I’ve been seriously listening to classical music—both through live performance and recordings—for nearly 50 years, and am always surprised to find that I still discover or am introduced to works that are new to me and extraordinarily moving. “How can I have gone so many years without discovering this?” I often ask myself when I hear such a piece. Often, these “new” works are by well-known composers, but sometimes they are by composers I have never heard of. And, of course, some of them are new works by living composers.
For example, in 2017, I created a continuously-updated blog entry for “Symphonies by Women” because I was embarrassed to admit I couldn’t name a single one off the top of my head. Well, as you can see there are hundreds, and some of the few I have had the privilege to hear are really good.
There is an enormous amount of unknown music out there, and if only 1% of this unknown music is first-rate, then there must be hundreds of composers and thousands of works that deserve more attention. In France, Thanh-Tâm Le, who has recently helped me so much with this list of symphonies by women, has compiled a larger list of almost 18,000 symphonies by both men and women, and that is only symphonies!
Do you have some favorite classical works (both new and old) that you only know through a live performance or a non-commercial recording? Do you have some favorite works on vinyl or CD that are not currently available on CD? I know I do.
I’ve created a discussion group on groups.io called Classical Music Little-Known Favorites where I hope you and others will post audio files, YouTube videos, etc., of little-known works that you are enamored of. My hope for this group is that music lovers all around the world will join and present new and neglected works for us to enjoy and champion. Please join and spread the word!
As the expanding universe cooled, the first neutral1 hydrogen atoms formed about 380,000 years after the Big Bang (ABB), and most of the hydrogen in the universe remained neutral until the first stars began forming at least 65 million years ABB.
The period of time from 380,000 to 65 million years or so ABB is referred to as the “dark ages” since at the beginning of this period the cosmic background radiation from the Big Bang had redshifted from visible light to infrared so the universe was truly dark (in visible light) until the first stars began to form at the end of this period.
All the while, neutral hydrogen atoms occasionally undergo a “spin-flip” transition where the electron transitions from the higher-energy hyperfine level of the ground state to the lower-energy hyperfine level, and a microwave photon of wavelength 21.1061140542 cm and frequency 1420.4057517667 MHz is emitted.
Throughout the dark ages, the 21 cm emission line was being emitted by the abundant neutral hydrogen throughout the universe, but as the universe continued to expand the amount of cosmological redshift between the time of emission and the present day has been constantly changing. The longer ago the 21 cm emission occurred, the greater the redshift to longer wavelengths. We thus have a great way to map the universe during this entire epoch by looking at the “spectrum” of redshifts of this particular spectral line.
380,000 and 65 million years ABB correspond to a cosmological redshift (z) of 1,081 and 40, respectively. We can calculate what the observed wavelength and frequency of the 21 cm line would be for the beginning and end of the dark ages.
The observed wavelength (λobs) for the 21 cm line (λemit) at redshift (z) of 1,081 using the above equation gives us 22,836.8 cm or 228.4 meters.
That gives us a frequency (ν) of 1.3 MHz (using the equation above), where the speed of light c = 299,792,458 meters per second.
So a 21 cm line emitted 380,000 years ABB will be observed to have a wavelength of 228.4 m and a frequency of 1.3 MHz.
Using the same equations, we find that a 21 cm line emitted 65 Myr ABB will be observed to have a wavelength of 8.7 m and a frequency of 34.7 MHz.
We thus will be quite interested in taking a detailed look at radio waves in the entire frequency range 1.3 – 34.7 MHz, with corresponding wavelengths from 228.4 m down to 8.7 m.2
The interference from the Earth’s ionosphere and the ever-increasing cacophony of humanity’s radio transmissions makes observing these faint radio signals all but impossible from anywhere on or near the Earth. Radio astronomers and observational cosmologists are planning to locate radio telescopes on the far side of the Moon—both on the surface and in orbit above it—where the entire mass of the Moon will effectively block all terrestrial radio interference. There we will finally hear the radio whispers of matter before the first stars formed.
1 By “neutral” we mean hydrogen atoms where the electron has not been ionized and resides in the ground state—not an excited state.
