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 […]

Spike Lee, Terence Blanchard, and the Spoils of Vietnam

Streaming services have inundated the world’s quarantined population. The rising digital waters have distracted and anesthetized viewers, but also, at times, buoyed and instructed them. It is Netflix that has issued the defining entertainments of the four months of the pandemic. At the start of the crisis, the Tiger King captivated with big cats and […]

Dams Be Gone

Somewhere in my mother’s photo albums is a picture taken by my father of the teenage me standing on a viewing platform above the Dry Coulee Dam in central Washington State. Behind me, like a sublime landscape ready-made for a Zoom meeting backdrop, is a spectacular series of coved cliff faces over which the Columbia […]

Dams for the Breaching

The Lockdown has sparked a renaissance in correspondence. I’ve been exchanging postcards with my mother and letters with my youngest nephew. Emails have gotten longer, more interesting, more personal, more fun. I’m not on FaceBook or any other social media, but I have received greetings and reports from high school teachers and childhood friends. Running […]

Dam Nation & Woody Guthrie

It is a miracle—even if not as great as the natural one it describes—that a song so simple, so welcoming, so resolute, so reassuring, so optimistic as Woody Guthrie’s “Roll on, Columbia” is not dragged down by the ironies that eddy around it. The song springs from a clever musical pun. Guthrie re-used the music […]

Plague Music

Were Georg Frideric Handel to be beamed back to earth from the celestial realm he has inhabited since his death two-and-a-half centuries ago, he would soon have a Netflix hit, scores of viral YouTube videos with a host of marketing tie-ins—from organ pe(da)loton work-out regimens to a line of prophylactic powdered wigs so fashion-backward they’re […]

Corona Music

Spring has been slow to come to Upstate New York. There have been snow flurries in April, and the yearned-for arrival of green in the landscape has been halting. Like the humans, the leaves seem afraid to enter the public sphere. One of our daughters, Cecilia, is with us during the lockdown. She escaped the […]

Basket Case

I’ve always thought basketball the most American of sports. Baseball purports to be the “national pastime,” but it is similar to English cricket, indeed, likely derived from it—though sporting patriots contest the claim. Baseball conjures the American agrarian idyll with its grass field (now often artificial) and a pace of play beyond the tyranny of […]

Ancestor Dreams

Even though the nights have been quieter, I have been dreaming more vividly. Across the self-isolated populace there are reports of widespread nightmares—stress, fear, change of routine cited as likely causes. Maybe the lack of planes and decreased traffic—already relatively scant in this part of central New York state—has been disturbing in its silence. The […]

Memory Malfunkshun

Even before the dawning of Corona Time, the present age was marked by its inward-looking obsessions—selfie, blog, podcast, Facebook, Twitter. The desire to eat the carefully prepared supper must wait until the urge to Instagram has been gratified. “Sharing” is a form of self-curation. Even as many make movies, take photos, write in their journals […]

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