Archives for posts with tag: classical music

Janet Baker
Lessons from Mahler
by Joanne Corey

In Sage Hall 5 at Smith, spring 1980, our music theory professor places the needle on the final band of the album of Mahler’s Rückert-Lieder. The voice of mezzosoprano Janet Baker emerges from the orchestra:

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen…
I am lost to the world…

She weaves her way among the delicately orchestrated lines, answers the English horn, sings of how the world may think she is dead because she has set aside its tumult to rest in a quiet place. In serenity:

Ich leb’ allein in meinem Himmel,
In meinem Lieben, in meinem Lied.
I live alone in my heaven,
in my love, in my song.

As the English horn resolves a suspension at the final cadence, I look up from my score to see our professor weeping.

Analysis of
chromatic chords failed that day.
Tears taught me Mahler.

Thirty-five years on
life, faith, love, music combine.
Eyes well, spirit rests.

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: My friend and roommate Mary Wallace took this photo of me at the console of the 1910 Austin organ in John M. Greene Hall on the Smith College campus, Northampton, Massachusetts. It appears in our Smith Class of 1982 yearbook.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: During the summer 2015 session of the Binghamton Poetry Project, I learned about the haibun form and have been experimenting with it. This is the first haibun I am sharing with a wider audience.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Joanne Corey lives and writes in Vestal, New York, where she is active with the Binghamton Poetry Project, Sappho’s Circle, and the Bunn Hill Poets. Her 2015 publications include the spring anthology of the Binghamton Poetry Project, Candles of Hope anthology (GWL Publishing, U.K.), the “All About My Name,” “My Perfect Vacation,” and “My Sweet Word” poetry series from Silver Birch Press, and Wilderness House Literary Review fall quarterly. She invites you to visit her eclectic blog at

Thus Played Zarathustra
by Kimmy Alan

A Child of Rock & Roll
A farm boy from the Wisconsin cold
I didn’t like classical music at all
Till I found myself in Movie Theater
Thinking I was about to see
Another Sci-Fi feature
But there were no
Monsters or Aliens
Instead a troupe of Apes
Screaming and chattering
Till the breaking of the dawn
When one of the creatures
Discovered a bone
Could be used for a tool
Or a weapon of war
When he began breaking bones
The Vienna Philharmonic began
Playing the theme song
I felt my hair stand up on end
Goosebumps rose on my skin
This was more than a Sci-Fi fantasy
This was 2001: A Space Odyssey
From that day I believe science
Does not contradict evolution
For Humanity has, and will continue
To evolve both physically and spiritually
And when I look up into the starry night
I hear “Zarathustra” playback in my mind
I am overwhelmed by the mystery
Of what we do not yet know
And in my wonder, I find spiritual ecstasy

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: When I was a farm boy. I seldom saw friends unless we were doing field work together. The exception was Saturday night, when we’d meet at the Old Gem Theater in New Richmond, Wisconsin. At that time, my view of the world was limited — till the night I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey. Since, I’ve come to realize that there are no limits to my life or soul. “Zarathustra” was more than an inspiration; it is a spiritual hymn.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kimmy Alan is neither an academic nor a poet. He’s a blue-collar worker of a steelworker hue. He’s never accomplished anything great nor has he done anything noteworthy. What he has done for years is work hard. Now, in his old age, he works hard for those other women and men who work even harder than he — encouraging them to organize and stand up for their rights. For though they are a humble lot, their skills and labor are essential to the survival of this world. Proud of being a part of an army that carried lunchboxes instead of briefcases, Kimmy is happy and content in his inconspicuousness.

ABOUT THE MUSIC: Here’s a link to scenes from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) that lead into the opening of “Thus Spake Zarathustra” by Richard Strauss (1896).

Take a five minutes in your busy day to listen to this beautiful aria by Heitor Villa-Lobos, performed by soprano Kathleen Battle accompanied by Christopher Parkening on guitar.

