Tuesday, December 8, 2015


Musing idly, as I often do, I have wondered if, in this age of subatomic beasties and particle accelerators, we could in theory turn lead into gold. One day last summer, having nothing better to do than send frivolous emails to people who are busier than I am, I asked a few acquaintances who might be interested -- including the only physicist I know -- what they thought about it.

The physicist said:

I looked up images of the periodic table.

The gold nucleus has 79 protons and an average of (197-79=118) neutrons.

The lead nucleus has 82 protons and an average of (207-82=125) neutrons.

I suppose the way to turn lead into gold is to knock 3 protons out of the lead nucleus, probably by bombarding lead with neutrons (which have no charge, so will not be repelled by the charged lead nucleus).

As you can see, this process requires a source that emits neutrons. Pretty expensive.

I am not a nuclear physicist, so that is the best I can do.

The most complete answer came from a software developer -- not a nuclear physicist either, but keenly interested in physics and possessed of a book that related to the subject. He explained how in theory lead could be converted to gold: You would take your lump of lead and bombard it with neutrons, and an atom here and there would trade its leaden identity for a second career as a different element.

The name of the new element began with B. A search of my mental file of elements turned up six of that description.  I know all the elements as of about 1960, thanks to Tom Lehrer's brilliant mnemonic  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYW50F42ss8).  In 1962 I thought this was the cleverest thing I had ever seen or heard of.  I still think so.

Bromine is a gas; beryllium and boron sound like minerals; barium is an alkaline earth metal (whatever that is); and berkelium must be one of those temporary manufactured elements that last three quarters of a second before decaying into something else. Bismuth, like gold and lead, is a metal (with 83 protons and 126 neutrons); it's also a decay product of lead. Lets go with bismuth, and thank you, Wikipedia.

My son reminded me that converting one random atom at a time would produce a highly variegated lump of matter. With that in mind, you would bombard your piece of lead until you had a workable amount of bismuth with residual lead, assorted impurities, and presumably a bit of gold from atoms that got in the way twice.  You would then refine it so as to have bismuth and not much else.

The software developer's wife pointed out that the lump would be radioactive as hell. The gold, responded he, wouldn't be radioactive because gold doesn't do that; but, yes, the lead and bismuth and impurities would be dangerous to have around. Be that as it may - after refining your newly produced bismuth, you would bombard it again and refine it a second time. You would then have a small nugget of gold that you could display in a museum with a label explaining its origins.

I can't imagine who in this world would have the time and money to expend on any such piece of whimsy. I wonder how difficult it would be to explain to Paracelsus and the rest of them that we have at last achieved their age-old goal but that the process is so expensive it isn't worth doing. We might find ourselves, like Mark Twain's Connecticut Yankee explaining basic economics to King Arthur's subjects, shouting across an insurmountable barrier of paradigm shifts.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015


I may not make onions this Thanksgiving. I added them to the menu mainly because Laurie and Aunt Berthe liked them, and continued on the strength of a vague perception that onions are a traditional and important component of Thanksgiving.

I enjoy the sauce that accompanies Thanksgiving onions: Béchamel, or white sauce, flavored with salt, pepper, clove and bay; the recipe also recommends a suggestion of onion, which seems redundant. I can take or leave the onions themselves.

Justin makes the rest of the vegetables -- squash, turnip and potatoes -- with great energy and dispatch, resulting in a tremendous mess in the kitchen (which he and Amanda clean up before they leave).

He hasn't made onions. He might if I asked him, but without enthusiasm. He eats a couple of them when they're set in front of him, but as far as I know doesn't share my view of holiday tradition as embodied in Thanksgiving onions -- not enough to make the sauce, or peel a couple of dozen of those eye-stinging white ping-pong balls.

I usually eat about one onion, for the sauce. Mother accepts an onion or two. Justin's kids are still at an age where their tastes are malleable; they would probably partake, as would David. Sherry hates onions and has been heard to mutter about eyeballs in glue. But our two conspicuous lovers of onions are sadly no longer with us.

