material, but rather, through audition tapes or live performances.

I got a great picture of us, looking our cutest (and surliest) and attached our release. One of the things I discovered in writing the piece was that if you’re constructing a great article, it should not repeat words.

I kept landing on the word “group.” “Group?” “GROUP!”

So thinking myself extremely clever, I went to the Thesaurus and looked for different words to communicate the idea “group.”

One of those was “combo.”

I was ecstatic. The word sounded good to me, so I stuck it in the press release a couple of times and sent it off.

I noticed when I started calling places back to see if they wanted to schedule us based on our fine piece of promotional material, the proprietors would grumble, “We’re not interested in a jazz thing.”

I tried to explain that we weren’t jazz, but by that time they had hung up the phone and I was left standing, listening to the dial tone of the day.

Finally, one of the gentlemen I called suggested a nightclub down the street that specialized in jazz.

I squeezed in my question. “We’re not a jazz group. Where did you get the idea we played jazz?”

“Really?” he said. “Your article said you were a combo, and I never heard of any band calling themselves a combo unless they were jazz.”

I wanted to tell him about my journey through the “prehistoric thesaurus,” but instead, I went back to my creation and removed the word “combo.”

Needing to replace it, I inserted “adventurers.”

 

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Celebrate

Celebrate: (v) to acknowledge a significant or happy day or event with a social gathering

The reason needs to be larger than the plan.

I have often attended celebrations where the actual organization of the event overshadowed the purpose for us gathering.

I sometimes feel that way when I go to church. We forget that the real significance of clumping is to strengthen one another, build up our
confidence and share a common testimony of faith. Yet by the time we get done with candles, musicians, sound systems, bulletins, announcements and special music, the beauty of the conclave seems to get swallowed up.

What is it I’m celebrating?

I would agree with Kool and the Gang that I can celebrate good times.

Celebrate another day of living.

I love to celebrate that evil viciously appears to be dominant until it’s suddenly snuffed by its own greed.

I like to celebrate that something can be non-existent and because I’m alive, the creativity I’ve been granted can make freshness appear.

What are we celebrating?

Some of the holidays that hang around baffle me. I’m certainly grateful for the Armed Forces, but how many times are we going to salute them every year? And does every celebration in America have to be accompanied with a protracted exercise in gluttony?

I celebrate that even as I write this, all across the world there are people I will never know who read it–and out of their English grammar propriety, feel completely licensed to rip it apart.

What a wonderful world.

That’s what we can celebrate–with all its madness, diversity and pending doom and gloom, life still manages to give us a daily clean canvas, available for beautiful painting.

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Cadenza

Cadenza: (n) a virtuoso solo passage inserted into a musical work

When I attended my first musical jam session in Nashville, Tennessee, and I was sitting behind the piano, terrified that I would not know any of the songs floating through the air, suggested by my fellow-musicians, I was rather delighted that I turned out to be somewhat able to keep up–grabbing a chord here and there and playing along.

It went along real well until one of the musicians shouted out, “Take it, Jon!”

It was time for me to express my solo soul, in context with the mutual band experience.

I needed a cadenza. I needed some sort of passage I could play for about eight bars that showed that I was worthy to be part of such a musical combo.

The first time this was shouted out, I brought things to a complete halt by turning to the room–having stopped playing altogether–and saying, “What?”

They found this hilarious, explaining that all they wanted was for me to take a “ride.”

After giggling because I didn’t know what “ride” meant, I then was informed that I was supposed to improvise.

God, I wanted to do good. I wanted these fellow-troubadours to be impressed with me.

So the next time they said, “Take it, Jon!” I did.

I took it so much that I over-played, lost the rhythm and brought the whole musical experience to a screeching halt. One of them counseled me, “Maybe just a few less notes…”

Therefore, the next time I was afforded the opportunity, I played so few notes that they thought I had missed my cue.

After that they were rather reluctant to have me “take it.”

Honestly, I think everybody walked out of the room that night thinking, “He seems to know the chords … but he sure can’t do a cadenza.”

