The Greek Language

The Greek Language


with the fox be a fox

With the fox, be a fox.


Νομω πειθου       Obey the law.


Γνωθι μαθων      Know what you have learned.     These short maxims are Delphic truths, somewhat similar to the Ten Commandments, but without the I Am The Lord Thy God And I Will Spank You quality of the Decalogue.

Where there's hope

τί κοινότατον; Ἐλπίς. Καὶ γὰρ οἷς ἄλλο μηδέν, αὔτη παρέστη.   What is common? Hope. When all is gone, there is still Hope.


Ακουσας νοει     Perceive what you have heard.


Have you ever noticed how small Europe is when you’re looking at a globe?  Greenland is almost as large as Europe.  By the way, note that Greenland is ice, and Iceland is green.


For all the impact that it has made on human history, Europe is small compared to… well, compared to almost any other land, really.


And then look how small Greece is compared to Europe. Can you even see it?


And yet for us Greece is where it all began.

Καιρον γνωθι           Know your opportunity.


All license plate photographs courtesy of Max Clarke.


Σεαυτον αιδου       Respect yourself.

alpha kai omega

I am the alpha and the omega, the first and the last.


ashley on the street

Ατυχουντι συναχθου     Share the load of the unfortunate.


Φιλοφρονει πασιν         Deal kindly with everyone.


Ψεγε μηδενα         Find fault with no one.

greek words in greek

Some Greek words:    Water (hydro, hydor), philosopher, Christ (the annointed one), psyche, ocean, eucharist (thanks, gratitude).


Άνθρωπος αγράμματος, ξύλο απελέκητο.     An uneducated person is like wood uncarved.


City of children


And we write those words with an alphabet that we received from the Greeks.

Andy John

Φιλιαν αγαπα       Love friendship.

Periander son of kypselos corinthian

Periander  (son) of Kypselos Korinthios (Corinthian)


Before the alphabet was Greek, it was a series of images for the Phoenicians.


Σοφιαν ζηλου          Long for wisdom.


Later these images came to designate syllables instead of a picture of one thing. This was a major advance in human thought.

bathing suits

Μανθανων μη καμνε          Do not tire of learning.


Aleph was originally a picture of an ox and it meant ox. It was only later that aleph came to stand for the sound of A.


Beth or bet, originally a picture of a house, came to represent the sound of B.  B for bathing.

bathing 1919

Υφορω μηδενα         Don’t look down on anyone.


Gimel, the third image in the Phoenician syllabary, was originally a drawing of a camel. We are reading right to left here, because, after all, this is an eastern script, but actually the people at that time wrote right to left, left to right, or they wrote each line as an ox would plow a field, right to left in one line and left to right in the next.


This way of writing is called boustrophedon, which literally means ox turning, as she would do at the end of a furrow.


D    daleth


Τεχνη χρω            Use your skill.


door     It could be a door in a tent.   D     The Greeks called it delta.


Απ’ έξω κούκλα κι από μέσα πανούκλα.       Outside doll, inside plague.  See the word for doll, κούκλα?  There was once a television program called Kukla, Fran and Ollie. Kukla came from the Greek word for doll κούκλα.


Γαμειν μελλε        Intend to get married.

gnosce te ipsum

Know yourself.   GNOTHI SAUTON. In Latin, Gnosce te ipsum. Notice that the S in SAUTON looks like a C.

studio 54 1982

When the Russian language adopted the Greek alphabet, this C was used for S.  My name in Russian looks like C3M. Sem. Studio 54.


The Greeks decided to visit the côte d’azur quite early in their history.


The azure coast.


Antibes was founded in the 4th century BCE  by  a colony of Phoenicians established in Marseilles.


The name Antibes was originally Antipolis, which meant opposite the city, facing the city, in Greek. Anti  opposite and Polis city.


Naples was originally nea polis, new city.  Every language has a phrase for new town. Newton. In Russian it’s Novgorod.  In Spain, Cartagena was a corruption of the Roman Carthago Nova, new Carthage, and Carthage itself meant ‘new town’ in Phoenician.

accordion violin

Αγαθους τιμα         Honor good men.

map of Grenoble

Grenoble was once called Gratianopolis, the city of Gratian, a Roman emperor from the fourth century of our era.


Επαινει αρετην                 Praise virtue.


Saint-Tropez was originally known as Athenopolis, city of Athena.


Ευλογει παντας            Speak well of everyone.


Palermo was once Panormos, derived from Greek pan all, everything, and ormos, meaning a port.


See that town at the top of the map above, Lamezia Terme? Big Brother and the Holding Company flew into that town recently (September 2014) to do a gig in Catanzaro, which is on the Ionian Sea, a beautiful hilltop city only about twenty-five kilometers away from Lamezia Terme. The city between two seas (Mediterranean and Ionian).  This entire region was Magna Graecia, great Greece. There are still towns here in Catania where people speak Greek.


The Greeks called her principality Héraklês monoikos, Hercules, the Solitary, because the strongman had a temple in Monaco (monoikos).


Nice is Nike. The entire settlement was dedicated to Thêa Nikaia, goddess of victory.


This film is called Anthony and Cleopatra in English. In Greek it is something like Under the Shadow of the Pyramids. Do you see who’s starring in it?   Tsarlton Eston (Charlton Heston).  You can pry my spear from my cold, dead hands.


Καλον ευ λεγε              Praise the good


Tripoli, a town on the Peloponnesian peninsula, where Big Brother and the Holding Company played in 2009, was once called treis polis, three cities.


 Ευπροσηγορος γινου         Be courteous.                                                               Photo:   Max Clarke


Από την πόλη έρχομαι, και στην κορφή κανέλα.       From the city I come and cinnamon on the mountain.     This is a nonsensical, surreal phrase, but the word κανέλα (cinnamon) is interesting because it came down into Spanish.

dark eyed family

Ομιλει πραως               Live together meekly.


There is a restaurant in Tucson called El Güero Canelo which means the paleface cinnamon, or, as we would say, the strawberry blonde. Let’s face it, it basically means ‘honky.’  Anyway that canelo, canela in the Greek saying above is a direct descendent of κανέλα, cinnamon.

greek all about my mother

All About My Mother


Φιλοις βοηθει                     Help your friends.

Lynda Carter Debra Wingere

Beautiful women.  Do you recognize them?


Αρχε σεαυτου                 Control yourself.

Eliz filled with holy ghost

Elizabeth filled with the holy spirit.  See the word pneúmatos? That means spirit, which is close to respiration, breath, pneuma.  Our tires are pneumatic because they are filled with air.


  • Το κουκλάκι μας     une belle
    Σαυτον ισθι                   This is another way to say Know yourself.



Photo:     Polly Belinda Rendall


Roughly four thousand years ago, the first Indo Europeans settled in the Peloponnesian peninsula.


These were Myceneans, Ionians, Dorians, Achaeans and other Greek tribes.


They brought their language with them, although early on they wrote in a script called Linear B.


Linear B was descended from a script called Linear A that has still not been deciphered.


Here are some Greek words you use every day, although they are often embedded in other words and phrases:  Ana- from low to high (anabolic steroids), cognate with English on.  Cata- down, from high to low (catastrophe, cataclysm).  Palino- backwards (palindrome).  Callo- beautiful (callopygian, calligraphy).


Talk about calligraphy. Here is an introduction to the band that I wrote out and spoke from the stage when we were in Greece. This has to be the worst Greek handwriting that I have ever seen.  I wrote this quickly in a dark green room shortly before we went on. First I introduce Peter, then Dave,  then Ben Nieves and then Mary Bridget Davies (MBD).


They seemed to understand what I was saying.  At least they clapped in all the right places.


Αυτά που θες ξενέρωτος, τα κάνεις μεθυσμένος.                In vino veritas.          What you wish sober, you act out drunk.

erin everly

Μηδεν αγαν                     Nothing to excess.


We used to do a song called Cuckoo. I loved that tune. Peter Albin played guitar on it, and I played bass.


Cuckoo might be the oldest song in the English language.


Ένας κούκος δε φέρνει την Άνοιξη.         One cuckoo doesn’t bring the spring.

frankie norstad

Φιλοσοφος γινου         Be a seeker of wisdom.


Elise and I took the bus from Athens to Tripoli on the Peloponesian peninsula.

book bed

Η βιβλιοθήκη είναι το φαρμακείο του μυαλού.                The library is a pharmacy for the mind.


Αλυπως βιου                            Live without sorrow.


Θυμου κρατει                 Control anger.                                       Max Clarke photograph


Suffixes and prefixes:     -trope turn towards (heliotrope, turn towards the sun, Zoetrope turn towards life).   -phile  lover (She is a homophile).  -lâtre who venerates (idolater).  Théo god (theocracy).


ηβων εγκρατης           As a youth self disciplined.

anastase boots

  • Τι ωραία που είναι να τους έχεις του ποδιού σου     feet shot


Ti kaneis anastash? kala? pos perases ta xristougena? sou eyxomai kalh xronia na xeis k oti epithimeis na xeis k oti den sou efere to 2010 na sto ferei to 2011.


This is the way Greeks write to each other on the internet when they don’t have the keyboard for the Greek alphabet.


This is called Greeklish. Lots of English words and the use, for example, of ‘anastash’ for the name Anastásios.


Τα Greeklish (Γκρίκλις), από τις λέξεις greek (ελληνικά) και english (αγγλικά), γνωστά και ως Grenglish, Λατινοελληνικά ή Φραγκολεβαντίνικα, είναι η ελληνική γλώσσα γραμμένη με το λατινικό αλφάβητο.


