Oct 212009

Today in the morning, as I was going down the street, wearing my red winter coat that is too elegant to be worn with jeans and sneakers (but I do it anyway), I had put my ipod on shuffle. The sun was shining, it was cold enough for hats and mittens, and I thought how discontinuous my life is.

Last Sunday I had my IQ tested (I don’t know if they found any yet I’m waiting for the results), just yesterday evening I went from teaching piano to teaching a class on lace knitting, and then to teaching mindfulness knitting meditation. After the meditation class (that went really well) I went back home to eat a salami sandwich and drink beer in front of a particularly gruesome episode of “Buffy – the vampire slayer”.

Today I went from the yarn shop to the health food store walking the whole way. Next to me was one of these very young men in a hoodie with big pants and a woolen hat, and I thought, “What does he think I’m listening to right now?” Well, I guess he didn’t think about me at all but right then my ipod played this:

I really have taken a liking to this particular System of a Down album. Now that I’m listening to it again, it is quite operatic. And then the ipod played this (not heavy at all) only in a version sung by Anita O’Day):

And this just about sums up my life that I really love both of these songs.

And I don’t usually post youtube videos here because I have to admit I don’t do youtube, when you put a video in a post I will usually not watch it. I don’t know why, maybe it’s because I have to turn on the speakers, and then I have to sit there and pay attention until the clip is over but I no longer force myself to.

I also don’t usually write short posts without a defined theme but I thought maybe it’s time to change my “format”. The “long, thoughtful posts”-format doesn’t seem to work for me at the moment.

But I still have layers. See?

Jul 022009

I finally did it, sent away the stuff for the classes I’m going to teach next fall. Thanks for your comments,a and offers for help. When I told my husband about that post he said, “But I offered to help you last weekend, and you didn’t want me too!” (He’s right, I’m stubborn.) He also said that he knew I’d do it at the very last minute, that man knows me well. The thing I couldn’t write about myself turned out to be exactly three sentences long. It would have been much easier for me if it had had to be three pages. I do better with long formats – which you can see on my blog, ahem.

I finally managed to write something by writing a first draft in English. My excuse for being more comfortable with writing in English has always been that I’m more used to it because of the blog and the internet but yesterday as I was scribbling down my draft on a piece of grocery list at midnight I thought again and I think that I take writing in English a bit lighter because it feels like paying with toy money. It feels a bit less real and therefore less threatening.

I told my husband about my feeling that writing in English is a bit less real for me than writing in German (I know it doesn’t feel like that for most of my readers) and he said, “English is your teddy-land!” I don’t know whether you’re familiar with teddy-land, it’s a land that my son invented where all his stuffed animals live. He goes to sleep there because teddy-land is mostly his bed, and my son is emperor of teddy-land.

So, it seems that English is the land where I go to play. I do know that it is a real language and that there are people who speak nothing else but for me it is as if there where teddy-land inside my computer, it’s where all the nice stories and music come from, and they even invented their own language. Plus there are all these nice imaginary people, and there seems to be a lot of knitting and writing in my teddy-land.

Anyways, here is my draft for the short bio:

My name is Susanne. I’m a singing teacher.

I love improvisation which keeps me in the moment, as does mindfulness meditation.

Since I also love to knit I combine the two in mindful knitting.

I told you it was only three sentences. The tricky part was connecting the singing with the knitting, and the meditation.

In German and after several re-writes it turned into:

Mein Name ist Susanne. Ich bin ausgebildete Musikpädagogin und unterrichte seit mehr als zehn Jahren Jazz- und Pop-Gesang.

Mein Interesse gilt dabei besonders dem Bereich der Improvisation, der spontan im Moment entstehenden Musik.

Die Konzentration auf das Jetzt, diesen Moment ist auch das Grundprinzip der Achtsamkeits-Meditation, und dieses Prinzip verbinde ich mit meiner fast lebenslangen Liebe zum Stricken durch “mindful knitting”, Strick-Meditation.

Kreativität hat viele Facetten.

That’s (in toy speak):

My name is Susanne. I am a trained music educator, and have been a singing teacher for jazz and pop for more than ten years.

I’m especially interested in improvisation, spontaneous music made in the moment.