2 Incidentally, the 2.7 K cosmic microwave background radiation which is the “afterglow” of the Big Bang itself at the beginning of the dark ages (380,000 years ABB), peaks at a frequency between 160 and 280 GHz and a wavelength around 1 – 2 mm. So this is a much higher frequency and shorter wavelength than the redshifted 21 cm emissions we are proposing to observe here.
Here is a list of all things classical-music-related in Arizona, New Mexico, and West Texas. If you have additional links to add or see an existing link that needs to be changed or removed, please post a comment!
The two abiding interests in my life have been astronomy and classical music. I guess you could call me a professional listener, although I do have a pretty decent tenor voice and would love to sing in a secular mixed choir again. I have aspirations of hosting my own classical music program at a public radio station, or at least providing recordings and commentary. I served several years on the board of the Ames International Orchestra Festival Association (AIOFA), including two terms as board president. It was a great experience bringing fine orchestras from all over the world to C.Y. Stephens Auditorium in Ames, Iowa and hosting them during their stay. I love symphony orchestras (chamber music, too!), and would be very happy to serve in a similar capacity during my active retirement years. Or volunteering at a university music department that has a symphony orchestra. While living in Ames, I had the opportunity to attend many wonderful faculty and student recitals.
I have family in West Texas, so am looking to relocate to be closer to them. Would love to connect with the classical music scene somewhere in this tri-state area, so if you know of any good volunteer opportunities, please let me know!
Albuquerque Philharmonic Orchestra
Providing the Albuquerque Community free concerts since 1972.
American General Media Foundation – Albuquerque, NM
Volunteer Opportunity: Share your Love of Classical Music and Public Radio Broadcasting
Presenting top artists of classical, chamber, jazz, Broadway, country, blues, opera, bluegrass, and pop music in Scottsdale and Phoenix, Arizona.
Arizona Opera | Bold. Brave. Brilliant.
We are a regional professional orchestra serving the Prescott community with locally-produced concerts. Arizona Philharmonic draws auditioned, professional musicians from Prescott, Phoenix, Flagstaff, and other areas within driving distance.
Chandler Symphony Orchestra
The Chandler Symphony Orchestra serves the greater Chandler community by providing a series of classical concerts, free of charge to the general public, performed by professionally trained musicians who volunteer their time and talents.
Civic Orchestra of Tucson
Founded in 1975, the Civic Orchestra of Tucson is a 75-piece community orchestra presenting free concerts to residents of Tucson and Southern Arizona. Our accessible concerts enrich the cultural life of the greater Tucson area. Soloists are well-known musicians from Tucson and across the country as well as winners of our Young Artists’ Competition.
El Paso Symphony Orchestra
The El Paso Symphony Orchestra’s mission is to assure that concert music is made available to entertain and educate the multicultural community of the greater El Paso region.
Flagstaff Symphony Orchestra
Mission: To enrich, engage, and inspire our community through the performance of orchestral music.
Vision: Orchestral music is essential to the cultural life of our community.
Gilbert Symphony Orchestra
KANW | New Mexico Public Radio
Public Radio from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Your source for news and music.
KBAQ 89.5 FM
KBACH 89.5 FM is a listener-supported public radio station broadcasting to the Phoenix metropolitan area. KBACH is the only radio station in Phoenix that plays classical music 24/7, reaching listeners around the world who stream KBACH online.
KENW | Public Radio and Television for Eastern New Mexico and West Texas, coming to you from Eastern New Mexico University.
Public Broadcasting for Eastern New Mexico and West Texas from Eastern New Mexico University.
KGLP 91.7 FM: Gallup Public Radio
KGLP, 91.7 FM, Gallup Public Radio, Broadcasts from Studios located at the University of New Mexico Gallup branch campus, with a variety of news, music & more!
KHFM 95.5 FM
KHFM is the only dedicated Classical music station broadcasting and streaming 24/7 in New Mexico and beyond. For many years, KHFM partnered with our symphonies, opera companies and other arts groups. Now, as a non-profit, we are proud to partner with our local arts organizations so that our arts community can flourish. Our rich arts scene is one of the reasons we love New Mexico so much!
KNAU Arizona Public Radio
Northern Arizona’s source for NPR news and talk, classical music and regional news.
