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My Hong Kong Travel Log: Part 2 – The Adventure Continues – From the Peak to Macau and Home

By Seth Singleton

We left the Peak for the comfort of our beds and a chance to sleep in for a few hours later than normal.
Then we packed our bags and drove to the port and boarded a ferry to Macau.

We checked in to our rooms at The Parisian before heading down to Santo Antonio where the street food and the shops were brimming with people spilling onto the streets.

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We celebrated some of the most amazing Portuguese cuisines from the exquisite Michelin star restaurant Antonio

The next morning we recovered with a buffet and boarded a ferry back to Hong Kong and a drive through Repulse Bay and the homes of the expatriates.

My wife grabbed a nap while Dean and I made a Hawaiian bread recipe that produced two loaves, six nine rolls and one round.

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The next day Dean joined us for lunch after a doctor appointment and then we returned to the house for a day of relaxation.

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On our last day, my wife joined me on an adventure to see Hong Kong’s local comic book shops. We ventured to Causeway Bay and then finished our evening with a viewing of A Star is Born with Barbara Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.

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The next morning we rode to the airport with Dean and boarded our plane home.

I’m not a world traveler, yet, but my love of traveling continues to grow.

Thank you for joining me on another adventure.

Also, if you would like to support my podcast look for the support button on the podcast platform you are using to stream our content.

If your service doesn’t offer a support button you can always visit me on anchor.fm.

If you would like to contact me about support, recording a podcast or just to say hi, you can always reach me at sethsingleton@gmail.com.

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That One Night a Poetry Reading was Drowned out by the Background noise of an Excited dog and other Distractions

By Seth Singleton

I went to a poetry reading on August 30th.

I went to the reading to see two good friends Joseph Lease and Donna de la Perrière and to hear from a new poet named Natasha Saje from Utah.

I think it’s great to hear a different voice and hear her perspective. She called it a “dream come true and a marvelous experience.”

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Moe’s Books

It was held at Moe’s Books in Berkeley. Moe’s has a storied history among writers and poets.

Natasha is an English professor at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, and she made a point of stating that for her this was a powerful experience. It was a lot of fun to hear her description. Which, is understandable if you are just visiting or haven’t lived in the Bay Area for very long. Even if you have, Berkeley is similar to many bustling places, and the pace of our lives makes it easy to walk past gems like Moe’s and Pegasus bookstores on the way to work, the grocery store or coming home from anywhere.

Moe’s has a frenetic energy, in part, because of its location. It’s right at the corner of Telegraph and Dwight. Its location is prime not only because it is three blocks south of University Ave and the Berkely campus.

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The prime location invites street vendors, wanderers, and this can feel chaotic.  Unless you are familiar with this environment when you are driving or walking, and people who do not know where they are going, it can feel very confusing. When those people become restless, searching for a place where they can park or sit, and stop and think, it can be difficult to adapt to their erratic behavior and the response it evokes from others. The fact that unless you are familiar with the streets, being surrounded by people who are in a hurry is unsettling. They want to get somewhere that they can park and that makes it uncomfortable for anyone around them. They’re not going to drive with any comfort. It makes their actions seem sketchy, undecided, and inconsistent.

You’ve begun with this frantic energy that is so clear and prevalent and this great little bookstore that feeds on that momentum that people carry with them. Inviting anyone from outside to come in and experience the books and readings by Local and nonlocal poets. But it also creates the opportunity lack of understanding when it is clear to the people attending the reading that the people who are coming in and out are not paying attention to the reading or the impact that their coming and leaving are having.

I have some audio that I believe will illustrate or encapsulate one of these moments. We’ll see how well that works out. But I wanted to start out with this idea, in a bookstore on telegraph ave in Berkeley and a poetry reading. Because a few different ideas came out during this reading, and I think anyone who enjoys reading or writing or listening or even a public art performance like a poetry reading and experiencing this, what I am about to describe is probably going to feel not only familiar or disquieting in its familiarity whether you dislike people being interrupted, whether you dislike being interrupted yourself, when you are somewhere that you can’t control what’s happening around you when you are trying to enjoy something you want, again I think it goes back to that frenetic energy that I described.

Being aware of the reading

If you enjoy writing, reading, listening, or experience a public art performance or installation like a poetry reading and experiencing, what I am about to describe is going to feel not only familiar but also disquieting in its familiarity. Whether you dislike other people being interrupted or dislike being interrupted yourself, when you are somewhere that you can’t control what’s happening around you while you are trying to enjoy something that you want, I think it harkens back to that frenetic energy that I mentioned earlier.

