Mussorgsky and the art of the day job

This is going to sound terribly unromantic, but I’ve never found the image of the starving artist the least bit appealing. In the tear-jerking, gut-wrenchingly poeticized version of my life, I’m so committed to the making of my art that I don’t care (or perhaps don’t even notice) that I can’t afford shoes without holes […]

Rachmaninoff and the Muppets

When I was a kid, Sundays were sacred, and not for the reasons you may think. The subject of my church attendance will have to wait for another day. The much-anticipated highlight of Sundays was to tune into CBC Television for The Muppet Show. Of course, we all remember Kermit, Miss Piggy and even the […]

Complicated Strauss

My limited understanding of trends these days tells me Facebook is now way uncool. I still have a sort of nostalgic attachment to it for some reason though. Back in its heyday, before people posted pictures of food and before fake news ruined the United States of America, Facebook was a relatively harmless way of […]

Sibelius and the bottle

Writing about alcohol is most likely a bad idea. Anyone wanting to add to the booze canon should be deterred by the fact that so many clever people have already written on the topic. It’s a tough act to follow. Hemingway said, “I drink to make other people more interesting”; Oscar Wilde said, “Work is […]

Wile E. Coyote and Antonio Salieri, kindred spirits

I’ve written before how I get annoyed with people who romanticize the past, and yet here I go again getting all nostalgic about the good old days. When it comes to cartoons, they just don’t make them like they used to. I will concede that no one under the age of twelve was consulted before […]

Earthquakes on Broadway

The best people I know tend to avoid being Debbie Downers. (If you’re unfamiliar with this instructional character, do a little googling of Saturday Night Live history.) Occasionally though, there is some value in looking at what’s happening in the world without rose-coloured glasses. George Bernard Shaw said, “We learn from history that we learn […]

Brahms and other hot messes

All you romantics out there will need no reminding that Valentine’s Day is next week. Of course, how you choose to celebrate is a personal matter. If you consider your love life to be in the “Hot Mess” category, you may choose not to celebrate at all, which is just fine too. Because we all […]

King Kong at the opera

King Kong never made it to the opera. I’m not advocating that he should have, but he came closer to it than you might think. Let’s face it: it’s not like he wasn’t qualified. It’s not such a big leap from giant gorilla that falls in love with a beautiful woman to magic ring protected […]

On jazz and potatoes

The surest way to make something popular is to tell people they can’t have it. Or that it’s terrible for them. The Adam and Eve story with the apple has to be considered Exhibit A. Slightly less well known is the story of how Frederick the Great made the potato into a thing: he ordered […]

New Year’s Rulin’s.

I know myself well enough by now to have figured out that I shouldn’t make New Year’s resolutions. There’s no need for us to talk about just how long most of mine have lasted. Yet there is something I can’t resist about the inexhaustible optimism that lies behind a resolution—New Year’s or otherwise. So here […]