Saturday, December 27, 2014

Ranking my favorite operas and the entertaining

Stumbled across this intriguing interactive site while researching an obscure fact about opera.

You may enjoy seeing my list, and the site's many, many other lists to rank.   To make your own list, just type in their search box, "best operas," or "best rock bands" or anything else.

Warning:  can be addictive.

The Best Operas

Monday, December 15, 2014

Saudi Arabia is playing chicken with its oil

Saudi Arabia is playing chicken with its oil

With ongoing proxy wars in Syria and Iraq, Saudi Arabia risks
instigating an oil war with Russia and Iran—a war that the kingdom can
perhaps win in the short term. But like sectarian conflict,  Saudi actions threaten a conflagration that can spin out of everyone’s control.....

Friday, December 05, 2014

Obscure Composers: not about music

My 2014 book, Obscure Composers, wasn't really about music, in the final analysis.  It was about life.  It concludes like this:

What have we learned from this study, in practical terms?  If you wish to compose, get the best possible education, then secure the best possible employment to fund your artistic aspirations.  Follow your own voice versus compositional trends or fads.  And be patient.  Recognition may take a while to come your way.  Indeed:

“Art is long, life is short.”

My piano teacher, Harry Davidson, used to say that from time to time.  To which the thought now occurs to add, after this study, “Obscurity may be longer still.”

I’ve had a lot of time to think about obscurity while researching and writing in this space.  And to reach out to others, working musicians, composers, academics, administrators.  The response has been gratifying.  I find I’ve tapped a nerve.  People care about this subject, more than I would have guessed.  What is it that causes us to respond in rescue mode to save a talented composer – or other worthy – from obscurity? 

What is it, then, that makes each of us rebel instinctively at obscurity, as one of our quotees said at the outset of this work?

I think it is because obscurity is a meaning, if not THE meaning of death, and as such, a grievous injustice that strikes right at the core of the human spirit.  We simply don’t want to die, and even more, we simply don’t want to be forgotten.  To vanish, to be obscured, to be obliterated, to leave no trace whatsoever.

We do our work on planet earth, whatever it is, glorious or not so, and if we are fortunate, we arrive at the fullness of years, and pass on, preferably, easily enough.  Then comes a void.  We may be remembered – or not – for what we did, said, didn’t do, didn’t say.  The remembering might be brief.  Likely it will be.  Still, obscurity looms.  If you don’t think so, write an essay about your great-great-grandparents, and send it to me.  It only takes four generations to become completely unknown, even to your descendents.

There is, in the opinion of this author, and many others, another dimension, a world of spirit, of which we know little, but which in no way mitigates its reality.  And so it would seem that the only permanent, real “cure” for obscurity lies in the realm of spirit – in the God realm. 

Men, some sage, some simple, have written that we enter that realm by faith, simple, humble, even childlike faith.  For those willing to trust God in like manner, and follow his dictates, the question of death, and obscurity, is resolved forever, and eternal life arises to take its place.  “For God so loved the world.....” becomes the operative verse, transcending all other ideas, theories, tenets, wishes, hopes, dreams, and devices of mankind.

For more on this theme, see our book on the texts of a set of vocal works from a most Un-Obscure Composer: Bach and Heaven:  The promise of afterlife in the text of the Cantatas.

We wish you only the best.  Thanks for taking this voyage of discovery with us. Keep traveling, and discovering -- and trusting your own ears.

Sincerely yours, John A. Sarkett

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

B.C. (Before Computers) Big Data was the province of hands and eyes and notebooks

The Revolution In Tennis Stats That Didn’t Stick | FiveThirtyEight

Data analysis, once upon a time, in the land of tennis.

Pointer credit to friend Len Kasper, Chicago Cubs broadcaster, an avid and superb tennis player in his own right, and my former doubles partner when we had indoor league some years ago.  Thanks, Len.....