Thursday, August 31, 2023

to Marin

I didn't tell you what I did after leaving the Gravenstein Apple Fair a couple weeks ago, did I?

It was 2 pm, I wanted to rest up before heading home, and a perfect place to take a break would be a public library. Chairs. Air conditioning. Books.

I'm not GPS equipped, and I didn't have maps with me, but most cities have little directional signs on the streets directing you to the library. (As also the nearest hospital, etc.) But it took me four towns before I could find the library that way. The first two I saw no signs. In the third, there was a sign on the main street pointing straight ahead, and I drove slowly down a mile and a half to the end of the street, then turned around and came back. No sign of the library.

When I got home I checked a map, and discovered that to get to the library, I should have turned right at an intersection soon after the straight-ahead sign. But there was no turn-right to the library sign.

I visited the city's website to find out who to complain to, and found an online form to fill out trouble tickets. I filled it out. A few days later a city worker phoned me! But all he wanted to do was argue with me about exactly where the straight-ahead sign was located.

I said I'd go back and check again, but I couldn't do that for a couple of weeks. (By then my car was in the shop having the dents pounded out.)

Tuesday was my day to go back. But I wasn't going to drive all that way just to check a sign. So I made a day of it. I had lunch at a highly-regarded bbq joint I'd seen a review of. It was tucked in to an exceedingly yuppie mall. The meat was extremely good, the sauce less so. (The trend now is to have two sauces, mild and spicy. The spicy = mild + nasty.) I drove past Skywalker Ranch, or where it's supposed to be: I didn't see anything. I drove out to Bolinas, a wildly funky town on the coast where I'd never been before, and came back over Mount Tam. On the way out there, in the ranch country, I stopped at the farm store for a cheese factory. They make only French cheeses, brie and camembert, which are not my style, so I didn't get any cheese. There were other things to gobble in the store, though, including soft-serve chocolate ice cream from Straus Creamery, a nearby mfr whose pints are a feature of some of my regular grocers, and their chocolate is their highlight. Oh, that was good.

And I went to the missing library, and talked to the clerks on duty, and picked up a mail-in comment form addressed to the director, and I may fill it out in case the city guy doesn't return my call.

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

corroborative detail

One odd side-effect of spending time in the company of The Mikado is that one begins to notice the holes and other odd points in the plot. For this, I'll revert to the standard text, as you won't have access to the Ducato version.

Ko-Ko, Pooh-Bah, and Pish-Tush seem more flustered by the letter from the Mikado than they ought to be. Yes, his threat to reduce Titipu to the rank of a village is surprising and dismaying, but the reason for it - that there have been no executions for a year - is, it ought to be mentioned, something they deliberately engineered. Go back to Pish-Tush's song, "Our great Mikado, virtuous man." Executions for flirting seemed excessive to the Titipu town fathers, so, the last verse explains, they short-circuited the process by appointing Ko-Ko as Lord High Executioner, because he was "next to be decapited." No other executions can take place until after his, and he can't execute himself, so the whole chain is held up.

But now they're talking about whether he could execute himself, which if he could would have eliminated the reason for appointing him.

Also, we've apparently forgotten that finding a victim shouldn't be a problem. Ko-Ko's got a little list! He's got a little list! Why don't they turn to that? Well, it appears elsewhere that "flirting is the only crime punishable with decapitation" (Ko-Ko to Nanki-Poo, Act 2, just before "Here's a how-de-do"), so the entire little list is meaningless. But this isn't said; the list is just dropped as if it didn't exist.

It's essential to the plot that Nanki-Poo wants to die, he doesn't mind being executed. In a farcical comedy, this brushes aside the depth of the despair he must be in. We had last seen him exiting sorrowfully after the sad duet with Yum-Yum "Were you not to Ko-Ko plighted" and when he comes back he's about to commit suicide. He must want Yum-Yum desperately.

This brings up the question, how much does Ko-Ko want Yum-Yum? He objects to Nanki-Poo marrying her for a month, and had already said "To think how entirely my future happiness is wrapped up in that little parcel!" But he also says, "Really, it hardly seems worth while." And when the Mikado is about to arrive, Ko-Ko gives Yum-Yum up to Nanki-Poo without any hesitation at all.

