JP0 (1)This Sunday I was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and found myself in front of their monumental Jackson Pollock “Autumn Rhythm (Number 30)”.  And once again I had that hallucinogenic experience I often have in front of Jackson Pollock’s famous drip paintings, and which I only have in front of Jackson Pollock’s famous drip paintings.

I’ve never ingested LSD but I imagine this is the closest I’ll ever get to an actual acid trip.

It is not an experience I get from looking at reproductions of Jackson Pollock paintings.  Perhaps because these can not duplicate the dimensions of the original.  Or perhaps the tactile nature of the paint on canvass needs to be experienced in person too.





I am not sure I can adequately describe the experience, or why it only happens to me in front of a Jackson Pollock drip painting.  But here it is:

I sit or stand in front of the painting and examine it like any other abstract work of art.  The eye inevitably wanders along the swoops and arcs and patterns of paint on the canvas.

But eventually my gaze rests and finds a spot in the painting to focus on.

Or rather focus through.



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Some more expected and unexpected impressions at the Brooklyn Museum



First, encounters with some singular faces.




It’s hot and humid out, but she is eternally the embodiment of frigid winter.







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My birthday present – my quite extravagant birthday present to myself – was tickets to the two-part all day performance of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” at the Lyric Theatre in New York.  And since today is Harry Potter’s birthday, as well as his creator J. K. Rowling’s birthday, I thought this is a good day to share some impressions.

HP2And yes, I will “hashtag Keep the Secrets”, although I do wonder where the Magical Powers That Be draw the line.  Is sharing evocative details from the Lyric theater’s wizarding-world-related renovation violating the Unbreakable Vow?  Will Ministry of Magic aurors swoop down on me, confringo-ing my blogpost (or rather, considering my location, will I be busted by MACUSA agents)?

HP3I write not to reveal story secrets but to praise the stagecraft, of which the enveloping atmosphere of the Lyric is one winning element.  Of the story, I’ll just posit that “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” is not, as marketers will have you accept, “the 8th book” or even “the 8th part” in the Harry Potter literary saga.  The seven Harry Potter books are their own contained galaxy, and the movies, the original adaptations and the Fantastic Beast films, as well as the play and its published script, occupy their own wonderful galaxies within the same universe.  At least that’s the perspective I believe allows for the greatest appreciation of all the “content” the Wizarding World provides.

Case in point, without giving away too much, I’ll just say two words: Time Management.  I read the script of “Cursed Child” as soon as it was published, nearly two years before I would see it performed on stage.  Early on it became clear the use of time, both as a plot device and a story structure device, would be quite different from what was experienced in the original books.  Reading this on a page, in a hard covered book, I felt my internal resistance grow.  But then I took a breath, reminded myself that this isn’t a book, it is the script of a play, and just like the movies it must tell its story in its own way to suit the art form.  The Harry Potter movies changed the stories at times to work as cinema, and these were direct adaptations of the original books.  The Harry Potter play is not an adaptation of the books, as it takes place when Harry, Ron and Hermione are middle aged adults.  As such it can fly even freer than the movie adaptations, and thus imagines a tale that is designed to resonate as a theatrical experience first and foremost.  The story and the telling of the story are made powerful because of the special properties of live theater.


So I may have been concerned that certain tropes of “Time Management” familiar from other corners of fantasy culture but heretofore not part of the Harry Potter world become a major part of this story.  But it turns out their unique inclusion in “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”, unique to Harry Potter and unique even to the stage as a storytelling device (as far as I know), is a vital inextricable part of the production’s dramatic power.


The walls of the Lyric Theatre’s foyer are painted with Patronuses – magical protective animals of light – which hide quotes from the Harry Potter novels in their designs.

The story and its relationship to time serves to put the characters we’ve know as children, and now also their children, into a variety of extreme circumstances that forces us to see them in new fascinating, ever evolving ways. (And if I explained more precisely how that is I would definitely not be hashtag keeping the secrets anymore.)  It also allows for some intense intimate scenes between characters.  Some of the most affecting moments are when two characters are simply talking to each other.  Words, acting, the drama of a relationship, those universal touchstones of the best plays are also what distinguishes “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child”.


But what about the magic?  The special effects?

Well, yes, of course that is a big brilliant part of the play.  But believe me, this production would not have been embraced by the West End and Broadway communities (showered with 9 Olivier and 6 Tony Awards) if the words, acting, drama weren’t as potent as the magical effects.

