Look to the Past to Face the Future

Look to the past to face the future with absolute confidence.  The very thought has a built in paradox: How can looking backwards get you ahead? Yet, this is exactly what happened in the musical arts of France in the latter part of the 19th century and the early 20th centuries.  In my opinion the action of looking backwards to go forward took the extremely brilliant mind of Claude Debussy as well as his contemporary composer friend, Maurice Ravel and others.  I have been reading and studying L’art de Toucher Le Clavcin by Francois Couperin. It was first published in 1716. I feel that in some ways, it lays the groundwork for the impressionistic movement. Of course, the harmonies of impressionism differ dramatically from the Couperin’s earlier prototype.

Claude Debussy in 1908.
                                                                                                                                              Debussy is not the man who would be king:
                                                                                                                                               He is the king!  



One extremely important instruction that Couperin offers today’s performers of Debussy involves dynamics. That is, whether or not to play loudly or softly in a particular musical passage. Couperin writes in his musical treatise that it is up to the composer to make the music louder or softer by the notes on the page. For a louder section, he places more notes in his chord or musical passage.  For softer passages, notes are be removed.  Melodies were often supported by thinly realized harmonies. This helps in making subtle playing even when many notes sound at once. Old keyboards did not play louder and softer by degrees: They could only contrast loud and soft by use of a special pedal.  According to Couperin, the quantity of notes that  sounded at once made the volumeThis kept both vulgar and excessively loud playing to a minimum.  My teacher learned these techniques from Alfred Cortot in the 1920’s, and I offer piano lessons which offer these techniques.

Today’s pianists, by and large, overplay the compositions of the impressionistic composers. For the most part,the sound of the music takes care of itself by means of the extra notes that that Debussy or Ravel wrote into the musical score. I have been preparing one hour of the of Debussy’s music to be available on this website.  In doing so, I have discovered a hidden technique that Debussy used. Its purpose was to tell the pianist what note or chord to emphasize. Also, the absence of the use of this device  meant to play the notes or chords in a gentler manner.  Since beginning this project, I have nothing but awe for the genius of Debussy. In my humble opinion, I think he was not only had a totally brilliant mind, but he was a great, great innovator with good taste.  I cannot describe the wonderful feeling I have anytime I get even a tiny insight into what Debussy had in mind in his music.  Stay tuned for more Debussy and Ravel blogs.

Harmony’s Number


 Harmony’s Number is 272. My unpublished manuscript, entitled, The Sacred Engineers Philosophy, the Pinnacle of Thought in the Unified Culture of Ancient Builders, was placed on the etched stone triangle at the Mnajdra Temple on the Island of Malta. The treatise discusses the number codes that the ancient engineers used for building temples. These same codes defined the vibrations per second of the musical tones of the ancient diatonic scale. I merely rediscovered the codes that they used.

Harmony’s number is 272. What can this possibly mean?  In antiquity, measure and music shared a common bond. The scale in use by the ancient Greeks was called diatonic. They knew the vibrations per second of each tone (Refer to Issac Asimov’s On Physics for the list).  Middle “C” vibrated 264 times per second. “C”, and octave higher, vibrated twice as fast: 528 times per second.  “A” still vibrates in symphony orchestras today at 440/sec. “E” above middle “C” was 264 times per second, etc. Numbers are readily available.

In antiquity, harmony referred to a balance of forces that were able to co-exist in peace. Harmony, according to Webster,  is an agreement or an accord. In music Webster states that it is a simultaneous sounding of tones that are pleasing to the ear. When a pair is in accord, be it people or music, they are able to co-exist harmoniously. John Michell in The View Over Atlantis elaborates on how 272 was connected by gematria  (defined as the former unity  that letters and numbers shared). The example that Michell uses goes back to ancient Greece with Harmonia who was the wife of Cadmus. The gematria of her name in Greek equaled 272. Numbers, in antiquity, could represent words, things and forces. Many ancient languages did not have separate symbols for numbers. Letter doubled as numbers. You could therefore  total the numerical values of the letters in a single  word, phrase or even a lengthy sentence. Each had a sum. The writings of John Michell covers the subject amply.


