Saturday, April 30, 2022

Strumming Right Along

Since we missed the last two Saturday lessons of dulcimer class, we spent the Lesson Three ENTIRE hour today reviewing one song: Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star that we learned in Lesson One. 

Who would have guessed one little childhood snippet of a tune would comsume an hour's worth of time, but it did. Oh, yes, it did.

First we reviewed basics, changing frets. 3,3, 7,7, 8,8, 7. Got it in a different key, but still, got it. And not a one of us had to read a lick of music notation. In fact the word of wisdom passed along to us was "There ain't no notes on a dulcimer. You just play."

That relieved the pressure and by the third or fourth rendition we were all doing quite well. Lesson review in strumming came next: bum, ditty, bum, bum or down, down, up down, down. Of course the teacher had to drop by my stand and review with me to hold my pick so that the point end strummed against the strings. Not the flat side of the triangle, ma'am. 

Then we added harmony. Horrors. I had to use my fingers since I had to press two different strings at the same time (did I mention those strings are made of metal???) and that's an impossible task with a short dowell stick that I normally use. A few sore fingers later, I was making music. And when we all played together, my what a heavenly sound. No wonder our teacher grinned from ear to ear. 

It's hard not to appear like a genius after an hour on the same song.

Next week. An hour of harmony with Mary Had a Little Lamb. Angelic music, for sure.

Catch of the Day,

Gretchen


Saturday, April 9, 2022

Dulcimer Lesson Two

Second lesson: Mary Had a Little Lamb, and then, I about had a cow figuring out how to do a scale. But at least it's a step from Twinkle, twinkle, and that shows I'm coming along. So are my sore fingers, thanks for wondering.

I am a little better at tuning the strings as well, bass string at D, middle string at A and the two strings closest to me an octove higher at D. There's an app for that, by the way.

No class (or report) next week due to Easter, nor the next due to teacher being  a planned AWOL, so lesson three's report will have to wait.

Until then, I'll keep practicing.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Dulcimer Lesson One

Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star!

Or

Zero zero, four four, five five, four, in dulcimer beginner talk, down to the basics

That's fret talk for beginners, too.

What I didn't know, my fingers would be sore when I finished from pressing the metal strings. No one warned me!

So between now and next week I have to toughen up the pinkies.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Sunday, March 27, 2022

Music Lessons

I'm about to check off another item on my bucket list. 

Next Saturday I'm starting music lessons. My mother would be so proud! Actually, she would be surprised considering all the stress caused by my childhood piano lessons. My daily thirty minutes in front of the piano was a constant battle when I was elementary school age, especially when my next door neighbor friends were sitting on the front stoop. I absolutely hated practicing and my weekly lessons with the piano teacher certainly showed I hadn't tried. I'm the one who dropped out of piano lessons way back when. 

I've regretted it ever since I realized what I had done. The piano is now in my house and I do manage to pick out a few hymns every so often, especially around Christmastime. How I wish I could sit down and tickle the ivories, or at least knock some of the dust off the keys.

Now I have a chance to redeem myself by taking dulcimer lessons on my Appalachian dulcimer. Lessons start Saturday. WooHoo!!

I purchased this one a decade ago. It came with a pick and a stick, which I had no idea how to use. I found a do-it-yourself booklet, and set about teaching myself to play.  Unfortunately, life got in my way. Instead of neighbor friends sitting on the stoop yelling at me, "Are you finished practicing yet?" I had grown-up things going on, supper to fix, papers to grade, those kind of distractions. Now life is different. I can do it right this time around.

I've read that the Appalachain dulcimer, also called a mountain dulcimer, is in the zither family of stringed musical instruments. It has four strings. It has many frets. I'm already fretting about the frets and wondering if the two usages of the word fret are somehow connected. That will be a question I'll ask in lesson one. Somewhere in the back of my mind seems like I heard that settlers in the mountains invented the Appalachian dulcimer to have a drone sound that reminded them of the Scottish bagpipes they left beind in the old country. Another lesson one question I'll ask.

A dulcimer like mine lies flat on the table, or on the lap, so I won't be strumming it like a guitar. I'll be able to watch my fingers strike a chord, a plus for visual learners like me. 

So I'll be off to dulcimer lessons Saturday at the HUB, the Hudson Uptown Building here in Hudson, North Carolina. It's an arts center with all kinds of musical and visual arts lessons available. As soon as I heard about dulcimer lessons, I signed up. I'll let you know how lesson one turns out.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Monday, February 14, 2022

How Sweet It Is

Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. I hope your day was as special as you predicted it would be. Mine was, and I'm stuffed to the gills with candy (and chocolate mint Girl Scout Cookies) to prove it. My sweetie and I went out for supper this evening and on the way home I heard a blurb for a "Do Over" day contest. The gist was to write about how lousy your day was today in a hundred words or less and submit it to the radio station by a certain time. Best sob story entry wins a spa day.