As usual, I will stuff and baste the turkey. Also as usual, I will intend to make a pumpkin pie if I have the time and energy, which I won't. None of my holiday functions get easier as I get older; Justin took me off gravy duty after the hissy fit I threw about it last year. With apologies to Laurie and Aunt Berthe, we may omit the onions. I'd rather have, and I'd rather make, pumpkin pie.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


"Squampkin" (pronounced SKWUMP-kin) was Katharine's word for two vegetables of the squash kind that Justin harvested in his sister-in-law's back yard a few years ago. No one had planted or tended them, and no one else wanted them. They were about the size of a basketball, slightly pear-shaped, equipped with light-to-medium blue-green skin, with longitudinal lines or indentations running from top to bottom. The color was more or less that of a Blue Hubbard squash, but the smooth skin and the lines are characteristic of pumpkins. The shape was somewhere between the two.

Winter and summer squashes are closely related; gardening books sometimes caution against planting them too close together, lest some wayward bee cross-pollinate them. I once bought at a farm stand a yellow summer squash with a smooth, dark-yellow skin that turned out to be so tough and unpalatable that I wondered if it was a product of miscegenation with a butternut.

Justin shares my amusement with Blue Hubbard squashes. They're huge: an oval seed nearly an inch long produces a big, ungainly seedling which develops rapidly into the long, prickly stems and leaves of winter squashes, sprawling untidily over the landscape to the east of their starting point. The Hubbards I grew one year were about a foot long; you see them twice that size at farm stands. Light blue-green with a nubbly skin like a gourd, round and full of seeds at the flower end but tapering to a blunt point at the stem end, a Hubbard makes a marvelously ugly jack-o-lantern.

Botanically, I think a pumpkin isn't quite a squash; but they must be closely related enough to produce accidental hybrids. The more we saw of the large blue vegetables Justin brought home, the more they looked like a cross between a Blue Hubbard and a pumpkin.

One night I noticed green-ish squash peel in the wastebasket and found Justin eating from a prodigious bowl of yellow mashed vegetable. He reported having cooked and mashed one of the squampkins, and offered me a bite. We agreed that the vegetable was, in itself, rather bland, but satisfactory if seasoned liberally with pumpkin pie spices. It might have been more amusing, however, if before Halloween it had occurred to someone to turn one of the squampkins into a jack-o-lantern.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


I was aware of being six years old, around 7:00 AM on that lovely summer morning as I walked along the sidewalk -- a ribbon of asphalt wide enough to walk on at that point but eroded by grass from both edges and from cracks in the middle -- proudly conscious of having buttoned my red dress up the back by myself and enjoying the bright sunshine, the greenness of the grass and the trees, and the warmth of the air. "I wish this moment could last forever," I said to my small self.

The huge, rambling old house at the corner of the Old Winchendon Road, larger even than ours and with only a couple of feet of lawn between one corner and the sidewalk, was the home of my father's friend Chag (pronounced "Shag"), who was familiar to me and to everyone else in Otter River. The Old Winchendon Road was the farthest I was allowed to walk in that direction according to the limits set after my attempt, chronicled elsewhere, to walk with my sister to our grandmother's.

As I passed the house, an old guy standing on Chag's lawn observed and another agreed, "It's going to be a scorcher." I couldn't imagine what they were talking about, on such a pleasant morning. The old men must have proved right: they knew, as I didn't, that if it's lovely and comfortable at 7:00 AM, it probably will be hot later. I remember no more of that day than my puzzlement, my red dress, and the delightful weather at that early moment.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


A house whose upkeep isn't kept up quickly comes to look run down -- recalling Stephen Hawking's illustration of the concept of entropy as what happens if you stop making repairs on your house, and reminding me of a disorderly acquaintance who refers to his apartment as the "entropium." Driving past entropy-ridden houses, I feel sorry for them and hope that someone will take them in hand.

