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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category


8:14 AM CST 12-19-11 (14:14 UT). 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click for larger view.

Today, December 19, 2011, is the tenth anniversary of the USA film release of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. I love the original books by J.R.R. Tolkien, and I love Jackson’s film trilogy; rather than being persnickety about the differences between the two, I enjoy them as two distinct though deeply interrelated works.

This film’s premiere in December, 2001, came at a momentous time; the opening “scene” of spoken words over the dark screen resonated in a way the filmmakers could not have planned. Indeed, the world had changed, just three months previously.

In tribute and celebration of “ten years in Middle-Earth,” here is a great documentary of LOTR film score composer Howard Shore rehearsing and performing his Lord of the Rings Symphony with musicians in Montreal, Quebec. At the risk of sounding like I’m gushing, I think Shore’s score is pure genius; I can’t think of a single part of it that I don’t like, or that doesn’t fit the story or the films. One of my “100 things to do before I die” is to be in a performance of Shore’s “LOTR Symphony.” I don’t need any solos, just plunk me down in the cello section and I’ll be on cloud nine. Anyway, here it is, and please note that this documentary is 50 minutes long. A few of my brief comments follow:

Three moments in this documentary that move me the most:

Shortly after 07:40 – The children. The beautiful singing children of Montreal, rehearsing the haunting “Seduction of the Ring” leitmotif. The children.

Beginning at about 23:15, the music of Rohan, Tolkien’s noble Horse-Vikings. The instrument being played beginning at about 24:27 is the Hardingfele, the national folk instrument of Norway. It makes me think of Dad, who wasn’t the most proficient or authentic hardingfele player ever, but none have been more sincere. My two favorite parts of Middle-Earth are the Shire and Rohan. Rohan is like my Dad’s Norwegian-American people; austere, noble, serious yet with a mischievous dry wit not far underneath the surface. The Shire is like my Mom’s mostly Scots-Irish people, more easy-going, jolly, and settled; Mom’s ancestors came to the USA over a century before Dad’s. But both are part of what I am, and I like them both. Anyway, I remember sitting watching TTT in the theatre and wondering as the Rohan theme played, “Could that be the sound of a hardingfele?” Yes, it was! True genius, Mr. Shore, I couldn’t thank you enough!

Beginning about 29:10 – The children again. I found the “Last March of the Ents” in The Two Towers to be one of the most stirring scenes in the entire film trilogy, and when, at about 29:50, a Ron Weasley-like vox warrior takes command of the melody with great conviction, I’m moved to pump my fist in the air and say “yes!”

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The skies cleared up after all!

8:05 PM CST 12-1-11 (2:05 UT 12-2-11), 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece.

Below, 8:07 PM CST with the 17mm eyepiece. Just north of Mare Serenitatis (Sea of Serenity), craters Eudoxus (smaller) and Aristoteles (larger) are now in sunlight, though parts of their interiors are still shadowed. LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

I’ve always liked Amy Grant’s rendition of Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride on her 1983 “A Christmas Album”, and I especially get a kick out of how she holds out the M on “pummmmm-kin pie.” Enjoy:

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Below: The Concordia Choir performs Eric Whitacre’s Lux Aurumque (“Light and Gold” in Latin) at the 2005 Christmas Concert of my alma mater, Concordia College, Moorhead, Minnesota

My college and others like it are preparing now for this year’s Christmas concerts, and I love seeing and hearing each new group of young people participating in this timeless tradition. Some, like the angelic-voiced young woman in the video, take on prominent leading roles; hundreds of others simply are voices in the chorus. There are a number of choirs and other ensembles involved in the Christmas Concert, some more prominent than others; but each voice is important, and I, for one, would rather be a small part of something big, excellent, and meaningful, than to be a big part of something mediocre. Believe me, I’ve experienced both.

Throughout college I was involved in the Orchestra as well as the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony, but I was in the big Christmas Concert just once, during my senior year in 1986, which happened to be Dr. Clausen’s first year as director of the Concordia Choir, and he was the first one to introduce the Orchestra into the Christmas Concert. Thanks for including me, Dr. Clausen!

…those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable…

– I Corinthians 12:22 NIV

Do small things with great love.

– Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Kinda reminds me of this song:

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About 2:30 PM November 21, 2011:

Our first lingering snow of the season has fallen, but a nearby warm water discharge keeps ducks and geese in the neighborhood all winter.


Pluto investigates signs of webbed-feet activity.


To my eye these duck footprints in the snow are creating a multistable perception effect. How about for you?

I’m sharing this for no other reason but that it’s utterly fun, and groovy, man! Far out! Outta sight!

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Left to Right: Ganymede, Io, Callisto, Jupiter, Europa.
6:05 AM CDT 10-22-11 (11:05 UTC), 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, LG VX8360 cell phone camera.

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I like this song …

… but it seems to me that if you just turn around and head the other direction, the three wooden crosses will be on the left side!

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The Pleiades and Orion are a glorious part of the predawn sky in October. Here’s some beautiful music to go with them:

The nearly full Moon shone dramatically and majestically in the western sky this morning:


5:45 AM CDT October 11, 2011 (10:45 UTC). 8″ reflector telescope, 25mm eyepiece, LG VX8360 cell phone camera. Click for larger view.

Since I live at roughly 46 degrees north latitude, the Moon sets downward and to the right at an angle of roughly 44 degrees. Also, the Moon is climbing towards the northernmost part of the ecliptic, and the ecliptic crosses the celestial equator at an angle of 23.5 degrees. 44 + 23.5 is 67.5, which explains why the Moon’s disk is rotated close to 70 degrees clockwise in this photo. This is a completely normal, regular, and predictable occurrence, regardless of what some people say.

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