Harmony’s number  is 272.  Question: In what possible way can 272 bind opposing forces as one? Answer: Numbers 5 and 6 were considered polar opposite numbers. Five was yin. Six was yang. The five pointed star was a symbol of man. The hexagon, with 6 sides, was connected to the cosmos and the inanimate. In the Medieval gardens and decorations the five strong petaled rose was thought of yin; while the six- petaled lily was yang (refer to John Michell in City of Revelation). Many crystalline forms, the snowflake, even the cells of a honeycomb are six sided…So how does 272 unite man and the cosmos through numbers 5 and 6? Answer:  272 results from basic arithmetic of numbers 5 (yin) and 6 (yang). As, 6 x 5/ 6 + 5 = 2.72727272… Or stated in another way, 30/11= 2.727272….


As harmony’s number in ancient Greece was 2.72; even older megalithic cultures all over the world used 2.72…. as it defined the 2.72 feet of the megalithic yard.  Its hidden existence was  discovered by professor Alexander Thom of Oxford  in the 1960’s  He found that it measured most of the ancient sites in England.  Among the sites that were built by the megalithic yard are (1 Karnak Temple in Egypt whose length of either side of the rectangular base was 440MY. (2) the placement of the Sphinx in relationship to the Great Pyramid which was 440 MY distant,  (3) the  perimeter around the foundation of Persepolis in Iran was a square that measured 4 x 440 MY. (4) Rhe rectangular lengths of Troy in Turkey (2 x 220MY) combine to equal 440 MY. (5) The Akapana of Tiahuanaco in Mexico had one length and one width of its rectangular foundation together span 440 MY.  “A” , at 440, exists in two systems: (1) the old diatonic note “A” above middle “C” and (2) the modern well tempered “A” of our current tuning system.   As far back as 3500 BC the megalithic yard is found on Malta at the Mnajdra Temple at the higher section of the North entrance.  A triangle is etched in this section. Gerald J. Formosa found its dimensions and most of the temples in Malta that were defined  by the MY. He wrote about it in, The  Megalithic Monuments of Malta. Yes, music married architecture. The minister was Mr. Megalithic Yard, and their child was called harmony!


A very significant use of 272 bonds Islam and Judaism. The three letter root of “Arab” in Hebrew is ayin (70), reisch (200), and  veis (2). Its gematria is 272. The word, Hebrew, uses the same letters, re-arranged as: ayin (70), beis (2),and reisch (200)= 272. In this manner, both cultures have an harmonic accord. Also, the two primary Hebrew names for God in the Torah equal 272 but in a hidden way.. Scholars have pyramided the letters of a word to come up with the hidden pyramided value.  Thus the Tetragrammaton becomes: yud (10)  +  yud, hei(15)  +  yud, hei,vav (21)  + the full name- yud, hei, vav, hei (26).  The total is 72.  Using the same technique for the other primary name, Elohim, the total is 200. Therefore, the sum of these two pyramided names also equals  272.  I can only conclude that if we allow it, the natural state of the Middle East and the world  is all about peace and harmony. One last 272 point. When you multiply the Hebraic factors of the pyramided names of the Lord (described above) as 72 X 200, you get 14, 400…….. 2.72  defines the number of feet in a megalithic yard, 14,400 defines the number of feet in the “megalithic mile” which is even found in China as a measure called the Pu.

