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September 13 edition
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Upcoming events:

Sun. Sep. 15   3 p.m. "Bach to Bach"
                        with Violinist Devin Arrington at Heinz Chapel, Pittsburgh

Sun. Sep. 22   8 pm  a service of Compline at Heinz Chapel, Pittsburgh (45 min.)

Wed. Sep. 25  12:30 p.m. organ recital @Trinity Cathedral, Pittsburgh (30 min, FREE)

this week's featured recording (9.13.19) 

We Thank Thee, God, We Thank Thee

by J. S. Bach (1685-1750)/arr. Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911)

 This week on the blog:    Friday, September 13, 2019
The Hobbit strikes again 

 You don't mind if I take another week away from musical matters to write about re-reading The Hobbit, do you? I tried to resist making this blog series into a trilogy, but I seem to need a little more time to escape the deadlines and the stress, at least on this blog. In real life, I'm practicing for multiple concerts again. The other day I practiced the bulk of three in one day. I just got invited to play at another cathedral--on two week's notice. It's a great opportunity, and I'm enjoying dusting off some old music that I enjoy playing, but I don't really have the time. But I'm doing it anyway. It's exciting, but it's also a very tight schedule, and after another day full of practice, I'm tired.  Let's talk about Bilbo instead.

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When to Clap

Midway through a performance of a flamboyant encore* by one of Classical Music's latest celebrities, a large section of the audience felt impelled to show its appreciation for the proceedings by smashing its forelimbs together in the time-honored fashion. You know, applause.

     I said it was midway through the performance--in fact, he still had about five minutes left in the piece. If he had been playing a jazz solo this would have been quite alright, but in the context of this particular recital the rules were different. The audience, having no cause to consult those embarrassing social norms, and having heard a loud chord issuing forth from the piano, innocently assumed the piece must be done, and began to show the executant its gratitude for that by reminding him that there was only one of him and many more of them, and after all, they appreciated his efforts, but really now, collectively they could make a lot more noise than he could. We like to keep our artists humble.

   As there was no referee present the recital went on without penalty or loss of down, and the pianist continued to perpetrate sound throughout the concert hall until he, not his fellow men, decided that he was finished. What cheek.

Nevertheless, instant replay clearly showed that a rule had been violated. Normally this is punishable by death stares from the crankier and therefore more knowledgeable members of the audience,

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first posted July 18, 2009

There's been a lot of talk this week, during the Sotomayor confirmation hearings, about precedent. This is the curious process by which a court, in deciding a case, checks to see what other courts and judges have said about the same or similar issues in the past. Anyone who is studying to become a lawyer can quote mountains of legal precedents, and so it is no surprise a judicial appointee at such a high level (she was a lawyer once, you know) has had her thinking practically saturated with them.

I referred to the idea as a curious concept because, if all you ever do before rendering a ruling is to go see what everyone else has already ruled on the matter, your job has pretty much already been done for you. In this sense, we are operating under a kind of legal peer pressure in which nobody wants to do anything that hasn't been done before. Of course, strictly following precedent is a luxury even the most conformist judge can't afford in real life, not the least because if everybody merely followed precedent (if this were even possible) then there would be no precedent to start with. No--Sooner or later somebody slips up and we get the sense that we are working with a live person with their own opinion, whether it has been 'informed' by precedent or not.

In Ms. Sotomayor's case it is wise to use the issue of precedent as a kind of cover. If you don't want to make waves you'll be sure to be able to say that you were just doing what everybody wanted you to do, or had already done. You'll assure people that you are hardly acting on your own in any discernible way, and that you are a responsible part of the system whose own particular biases cannot be pinned down.

If, on the other hand, you want to gain attention, the best way to do it is buck precedent. People will love you, or they'll hate you, in large quantities all around, but your visibility will command attention. I bring all this up because we have the same thing in music. Art music, anyway.

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The Second Heinz Chapel Recital

This week marks my third concert appearance at Pittsburgh's Heinz Memorial Chapel, this time with violinist Devin Arrington, and if you haven't seen it, this blog from last fall, consisting mostly of pictures, shows what a spectacular place it is. Enjoy.



Heinz Memorial Chapel in Pittsburgh is a really nice place to play an organ recital. It is, as you will see, quite visually spectacular. Frank Kurtik, one of the docents there (and a super nice guy) takes spectacular pictures, and in this case the subject matter doesn't make that too difficult. Strangely enough, although I gave a recital there in May, none of the pictures Frank took this time around matched any of the angles from the last time.

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