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Music Post: The human voice as an instrumental choice

The closest I come to playing an instrument is my own voice, having sung with my five siblings as a child, so it is a curious thing that I tend not to enjoy vocal music as much as instrumental music. Furthermore, when I do appreciate vocals, it is often because…

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Ask your doctor about drug commercials

Steve Uyehara, Dan Cooke and I have something in common: we’ve married smart women who enrich our lives with their wit. We talk about that a lot, and a running theme is how Liz, Kehau and Bernadette talk back to the TV, something which is often more entertaining than what’s…

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Music Post: “Concerto for Orchestra,” but not by Bartok

Bela Bartok was dying of leukemia when Serge Koussevitsky, music director of the Boston Symphony, presented him with a commission for a new work. Bartok tried to refuse it, correctly guessing that it was an act of charity, but Koussevitsky gave him a song and dance about how his foundation…

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Cynicism is no substitute for knowledge (Rail edition)

An auntie, whom I love dearly, has for years responded to any government action she disapproved of by saying, “It’s all political.” When I was younger and even more foolish than currently, I thought this was her own personal quirk. Now I realize that many people, who focus their intellectual…

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Oil: It’s not about the numbers

We’ll call it 18 oil states that sent representatives to Doha, Qatar – news agencies are using several different numbers, but most oil states attended including Russia – intending to conclude an agreement to reduce oil production. This would have made crude oil prices, which stood at $40 Friday, rise…

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Music Post: Organic composing

The fact that I can’t read music or play any musical instrument with proficiency doesn’t keep me from noodling around on a keyboard from time to time. Once I did that with a keyboard that had an organ patch, and, having hit upon a catchy rhythm, I began making music…

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Election prediction: The next president won’t get along with Congress

While everyone else is trying to figure out if the next president will be named Trump, Clinton, Cruz, Sanders or someone else entirely, I am looking ahead beyond the election, where I foresee a continuation of huffing and puffing and the House falling down (on the job). There are enough…

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“The Tipping Point” and homelessness

In 2000 a Jamaican-English journalist named Malcolm Gladwell, who has an interest in the unexpected implications of social research, wrote a book called “The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference.” (Little Brown, 304 pp.) Sixteen years later, on the recommendation of my brother-in-law, I am finally…

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Music from the Midori maelstrom

I’m offstage at the Midori concert with the Hawaii Youth Symphony, watching the great virtuoso play the Max Bruch violin concerto, and the side view means darkness behind her, and the glow of the stage spotlights wild hairs flying from her bow. Yes, I think, this fortysomething woman is the same…

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Music Post: Marching to the beat of someone other than the drummer

Percussion is the most interesting part of the orchestra, visually, but if you want to hear something interesting about those guys in the back of the stage I call your attention to the many things they do other than keep the beat. Some percussion can be heard in very old…