KRWG | Public Media for Southwestern New Mexico And Far West Texas
PBS, NPR, and local news and music for Las Cruces, El Paso, Silver City, and all of southwestern New Mexico and far west Texas.
KSFR exemplifies diversity in the music we play. Nearly every musical genre is represented in the course of our broadcast week. We pay special attention to local New Mexico musicians whose talent often finds an appreciative audience among KSFR listeners.
KSJE 90.9 FM
The Information and Cultural Beacon of the Four Corners
KTEP’s mission is to inform, educate, and entertain the public and to increase knowledge of the world, appreciation of the arts, and understanding of the human condition.
Additionally it is our mission to train and educate students at the University of Texas at El Paso in the art of broadcasting.
KUAT: Classical 90.5 in Southern Arizona
Classical 90.5 is a 24-hour radio station in Southern Arizona that broadcasts classical music, opera productions, interviews with musicians and composers, and more. Listen live online.
National Public Radio affiliate. Alternative radio from the University of New Mexico campus.
Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra
To present and promote music of the highest artistic quality for the region’s enrichment and serve our community as a musical, cultural, and educational resource.
Marfa Public Radio
KRTS 93.5 FM, Marfa, TX
Midland-Odessa Symphony & Chorale
“Enriching Lives Through Music!”
MusicaNova enriches the Phoenix community by playing new, neglected, and familiar classical music.
New Mexico Philharmonic
Build the Future With Us!
New Mexico State University: Music
If you are looking for a wonderful place to obtain your music education, this is the place to be. The NMSU Department of Music is among the finest in the southwest at preparing student musicians for a future in teaching, performing, or a wide variety of other musical careers.
North Valley Symphony Orchestra
This is the home of the North Valley Symphony Orchestra in Phoenix, Arizona.
Northern Arizona University: School of Music
The School of Music at NAU offers many undergraduate and graduate programs, as well as ensembles, led by a faculty of award-winning musicians. Learn more now!
Orchestra Northern Arizona
Home page for Orchestra Northern Arizona and Youth Orchestra Northern Arizona, Flagstaff’s community orchestras. Join the classical fun!
The Phoenix Symphony is Arizona’s largest performing arts organization. Founded in 1947 as a part-time orchestra in a city of fewer than 100,000 people, The Symphony has grown to become Arizona’s only full-time symphony orchestra.
ProMusica Arizona Chorale and Orchestra in North Phoenix & Anthem AZ
ProMusica Arizona’s choir and symphony orchestra perform affordable, family-friendly music concerts & events in North Phoenix & Anthem, AZ.
Roswell Symphony Orchestra
The mission of the Roswell Symphony Orchestra (RSO) is to provide the people of Roswell and Southeast New Mexico with the best of orchestral literature by providing an annual concert season and music education programs for children and young adults.
San Antonio Symphony
The mission of the San Antonio Symphony is to delight, inspire, and engage our entire community through excellent performance, education, and outreach.
San Juan College: Music
Set the course for a creative and vibrant future!
San Juan Symphony
The San Juan Symphony performs regularly at Henderson Fine Arts Center at San Juan College in Farmington, NM, at the Community Concert Hall at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO, and has performed at the Bayfield Performing Arts Center in Bayfield, CO, the Michael D. Palm Theater in Telluride, CO, and Montezuma-Cortez High School in Cortez, CO.
Santa Fe Opera
The official website of the Santa Fe Opera. A varied repertoire of new, rarely performed, and standard works, inspiring performers and audiences alike.
The Santa Fe Symphony
The Symphony is a bold and successful collaboration between musicians and all who appreciate live performance. Our legacy of musical excellence goes hand-in-hand with our longstanding commitment to providing no-cost cultural outreach programs for the greater Santa Fe community.
The Scottsdale Philharmonic – Arizona’s Premiere Philharmonic
The mission of the Scottsdale Philharmonic is to provide the City of Scottsdale and surrounding communities with a professional symphony orchestra performing a series of traditional classical music concerts without charge to the public, making classical music available to audiences of all ages.
Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra
A community orchestra performing classical music in Tucson and surrounding communities.
Symphony of the Southwest
Symphony of the Southwest presents orchestra concerts to classical music fans of all ages in Mesa, Arizona.
