Bollocks to Brexit: The Plumber Sings

Lambeth, London — That Frank Sinatra’s recording of “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” and Bobby Darin’s “Splish Splash I was Takin’ a Bath” are both among Charlie Mullins’s declared musical favorites might come as something of surprise—Cole Porter’s ironic exercise in faux-sophistication from the 1958 movie High Society romping with boisterous teen trifle from the […]

Did Bach Lose The Cold War?

Can the credits wreck a film? I’m not talking about choking on a popcorn kernel when you see that the best boy happens to be the same guy who ran off with your wife. The problem can be far more serious than that: after the story has been told in image and sound, some directors […]

Bach At The Beach

Bach never went in the ocean for a refreshing dip. He never even set eyes on the Atlantic. He could have made it to the North Sea at Lübeck during his sojourn there to learn from Dieterich Buxtehude in the winter of 1705-6. But the old city was an island moated by the Trave River […]

Death By iPod

The iPhone has made universal the paradoxical pleasure of listening privately in public. The casual hello and exchange of pleasantries; an alertness to oncoming steps and the ability to wait politely for a person to pass by; an awareness of the sounds of the city or the country: for many these stimuli are now often […]

The Musical Tastes of Spring

All traces of snow are at last gone from the picturesque nineteenth-century cemetery in Ithaca, New York. Down below in the nearby the Cascadilla Gorge the creek gathers momentum from late-arriving spring’s rain. Just beyond the graveyard the fraternity brothers will soon emerge from their beer-soaked dens to bask in the spring sunshine and advertise […]

The Ubiquitous Mr. Desplat

It can be an instructive and amusing exercise to pretend you’re the one who has to write the movie captions for the hearing impaired. Sound effects are easy: [distant artillery fire]; [a chainsaw in the closet]; [a dog barks from other side of the confessional]; [rain drops on the magnolia leaves];  [sound of pant seam splitting]. […]

Imperial Pomp

No work of music has a greater lock on a single ritual than Edward Elgar’s Pomp & Circumstance March no. 1 does on American graduations. Cock an ear in the direction of high school and university campuses across this country in May or June and its impossible not to hear the strains of this late-colonial […]

The Musical Tastes of Spring

All traces of snow are at last gone from the picturesque nineteenth-century cemetery in Ithaca, New York. Down below in the nearby the Cascadilla Gorge the creek gathers momentum from late-arriving spring’s rain. Just beyond the graveyard the fraternity brothers will soon emerge from their beer-soaked dens to bask in the spring sunshine and advertise […]

Did Mozart Kill Stalin?

Mozart’s music is for everybody, from diaper-clad babies to mass-murdering dictators. That chilling truth launches the brutal slapstick satire—or do I mean hyper-realist romp?—of Armando Iannuci’s delightful and disturbing film, Death of Stalin. What we hear first in that movie is the slow movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major (K. 488). What this […]

Bach & Taxes

I was born on tax day. But it was only on my 40th birthday (13 years ago) that my quick-witted friend David Borden—pioneering electronic music master, first tester of the Moog synthesizers and founder of the famed ensemble Mother Mallard’s Portable Masterpiece Company—delivered the seemingly obvious pun, utterly new to me: “I guess I could […]

DSQ: Those Danish Men of Feeling

The most famous string quartets of the present age take their names from diverse sources:  the Emerson from an American transcendentalist whose first name is Ralph; the Juilliard from the famous conservatory where it is in residence; the Kronos from Greek mythology. To name a musical ensemble successfully is to skirt the perils of pretentiousness, […]