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Sonorous Poetry – The Lyrical Joy

So, Joseph started off the reading with selections from his new book The Body Ghost. I first heard Joseph’s voice during the reading of excerpts from his early collections like Testify and Broken World. He has had poems featured in Best American Poetry and Norton’s anthology. They contain a lyrical quality that is something that has always drawn me to poetry.

I had the chance to talk with him after the reading. One of the first things that I focused on was that I enjoyed poetry because it is sonorous. It goes to my childhood and the musicality of the message. When I was a child, it was easy to receive my indoctrination into Christianity and Pentecostal through the engaging songs and the messages they relayed. They were inspirational and engaging. Over time they became familiar and comforting. Poetry has always offered that musicality that invites me to enjoy, and engage and participate.

So, there I was listening to Joseph read from The Body Ghost. It was funny that I ran into someone who was at another reading held at City Lights about 5 months ago, that I also attended. During a Q&A I pointed out a line that I really enjoyed about a skeleton in a suit stuffed in a mailbox. “Just a body in a mailbox.”

It was a very haunting image to me and presented so many different ideas. I mean questions of course. But, also interpretations of that image can ingrain itself on the brain, on the memory, and on the ear. The person I ran into was named Colin. When he talked about the reading he mentioned that someone had made a comment, and then he said repeated my comment about the mailbox. It was funny to share an affinity, that for me, had my own reasons for enjoying, and I am sure Colin also had his own, but that we could both have a connection for different reasons over the same line. We could both relate to Joseph’s work, not only through that one line but now through the shared experience of hearing it read aloud and engaging with it at a previous reading.

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After Joseph read, his wife Donna de la Pierre read from her upcoming chapbook. I don’t have any information on it at this time, and I don’t want to take the risk of bothering Joseph or Donna at this hour. However, if you would like to see some of Donna’s published poems you can start with True Crime.

Recording and Timing

Perhaps it is a good time to point out that when I am recording these podcasts before I transcribe them here, it is usually four or five in the morning. There is often less outside noise to create distractions. There are moments when I might be inspired to reach out and contact them. But, since they are in my timezone, and it is not two or three hours later in the day, they would probably prefer to just sleep and talk to me later.

Donna read from her new chapbook. She offers similar musical phrasing when she reads. And, yet, her voice is a different melody, that is a compliment to Joseph, but is also singular and that is a supplement to her style and voice.

And then there was Natasha, who I have never heard. She read selected poems from Vivarium. Someone who is writing from a different geography is writing from a different mindset that is based there. I like hearing that thinking because that it is often parallel and then perpendicular to my current internalization or rationalization of my ideas.

But, hearing the images and the sounds and the ideas that capture her desire for writing is a chance to see inside someone else’s process. And I like that, simply because it shows me something that I have not considered before. It encourages me to find ways to make my work stronger and better, and I think overall my work becomes more reflective. This allows me to engage more with the outside world and the subject I am trying to capture.

Without doing so I might have gotten as close as I could, but I know that I would not be able to get as close as I might consider. Simply because without knowing more, how can I consider more.

To contact Seth Singleton about storytelling, click here.

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When you edit for your readers it clears the smoke so you can see the fire and enjoy the true pleasure of revision

I decided to record a podcast and write this post about editing for a few reasons.

The first is that I am working on a draft of a novel.

The next is that I am also editing my first audiobook collection.

I am also the editor for the writing team on an upcoming digital strategy card game called Planet Rise. It’s the first game of its kind to offer a complete story. We are currently editing one of our drafts in preparation for the upcoming AfroComiCon in October.

Each process allows me to view the approaches I am taking and the results I am experiencing with a critical eye. The better I can understand my process the more complete I can refine editing my work and the work of others.

 

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I’m also talking about editing because it is hard. The goal is to make the work better, but that means painful choices that can create more questions and problems than it seems to solve, at the moment. It can show you gaps where you need more work and where you are being redundant. Both can be demoralizing if you are unprepared, and can still be frustrating even when you think you are ready.

I have a story on Amazon called This is a Language of Fists. It started about 18 years ago with a scene. A cold wind moving through a boxing arena in a small setting, and the fighters, and the people there to watch them. Later I added a scene about running on a beach.

That scene grew to between 25-30 pages over the next 10-12 drafts. Then I whittled them down to about 15-18 pages. Ten drafts later, I was back to 22-24. Sometime after the 25th draft, I began slowly paring back to 21 pages and then finally to the 20 pages that I published. I asked classmates and teachers and advisors for their edits.

I don’t remember when I crossed the 30th draft because by then it did not matter. What mattered, was that each round of edits brought me closer. And that became my single goal. Getting closer. Doing it again. Looking for opportunities to make my ideas clearer.

