A Planetary Crisis

On my recent Amtrak trip between Tucson, AZ and Alpine, TX, I caught up on some reading. The highlight of that reading was an article by Alexandra Witze entitled “A Planetary Crisis” in the March 12, 2022 issue of Science News (pp. 16-24). This is absolutely the best article I have ever read about the history of our scientific knowledge on the topic of human-induced climate change.

You can read the print edition of this article, or the version online.

One important point to call out. The Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii has been continuously monitoring atmospheric CO2 levels since March 1958, and the annual mean CO2 level has increased 31.8% between 1959 and 2021.

1959315.98 ± 0.12 ppm
2021416.45 ± 0.12 ppm
Annual Mean CO2 at Mauna Loa expressed as a mole fraction of dry air
(micromol/mol = parts per million = ppm)

And, most recently,

May 2021419.13 ppm
May 2022420.99 ppm

Alarmingly, the rate of increase is not linear.

We know that carbon dioxide is a potent greenhouse gas. And, as Witze’s article explains, that fact has been known since 1856.

One thing is crystal clear. Human activity (mostly the burning of fossil fuels) is causing the increase in the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide, and that is causing our planet to warm. We need to quickly and substantially reduce the amount of CO2 we are dumping into the atmosphere—or risk catastrophic consequences. I’m trying to do my part. We just installed rooftop solar panels that should generate most or all of the electricity we consume, including that required to power an electric car. As soon as I can get one (this fall?), I will be trading in my gasoline-powered car for an electric one.


By the way, I’ve been a subscriber to Science News for the past 50 years, and in my opinion there is no better newsmagazine covering all areas of science. If you aren’t already a subscriber, please consider becoming one.

Classical Music Exploration Club

You’ve heard of a book club, where people get together to discuss an assigned book that everyone in the group has read. Well, how about a music club? A music club would be a group of people who get together to listen to and discuss music. Unlike a book club, however, it wouldn’t be necessary for the participants to listen to the music prior to meeting.

I’d like to help start a Classical Music Exploration Club here in Tucson. We would need a place to meet that has decent audio equipment. We’d get together, say, once a month, and each month a member of the group would bring a favorite piece of music to share with the group. We’d all listen to the music, perhaps take some notes, and then discuss afterwards. The presenter-of-the-month would certainly have the opportunity to present information about the composer and the work both before and after the work is played.

I’m sure I’m not the only one in Tucson who is bursting at the seams with great music we’d love to share with others. Much of that music will be new and exciting for other members of the group, and that’s the idea. The pieces we’ve heard in live performance and even on the radio is but a small subset of all the great music that is out there, waiting to be heard and to be performed.

If you’d like to help me start a Classical Music Exploration Club here in Tucson (or elsewhere, for that matter), please post a comment here, or email me at doesper@icloud.com.


A little over a year ago, I created an online discussion group to showcase great classical music that is not currently available on CD. It is called Classical Music Little-Known Favorites and is on groups.io.

I realize that there probably aren’t a lot of people who are actively researching little-known works and composers, but it profoundly saddens me that after 15 months, our group only has three members, and I am the only one who has posted anything. Perhaps serious classical music enthusiasts are not familiar with groups.io, or the folks most likely to participate do not reside in the U.S., or they are not fluent in English, or…

Nothing would make me happier right now than to have at least one other person actively participating. Please join, or let others know about it.


A friend of mine recently told me (emphatically) that “Classical music is boring”. I told him that I agree that a lot of it is boring, but that there is so much that isn’t! He probably just hasn’t heard any of the “good stuff”. I grew up in the heady days for popular music in the 1960s and 1970s, and I still love a lot of rock and roll and “pop” music – especially from that era. But for me, popular music took a nosedive starting with the disco craze of the late 1970s, and since then I’ve turned increasingly towards classical music.

As much as I love rock and roll (especially The Beatles), the emotional response that that sort of music evokes in me is different than it is with classical music. When I listen to a great piece of rock music such as the medley at the end of Abbey Road, or Maybe I’m Amazed, it makes me feel happy, motivated, and alive. But only classical music can profoundly move me and bring tears to my eyes.


