My Friend Stan

Natural Images of a Partial Annular Eclipse

Natural Images of a Partial Annular Eclipse, 20 May 2012

Today (5 July 2018) was an interesting day for me. The part I will share here is the following:

An Abundance Of Love
(song by Ella Solana García)
5 July 2018

I first heard this song in the morning, and liked it. By late evening, the words took on a deeper meaning that seemed designed just for me. Between morning and evening, I was gifted with the help from one of the few friends I have. Acquaintances I have many, critics I can have legion, but friends are very few. Let me explain. This man (my friend Stan), older than I, survived three helicopter crashes during the Vietnam War, as well as the siege known as the First Battle of Khe Sanh (greater than 72 incoming artillery barrages – he lost hearing in one ear). Between that and his subsequent career in the tree business – also the falling out of tree business (80 ft.) – he has managed to break just about every bone in his body. With advancing age all those breaks are becoming more arthritic and consequently nearly continuously painful. He’s one of the most cheerful, even-tempered people I’ve ever met, and a gnarly anti-war feral cat rescuer. It is from him that I learned the essence of a true friend: “someone you’d be glad to share a foxhole with.” I can’t think of a higher aspiration for one’s own personal character development. I’ll make sure to rate as one of his foxhole friends. That’s my definition of socialism. I (we) had a spot of car trouble today, and I called Stan from the side of the road (on my antique cellular communicator) to inquire about a lift. We were lucky, he had his car out of the shop and it was sort-of working, and he was actually driving home to his apartment (in a decaying building but nicely located) from the laundromat with the clean clothes for both he and his wife (who was probably at work), and detoured to get us. He pulled up, with his low-key wisecracking way brightening up my mood, with his mostly salt with pepper bushy hair and craggy face, and a soprano’s lush opera aria gushing out of the dashboard, and a big laundry basket full of folded clothes, which he tossed in the trunk to make room for me and my gals (I’ll get two lectures later for “gals”). This was not the first time Stan and I have gotten and given rides to each other, and there will undoubtedly be more such exchanges in our futures. Sometimes it’s the little things that are everything. I have few friends by choice, because I don’t want distractions from the real thing. Not that I ever want to be in a foxhole, but it’s good to know who I would rather share one with. “An abundance of love…”

I also described Stan in an earlier post

in the section that begins with “For Ella’s benefit.”

Songs by Ella Solana García
(at Soundcloud)


“As the bee takes the essence of a flower and flies away without destroying its beauty and perfume, so let the sage wander in this life.”
— The Dhammapada, 49

Message #1 to a Young Artist

I want to commend you (give you praise) for your resolve to study deeply, even if that means taking “hard classes” with “lots of work.” Any creative person who produces worthwhile work is a person who has studied deeply, whether formally at a school or independently and intuitively by conscientious practice (or both). Good and great work comes out of a prior build-up of deep study. On a simple and practical level it is best to get as much “learning” as you can out of a school you are paying to attend. But beyond that, it is artistically and intellectually most beneficial to gain as much information, insight and understanding as possible about your chosen craft, and about the history of the culture you come from and the society you are living in, so your knowledge has depth, which will be the well from which you will draw the elements of your future creative works. When you remain committed to this “career” of study, and focussed on your personal artistic (and intellectual) vision, you will be able to move through your schooling (and life) with greater ease even as friends and acquaintances drop in and drop out of your social circle: you will be able to navigate beyond others’ dramas with less distraction and damage to yourself, and you will find that there will always be new and delightful people who can come into your life without being clingy drags. Over time, the experiences (both good and bad) you gain from your self-motivated course of study and practice build up as a growing fund of wisdom, which improves your ability to continue navigating your voyage through life, and improves your ability to create finer art. I am writing you this because I do not want you to get discouraged by the loss of friends, and the fleeting nature of many seemingly close friendships. There is no blame, just the unknowable chaos of the flow of life. Be happy in being immersed in your learning and in doing well in your creating. Love.


