Monthly Archives May 2018

Brilliant Songs No. 2: Dawes’s “A Little Bit of Everything”  

With his back against the San Francisco traffic
On the bridge’s side that faces towards the jail
Setting out to join a demographic
He hoists his first leg up over the rail

With those first four lines of plaintive scene setting just above a simple piano riff, songwriter Taylor Goldsmith of the folk/rock/indie band Dawes places listeners right there behind yet another Golden Gate Bridge would-be suicide jumper, perhaps reflexively reaching their arms out or emitting an involuntary and horrified, “NooooooDON’T DO IT!”

Talk about the power of words to imagine, to relate, to respond.

I am indebted to reader and friend Randall Chet for bringing “A Little Bit of Everything” to my attention in the Comments section of the inaugural entry in this “Brilliant Songs” series. I had never heard of Dawes nor this song, but I have found it staying with and accompanying me on my walks, my garden-tending, ...

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Swan Songs: A Departing Symphony Conductor’s Homage to Mahler’s Ninth

Program selection is an art in itself among symphony conductors, quite apart from everything they do at the podium. But some program choices come easy, which appeared to be the case this past weekend in Santa Rosa Symphony Conductor Bruno Ferrandis’s farewell concert after a robust 12-year tenure.

For his final concert weekend, the last performance of which I was privileged to see and hear on Monday night, he zeroed in on Gustav Mahler’s epic Ninth Symphony, long in duration (80+ minutes, depending on who’s conducting) and large as only an ambitious symphony can be in emotional force.

Mahler’s Ninth, quite uncoincidentally, is about endings, leave-takings, death, a subject it explores on a grand scale before it finally, ever so delicately, like the tiniest moth landing on a slowly swaying blade of grass, comes to rest and silence in a final movement wholly unlike any other in the repertoire.

Ferra...

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Wild With Desire: Eleanor Bass’s “Yours Always: Letters of Longing”

I’ve been luxuriating, which is to say, “reading slowly,” through a lovely book of letters on the subject of “longing.” The type that one human being has for another, sometimes reciprocated and sometimes, tragically, not. The editor, Eleanor Bass, an academic from King’s College London, has compiled quite the lineup of literary and cultural all-stars here, most of them at their abject, somewhat-miserable-and-desperate but florid selves, with which anyone who has ever hurtled over a cliff of wild desire for another’s acknowledgement, presence, breath, word, smell, arched eyebrow, anything, can surely sympathize.

Charlotte Bronte, Winston Churchill, Henry the VIII, Franz Kafka, Ernest Hemingway, Edith Piaf, Graham Greene, Marie Curie—all here, plus quite a few more. That includes Richard Burton writing to that woman Liz who so tormented him, then her writing back, joining all the others who...

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