Category Archives: review of music

The Nerdwriter

Evan Puschak is a genius and a masterful artist working in the medium of the video blog.  He educated himself with intentions of working in the film industry, but he has found his niche by posting on YouTube a long series of insightful, in-depth video essays on what it means to be an artist, how an artist does what he does, and even theories about how the world of art works.  And not just for the sake of movie reviews, though he does some of the best of that kind of work that I have ever seen.  He knows about painting, television, speech making, essay writing… in fact, everything it takes to be a really great essayist in the manner of  Michel de Montaigne who created the form in the 1500’s.

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Find Evan here on Twitter

Of course, I can’t make you understand the true scope of his essay-making powers without showing you some of his work.  So let me give you a heads up on some of his many wonderful creations and insights;

Here he examines the phenomenon of Trump speaking;

His insights and analysis inspire me to always dig deeper and look for the patterns that underlie the way things occur.  He is a master explainer who can connect ideas and facts together for you seamlessly.  And it is not only the art of speaking and essay-writing that he knows in depth.  He understands all sorts of art.

Here is his take on a single painting by Picasso;

Interpreting things is a matter of opinion, but he breaks down his opinions point by point and uses the evidence he is pointing out to you to help you follow how he reaches his conclusions.  He talks about 5 ways you can look at Picasso’s painting and gain a deeper understanding, not only of this one painting, but of all paintings.

I deeply love the films of Guillermo del Toro, and none more than his masterpiece, Pan’s Labyrinth.  It is a weird and horrifyingly wonderful fairy tale of people, politics, and surreal juxtapositions of fantasy used to cope with people and politics.  But the Nerdwriter’s analysis not only helps me understand del Toro’s creation better, it makes me love it more.

And I can’t help but notice how Evan uses his film-maker talent and understanding of film to craft videos that flawlessly weave narration, idea, video clips, and music together in a way that even Frank Capra or Alfred Hitchcock or Martin Scorsese could learn from.  Witness this from his take on Pixar’s Inside Out.

There is such a pleasing power in the art-appreciation engines of this man’s video blogs that I could go on gushing about it and linking more videos here all day long.  Believe me, I have lost whole days of work to binging on his videos.  But I have to draw the conclusions sooner rather than later.  I don’t want to waste your time reading this humble blog when you could be sending your mind soaring with these Nerdwriter videos.  So, please, explore them and tempt fate to start you on a new addiction.

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Filed under art criticism, education, humor, insight, movie review, review of music, sharing from YouTube, strange and wonderful ideas about life

Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minor

You should listen to the music.  Not only is it beautiful, it is the perfect description of the now.  Yes, I am a touch depressed, and the music is deep blue.  But there are such strains of the bittersweet and angelic light, that Albinoni must be speaking directly from his heart into mine.  This music paints my soul.

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The sky reflects my mood with lurking dark blues and obscuring clouds incapable of completely taking away the sun.  I finally had enough money to visit the doctor today.  I had an infection in throat and sinus.  I got medicine to heal the sores, and the medicine will prevent pneumonia, and probably saved my life.

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My family was whole and together for the holidays, though three of us were sick for a good share of it and unable to spend the time together  as we would’ve liked.  Still, even though we had to take number one son to DFW Airport in the rain and send him back to Marine world, we got to see him and share good times with him, no matter how short.  Deep blue with angelic violins of musical light.  He made it back safely.  I have more days and probably more months to live and write.  And the music of existence continues to quietly play.

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I continue to collect photos of new dawns.  Here is December 27th.

It is possible that Tomaso Albinoni did not write the Adagio in G Minor.  It is believed that it was cobbled together as a sort of hoax by his chief transcriber, Remo Giazotto.  He apparently took old Dresden manuscripts and made this beautiful piece as a reflection of the work of Albinoni.  Albinoni,a prolific composer of the 1700’s, beloved by Johan Sebastian Bach, wrote opera scores that never quite got published, and so,even though he is a composer of many musical works, most of them are lost to history.  Yet, how can such a thing be considered a fake?  The music touches my soul.  From Albinoni’s soul, through Giazotto’s, to mine, and, hopefully, thence to yours.  Listen to it.  Really listen.  You can’t help but understand what I mean.  Even if you can’t stand classical music.  Though, if you truly can’t stand classical music… I weep for thee.

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Filed under classical music, commentary, Depression, family, feeling sorry for myself, forgiveness, humor, illness, old art, review of music, strange and wonderful ideas about life

A Night at the Symphony

Last night my wife took us to the Dallas Symphony Orchestra for a performance of Gustav Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied (The Song of Lamentation).  So, you can bet we were in for a happy night just based on the title of the piece.  As you might’ve detected from the post title’s similarity to the Marx Brother’s movie A Night at the Opera, I took along my wacky mental versions of the Marx Brothers… whom I call the Snarcks Brothers.  They are Scarpigo, Cinco, and Zero Snarcks. Think Groucho, Chico, and Harpo, and then my mental fartgas won’t prevent you from understanding quite as easily.

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Jaap Van Zweden, conductor of the DSO, and aspiring impersonator of Grumpy from the Seven Dwarfs

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Scarpigo, Cinco, and Zero Snarcs… so to speak…

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love classical music and I like Mahler okay.  But his music tends to be depressing and sad.  I don’t mean merely depressing and sad, but deep down at the bottom of the canyon with hill giants tossing boulders at your head in the midst of a thunderstorm symphonic sort of depressing and sad.  It could really bum me out, so I was prepared to have Scarpigo lean over the balcony rail numerous times to shout “Booga-booga!” at the concert goers.  And the Blues lost to the Sharks in the Stanley Cup playoffs already this past week.

