My Totem: My Tenor Saxophone

Duke Rushmore VFW 2013 sax-centered

It’s taken me a few days to really think about a “totem” that captures the essence of my identity. This is part of our explorations at Walk My World, and the idea for this learning activity is to consider a representation of self, something that connects you to who you are.

I chose my Martin tenor saxophone.

I have been honking out notes on this particular tenor saxophone for more than 30 years. Although in childhood, I had aspirations of becoming a professional musician, that plan never came to be. I did attend high school summer programs that immersed me deeply in music and even spent a year in a music program in college. But it was clear that I didn’t have the focus and intensity (maybe dedication), nor the innate talent, to succeed in a very difficult field filled with amazing musicians and not a whole lot of job opportunities.

And yet, I still play music with my saxophone. Each week, I gather with my bandmates in Duke Rushmore and we play for two hours. A few times a year, we gig out. I have a gig coming up in a few weeks, in fact, and we are working on our set list for that night. I’ll never claim to be a great saxophone player, and my ability remains fairly limited. I play because I love the act of making music, and my saxophone is one way in (the guitar is another, although that is primarily for songwriting).

Music continues to enrich my soul each week, each year, and I find some deep connection with the old Martin saxophone.

Plenty of times, I have thought: I wish I had a Selmer, not this old tenor. The saxophone can be a bit moody at times, and it has a rich deep bottom but the top of the scales are a little thin. It might be me. Or it might be the two of us — the saxophone and I. Still, I strap it on to play and it feels comfortable, like a blanket you pull over you, night after night. You know how it feels. That’s how I am with this old Martin.

We know each other.

saxophone shape poem

And when I think of how many turns life has taken, there’s something to be said about some consistency. I am happily married, with a family, but that saxophone has seen me through some other, turbulent times. There were years when the sax collected dust in the closet. Still, I would pull it out and play now and then, getting lost in the music, working through some emotions that words (spoken and/or written) could not articulate. Allowing me to make music just for myself is a gift this saxophone has given me over the decades.

It’s my totem. My charm. My saxophone.

Wonderful World, sax solo from Mr. Hodgson on Vimeo.

Peacd (in the muse),
Kevin

Not a Totem but a Memory Map

Map of Childhood - #walkmyworld totem
The current Learning Event for Walk My World is to explore the concept of a “totem” which is an object that connects you to your past, your culture, your family, your sense of self. I’m still thinking of the object but that thinking had me remembering the apartment complex and neighborhood that I grew up in. I used the Paper App to sketch out a Memory Map of where I spent my childhood.

I left out a lot, I realized, but then maps are always filtered experiences, right? The tree fort, the Big Rock (left over from glacier times, or so we were always told), the river, the woods and the bog were all central elements to growing up for me. Alas, the woods and bog are now covered in housing developments, and I did not put the giant fallow farmer’s field in the map, either, which is also now nothing but suburban houses as far as the eye can see.

It’s been years (maybe a decade) since I went back to this neighborhood, and I don’t feel any strong urge to do it now. The Memory Map here helps situate me, and reminds me of stories (falling in the river during an ice storm; getting bonked on the head by a hammer while standing under the tree fort; playing ice hockey on the bog in winter; having crabapple wars in fall) that cling to me as personal history.

Peace (in the map),
Kevin

Further Poetic Remix: Identity

Yesterday, I shared out how I remixed Identity by Julio Noboa Polanco and made a new poem from Polanco’s words. Today, I take a step forward into remix, by using my poem and a video version of Identity, weaving them together via Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker. The result is a mix of words and images and sound.

Feel free to remix it yourself. Just hit the remix button on the Popcorn video.

Peace (in the remix of the remix),
Kevin

A Poetic Remix: Breaking Through the Surface of Stone

In one of the learning cycles for Walk My World, we’ve been asked to read and think about two poems — Tupak Shakur’s The Rose That Grew From Concrete (actually, a song lyric, right?) and Identity by Julio Noboa Polanco. So much gets done with Tupak’s metaphor (amid some complaints that it is probably a bit too obvious), so I cast my eyes to Polanco. I have not read the Identity poem before, and thought I might try to deconstruct and then reconstruct the words into my own poetry remix. (I hope Polanco won’t mind).