Or some Nashville way of saying that.

 

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Cacophony

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Cacophony: (n) a harsh, discordant mixture of sounds.

To blend together as one while still maintaining the presence of an individual tone.

That’s what a band is.

You should be able to close your eyes and hear each magnificent instrument. It should not be a wall of sound. It should not blare. It should co-exist without disappearing.

Part of this is the sensitivity of musicians playing with precision while honoring their collaborators, and part of it is the ability to mix the sound in such a way that everything doesn’t blur into a cacophony of colliding notes which often do not seem to coincide.

Some people choose to go solo because they don’t believe it’s possible to find harmony. Other people have surrendered to the inevitable orchestration, often ending up as a cacophony.

It’s the same thing with people.

Freedom is not an overwhelming explosion of celebration; it is a distinctive melody played by each human soul, which is not smothered by the harsh overtones of the brassy.

 

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Audition

Audition: (n) an interview for a particular role or job as a singer, actor, dancer, or musician,

dictionary with letter A

  • The wonderful thing about new things is that they aren’t old.
  • The terrible thing about new things is that they have not proven that they work.

Such was the case many years ago when I had a music group and we were auditioning for a spot to do a series of high school concerts which would have given us a nice piece of finance in a time when such remuneration was unusual.

It was long before American Idol or The Voice–where people are thrust in front of millions of listeners and evaluated on their prowess.

This was two guys, sitting in a barn-like building, who were not much older than myself, deciding if our group would be a “right fit” for this particular opportunity.

Well, here was the problem:

  1. They didn’t know exactly what the position was going to be. Since nobody had done it before, there was no reference point.
  2. Neither one of them were musicians and confessed to this lacking by saying, “But we know what we like…”
  3. They were pretty people, so they were very concerned that other pretty people might be prettier to high school students, who were really tuning in to the prettiest possibilities.
  4. They were impatient. They wanted us to do one song.

So I decided to do a medley, which I could insist was only one song, but still include four or five pieces of tunes. It seemed like a brilliant idea. When we finished, they told us they “would get back to us.”

I should have known at that point that we had not passed muster. The reason most of us get dissappointed is that we maintain hope for things that we know deep in our heart are gone.

Two weeks later we got a letter from the company explaining that they thought we were a really great group–but not the “look” they desired.

Like everyone else on earth, I’ve done my share of auditions. I’ve won some of them and I have fallen on my face.

But honestly, most of the time it had little to do with my performance or presentation and much to do with how I was eyeballed.

Basically, it’s not an audition–it’s an eyedition.

 

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Amuck

dictionary with letter A

Amuck: (adj): out of control: the anarchists were running amuck.

Innocence is often what we scream when we’re notoriously guilty or foolishly ignorant.

To acquire innocence, one must find oneself in a profile free of guilt and not yet aware of ignorance. That doesn’t happen very often.

Sitting in front of a meal of fried fish from Captain D’s Seafood last night, I realized that the possibility of maintaining a low-caloric dinner depended on whether I was going to eat next to nothing of the portion provided, or push it away and rely totally on the sides that were lessened in calories.

Yet at the same time, how can you be a vivacious, energetic, creative and passionate human being and step away from a plate full of fried fish?

Perhaps if you are a nun or of a monastic order, gaining strength and pride through such fasting, you can maintain personal dignity while failing to devour.

But the true essence of the human experience is finding a way to eat the fried fish and enjoy it without running amuck and consuming too much–and then having it show up on the various areas of your circumference in the future.

How does one do that?

How does one find himself gregariously and voraciously involved in life without running amuck with overage and excesses?

It’s obvious that our poets and musicians have never been able to find such a balance, many ending up self-destructive or destitute.

Certainly ministers and schoolteachers tout that they have a regulatory system enabling them to be prudent, prim and proper–but even with them, occasionally when you pull back the holy cloth or move the blackboard, you see hidden vices and places where they have run amuck.

Is it too much to ask of a human being to be temperate?