Uniting Music and Measure

Uniting music and measure raises a basic question. How? I have briefly blogged about this in Stonehenge Was Built by Musical Tones.  I will be developing  a theme sporadically throughout my blogs which is:  How the numbers by which architecture was measured duplicated the numbers of musical tones of the ancient diatonic scale.  As one philosopher put it: Architecture is frozen music. The units of measure by which ancient buildings could be  measured  varied by the culture.  Numbers, however, were the same.   Units of measure could include the shorter (1.718′) or longer Egyptian cubits (1.728′). They could have used the Palestinian cubit (2.107′).  The megalithic yard (2.72′) was extremely popular. The Roman pace (2.433′) or even the 12 inch English foot were utilized.   In the realm of the old diatonic scale,  a number of authors document their numbers in terms of vibrations per second. Thus I was able to see how the numbers of measure and music happily correspond. Authors that document the old diatonic scale in terms of vibrations per second include Issac Asimov in On Physics and Guy Murchie in The Music of the Spheres.

File:All Gizah Pyramids.jpg
The Great Pyramid of Gizeh is the large pyramid on the left side.


A 175 to 176 ratio of measures were used by cultures across the face of antiquity. This is well documented in John Michell’s  scholarly treatise entitled Ancient Metrology. The ratio takes in consideration the diameter across the equatorial bulge (176)  and the polar diameter (175). Michell discusses how the northern latitude measure of the Egyptian foot was 1.152 feet (the 176 ratio) at fifty degrees latitude. While the southern measure was was 1.145 feet (175 ratio) at ten degrees latitude.


As I have already discussed in my blog about Stonehenge, diatonic “F” above middle “C”  on the piano vibrates at 352 times per second. The standard of measure in antiquity, as I’ve already stated,  is based on a 176 ratio to 175.  One hundred and seventy-six is one-half of 352. Musically, in terms of vibrations per second, it is exactly an octave lower than the 352-F. Now, if we take the shorter 175 ratio of measure of 1.152 feet; then the perimeter around the great Pyramid is 2.640 feet. Diatonic “C” vibrates 264 times per second.  This perimeter, in terms of this shorter Egyptian foot, is exactly ten times the number by which the old diatonic “C” vibrates.


Another diatonic musical tone is duplicated in measure at the Great Pyramid. When shorter Egyptian cubit of 1.718 feet is used to measure the perimeter around the Great Pyramid, then each side is 440 cubits. The note “A” vibrates to 440 times per second. This is the standard not only of the old diatonic scale, but also the well-tempered scale still in use. A-440 is the only tone that is being used from the ancient diatonic scale by musicians- at least in England and America. In this regard, an essential dimension of the Great Pyramid is alive and well; and is still being tuned to by at least some of our orchestras. Music and empire: No wonder King David was considered a musician first and was a king only later.

The Sgro Brothers Race To Scott’s


With Harmonica virtuosos - The Sgro Brothers
David and Sharon with the world’s greatest harmonica virtuosos who tell the world’s best jokes – The Sgro Brothers


Why did the Sgro Brothers race to Scott’s Oquaga Lake House? So they could hear and visit with the great violinist, ” Rubinoff and his Violin“.  How did this happen, you ask? It all goes back to the Southern Hotel in Colombus, Ohio where Rubinoff was staying.  He had just given a concert.  The Sgro Brothers were in the audience and loved it.  They were blown away by an incident that occurred during Rubinoff’s concert. While performing, Rubinoff heard someone talking. It happened to be someone backstage. Rubinoff lost his temper and began a five minute swearing tirade at the audience. He shouted at the full house: ” You so and so and so (blank, blanks, blank) –. You pay good money to hear me and have the nerve to interrupt my performance”…… (with his heavy Russian accent). The Sgro Brothers thought that at any moment audience would start pelting Rubinoff with rotten tomatoes. What happened? As soon as Rubinoff  finished his vitriolic tirade, the entire audience rose to their feet and gave him an enormous standing ovation. The following day the Sgro Brothers were performing at the same venue.  They invited Rubinoff to be a part of their act. He graciously accepted. Since this incident, they refer to him as “the master.”

