Piston, Poulenc and Chopin

I have a couple of stand-alones by Walter Piston (1894 – 1976) Violin Concertos, Chamber Music that I picked up in 2004 at HMV. This was part of my musical education to see/hear was happening in modern classical music. I am familiar with other genres of non-mainstream – electronic, free jazz, prog rock. Walter Piston (an ideal porn name, if you ask me) is one of several respected American composers whom I had never heard of until I did a bit of research.The music, to me, not all that memorable. Technically challenging violin concertos are fine but I am not the audience  – this is music for musicians more than it is music for the general public. I don’t find myself drawn back to it as I am with Gershwin or Copeland.

Next on the shelf is an mp3 collections headed by Francis Poulenc. He is best know for his opera Dialogues des Carmélites (which I don’t have) but I had an lp of his Concerto champetre – a fun harpsichord concerto full of mood, percussive keyboard work & charm. I downloaded this version as part of a set of his orchestral suites which are engaging & almost impressionist.

So it made sense to add some Scriabin to this collection. So here is Le Poem de l’extase, Concerto for Piano, Le Poeme du Feu. This is brilliant, moody work that is lush, romantic & full of sonic intrigue. Not here, but which I have, are his piano sonatas that are also brilliant. Scriabin was gifted with synesthesia: seeing music as colours & beautiful colours at that. He was greatly influenced by Chopin.

Which lead to adding Jan Lisiecki (1995) recording of Chopin’s Piano Concertos 1/2, from 2009. Yes, he was a prodigy but his playing is emotional & sensitive. There was/is some quibble about a performer so young tackling the classics. I have other recordings of these concertos & his take is excellent.


Finally in this collection is the Shutter Island soundtrack. This a soundtrack that doesn’t need the movie – Max Richter pieces are somber, eerie, almost spiritual & clearly inspired by Scriabin atonal work.  The classical pieces add to the sense of darkness. The movie itself is high-drama, dark & stormy night, psychobabble spookiness that needs a soundtrack to work.

Are You Ready

My nervous pacing was as clear to me now as if it was yesterday not a month ago, when I first hooked up with Devon. Double-checked to make sure the buzzer system was working and the lobby channel was on the TV so I could keep an eye for who was coming & going. I wasn’t sure what to expect even though I had seen his profile picture & the few others he had sent me. The lobby camera was crap for detail so I was never sure what purpose it served. Even though I was expecting him I jumped when the phone rang at his buzz. 

Devon was exactly what I would have wanted. Smelt good. Looked good in and out of his jeans and was eager to get out of them too. We even managed some conversation after the sex. I agreed to meeting him again and again. Now a month had passed and we were actually seeing each other not just hooking up. We’d worked out a routine where by he’d phone or text when he was a few minutes away. Tonight, for the first time, we were doing something outside, in the real world, where people would see us together.

My cell phone rang. I answered automatically.

“I’m in the lobby.”

“I’ll be right down.”

He was pacing when I got to the lobby. I reach out to kiss him when my cell rang again. I answered it.

“Are you ready to die?” A voice I nearly recognized.

“Excuse me?”

Dial tone. Unknown number.

“What was it?” Devon asked me.

“Wrong number.” I laughed. It had to be. Who would want to harm me?

On the sidewalk I looked around. Wasn’t this how that movie started? Was someone watching me from one of those windows, giggling as I looked around to see if someone was watching me from one of those windows? I put phone into my coat pocket. 

“Don’t forget where it is this time.” Devon mimed patting his pockets and then his shoes looking for a phone.

It rang again. I got it on the first ring.

“Are you ready to die?”

Dial tone before I had time to say anything. Unknown number.

“What is it?”

My face must have paled this time. The first time I wasn’t sure I heard what I heard. This time I was sure.

“Some guy asked me if I was ready to die.”

“Is that d-i-e or d-y-e? Sounds like some weird promo for a hair salon if you ask me.”

“Or a movie.”

“Seriously. Someone is calling you with death threats. Go to the police.”

“These are first & so far the only such threats I’ve ever received.”

“What does he say? I’m assuming it’s a he.”

“I am too but they are so brief I can’t really say for sure. He says ‘Are you ready to die.’ ”

“You know the voice.”

“No. It’s not like those heavy breathers in the movies. Not even threatening. Matter of fact. Are you ready for dinner. Let’s meet for coffee – sort of normal.”

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Chopin Saved My Life

21-round01There’s a documentary Chopin Saved My Life. Find it. Watch it. It shows up on TVO regularly. I’ve seen it twice. Amazing. At one time I had the nearly complete Chopin on Lp purchased through MHS – nearly, as I didn’t have the volume devoted to his songs – that I bought when I found it after moving to Toronto. It was some 20 lps.

