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The Yellow River Cantata

I recently enjoyed a performance of the Yellow River Cantata at The Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Hartford, CT.

Big thanks, then, to all who were involved in this production, including the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and its music director, Carolyn Kahn, as well as the Hartford Chorale and its director, Richard Coffey, and the Kang Hua Singers of Greater Hartford, and their director, Chai-lun Yueh.

You can read a good deal about the history of the work here, if you like. We … Continue Reading

When Les Bouffons Tipped Off the Enlightenment

Giovanni Battista Pergolesi

An old proverb, dating perhaps to the demise of Richard III at Bosworth in 1485, tells us that the loss of a single horseshoe nail can trigger the fall of a Kingdom.

Chaos theorists tell us that a butterfly, flapping its wings in one way rather than another, can influence the movement of a hurricane across an ocean.

It may be, likewise, that an argument over the performance of a single troupe of comic actors helped create that great shift in … Continue Reading

JSM Book notes: Music from Three Points of View

Mick Jagger

Mick: The Wild Life and Mad Genius of Jagger

By Christopher Andersen

Gallery Books, New York, 2012.

384 pages, $27

Mick Jagger was of course one of the central figures of popular music in the final third of the 20th century. In the 21st, he remains the dynamic and it seems everlasting force behind the Rolling Stones: complemented, of course, by Keith Richards.

One of the many gossipy revelations (or claims) of this gossipy book is that Jagger and another central figure in recent … Continue Reading

Dave Brubeck: Rest in Peace

Dave Brubeck (December 6, 1920 – December 5, 2012)

Dave Brubeck, a great American jazz pianist, passed away on December 5th.

Brubeck was just one day short of 92 years old when he died, having lasted long enough so that his death became subject for commentary in formats he could not have imagined in the’ fifties and ‘sixties of the last century, his productive peak: his death in 2012 became fodder for the twittersphere.

Quincy Jones, for example, tweeted that Brubeck was “one of the great … Continue Reading

13 Best Gifts for Musicians

adult artist artists bandSource: Pexels

If you have a music lover in your life, you probably know how much music can affect people. It can bring great joy, creative expression, and positivity to people of all kinds. When a special day comes around, be it a birthday, anniversary, or Christmas, you want to make sure you get them something that speaks to them in a way similar to the way music does. If you are hunting for the perfect … Continue Reading

From Offenbach to ‘Weird Al’

Jacques Offenbach

This is as much a story of the parodied as of the parodists. One cannot discuss one without the other. So fear not, Lady Gaga fans, we shall get to the object of your devotion in due time. But we will start, somewhat arbitrarily, a century and a half ago, in Paris. Jacques Offenbach was the great parodist to emerge from that time and place.

One fine example of his work in this field, his development of the form of an … Continue Reading

Does Santa Claus Own “Ho, Ho, Ho”?

green freak

The Green Freak

I should say at the start that the headline of this post isn’t especially original. Mark Parisi, of the “Off the Mark” cartoons, drew a courtroom scene in which Santa Claus tells a judge that “this green freak” (the ‘Jolly Green Giant’ of vegetable-sales fame, pictured above) has ripped off Santa’s signature phrase.

And so it goes.

In 2005, Coldplay’s singer, Chris Martin, told a magazine interviewer, “We’re definitely good, but I don’t think you can say we’re that original. I … Continue Reading

Two Civil-War Tunes Go Marching On

The United States was at war with itself 150 years ago

The United States was at war with itself 150 years ago.

As the US commemorates the somber landmarks of the Civil War, its citizens might want to give some thought, too, to the music it occasioned: the music the fighting men marched to, or that which simply portioned off their daily routine.

John Brown’s Body comes to mind at once of course. Here is a link to Pete Seegar’sContinue Reading

Ballet as an International Language

Mao's Last Dancer

Mao’s Last Dancer, the highest-grossing Australian movie of 2009, is a story about a Chinese ballet dancer who comes to America, and then refuses to return to his homeland. It was based on a memoir by the dancer in question, Li Cunxin.

Cunxin’s book has been very successful in itself: it has been published and marketed in more than 20 countries, and won the Christopher Award, an annual prize for works of art that “affirm the highest values of the human … Continue Reading

Madonna and the Super Bowl Halftime Show

Madonna and the Super Bowl Halftime Show

Madonna and the Super Bowl Halftime Show

The above cartoon was circulating around Facebook on the morning of the Superbowl.

As you can see, the cartoonist is playing on one of Madonna’s several personae in advance of the Super Bowl, the championship of what the United States calls “football” and what the rest of the world calls “American football,” (because it clearly isn’t soccer!), a central event on the pop-cultural calendar.

Before we, the viewers, got to the halftime … Continue Reading