Finding Depth In Music

Finding Depth In Music

John Coltrane and Mary Lou Williams show us that it is possible to find a deeper dimension in music.
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Thanks to the incredible support and guidance of Dr. David Belcastro and Prof. Stan Smith, I have been able to study independently this semester the topic of “Jazz and Spirituality.” My study has consisted of weekly meetings with Dr. Belcastro and Prof. Smith, a lot of reading, a lot of listening, and a lot of composing and playing music. I am mainly studying saxophonist John Coltrane and pianist Mary Lou William’s lives, as well as some of the work of the monk Thomas Merton. But when you’re in the same room with people like Dr. Belcastro and Prof. Smith, ideas shoot back and forth, filling the place with a kind of wisdom that goes beyond intellectual knowledge. The ebb and flow of the conversation takes us through topics like the blues, the ineffable, the meaning of numbers, the role of the jazz musician, and a myriad of other topics that together create a composition worth paying attention to.

Dr. Belcastro doesn’t like the term “spirituality.” Prof. Smith doesn’t like the term “jazz.” Yet here we are, trying to make sense of the labels we have assigned to things that cannot be labeled. Our focus lies on taking Coltrane and Mary Lou William’s experiences and music and trying to figure out how it all played out in their lives. Coltrane saw in the marriage of spirituality and jazz a never ending quest. A quest for what? We don’t know. Perhaps Coltrane didn’t know either. A quest for God? A quest for the ineffable? Perhaps he did know. And perhaps I will know by the end of the semester. But in knowing and not knowing we find Coltrane’s never ending solos, his scale runs and his squeaks, his beautiful compositions and his willingness to share a piece of his soul with us. And who would be a better companion to Coltrane on this journey than Mary Lou Williams? Even though her conversion to Roman Catholicism didn’t come till later in her life, ever since she was born she had an inclination for the spiritual, seeing ghosts and having visions and premonitions from a really young age. In Mary Lou we see the story of jazz unfold, from its era as popular dance music all the way down to avant-garde and beyond. In her we see a devout Christian “praying” through her music. In her we see a musician who wrote music that came from her soul and that is able to reach our own souls.

So why should you care about any of this? If you’re a musician, and specially if you consider yourself a “jazz" musician, I believe that thinking about the depth that can be attached to your music is as important as the notes and licks you play. Only by speaking from our hearts we can connect to our audience in a way that will pull them into the music and speak to their inner selves. In this era of entertainment, it is harder and harder to create real connections between the audience and the musicians. Let us therefore not distance ourselves even further by ignoring the depth of the experience that music can create. If you’re part of the audience, then realize that there is an experience of music that can point out to something deeper. An experience of music that can draw us out from the anxious, fast-paced lives we live into a moment of peaceful existence.

These are only some initial thoughts that I have drawn out from the few weeks I’ve been studying this topic, but I believe that already there is much to be learned from what I have studied. If you’re interested in the topic, don’t hesitate to reach out! I’ll be having a recital on November 29th at 8 pm as the final project for my study of “Jazz and Spirituality” in which I will be playing solo and group material written by Coltrane, by Mary Lou and by myself, along with the recitation of poems by Thomas Merton with tied to some of the music.

Cover Image Credit: Bob Thiele

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8 Reasons Why My Dad Is the Most Important Man In My Life

Forever my number one guy.
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Growing up, there's been one consistent man I can always count on, my father. In any aspect of my life, my dad has always been there, showing me unconditional love and respect every day. No matter what, I know that my dad will always be the most important man in my life for many reasons.

1. He has always been there.

Literally. From the day I was born until today, I have never not been able to count on my dad to be there for me, uplift me and be the best dad he can be.

2. He learned to adapt and suffer through girly trends to make me happy.

I'm sure when my dad was younger and pictured his future, he didn't think about the Barbie pretend pageants, dressing up as a princess, perfecting my pigtails and enduring other countless girly events. My dad never turned me down when I wanted to play a game, no matter what and was always willing to help me pick out cute outfits and do my hair before preschool.