Speaking of despair, note that Katisha has not one but two soliloquies about her sadness and loneliness ("The hour of gladness" and "Alone, and yet alive / Hearts do not break"). Gilbert is often accused of mocking her, but he does also give her a say and reveals that she has feelings too. What the production I just saw showed is that if you have a really really good singer in the role, she can pull these often-ignored laments off effectively.

Going back a step to the revelation that, when a married man is beheaded, his wife is buried alive. Yum-Yum raises her opposition to this in a most hesitant manner, as if she fears she has no right to object, but Nanki-Poo is in entire agreement with her. Ko-Ko, however, seems to think she's some sort of hypocrite for objecting to being buried alive. Why? That wasn't in the contract she'd agreed to, or Nanki-Poo either. The song "Here's a how-de-do" is about the dilemma the two are in - "I must die without a wedding" - but Nanki-Poo had agreed to be executed on condition that he marry Yum-Yum first; this new and unacceptable condition voids the contract. That would leave Ko-Ko without a victim, so it ought to be he, not the others, who's in a dilemma (as he amusingly is at "The flowers that bloom in the spring").

The most exquisite moment of comedy comes when Ko-Ko, Pitti-Sing, and Pooh-Bah are told that the man they've executed is the heir to the throne. It's all the funnier because they haven't actually executed him but they can't say so. The Mikado insists that he's "not a bit angry" about it; he should be played so that this is true, and he usually is. It's already been established that he's completely without familial affection, having already ordered Nanki-Poo to marry Katisha "or perish ignominiously on the scaffold," and Nanki-Poo, telling Yum-Yum this, compares his father to Lucius Junius Brutus, the Roman consul who executed his own sons for rebellion. So it isn't just Katisha who's "just a little teeny weeny wee bit bloodthirsty."

Sunday, August 27, 2023

going Ducato-wards

I did it. When I saw the Lamplighters' Il Ducato on its opening weekend two weeks ago, I was so delighted that I determined to go see it again on the closing weekend, though that was further away from home.

I was not expecting how much of the freshness had been due simply to not having seen this production before, and the performers, rather than inhabiting their parts more fully as I've been told happens during theatrical runs, seemed a little tired, and even went up on their lines a couple times. To be fair, they'd already done a matinee on the same day as the evening performance I saw.

But it was also clear that they conveyed the cleverness and wit both of the original and of this production. The audience was rather small but it was tightly bunched in the auditorium and very responsive to the performance. At the meet and greet afterwards I got to tell Lawrence Ewing, the lead performer as Coco (Ko-ko), that I'd enjoyed it so much the first time I had to come back for a second.

Saturday, August 26, 2023

recasting oneself

A few years after the ending of my last professional posting as a librarian, I finally acknowledged that I wasn't a librarian any more, and changed the job title on my tax return to "writer/editor" which was my new career starting up just about the time that my library career was winding down.

I've found that somebody else in a slightly parallel situation did the same thing.

At the time that W. invaded Iraq, a US diplomat in Greece made a 40-minute wonder on the news by resigning in protest. This interested me in particular because he'd been a high-school classmate of mine: not that we were personal friends, but I had known that he'd gone into the foreign service and I'd casually wondered what he thought of the events.

Later he published a book about it, which I read. He still considered himself a diplomat, and encouraged young people to go into the foreign service, but he also wondered what was to become of him now.

I just happened to look him up again. He's still living in Greece, which he loves, but his bio page says he's "returned to scholarship" as an ancient historian/archaeologist - which is what he studied in grad school before joining the State Department - "after a twenty-year detour working as a diplomat." That's the word he uses, detour. Despite what he thought at the time, it's not what he really was, it was something that distracted him for a while.

That's awfully parallel, and in fact I spent the same 20 year period as a librarian that he spent as a diplomat. But I dunno if his conclusion applies to me. There's a part of me that will always be a librarian, that decided when I was about 13 that that was the career I wanted. But an alternative double career as an editor of Tolkien scholarship and a reviewer of classical music concerts wasn't really an option, though if it had been I might have taken it. It's what I'm doing now, though: not to earn a living, since I'm retired and the income is nominal, but it does occupy my time in much more agreeable circumstances than a lot of my library work did. So that's what I am.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023


1. I got my car back, one or two days early, which is better than late. All the bumps and scratches on the bumper are gone, even the ones the driver who backed into me had nothing to do with. They also vacuumed out the interior and left me a mint life-saver candy.

