Jun 03

Who’s Afraid of Classical Music: A highly arbitrary, thoroughly opinionated guide to listening to and enjoying symphony, opera & chamber music! by Michael Walsh ★★★★

This is the book that I should have read first before reading Who’s Afraid of Opera? This book was published in 1989 and thus is considerably dated. The Berlin Wall had not come down, and comments about “East” German abound. A lot happens in 30 years! He has no mention of any of the great performers after 1989, of which there are many. Walsh even admits that he is reluctant to make recommendations knowing how those in their prime in 1989 will be either dead or well past their prime in 2021. This book details how Walsh came to enjoy what we now call classical music. Walsh broadens the definition of classical music, though I find him missing the close character of modern classical music to jazz music. Walsh offers suggestions for attending a performance, and which performances to go to. He goes through a list of his favorite pieces, including symphonies, chamber pieces, opera, and then an assorted mishmash of other music that doesn’t fit a perfect category. He is quick to promote modern composers, suggesting that historical composers also were not greeted well by their contemporary audiences. There are reasons for that. First, contemporary composers are mostly coming out of academia, an institution that has truly lost its way. Secondly, like modern art, modern music no longer promotes the higher ideals, the organized, the structured, the better man in all of us. Minimalist music should not be surprised when it is greeted with a minimalist response. We listen to classical music because we wish to transcend the ordinary, and not to be dragged deeper into the mud of daily life. It is not the music so much as what the music is saying that I find repulsive.

Each chapter has an “interlude” that discusses a few favorite composers, providing their history, and a sampling of compositions worth hearing. Oddly, Baroque and pre-baroque music is nearly completely ignored. The reverence that is owed to Bach is missing, Walsh somehow placing Händel and Bach within the same category of “historical” or “pre-classical” composers—the plethora of wonderful composers, Buxtehude to Vivaldi, all go completely unmentioned. Walsh started his classical life with fairly modern pieces of composition, so it is no wonder that he is preoccupied with the contemporary drivel that we have out there. Even Walsh is willing to admit the serialism, atonality, 12-tone music, and the like, are mostly failed experiments with different tonalities. There are truly great contemporary composers, like Arvo Pärt and Górecki to name two, but they are unmentioned, perhaps because they are eastern bloc composers of no economic value to the west. If Walsh is going to throw Broadway musicals into the wastebasket of being opera or classical music, then much jazz requires similar treatment.

The book was fun to read and can be read in the space of one or two evenings. If one really wishes to gain an interest in classical music or opera, a MUCH better review, both in being entertaining as well as informative, will be found with Robert Greenberg’s Teaching Company series titled How To Listen To and Understand Great Music and How to Listen To and Understand Opera. Both of these series are highly recommended though they will occupy not just 1-2 evenings, but a whole month or two of listening pleasure—an activity of truly great value.

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Jun 03

Top of Mount Si looking at North Bend

It is now 25 days before I take off on my grand adventure, Act II. Act I was accomplished in 2019, though my intention at that time was to finish the entire PCT, circumstances of weather and snow levels prevented me from accomplishing my intentions. I had hiked 1000 miles of the trail and completed the most challenging portion, making it through the desert of Southern California. My plan at this time is to go from Walker Pass to Old Station, and then perhaps finish off California by also hiking from Castella, CA to Ashland, OR. If there is more time in the hiking season and the weather is favorable, I’ll also try to finish up some of Washington. If successful, this should get me in another 800-1000 miles of trail. I’m hoping that by next year, the Eagle Creek Trail opens up and that I might do the Eagle Creek as a completion of the Oregon segment of the trail. This would repeat about 50 miles of the trail, but then it is a beautiful trail that I won’t mind repeating.

There are several things that I have already taken care of. First is the purchase of my train ticket from here to Bakersfield, CA. I will hop a county bus (Kern Transit) to Lake Isabella, and then early the next morning, take Kern Transit up to the trailhead at Walker Pass, which will drop me off at about 06:30. The first 50 miles will be desert-like conditions, and so plenty of water will need to be carried. At 50 miles, I will reach Kennedy Meadows South, where I will pick up my resupply package, and then head off for the longest stretch without a resupply, 158 miles to Muir Trail Ranch. There, I will have another resupply package mailed to me. Which is another item that I have to attend to.

Resupply packages

The orange buckets and boxes are resupply packages that I will be mailing to myself. They are still open since I will not seal them up until the day I need to mail them. Most of them will be mailed before I leave town, giving them about 3 weeks to arrive at their destination. The blue box contains a scale—everything gets weighed. The ice ax will go with me on the train, though I won’t need it until I reach Kennedy Meadows; it is difficult to mail, but fairly lightweight, so not objectionable to carry. Behind the blue box and ice ax is my pack. I’ll have further details as to exactly what I’m carrying in a later post. Buckets and plastic boxes are used for many locations, since they are remote locations, and numerous critters can easily get into them and ruin the contents if they are in standard cardboard boxes. I keep a record of exactly what I have in each box and need to thoroughly think out what I will need for the section of the hike associated with that resupply. In South Lake Tahoe, I will also need a new pair of shoes. I use Altra Lone Peaks, which wear out at about 500 miles. I use them since they are super lightweight, and that I have yet to get a blister with those shoes. They are probably the most popular shoe on the trail, for a good reason.

Personal conditioning is also important, and I have been doing a number of day hikes with a full pack on my back, using the loaded pack that I will be doing the PCT with. I currently have adopted the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60, a pack that weighs (empty) about 2 lbs but is very comfortable and well designed. It is currently my favorite pack for this sort of activity. Day hikes have mostly been in the Snoqualmie Valley and Issaquah Alps area since they are relatively free of snow. I have also included some of the grandkids in my hikes, though they do not carry anything but a raincoat and water for themselves. Here is a few photos of my adventures…

Patrick and Liam on top of Tiger Mountain #1. Mount Rainier is in the distance.

The summit of Mailbox Peak. Yes, that is this year’s mailbox on the summit.

Near the top of Squak Mountain Central. The original owners had a fireplace, which I assume was connected to a house.

I also hope to do one or two overnight trips, perhaps taking a grandchild or two. This will be within the next two weeks. I feel ready at this time to go, though with the usual pre-hike anxieties. To follow will be a detailed list of my pack contents, resupply strategy, and further training hikes of interest.

 

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