Haiku by Jacob, age 7

The tree is silent.
It has many leaves today;
Soon there will be none.

September 23, 2010   Tags:

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.

Mattingly batted .417 in that series, his only taste of October baseball in 13+ major league seasons.

When Joe Torre left as manager of the Yankees after the 2007 season, I was a little disappointed that Mattingly didn’t get the job, even though I wasn’t sure that Mattingly was necessarily the most qualified candidate. And I was disappointed again when he decided to follow Torre out to Los Angeles, as though he was somewhat diminished in my eyes by giving up his Yankee For LifeTM status.

Still, some of this seems rather petty:

And so, after nearly three seasons of managing the Dodgers, Torre decided, at age 70, that this would be his last with the team. He will be replaced by Don Mattingly, who has been the Dodgers’ batting coach since midway through the 2008 season …

In his stints filling in for Torre, Mattingly has done little to inspire confidence.

In spring training, while Torre was in Taiwan, the Dodgers were penalized for handing a lineup card to umpires that did not match the one in their clubhouse. In a July game, after Torre had been ejected, Mattingly went to the mound to talk to Broxton with one out, the bases loaded and the Dodgers clinging to a 5-4 lead in the ninth inning. As he turned to leave, Loney called out to Mattingly, who headed back to the mound. That constituted a second visit, and Broxton had to be replaced. George Sherrill, the subsequent reliever, gave up the winning hit.

As batting coach, Mattingly has presided over a group that is 12th in the N.L. in hits after leading the league last season.

September 18, 2010   Tags: ,

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.

September 10, 2010   Tags: ,

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:


That’s right, the title of the first chapter is footnoted. Boyden footnotes a lot, although it’s almost never to give a citation for something. Most of the time, the footnotes provide colorful information which would have been quite welcome as part of the main text.

The book also bears out another frequent observation of mine, that non-fiction works tend to be very poorly edited. For example, Boyden misquotes the last line of Salome as “Man tötet dieses Weib!” instead of “Man töte dieses Weib!”, and then he mistranslates it as the ungainly “Man kill that woman!” (A better translation would be “Someone kill this woman!”, or just “Kill this woman!”)

[audio:http://aaron.sherber.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/salome.mp3|titles=Man töte dieses Weib]

Most perplexingly, in discussing the time immediately following the end of World War II, when American soldiers occupied the town of Garmisch, where Strauss lived, Boyden writes:

Many soldiers came to Strauss for autographs (most asking for a bar or two from Rosenkavalier, some for a quotation from his ‘Blue Danube Waltz’) …

Does Boyden here mean to poke fun at the uncultured Americans, who don’t realize that the waltz was written by the completely unrelated (and long-dead) Johann Strauss? Or is it possible that Boyden himself is guilty of this conflation? It’s not at all clear.

August 28, 2010   Tags: ,

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.

August 6, 2010

Summer camp

NMC signThirty 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.

The next year, a good friend of mine decided he wanted to go to NMC, and so I figured I’d give it another try with him. I went for a month this time, and loved it, and I went back each of the next two years for 6 weeks. NMC became one of the important signifiers in my personal mythology, the site of numerous small social triumphs and failures, and some formative musical experiences as well. I kept in touch with friends from NMC for years, and it seemed I was constantly bumping into people I knew from there.

Even today, certain things still take me back to NMC. There’s a smell of dry pine needles that puts me right on the path between the dining hall and the converted barn we called a concert hall. Biking up the steep hill that leads to my house feels just like the killer climb up Hardwick Pond Road after a coffee frappe at Snow’s. And I still use a mug given to me by my first girlfriend at NMC.

I’ve been thinking about all of this lately because it’s summer, and because my kids are at camp (still daycamp), and because I’ve been poking around some old photos at the NMC Facebook page. It’s refreshing to look at pictures of people I haven’t seen in decades and suddenly remember names, instruments, conversations we had. Makes me feel not quite so far removed from the younger me I see there as well.

August 4, 2010

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.

July 15, 2010   Tags: ,