Carl Orff, Carmina Burana (1937)

The ubiquitous presence of Carl Orff’s “O Fortuna” in movies, television shows, and even commercials makes it difficult to imagine that someone has never heard it. Although it might sound a little spooky or devilish, it is actually part of a larger piece of music based on a collection of twelfth-century poems about the pleasures of love, nature, and alcohol. The piece is titled Carmina Burana (Songs of Beuern), and “O Fortuna serves as an introduction and coda to the piece.

Here’s the lyrics to “O Fortuna" to follow as you listen to the video below. I have also embedded a playlist of
Carmina Burana in its entirety.

O Fortuna, (O Fortune,)
velt luna
(like the moon)
statu variabilis, (you are changeable,)
semper crescis aut decrescis; (ever waxing and waning;)
vita detestabilis (hateful life)
nunc obdurat et tunc curat (first oppresses and then soothes)
ludo mentis aciem; (as fancy takes it;)
egestatem, potestatem (poverty and power)
dissolvit ut glaciem. (it melts them like ice.)

Sors immanis et inanis, (Fate — monstrous and empty,)
rota tu volubilis, (you whirling wheel,)
status malus, (you are malevolent,)
vana salus
(well-being is vain)
semper dissolubilis, (and always fades to nothing,)
obumbrata et velata (shadowed and veiled)
michi quoque niteris; (you plague me too;)
nunc per ludum (now through the game)
dorsum nundum
(I bring my bare back)
fero tui sceleris. (to your villainy._

Sors salutis (Fate is against me)
et virtutis
(in health)
michi nun contraria, (and virtue)
est affectus et defectus, (driven on and weighted down,)
semper in angaria. (always enslaved.)

Hac in hora (So at this hour)
sine mora
(without delay)
corde pulsum tangite; (pluck the vibrating strings;)
quod per sortem (since Fate)
sternit fortem,
(strikes down the strong man,)
mecum omnes plangit! (everyone weep with me!)




Grieg, Piano Concerto in A minor (1868)

Edvard Grieg stood only five feet tall and composed music while sitting on copies of Beethoven’s piano sonatas so he could reach the keyboard. His diminutive size, however, did not keep him from writing titanic music, as evident in his Piano Concerto in A minor. Next to the Peer Gynt Suites, the piano concerto is probably Grieg’s most well-known composition—and it’s a beaut. The great Franz Liszt performed it in Rome and made recommendations to Grieg for revising the score. Grieg responded by telling Liszt that he had performed the first movement too fast.

Arthur Rubinstein (piano) with André Previn conducting the London Symphony Orchestra


00:00 – First Movement
14:25 – Second Movement
21:32 – Third Movement

Grieg died on September 4, 1907, and his ashes were interred outside his home in Bergen, Norway. I took the photo below of Grieg's gravesite three years ago when I had the wonderful opportunity to tour his home.




Guthrie, Rimbaud, and Billy the Kid

I often find legends and myths about Billy the Kid more fascinating than factual narratives. So little is actually known about William H. Bonney, that I read most histories of his life with a suspicious mind, and the novels, television shows, and movies are sometimes more interesting than the history books.

Someone with a creative mind might, for example, begin with these lines from Woody Guthrie's song "Billy the Kid" and tell a complicated and transfixing story.

There's many a man with a face fine and fair
Who starts out in life with a chance to be square,
But just like poor Billy he wanders astray
And loses his life in the very same way.


Someone might even take these lines from the "The Seven-Year-Old Poet" by Arthur Rimbaud, a French writer who most likely never heard of William H. Bonney, and create a new and compelling myth of the Kid's life.

And so the Mother, shutting up the duty book,
Went, proud and satisfied. She did not see the look
In the blue eyes, or how with secret loathing wild,
Beneath the prominent brow, a soul raged in her child.


In short, long after all of us who are alive today are gone, people will still be telling stories about Billy the Kid.


The lyric quoted about is not used in this version of Woody Guthrie's song.


