Mostly Music
terça-feira, julho 30

Today something important happened: I signed the divorce papers. So now I am officially single. The experience was weird, as anything that one has to do in public offices in Brasil. The building itself, drab and dirty, all the people - including the judge - who look so sad and self-important, the whole feeling of failure that hangs around everything like a papaya from a tree.
It is also sad and weird to be in the same room with a man who was one's best friend for twenty years - a confidante, a lover - and treat him like a stranger, and be treated as an enemy. I guess that is what it means to grow old.
I will write more, I promise. But in a few minutes Tom and I have to be at a rehearsal (we are recording with the excellent group Calíope - a "Matinas" by a colonial composer from Minas). And I have a sore tooth which is just killing me! Arghhh!
segunda-feira, julho 29

A Grande Arte

Beloved and I just went to the Chacara do Ceu to see the show of Amador Perez. Wonderful work - I had only seen e-versions of
it. We met an interesting German who lives here, says he fell in love with Rio at first sight, and is writing a tourist book for Germans about Rio. He goes by "Pedro de Berlim".
What a wonderful view of Rio there is from there. We advised him to go to Semente to hear Alexandre and the whole crew.



I had a very nice flight down on Varig (my first time on a Brazilian airline). Almost all of the passengers were Brazilian.
I slept pretty well, and woke up around 5 AM. I went back to the galley to get a glass of water, and spent the next two hours
or so chatting with two of the stewardesses. Very nice. One of them lives a block up S. Clemente from Laura's house.

Our illustrious Sergio met me at the airport. He's looking great (very chic in a leather jacket). And now we are about to have
lunch with Rodrigo.
I just love this town too!!!
domingo, julho 28
Flying down to Rio
Tom is in a plane right now, coming from JFK to Rio. He will be here in a few hours. We promise to let you in on more news, as soon as he gets some sleep and some lunch.
Today I spent a few hours doing what I like best: listening to music, while eating soup (yes, chicken soup!) with my friends: Rodrigo, Michael, D'Artagnan and Nando. Then we went to Alex (an ice-cream place in Ipanema) and bought delicious fresh ice-cream.Even with rain, cold, dark skies, Rio is beautiful, fun, interesting. I just love my town...
quinta-feira, julho 25

Birthday alla americana

No cards, no cake, no presents to open, no party.

Four phone calls from my beautiful friends in Brazil. Hugs and kisses to all you wonderful people.
Tonight I went with Emma, Swain and Tim Brown (musical colleague and friend of Swain)
to a sparkling open-air production of "As you like it" by the greatest playwright in the history of the world. Rosalind was fantastic.

quarta-feira, julho 24


Ain't gonna work on the railroad

Ain't gonna work on the farm

Gonna lay round the shack

Till the mail-train comes back

Then I'll roll in my sweet baby's arms



Today would have been the 99th birthday of my mother's mother, Bertha Veeder Hill. She was born in the house of her parents, Robert and Harriet Veeder, on what is now Albatross Street in Woods Hole, right across the street from Great Harbor, on July 24, 1903. She grew up in the village, went to the four-room village school, which was built in the 1890's and still stands, graduated from high school and went to Tufts, where she graduated in 1925, becoming an elementary school teacher. Her father was the master of a small ship for the Bureau of Fisheries, and her mother had graduated from Emerson College as an elocutionist. She was the only one of my grandparents that I really got to know well, as her husband, Samuel Estes Hill, died when I was about seven. My paternal grandparents I only got to see at holidays when I was a child, although I saw more of my grandfather, "Dinty" Moore, as we both got older. His wife, Margaret "Tommy" Thomson (for whom I am named), died when I was sixteen.
Bertha was living in Troy, New York, when I was little, having married a scientist, and moved away from Cape Cod (although they still visited in the summers). She and her husband had bought two lots in the forties, but had never built on them. About four years after his death, she had the vision to build a cottage on her land, which was less than a ten minute walk from the center of Woods Hole, up the hill. At first it was only a summer cottage (no insulation), and I remember stacking up old books that I had bought between the exposed two by fours. It was also wonderful to be somewhere for several months in the summer where there was NO TV!! At first she would rent it for one month, and we would visit for one month. From about 1970 on we would spend the whole summer there. I enjoyed Woods Hole so much that there was one summer when the rest of my family went to Bermuda in August, and I stayed in Woods Hole, just Bertha and I in the cottage.

