Sunday, December 12, 2010

Getting Late....

Hi folks.  I’m sorry not to have followed up with more Music Theory for Poets, but I think I can explain why such posts are neither flowing from my keyboard or my guitar. 

As you know if you’ve been a regular reader here, The Spring Ghazals was published in February of this year, then re-published with better distribution in September.  The book is available on as well as Amazon & its international outlets.  It may be available from other sources as time goes on. 

However, in the time the book has been out, it’s sold seven copies.  In order to break even on the distribution package, I would need to sell 25.  That struck me as a realistic goal, but at this point it really is kind of a questionable proposition.  No books have been sold since some time in October.

Given this fact, I’m really questioning the purpose of this blog, which was intended to introduce people to the book in hopes that folks would buy it.  However, at this point the readership has dwindled to a handful of people at most, & I suspect a high percentage of those who do drop by (based on what I see in the stats) are folks who’ve already bought The Spring Ghazals.  Obviously, I appreciate those folks a lot, but the blog wasn’t intended to “preach to the choir,” as it were.

This being the case, I believe I’m going to lock the door & shutter the windows here, at least for the time being—not to say it’s permanent, but Robert Frost’s Banjo, my main blog, is a going concern & everything takes time.  I’d also like to finish my translation of Apollinaire’s Alcools (which is being posted in book order on my blog of the same name), & that project has stalled quite woefully.

I do think Music Theory for Poets is a good series, & I’m thinking of moving it over to Robert Frost’s Banjo, re-running the first two installments, & then adding more.  It’s possible that over time I’ll move most of the content from this blog to Robert Frost’s Banjo.  Given the much wider readership, perhaps I’ll have at least some more success marketing The Spring Ghazals from that site.

There are some other plans in my mind about The Spring Ghazals, & because of that, I’ll keep the blog online in case I want to return to it at some future point.  For now, I’ll just say thanks to the people who participated here, & especially to those who bought the book, & even more especially to the people who wrote wonderful reviews & interviews in an attempt to promote it. 

Hope to see you at Robert Frost’s Banjo!

Friday, December 10, 2010

‘Tis the Season

Happy Friday!  I’m sorry that I’ve been unable to post a new installment in the Music Theory for Poets series.  This week has been crazy, as I’ve been finishing up a recording project (for hire, not personal stuff) that took up much of the past few months.  Also, as some of you know, things on a personal front have been undergoing a sea-change.

However, I did want to take a moment to remind everyone that in this season of manic shopping, perhaps we could remember the artistic products produced by our blog comrades.  If you look at the Support Independent Artists links list in the right-hand column you can find everything from poetry to t-shirts & artwork, from music to comics & calendars.  The past few years, since entering the blog world, I’ve ensured that every year I purchase at least one or two gifts from fellow bloggers.  Not only are the gifts very good quality, but I know the money is going, at least in part, to someone I know (virtually at any rate!)

You can't go wrong with any of the selections in that list, & that’s only a small sample.  There’s a lot of great creative work being done by people in the blogosphere & twitterverse.  So while I can recommend anybody’s work that’s listed, I’d like to single out a few people who’ve given special support to The Spring Ghazals:

Aaron Wilson, fiction writer: his fiction appears in Cifiscape, vol. 1.  Looking for some good dystopian sci-fi?  Look no further!

Jacqueline T Lynch, fiction writer: Have someone on your list who’s looking for stories to fill her Kindle?  How about Ms Lynch’s excellent comic novel, Meet Me In Nuthatch? It’s available here.

Jessica Fox-Wilson, poet: her first volume of poems, Blameless Mouth is hot off the press!  You can buy it here, on Lulu.  The excerpts I've read are very good, & my own copy is on its way!

Kat Mortensen, poet: her first volume of poetry, shadowstalking, is available for purchase here, & it's a wonderful collection.  Know someone who likes witty rhymed poems?  This is just the ticket!

Sheila Graham-Smith/Tangerine Tree Press: Speaking of hot off the press, Tangerine Tree Press is right on the verge of issuing their first book, The Alchemy of Chance by Peter S. Brooks.  Check it out here.

& of course, I commend my own book to you.  If you have a poetry lover on your list, or if you yourself love poetry & are looking for a gift for yourself, please consider purchasing The Spring Ghazals.  It’s available on Lulu here, as well as on Amazon or at this link & this link.

I hope to have a new installment in Music Theory for Poets posted before the weekend is over.  In the meantime: Happy shopping!

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Spring Ghazals Reviewed on The Sill of The World

Many thanks to HKatz of The Sill of the World blog for an excellent & insightful review of The Spring Ghazals.  You can check out the review here.

If you aren’t familiar with this blog, you’re really missing out.  The quality of writing on The Sill of the World is high & HKatz’ The Week in Seven Words series is a unique concept that’s also executed with aplomb.  If you’d like to read HKatz’ observations on writing, you can check out my interview with her in the Writers Talk series right here.  There’s also a wonderful poem by HKatz accompanying that interview at this link.

Just a few reminders: The Spring Ghazals is now available on Amazon & (& presumably other Amazon international sites, tho I haven’t confirmed that.)  It should be available on Barnes & Noble within the next several days.  If you haven’t purchased the book but follow this blog either on Blogger or thru Networked Blogs, please consider doing so.  If you have the book, please consider writing a review on Amazon &/or Lulu.  Giving the book a positive rating on either of these sites is also helpful.  The book’s Amazon page is here; the Lulu page here.  Of course, I’d always welcome other bloggers reviewing the book or setting up interviews with me about it.