I’m at the age now where a lot of people I knew and admired in my youth are dying. Often, I’ll read an obituary of someone I worked with or casually knew outside of work, only to discover something fascinating about their background or an interest that we shared, and feeling sad that I never talked with them about x, y, or z.


It is so hard to get to know your neighbors these days. COVID-19 and its numerous variants, partisanship, and (for some of us) working remotely have acted to isolate us even further. Much of our interaction with other humans is of a superficial nature. This seems especially true for older adults. I now live in a large but beautiful gated community. It is obvious that a lot of thought and good planning went into designing it 20 years ago. And yet, we have a community swimming pool but alas no meeting room or common house.


Much to my delight, I now live in a neighborhood where the streets are well-maintained. Riding a bicycle is no longer a bone-jarring experience across “rubblized” pavement, as it was in Dodgeville (Wisconsin) and Alpine (Texas). Our HOA dues here are $43 per month, and much of that money goes towards resurfacing the streets every four years. As far as I’m concerned, it is money well spent. I wonder how many people living in Dodgeville or Alpine would be willing to pay a monthly fee of $43 per month (and probably less) to keep all their city streets in good condition?

Total Lunar Eclipse 2022 #1

The first of two total lunar eclipses this year visible from Tucson will occur conveniently this Sunday evening, May 15 (16 May 2022 UT).

Here are the local circumstances for Tucson, Arizona.

Time (MST)EventAltitude
7:06 p.m.Moonrise
7:28 p.m.Partial Eclipse Begins
8:29 p.m.Total Eclipse Begins14°
9:12 p.m.Greatest Eclipse21°
9:54 p.m.Total Eclipse Ends26°
10:56 p.m.Partial Eclipse Ends33°
11:30 p.m.Penumbra last visible?35°
11:51 p.m.Penumbral Eclipse Ends36°

There are few astronomical events as impressive as a total lunar eclipse, and we’ll have a front-row seat Sunday evening.

Every month, the full moon passes close to the Earth’s shadow, but because of the Moon’s tilted orbit it usually passes above or below the shadow cone of the Earth. This month is different!

Sunday evening, the Moon orbits right through the Earth’s shadow. At 6:32 p.m., the Moon dips his proverbial toe into the Earth’s shadow, when the Moon is still 7˚ below Tucson’s ESE horizon. This is the undetectable beginning of the eclipse, when the leading edge of the eastward orbiting-Moon “sees” a partial solar eclipse. When no part of the Moon sees anything more than the Earth blocking some but not all of the Sun, we call that a penumbral eclipse. The very subtle penumbral shading may just begin to be detectable around 7:00 p.m., but here in Tucson the Moon won’t even rise until six minutes after that.

When the partial eclipse begins at 7:28 p.m., the lower left edge becomes the first part of the Moon to “see” a total solar eclipse. In other words, from part of the Moon now, the Earth totally eclipses the Sun.

Totality begins at 8:29 p.m. when all of the Moon sees the Earth completely blocking the Sun. Mid-totality occurs at 9:12 p.m., when the center of the Moon is closest to the center of the Earth’s shadow. At that moment, the Moon’s color should be darkest.

That color is caused by sunlight refracting (bending) through the Earth’s atmosphere and shining on the Moon even though from the Moon the Earth is completely blocking the disk of the Sun. The reddish or orangish color imparted to the Moon during totality is the combined light of all the world’s sunrises and sunsets. What a beautiful thought! Had the Earth no atmosphere, the Moon would utterly disappear from view during totality—the time it is completely within the Earth’s umbral shadow.

Totality ends at 9:54 p.m., and the partial eclipse ends at 10:56 p.m. As the last vestiges of partial solar eclipse leave the Moon, the (penumbral) eclipse ends at 11:51 p.m.