Back to Scott’s Hotel. Ray Scott is the owner and proprietor of the Scott’s Oquaga  Lake House. It’s been in the Scott family since 1870. He knew that the brothers lived in Elmira, New York. It is not too far down the road from the Scott’s resort in Deposit NY.  For years, “Scotty” had been trying to get the brothers to come to the lake house, but unsuccessfully. Because of my association and  friendship with the Rubinoffs, Dave Rubinoff graciously agreed to play at the resort. Darlene Rubinoff, his wife, called the Sgros about two hours before the show. That is the reason for my blog about why the Sgro Brothers race to Scott’s.   My concert with Rubinoff broke the ice. So the Sgro Brothers began coming back for many years to entertain and thrill Scotty’s audiences.

As a result, I was doubly happy. First that I brought Rubinoff. Second, that  paved the way for the Sgros. You can listen to that famous Rubinoff concert that the Sgro Brothers attended on the thumb video on the top of the 1st page. The year of that concert was 1984.




Our new music is being heard on Memorial Days thanks to the Sarasota Concert Band under the baton of William Barbanera.  We, David and Sharon, are writing new patriotic concert works. For  Memorial Day 2014, our new opus was named, Glory and Honor.  In a world premier, the Sarasota Concert Band joined ranks with Civil War re-enacters to perform the opus which included  gun salute effected The Civil War Re-enacters  shooting muskets.  The model, of course, is Tchaikovsky’s Overture of 1812.  The spectacle, including the smoke from the muskets being fired, can be viewed on the thumb video at the heading of our website. The conductor not only gives the concert band their cues, but he also points at the musketeers when it’s their turn to shoot. Sharon, the arranger, actually wrote the gun salute cues into the musical score.

 Our new music is heard on Memorial Days in 2015  for a second time.  We wrote wrote a march in two tempos for the Sarasota Concert Band entitled, “We Are One“.   It was inspired by the of Beethoven’s 9th Symphony.  Beethoven inserted a Turkish March in his symphony in the middle of his choral work, Ode To Joy.  We created a march in 6/8 tempo that opens our work. Then the music transitions to our patriotic anthem: “We Are One”.  The lyrics and the full concert band arrangement were written by Sharon.  It was performed under the baton of Maestro William Barbanera with the full Sarasota Concert Band on May 25 of this year.  The singers in the above thumb video on the first page of the website are Allen Kretschmar (baritone), Baron Garriott (Tenor), Karen O’Shea (alto), and Sharon Ohrenstein (soprano, lyricist and arranger). As she so aptly says to me: “Without my work, you music would still be on the shelf.”

We are thankful to Maestro Bill Barbanera for the advice he gave us while we were writing the musical score. For example: Do not write quickly moving 16th notes for the flute or clarinet while the trumpets are playing. These woodwind instruments would not be heard Common sense, isn’t it?  Yes, but that’s what good conductors have. We are also very thankful to Mary Beth Stiber, President of the Concert Band Board; and her husband Don. He is an excellent trumpeter and band leader of his own group, Sarasota Gold. They have encouraged us and assisted us with these musical projects.  IMG_20150904_0001IMG_20150904_0001IMG_20150904_0001

Melody and 3/4 Time are Returning

Melody and 3/4 time are returning. Music that is heavy on square, off beat rhythm and simple chant but lacks beauty of melody and rhythmic variety has overstayed its welcome. They have been like guests that just won’t leave.  These guests, by the way,  have names. I call them the three “R’s”:  Rock and Roll and Rap. Most of their rhythms are square . They dominate through 4/4 or 2/4 time meters.  Two of the guests, Rock and Roll, insist and the constant hypnotic repetition of the “upbeat,” beats two and four. These three guests tend to avoid triple meter like the plague. To them, the words and melody of the 1936 song “By Strauss” music by George and lyrics by Ira Gershwin represent a worst case scenario: Ira  Gershwin writes about how a melody in 3/4 time literally goes lilting through the house. By the way, you can enjoy By Strauss in the classic movie, the 1951 production of : An American in Paris. It is a showstopper It is danced with comedy and verve as only Gene Kelly can.  The movie was inspired by the 1928 orchestral work with the same title by George Gershwin. It also features some of Gershwin’s most loved songs. The climax is a 16  minute  ballet on the 1928 orchestral work.  By the way, the movie won 8 academy awards.