“You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.” – Arthur Plotnik

Seeing the fire

Writing and editing are very similar. According to Arthur Plotnik, “You write to communicate to the hearts and minds of others what’s burning inside you, and we edit to let the fire show through the smoke.”

When you’re trying to write and, when you are writing, you are crafting the ideas as they come. Whether you are using an outline or structure, there is still the moment of inspiration and excitement, and those moments can’t be planned for but it’s the editing where writers have the opportunity to shape the story.  As Plotnik says, to let the fire show through this book.

It’s a great image when you think about starting a fire, and how the initial effect can be hard to see at first. But the best signal is the smoke when the fire begins to brew and the bits of kindling and starter are working that under the larger pieces of wood you are hoping to burn.

 

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Once that smoke clears, the fire is burning so cleanly that it is only producing the flames. The act of feeding on oxygen and the fuel of the wood eliminates the opportunity for the smoke to billow.

That’s when a fire is really enjoyed. When the light and the shadows it casts, and the heat and in many ways the nostalgia. The ability to trace all of the moments you were entertained by a fire. The timeline from your first moment with a fire. Whether outside or in front of a fireplace. It is something we connect to every time we enjoy a fire.

It’s the same with great stories.  They are something entertaining. The more they can engage us with their best representations There is a timeline in our minds of the stories that we have enjoyed

Letting the Smoke Clear

This became true for me while I was working on the first draft of a novel and many of the pieces that were coming together began to crowd my storytelling. And, I realized that I needed to find a way to set myself up so that the story would allow me to come back in. But, that when I came back in it would be with direction and purpose.

So I employed a tried and true method of writing my ending and then walking away. So that when I came back to finish that draft I could see the pieces that needed to be filled in and the threads that I needed to connect to that ending in order for the framework of it to be maintained.

So that my first draft would have these many through-lines and an ending, that I could then begin working with as I edited.

 

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It was helpful because that period of breathing allowed the smoke to clear. For any confusion, I might have been experiencing at that moment to abate. And by stepping back and allowing the flames to burn, and knowing I had already set up this fire so that it would reach the ending, which would be, in my mind, roaring and burn with all of the excitement that it had begun with.

That stepping back and letting it breathe meant that the smoke could clear. And as it began to burn in my mind with what I had developed, with what I had built on top and everything all I had been reaching for then the pieces became clearer.

The missing threads were easier to see. I could identify all of the trees in my forest that I had not described the way I wanted to in order for the story to be complete. And now that they were identified. I could go back in and work on them with a purpose.

Knowing that, by doing so, with each one of those details and corrections, I was getting closer to my ending. I was creating this story that would burn a fire that would entertain. And something that I believed that would really create a value to the storytelling.

That if I had not allowed it to happen, that value might have been something I rushed passed towards something else that I assumed meant completion.

Because I was able to enjoy that period of waiting, the anticipation and the sense of, well, definitely of relief and also a sense of comfort. When the smoke began to clear I could see the flames, much brighter than they had been before and that was a guiding light.

 

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Revision is a pleasure of writing

There’s a really great quote below that illustrates editing your words the moment you realize what is wrong.

“Making love to me is amazing. Wait, I meant: making love, to me, is amazing. The absence of two little commas nearly transformed me into a sex god.”

―Dark Jar Tin Zoo, Love Quotes for the Ages. Specifically Ages 19-91.

Note the pause. It only took saying it once for the speaker to realize where their mistake had occurred and to backtrack and fix it by applying two little commas. By doing so, not only is the meaning, but the intention changed.

I think it is a great set up for this quote by Bernard Malamud. He won both the Pulitzer Prize in fiction and the National Book Award, but I still know him best as an author of The Natural, which captures a snapshot of baseball during it’s earliest heyday.

“I would write a book, or a short story, at least three times—once to understand it, the second time to improve the prose, and a third to compel it to say what it still must say. Somewhere I put it this way: first drafts are for learning what one’s fiction wants him to say. Revision works with that knowledge to enlarge and enhance an idea, to reform it. Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing.” – Bernard Malamud

Two different approaches to examining your work after it’s been produced.

One is the quick recovery, a verbal adjustment or correction. Or even a written correction that immediately follows to show just how quickly the desire is to fix where the mistake lies.

The other approach is the longer form. It goes back to that idea of the entertainment of the fire. Knowing what you are creating is part of the excitement in building a fire.

Knowing that it is the small pieces, the starter material, and the kindling, and finally, the larger pieces which let the fire roar and reach its crescendo and then a resolution glowing with the soothing warmth of the coals.