Sometimes, someone does. There was a dejected specimen on Gray Street in Arlington whose sagging porch, peeling paint, and overgrown grounds spoke clearly of neglect until someone took hold of it and turned it around. It now sports icing-pink paint, dark blue shutters, white trim, and a tidy, straight porch.

Also in Arlington, on Pleasant Street, was a large white-ish house, paint and grounds in sorry shape. Something about it said, Old person or persons with scanty funds live here. A lighted tree that appeared in a large front window at Christmas did little to alleviate the overall impression of gloom; if anything, it highlighted it.

Then one fine day the lawyer I worked for gave me a Purchase and Sale Agreement for a condominium at that address. The house I had been passing and pitying had been spruced up and divided into two condominiums -- as, to my surprise, had the barn behind it, which I had barely noticed. Both had been quite respectably painted light yellow-ish beige with dark olive trim. I have to hope the old people, if old people they were, aren't languishing in some nursing home.

A third Arlington house, a mansion on Appleton Street built in the 1890s, with a porte cochere and a dizzying array of bow windows, turrets, corners, and other Victorian gingerbread, was long coated in dark-green shingles that couldn't have been prepossessing when new and were not at all new when the house came to my attention. One day a "For Sale" sign appeared. This augured ill, it seemed to me.

For some time I didn't have occasion to drive down Appleton Street. Then one day I did, and to my gratification the ugly green shingles had been replaced with decent light-colored paint, and a dimly-lit lobby with carpet and table and lamp was visible through a glass door. "For Sale" was still there; the house, like the one on Pleasant Street, was enjoying a second career as condominiums. An acquaintance in the real estate business told me of a condo she had sold there, occupying a turret at one of the corners of the building. Now, some years later, the paint is looking more than a bit tired. I hope the condominium association repaints it soon.

An old farmhouse just west of the Concord Rotary, trying to hide behind a high hedge too far in front to conceal it, has exhibited increasing wear and tear over many years. When it came to broken windows, I decided the poor old thing's days were numbered; buildings don't fare well when water gets into them. But then the State Police bought the property. High white fences appeared, and horses. The windows of the house were protected with boards and green paint (which is now chipping off). But the house is still there, and something may yet be done with it.

Another candidate for rehabilitation is on Elm Street in Concord, near the police station and opposite the prison. Judging from its family resemblance to others in the neighborhood, it must have been built to house prison staff. For years past and to date it has looked unwell. It needs paint. The garage is missing a door. The window shades are always down; I don't think I've seen curtains there. The lawn and shrubbery are mowed rarely and pruned not at all. Unkempt and sad as it has looked, though, it was clearly inhabited: there was a car in the garage, and flowers planted hopefully along the walk. Driving by one day, I saw an elderly woman in overalls holding a gardening implement and surveying the yard.

Then the car wasn't there; I haven't seen flowers in some time. I imagine that the elderly woman has died or been relocated to what her children consider a more manageable situation. Then, some weeks ago, a "For Sale" sign appeared. I am watching for developments.

Also in Concord, just off Route 2, at the eastern edge of that nightmare of construction that extends for a couple of miles along Route 2 from Bedford Road in Lincoln to a bit west of Sandy Pond Road in Concord, was an old, shabby house loosely associated with a horsy-looking barn. I don't think I have seen an actual horse on the premises, but there are pictures of them here and there. The house and horse farm, if that's what it is, had a guys-live-here look: horsy fences and stables, and assorted pickup trucks and other vaguely agricultural vehicles.

The house, a rectangular block too close to the road (as old houses can come to be), tried to be white, without signal success. It may have had shingles, in a dingy condition. There was a roof over the front porch, two stories up, supported originally by three tall uprights -- hardly describable as columns, they were more like 6 x 6 or 8 x 8 chunks of wood. I say originally three: as long as I have been aware of the house, the support at the eastern end has been conspicuous for its absence, imparting a corresponding sag to that end of the roof. I often reflected that if everyone who drove past the house could contribute $1 to the cause, enough money would quickly be raised to rehabilitate the porch roof. The place's only redeeming feature, and that very imperfect, was enough overgrown shrubbery that you couldn't see the house very well.

