Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The South or the Confederacy?

Today's Eugene Register-Guard carried a story by the AP's Mark Sherman and Nicholas Riccardi on the progress of gay marriage in the United States.  In it the following sentence appears.

"The unbroken string of state and federal rulings in support of gay and lesbian unions takes in every region of the country, including states of the Confederacy, and brings to 26 states where same-sex couples can get married or a judge has rules they ought to be allowed."

I can't recall the last time I saw the term "Confederacy" used in a news article referring to a current event.  It doesn't even say "former Confederacy," but even if it did, don't we usually say South these days?  I confess that I grinned when I read this interesting choice of words, because these days the general political odor from the, er, Confederacy, has been that of desire for a separate polity. 

Granted, the same can be said of wide swathes of the sagebrush west, but these rural western "cowcasians" are few in number and their desire for separateness is much more libertarian in nature, while the Southern attitude toward government is not that it leave people alone, but that it promote a specific set of behaviors and lifestyles connected to a particular expression of localized top-down Christianity and socioeconomic neo-feudalism. That in a nutshell is the most important division within the Republican party.

But back to the Confederacy.  Should we revive this lush, historically rich word?  It has been dead a while, but hey, zombies are popular these days (Mitch McConnell still walks, after all) and the word is so very descriptive. We could start referring to Ted Cruz as "one of the Confederacy's most visible senators."

What do you think? the Confederacy or the South?

Monday, March 31, 2014

On the PhD

Mathematician Freeman Dyson, in the latest issue of QUANTA magazine:

"I’m very proud of not having a Ph.D. I think the Ph.D. system is an abomination. It was invented as a system for educating German professors in the 19th century, and it works well under those conditions. It’s good for a very small number of people who are going to spend their lives being professors. But it has become now a kind of union card that you have to have in order to have a job, whether it’s being a professor or other things, and it’s quite inappropriate for that. It forces people to waste years and years of their lives sort of pretending to do research for which they’re not at all well-suited. In the end, they have this piece of paper which says they’re qualified, but it really doesn’t mean anything. The Ph.D. takes far too long and discourages women from becoming scientists, which I consider a great tragedy. So I have opposed it all my life without any success at all."

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

And we thought Jihad was an issue....

From the Boulder (CO) Daily Camera, Jan. 16 2014.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Two new books

In recent months I have published two new books.  In June came "Song After All," a collection of correspondence and related material between me and the late poet Reginald Shepherd.  In October came my essay collection "Concerto in Q."  Both can be ordered from bookstores or from Amazon.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Fantasy Concert

I am sometimes asked what my fantasy classical music concert would be.  First, it would consist of music that is not often heard, in the hope that more people would come to appreciate it.  With that in mind, allow me to program the following, assuming that I have a generous two hours to work with.

Song, William Averitt (alive, U.S.).  A more vigorous and beautiful collaboration between piano and chorus you will not find. Part of a set of related pieces. 4 minutes.

Symphony No. 1, Colin Brumby (alive, Australia). Brumby is one of the best in the world, and seems to be little known outside of a few choirs – much of his output is choral music.  The first and second movements of his Symphony No. 1 are absolutely wonderful, and the third movement is lively and a suitable conclusion.  In particular, the long melodic lines and excellent writing for winds in the second movement is equal to that of anything by Elgar or Vaughan Williams, and often brushes fingertips with Brahms or Mendelssohn. 27 minutes.

Sonata da Chiesa, Adolphus Hailstork (alive, U.S.).  As good a short orchestral piece by a modern composer as you will find.  Darkly beautiful, superbly paced, with a mix of quick upper string work overlaid on a vigorous, melodically interesting low string ground.  Occasional lighter segments offer a taste of more delicate sound, but the deeper thrum is never far away. 19.5 minutes.

Someday, Mary Ann Joyce-Walter (alive, U.S.).  The conclusion of her extraordinary Cantata for the Children of Terezin. As the children of Theresienstadt are murdered by the Nazis, their imagined future concludes with a short quotation from Hatikvah. 9.5 minutes


Fuggi, Fuggi, Dolor, William Hawley (alive, U.S.).  Hawley is one of the best choral composers living, and FFD is both sprightly and serious, a very traditional melodic sound with occasional modern tonal passages. 3.5 minutes

Santiago, Joby Talbot (alive, UK).  A gorgeous, lively, powerful and often sublime choral work, it is the concluding part of a sequence called Path of Miracles. 18 minutes.

Hail, Queen of Heaven, Rihards Dubra (alive, Latvia).  A modern sound, a traditional sound, a lush choral swirl. 11 minutes.

Mountain Song, Ned Rorem (alive – really – U.S.).  This lovely flute-piano duet is Rorem at his finest.  As I write, he is approaching his 90th birthday and still composing. Bravo !  3 minutes.

Fecit Potentiam, Alan Hovhaness (dead, U.S.).  This short segment from his greatly underappreciated Magnificat is a tight, formal showpiece for alto, brass and orchestra. Seldom has so much deep, gorgeous low sound been packed into such a short passage.  2.5 minutes.

Gloria, also Alan Hovhaness.  Why not?  The closing movement of the Magnificat is early Hovhaness, one of his most original pieces, with long, luscious brass solos and simple, uplifting choral work.  6 minutes.

Building the Barn, Maurice Jarre (dead, France).  This simple, lovely passacaglia is from the movie soundtrack for Witness, and like the finest music for movies, it has lasting musical value. 5 minutes.

Hear You Me, Jimmy Eat World (alive, U.S.) performed by University of Oregon “On The Rocks.”  A perfect mix of the serious and the delightful. Music does not get better than this. Hear you me my friends, on sleepless roads the sleepless go – may angels lead you in. Since my concert takes place at the Hult Center in Eugene, OTR is available. 4.5 minutes.

Viva la Vida, Coldplay (alive, UK), piano duet version by Anderson and Roe.  They are available because they were the featured pianists in earlier pieces.  Hey, it’s my concert, I get to pick the players. 4.5 minutes.

Hymn to a New Age, Lee Hoiby (dead, U.S.).  Not exactly unknown, but certainly underperformed.  As pure an example of the songwriter’s art as you will ever hear, and a nice major-key closing piece with chorus, orchestra and organ. 5 minutes.

Enjoy !

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Learning vs. Testing

College is not just measuring what people know. 

That's called testing. 

College involves human interaction at many levels, including learning to change one's mind based on new information (critical thinking) and learning ways of interaction with others.

On the need for patterns

If it were not for life's patterns, improvisations would not be noticed.