Her son, my Uncle Bob, was usually there in the summers as well (he married in 1965, and my first cousin, Andrew was born in
1966), and Bob's birthday is July 23 (if he had just waited an hour or two more, he would have had the same birthday as Bertha).
So when I was little, the grown-ups would torment me on July 23 by asking "whose birthday is it today?"
"No, it's Uncle Bob's!"
And again on July 24, "whose birthday is it today?"
"No, it's Gramma's!"
And finally on July 25 it would be my turn to celebrate. So every summer we would have three different birthday cakes on three successive days. A little boy's dream.

Uncle Bob (Dr. Robert B. Hill)

Great Harbor, Woods Hole, Cape Cod

The Woods Hole School

terça-feira, julho 23

Will Ferguson

During last week's excursion to B&N, I picked up Hokkaido Highway Blues, a fat (432 pp.) travel book by Canadian Will Ferguson, who also has a new novel out. (I'm waiting to get my hand's on his Why I hate Canadians.
Here's an interesting bit...

In Japan, brothels are known as "soaplands", and the specialty is a complete lathering up, followed by a naked body wash. If a husband comes home smelling fresh and clean and well washed, his wife will launch into an attack. But if he comes home reeking of cheap perfume and cigarettes, she will relax, secure in the knowledge that any fun he had was innocent. I knew a Japanese man who was addicted to soaplands in Fukuoka and before running home he would splash whiskey over his face and furiously puff on cigarettes and then blow smoke all over his clothes.

Will Ferguson


Is the US really different?

The USA has for a long time asserted its right to leadership based on moral superiority. In the last few years we have seen a presidential election given to the losing party by a judiciary nominated to its seats by that party, enormous corporations declaring bankruptcy due to fraudulent accounting practices. This morning the NYT reported that Citibank allegedly colluded with Enron to hide its fraudulent accounting. It will be interesting to see what other vermin crawls out from under the rocks in the next few months.
Meanwhile the middle class (i'm talking about people I know) is frantic as they see their savings vanish with the tanking of the stock market. But they still don't want to invest in real estate. "This isn't Brazil, you know...."

The Parlous State of Things

In places where musical sensitivity is so great and musical experience so general that everybody likes nearly everything, the musical tradition is said to be "decadent". Enormous quantities of music are consumed, but none of it means much. It is elaborate in construction and texture, low in expressive content. In such places and at such times, the consumption of old music (music already absorbed by the profession long ago) reaches a degree of popularity equal to (and in the final stages of decay) superior to that of new music. Nobody cares about either style or design.......Song-and-dance folklore is imported from foreign climes, and the concert world is taken over by incompetent soloists and by over-competent orchestral conductors who streamline the already predigested classics to a point of suavity where they go through everybody like a dose of castor oil.

Virgil Thomson, The State of Music (1939)


Moore About a Boy

I went by myself on a Sunday night (to the 24-screen theater complex in Hamilton) back when the film opened here, and enjoyed it quite a bit, having read the book last year. It was about as faithful to the book as a film can be, and Hugh Grant was perfectly cast as the layabout son of the father who composed a famously successful Christmas song. You got a real sense of how pointless his life was/is. Even more perfect were the parents of the little boy, painfully on target, since I know people just like that fairly close to me
(any more detail than that would be too embarassing......)


Oddly enough just last week I was thinking about Carl Sandburg (I was deciding to buy a CD reissue of his American Songbag for the library here at TCNJ). From an American point of view, he was one of those public figures from the 1950s who have completely vanished from the awareness of people today. I'm certain that people in Generation X and Y have no clue who he was. And I wondered why that is.