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Denying yourself that pleasure removes one of the aspects that Malamud points to here regarding the idea of revision.

What that fiction wants you to say. It’s a pleasure of writing. It’s an opportunity. It’s a gift because it requires time.

Time seems to be one of those resources that we are always in short supply. But, by dedicating time to this pursuit, we are actually taking pleasure in using our time for something that gives us pleasure.

The chance to take what we are writing and to make sure it’s saying what we believe, the best way we want it to and the best way we know we can make it sound.

You don’t have to kill your darlings, but…

None of this means that editing is easy. Or that the parts that are easy will guarantee that the rest of it, when it does get easier, will stay that way. It only promises that there will be hard choices.

Steven King loves to say, “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.”

Even if you are not egocentric when it comes to your darlings, they are your darlings for a reason.

They brought you to a certain place in your storytelling, that has added a value to that story. Removing them challenges the work that you have invested. But, because your intention is to make this your best work, to follow the approach of writers like Malamud, and others by understanding the story and then working to make that knowledge broader, makes the hard decisions necessary.

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And it can give you the incentive to push past personal attachment or even emotional attachment to those darlings. Just because you are editing them from this piece of work does not mean you are removing them from existence. There is comfort in having a small notes file that allows you to look back on them with kindness and fondness.

Even if it just ends up being in a piece about all the things you did not get to use while writing that book.

And I think knowing, that by storing them in that document or folder and keeping them alive there, you haven’t really killed them. You’ve moved them to another plane of existence and potentially they can be reincarnated, recycled, or whatever the philosophy works best for you.

They can be repurposed into your writing. And you might never know when that will happen or if that will happen. But, that their possibility will always be alive as long as you keep them in that document.

“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”―Dr. Seuss

Edit for your Readers

When it comes to any final thoughts about editing, that can often be first thoughts when starting the process, is to keep in mind why we do it. And the real purpose behind editing has to do with the reader.

There is a very sweet quote from Dr. Seuss that says,“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”

It starts simple, with the idea of the writer simply creating too many words, more than is necessary, but it ends actually, with an interesting warning.

Because, not only does it become a chore for the reader, but it becomes a chore for the reader who reads.

A reader who reads is a reader who is paying attention, and If they recognize that the writer is using more words than they need, they will believe that the writer is actually making it harder for them.

And that is going to challenge the reader’s thoughts regarding the investment of their time into a work that in many ways is not respecting their time. Or the investment they are taking.

And whether it’s worth that amount of work.

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That can make the difference between the reader finishing what you have written, or deciding that it is simply too much work to try and understand what you might be talking about. But, what you have not made clear enough to them to help them understand, with a reason that helps them as they continue reading.

By asking the reader to invest their time, you are telling them you are going to share something with them that they didn’t know or that they can now understand in a way that they didn’t consider before.

Or many of the other revelations that can come from your writing that is beyond your initial intent.

That can only happen when the writing has been edited to a point where all of those possibilities are clear enough to be seen, and when it comes to getting that writing in front of someone’s eyes, making it difficult for the reader can prevent your writing from moving beyond the editor’s desk.

There’s another great quote from J. Russel Lynes that says,”No author dislikes to be edited as much as he dislikes not to be published.”

If you are trying to get your work past the editor’s desk, the amount of time you invest in editing before you send it off it will improve your chances that the best work, the best writing, and the idea that you have now begun to understand even more clearly, has been presented more concisely.

It’s because of the many attempts and approaches you have made to make it transparent for them, with as little as effort as might be possible, for them to understand, to engage and more importantly, to continue reading all the way to the end.

To contact Seth about Content, Editing, Podcasts, or to just talk about writing, click here.

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Top 5 Reasons I Recorded “Do Superheroes Ever Have This Problem?” on my Anchor Podcast and Why I Plan to Record Them All

By Seth Singleton

Storytelling was originally an auditory experience

The first stories were spoken aloud. They told you how to find food, which plants were used to heal, and the history of the place where you lived.

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Not everyone is able to read

Like listening to audiobooks, podcasts allow people to hear the information they want when they are driving to work, working at a job that allows them to think, or just enjoying a walk or run. Age and eyestrain can make reading a story on a screen more work than enjoyment. Now, when reading hurts, you have another option.

It’s another way to send a message

In the past, messages were sent by pigeon, by smoke, and even invisible ink. Sometimes one person had the job of shouting announcements from a central location. In other examples, a team provided hourly announcements or relayed messages from one location to another, miles away.

