The other night I read–well, actually just perused—Malinowski’s Kiriwina: Fieldwork Photography 1915-1918–an amazing book about the Polish-born father of modern cultural anthropology’s stay in Papua and the Trobiand Islands. He went to New Guinea and studied the inhabitants there with unprecedented rigor. I also listened to an Argentine pianist named Bruno Leonardo Gelber play Beethoven’s magnificent sonata #14, the Moonlight Sonata. Then I turned to French photographer Robert Doisneau, looking at images he took of Les Halles, the famous French outdoor marketplace that dated back to the 14th century, only to be torn down in 1971 by President Pompidou to build the much-reviled Centre Pompidou / Beaubourg. Some called it an oil refinery posing as a cultural center, and many Parisians lamented the loss of the famous market. Read More →
The other night we hosted a dinner party. One of our guests worked at JPL. I brought out my copy of the box set Murmurs of Earth, published by Time Warner about 20 years ago. It’s one of the box sets I saved when moving and downsizing last summer, because it’s rare and amazing.
The Voyager Spacecraft has fascinated me, not because I have a scientific mind, but because there are so many interesting things about it. Among them are the fact that President Jimmy Carter wrote a letter, put on the time capsule aboard the spacecraft, that implied an awareness that otherworldly civilizations might be out there. Second, that there was a music soundtrack on the time capsule, put together by Carl Sagan and Alan Lomax, that included classical music, jazz, blues, and world music. Third, that Voyager is still out there, 40 million+ miles away, still pinging earth from deep space after 35 years.
Jimmy Carter once saw what he thought was a UFO. Read More →
Tonight I’ll do my sixth and final session in a music salon series that began in January. The subject is “Music that Amazes”. There’s everything from stone-age pygmy chants from the Ituri Rainforest in Northeastern Congo 1952, to a great solo by Coltrane in Stockholm in 1960, Astor Piazzolla, powerful Moorish blues from Mauretania, an exquisitely beautiful etude by Russian composer Alexander Scriabin.
But there were many amazing albums that have always entranced me that I can’t include because the tracks are too long in include in a two-hour session. I wanted to mention a few here. For me this is music that will always be an elixir, a balm for the spirit. Read More →
In writing a recent blog, inspired by Gustavo Dudamel’s orchestral version of a popular Puerto Rican band’s hit song, I began to muse on the subject of music education: in Venezuela and the U.S..
There are a million kids enrolled in Venezuela’s music system, called El Sistema. Some of them, like Gustavo Dudamel, rise to the top. Then there was the at-risk kid, Edicson Ruiz, who got off Caracas’ dangerous streets and joined El Sistema. He learned the bass from scratch and won an audition for the Berlin Philharmonic. No small feat. Watching Dudamel conduct the huge Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra is truly inspiring. Classical music isn’t boring when played with that kind of energy and passion. And by kids no less, which makes it even better. And many of these kids were rescued from a life of crime and gang warfare. Sounds like a good idea for U.S. cities. Read More →