Wednesday, January 27, 2010


One reason that I have not been blogging much lately, is that I have been commissioned to write a string orchestra piece for the Edmond Memorial High School Orchestra. My good friend David Koehn is the director up there, and he had the brilliant idea to write a grant for an original work so that the students could see what it is like to premier a new piece. The performance is only one aspect of the process. The rehearsals will be very collaborative, since I will almost certainly need to alter elements of the piece once I see how it does or doesn't work. I will be attending many rehearsals. I actually caught one last Wednesday, just to hear the orchestra play, and I was very impressed.

I hope the students enjoy this unique experience and find it interesting. I can only think of a few times that I have been a part of an orchestral premiere, and it was super interesting each time.

This piece will be a single movement, 5-8 minutes in length. I have decided to call it "Oklahoma Trails" an homage to the exhibit at the OKC Zoo of the same name. I am up to my neck in staff paper right now, and up to my brain in musical notation software. Rehearsals start in about a month, and the premiere will happen on the orchestra's Spring concert in May. I will keep you posted, and thanks for your interest!

Obviously I am very excited about it!

Thursday, January 21, 2010


I have been reading "After the Ecstasy, the Laundry: How the Heart Grows Wise on the Spiritual Path" by Jack Kornfield. He is a Buddhist teacher and a very nurturing, caring writer. And he fills his books with page after page of wonderful stories and sayings from friends and famous alike. I will list a few for starters that have meant something to me over the last week or two. They are by anonymous teachers, monks and nuns unless otherwise attributed.

"The white swan in the snow is a white swan in the snow."

"Spiritual practice is what we are doing now. Anything else is a fantasy."

"Enlightenment is an accident. Spiritual practice simply makes us accident prone."

"To neither suppress our feelings nor be caught by them, but to understand them - that is the art." - Jack Kornfield

"It’s either here and now or we’ve missed it."

My life has been filled with terrible misfortunes...most of which never happeend.” Mark Twain

“The mind creates the abyss, the heart crosses it.” Sri Nisargadatta

And one from a friend on Facebook:

"Whether one is atheist, agnostic, religiously affiliated, or self-declared spiritual, an existential struggle with the absurdity of suffering is critical to wisdom."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beatle Free

Our string quartet was recently asked to play a wedding reception. The bride-to-be had seen us perform locally, and I was excited to hear from her and to book the gig.

She had one stipulation though.

"NO Beatles please!"

I laughed to myself and thought "man, there must be a good story behind that!"

I asked her about it. She replied that her fiance simply did not like the Beatles.

Wow. I felt like I had spotted a thought-to-be-extinct creature in the wild. I quote from the Rolling Stone album guide concerning the Beatles - "Theirs is the final, great consensus in popular music - not liking them is as perverse as not liking the sun."

Now I quote Mr. Burns from the Simpsons - "Since the beginning of time, man has longed to destroy the sun!"

Actually, I have met one other person who did not like the Beatles (and I am talking DISlike here. Obviously the Beatles are not everyone's favorite music). This guy was an artist, and he expressed his opinion to me one day. I asked him for a reason. He responded with the universal criticism people use for any artist they do not like.

"All their songs sound the same."


He did add this qualifier - "...except the song 'Eleanor Rigby'....I kinda like that one........but I prefer Herman's Hermits."

Perhaps my friend's parents or grandparents lived in the South, after John's infamous and misunderstood "bigger than Jesus" comment, and perhaps they attended mass burnings of Beatles records and paraphernalia. Perhaps, at the request of several voices in the South in the 1960's, my friend's parents bought up the Herman's Hermits catalogue and got their kids hooked on the safe stuff.

And perhaps my friend has a brother, and he is getting married soon?

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Kalam Cosmological Argument part four

Disclaimer: These posts assume the view that the Big Bang was the actual beginning of all time, matter and space. This is just one view of many in cosmology.

I am going to try to finish up this series of thoughts on the Kalam Cosmological Argument in the next couple of weeks. Here is the argument in its most common form today, as promoted by William Lane Craig and others.

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.

This short post will focus on the argument's circular nature. The first premise uses the phrase "Whatever begins to exist". Yet anything and everything that has ever begun to exist (that we know of) is part of the universe. So "whatever begins to exist" is equal to "the universe." So we could reformulate the argument this way:

1. The universe has a cause.
2. The universe is the universe.
3. Therefore the universe has a cause.

or you could do it this way:

1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
2. Whatever begins to exist begins to exist.
3. Therefore whatever begins to exist has a cause.

"Whatever begins to exist" and "the universe" are only distinguishable from each other if one assumes a perspective from outside the universe, which is what the KCA is trying to prove. So you have to assume it to be true for it to possibly be true.

We could also recall the ideas from posts one and three about causes. Since everything existing in the universe now did not pop up out of nowhere, but is rather a reorganization of materials that have always been here, then nothing has ever truly begun to exist except the universe. So once again - "Whatever begins to exist" = "the universe", and the KCA does not offer a useful philosophical proof.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Powers of 10

This fantastic piece of film was made by the office of Charles and Ray Eames,
two of the most renowned designers of the twentieth century.
It is another attempt to demonstrate the scale of the universe,
yet it also includes an added adventure into the very small.
It is definitely worth 9 minutes. I have watched it half a dozen times.