So I went to read some of his poems, and it seemed to me that they all seemed very impersonal, public, like the monuments to dead
Statesmen on the Mall in Washington (Lincoln, Jefferson, Roosevelt). No passion, no women, no complications. Poems that could easily be appreciated in a public setting like a high school English classroom. Unmoving.
So....I don't really think that Laura "is Carl Sandburg" - far from it.

segunda-feira, julho 22

You are Carl Sandburg
You see the world in a different way than your peers and are able to find beauty in the most unusual places!

Take the Which Poet are You? Quiz - brought to you out of boredom and pretention!

Here is what I would write, if I were a poet (not bad, is it?)


Carl Sandburg

From: Chicago Poems (1916)

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.


Yesterday (yesternight?) I went to the movies with the girls, to watch "About a boy". Very funny, very cute and very moving. And Hugh Grant looks ... well, sorry Tom - just fabulous! An unpretentious little film, that makes one smile more often than one expects. Wonderful acting, good dialogues and some pretty incredible "objets de désir". I wouldn't mind having that CD player, or that Capuccino maker....

Life, Music

Private life...is beset by a thousand insoluble crises, from unrequited love to colds in the head. Nobody, literally nobody knows how to avoid any of them.....It is like a nightmare of being forced to execute at sight a score much too difficult for one's training on an instrument nobody knows how to tune and before a public that isn't listening anyway.
Virgil Thomson, The State of Music (1939)

sexta-feira, julho 19

Today we had a friend over for dinner. Amador Perez, whom I hadn't seen in a long time. Too long, really. He is the kind of person who we could always see more of. A wonderful listener, and a fabulous conversationalist. Of course that it is impossible to prove someone's social skills on a blog. But he has another talent that anyone can see. The drawing above is only one of many beautiful works of art he has produced in the past years. Do you want to see more? Click here.


You are T.S. Eliot
Your are introspective and have an affinity for creatures that purr. You also have a tendency to doubt yourself. You can see the beauty in the world - don't let it pass you by!

Take the Which Poet are You? Quiz - brought to you out of boredom and pretention!

quarta-feira, julho 17

Which is it?

L o v e , L u s t O r M a r r i a g e ?

LOVE: When you write poems about your partner.

LUST: When all you write is your phone number.

MARRIAGE: When all you write is checks.

LOVE: When your eyes meet across a crowded room.

LUST: When your tongues meet across a crowded room.

MARRIAGE: When you lose your child in a crowded room.

LOVE: When your heart flutters every time you see them.

LUST: When your groin twitches every time you see them.

MARRIAGE: When your wallet empties every time you see them.

LOVE: When you have concern for your partner's feelings.

LUST: When you have concern for your partner's test results.

MARRIAGE: When you have concern for what's on TV.

LOVE: When nobody else matters.

LUST: When nobody else knows.

MARRIAGE: When everybody else matters and you don't care who

LOVE: When you share everything you own.

LUST: When you steal everything they own.

MARRIAGE: When the bank owns everything.

LOVE: When your farewell is "I love you, darling."

LUST: When your farewell is "Same time next week?"

MARRIAGE: When your farewell is "Pick up some toilet paper."


Work, work, work

I talked to an old colleague from grad school who is now an editor...and she is interested in a survery of contemporary choral music from Brazil for her magazine. Everybody wants to know more about this fabulous country....


More reels, jigs and hornpipes at Fado last night. Emma came with me. John McGillian was joined by a new guitarist, David Cohen (very Irish name, that), who was very good (also plays bluegrass), and in between the dances David sang a couple of songs (Black Velvet Band, Wild Colonial Boy) and at one point there was even a rendition (with guitar, accordion and two fiddles, if you can imagine that) of a Men at Work song. In addition to David there was Patrick on flute and whistle, and a new fiddler, Christian, from the South originally, very good. Lots of applause from the tipplers in the bar, who even clapped along for a particularly rousing reel.
Emma played very well.
Besides the music I enjoyed the Boddingtons Ale...

segunda-feira, julho 15

If you keep your mind sufficiently open, people will throw a lot of rubbish into it.
William Ornton


You know you live among gringos when...
you are sitting quietly playing Irish polkas on your front porch, and the neurotic neighbor from down streets walks up and shouts "hey, flutist! what makes you think we all want to hear your music! It's 9:15!!!!!"
In Rio nobody has even gone out for dinner yet at 9:15....and nobody would call the cops until 2 or so.