This leisurely event can be enjoyed with the unaided eye, binoculars, a telescope, or all three. Don’t let anyone in the family miss seeing it!

Howard Goodall – Britain’s Treasured Music Communicator

Howard Goodall

Howard Goodall deserves a place within the pantheon of the world’s greatest documentary series presenters, among them Jacob Bronowski, Carl Sagan, David Attenborough, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. I first encountered Howard Goodall in 2017 when PBS Wisconsin aired his “Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution” and I was wowed by his enthusiasm, knowledge of music, and presentation style. Since then, I’ve purchased several of his music documentary series (some of them are not currently available, at least not here in the U.S.), and there is no question he is not only a British treasure, but a world treasure.

If you want to obtain a deeper knowledge of the music theory behind classical and popular music, seek him out! You won’t be disappointed.


Sgt. Pepper’s Musical Revolution (2017)
DVD (includes Lennon/McCartney from Howard Goodall’s 20th Century Greats)


Howard Goodall’s The Story of Music (2013)

  1. The Popular Age
  2. The Age of Rebellion
  3. The Age of Tragedy
  4. The Age of Elegance & Sensibility
  5. The Age of Invention
  6. The Age of Discovery
    MP4 download – make your own DVD with Wondershare DVD Creator

Music Room with Howard Goodall (2010)

  1. Julian Lloyd Webber (cellist)
  2. Lang Lang (pianist)
  3. Nicola Beneditti (violinist)
  4. Alison Balsom (trumpeter)
  5. Leif Ove Andsnes (pianist)
  6. Emma Johnson (clarinetist)
  7. Natalie Clein (cellist)
  8. Evelyn Glennie (percussionist)
    Not currently available?

How Music Works (2006)

  1. Melody
  2. Rhythm
  3. Harmony
  4. Bass
    MP4 download – make your own DVD with Wondershare DVD Creator

Howard Goodall’s 20th Century Greats (2004)

  1. Lennon/McCartney
  2. Bernard Herrmann
  3. Leonard Bernstein
  4. Cole Porter
    DVD

Howard Goodall’s Great Dates (2002)

  1. 1564
  2. 1791
  3. 1874
  4. 1937
    Not currently available?

Howard Goodall’s Big Bangs (2000)

  1. The Thin Red Line: Guido of Arezzo & the Invention of Notation
  2. The Inventing of Opera
  3. Accidentals will happen: The Invention of Equal Temperament
  4. Bartolomeo Cristofori and his Amazing Loud and Soft Machine
  5. Mary and her Little Lamb: The Invention of Recorded Sound
    DVD

Howard Goodall’s Choir Works (1998)

  1. Bulgaria & Estonia
  2. Nashville
  3. South Africa
  4. Oxford
    DVD

Howard Goodall’s Organ Works (1997)

  1. Medieval Organs
  2. Baroque Organs
  3. 19th Century
  4. Contemporary
    DVD

Emergence

Physics is the fundamental science in that it describes the workings of the universe at all scales.  No other science is so comprehensive.

Will our knowledge of physics finally lead us to a “Theory of Everything”?  Perhaps, but the Theory of Everything alone will not be able to describe, predict, or explain its full expression upon/within the universe—no more so than our musical notation system can explain how a Brahms symphony was composed, nor its effect upon the listener.

Reductionism states that the whole is the sum of its parts, but emergence states that the whole is more than the sum of its parts.

There are many examples of emergent properties in the natural world, what one might call radical novelty.  Some examples:  crystal structure (e.g. a salt crystal or a snowflake), ripples in a sand dune, clouds, life itself.  Social organization (e.g. a school of fish or a city), consciousness.

John Archibald Wheeler (1911-2008) created a diagram that nicely illustrates an emergent property of the universe that is important to us.

The universe viewed as a self-excited circuit. Starting simply (thin U at right), the universe grows in complexity with time (thick U at left), eventually giving rise to observer-participancy, which in turn imparts “tangible reality” to even the earliest days of the universe.