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I grew up listening to stories on the radio

The radio was always on in the house where I was raised. It was a family radio station. Hosts provided commentary and discussion, and there were scheduled times for story hour. On Saturday mornings, I listened to the adventures of Ranger Bill and his old sidekick Stumpy.

I believe in fostering the imagination

Listening to the radio taught me how to use my imagination. It’s similar to reading a book instead of seeing the movie. The author gives you the details and the descriptions that make the story come alive. You get to fill in the spaces like a coloring book. The story becomes personal when your brain creates the images that bring it to life for you.

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If you enjoyed listening to this podcast of Do Superheroes Ever Have This Problem and want to hear more episodes of Storytelling with Seth click here.

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The Academíe was the school where student artists studied masterworks of history like the plaster molds of statues by Bartolini and Pampolini, and legendary musical instruments by Stradivari and Cristofari found sanctuary

This is a series of posts following my wife and me on a tour of Italy.  

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By Seth Singleton

Why the Academie?

We had already seen the statue of David. It was gorgeous and stunning. Our guide Sylvie had explained that David had been viewed in a public square for decades. That love had brought it indoors. But, why here? We were told that it had been a center of learning since 1784. What was this place before?

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Before it was the Acedemíe

It was a hospital. The Friary Hospital of San Matthew. The adjoining building was the Convent of Saint Niccolo of Cafaggio. Little is recorded about the hospital before this time. Peter Leopold, the Grand Duke of Tuscany chose the building because it adjoined the Accademia di Belle Arti or the Fine Arts Academy. The collection was regularly updated with paintings gathered from other convents and monasteries by Grand Duke Peter Leopold and then Napoleon.

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Why it Mattered

It was a place of learning.

Students went there to learn perspective and proportion from the statues in the “Gipsoteca Bartolini.” The statues were plaster casts made by legendary sculptor and academy professor Lorenzo Bartolini. The molds were pierced with steel pins or rods. Students could use these pins for reference when they compared limbs and fingers with the head and torso.

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A key value of the Rennaisance was the return to realistic art that portrayed life with fullness and authenticity. One aspect that arose from this pursuit was the concern given to perspective. The pins allowed them to scale fingers, toes, eyes, lips, nose, and chin. It brought life to statues and paintings by making them appear more human.

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The Gipsoteca meant “the hall of models” creates a visual timeline from Neoclassicism and Romanticism.  Bartolini’s busts and medallions were in high demand from Russian, Polish, and English families.

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The large collection of infant statues were the specialty of Luigi Pampolini. Pampolini’s ability to match Bartolini in grace and beauty rose the two sculptors to equal fame in the eyes of Florentine’s art patrons. The details they capture are so clear they provide insights into hair and clothing fashions and popular ideologies of the time.

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A Sanctuary for Musical Instruments

The same passion that brought to life painting and sculpture during the Rennaissance can be seen in the exhibits housed at the Museum of Musical Instruments.  The 50 original pieces of the Grand Ducal collection include the roots of the piano invented by Bartolomeo Cristofori and the tenor viola made by Antonio Stradivari.

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Cristofori and the Pianoforte

Cristofori was born in 1655 and worked for the son of the Duke of Tuscany making harpsichords and clavichords. It is believed his work on the first piano began during the 1690s. The first version was completed in 1709.

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The pianoforte was the first name of the device Cristofori invented. By connecting each key to little hammers that strike the strings, the instrument that would become the piano produced a louder sound than the clavichord. The complication of dampening the sound from the string was avoided with an escapement. This allowed each hammer to fall away from the string immediately after it was struck.

Numerous innovations produced tones that reflected the force used by a player striking the keys. This new instrument did not catch on for a very long time. Cristofori was among at least 100 other artisans He was considered a mere tinkerer.

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The piano he created was modified many times over the three centuries that bring us to the modern piano. The changes replaced Cristofari’s name with words like Steinway, grand, and upright.

Imitation is the Sincerest Form…

Stradivari crafted over 1,100 musical instruments before his death. Over 650 still exist today, but there are also thousands of replicas that were inspired by the different changes and styles of violins he produced. To many collectors, this has led to confusion about what is an authentic Stradivari instrument. Adding to the problem is the addition of the phrase Antonio Stradivarius Cremonensis Faciebat Anno followed by the numeric year.

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A travel blog is much like the destination it describes. The academy was a place where we went to see the statue of David by Michelangelo.

What we found was more than the home for a brilliant sculpture by a legendary artist. This was a home where students worked and strived. The evidence of the artists they aspired to emulate line the floors and walls.

Now it is the home for paintings, sculptures, and musical instruments that offer a timeline in three dimensions.

 

Click the link to contract blog content from Seth.