The focus on the now, this moment, is also the guiding principle for mindfulness meditation. I’m combining this principle with my almost life-long love of knitting through “mindful knitting”, knitting meditation.

Creativity has many facets.

See, it turned out to be four sentences in the end.

As for the classes, there will be a lace knitting class (that’s self-explanatory, isn’t it?). I probably will be designing a lace scarf pattern for this, one that starts easy and gets more difficult over the six week class. There will be a class called “knitting as a spiritual way” where we will use knitting as a focus for mindful sitting meditation and we’ll think about how knitting connects people, how it tells stories, and such.

And then there will be the most exciting class for me (never mind that I’m making each of these up as I go along) the circle singing. There will be a one-day workshop where we will be making up songs as we go along. If you want to hear this kind of singing, go to the webe3-site, or go and listen to Bobby McFerrin’s Circlesongs-CD . We’ll stand in a circle, and I’ll make up patterns for the others to sing, then we’ll build patterns upon patterns, and in the end there will be music made by all of us together. If the students are able there even might be a bit of soloing.

So, if you’re living next to M.unich I’d love to see you at these classes. I probably will put up a link to them once they are link-able. The knitting classes will start in October and the circle singing will be November 8th.

Seems that there might be a bit more posting in this place now that the procrastination is out of the way…

Mar 172009

I distinctly remember coming back home from an improvisation workshop last year in May with the firmly set conviction that I had to post an improvisation a week on my blog. Or at least once a month. Since then there was music exactly – once.

I also distinctly remember that the reason for me to move my blog from blogger to my own domain was that blogger no longer allowed me to play my music on my blog because it didn’t accept the code for the player anymore.

So, since music seems to be so important to me, why is it that I don’t make more of it, and don’t post any of it on my blog?

At first I thought I was lazy. And that I’m fooling myself by telling me that I want to be a musician when I grow up. Then there was this day, two weeks ago, when I suddenly felt a bit better than the months before – you know, with the on-going flu – and I sat down and played my piano and sang, and improvised a bit. Something I hadn’t done in months. I did sit down and play during those months but always other people’s songs. Never my own thing.

And then it hit me: I hadn’t been lazy. I had been in constant turmoil, health crisis after parenting crisis, after another. Since fall. It hit me that I took one of the first moments I had, a moment when I felt a bit more myself, and I sat down and made myself some music.

Of course I only sat down twice since then but there might be more space for that in the near future. I hope.

I’m not quite ready to record anything yet, at the moment I feel like someone who hasn’t rode her bicycle all winter long, and now it’s the first time she gets up again. All wobbly and insecure. Nevertheless.

For those of you interested in my music, however little there is, these are the posts where you can hear me sing.

Sep 052008

because I sold my congas yesterday.

I didn’t quite know whether to sell them or not. At the beginning of 2007 we were a bit short on money and space, and I started to sell old books and stuff. And decided that it might be a good idea to find a new home for my congas. Only I never put them up for sale anywhere. Because of the blog post though I got e-mails from people who were interested in them. Only, this never let anywhere. So I resigned myself on keeping them, I love them very much even if they were mostly serving me as a very pretty keyboard stand.

But then I got another e-mail a few months ago from somebody who was interested in them, and yesterday they went away. It feels a bit weird but very good at the same time.

These congas were the only excellent musical instruments I ever bought for myself. I started drumming quite late, when I was almost 20. I had tried a bit in school and was fascinated by African music, and then I went away to Munich to study. There I met a guy who was learning how to play Brazilian music who later became my boyfriend. He was very surprised when I enrolled in the same school as him because to him I was “classical piano” girl. I have never been a good pianist though. In that school congas were our main instruments. We also learned how to play all the smaller percussion instruments that are used in Brazilian music but mostly it was congas. When a bit later I decided to switch my major to music education I had to choose a main musical instrument, and I just went for it and chose drumming. Which, in a way was very funny, because I only had been playing for about a year. Strangely enough it all turned out okay. There were only very few drummers there, and fortunately the professors had no way of telling how easy or difficult anything was that I played for exams, and so I earned my degree by dazzling them with music that looked harder to play than it was. Also, I switched my main instrument to voice, and I even threw in a bit of recorder playing at the exam. At that time the whole institute wasn’t as structured as it became later.

