Here’s a smattering of the music I’ve posted on Facebook in the past couple of years, excluding my own stuff.

March 27, 2018

Somewhat randomly I encountered “Folk Alley’s 100 Most Essential Folk Songs” and decided to make my way through the selections. Being the result of listener polls, it’s questionable as a “curation,” but still interesting to explore. I only knew around half of the titles. Of those that were new to me, I think my favorite is Tom Rush’s rendition of Joni Mitchell’s “Urge for Going,” with guitar contributions by Bruce Langhorne, the original Mr. Tambourine Man.

January 5, 2018

From the archives, an advertisement for Muzak with a customer quote stating that “Music by MUZAK is as important to us as fluorescent lighting, proper ventilation, and air conditioning.”


August 3, 2017

This performance of Toch’s “Geographical Fugue” (1930) showed up in my feed the other day. The piece aims to have all the elements a traditional fugue might have, like exposition, recapitulation, stretto, etc., and it manages to be very entertaining in doing all of that, using only spoken words. After seeing this version, I listened to many others. I can confirm that this is one of the best and most spirited of the available performances, and it’s even better when the listener is slightly drunk! I’m tempted to say that I’m surprised that a “fugue” can be so effective in spoken form, without employing pitch, but of course this performance does employ pitch, in the same way all of us inadvertently do when we speak. 

“Trinidad! And the big Mississippi and the town Honolulu and the lake Titicaca, the Popocatepetl is not in Canada, rather in Mexico, Mexico, Mexico! Canada, Málaga, Rimini, Brindisi Canada, Málaga, Rimini, Brindisi Yes, Tibet, Tibet, Tibet, Tibet, Nagasaki! Yokohama! Nagasaki! Yokohama!”



July 26, 2017

This wonderful extended improvisation came to me through the group “Rare and Strange Instruments.” The fact that it has inspired some haters on YouTube tells us that it must be good. The description miscategorizes it as jazz. It’s more like the spontaneous creation of mid-20th century classical music a la Bartok?/Hindemith?/Shostakovich? with some elements of 16th-century organ music intermixed. Loving the raspy low end of the “regal” stop on this amazing instrument. Look out for some passages with vibrato created by manual shaking of the bellows.


June 30, 2017


June 18, 2017

Remarkable example of composer and performer finding new sounds in an early instrument.


June 14, 2017

At the Boston Early Music festival today, Canadian tenor Bud Roach gave a stunning performance of seventeenth-century English and Italian songs on the theme of “Love’s Torment.” The program was notable for including readings of period poetry and diary excerpts between the musical selections. One of these spoken texts had the audience laughing: it was discussion of the corrupting influence of music and all the vices that can come from practicing it! In some pieces, Bud’s strummed Baroque guitar provided the perfect uncomplicated harmonic anchor for his florid singing; in other pieces, his self-accompaniment on the Italian virginal (early keyboard instrument in the harpsichord family) served as a more intricate and dramatic counterpart to the vocal line. This was particularly so in Purcell’s song “She loves, and she confesses, too” where I heard something decidedly eerie emerge from the keyboard at the words “By what witchcraft wert thou made?” When I spoke to Bud after the concert he let me know that he had prepared his own realization of the keyboard part and had used dissonant tone clusters as a musical evocation of sorcery. Do tone clusters belong in Purcell? Bud assured me that he had consulted several experts on performance practice from this time and they wholeheartedly encouraged the use of this and other vivid devices. But as a listener, I didn’t require any authority’s approval to know that it was musically effective. The Beacon Hill Friends house continues to be one of my favorite small and intimate venues in Boston to enjoy music. Bud’s performances for this festival are complete but let’s hope he returns in 2019. In the meantime check out his three fantastic CDs on the Musica Omnia label. The video below describes his earlier project to revive the self-accompanied songs of Monteverdi’s contemporary, Allesandro Grandi, and it also includes some comments from his producer on how such great and natural sound was achieved in the recording (note to self: learn what a Decca Tree is).


May 30, 2017

This performance surprised and impressed me with its sudden transition from traditional South Indian vocal percussion (konnakol) to Western beatboxing.

[Video not on Youtube, but look for Konnakol Beatboxer Shivaraj Natraj.]


May 22, 2017

I enjoyed this vocal imitation of the reed instrument called Duduk. It came to me via “Overtone Singing News,” a news source that is, in some significant ways, preferable to CNN! The description on YouTube assures the viewer that “What you are about to hear now is going to exceed your expectations.” I would add that “The way it ends might surprise you!”


April 17, 2017

A remarkable cross-temporal collaboration between E. B. White, Pete Seeger, and Warren Senders.


December 24, 2016

John Fahey’s album “The New Possibility.” Amazing (and edgy) steel-string guitar arrangements of traditional Christmas carols.