Tucson Symphony Orchestra
The TSO is the oldest continuing professional performing arts organization in the state of Arizona. We celebrate the excitement and joy of live classical music as part of everyday life.
University of Arizona: Fred Fox School of Music
Our nationally and internationally recognized faculty members are dedicated to the development of your talents. They are equally at home in the classroom, studio, or on the performance stage. Along with one-on-one teaching and mentoring, our performance faculty members regularly appear in solo recitals and/or as guest artists with major opera companies, symphony orchestras, chamber groups, and many other ensembles. In addition, our academic faculty members author books that are published by the finest scholarly publishing houses, write articles that appear in major music journals, and regularly present papers and other scholarly lectures at significant international conferences.
The University of New Mexico Department of Music – College of Fine Arts
The University of New Mexico Department of Music aims to provide the highest quality musical education, under the guidance of our dynamic artist faculty, and a well-balanced program among the disciplines of performance, music education, theory and composition, jazz studies, string pedagogy, conducti…
University of Texas at El Paso Department of Music
As you explore our website, you will find that the UTEP Department of Music has an outstanding faculty, an active student body and innovative programs designed to prepare students for careers in music in the 21st Century.
The department is particularly proud of our diverse ensemble offerings, our faculty’s high profile and eclectic creative activities, and the newly created Center for Arts Entrepreneurship, under the Artistic Direction of Grammy-winning artist, Zuill Bailey.
West Valley Symphony – Surprise AZ
The West Valley Symphony Association believes that everyone deserves to live in a culturally rich and diverse community with access to a great variety of arts.
Our mission is to provide opportunities for all residents to experience classical music.
During the second half of 2020, I serendipitously captured six meteors on my telescope’s 17 x 11 arcminute video field of view while observing potential asteroid occultation events. I used the method described in There’s a Meteor in My Image to determine the radiant for each meteor. Here they are.
A sporadic meteor is any meteor that does not come from a known radiant.
None of these meteors were particularly bright, unfortunately, so you may want to use the full-screen button at the lower-right-hand corner of each video to see them well.
Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, M.D. (1942-) holds the record for the longest spaceflight duration. During 1994-1995, he spent 437.8 contiguous days in orbit, almost all of them aboard the Mir space station.
The largest number of people in space at the same time was thirteen, and this has happened four times.
Both Jerry Ross and Franklin Chang Díaz hold the record for the most spaceflights. Both astronauts have gone into space seven times. Jerry Ross (STS-61-B, STS-27, STS-37, STS-55, STS-74, STS-88, STS-110) between November 26, 1985 and April 19, 2002 (Space Shuttle Atlantis: 5, Columbia: 1, Endeavour: 1), and Franklin Chang Díaz (STS-61-C, STS-34, STS-46, STS-60, STS-75, STS-91, STS-111) between January 12, 1986 and June 19, 2002 (Space Shuttle Columbia: 2, Atlantis: 2, Discovery: 2, Endeavour: 1). Both astronauts were mission specialists in the NASA Astronaut Group 9, announced May 29, 1980.
The farthest humans have ever been from Earth occurred at 0:21 UT on April 15, 1970 when the crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft (Jim Lovell, Fred Haise, and Jack Swigert) executed a free-return trajectory to Earth. They were furthest from Earth above the lunar farside, 158 miles above the surface and 248,655 miles from Earth.
The youngest person ever to fly in space was Gherman Titov who was 25 years old during his solo Vostok 2 spaceflight on August 6, 1961. He was the second person to orbit the Earth.
The oldest person ever to fly in space was John Glenn who was 77 years old during his second spaceflight aboard the Space Shuttle DiscoverySTS-95 from October 29, 1998 to November 7, 1998. He was the first American to orbit the Earth in 1962.
The longest spacewalk occurred on March 11, 2001 when James Voss and Susan Helms were outside the Space Shuttle Discovery (STS-102) and the International Space Station for 8 hours and 56 minutes.
The longest moonwalk occurred on December 12-13, 1972 when Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt spent 7 hours and 37 minutes outside the lunar module on their second of three lunar excursions. All were longer than 7 hours. This was the final Apollo mission, and Gene Cernan, who died in 2017, is still the last person to walk on the surface of the Moon.
I’d like to introduce you to another fine classical music recording I’ve recently discovered, but first a little editorializing about classical recordings in general.
