A suitable hymn to new beginnings from Michael Hunter Ochs

October 5, 2016

In the spirit of

In the spirit of “Playing for Change,” Jewish cantors and congregations from around the world cooperated to produce the 92nd Street Y’s version of “A New Year,” a song by Michael Hunter Ochs. Pictured is Cantor Julia Cadrain, Central Synagogue, New York City.

New York’s arts-active 92nd Street Y produced a fine little video of several Jewish congregations and cantors from around the world collaborating on a tune for Rosh Hashana.

“A New Year” would be a suitable tune for any congregation that sings, I think, regardless faith. While the video is for the new Jewish year 5777, no reason it can’t be adopted by any group needing a song to see in 2017, or a new liturgical year, or a new fiscal year.

In fact, it would do the nation good were Congress to walk out on the steps of the U.S. Capitol and sing this song at the start of every Fiscal Year, on October 1 (not too late for this year, Paul Ryan . . .).

Details about the film from the YouTube site:

Published on Sep 28, 2016

Communities around the world join together in song to celebrate…A New Year. #NewYearPrayer#RoshHashanah2016#RoshHashahah

Download the lyrics and the sheet music here: http://www.92y.org/…/Bronfman/A-New… Special thanks to Michael Hunter Ochs for writing such a beautiful song! http://www.ochsongs.com/bio/

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(Note: I get a “runtime error” when I try to link to the sheet music; I hope you have better luck.)

Top Ten Labor Day songs? What would you add to this list?

September 5, 2016

At Bill Moyers’s site the blog features an historic post from Peter Rothberg, associate editor at The Nation, feature his admittedly-too-exclusive Top Ten Labor Day songs.

It’s a good list, but as he wrote in the introduction, there are many others. In comments, give us your favorites not listed here — with a YouTube link if you have one.

Top Ten Labor Day Songs

1. Pete Seeger, Solidarity Forever

2. Sweet Honey in the Rock, More Than a Paycheck

3. The Clash, Career Opportunities

4. Tennessee Ernie Ford, Sixteen Tons

5. Judy Collins, Bread and Roses

6. Dolly Parton, 9 to 5

7. Woody Guthrie, Union Burying Ground

8. Phil Ochs, The Ballad of Joe Hill

9. Hazel Dickens, Fire in the Hole

10. Gil Scott-Heron, Three Miles Down

Bonus Track #1: The Kinks, Get Back in Line

Bonus Track #2: Paul Robeson, Joe Hill


What does music do to our brains, or did Einstein really know what he was doing?

August 16, 2016

Einstein playing his violin in 1931, aboard the S.S. Belgenland, travelling from New York to San Diego. Vintage Everyday image.

Einstein playing his violin in 1931, aboard the S.S. Belgenland, travelling from New York to San Diego. Vintage Everyday image. Einstein claimed to get great joy from his violin. Did it also help his physics work?

Albert Einstein played a mean violin. I don’t think any recordings exist, but some say he was good enough to have earned a slot in a decent symphony.

Albert Schweitzer made money to support his work for health in Africa by offering organ recitals.

Thomas Edison liked to hire men in his lab who played instruments. In the midst of high pressure experimentation, they would often take a break as a group, and do a performance just for themselves.

People who make music often claim they do it to relax, but there may be more than mere relaxation going on when we play an instrument or sing. It’s possible making music makes us better at doing other things, too.

Should we be surprised this showed up from the World Economic Forum?

It’s an article by Assal Habibi who is a researcher at the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California, at the website of WEF, explaining where his group is going to find out how music training affects the way we think and work.

Over the past two decades, several investigators have reported differences in the brain and behavior of musicians compared to nonmusicians.

Music training has been found to be related to better language and mathematical skills, higher IQ and overall greater academic achievement. Also, differences between musicians and nonmusicians have been found in areas of the brain related to hearing and movement, among others.

However, the interpretation of the findings remains unclear. For example, the differences reported between adult musicians and nonmusicians might be due to long-term intensive training or might result primarily from inherent biological factors, such as genetic makeup.

Or, as with many aspects of the nature-versus-nurture debate, the differences may well result from contributions of both environmental and biological factors.

One way to better understand the effects of music training on child development would be to study children before they start any music training and follow them systematically after, to see how their brain and behavior change in relation to their training.

It would involve including a comparison group, as all children change with age. The ideal comparison group would be children who participate in equally socially interactive but nonmusical training, such as sports. Follow-up assessments after their training would reveal how each group changes over time.

Go take a look.

If you’re a teacher, ask whether you should be incorporating more music into your social studies, language or science classes. If you’re a manager or employer, ask whether you should be encouraging your team members to find musical outlets.

If you’re just curious, ask whether you wouldn’t be better off to volunteer in a local choir or band.

Maybe we should all dance to beats of different drummers, and violinsts, and guitarists, and clarinetists and . . .

Three years of this study remain. But these interim results are promising. They support previous findings on the positive impact of music training on brain development.