As a college student I saw plenty of young men from GWB's classes careening drunkenly down the street in packs. So today when the President of the Greatest Country in the World told the nation that "America must get rid of the hangover that we now have as a result of the binge, the economic binge, we just went through", I can conclude that, for a change, this is a man who knows whereof he speaks.

not to mention his daughters....

domingo, julho 14
Just drove to Ellicott City, Maryland (SW of Baltimore) to interview Anna Rubin, a composer and friend who I hadn't seen for several years. Drove back the scenic route up Route 1, and went, to my surprise,
over a huge hydroelectric dam (built 1926) on the Susquehanna River at Conowingo. Fabulous!! more later...

a generator at the dam

downstream from the dam (live webcam)

sexta-feira, julho 12


My last visit to the cinema included the trailer for the new version of Solaris by Stanislaw Lem . I recall that the previous film of the novel was pretty much unwatchable. The new film stars the marvelous George Clooney. I hope that it makes a pot of dough for Lem, who I think is a great and underappreciated writer.


Andante.com has a review of what looks like a fascinating and important document - a set of 11CDs, a DVD, and a book recalling Jewish musical life in Berlin of the 1930s.
Read about it here.
quinta-feira, julho 11


My interview with Dawid Korenchendler of UniRio is now in print in the June issue of 21st Century Music. My subscription has not yet started arriving, so later today I will go look at the issue at the Mendel Music Library.
quarta-feira, julho 10


A big thanks to Meg, who provided our new look. I love the alternating photos, and the restrained color scheme. Merci beaucoup!


This afternoon I am working on purchasing contemporary African-American pop music for the library...hip-hop, rap, soul....and I have to say that I think it is all (yes, all) mediocre, boring, tedious....what am I not getting? or perhaps it's supposed to be that way....


I had another nice evening at Fado last night. There were only three of us playing - John McGillian on button box, Darren on guitar, and myself on flute. John Brennan, who usually plays guitar, had the night off.

a promo pic of John McGillian and John Brennan
terça-feira, julho 9

A special treat for Laura

...a caffeinated soap for the morning shower (no, I'm not making this up...)
read about it here

and she already has one of these t-shirts (so do I).


Language and personality

I found this in a page on the Czech language today:
As the Czech saying goes: ”You are as many times a person as many languages you speak.”
The English rendering is not quite idiomatic, but you get the idea.
And I guess it must be common, because it only took a few more seconds to find the Czech...
Kolik jazykù znáš, tolikrát jsi člověkem.
(As many languages as you know, that many times you are a man).
I studied enough Czech to read it slowly with a dictionary, but speaking it is another matter entirely.
segunda-feira, julho 8

Every once in a while I go surfing to check who is dropping by Mostly Music. Sometimes I am agreeably surprised. Like today. I found out we were linked by Lynn.This is indeed a very interesting blog, visually clean, not cute, not full of nice little gif's. But full of thoughtful insights on music and other arts, and curious observations about the news of the world. Well worth the visit...

Here is a sample I just stole from there:

Saturday, June 29, 2002

Something Else Wrong With This Picture

You've probably heard about this already:

MIAMI, June 26 — A Muslim woman who says the state is violating her religious rights in demanding that she remove her veil for a driver's license photograph will be in court this week to try to regain her driving privileges.

I'm no expert on Muslim customs but going by everything I've always read on the subject, in those countries where women are required to cover their faces they are also not allowed to drive. Apparently this woman likes some religious beliefs more than others. I don't see what all the fuss is about anyway. Most drivers license photos are so bad no one could possibly recognize the person in them so all of us might as well be veiled when they're taken. I'm going to watch and see how this one comes out. If she wins I'm going to demand to be allowed to wear a veil when I have my driver's license photo taken. They have no right to discriminate against me based on my lack of religious beliefs.