Richard Wolfson writes,

At some level of complexity, emergent properties become so interesting that, although we understand that they come from particles that are held together by the laws of physics, we can’t understand or appreciate them through physics alone.

I like to think of emergence as an expression of creativity. Our universe is inherently creative, just as we humans express ourselves creatively through music, art, literature, architecture, and in so many other ways.

Creativity is the most natural process in the universe. It’s in our DNA.

But DNA alone can’t explain it.

References

Richard Wolfson, The Great Courses, Course No. 1280, “Physics and Our Universe: How It All Works”, Lecture 1: “The Fundamental Science”, 2011.


“And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” – T. S. Eliot

Tucson Classical Music Performances 2023

Here’s a comprehensive list of live classical music performances in Tucson for the year 2023 where the program of composers and works has been published. I will keep this Excel document regularly updated. Please post a comment if anything should be added or changed.

I’ve included a column called “Dave’s Faves” which notes the works I am already familiar with and that I highly recommend. This is subjective, of course, but I hope this will help some of you in deciding which concerts to attend.

Happy Listening!

Tucson Classical Music Performances 2023

Click here for 2022 concerts.

Sources
Tucson Symphony Orchestra
Arizona Friends of Chamber Music
University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music
Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra
Civic Orchestra of Tucson
Tucson Repertory Orchestra
True Concord, Voices & Orchestra
Arizona Opera

Ending Spring Forward, Fall Back

On March 15, the U.S. Senate voted unanimously to end the twice annual switch between Standard Time and Daylight Saving Time. So far so good. That leaves us now with two choices: standard time year round or daylight saving time year round. Unfortunately, they have chosen the latter. The fact that there was no debate on this point suggests the esteemed senators collectively have little understanding of science—or, at least, biology and astronomy.

Most astronomers (those that actually observe) and astronomy educators don’t like daylight saving time because it delays the onset of darkness by an hour: most of us observe in the evening and not right before dawn. Cruelly, daylight saving time prevents many young people from experiencing the wonders of the night sky because it gets dark around or after their bedtime during the warmer months of the year.

Non-astronomers (which, let’s face it, includes most of us) that rise early in the morning will spend even more of their year getting up while it is still dark out. In the northern U.S. at least that means that during the winter months, many school children will be going to school in the dark when it is still bitterly cold.

I have written previously on this topic.

As for biology, unless all of us also start our work days and school days an hour later, year-round daylight saving time will further mess with our already-damaged circadian rhythms—and most of us don’t get enough sleep as it is. As many studies have shown, this leads to a number of negative consequences affecting our health and well being.

The answer is, of course, to adopt standard time year-round as Arizona currently does. Even that is now in jeopardy as Arizona is likely to join the bandwagon and go to permanent daylight saving time, if this legislation is enacted.

This legislation now goes to the U.S. House of Representatives and, if it passes there, on to President Biden’s desk to sign into law. If that happens, most/all? of the U.S. will be going to permanent daylight saving time beginning officially November 5, 2023 (actually, March 12, 2023).

Is anyone pushing for year-round standard time instead? You bet.

I encourage you to support this organization, Save Standard Time, a registered 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization.

Sibelius Violin Concerto

The Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) aspired to be a virtuoso violinist, but abandoned that career because he felt that he had begun his “training for the exacting career of a virtuoso too late.” But it must have been some consolation that his violin concerto of 1904/1905—his only concerto—is one of the most inspired works of that genre in the repertoire.

There are many fine recordings of the Sibelius Violin Concerto, but one I am especially fond of is a 1951 recording with Isaac Stern and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham.

Here’s the conclusion of the work, nicely illustrating the passion and energy of this performance by Stern and Beecham’s Royal Philharmonic despite the primitive recording technology available at the time. Just goes to show that there were some remarkable recordings made more than 70 years ago!

Conclusion of the 1951 recording of Isaac Stern playing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Sir Thomas Beecham, conducting

While we’re on the topic of violin concertos, here are the best I’ve heard, in chronological order of their composition. Seek them out and enjoy!

Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor, BWV 1043 – Johann Sebastian Bach (c. 1730)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 61 – Ludwig van Beethoven (1806)

Violin Concerto in E minor, op. 64 – Felix Mendelssohn (1844)

Violin Concerto No. 8 in D major, op. 99 – Charles-Auguste de Bériot (c. 1845)

Violin Concerto No. 1 in G minor, op. 26 – Max Bruch (1867)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 77 – Johannes Brahms (1878)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35 – Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1878)

Violin Concerto in A minor, op. 53 – Antonín Dvořák (1879)

Violin Concerto in D minor, op. 47 – Jean Sibelius (1905)

Violin Concerto No. 1 in D major, op. 19 – Sergei Prokofiev (1917)

Violin Concerto No. 2 in G minor, op. 63 – Sergei Prokofiev (1935)

Violin Concerto, op. 14 – Samuel Barber (1939)

Violin Concerto in D minor – Aram Khachaturian (1940)

Violin Concerto in D major, op. 35 – Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1945)

Violin Concerto in C major, op. 48 – Dmitry Kabalevsky (1948)

And, outstanding violin concerto movements:

Intermezzo (Poco adagio) [2nd & final movement] from Violin Concerto, op. 33 – Carl Nielsen (1911)

Sicilienne (Andantino) [2nd movement] from Concierto de estío, for violin and orchestra – Joaquín Rodrigo (1943)

Curious as to why so many violin concertos are written in the key of D major? I was.

“D major is well-suited to violin music because of the structure of the instrument, which is tuned G D A E. The open strings resonate sympathetically with the D string, producing a sound that is especially brilliant. This is also the case with all other orchestral strings.” – Wikipedia entry for D major

February is Short, the Moon Makes Haste…

Each night for the next several nights, the Moon sets much later than it did the previous night. This happens for two reasons.

First, this week the plane of the Moon’s orbit is nearly perpendicular to our horizon, so much of the Moon’s orbital motion eastward relative to the background stars (if we could see them) during the day takes it directly away from the western horizon, thus slowing as much as possible its inexorable march towards the west caused by the Earth’s rotation.

Second, this week the Moon is moving north in declination, and this, too, increases the amount of time the Moon stays above the horizon. The closer to the north celestial pole an object is, the longer it stays above our horizon, the further north along the western horizon it sets, and the later it sets. The Moon’s motion during the day northward relative to the celestial equator causes the Moon to set further north than it would have otherwise. The combination of these two factors makes moonset much later each night, as shown in the table below.

But, why doesn’t moonrise also occur much later each morning? As you can see by inspecting the table above, the Moon rises only a little later each day, in marked contrast to the leaps and bounds moonset is later each night. The factors are the same, but the effect is different. Because the Moon is moving north and is thus rising further north every morning, it rises earlier than it would have otherwise. Although the Moon is rising later each day due to its eastward orbital motion, moonrise is only a little later due to the countereffect of an earlier rise time stemming from the Moon’s more northerly declination.

It is no wonder humans have always been fascinated by the Moon’s complex motion. Throughout history, a number of mathematicians have taken up the challenge of trying to understand and predict the Moon’s motion, leading to several important advancements in mathematics.

Tucson Classical Music Performances 2022

Here’s a comprehensive list of live classical music performances in Tucson for the year 2022 where the program of composers and works has been published. I will keep this Excel document regularly updated. Please post a comment if anything should be added or changed.

I’ve included a column called “Dave’s Faves” which notes the works I am already familiar with and that I highly recommend. This is subjective, of course, but I hope this will help some of you in deciding which concerts to attend.

Happy Listening!

Tucson Classical Music Performances 2022

Click here for 2023 concerts.

Sources
Tucson Symphony Orchestra
Arizona Friends of Chamber Music
University of Arizona Fred Fox School of Music
Southern Arizona Symphony Orchestra
Civic Orchestra of Tucson
Tucson Repertory Orchestra
True Concord, Voices & Orchestra
Arizona Opera