Thanks for your interest!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Music Theory for Poets #2

Ready for some more music theory?  Remember, this is for poets (non-poets welcome too, of course), so we’re making this as painless as possible!

When I left you last, we were just starting to think about the difference between major & minor chords.  In fact, we discovered a chord called a major 7 that’s a combination of a major chord & a minor chord—music can be pretty witchy that way. 

OK—most folks know do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do.  It’s a major scale—what makes it major?  Actually, there are a few considerations, but for today we’ll just consider the most basic: that’s the interval between do & mi.  If you can sing “do-mi” you are singing what musical types call a “major third.”  If you have a piano or keyboard around the house, play a C followed by an E a couple of notes above it—again, a major third.  A plain old major chord contains just three notes: do-mi-sol.  That’s it!  Here’s that major third:

  C major chord-C minor chord by rfrostbanjo

Perhaps you have a guitar around.  Actually, since you’ll just be using one string, it doesn’t even matter too much whether it’s in tune.  Pluck the low E string—confusingly enough, the “low E” is the string that’s closest to your nose when holding the guitar in any conventional manner.  The high E is the string closest to your toes.  So pluck that low E, then fret the E string on the fourth fret.  In case you’re curious, that’s a G#.  E.  G#.  Major third!  Here’s what it sounds like:

  Guitar major 3rd by rfrostbanjo

Now there are a few differences between a major & minor scale, but for today, let’s just worry about chords.  & I can tell you there’s only one note that’s different between a major chord & a minor chord!  It’s hard to explain using do-re-mi; because the difference would be that rather than singing “mi,” you’d be singing “mi-flat.”  So if you have a piano, strike the C, then strike the Eb a note & a half above it (it’s the black note to the left of E natural).  That’s a minor third:

  Piano Minor 3rd by rfrostbanjo

With your guitar, pluck the E string, then fret the third fret.  You’re playing an E, then a G.  Just a plain old G natural, not G# as you were before.  That’s a minor third.

  Guitar minor 3rd by rfrostbanjo

So the notes of a minor chord are “do-mi flat-sol.”  “Do & Sol” remain the same.  This can be expressed as a pattern of “whole steps” & “half steps,” but this is music theory for poets, so we won’t worry about that right now.  Suffice it to say that sol is the fifth tone of the scale—you can see that easily enough: do-re-mi-fa-sol.  If you’re still at your piano, you will find the “sol” for C is G.  If you play C-E-G simultaneously, you’re playing a C major chord.  If you play C-E flat-G simultaneously, you’re playing a C minor chord.

  C major chord-C minor chord by rfrostbanjo

Now back to the guitar.  We know that if E is “do,” then G sharp is “mi.”  If E is “do” & a G natural is played, it becomes minor.  The “sol” of E is B natural—that would on the 7th fret of the low E string (guitar players—the 7th fret is always the “sol” or fifth of the open string!—also true of banjos, ukes, bass guitars, mandolins, etc)  So E-G sharp-B is E major; E-G-B is E minor.

  Guitar E major E minor by rfrostbanjo

If you recall last time, I mentioned that a major 7 chord adds the tone “ti” from the major scale.  That makes sense because if you count to seven, you’ll see that “ti” is the seventh tone of do-re-mi.  Now it so happens that if you play a C major scale, you’ll hear that B natural is the “ti” note.  Now think about it: a C major 7 contains the notes C-E-G-B.  Think about the C major chord: C-E-G.  The E minor chord? E-G-B.  See how that works?

In the poem “How High the Moon,” I wrote:

 “a trailer truck on Highway 95, the glass slide whooshing guitar strings, a riff existing somewhere between the major & minor modes”


“the glass slide existing somewhere between the major & minor modes”

There are a number of guitar riffs, particularly associated with the blues—& therefore by extension to rock & jazz & even country that incorporate the ease with which the guitar can move back & forth between major & minor chords, especially in certain keys.  One of the simplest is this, in the key of E: 

  Guitar major minor strum riff by rfrostbanjo

Here are a few I particularly like in the key of D (with the bass string tuned down to D):

  Guitar drop D riffs by rfrostbanjo

Of course using a slide—which regular readers of Robert Frost’s Banjo know from my Monday Morning Blues series—enables the player to move between tones (& actually even in micro-tones of the established scale) without actually pressing down the strings.  So moving back between the major & minor thirds—again in the key of D, on a guitar tuned to an open major D chord (hey, you know what that means now), sounds like this:

  JH-D slide riffs by rfrostbanjo

That’s all for now.  Next time?  Extended chords!

"The Spring Ghazals" on Amazon!

Happy Wednesday, all!  Great news—The Spring Ghazals is now available on both Amazon &  It doesn't appear to be on Barnes & Noble yet, but I'll continue to check into that.  The links are as follows: Amazon is here; is here.  If people want me to check on other international Amazon sites, I'll be happy to do so—just let me know.

I know a few people experienced problems trying to place an order with Lulu, & I'm hoping the process works more smoothly thru Amazon.  If you want to buy yourself or the poetry lover in your life a holiday present, now's the time!

In other news: fans of Music Theory for Poets: don't fret (pun intended)!  There will be a new post up later today.

We now return you to our regular programming.