Then came the Lincoln/Concord construction project, which, among other things, does away with what we used to call the Infamous Intersection (because my husband was in a car accident there). Four roads met at not-very-right angles where Route 2 east turned right across from the Mobil station: www.openstreetmap.org calls it Crosby Corner (Google maps is incomprehensible to me; but that's another story).

Route 2 is being widened for a good distance as well, beginning just west of Route 128. Like other houses along the route, the horse-farm house, which couldn't spare it, lost most of its front yard and, divested of its semi-concealing bushes, was revealed in all its unkempt ugliness. The front porch, which seemed to be made of brick and cement, had crumbled almost beyond recognition.

A "For Sale" sign appeared. Who, please, I asked myself rhetorically, is going to buy that?

Improbably, it began to look as though someone had. Sometimes there would be a light in the attic -- left on for days or weeks on end, apparently. Sometimes there would be men on ladders. The remains of the porch roof disappeared, leaving a scar that didn't improve the house's appearance. Most telling of all, the dingy non-white shingles disappeared and were replaced with Tyvek paper. I had wondered all along if the (presumably) new owner would demolish the house and build something else on the (expensive) land. But no one Tyvek-papers a building if they intend to tear it down.

The house stayed that way all this past winter and spring and into the summer. Then one day it wasn't there. But out of the tail of my eye I thought I saw a building very like it some yards back from the road, down a small declivity, and apparently rotated about 90 degrees.

A few days later, driving east on Route 2 with a friend, I obtained her permission for a wild goose chase to try to find out what was going on. Bedford Road looked as though it might lead us to the house but failed to do so. We backtracked to the remains of the Infamous Intersection and turned sharply right and backward on what maps call the Cambridge Turnpike Cutoff. We had seen from Route 2 that Emerson Road was at least near the house, and the GPS found it.

At the end of Emerson Road and to the left on a short and nameless piece of asphalt, was the house, Tyvek paper and all, back and down from the road. A second, closer look a couple of weeks later partly confirmed and partly corrected my previous impressions; for one thing, the rotation noted earlier proved to be a glanced-at-quickly illusion. I braved the possible displeasure of the owner of the black pickup truck in the front yard -- the fate of that property is, of course, no business of mine -- and the more than possible damage to the underpinnings of my little Honda (as I have occasion to remind myself from time to time, "Civic" means "stay on the pavement"). The house is still there, albeit hard to recognize on its crisp new cinder block foundation with its new light gray siding, fresh white trim, and new windows.

Between it and the road, closer to the house than I would have thought ideal, is a building of uncertain provenance. It also sits on a new foundation and is equipped with new beige siding. A sun porch or mini-greenhouse built onto the back faces the house (and faces north, come to think of it; why would anyone do that?). On the side fronting the road is a large sliding exterior door, the kind often seen on barns, recently painted blue, with a dark-ish red door just to the left of it. A little cupola sits atop the roof. I conclude that this building began life as a barn; it's hard to tell what it is now.

Although aware of the house with the crooked porch for decades, I've only seen it up close on those two occasions and have watched the unfolding destiny of the horse farm at the end of Emerson Road from Route 2 while trying to stay in my lane (wherever it may be this week) and avoid hitting any barrels or Jersey barriers. I will continue to monitor, mostly from Route 2, the continuance of what might be called The Building's Progress.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


Kay doesn't use her cell phone often but brings it along to avert or control mishaps and misunderstandings when she and Bob and Chris converge on Alewife Station on Monday afternoons.

One Monday, with everyone safely in Chris's small car, Kay undertook to call her home phone number and listen to messages. She couldn't figure out how to do it: escalating mutters over five minutes or so culminated in an admission that she had tried so many things that she had confused herself and the phone and wasn't sure it was on, or functioning.