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THEY KILLED MERYL! – but she still left us one or two musical gems


When the first trailers for “Mamma Mia – Here We Go Again” arrived, the absence of Meryl Streep was conspicuous.  As were certain lines that hinted at her character Donna Sheridan’s absence in the “Mamma Mia” movie sequel.  Her likely permanent absence.  I was concerned.  Surely they didn’t…  (spoilers to follow from here on…)

Meryl Streep was listed as a cast member on IMDb, so her presence in “Mamma Mia – Her We Go Again” seemed assured, but by the time the (mostly enthusiastic) reviews for the return of the ABBA movie musical hit the internet, the death of Meryl Streep’s character Donna Sheridan a year before the present day events in the movie was confirmed.

My reaction might be summarized thusly:


They killed off Meryl?!  OK, not Meryl, but they killed off Donna?  The heart and soul of the first “Mamma Mia”?  They give the character a happy end in the first movie, only to wrest it all brutally away within four years of story or so, dead and mourned by all in the new movie?

Isn’t this all supposed to be happy escapist fun? I really was counting on that!  Goofy, happy, tuneful fun!  Why let the death of the most beloved character hang sorrowfully over the escapist proceedings?  How is that supposed to work without souring the whole soufflé?

Surprisingly enough, for the most part it works just fine, even for me who admittedly maybe cares a little too much; and even though I still would have preferred explaining away the absence of Streep from 95% of the movie with way-laid travels or perhaps a full on coma from which Donna could return/awaken just in time for the finale and then resumed her happily ever after (no less plausible than much else in these films’ plots).

Nonetheless, cheery/wistful Abbaesque shenanigans ensue enjoyably throughout.  Grief over Donna is treated lightly, both sincerely and comically, casting not a pall but mostly merely a light melancholy over the film.  I guess in these darker times, even the most unabashedly escapist bauble must take on a wistful patina.

Which by the final song becomes an undeniable tearjerker.  Streep finally appears in the flesh – that may not be the best phrase, since technically at that point she is appearing as a ghost or memory –  singing “My Love, My Life” with her daughter, who is baptizing her own daughter.  At which point I have to concede through my gushing tears that Donna’s demise gives this mother/daughter duet sequel a gut-punching power that travel delays or even a coma comeback just wouldn’t have mustered.  The original “Mamma Mia” didn’t open such floodgates.   (And I am certainly not alone in responding that way.  The BBC radio 5 Live movie critic Mark Kermode, already on record declaring “My Love, My Life” his favorite ABBA song, confessed not just to tears but to loud sobbing in the screening room.  You go, Mark, and “Hello to Jason Isaacs!”)

“My Love, My Life”, beautifully sung by Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried (and Lily James as the young Donna on the opening verse), is the undeniable musical and dramatic highlight of the movie.  And by that I mean no disrespect to the whole entertaining cast, new and returned.  Heck, just Cher singing “Fernando” with Andy Garcia is a glorious gift from the Movie Music Gods!


My Love, My Life – ABBA


My Love, My Life – Amanda Seyfried, Meryl Streep, Lily James


But there is one more musical gem from Streep via “Mamma Mia – Here We Go Again”, one even better than her singing “My Love My Life”.  And no, I don’t mean the reprise of “Super Trouper” during the credit encores.

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BEFORE THE SUNSET – with the Sun Song Quiz


The lady saw me walk onto the middle of the street with my phone out, and said to Ed “he’s taking a picture of the sunset” in that universal “that’s so sweet” tone of voice.

Except it wasn’t quite the sunset.  It was the bright low sun right before the sunset and how it effected our street that captured my camera curiosity all the way down the block.

So I will share these pics via my new Arts-a-Poppin’ photophile category and include another one of my “patented” music quizzes, hints tucked away in the tags below.




Sun Song #1 – Which pop genius, singing about the sunset here, calls her official site Fish People?

And can someone please explain to me why she calls her official site Fish People?




Sun Song #2 – The Yiddish version of this famous musical’s sun tinged song is “Tog-ayn, Tog-oys” (day in, day out)


That’s Ed silhouetted on the pavement:



Sun Song #3 – Before they hit it big with a Disco classic, this scrappy New York City Punk band went “In the Sun”.



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MAMA MIA – Here We Sing Along Again


Escapism for the New Great Depression

I slid the “Mamma Mia” disk into the blu-ray player.  I asked Ed whether it we should activate the sing-along function this time?  Ed hesitated, then demurred.  But I knew he wanted it.  So I asked again as the option presented itself on screen.  This time he bellowed “Yes!”

So two grey haired men with facial hair sang along with Meryl and Pierce and Colin as they warbled all those fabulous ABBA songs.

And I cried.


