Ti (r)ingrazio

One of my favorite linguistic indulgences as a reader and a writer is what I think of as “found Beckett”—Beckettismes trouvés, even better—those little commonplaces that, under the very slightest hermeneutical pressure, collapse into whirlpools of comically, despairingly elusive meaning. Take that old favorite, “thanks but no thanks.” I mean, even at face value, it’s like some sort of ill-formed Boolean algebra:


—an unsettled judgement, yanking the rug out from under any possibility of an objectivist conception of language. Or maybe it’s a reminder that, suitably intensified, gratitude can tip over into micro-aggression:

thanks, but no, THANKS

Push it further, and it becomes pure self-negation, a matter-antimatter collision leaving only meaninglessness in its wake:

thanks but no thanks

—and suddenly the abyss is staring back at you, and returning your submitted materials under separate cover.

At any rate, in celebration of the bumper crop of thanks-but-no-thanks that has been the last eighteen months of my professional life, here’s a deceptively dangerous little tiki-drink riff. It’s rather good (WARNING: Beckettisme trouvé approaching) if I do say so myself.

mercilessF’ing the Merciless

1.75 oz amber rum
1 oz lime juice
0.5 oz peach liqueur
0.5 oz orgeat
0.25 oz dry gin

Shake with ice and strain into a chilled glass. (Or, alternately, strain into a tall glass filled with ice and top off with seltzer.)

Gnaden Fülle läßt seh’n

Hey, look there, it’s almost Christmas. For this year’s internet Christmas card, we’re bringing out the guitar for an easy (I can play it; ergo it is pretty easy), standard-tuning, fingerstyle arrangement of an old favorite. I have found that it is impossible to play fingerstyle guitar without gradually assuming a strangely equanimous persona. The equanimity doesn’t last, of course. But it’s nice to know that it’s in there somewhere.

Gruber (arr. Guerrieri): Silent Night (PDF, 60Kb)

Only a couple of clunkers in that performance! It probably would have been better had I been fueled up with this concoction, a holiday favorite in the early days of the Sunset Club of Los Angeles, according to the December 13, 1902 issue of The Capital:

The “Sunset Club Christmas Punch” is a more stalwart and insidious amalgamation of choice ingredients, and should be taken with respectful care by even robust partakers. The following are the constituents of this holiday specialty:

Four bottles of any fine brand of champagne.
Two bottles each of rum and brandy.
One gill of curaçao, or chartreuse.
One quart of black tea.
Four bottles of plain soda.
Lemon juice, sugar and fruits.

Mix the juice of six cured lemons with half a pound of crushed (or cube) sugar and then amalgamate with the tea, and stir for a few seconds. Then pour in the rum, and stir to a foam. Then the brandy and liqueur. Now, place a large cube of ice in the bowl and pour in the champagne and soda. Then place slices of two or three handsome uncured lemons and of four small oranges on the ice; and around it. Cubes of pineapple or banana slices, or both, may also be used. Serve in Roman punch cups.

A potent elixir to while away the hours while you’re waiting to see if that “peace on earth and goodwill to all” page is ever going to load. Safe holidays to everyone.

“We seem to go extremely slow, / it is so hard to wait!”

Today is Thanksgiving Day here in the United States, and I hope it’s a fine one for anyone reading. Here’s what we’ll be offering guests at the door—a bright, fruity counterbalance to a ton of stuffing.

Fall In


  • 2 parts rosemary-infused rye (just rye and rosemary stalks left for a day or two to get to know each other, like there at the right—plain rye is just as good)
  • 2 parts pineapple juice
  • 1 part cranberry juice
  • 1 part lemon juice
  • plum bitters to taste

Shake the base ingredients with ice and strain, then combine equal parts base and chilled sparkling wine. Garnish with a cranberry, maybe? Or an orange twist, your call.

Thanksgiving being the calendar’s main food-based holiday, I normally take the opportunity to throw a few bucks at my local food bank, and encourage everyone I know to do the same. Given that things aren’t exactly normal right now, here’s a few more worthy causes that probably would appreciate a financial vote of confidence:

Happy holidays! Traveling mercies if you’re traveling. And remember the words of Ian MacLaren: Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Better get ready for a brand new day

I’m totally behind on links, so let’s catch up:

Score: William Merritt Chase—an American Impressionist and his instruments.
Boston Globe, October 21, 2016.

Score: Rosemary Brown and her famous (dead) collaborators.
Boston Globe, October 29, 2016.

Score: Ray Conniff and Billy May at 100.
Boston Globe, November 4, 2016.