"Bob," to him in the back seat, "Will you call my phone so I can be sure it's working?"

"Sure." Bob fell to searching his pockets and the bag he was carrying, grumbling about how many different cell phones he has owned and why none of them to date suit him, interrupting himself from time to time with remarks like "Well, now, what did I do with that thing?"

Chris, meanwhile, had whipped out her phone and flipped it open. Somewhere between the Contacts menu and Kay's number, a near miss with a parked car reminded her that her first priority was to drive. Bob found his phone and got through, and all was well.

On another Monday, Kay wondered with annoyance why she had received a message within the last half hour but hadn't heard the phone ring.

"Bob, would you call my phone? I want to hear what this thing does when it rings."

Again, Chris whipped out her phone, this time handing it to Kay: "Here -- call yourself."

By the time Kay had begun to figure out the Contacts menu, Bob had produced his phone and elicited an appropriate jingle from Kay's -- accompanying himself again with a disquisition on the inadequacy and mendacity of cell phones and phone companies.

All these people are over seventy. They grew up on big, heavy black telephones that stayed in one spot and announced a call with the brrrrrring brrrrrring that you hear in old movies. They knew about party lines and long-distance operators ("number, please"). In their day you couldn't buy a telephone but had to rent it from the phone company -- a monopoly that everybody hated. They remember pastel princess phones, and paying extra for any color but black. They have dealt with pay phones and cordless phones and extension telephones all over the house.

Fortunately, they have a collective sense of humor about it all. Both of the above episodes ended with gales of laughter as they pictured their three elderly selves in Chris's little car, trying to assert control of their technology.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


In my mid-teens I decided that washing my hair outdoors in the rain would be really cool.  Like many of youth's romantic notions, that one collided with reality.

To soak hair thoroughly -- young, thick hair, albeit quite fine -- requires a pelting downpour, the kind that often doesn't last long and is associated with thunderstorms.  Having a prejudice against being struck by lightning, I passed on those.

When proper hair-washing rain presented itself, the next step was to change into my bathing suit: the two obvious alternatives -- nudity, and hair-washing fully dressed -- presented difficulties.  Even a July downpour is colder than one might think, and soaking wet clothes are clammy and uncomfortable.  The back yard is isolated enough that nudity might have worked if no family members happened by.  I couldn't count on that, and my parents would have been as firmly prejudiced against that as I against electrocution.  In any case, neither option occurred to me that I can remember.

     By the time I emerged into the back yard, shampoo in hand, the rain had often diminished, and I had to finish washing my hair in the shower, an ignominious defeat that always annoyed me. I managed a full rainwater hair-wash maybe once.

     After one summer, or possibly two, I concluded that washing my hair in rainwater, like some of my childhood original ideas -- taking possession of one of the chamber pots in the attic and peeing in it instead of walking a few steps to the bathroom, or jumping off the foundation of the old barn on 
 a windy day with an umbrella for a parachute -- wasn't worth the trouble

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

GRAND CANYON SUITE (with apologies to Ferdé Grofe)

On a winter trip to the Grand Canyon in the mid-1970s, my husband was determined to hike into the canyon and up again the next day -- like climbing a mountain in reverse. I wasn't interested in doing that; and by then he had been on enough hikes with me to know that he would have a better wilderness experience without me than with me. For my part, well into three weeks of midwinter camping, I was happy to spend one night in a bed with a bathroom and shower a few steps away and a restaurant downstairs.

Instead of hiking I joined three other women and a cowboy named Bill on a string of mules, and together we made our way down, down, and down some more to a point called Indian Gardens about halfway between the rim of the canyon and the Colorado River at the bottom. One of the women was from Israel; another from Australia; the third from a different far-away place. I, from the San Francisco Bay Area, was a local by comparison. Bill was a real cowboy: he told us that his previous job had been punching cows in Wyoming. Herding tourists in Arizona must have been easier than that.

