Tchaikovsky and the dead cat

You would be hard pressed to find a musician out there who doesn’t appreciate a standing ovation. There are those who will pooh-pooh the practice, lamenting that giving a standing O seems to have almost become mandatory for anyone who isn’t monstrously ungenerous. But I am a strong advocate of you audience members expressing yourselves […]

Copland and modern pioneering

It’s abundantly clear to me that I would have made a terrible pioneer. The notion that my forebears eked out an existence here—especially here!—in eighteen-something-or-other inspires both tremendous awe and sheer terror in me. Had I been the one forced to find and/or kill my food and to rely on my questionable dexterity to create […]

Stravinsky and TED Talks by Kermit the Frog

Recently I watched Kermit the Frog do a TED Talk. If this piques your curiosity, the talk is easy enough to find online. Kermit’s addition to the TED canon is called “The Creative Act of Listening to a Talking Frog,” and it’s not bad. I guess I had assumed that my days of learning life […]

When Mozart’s Ass Was Burning

I am trying to recall the last time I received an actual, honest-to-goodness letter. Emails don’t count and neither does the reassuringly consistent correspondence I receive from the Canada Revenue Agency. (Don’t worry, I have paid my taxes.) No, I mean letters, on tree-derived paper, from friends, relatives or significant others; the kind with sentences, […]

Buried Treasures (Bulgarian and Otherwise)

Let me start by saying that what you’re about to read is in no way intended to be an endorsement of smoking cigarettes. In this increasingly fractious world, it seems that one of the only things we all can agree on anymore is that smoking is bad for you. Maybe one of the only other […]

Rachmaninoff’s Top 40 Hits

I have a confession to make. It’s hardly a unique problem, I know, but there are times when I sit down at my desk to write this column, and nothing comes out. The clock ticks towards my looming deadline, and as the beads of sweat form on my furrowed brow, all I see is that […]

Samuel Barber and the perils of keeping secrets

On any given day, the average person is keeping thirteen secrets. Go ahead and count yours. For me, though I like to cultivate the idea that I’m man shrouded in mystery, thirteen may be a stretch. As it turns out, this may not be such a bad thing. The prevailing science now tells us that […]

Tchaikovsky, Belsnickel and the Seven-Headed Mouse King

I will admit that I’m a bit of a sucker for Christmas and its many traditions: the lights, the trees, the red Starbucks cups. The cynical might grumble that Christmas has become a grotesquely commercialized occasion designed to swindle people out of money they don’t actually have. You Grinches walking among us may not be […]

Haydn and his terrible, no good friend

Despite my best efforts, I have occasionally been a bad friend. I often miss birthdays. I can’t remember the last time I sent a Christmas card. Sometimes I forget to respond to text messages for several days. The friends that have stuck with me this far may report other more egregious insults of which I […]

Dvořák and the astronaut’s luggage

At time of writing, I am sitting at my desk, procrastinating. I’m supposed to be packing, you see. I have a flight that leaves excruciatingly early in the morning, which means I shouldn’t leave packing to the twelve minutes or less after I wake up, as is my custom. If you’re like me in this […]