This is English:   I think of Greeklish as the writing of Greek with the Roman alphabet, but here is an example of the writing of English with the Greek alphabet (Grenglish).  It’s your language.  Can you decipher it using the alphabet below?  It says: If you are Greek, please write in Greek and be proud of your language. When you write in Greeklish, it looks that stupid.  Thank you.


I understand, of course, the purist point of view that Greek should always be written with the Greek alphabet.


Sometimes, though, you have to write an e mail to someone and you don’t have a Greek keyboard.  What are you going to do?  I must admit that I have written Greeklish many times.


More Grenglish (English written with the Greek alphabet).  Can you read it?   Fuck lifestyle.


I’m sure it meant something at the time.


People, mostly young people the world over, use the keyboard Roman letters to write their own language. Chinese do it. Japanese do it. Russians do it. Greeks do it. Anyone whose language uses another alphabet besides Roman has probably, at one time or another, used the alphabet we use on the computer keyboard to write their language. It’s a matter of expediency.


 μεσος δικαιος        As of middle age, just.                                      Photo:   Max Clarke


Η περιέργεια είναι η αρχή της σοφίας.

jam session 1922

Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.


It’s all English to me.


Can you read this? It’s in English.  Well, sort of, anyway.

japanese music

πρεσβυτης ευλογος            As an old man, sensible.


Greek pride:    Our language, the mother of languages.


I speak and write Greek and not greeklish.



Set  list       Athens        8 November 2009


Παις ων κοσμιος ισθι             As a child be well behaved.


Πλουτει δικιως               Acquire wealth justly.


Οταν λείπει ο γάτος, τα ποντίκια χορεύουν.  Quando la gatta non è in paese, i topi ballano.


When the cat isn’t in the country, the mice dance, or, as we would say, When the cat’s away, the mice will play.


Τυχη μη πιστευε            Do not trust fortune.




  • ομορφηηη!         beautifullll!

constantina delimetrou

Xρόνια Πολλά κοριτσάκι. Όλα τα καλά      Happy birthday, Constantína, all the best to you.   Πολύχρονη κι αγαπημένη, Κωνσταντίνα!


xronia polla theie na ta ekatotiseis…!  kai oti epithimeis..!


Φθιμενους μη αδικει                     Do not wrong the dead.

1953 Triumph Mayflower

Yes, the word automobile is Greek.  So is car, for that matter.

Greek Cart

The word for this in Greek was karo, cart.

Xponia Polla

kalh xronia na exoyme k na ta poume apo konta sto neo etos sthn australia k panta me ygeia


The Greek soul’s urge for independence is always strong.


Επαγγελου μηδενι            Make promises to no one.


kalimera 3adelfe..    na loipon pou gnwristikame estw kai mesa apo to facebook!      w = omega   3 = e epsilon

ukulele fly

Τω βιω μη αχθου.               Do not be discontented with life.


Μπράβο στην Χριστίνα         Hooray for Christina           Some strange ones  MP = B       NT = D


My friend Milena:  tha ton poioume ton kafe alla egw ton poino me poli zaxarh.        egw = ego = I


Απολαυστικός Γεωργακοπουλος, αν και δεν συμφωνώ για το deal breaker του Ποταμιου.  I wrote a whole web log about the word ‘apolaustic.’  I had no idea that it was also a name in Greek.


Απολαυστικός       Apolaustic in English means seeking a life of pleasure or enjoyment, but it is different from ‘hedonistic’ in that the pleasure may be mental, spiritual, physical.




Επι νεκρω μη γελα           Do not make fun of the dead.

Η Σελήνη σου δείχνει με ποια άτομα μπορείς να έχεις ερωτική ταύτιση!



Προγονους στεφανου           Crown your ancestors.


Κυριε ελεησον!     Kyrie eleison      We said this phrase when we were altar boys.   Lord have mercy!


This license plate photographed by Max Clarke has the word fool on it. A sopho moros (sophomore) is a wise fool.


Νεωτερον διδασ           Teach a youngster.


If you were going to write the English word love with Greek letters, it might look like the last word above. LOB. The Greek word for love might look more like the first word PHIL. Philos.     Feel the love.

Sir Nicholas Winton with some of the people, then children, who he saved from the Nazis in 1939

Sir Nicholas Winton with some of the people, then children, whom he saved from the Nazis in 1939.          Ήρωας      Hero


Αποντι μη μαχου            Do not oppose someone who is absent.


Μια χαρά, λέμε…


Συν Αθηνά και χείρα κίνει.      Literally,  With Athena and moving the hands.      Heaven helps those who help themselves.  Elise on the Acropolis.


γλαῦκ’ Ἀθήναζε / εἰς Ἀθήνας     Owls to Athens.   Owls can also mean drachmas.    Owls to Athens is like coals to Newcastle.  They have a lot of owls in Athens, because the owl is the sacred bird of Athena.


Φειδομενος μη λειπε             Do not stop to be thrifty.


pou eisai?  athina


We change some money.


Κινδυνευε φρονιμως       Venutre into danger prudently.


Κακιαν μισει                 Despise evil.


Απεχθειαν φευγε               Flee enmity.


ἀεὶ ὁ θεὸς ὁ μέγας γεωμετρεῖ τὸ σύμπαν       Always the great god geometrizes everything.    This is a saying of Plato (Πλάτων) and it has been turned into a mnemonic for memorizing π (pi).     π = 3.1415926…   Look at the number of letters in Plato’s saying.  ἀεὶ = 3.   ὁ = 1   θεὸς = 4    ὁ = 1   μέγας = 5      γεωμετρεῖ = 9    τὸ = 2   σύμπαν = 6


Σαν την αγκαλιά της μητέρας καμία.

mousika organa

The nine Muses

taverna bacchos

Χρόνια πολλά στις μανούλες όλου του κόσμου!


Επι ρωμη μη καυχω           Do not boast in might.


Eisodos      entrance


γλυκουλααα μμμ ♥  φωναραα μμ σε αγαπαω πολυυυ αδερφουλα μμ ♥ και παντα θα μαι διπλα σου να το ξερεισ ♥


Pathos can be feeling (pathos, pathetic, sympathy) and it can be disease (pathology, sociopath).   Max Clarke


Δοξαν μη λειπε                Do not abandon honor.


Mens’ names:  Johnny, Michael, Constantine, Nicholas, Panayiotes, Evangelos (which means good messenger in Greek).

poor lamb

χαχαχαχα          χ = the ch in Scottish loch = a heavy, breathed H sound      The pig says ‘Happy Easter.’  Do you think the lamb is going for it?


So, χαχαχαχα is how Greek people write the sound of laughing.


Ομονοιαν διωκε          Pursue harmony.


η καλή μουσική και το καλό το σεξ        ακούγονται δυνατα


Beautiful music.  Give him a hand.


εὕρηκα!   Californians know this verb well.  While Archimedes was taking a bath, he noticed that the level of the water rose as he got in, and he realized that the volume of water displaced must be equal to the volume of the part of his body he had submerged. This meant that the volume of irregular objects could be calculated with precision, a previously intractable problem. He was so excited that he ran through the streets naked and still wet from his bath, crying “I have found it!”


For Californians, though, Eureka! means the finding of the golden state and the finding of the gold. Archimedes’ word is on the state seal.


Καιρον προσδεχου            Accept due measure.


Δεῖμος καὶ Φόβος        Horror and Fear        Deimos and Phobos, the moons of Mars, are named after the sons of the Greek god of war Ares (Roman Mars).

ed everly

Το κρατουν φοβου              Fear ruling.


Thank you        ευχαριστουμε      Do you see the word ‘eucharist’ in there?


A big thank you.


The noun εὐχαριστία (eucharistia), meaning “thanksgiving,” signifies to Roman Catholics  that Jesus is present body, blood, soul, and divinity in the Holy Eucharist.


Αρρητον κρυπτε           Keep deeply the top secret.



Gynaika = Woman  (gynecology, gynephilia)


ἦλθον, εἶδον, ἐνίκησα.    Veni, vidi, vici.       As we shall see below, Julius Caesar often spoke Greek, which would be a little like a British general speaking French today. Caesar said these Greek words, instead of ‘I came, I saw, I conquered.’


καὶ σὺ τέκνον;    You too, child?   On the Ides of March  44 BC, Julius Caesar was murdered by a group of senators, including Marcus Junius Brutus, a senator and Caesar’s adopted son. We are more familiar with the Latin words Et tu, Brute? (And you, Brutus?), which Shakespeare gave to Caesar in Julius Caesar (act 3, scene 1,85).  Notice that the Greek is much more personal.


Aphrodite in Patras


Πραττε συντομως             Act quickly.


Οφθαλμου κρατει             Control the eye.


Αμαρτανων μετανοει         Repent of wrongdoing.


 Σεαυτον ευ ποιει            Treat yourself well.                   Photo:   Max Clarke


Περας επιτελει μη αποδειλιων     Finish the race without shrinking back.


Βιας μη εχου              Do not depend on strength.


Γλωτταν ισχε            Restrain the tongue.

patras float

Ευγνωμων γινου              Be grateful.

athens night

Elise and I walked around Athens at night. It was so calm and evocative. Beautiful.


καλλίστῃ      To the most beautiful one.


Κρινε δικαια             Make just judgments.


Notice where he put the accent on his name. Pythagóras.  I’ve often wondered why we don’t retain the same stress as in the original. Why do we say Pythágoras?


  •  pou ise vre omorfoula euge euge…

bus accordian

Maybe it plays Lady of Spain when it goes around corners?

sweden 1905

Ακουων ορα           Observe what you have heard.

Κωνσταντίνος Μάνος          Konstantínos Mános
Ελπιδα αινει                  Praise hope.