Fortunately the DSO often adopts the old movie theater tactic of cartoon shorts before the feature film… the same way Pixar does for Disney now.  They chose Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto as the cartoon short.  Now this is also supposed to be sad music, a single clarinet, a single harp, and a single piano… surrounded by violins, the gushing tears of every symphony orchestra.  But it is Copland, my fourth favorite composer of all time, behind only DeBussy, Motzart, and Beethoven.  As a synesthete, I can tell you that Copland’s music is always no bluer than silver, and tends to be more vermilion, rosy pink, yellow-orange and carmine red… more happy and passionate than depressing.  Then too, Cinco Snarcks whispered in my ear that since I have this Van Zweden/ Grumpy thing going on already in my head, I should look carefully at the clarinet soloist.  Yep, bald head, white hair and slight white beard and glasses… Doc!  And the pianist, bald head and big ears… Dopey!  The night would be Gustav Mahler and the Seven Dwarfs.  Zero Snarcks was thinking about squeezing off a toot or three from his little horn and maybe using light cords hanging from the ceiling for an impromptu trapeze act, but he took one look at the elegant, swan-like harpist  and fell too much in love to interrupt.

The main show, however, was everything I thought it was going to be, and worse.  They had a translator screen hung from the cords Zero wanted to go for a swing on, that took all the incomprehensible choir-crooned lyrics and translated them from German into English.  The story of Das Klagende Lied is taken from the Grimm Fairy Tale, The Bone Flute.  It tells the tale of two knightly brothers, one good and one evil, who set out to win the hand of a very self-centered but beautiful queen.  She can only be won by the finding of a special red flower that grows under a willow tree.  The knights agree to split up and search the enchanted forest for the flower.  Naturally, the good knight finds it and plucks it, putting it in the band of his hat.  And just as naturally, the good knight flops down stupidly under the willow tree to take a nap.  The evil brother finds his brother sleeping and sees the flower in his hat.  So, like any evil knight would, he kills his brother and takes the flower.

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Scarpigo’s comment on this particular story.

The evil brother then rushes off to the queen’s castle.  A minstrel wanders past the willow tree, finds a gleaming leg bone, and immediately thinks, “I have to make that into a flute!”  And when he does, the only song the flute will play is the lament about how the evil brother made meat pie out of his good brother and stole the flower.  Then, naturally enough, the flute forces the minstrel to go play at the wedding.

I’m sure you know how it goes from there.  The queen hears the bone flute’s enchanted song and flops down dead, apparently a heart-attack from shock.  And if the queen dies, then the castle has to magically fall down on the new king, the minstrel. and all the wedding guests.  A gruesome, terrible time is had by all.

So, I had a good time after all.  Scarpigo leans over to whisper to me, “That was more fun than a barrel of monkeys smoking crack, wasn’t it?”  Yes, purple, blue, blue-violet, and indigo music, and I am left depressed as hell. But when my wife asked how I liked it, I put on a happy face and said, “That’s the silliest thing I ever heard!”

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Filed under commentary, Depression, flowers, foolishness, goofy thoughts, humor, music, review of music

Music is Life

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Last night, in the middle of the downpour in Dallas, my wife dragged the Princess and I kicking and complaining to a special concert of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.  It was one of those things… a Friday night after a long, hard week… tired bodies and aching arthritis… and she only gave us one day’s notice that she was going to do it.  But we couldn’t waste the tickets once they’d been purchased.  And the star of the show was Ashley Brown whom we’d seen in the Broadway version of Mary Poppins when it came to Dallas at the theater in Fair Park.

I don’t normally associate the DSO with Broadway musical music.  I tend to think Tchaikovsky and Beethoven.  But it couldn’t have been a fairer treat as a compensation for yielding to wifey’s whims.  Ms. Brown was vocal-tastic and utterly spell-binding as she sang “The Bird Woman” from Mary Poppins, and a toe-tingling medley of Disney songs that reached a tear-inducing crescendo with “When You Wish Upon a Star.”  Several songs by themselves would have made the evening totally worthwhile, but she topped the evening off with a rendition of “Defying Gravity” from  Wicked.  And it all helped me realize that I need music practically as much as I need air to breathe.  Music is life.

Part of what made the week so difficult was driving kids to and from school and events with rainy weather soaking the furious flying idiots on the roadways of Dallas as they barrel along in their Warp-10 wasp rockets and SUVs.  I constantly flip on the radio to the local Classical Music Radio Station, 101.1 FM.  The healing effects of classical music make me able to cope with maniac drivers and suicidal killer Texas grandmothers driving.  It calms me down and makes me sharper for dodging all those drivers who are driving the “Texas Friendly” way, which means, “Kill them before they kill you!”

“When You Wish Upon a Star” was the song I sang every night to all three of my babies as I rocked them to sleep.  The essential message of that song was the milk I tried to nourish my children on.  “When you wish upon a star/ Makes no difference who you are/ When you wish upon a star/ As dreamers do./ No request is too extreme/ If your heart is in your dreams/ When you wish upon a star/ Your dreams come true.”  It’s a goopy, sentimental thing, I know.  But I have to believe in the fundamental goodness of being a human being on planet Earth.  We are where we belong and good things find you when keep faith with the wish and the star.

So I am grateful that my family forced me to go to the symphony last night.  It is the “spoonful of sugar” that I need to make my way in a world that is increasingly hard to deal with and ever more painful.  I depend on music to keep me alive in so many ways, physical, emotional, and spiritual.  It makes me wish that I could write music.  But hopefully my writing becomes music in some obscure way.  The truth is beautiful and I love the sweet musical sound of it.

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Filed under classical music, humor, review of music