Young Sergei Rachmaninoff

Not entirely happy with this likeness...he looks a bit like Alfred E. Neuman. (sigh)


Letter to my younger self

Most things contract with age. While the body and its powers begin to decline, the same thing happens to the psyche. My formerly limitless inklings of the future get sharpened to a finer point with each birthday. But I’ve been happy to discover that there’s still one thing that’s actually increasing as time goes on, and that‘s my appreciation of new music. I’m still collecting new pieces, and still getting excited about things I‘ve never heard before. A related development is that I’m a lot more forgiving of other people’s musical tastes than I used to be. In short, I’m no longer a snob.

I still wish I hadn’t been such a prig with my mother about Hubert Bath’s Cornish Rhapsody. She played it constantly. I thought it was an awful concoction of pre-chewed Rachmaninoff atomized with warmed-over Debussy, and cheesy enough to spread on Pepperidge Farm crackers. My mother, who was raised on schmaltz, didn‘t care what I thought. She also cherished a record of Richard Addinsell’s Warsaw Concerto, with a blurry photograph of two windswept lovers on the sleeve. I didn’t get it. Why listen to fake Rachmaninoff when you could have the real thing? To her, Addinsell was the real deal. That fella could write music!

Times change, and so have I. Now that there’s no one left to impress, I’m listening to all kinds of things I never thought of before -- from dissonant twentieth century works to brazenly sentimental movie music. Recently I found myself enjoying the oddly moving score of a low-budget film noir called Kansas City Confidential, by Polish composer Paul Sawtell. This is a newish idea to me, that there’s no such thing as bad music. There is such a thing as a bad attitude, though, and I certainly had one at age fifteen. I can’t go back in time and beat myself senseless, but believe me, there are days when I’d like to.

 Note: This entry first appeared on the web site of