Detail from frontispiece to Thomas Wilson’s Correct Method of German and French Waltzing (1816), showing nine positions of the Waltz, clockwise from the left- where the musicians are seated (from Wikopedia)


Duple (2/4 and 4/4) meters have sharp angles. Just watch a conductor outlining the angular motions with his baton. Triple meter can be conducted with a baton going in circles. When  understanding time meters and their effects,  the alchemical “squaring of the circle” takes on new meaning: Duple meters are earthbound. The square is associated with the alchemical element of  of earth. The circle represents heaven. Squaring the circle means bringing heaven to earth. The circle represents spiritual qualities- Qualities that are beautiful but you cannot touch.  We need to paraphrase “squaring the circle.” Since the angular rhythms have been so prominent for the last 60 years, we need to “circle the square” with 3/4 time and melody.


 I recommend this needed return to melody written in three-four time meter. It will help with our spiritual survival which ultimately helps our physical survival.  This task is up to the composers.  One such popular waltz number is by Cat Stevens, Morning Has Broken. Norwegian Wood by the Beatles is another. You Light Up My life by Joe Brooks is a third example.  Schubert wrote a collection of waltzes. Brahms has a book of waltzes. Chopin, of course loved waltzes and gave the Viennese waltz a Polish twist.  Remember Strauss, the waltz king, which the Gershwins championed as I just wrote about above. The old minuet is in 3/4 time.  Let’s look to these rich traditions of the past. Then we can turn around to face the future, knowing that our lives will be happier as a result. Incidentally, the ancient Greeks had the same thoughts about music – that music affects character.  They called this musical property  by the name of “ethos”.


The story of how the Russian folk dancing by the Sarasota Ballet began in our musical, Elizabeth of Russia, goes back to a book that seemingly popped off a shelf decades ago. Wife Sharon was walking through Brant’s Used Book Store in Sarasota, Florida.  A book presented itself to her. The book was about Elizabeth of Russia, daughter of Peter the Great. Although she immediately wrote wrote a rough draft for the play, the idea then sat dormant in her mind for twenty years: After all, Russia, at that time, was called by some, “the evil empire” (viva la Star Wars). Finally, the Berlin wall came crashing down.  Sharon conferred with husband David. They teamed up and wrote the story, words, lyrics, and music. As a result, Elizabeth of Russia,  their first their joint musical, was born.  Elizabeth was not power crazed. She turned the throne down on several occasions, and just wanted to be with the man she loved- who was low born.  As a result, we are thinking of renaming the musical: The Princess and the Peasant.

Elizabeth of Russia saw its world premier at Players of Sarasota Theatre.  It had over 30 actors. The principle dancers of the Sarasota Ballet were employed.  Their incredible performance can be viewed in the thumb video above.  The dancers were a gift from a prominent Sarasota doctor.  On the initial date of this blog, it has had over 12,000 hits.

The sold out premiere also featured Rubinoff’s Stradivarius violin.  It was then played by Damaeon Pegis, a member of the Florida West Coast Symphony Orchestra. Rubinoff purchased the Strad in 1929 for $100,00,00. Today, some say it could be worth up to 5 million. The Strad, made in 1729, belonged to Czar Nicholas II.  It has the official crest and seal of Czarist Russia on the finger board. The crest, of course,  is set with diamonds and rubies. The history of the violin possibly parallels the recent hit movie, The Red Violin:  It has been speculated that it could have been in the same vicinity as Czar Nicolas II when he was assassinated.