3. He sends the cutest texts.

Random text messages since I have gotten my own cell phone have always come my way from my dad. Those randoms "I love you so much" and "I am so proud of you" never fail to make me smile, and I can always count on my dad for an adorable text message when I'm feeling down.

4. He taught me how to be brave.

When I needed to learn how to swim, he threw me in the pool. When I needed to learn how to ride a bike, he went alongside me and made sure I didn't fall too badly. When I needed to learn how to drive, he was there next to me, making sure I didn't crash.

5. He encourages me to best the best I can be.

My dad sees the best in me, no matter how much I fail. He's always there to support me and turn my failures into successes. He can sit on the phone with me for hours, talking future career stuff and listening to me lay out my future plans and goals. He wants the absolute best for me, and no is never an option, he is always willing to do whatever it takes to get me where I need to be.

6. He gets sentimental way too often, but it's cute.

Whether you're sitting down at the kitchen table, reminiscing about your childhood, or that one song comes on that your dad insists you will dance to together on your wedding day, your dad's emotions often come out in the cutest possible way, forever reminding you how loved you are.


7. He supports you, emotionally and financially.

Need to vent about a guy in your life that isn't treating you well? My dad is there. Need some extra cash to help fund spring break? He's there for that, too.

8. He shows me how I should be treated.

Yes, my dad treats me like a princess, and I don't expect every guy I meet to wait on me hand and foot, but I do expect respect, and that's exactly what my dad showed I deserve. From the way he loves, admires, and respects me, he shows me that there are guys out there who will one day come along and treat me like that. My dad always advises me to not put up with less than I deserve and assures me that the right guy will come along one day.

For these reasons and more, my dad will forever be my No. 1 man. I love you!

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My Childhood Nostalgia

Straight from the mouths of babes.

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eliset1
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Almost all of us as Millenials and Gen Z were raised around technology. We love it and are constantly adapting to the world and new technologies around us. As we age, we sometimes forget about the online games we played and the things that brought us joy on the internet when we were younger. Sometimes, it's great to go back and reminisce on what we used to play. This allows us to see how far we've come and think of much simpler times. These are a few of the most popular online games when we were younger, and how they're doing now, many years later.

Neopets

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Neopets was an online pet trading and adopting game that started in 1999 and rose to popularity starting in 2005. The game had players create their own customized versions of species and interact with others. In 2010, the game slowly started dying off as most of the main fanbase grew out of the targeted age demographic and due to intense hacking. Now, Neopets is still active and there are updates made to the website.

Disney's ToonTown

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Not just a place in Disneyland, Disney's ToonTown was an online game where players were able to choose the toon they wished to play as. The MMORPG (massive multiplayer online role-playing game) saw thousands of people play every day from around the world. Released in 2003, the game continued to rise and be played by many and was praised for its ability to allow people to connect with those from different areas of the globe. However, because of Disney wanting to focus it's attention to another game, ToonTown was discontinued in 2013, much to the disappointment to many fans. As a result, people teamed up and created a carbon copy of ToonTown called ToonTown Rewritten a few months following its closure. This version of the game is still open for people to play today!

Poptropica

This game was one that allowed people to explore their inner Nancy Drew. This game had players explore secrets and uncover mysteries. The game was created from the same creator of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series, and was very popular during the time the books were popular as well. Aimed for people ages 6 to 15, the game continues to have players. Although not as popular as it once was in 2007, the game does have updates and new mysteries uploaded.

Club Penguin

Club Penguin was another on of Disney's online games, and a game that led to the demise of Disney's ToonTown. This game took off, but ultimately end up failing as Disney tried to modernize the game too much, turning it into an app. The over-complication of the game led to many people no longer being interested, and thus Disney closed the online version of the game in 2017. Much like Disney's ToonTown, fans of the game have created their own version, called Club Penguin Rewritten, where people are able to continue their penguin lives.

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