For Message #0 to a Young Artist, see:

Art versus Stomach


Spanish Guitar Music

This essay is at best only a fragment of the enormous topic of “Spanish Guitar Music.” I wrote it for the benefit of two music college students: “Mister Iceland,” a guitarist, and Ella García, a classically trained soprano who is also a student of song-writing and arranging. This is not a scholarly article, just my own thoughts about music I have heard and enjoyed. First, I will describe a few of what I consider to be the essential pieces and forms of the Spanish guitar repertoire, then I will describe a modern American composition that I see as having many features of classical Spanish guitar music. I refer to examples posted on YouTube as music videos. Enjoy.

Romance de Amor – Vicente Gómez

“Romance de Amor” is anonymous, and the best known Spanish guitar piece. Vincente Gómez added a slower intermediate section (or, an introduction), making for a better piece. The sheet music for this piece is in his book of 14 guitar pieces, “Vincente Gómez Guitar Album,” published by Belwin Mills Publishing Company (Melville, NY), 1980. A number of the pieces in Gómez’s book have a flamenco sound, all are pure Spanish and very good. I highly recommend this book to any serious student of the guitar, especially any student of classical guitar music and playing technique.

Leyenda (“Asturias”) by Isaac Albéniz – Andrés Segovia

Segovia is the founder of modern classical guitar. He made many transcriptions of Baroque and Classical pieces for the guitar. He used to say that J. S. Bach really “intended” his pieces for guitar; Segovia’s way of saying the guitar was a natural instrument for contrapuntal music. “Asturias,” by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) was originally written for the piano. Asturias is a province on the north coast of Spain (where my paternal grandfather came from), and this piece, “Leyenda” (Legend), was one of a number of pieces in Albéniz’s piano suite evoking the different regions/provinces of Spain.

Recuerdos de la Alhambra, played by Andrés Segovia

“Recuerdos de la Alhambra” (Memories of the Alhambra), by Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909), is my favorite Spanish guitar piece. Tárrega was 44 years old when he wrote Recuerdos de la Alhambra in 1896, 3 years after Andrés Segovia (1893-1987) was born. Tárrega was a master guitarist and composer who (like Segovia later) elevated guitar music and guitar playing to a sophisticated and refined “classical music” form of art. To many in the 19th century, guitar music was considered only peasant and street music. Francisco Tárrega, Fernando Sor (1778-1839), and perhaps a few others championed the guitar as an instrument of refined art, and Segovia carried on that effort after Tárrega.

Flamenco – Manitas de Plata (1955?)

Manitas de Plata (1921-2014) (Little Hands of Silver) was a Roma (“Gypsy”) flamenco guitarist born in Southern France. This video of his first TV appearance shows him before his subsequent international fame and pop-star status. This short video (which has too long a gap of silence at the start) shows several flamenco guitar techniques: four-sequential-finger strums, arpeggios, and drumming by tapping the guitar top. It is evident that Manitas de Plata had great facility and a fluid style of playing. This guitar music is improvisational within a variety of general forms, some “fast” and some “slow.” On one occasion in 1964, Pablo Picasso heard him play and afterwards took Manitas de Plata’s guitar and drew pictures of a picador on it (raising the value of that guitar considerably!). I noticed that there are no pictures on Manitas de Plata’s guitar in the video linked above, but there are on the video linked below.

Manitas de Plata (on TV), 1967

Manitas de Plata (born Ricardo Baliardo) was a phenomenon on the Riviera, and he gained worldwide fame with the release of his 1963 recordings in Arles, France, produced by the Phillips label and distributed in America in 1967 by the Connoisseur Society (of New York). These recordings preserve the sound of authentic flamenco musical performances (“unplugged”) as had been heard for centuries, before the advent of elaborate studio electronics and recording professionalism. The Connoisseur Society double album of Manitas de Plata’s live open-air recordings included selections with vocals, the canto hondo (deep song) of flamenco music. Here is one example of these Manitas de Plata sessions.

