GNL number 32

the GOOD NEWS lately

a report of doings at meeting #32, Sunday, February 14, 2010
including liturgical notes, major themes, and other odds and ends


Music is only love looking for words.
—–Lawrence Durrell



Today we were delighted and enriched by the presence of three women who were joining us for the first time.  Not only Katherine, who we’d been working on for a long time, but the two world travelers, Alison, who through her work with House of Flowers Orphanage in Afghanistan has taught us and Peacemakers much, and Gail V, who has also worked on many education projects in Kabul, where she will be returning at the end of this month.  We look forward to their returning here, all three.

Sue, whose idea it was originally to discuss MUSIC in Our Lives,  started this Part II of our conversation on the topic.  She said her own household as a child was not an especially musical one (though she remembered her dad doing a great Elvis imitation).  She recalled she couldn’t carry a tune and felt self-conscious about singing, but loved music.  She named several musicians that had moved her deeply, like the a cappella singers Sweet Honey in the Rock, and sang us the song that became like a mantra for her over the 25 years that she started her Storytimes with it (Row, Row, Row Your Boat), and then the lovely lullaby she’d sung to her kids, and that now her son sings to his.   See AFTERWORDS for these, and some quotes.

Anna recalled playing her assortment of recorders in small groups for years when she was in her twenties. She remembered too being told no to music lessons as a child, but later being allowed to study dance, perhaps because her cousin Sascha was a dancer with the Martha Graham troupe;  this she continued for a number of years, and professionally. She also had fond memories of seeing Pete Seeger sing several times, and even Leadbelly right after he got out of prison.

Ann said she’d grown up in a home where music was loved, and she mentioned developing an affection later for country dance and its music.  But she is also a keen appreciator of nature’ s sights and sounds, so she brought and played for us a bit from a CD with some beautiful  birdsong.  And since she is definitely an appreciator of word-sound and word-play, she read us an original and funny poem about sounds not necessarily musical.  (For which you should check AW.)

Adair spoke more about a subtopic from last week, music beloved and peaceful “to die to”,and noted there were  several  kinds of music that move her.  But she expressed special admiration, among powerful music, for the kind that can rouse people to action—not only memorable in melody but boldly topical in verse,  like Pete Seeger’s protest song “Bring ‘Em Home”.  (And she brought a stack of blank CDs for us to use to copy and distribute some of the music from this conversation.)

What came vividly back to Jack on the topic of music was a scene at his grade school at the Columbia Teachers College in New York City when a choir from an African-American college visited and sang a song that had a history as a children’s singing game.  And this was: “Juba like this, Juba like that, Juba killed the old yellow cat!”  (Editor’s note: Bernice Johnson Reagon of Sweet Honey in the Rock teaches on one of her albums—All For Freedom—that Juba was the drum language that slaves used when their drums were taken away because whites knew they used them to communicate.  And, “Patting Juba” was the name of a variation on the rhythmic singing game known as the Hambone, patting rhythm on one’s body.)

Cynthia remembered music in childhood, particularly in her grandparents’ home. She also spoke of feeling very self-conscious as a child about performing, once being unable to make a sound before an audience.   But she also more fondly recalled playing and singing by herself once, when her grandfather stopped by to listen and told her how good it sounded.   Cyn did some research this week too, checking birthdates of favorite musicians, to see if there were any connections; while she couldn’t report big conclusive findings about that, she was delighted to discover that she and Joan Baez were born the same day.

Gail V spoke of her childhood too, with her mother, Roberta, playing classical music on the piano; and she said in fact, Roberta remarkably in her 90’s is still playing for the other residents at her assisted living building.  She remembered listening to a lot of classical music as a child, feeling especially moved by Rachmaninoff;  and she recalled the years of taking lessons (though, for performances, insisting on having the sheet music).  Now as an adult, she wonders if all the lessons and practice don’t often cause some other right-side gift to be lost.

Alison recalled learning to play the violin very young by the Suzuki  method, and later learning to read music.  She said her formal  music studies’ development plateaued but she retained her ear playing strength.
Where Sue had spoken of hearing songs’ words more deeply than tunes, Alison felt she herself had always naturally registered the melody strongly and tended to lose the words.  And many of us saw we fell in one or the other of those categories too.

