One of the saddest facts of my life is that I do not look as cool as I feel.  I generally believe (on my good days) that I am incredibly charismatic.  Yet it’s been my experience that people who don’t know me tend to think I’m fairly ordinary.


Of course, once I do my thing folks tend to come around.  Doing solid, reliable work is the main reason.  Beyond that, the most important thing seems to be eye contact.


At some point in the last few centuries, some of us got this idea in our heads that music should be worshipped.  We started by worshipping musicians, especially composers like Handel, the first composer to be famous for being famous (he has remained famous because he’s great, by the way).  Then, because music notation improved, we began to worship pieces like Beethoven’s late String Quartets.


As the recording industry developed, we even started worshipping performances: legendary captured events like Robert Johnson’s first blues recordings, Duke Ellington’s performance at the Newport Festival, and then manufactured performances done with the help of the studio, from “Stairway to Heaven” to Glenn Gould’s wonderful Frankenstein-monster recordings.  A cappella choral, popular, “ethnic” music that used to be seen as “not serious” began to be worshipped too.  Is all of this okay?

I just returned from Jerusalem where I gave a presentation on music and math notation.  One of the things I presented was how we understand music by relating the moment we are in to moments that came before, and moments that are yet to come.  In this sense, music is a kind of four-dimensional object which moves us into imaginary spaces.


It’s somehow appropriate that I was asked to present this topic in Israel, where I have never been before, never thought I’d see, but have always been expected as a Jew to someday go. 

I get tired of solving problems.  I try to avoid them.  I try to avoid getting into them at all.


That may actually not be the best strategy.

I both love and hate Mozart.  So much of his music is so very astounding, in its breadth, its difficulty, and the complexity of its construction.  From my perspective, though, there is a difference between his best and his run-of-the-mill great that says something about the man, and about us as lovers of the man.

When I don’t get any feedback from the people with whom I’ve shared my creative work, it can hurt a lot worse than when they tell me they don’t like it.  I need the feedback to get better, but asking repeatedly for it just alienates them.  Over the years I’ve found ways to better understand and manage this unavoidable disappointment.

What’s So Important About the Viola?


Most of us here in the United States know what the violin is.  A lot of us have heard of the viola, though it’s a good bet many people don’t know the difference.  But there’s a big difference.

Another First Date With My Wife


My wife and I went on a date a couple of weeks ago.  We’d been overwhelmed with kids, work, and life, and had been arguing lately. I got panicky:  “What do I do if this brief but important social time we have together ends up being awful?”


I calmed myself down.  I told myself, “The longer I stay married, the more every date is going to have to be the first date.”  And that’s how I approached the evening.


I had the rare opportunity to fully realize one of my dreams.  And you know what happened?  It didn’t feel like I thought it would.


When I’m up on the bandstand, I actually have to play with twice as many people as are up there.  I have to play with the musician I hear.  I also have to play with the musician they think they are.

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