2. I did not watch the Republican debate. I am not interested in anything these people could possibly have to say.

3. A man found a group of people stealing his car's catalytic converter in the middle of the night. He confronted them. They shot him. In the leg. Then they ran away. This was a few blocks from here. He'll be OK, but watch it out there.

Tuesday, August 22, 2023

a touch of life

So there's a point in the movie Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret where Margaret, who's almost 12, goes with her mother to the store to buy her first bra. She puts it on in the changing room, and this happens:

MOM: How's that feel?
MARGARET: I cannot wait to take it off.
MOM: Yeah. Welcome to womanhood.

It was at this point that the movie convinced me it was for real, because at least one woman I've known intimately enough to discuss bras with feels the same way.

Monday, August 21, 2023

looking for Richard

At last, our little play-reading group, having puttered its way through Shakespeare's history cycle in between other things, has arrived at Richard III. I've been assigning the big meaty parts in the earlier history plays to the other members so that I could save up this one for myself. I remember famous Richards I've seen on stage or screen and let their readings of individual lines leave inflections on my own. I remember Ian McKellen saying "But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks" or Kevin Spacey, you should excuse the expression, saying "What though I killed her husband and her father" or Al Pacino's bone-chilling rendition of "I'll have her, but I will not keep her long."

We had a little sprinkling of rain today. No wind. That is what it's like living on the far, far edge of a tropical storm.

Sunday, August 20, 2023

dry days

Lots of news about the tropical storm ex-hurricane that's headed towards Southern California. In a sense I'm not surprised, any more than I was about Katrina in New Orleans in 2005. I remember being quite surprised when I first learned that hurricanes in the eastern Pacific were a regular thing, because you never heard about them, as opposed to Caribbean hurricanes which made huge headlines thousands of miles away. But owing to the geography, Pacific hurricanes rarely hit land, and when they did, it was in Mexico. Racist condescension alert, Mexican weather didn't make headlines in the US. The only effect they had in the US was to bring a little unseasonable rain to southern California or Arizona as they petered out.

This one, though, looks like it's headed pretty much full force into California, centering around the Salton Sea, and headed straight north. But where I am, we aren't directly north of that area at all. Nevada is. It's Las Vegas which has to worry next. There was a few days ago a chance that we'd get a little stray rain on Monday or Tuesday, but that's disappeared from the forecast.

And what can you say about Hawaii? Geez, another entire town wiped out by a utility-caused fire that was allowed to get out of control, with several roomsful of dead. Just like Paradise. How dreadful. I fear we're in for more of these.

Meanwhile, I'm sitting at home without a car, while mine is having the dents pounded out. I'm not going outside at all except to make the per diem deposit of a bag of cat leavings in the trash can. Some days it's a bit too hot in the afternoons when the temperature hits the 90s F, but it's pleasant enough in the mornings, and by 4 or 5 pm opening up the windows and turning on window fans does the trick. It's a bit of a relaxing change from spending three weeks driving to Menlo for festival concerts almost every day. It's quiet out there and my first symphony concerts aren't till October. Dog days, except we don't have dogs, we have cats, who are demonstrating that it's dog days by the dog-like behavior of lying around in the heat spread out on the linoleum.

Saturday, August 19, 2023

scholarly dalliance

I've finished writing that hairy book review. Over a third of it is my taking apart its mistakes about the Inklings. The other two-thirds-minus is mostly praise, actually: other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, it's a pretty good book.

This journal wants reviews in under 5000 words. How long is it? 4746. That's without the header and the Works Cited list (I'm citing 13 other items), which would put it over 5000.

We'll see how it goes over. This is a chance to deal with errors that have bothered me for years. One writer takes a leap in the dark and assigns an exact date that there isn't any warrant for to an event, and everyone else sees it, thinks they must have a reason for it, and copies them. The icing comes when somebody lines them all up to say, They all agree so they must be right.

Friday, August 18, 2023

world according to cat

He is a mighty hunter. He hunts cat toys.

Thursday, August 17, 2023


I'm all the more eager for the new edition of Tolkien's Letters to come out, as the better part of the index has fallen out of the old softcover I'm using as my reference copy. I'm using it a lot right now, as I'm writing an extremely hairy review of a book which gets most of its facts about the Inklings wrong.

