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In case anybody wants to buy (and even maybe go so far as to read) my latest-issued book, here’s how to get it easily: in North America, the most direct way is via this link. In the rest of the world, you can get it from your country’s Amazon site, if it has one, or anyone anywhere can start from this central link.

Table of Contents: 1000


RIP Richard Rephann. 

February 6, 2015

Richard Rephann with a student. Photo by Harold Shapiro

Richard Rephann with a student. Photo by Harold Shapiro

Just last night I made a mental note to check on my old teacher and his health, and now I stumble on this sad news. His lessons were marked by plain-speaking (I remember that I once said that I had a technical issue that I wanted to work out in a piece, and his comment was: “At your age [I was 21], any technical issue is a matter of geriatrics”); but he was also remarkably generous to me in ways that mattered, and when I received my degree I was stunned at the voluntary offers of professional help and unexpected recommendations that he gave me.

In memoriam: Richard Rephann, 82 — Yale School of Music


If you’re a musician (or an exponent of any other art or craft), you may have long since reconciled yourself to the idea that nobody expects you to have anything worth saying about politics, current events, or other subjects of general interest. If you want to change that, you might consider moving to Catalonia. Today I was on Barcelona television for the fifth time in three years (the first two times being while I still lived in New York but was known to be involved with Catalan culture). I’ve also been interviewed on the whole of two radio programs and had a full-page interview in my (small-town) paper. Smaller societies are different from the vast United States expanse and gargantuan media culture that I grew up in. Small countries have great advantages for exchanging ideas.

Here’s today’s program:


Just when the eternal rotation of a half-dozen Christmasish songs in the shops is definitively fading into the distance for what soon will have seemed a brief few months, when I no longer have to preserve my sanity by mentally composing myriad descants over “Jingle Bells” and “Feliz Navidad,” and no longer find myself pursued everywhere by “Home For the Holidays” (which is not, one would have thought, the most tactful thing to keep playing in a town that is twelve per-cent immigrants), I’ve evidently reached the final degradation that piped-in music can effect on me.

After enduring the annoyance of an offensive-but-catchy tune in one store, I walked into another store and was momentarily annoyed that their music was interrupting the repetition of the other tune in my head.

It’s a wonder that the population has any musical sensibility remaining at all.


A radio interview (in Catalan).


December 1, 2014


A language fact that I learned today: in English, where we usually have so many words for the same thing (which is why our dictionaries are so much thicker than those of any other European language), we use the same word, leg, for that department of a person, animal, table, chair, piano, etc. In Catalan, a person’s leg is a cama (which, confusingly enough around here, is the Spanish word for bed, whereas Catalans call a bed a llit). But an animal or piece of furniture doesn’t have a cama, but a pota. Unless it’s a chicken, in which case it trots around on a cuixa.

But that’s a minor problem for a learner like me (who came upon all this today only because I wanted to know how to refer to a dog’s hind leg, or pota posterior). I am constantly reminded of the barriers that English puts up for non-native speakers. I’m just taking at random a word like joke. Jest, jibe, crack, drollery, funny, gag, jape, josh, pleasantry, wisecrack, witticism. Oh, my. How lucky I am to have absorbed such things in infancy without effort!


The Delphic advice to “know thyself” should have a modern footnote saying that one way of doing that is to see oneself on television. I was on a talk show on Thursday and had the modified rapture of seeing myself as others see me. It’s always a surprise. For example, I had no idea that I ever would start a sentence with “Mind you . . .”


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