Our neighborhood in Athens


We lived a couple of blocks from this metro station, but we walked everywhere and never took the train.

Back Camera

τὰ πάντα ῥεῖ καὶ οὐδὲν μένει.        Everything flows and nothing remains.                 Heraclitus


Sam Andrew  The Archer   Orpheus     (I drew this in Athens.)

τελευτων αλυπος      Reaching the end without sorrow.


Improvising Music

voice box


It must be said first and remembered always that song came first. All of the rest is based on the voice.


Most people who improvise anything do so intuitively. That’s the nature of improvising. It’s feeling your way to a solution. These flutes were used thousands of years ago, long before music was written. Long before there was any kind of music theory that we know. If you would like to improve your music theory and music then you may want to consider installing some home music systems.


Photo: Max Clarke


Improvising is composing on the spot. Or, to put it another way, composing is improvising and then the writing down of that improvising.


All or almost all improvisers know how to put together a set of words or notes or images. They know this from inside. They always knew it. They didn’t learn it. It is instinctive for them. When someone sings a song, they can sing another line that matches that song and yet that is different. If you’re looking to sing with a little improvisation over an already produced beat or track you could look at sites like and start singing your heart out.


This improvised line of song can be close to the first sung line or it can be completely different, just as in a play where you can improvise a line that will fit into the plot and lead straight to the next scene, or where you can improvise a flight of fancy, wild and provocative, that will bring a new light to the action and only then will lead back into the drama.


In improvising you can be completely innovative or use material that you have reworked many times and remembered to bring it now to a new meaning.


In commedia dell’arte, a drama form from the Renaissance and before, the actors knew what a given scene was supposed to accomplish, but the actual dialogue was up to them. They improvised it.


There are some film directors who work this way. They will tell the actors what they are trying to accomplish and then will ask those actors to make up the lines that will move the story along. This can be an exhilarating and terrifying process.


A solo or a cadenza in a musical work is an improvised passage that will elaborate on the meaning of the song.


The solo can go off into a whole new territory, or it can stay close to the main idea of the piece and comment on that idea. The choice is up to the soloist. Franz Liszt used to murder his pianos onstage in front of hundreds of people. He was one of the great charismatic improvisors. Like Niccolò Paganini. Photo: Max Clarke


I once asked a classical violin player what scale she would use to play over an A7b9 chord and she gave me a blank look. I realized suddenly that she only played the notes on the paper and never gave any thought, perhaps, as to why those notes were there and not some other notes. It was not always this way in classical music. Mozart was an incredible improvisor and he played ex tempore for hours. If you love to listen to music, it is important that you have the right listening equipment so that you do not sacrifice on quality, as Graham Slee HiFi reports.



Beethoven played at parties and there are many stories of his improvising with passion and precision. When this man wrote “Freude,” he meant “Joy.” Foto: Maximiliano Clarke


Max Clarke found this license plate.


Some music, such as jazz, is mostly improvisation. A theme is stated at the beginning of the work and then each musician plays his idea of that theme, and, then, at the end, the theme is restated by everyone.

hot 5

In early jazz in New Orleans, for example, the musical idea was stated at the beginning and then all the musicians improvised together on that idea until the end where the theme was again played by the entire ensemble. Everyone followed the chords, the harmony, of the piece but each person played his/her on take on that harmony.

sister rosetta tharpe620

Each musician is a composer in this style and often the solos were so beautiful and so complete that they were written down and they became different tunes in their own right.


A Max Clarke photograph


In the bop era (1940s more or less), Charlie Parker played songs like How High The Moon with such originality and verve that his solos became separate tunes in themselves.


One of his ideas on How High The Moon is called Ornithology.

Sam plays bass!


In Big Brother and the Holding Company, we played a song called Cuckoo for so long and with such wild abandon that it became a different song. We wrote some new words for it and called it Oh, Sweet Mary.


There are some tools that can be learned in music that will help when a great improvising idea occurs, so that the player will be ready to make the most of an inspired moment.


Photo: Max Clarke

blues riffs

It helps to have a personal collection of things to play over a given chord. Ideas that can be changed and put together in new ways. These ideas should be learned in all keys, of course, and in as many different time changes, as possible, so when the times comes, you can plug them in immediately and without conscious effort.


Most musicians learn the ‘spellings’ of the different kinds of chords: major, minor, augmented, diminished, dominant seventh, so they are not completely surprised when one of these sounds is called for.


The spelling of a chord is what the chord is made of, what makes a major chord different from a minor chord, or a minor from a diminished, and so on.


The chromatic scale is important. Improvising musicians learn how to play it from each finger. They learn this either consciously or unconsciously.


Learning the modes (‘moods’) is interesting and useful.


At first, the aeolian mode was the most interesting to us. James Gurley and I played in the phrygian mode quite often. Later the dorian mode became important. Some people have made a religion out of the lydian mode. All the modes are beautiful and each has its own character. Once again, to understand really what is going on here, each of these modes should be learned in all keys.

lady bo black

The mixolydian mode G A B C D E F G is used for the dominant seventh chord G7, so we played/play that one a lot, since rock and roll is mostly a dominant seventh kind of music.


And now I am going to ask my friends to tell me how they began to improvise and what moves them about their music. I’ll begin with the first improvisor that I knew, Jimmy Cuomo, who was fourteen years old when I met him and already incredibly accomplished.

Cool Notes

Jimmy is second from right here.


Jim Cuomo (second from left, barely visible) has this to say:


By ten years old, fascinated with Benny Goodman, I began playing with his recordings. When I got it right I
was thrilled, but sometimes when I got it wrong the notes I played didn’t seem wrong, just different. It
then dawned on me that my notes were sometimes as acceptable as Benny’s. Thus whole new solos were
being invented. Soon I was adding a second clarinet part to everything he’d recorded.
I soon realized that I was improvising, so I started doing it with all kinds of music (Bismallah Khan was a favorite) I found that I was inventing solos more and more different than the originals . Not long later I met a captain’s son who
played guitar and we started improvising with each other . I lived for improvisation – it has been thus since.
Jim Cuomo, the first improvisor I ever met, and probably the most gifted of them all.


Rob Clores: I do remember the first time I improvised and it was also the first song I remember learning. Comin’ Home Baby.


I was 5 years old watching my father sit at the piano and play and sing the song. He showed me the basic chords. 5ths in the bass and the melody and after he left I basically tried to riff on the melody and make up my own variations.


So I guess it started out copying my dad but then I intuitively started to try to create pleasing patterns.


Rob Clores did the New York version of Love, Janis, with me and then we played a spectacular concert in Central Park.

jan koopman

Jan Koopman lives in the Netherlands. He writes: First I got when eight years old classic piano lessons, and after a few years my father bought an electronic organ for me, this gave me more fun.


Still classical lessons, everything, études, bach, chopin, händel, mozart, church music, include the pedals of course.
Aside from the classic stuff it appeared that I could almost play what I heard, and started with popular music as well.
My left foot is almost as fast as the fingers of a bass player because I can think and play in melody, accompaniment and the bass line.
hawaii hula girl
Then came the Hammond organ. I owned the L, the T and later the M 200, and particularly the M-series sounds great, like even more than than the sound of the B, A C or G, which are all the same modules.The scanning vibrato and celeste toggle switch on the M is fabulous. Procol Harum used it with Whiter shade of pale (flip side is Good Captain Clack).
I use three mics for the Leslie, 2x Shure and 1 AKG for the bass rotor. The position of the mics is very important, a lot of technicians don’t know where to place them (angle and distance).
I think I started first with simple open key scales, for example as basic 2-5-1 combined, and then later on moved to the more complex chords in a kind of schema for example in three basic tones. Blues and pentatonic scales, melodic minor scales.
My interest grew for the setting Tenor sax, hammond/piano, (fretless) bass and drums/percussion. I began to play in restaurants, and made much use of brushes and latin percussion settings.
blues for alice
Later I tried for more freedom, a way to be more free to improvise, trying again and again, till it’s going to make part of your muscal feeling…hours and hours playing, studying developing finger technical skills. I still need to play often, and keep learning all the time…as long as I live, there is no end.
I love “open” music, where you can feel the “loaded “rest/intervals, dynamic sound and timing…like the rhythm also of old jazz, blues and ragtime, makes me happy…now there are so many mixes of the different styles.

Jan Koopman is the master of one of those instruments, the Hammond B3 organ, that you play with everything you’ve got, both arms, both legs, all your fingers, all of your brain, all of your heart and soul.


Kristina Kopriva Rehling: Jazz Saxophonist Richie Cole, heard me practicing classical Music on my Violin, came thru the door at my Parents Private School, his Daughter 4 was a student of mine, Annie . He said to me, “you’re never going be complete sticking w/ Classical,” I said why? He said…” 1. Kristina, you’ve got too much soul . 2. You’re bending notes all over the place in your Bach piece, and it’s a clear giveaway that you need to fly away into Jazz & Blues.”

He then spent the next few hours talking to me about Jazz & improv, and how it’s a conversation between you and the other musician, and in order to be a good conversationalist, you have to be a really good listener, and how when your really good, the audience understands it.
george kristina

He then invited me to play w/ him at The American Music Hall. He went easy on me the first time, Blues in C I think. We traded 4?s, and I could not wait to learn more:)


That’s Kristina Kopriva Rehling, beautiful woman, talented violinist, good friend. She sang a set with us at the Sebastiani Theatre in Sonoma last year.

jesse malley

Jesse Malley : I think that in a way I have always been an intuitive improviser. In my late teens, I remember jamming with some bands and being able to improvise melodies and lyrics, but I was very shy about it.


My confidence (or lack of it) stood in the way of my gut feeling, as well as straining everything through my brain before it came out, compromising my ability to be in the moment.