Is it beyond the comprehension of our being–which mingles a little monkey with a little angel–to contend that we are going to do heavenly things?

Or do we need to have a side of deviled egg with our angel food cake?

 

 

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Allegro

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Allegro: 1. (n) the name of a passage or movement of music in a fast tempo 2. (adj.) at a brisk tempo

I used to believe with all my heart, soul, mind and strength that appearing to be smart, intellectual, well-versed and verbal was essential in order to maintain the integrity of the self-deception of my general superiority. I did stupid stuff:

  • I lied about my qualifications.
  • I embellished on my abilities.
  • I touted my sexual prowess.
  • And I exaggerated the depth of my understanding.

I was afraid that the package of human ability provided for me was insufficient to my personal indebtedness.

One day I just woke up and got sick of being a fool. I stopped wearing the jester’s hat and dancing for the kings. I realized that the greatest gift I could give myself was to stop faking it.

The greatest gift I could give to God was to find a way to get along with human beings.

And the greatest way to get along with other human beings was to simplify what I shared with them.

You see, when I read the word “allegro,” I think of all the pretentious musicians I have ever met, who think they are extraordinarily sophisticated by expressing musical notations in Latin or Italian, which, when translated, still mean “fast, slow, loud and soft.” You see, the Italians were not trying to be “poofy”–it was just their language.

If you find yourself searching for a word to express a simple idea so that you can impress those around you, then you are probably suffering from a severe case of viral “jerkitis.” Especially if you need to say the words with a foreign accent or a bit of flourish in your pronunciation.

So when I’m discussing music in a recording studio and find myself surrounded by the “hierarchy” of the craft, I don’t use the word “allegro.” I merely say, “This is faster.”

Yes, often they correct me, using the proper term for such a maneuver.

But I just smile, knowing in my soul that the art of simplicity is the true definition of intelligence.

Acoustic

Words from Dic(tionary)

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Acoustic: (adj.) of music or musical instruments not having electrical amplification: e.g. acoustic guitar

  • It has to be fun.
  • It has to be humble.
  • And it has to be willing to learn.

Those are the three ingredients I think are necessary to make any adventure workable, enjoyable and realistic. Whenever any group of people takes themselves so seriously that they believe they’ve arrived at the apex of all understanding or the pinnacle of all talent, they are obnoxious and in some ways, dangerous.

This is true of musicians.

Music, which was meant to be a heartfelt explosion of joy, intimacy and emotion, has become, God forbid, a craft. And as craftsmen, we sit around and discuss the subtleties of the use of particular implementations which hold our delicate treasures together.

Thus the word acoustic.

So the rock band, which was once willing to admit “they only knew four chords and that’s why their music sounded the way it did,” pretentiously now does a documentary film, sharing their music acoustically instead of using electronic assistance. We’re supposed to stand back in awe of these cave men, who have discovered that there is some little world outside their enclosure, and mull over their genius simply because … “they’ve unplugged.”

I love music.

  • Music was God’s way of saying life should be tuneful.
  • Music was God’s apology for conversation.
  • And music is our way of expressing ourselves without insisting that the whole room listen to us pontificate.

So we should HUMBLY pursue it, realizing our limitations and ceasing to make excuses for our frequent bobbles.

But instead, we proclaim some people who compose to be “masters,” and everyone else mere “minstrels.”

So rather than enjoying the fact that other people have picked up our instrument and exceeded our efforts, we instead attempt to tear them down because they are not purists and don’t honor the traditions of syncopation or structure.

YUK.

I don’t care if you rock, jazz, square dance, hillbilly, rap or insist on Mozart. Be humble about it and have some fun. You’re not a better musician because you play an acoustic guitar instead of an electric one. It’s not a better auditorium because it’s acoustically adjusted to the high A-sharp on the first violin.

It’s supposed to be joyful. “A joyful noise”–remember that? So unless you plan on giggling and dancing, don’t come my way.

Acoustic set.

Somebody needs to take off the rubber nose and the big floppy shoes.