I have always enjoyed word-play of various sorts.  One of my favorite creations is a game I call “Addled Adages”.  One takes two famous old sayings, proverbs, aphorisms or some such similar phrases and combines them so that the result is true and poignant but unexpected.  The first of these I ever thought of, and the one which starts my collection is “A fool and his money is a friend indeed.”  Another of my favorites is  “Where there’s a will, there’s death and taxes.”
    Here’s a far from comprehensive list:

    “A fool and his money is a friend indeed.”

    “A bird in the hand makes waste.”

    “A penny saved is soon parted”

    “A rising tide runs deep”

    “A rolling stone waits for no man.”

    “Beware of Greeks bearing a dead horse.”

    “Children should be seen on the other side of the fence.”

    “Cleanliness is only skin deep.”

    “Don’t burn your bridges in mid-stream.”

    “Don’t look a gift horse at both ends.

    “Don’t throw out the baby with spilt milk.”

    “Early to bed and early to rise makes Jack a dull boy. ”

    “Feint heart never keeps the doctor away.”

    “Guests, like dead fish, make strange bedfellows.”

    “Loose lips are soon parted.”

    “Man does not live by the best policy.”

    “People in glass houses should be seen and not heard.”

    “The grass is always greener after the horse has left.”

    “The road to hell is its own reward.”

    “The squeaking wheel is a dangerous thing.”

    “Time is the better part of valor.”

    “Where there’s a will, there’s death and taxes.”

    “You can catch more flies with honey than a big stick.”

    “You can’t judge a book before you come to it.”

    “You never miss the water in mid-stream.”

    “You can’t teach an old dog to tango.”


    For some people, composing is an arduous process of coming up with a melody and refining it, then laboriously deciding on harmony and going through possible chords.  In my case, tunes generally pop into my head, pretty much complete.  I sometimes do a bit of tweaking, particularly if I wait too long to write them down.  And if I should try to get them back from memory without checking my notes, they may change in unexpected ways.  Usually the later incarnations are the ones which will stick.  Sometimes a tune will pop into my head multiple times, each being some variation on the other, often with dramatically different rhythmic implications.  Such was the case with Troll Road and Troll Ring, but I liked them both enough to keep them as separate tunes.

    When a tune comes into my head, it is generally in an ethnic genre or occasionally a classical one.  When I was young, I used to come up with a lot of tunes which could easily have been written by Chopin, but I rarely wrote them down.  These days it is more likely to be in the style of Swedish spelmanslag or an Old-Time fiddle tune.  Sometimes I’ll come up with the first three or four sections of a tune and have to compose the rest the old-fashioned way.  This is particularly true of tunes in a Bulgarian style, but fortunately the nature of the style is for each new section to expand on the previous part, so these tunes generally compose themselves.  Every once in a while, I’ll realize that a tune I thought I composed is really just a variation on a traditional tune I already know or have heard a lot recently; other times it turns out to be a pastiche of pieces of different tunes put together in a new way.  Then it’s a judgment as to whether I can really consider it my own.  Of course most folks never know the difference.  Indeed the traditional repertoire is filled with these types of “borrowed” tunes.

  • Inspiration—Playing the Bagpipes

    December 11, 2010

    I've seen quite a number of humorous musical “observations” enacted by cartoon bears, so I thought I'd try my hand at it.  I sometime get quite frustrated at the seemingly omnipresent misimpression that the Scots have a monopoly on bagpipes, so here is my humorous attempt at education on the matter:

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