BBHC Moe's
When I moved to LA in my early 20?s and started singing at open mic blues nights, all of these distractions seemed to disappear with every song. I started paying attention to the band, to the cues, less attention to the audience and my thoughts, and just started playing from my gut. The more I played out with strangers, the less I feared the unknown on stage. More than anything, playing live shows has been the best experience I’ve had in learning to play off the charts.


Learning to read body language, and paying attention to the other musicians on the stage. My breakthrough would have to be when I was about 23, when I stopped being terrified of improvising, and started being able to enjoy it. I think after you’ve had a few mistakes, blunders or train wrecks onstage, the worst case scenario doesn’t seem so bad anymore.

Voodoo Music Experience 2004 - Day 1

Jesse Malley performs in San Diego these days, and I am hoping she will come and join Big Brother for some shows in that area soon.


Arne Frager from the Record Plant checks in with this: I studied piano classical music as a young child of 5 years old and studied piano until the age of 18.


At the age of 12 I took up the upright string bass in junior high and played in the orchestra and began to play in pop bands and jazz groups. Since I read music and could sight read, I usually had a lead sheet or a fake book to guide me.


The first improvising I ever did was on the upright bass, in small combos where I had to learn to play by ear or by watching the pianist’s left hand. I call it improvising but it was actually just listening to find the correct root of a chord as the bass player.
The string bass was good to learn to improvise due to the freedom you have with a fretless instrument.
In my teens I also took up playing jazz on the piano so I began to learn how to improvise on that instrument as well. I remember it as just fooling around with the notes and taking liberties with melodies or bass lines to experiment.
And of course the band always wanted to give the bass player a solo so when you got the chance to solo you would learn how to play around the melody and come up with something new.
I can still sit down at a piano and noodle for hours and play completely improvised tunes and melodies and chord structures, because I know the instrument pretty well and have studied classical and jazz scales and chord structures.
music soldiers
I started fooling around on both piano and upright bass in my teens and have continued to do so over the years.
Because the bass is my main instrument in playing with a group, I find that my main concerns are playing consistently in tempo and always hitting the right notes to support the harmony, and only on rare occasions in a combo do I get the
chance to improvise.
I don’t always play the exact same bass lines, so, in a way, I am constantly trying new approaches to the same tunes.


That’s Arne Frager, bass player, talented musician, producer, genius in residence.

Anthea Sidiropoulos bullseye

Anthea Sidiropoulos: I remember wanting to learn to scat and listened to Ella Fitzgerald’s A tisket A tasket, How high the moon – mimicked her scatting – then moved on to other standards and found I could not only emulate the scats but build my own take on them. I remember gaining an awareness during my early childhood when i was having private piano and music theory tuition. This gave me an understanding about scales, keys and the mechanics of music.

Camille Grant Anthea

This gave me confidence and allowed my improvising ability to ‘fly’ and ‘dance’ around musical arrangements. I remember my teacher including ‘ear’ exercises as my aural abilities excelled during these formative years. I would say this would have contributed to how I learned to improvise. I could ‘hear’ where my vocal notes ‘felt’ right and where they felt they did not fit in the piece.I never ‘learned’ to improvise per se – it seemed to happen naturally, especially as my courage and confidence increased. A ‘freeing’ experience of the soul if you like. I can relate this to meditation at times, especially when chanting.

anthea sidiropoulos

I grew up in a family where singing was a given, (privately though.. anything further was a no, no) and my parents harmonised naturally as the Greek folk songs allowed for this as the norm. I picked up a natural ability to harmonise on virtually any melody. I started improvising along with harmonising to the tune. formative years of piano and music theory and after a 15year gap of music where I regained the ability to improvise again.

Kim Nomad Anthea sidiropoulos

Anthea Sidiropoulos lives in Melbourne, Australia, and I am hoping to do some shows with her there.


Barry Melton: I was born into a left-wing activist family and my earliest years were spent in a small enclave of folks in Brooklyn, New York.


Woody Guthrie was a neighbor (I went to Marge Guthrie’s dance school for a while), my dad was friends with Paul Robeson and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know Ramblin’ Jack Elliott.


I’m told I was at the Peekskill riots as a toddler and my mother sang and played folk music on the piano – songs of the Spanish Civil War, the Civil Rights struggle, blues and just plain folk music from all over the world.


My parents were determined I would be a musician and play for the struggle, so they made sure I started young, really young.


It was my idea to become a lawyer when I grew up, but it’s not in the least ironic that I started my adult life just as my parents had planned – on stage with a guitar in my hands.


My first guitar instructor was not a guitarist. He as a retired violinist from the New York Philharmonic. I was trained classically on guitar from the age of five to approximately the age of eight. I literally learned to read and write music around the same time as I learned to read and write English. Mr. D’Aleo was an older adult, perhaps in his 70’s. He was extraordinarily disciplined and drilled me incessantly; he also taught me music theory, and a significant component of my instruction involved reading and writing music (on staff paper).


Things couldn’t have taken a sharper turn when my family moved from New York to Los Angeles in 1955. Milton Norman, my first and only guitar instructor in Los Angeles, was a ‘50’s avant garde jazz guitarist. He played with the Kay Kyser big band and a host of small jazz combos.


But his approach to the instrument was mostly “chordal,” i.e., for him guitar was a rhythm instrument that used complex chords to help lay the foundation for horn-playing soloists, pianists and singers.


From 1959 on, at age 12, I was thoroughly captivated by the folk music revival. And wow, was I ready: Kids all over the place seemed to be adopting the music I grew up with. My parents’ friends were becoming icons. I listened assiduously to the folk show that Les Claypool hosted on FM radio.

med span jess

I played my guitar with such ferocity that, during my transition into puberty, I nearly got my family evicted from our modest apartment in the San Fernando Valley.


By the age of 14, I was getting friends just a few years older – Bill Bernds, Bruce Engelhardt, Steve Mann – to drive me around L.A. and join in numerous blues and folk jams across the Valley and over the hills into Hollywood.


And Steve Mann, a near-neighbor who shared my passion for country blues, was becoming a star, ultimately playing on the first Sonny & Cher recordings and backing Gale Garnett on “We’ll Sing In The Sunshine.”


It was there, in the foyer of the Ash Grove on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood (McCabe’s Guitar Shop was a little annex in the front part of the club, as was the foyer) that I and a host of young and aspiring musicians (Taj Mahal, Ry Cooder) got to “jam” with virtually every musician who came through town.


Brownie and Sonny, Doc Watson, Mance Lipscomb, Gary Davis and a long list of names that, for me, touch the very essence of where my music comes from.


And the circle, that was sometimes small and sometimes too big for the room, had a participatory component that left room for anyone who had something to contribute to play a little louder while the rest of the circle accommodated whoever was soloing.


By the time I got my own car on my 16th birthday, I drove for the single purpose of picking up blues and folk musicians on tour and taking them around town, or as part of my never ending quest to jam with other musicians in some blurred scrabble of black and white, blues and country, music.


I drove my high school friend, Bruce Barthol, out to the prophet in Woodland Hills to participate in the “Hoots” run by folksinger Michael Wilhelm; or, on one ill-fated voyage to a party at the Chambers Brothers Jug Band’s house in Silver Lake, my friend Steve Mann riding shotgun managed to get us busted and he went to jail, while I got detained as a juvenile and my parents were called.


As a devoted “folkie,” I had a belief that real music had to be learned from the oral tradition and it was inauthentic to learn from recordings. So I sought out musicians to “lead,” as was the blues tradition as I understood it. I drove Mance Lipscomb around when he first came to Los Angeles, and it was honor and privilege to “lead” Bukka White and Rev. Gary Davis, too.


I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say I played guitar 40 hours a week between the ages of 12 and 18; and I’m often surprised and delighted to realize I actually squeezed something of a crude education into the mix.


I’ve known Barry Melton a long time now, almost fifty years. He gave me some good advice about how to construct my solo on Piece of My Heart. If I were ever in trouble legally, he is the man I would see, because he is a lawyer and I’m not.

lead sister

jack perry iron springs 18 Sept 2014

Jack Perry: I was forced into improvising when first given a guitar with no lessons attached, no chord chart, not even decent radio reception. So I developed by way of the “hunt and peck” system. If something sounded good, I tried to memorize it to mix it in with other such riffs.


I think a friend at school taught me the opening notes to Windy so I began integrating a more traditional scale approach to the hunting and pecking.

black sheet

Some months later a friend taught me the first few lines of Santana’s Black Magic Woman (over the phone!) , so I added more of a blues scaling and technique.

Elise Piliwale, not your garden variety

I performed Black Magic Woman in an early combo of friends to a church crowd. I had only ever memorized those first few lines, the rest of the performance was an improvised extension of them.


Jack Perry now plays differently tuned guitars in a very original and beautiful context. Just the pure sound of these guitars is emotional and beguiling.


My friend Jason Castle writes: My first experience with music for many years was singing. So, I learned by ear, including how to harmonize, thanks to my mother’s experience singing harmonies with her father and sisters (who all sang in the choir at church). When I was in grade school, I sang in a trio with two girls, and we just made up the harmonies, improvised them, I guess you could say.

kate russo
I started playing guitar in my teens, but still didn’t know how to read music. Not sure when I learned chord symbols and such. I had an uncle who taught me how to thump out the melody in the bass register and incorporate that into strumming and finger-picked arpeggios. This led to more improvisation, and eventually making up some simple songs based on various chord progressions. I remember especially liking to shift between major/minor chords, such as Dm to D major.
Later, thanks to the encouragement of a high-school aged flute-playing friend, I took up the recorder (much less expensive than a flute) and started learning to read music. When I moved to San Francisco, I lived for awhile with another guy who played recorder. Although we eventually formed a small ensemble to play Medieval and Renaissance music (the “Maiden Lane Minstrels” as the Examiner named us), we also spent a lot of time improvising or jamming.
I used to play more intuitively when I was improvising (which I think is the best way). Now, I sometimes experiment with improvising to a chart with a backup track, but I’m not very good at it, especially since I don’t know much about music theory or the chord progressions for jazz or whatever style I’m trying to play. But, mostly because I’m thinking too much.
Theory and formal training are great, but I think it’s important to find that balance where it doesn’t get in the way of intuition/inspiration.
Jason Castle has performed all kinds of music in all kinds of situations. I go see him when he performs works like Bach’s Mass in B Minor.