October 21, 2016

I’ve been listening to the Drummers of Burundi since college – I think P. J. first introduced me to their album on Real World Records. This music came to mind the other day because I attended an interactive exhibit “Forced From Home” at Long Wharf in Boston. It’s a traveling exhibit that showcases the work of Doctors Without Borders. When you enter the exhibit you’re given a “refugee card” with a place of origin and you’re asked to imagine that you’re fleeing unrest in that place – what would you take with you if you had two minutes to leave home? Would it fit into a raft? If your smuggler offered to sell you a life-jacket to wear in the raft, would you buy it for a high price, even if this life-jacket might be counterfeit and non-buoyant? My place of origin turned out to be “Republic of Burundi” and the tour confronted me with the fact that a part of the world that stands out in my mind mostly as the home of great music that I’ve enjoyed listening to for years is also place where strife and injustice continue to force many people from their homes, not in search of a “better” life but just a chance to stay alive. Boston friends, I recommend attending “Forced From Home” before it ends this Sunday 10/23. You’ll get a glimpse of what life might be like as a refugee, and you’ll learn this from an aid worker who has put their own life at risk to do this work. (My guide showed us how a mobile cholera wards are set up and then described her own bout with cholera as if it had been “easy” compared to what she had seen.) Non-Boston folks, you might want to check the MSF site to see if this is coming to a city near you. I’ve placed the event link in the comments.


September 11, 2016

Recently came across this incredible clavichord performance of Bach’s French Suites by early-music pioneer Thurston Dart (1921-1971). It has quickly shot to the top of my list of personal favorite Bach keyboard recordings. If the clavichord sounds more dynamic and colorful here than you are used to hearing it, this may be because the maker of the instrument recorded here, Thomas Goff (1898-1975), sought to build the most beautiful instrument he could, not the most historically authentic: according to a review by the British Clavichord Society, his primary objectives were sustaining power and sweetness of tone, and the resulting instrument is quite unlike a seventeenth or eighteenth-century specimen. More importantly it may be because of performer Thurston Dart’s brilliant approach, which makes more use of “bebung” (the keyboard vibrato that is possible on the clavichord but not the harpsichord or piano) than we commonly hear today. Its a shame that when commenting on a mid-century recording like this, there’s a tendency to submit the hedge that it might not match today’s higher standards of period authenticity, when in fact it far surpasses today’s average performance in the more important criterion of musicality, IMHO. If I had heard of this recording years ago I would have obsessively tracked down a copy and held it as a prize possession, but today it’s available on YouTube for anyone’s effortless and immediate consumption; I was just about to order an LP of Thurston Dart’s Froberger set but I see that’s on YouTube as well. Are we in paradise or what?

September 7, 2016

Stefan Wolpe (1902-1971). Fugue from Toccata for Piano.


September 2, 2016

June 28, 2016

I recently interviewed composer Richard Atkinson about his series of thirteen canons. Here is another captivating piece by Richard, looking back to an earlier style of composition but with some surprises!


June 10, 2016

Gearing up for a concert this Sunday by dhrupad artists Nirmalya Dey and Mohan Shyam Sharma, making their first appearance in the Boston area. Pandit Dey was recently interviewed by Shuchita Rao in Lokvani where he mentions that in this style of music, the musicians don’t “perform” the raga as much as they try to “experience” it (and share that experience with the audience). The raga is seen as fixed but the way one experiences it from time to time is different. Come to Framingham this Sunday at 4pm and find out more about this rare and special art.

Video from the event:


May 18, 2016

Gould said that this piece “provides an assurance that the magic of fugue, however rare it may be nowadays, isn’t yet forgotten.” I should say I agree with Gould – this piece is a gem, as is the present performance.

[Video removed from Youtube. Search for Glenn Gould - Hindemith - Piano Sonata No. 3 - Fugue.]

June 9, 2015

Fortunate to attend a concert today by brilliant tenor Bud Roach who is reviving a neglected portion of the 17th century repertoire for voice and guitar – the guitar being the “new” instrument of this era that began to overtake the venerable but sometimes forbidding lute. The guitar parts of this era were written in a simple tablature that allowed singers who weren’t fretboard virtuosos to accompany themselves, making possible an intimacy and freedom of expression that’s difficult to achieve when the singer must coordinate with a continuo section. You can still hear Bud perform Thursday and Friday in Boston, with harpsichordist Peter Watchorn, as part of the Boston Early Music Festival’s “fringe concert” series. This is a clip from a previous year’s festival.


April 7, 2015

They don’t make them like this anymore. At 25 seconds the performer invokes the “moderator” stop which was apparently common on Viennese keyboards of Mozart’s day. Compare the lightness, charm, and freedom of Tsalka’s interpretation with the speed and force of Schiff’s rendering on a modern piano.


February 3, 2014

This classical piece for the Chinese pipa, “Ambush from all sides,” is such a vivid simulation of battle that it should probably come with an R rating. I found this performance by Min Xiao-Fen particularly riveting and it is the only one I’ve heard where the performer is actually moved to scream.


March 6, 2013

One interesting thing about Canadian Inuit throat singing is that (according to the Internet, at least) it’s practiced mostly as a game, and mostly by women, and it always ends with the two musicians laughing – as you can see in the available YouTube clips. The one who holds on the longest without laughing is the “winner.” I’ve not come across any other musical style that works quite like that!

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