Grandpa Henkel

My Grandpa Henkel was born in 1873. Yes. 133 years ago.

Grandpa died in 1962 when I was 10 years old. I guess I knew him about as well as a 10 year old boy could know an 89 year old man. Everything on the outside of him was old. His face, his hands, his clothes, his smell, his cane, his walk, his beechnut chewing tabacco, the works. But the stuff on the inside was new. He was a tease. And I do believe he liked the jokes I told him. He was half-deaf, but he could hear what Grandma was saying about him in the kitchen. (That’s the half that wasn’t deaf.) I know that he enjoyed Grandma’s buttermilk pancakes just as much as his 10 year old grandson did.

Grandpa didn’t own a wrist watch. His Elgin pocket watch still worked fine. His last home, on Logan Street in Centralia, had the conveniences of modern life. Electric lights, an electric range, and a rotary dial telephone on a stand in the bedroom hallway. The house was warm, if you were in the kitchen by the “trash burner” — a small wood burning stove that also served to heat water for the house. It was warm too in the dining room on the other side of the wall where a larger wood burning stove shared the chimney. The bedrooms were warm too, if you had a nice blanket.

As I grew up, I came to realize that other kids had grandpas who could play baseball, and who spent lots of time NOT sitting in a chair, who had jobs and even wrist watches. Amazing. That was a different kind of grandpa. But I knew that my Grandpa was somehow grander.

I’m glad that I was able to know him for those ten years in which our lives crossed.

By the way, his Elgin pocket watch still works fine, though usually it stays in my dresser drawer. And I don’t own a wrist watch either. I just use the clock on my cell phone, it’s always in my pocket!



Piano performance opportunities?

I’m looking for like minded adult piano students in the Ogden area who would like some informal performance opportunities. Perhaps monthly get togethers in the homes of members of our “group”. On a more formal basis, an example of this is the Adult Music Student Forum of the Washington DC area ( I would like more experience performing for others than I get at my teacher’s recitals and playing for friends (they say they enjoy it, though!)

Is there a group in this area like I describe? Or can we form one?



Rhythm Syllables

While working at jazz pieces and some Stephen Heller exercises that have sextuplets (six note patterns in one beat). I needed to add to my counting vocabulary. My earlier training engrained syllables for a few patterns:

eighths: (one-and two-and … )
eighth triplets (one-trip-let two-trip-let … )
sixteenths (one-e-and-a two-e-and-a … )
quarter triplets (over two beats) (one-o-let three-o-let)

The above paradigm provided a specific syllable for each positional timing, and insisted that the first syllable of a pattern be the beat number in the measure. When patterns became more complex you would leave out the unplayed counts. All of this didn’t really help me when getting to the new pattern of sextuplets (e.g. in the patterns of McPartland shown in an earlier post).

Internet research shows that piano educators are in no particular agreement on what’s best, so I came up with something that works for me from the various schools of thought. What I like are pronounceable syllables that roll off the tounge with appropriate syllable emphasis. So for a six syllable word to aid in counting the sextuplets, I use:

  • rump-i-ty-hump-i-ty
  • This “word” places appropriate emphasis on the first and fourth syllables, which helps to keep the note pattern flowing properly. Because “rump” is different than “hump”, the word helps to reinforce where I am in the measure when learning long runs of sextuplets. I also find that hump is naturally stressed somewhat less than rump in the pronounciation of this word. That effect is also appropriate to the playing of sextuplets.

    While researching this, I found one simple phrase that is quite helpful with triplet patterns. I tend to rush them! The following is interesting:

  • stuck-in-gum
  • When used as an aid to counting a triplet pattern among straight eighths or quarter note patterns, it helps me to avoid the rush just because the image of “stuck in gum” slows a guy down a tad. Funny how the mind works!

    This week’s challenge is to learn a septuplet (seven note pattern) among a bunch of sextuplets. In this piece, I’m moving along with a bunch of rumpity-humpities, and now I have to deal with a ??-???-???-??-??-???-??? What is the aid I use?

