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, […]

Germany (May 19, 2004)

There is that old cliché of travel: that it allows the traveller another perspective on the place left behind, the one he may or may not return to. With the rise of the internet and cable, an exterior, critical view of the American Empire is in some ways easier to get, even while American cultural […]

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 […]

Bass On Top: The Genius of Paul Chambers

Mozart and Charlie Parker died young. Paul Chambers died younger. He was thirty-three years old when he succumbed to tuberculosis fifty years ago on January 4th, 1969. Had he not been taken early, Chambers would now be eighty-three, an age achieved only rarely by jazz musicians of his generation, many of whom fell victim, either […]

Foppish Fashions & Sonic Banquets

If ours is not a great age of Tudor, Elizabethan, Protectorate, Restoration, Hanoverian, and ongoing Windsorite dramas on big and small screens alike, it is certainly an abundant one. The sun never sets over this British Empire, streamed by Netflix and the lesser world entertainment powers through ever time of day and every time zone. […]

Bikini by Rita; Voice by Anita

The “R” isn’t working. As the letters blink to life one after the other from top to bottom there’s a pause between the “T” lighting up and then, at last, the “O”: CAST O. Even with the gap, the pink-red neon letters seared against the cloudless blue of a perfect San Francisco afternoon make a […]

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