One problem with drumming is that you need quite a bit of equipment. I was very poor at that time, and so I always played instruments borrowed from my boyfriend, or the drum set in university. All that time I longed to have my own drum set, marimbaphone, congas, and surdo.

The summer I bought the congas I had worked for two months in order to buy a computer. I didn’t have one at that time, and it became apparent that I’d need one for doing papers and such. Then a drummer friend visited me and said, “What do you think, which are the best congas?” I immediately answered, “Michel Delaporte”. Those were the ones my conga teacher played and I loved their look, feel and sound. They were ideal for what I loved to play, though they are no good when you’re playing in something like a salsa band because their sound isn’t sharp and penetrating enough for that. I took my friend to the drum store and showed him some congas. He tried them and was disappointed. He played Cuban music which requires a different conga sound. He hated them but I fell in love.

A day later I went into the shop with my computer money and bought the congas he had tested. Without ever having played them myself.

I had just moved to a new apartment. I set up the congas and started to play. I was very happy. I had the best congas in the world. Ten minutes later a neighbor banged on my door. “What are you doing in there? Stop that noise!” She was very angry. Imagine somebody playing very deep, rich, resonating, booming drums in a building where you can here your neighbors sneeze through the walls.

So, since I didn’t have a room to practice in, that basically was it. I didn’t play them much for years. I bought them in 1990, and the first time they saw real action was when my husband and I started a Brazilian band together in 1998. We had that band for about two years before we gave up looking for places to play. There is a demo CD of that band but I think that most of the drumming on that CD was done by my husband since he’s much more precise than me.

You can hear the congas on some of my husband’s recordings. When I told him that they were sold he realized that he had used them much more than me for the last years. Though not enough to justify having them around all the time. (That was the point were I almost canceled the sale at the last minute.)

Yesterday when I helped load them into a car I was not sad as I had thought. I was relieved. For all the years that those congas had stood in my room they had called to me, “Play me! Play me! Play me!”, and I never had. And when I had tried, it sounded horrible. Not playing will do that to your technique.

I’m very happy that they have found a new home, and I hope they will be loved and played there.

Do you know what I did with the money? I ordered a spinning wheel. I know, crazy. We’ll see how that goes.

(Also, I’d like to remind you to send me any posts about social justice that you read or wrote in August until September 7th for the Just Posts. My e-mail is: creativemother AT web DOT de)

Jul 082008

First there was a blog post on the 50 songs in 90 days-challenge on the shy singer/songwriter-blog. Then I got my astrology newsletter where there was mention of a singer, and when I checked out the site there was a link to the Immersion Composition Society whose members challenge themselves to write 20 songs in a day. (By the way I like the music of Ultralash a lot but when I wanted to buy the CD I couldn’t because I don’t have an US paypal account. Meh.) I already sensed a theme here but I’m still not ready for writing music again. And just then I opened Neil Gaiman’s blog in my feed reader, and there was mention of his former web elf, and voilà, former web-elf has posted one-minute-songs to her site three times a week.


Did I mention that I still have about a gazillion things to do without even having touched any instrument?

Humph, indeed.

You know, I have bought myself a new recording thingy. And I already used it. Once. In April or so. Since then I have wanted to mix the recording. And I still haven’t done it. But here is the draft of the blog post I intended to write about it:

I actually got my own “connect the mike with the computer”-device last Thursday half a month six weeks ago. It’s called Onyx Satellite, hence this post’s title. [The post should have been called “I got my own satellite”.] However, due to life, and yarn expeditions I only unpacked it three days later. And managed to record a very short and not that exciting improvisation. Of course I wanted to present you with something really great but then I thought I’d better just post what I have. Because if I wait for something really great I might never get around to post music on my blog again. Using that thing is much easier than using the big mixer my husband has.

So now I’m doing something that no musician should do. Ever.

I’m posting a raw first take of a boring improvisation. Without having listened to it again.


Nice post, isn’t it? Even if it is a bit incoherent. The only problem is that I then had to listen to the improvisation again, and it had the deadly flaw of being far too soft. Not loud enough. When it started to play on my computer I checked and rechecked three times to see if the loudspeaker was on. So I couldn’t post it.

