BRAZIL – The Black & Brown Waters of the Amazon UPDATED, NEW & IMPROVED


Well, no, the waters themselves are pretty much as they were, but my blog post about them has been updated, with all new and improved pictures and information about the truly spectacular Meeting of the Waters in the Amazon river by Manaus.

Why, and how? Well take another look at the original post, now enhanced and upgraded:


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BRAZIL – Wildlife Encounters Driving into the Pantanal


Vast watery landscapes, birds birds birds, and really close encounters with the largest and cuddliest monster rodents you can imagine as well as the jacaré, Brazil’s alligators!

Brazil (Sam Lowry’s First Dream) – Michael Kamen / Kate Bush

PantanalmapTwo weeks ago Ed and I flew into Corumba, near Bolivia in Brazil’s southwestern state of Mato Grosso du Sul, the main southern access point to the vast Pantanal region.  The Pantanal might be best described, to Americans at least, as Brazil’s version of the Everglades.  An immense system of rivers and wetlands, with water levels that rise and inundate the land in the rainy season and fall again in the dry season, releasing some ground from a watery blanket.  The Pantanal waters are separate from those that form the Amazonian system.

August is in the dry season, so it was possible for Ed and I to drive the Estrada Parque hundreds of kilometers west and south of Corumba in a regular car (that would get really dusty in the process).  During the rainy season only 4 wheel drives would make in through the then muddy and water logged trail.

North of Corumba the Pantanal, even in the dry season is completely inundated with water (the photo above is looking north, the photo is from the start of the Estrada Parque road).  We explored that section by boat, a completely different experience, which I will share in the next blog post.


The dirt road gives way to many bridges, which allow the waters to flow freely in and out.





Even in the dry season, most of the view on either side of the Estrada Parque road is water covered terrain.








To the left, the golden trumpet, Brazil’s National Tree.







Br-p5bHarpy eagle.

The eagles look so distinguished and calm on their high perches overlooking the landscape.

Regal eagles indeed.












We saw so many parrots whizzing by, sometimes in groups of 4 or 6, but capturing them on camera proved nigh impossible.  Even when they stopped in trees, they had a way of blending in and moving out of sight behind branches.  Still, I have a few shots to prove the encounters happened.  I was less fortunate with the toucans, who would fly past us suddenly and beautifully and too quick for the camera.  On this day I would shoot no images of toucans.  On another day, however, well… stay tuned…



Although August is a winter month in Brazil, it still reach 90 degrees Fahrenheit in Corumba.  So I’ll take this opportunity to include the famous Summer Samba as a musical interlude:

So Nice (Summer Samba) – Bebel Gilberto

Take a close look below, do you see it…?


The jacaré caiman, proud member of the alligator family!


So many more jacaré, up close and jaws agape, plus much more “below the break”, as they say…

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BRAZIL – The Caves of PETAR


Brazil – Geoff Muldaur

The pictures of Brazil I have posted so far have been from our trip four years ago.  Today for the first time I post pictures from our current trip.  Our first stop in Brazil after touching down in Campinas (Sao Paulo) was State Park of PETAR (Parque Estadual Turístico do Alto Ribeira), in the south of Sao Paulo State.  It boasts one of the largest areas of original Mata Atlantica rainforest (the pre-Columbian Atlantic coast rainforest that had been largely decimated by development).  PETAR State Park is most famous for its many caves.  Below is a picture of Casa de Pedra, a Petar cave with a nearly record big opening of about 18o meters.


You however need about a day’s hike into the forest to reach Casa de Pedra.  More humble tourists that we are, we hired a guide to take us into those three caves most accessible to day trippers.  They are pretty impressive in their own right.  The first one, Santana, goes on for over 12 km.  800 meters worth is deemed safe for tourists and their guides.  And that alone is a lot of cave to explore, with too many fabulous formations of stalactites and stalagmites to contain in even this blog post, and I’ll share plenty.

Br-c1To the right, that’s Ed and me and our head protection (it’s easy to bump your head making your way through and past the tight corners, low ceilings and odd protrusions of a cave system).  Below is the entrance to the Santana cave.  It looks rather modest for what would wind up being an elaborate, impressive 12 km cave system.  Turns out this entrance was blasted open by dynamite a hundred years ago.  Originally the opening was much smaller, just enough for the water to pour out and make a strange grumbling sound, which is why it initially was called the Snoring Cave.



The opening of the Santana cave, as seen from within:


Taking pictures inside the caves with just my regular old canon automatic, there is the decision of whether to use flash photography or try capturing the image in the low light available from the helmet headlights.  Below you can see the difference of the same section of the cave being photographed in the “natural” light of the head lamps and with the camera’s flash.  Although the flash photography for the most part gives much more detail, it can have a flattening effect, and it doesn’t represent the actual experience of being in the darkness of the caves, guided only by the lights from our helmet lamps.




I will include pictures taken both ways.  So you can share the experience of being in the dark cave system, spookily illuminated by limited light, as well as revel in the details of some of the fantastic calcium carbonate deposit formations we encountered.

All this talk of camera usage brings me to our Brazilian musical number of today: Desafinado.  Why?  Because of this lyric of course:

Fotografei você na minha Rolleiflex

(I took a picture of you with my Rolleiflex)

Desafinado – Antonio Carlos Jobim

Desafinado is actually less about cameras and more about music.  Desafinado means “out of tune” and the lyrics describe a lover’s disdain for the narrator’s singing.   The lyrics’ dissection of the relationship is actually a sly defense of bossa nova itself, the musical style which was just being introduced at the time of the song’s writing.  Desafinado may now easily be not only the most famous bossa nova tune but also the song that more than any other defines the bossa nova style.

Okay, back into the caves:




Br-c6Above and beside you can see some of the walkways we took to get through the cave system.  Ed says “I love about Brazil that you can do things here that would be considered totally unsafe for tourists in America”.



Br-c8spiderThere are animals that live exclusively in the caves, like this spider.


Below note the glittering of the minerals on the cave wall, like a star filled night.



Time for some stalactites, in columns and curtains:



Br-c12aEd is looking at a rock formation which is called the horse’s head for obvious reasons.



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BRAZIL – Rio Religioso


Brazil – Ritchie Family

Welcome back to Rio de Janeiro, currently in the midst of hosting the Olympic Games.  Ed and I are currently in other parts of Brazil, but four years ago we were all over Rio.  I already shared our impressions of Ipanema, Copacabana and the Sugarloaf, now let’s explore some other awe-inspiring places in the city.

And when you think Rio and inspirational, it’s hard not to think of the Cristo Redentor statue on top of Mount Corcovado.  The statue of Christ the Redeemer looking over the city is such an indelible image.  There may be many cities with a greater claim on religious importance, but no other city has an image of such unmistakable religious significance laying claim to being its most recognizable emblem.



Therefore this post’s Brazilian musical example must be Antonio Carlos Jobim’s song Corcovado, in which the narrator finds hope and redemption in a new love sharing his bed, while he awakes in the morning and looks out the window at the statue on top of the mountain that gives this love song its title:

Corcovado – Antonio Carlos Jobim

Br-r1aToday’s  tour through Rio will conclude on Corcovado.  And I promise you I will be sharing pictures of Cristo Redentor that are unlike the typical postcard pictures or Google Images you will find of the iconic location.  Our visit there turned out to be less than typical, and that will be reflected in my photos.

Until then we have plenty of Rio to explore, and to stick to the theme of Rio Religioso we will be viewing Cathedrals of Awe, mostly religious structures in the strict definition of the term, but also cathedrals of culture, that inspire their own spiritual awe.





Let’s start with Rio de Janeiro’s Metropolitan Cathedral AKA Catedral de São Sebastião do Rio de Janeiro.


I was particularly taken with the way the modernist cathedral reflected off the multifaceted glass of the nearby tall office towers.




Then we went inside the Metropolitan Cathedral.



Massive statues, above see Saint Francis, guard the entrances into the Cathedral.




And below another view of Cristo Redentor on Corcovado.  It’s a view that dominates most of the Rio de Janeiro skyline.  So in anticipation of the “climax” of this blog post I will include a series of favorite “Jesus” songs.  Since I am what I would call “spiritually unaffiliated” no church hymns will be included.  But spiritual uplift and/or contemplation are inextricably linked to each musical choice.

