"Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?" ~ Mary Oliver

Tag: music

a brave new world of music! . . .

Xmas 2005-Spring 2006 579_2_2Well yesterday, with a $6 adapter for my Mac laptop that I ordered from Amazon and from watching YouTube videos on how to connect and program my system preferences, I was able to hook up my computer to our large-screen HDMI TV!!

This may not sound like much, but what it opens up for us is the ability to play YouTube clips of pianists playing the piano: in Van Cliburn competitions, in concert hall recitals as well as viewing videos from individual and other websites. Up to now, I thought that ITunes was the limit, being able to listen to sample clips of various pianists and then being able to download a single selection for a nominal fee, make playlists and send them to friends. Now, there are live performances online that haven’t been recorded on a CD that are FREE and can be viewed on a large screen TV.

Since this new arrangement yesterday, I viewed and listened to these performances:

  • Van Cliburn in 1958 live performance of Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto conducted by Kiril Kondrashin (who also conducted recordings with Sviatoslav Richter.) Watching this incredible event nearly brought me to tears.
  • Jack Gibbons, an English pianist that I had not paid much attention to before, playing Charles Valentin Alkan’s “Concerto for Solo Piano” – and I heard inner voices that I had not noticed before in Marc-Andre Hamelin’s two recordings of the same piece. It turns out Gibbons performed it in Carnegie Hall in 2007 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of this composition!
  • Marc-Andre Hamelin performing with Leonard Slatkin playing George Gershwin’s “Concerto in F” a favorite since my college days wherein I even fiddled around with some of the jazzy parts on the piano myself!

Last night, G. and I watched the 1993 Van Cliburn piano competition (2 hours) downloaded from YouTube on our TV screen, enjoying what was, in our minds, the most impressive group of pianists we’ve ever seen on Van Cliburn competition DVDs (the ones where Andre Schub and Olga Kern won the gold medal had a paucity of contestants compared to this group.) Nearly all of the contestants played well. AND, there was more footage of actual piano playing throughout the stages of the competition so that the viewer could gain a sense of individual pianist’s strengths, unlike the fluff piece that just came out on PBS called “Virtuosity,”which was more like a reality show of pianists (how many dresses did you bring with you?) Here’s a link to the 2 hour 1993 Van Cliburn competition video.

Do you remember the techie in that old James Bond movie played by a very young Alan Cumming who says “I am inVINC-ible” right before the whole place goes up in flames?? Well, (without the flaming out part,) that’s how I feel when I make progress at a snail’s pace in our technology driven world.

I may be a little tardy coming to this technology party, but believe me, I’m staying late!





a tuesday to remember . . .

Noho flowersToday, my daughter and I spent the day together, driving out to our alma mater town, Northampton, MA. where both of us went to school, a generation apart.

On Tuesdays from April to November on Tuesdays, a farmers’ market opens in the town’s courtyard at 1:30 p.m., the bounty of which comes from the rich soil of the Pioneer Valley (Connecticut River) in the surrounding area.

Even though there are only about a dozen vendors, the selection is of superior quality, ranging from vegetables to flowers, organic eggs and baked goods including small fruit tarts for dessert. Today, we had a leisurely lunch at our favorite Japanese restaurant, the Osaka and finished just in time to go to the market when it opened.Noho 2

It was a good thing too, because a thundershower front which looked ominously dark approached us. We made it out of town just in time, sharing a fresh fruit tart and iced coffee in the car. When we drew into our yard, the thunder began to roll in while we ran from the car with our bounty before the rain came down in a torrent of water.  Noho eggs

What a wonderful day it’s been – filled with music that I played at home and then in the car as we chatted and caught up on our activities while she’s been in Europe on vacation these last few weeks. We’re planning to get together again next week to see Meryl Streep and Rick Springfield in “Ricki and the Flash,” a movie about a mother who abandons her children while they’re young to follow her dream of singing with her rock band.

The thunderstorms rolled through the state, large hail falling and trees being uprooted all around us. But we moved through the day under a halo of sun that didn’t darken until we got home, safe and sound.

C & K selfie



a quiet day . . .

flowers with rice cookerHere it is, almost the official day of Spring this week, and it’s gently sleeting outside. One of the heaters is on the fritz downstairs (we have geothermal heat pumped up from a well underneath the house) and sometimes the compressors of the individual units decide to act up. It’s the vagaries of living in a complex of living units that needs to be tuned up just like pianos, some of the time.

I’ve been experimenting with cooking rice, Japanese style, as introduced to me by my daughter, M., who lives in Minneapolis. She gave me the idea of mixing different kinds of rice and keeping a rice cooker humming so that dollops of rice can be had any time of the day, even for breakfast with a soft-boiled egg on top. After trying different combinations including chicken broth, I think my favorite mix at the moment is half Chinese sweet rice (sticky) and half Lundberg’s short grain brown rice. I heat up some dashi broth and add about four short bursts of Ohsawa soy sauce. Mix it up and add twice the amount of broth as rice. Turn the cooker on, and soon afterwards, I can smell fragrant steam rising from the pot.

Yesterday for lunch, I had a small bowl of rice along with one preserved salted duck egg (from the Asian market) and a few pieces of pickled cucumbers. Satisfying, simple and low in calories. Last night, I cooked a dish I made up combining pieces of raw shrimp, minced green onions, baby spinach, stemmed and sliced beaten into fresh eggs. I heated up a skillet with grapeseed oil and made small pancakes with shrimp, spinach and onions in each patty. Turned them over when crisp and served with a dipping mixture containing oyster sauce, Japanese seasoned vinegar, a little soy and a tiny bit of agave nectar. Bowls of the sticky rice with these crisp shrimp and spinach fritters and some pickled cucumber made up our table. Filling and enough flavor to satisfy our appetite. Sometimes, I also add fresh bean sprouts and fresh cilantro to the shrimp mixture. Good both ways!

