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Pauline Lerner

The Flu and YouTube

February 13, 2008 at 6:02 AM

I’ve got the flu. I guess I couldn’t beat the odds any more. Almost all of my students and some of their parents have had it.

I spent the first day in bed, doing nothing except calling some of my students to cancel their lessons.

On the second day, my brain began to function again, and I was bored. I decided to sit up and read. I made a comfortable space for myself, using large pillows on the sofa and a little table right next to the couch to put a cup of coffee on. It was very relaxing. I fell asleep and didn’t wake up for hours.

The next thing I tried was YouTube. I’ve browsed this site before and thought that I’d never have the time to look for and listen to everything I like. Here is a synopsis of the best, most interesting things I found.

I like bluegrass music. Ricky Skaggs excels in playing any instrument with strings, and he sings well, too. He was a child prodigy, playing with many famous groups and various styles at an early age. I found a video (http://youtube.com/watch?v=uCYCCuJLIaA) of Ricky, age seven, playing with Flatt and Scruggs, two of the finest bluegrass musicians ever.

Earl Scruggs is almost a god to banjo players. One of told me, “If you get a book or CD of Scruggs’s music, and you take three of the songs and learn to play them just like Earl Scruggs did, you will have learned everything about playing the banjo.” I decided to look for a video of Flatt and Scruggs playing one of the songs that some of my students are learning. I found one with these two musicians playing “Cindy” (http://youtube.com/watch?v=ZMicxlB_7fg) for some friends at an outdoor party. Towards the end of the video, you can see someone having fun clogging (a traditional Appalachian dance) to the music.

One of my favorite bluegrass tunes, which seems to be loved by anyone who hears it, is Jerusalem Ridge. I have a couple of CDs with it, and my favorite one has Kenny Baker on fiddle. I’ve tried to find other CDs with him, but his name is generally not on the title because he plays backup. I got excited when I found a video of Jerusalem Ridge (http://pl.youtube.com/watch?v=bpzoLAwZ-gs) with him on fiddle. I watched his bowings and when possible, his left hand and fingers. I even took notes.

Then I was overcome with a passion for the 60s. I listened to some great songs by great singers and then found something with spiritual overtones. A number of top rock musicians in the 60s had traveled to India to learn to play the sitar from Ravi Shankar. One of the most serious of these musician-students was George Harrison (http://pl.youtube.com/watch?v=bpzoLAwZ-gs,) of the Beatles. Ravi Shankar’s students brought to Europe and North America not only sitar music, but also transcendental meditation (TM), an altered state of consciousness actively embraced in the 60s. (I have just read that Maharishi Yogi, founder of TM, passed in his home on Feb. 6, 2008, at the age of 91.)

After wandering around on YouTube for a while, I hit paydirt for a classical musician – a documentary called “Du Pre and Elgar Cello Concerto” (http://youtube.com/watch?v=PToFY-Upaw0), which was posted in eight segments. This cello concerto was her signature piece. No one had ever played it so musically, and with so much breadth and depth of emotional states. She was beautiful and she was muscular. She looked athletic when she played. When she played, she “became” the music. At a high point in her career, she met and married Daniel Barenboim. Unlike many couples, they didn’t let their touring schedules keep them apart. They planned their schedules so that they would both be in the same city at the same time whenever they could. The film focused on this time, when she was at a high point in her life. The film mentioned briefly that she later developed multiple sclerosis, which first robbed her muscle strength, and then took her life. I believe that it is better to remember her as the radiant young woman who was almost always smiling.

My flu is almost completely gone, and so is my ability to watch YouTube anytime I want to. I’m so glad that we have the technology to bring such wondrous things into our homes.

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