There was only one thing to do. I recorded another improvisation today. Which is based on a groove idea that I had on May 1. I carried that idea around in my head for more than two months. Then I connected my new recording device, everything was fine, I even remembered to check the levels, and then I sang it. It was beautiful. Really. Unfortunately you can’t hear it because for no good reason the computer didn’t record it. Which I found out after more than two minutes of singing. Then I had twelve minutes left before I had to leave to pick up my son. I recorded the thing again, well, something based on the same groove. I had seven minutes to mix it which is why I’m not completely satisfied with that artificial sounding reverb effect thingie.

But here, finally, is at least some music by me:

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I had wanted to make a new category on this blog like the “Story of the Month”-feature. “Monthly music” or, why not go wild, “Weekly Improvisation”. But, alas, it seems that a month in music is like six months in real life for me. But who knows. Maybe there will be something else before Christmas. Though I’m sure there won’t be 50 songs in 90 days.

May 142008

I have been thinking a bit more about the feeling of not fitting in I wrote about the other day.

A day later I went to another one of Rhiannon’s fabulous improvisation workshops for singers. (I’ve been to quite a few and have written about a few of them in these posts). I was early. (That’s the beauty of going by train, you’re either too early or too late.) By the time the workshop was supposed to begin there was a small cluster of singers standing around in front of the building. Since this was a different location than usual I didn’t know anybody. The other workshops I had attended were all held in the big city, and over the years I have come to know quite a few of the regulars. So, there we stood, nobody quite sure what to do or say. Then Rhiannon arrived by car. She emerged from the car, carrying a basket full of strawberries, greeting me enthusiastically. And that was the first moment where I found myself both in the situation, inside myself, feeling slightly lonely and a bit scared about the workshop and my singing, and outside myself, seeing the scene through the eyes of the other singers who hadn’t met Rhiannon before, who probably were feeling even lonelier and more scared. What they saw was that I was the only one getting a hug. That I was the only one whom the teacher knew.

It didn’t stay that way though. Later there were more singers who had been to workshops before. Most of those I knew. And they knew me. And I’m still surprised when that happens. I’m very used to not being recognized by people. Maybe it’s because I changed my look so much, I don’t know. The workshop itself by the way was marvelous. I had had my doubts before because I have been to so many of these workshops but I went home inspired and much clearer about what I want to do.

A few days later it happened again. I went to the concert Rhiannon gave with two other singers. I was very early because I wanted to have something to eat there before the concert, and I wanted to write the story I had to finish the day after for a writing group assignment. That I went there alone is nothing unusual for me. When I came to the venue I was greeted by a woman coming towards me from the other side. (I think that maybe singers are especially prone to greet people from something like 20 meters away.) It took me about 15 meters of going towards her to realize that she hadn’t greeted somebody behind me. And that I know her. (I’m sorry, she used to be blonde, and now she’s brunette. Also I couldn’t see her face at first.) But the same thing happened to me three or four times in the course of the evening. Somebody was saying hello to me and every time I’d think they meant somebody behind me.

I entered the jazz club where the band was doing soundcheck. As I went down the stairs I heard, “Hi! It’s Susanne!” from the stage. Amplified. I sat down, I had my dinner, I wrote about half of the story, and I met a lot of singers that I know. It was the same thing over again. I knew about a third of all the people in the room. But to me I was there alone, spending a lot of time sitting at my table with nobody to talk to. To the other people sitting at my table I probably was part of the “in-crowd”. Going here and there, hugging people, and talking. Telling stories of other concerts and other workshops. This seeing myself from the inside and the outside at once confuses me. The images don’t quite match. What’s the truth, me being part of a group amidst friendly faces, or me sitting apart, taking something to read with me because I’m on my own with nobody to talk with?

Two days later I went to a meeting of my writer’s group. Again, a group that I know, people that I like. And then there were the many nice comments on my blog. And I realized that though I feel as if I never fit in I am part of this friendly little corner of the blog-world nonetheless. And I had another moment of seeing myself from the inside and the outside at the same time again that week when I stayed in front of kindergarten to chat with another mother. I suddenly realized that I looked like those mothers I had seen standing there before, the ones of whom I thought they were big friends and had known each others for ages. Well, it seems that if you just stay somewhere for a bit of time you’ll get to know people and then you look like you have friends.