This week I've been pretty much stuck at home and will be next week as well, as my car is in the shop having the dents pounded out, and that's how long it takes. This is all because somebody bumped into my car in a parking lot in June; the damage was minor but the insurance company is insistent it be repaired. Of course I can take B's car if I have to, and I do for the weekly shopping and for a medical appointment, but it's a nuisance to adjust the seat and all, and I'd rather not. So I'm checking the shopping list extra careful to ensure we have enough and I don't have to take any supplementary trips.

Monday, August 14, 2023

not going to the opera

Alex Ross writes about the Santa Fe Opera. He thinks he's being enticing, but he's not.

Mostly it's because he praises the open-to-the-outside amphitheater, which he compares to the Hollywood Bowl. I've been to the Hollywood Bowl. Once. My very strong reaction was "Done that; now I never have to come here again."

He also calls the Santa Fe Opera inexpensive; you can get a 5-opera season for $200. Maybe if you sign up far in advance, but the last time I was in Santa Fe, which was 12 years ago, I looked up the opera just out of curiosity, and found that for my dates I could have gotten tickets for La Boheme at about $100 a pop. This exceeded my desire to see La Boheme by about $100, so I didn't bother trying.

On the other hand, there's no fewer than 3 operas that San Francisco Opera is doing this season that interest me. But I'm terrified of getting a subscription because then they'll never stop badgering me to keep it. I go to one opera in a decade, which I did a couple years ago, and afterwards they kept phoning me until I forced them to stop. Maybe I'll get the livestream versions.

Sunday, August 13, 2023

review: Il Ducato

Several years ago The Lamplighters light opera company decided to respond to charges that Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado was derogatory towards Japanese people by re-setting it in Renaissance Italy. (I have not heard if the opinions of persons of Italian descent were solicited.) I didn't see that production, but they've revived it so I went to see it.

Let's just say that the restaging did not spoil the show and that it was an utterly magnificent production with hilarious acting and tremendous singing, and get on to the question, what did they change? Well, costumes, of course, which I'm not really qualified to discuss. As for wording,

Japan = Milan, as if it were a country, which it was until Napoleon steamrollered over it, and thus

Japanese = Milanese

The Mikado = Il Ducato, though all references to the Emperor have been left intact

Some other names were pronounced identically. Ko-Ko = Coco. Pooh-Bah = Poobà. Katisha = Catiscià. Others are different. Nanki-Poo = Niccolù, which isn't at all the same. Yum-Yum = Amiam, which is pronounced as if it were Um-Yum.

Titipu, the town = Tiramisu, or Tirmasu in songs to preserve the scansion

Opening number ("If you want to know who we are / We are gentlemen of Japan") = the only one rewritten. They're gentlemen of Milan, of course, and describe themselves as poets and artists.

"My father, the Lucius Junius Brutus of his race" = "of his day," very nice and subtle change

"Perhaps if I were to withdraw from Japan, and travel in Europe for a couple of years" = "Perhaps if I were to withdraw from Milan, and travel in Japan for a couple of years," clever

"O ni! bikkuri shakkuri to!" the words they interrupt Katisha with = "Amor vincent omnia," which really makes more sense

"Miya sama, miya sama" etc., the Mikado's entrance song = "O Fortuna," words from the opening of Orff's Carmina Burana, but sung to Sullivan's pseudo-Japanese tune

"I seized him by his little pig-tail" = "by the scruff of his neck"

"Gone abroad! His address?" "Knightsbridge" = "North Beach," a traditionally Italian neighborhood of San Francisco

"[Nanki-Poo's real name] might have been on his pocket-handkerchief, but Japanese don't use pocket-handkerchiefs" = cut entirely. I once saw a production, with no change of setting, where this line was replaced with "It might have been on his American Express card, but he must have left home without it"

Apart from the change of setting, there were the usual re-writes of the "Little List" song, written by Lawrence Ewing as Coco. He denounced promoters of self-driving cars and AI, and got particular cheers for "All billionaires who want to be the leader of the pack / Let's put them all in orbit and forget to bring them back." Chung-Wai Soong as Il Ducato made a few small alterations to "Let the punishment fit the crime," but my favorite moment was when he says his son is going about as a Second Trombone, he takes a peek down into the orchestra pit. At the meet-and-greet afterwards, I complimented the actor for this little breach of the fourth wall, and he said, "Where else would you go looking for a Second Trombone?"

