Category

Music

Experiencing a night of Wagner

By | History, Media, Music | 12 Comments

The first piece of music that embedded itself in my memory, when I was a small boy in Canberra during and after the war, was the trumpet call in Wagner’s overture to his opera Rienzi. It preceded a dozen bars or so of the overture, heralding the radio news provided by the Macquarie Broadcasting Service. I didn’t know that Wagner had written the music. Indeed, I knew nothing about music at all. All I knew was that before long I knew those bars, and I liked them. Richard Wagner himself in later life didn’t like Rienzi at all, and called…

Read More

Another passage to India

By | Books, History, Humour, Language, Music, Religion, Society | 3 Comments

While I have been at least twice to every Asian country save Mongolia and North Korea, South Asia has passed me by (vice versa, more accurately). I’ve not been to Pakistan, Bangladesh or Afghanistan, I visited Sri Lanka only briefly and a long time ago, while India I’ve been to once only. There’s no good reason. I had a very bright Indian doctoral student who has remained a friend through life, my eldest daughter travelled over India on her way home from London (which made her vegetarian for a decade), I think Virat Kohli is a superb batsman, and I have…

Read More

Love, sex and Cosi fan tutte

By | Books, History, Music, Society, Theatre | 35 Comments

For those who don’t know much about the work, Cosi fan tutte is an opera with music by Mozart, for a libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte, who also worked with Mozart in creating Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro. Indeed da Ponte wrote 28 libretti for eleven composers, and had a most interesting life. The opera has a sub-title The School for Lovers, but it is rarely used. Cosi fan tutte means ‘They all do it’, and ‘they’ means women. If both men and women had been meant, the third word in the title would have been tutti. This little exercise in language is important,…

Read More

The primary school then and now

By | Climate Change, Education, History, Indigenous, Music | 63 Comments

Since my wife and I are now in the category of ‘grand friends’, we see the schools of our grandchildren from time to time, and are made most welcome there. Today’s primary schools seem to have a strong sense of community, and quite a few parents, mostly mums, give an afternoon or a day as teachers’ helpers. We went to the Friday assembly of our Frankston grand-daughter last week, and I was at once taken back to my own primary education, at Ainslie Primary School in Canberra, in the 1940s. The first contrast was the traffic jam around the Melbourne school, and…

Read More

Managing comments on the website

By | Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Food & Wine, Health, History, Humour, Language, Media, Music, Politics, Religion, Research, Road Safety, Society, Sport, Theatre | 43 Comments

I’ve had to think hard about how best to moderate the comments on this website. A number of the recent posts have had more than 100 comments, and one has passed 200. Just following them is a decent amount of work, and it gets in the way of other writing important to me. My own practice has been to respond to anyone who I think is seeking a real answer to something, or who has found a weakness in what I have written, or who seems to have misunderstood what I wrote. I learn from such encounters. If I find I…

Read More

Margaret Throsby in three interviews

By | ABC, Climate Change, Education, Environment, History, Media, Music, Politics, Religion, Research | 176 Comments

For those who don’t know, Margaret Throsby is an ABC presenter, and has been one for a long time. She presents an interview weekdays at midday on ABC Classic FM, in which the interviewee, having nominated three or four pieces of music, is quizzed about his or her life and work. The music breaks up the hour into segments. Margaret is very good at this, and has been doing it for twenty years. Since Classic FM is the aural wallpaper of my life, much of which is now spent at home, I’ve heard a lot of these interviews over the years, and am…

Read More

Why does Puccini’s la Bohème make me cry?

By | History, Music, Society | 28 Comments

I think I’ve seen this opera five times, in Newtown in Sydney before there was a functioning opera house, once in London, twice at the Opera House and once in Kansas City. In that American performance  the conductor and director delayed the last gut-wrenching chord for what seemed like forever. Rodolfo finally turned around, and realised what everyone else on stage already knew, that Mimi had died. ‘Mimi!’ he almost screamed, and then the orchestra battered us with the chord. The tears from both my eyes jetted towards the neck of the lady in front. It happens every time I see the…

Read More

On ‘musicality’

By | History, Music, Society | 7 Comments

It seems to be the case that concert organisers these days are determined, above all else, to fill the concert hall, and that appeared to be the case with the Canberra Symphony Orchestra’s recent Tchaikovsky/Rimsky-Korsakov offering. The Tchaikovsky was the Piano Concerto No.1 in B Minor, while Rimsky was there with his Scheherazade symphonic suite. The hall was full, the band was in excellent form, and the audience responded to the virtuosity of the young soloist, Vietnamese Australian Hoang Pham. It was the fifth or sixth time I had heard the Tchaikovsky concerto live, and I have a few recorded versions….

Read More

The last essay for this year

By | ABC, Books, Climate Change, Economy, Education, Environment, Food & Wine, Health, History, Humour, Indigenous, Language, Media, Music, Other, Politics, Religion, Research, Road Safety, Society, Sport, Theatre | 26 Comments

Even websites need a holiday, and mine starts tomorrow. I’m back at work in the week beginning 12 January, and wish all my readers a relaxing, safe and enjoyable holiday break too. I started this website in June 2012, so it is now two-and-a-half years old. Over that time it has attracted about 27,000 unique readers, who have in total visited the site more than 70,000 times, and read nearly 150,000 pages. Readers have made nearly 3,700 comments to my 608 posts, and of course to one another’s comments. Before I get carried away with such success, I should mention that my…

Read More

Cuts and the ABC

By | ABC, Climate Change, Environment, History, Media, Music, Politics, Society | 23 Comments

The announced cut to funding for the ABC has yet to be translated into actual job-losses and program departures, but we will know the result soon. Two themes have been prominent since Malcolm Turnbull spoke about the issue last week. The first is that there was a promise, which has been broken, not to impose cuts on the ABC. The second is that there is something special about the ABC that makes it a kind of icon of Australian life, so it should be protected against anything and everything. There is no doubt that Tony Abbott made a specific promise that…

Read More