Birthday dance

It’s my birthday! Midweek birthdays tend to be prosaic, so for fun I thought I’d share the tango clip from Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (one of that movie’s redeeming scenes) and a piece I wrote years ago on salsa dancing. No, salsa is not tango, but for me as a wallflower, Pelagia’s tango captures the same […]

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Piano by the sea

There’s a guy—an artist, a pianist—by the fitting name of Mauro Ffortissimo who, with the help of some friends, recently rolled out an aging baby grand piano onto the bluffs of Half Moon Bay, California, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, so that during the day passersby might plink away at the keys. But during the past […]

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Audioslave melancholy

There’s a side of me that loves listening to Yo-Yo Ma and Joshua Bell, and then there’s the side of me that just digs “Like a Stone” by Audioslave. Whenever I hear it on the local alternative station, I react to it the in the same visceral way I do whenever Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” comes on. […]

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Joshua Bell does the Four Seasons

One of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen was Joshua Bell performing live in recital. One year he appeared at U.C. Berkeley’s Cal Performances, and I decided to treat my mom to the event for her birthday.

At first she hesitated to go. “I don’t know anything about classical music,” she said. “I wouldn’t really know what’s going on.”

“You don’t have to know everything about the music to appreciate it,” I replied. “Of course it helps to know some vocab so you know how to talk about what you appreciate in the music, but ultimately what matters is your visceral response to what you’re hearing.”

In the end, despite her trepidation, we went—and as Bell performed in a pool of light on the darkened stage, I glanced sideways at my mother and smiled. She looked mesmerized.

“So what’d you think?” I asked her afterward.

“Oh! Wow,” she responded, shaking her head. “It was like he was making love to that violin.”

This video of Bell performing the third movement (“Presto”) of Summer from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields isn’t much like what transfixed my mama that day, but the intensity of it is, in my opinion, equally amazing.

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Flashback ’90s

Do you remember the first time someone or something made you feel old? For me, it wasn’t my first gray hair but this one afternoon when I was rockin’ out to Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” while driving home from work. I was feelin’ good, the way you feel when a favorite old song comes on the […]

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