Upcoming Programs

I have several things coming up.

On October 26 and 27, I will be speaking for the NYU orchestras. Again, the programs will be in the Frederick Loewe Theatre. More info to come.

On October 29, I will be participating in an event commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. This will take place at Vassar College. I’ll post more information soon. I will be playing a “curtain-raiser” program celebrating the classic hymn EIN FESTE BURG.

On November 3, I’ll be speaking and performing at Scotchtown Presbyterian Church, celebrating the organ and presenting music uniquely suited to its small but beautiful specification. Programing for a small instrument is an art unto itself, especially when the organ dates to the later 19th century.

It’s a busy time. Meanwhile, this summer humidity just won’t break. It’s getting on my nerves.

Posted in AGO, Church, Music, Music Criticism, Pipe Organ, Recitals, Speaking and Writing | Comments Off

The MIracle of the Sun

Today, October 13, 2017 is the one hundredth anniversary of the “miracle of the sun,” the culminating event of the apparitions at Fatima. The phenomenon was witnessed by thousands of people, many of whom lived till recent years and whose testimony never changed and always agreed.

It’s not required of even the most faithful Catholic to believe in this event. However, many did, and still do, and many people have converted as a result of it.

If it was a rare atmospheric phenomenon, no one has a theory as to what exactly caused it.

Fascinating, to say the least.

Faith is not about proof, but proof is usually involved somehow–just not necessarily scientific proof. Case in point:

Yesterday, I spent an unexpectedly long time in the company of two stellar Manhattan dentists (and with my mouth propped open under the hands of one of them!). A quick visit stretched into a five-hour-long, expensive project.

I cannot verify every single thing they said without dropping my life and earning a DDS degree. Yet from the proofs of their expertise, their demeanor, the other patients waiting for their turn, the diplomas, the real estate, the equipment, and above all the magnificent results, I am a believer.

I believe in those two guys, in what they told me, in what they did for me, and in their practice of empirical, Western, allopathic medicine. (They were outstandingly courteous, too.) God bless them and all their colleagues.

So faith is never an arbitrary exercise in “checking your brains at the door.” It’s a way of weighing evidence and testimony to come to believe in something on trust. “I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.” Proof positive if you can see it.

As C. S. Lewis said, it’s not wishful thinking, but thinkful wishing.

It has also been defined as a gift. Perhaps so.

The Hebrew word for “miracle” is “nes,” which literally means “sign.” Likewise, the Greek of the New Testament (as well as the Septuagint) uses “semeion,” which also means “sign.” (The word is the root of “semaphore” and “semiotic,” among others.) A miracle is never a trick or a crowd-pleaser, but always comes with a message. It’s a sign of something else.

Look up the Fatima miracle of the sun if you’re so inclined. Information abounds online, and much of it is high quality. But do try to understand that the miraculous is never merely spectacular. The point of dazzling dental technology is simply to let you enjoy eating and smiling. The point of the sun dancing in the sky is simply–well, you decide.

(Note: in both dentistry and religion, some pain may be involved, as well as financial cost. In both situations, I think it’s worth it.)

Posted in Theology etc., Uncategorized | Comments Off

Dandelions in October

dandy monarch nasty shocksThis is a first. There are dandelions sprouting on my front lawn. In October.

Dandelions are an April flower. They are half a year out of their time.

The apothecary’s rose (Rosa gallica officinalis) is budding for the third time this year. So much for the “once-blooming” idea. It got bitten by Japanese beetles during the summer, but it’s still healthy and strong, and in the midst of another growth spurt.

This March was frigid, with a huge blizzard in the northeast. Spring came late, summer came late, and now we have hot and humid weather fit for August or early September, but not October.

It’s muggy, close, oppressive, unpleasant, and wet, but not enough rain is falling. The remnants of Nate are overhead but mainly just hanging in the heavy air.

I enjoy the company of butterflies and nasturtiums… but I’m really ready for some cool, red-leafed autumn days.