Katherine said there was plenty of music in her childhood home too, with her mother teaching piano. And Kath learned to play and read music as a child.  She took up guitar later, after she began listening to bluegrass and country music on WWVA radio from Wheeling, West Virginia.  She still meets weekly with other musicians in the area, as she’s done for years, to make good music and fun.  (Editor’s note:  She didn’t say this, but Katherine was part of the local band Peace de Resistance with Annie and Joe Fonda that put out a CD in 2003 called Fly Bush to the Moon.)

Nancy confined herself to the mention of two books: This is Your Brain on Music, by Daniel Levitin, and The Mozart Effect, by Don Campbell (See AW for more info); and then two CDs—a special mix from her son, and a  Putumayo world-music disc. The first CD was not given as a valentine but is one nonetheless, the happiest mixed bag of new and old rocknroll, jazz, and country that she earnestly wanted to make everybody listen, sing, dance, yell and act out to, but elected to reserve for another day.  Then, from  A Mediterranean Odyssey, she played a song for Valentine’s Day, an example of what might be the first kind of love song—a lullaby— this one sung by Lucilla Galeazzi, with such intimate sweetness that anyone of any age hearing it would feel adored.


A lullaby for all:

Sogne Fiore Mio  (Dream, My Flower)

Dream, my flower, dream and rest,
Close your mouth, which looks like a rose,
Dream and close your round, round eyes,
Because when you close your eyes, you dream of the world.
Close your eyes and don’t speak,
Dream of the bottom of the sea,
Close your eyes and don’t be afraid,
Dream of a world made of music.

—–Ambrogio Sparagna, and sung by Lucilla Galeazzi
on the cd A Mediterranean Odyssey

We enthusiastically agreed that today’s offering would go to the House of Flowers Orphanage in Kabul.

Checks made out to MEPO (earmarked for House of Flowers) can be sent to:

MEPO, c/o Badawang Art
37 Maple Street
Summit, NJ 0790

During lunch we had a compelling second conversation leading from our questions to Gail and Alison, who represent many years of work abroad, especially in Afghanistan. They reported many Afghanis are leading normal working lives but many others are looking for work, and as Medea Benjamin said after her visits to Afghanistan, they said, get people jobs and they won’t be joining the Taliban.  About  the state of our own nation, Gail spoke in earnest, first recommending Peter Barnes’ book, Capitalism 3.0: a Guide to Protecting the Commons. (Chapters of the book are available on-line at The Encyclopedia of Earth.) And then she expressed her faith that a great change is underway, but that we need to remember and remind each other that we are responsible too for making that change—something Gail had recently been reminded of herself, by her niece’s fervent resolve to write Obama her best input, appreciation and will to help.


Sunday, March 14, 2010 (1030),  at Jack’s.
The topic will be: THIS I BELIEVE.


(Among the many threads left from today’s gathering, were such ideas as “sentimental intervals”, and whether music preceded spoken language—Alison and Nancy and Dan Levitin say of course!—and was Bobby McFerrin really the whole thing himself in that amazing choral  23rd Psalm?)

from Sue: 

Music thoughts

Talk about not being a very good singer—having melody dyslexia, about folk music that allowed me to sing along and enjoy it, about everyone in the front row of a Sweet Honey in the Rock concert crying as they released the first note of their concert, about the ability of music to connect us body and spirit to all that is good and beautiful.


  • “Music is the universal language of mankind.” ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Outre-Mer
  • “Without music life would be a mistake.” ~Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
  • “Take a music bath once or twice a week for a few seasons. You will find it is to the soul what a water bath is to the body.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes

Songs I sang

Row Row Row your boat,
Gently down the stream.
Merrily Merrily Merrily Merrily.
Life is but a dream.

For 25 years I sang this song with the kids to begin my storyhour—after playing it on my alto recorder. Through many good and difficult times in my life, 8-10 weeks every fall and spring. It became a touchstone, a mantra for life—adding depth and understanding to whatever was going on for me.

