Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Musical Mount Everest: 36 Hours and 104 Symphonies With Joseph Haydn

One of the most daunting tasks in classical music is navigating the symphonic output of Joseph Haydn, the so-called “father” of the symphony. For most composers, the symphony is the most august, serious, philosophical statement one can make in music. A symphony is like a four-act play, with each act/movement capturing something of the struggle of being human, or of contemplating the divine. Even a light-hearted symphony is written ‘big,’ for the gargantuan modern symphony orchestra (often over one hundred players strong) and made to sound like the entire universe is singing. For this reason, many composers wait until middle-age to tackle a symphony, if only because the greatest composers are in their rear-view mirror, seeming hoarding the best themes, structures, and innovations. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

FREE to Download this Friday-Saturday: The Count of the Living Death

This Friday-Saturday you can download my second novel for FREE, a comic gothic-fantasy novel following the exploits of a pampered count, an eccentric magician, a no-nonsense countess-to-be, a mysterious half-brother, and a menacing chest which hides unspeakable terrors under three magic locks. It's not quite as serious as it all sounds (or is it?), and it makes for a quick, enjoyable read, especially for those who enjoy books like The Hobbit, The Princess Bride, and the great comic-Gothic book that started it all, The Castle of Otranto.

Click on the link to download the book on your Kindle or Kindle app:

Or, click "read more" below to sample the first three chapters...

Saturday, November 5, 2016

The Revolutionary Rhino of Venice

In 1751, the Venetian painter, Pietro Longhi, created one of his most unusual works: a painting of fashionable spectators gawking at a rhinoceros. In an age before zoos (or at least humane ones), Europeans had little opportunity to see the wondrous diversity of biological life, relying instead of fanciful books by unreliable travelers. So you can imagine their delight to see a real Indian rhino in the flesh, part of a tour that was sweeping across Europe. The rhinoceros in question made quite a footnote in history: her name was Clara, captured as an infant by a Dutch captain in 1738. He took care of her for a time, but eventually sold her to someone with an entrepreneurial eye. Clara made the grand tour of Europe, spending several months in all the major capitals. By the time she made it to Venice, Clara was nearing the end of her life, though her final stop would be in England, where she died in 1758. 

Thursday, October 27, 2016

You Are What You Read: How The Power of Myth Showed Me The “Penultimate Truth”

In my Critical Responses to Poetry course, we were discussing theories of identity in literature, and how literature not only expresses/records the world around us, but consciously shapes it by the very act of description. That is, people read these works and then imitate them, making a second-hand version of life into a performance of life itself. In Chapter 8 of his book, Literary Theory: A Very Short Introduction, he writes,

“Literature has not only made identity a theme; it has played a significant role in the construction of the identity of readers...Literary works encourage identification with characters by showing things from their point of view. Poems and novels address us in ways that demand identification, and identification works to create identity; we become who we are by identifying with figures we read about” (113). 

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Debt of Authorship: And Who Has To Pay?

What does an author owe to his or her readers? A book, certainly. But beyond that, does the contract between writer and fan demand any further obligation? For example, what about a real name? We all know that many authors opt for a pen name, some as simple as J.K. Rowling, while others create a completely false identity to throw off the scent in case he/she has a respectable day job which might be threatened by purple prose and exotic sex scenes. And some authors, of course, switch genders in the fear that boys won’t read books by girls—or vice versa. At the same time, it’s become customary to feature a glossy head shot of the author on the back flap of the book, assuring us that the author has brains and looks. Who wants to read a book by a total fright, after all? 

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Cutpurse Code is Free to Download this Thursday-Friday

My novel, The Cutpurse Code, about a bunch of would-be thieves in a Europe that never was, is available to download for free from Amazon this Thursday-Friday. It's my first official novel (of 4), though the last one published since I was scared to read it again after all these years. After a few months of revisions I decided to publish it along with the others, mostly to see if I could get a few readers. No one had even seen this work before I let it go (which is a very scary thing). I've gotten some good reviews on Inkitt (where I published a few chapters simultaneously), but only one brief review of the book on Goodreads (which said "good, but hard to get into" basically). So anxious to see if I can scrounge up a few more readers to see if the novel needs more work, or is ready to carve a small niche for itself in the vast ocean of indie fantasy novels.

Here's the link for the book, and the blurb and First Chapter follows below as a preview. Download it for free if it interests you, or pay a whopping 99 cents once the sale ends! Here's the link:

Monday, September 19, 2016

Where Did the Scores Go? Can Movies Survive Without Music?

As a life-long fan of classical music from all periods, I’ve always been drawn to film music—and indeed, I inherited my love of classical music from film music. I cut my teeth on John Williams’ scores for Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T., which provided me the basic musical vocabulary for encountering and appreciating composers such as Strauss, Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Sibelius, Schoenberg, and so many others—and some without ‘S’’s. The richness of the orchestration, as well as the glorious melodies that seemed to emerge from the characters’ own thoughts and situations, moved me to the core, and helped me ‘see’ similar psychological richness in abstract music such as a four-movement, hour-long symphony. In fact, film music made me question whether there really is such a thing as ‘abstract’ music, since everything has its own story—you just have to find it (for yourself, mostly). Moving from film music backwards was probably the best musical education I could have received, and I attained it early: the first music I ever purchased (or had purchased for me) was the soundtrack to The Empire Strikes Back in the very early eighties. A handful of years later I was listening to The Rite of Spring and Shostakovich’s Fifth.