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Ralph Vaughan Williams at 150: A Personal Reminiscence
October 12th, 2022 marked the 150th birthday of English composer Ralph Vaughan Williams. From my earliest musical experiences, I remember being fascinated by Vaughan Williams' sound and his music has been a central line of my musical life ever since. This article begins a year-long journey into the incredible world of this amazing composer.
Visions of a Better World: Walt Whitman's Song of Myself
Song of Myself is both an exultation of the individual as well as a collecting of all people, no matter who you are, where you came from, what you believe, or anything else. We are of one identity. We are one people. We are each unique yet also the same. Like leaves of grass, each one is different yet creates a unified whole. This was Walt's song, a vision that may not yet have been fulfilled but certainly is not forgotten.
Larry Rachleff: Conductor, Educator, and Sublime Human Being
The difference in the trajectory and focus of my career after working with Larry was so profound that I cannot imagine a world in which I missed the opportunity to learn from this incredible human being. Yet Larry's greatest legacy will be teaching us all how to be better human beings.
Corn Mother: Mythical origins of the world's most produced crop
"Corn Mother" gives us an origin story for a world-changing crop while sharing essential wisdom about our connection with nature and the importance of being attuned to her voice.
On the Nature of Daylight
Max Richter's work offers a withdrawal from the trivialities of the world, providing the space for reflection on what truly matters.
On Craig Dhu: Frederick Delius's musical representation of mankind's spiritual connection with nature
Delius's spirituality lies within nature and 'On Craig Dhu' is one of his greatest testaments to the religious experience of transcending the self as one enters into the larger conversation with the sacred essence of the natural world.
Voices of America: Lincoln, Whitman, and Copland
Lincoln's voice stirred a flurry of forward movement in America and it continues to inspire generations of citizens today. Through the eyes of two artists—Walt Whitman, the poetic voice of America, and Aaron Copland, America's musical voice—we can uncover a portrait of a man who rose from the humblest of means to fight for all those whose own voices had been silenced by tyrannical forces.
Nature, the Gentlest Mother
While Nature can overpower us with hurricanes, wildfires, and viruses, she can also be the "Gentlest Mother" as Emily Dickinson beautifully renders in her meditative poem. Nature nurtures us, acknowledges us despite our failings, and beckons us into sweet repose.
Glimmer of Hope: Haydn's Andante with Variations in F Minor
Haydn, like a poet, takes a strict form and uses it as a gateway into the depths of human experience. In weaving an intense and tragic journey, he shows that optimism can always shine through.
Gaining Perspective: Two poems for muddy waters
Here are two poems for when our daily troubles become overwhelming or our work no longer satisifes.
The Inward Path: Finding the well that brings clarity to our journey
So often we get stuck on the path that is well-worn by the rest of society, afraid to venture off and explore new possibilities. But when we let our thoughts soar out in the open air we gain a sense of courage as we enter into that deep well of poetic consciousness and uncover those dreams that have been dormant for so long.
A Week of Heavy Loss: Honoring the passing three musical legends
Every year many titans within the music industry are lost but it is rare to have three go in the same week. This article honors their unique contributions to the world of music through their expansion of what is possible beyond previously held limits.
Curating Life: Refreshing our environment to reflect our values
Every spring nature challenges us to take an active role in the curation of our environments to renew the spaces we inhabit with the values that will bring growth in the current season of our life.
Searching for Hope in Weary Times: Bach's Expression of Unity in Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen, BWV 51
J. S. Bach's cantata Jauchzet Gott in Allen Landen, BWV 51 calls for the unity of humanity and the optimism to face each day anew regardless of the challenges we face.
Exiles: This did not have to happen
Works by Max Richter and Jane Hirshfield that help us come a little closer to understanding the journey millions of people are being forced to make.
Shaped By Stories: Understanding the people of Ukraine through their literature
I post this article in the hope that you will join me in my effort to discover the incredible people of Ukraine and what has shaped them into the resilient people we see today.
An Uphill Battle: Steve Martin's chronicle of the long road to success in his book Born Standing Up
Steve Martin's autobiography takes an in-depth look at the long, dusty, and uncertain road to success focusing on the struggles and sacrifices that it takes to get there.
Coming to Terms with Reality: Jens Peter Jacobsen and his debut story, "Mogens"
Jens Peter Jacobsen started his career amid massive shifts in the scientific, political, and religious thinking of the second half of nineteenth-century Europe. His debut story, "Mogens," presents a touching expression of pain, loss, and the search for meaning in the modern world.
In the Face of Death: Franz Schubert's String Quintet in C Major
Many have viewed this second movement of Schubert's C Major Quintet as the essence of one coming to terms with the end of life. Thomas Mann wanted this played on his death bed as did Arthur Rubinstein who sees the work as beckoning one into heaven, releasing life as one "resigned and happy."
Connection in Isolation: Nico Muhly's "Throughline" and the interconnectedness of all beings past, present, and future
"Throughline" shows how to find hope amidst uncertainty and reveals the interconnectedness of all beings past, present, and future.
Light Amidst the Darkness: Issa's "On a branch..."
"On a branch," conveys the wisdom of presence and acceptance. Use it as a light in the midst of darkness.
A Thousand Mornings
Back in March of 2020, as the pandemic was beginning to have a direct effect on my life and work, I found that I was consistently drawn to reading the poetry and essays of Mary Oliver. Something about the optimism and freedom of her writing gave me strength and comfort in the months of March, April, and May when everything else around me felt so uncertain and at times terrifying. Oliver was able to take solace in the natural world and when life becomes tough her meditations on nature give a fresh perspective on life.
Resilience in the Face of Adversity: Mary Oliver's essay, "Bird"
You may only know Mary Oliver through her poetry but she is also an amazing essayist. From writings on her greatest influences (Whitman, Thoreau, Emerson, Wordsworth) to beautiful meditations on nature, animals, and the creative life, her collection of selected essays, Upstream, illuminates the timeless truths one finds spending a life paying attention. Her essay, "Bird," demonstrates how best to face adversity and teaches us the value of a life lived embracing the present moment.
Leonard Bernstein: The Twentieth Century Crisis and Stravinsky's Objective Expressivity
In trying to make sense of the many divergent “isms” that came about in the twentieth century, Bernstein grabs on to a kind of will-to-life as the general topic of the age. Every new pathway or idea is in some way an attempt to keep art alive and continue its progress in the midst of “anguish.”
Thoreau On Living a Beautiful Life
Take a look at your life and see how richer you would be by subtracting that which is not necessary. Maybe you will not gain riches in terms of wealth or possessions but you could gain what is even more important: a beautiful life.
Eureka! Experiencing Music Through Beethoven's First String Quartet
I had always been intrigued by Beethoven's works but this piece hit me unlike anything else. It changed my relationship with music and how I would approach it from that point onward.
"I Celebrate Myself:" Walt Whitman's poetic vision for America
Song of Myself is an affirmation to be authentic to yourself. As human beings, we are of one identity. We are one people. We are each unique yet also the same. Like leaves of grass, each one is different yet creates a unified whole. This was Walt's song, a vision that may not yet have been fulfilled but is not forgotten.
The Artistry of Alex Honnold
We push ourselves to our limits not because we have to but because we know we can. We know that on the other side is something worth achieving. Something intangible but at the same time deeply understood.
Frederick Delius: Nature-Poet In Music
Nature is at the center of Delius's work and philosophy.
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