Maestro David Rubinoff and David Ohrenstein performing live at Scotts Oquaga Lake House in Summer 1984



Since Rubinoff had past away, I had then had access to his violin through his kind and wonderful widow, Dame Darlene Rubinoff. She flew in with it from Houston . Check out my blogs on this website about the Rubinoffs.  Also, I posted a live concert that Dave and I gave in New York. At the time of the video, in 1984, he was 86 years old. The full concert is on the thumb video above. Don’t miss it.  I worked over 20 as Rubinoff’s arranger and accompanist. Right after he plays the first two notes, you know you are in the hands of a great master.

Elizabeth of Russia was then chosen to be an official event for the joint centennial celebrations of St. Petersburg Florida and St Petersburg Russia. They are sister cities.  The event happened at the Palladium Theatre in St. Petersburg Fl.  Amy Schwarz- Morretti, at that time principle violinist with the Florida Orchestra, dazzled sold out houses by playing Rubinoff’s Dance of the Russia Peasant. She wanted to play the Stradivarius with such a passion that even though she was double booked on one of the nights; she left her nearby concert during intermission and had a waiting taxi by the back door of Symphony Hall. Then she was shuttled to the Palladium Theatre.  She played the violin. Then great maestro ran out its back door of the Palladium to her waiting taxi cab as the audience gave her a roaring, standing ovation.  Of course with her excellent musical timing, she made it back to the Florida Orchestra with time to spare, and masterfully played the 2nd half of the other concert. I will never get over thinking what a Stradivarius in the hands of a great master can do!

Stonehenge Was Built By Musical Tones


There’s music in the air as I, David Ohrenstein, believe that Stonehenge was built by musical tones.





Credit for photography: Digital Imaging Project of Mary Ann Sullivan, Bluffton College;

Stonehenge was built by musical tones in terms of the numbers found in the vibrations per second of an old musical scale.  This the personal theory of David Ohrenstein (myself). The numbers are derived from what is now called the Greek diatonic scale.  Stonehenge  translates the numbers of this scale, in terms of vibrations per second, into  numbers of  measure that were also used by former civilizations from around the globe.


There once was a blueprint that unified music with simple geometry. I discovered the  plan while playing the piano in the summer of 1993 for the Scott family at Scotts Oquaga Lake House in Deposit, New York. Years after, I discovered that the blueprint is preserved by a system of numbers called gematria: Letters used to double as  numbers. Therefore each letter, word, phrase   or sentence  had a numerical value. That is the essence of gematria. 

352 the Diatonic musical tone “F”

Here is the modus operandi of how Stonehenge was built by musical tones: The diatonic tone “F” (as per Issac Asimov in On Physics and Guy Murchie in The Music of the Spheresvibrated 352 times per second. This strongly ties into Judaism.  The most important Judaic prayer is the Shema Yisroel ,which declares the Oneness of the Creator. The two words (Deuteronomy 6:3) right before this six word declaration (Deuteronomy 6:4)  translate to “milk and honey” with gematria of 352. The meaning is simple: from milk and honey, which represent being loving, nurturing and caring, we achieve oneness or unity with the Creator. Now, take 352 as the diameter of a circle. Its circumference in whole numbers is 1106. When the 6 word declaration of the Shema Yisroel is spelled with the double “yud” for the Holy Name- as it is in the prayer books- the gematria of this phrase is also 1106. The message is: Milk and honey places us at one with our Creator.


 The diatonic tone “F” (352) is also found at Stonehenge as the average distance between the pillars (above picture) is 3.52 feet. The average of width of these same stones, facing the center,  is double that- 7.04 feet. Musically, when a number is doubled, it sounds one octave higher.  The average length of the lintels on top of the pillars is triple 3.52 or- 10.56 feet.  Stonehenge is but one example.Other diatonic tones can be found not only at Stonehenge; but at sites of all cultures and creeds.

