Humming Maxwell

Today’s Daily challenge was “Hum your first musical memory” — I wrote it and recycled from one we did before as a DS106 Daily Create.

Part of my philosophy of doing Daily challenges is that the real creativity is in how you interpret the “assignment”. Since they are no grades, no critical reviews you are invited to change the rules.

I am not sure of the first song I recall hearing, but I dod vividly remember when one of my sisters brought into our home the first rock album, the Beatles Abbey Road. I know we listened and danced around to it playing on a tube powered record player housed in a wooden box. This is not the exact model, but it is close:


I remember the Octopuses Garden and Carry That Weight, but Maxwell’s Silver Hammer seemed to always be one I liked the most:

And maybe now I might be concerned as the words literally seem either violent or drug-related. What did I know, I was six.

According to Wikipedia

In 1994, McCartney said that the song merely epitomises the downfalls of life, being “my analogy for when something goes wrong out of the blue, as it so often does, as I was beginning to find out at that time in my life. I wanted something symbolic of that, so to me it was some fictitious character called Maxwell with a silver hammer. I don’t know why it was silver, it just sounded better than Maxwell’s hammer. It was needed for scanning. We still use that expression now when something unexpected happens.

Here is my hummed version:

(originally posted at

I Hear Banjo Music

What kind of music do you expect to hear in the Big Apple? Big band? Jazz? Funk? Steel drums on the street corner?

Of course, New York city has it all.

But I was surprised to listen to two guys in Washington Park play blues, one on a banjo, and one on a green plastic melodica. Here is a bit of the sound:

It reminded me of this man I saw in San Francisco

Rock 'n Roll Banjo
cc licensed ( BY-SA ) flickr photo shared by cogdogblog

He was playing the Rolling Stones “Street Fighting Man” on a banjo, quite different from the way those boys from the UK did it.

Brother West

cc licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by cogdogblog:
cc licensed (BY-SA) flickr photo by cogdogblog:

I was certainly curious last week to attend the Cornel West talk that is part of the TRU Student’s Commons Voices series, not knowing quite what to expect. I have only a weak association of West with his music and the long ago now infamous Obama Beer Summit following West’s police confrontations.

But everything was clear from West’s opening line, gripping the edge of the podium, and reminding the audience of our short time in this space “from Womb to Tomb.”

Forgetting most of the power words he shared, what lingers is that… it feels so rare for a talk to be that a talk. And a powerful one. West used no notes, no computer slides. Just the force of his preacher like evocations, the intensity, and emotion of a human voice.

One might guess that you can find on YouTube much of what he said in other talks he gives at educational institutions, like his talk at University of Washington Bothell:

But when you listen, even if he is using phrases, sentences, stories he has said before, he is doing as the musicians- Coltrane, Armstrong, BB King, he cites (and reminded by the audience, to call out Canadian Oscar Peterson)- he is riffing from his collection of ideas, onto like a note for note replay, but pulling something out in the moment. It’s right there on his web site, “a blues mind in the life of the mind, a jazz man in the world of ideas”

blues man

And his calls to us as educators, for a practice of “deep education”- again when he brings in the jazz metaphor, “I don’t think of the classroom, I think of John Coltrane”

deep education

The photo at the top was one of those moments hard to forget. A young man at the microphone for the Q&A, asking first permission to address him as “Brother West”, thanking him for what was described as one of the most important life events being in the audience– everything stopped as West rushes out to give this man a big strong hug.

Maybe cliché maybe not, it was electric in the room. And if you feel the energy in the room when someone puts words into it like I did, it stands out.

West reminded us too of Socrates’ line: “An unexamined life is not worth living” — meaning to me many things. Unexamined might mean not being conscious or reflective of oneself. Or not even considering one’s impact on others. Or not looking critically ot one’s self, not to denigrate, but to improve.

To me it says that Socrates would have been an awesome You Show blogger.

Originally published at