Wap It Good

Don’t run, walk, or crawl towards the Apocalypse. Dance. This most curious form of human movement, unlimited in its variety and meanings, and instantly recognizable even by other species (our dog would go berserk when her masters began shimmying across the living room of an evening) seems as pleasant a way as any to tip […]

Sick of Bach

J. S. Bach’s music has many lessons to teach us, though they are rarely for the faint-of-heart. Indeed, faintness of heart is one of Bach’s main themes. In this gnarled body of work, weakness and decline make for the central facts of earthly life, and the human susceptibility to moral and physical disease contaminates even […]

Knafta Knees (August 13, 1997)

A fat man in a pin-striped Yankees t-shirt comes out of the Podiatrist’s office across the street. He stops on the sidewalk, takes out a pack of cigarettes and lights up. He fills his lungs with smoke, holds it in for a three-count, then exhales. You can barely make out the plume of smoke because […]

Bird at 100

It is eerily fitting that last Saturday’s centennial of modern jazz genius Charlie Parker’s birth should have fallen in the midst of a global pandemic. To be recognized as an elite jazz musician in Parker’s day was to be a called a “cat,” yet he acquired the nickname of Bird. His troubled and truncated life […]

RNC: None Shall Sleep

Across four nights, the televised program of the Republican National Convention had all the drama of an interminable student piano recital in which one put-upon pupil after another trudges dutifully to the bench of doom, soldiers through “Für Elise” or “The Entertainer,” takes a sheepish bow and then hurries back to the seat next to […]

Torch Songs for Joe

Politically packaged, extended-play infomercials (i.e., conventions) make abundant use of music. Partly this has to do with the necessity of cleansing the palate and the ear of the monotone of presidential promotion and the same-old pitches (i.e., speeches). Even if the underscoring for the ads and personal-interest filmlets that flooded the virtual Covid convention this […]

Celebration of Change

Raving about Joe: What if grandad showed up at a rave? You’d probably be smart to dip out of the nearest exit and find your kicks somewhere else that night. Or maybe you could just gyrate over to a dark corner and hope that all the dry ice, electro-lightning bolts and shock-and-awe subwoofers would dazzle […]

Porgy & Bess in the Time of BLM

Last Friday night while protesters were being shoved into unmarked vans in Portland by federal paramilitaries, PBS broadcast George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess in its Great Performances series. The opera was a strange choice for these times. The live recording had been made on February 1, a little over a month before the Covid crisis darkened American […]

Hamilton Comes Home

While a White Man President raved in front of dead White Man Presidents in South Dakota, a couple of those same stone faces were re-animated as black men rapping about the Founding of the United States on Disney+. For Corona Time’s Independence Day celebrations, Trump delivered fulminations and flyovers. Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Mouse House […]

Morricone: Maestro of Music & Image

Born in 1929, the masterful composer Ennio Morricone, who died this week at the age of 91, made his entrance into the world just after the advent of synchronized cinematic sound. The Jazz Singer had come out just two years earlier. Over a life that spanned the history of the movie soundtrack, Morricone shaped the […]

The War On Kitsch

With all the talk of meddling in U. S. elections and bounties on U.S. soldiers, it’s no small wonder that a Russian named Berlin can still claim to have composed this nation’s best-loved song. Born in the Russian Empire in 1888, the immigrant Irving Berlin wrote both the words and the music to “God Bless […]

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