Our findings suggest that music training during childhood, even for a period as brief as two years, can accelerate brain development and sound processing. We believe that this may benefit language acquisition in children given that developing language and reading skills engage similar brain areas. This can particularly benefit at-risk children in low socioeconomic status neighborhoods who experience more difficulties with language development.

Should we be using this tool to better educate our kids?

My Old Kentucky Home, Ben Sollee

May 6, 2016

Yes, it’s a form of advertisement, for Woodford Reserve. But it’s timely, with the 2016 Kentucky Derby just hours away.

And, it’s beautiful. Ben Sollee’s arrangement of this old chesnut of a tune is wonderful, performed with elan on a cello, which is hardly a folk staple. The video appears to have been shot in ambient light (check the reflections on Ben’s glasses).

Just, wow. Give a listen!

Found it on Twitter.

Tip of the old scrub brush to Joan Combs Durso.


Ben Sollee captured by photographer Kory Johnson in a very special moment at a house concert in 2011.

Ben Sollee captured by photographer Kory Johnson in a very special moment at a house concert in 2011.


Quote of the Moment – Pete Seeger: Not singing is a big mistake

January 18, 2016

I don’t have a citation for where Pete Seeger said this, but it’s wholly within his character and mission. Anyone got a cite?

@Area9Handbells said:  Pete Seeger got it right with the exception of one word –

A Tweet from @Area9Handbells: Pete Seeger got it right with the exception of one word – “sing.” We think he meant “ring.”

“The easiest way to avoid wrong notes is to never open your mouth and sing. What a mistake that would be.”

∇ Pete Seeger

I’ve asked for a citation, for accuracy and to keep the anti-plagiarism and accuracy mavens happy, but don’t have one yet. Nor do I know to whom goes credit for the poster and photo. Can you help?

Great jingle bell jazz, from Wynton Marsalis and the JLCO

December 30, 2015

Image from Avi Ofer's film,

Image from Avi Ofer’s film, “Jingle Bells,” with the JLCO. Image from Jazz Blog

Great animation, great orchestra, great arrangement, great song!

YouTube description and details:

Make the Yuletide swing with Jingle Bells from the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis! Jingle Bells is featured on BIG BAND HOLIDAYS, their new album out now on Blue Engine Records.

Produced by Jazz at Lincoln Center and 1504
Animation by Avi Ofer

Buy BIG BAND HOLIDAYS: http://ow.ly/UlULZ

BIG BAND HOLIDAYS is the first holiday album ever released by DownBeat Readers Poll’s Best Big Band of 2013 & 2014, Big Band Holidays features original big band arrangements of timeless favorites including Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, We Three Kings, and White Christmas. Nine-time GRAMMY Award winner and Pulitzer Prize winner Wynton Marsalis and the JLCO are joined by special guest vocalists Cécile McLorin Salvant, Gregory Porter, and René Marie on what’s sure to become a holiday classic.

Subscribe to our channel: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCP108…

To learn more about Jazz at Lincoln Center, visit us at http://www.jazz.org

Especially with two or three FM stations in Dallas running Christmas music nonstop from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I grow weary of the same, hoary old arrangements. Nor can I live forever on the great choral stuff from the classical station.

Jazz at Christmas puts me at ease, and into the spirit.

So it is that every Christmas, after the actual holiday, I go shopping for deals on Christmas jazz. This new album from Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra (JLCO) is good enough, it may not be discounted. Marketers will hold it until next year. When we buy from Blue Engine Records, profits probably support Jazz at Lincoln Center.

But you can listen to it now, with the wonderful Avi Ofer animation above.

Or, listen to every song from the album performed live just a few weeks ago:

Happy birthday, Beethoven! Google has a special gift

December 17, 2015

Beethoven takes an unplanned swim in his rush to the concert hall in Google's Doodle honoring the composer's 245th year. Image from Google, via Washington Post

Beethoven takes an unplanned swim in his rush to the concert hall in Google’s Doodle honoring the composer’s 245th year. Image from Google, via Washington Post

Maybe we should say “happy baptism.” The infant Ludwig von Beethoven was baptized on December 17, 1770; he was born the previous day, perhaps (some historians disagree).

But the point is, Google honors Beethoven with an interactive Google Doodle, one of the best they’ve ever done. The Doodle features the composer finishing scores and heading to the concert hall — with a series of mishaps along the way that scatter his musical scores and leaves them torn up, speared and generally out of order.

Then you, Dear Reader, get a chance to re-arrange the score in order. When you do that, it plays. Finally Beethoven gets to the concert hall.

It’s a great learning device, really. Can Google do this for history? Can we figure out a way to create these for use in our classrooms?

Here is the intro to the piece (I’m not skilled enough to embed the entire quiz). Click to Google for the entire piece, with the quizzes.

Now that you’ve finished the quizzes, relax for 42 minutes with Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6, The Pastorale, performed by the Bremen symphonie, directed by Paavo Jarvi.


Beethoven: Symphony No.6 in F, “Pastorale”, Op.68
Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen
Paavo Jarvi, dir.


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