Anyone who found today less than expected has my heart. My husband came through with the most appropriate card to date, so that alone disqualifies me from this writing exercise. Yes, darling, I love us, too. "We're the best 'we' two people could be," to quote the card. What more could I want?

How about an ecard with a delightful message. Got one. And texts from friends exchanging wishes for a Happy Valentine's Day...those and some commiserating amongst ourselves over last night's Super Bowl final score. 

All this joy can be summed up by the card I received from a dear friend who really, really gets me. 

That about says it all.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Monday, February 7, 2022

Joys of Researching

I've started a new book (Yay, back in the saddle again) and I'm getting deeper and deeper into the research aspect of the project. When I say deeper, I mean deep, deep into whatever is available to me. 

Actually, I didn't go down into some dark, damp, dungeonesque (if that isn't a word, you can imagine on your own what I mean) kind of room. I went upstairs to the second floor of the Caldwell County Heritage Museum, to the room I like to call Caldwell's Attic. There in the corner I found gold - at least a jackpot to me - bound copies of the local newspaper from the late 1800's through the entire last century and on into this new one. 

True, these are also digitally recorded and available at the North Carolina History Room of the Caldwell County Public Library. I have used that resource in other projects and will use it again I am certain.

But there's something about getting down and dirty in the actual physical version, and dirty I did get. My hands required a good lathering when I finished. I should have used gloves, more to protect the pages from my human remains than from the need to keep my hands free of print and dust or any other moldy entity. 

A friend of mine who volunteers at the museum selected the particular volumes I needed and brought them downstairs for me to the reading table, 1963 to begin with. November. I gasped when I realized the date I was searching was intertwined with the Kennedy assassination. While the nation was mourning a fallen president, the family of my person of interest was mourning her death. Double whammy. 

Then I delved into 1967 where I didn't have a specific date, just the year. I started at the beginning, January, and went page by page until I found what I was looking for. Therein lies the problem with my researching. I have no self discipline when it comes to taking a deep dive into the pages of history. This time traveling journey took me back into my early college years. I opened long shut compartments in my brain where I stored events for the sixties, and I relived them painfully since Viet Nam and racial strife made the headlines. I saw pictures of local people I've only come to know after they were long grown. I recognized my teen idols. I read about the men and women of the past who were mere names to me at the time I went about living my daily life. Looking back at their lives from the future days is eyeopening. I highly recommend it for a long, lazy afternoon.

I didn't have all day, not really. Fortunately I came upon what I was looking for in an article dated in early March. Okay, so I admit I had to keep going and at least round off the month since the volume ended there anyway. I would have to pull the next volume in the sequence from the shelves.

Bound copies of the Lenoir Newstopic from the 1800's on

Instead I went home, leaving the research for another day. My brain had taken all it could take for this trip down memory lane, but I'll be back.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen


Monday, January 10, 2022

Netizens and Cyberians

A shout out to those who coin words. GOOD FOR YOU! Sometimes the right word to use in a sentence eludes me and I find myself searching the web-Thesarus in hunt for the one that will fit in, just like a missing part of a jigsaw puzzle. 

When I taught remedial reading at the community college, one lesson was on the portmanteau concept, or creating a new word from two existing words. Smoke + fog = smog was my go-to because everyone could connect.

I want to call my classes back now and add a whole new set of words created out of necessity for web users. These coined words describe people who are not just citizens of a specific country, but people who choose to be members of the worldwide community called the internet.

There's a website that searches for word usage, Ngram viewer. Click over and have a go at searching when a particular word came upon the scene. Key in the word portmanteau while you are there and see the graph of its popularity. Click below on the dates and Google will search literature for the word. You'll read samples showing portmanteau as a suitcase in the 1800's and then its new meaning in the 1900's. I've posted about my fun with this writer's tool before. Check out my comments on the post from 2014, Word of the Day.

Last week I came across a wonderful new-to-me word, netizen. By the context of the sentence, I immediately knew the definition of the word. I recognized it as a portamteau of internet and citizen. It's in the title of several books. Where have I been that I hadn't heard this before? So I went to Ngram to find out when that word netizen first came on the scene. 

The graph tells it all. No such word in the eighties, it came onto the scene in the nineties, the earliest snippet I saw dated 1996.

The fun really started when I wondered what additional words had been coined as synonyms to netizen. Ding, ding, ding. Cybernaut. Infonaut. Cybersurfer. Cybercitizen. Cybercowboy. And my favorite cyberian, although I do know a few cybercowboys that earned the wild west connotation of their word.

According to Ngram, cybercowboy preceded netizen by a few years.

Back to cyberian. 
It's not quite as common as the other two, but to me, it seems cozier, more like a named community than a netizen of some other-worldly intangible, and certainly not as renegade as a cybercowboy. All that being said, I'm thinking I'm more of a fringe cyberian than those netizens who live and die by the internet. It's a tool for me rather than a lifestyle. I won't pledge allegiance to it, and I pray that no one ever will.

By the way, my mother, rest her soul, would not begin to understand that last paragraph.

Catch of the day,

Gretchen