Let’s start with a really famous one:

Superstar – from “Jesus Christ Superstar” (Andrew Lloyd Webber / Tim Rice)





From the Catedral Metropolitana we walked uphill towards the Santa Teresa neighborhood.  The roads are very steep, more so even than these pictures indicate.


And we didn’t yet know that a hidden religious secret would reveal itself to us.  We might have noticed it as early as standing outside the Metropolitan Cathedral, but we wouldn’t see it for ourselves until much later.  The photos we took along the way however would drop big hints…


The Sugarloaf in the background.  We’d ascended it previously.


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BRAZIL- RIO DE JANEIRO – Ipanema, Copacabana and the Sugarloaf


Brazil – Frank Sinatra

Ed and I are in Brazil this August, but we are not going to Rio de Janeiro.  Not this year.  Not going to compete with the Olympics.  But four years ago, we spent 6 fabulous days in Rio.  Today I share impressions of the famous beaches of Ipanema, Copacabana, and a trip up the famous Sugarloaf Mountain (Pão de Açúcar).  The picture above is the view from the Sugarloaf, a Gondula coming up from the city below.  Copacabana beach can be seen center left, with Ipanema beach just on the other side of the peninsula and hill behind Copacabana.

Let’s start with Ipanema:


The Girl from Ipanema – Antonio Carlos Jobim




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Ed and I took turns frolicking in the waves.  It was enormously fun.


Ed, I’m actually off to the right, in the water, not over there… uh… Ed?





Vendors on the beach peddle souvenirs, foods, jewelry (below) and even bikinis (above).




And on the other side of a thin peninsula, Copacabana beach:


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BRAZIL – Floating Forests, Piranhas, and Sunsets of the Amazon


Above, the Jungle Lodge, where we stayed for a weekend Amazon Adventure on the Urubu River

BRAZIL (Bachianos Brazil Samba) – Michael Kamen

Below views of the Urubu River from the Lodge tower.


The Urubu river gets its name from the Urubu (vulture).  The story is that when the European invaders killed scores of natives they dumped them in the river, and the many vultures descending on the floating corpses gave the river its name.





Yes, there are Piranha in the river.  But we were told it was safe to swim in the waters by the Lodge, as long we didn’t go in with an open wound…


Then we took a field trip – or rather a water trip – into the floating forests.


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BRAZIL – The Black & Brown Waters of the Amazon

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A dramatic photograph in a Manaus gallery shows the stark contrast of the waters of the Amazon and the Rio Negro as they meet and continue side by side for many miles without blending.

Brazil – Pink Martini



Welcome to Brazil.  Today we look at the waters of the Amazon, first at Manaus, the capital of the state of Amazonas, where the brown waters of the Amazon, flowing in from the West and Southwest, meet the black waters of the Rio Negro, flowing in from the North and Northwest. Br-a0 The second part of this post will take us to the waters of the Urubu River, an Amazon tributary where we spent an “Adventure Weekend” after leaving Manuas (These pictures are from our Brazil trip 4 years ago).

But first the great Black/Brown divide of the Amazon and Rio Negro at Manaus.  As the picture above, as well as the photographs I took on the river myself will dramatically show, at this juncture the waters of the two river systems meet but don’t yet blend, and flow on eastwards visibly separated by their hues side by side for many miles.


We took a public bus to a spot just East of Manaus to a post where you can take ferries across the river.


The northern side of the river contains the black waters of the Rio Negro and its tributaries.  The southern side contains the brown waters of the Amazon and its southwestern tributary rivers.  The separation between the two is as clear as a horizon line, but in this case a horizon line one may visibly cross in one’s boat.




And we’ve crossed the line, and are now looking back:



8/25 UPDATE: Pictures taken from our 2016 visit to the Great Amazonian Water Divide

Today, back in Manaus, we went “private” rather than “public”; as in we took a tour boat that lingered in the brown/black water divide instead of the municipal ferry we opted for in 2012, crossing the Amazon and the Meeting of the Waters as the boat delivered passengers to opposite shores.  In 2012 I had the experience of going shore to shore.  Today I had the opportunity to linger at the Meeting of the waters and take some more incisive pics of the brown/black water phenomenon.


The tour boat took us right where the two rivers come together, beginning  a side by side division of waters that continues for 8 km before finally mixing as one.