A Busby Berkeley extravaganza

Over forty years ago, I was a child watching one of those 1930s Busby Berkeley musical extravaganzas on TV and my father made a comment about movie escapism during the Great Depression.  I asked him what he meant, and he explained that the Great Depression of the 1930s was such a terrible time, people’s lives were hard and miserable with economic hardship.  But the movies gave them musical extravaganzas and happy endings.  I remember thinking it was wrong to go to the movies to watch shiny lies when the world is full of wrongs.  This was the 1970s after all, where so many movies eschewed happy endings for gritty downbeat realism.  My father explained when the whole world is going to hell, people need escapism to comfort them.  It still felt like a poor option to me, even morally dubious, and something that we had fortunately culturally outgrown.  A few years later I would see Preston Sturgess’ “Sullivan’s Travels”, which combines gritty depression era honesty with the balm of escapist comedy brilliantly.  But even then I didn’t quite buy the message.

I do now.

Because boy is the world going to shit.

We don’t have the economic disaster of the Great Depression (yet).  We do have the rise of dangerous populism and fascism.  Not like the 1930’s, yet, but rising, world wide.  Yet in the United States, which in the 1930’s elected one of its greatest presidents to show a better way, we now are saddled with the worst of the worst our nation has ever seen, dragging us down with a litany of pussygrabbing horrors: dishonesty, greed, corruption, injustice, narcissism, chauvinism, xenophobia, racism, child kidnapping, environmental destruction, the flirtation with fascism now graduated to a shake and shimmy with fascism; oh the list of the crimes is endless as is the constant trampling of any and every sort of decency.

I go on and on.  But Seth Meyers last night put it most pithily: “irredeemably awful”.

And the dispiriting fact that much too large a section of the country’s population, not a majority but not nearly a small enough minority, supports this monstrosity continuously through thick glop and thicker gruel with Dear Leader cult-like far-right-signalling blinkers…  Deplorable doesn’t really cover it anymore.

Screen Shot 2018-07-16 at 7.21.18 PMAnd then today, the obvious betrayal of the country.  The unmistakable beholdenness, obsequiousness, to a murderous dictator, a smiling villain, the puppet master.

The aiding and abetting of a hostile foreign power.

The Kafkaesque nightmare that just won’t end but only reaches ever greater lows of sickening awfulness.

The Great Depression this time around isn’t economic.  It is psychological.  And it is bringing down whole populations in existential despair.  In deep moral exhaustion.

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Moonlight Serenade – Glenn Miller and His Orchestra

It’s my husband Ed’s birthday today.  And among his wrapped birthday presents he will find another viola piano duet, another Evocation.  We’ve been together 25 years, so this year it’s Evocation XXV.  (Read stories about some of the other Evocations here, here, here and here.)  Yet there will be something different about this particular Evocation, something unlike all the others.

For one, it isn’t completely my own composition but a collaboration, or rather a variation on a classic composition.  By none other than Glenn Miller.  For another, it is a composition that came to me in a dream.

I’ve heard of artists, especially writers or composers, tell of ideas coming to them in their dreams, yet I don’t recall this ever happening to me before.  But several weeks ago I dreamed of the melody of Glenn Miller’s 1939 jazz band evergreen “Moonlight Serenade” being played by Ed on the viola, while I was working out the original accompaniment figures on the piano.  I woke up vividly remembering the dream, especially the music (Normally I tend to forget my dreams swiftly upon awakening).  And I thought, well, there is an idea.  I hadn’t yet composed this year’s Evocation.  I had no ideas for it yet.  There were only a few weeks left to compose it before Ed’s birthday, but I don’t think I was feeling the pressure yet.  Perhaps subconsciously I was?  And thus the dream?  Either way, I took heed of the dream, and decided the next Evocation would adapt the main themes of the Moonlight Serenade for viola and piano and then continue the composition with some variations and digressions à la Ashkenasi.

I realized that morning right away that this would end up being a more ambitious, time consuming writing process than most of the more recent Evocations.  But the idea was formed.  And I submitted to it.  In composing, as in life, it’s probably not advisable to deny oneself one’s dreams.

Here is how it turned out, as performed (sigh) by a soulless computer program (Ed and I will likely give it a premiere whirl on actual live instruments later today):


Evocation XXV – Moonlight Evocation – Danny Ashkenasi and Glenn Miller



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NATARAJA – The Dancing King








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Museum Impressions


Yesterday at the Brooklyn Museum with an unwitting special focus on the feminine









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Park Slope Comes Out!

