Monthly Archives August 2015

To My Daughter on Her 17th Birthday, and the 70th Anniversary of Hiroshima

Dear Daughter,

I will admit that annual observances of the nuclear bombing of Hiroshima weren’t much on my mind when you entered the world in the early evening of August 5, 1998. I was too giddy with anticipation for what was about to transpire as I huddled with your mother, grandmother, a doctor and a rotating cadre of nurses around your birth mother’s bed, doing what we could to comfort her in her travails while hoping to speed you down that birth canal.

You finally made it, after some amount of struggle and a few tense moments when I noted the doctor casting a nervous eye on the gizmo that showed your blood pressure and suddenly adopting a very stern voice in telling Natasha, “You HAVE to push REALLY HARD now, we HAVE to get this baby out of here!”

And so she did, and so you came, and nothing in my world has been the same since.

Hiroshima is 16 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time, so the bomb...

Read More

Crossing Over: Three Classical Music Tunes That Became Pop Hits

“Rhythm stirs our bodies. Tonality and melody stir our brains.” So writes Daniel J. Levitin in This Is Your Brain on Music.

I find myself wondering why he didn’t say “brains and hearts” about tonality and melody, given their powerful capacity to inspire, stir and deepen human emotion.

I know that rhythm goes right back to the heartbeat of the mother who begat us, and is central to our moving about in this life. Rhythm plays a key role in my own writing as well—each sentence has to match some internal hop-and-skip-along, and if it doesn’t, I discard it until the feel is right. If it feels clunky rhythmically, it goes.

That said, in music, I’m a melody man, which is why rap, with its 100 percent rhythm, and modern classical music, with its disdain for tone and melody, leave me mostly unmoved. They can be “interesting” intellectual exercises, but honing my intellect is not why I listen to music...

Read More