Posted in Seasons of the Year | Comments Off

Pre-Concert Talk

Tonight at 7:30, at the Frederick Loewe Theatre at 35 W. 4th St., I’ll again give a pre-concert talk. The NYUO1 (New York University Orchestra 1) is playing a great program. I hope you can come. It’s free!

The program is:

  • Berlioz, “Roman Carnival,” opus 9
  • Grieg, Piano Concerto in A minor, opus 16
  • Elgar, “Enigma” Variations, opus 36

The pianist will be Justin Junsang Wong, the winner of the 2017 NYU Steinhardt Piano Concerto Competition.

I very much enjoy these speaking projects. I believe in this school very much– its philosophy, programs, students and faculty colleagues. It’s a pleasure for me, as an organist, to dig more deeply into the symphonic repertoire and refine my ideas, crafting commentary that will really help the audience.

I hope you can come, and I hope you can find many ways to support young musicians and music education.

Posted in Music, Music Criticism | Comments Off

Las Vegas

I’ve just woken up to the nightmare in Las Vegas. At this point, over 50 people are definitely dead, making this the worst mass shooting in American history. The count of wounded has doubled in the past hour, from 100+ to 200+ and likely to grow.

[UPDATE, 9 AM:  400+]

[UPDATE, 7 PM: 527/59]

The shooter, now dead, was a baby boomer from Nevada. He fired a machine gun from a thirty-second story window of a hotel adjacent to a country-music concert. The majority of the victims were quite a bit younger than himself. The confined concert space has been described on TV as a “killbox.”

The first thing is to stop and reflect, to will empathy for the victims and their loved ones, to mourn the lives cut so short, and yes–if you are so inclined–to speak to the Deity on their behalf, demonstrating your sense of human kinship to its maker (if you believe there is one). If you don’t believe in a supreme being, it’s still essential to turn aside from the hate reflex, which does no good at all.

What is making me feel physically ill and tempting me to anger this morning is the online responses to this horror. Voices from the cesspool are chiming in expressing glee. “Pray only trumptards died!” “The rest of the world is laughing at Las Vegas.” “Karma.” “Trump is responsible.”


But there were also the kind responses: “I’m not a Trump supporter, but that is a terrible, hateful thing to say.” “Never wish evil on others.” “Don’t incite violence.” “People are dead! Show compassion.”

If you’re passionate about politics or anything else, by all means be passionate. Study, learn, talk, debate, participate. But also, be a good civil citizen. Not everything has to reference your belief system. Also, your belief system needs to include that great virtue of “getalongability” or it needs fixing.

Posted in Famous Bastards, Nutters and Such, The Lapping Shore of Psycholand | Comments Off

What Happened (Next)

What happens after you leave Facebook?

In my case, phone and email have popped back to life. I’ve had several wonderful conversations, and there have been voicemails waiting for me. It’s nice to actually dig into a conversation with someone, really catch up, make progress in a relationship; rather than just hit “like” or submit a post.

It’s very nice to be free from the rage and political grandstanding. I have had my life’s quota of flying monkeys, thank you very much.

It’s also good to be able to let some people go; not in anger or spite, but as part of the normal course of life. There are some people I’ve grown apart from, without ill will. I’m no longer comfortable with their viewpoints, their current projects don’t speak to me, and if not for the extraordinary life support that Facebook gave, those friendships would have naturally died–shrunk into tiny points of light in the Milky Way–passed into dim legend.

It is time to let them go.

In a few cases, hindsight has taught me that “much friendship is feigning,” as Shakespeare said. I have remembered conversations from long ago, and only now do they cause me pain. These people should have long faded from my mind.

Instead, I feel I’ve been kept in artificial proximity –artificial life-support– to those I no longer have anything in common with.

As for professional colleagues, I don’t regret those online connections at all. We will have much to do together in the future. I just don’t think we need to be on social media together.