So, I’m not as lonely as I often feel. But then I still don’t have many friends. I’d still love to find a friend who loves the same things I do but that might be a little difficult. Even my husband has interests different from mine. When we first met we were pleasantly surprised about the similarities (of course). We both love Brazilian music, jazz, and the same piece of Anton Webern that nobody else loves. (Op. 22, you know, the saxophone quartet. What, you don’t know? Well, never mind, nobody does.) Even other Webern-lovers – of which there aren’t that many – regard that to be one of his inferior pieces.

I remember, back when I still studied musicology, how much I longed to have a friend to share everything with. Webern, classical music, Brazilian drumming, jazz, rock music, science fiction novels, and baking. But now I think that maybe that’s a bit too much. (And in all this I really shouldn’t forget to mention my real life friends who are reading this blog. All they hear me yammer about is how I don’t have friends. But they aren’t living nearby. And our interests only intersect so far.)

This whole thing might be a case of unrealistic expectations. But then I really long to find people loving the same things as I. And through the internet that has become much easier by the way. These days I’m spending quite a bit of my time over on ravelry (where I’m creativemother, by the way) discussing various aspects of sock knitting.

So I learned two things: 1) Other people might feel as lonely and isolated as I even if they don’t look like it, and 2) my quest to find people interested in the same things as I has been more successful than I thought. Only there weren’t any interested in exactly the same things or in all of them.

And now all of a sudden I feel the urge to make a list of the things I’m interested in. It might be a long list. And a bit unfocused.

Apr 072008

Today I was reminded why I’m not recording much. For months now I have been wanting to record at least some improvisations. Today was the day. Because my husband left the house for more than half an hour (which he rarely does). The recording equipment was to be mine.

So. I had lunch, and dessert, and checked e-mail, and read blogs, and then, finally, shoved myself in front of my husband’s big computer with the mixer and everything. I searched for my microphone. I looked for a suitable cable. I looked at the mixer. I pulled one cable out of the mixer and inserted mine. I pushed the little button that sends power to my mike. I opened the software. I was very careful not to change anything that my husband had recorded. I tested the mike. I had no signal. The mixer seemed dead. Ah, there was yet another switch to switch. The mixer showed a green light. Green is good. I tested my mike – no sound. I tried three or four things. Nope. I closed the software and decided to use the smaller, and simpler recording software. I already have worked with this a couple of times on my own. Opened software. Tested mike. Changed preferences. Tested mike. Still nothing. Closed software, disconnected cable, put mike back in box, shut off computer.

Right now I’m very, very frustrated. What I want is my own mixer preferably a small one because I don’t need more than two inputs at once. You might ask why I don’t just ask my husband to help me. He is very good with this equipment thing. And I would be too if I used it more often. But strangely enough I can’t seem to bring myself to ask him. I have to be all alone and by myself to record something. The recording equipment is in his room where he basically does everything that doesn’t involve sleeping, eating or a bathroom. To shut him out is a big thing. And what if I didn’t have anything to show for it later?

I find it hard enough to work on my music in my room when anybody is in the house. I’d like to be able to do recording on impulse. And I can. I have actually recorded vocals through my computer’s built-in microphone. They sound like something recorded over the telephone though.

The reason I find writing easier to fit into my life than music is that music needs a bigger chunk of time. While I can jot down a few sentences and not lose the idea for a blog post, creating music seems to require a certain feeling of free time, of being able to go back and forth, doing something else in between, coming back, trying again. Half an hour of songwriting might mean one hour of playing, and on hour of just sitting there, and staring at the wall.

No wonder that I am drawn that much to knitting these days. Two hours of knitting are two hours of knitting. In the lace stole I’m currently making that would be about 40 rows, or 12 cm of stole. When I’m knitting, even two hours of waiting, riding the train, talking with someone, or watching TV are two hours of knitting. It is as if time magically multiplied itself.

With blogging two hours of writing is one or two posts. With writing songs two hours of song writing might result in having tried a few notes, having crossed out lyrics I wrote some time before, and a bad taste in my mouth.