Manitas de Plata, 1963: Malagueñas Flamencas – Recorded at Arles, France, October 1963

La Verbena de la Paloma – En Chiclana me crié

This video (just above) has no guitar, but the piano music heard at the beginning could easily have been performed by a guitarist in real life. This scene is from a 1960s Spanish movie of one of the most famous and popular Zarzuelas (Spanish operettas), La Verbena de la Paloma (a feast day for the Virgin Mary, which is also an occasion for festivals). This scene evokes the type of gathering, with music (usually guitar), dancing, singing, and food and wine, that was “of the people,” that is to say popular, not theatrical (in real life). This scene is set in the 19th century, and shows how most people of the time – who were workers and peasants, not wealthy, nor city sophisticates – actually made and enjoyed music.

The woman lead performer singer and dancer (Concha Velasco) is playing an unmarried and very popular young woman who is pursued by a handsome, young and poor man, and also by an old druggist (apothecary) with “plata” (silver = money); and she sort of plays one against the other (a conflict of: love in poverty versus amicable loveless security).

Her song “En Chiclana me críe” (I Was Raised in Chiclana) is about her pride of being from her native village and region (near the ancient city of Cádiz). This song has the intensity of flamenco song but without the roughness of pure street flamenco; it is more polished here as a musical theater/operetta song. Much of flamenco and Spanish-style guitar music originates from this type of popular entertainment. The rough equivalent today would be acoustic guitar music with a beat that could simultaneously be sung to and danced with. The young ladies (and the hapless man-hero) in the video have operatic voices, while the old folks are invariably vocal music comics, who are always included in Zarzuelas, which were from the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Fernando Sor (1778-1839) – Seguidillas

This video shows the performance of three seguidillas by Fernando Sor (1778-1839), who was 22 years younger than Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). The performance duo are one guitarist and one soprano who, in this case, were students at the San Francisco Conservatory in 2017. This is genteel music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, yet it still “moves” as you can easily hear in the guitar accompaniment. Segovia played and championed the music of Sor as part of his promotion of “classical” guitar. The major progression of such well-known classical guitar players/champions being (from the 18th to 20th centuries) Sor, Tárrega, and Segovia.

Infinitesimal – Perfect Aquarium

To my mind, the 2015 American song composition, “Infinitesimal,” is a modern version of seguidillas. Liam Hardison (the Spanish-style guitar player) uses numerous features of Spanish guitar music, and techniques of Spanish guitar playing: flamenco strums, classical style arpeggios, and the counterpoint of a thumb-played bass-line accompanying the four-finger plucking of a treble line with arpeggios and tremolo.

The vocals on Infinitesimal are in a classical (Bel Canto/operatic) style, but with also a small hint of canto hondo, the flamenco “deep song” vocalization style that originally came from the Moorish-Arabic influence on Spain during the 8th to 15th centuries, of long unbroken lines of melismatic chants, which in flamenco are sung extremely emotionally, roughly and horsely, something like melodic primal scream.

What is not included in this particular recording of Infinitesimal is the guitar-drumming that is typical of flamenco, and is also used in Cuban country-style guitar playing (used to great effect by Rafael Cueto of the Trio Matamoros – described elsewhere on my blog). Another excellent feature on this recording of Infinitesimal is the percussion, which adds an exotic flavor that I think of as a mix of Arabic-Moorish and African spicing to a Spanish musical broth.

I don’t know if the young people who composed and performed Infinitesimal knew of the Spanish forms and influences I have mentioned here, but there is no question in my mind that Liam was throwing in all the idioms of Spanish classical guitar music that he had learned in his musical education up to that point. This song is the only one of its kind on the album, “Perfect Aquarium,” which is otherwise a contemporary Art-Rock album. So, I think Infinitesimal is a modern accidental seguidillas, a composition formulated by osmosis from what the band members had heard and played during their prior schooling, and not as a product of their intentional musicological research.