I found myself focusing on some key phrases, including “breaking through the surface of stone,” which I found very evocative. Taking the words of the poem, and them moving words and phrases around, with the concept of keeping the theme intact but making it into something new, this remixed poem is what emerged for me. It’s still about identity, about being an individual, but I tightened up the stanzas and found my own voice inside Polanco’s lines. That what remix is all about …

BreakingThroughtheSurfaceofStone

And my voice:

 

Peace (in the poem),
Kevin

Audio Poem: Before Dawn/Walking Home

SeeSound Audio Recorder

The image above is a visual wave-file representation of an audio poem I wrote for the learning cycle of Walk My World — where the focus is on the dawn. And it turns out, the YouShow theme recently has been audio, too. The audio recording here was done in a very nifty online tool called SeeSound, which I found thanks to two Maker/CLMOOC friends — Stephanie and Rob. I love the audio-becomes-visual element, and I wish I could download the live view as video (I guess I could take it as screencast).

I wrote this poem in the hours before dawn, when I am up before the world is up (mostly) and writing every morning. It’s just the dog and I, in the snowstorm this morning, and he goes back to sleep after our walk through the neighborhood while I pound on the keys here. I am often awake before I am awake. If I am working on an idea, I wake up, knowing my head was working out phrases and concepts during the night. If I don’t wrote, I lose it.

So I write before the sun comes up, just about every single day. (Like, right now).

Before Dawn poem

Here, then is my poem: Before Dawn. What I did was record it via SeeSound, downloaded the audio file, and then used the “reverse” switch to make the audio file go backwards (take that, Led Zep!), and tacked it on to the end of the forward file with Audacity, so that the poem is me moving forward and backwards. The poem then is hosted at Soundcloud.

Peace (in the visual poem),
Kevin

Annotated Song: Walking (With the Thoughts of You)

I’ve been working on this demo song that meshes nicely with Walk My World and the YouShow project. It is inspired by a friend but also, some distant memories of my hiking days. So here it is:

And this version via Zeega:

Interestingly, Terry “remixed” my Zeega, which means that at the end of mine, his version begins (new song and new media). Be sure to experience both.

Director’s Notes

The guitar part for the song is an echo of a very old song of mine, one I wrote about my grandmother when I was first starting to write songs (oh so long ago). I didn’t want to lose the chord progression after rediscovering it and I kicked around with it for a bit before the lyrics started to take hold here. The words are sort of a gift to a friend who is going through some difficult times right now and who spends many days hiking in isolation as a way to think and understand the world (truly, walking the world). I put the final lyrics into the app Notegraphy, which makes words look fancy, and then downloaded the lyrics as an image file. I uploaded the file into Flickr, and then used Thinglink to “borrow” the image for annotation. The song was recorded very simply (live take, no dubs) in Soundtrap and then exported into Soundcloud for embedding here, there and everywhere, including Zeega (which borrows audio from Soundcloud).

Peace (in the muse),
Kevin

Identity Exploration: Not That Kind of Writer

Not the WriterAt Walk My World, we are diving into identity in this cycle,which is always a fascinating topic to explore when it comes to who we are in digital spaces (or whom we project ourselves to be) and who we are outside of those digital spaces, and where are the intersecting lines.

With my sixth graders, our work around avatars is centered on this concept of identity — who we choose to be when we are online, and how to make sure we have that choice. Want to see an interesting collection? Go to the New York Times piece about avatars in gaming environments. They put photos of the real person with their avatar, and it is a stunning example of how people project who they want to be in digital spaces.

This poem of mine is one way for me to think of my own act of writing and publishing in online spaces, and the question of: Is that really me writing there? I think we all hold back part of ourselves, even those who dip over the TMI line, and so what you see in these words here is just a glimpse of me as the writer. I wrote the poem, trying to show the veil that is there for all of us, and how the push into the digital spaces we inhabit both foster this concept of multiple identities and collapse it … sometimes doing both things (expand and collapse) in the same moment.

Director’s Notes:

I took the photo on my iPad as I wrote the poem as a draft. I had this idea of writing a few lines about writing (the first line was my first idea) and I wanted a shot of my with pencil on paper. Not keyboard and screen. I still write a lot on notepads, particularly when I am writing poems and songs. Those drafts then get written on the screen, but only after much scribbling and much reworking (and sometimes, head scratching over what is that word that I wrote anyway …).