Of the cast in general I can't speak too highly. They were just magnificent, delightful. Special note to Sara Couden, who simply blew away the part of Catiscià, both in singing and acting. Lawrence Ewing as Coco is a veteran Lamplighters funnyman, a different type of actor than Couden but equally good, and their long scene together in Act 2 was as completely perfect as any G&S I've ever seen. The show began its run here and is concluding at Lesher in two weeks. It was so good that I'm considering going again.

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Gravenstein festival

The Gravenstein is a rare and esteemed variety of apple. Around here it's only grown in a small section of Sonoma County, two hours north of here, and its season is just a few weeks in August. Few Gravensteins make it into grocers down here, and usually the season is over before I notice it's started.

But this year I noticed in advance that there is an annual Gravenstein Apple Fair in Sebastopol, the town at the heart of the apple's range. So I decided to go and bought a ticket. Today was the day. It turned out to be a good day to go, with temperatures in the 80s F; tomorrow, the second day, threatens to be much warmer.

It was very popular. It's held in a semi-rural park on the edge of town, and there isn't much parking. A nearby business and church that aren't using their parking lots on weekends (a church? if they say so ...) volunteered theirs as offsite lots, and a perpetually overloaded shuttle ran people back and forth. I arrived at 11 AM, an hour after it started, and already lines were long but moving quickly.

The fair is full of booths of various vendors. Plenty of Gravenstein apples, both whole and in recipes. I forewent the popular fritters, and instead had a slice of caramel apple spice cake from this bakery. Also some freshly squeezed apple juice for right then, and a jar of apple sauce to go, all Gravenstein of course.

As I leaned against a tree eating my cake, a small girl (with her mother nearby) holding a half-eaten apple was staring up at me in curiosity. She said nothing, but I talked to her about apples and trees.

Looking beforehand for some serious lunch, I found a few vendors of that and contented myself with a bowl of paella from one of those vast commercial paella pans. It was a large serving, and, while the ingredients were good, the results were rather bland.

Later, I found a place to sit in the shade and listen to the pleasant set of this singer-songwriter and his unaggressive rock band. His backing vocalist took the spotlight for one number, an eccentric but appealing cover of Gershwin's "Summertime."

By the time that was over it was 2 PM, I'd been there for three hours and done what I came to do; time to leave.

Friday, August 11, 2023

another thing I don't get

Gymnastics. I read an article about the return of Simone Biles, whose performance was described as so fabulous that I watched the video. Fortunately it was only two minutes.

Several times she runs across the mat and does flips through the air. I'm sure this is very hard to do, but I am too ignorant of gymnastics to be able to discern what makes her so much better than all the other gymnasts who do the same thing. The flips are too fast for me to follow anyway.

That's a problem for me with a lot of fields of artistic endeavor, including acting. I can't tell the difference between excellent work and merely good work. (In classical music, I can tell the difference. In fantasy literature, I really really can tell the difference.)

But that's not what really baffles me. In between runs across the mat, she prances around, waving all four limbs about. Is that part of the gymnastic routine or is it just posturing?

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Music@Menlo, week three, part two

The most important thing I did in the last three days of Menlo was to attend and review their final concert. This was the current-events edition of their historical survey of chamber music. I was struck by how much the new music of today reminded me, not of the high-modernist new music of my youth, but of conceptual art of the Fluxus model. And I should know what that's like, because I once reviewed a Fluxus event for SFCV. It's true that theatrical impulses invaded high modernism also, but those were of later date than the early 60s I was referring to, or else were of the John Cage school which wasn't high modernism.

So I had plenty of opportunity to slip in digs at postwar high modernism. The line I claimed that they'd say sneeringly, "Who cares if you listen?", is the title the editors at High Fidelity slipped on to a 1958 article by high-modernist icon Milton Babbitt. Babbitt protested that he didn't say that, and he didn't, but he meant it, though he denied that too, so I think using it is a legitimate dig.

There was lots of fun in this concert. The big photo at the top illustrates the line, "second violinist Kristin Lee danced around each of her colleagues while playing wildly," though it doesn't explicitly say so.

What was most informative to me was the talk by two of the composers on the day before the concert. There wasn't space for me to go into this in detail, but I can say here that David Ludwig began by putting forth the explicit proposition that, within the last 30-40 years, composers have found a new desire to communicate with audiences, to write accessible and palatable music. He attributed this partly to the increasing complexity of high-modernism disappearing up its own ass (though he didn't put it that way) and partly to the ameliorating influence of popular music, which is part of the background of many serious classical composers today in a way rarely true before.