On my first trip west, in 1965, I was struck by the presence in the Greyhound terminal of a couple of genuine cowboys in Levis, cowboy boots and hats, traveling with big duffel bags and coils of rope (one of them was Asian, which somehow isn't what one expects). At that time, at least, the West was still in business at some of the old locations.

On the rim of the Grand Canyon on one of the January nights that we were there, it was four or five degrees above zero. Perhaps my favorite memory of that trip was crawling out of the tent at some small hour of the morning in quest of a bathroom (trying not to step on or otherwise disturb my husband) and looking up at the sky. In the cold, dry desert air six or seven thousand feet above sea level, the stars looked close enough to touch.

One of our mule-riding company had become separated from her luggage and had only one glove. Recognizing that she would never get this chance again, however, she boarded her mule and made the trip, one hand on the reins and the other in her pocket.

Anybody can stay on a Grand Canyon mule; they don't require horsemanship. Down they plodded, saddles and harnesses creaking, sure-footed as advertised. I watched in fascination as my mount, rounding a switchback, perched at the outside edge with all four feet planted together, nearly touching.

We stopped for lunch at Indian Gardens, a formation like a peninsula projecting into thin air with the river far below. We rested, looked around us, and marveled at finding ourselves in such a place; then we re-mounted and plodded and squeaked back up. Bill gave each of us a certificate attesting that we had made the trip. We ladies drank hot chocolate at the restaurant, 
autographed each others' certificates, and parted cordially.

I have to say this for my then-husband: were it not for him I surely would never have ridden a mule into the Grand Canyon.

Monday, May 25, 2015


A couple of fragments of television drama have stuck with me, each between an aspiring young musician and a teacher of theory or composition who is pointing out an error in the student's work.  The student rejects the correction as an unwarranted incursion on his artistic voice; the teacher defends the correction; and a clash ensues between the stuffy old defender of rules for their own sake and the ardent young spokesman for originality and artistic integrity (with whom American audiences can be counted on to identify).  I wasn't interested enough in either of these shows to stick around and find out how it all turned out.  I suppose the student sticks to his guns and ultimately triumphs in the teeth of The Rules.

It doesn't work that way.  Within the context of any art or genre there are things that work and things that don't, and rules and techniques that you ignore at your peril.  While there probably are teachers who can't see beyond the letter of the rules and would allow themselves to be sucked into the kind of altercation depicted in these TV shows, any teacher with his wits about him would point out that the young musician can do anything with his own music that he can get his band, friends, and relations to go along with; but a passing grade in the class or a degree from the institution presumes mastery of certain material. A student who has learned those techniques can go beyond them, but breaking a bunch of rules because one doesn't know any better usually doesn't work well.  An artist who is honest and genuinely talented will recognize that it doesn't, and either give up or re-invent a lot of wheels trying to fix the problem.

Thirty years or so ago some tune from The Godfather was being played a lot.  I always knew that it annoyed me, but I didn't care enough to figure out why until, after hearing it one time too many, I found myself humming it, to my dismay (Laurie and I had some satisfying Ain't It Awful moments on getting music you don't like stuck in your head).  Unable to rid myself of the Godfather tune, I turned around and looked it in the eye and noticed that it violated at least one rule of melodic writing that has been in force in Western music since the days of Gregory the Great in the seventh century: a wide upward leap in a melody is usually followed by a more or less corresponding descent; if such an interval is part of a continuing rising line, the effect is awkward; and the longer the upward motion continues, the more of a bad debt, so to speak, is created.  The Godfather tune exactly, unrepentently and repeatedly took some big upward leap and kept on going.

Another time, annoyed by the background music in a restaurant, I asked Laurie, "What's the matter with this thing, anyway?"  "Oh, it's all parallel," he said in disgust.  Centuries ago, when Europe was figuring out how to manage music that consisted of more than one pitch at a time, we discovered that in most contexts we prefer the sound of contrary motion -- melodic lines sounding simultaneously and moving in opposite directions -- to parallelism, where lines move together the same distance apart.  Obviously, if there are more than two parts they can't all move in different directions.  We settled on keeping the bass line as independent as can be managed, and eschewing parallel octaves and fifths.  Laurie was a sophisticated enough listener to recognize the problem with the restaurant music as parallel fifths.  I just knew that I didn't like it.