I hope the day never comes when physical media in the form of compact discs (or something similar) is completely replaced by digital downloads or streaming. The booklet enclosed with physical media always provides useful and often enlightening information about the music, and there’s artistry on the front and back covers. Having been in COVID-19 lockdown for nearly a year now, I yearn for real human interaction without technology instead of “virtual everything”. And I say that as a person who has made his career as a computer programmer. What does that have to do with music on a CD? Well, perhaps I’ve digressed, but let me just say a recording is a poor substitute for a live performance, and a digital file is a poor substitute for a CD. Happily, I have read recently that classical music is keeping the CD alive as popular music largely goes the way of the computer file. As for CD packaging, I much prefer a well-made jewel case (with a hub whose teeth don’t break off easily) over the cardboard digipak that is seeing more frequent use, including the Shostakovich disc I will be briefly discussing here.
I much prefer discs that feature works of just one composer. Not only are they more easily filed and retrieved, but, more importantly, they often introduce you to some lesser-known works of a composer. Something I have learned over my many years of listening to classical music recordings is that there are many first-rate lesser-known works of composers, both famous and not-so-famous. There is a lot of great music out there, waiting to be discovered and enjoyed, even after a lifetime of listening!
This disc featuring Russian pianist Anna Vinnitskaya (who now lives in Germany) is one such happy occasion. It features the two piano concertos of Dmitri Shostakovich (himself a fine pianist), plus two of his lesser-known works for two pianos (joined here by Ivan Rudin), Concertino for Two Pianos, op. 94, and Tarantella for Two Pianos, both of which were unknown to me. An all-Shostakovich disc!
This disc is a delight from beginning to end. Anna Vinnitskaya plays Shostakovich as well as anyone I have heard, with great intensity, energy, and precision during the rhythmic passages, and with great beauty and sensitivity during the legato passages. The Kremerata Baltica is really outstanding in the two piano concertos, as is the quality of the recording. The latter is much above average, I would say, perfectly balanced and articulated. Vinnitskaya herself conducts the orchestra from the piano in the Concerto for Piano, Trumpet and Strings, op. 35, where she is joined by a fine trumpet soloist, Tobias Willmer. Omer Meir Wellber skillfully conducts the orchestra in the Concerto for Piano and Orchestra, op. 102, and the Kremerata Baltica is joined by the Winds of the Staatskapelle Dresden in a perfect union and performance.
Anna Vinnitskaya grew up with the music of Shostakovich in her household, and developed an early and deep appreciation of his music and it shows throughout this recording. She performed his Second Piano Concerto for the first time at the age of eleven, and now at age 37, I have no doubt she is one of the finest performers of the piano music of Shostakovich in the world today. I hope I will have the opportunity to hear her play either of the Shostakovich piano concertos in the concert hall one day soon. Or any other piano works by Shostakovich, for that matter!
One thing I have become acutely aware of after decades of listening to classical music is the enormous difference there can be between live performances or recordings of the same work. Tempo can be one obvious difference. I tend not to like music that is on the fast end of the tempo continuum for a given work—I like to “savor” the notes. But anything as complex and nuanced as an orchestral palette can lend itself to many different interpretations. Yes, the notes are the same, but how a piece is played can make the difference between enthusiasm for the work or complete indifference.
The first recorded supernova in our Milky Way galaxy (or anywhere else, for that matter) was seen to blaze forth in the constellation Centaurus by astute Chinese astronomers in 185 AD. Including that one, only seven confirmed supernovae have been observed in our Milky Way galaxy, though thousands are discovered each year in other galaxies.
Supernova light reached Earth in AD 185, 393, 1006, 1054, 1181, 1572, and 1604. All seven of these events occurred before the invention of the telescope. Are we overdue for another supernova? Well, given this ridiculously small sample, we can endeavor to do some simple “statistics”. The shortest recorded interval between two Milky Way supernovae was 32 years between 1572 and 1604. The longest interval has been 613 years, between the supernovae of 393 and 1006 (assuming none went unnoticed). On average then (such as it is), we “should” have seen a Milky Way supernova around 1841, and using the longest interval of 613 years, we might be expecting one by the year 2217. Undoubtedly, some supernovae in the Milky Way have escaped detection because they lay behind thick interstellar clouds.
