Blog Posts on Arts and Culture

Moonstruck

     Forty years ago, I was crawling around in diapers when Neil Armstrong planted his flesh-and-blood foot on the moon. The MOON!

    Well, I missed the whole thing. The historical significance of the event was beyond my comprehension. Consequently, the iconic image of the earth rising over the dusty moonscape never struck me as unusual or bizarre. Years later, when I was in my teens, fiction writer James Michener opened my eyes to the marvel of it all, the risks, and the fact that until they landed, the crew of Apollo 11 half-expected to sink into six feet of powdery dust.

In this Sunday's New York Times, Tom Wolfe argues that since the first landing on the moon on July 20, 1969, NASA has sunk itself into a metaphorical pit with no vision for the future.

“NASA never understood the need for a philosopher corps,” Wolfe writes. With all of its smarts, the American space program lacks a poet, someone able to spark enough general enthusiasm for building a bridge to the stars.

 Such a philosopher would find his work cut out for him. My generation is hard to impress. When was the last time you were truly floored by a scientific discovery or piece of technology? We expect daily, small-scale marvels. Turn on the news.  There they are.

The last time I felt fullblown wonder at a scientific advance was in 1992. I was sitting in front of a computer, and my husband was explaining the Internet terms “gopher,” “archie” and “veronica.” He punched the return key. A tiny green star whirled on the black screen.

  “Your computer is making another computer in Denmark look something up,” he said. I hardly believed him. Then text appeared, in Danish, pre-Google, like primitive paintings on the cave walls near Lascaux, France.

 New Yorker writer Alex Ross argues that the Internet is The Best Thing Ever for classical music lovers. You have, at this moment, immediate access to some of Western culture's most iconic musical figures. Richard Strauss. Leonard BernsteinArnold Schoenberg.   John Cage's 4'33.  The choir of Westminster Abby singing Tavener's Song for Athene at Princess Diana's funeral.

 With such a resource, it was pretty simple to whip up a morning of lunar-inspired classical music for you on the 40th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's small step.

Long before people walked on the moon, composers looked up to dream.

 


 

 

 

The girl next door meets the piano on the street

Western New York native Stephanie Finney is studying in London. She had a funny thing happen. In her own words . . . (post by Steph Finney) Okay!  Here's the story. So yesterday, I went for my haircut, which was on Portobello Road.

My other piano is a V-8 supercar

It's no secret that I am an automobile nerd.  While I drive a humble 11-year-old Subaru with 172,000 miles on it, I always envision myself maneuvering an eight-cylinder, two-seated, rear-engined supercar with something called "sodium-cooled exhaust valves" and carbon-fiber cupholders.  Unfortunately these types of cars are expensive, and I play trombone and work for public radio--both admirable pursuits, but neither going to cover the cost of even one of the two dual-overhead camshafts I so desire.  Now, if you play the piano, then it's a different story!  No, you'll still be a starving artist, but at least you can play one of these:
Audi's $140,000 Bosendorfer grand pianoAudi's $140,000 Bosendorfer grand piano

China likes us, they really like us!

The Erhu, from ChinaThe Erhu, from China
 In my hours of slaving over a hot computer every day, I came across two different views of how the Chinese are taking a liking to some of our art forms.  Apparently Western classical music is huge there, and so is...completely ripping off the styling of Western automobiles. 
ripped-off Rolls-Royceripped-off Rolls-Royce

Summer vacation for young musicians

 
Click on the attachment to hear Vivian, a fourth grader in Western New York, explain what she's learned in her first year of trombone lessons with her teacher, Mr. Burlison.

Classical music to thumb nose at British Parliament

 What do British people do when they get really angry about their elected officials spending hideous amounts of taxpayer money on things like life-size statues of Winston Churchill made out of Legos?  They write an opera, of course.
Sir Peter Maxwell Davies: MPs' expenses: Queen's composer to write comic opera
 

Behold the final moments of the Rochester International Jazz Fest!

Every year, retired WXXI classical announcer Mordecai Lipshutz closes out the XRIJF with The Bob Sneider Trio. He usually sings a number at the end of a long jam session, around 2:00 a.m.  I missed him again this year. Thank goodness for reporter Anna Reguero and Youtube.

Blue skies

On a recent Monday morning I walked into the studio of Rochester's classical music station cradling a stack of CDs in one arm and a sheaf of news reports in the other. The news was not good. The sky threatened rain. I slipped a CD into the player and started a Haydn symphony, a cheerful burst of minty freshness. I followed that with Vivaldi's chirpy Goldfinch Concerto, a flashy set of trills inspired by the song of the European goldfinch, (a mouse of a bird that's not even gold, by the way.)
 
The music was sunny. But as the minutes ticked by, my mood darkened. It DID start to rain. More depressing stories poured into the newsroom.
 
At one point I actually thought to myself, “What annoying person picked all of this chirrupy music for a dismal Monday morning?”

When jazz used to be a four-letter word...

I got an email this week with the subject heading "jass" and this website linked in the body.  This email came from a reputable source, so I knew the link would be at least entertaining, and probably informative.

Opera: the Final Frontier

A major new TV production company is setting up shop in Rochester. Backers include Peter and Bobby Farrelly (brothers who wrote and directed the film, "There's Something About Mary") and former Buffalo Bills Quarterback Jim Kelly.  All three have joined with CGI Communications to cull compelling content from Youtube and various internet sources for broadcast. 
 
With such weird, interesting material as this out there, how can they fail to live long and prosper?