When you invoke rules in the arts, people roll their eyes and accuse you of pedantry; but it tends to work the other way around.  You don't think, Oh, god, parallel fifths, horrors, this
song must be terrible; you think, What is wrong with this thing?? and then notice the parallelism, if you can hear it.  If you can't, you may just go on liking that piece of music less and less without knowing or much caring why.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


Looking through my late husband's effects for something to read, I came upon The Glenn Gould Reader, a 1984 collection of record jacket notes, articles for music and audio magazines, and other writings from the 1960s and 1970s by Canadian pianist Glenn Gould (1932-1982).  Gould said that if he hadn't been a musician he would have been a writer.  He wrote on music, recording and related subjects, cleverly and sometimes brilliantly; but his style, described in the introduction by Tim Page, is often "self-indulgent, puckish, and overly allusive."  He was publishable because he was Glenn Gould.  I'm not sure how far he'd have gotten on his writing alone.

Gould's many eccentricities are the stuff of legend, to the point where they could obscure his merits as a musician.  He loathed performing.  He stopped giving concerts early in his career, predicting "that the public concert as we know it today [will] no longer exist a century hence, that its functions [will] have been entirely taken over by electronic media."  He gives an intriguing account of the extent to which recordings of concert music are doctored and patched, cobbled together out of many takes, to produce the kind of musical experience that performers and listeners have come to expect.

In The Prospects of Recording (1966) he explains how, as recording and editing skill and equipment become more widespread and sophisticated, listeners will be able to produce their own definitive recordings:  "Let us say, for example, that you enjoy Bruno Walter's performance of the exposition and recapitulation from the first movement of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony but incline toward Klemperer's handling of the development section. . . . You could snip out these measures from the Klemperer edition and splice them into the Walter performance."

Prophecy is a risky business.  Presumably, music-loving audiophiles now have the equipment and the know-how to make the kind of edited recordings that Gould describes; but I have trouble picturing who would bother.  I would think that hobbyists with that level of editing savvy would be more interested in generating projects of their own -- like Eduardo Antonello, who posts videos on YouTube of himself in quadruplicate playing sixteenth century dances on krummhorns.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OOvW3shNmI  Gould's scheme reminds me of the story where H.G.Wells has people of the future reading by lying on their backs and watching a stream of words go by on the ceiling. We could do that; but we don't.

The evolution of harmony has been central to Western music since we began to invent polyphony around the turn of the tenth century.  Gould describes how harmonic  development culminated in the work of such turn-of-the-century post-romantics as Richard Strauss (1864-1949) and Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951): chromaticism and dissonance, he says, have expanded to the point where key orientation is no longer workable.  While Strauss stuck to tonality, Schoenberg and the other atonalists, as Gould sees it, pointed the way to further development of music by avoiding tonality and "liberating" dissonance.

This development has been greeted with a certain lack of enthusiasm in musical circles.  In a mid-1970s conversation with a recorder player who worked in a music store, I mentioned a question from a musically naive individual who asked if "classical" music -- symphonies, string quartets, and the like -- was still being composed.  "Oh, yeah," the recorder player said, "but hardly anybody likes it."

Gould acknowledges with some reluctance that the "fundamental effect [of Schoenberg's works and ideas] has been to separate audience and composer. . . , shattering irreparably the compact between audience and composer, . . . separating their common bond of reference and creating between them a profound antagonism."  In other words, hardly anybody likes atonalism.

At one time I tried to figure out what all the post-tonality shouting was about and could find nothing attractive or interesting about that music.  I would love to have an atonality aficionado explain to me, YouTube link in hand, just what one is supposed to hear in that mass of dissonance and strained, screaming sound.  In the meantime, I stick to my suspicion that that particular emperor really isn't wearing any clothes.