The Moon Song: When she was little I sang my daughter a song every night that I made up (since I wasn’t great at remembering tunes), and now my son is singing it to my grandchildren. What a gift! It goes like this:

The moon is in the sky,
it’s light comes pouring.
It makes the flowers grow at night.
It makes the waters flow.
The moon, The moon,
The moon, The moon, The moon.

Lyrics to 1st stanza of the Beatles Song, “In My Life.” In the 2nd stanza the last line is “In my life I love you more,” and I always want that line to refer to everyone I’ve ever loved…..”In My Life” (Lennon/McCartney)

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all.

from Ann:


Preachin’ and a prayin’
Rockin’ and a swayin’
Screechin’ and a brayin’
Bleatin’ and a blatin’
Hippin’ and a hoppin’
Skippin’ and a cloppin’
Sighin’ and a cryin’
Swoonin’ and a croonin’
Cursin’ and a versin’
An orchestra playing
Pandering and wailing
Selling and saying

From Nancy:

About the authors of books recommended

  • This is Your Brain on Music: the Science of a Human Obsession,  by Daniel Levitin, a neuroscientist and for many years before, a rock musician, sound engineer, and record producer. The Library of Congress website has an 8-minute talk by Levitin about his new book.
  • The Mozart Effect: Tapping the Power of Music to Heal the Body, Strengthen the Mind, and Unlock the Creative Spirit,  by Don Campbell, a musician, educator, and sound healer, who founded (1988) and directs the Institute for Music, Health, and Education in Boulder, Co.


  • Music rots when it gets too far from the dance.  Poetry atrophies when it gets too far from music.—–Ezra Pound
  • He who hears music feels his solitude peopled at once.—–Robert Browning
  • Music is what life sounds like.—–Eric Olson
  • There is no truer truth obtainable by Man than comes of music.—–Robert Browning


From Adair:

Some quotes for any day of the year

  • There is enough for all.  The earth is a generous mother: she will provide in plentiful abundance food for all her children if they will but cultivate her soil in justice and in peace.—–Bourke Coekran
  • Human subtlety will never devise an invention more beautiful, more simple, or more direct than does nature, because in her inventions nothing is lacking, and nothing is superfluous.—–Leonardo da Vinci
  • A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space.  He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness.  This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest to us.  Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.—–Albert Einstein
  • I declare a Sabbath Day—to walk in the wilderness of enlarged perceptions;  I declare a release from work—to nourish the stamina to pursue ideals;   I declare a special hour—to help cherish life’s joys and combat life’s sorrows;  I declare a reign of holiness—to deepen our grounding in the sustaining mystery.   I declare a time for simply being and letting go, for rediscovering great, forgotten truths, for basking in the arts of the ages, and for learning how to live again.—–Rev. David O. Rankin, Unitarian-Universalist Church minister

from Gail V:

Thinkers recommended

  • John Bellamy Foster, professor of sociology at U of Oregon, author of  books:  Ecology Against Capitalism,  Marx’s Ecology: Materialism and Nature, and  Naked Imperialism., et al., and editor of Monthly Review.  Interviews, talks, eg, on Economy, Ecology, and Empire available online, through Alternative Radio.
  • Robert Jensen, professor of journalism at U of Texas, author of Citizens of the Empire, The Heart of Whiteness, and All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice.  A talk, on Religion and Progressive Politics available online, also through Alternative Radio.

From Nancy:

More resources

  • (Book)  Toning: the Creative Power of the Voice, by Laurel Elizabeth Keyes, a fascinating little book from 1973 about the ancient healing method of vocal toning.
  • (Book and CDs) There’s No Place Like Ohm, by Marjorie de Muynck, about the therapeutic effect of listening to the ohm tone (vibrational tone 136.10hz, based on the measured frequency of the elliptical orbit of the earth around the sun through the four seasons; for this reason considered our musical center of gravity.)
  • And a late-breaking newsflash — Book just arrived: Daniel Levitin’s new book, The World in Six Songs:  How the Musical Brain Created Human Nature.  (N will try to finish it by next Skippy.) The Library of Congress website has an 8-minute talk by Levitin about his new book.



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