Category Archives: Music


Gabriel Cohen covers a Broadway high-wire act: pit musicians who fill in for the regular performers, sometimes on 15 minutes’ notice.

… Jeff Schiller, another “Kinky Boots” sub, recalled, “I got a call half an hour into a show, when a regular was experiencing incredible kidney stone pain.” Luckily, Mr. Schiller, who goes by the nickname Houndog, lives near the theater district. He swapped in between numbers in the middle of Act One.

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Peculiar muzak: 3

Arranged for clarinet and piano, Stephen Sondheim’s vinegary-sweet bit of exposition, “You Must Meet My Wife” from A Little Night Music, heard at my neighborhood Safeway this afternoon.

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Peculiar muzak: 2

Crate & Barrel this afternoon, shopping for wine glasses: a live version of the Velvet Undeground’s “Femme Fatale.” It wasn’t the album version; I couldn’t tell whether it was another band covering it, but the vocalist did sound like Nico.

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Chord changes

NPR has the unhappy news of the passing of Marian McPartland, jazz pianist and genteel radio host. McPartland was one of the last four survivors of the photographic portrait from 1958, “A Great Day in Harlem.”

Posted in In Memoriam, Music | Comments Off on Chord changes

I bet the memorial service will be awesome

Jim Nayder, host of WBEZ-FM’s “Annoying Music Show,” has passed.

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Making permanent

The nut of Jeremy Denk’s “Every Good Boy Does Fine,” a recollection of his training and teachers, in the 8 April 2013 issue of The New Yorker:

The aim of that first lesson, I later realized, was to ennoble the art of practicing. You were not practicing “phrasing”; you were drawing like Michaelangelo, or seducing like Don Juan. [György] Sebők said many times that you don’t teach piano playing at lessons; you teach how to practice—the daily rite of discovery that is how learning really happens.

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Comet C/2013 A1 (Siding Spring), discovered just this January, is expected to come within 100,000 km of Mars in October 2014, as O.M. reports (as Babbage). Perhaps even closer: the track of a comet is not as predictable as that of an asteroid, as the flying snowball ejects mass on its approach to the sun. Astronomers, professionals and amateurs alike, are looking at the possibility of an even closer approach, and an actual impact is not out of the question at this point.

Update: More reporting on the story, with a fabulous hed and subhed for us Cole Porter fans.

Posted in Music, Natural Sciences | Comments Off on Stargrazing


Sonja Ahlers <3 Heart.

P.S. Don’t ever do a Heart song @ karaoke. They are inimitable.

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Brian Eno talks to Ha-Joon Chang about free-market capitalism, Terry Riley’s In C, and wasting time.

BRIAN ENO: One of the characteristics of people, whether on the left or the right, is that they can’t tolerate uncertainty. They don’t want a system with any leaks in it. They want to think they’re capable of battening everything down – and if only people would fucking stick to the rules, it would work. When those systems don’t work, it’s always because, in their opinion, somebody didn’t play the game correctly.

The Morning News

Posted in Economics and Business, Music | Comments Off on Top-down

One more dead copycat

Happy birthday, Charles “Yardbird” Parker, Jr. Tom Vitale has a encore story on the making of “Ko Ko.”

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Tick, tick

Allan Kosnin on the problems of conserving the instruments of 20th century music: Philip Glass’s Farfisa organ, Milton Babbitt’s RCA Mark II synthesizer, and something substantially lower-tech:

Ligeti’s “Poème Symphonique” for 100 metronomes (1962) should be the easiest of his scores to perform: all you have to do is wind up the 100 metronomes, start them at exactly the same time (O.K., that is not so easy) and let them wind down until the last one stops.

But try finding 100 windup metronomes these days.

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What’s the score

The Bodleian Library has launched a pilot project to generate metadata for a collection of 64 boxes of sheet music from the mid-Victorian period. The project looks to crowdsource the extraction of key signature, tempo, genre, and other information about the scores, most of which are for piano.


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Via Greater Greater Washington, a lovely podcast episode by Sam Greenspan and Roman Mars about the music of Metro escalators in need of lubrication.

… if you’re going to be subjected to some kind of sensory experience, of which you have no control every single day, then it’s to your benefit… Why not try to enjoy something? Because there’s enough things in life to be stressed out about.

Posted in Music, Transit in D.C. | Comments Off on Skronk

Happy holidays

Handel’s ditty gets the “Subterranean Homesick Blues” treatment by the fifth grade class of Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat school in Quinhagak, Alaska, and it’s adorable.

(I agree with Bas Bleu to overlook the greengrocer’s apostrophes.)

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Bessie’s revenge

My maternal grandmother was an insane fan of Ruth Lyons, Ohio television personality of the 50s and 60s. Grandma would no sooner miss a 12 noon episode of The 50/50 Club than she would skip serving her overcooked gray chicken for Sunday dinner. So, come the winter holiday season, we would hear Ruby Wright with Cliff Lash’s band singing “Merry, Merry, Merry, Merry Xmas.” A lot.

It’s been, oh, 45, going on 50 years since I heard that song. (Unless I actually saw Female Trouble—I don’t remember.) And I was OK with that.

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