Go with the flow.


Kurt Huget writes: My first explorations in improvisation began in my early teens, on both guitar and piano, playing along with records and the radio. I found that I needed a lot of time and patience to delve into it, so I gravitated towards the music of blues bands and the great San Francisco rock bands, because their songs often stretched out longer than the typical 2-3 minute pop tunes of the time.


It gave me the freedom to try out any musical ideas that came to mind, change course when they weren’t quite sounding right, and work out riffs and themes, step by step.


Learning the blues pentatonic scale was a big breakthrough, because it gave me the musical vocabulary to take a solo anywhere I wanted to.


Such a simple scale, but with endless possibilities.


I must add that, at times, smoking pot helped in the improvisation process.


I think that smoking pot freed me up to play more intuitively, that is, to “feel” the music, rather than “think” it.


My guitar buddy Greg Douglass weighs in with this: I started off taking lessons from a fellow who recognized that, beneath the timid & clumsy musical veneer I presented to him every week, there was at least a proton's worth of talent. He attempted to remake me in his image as a jazzer. Being 14 and having just seen The Beatles on Ed Sullivan, I not only rejected being the next Kenny Burrell but quit lessons entirely to devote private study to pop music structures and how to pick up girls.

Shanna and Susan

I slavishly copied solos and changes and, in doing so, learned about how to put together a song, even prior to learning the Circle of Fifths.

Suzi Quatro

However, I lived in the Bay Area. The pendulum was swinging heavily towards more freedom; extended solos, Eastern modes, feedback...freedom! Suddenly, I had all the room in the world to move musically and no knowledge to back it up.


I was still stuck in the minor pentatonic ghetto that so many of my guitar students still find themselves mired in to this day. My band, a Top 40 cover band, discovered pot and began experimenting musically.


I spent hours on my couch at U.C. Berkeley, creating the basic outlines to long solos and desperately trying to solve the puzzle of the fretboard. I still felt like a fraud and a one-trick pony...hell, I was learning to play guitar in front of large crowds, opening for people like Ten Years After and Jeff Beck.


Humility came very easily to me. I knew next to nothing and was jamming one-on-one with guys like Terry Haggerty and Peter Green. The bar was set very, very high.

engrid barnett

Two fortuitous things then happened. I quit Berkeley and went to DVC, a junior college in Concord CA. I took 3 music courses, Theory 101 and Harmony 1 & 2. I learned about the rules, I did sight-singing (I still have nightmares about sight-singing to this day!), I wrote pieces for string quartets (and ended up dating the smoking hot cello player)....I learned about music in a holistic, non-guitar-oriented context.


But...I would still look at the neck and go blank. "That's an A note!", I would proudly explain. There was still no grand scheme on the guitar neck. I could not see things in a logical, musical pattern. I got by for ages with a kind of false bravado and a macho ethic of "When in doubt, play really, really fast!".


One day, I picked up a book of scales. The scales were shown separately, but given a context: there were chord shapes the scales were hung on. After learning the separate scales, I learned how to play the scale positions as they flowed into one another. One day, I looked at the neck and saw not a chaotic blur of separate notes, but a recurring pattern of chord shapes that was never-ending and gave birth to a new world of melodic possibilities.


I had "discovered" the CAGED method about 5 years into my six-stringed journey, and everything was different from that day forward. I had the knowledge from my years spent poring over difficult problems in harmony, but now there was a practical basis for everything. I understood modes, I understood what went where and why...I understood the rules well enough to break them with confidence.


My greatest gift as a teacher is being able to explain these musical parameters to others on a daily basis. While the names "Douglass" and "Coltrane" won't be put next to one another anytime...except perhaps alphabetically..I know enough to enter improvisational situations with a sense of confidence, potential fun, and adventure. I often use advice I've given to a student when I'm onstage to help me break out of my own self-created ruts.


Nothing makes me happier than confronting a wall of apathetic ears in a smooth jazz type setting (restaurants, cocktail parties...funerals..) with a swift barrage of whole tone runs or a series of tritones (nothing like The Devil's Interval to put a dent in some aging debutante's carefully coiffed composure!).

esperanza spalding 08

That's Greg Douglass, the original Diabolus in Musica.


Wesley Freeman, left, with brothers Ming and Tracy, writes to me : I first thought about improvisation when I went to the Kadena Officers Club on Okinawa one night.


I think I was about 16 at the time, and I went there to watch my guitar teacher Tiny Umali play with his jazz trio. He not only played these wonderful complex chords, but he played all these notes around them, and from that moment on, I was fascinated by the idea of being to play beyond just the chord and the original melodies.


I watched a lot of people play after that, and paid close attention to how they took the melodies and would build on them, creating landscapes in the air.

A few years later, in Taipei, we had been following Joe Zawinul and early Weather Report for a few months, and one day, we were just playing in our living room studio, and began to jam, and that was the first time I remember actually trying to stretch out and create something new, something created out of mostly space and time, and some elements from the original theme
When you don’t know what you are doing, it seems like there are no boundaries, no rules, and that can be a very liberating feeling, and sometimes the results are spectacular. That first jam was amazing.
However, as time goes by, I think musicians realize that without some rules, some structure, that chaos will inevitably result. So…learning some rules, and figuring out how things are put together I think is essential to good improvisation…having the right tools is always one of the first rules of the garage.
The truth is, there are no limits to improvisation. Even the sky is not the limit. The only boundary is the place where you stop to catch a breath, or to let people know that you finished this particular story for the moment, or when it is time to let someone else in the band solo.
whole tone scale
Wesley Freeman had his first band in Okinawa, Japan, just as I did, and then he went on to have some very successful bands in Taipei, Taiwan, and later on the mainland USA.


Jude Gold: Yes, I remember the very moment I first started improvising on guitar. Kind of like the day I first rode a bike. I remember it.

I was 11 years old, sitting in the living room in our apartment in Albany California, holding a very low-quality electric guitar – a Harmony Stratotone, which some people love (kind of a cult guitar) – and suddenly the blues scale that I had been practicing for who knows how many months previously just seemed to flow by itself. Once I started getting better at playing, I decided to buy a new electric guitar. This made practising so much easier and my skills gradually began to improve.
Suddenly, I was soloing.
late 1920's publicity still
I was like, “I get it!” It was kind of like improvising by humming a melody with your voice, but instead I was humming with this pattern of notes on the fretboard.
Marcia Ball
Mind you, I don’t think that my solo sounded very good, but I was soloing, nonetheless – improvising my first solo there in that living room.
Then I started using that same scale to jam along with David Gilmour solos from Pink Floyd songs off The Wall, and, a couple years later, Chris Hayes’ great solos on I Want a New Drug by Huey Lewis and the News. I realized I could copy the licks of other guitar players who were using the same scale.
That was a while ago. 33 years later and I’m still working on it. Someday, I hope to be a good soloist, ha ha!
guitarist tree
That’s Jude Gold, a great guitar player who works with the Jefferson Starship.
david aguilar
David Aguilar tells me this: I was relatively self taught and when I did take a few lessons I would ask my instructor if I learned Michael row the boat ashore for him, would he show me Memphis!
I think a lot of my melodic type of improvising is from learning to play lap style guitar when I was about 8, for it made me need to play in tune while sliding all over the string.
I feel that improvising is an intuitive kind of process based on all the musical genres/influences and tricks that one uses as they develop their own signature sound and tonality, that is at least what I have tried to do, I also feel like we still can find improvisational nuggets as we continue to play and hopefully can remember them! I like enjoying the moment when those events occur!
I wish I could think like some of the great jazz guitarists because adding some of those passages to my blues/rock n roll repertoire would be very cool, One memory I do have is this. I thought I was pretty good in college and was playing these hokey box pattern solos, trying to be bluesy and a very low key friend of mine played all these patterns, tearing it up and bending all over the fretboard with a real fluid delivery. I immediately tried to steal as much as I could from him, he was very giving and I was very humbled by the whole situation.
David Aguilar plays with everyone. He put in some years with Norton Buffalo and they made a couple of ferocious CDs. Dave plays with Big Brother and the Holding Company sometimes and he’s a joy to work with onstage.
Kate Russo: The first improvising I remember doing is singing, making up melodies, as a very little child- maybe 3? 4?
Next, I recall trying to play songs by ear, that were above my reading level on piano, when I was about six. My improvisation would include “learning” songs like “the entertainer”, where I would fill in the missing gaps of music I didn’t know with improvisational parts until I could modulate back to the next part I could remember.
When I was about eight, I played clarinet in my first real excursion in improvisation, imitating Benny Goodman. Took it further with my first group (which was a trio of trumpet, trombone and clarinet) when I was about 10-11. We played Dixieland music. My improvisation mainly consisted of blindly playing notes and patterns that “sounded right” in the style, combined with a method of trying to “sing” my part through the instrument.
blues voicings
Intuition has always been the backbone of my improvisation. Over the years I have spent more and more time thinking about music; particularly songwriting and improvisation.
First improvisation was mainly about playing lines (melodies, parts, not just leads), that I felt I could “hear”, that weren’t there. Spontaneous, melodies, and harmonies always came naturally. Like making up harmonies and singing along with every great song I heard on the radio.
In Boccherini with the late Jonathan Mishne, who introduced you and me to each other, when I was 20-21, I learned more about improv. We did exercises to improve our improv ideas. Some included: scale motion, thirds, arpeggios, trills, gestures (like glissando, bends, “chicken scratchin'”). Big breakthrough on the “technical”, not melodic, side!
We had some great sayings! Here are a few favorites: K I S S: Keep It Simple, Stupid! When in doubt, lay out!
Once is irrelevant, twice is a coincidence, but three times is a pattern!
From my earliest experiences, I found that by learning other people’s great solos that were improvised (from the records) note for note, with emphasis on color, articulation, vibrato etc, it gave me a terrific background in terms of what it should “sound like”– with rising and falling lines, crescendo, decrescendo, dynamics, intensity, articulation– all of these things are so important!
ggate car
Other big breakthroughs included: Learning Stevie Ray Vaughan killer guitar licks on violin, by ear – again, note-for-note– and began to use the gestures and make the sounds of one instrument on a different instrument– this elicits wild audience response!
Learning different blues patterns (the “3 Kings” Albert King, Freddie King, and BB King; Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Duane Allman) added a lot to my improv vocabulary. Incorporating famous melodies into the mental arsenal was always a biggie- especially Beatles or classical, for me. (Sound familiar, Mr. In The Hall Of The Mountain King?!). Some favorites are Eleanor Rigby, Let It Be, Purple Haze, Night Train, Humoresque– to name a scant few.
“Gestures” deserve their own special place in my improv vocabulary. They include articulation as well as notes and their colors. For instance, a gliss with a long slow bow, vs a gliss with tremolo. Spiccato and ricochet bowings factor heavily in the Gestures category. Whistle sounds, speaking sounds (like “thank you”) are very effective also.
In the last few years of playing I have really stretched myself with learning licks that seem more “natural” to my instrument (violin), but “spicing them up” with gestures and notes from other kinds of instruments, like a train whistle sound with bends like a guitar. This is an interesting approach to improv, by improvising the actual improv (if that makes any sense). Also taking my tonal style into consideration– like volume swells with the bow, smooth “oriental” sound, sitar sounding patterns.
four reigns
Kate Russo has played many times with Big Brother and she even sang on one of our engagements. That was in Mexico City where we had a lot of fun.
a shot
See you next week?
Sam China Camp Lasnier
Sam Andrew Photo: Joanne Lasnier