    What I came up with is:

  • noodle-ee-bee-doodle-ee
  • It rolls off the tounge and places light emphasis on the final syllable. In addition, it focuses the mind on the symmetry of the pattern. (A seven note pattern has middle element –“bee”.) So I know that if I’m playing eighths in the left hand with noodle-ee-bee-doodle-ees in the right hand then the second eighth falls after the bee but before the doodle! I started out toying with noodle-ee-doodle-ee-doo, for septuplets, but that word has a problem! It places a strong emphasis on the last syllable, and I soon found that noodle-ee-doodle-ee was just another pronounciation of rumpity humpity, so it was counter productive. With this pronounciation it was easy to confuse the six note pattern with the seven. The word I chose, noodle-ee-bee-doodle-ee, is suitably distinct as a seven note pattern.

    I’m learning to talk “New Yorker”. So to use my favorite New York slang: How weird is that?

    Here’s some links to material I used in forming my thoughts on the subject.



    Practice Technique: Don’t look at the keys!

    I’m sure its written. I’m sure you’ve heard it. Don’t look at the keys!

    Sure. But when the going gets tough, we look at the keys don’t we?

    I was practicing a line of McPartlands If You Could See Me Now (line 3 Page 46), which has a series of 10ths in the alternating bass line. Tenths are a stretch for me. In fact white key tenths are reached on the tips of the keys, above the key slip. So they are a challenge.

    I found that though I practiced for hours, I really wasn’t getting more consistent at striking the tenths confidently while playing at a good tempo. Then it dawned on me! I was constantly (twice per measure!) moving my eyes from the score to the keyboard. Something had to give. Either the score, or the keyboard. I’m of the opinion that ideally one should get to the point that vision is not essential to performance, so I chose to eliminate sight of the keyboard. (Hopefully the score will go away sometime, but that’s another story)

    To keep my eyes from the keyboard, I wedged three music books between the music desk and the fallboard, so that I was playing with my hands below the books, while I was referencing the score above the books. It really worked! I found that while my vision of the keys was eliminated, my initial performance was no worse than with full sight. Interesting. As I practiced, I found that my accuracy improved. More later … The quest for excellence continues.



    DHTML Menu: Friendly to No-Script Browsers

    Earlier I described in my design objectives for a new website, This article describes the menu system used for that site.

    My objective was to use a DHTML mouse-over menu to aid navigation and site layout, but to preserve good functionality for browsers which do not support Javascript or have Javascript turned off.

    Here’s the demo:

    If you view this demo with Javascript disabled, your experience will be much different, but very appropriate.

    The demo above is also available here:

    The Javascript library I used for this implementation is from BrainJar. I made one modification the the brainjar.js library they present in their demo3 . The modification I made allows for the use of <UL> instead of <DIV> for menu containers.
    The menu is implemented using CSS, Javascript (when detected), and ColdFusion. Though ColdFusion is used in these examples, any server-side technology could be used. And in fact no server-side technology is required, but as you will see, the server-side coding creates attractive code, which leads to easy maintenance.

    The core code is contained in menu.cfm:

    <cfparam name="url.area" default="home">
    	// Server side function modifies the
    	// class name of the current tab.
    	// In this demo, modification is based on url of request.
    	function activeTab(vArea){
    		// this logic is for demo only
    		// should be changed to suit the site architecture.
    		if (url.area eq vArea){
    			return "Current";
    			return "";
    <!--- Main Menu Bar --->
    	The class of each "a tag" below is modified by the
    	value of the function activeTab(area) below.
    	The activeTab function returns either 'Current' or ''.
    	Thus the "a tag" class is either menuButton or menuButtonCurrent
    <div class="menuBar" >
    	<a class="menuButton#activetab('home')#"
    ><a class="menuButton#activetab('document')#"
        onclick="return buttonClick(event, 'documentMenu');"
        onmouseover="buttonMouseover(event, 'documentMenu');"
    ><a class="menuButton#activetab('community')#"
        onclick="return buttonClick(event, 'communityMenu');"
        onmouseover="buttonMouseover(event, 'communityMenu');"
    ><a class="menuButton#activetab('contact')#"
    Rather than putting out the dhtml menu directly, write it out with
    client side script.  In that way, alternate browsers which may have
    JS disabled will not see the divs at all.  We have also decluttered the
    screens of these browsers if they also do not recognize CSS. We could
    do this without coldfusion processing, but by stripping out CR and
    TAB and escaping JS code, the menus:  documentMenu.cfm,
    communityMenu.cfm, etc. are highly readable.
    <cfsavecontent variable="dhtmlMenu">
    	<cfinclude template="documentMenu.cfm">
    	<cfinclude template="communityMenu.cfm">
    	<cfinclude template="communityMenuNewsletters.cfm">
    <cfset dhtmlMenu = replace(dhtmlMenu,chr(10),"","all")>
    <cfset dhtmlMenu = replace(dhtmlMenu,chr(13),"","all")>
    <cfset dhtmlMenu = replace(dhtmlMenu,chr(9),"","all")>
    <script language="Javascript">

