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, […]

Scoring Citizen Trump

Jerry Springer: The Opera closed a week ago on Broadway after a three-month run. Given the show’s crazed, megalomaniacal, helmet-haired title character, and its diverse tableaux that ranges from Jesus-on-the-cross to tap-dancing Klansmen and other surrealities, its demise is somewhat surprising. (Luckily, the original British production broadcast in 2005 by the BBC can be enjoyed […]

John Hsu, Prince of the Viola da Gamba

In the final pages of Charles Burney’s massive four-volume General History of Music published between 1776 and 1789 and the first of its kind written in English, there appears an elegy for an instrument that “during the last century had been,” as Burney put its, “a necessary appendage to a nobleman or gentleman’s family throughout […]

Market Music

Music may be the food love, as Shakespeare put it at the opening of Twelfth Night, but he could also have observed that music feeds on money. A few are made rich by their devotion to the art. Many more are impoverished by it. In between these economic extremes, the cultivation of music long served as a […]

Olympic Music

In ancient Greece trumpet playing was an Olympic event. Herodorus of Megas had the winnings lips and lung power: beginning in 396 BCE, he won the trumpet laurels ten consecutive times. Those were fair weather games. I don’t know if Herodorus did his thing in the nude as was the sometime habit of the ancients, […]