As everyone who reads this blog knows, Tom is the workaholic, I am the lazy bum. He is the one who practices, I am the one who watches TV. He is the one who reads.... I go to the movies!
Yesterday I went with D'Artagnan and Roberta to see "Janela da Alma", a Brazilian documentary film about people who have some kind of visual deficiency. Blind people, myopic people....or people who have been interested in the problems of vision, tout-court. From Saramago to Hermeto Paschoal, a varied group of celebrities. The idea is wonderful, the realization, less so. I liked particularly the interviews with Wim Wenders - stark, intelligent, articulate. And a few interesting points of view, as those of Oliver Sachs and the movie-animator from Finland. One of the most moving moments: the sweater scene filmed by Agnes Varda, featuring her husband Jacques Démy. It is rare to see such great passion - and expressed in such minimal details, with no dramatic gestures at all.
I missed the presence of visual artists (sculptors for example) and dancers. Artists who would talk about vision and concepts of space. I also missed the point of view of people, like me, who were born with poor eyesight,and started using glasses only later in life. I remember that the teacher, after writing something on the blackboard, would ask "Did everyone understand this?"- and I hadn't , but I was not going to say so. I did not realize that I did not see. I just felt inferior, stupid. I had no idea that people saw differently from me. I still remember the first time I went to the ophtalmologist: things had outlines! I could see details! It was an unforgetable experience.
But that feeling of inadequacy, of being stupid, of missing what others could easily perceive, still lives with me.


Also on my reading table was Mr. Commitment, by Mike Gayle another of those Brit novels about twenty-something romance, with a male who won't get married (is this a familiar problem???). In this case it's because....well, i don't want to give that away. B plus on the witty scale (not as biting or true-to-life for me as the interior monologues in Animal Husbandry. A good read.


Good in Bed

...is the title of a popular novel by Jennifer Weiner , and is a novelization of her life (see the article here)
which I would suppose accounts for the inconsistency in tone for a novel which veers from comedy to fantasy to bathos. I have to say I preferred the comedy rather than the bathos, but then I am a guy, a market share which probably didn't make up a big chunk of the readership for this novel.

Animal husbandry

Anyone who knows the songs of Tom Lehrer will recall what he had to say about this topic. I just finished reading the comic novel by this title by Laura Zigman a nice Jewish girl from my home state of Massachusetts. You can read an interview with her here
I enjoyed the book quite a lot (Pedro, are you ready to move on to more modern stuff?). I see that it has been translated into Spanish? Is it out in Portuguese yet? (I don't think so, but the movie version (mixed reviews) already appeared (it was called "Someone like you".)
domingo, julho 7

Hi everyone! Did you notice something different? Of course you did! We look fancier, more beautiful, a lot classier. Even I, when I entered my page just now, thought I had made a mistake. We never looked this good! The person responsible for our new face is Dr. Meg. Dear fairy godmother, what a fabulous facelift! Thank you, thank you, thank you! Now we are bound to write better....
To all our friends: please tell us what you think. That's what "comments" are for!
sábado, julho 6

"...Try to be in front of your television by 7.30 am tomorrow to catch another of Brazil's great gifts to human happiness. With France gone, Brazil now possesses the best national anthem left in the 2002 World Cup.
First penned by Francisco da Silva in 1841, the Hino Nacional is arguably the jauntiest, cheeriest, most tuneful and most beguiling national anthem on the planet. It feels as if it comes ready composed from the opera house, and the influence of Rossini is hard to miss, though scholars now think Da Silva may have cribbed the tune from a religious work by his teacher, José Maurício Nunes Garcia. Admirers have included the Creole composer Louis Moreau Gottschalk, who wrote a set of variations for piano and orchestra on it that are well worth hearing. In his book "Futebol: the Brazilian Way of Life", our South America correspondent, Alex Bellos, explains how the Englishman Charles Miller first brought football to Brazil. But by the time Miller arrived at Santos in 1894, the Hino Nacional had long expressed in song what Pelé and his successors later expressed so wonderfully on the field.
While the Marseillaise makes bellicose calls to arms, the Hino Nacional stirs national feelings by appeals to Brazil's "pure beauteous skies, " its sound of the sea and the flowers" of its "fair smiling fields". A natural setting for the beautiful game. When Rivaldo and Ronaldo put another two goals past Belgium on Monday, thus setting up tomorrow's quarter-final with England, the London Evening Standard led its later editions with a huge one-word headline. It said simply: BRAZIL! Quite a tribute.
It is hard to imagine any other country whose mere name could be used in such a way with such confidence, in the certainty that the readers would react with pleasure and excitement. Were England to be playing Argentina, Germany, France or Italy tomorrow, expectation would be mixed with fear. To play Brazil, on the other hand, is simply a delight and an honour."
"THE GUARDIAN" – London, June 20th, 2002.