    One of the menu <UL>’s, documentMenu.cfm, is shown here:

    <!--- Document Menu --->
    <ul id="documentMenu" class="menu"
    	<li><a class="menuItem" href="index.cfm?page=content/documents/white_barn_PRUD_CCRs.pdf&area=document">Covenants and Restrictions</a></li>
    	<li><a class="menuItem" href="index.cfm?page=content/documents/white_barn_PRUD_bylaws.pdf&area=document">By Laws</a></li>
    	<li><a class="menuItem" href="index.cfm?page=documents/communityRules.cfm&area=document">Community Rules</a></li>
    	<li><a class="menuItem" href="index.cfm?page=documents/petRules.cfm&area=document">Pet Rules</a></li>

    Complete source code for this demo is available here:

    And finally, by the way, the pages look fine when viewed on the simplest of browsers, lynx:
    A view of the Documents Menu rendered by lynx



    Joy of performance

    When I got back to the piano a few months ago, after a 15+ year absence, I didn’t know what would happen. Ooo boy! A lot has happened. I have practiced with abandon, found a great teacher — Rebecca Wren of Ford Piano Studio — and things really are happening! The joy of it is that I find I can perform at a level which was not a part of me 15 years ago. What a fine feeling.

    For the past two months I’ve been working on learning a piece recorded by Marian McPartland many years ago. The piece is her interpretation of “If You Could See Me Now”. I am working from the transcriptions of Don Sickler and John Oddo: “The Artistry Marian McPartland” (c 1985) I purchased my copy of this book on eBay. Amazon also lists it..

    When first approached two months ago, I thought the first measure of page 48 was going to be out of reach. Today, well … I’m just so happy with it!
    1st measure of page 48

    Here’s an mp3 clip of my playing earlier this evening For me, it’s pure magic!

    You can also hear Marian McPartland’s performance of this piece on Rhapsody (free).



    Tidy Web Design

    Recently I had the chance (volunteer work) to do some web development from the ground up. That’s not part of my everyday work, where I do mostly maintenance on existing web applications. I approached this project with several objectives:

    1. HTML/CSS standards compliant
    2. No Table layout
    3. Attractive, functional layout for screen sizes 800×600 and higher
    4. Javascript DHTML menus which support a good experience in a No Script environment
    5. Support the visually impaired by using resizeable fonts
    6. Provide a good print layout through use of CSS @media selector
    7. Strong use of CSS

    Its still a work in progress! I’m not quite there with 1 and 2 above. I need to continue my quest in those areas. However, I’m quite pleased with other aspects of the objectives above. More later. Here’s a view of my work:



    Piano Performance Anxiety

    Oh darn. I have Piano Performance Anxiety, and no, I’m not going to see a shrink. I’m investing in piano lessons instead. My Christmas present to myself was a 6’2″ grand built by the Charles Stieff Company of Baltimore in 1911.

    Since Christmas, which technically ocurred just before Halloween, I’ve discovered a great deal about myself and my keyboard skills.

    • After several months of dedicated practice, I find that I’m just as good as I was 20 years ago
    • Actually, better!
    • I’m really lousy when anyone is listening!

    This performance anxiety is, in a way, perplexing. I really didn’t anticipate it, since I’ve been performing publicly with my quartet(s) for more that 20 years now! Anxiety at those performances is nil.

    So that gives me something to work on, besides notes! Today I did some interesting reading on the subject, and found two very different, and very interesting articles:
    This article presents some thoughts from the perspective of an accomplished performer, with good advice to the amateur. Included in the thoughts is an interesting practice perspective on the MOTION TO THE OCEAN. The second article, a very personal view on performance anxiety, discloses an obvious truth: Playing the piano is so much fun, why worry about it?



    Occasional observations of Duane McGuire