ABOUT THE COMPOSER: Heitor Villa-Lobos (1887–1959) was a Brazilian composer, described as “the single most significant creative figure in 20th-century Brazilian art music.” Villa-Lobos wrote numerous orchestral, chamber, instrumental, and vocal works. His music was influenced by both Brazilian folk music and by stylistic elements from the European classical tradition, as exemplified by his Bachianas Brasileiras (Brazilian Bachian-pieces). (SOURCE:

From the album Satie: Piano Music by Pascal Rogé. This beautiful 27-minute nature film features Satie’s Gymnopédies and Gnossiennes — sublime music paired with the sublime images. Remarkable! Find the album at

ABOUT THE MUSIC: The Gymnopédies, published in Paris starting in 1888, are three piano compositions written by French composer and pianist Erik Satie. The Gnossiennes are six piano compositions written by Satie in the late 19th century.

ABOUT THE COMPOSER: Éric Alfred Leslie Satie (1866–1925) was a French composer and pianist. Satie was a colourful figure in the early 20th century Parisian avant-garde. His work was a precursor to later artistic movements such as minimalism, repetitive music, and the Theatre of the Absurd. In addition to his body of music, Satie also left a remarkable set of writings, contributing work to a range of publications, from the dadaist 391 to the American culture chronicle Vanity Fair. (SOURCE:

ABOUT THE PIANIST: Pascal Rogé made his first public appearance in 1960, performing Claude Debussy’s Préludes. He won the piano prize at the Paris Conservatory and at seventeen gave his first recitals in major European cities, landing a recording contract with Decca. He has a particular affinity for French composers such as Claude Debussy, Gabriel Fauré, Maurice Ravel, and Francis Poulenc. He gives recitals worldwide in all major cities. Visit him at

by David Lee Garrison

As an experiment,
The Washington Post
asked a concert violinist—
wearing jeans, tennis shoes,
and a baseball cap—
to stand near a trash can
at rush hour in the subway
and play Bach
on a Stradivarius.
Partita No. 2 in D Minor
called out to commuters
like an ocean to waves,
sang to the station
about why we should bother
to live.

A thousand people
streamed by.  Seven of them
paused for a minute or so
and thirty-two dollars floated
into the open violin case.
A café hostess who drifted
over to the open door
each time she was free
said later that Bach
gave her peace,
and all the children,
all of them,
waded into the music
as if it were water,
listening until they had to be
rescued by parents
who had somewhere else to go.
Find the poem in David Lee Garrison‘s collection Playing Bach in the DC Metro, available at


ABOUT THE AUTHOR: David Lee Garrison earned his PhD from the Johns Hopkins University, taught Spanish and Portuguese at Wright State University from 1979 to 2009, and is now retired. Garrison’s poems have appeared widely in journals such as Connecticut Review, Poem, and Rattle, and also in several anthologies. Two poems from his book, Sweeping the Cemetery, were read by Garrison Keillor on The Writer’s Almanac, and one was included in Keillor’s Good Poems, American Places. The title poem from his book, Playing Bach in the D. C. Metro, was featured by Ted Kooser on his website, American Life in Poetry.  (Source:

Pearl Before Breakfast: Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Washington Post

The Things We Miss: Violin Virtuoso Plays a DC Metro Station,

Joshua Bell plays a DC metro station (


Claude Debussy (1982-1918,  shown above in a portrait by Marcel Baschet) composed one of the world’s most beloved and beautiful pieces of music — the sublime “Clair de Lune” (Light of the Moon). Listen to a rendition by pianist Ivan Moravec here.

Debussy was inspired to write “Clair de Lune” after reading Paul Verlaine‘s 1869 poem of the same name. (Verlaine’s portrait below is by Gustave Courbet.)

by Paul Verlaine

Your soul is as a moonlit landscape fair,
Peopled with maskers delicate and dim,
That play on lutes and dance and have an air
Of being sad in their fantastic trim.
The while they celebrate in minor strain
Triumphant love, effective enterprise,
They have an air of knowing all is vain,—
And through the quiet moonlight their songs rise,
The melancholy moonlight, sweet and lone,
That makes to dream the birds upon the tree,
And in their polished basins of white rock
The fountains tall to sob with ecstasy.



