Joel Mandelbaum

The second of a series of blog essays related to the performance of my setting of Wallace Stevens’ Sea Surface Full of Clouds.

In my first essay I promised some form of analysis of the poem and its musical setting. The poem is in five stanzas, each containing 18 symmetrically spaced lines.  Here is the first stanza   In that November off Tehuantepec The slopping of the sea grew still one night. And in the morning summer hued the deck …

The second of a series of blog essays related to the performance of my setting of Wallace Stevens’ Sea Surface Full of Clouds. Read More »

Thoughts For the Season

As I welcome visitors to my website, I hope to use this space for matters that seem of particular importance to me. To begin at the root, I write first in support of the music that has so deeply enriched my life and that of so many others close to me and people with whom my life has intersected. I feel I must begin with an acknowledgement of its great worth—that body of beautiful and soul-enriching music we call “classical music”.
When I was growing up, classical music’s centrality in providing the greatest possible musical enrichment was a given. When I first taught at Queens College, every student, regardless of major, took two courses in the appreciation of classical music. It was a requirement. At a time when politicized students opposed all required courses, I inaugurated an anonymous survey of my students at the end of the course. Two thirds of them indicated that the requirement of a course in classical music should be retained. But to no avail. Within a few years, led by the politicized students, the requirement of a course in music was abolished.  This action deprived all the following generations of students of the opportunity to discover a great source of enrichment for their lives.   When a first music course was a requirement, there were many students who later eagerly enrolled in elective courses in music, their interest piqued by their first experience.   When the first music course was no longer required, and its enrollment dropped precipitously, there was a corresponding drop in the number of students signing up for music electives. Clearly, a potential group of people who might have learned to like classical music, never learned of their own proclivity for it and moved on to a life without it; without something that would have been a source of great joy. I frequently run into two groups of people: the first, music lovers who report that their love for music was initially kindled by a required course in college; the second, people without classical music in their lives who regret its absence and wish that they had been required to take such a course. Read more…