So I thought improvising might be the thing. But improvising just for myself seems pointless. I’d like to record some things and try overdubbing and such but that comes back down to equipment.

I have to find a solution for this. For now I’ll go off and practice guitar for a while so that I stay ahead of my students.

(Actually, I wrote this ten days ago… Since then my husband has shown me what I did wrong. As soon as he isn’t madly recording music for once I’ll try again.)

Oct 272007

Finally, here are the interview questions that Flutter sent me. Despite my initial urge I decided not to write a 1,000 word answer to each one. Though I could have. So, thank you Flutter for these questions.

1) Music is an obviously important element of your life, talk about how it infuses itself in your daily life.

Well, first thing I teach piano, guitar and singing five days a week. That’s a big part of my life. And while I whine all the time about not practicing that doesn’t mean that I don’t make music. I’d like to come back to playing every day for me without putting pressure on myself…

This question and the next pretty much sum up the main themes in my life right now (apart from knitting). How much space is there in my life for music, how central do I want it to become, and how can I focus more on the joy of it.

2)You recently posted about enjoying the process of creation, in your mind’s eye, what would enjoying the process mean to you? How would it differ than your current process?

I always think that enjoying the process means enjoying every single second of it. Spending every moment of creation in flow. Of course that is a little unrealistic. After I wrote about not enjoying the process I found that really I hadn’t been enjoying much at all because I hadn’t been taking care of my most basic needs.
But then I still dream of a time when I’ll look forward to piano playing without having the feeling that I’d rather do something else instead. When I play I feel very good afterwards and sometimes while doing it.
It also feels a little pointless to make music just for myself. On the other hand playing in bands didn’t work for me at all, and I’m not eager to sing on stage again any time soon.

3) You seem very concerned with the environment. What is the single most important thing to consider when attempting to lessen one’s carbon footprint?

Um, not using planes I’d say. I read an article that a family of four uses more fuel by going on vacation to Spain once a year than by heating their house for the whole year. That doesn’t mean that I’ never ever use planes, I just think carefully about it and I’d never “hop on a plane” to go somewhere else in Germany. (The last time I flew was in 1999. We went to Brazil for two months.)
Otherwise it’s all baby steps around here. Sharing a car with my mother-in-law, using said car only about every other week, using our wood stove, recycling everything (which is very easy around here and you’re practically forced to do it), …

4) If you had 20 words to describe your essence, what would they be?

Um. I don’t know. Every time I attach any kind of label to myself it falls off immediately. I couldn’t even say if I were patient or not. I’m a woman of opposites. Strong forces pulling me in all directions at once. Stubborn for sure. I am both extravert and introvert. Talkative, definitely, though I learned to keep my mouth shut when I’m not interested in a conversation. Both lazy and industrious. I’m becoming nicer and kinder because I practice acting nicer and kinder not because I have changed in a fundamental way. Honest and naive in one way and manipulative in another.
I spent the first twenty years of my life with very firm convictions about who and how I am only to find out that they weren’t true. And then right now I am in the process of reinventing myself and thinking about how I want to spend the second half of my life and what kind of person I want to become and what kind of change is still possible.

5) You have a piece of canvas, some yarn, some paint, some glue, brushes, and an hour, what becomes of it?

Nothing much. I’m hopeless with paint and such. Yarn and needles? Fine. (I have been racking my brain about what I could finish knitting in an hour. Maybe a little doll’s hat.)

So, if anybody is interested in getting interviewed by me, just leave a comment.

Aug 232007

Kindergarten rock ‘n’ roll. (With fake English lyrics and incidental music.)

guitar & gear: epiphone mandobird, natural preschooler voice


My son thinks that everybody makes music, records it and has a blog. So of course he wants to make his own CD. (He’d be into blogging too but as for now he can’t read or write.) He already recorded two “songs”, well rather improvisations, a couple of months ago and my parents were duly impressed. A couple of days ago he wanted to go for it again. I opted for the low tech route and recorded his improvisation with the built-in microphone of my computer.

You can hear the same instrument sounding quite different when the father plays it. Of course it’s all in the recording equipment.