On this Memorial Day morning, I woke up to the child next door practicing the “Ode to Joy” section of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony on the piano, with a crow sitting in the lemon tree outside the building singing along with the music. As the junior pianist repeated passages over and over, ending in the middle and beginning again, I felt privileged that life was reminding me to recognize and appreciate joy.

So this post is my way of sharing a joyous moment — and wishing the same for all of you.

Beethoven based the “Ode to Joy” chorale on a poem written by Friedrich von Schiller in 1785. While much of the language is obscure by today’s standards, suffice it to say the verses address Joy as a goddess and cite her accomplishments and attributes. Here are some excerpts (English translation from German).

TO JOY (Excerpts)
by Friedrich von Schiller

Joy, beautiful sparkle of the gods,
Daughter of Elysium,
We enter, fire-drunk,
Heavenly one, your shrine.
Your magics bind again
What custom has strictly parted…

Joy is the name of the strong spring
In eternal nature.
Joy, joy drives the wheels
In the great clock of worlds.
She lures flowers from the buds,
Suns out of the firmament,
She rolls spheres in the spaces
That the seer’s telescope does not know.


Read the entire poem at

Listen to Leonard Bernstein conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in the “Ode to Joy” chorale of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at — beautiful!

Illustration: “Crow in a Lemon Tree,” giclee archival art print by Lynnette Shelley. Find the print at Visit Lynnette Shelley‘s store and view more of her beautiful artwork — including whimsical, original depictions of animals.


“I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled poets to write their poetry, but a kind of instinct or inspiration, such as you would find in seers and prophets who deliver all their sublime messages without knowing in the least what they mean.” SOCRATES

Photo:  Alice PopKorn

Speaking of sublime messages…when I turned on the radio this morning, I heard Vladimir Horowitz playing Chopin. Listen to the master(s) here.


This post is about four French artists — two painters, a composer, and a poet. Let’s start with the composer, Claude Debussy (shown at right in a portrait by Marcel Baschet). Debussy (1862-1918) composed one of the world’s most beloved and beautiful pieces of music — the sublime “Clair de Lune” (Light of the Moon). 

I wanted to write this post because I had one of those lucky moments yesterday — turning on the radio in my car just as “Clair de Lune” started to play on KUSC-FM (listen to the rendition by pianist Ivan Moravec here).

Debussy was inspired to write “Clair de Lune” after reading Paul Verlaine‘s 1869 poem of the same name. (Verlaine’s portrait below is by Gustave Courbet.)



by Paul Verlaine

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmant masques et bergamasques
Jouant du luth et dansant et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.
Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L’amour vainqueur et la vie opportune
Ils n’ont pas l’air de croire à leur bonheur
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune,
Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d’extase les jets d’eau,
Les grands jets d’eau sveltes parmi les marbres.


Your soul is as a moonlit landscape fair,
Peopled with maskers delicate and dim,
That play on lutes and dance and have an air
Of being sad in their fantastic trim.
The while they celebrate in minor strain
Triumphant love, effective enterprise,
They have an air of knowing all is vain,—
And through the quiet moonlight their songs rise,
The melancholy moonlight, sweet and lone,
That makes to dream the birds upon the tree,
And in their polished basins of white rock
The fountains tall to sob with ecstasy.

So, there you have it — music, art, and poetry, all inspired by a lucky click of the radio in the underground parking lot at Ralph’s Supermarket in L.A.


As most cat lovers know, cats love music — especially classical music. My cat Clancy loves the mornings — basking in the sun while lounging on the bookcase that holds the radio, his ears moving in perfect rhythm to the music. Listen here to one of his favorites — Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 by performed by the Academy of Ancient Music (Christopher Hogwood, conductor).