Also, I think Infinitesimal is very good in every way.


About Perfect Aquarium:

“Perfect Aquarium” album (9 songs) released on September 3, 2015

Perfect Aquarium (the band):

Liam Bernard: Lead & Classical Guitar
Ben Saldich: Rhythm Guitar, Vocals
Isaac Roth: Bass, Vocals
Frank Klopotowski: Drums, Vocals

Vocals on “Infinitesimal” by Ella Garcia



Maybe “Mister Iceland” and Ella will come up with their own seguidillas, as music for our time.



27 January 2018 is the 262nd birthday of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the most sublime personifications of the voice of the Universe, and a gift from it to the Ages.


Old Songs of Youth’s Promise

Anthony Tarrant reminded me of Wooden Ships by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, from long ago, and it got me thinking of the past. I shared Anthony’s post (on Facebook) because it moved me, and commented on it. So, further below are two responses in kind: music of unadorned art and sincere feeling far, far beyond the simplistic garish bombast of corporate “music” today.

Wooden Ships – Crosby Stills Nash and Young

Takes me back to a lost world, lost dreams, and a different kind of people, both men and women. There was still the same kind of superficiality, the same kind of selfishness and venality as today, but I remember a much greater sense of optimism and even brotherhood (prompted mainly by anti-war sentiment) than I see today. Back then, it seemed evident that society would continue to improve, perhaps too slowly but inexorably. For me, that dream died on election day, 1980 (and then December 8 of that year). That’s why I had such resurrected hope in 2016 with Bernie Sanders, and was so angered by the petty and ignorant criticisms of him by idiot right-wingers and effete self-important and disconnected boutique leftists. This, and songs like this were like the aroma and pleasurable smoke on the breezes wafting a lovely girl’s hair as we looked with dancing eyes and knowing smiles out a big open window onto the springtime of our Sentimental Education (Flaubert) not knowing of dark chapters and separating currents to come far later. And here I am, marooned on a island of memories none now knows the language for understanding.

Don McLean – Vincent ( Starry, Starry Night) With Lyrics

Soldier, We Love You (Rita Martinson)


Anthony Tarrant

Anthony also maintains a presence on Facebook.


ADDENDUM, 15 January 2018

I just took a trip back to 1969, here it is:

Crosby, Stills, & Nash, CSN (1969 Complete 1st L.P./Classic Vinyl)

I heard this album about 10,000 times back when. The first two songs in particular are icons, hits, and paint a sound picture of some of the living in those times. Actually all of the songs on this album blend into one complete work, like the movements of a symphony. Back then you could walk past a college dorm and hear this album pouring out of one open window after another. Quite a reality.


America United, A New National Anthem

America United

O beautiful for spacious skies
And amber waves of grain,
With purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
United people we,
In brotherhood
With worldwide good,
Our solidarity!

O beautiful for glorious tale
Of liberating strife,
When valiantly for love’s avail
Some gave up precious life!
America! America!
United people we
Till selfish gain
no longer stain
The banner of the free!




My 2016 Christmas Gift To You, World

Let us be grateful:
for music and musicians,
for artists and art,
for poets and lyrics,
for writers of truth.

Let us be grateful:
for life and family,
for companionship and friends,
for wisdom won from experience
and which lingers
long after the pain of getting it has passed.


Here are some items for your enjoyment during the Winter Holidays of 2016:

Personent Hodie – Andrea & Ella
24 December 2014

Walking In The Air – Ella & Rebecca
28 November 2014
Rebecca Scott (starts at right) and Ella Garcia (starts at left)


Palestine’s Gift Of Christmas
22 December 2009 (revised 22 December 2015)

Epiphany On The Glacier
21 November 2007 (revised 28 November 2015)


Dona Nobis Pacem
18 December 2012

“Silver Bells” & “Santa Baby”
18 December 2012

“Walking In The Air” & “My Grown Up Christmas List”
17 December 2012


Cuba, el ombligo del mundo

Any words I could write about the videos here would be superfluous if you experience some of the videos for yourself. If you don’t experience any of the videos (which hopefully will endure on the Internet), then my words about them would be pointless for you. What you would see here is music and musicians fulfilling their highest calling.