Ludwig also put forth forcefully the proposition that music only exists while it's being played. The score is only instructions for making it. I quietly cheered at this, because it's the exact opposite of the high-modernist heresy of Augenmusik, in which the score is the real music, and a performance is only an imperfect representation of the Platonic ideal - necessarily imperfect, for most music written to that standard is impossible to play with complete accuracy to the instructions.

Wang Jie said so much that was vague or spiritual or without clear reference that I couldn't make much of it beyond what I put in the article. (She made much of some comparison to tomato sauce, apparently a reference to a food preference study that she assumed we already knew.) Except for one thing: asked what Beethoven (this year's featured composer) meant to her, she said that listening to his music and thinking of things that she would have done differently showed her two things: first, that Beethoven was just a human being; second, that she could change those things, and therefore she could be a composer too.

Earlier on Saturday I got to the final Young Performers concert, where the 12-to-19 year olds of amazingly professional quality played assorted individual movements. This time what I was really there for was the opening movement of Mendelssohn's Octet. It was all splendid, and I would have added a paragraph to my review if I hadn't already been running overlong.

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Music@Menlo, week three, part one

Right on the heels of reviewing last Thursday and Friday's concerts, I went back to Menlo to review Sunday's. I liked the performances, but I spent some time in the review disputing the premise. This was the 20th-century entry in the historical survey, and they called it "The Turbulent Century," but the choice of music was hardly that. Half the pieces were ingratiating, and the others were too captivating to deserve the term "turbulent," which to me has something of a negative connotation, and deserves to be attached to more aggravating music. At any rate the principle by which music must be advanced to the point of obnoxiousness, so much promulgated in the last century, was entirely absent from this concert. Good riddance as far as I care, but not very accurate to the historical portrait.

I went to the Prelude concert beforehand, intending to include it, but I decided I'd said enough already. Besides, it included a repeat performance of the Beach Quintet, which I'd already mentioned (against my initial intent) in Thursday's review, and in any case I thought Thursday's was a better performance.

I'm glad I let the festival's communications person talk me into getting the recorded livestream of the Calidore's concert of Beethoven's Opp. 130/133 and 132 quartets. Someone I talked with later didn't like the performances, but I thought they were quite adequate. The tenderness and beauty all came out where it should; the Heiliger Dankgesang's Molto Adagio was about as slow as it could get without losing motion, and it melted nicely in to the Andante; and that was about as light and cheerful a Grosse Fuge as I've heard, as it bounced its way along.

Despite a general rule that works should be played in the last version the composer left us, it's now pretty much obligatory to play Op. 130 in the initial version with the Grosse Fuge finale. Beethoven let his publisher convince him to detach this and publish it separately - thus Op. 133 - and provide a replacement finale, but not only was that replacement not played in this supposed complete cycle of Beethoven's quartets, the program notes are written as if they're expelling it from the canon. It was the last composition Beethoven ever wrote, so surely it's worth something.

But why did Beethoven, normally so uncompromising with his work, let his publisher convince him to change his mind? David Ludwig (no relation to Beethoven: he actually brought this up), the next Wednesday's lecturer, said Beethoven published it separately to give people more of a chance to get to know this difficult work, and indeed he also published an arrangement for piano four-hands, a common way then of bringing orchestral music into the home but rare for chamber music: that's Op. 134. That would explain it; I'm satisfied with that reasoning.

Ludwig's talk was on Beethoven's influence on later composers. He said that Beethoven's developments in scale, range, complexity, and musical syntax make him not just the most influential composer, but the most influential artist ever in any medium on that medium. He gave an example of Beethoven's technical innovations in how Beethoven builds the entirety of his Fifth Symphony out of that four-note motive at the beginning. A remarkable example, because that's exactly the work that initiated my own devotion to the heavy classics, and that's exactly the aspect of it that did so.

After noting Schubert and Brahms and their response to the heavy tread of Beethoven behind them, Ludwig focused on three subsequent composers: Schoenberg, who faithfully applied Beethoven's principles to his own more harrowing music (including that all-encompassing motivic development, except that Schoenberg forgot to provide a good motive); Debussy, who set himself up as the anti-Beethoven: no clarity of form, no narrative focus, no clear contrasts; and the contemporary Joan Tower, an admirer of Beethoven's principles who also incorporates the influence of Debussy.