Sounds of Summer

After my voice lesson Sunday afternoon, I heard bells. Eight bells, ringing on and on. My voice lessons are in the bowels of Washington National Cathedral – a real live Gothic cathedral, hand-carved over the last 107 years by bearded Englishmen, or at least the group included one bearded Englishman who lives in my neighborhood. […]

The Hidden Carols of England

People have been singing Christmas carols in the pubs in villages around Sheffield, in the north of England, for hundreds of years. They sing week after week and year after year. Each pub has a season; in one, Christmas carols start on November 11 and continue until the first Sunday after Christmas. Every Sunday afternoon, […]

Singing Our Hearts Out

Recently I was rehearsing a glorious 16th-century motet with a group of 20 or so people. Haec dies quam fecit Dominus, the song begins. This is the day that the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it. It’s an Easter text and a lovely thought, whether or not you think the […]

Sleep Aids

Ahh, the 1960s. A simpler time when women wore pant-skirts and insomnia could be cured by the soothing sounds of Liadov’s Musical Snuff Box. Well, not quite. Flip open this album and you’ll find a two-page ad for a sleeping pill called Placidyl. The tagline reads: “But when music fails, you can rest assured with […]

I Have No Clue Why the Caged Bird Sings

I have this theory. It’s not rocket science (which, by the way, rocket scientists tell me ain’t exactly brain surgery) and it’s not brain surgery (which brain surgeons tell me ain’t exactly rocket science). It goes like this: décor in your office is a reflection of your inner science nerd. You see, far more than […]

There are two primary types of scientist (science music, part II)

Science or music, music or science? Too often when it comes to science-inflected tunage, that’s the choice one has to make. The best songs, usually, are only tangentially about science. The Low Anthem’s “Charlie Darwin,” for example, is stirringly beautiful, and improves with each listen well into the hundreds. But poor old Darwin doesn’t ever […]