  Here’s another example of how Stonehenge was built by musical tones:The diatonic tone “C” (264 vibrations per second) is also at Stonehenge and is expressed as  the measure of a distance. John Michell illustrates how the distance from the center of the station rectangle to the heel stone is 264 feet. The  station rectangle is made by the paths of the orbits of the Sun and Moon. It marks where their paths intersect at right angles.  The same number, 264, is  prominent in Judaism. The Hebrew word for the Passover ritual is Seder; which means order. The number behind the same musical tone (C) that marked the order of the paths of the Sun and Moon at Stonehenge, also denotes the order of the ritual at Passover.

                                                                                                                                LIFE, LOVE AND MUSIC

Measures expressed here are not an anachronism. John Michell, in The View Over Atlantis, writes about how the British 12 inch foot existed in the past.  Samples of the cubic inch of gold for  weight comparison are found at the British Museum. They are from ancient Egypt, Babylon and Greece.  I think it would be fitting for there be a new re-dedication to the kindness, love and nurturing that are expressed by the words of milk and honey in Deuteronomy 6:3.  To begin the work, which is substantial, we should dedicate ourselves to renovating sites that were once built by measures derived from tones of the diatonic scale. The rebuilding would offer all mankind a unified and hopeful vision of peace and co-operation; and lead us to the path of a new Golden Age of peace and plenty.



Preludes set the musical tone of an event be it a wedding, church service or a concert.  But what is not known to most people is that n the baroque era, around 1700,  a keyboard soloist would play a prelude while the audience was settling down, i.e. before the program of the concert actually started.  While patrons were still finding their seats, keyboard player would improvise flashy runs and passages on the spot.  The audience marvel at his talent thus peeking their interest in the concert.


The prelude gave the performer the opportunity  to check:

  1. The acoustics of the room and
  2. The resonance of the instrument. Thus, if the instrument had short sustaining power, he would play trills and tremolos faster.
  3. And that he had to play slow pieces at a faster tempo.
  4. The Prelude also served the purpose of allowing the performer to judge the action or response of the keys.

If the acoustics of the room were dead, the soloist would quicken the tempo. If the acoustics were  live, he would observe slower markings. In effect the soloist did the sound check; thus acting like a modern day sound engineer. If my reader would like to know more about what performers did before electrical sound engineering I recommend reading  Francois Couperin (1668-1733) in his L’Art de Toucher le Clavecin , published in 1716.

Francois Couperin author of  L’Art de Toucher le Clavecin 


For years, I’ve kept a log of my piano practice and still do.  The Preludes by Chopin are regular part of my warm ups. I choose three. The first emphasizes work with the right hand. The second emphasizes the left. The third works both hands equally. Chopin was a great fan of Johann Sebastian Bach.  In writing his Preludes, Chopin chose Bach for the model. As Bach wrote preludes in all the key signatures, so did Chopin. Chopin’s 1st Prelude is a stylistic copy of Bach’s 1st Prelude in Book I of the Well Tempered Clavichord. Both hands interlock in the continuous motion of 16th notes.  Chopin, however, gives this prelude beautiful melodic import. This characterizes his then newer style of writing music.


For centuries, preludes were written as absolute music. Absolute music is defined as music that is meant to be free of any extra musical implications.  As absolute music, preludes were simply intended to be played as an introduction to a longer work. That was it.  In his preludes Debussy changes tradition in a humorous manner. He numbers each Prelude with Roman numerals on the title page. Innocent enough.  However according to the Paris edition by Durand et Cie. copyright 1910, he broke the tradition.What he did reminds me the surprise toy that we used to find in boxes of Cracker Jacks. At the very end of each Prelude, he zings you with a descriptive title! Thus, for example when we play Prelude X, we think that that is all we are playing.  But at the bottom of the last page,  we learn that we have really been playing, La Cathedrale engloutie  (The engulfed or sunken Cathedral). I know that Debussy had fun with this intentional reversal.