The Japanese Language

nihongo red square

The Japanese Language

Greg Sam 6 Sept 2014 Catanzaro Italy Greg Sam Catanzaro 6 Sept 2014

????????????????????   Koko ni eigo o hanaseru hito wa imasu ka.   Does anyone here speak English?

nihongo vert

Nihongo        Japan language


Ni                                   hon                          go

Chickie, 25, singing in Los Angeles after the war.



All license plate photographs are courtesy of Max Clarke.

For native English speakers, the Japanese language is one of the hardest languages to learn which is why Japanese translations services remain in demand at the moment.  It is difficult for us to learn to speak well, because it is unlike English in almost every way.  Yes, the writing is very difficult, but the thought process itself is almost the complete reverse from English.  These facts make Japanese a fascinating and interesting language to study.


Japanese is quite similar to, of all languages, Latin. Both idioms are heavily inflected, so there is often no need for pronouns. Pretend you are sending a telegram where every word costs a lot. So you are going to try to say something meaningful with absolutely as few words as possible. That’s Japanese.  You don’t say ‘I bought,’ you say ‘bought.’  ‘I bought a book’ becomes ‘bought book.’  You don’t say ‘I love you.’  You say ‘loving.’ This isn’t slangy or colloquial. It is built into the language which is telegraphic in the extreme.


writing system


There can be, and often are, four different writing systems in one Japanese sentence, anyone of which would be sufficient to write the entire language: kanji, hiragana, katakana and Romaji (Rome letters, which is what the Japanese call our alphabet).



Or, as one of the early Jesuits in Japan, probably Matteo Ricci, put it, one hesitates for an epithet strong enough to describe a language where a separate writing system is required to explain the existing writing system.



Three different writing systems on one subway sign.  Any one of these systems would be capable of writing Tokyo Metro Ikebukuro Station.



Japanese has cases like Latin or German or Russian. There are small one syllable words to mark what case it is. This word wa can mark the nominative case.

  • wa for the topic which can be different from the subject of the sentence.
?????????? Watashi wa sushi ga ii desu. (literally) “As for me, sushi is good.”   or   I like sushi.


Yesterday I book bought.            Yesterday book bought.      The word order is like Latin. Subject, Object, Verb.


????      yamato kotoba     wago ??       The words the Japanese use for their original, native language before the adoption of so many Chinese words which came along with the Chinese writing system.



I ku ra   (how much?):   Until you get a feel for how Japanese is stressed, it is probably a good idea to put equal stress on every syllable. Count 1,2,3 and listen to how you say each number very evenly. Then try to accent the Japanese the same way.  1  2  3   i  ku ra. Give the last syllable as much stress as you do the second syllable. 1  2  3. I ku ra.


I ku ra. I put ra in italics, because for English speakers, there is a strong tendency to swallow or minimize that last syllable, I ku (ra), but in Japanese it is as strongly pronounced as the other two syllables. 1 2 3.  I ku ra.

med span janaína

Remember to ‘roll the r’ so to an Anglophone the word will sound like i ku da.


English speakers like to accent the penultimate syllable, so for the airport name in Tokyo, Narita, what English speakers say is something like ‘Na REE da,’ (same stress pattern as I need a…) which no Japanese is going to understand. Say Narita like 1 2 3   Na dee ta  1  2  3 and at least you will be understood. Be sure and pronounce the T as in Tom, and roll the r.  Because your giving equal stress to each syllable, it will sound to you, an English speaker, as if the last syllable is the one stressed but it is merely being given equal stress which you are not used to hearing.

med span laura

If you say Na dee TAH, you will be much closer to the actual Japanese pronunciation of this airport name.


Here is an example of two phrases that we use that have three equal parts with almost equal stress. They are:  coup d’état and ‘stay on top.’

med span ramada

If you say Narita with even stress on each syllable, as in coup d’état, it will be much more comprehensible than the Na REE da that rhymes with ‘Juanita.’


1  2  3    Na  ri  ta.  Stay on top.


head good

Head good. Atama ii.     She’s smart.    She has a good head.   See how telegraphic the language is?  In English, we say ‘Smart,’ and that gets the idea across, but ‘smart’ is colloquial, laconic.  Not in Japanese.  In Japanese ‘head good’ is a perfectly normal way to say ‘she’s smart.’


b526You are smart.  (As for you, head good.)


Japanese has a stress system that sounds to us like a metronome. Very even and, to us, unaccented.  Our language is so stressed, so accented that imPORtant SYLlables tend to LEAP OUT at you. UnderSTAND?  Japanese is much more even.


When you hear a Japanese speaker speaking quickly, the speech can sound like those syllables that Indian tabla players say. Japanese can sound like a drum solo.



??????????    Kochira wa Tanaka-san desu      This is Ms./Mrs./Mr. Tanaka.


ta na

Tanaka-san is rich, handsome, and charming, isn’t he?         

ta na ka

jap sachi

Different ways to address someone, male or female, who is named Tanaka. The first vertical line of characters on the left is Tanaka-kun. This is the way young people address each other.

jap shiho

The second vertical line above reads Tanaka-chan, and this is an imitation of the way babies pronounce ‘san,’ so it is used to speak to infants and small children or someone very familiar to the speaker.

jaq elena

The third line is Tanaka-sama. Sama is an honorific title, almost like saying ‘reverend,’ or ‘honored.’

jap superfly

The first vertical line on the right above is Tanaka-san, the usual way of addressing someone named Tanaka.

jap yasuda

Dative case:         ???????????? Tanaka-san ni agete kudasai        Please give it to Mr. Tanaka.  


takuya body

jap fukuda


Yatta!     ???!    Did it!      He doesn’t see the need to say ‘I.’


??????        Kare ga yatta.            He did it.

jap densha


kakkoii cool

It’s cool.   Kakkoii.





Urayamashii!     ????!         Jealous!       I, you, she, he, it, we, they  The pronoun is unspecified and depends on the context. Japanese is a very ‘telegraphic’ language. If someone says in English, “What are you doing?” you can say “Thinking” because the context makes it clear who is thinking.

jap bruna

It’s the same in Japanese, only more so.


Oshiete moratta    She explained it to me.


Oshiete ageta (??????)     [I/we] explained [it] to [him/her/them]


??????????????Odoroita kare wa michi o hashitte itta.      The amazed he ran down the street.  

jap aiko

This isn’t said this way in English but it is in Japanese. I suppose it’s more like  Amazed, he ran down the street.

henna gaijin geisha

Ablative case:     ???????? Nihon ni ikitai “I want to go to Japan.”

a party

????????????      p?t? e ikanai ka?      Won’t you go to the party?





Genitive case:         ??????      watashi no kamera        my camera         


?????????????        Suk?-ni iku no ga suki desu      (I) like going skiing.


  • E1359959207107_1
  • o for the accusative case.     Not necessarily an object.           ???????? Nani o tabemasu ka?      What will (you) eat?

oishii delicious     Oishii.       Delicious.       You hear and say this word very often in Japan.


genius       Genius.



aishoka bibliophile       Aishoka         bibliophile


hon (?)    book, books        There is no plural.     It’s like ‘sheep’  or ‘deer.’           Every noun in Japanese can be singular or plural.