In defense of my tardiness, I can claim a) a crush of work, b) a three-year-old who demanded a custom-tailored Cinderella dress for Halloween (which meant a week’s battle with the sewing machine), and c) um, well, this:

My more-often-than-not forlorn fandom has been commemorated in this space at assorted past moments of temporary buoyancy, so it is not a surprise that my productivity has been utterly subverted for some weeks now. (I played “Go Cubs Go” as an organ postlude this past Sunday and I don’t think there was a soul in the congregation who had a clue what it was, which somehow made it even more fun.)

Still: slacking. So, to make it up to you, I made you a drink:

Clock Watcher

½ oz Bénédictine
½ oz lemon juice
½ oz lime juice
2-3 oz Canadian Club (or any rye-heavy whiskey; amount based on just how much time we’re trying to skip over here)
a healthy 4-5 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters

Shake everything up with ice, strain into a cocktail glass, garnish with an orange twist.

Tomorrow (Tuesday) is election day here in the U.S. Go vote! And remember the words of that most optimistic of radicals, Jean Jaurès:

All of us forget that before everything else, we are… ephemeral beings lost in the immense universe, so full of terrors. We are inclined to neglect the search for the real meaning of life, to ignore the real goals—serenity of the spirit and sublimity of the heart … To reach them—that is the revolution.

Adventures in postdating

It is time for the quarterly ritual of keeping this space on life support by at least linking to everything I’ve been doing elsewhere. That’s three months of old-new articles to peruse (including a new batch of columns)—along with (as per usual) a compensatory drink:

Slow Watch

Equal parts:

  lemon juice
peach liqueur

plus a healthy dash of orange bitters

Shake it up with small ice, strain into a rocks glass with big ice.
Sip while reading good stuff elsewhere:

Robin James on the privilege of post-genre and Attali and neo-liberalism.

Ethan Iverson on James P. and also killer robots. (The conscious-to-subconscious progress of Doctor Who fandom described is my experience, too, although the differences between my personality and Ethan’s can be pretty efficiently summed up by mentioning that my DW touchstone was not Genesis of the Daleks, but rather The Deadly Assassin.)

Peter Pesic and Axel Volmar on the musical rhetoric of string theory.

Charles Ames on the history of automated composition (including a lead sheet for “Push-Button Bertha”).

Felix Arndt, “An Operatic Nightmare (Desecration no. 2)” (1916).

Back issues

I haven’t updated this space for several months now, for a lot of reasons. I’ve been writing elsewhere. I’ve been trying to compose. I’ve been out of town. I’ve been….

Eh, who am I kidding? This is why I haven’t been updating:

Which is not to say I haven’t been working, though. So, in a bout of real-work avoidance, I’ve at least gone back and filled in a bunch of links from the interregnum—Boston Globe reviews, NewMusicBox articles, other appearances here and there. I’ve also compiled a master list of all the “Score” columns I’ve written for the Globe over the past couple years. (Links to that list and my NewMusicBox articles are now in the sidebar, too.) Critic-at-Large Moe (pictured above, on left) would like you to know that he, too, has not been idle.

Anyway, a drink. This one is named in honor of Henri Poincaré, since I was reading a biography of him, and full of grapefruit, because I love grapefruit.


First, make some grapefruit-infused gin: add the peel (no pith) and juice of one grapefruit to 500ml of gin, let it steep for a week, then strain it through a coffee filter.

Then, combine:

2 oz. grapefruit-infused gin
1 oz. grapefruit juice
½ oz. Cocchi Americano
a couple dashes of grapefruit bitters

Stir with cracked ice and strain into the closest thing you have to a non-Euclidean glass.

Thicker than water

Drinks below! But first, some catch-up:

New England’s Prospect: Three World Premieres. Reviewing the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.
NewMusicBox, January 28, 2014.

Reviewing Kirill Gerstein.
Boston Globe, February 3, 2014.

Score: Toshirō Mayuzumi, on screen and in the right-wing arena.
Boston Globe, February 9, 2014.

Score: “Will You Walke the Woods So Wilde” and the ways of musical celebrity.
Boston Globe, February 16, 2014.

Reviewing the Boston Symphony Orchestra, playing West Side Story.
Boston Globe, February 16, 2014.

While you read, here’s a little something—chewy and fruity in equal parts—to get you through this last stretch of winter and into spring.

Thorolf’s Bowl

1 oz. aquavit
1 oz. Cynar
1 oz. lemon juice
½ oz. blood orange-rosemary cordial (see below)
dash of orange bitters

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into something that’ll look good sitting on your sacrificial altar.

For the blood orange-rosemary cordial:

1 cup blood orange juice
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon rosemary
½ cup or so of blood orange peels (without the pith)

Combine in a pot and bring to a boil; simmer until reduced to about a cup of liquid. Strain out the rosemary and peels.