Afterwards, I came across the Schubert four-hand Youtube clip that I appended to the last post. G. reminded me of another piano duo, Anderson and Roe, that we have enjoyed listening to in the past. Their arrangement and rendition of Michael Jackson’s song, “Billie Jean” is fun to watch and listen to, as is their playful outdoor medley filmed at a Texas University campus.

“Billie Jean” link:

“Viva la Vida” link:

My life seems to revolve around food and music. I guess that’s not such a bad thing, is it? The other day, I heard about a recipe for making huge black pepper and gruyere popovers from an Austin, TX restaurant clip on the Food Channel. I’ve written about making popovers earlier and can’t wait to try these out, served as a meal with a salad. Maybe I will make them as the main feature for Easter dinner, along with an arugula endive salad with glazed walnuts and pink grapefruit segments. Yum!

meaning. . .

What gives meaning to a life? I have been thinking about this since returning from visiting my 92-year old relative this past weekend who is weak and yet still lucid enough to send me off with an instruction to “take care of my family, take care of myself. . . and be happy.”

Is that all it takes? I take care of my family all the time, probably a little better than I take care of myself. But I think that last part about being happy is both the simplest and the hardest to carry out.

For example, I think one can DO lots of things to make yourself happy–and only we know what those things are that we especially treasure and enjoy. One of my discoveries of late is a “Rondo” movement of a Beethoven sonata played so tenderly and beautifully by a British pianist named Paul Lewis. (It’s the fourth movement of Sonata #4 in E-flat major, Op. 7.) G. and I went to a concert at Jordan Hall in Boston and heard Lewis play Schubert sonatas this January. Listening my way through these Beethoven recordings, I am amazed and taken aback by the freshness of the interpretations, so musical, clean and touching in its beauty of melody and line. Rapture is one way to describe it, I think.

[Here is a link to the piece on Youtube played by Daniel Alvadaras, someone other than Paul Lewis, but you can get a sense of the piece. Lewis’s rendition is available in the collected Beethoven sonatas.)

Actually, it has made me think about my mother and how important music was to her, all the way to the end. When asked why she went to the Unitarian Church that she had belonged to for decades when she said she didn’t believe in the afterlife, she answered simply, “for the music!” She sang in the choir and played recorder too, although she didn’t think that counting beats or measures was that important. I think one of her greatest wishes in life would have been to play an instrument as well as my sister played the violin and viola and I played the piano.

So, listening to Paul Lewis play this Beethoven “Rondo” makes me very happy today. DO-ing something like this makes me feel that BEING happy is a state of grace, whenever it appears. I am also struck by how individual our moments of happiness are. Someone else might not hear or experience what I am when I’m listening to this music. So many of the things around us that we cherish and enjoy are mere objects to other people. A line in a book or poem, flowers in a vase tilted in a certain direction; a meal, simple and warming may have meaning to us and make us happy but might not suit anyone else. But, if we’re happy, that’s a good thing.

Has something made you happy today?

Postscript: Icing on the cake tonight! Finding a YouTube clip of Paul Lewis and Imogen Cooper playing Schubert’s Fantasie in F minor. Luscious! Here it is!


simplifying. . .

We’re a few weeks into the summer and I’ve been making some headway toward getting things cleaned out (see previous post, “Holding On”.) Yesterday in the muggy heat, I gathered up all the CDs in their plastic holders and many not. I laid them out on the table according to composer and kind of music. Finding the right cases for the loose disks was like playing the game, “Memory,” and I’m relieved that mine seems to be holding its own.

I found a dozen favorite CDs that I hadn’t listened to in awhile: Mendelssohn cello pieces played by Steven Isserlis and Saint Saens piano concerti played by Stephen Hough. All bright, optimistic melodies from the 19th century. The set of Schubert sonatas played by Radu Lupu also made it into my iTunes library on my laptop. I discovered that I buy multiple recordings of the pieces I like in order to listen to different pianists perform them. For example, I have Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavichord recorded by Rosalyn Tureck, Angela Hewitt, Sviatislav Richter, Till Fellner and Glenn Gould. Ditto the Chopin Ballades by Maurizio Pollini, Claudio Arrau and Vladimir Ashkenazy. Beethoven late sonatas played by Alfred Brendel, Maurizio Pollini, and Claude Frank.

Today, I’m going through the rest of the books that I started to weed out last week. There are many books that I value that I don’t look at anymore. I haven’t wanted to just donate them anywhere because I’d like them to be available to others. So yesterday, I talked to someone at the Worcester Public Library who said they’d be happy to take them along with CDs. They also suggested donating books to the local vocational school libary–such as cookbooks. I’m glad these outlets are available for these remainders from my libraries. It allows my conscience to know that they may be part of someone else’s reading and listening life.

There are lots of books to sort through, similar to the task of going through all the CDs yesterday. The result though, is a renewed awareness of not only what I have and want to keep. But also a renewal in appreciating the music I’m going to listen to while I sort through the books, a stack of them growing beside my chair that I want to read the rest of the year.

So, simplifying has been enriching for me in ways I did not anticipate. Meanwhile, the house is stacked with cartons that make the place look like we’re getting ready to move out. When what we are doing this summer is getting ready to move on.