Catapulting into Classical

A headlong leap into music, history, and composing

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Mourning for Notre Dame de Paris

The north transept rose stained glass window at Notre Dame de Paris

It is heartbreaking to see the flames soaring above Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.  Such beauty destroyed, centuries of work by countless architects, artists, and craftsmen, consumed.  It is the cradle of Western polyphony.  It is where Perotin, Leonin, and other anonymous medieval composers heard their music sound against the stone walls, changing Western music forever.

Here is Perotin’s Beata Viscera performed by The Hilliard Ensemble.

You may also wish to see my post Christmas 1198.


Image attribution: The north transept rose stained glass window at Notre Dame, Paris.  Photograph by Oliver J. Mitchell via Wikimedia Commons [CC BY-SA 3.0].


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One of Those Weeks, Illustrated

Stick figure on a unicycle on a tightrope juggles a sword, flaming stick, and chainsaw while crossing water filled with sharks, alligators, and snakes while beavers, woodpeckers, and a fire-lighting camper try to destroy the supports for the tightrope. Oh, and a rainstorm is coming--with lightning.

Did you ever have one of those weeks?  One for which the word “complicated” doesn’t even begin to describe it?  Yeah, one of those.

Words failing me, I attempted to depict one of those weeks in the illustration above.  And to go along with it, I’ve selected some music:  Liszt’s Mephisto Waltz No. 1.

If you’re having one of those weeks, I wish you calmer days ahead.  And to accompany them, Grieg’s Morning Mood from the Peer Gynt Suite.


Street Piano

Red Steinway piano in Munich airport with sign "Just Play a Steinway"

Surfing the net on this overcast day, I found a video of an infectiously cheerful, driving boogie-woogie piano performance.

The sun came out.

Ok, it’s not classical music, but this is a big tent, so come on in and listen to Henri Herbert making some folks’ day at St. Pancras Station in London, and now, thanks to YouTube, everywhere.  You can find the video here.

And that video led me to another.  if you have some time, you might enjoy Street Piano: Instrument of Change, a documentary on a program that restores pianos that might otherwise end up in landfills and installs them in public places for people to play and enjoy.  It highlights the experiences of some people whose lives have been changed by public pianos.

Do you play piano? Yes? If you see a piano in a public place, sit down, commandeer it.  Play until they make you stop.  Don’t worry about making mistakes, just go for it!  It will certainly make your day, and probably other people’s too.


Image attribution:  Photograph by Eric Fischer [CC BY 2.0 (] via Wikimedia Commons,


Haiku Wednesday: GOOD MORNING!

music note with laughter emoji inside

It’s early morning.
It’s still dark, I’m on the road.
I need some music.

Without looking, I
Slip a disc into the slot.

Beethoven attack!
Off. Fumbling, I find a disc.
Well, let’s try again.

Chopin is lovely,
But too lively this morning–
It’s a rude etude.

Who picked this music?!
I’ll put 4’33” on,
Looping, for a while.

Beethoven: Symphony No. 5


Chopin:  Etude in A Minor, Op 10, No 2

Cage: 4’33”

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Beauty and Creativity Are Everywhere

Here is the link to Yo-Yo Ma’s new video, in which he performs the Prelude from Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1.  This would be beauty enough; but the music forms the background to clips of people around the world expressing their creativity and showing how culture connects us all.  It is exuberant and full of hope, something we can all aspire to as this new year begins.  The video was created as part of Yo-Yo Ma’s Bach Project, in which he will be playing Bach’s six cello suites in 36 cities around the world.


A Christmas Fanfare and Good Wishes for the New Year

For those of you who celebrate the holiday, Merry Christmas!

I wish all of my readers good health, good fortune, and peace in the coming year, and, of course, abundant music.

Today I would like to feature a fanfare for trumpets and organ by Frederik Magle, Den Yndigste Rose.

I hope you have a wonderful day.



Forest scene with water flowing over a fallen log.

Sometimes you just have to get away from it all.  That seems increasingly hard to do these days.  There are distractions everywhere, noise, people, devices…continuous clamor.  How do you get away?

It’s nice to go to a park, and find a forested trail, but even there you are likely to find people (talking on their phones!), folks walking their dogs, kids enjoying the fresh air—all wonderful things (except the phone maybe), but still not quiet enough.

My go-to solution is getting out on the water, a large body of water, in a small kayak.

The phone may or may not work.  The few people I see are fishing, quietly waiting on the shore for a fish to come along.

It’s wonderful.

I saw a fox that had come to the water’s edge for a drink.  There was a yearling deer, no bigger than a large dog, foraging calmly on a hillside.  A kingfisher bird dove with a loud splash into the water and came up with a small fish.  A great blue heron waited quietly at the shoreline for a fish to come along.  Turtles sunned themselves on logs and looked on as I silently glided by.

It has been a rainy summer in my region, and the water levels are high, which means that little inlets, once short and clearly connected to the main body of water, now extend, meandering well into the forest.

I followed one such inlet, and soon heard the sound of cascading water.  It got louder and louder as I followed the stream as far as I could, until the water was only a few inches deep.  The water I heard was pouring over a fallen log.  It was surprisingly loud in contrast to the tranquil forest.

I remained there for a long time.  And I took the picture you see at the top of the post.  There was a great temptation to leave the kayak and explore…what was in the distance, beyond the bend, that I couldn’t see?  But some things are better left as mysteries, untouched, explored only in the imagination.

I know that not everyone can do what I did.  Not everyone has the time or opportunity.  But we all can spare a few minutes to enjoy some peaceful music, and go to the place that makes us happiest in our minds.

Here is Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words, Op. 85 No.1.