Jul 13

Chasing Happiness

“Happiness in this world, when it comes, comes incidentally. Make it the object of pursuit, and it leads us a wild-goose chase, and is never attained. Follow some other object, and very possibly we may find that that we have caught happiness without dreaming of it.” — Nathaniel Hawthorne, American novelist and essayist. The American Notebooks (1851) [Quoted in Time, July 8, 2013 cover story, “The Pursuit of Happiness.”]

In my case, I decided to chase after music (learning to play the blues) and found…endless challenges, frustration, anxiety, disappointment…but more importantly the satisfaction, joy and exhilaration of making music. I also discovered a passion for music that I expect to last the rest of my life.

Whether your “object of pursuit” is music, art, literature, public service, cooking or knitting, I hope you find something you love that leads to similar challenges and joys.




Jul 13

The Heart of the Beat

As a faithful listener to public broadcasting, and especially our local NPR station, WBEZ-FM, I have had my share of “driveway moments”–when I become so engrossed in an unexpected story that I stop what I was doing to continue listening. I often turn on the radio in the kitchen while I’m cooking or doing dishes. More often than not, it’s in the middle of a program or story.

Tonight I stumbled on an episode of the Canadian Broadcasting program, “Ideas.” I’ve heard it a few times, mostly by chance, and have usually found it interesting. The 1 July program on synchrony was enthralling. (Merriam-Webster defines “synchrony” as “a state in which things happen, move, or exist at the same time.”)

The CBC website summarized it this way:

What is it about rhythm, pattern, and synchronization that fascinate us? How do pacemaker cells in a heart synchronize? How can thousands of people unconsciously walk in step? There are so many recurring patterns in nature like ripples in sand and the stripes of a zebra. In speaking with musicians, mathematicians, and psychologists, filmmaker Tess Girard explores the idea of rhythm and what it means to us.

You can listen to the hour-long program from the website above or download a podcast from this page. I highly recommend it.


Jul 13

Finding a Lost “Friend”

Last year I came across a list of favorite music I’d started compiling years earlier and one of the pieces was a violin concerto by Antonio Vivaldi, one of my favorite classical composers. Unfortunately, the list didn’t show the name of the piece and he wrote over 230 violin concertos. I set about listening to Vivaldi CDs I owned and others from the library. I knew it was the second Andante movement, but none that I listened to quite matched the poignant and moving quality I recalled.

This afternoon I played an old LP that John Lee Hooker and Canned Heat had made together (Hooker n’ Heat, 1971). Then I noticed that among the records I’d gotten out to play some time ago was a 1980 Musical Heritage Society recording of Vivaldi mandolin concertos. On a hunch I played the last piece on side two and that was it: Concerto a Due Chori in B-Flat Major, P. 368/F.I. No. 60, “Con Violino Discordato,” strings and B.C [RV 583].

When I looked online for a CD of the piece, I found only a couple of recordings are available. You can listen to it here on YouTube.

Antonio Lucio Vivaldi was born March 4, 1678 in Venice, Italy and died July 28, 1741 in Vienna, Austria. He’s best known for “The Four Seasons” (circa 1725), but also for his 12 concertos “L’estro armonico” op.3 (1711). I enjoy these and other works by Vivaldi, but this concerto for “violino discordato” will always have a special place.