Why the division?  The short answer is density, temperature, speed….


Meaning, the original Amazon source is in Peru, and from there the waters carry more silt than the Rio Negro waters, making them denser (as well as browner).  The Rio Negro waters originate from as far north as Columbia.  They are up to 4 degrees Celsius warmer than their western Amazonian cousins (they can get as warm as 35 degrees Celsius, almost human body temperature).  They also flow faster than the western Amazonian waters.  All three of these factors contribute to it taking up to 8 km before the two bodies of waters have finally properly mixed as one, as two bodies of waters coming together really rather tend to do more easily.



Back to the original 8/3 post:

Even at this mid-point of the Amazon, thousands of miles from the Atlantic, the river is already so wide that the immense swath of the black half of the waters seem but a sliver from the opposite shore, and vice versa.


Still more pics of the immense Amazon ahead, and then heading towards our jungle adventure on the Urubu River.  And for music I’m including a classic Brazilian pop instrumental.

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BRAZIL – The Big Brazil August Adventure is about to Recommence!


Ed and I for years ago in Amazonas


Br-foz6Four years ago Ed and I spent a fantastic August touring Brazil.  This month we do it again.  Which means Notes from a Composer is going to go all out on a Brazil themed Two-Fisted Touristing series all month long and maybe longer.  I will be posting photo diary entries from our current and previous Brazil travels, with musical accompaniment of course, starting with the most famous song about Brazil, natch, “Brazil”; above is the recording from the Disney movie “Saludos Amigos”, which made the song, originally known as “Aquarela do Brasil”, a worldwide hit.


To whet (or wet) the appetite, below is a repost of last August’s “Chasing Waterfalls”, which takes you on a musical tour of the most amazing waterfalls on the planet, the Foz do Iguacu falls, which lie partly in Brazil and partly in Argentina.  They were an unforgettable highlight of our Brazil tour four years ago:

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map with overhead view of the falls


CHASING WATERFALLS – The Flabbergasting Force of Foz do Iguacu

Fall 1

Time for another bout of Two-fisted Touristing with musical accompaniment.  Today the amazing Foz do Iguacu waterfalls, which cascade partly in Brazil, where Ed and I first encountered them three years ago, and partly in Argentina, where we saw more of them on a day trip visa the next day.  This collection of enormous waterfalls covering several square kilometers requires at least two days to be fully explored (regardless of border crossing issues).  They are astounding in person.  I hope these pictures give at least some indication of their awesome power and beauty.

Fall 2

We’ll start on the Brazilian side of the falls.

And of course must play “water” music, and so we’ll start with the most famous cut (Hornpipe) from the most famous water music, Handel’s Water Music:

Fall 2

It may be called Water Music and it’s very pretty, but does it sound watery?  Or even flowing?  A little near the end, I suppose, but certainly not cascading…

How about Saint – Saens’ Aquarium from Carnival of the Animals:


Speaking of Animals, do you see the bird flying INTO the waterfall? These birds have their nests on the inside and could be seen diving in and out of the falls all evening.

Speaking of Animals, do you see the bird flying INTO the waterfall? These birds, Great Dusky Swifts, have their nests on the inside and could be seen diving in and out of the falls all evening.


Fall 5

I first heard Saint-Saens’ magical piece of twinkling, flowing, cascading music when it was used quite effectively as the main theme for the documentary on cinematography “Visions of Light”, whose smorgasbord of visual splendors I dined on often, always lamenting that the credits never listed what beautiful music the documentary was featuring as its main theme.  Finally some moderately intense internet sleuthing led me to Aquarium by Saint-Saens.

I love the Saint-Saens, but it is perhaps a little too twinkling for such massive waterfalls?

Fall 9

Fall 5

This is just the beginning.  And was a taste of the view from Brazil.  Next stop is the next day in Argentina.  Also, Beethoven produces the ultimate in cascading awesomeness.  And, of course, TLC…

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Subway Motion Animation

Look at the video below.  This sight thrills me every time I am on a Brooklyn subway train heading towards the Manhattan bridge.  I think of it as Subway Motion Animation:




The video clip above was taken with my phone as I rode the B Subway train from Brooklyn’s Dekalb station towards Manhattan yesterday.  It’s a long ride between the Dekalb station and the Manhattan bridge where the train exits the tunnels to ride in the open air before diving back into the tunnels and Grand Street Station on the Manhattan side.  At one point the typical subway tunnel darkness outside the windows turns into brightly lit walls with numerous panels of art.