Highlights from the June 9 Brooklyn Pride Street Fare and Parade




We are Family – Sisters Sledge






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BEWARE THE CON! – a cautionary epistolary tale



The following emails are actual.  Only certain identifying details have been redacted.


Sunday, 7:01pm – Message from D- C- relayed via a service for independent contractors:

Hello,My name is D- ,I want lessons for my Daughter,she is 12 years old, Pls text (XXX) XXX-XXXX me or email to ( h——@gmail.com ) the cost of 1 hour per day total of 10 lessons in a month ?


Sunday 11:21 pm – Danny Ashkenasi to h—–@gmail.com 

Dear Mr. C-,
I received your message from T———- regarding lessons for your 12 year old daughter and requesting information about the cost of 1 hour per day total of 10 lessons in a month.


A one hour lesson at my studio would be $XX.  ($XXX for 10) For 10 lessons in a month, would you be considering a lesson scheduled every 3 or 4 days?


I do make house calls as well, for a $5-$10 surcharge, depending on distance traveled.  I am located in Brooklyn, and normally don’t travel as far as the XXXXX zip code you are located.


Please contact me directly at dannyashkenasi@gmail.com or XXX XXX-XXXX. 

Danny Ashkenasi


Monday 4:27 am – D- J- to me


Thanks for getting back to me, My daughter name is Susan she is coming
for an holiday in your CITY and I want her to be busy in the time of
the day,because i will be in CANADA for business trip for more than a
month that is why i want her to be lesson with you i have Someone that
will always drive her down to your house or lessons center for the
each lessons,the total days of the lesson will only be 10 days in a
month. Just let me know the cost for the 10 days lessons ?



Monday 4:44 am – D- J- to me


Am okay with your price and i also have Someone that will be driven
her down to you for the each lessons,What is your own convenient time
and days that you want my daughter to be coming in a week?



Monday 8:44 am – Danny Ashkenasi to D- 
Mr. C-,
What month are we looking at? This June and July I am the most open for scheduling lessons in the early afternoon. 2pm for example would be available most Mondays thru Thursdays and some Fridays. Earlier times are also widely available. Later afternoon or evening times are more booked up but can be arranged during the week as well.

Please let me know between what two dates you would like to schedule the 10 lessons and (if 2pm will work for you) I will schedule out 10 specific dates that maximize the efficacy of the lessons.

Is Susan a beginner player, and if not, how many years has she been playing piano?




Monday 9:08 am – D- C- to me


She will be starting the lesson probably this week,  The 2pm time is
better and Mondays through Thursday and Friday will also be fine with
my daughter. I believe my daughter will definitely enjoy lesson under
you, Yes she has been playing piano before now. she’s a humble girl
which always want to learn for her future. she will definitely be a
good student under you…Everything sound good to me and am okay with
you,My mode of payment is check and it will get deliver to your door
step via USPS this week before the lesson will start this week..Kindly
get back to me with your  full name to be on the check and your
address And your direct contact that you want the payment to be
deliver too so that i can forward it to my Secretary to mail out the
payment to you asap..Thanks

Monday 9:26 am – Danny Ashkenasi to D- 
Very well,

I will write out a schedule (with my address) and an invoice for you. Should we have her start this Wednesday? Or we could start tomorrow (Tuesday) too, if you like. Since we are starting so soon, the check can be brought with your daughter at the first lesson.

But before I can create the schedule I need to know by what day should the 10 lessons end?


Danny Ashkenasi

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These Roses are Ready for their Close-Up, Mr. DeMille!


Another year… another June…


R4This year the rose garden at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden had received a “hard cut”, as we heard a passerby explain.  Which made it still lovely but less lush than in years past.  So I’ll focus on the close-up in this post.


And of course we’ll include a rosy little musical quiz, answers strewn among the tags below.  (Warm-up question, which 1920’s tune begins with the above quoted lyric “another year, another June…”?)



Rose petaled question #1:  For which movie did Bette Midler receive her first Academy Award Best Actress nomination?  Bonus question, which movie provided her second?





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AET 20

There’s a new category here at Notes from a Composer: Arts-a-Poppin’.

(This category, like all the others, can be accessed on the right side of every site page, just below the tweet stream.)

After posting a double bill of selections from ART NY 2018 (after showcasing the 2016 and 2017 ART NY editions), it has become obvious that a special focus on the visual arts has crept into my blog as one more sideline to my shared musings and enthusiasms.  And then too there is my propensity to share some of my artsy fartsy photographic experiences, which often have more than just a touristy angle, if that.

So now there is a blog archive that collects my sporadic enthusiasm for visual arts and visual amateur experimentations.