21-round02I love Chopin. Although I liked him years before I could pronounce him 🙂 Some names are typical & I initially called him Chop (as in chop sticks) in – until a friend corrected me. She knew from piano lessons. The other composer’s whose name I guessed wrong at until corrected (also by a music student) was Liszt: who know the z was silent!

The MHS set surprised me with the range of his compositions. I knew he wrote amazing piano music – but he also wrote for cello, flute – not a lot mind you but. His concertos are stunning. Much like Shakespeare one isn’t aware of how much Chopin’s music informs our everyday listening.21-round03

Picking favourites isn’t easy. He is nearly always lushly romantic, sometimes over-the-top – the sonatas are astonishing. But the pieces I go back to most frequently are the Ballades and the Scherzi – the emotional force of these always carries me away. I can get so lost in them I lose track of time. 21-round04

Chopin is also exceptional writing music – the tempo is perfect for typing to keep up with the pianist. When I dream of piano, & I do dream of it, it is me playing Chopin or Liszt or Beethoven on a keyboard that is suspended in the air and my fingers fly along the keys like rippling larks (is that image melodramatic enough?) I can also say that Chopin saved my life.



Bres stepped into the classroom. The rows of vids altered with low benches for the students to sit. A couple of the vids flickered a pale green and one a harsh red. The remainder were blank dead screens devoid of any color at all.

He would take one of the blank vids, replace it with the one his master Ques had repaired. Soon all would be working again and then learning could continue.

Learning! What was there for them to learn. Who was there to teach to? He hunkered down on one of the benches. The screen came to life as he sat. A Br’thr appeared on it.

‘Good morn student Gr’ladd’

‘Sorry Most Honorable Sir but it is Bres.’

The image on the screen broke up and reformed.

‘Good morn student Bres.’

The image spoke in a broken, rapid stutter. Each word was unsure, slurred but Bres could understand it.

‘If you want the lesson for today please enter your ident.’


So much to learn. He got up. from the vid and sat in front of another.

‘Good morn student Bres.’

The same Br’thr staticed onto the screen. A little more yellow around the eyes this time but the voice was clearer.

Bres stood again and the screen faded to grey. He should ask Ques if it was worth their time and effort to repair all of these. There were no students to teach, no one had an ident that he knew of. Perhaps Ques had one  and he could start to learn.

He unplugged two of the vids and carried them down to his cart.

Where would Ques keep an ident? Could he get one at the Gate? Did he really need one?

He raced back up to the classroom and sat.

‘Good morn student Bres.’

‘Good morn Sir.’

‘If you want the lesson for today please enter your ident.’

Bres put his fingers on the keyboard and tapped in a random series. He didn’t know what the symbols represented but there was no harm in trying.

The screen closed and another face appeared.


on going 🙂 when new podcast are posted:  Disability after Dark  iTunes

November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo



December – Thursday Dec 1st – Toronto, 8 pm, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, 12 Alexander St.




Early 2017:

my first local feature in over a year: location date TBA

it came in

April season 3 FINALS – Friday April 15th Buddies in Bad Times – early show – 7pm startgames


June 2-4: attending: Capturing Fire 2017 –



check out these poets from Capturing Fire 2015: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx5KD1eDccdjdTdQ28kZRNg


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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#Killdozer vs #ArcadeFire

spoon battery
spoon battery

Recently someone asked me what I was listening to on my iPod. I hesitated to answer because whatever it was they would jump to conclusions about me based on the music I was listening to – if I said The Beatles – I was living the past; if I said Lady Gaga – I was a real fag; if I said Coltrane – I was elitist pretentious; if I said – Chopin – I was was beyond comprehension.

pull yourself together
pull yourself together

There are some musicians or composers, who are always on my iPod. I think I have at least 10 days of listening without repeat on tap at any given time. Once a play list gets heard it gets replaced. Each play list, in general, is a mix of pop, jazz, classical.

spoon battery
spoon battery

Nearly always on one play list or the other is: The Beatles, The Stones, Van Morrison, Jacques Brel, Sinatra, John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Chopin, Beethoven, Haydn, Schubert, Mendelssohn, Mozart. Frequently: The Animals, Procol Harum, Lou Reed, McCoy Tyner, Gabor Szabo, Bach, Dvorak. There’s one play list of Latino/French,/World Music music that often includes Otto, Osibisa, Santana, Boyo Boys, Piaf, Pizzicato Five.

When I was asked what I was listening, I replied: “Guess.” Because what they thought I was listening would tell me what they thought of me. They said Arcade Fire (am I a hipster?) when the truth was Killdozer.

sad plant
sad plant