All that, plus being spied on by a Harvard dropout who wears T-shirts and protects his own privacy as he sells mine out for money, money, money.

Posted in The Journey | Comments Off

Pre-Concert Talk Tonight!

If you’re in New York City and not otherwise occupied, why not attend a wonderful orchestral concert for free?

NYUO2 –one of NYU’s two symphony orchestras–is opening tonight’s concert season at the Frederick Lowe Theater on West 4th Street, just between Washington Square Park and Broadway. The program starts at 8 PM and features the following:

  • Overture to La Gazza Ladra, Rossini
  • Flute Concerto in D, K. 314, Mozart
  • Symphony no. 1 in C, op. 21, Beethoven

I’ll be giving a pre-concert talk starting at 7:30, going to a few minutes before the start.

NYUO1 is giving its opening concert on Monday, at the same time. I’ll be doing the same thing. Music by Berlioz (Roman Carnival), Grieg (piano concerto), and Elgar (“Enigma” Variations).

I hope to see you!

Posted in Music, Music Criticism, Music History, Music Theory, Writing | Comments Off

Early This Morning

first tryShortly before dawn I stepped onto the patio to look at the stars.

Just at his meridian, Orion was clear and bright, his bow clearly visible, Betelgeuse quite red. To the west, Taurus and the Pleiades, Aldebaran also visibly ruddy. To the north of both, Auriga, its famous clusters visible to the naked eye.

Gemini was extremely clear; not just Castor and Pollux, but the entire asterism. Two brothers, arms around each other’s shoulders for eternity.  Sounds wonderful!

Needless to say, Sirius and Procyon were bright and clear; Sirius was a brilliant blue-white.

Perseus was high overhead, also bright and clear despite the approaching sun.

There’s so much to see.

There’s a commercial for Audi that says “progress means turning the night into day.” That is as far from progress as Taurus is from Sagittarius. And that’s as far as you can go.

Posted in Astronomy, Seasons of the Year | Comments Off

So It Begins

I’m off Facebook. Please contact me directly, and check out this blog.

Posted in Famous Bastards, Nutters and Such, The Journey, The Lapping Shore of Psycholand | Comments Off

Unfriending Facebook

marcusI’m done. I spent years wasting time on Facebook, and I’m done. I’m deactivating my accounts a little later today, and then, barring heavenly intervention, deleting for good after I’ve had a few days to evaluate.

I’m rarely impulsive. This has been cooking for a while. Even now, as I’m nearly certain it’s what I want to do, I’m letting it percolate.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was another asshole (a friend of a friend) who thinks that grandstanding about last year’s presidential election can possibly change anything, and that showing respect even for the office of the presidency is a moral impossibility.

These people who are so morally astute–their poor consciences–what junk food they must be getting fed on. Somehow I suspect that their “morality” is just the opinions they have garnered from their favorite movies and songs, with the word KONSHUNZ scrawled across the box.

I’m also empathetic by nature. And I have been increasingly pained, even agitated, not just about the campaign, election, and immediate aftermath, but about the sustained frenzy that’s prevailed ever since. It’s not healthy, it is highly counterproductive, and I’m done with it. It has become impossible to avoid this cherished, unending meltdown on Facebook, so I’m removing it by amputation.

This country is feeling like an alcoholic family right now. A plotzed, Cluster-B mother screaming “don’t you dare vote for THAT MAN!” and a brusque, wealthy dad saying “Nasty woman” and “lock her up.”

It hits closer to home than I care to discuss right now.

Tell you this, though: money helps a lot, and etiquette is only skin deep. Dare to be disloyal, just this once.

Message to all: please do respect the president, if only for the sake of the office. People who loathed his predecessor managed the feat; so can you, despite your purity.

And to Zach and Zuck: fuck you both.

Posted in Famous Bastards, Nutters and Such, The Agonies of Art, The Journey, The Lapping Shore of Psycholand | Comments Off