?        hito        person   or  people


ii desu (????)     It is OK.                ii desu-ka ??????Is it OK?


?????      O namae wa         (What’s your) name?.



Pan o taberu ??????? I will eat bread or I eat bread


Pan o tabenai  ???????? I will not eat bread or I do not eat bread   Pan o tabenakatta  ??????????  I did not eat bread.


????          hen na hito          a strange person


Photo:   Max Clarke



Gai jin:    We are often called this when we are in Japan.       henna-gaijin_122x33        henna gaijin  weird foreigners


The first rule of saying “you” in Japanese is that you don’t say “you” in Japanese.  That’s only a slight exaggeration.



It is worth noting that the word you isn’t in any of these three sentences. In day to day speech there are very few pronouns in Japanese.


??????             Kimi no Na wa Kibou     Your name is hope.         kimi “you” (? “lord”)    Kimi is a word for you used by boyfriends for their girlfriends.


??     Anata “you” (??? “that side, yonder”)    Married women use this ‘you’ when speaking to their husbands.


It then comes to mean something like the American affectionate term ‘honey.’  If written ?? (anata), the person addressed is female.


?? (omae) – your pet, someone very close to you or someone you hate. It literally means in front or facing.


?      onore          Someone you really hate


??          kisama          This is a you that you really don’t like.


?      nanji            thou

miho and daughter


??         (sonata)         archaic and similar to thou


???              temee           Someone you really hate


You might be yakuza you hate them so much.


??               otaku                 someone emotionally distant and unknown to you


Pronouns are not much used in Japanese. In fact, they may be less used than anywhere else in the world. Here are, however, some pronouns for I/me and what they say about the speaker.    The most common word for I is ? watashi.  Japanese often point to their nose when we would point to our heart to say “Me?”


Once again, try to keep the syllable stress equal until you get a feel for the accent.  The stress really is there, but it is much more subtle than in English, so try to say ? watashi the way you would say 1 2 3 with equal stress on each syllable.    wa ta shi 1 2 3.


Listen carefully to how a native speaker says the word.


? atashi  Almost the same word as watashi and it is written the same but this word is used by girls and guys-who-want-to-be-girls only.  Yoko is saying atashi here. How do I know? Because those little tiny characters to the right of ? say atashi.  Those small ‘letters’ are called furigana and they are what I was talking about earlier when I quoted the Jesuit who said something like ‘one hesitates for an epithet strong enough to describe a written language that needs another written language to explain it.’ Furigana are often used, as here, to give the ‘alphabetic’ (actually ‘syllabic’) rendering of a kanji. They are often used in childrens’ books and in texts for non Japanese speakers. It seems very out of character to me that Yoko would call herself atashi. She seems a much stronger character than that, although atashi perfectly renders the English Just me! The middle line says Ono Yoko in katakana. So here you see on one signboard four systems of writing, kanji, hiragana, katakana and romaji.


? watakushi, first person pronoun used by rich old men, butlers and princesses.


? boku has the literal meaning servant.    Used by female or male prepubescent children or young boys.


? ore        This is the rough, tough I.  Truck drivers, lumberjacks and other manly men use it.


? ora   How farmers and other rural people say ‘I.’


nanda project

Japan 1960

donatadesuka who is it        Who is it?


I have a friend named Yukiko but I am not sure what kanji she uses to write her name.  There are several choices.

Yuki  happiness, fortune

    Yuki      will, intention, motive

American speakers say her name like Yu KEE ko to rhyme with ‘you freako,’ but Japanese say her name like 1  2  3. Yu Ki Ko to rhyme with ‘don’t you know?’  The Ko is as important as the Ki. More important actually, since Ko has a separate meaning. Yukiko’s husband Peter calls her Yuki. It’s a more grown up name.


Yukiko means Yuki girl, or even Yuki child, so there has been a feminist movement in Japan to drop the Ko after women’s names.  The woman’s name becomes Yuki, or Yo, or Nori, instead of Yukiko, Yoko or Noriko.

I have a teacher, a ??, on Okinawa. Her name is Nao, but she was probably born Naoko. Nao has several meanings. This kanji means big, large, great.  Not the most flattering name for a woman.

   This nao can mean furthermore/still/yet/more/still more/greater/further/less.  Rather abstract for a woman’s name.

  This nao means what it looks like:   direct/in person/soon/at once/just/near by/honesty/frankness/simplicity/cheerfulness/correctness/being straight/night duty.  I could see this word being used for a woman’s name.

    Or this?   I’m just guessing because I did not see Nao-san’s name written when I was on Okinawa.

Nao JJ Remy Sam Elise 2011 October

     Nao-san, left above, was my ??  sensei, teacher on Okinawa.  These kanji read ‘Naoko,’ but she dropped the ko and became Nao.


Photo:   Wesley Freeman


  in hiragana is   and in katakana is    and in romaji is Naoko.

SailorMoon-PrismTime-01              TheCherryProject-01

Nao’s name may be written several different ways in kanji alone.  She can be or or or and several other ways as well.  Sometimes a person will change the ‘spelling’ of her name for many different reasons at different stages in her life.


hito ga ii goodnatured

Hito ga ii.     Good person.   Good natured person.

Japanese medicine



?? atsui “to be hot”) which can become past (???? atsukatta “it was hot”), or negative (???? atsuku nai “it is not hot”). Note that nai is also an i adjective, which can become past (?????? atsuku nakatta “it was not hot”     ?????? Gohan ga atsui. “The rice is hot.”     ???? atsuku naru “become hot”.


Takayama Jinai       Japanese name written with four characters.      Takayama means ‘high mountain.’

No Parking Within 100 Years

???      ano yama      that mountain

Back Camera




???????????????????   Utsukushii keshiki o miteiru to kokoro ga nagusamerareru.


Looking at beautiful scenery is a consolation to me.



Bullet train.    Shinkansen.     Photo:  Max Clarke

omoshiroii amusing

la machine infernale

Omoshiroii.        Interesting, funny.




She doesn’t think so.


The phrase under the images means Ten common phrases that stump Japanese students of English

japanese language school


This gentleman will pay for everything.     ??????????    (konohito ga zembu haraimasu)


nagata yoichi

????         ??????????     Jissai ni atta koto da.        It actually happened.




Calpis Pocari Sweat

In Japan there are soft drinks named sweat and piss.



donnashigotooshiteiruno job?

Donna shigoto o shite iru no.

car dismember

What kind of work do you do?




Kanojo wa shashin yori jissai no hou ga utsukushii.      She is prettier than her picture.



??????????????????  Kare wa kawarimono da to hyouban daga jissai sou da.      He is said to be eccentric and he really is.

boats Okinawa


a cool uke

akarui cheerful

Cheerful.       Akarui.

beauty, Okinawa



Clever.     Kashikoi.



doushita no what's the matter

What’s the matter?   (Doo shita no.)


I spilled coffee in my car.

Japanese fans

bar scene
?????????      Dai joobu desu.    That’s all right.


You hear the question ???????? Dai joobu desuka? a lot in Japan. Everyone is trying to reassure each other. Is it OK? Is it allowed?


????????????   attractive

Okinawan by Larry Henson


Elise Sam David Hicks

sorewaitsudattano when was that

wes,elise,gary, bert

When was that?






Sam Michel Kyoto 1995

Sam Andrew                                        Michel Bastian          Kyoto     1995            Photo:   Keizo Yamazawa

Sam Andrew 1995 Kyoto

????????????????????      ky?to ni itta koto ga arimasuka.          Have you ever been to Kyoto?


J.D. Salinger


To begin with, there was that voice.  Like no other voice you ever heard.  Authentic, real, genuine, immediate.

school salinger

Mark Twain, when he wrote Huckleberry Finn, might have sounded like that to contemporary readers and of course that novel is wonderful, but there is something about the Salinger voice that is special.


J.D. Salinger was Holden Caulfield.


All novels are autobiographical.  They have to be. The Catcher in the Rye is the story of the trauma that Salinger suffered in World War II and on some level it is a healing of that trauma.



J.D. Salinger landed in Normandy on D Day, he was in the battle of the Hürtgen Forest and in the battle of the Bulge and when all of that was over, he was one of the first people in the camps at the end of the war. He had experienced World War II as intensely as anyone and when it was all over he went into a mental hospital in Nuremberg.

J.D. Salinger I'm Crazy Collier's

Just after this experience, he wrote a story called I’m Crazy featuring Holden Caulfield that was published by Collier’s on 22 December 1945.

catcher writing

Salinger carried the first six chapters of The Catcher in the Rye with him throughout the war.


Old Phoebe didn’t even wake up. When the light was on and all, I sort of looked at her for a while. She was laying there asleep, with her face sort of on the side of the pillow. She had her mouth way open. It’s funny. You take adults, they look lousy when they’re asleep and have their mouths way open, but kids don’t. Kids look all right. They can even have spit all over the pillow and they still look all right.












elaine joyce


claire douglas



JD Salinger & sister Doris


colleen o'neill


betty eppes


lacey fosburgh

If you do something too good, then, after a while, if you don’t watch it, you start showing off. And then you’re not as good any more.

joyce maynard

Some day, Joyce, there will be a story you will want to tell for no better reason than because it matters to you more than any other. You’ll give up this business of delivering what everybody tells you to do. You’ll stop looking over your shoulder to make sure you’re keeping everybody happy, and you’ll simply write what’s real and true. Honest writing always makes people nervous, and they’ll think of all kinds of ways to make your life hell. One day a long time from now you’ll cease to care anymore whom you please or what anybody has to say about you. That’s when you’ll finally produce the work you’re capable of.

nusch eluard

My gosh, if I’d just read about one-tenth of what that woman’s read and forgotten, I’d be happy. I mean she’s taught, she’s worked on a newspaper, she designs her own clothes, she does every single bit of her own housework.