sexta-feira, julho 5

The first meeting with Laura



from cnn.com:
Parts of Texas have gotten as much as 25 inches of rain since Monday night.
quinta-feira, julho 4

The Band Quiz By Rahel
I don't think I like being a clarinet.....
I am sad. Mom is sick.

Yesterday was a full day: I went to UNIRIO at 9, gave lessons all day long, had a meeting (to decide about the vestibular) left at 20:45, ran home with my assistant Ana Paula and her boyfriend Leandro, drank a cup of coffee, splashed some Shalimar on my hair (bless the French! What would we do without perfume, when there is no time to take a shower?), got a ride with D'Artagnan, picked up Michael on the way, and we all went to see a show by Saxophonia, a very cool saxophone quartet where the baritone is played by my student Suely. A curious contrast... It is funny to see such a delicate person playing that huge instrument. Besides, she is the only woman in the group, so you sort of expect her to play the soprano. The program was varied and very well performed: jazz, choro, a bit of bossa-nova.
After that, we all went to Cervantes, to eat the traditional sanduiche-de-filé-com-queijo-e-abacaxi. Most delicious...

I took the test, thinking I would be a flute, of course. Here is the result!

The Band Quiz By Rahel

The Band Quiz By Rahel
quarta-feira, julho 3


Last night I drove to Center City Philadelphia with my daughter Emma to play Irish music at Fado. Emma plays a mean fiddle.
It was her first time there and she played very well. We played a number of tunes with John and John (button accordion and guitar) from our book, and Emma impressed with her fluent reading and technique. Fado (where we play) was unusually empty last night, except for a couple of obnoxious drunks who kept annoying us with foolish questions....


This AM it was 27degrees Celsius at 8AM, and 82 percent humidity. It is supposed to go up to 35 or 36 by the midafternoon. And unlike my friends in Rio, I don't have conditioned air at home (at least I have it in my office).
segunda-feira, julho 1

As I sit here and blog, I can hear Júlia strumming her guitar and singing. She finally found a teacher whom she likes. In fact, she loves him! She is practicing a lot, these days. It is very cute!


The game was wonderful! Watching it with Ruth (my friend and colleague at UNIRIO, pianist Ruth Serrão) was, as always, a fun experience. She is that rare figure - an incurable optimist. So while everybody kept putting the team down, she kept saying "We are the best! We will win! Nobody can score with Marcos as goal-keeper" , etc.... Hermano was pale with nervousness. Jú chose to blog while the game was going on. And I had a typical Laura attitude: I started to compulsively clean the house! When I got to the vacuum-cleaner my friends began screaming at me: "No way, this thing is noisy! Just sit down and watch!". I obeyed, of course. That is what friends are for: to stop you when you are going insane!!!
It was great to watch Brazil win squarely, fairly, with an even team, no violence, some Brazilian ginga and tons of talent.
After the game, to celebrate, I bought a nice fillet-mignon, and cooked one of Júlia's favorite dishes (beef with sesame seeds and scallions). Not very Brazilian, but everybody ate heartily. We also served some Sangria, smartly prepared by Ruth, and forgot our diets when it was dessert time. Ice cream, chocolate syrup, all the works. Then we went to pick up Manoela, who had a watched the game at a friend's house, with her own friends.
It was nice to see the streets full of yellow-and-green shirts and flags, and smiles everywhere.

A perfect Sunday.

AND A FIFTH TIME: BRASIL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!





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