From Harvey, ca. 1940:
“The Parker Pen Letter”

Returning now too the subject of My Father and the things that he wrote during his relatively brief time on Earth:

One of the most “famous” of my father’s works (which is to say, famous within the family) is the letter that he wrote to the Parker Pen Company while a student at the University of Illinois in the fall of 1940.

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The letter was written in 1940, but I don’t have any photos from that era handy, so here’s one from the 1950’s.

December 6, 1940

The Parker pen company
Janesville, Wisconsin

Gentlemen:

As you can see I am writing a letter to the company that makes (by its own admission) the finest pens in the world – by using a typewriter.

I do  this not because I do not have a pen., No, gentlemen right here in my left hand I have a pen. Said pen is called in one of your ads which I just happened to read, quote, a Jewel of Pendulum, unquote. However, if I were to attempt to write this letter with this pen, the pages would be so smudged up with ink that it would be totally impossible for you to read it. But allow me to explain the case a little more fully.

About two years ago (or possibly a few months less) I wandered into a bookstore on our campus – that of the University of Illinois – and purchased a Parker pen.  Since this memorable date, I have had nothing but trouble with the amazing instrument.

The trouble, to sum it up briefly, is that this pen leaks – leaks torrentially.

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Hello, New York

Just my luck to be seated on the LEFT side of the plane as it headed up the Hudson toward LaGuardia – the Manhattan skyline shining through the windows on the RIGHT side of the plane.  I was seated well behind the wing, too, and so couldn’t really see what was coming; Liberty Island was already behind me before I even realized it was there.  I’ve never actually been to Liberty Island, I think I’ll put that on the itinerary…

“Guitar Mash” = “Music 3.0”

Remember when I was writing about “Music 3.0“?

Of course you don’t, that was almost 10 years ago, before I folded “celestialjukebox.org” into one of the archived elements of this CohesionArts website.

My idea of “Music 3.0” (there are others, but they’re not nearly as prescient or comprehensive… 😜) was the culmination of what I still occasional refer to as my “Grand Nebulous Theory of The Future of Music” – a concept both “grand” and “nebulous” because, while I think the historical trajectory offers some useful clues, I don’t really have a solid grasp of the ultimate destination.

Whatever the ultimate destination, I think I walked into a fresh landmark along the route this past Saturday when I spent the afternoon at the City Winery in Nashville for something called the “Guitar Mash.”

The concept is hard to describe, but is summed up in the project’s stated mission to “change the way you experience music.”  Follow this link to get a better idea of the concept (simplified version here).

As I wrote in a Facebook post the following day:

I got to be present for – and photograph – a rather extraordinary event yesterday at City Winery.

It’s called the “Guitar Mash.”

It starts with a “house band” of A-List musicians – like Jerry Douglas on dobro, Mark Stewart (musical director for Paul Simon, among other things), Victor Krauss on bass, Larry Atamanuik on drums and John Deaderick on keys.

As the afternoon unfolded, the band was joined on stage by featured players including the likes of Brent Mason, Keb Mo, and John Oates.

But the really unique feature is: the audience is encouraged to bring their own instruments and… ohmigod… play along with the stars! Chord-and-lyric charts are displayed on the video screens and “Chord Coaches” (from the W.O. Smith School) wander the audience helping the guests suss out what they’re trying to play.

There will be more to come after I’ve sorted through all the files, but this morning I want to share this one shot of MV Gauthier, as she performs Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” and looks out at a venue full of people playing and singing along with her. Her reaction here captures the entire essence of the event. Long story short, it was a blast for every one.

While technology continues to disrupt the “virtual” music business, I felt like this was an indication of what’s possible in the “real” world of music: empowering more people to make music themselves. I kinda think Mary is catching that spirit in this moment and realizing what a wonderful thing that could be.

It oddly frustrates me sometimes when I go to a concert or a club, and there is so little for the audience to do.  The performers put their best effort into a song, and the rest of us sit there and repetitiously flap our hands together in appreciation.  Rinse and repeat.  I don’t know that there is any viable alternative to that, but here’s a venue full of people doing something other than waiting for their chance to applaud:

Digital Caveats re: the above slideshow: I’m having some issues with ZenFolio – my web gallery/service provider – over their continued reliance on Adobe Flash for these slide shows.  10 years after Steve Jobs wrote the epitaph on Flash, ZenFolio only lets me create an “embeddable” slideshow if I use Adobe Flash.  HTML5 has been the de-facto standard for nearly a decade,  but when I try to embed the HTML5 version of this slideshow in my WordPress post, only half of the images appear in an otherwise half-black screen.  I love ZenFolio, but this one rates a big WTFF?  I don’t have Flash on my new MacBook Pro, so I have no idea if the embed above works or not.  If not, follow this link to see the entire gallery; there is a button to display the HTML5 slideshow in the upper right corner of the gallery page.

 

My Name Is Harvey…

…as in the rabbit….

So began a letter that my father, Harvey Schatzkin, wrote to Macy’s in the winter of 1946 – four years before I was born.

He and wife Ellen were living at the time in an “inflated white house” in Milltown, New Jersey – building their lives together on the early fruits of America’s post-war prosperity.  For a vehicle, they owned a surplus Army Jeep, and as they assembled their household, they purchased a lot of stuff from Macy’s Department Store in New York City.

Problem was, Macy’s kept delivering their purchases to a factory on the other side of town.

So my father wrote Macy’s a letter.

Letter-writing was one of my father’s talents.  For decades now, I have been sitting on a trove of letters, essays and stories that he wrote.  All along I have been thinking I might one day do something with them. It seems that day has arrived.

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