I’ve been practicing to make a recording of 60 minutes of Debussy’s music. What a task! He was  a first place award winning concert pianist. That fact together with his avowed goal of braking all previous rules as much as possible makes him very difficult to play. His rule breaking, I must admit, is always in good taste.  My teacher, Mischa Kottler, who studied in Paris and Vienna in the 1920’s (see blog) wanted me, with one of his last wishes, to give a Debussy concert. I have upped my practicing for this purpose.  I’m finding out that 3.5 hours daily is not enough. I’ll have to up it even more; or, it will not happen. Keep watching for my hour on the web site of recorded Debussy. I’m determined.

440 is Used for Tuning

440 is used for tuning  primarily in America and England in terms of vibrations per second for the note “A” above middle “C”. When my youngest son, Abe, was just over two years old, his favorite expression was a number- “440”: As we tried to teach him to tell time, he’d always insist that it was 4:40 no matter what we told him that the time was. You might ask, “So what; why is that significant?” That number is the cornerstone of the builders of ancient civilizations. I feel that mind of Abe was used, at that time, as a conduit for forgotten wisdom. As a result, I have pursued trying to understand the number; and how and where it was used, and where it came from for some 35 years. The quest literally turned me into a philosopher, as expressed by the hit song from the Broadway show, Man of La Mancha (1965-  lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh). The hit song is entitled The Impossible Dream, and subtitled subtitled, The Quest.  Even Liberace would often feature it as his eleven o’clock number at his piano concerts. The famous line states: This is my quest, to follow that star, No matter how hopeless, No matter how far.


The search for that star took our entire family to the Catskill Mountains in New York where I became the house piano player at Scott’s Oquaga Lake House in Deposit, New York. The year was  1983. I think that Oquaga Lake has an immense spirituality about it; and it was there that I found the answer to the 440 question. Of course, Abe, our 440 baby, was right there with us. When the source of the number came into my mind , we were living at Bluestone Farm on Bluestone Mountain right next to Scott’s Hotel.  Students of archaeology know that the Stonehenge was built of bluestone rock; and to my knowledge, in America this tiny area is the only place where this rock is found. The Scotts quarry just is up the hill from Bluestone Farm.  Deposit bluestone is extremely desirable around the country for mantles and fireplaces. The stone is so plentiful on Bluestone Mountain that when my daughter, years later,  got married at Scotts Oquaga Lake House; we wrote the names of all the guests with magic marker on flat, little pieces of bluestone to indicate assigned seating.  Every one said the wedding was magical. From the picture below, you can see that it was the enchanted land of Scotts that gave it that aura.  As my quest for a fuller realization of the mystery of 440 has taken me over 35 years,  it will take many blogs to reveal the treasure it holds. Keep watching.

440, as a number,  is not only used for tuning, but also as a number of measurement in the appropriate unit of measure of ancient sites like (1) The length of a city block of the Harappan civilization in the Indus valley  (2) The foundation of Troy in Turkey (3) The foundation of the temple  at Karnak in Egypt  (4) The Great mound in Cahokia in southern Illinois. (5) The Great Circle in Newark Ohio built by the Hopewell culture (6) The foundation of Persepolis in Iran  (7) The Akapana in Mexico (8) Solomon’s Temple (9) The Great Pyramid of Egypt…….all around the planet.   In the meanwhile, stay tuned for more blogs.  And when you visit with the Scotts, ask for a guided tour of  Bluestone Mountain.



The incredible beauty of Oquaga Lake where I found the answers to many of life’s questions. My poetry is a tribute to its beauty; and   Of Fog and Spirits, below, describes this very scene (excerpt from The Oquaga Spirit Speaks)


Fingers of fog moving quickly,

Gliding across the lake…

Almost at jogging speed-

Leaving no apparent wake.

    Why are they scampering about

At this early morning time?

    Thousands of fingers in motion

     Moving gracefully with rhyme.

Perhaps each one is a spirit

                    Released from the depths of the spring,

    Enjoying an hour of freedom,

Almost ready to take wing?

              This spring fed lake is enchanted

As such water bodies are.

I actually saw its essence

               While viewing the Morning Star