And lo, whoa!, it’s the MTA magic lantern show!

As the train whizzes past the art, vertical beams passing between the subway and the carefully spaced out art panels act like the sprockets of a film projector with the subway window the lens and the art on the wall the film strip.

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The Many Voices of Marni Nixon


Marni Nixon passed yesterday.  She had a long, accomplished career as a classically trained singer on the concert and theater stage, but she is most famous for her leading contributions to some of the most famous musicals of Hollywood’s golden age.

Except she was heard, not seen.

She is the singing voice of Deborah Kerr in “The King and I”, of Audrey Hepburn in “My Fair Lady”, of Nathalie Wood in “West Side Story”.

Initially the fact that the stars in these movies had been dubbed, and all dubbed by the same woman, was kept secret by the studios.  But eventually word got out and spread, and Marni Nixon became famous for the being the singing voice of the leading ladies of some of the greatest musicals of our time.

As her New York Times obit details: “Starting as a teenager in the late 1940s and continuing for the next two decades, Ms. Nixon lent her crystalline soprano to some 50 films, sometimes contributing just a line or two of song — sometimes just a single, seamless note — that the actress could not manage on her own.”

She had an uncanny ability to match her voice to the actor, like a vocal chameleon.  She said herself in a 1964 interview with The New York Journal-American: “It’s fascinating, getting inside the actresses you’re singing for. It’s like cutting off the top of their heads and seeing what’s underneath. You have to know how they feel, as well as how they talk, in order to sing as they would sing — if they could sing.”

I met her a few times.  She was an acquaintance of my mother, also a classically trained singer.  When Ms. Nixon performed in the musical “James Joyce’s The Dead” on Broadway in 2000, we joined her backstage (met Christopher Walken) and then went out to lunch together, where she and my mom shared stories from a combined century of singing careers.

So to honor Marni Nixon, and to save you the YouTube searches, here assembled are the most occasions where she sang for the stars, and one where she got to finally be seen in a classic movie musical too, perhaps the most famous one of them all.  It really is amazing to recognize that all those amazing musical scores were sung by the same woman, sounding like the star we were watching on screen, “if she could sing” as well as all that.

Let’s start with Marni Nixon getting to sing for you, Deborah Kerr, in “The King and I”:


Follow that up with Marni Nixon feeling and sounding pretty for Nathalie Wood in “West Side Story”:

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NEW YORK NEW YORK in Pieces (of Song and Puzzle)

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Let’s celebrate New York, New York in pieces!  Musical pieces!  Jigsaw puzzle pieces!

The first song must be New York, New York of course!

What, you thought It’d be Old Blue Eyes’ New York New York?  No worries, I won’t deprive you of Sinatra’s perhaps most famous New York song.  But the original “New York, New York” is from Leonard Bernstein’s and Comden & Green’s classic musical “On the Town”.  This recording is from the superb revival that graced Broadway last year.

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No, that is not Godzilla or King Kong looming over the Manhattan skyline.  It’s just my husband Ed in focus in the back while a section of the completed New York Cityscape Puzzle looms out front as a little teaser of what’s ahead.  (But since Ed is looming large on the New Jersey side of Manhattan according to this picture, perhaps he represents Chris Christie?  Perish the thought!)  Let’s take a quick journey of how the puzzle, and simultaneously, how Manhattan came together over time.

Like the Manhattan bedrock, the puzzle begins with a relatively flat surface, which will over time see major skyscraping structures arise from its grounds.

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After three or four years of it lying unopened and still wrapped in cellophane in the corner of our den, I finally pulled out the New York in 4D puzzle I had been intrigued about but allowed to remain unassembled for too long.  It’s called a “4D” puzzle because in addition to building a three dimensional city landscape on top of a traditional jigsaw puzzle, you are supposed to erect each building piece in order they were built historically, hence in 4D, time being the fourth dimension.