It is often assumed that innovators are ahead of their time and the public will eventually catch up; but the professor with whom I studied theory at DeAnza college in the mid-1970s - like Gould, a great admirer of Schoenberg -- pointed out that it had been nearly seventy years since Schoenberg's 1908 venture into atonality, and that if something is going to catch on it happens faster than that.  I also heard in music school that radio stations know to a nicety for how many minutes their audience will sit still for an atonal piece (the number was in the single digits, as I remember) before changing the station.  From 1908 through the 1960s and 1970s to the present time, the music-listening public hasn't taken to atonality.

Gould, in a 1967 essay, was still waiting, expecting atonal music, you might say, to sneak in the back door:  "If you really stop to listen to the music accompanying most of the grade-B horror movies that are coming out of Hollywood these days, or perhaps a TV show on space travel for children, you will be absolutely amazed at the amount of integration which the various idioms of atonality have undergone in these media."  I've noticed that, actually.  Gould goes on to express an expectation that scary movie music will accustom the public to the sound of atonality.  Maybe -- but in the decades since Gould wrote, I haven't noticed any such effect.

These two preoccupations -- the inevitability and rightness of atonality and the imminent replacement of concert performance with recordings -- intersect in ways that Gould seems not to have considered.  He takes for granted the continued forward march of Western concert music; it seems not to have occurred to him that the listening public might respond to all that discordant shrieking by walking away altogether from the kind of music often called (erroneously) "classical."

Neuroscience researcher Daniel Levitin (This Is Your Brain on Music) claims that concert or "classical" music hasn't been written since about 1950.  His book emphasizes the psychology of rhythm and tone color (or timbre) and barely mentions harmony at all.  I have known other rockers -- often with a defensive edge -- to refer to "classical" music as passe.  The decline in concert attendance that Gould takes as evidence of the obsolescence of public performance applies to electronic music reproduction as well: the "classical" section of CD stores has 
shrunk steadily since Gould's time, and radio stations playing that kind of music are now few and far between.  Meanwhile, rock concerts continue unabated.  Something other than preference for recordings over live performance must be going on.

Photography hasn't replaced painting but has become an art form in its own right.  Film hasn't replaced stage drama.  Similarly, electronic sound reproduction hasn't replaced acoustic public performance so much as spun off another kind of  music  altogether.  I have been saying since the late 1960s (when anyone would listen, which has been seldom) that the possibilities of harmonic development seem to be played out; that the experimenters who have been trying to create electronic music for as long as electronics have been around have developed sounds and techniques that are interesting but not clearly music; and that the first efforts to come to my attention that are electronic and also undeniably music, would be the Beatles and others like them. (Paul McCartney was a fan of Karlheinz Stockhausen, an electronic music pioneer.)  The Beatles weren't the first or the only ones to combine conventional sounds and techniques with electronic ones, but they must be the mostly widely-heard.

My favorite Beatles song is Tomorrow Never Knows (Revolver, 1966), with its steady, insistent percussion (not produced electronically, as it probably would be now, but left to Ringo Starr's impeccable rhythmic sense) supporting what might be described as a collage of electronically generated sounds. Tomorrow Never Knows is studio music that in the 1960s couldn't be performed live, although Paul McCartney has said in an interview that it could be now.

None of the above is at all what Gould had in mind.  In a piece on Petula Clark (whom he detested), he takes a sideswipe at the Beatles, calling them "amateurish" and faulting their voice leading.  I'm sure he would have been horrified at the suggestion that their productions were comparable to what he was doing with his own recordings.  And the Beatles' studio pieces were far more innovative than Gould's endless picking over of historical works that were never meant to be handled that way.  As little enthusiasm as I have for the decline of Western concert music, it rather amuses me to reflect while reading Gould's sarcastic putdown that the Beatles won: they beat Gould at his own game, and arguably the future of music rests more with them than with him.