“Atonalism”

Schoenberg’s Waltz Op. 23 ushered in the atonal era. But did you know that atonalism itself goes back centuries? Unfortunately, I’m not well versed in the 13th century “cantus firmus” so I can’t speak to that. But I am a huge fan of Bach’s F minor fugue from the Well-Tempered Clavier (Book I). In the subject of that fugue, we hear nine of the 12 chromatic tones, and only the first note is repeated. And (wait for it, wait for it) in the fugal answer, we hear the three remaining tones.

Listening to this Bach fugue is a joyful…


“Talking Cello the day Starker Died”

The cello always has been my secret crush. Piano was my lifetime commitment. But cello was that “other” instrument I always wondered about. Many years ago, my clarinetist daughter would ask “Daddy, if you had to play something other than piano and Indian flute, what instrument would you want to play most?” (I guess she was curious to know if the answer would change over time. But it did not.) “Cello” was my response. The cello is beautiful. Its sound is spiritual. I think of cello and I think of the Bach cello suites…


“Bach and Sunday Mornings”

I would wake you up early on this Sunday morning if I could, to listen to “On Being” with Bernard Chazelle, a computer scientist, about cosmology and the music/life of Bach. Chazelle is much more than a computer scientist, however, and he covers the gamut from Bach’s life, his times, and what motivated him to discover his music. Because, like Newton who lived in the same times, Bach was seeking to understand the possibilities of nature. The voices, the way he integrated dissonance organically via those voices, the fine tuned perfection, the feeling that he was…


“Bill Evans”

Bill Evans’ amazing piano album, “Conversations With Myself,” turns 58 this month. Some of you know this recording as the first to include overdubs (he overdubbed three piano tracks for each song). A few things you might not know: He used Glenn Gould’s piano to record the album. The album got good reviews from the serious jazz critics, but others were up in arms about it — how can it be jazz if it is so uber-produced? And regardless of where you stand on “utilizing the studio,” there is no disagreement across the aisle when I say his…


“Talking to Linda McCaetney”

It was Paul’s first world tour since “Wings Over America.” I had multiple-city backstage passes, awesome seats, and a few of you joined me for the ride when Paul toured with his “Flowers in the Dirt” album back in 1989–90. The concert that rocked hardest: RFK Stadium in DC. The concert I will never forget: Madison Square Garden in NYC. Afterwards, my friend and I were able to hang backstage. I just missed meeting Paul, who left pretty quickly after the show, but Linda was there, and we spoke. I told her we have at least…


“Opera Blues”

Am talkin’ about. opera blues. I have no answers but boy do I understand the nature of the problem! Let me start by saying I love opera. My parents knew a lot about it, it was a hefty portion of the collection 10,000 albums I grew up with at the Dr. Paul abode, and we went to see vocal music (operas but also song cycle concerts) regularly. And I read a lot too. I loved what I read. Opera was, in 19th century Italy (for example), what movies are today. Or what TV was in its golden age…


“Peter Serkin, RIP” (written 2/2/20)

Yesterday was just a crappy day. (Maybe it is the fact that we are in Carla’s death anniversary month…I thought it was just a bad day. The second year will do that, I’m told.). And it ended with the news that Peter Serkin has died. I talk about Alfred Brendel so much you’d think I have no other “favorite pianists.” But I do, and Peter Serkin is one of them. Not so much for how he plays, but rather for what he plays. Peter Serkin was the son of the great Rudlolph Serkin, who, like…


“Blues: The New Generation (Including Me)”

First piece played on the new electronic keyboard: a Bach chorale for organ. I like the sound and always wanted to play one! Second piece…after reading this post I wrote. from the end of 2018 (“our” 2020 except worse unless you lost your partner at 54 or younger…). It’s a great tune. It has a groove I could play all day. And look: two musicians. Just two! So why not one? This already is helping me “keep my head straight.”

— — — — — — -

As long as people suffer, grieve, are…


“Kronos”

Some 40 years ago, I said to anyone who would listen that classical music will die unless. performers come along who wear leather jackets and shades, and play brilliantly, not in concert halls, but in prisons, shopping malls and senior centers. Music that annoys, angers, incites, provokes, eg, music that makes us feel again. Many people (girls particularly) said I was weird. Some of them I am FB friends with now! (I won’t out you — don’t worry.) Then came the day I first heard the Kronos Quartet in person , and I felt like holding a press conference…


“Beethoven Op. 31 No. 3”

There came a time, in the mid-1970s, when it seemed that every pianist was discovering the Beethoven Op.31 No. 3 Piano Sonata as if for the first time. Back then, Harry Zelzer ran the Allied Arts Piano Series at Orchestra Hall, and we were in row P, slightly to the left (to see the fingers) for each and every concert. There were about 15 piano recitals a year, way more than there are today. And like I said, everyone started playing this particular sonata. Dichter, Rubenstein, Serkin, Brendel, even Lazar Berman (a “Soviet import”) was…

Gregg R. Baker

Humanist, social scientist, pianist, Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, tenured/commissioned U.S. Foreign Service Officer, widowed father and knowledge seeker.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store