There isn’t any nightclub in the world you can sit in for a long time unless you can at least buy some liquor and get drunk. Or unless you’re with some girl that knocks you out.


I think if you don’t really like a girl, you shouldn’t horse around with her at all, and if you do like her, then you’re supposed to like her face, and if you like her face, you ought to be careful about doing crumby stuff to it, like squirting water all over it. It’s really too bad that so much crumby stuff is a lot of fun sometimes.


I remember wanting to do something about that enormous-faced wristwatch she was wearing — perhaps suggest that she try wearing it around her waist.


Tell everybody when you love somebody, and how much.

frances glassmoyer

For joy, apparently, it was all Franny could do to hold the phone, even with both hands.


Charlotte once ran away from me, outside the studio, and I grabbed her dress to stop her, to keep her near me. A yellow cotton dress I loved because it was too long for her.

robert frank 1959

I don’t really deeply feel that anyone needs an airtight reason for quoting from the works of writers he loves, but it’s always nice, I’ll grant you, if he has one.

girl in chair

The refusal to rest content, the willingness to risk excess on behalf of one’s obsessions, is what distinguishes artists from entertainers, and what makes some artists adventurers on behalf of us all.       John Updike

call up the writer

The Catcher in the Rye has been called one of the “three perfect books” in American literature, along with Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and The Great Gatsby.


Adam Gopnik writes that “no book has ever captured a city better than Catcher in the Rye captured New York in the fifties.”


Between 1961 and 1982, The Catcher in the Rye was the most censored book in high schools and libraries in the United States.  It was both the most censored book and the second most taught book in public schools in the United States.

deer hunting cap

A deer hunter hat? Like hell it is. I sort of closed one eye like I was taking aim at it. This is a people shooting hat. I shoot people in this hat.  Catcher in the Rye


Assassins have seen The Catcher in the Rye as some sort of instruction manual, including Robert John Bardo who murdered Rebecca Schaeffer, John Hinckley, Jr. and Mark David Chapman, who was arrested with a copy of the book that he had purchased that day, inside which he had written, “To Holden Caulfield, From Holden Caulfield, This is my statement”.


Arthur Bremer who shot George Wallace had a copy of Catcher in the Rye in his apartment.


In March, 1972, Bremer attended a George Wallace campaign meeting at Milwaukee’s Red Carpet Airport Inn. At the end of the evening Bremer picked up a bundle of posters, bumper stickers and a Wallace lapel button. Over the next few days he began pasting posters on the lamposts in Milwaukee.


On 15th May, 1972, Bremer tried to assassinate George Wallace at a presidential campaign rally in Laurel, Maryland. He shot Wallace four times.


Richard Nixon told Charles Colson that he was concerned that Bremer “might have ties to the Republican Party or, even worse, the President’s re-election committee”. Nixon also asked Colson to find a way of blaming George McGovern for the shooting.


Colson phoned E. Howard Hunt and asked him to break-in to Bremer’s apartment to discover if he had any documents that linked him to Nixon or George McGovern.


In May, 1974, Martha Mitchell visited George Wallace in Montgomery. She told him that her husband, John N. Mitchell, had confessed that Charles Colson had a meeting with Arthur Bremer four days before the assassination attempt.


Arthur Bremer was the inspiration for Travis Bickle, the character Robert DeNiro played in Taxi Driver, which also starred a young Jodie Foster.


Which brings us to another Catcher in the Rye reader, John Hinckley, Jr.


“‘Kill her and take her money, so that afterwards with its help you can devote yourself to the service of all mankind and the common cause’… ‘Of course, she doesn’t deserve to be alive,’…”   Dostoevsky’s Raskolnikov overhears this in a bar and it seems to give him more of a reason to commit the crime because he knew that he was not the only one considering it.


But how did I murder her? Is that how men do murders? Do men go to commit a murder as I went then? I will tell you some day how I went! Did I murder the old woman? I murdered myself, not her! I crushed myself once for all, for ever.… But it was the devil that killed that old woman, not I. Enough, enough, Sonia, enough! Let me be!   Crime and Punishment


When reason fails, the devil helps.       Dostoevsky 


“Dostoevsky gives me more than any scientist, more than Gauss.”     Albert Einstein


The fact is that Holden didn’t shoot anyone.


Despite his moral paralysis and perception of phoniness, he received a kind of redemption at the end of The Catcher in the Rye when he and his sister Phoebe made plans to go west, to ‘light out for the Territory,’ as Huckleberry Finn put it.

ps 166 1929

Valley Forge Military Academy 1930-40s rj silverstein su402



cornish map


rejects film offer

happy jerry




donald hartog and salinger


See you next week?

Sam Andrew, senior photo, KHS


Hildegard von Bingen

001 hildegard

Hildegard von Bingen


002 HildegardMap


Hildegard von Bingen composed hymns.

St Ignatius Church, University of California. San Francisco, California, USA

I first knew Hildegard von Bingen as a song creator because I sang Gregorian chant in St. Ignatius church in San Francisco.




Hildegard was also a playwright whose lyrical drama Ordo Virtutum gave the nuns an opportunity to frolic in silk gowns and jewels.


Hildegard was a scholar who amassed a library at a time when books were rare and difficult to obtain.


She was science minded and was a practitioner of holistic medicine with advanced knowledge of herbal healing.


Much of our knowledge about Hildegarde von Bingen is based on a biography written by two contemporary monks, Godefrid and Theodoric.



The tenth child in a noble family, Hildegarde was placed under the care of a Catholic anchoress named Jutta, at the age of eight.



Jutta was a recluse who set up a Benedictine community just outside of Bingen.



Benedictine nuns lived hermetic lives and spent most of their time alone in meditation.


Influenced by Jutta’s devotional lifestyle, Hildegarde dedicated herself to the church.



Although she claimed to have had supernatural visions as an infant, she hid her prophetic ability, revealing it only to Jutta, who died when Hildegarde was 38.


In 1136, Hildegarde assumed the role of Mother Superior of the convent.



In 1147, she moved the convent to Rupertsberg, a town near Bingen, as urged by one of her visions.


Although never formally educated and unable to write, Hildegarde quickly became a well-regarded authority and gave influential advice, relying on secretaries to transcribe her ideas onto paper.


She was an idolized visionary who earned a saint-like status and name, despite her lack of official beatification.


Hildegarde herself created a drawing, or illumination, in her manuscript Scivias (Know the Ways), circa 1140–50, of her defining vision, in which the great span of the universe revealed itself to her in a trance as “round and shadowy…pointed at the top, like an egg…its outermost layer of a bright fire.”


On 7 October 2012, Pope Benedict XVI  named Hildegard von Bingen a Doctor of the Church.



Hildegard has become well known among feminist scholars.


She called herself a member of the “weaker sex” and she severely judged other women.


Hildegard frequently referred to herself as an unlearned woman, completely incapable of Biblical exegesis.


Such a statement on her part, however, worked to her advantage because it made her statements that all of her writings and music came from visions of the Divine more believable.


Hildegard had the authority to speak in a time and place where few women were permitted a voice.


Hildegard used her voice to condemn church practices she disagreed with, in particular simony, which is the act of selling church offices and roles.


The practice is named after Simon Magus, who is described in the Acts of the Apostles 8:9–24 as having offered two disciples of Jesus, Peter and John, payment in exchange for their empowering him to impart the power of the Holy Spirit to anyone on whom he would place his hands.


For some years now Hildegard has been an admired figure in the New Age movement, mostly due to her holistic and natural view of healing, as well as her status as a mystic.


It is quite probable that Hildegard von Bingen invented the morality play.


Hildegard’s musical compositions are the best-preserved body of work by any medieval composer, and her work is so completely original that it is a delight to sing.




Her medical treatises and herbals rank with the most sophisticated works of her day.


She thought about and wrote about theology and cosmology, instructing the greatest minds of her day in the fine points of the composition of heavenly spheres, not to mention the relationship of the planets to both the human form and the divine.


 Viriditas, a central concept for Hildegard,  is Latin for the greening, “greening power” or “sustaining life force,” denoted God’s generative power that permeates and upholds all creation.
The word  Viriditas is  used constantly in all of her works.
It has been suggested that the lushness of the imagery is possibly due to the lushness of her surroundings at Disibodenberg.
liber scivias6
“The viriditas of the earth and plants greatly thrive in the morning, because the air is cold and the sun is warm.  And the herbs very strongly suck viriditas, like a lamb who sucks milk, because the heat of the day is barely sufficient to…cook and fortify the day’s viriditas so far as it is made fertile for the producing of fruit.”
  • There is the Music of Heaven in all things and we have forgotten how to hear it until we sing.


  • When the words come, they are merely empty shells without the music. They live as they are sung, for the words are the body and the music the spirit.
  • opulcrefaciesfacs
  • Every element has a sound, an original sound from the order of God; all those sounds unite like the harmony from harps and zithers.


• The Word is living, being, spirit, all verdant greening, all creativity. This Word manifests itself in every creature.


Hildegard von Bingen wrote this in the twelth century of our era:

• Now in the people that were meant to be green there is no more life of any kind. There is only shriveled barrenness. The winds are burdened by the utterly awful stink of evil, selfish goings-on. Thunderstorms menace. The air belches out the filthy uncleanliness of the peoples. The earth should not be injured! The earth must not be destroyed!

Sam singing alone Hildegard

Sam Andrew