Werk ohne Opuszahl 1

As you might have noticed, this space has been quiet for some time now. That is because we have been preparing Soho the Dog HQ for the arrival of our newest critic-at-large. We are pleased to welcome Helena Beatrice Kim Guerrieri, 8 pounds, 1 ounce. Her in-depth opinions on all things musical will be posted here as she sees fit to make them known. I can tell you that, in the womb, she was particularly fond of drums and bel canto tenor squillo. The future seems loud.

One of the more surreal and absurd things about expecting a child in 21st-century America—believe me, the competition is fierce—is that seemingly every pregnancy guide in the known universe insists on tracking weekly gestational development in terms of fruits and vegetables. Your fetus is the size of a blueberry! Your fetus is the size of a pear! Your fetus is the size of a casaba melon! Apart from making one’s impending progeny sound like the product of some dystopian science-fiction hydroponics experiment, that isn’t even accurate from a materials-science standpoint: I began to long for a pregnancy guide with at least enough integrity to say that our fetus was the size of, say, a haggis. At any rate, as we were running this gauntlet of comparative produce, I marked off the weeks by making a commemorative drink engineered around each week’s fruit. This one was by far the best. It is surely only a coincidence that it is also by far the strongest. It is rather like parenthood itself: cool and sweet at first, but within minutes, you will be wondering just what it is you have gotten yourself into.

Helena B

2 oz high-proof rye whiskey
2 oz lemon juice
1½ oz peach liqueur (I like Mathilde)
1 oz black rum
1 oz pineapple juice

Shake all ingredients with a good handful of crushed ice, then turn, ice and all, into a big tall glass. Fill the rest of the way with seltzer.

On the Page

Catching up on some recent reviews, since, now that I finally took down my festive holiday tree, I have to take it down from the blog, too.

Reviewing Corey Cerovsek and Paavali Jumppanen.
Boston Globe, January 15, 2013.

Reviewing Randall Hodgkinson—and the premiere of Gunther Schuller’s Piano Trio no. 3.
Boston Globe, January 16, 2013.

Sounds Heard: Ehnahre—Old Earth.
NewMusicBox, January 22, 2013.

Reviewing the Boston Chamber Music Society.
Boston Globe, January 22, 2013.

Reviewing Dinosaur Annex.
Boston Globe, January 29, 2013.

New Enlgand’s Prospect: Object Oriented. Reviewing the Callithumpian Consort.
NewMusicBox, January 31, 2013.

Oh, and this happened, too.

I think that calls for a drink!

I never did make that Oxford Swig from the last post, but here’s a new one. Warning: it is a seriously musty drink. Having spent far too much of my life in various librarial iterations of the name, I’m guessing that funk is now permanently in my blood, because I like that sort of flavor. Anyway—

Basement Stack

2 oz. Ransom Old Tom gin
1 oz. rainwater Madeira
½ oz. lime juice
¼ oz. maple syrup
A few drops of vanilla extract
a couple healthy dashes of Fee Bros. plum bitters

Stir it up with ice and then strain into something that won’t tip over onto your book.

Ever wonder why old books smell the way they do? Wonder no more.

Come September, they can’t remember why

Because it has been a summer of STUFF and TASKS I have gotten dangerously lax about keeping up with even my own output. Some items you might have missed:

Sick Puppy 2012: opening concert (Boston Globe, June 18, 2012); closing marathon (NewMusicBox, June 28, 2012).

Reviewing Bruce Brubaker.
Boston Globe, July 3, 2012.

Reviewing Gerhard Oppitz.
Boston Globe, July 21, 2012.

Reviewing the Boston Landmarks Orchestra.
Boston Globe, July 27, 2012.

New England’s Prospect: Output and Gain. Reviewing the Bang on a Can 2012 Summer Institute marathon concert.
NewMusicBox, August 2, 2012.

Reviewing the Boston Chamber Music Society.
Boston Globe, August 6, 2012.

Having It All.
NewMusicBox, August 10, 2012.

2012 Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music: part one (Boston Globe, August 13, 2012); part two (NewMusicBox, August 16, 2012).

Also there are book-related things afoot; see the post below.

In the meantime, if your summer has been anything like the summer here at Soho the Dog HQ—i.e., cheerfully chaotic, mysteriously overscheduled, and leaving one grasping at free time with both dirty, bitten-off fingernails and a bewildered unfamiliarity with the concept—you probably could use some refreshment.


Fill a tall glass with ice cubes. Add 2 oz. gin; ¼ oz. Bénedictine; and the juice of one lime. Fill the rest of the way with diet orange soda. Give it a stir.

Does it have to be diet soda? Yes. Yes, it does. And really, the more day-glo artificial-color orange the soda, the better. If you can’t bring yourself to buy better-living-through-chemistry orange soda, you might try the Staycation’s cousin: the Orbital Sunrise, which is just a mimosa made with Tang instead of orange juice. It is, if I do say so myself, delicious. Ad astra per aspera!