Taking the photo required a bit of human origami. You don’t see my left hand reaching out behind the Ipad, twisting my thumb to the large circle that will take the shot. There’s got to be a better way …

I moved the photo into an app I have called Fragment, which allows you to mess with the photo in any number of ways. Since this piece is about identity, and mixed identities, I thought it would make sense to fragment the photo itself.  I then moved the photo into the free Aviary app (a must-have),  added a border and then finished the poem itself.

I liked how one of the tools in Aviary allows you to color in small sections, so I kept the color focus on the pencil and my hand, writing. This brings the eye into the writing, which is the heart of my identity in this poem.

The photo is hosted at Flickr, which allows embedding in media sites.

Peace (in who I am right now in this writing),
Kevin

 

The Snow Tells Stories: A Video of Vines

After sharing yesterday’s post about using Vine to make a multimedia poem about Vine, Terry suggested that maybe a collaboration with Vine might be something to consider. Yep. We jumped right on that, with each of us shooting our 6 second segments and then pulling them together into this video story:

Director’s Notes

Script:

Terry set up a Hackpad for us to write collaboratively. He started with the beginnings of a poem about snow, and even linked to some published poems. That would have been great, but reading Terry’s poem and thinking of the snow falling outside, I hit on the idea of a short narrative about the stories of snow. The script came together quickly (helpful, when each scene is only a line or two long at most).

Video Shoot:

Terry, in Kentucky, and me, in Massachusetts — we each took our phone or device outside for a little walk. I went as far as my backyard, and had to time my shots with the sounds of the city plowing crew. Terry has more room to roam, although you can just glimpse the cat and hear the famous rooster crowing in the soundtrack. That rooster made my day. I don’t know about Terry, but my shots went pretty smooth. A few retakes but nothing too bad. The most difficult part is that Vine requires you to hold the screen with your finger and getting yourself in a shot while doing that is tricky. Terry has a few shots where the last word gets either clipped or cut, particularly in the last shot. I suspect the six second rule was challenging for him. But he took some beautiful footage of the snow.

Sharing of Files:

I suggested we use Dropbox for him to send me his files. Terry set up a shared folder and invited me in. He could have emailed them to me, too, I suppose.

Editing:

Here’s where it got tricky for me. Terry’s files were in an odd format that my iPad did not want to accept as I tried to transfer the videos to my camera roll to use in the PicPlayPost app for a media collage. So, I had to get on my laptop, figure out the right file format and convert all of his files to something my iPad would like (which I first did as .mov but that didn’t work and then converted again to .mp4). I had to straighten out a few of his video files, too, which were taken with the lens on its side (although I thought about keeping them, just to add the odd effect). Then, I had to upload those back into Dropbox, then open my iPad and try again. (It worked).

Now I had all of the files — Terry’s and mine — on my iPad and in PicPlayPost, I began to discover another difficulty: the labels of the video files are not visible when importing into PicPlayPost, so you have to go through each one and figure out not just which video to import, but the sequence of the import (so that the overall collage will run in order). Terry sent me a lot of files of winter, so that took some time.

Publishing:

PicPlayPost allows you to publish directly to YouTube, so that was a snap. I decided to try out an alternative version with the Storehouse app, too, just so I could use more of Terry’s winter footage as buffers between the “story” we were telling. I still like the PicPlayPost better as a more seamless narrative, but Storehouse allows you to scroll through the story with a bit more agency. One drawback is the viewer has to allow the sound through, or it seems muted. Odd default setting that I can’t figure out how to change.

Peace (in the snow, with more on the way),
Kevin

Diving Into Tumblr: Some ‘Splaining to Do

comic tumblr
So, it’s not that I don’t know what Tumblr is. It’s just that I never had any real reason to create a Tumblr blog site. But this weekend (Thanks, Greg!), I took the plunge and began a site called Got Some ‘Splaining to Do where I will share out comic-style tutorials for apps and technology that I use. I won’t guarantee that it will be all that regular, but as I work within Walk My World and YouShow projects, I figure it can be a resource/portfolio of some of my work.

Check out Got Some ‘Splaining to Do

You will see this as a recent post, as I share out using the free Make Beliefs Comix app on the iPad. It’s nifty, free (I said that, right?) and fun, with some limits.

Making A Make Beliefs Comic

See you on the web!

Peace (in the frame),
Kevin