Pandemic Diary 21: Reasons to ‘Smile’

“Buck up—never say die—we’ll get along.”

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Charlie Chaplin never published lyrics for the piece of music with which he concluded his 1936 film, Modern Times. The Tramp’s last gesture to the Gamine (Paulette Goddard) before the two literally walk off toward the sunset is to point to his mouth and draw a line up along his cheek.

“What’s the use in trying,” she had asked a moment earlier. The two are on the side of a road with no cars to hitch a ride, with all they own in kerchiefs on sticks. “Buck up—never say die—we’ll get along,” the Tramp’s last title card reads. The two walk off down the road and instrumental music swells and the film ends:

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Pandemic Diary 16: A Bigger Picture

Rage is the most short-sighted emotion, but it is the one I have witnessed in my quarantined self more and more lately.

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Information provides something of a relief. Not the numbers, not the information about particulars—there are so many numbers right now, from the numbers of sick and the lists of the newly departed, both of which only do one thing: increase at a pace which itself shifts day-by-day, up and down, and that changing pace is its own number in which one can lose time in unproductive obsession—no, the one bit of information, the one number everyone wants to learn is: How many more tomorrows will resemble this collection of slow and anxious todays? We have had so many todays in a row, after all.

In much of the world, the long today of quarantine will last into May. Ireland’s government announced an extension of its nationwide coronavirus shutdown until May 5 last week. New York State announced its PAUSE extension until May 15 this morning.

There is some comfort in the thought that one knows how many more days this will continue.
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Pandemic Diary 3: With a Song in Our Heart

Perhaps in a world in which we need our neighbors more than usual, in which a global drama plays out in our local grocery stores and on the streets where we live, the music and creative expression we turn to for rest, relief, entertainment, and even solace—that deepest of words—ought to be local as well.

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When all this is over, some of the things we used to take for granted will appear to us a novelties or great new ideas. My gosh, even the thought of something ever ending feels something like a novelty at this moment.
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Arlo Guthrie’s Thanksgiving Laugh at Fascism

A personal reflection in tribute to Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree”

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A friend and I were chatting about our different Thanksgiving Day plans one recent Thanksgiving and he asked me if I had ever been to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in New York City. (I almost marched in it one year, by accident of all things, but that is an anecdote for a different post.)

“Well, I just hope,” he said, “that no one tries any terrorism down there today, but if they do,” and here he looked like someone who perhaps hoped that “someone” would indeed “try terrorism down there” because he added, “If they do, I hope we go ahead and use our nuclear weapons the way they were meant to be used. Just go over there and flatten that whole place.”

Quietly infuriated, I found for myself something else to do somewhere else at our gathering. I hate that I do not ask the question, “Why would you think that?” of some of my acquaintances more often or at all, but I know that such a question is seen as confrontational more than a provocative expression of a hope that our nation uses nuclear weapons if and when it is attacked is seen as confrontational.

I did not ask where this place that he seemed to want to “flatten” is. I did not think I needed to inquire. Some of my neighbors walk around with the fear-hope that a horrible act of terrorism is a given in our country’s near future and that it will be, obviously, the act of someone from a part of the world whose foreign-ness (to them) is the only thing they care to know about. They, my neighbors, want to be angered so much that they already can smell the blood that they want the youth of our nation to spill.

They want to be angry perhaps more than they are angry.
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Gil Gutiérrez at Opus 40

Gil Gutiérrez is a master guitarist who has performed at the Kennedy Center, Carnegie Hall, and in intimate venues like the Jazz Standard in New York City.

In recent years, he has performed with symphony orchestras and jazz combos; over the last decade, he has been a member of the San Miguel 5, Doc Severinsen’s current group, which has several performances scheduled this year to celebrate Doc’s 90th birthday.

Gutiérrez maintains a busy performance schedule in America and at home in Mexico, but perhaps the most fulfilling way to experience his ongoing musical exploration is in an intimate setting such as a wood-lined parlor while he is at work in a small group, such as in a trio with violinist Robert Stern and bassist David Rodriguez. Hmmmm. On Saturday, May 13, Gil Gutiérrez, Stern, and Rodriguez will bring their music to the Barbara Fite Room at Opus 40 in Saugerties, New York.

Tickets are available for $30 in advance, $40 at the door. Tickets are available online through PayPal, or by calling (845) 246-3400.
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Remembering Pete Seeger

In 1996, in my job of assistant editor at a weekly newspaper, I awarded myself the title of music reviewer for a single issue and attended a concert given at a local high school by Pete Seeger, who died three years ago today at age 94. (Our newspaper’s actual music reviewer was only interested in attending and writing about rock concerts. This was a stroke of luck for me.) I wrote a review, even though I knew that a review is not what one writes about a Pete Seeger concert. An appreciation. A thank-you note. But not a mere review judging aesthetic merits.

It was a great concert, by the way.
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Climbing the Charts: Tania Stavreva

Perhaps my accidental double-purchase helped, but probably not. More about that encounter between an artist and listener in a moment …

A new entry appeared on Billboard magazine’s charts this week: pianist Tania Stavreva’s self-produced, independent, debut CD, Rhythmic Movement, which introduced itself at number 8 two days ago. It remains in the top 25 today.

Among her album’s competitors are new CDs from Andrea Bocelli, Björk, Murray Perahia, Renee Fleming, the Vienna Philharmonic, Elvis Presley (!), and Heart (!). The reviews of Ms. Stavreva’s album are in, they are stellar (and this website has been quoted); the record-buying public has followed, and listeners are discovering an important new talent.
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Tania Stavreva: Rhythm and Movement

The pianist Tania Stavreva’s official debut album, Rhythmic Movement, was released on January 7. If you own a music store, you will enjoy the debate you will have with yourself regarding which section to locate the CD: Classical? Jazz?

The album is available here: $10 for a digital download, $15 for a signed CD.
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