Bangelot (February 24, 1999)

Perusing my correspondence, I see that one year ago almost to the day is when I started into this whole thing. It happened that I was down in New York trying to gain an audience with my agent, but she, of course, was in full Major Major mode: even when she was in she was […]

Favorite Things: Greta, Ariana, Coltrane & The Von Trapps

Greta Thunberg’s four-minute jeremiad at the United Nations this past Monday was delivered not standing behind a pulpit or kneeling on rocky ground. With perfect posture she perched at the front of a bright white modernist chair that made her magenta raiment appear as angry as victim’s blood. The chair was an oddly clinical prop […]

Head of State

The body politic has human parts: head, limbs, heart. That body has an abundance of these in the case of the royal giant that brandishes sword and scepter on the frontispiece of Leviathan of Thomas Hobbes. This colossus has arms and torso made up of his anonymous subjects, their backs turned to the reader and their faces […]

Big in the Bungalow of Believers

Free tickets from a friend sent my companion and me to a production of the musical Big staged by the Berkeley Repertory Theatre on a sunny Sunday afternoon in July. My companion grew up in London and spent many an afternoon and evening in that greatest of theatre-city’s myriad venues seeing the greatest British actors […]

Songs of State

Other than the basic press blurbs, I could find no detailed reports of the music performed at the recent state banquet held in the Buckingham Palace ballroom. The largest space in the palace, the ballroom is presided over by a substantial and rather gaudily decorated organ originally built for another even more decadent royal folly, […]

The Sound of Skyscrapers

The attacks of September 11, 2001 reinstated for more than a decade the Empire State Building as the highest structure in New York City, a distinction it had held from its completion in 1931 until 1972 when the north tower of the World Trade Center supplanted its midtown rival.  Rising in defiance of the Great Depression, […]

Burney in Berkeley

By November of 1770 the English organist, traveler, and man of letters, Charles Burney had been on the road for five months, touring the Continent doing research for his General History of Music; the first of its four volumes would come out six years later. With winter looming and the Alps still to be crossed (or […]

Disaster Music

As historic Midwestern floodwaters receded, another “bomb cyclone” attacked the central U.S. this week. It is a time of extremes: to the south wildfire danger builds in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma. So much for homeland security. Looking beyond the battered American interior and its borders, Cyclone Idai and its floods have brought far greater […]

Bach in Chico

From Stanford University in Palo Alto, California northwest to the State University of California at Chico it’s a neat 200 miles—the kind of distance the young Bach would have covered on foot. He certainly wouldn’t have done it in a late model Subaru cadged from a friend with FastTrak for the tolls, feet-freeing cruise control, […]

According to Plan & Without a Host

For all the narcissism, self-promotion and just plain old bad taste, the annual Academy Awards have an unnerving propensity for making unwanted, Weinsteinian advances on that most alluring of sequined starlets: ontology. This time out these gropings included not just existential questions like is human language fundamentally comprehensible, that is to say, how bad can […]

Bogart Weather

Sunny California is dark and rainy, just like it so often was in the great film noirs Hollywood churned out in better cinematic times. The atmospheric river that has dispatched days and nights of storms across the state of California this past week and caused flooding in north and south, from mountains to sea, is […]

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