Soy Todo (Ay Dios Ampárame)
(Mario “Mayito” Rivera, Miami Arena 1999, 10:21)

Temba, tumba y timba
(Mario “Mayito” Rivera, Miami 1999, 10:00)

Después de todo (2004)
(Yeni Valdés, 8:49)

Anda, ven y quiéreme (2004)

Me mantengo (2011)
(5:49, a very nice commercial for dance lessons)

Los Van Van – Miami Arena (1999)
(2:12:52, the concert)

PAZ SIN FRONTERAS, 20 Septiembre 2009

Paz Sin Fronteras – Final (Chan Chan) – Los Van Van, y todos los cantantes.
Peace Without Borders – Finale (Chan Chan) – Los Van Van, and all the singers.
(10:59, end of concert on 20 September 2009)

Paz Sin Fronteras 2009 – (Almost full concert)
(2:23:49; this video mainly shows the non-Cuban singers and bands)
Live concert in Havana before an audience of 1,150,000 people.
Singers/acts shown in this video:
Olga Tañón (0-35), Puerto Rico merengue
X Alfonso (35-41) funk-rhythm chorus (Cuba)
Dani Rivera (41-44:50) Latino blues
Juan Fernando Velasco (44:50-49:20) (Ecuador)
Amaury Pérez (49:20-55:00) Bolero-son
Víctor Manuel (from Spain, not shown)
Miguel Bosé (55:00-1:00:00) (Spain)
Jovanotti (1:00:00-1:12:02) Funk Italiano; Cuba = “Ombligo del mundo” (“Navel of the world”)
Cucu Diamante y Yerba Buena (Cuba, not shown)
Orishas (1:12:02-1:20:40) Cuban rap
Juanes (1:20:40-1:44:00) Cumbia-rock, trova/ballad, cumbia (Colombia)
Juanes y Miguel Bosé (1:44:00-1:58:25) “Tiempo de cambiar,” “Time to change” (el odio por amór)
Silvio Rodríguez (Cuba, not shown)
Luis Eduardo Aute (not shown)
Carlos Varela (not shown)
Los Van Van (Juan Formell, Mario “Mayito” Rivera, y todos) (1:58:25-2:06:00)
Finale (Los Van Van, and everybody, “Chan Chan”; 2:06:00-2:23:49)
Olga Tañón and Miguel Bosé in tears (2:19:40-2:20:25)

Cucu Diamante & Yerba Buena – Paz Sin Fronteras
(9:31, Cuban act from Paz Sin Fronteras concert, not shown 2 hour video above)

Silvio Rodríguez – Paz Sin Fronteras – Septiembre 21 2009
(9:01; Cuban act from Paz Sin Fronteras concert, not shown in 2 hour video above)

Los Van Van – Paz Sin Fronteras – Cuba 09-20-09
(10:45; Los Van Van performances not shown in 2 hour video above)
(9:56; Los Van Van, continuation of above, and then into the finale)

El día en que la música tomó la Plaza de la Revolución
Cuba 20/sep/2009


Olga Tañón -En su 1era. Presentación en T.V. (16 años de edad)

Olga Tañon – Vivo La Vida (2015)


L’Estate Addosso – Video Ufficiale – Lorenzo Jovanotti Cherubini
(3:52; 2015)

Jovanotti – Paz Sin Fronteras – Yo pienso positivo – #1
(4:08; has good intro by Jovanotti, but cuts off coda, in English, of song)

Jovanotti – Paz Sin Fronteras – Yo pienso positivo – #2
(5:02; cuts off Jovanotti’s intro, but has conclusion of song)