Where, in addition to the ART NY Extravaganzas, you may spend time with Rodin in Brooklyn.



Or stumble upon hidden folk art in Brazil.


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Etienne Garceau

Part 2 of my glimpse into ART NY 2018.  Some more “celebrity sightings” in artist and subject just as in Part 1.  Even more “shifting perspectives”, featuring videos of art work that show how they change, either because they include video imagery in motion, or because they alter depending on the perspective of their viewing.  For example the changing colors of Zhang Hang Yi’s Flowerbed:

A18-57 (1)


Or the far off / up close changes in Nemo Jantzen’s “Vogue”:

A18-92 (1)



And as before, I’ll throw in a few more Art Song Puzzlers, the answers for which may be found tucked within the tags at the bottom of the post.



Which singer asked us to come away with her to sing about painting?


Hendrik Kerstas

A18-53 (1)


Roberto Fabelo



Frederico Uribe

A18-61 (1)


Sinatra and Einstein by Will Kurtz



Florian Eymann



Leonor Anthony



Oliver Czarnetta


(Note the suspicious look I get from the minder at the end of this video:)

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Celebrity Sightings at ART NY 2018

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The large Yigal Ozeri portrait of Whoopi Goldberg behind the information desk by the entrance into ART NY 2018 was a hint that this year’s exhibition would have more than its fair share of celebrity sightings.  Not only celebrities being depicted in the art.  Also celebrities exhibiting.  And by that I mean both famous artists like Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall as well as famous actor Adrien Brody and famous quarterback Joe Namath.

We’ll get to those and much more intriguing art.  And just as in my previous two blog posts on Art NY there will be another guessing game of “art” songs (with the answers hidden in the tags at the bottom of the post).  A18-51 (1)But this year for the first time I will also include some cool videos of art that changes over time or with shifting viewer perspectives.

For example Gavin Rain’s painting (with three dimensional candy striped paint cones) of (celebrity) Marilyn Monroe, an icon who would figure in quite a few Art NY 2018 works this year:



Which artsy pop diva is stepping into the part previously played by Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland and Janet Gaynor in what movie remake directed by which 4 time Oscar nominee?

(like before on this blog and discussed above, the answers to these queries may be found hidden among the tags below)

“See no vulva, hear no vulva, speak no vulva”, one might quip.

A18-60 (1)

Speaking of celebrity artists, Keith Haring (above) must be included in that category, and once again ART NY had some of his work on display, including an example of his subway graffiti art (right), from early in his career when Haring would “deface” black posters which used to cover temporarily unrented subway station wall ad space.  Yesterday’s illegal agitprop graffiti art had been roughly torn off the subway wall and is now today’s glass framed, expensive gallery offering.


Kenny Sharf:


Cartoon sensibilities and celebrity cartoons come into play in a lot of pieces, like this one by Ron English:

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A18-6 (1)Or you can purchase an oil painting of a tv cartoon still of Bart Simpson and Joe Namath.  Just one option of many on display at the Joe Namath Foundation Exhibition.

Which do you prefer, the yellow googly-eyed Joe or the shirtless hairy-chested Joe?

A18-7 (1)

Right next to Joe Namath was Adrien Brody:


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The Views from THE VIEW


Ed and I were treated to dinner at The View restaurant on the top of the Marriott Hotel in Times Square.  48 stories high, the whole restaurant is perched on a circular platform that, like a very slowly rotating record, turns on an axis over the course of a little over an hour to present the patron with 360 degrees of high perched Manhattan city views.

Ed and I couldn’t help ourselves.  We took a lot of photos.


And as is my wont in this kind of post, to make this a bit of a guessing game, I will sprinkle high flying city songs throughout, whose titles and artists shall remain a secret (easily sussed out via the tags at the bottom of the post).

High Flying City Song #1

(Sounds like she would have preferred to stay in merry old England)


The food, by the way, was OK.  But not nearly commensurate with the rich prices.  I’d say there is at least a 100% mark up for the views, which, depending on your perspective, may still make it worth the expense.


High Flying City Song #2

(These city high fliers are promising a whole new song, after over 35 years.)



High Flying City Song #3

(This song was inspired by the NYC financial crisis of the 1970s, specifically the newspaper headline: “Ford to NY: Drop Dead”.)



High Flying City Song #4

(How can you feel blue with such a view?)


Oh look, the moon:


Can you guess the show being advertised on the screen below? (The tags at the bottom include the answer.)


High Flying City Song #5

(I doubt the little tramp would have been able to afford this restaurant.)


Do you recognize a particularly famous building (above) by its silhouette? (Again, the tags include the answer.)

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