A little chin music

Don Mattingly was one of my favorite players when I was younger. How can you have been a Yankees fan in the 1980s and not liked Donnie Baseball? I saw his last regular-season game at Yankee Stadium in 1995, and a couple of weeks later I was there for his very last home game, the epic 15-inning Game 2 of the ALDS against Seattle, won by Jim Leyritz’s walkoff home run.

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What are you trying to say?

My brother writes:

Google has this new tool, Google Scribe — “Get autocomplete suggestions as you type.” But apparently they haven’t worked out the kinks, or added punctuation that would end a sentence.

I started typing “Now is the time for all good men”, and then I just kept taking every suggestion Google dished out. Here’s what I’ve got (so far):

Now is the time for all good men to stand upon their feet and their wallets to help Britain in the early stages of their careers and their lives are nothing but another form of therapy for these patients is not known whether these are the only ones who can not afford to pay for their own users and groups to their Friends / Favorites list yet, so I'ma keep popping up in their own right and do not want to be related to their particular field or industry in which they are attached to their respective owners and are strictly for viewing and printing of these books are nothing but another form of therapy for these patients is not known whether these are the only ones who can not afford to pay for their own users and groups to their Friends / Favorites list yet, so I'ma keep popping up in their own right and do not want to be related to their particular field or industry in which they are attached to their respective ...

I guess since it’s in a loop I can quit.

Looks like others have been having fun as well. I’d love to know whether there’s some seed phrase which allows Google Scribe, like the proverbial infinite monkeys or Borges’ Pierre Menard, to produce some extant well-known text.

Who edits these things?

I’ve been reading Matthew Boyden’s biography of Richard Strauss. It’s an adequate treatment of Strauss’s life, although I wish it talked a little more about the works. It mentions all the operas in context as well as the major tone poems, but it doesn’t really talk about the plots of any of them; detailed analysis is outside the scope of this book, but for a reader who isn’t already familiar with the works, some description would be useful. Even worse, Boyden barely mentions any of the other works Strauss wrote during his long career: other orchestral works, choral works, or the more than 200 songs.

Frankly, I knew I wouldn’t be crazy about this book right from the first thing I saw, the opening chapter head:

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Sondheim on Gershwin

Here’s a great quote from Stephen Sondheim, talking about the first line of “Summertime”, from Porgy and Bess:

That “and” is worth a great deal of attention. I would write “Summertime when” but that “and” sets up a tone, a whole poetic tone, not to mention a whole kind of diction that is going to be used in the play: an informal, uneducated diction and a stream of consciousness… . It’s the exact right word, and that word is worth its weight in gold. “Summertime when the livin’ is easy” is a boring line compared to “Summertime and.” The choices of “ands” [and] “buts” become almost traumatic as you are writing a lyric – or should, anyway – because each one weighs so much.

I absolutely agree that little details like this add up. I’ve agonized at times over whether this note is really a G flat as printed or should be a G natural, or whether the composer intended this note to be short or long, or whether the accelerando should start here or two beats earlier. In one sense, these are things which the listener won’t – and I would even say shouldn’t – be aware of. But from my point of view as a performer, each detail colors my understanding of that section, and therefore of the piece as a whole.

Summer camp

NMC sign

Thirty years ago, I went for a single two-week session to Northeast Music Camp, in Ware, MA. It was the third camp I’d ever been to, and the second sleepaway camp, and I had a terrible time. I even called home a couple of times (a collect call, from the camp payphone – this was long before cell phones) and begged my mother to come get me early.

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All too soon

I haven’t been able to get this out of my head since I read it; it’s from a fiction piece by Jonathan Safran Foer excerpted in the New Yorker:

I counted the seconds backward until he fell asleep, and then started counting the seconds backward until he woke up. We took the same walks again and again, and again and again ate at the same easy restaurants. He suddenly drew, suddenly spoke, suddenly wrote, suddenly reasoned. One night I couldn’t help him with his math. He got married.