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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A Memory of Mary Tyler Moore

The television star (this is one of those occasions in which “icon” can not be overused) Mary Tyler Moore died earlier today at the age of 80. I have one brief, personal memory of an encounter with her. I wish my family had saved the answering machine tape …

In our current era of Twitter and Facebook and the many other social media outlets, virtual celebrity encounters can be had quite easily. (Among my Facebook friends are the accounts of Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks. Mr. Brooks plays several games each night on the service.) These encounters were more rare once upon a time, the 1990s, say.

In the 1980s, Mary Tyler Moore and her husband, Dr. Robert Levine, lived in Millbrook, New York, in Dutchess County. This is the county in which I was born and raised.
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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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In Memory of Arthur Cash

He was already a distinguished professor, both in title and in fact, when I was his student for the first time, in the early 1990s. Dr. Arthur H. Cash had earned the rare title of “Distinguished Professor” from the State University of New York system in 1989, and I do not know if that title is what gave him the clout to hold classes in his dining room and kitchen rather than in whichever campus building the pesky registrar had located the class, or if I am getting it all backwards and his clout, with or without a title, brought us to his kitchen.

I learned this morning that Dr. Cash died Thursday, December 29, at the age of 94. His obituary appeared in he New York Times on December 30 but only today did it start to make the rounds of social media among his students. He retired in 1997 (a memorable party that I actually remember) but his retirement was an active one: his most recent book, John Wilkes: The Scandalous Father of Civil Liberty, was a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.
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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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‘Take One Last Look’

Out of David Letterman’s 6000-plus shows, Tom Waits appeared on only ten, whether or not he had a new album or tour or play or film to advertise. When he appeared for the last time, he debuted a song titled, “Take One Last Look.”

He directed it as a tribute to Mr. Letterman and was accompanied by Larry Taylor (once of Canned Heat) on upright bass and Gabriel Donohue on piano accordion, with the horn section of the CBS Orchestra helping on the choruses.

On his website, Waits joked, “I don’t know when I will see Dave again. I guess from now on we’ll have to settle for bumping into each other at Pilates.”
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Through a Wall, Clearly

The architect Philip Johnson died in January 2005 at the age of 98, at his residence for the previous five decades: his famous Glass House (above), which he built in 1949.

The idea behind the house is intricately simple: walls are an interference (obviously) between us and the world. What if the views on your property provided your home’s natural walls? Of course, my cynical brain brings me to memories of neighborhoods in which I would have happily lived without any windows, where “the view” (not the TV show) was exactly what I did not want to see. Heck, my cynical brain brings me back to apartments in which there were not enough walls between me and … me.
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One Thousand Years from Now

Five hundred years from now, Jem Finer’s Longplayer project will have recently passed the half-way point in its 1000-year-long performance. Mr. Finer is seen in the installation in the photo at top.

Longplayer is a musical composition that is calculated to take precisely 1000 years to perform from beginning to end and has been in performance in England continuously since midnight on December 31, 1999. This means it has been going nonstop for seventeen years and a day as of today. You can tune in at any hour and listen. It will begin its second cycle as the clock ticks the last moment of December 31, 2999.

In my limited understanding, the composition is six pieces of music that are interlinked, with each one serving as a trigger to start some of the others at set intervals. They overlap. They trigger each other. The calculation provides that these intervals will allow for the first-ever repetition of music, a second-ever thousand-year cycle, to start at midnight on December 31, 2999. The composition is programmed to not repeat itself until then.
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