Remedial Education, Year 1, Week 2

by Bernard Brandt

Well, I’ve completed this week with a near complete failure to accomplish any of my goals. No math, no music theory, no guitar, no Greek, no Old English. In point of fact, my sole accomplishment has been with voice. As a result of work in tuning the timbre of my voice, starting with Seth’ Riggs vocal training methods, continuing with what I’ve been able to glean from Richard Miller’s work, and with a discovery or two of my own, I am now the proud possessor of a four octave vocal range (from the C two octaves below middle C, to the C two octaves above; in short, from C to shining C), with resonance, vibrato, and volume in all but the top four or five notes.

And, as I approach my 63rd year of life, I’m finally able to sing in full voice up to the G and A below tenor high C. If I continue to make progress, I should be able to achieve my dream of becoming a bargain countertenor (although, since I will probably remain non-union, I’ll probably be an under-the-table bargain countertenor).

I suppose that I should be satisfied with that. But I’m not. I have repeatedly failed to achieve the goals I have wanted. So, as with the monk in the story, I’ll just have to pick myself up, brush myself off, and begin again. But, as Einstein’s definition of insanity, it is foolish to repeat the same praxis but to expect different results. It is now time to try something new.

So, what I shall be trying is Tim Ferriss’ acronym and algorithm for achieving goals: DEAL, or Define what you want to achieve, Eliminate what prevents you from doing it, Automate the process, and then Liberate yourself to take the next step.

I’ve already defined my goals for the next ten years, and for the next one. Now let’s try defining goals for the next week

Grammar: Purchase The Loom of Language; memorize ten nouns and their declensions from Wright’s Grammar of Old English; complete lessons 4-8 from Pharr’s Homeric Greek.

Music: Review lessons 1-3 of Ghezzo’s Solfege and read all the musical lines using solfege; spend fifteen minutes a day playing the guitar and memorizing the diatonic scale in C for the first four frets of the fretboard; Read chapters 1,2,4 and 5 of Miller’s Structure of Singing, write a precis and summary of what I have learned there, and accommodate those findings into my morning and evening vocal exercises.

Mathematics: Review the first chapter of Hogben’s Mathematics for the Million; isolate the formulae provided there and start memorizing them; memorize the times table up to 30 for the numbers 7, 8, 9, 10 and 11; factor the numbers from 100 to 200.

Theology: Read the first thirty chapters of the Book of Genesis (five chapters per day); memorize the major events in each chapter and be able to associate them with each chapter.

Philosophy: Re-read these dialogues of Plato: Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo. Make a precis of the questions asked, and the argumenta.

The next step is to figure out what’s been preventing me from achieving my goals, and to eliminate those stumbling blocks. The three that I can see right off the bat are Facebook, a dirty and disordered house, and a lack of daily preparations for study. While I’ve kicked my television habit, I have become addicted instead to social media, and have been obsessing too much on it. I’ve also been sitting in a cluttered and disordered house again, getting depressed at that, and doing little to organize my day’s work.

I think that I finally got off my good intentions, and cleaned up my house in preparation for my parish priest’s visit for the yearly house blessing. I found that by unplugging the laptop, putting it away, and getting busy on the day of the visit. I was able to get the house clean in hours, with time to prepare the goodies for his and my choir director’s visit (well, if you must know, water crackers laden with soft butter and icelandic caviar, or whipped cream and squares of smoked salmon, and topped with finely diced white onion or shallots, paired with a bot of champagne. Oh, and a Trader Joe’s dessert, with a bot of a sweet almond sparkler that paired well with it).

But I digress. My point is that I have a clean house again. I intend on keeping it that way. I intend also on greatly reducing my presence in Facebook, and to use my internet connexion rather less. It is a simple matter of unplugging it, or putting the laptop away.

This leads to the next step: Automation, or organization. I’m going to be going to the Law Library on Wednesday and Friday. One trick that I learned from Fawn Brodie’s excellent biography of Sir Richard Francis Burton, The Devil Drives, is that Burton would daily write down the words of the language that he was then currently learning, and would refer to that paper at odd times during the day. Let’s see if that can be applied to grammar, music, and mathematics.

As to the last step, or Liberation, it’s basically getting studies down so that one can be free to take the next step. I’ll tell you about that when I get there.