Archive for April, 2009


How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place


Michael Murphy, my dear friend and esteemed colleague, and I don’t agree on very much.  He likes thin women, I prefer them plump.  He loves Guinness Stout.  I think it’s vastly over rated, and prefer Theakston’s Old Peculiar for my tipperwhacky of choice.  He likes Bourbon, I prefer Irish.

You get the idea.

But it is in the area of music that our differences are most pronounced.  Michael is a jazz guy with a profound knowledge of the genre.  I like classical.   He likes James Taylor; I have no use for James Taylor (although his boxed set makes an admirable paper weight).  I love Gene Clark; he once called Gene Clark a Roy Orbison wannabe.  Ouch.

And then there is Brahms.  In my opinion, Brahms was the greatest composer of the 19th century, even greater than Beethoven.  My love for the dark fires of the man’s music runs deep.  The D minor piano concerto and the German Requiem are pieces I can listen to over and over again.  And I have; many, many times.  The second movement of the B flat piano concerto was the inspiration for this poem. (I’ll let you figure that one out for yourself–comments invited).

Michael doesn’t like Brahms.

This has led to an interesting state of affairs at our cigar store that has been dubbed by the owner as the “Music Wars”.   More than once I have gone out with a Brahms piece on the CD player, say, the Piano Quintet in F minor, only to return with Miles Davis playing.

“Uh, Michael, this doesn’t sound like Brahms”.

“It is, Smitty.  It’s late Brahms.  I’ll be you didn’t know he experimented with Jazz idioms late in life.”

Of course, I bide my time and wreak my revenge.  As soon as Mikes back is turned, Art Blakey is supplanted by the Cello Sonata in E minor.

“Smitty, this doesn’t sound like Art Blakey.”

“It is, Mike.  Early Art Blakey.  Most people don’t know he was an accomplished cellist.”

Given our many differences, it’s amazing we’re even friends at all.  But friends we are.  Mike is one of those people who makes the workday go by quicker and far more enjoyably.  I miss him on his day off.

And of course, he is my blogging mentor, although I’m not sure he wants to cop to this.  No teacher ever had a more irksome pupil.  But through it all, he is there for me. He give me words of encouragement and an occasional kick in the ass, and always knows when I need which.  He continues to believe in me, as a writer and a blogger, even when I have stopped believing in myself.

And because of our friendship I found his reluctance to embrace Brahms most troubling.  It bothered me deeply that my dear friend walked in darkness in this regard.  Clearly I owed it to him to bring to the path of enlightenment.

I knew this would not be an easy task.  Many attempts were rebuffed.  His cavalier dismissal of the Intermezzo in C sharp minor was particularly disheartening.  But one day, he showed a chink in his armor.  It was during the aforementioned second movement of the B flat piano concerto that he looked up, and said,

“That was a pretty impressive keyboard run”.

“Did you really like it?”, I asked.

“Yeah, it was pretty good.”

“Do you want to hear it again?”

“Nah, I’m good”.

A chink in the armor.  Too small to exploit, perhaps, but it gave me hope.

And then one day:  a miracle.  I honestly forget how we got into this, but Michael mentioned to me that he was once in a high school chorus that performed “How Lovely is Thy Dwelling Place” from the Brahms Requiem.

This was news indeed.  Now, unlike most of you, I’ve actually heard Michael sing, and he does have quite a set of pipes, but the German Requiem presents a challenge for a professional choir, let alone one made up of teenagers.  I was impressed.  I was also skeptical.

As it turns out, I have the German Requiem on my iPod.  Ironically, the only reason I have either an iPod or an iTunes account is because of Michael, but I’ve already covered that one.

And so, still skeptical, I brought the iPod into work one day.

“Is this the piece?”, I asked, and let him listen on my iPod.

“Yeah, that’s the one!  I haven’t heard this in years.”  His face instantly brightened and I knew I had him.

iTunes is a remarkable thing.  I had always assumed that it was just for kids, and how wrong I was.  There are no less than FOURTEEN different versions of the German Requiem available on iTunes.  Just for kids?  Hardly.

And one of the nice things about iTunes is that you can gift music to others.  Just click the little bow, and voila!  You’ve given the gift of music.  And so with a click of my mouse the Brahms German Requiem was on its way to Michael.

A few hours later, I got this email: “hey Dude-
Just downloaded the Brahms…It is a wonderful piece of music that I will enjoy for many years to come.”

Welcome to the light, my friend.  Now if I could only get you to appreciate Thomas Tallis. ;>)


taking up a glowing cinder with the tongs and lighting with it the long cherry-wood pipe which was wont to replace his clay when he was in a disputatious rather than a meditative mood" ~ Dr. John H. Watson ************************
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