But first more New York theme songs.  After going old school Broadway, here about something more au courant: Jay Z’s (& Alicia Keys’) Empire State of Mind:

Watching the puzzle being put together is like watching the city of New York grow over time on the isle of Manhattan.  Well kinda sorta, except for one crucial exception no buildings in the puzzle are torn down to make room for another, as in the real New York.  Also, to make space for the building puzzle attachments, the map of Manhattan is stretched and shrunk where necessary, greatly exaggerating the relative sizes of the Financial District and Midtown, where most of the skyscrapers are, but reducing Soho, Chelsea as well as Harlem and Washington Heights to barely there afterthoughts (“That’s racist”, Ed quipped, semi seriously).

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After putting together the approximately 640 piece puzzle base (see above), one must overlay the Manhattan island portion of the base with a foam layer duplicate on which the building pieces can be firmly erected.

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Empire State of Mind?  How about New York State of Mind… Can’t do this without Billy Joel:

This may just be my personal favorite “New York” song.  So what the hey, I’ll kick in Barbra Streisand’s cover version too:

Alright, the next step that needs to be puzzled out is the individual buildings.  First one must organize the building pieces in order of assembly, i.e. historical construction.  And although numbers on the base of each building piece should make that easy breezy, sometimes those numbers are so tiny I could have really used a magnifying glass, especially for those structures that looked too much like several other structures that also have similarly shaped numerals on their base…




City Hall (1812) would be the first puzzle building inserted into foam Manhattan.  Followed by Federal Hall (1842), the Brooklyn Bridge (1883) and the Statue of Liberty (1886).

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The Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges soon followed suit in the first decade of the 20th century:

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The Woolworth Building (1913 – center of pic) was the tallest building in the world until 1930.  Grand Central Station (1913) can be seen far right:

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Take a Cool Musical Journey through the Spree Forest Canals during these Dog Days of Summer

SW 3

Last July I posted a four part series on the Spreewald, or Spree Forest (one, two, three, four), the fabulous “rural Venice” an hour south of Berlin, Germany.  The series included an elaborate photo tour of the region, and music from the Spree Forest Suite I composed for Harp and Flute.

Today, one year later, I will share again the best pictures from the series as well as all the music, conveniently assembled in one post.  In these dog days of summer, imagine a cool breeze on a bright, balmy day, as your genial boatman pushes the leisurely gliding tour boat down the elaborate system of canals past farms and through towns, a treat of Schmalzbrot, Spreewaldgurken and beer in your future, and soothing flute/harp music in your ear.

SW 5

SW 9


I  Ankunft – Arrival

II  Kahnfahrt – Boat on the Wide Canal

III  Sonne hinter Blättern – Sun Behind Leaves

IV  Senf und Knoblauchgurken – The Pickel Barrel

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Ian Mckellen’s richly detailed and historically edifying “It Got Better” video


Pretty cool video, an inspiring must see.

And not that it really matters, but Sir Ian and I share the same birthday, May 25, which is a point of pride for me. 🙂

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LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI – a mini musical adaptation



I recently created the TWAIN page, where you can read about stories and listen to musical excerpts from my Mark Twain musical comedy beTwixt, beTween & beTWAIN.  Below I will reproduce a complete scene from the musical, the mini-adaptation of a crucial section from Twain’s autobiographical Life on the Mississippi.

This segment deals with Twain growing up on the banks of the Mississippi river, dreaming about becoming a steamboat pilot.  His dream will come true, but not without perilous and humorous challenges.  Eventually youthful ambition and wonder grows into wistful adult wisdom.

The main songs from this section, Let the River Flow, Mississippi Song and Sunset in the River, can be heard in edited versions on the TWAIN page, but here I will include complete recordings and a complete libretto of the Life on the Mississippi section of beTwixt, beTween and beTWAIN.  You can also listen to jazz singer Jacqui Sutton’s take on Mississippi Song (and another song from the same musical) here.

And now, without further ado…




Story: Mark Twain   Music, Lyrics and Adaptation: Danny Ashkenasi




Down to the River/Let the River Flow



Once in Missouri, south of St. Louis

There lived a future grand troubadour

He didn’t know yet what peels of laughter

What tales and stories

He had in store

He was a young man longing to sail the

Grand Mississippi

Some lucky day

One day he’ll tell the story of going

Down to the river and far far away





Let the river flow

See the waters deepen downstream

Let the Mississippi grow

Into your dreams


Take the riverboat

From St. Louis to New Orleans

On the mighty river float

Into your dreams



When I was a boy, there was but one permanent ambition among my comrades in our village on the west bank of the Mississippi River. That was to be a steamboatman.



We had transient ambitions: when a circus came and went, it left us all burning to become clowns;



Now and then we hoped that if we were good, God would permit us to be pirates.



These ambitions faded out, but the ambition to be a steamboatman always remained.



Let the river flow

From St. Louis to New Orleans

Let the Mississippi grow

Into your dreams



Boy after boy managed to get on the river.



The doctor’s son became a bar-keeper on a boat.



The minister’s son became an engineer.



But pilot was the grandest position of all. Two months of a pilot’s wages would pay a preacher’s salary for a year. I had comforting daydreams of a future when I should be a great and honored riverboat pilot.




Mississippi Song



Day by day

The Mississippi flows by my home

Singing a melody she beckons me to roam


Night by night

She’s calling me to come with her soon

Singing her lullaby, her sweet inviting tune


The river smiles to me to give her a try

Follow my fortune ere it all flows on by

I’m like a bird afraid to take to the sky

Lying awake with fear and questions

I hear her soft suggestions

To follow my intentions to fly


Day and night

The Mississippi beckons to me

Calls with a siren song to come along to see/sea


There oh there

The world awaits with glory and fame

I see it glistening and whispering my name

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The 23rd Evocation for Viola and Piano on the Occasion of Edward’s 57th Birthday.

Version 2


Today that handsome fellow pictured above, who also just happens to be my sainted husband, Edward Elder, turns 57.  And, as has become tradition in our 23 years plus together, one of the birthday presents he receives from me today is a duet I composed for viola and piano.  Ed plays the viola, I play the piano.  And the duets I write for each new birthday are called Evocations.   I have already shared posts about Evocation I and Evocation II on Notes from a Composer.  Today I will skip ahead a couple decades and share the newest duet, Evocation XXIII.

Version 2You may remark that Evocation XXIII is shorter than Evocations I and II.  True, it is even much more shorter than some of the early Evocations (oh, like V and X) which took on epic proportions.  There is a practical as well as aesthetic reason for the briefness of Evocation XXIII, in fact the briefness of almost all the recently composed Evocations.  For one, they are called Evocations, which linguistically and aesthetically connotes a hint of something, a suggestion, a brief reverie, not a lengthy meditation or exhaustive discourse (That’s what Sonatas or Rhapsodies are for, right?).

And for another, well, just practically, once you have over 20 viola/piano duets to choose from, it becomes more and more likely that each single one is going to get played less and less over the years.  Therefore it is helpful that each new addition to the ever thickening “book” may be quickly learned and swiftly performed, so that Ed and I can better enjoy the playing of it as well as its equally easily breezy* siblings.  (Not to harp on poor Evocations V & X, but they are not only epically long but also require a lot of practice for us to get halfway decently right; and thus haven’t been played in over ten years…).

Anyway, enough talk, on to the music.  Here is the computer program’s rendition of Evocation XXIII.  Ed and I will be playing it ourselves too later this morning, using actual instruments.

Evocation XXIII


Version 3

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Celebrities, Politicos, Soccer-Moms and Babies gettin’ their Alexander on!

Exploring the intermittently sublime sub-sub-sub genre of singing along to Hamilton while riding in a car!



Above is the famous Late Late Show Carpool Karaoke starring James Corden and Lin-Manuel Miranda famously lip-syncing to sections of the cast recording of the musical Hamilton, and then being joined by Broadway stalwarts Audra MacDonald, Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Jane Krakowski.  After over 11 million views I think it is safe to call this a “viral hit” and also safe to assume that if you have found this blog, you most likely have already watched this video at least once.


But have you seen the following video, the “lip-syncing” family doing their own take on Hamilton while in the family van “on their way to the mountains”?  It is adorable enough while the two older brothers assay Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton respectively, but “just you wait” until other family members start joining in.  I’ll say no more except enjoy:


Which led me to do a little research on videos showing lip-syncing / singing of Hamilton in cars.  Any more gems like the above?

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