• Essays

    Passionate praise

    by Ken Myers [This article originally appeared in the September/October 2017 issue of Touchstone magazine. 2017 marked the 450th anniversary of the birth of Claudio Monteverdi.] Douglas Adams, best known as the author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, once offered a brief catalog of the possible range of musical expression. “Mozart tells us what it’s like to be human,” explained Adams. “Beethoven tells us what it’s like to be Beethoven and Bach tells us what it’s like to be the universe.” Like all caricatures, Adams’s summary contains a valuable insight into something that happened in music history, and in Western culture more generally, between the early eighteenth century…

  • Essays

    A Tudor tutorial

    by Ken Myers [This article originally appeared in the May/June 2014 issue of Touchstone magazine.] If asked on a game show or in some artsy version of Trivial Pursuit to connect industrialist Andrew Carnegie with music, most of us would answer “Carnegie Hall.” As it happens, New York’s famed concert venue is only one performance space made possible by Andrew Carnegie’s sense of noblesse oblige. Carnegie’s home of Pittsburgh and its suburb of Homestead, Pennsylvania also have concert halls bearing his name, as does Lewisburg, West Virginia and Dunfermline, Scotland, his birthplace. Dumfermline is also the home of the Carnegie UK Trust, one of the many charitable organizations enabled by Carnegie’s…

  • Essays

    Taught by melodious sonnets

    by Ken Myers [This article originally appeared in the November/December 2017 issue of Touchstone magazine.] No composer in the twentieth century had a greater influence on the English-speaking church’s musical life — and on the presence of sacred texts in concert halls — than did Ralph Vaughan Williams. Born in 1872 to an English rector and the great-granddaughter of the potter Josiah Wedgwood, young Ralph (rhymes with “safe”) studied piano and violin as a boy. At 18, he enrolled in the Royal College of Music before going on to Trinity College, Cambridge. In both settings he was tutored in composition by some of the giants of English Church music in…