The big mystery to me is why are there no recorded supernova events prior to 185 AD? The earliest extant records of astronomical events go back at least as far as 2316 BC (a comet in the constellation Crater was recorded by Chinese astronomers), but in the intervening 2,500 years there has been no mention of anything that could be attributed to a supernova. Or has there? Some writings before and after 185 AD suggest possible supernovae, but until a supernova remnant is identified, we need to look for other explanations.
Here follows a table of the known observed Milky Way supernovae. Of course, other supernova remnants have been discovered in our Milky Way galaxy, but no record has yet been discovered describing these events. Many of them predate recorded history.
In the table below, you’ll note that these supernovae tend to lie close to the galactic plane (galactic latitude b = 0°)—not at all surprising considering that’s where most of the stars are.
I discovered the music of Johannes Brahms before that of Robert Schumann, but I revere the latter composer now as well. Knowing much of the music of both, there is no question that Robert Schumann had a huge influence on Brahms. Both wrote four symphonies, all eight of which are favorites of mine.
But here we turn our attention to some of the early piano music of Robert Schumann, completed when Schumann was in his 20s, before he was finally able to marry Clara Wieck, and before his first symphony.
These are performances of considerable beauty, passion, and sensitivity by French pianist Lise de la Salle. I highly recommend this CD (Naïve V 5364). The recording is excellent, and De la Salle seems to have an innate understanding of this music and its often rapidly changing moods, a delight throughout.
The works performed are Scenes from Childhood, op. 15; Abegg Variations, op. 1; and Fantasie in C Major, op. 17.
There are thirteen pieces in Scenes from Childhood. The most famous of these is No. 7 Träumerei (Dreaming), but I also especially like No. 1 (Of foreign lands and peoples) and No. 2 (A curious story).
Of foreign lands and peoples
A curious story
Blind man’s buff
An important event
At the fireside
Knight of the hobby-horse
Almost too serious
Child falling asleep
The poet speaks
This is followed by the Schumann’s first published work, the Abegg Variations, op. 1.
The disc concludes with the three-movement work, Fantasie in C Major, op. 17, arguably Schumann’s piano masterpiece, and a real tour de force in this performance by Lise de la Salle. When he wrote this piece, Schumann was already beginning to suffer from a mental disorder that would tragically claim his life only 20 years later—an illness with a physical origin that no doubt today could be easily cured.
For an excellent introduction to Robert Schumann and his wife, Clara Wieck Schumann—a piano virtuoso, composer, and teacher of considerable talent—I wholeheartedly recommend the eight-part video course from Robert Greenberg, “Great Masters: Robert and Clara Schumann – Their Lives and Music” (The Great Courses, Course No. 759).
Even though it is a highly fictionalized account, I would also recommend the 1947 movieSong of Love, starring the incomparable Katharine Hepburn as Clara Wieck Schumann, Paul Henreid as Robert Schumann, and Robert Walker as Johannes Brahms.
In 2021, the best dates and times for observing the zodiacal light are listed in the calendar below. The sky must be very clear with little or no light pollution. The specific times listed are for Dodgeville, Wisconsin (42° 58′ N, 90° 08′ W).
Here’s a nicely-formatted printable PDF file of the zodiacal light calendar:
The best nights to observe the zodiacal light at mid-northern latitudes occur when the ecliptic plane intersects the horizon at an angle of 60° or steeper. The dates above were chosen on that basis, with the Sun at least 18° below the horizon and the Moon below the horizon being used to calculate the times. An interval of time of one hour either before morning twilight or after evening twilight was chosen arbitrarily because it is the “best one hour” for observing the zodiacal light. The zodiacal light cone will be brightest and will reach highest above the horizon when the Sun is 18° below the horizon (astronomical twilight), but no less.
If you are interested in calculating the angle the ecliptic makes with your horizon for any date and time, you can use the following formula:
where I is the angle between the ecliptic and the horizon, ε is the obliquity of the ecliptic, φ is the latitude of the observer, and θ is the local sidereal time (the right ascension of objects on the observer's meridian at the time of observation).
Here’s a SAS program I wrote to do these calculations: