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Greetings, my fellow port swillers, and a happy Opening Day!  (Those of you who say, “WHAT opening day?” shall be cast into the outer darkness where there is wailing and gnashing of teeth.)  Let’s go to the traditional video, shall we:

Nats Hat


Of course, I post this in a semi-cheat of happiness, because ol’ Robbo’s beloved Nats  won their season opener this afternoon, taking out teh Mets 9-7 in 10 innings.  (I confess that I kept open an innertoobs window to MLB Gameday to follow teh game while I was at work.  Bad Robbo.  Naughty, unproductive Robbo.  If Zoot and Dingle of Castle Anthrax are available, I guess I’ll just have to take my punishment valiantly.   Because, you know, I’m very valiant.)

Anyhoo, so here we go, and here’s to the next six months of bliss!

UPDATE:  Our Maximum Leader, in comments to another post below, suggests that we need to meet up for a Nats’ game this summah.  I concur completely.   Who, among you local friends of teh decanter are with us?  Let me know, either via comments or teh email (found in the “About” thingy in the upper right).

UPDATED DEUX:  On re-reading the above 24 hours later, I confess that “semi-cheat of happiness” is a rayther bizarre expression.  I think what I meant was that my enthusiasm for the day would have been curtailed somewhat had the Nats managed to blow the game.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here but ol’ Robbo has been dealing with a sinus infection off and on for the past few weeks, something that always seems to happen round about this time of year.  I say “off and on” because the symptoms have waxed and wained, sometimes getting to the point where I think that yes, I probably ought to go see the doc, but then moderating again so as to encourage just toughing the thing out.  (One of ol’ Robbo’s medical maxims is the avoidance of antibiotics unless and until they’re absolutely necessary, lest trivial dosings render them ineffective when they’re truly needed.)

The past couple days, the symptoms seem to be getting worse again.  My sinus cavity feels as if it’s lined with several inches of lead, there’s a constant irritation at the back of my throat and I’ve been feeling generally run down, dizzy and beat.

I report all this not in an attempt to to garner cheap sympathy or to worry teh Mothe, but to lay the foundation so that friends of the decanter will understand the dread with which I faced the prospect of attending teh youngest gel’s recorder and choral concert at St. Marie of the Blessed Educational Method this evening.   Nineteen 4th, 5th and 6th graders, of (shall we say) varying degrees of talent,  playing about fifteen different tunes, from “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” and “‘Tis A Gift To Be Simple” through some Mozart, some Stravinsky and a couple of Irish jigs to “Amazing Grace”, all tutti ensemble and maybe 20 feet from where I was sitting would have been a tall order even were I in perfect health.

So, pardon me a second while I close my weary eyes just remembering it.

Anyhoo, I did a bit o’ research this evening to try and discover who had the bright idea of championing the modern, plastic recorder as the grade-school musickal instrument of choice but, after a whole five minutes on the Innertoobs, drew a blank.  The closest relevant information I could find came from the ‘recorder’ entry at “Simple English Wikipedia”, which seems to be a dumbed down version of Wiki prime.  The relevant paragraphs:

Plastic recorders were invented in the 20th century. They are cheap and vary greatly in quality (that is often not related to the price) depending on the manufacturer. They are easy instruments to play simple music. Many elementary schools use plastic recorders to teach music to children.

The head joint of the recorder is used as a noise, rhythm and effect instrument, and as a toy musical instrument with children. Because the recorder head works like a whistle, it can be used as such. With a bit practice, it is easy to play all kind of rhythms. Effects are made by opening and covering the lower end of the head joint with the hand while blowing. Many players blow harder like “normal” recorder playing (like with a pea whistle), to get a very shrill and loud sound. Professor Agnes Dorwarth of the Hochschule für Musik Freiburg argues this is an attractive way to get children to play with part of the instrument, which can make playing the entire instrument more inviting.

Yeah.  Whenever I’m subjected to this particular “shrill and loud sound”, I renew my resolve to track down the originator of the bright idea of mixing school kids with recorders and doing something to him or her with one or more of the latter quite unprintable on a family blog.  If nobody else comes forward, Professor Dorwarth better not let me catch her alone in a dark alley.

At any rate, I survived.  So I got that going for me.

Still, it’s slowly sinking in that after fourteen years (if my math is right) of having one or more of the gels at St. Marie, we are down to our final semester of student participation there (although Mrs. R will continue to teach and I’ve a feeling they won’t let me resign from the Board no matter how much I want to).  Somehow, that makes these little events – however teeth-gritting they may be in themselves – all the more important in a symbolic sense, the back markers (as it were) of a particular stage of the life of the Family Robbo.  Next year, teh youngest will go off to middle school, while her elder sisters will both be in high school with the eldest eyeing her collegiate options (prayers, please).    This nostalgic reflection provides at least a bit of  armor and is allowing ol’ Robbo to treat these things with something approaching good will.  Why, I might even go so far as to attend the annual spring fair without becoming enraged by the inevitable clown’s refusal to confess, confess!, that wearing thick face paint, a heavy wig and a polyester suit while making balloon animals under a bright sun and in humid, 90 degree heat makes her happy-go-lucky air a complete put-on.

Lousy, rotten clowns…..

But that’s a topic for another post.  In the meantime, as I say, as much discomfort as this evening’s concert caused on one level, on another I’m glad I went.






Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Well, for those of you keeping score, Mrs. R and the younger gels arrived home earlier this evening safe and sound – and looking indecently tanned – from their Spring Break jaunt down to Flahrduh with no casualties suffered either among them or, it should be noted, between those of us left here to man the fort.  Indeed, it seems a pretty good time was had all round.

Of course, regularly-scheduled mayhem will recommence tomorrow morning at 6 ack emma, sharp.

Oh, and what the hey, enjoy!

My Lenten fast this year (at least the one that stuck) is to refrain from listening to musick.

I am not yet at that level of religious purity that I can compel myself, by not listening to musick, to stop thinking about it.   The past week, a particular piece has fastened itself on my brain, so this evening I am indulging in it.   And so, my fellow friends of the decanter, I give you Georg Frideric Handel’s Concerto Grosso, Opus 3, No. 1 in B-flat major:

The first movement, and ol’ George’s use of those arpeggios in particular, has been on my mind all week.  I don’t especially know why, but there is a good-natured air to the movement that somehow gives me strength and vitality.


Ancient Roman Fresco Painting of Flora Picking FlowersGreetings, my fellow port swillers and Happy Spring!

Regular friends of the decanter and former camelidophiles will know that ol’ Robbo is in the habit of regularly posting this ancient Roman fresco of Flora picking flowers on the first official day of Spring.   I have always found it to be a particularly delightful work of art, the Goddess lovingly portrayed in a graceful, dignified and yet uplifting manner, and a source of hope and inspiration.

Well, I wish that this year ol’ Flora would drop the bouquet and devote her divine powers to putting her knee to Snow Miser’s groin, as he’s  really outstayed his welcome.  We already had a mid-March snowstorm this week and now the weather-wallahs are making noise about the possibility of another one next week.  This week’s seems to have been dubbed Snow Patrick’s.  Will next Tuesday’s predicted event be dubbed the Snownunciation?   (Somehow, I doubt it, but a Catholic geek can always hope.)

Anyhoo, I know that friends of the decanter in more northerly climbs than mine will only chuckle at my frustration, but of course these things are all a matter of scale and expectation.   (Remember, I grew up in South Texas.  By this time of year down there, I’d already be sweating.)  And frankly, the mid-Atlantic in mid-March should not be experiencing the same kind of weather as teh Mothe normally gets at this time of year in Mid-Coast Maine.    It just ain’t right!

Damn you, Algore! Damn you to heeeelllll!!!!!!


On a somewhat related note, teh Middle Gel has bagged herself a ticket to go see a concert next week by an outfit I’d never heard of called  The Piano Guys.  This evening, as an example of their output, she showed me their mash-up of “Winter” from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons with “Let It Go” from the recent Disney movie “Frozen”:

Weyeell,  I frankly think that the crossover from the one work to the other is a bit, erm, jarring.  And I, personally, would  have preferred  to take the Vivaldi neat.  On the other hand, who am I to criticize at 14 year old these days whose tastes aren’t of the thumpa-thumpa-thumpa-yo-yo-yo-dawgz n’ beyotches variety?

However, while watching the video together, I was reminded suddenly of a yootoob I had seen several times of the third movement of ol’ Antonio’s flute concerto “The Goldfinch”, RV 428*.  I could not immediately find it but promised teh gel that I would do so this evening and post it here for her pleasure.  And here it is:

I hope teh gel takes me up on this and actually watches the durn thing.  Frankly, Ol’ Robbo is something  of a purist himself when it comes to art musick, disdaining “multi-media” stunts to get people interested in it, but I can’t deny that this is an excellent performance.

* There’s an old joke about Vivaldi in musick geek circles.  We have a catalogue of approximately 500 concerti credited to him.  The joke goes that he really only wrote two but that he wrote each one 250 times.  N’yuk, n’yuk.n’yuk.

N.C. Wyeth, "Last of the Mohicans" illustration, 1917.

N.C. Wyeth, “Last of the Mohicans” illustration, 1917.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Prompted by catching AMC’s umpteenth re-showing of Braveheart t’other evening, ol’ Robbo started to write a post on the predictability of Mel Gibson movie characters, but after re-reading the draft, I decided that my insights were so bloody obvious that they would insult the collective intelligence of my fellow port swillers.  So consider yourselves spared.

In keeping with the theme of big-budget 90′s historickal beefcake films, however, I will note instead that, following up on my recent re-enjoyment of Francis Parkman’s history of French and British colonial history in North America, I’ve chucked Last of the Mohicans into the ol’ Netflix queue again.

Friends of the decanter might be puzzled by this.  After all,  said movie makes a complete hash of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel – the wrong couples get together, the wrong characters live and die and the movie’s Major Hayward is teleported in from the Bearded-Spock Universe – and we all know what Robbo thinks of movie bowderlizations of cherished books.   (Peter Jackson, for example, is going straight to hell.)

So how can I watch this one?  The key word here is “cherished”.   I’ve never understood why Cooper enjoys the literary status that he does, or anyway did back in the day when more young people still knew how to read.  His books, at least to me, are long-winded, pompous, condescending and heavy-handed.  And, as Mark Twain famously noted, as a limousine liberal of his day, Cooper not only was a poor writer, he also didn’t know what the hell he was talking about when it came to stories of the wild.  Frankly, I struggled through LOTM and I positively gave up on his Wing and Wing after a couple chapters despite the fact that it was a sea-story.  So it simply doesn’t bother me much that his tale of Natty Bumppo is so thoroughly mangled by the film.

Well, there is one part that bothers me:  Col. Munro, the real one, was not killed in the massacre at Fort William-Henry by Magwa or anyone else.  He actually died some months later, apparently from exhaustion.   And I recall that the movie downplays the fact that many of those murdered and carried away by Montcalm’s Indian allies were women and children.

Nonetheless, the movie is gorgeously filmed (although I believe at least some of the scenes were shot in the Blue Ridge near Roanoke instead of the Adirondacks ), there’s plenty of action and a lot of the period (circa 1757) detail is pretty good.   And for some reason, Robbo’s beloved Nationals have adopted its score as the “theme” musick at the beginning of their home games.  Kinda gets to you after  a while.

Oh, may I also note here in reference to the pic above that I absolutely love N.C. Wyeth’s work?  Sure, the man was but an illustrator, but he carried illustration to a sublime level.  I’d take ol’ N.C. over a legion of “abstract” artistes any day.


**Spot the reference.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Now that the days are growing longer again, ol’ Robbo’s evening commute currently begins right around sunset.  Heading west nor’west from the office to Port Swiller Manor, I get the full glory of dusk across my windshield.

Know one of the things I’ve always loved seeing at this time of day?  The contrails of jets heading west.  There’s something about the rosy glow of the vapor trail and the (occasional) twinkle of the plane itself, set against the profound blue depth of the sky, that moves me.   I can’t really explain it, except that there is some combination of the aesthetic, historickal, musical and religious connotations that strikes home.

Yes, I include “musickal”.   There’s a recitative from Purcell’s King Arthur that I always associate with this time of day.

Cold Genius:

Great Love, I know thee now:
Eldest of the gods art thou.
Heav’n and earth by thee were made.
Human nature is thy creature,
Ev’rywhere thou art obey’d.

And lest you draw the wrong, Niles Crane-like, conclusions, I may point out that when I articulated the idea to a young Randy-Mack gel long ago while we were driving along the Blue Ridge Parkway, the only thing that stopped her from jumping me then and there was the fact that she was a good Catholic girl and I was semi-hemi-demi-seeing her friend.  It’s a long story.

But those records are sealed.

On the other hand, in messing about researching this post, I stumbled across the following YooToob clip of the Passacaille from the same King Arthur, about which was made a movie of which I had not heard,  England, My England – The Story of Henry Purcell.  Not Netflix-worthy, apparently, but available at the devil’s website.

Enjoy teh sample:

I may cough up the readies to see the whole thing.

Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

Yet another round of snow this morning in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor.  Fortunately, the temperature is well above freezing so it doesn’t look like more shoveling the driveway for ol’ Robbo.  Still, I think the ref ought to throw the flag on Snow Miser for taunting.

Still in my “hoping for spring” mood referenced in the post below, I am half inclined today to shovel out a path to the grill so I can do up some steaks for dins this evening.   You know, “snap my fingers at the foeman’s taunts” as Sir Joseph Porter, KCB, would say.

We shall see.  I have to replace the flow valve of the downstairs loo first, always a fun job.  I’ll decide whether to take on the extra work once that’s done.

And speaking of the loo, I discovered this week that my children, on whose collective education we have already expended lavish sums of money, appear to be illiterate.   You see, when the old flow valve gave up the ghost, I shut off the water line and put a very large note on the lid reading, “DO NOT USE!”

I need hardly tell you the sequel.


UPDATE:  Decided to go for it.  I suddenly developed an overwhelming craving for bratwurst and you really can’t cook those any other way than on the grill.

Georg Phillip Telemann’s violin concerto in A Major “Die Reline” (“The Frogs”).

Ol’ Robbo spent several hours this morning hacking away at the layer of ice that Storm Snochi left on his driveway as a parting gift before heading on up the seaboard.  I’m not sure which is worse, the strained back and calves from shoveling off her initial foot+ deposit or the blisters from clearing away her follow-up present.

However, it was really rayther a nice day in the neighborhood of Port Swiller Manor, with an absolutely brilliant blue sky and temperatures in teh 40′s.  And as I chipped away, the smell of the sun on the melting ice gave me renewed hope to believe that spring is not that far away.

Which brought me further to think about the fact that during the spring and summah around here, after a rainfall the woods behind Port Swiller Manor are often full of the sound of frogs singing away, a sound that I always love to hear.

Which made me think of Telemann’s little exercise in tone-painting.


ohmyson-264x264Greetings, my fellow port swillers!

As we batten down the hatches and prepare for the onslaught of the latest Storm of the Century of the Week, ol’ Robbo is listening to “Oh My Son”, a piece of choral musick by a young contemporary fellah named Marcos Galvany.

The piece, described as “operatic tableaux”, purports to portray the story of various incidents in the life of Jesus that the composer recalls being told by his mother during his yoot in Spain.   It seems to have premiered about three or four years ago to enthusiastic reception, and has since been performed in several prime venues, including the Vatican.

On just a first hearing, it doesn’t seem to be too bad to me, although it feels a little more Broadway than Seven Last Words, if you know what I mean.   Still, compared to what often passes as “musick” these days, it is quite refreshing in its adherence to traditional forms.

Anyhoo, the reason I’m listening to it – or even aware of it at all, for that matter – is that Galvany is getting ready to release a limited edition CD of the thing, and a couple of tracks are going to feature none other than teh Middle Gel and her fellow choristers.  They recorded their bits this past weekend:


(Pic lifted from Señor Galvany’s FB page.  I’m sure he won’t mind, since I’m plugging his CD here.)

Is ol’ Robbo proud of his daughter, the professional musician?  Oh, you betcha!

UPDATE:  It was only as I was typing this post that I realized the link to the piece leads to a loop.  I thought the musick sounded rayther repetitive….

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