Arvo Pärt, Spiegel im Spiegel (1978)

People who don’t think they like classical music will probably say they like the music of Arvo Pärt. He is a deeply spiritual man, who composes music that works as a form of prayer, music that can make you look inside yourself and find something good.

In the piece I have embedded below, Pärt provides music that defines “stillness.” It contains no moments of conflict and works as a benign counterpoint to the noise of the modern world. “Spiegel im Spiegel” translates from German into “mirror in mirror,” the perfect title for a piece of music that should feel as if you want it to go on forever.

Leonhard Roczek (cello) and Herbert Schuch (piano)

Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein's contributions to educating people about classical music in general and Gustav Mahler in particular are legendary. For almost fifty years he brought a depth of passion to the musical masterworks he conducted that touched audiences around the world. If only he had been able to live two lifetimes so that he could have given us even more original compositions. (Bernstein was born on this date 100 years ago.)

Bernstein, "Simple Song" from Mass (1971)
Joseph Kolinski (baritone)



Bernstein, score for On the Waterfront (1954)
(The music begins at 2:53.)



Bernstein, "Mambo!" from West Side Story (1957)
Gustavo Dudamel conducting the
Simón Bolivar Youth Orchestra

Billy the Kid and The Westerners of Silver City

I recently made a presentation to The Westerners of Silver City, NM. Although I spoke extemporaneously, I have provided the gist of what I said below.

If you live in southern New Mexico, you have certainly seen the iconic image of Billy the Kid standing with his rifle next. You simply cannot avoid bumping into something to do with Billy the Kid. The Kid is our claim to fame. We cannot escape him. People from all over the world fly to this part of the world to visit Billy the Kid country.

I have lived in southern New Mexico all my life, and there’s no way to count the number of times I have eaten and shopped in businesses named after Billy the Kid. Like thousands of other people who grew up in this part of the world, I wrote reports about Billy the Kid when I was in school. For me, and probably everyone else in this room, Billy the Kid is part of our cultural DNA.

I’ll also say that my personal interest in Billy the Kid comes from my experiences as a high school teacher. Over my thirty years in the classroom, I taught lots of Billy the Kids. Those of you who are teachers can probably relate to what I am saying, especially if you look at what those who knew Billy the Kid in Silver City said about him in later years. Keep in mind that when he moved to Silver City he was only thirteen years old

Those who knew him at that time generally described him as a well-mannered and likable young man. He enjoyed music and performed in musical theater. He enjoyed reading. It was said he wasn’t as bad as the other boys in town and that he came from a good American home. His teacher said he always helped with chores around the school. She also said he had an artistic nature. He evidently loved his mother, and those who knew her described her as a "jolly Irish woman" who would do anything for her sons. The Kid’s mother died of consumption when he was only fourteen years old — and the rest is history. Without the guidance of a loving mother he ended up on the wrong side of the law.

I’m certain that those of you who have taught school have known students who were smart, likable, and cooperative, students who could have done something good with their lives, but circumstances sent down the wrong path.

And that’s the story I’ve tried to tell in my novel Catherine's Son. I wanted to tell the story of what might happen to make a good boy go bad. I used the historical record dealing with the years the Kid lived in Silver City as the skeleton of my book and then I fleshed out the story by simply making stuff up, which I assume is the approach any writer takes when writing historical fiction.

And I make no bones about my book being a work of fiction.

In the end, it’s difficult for the scholars to write about Billy the Kid, because we actually know so little about most of his life, and what we do know is often nothing more than myth.

Even so, the myths about Billy the Kid are endlessly fascinating.

For those of you who don’t know his story, let me take a moment and go over it. Even though much of what happened to the Kid is open to debate, what I’ll tell you is the standard, traditional story that has served as a foundation for an uncountable number of other stories created from his life.
  • William Henry McCarty was born in New York in 1859. Nothing is known about his father, but, as the story goes, his widowed mother took him and his brother west after the Civil War. His mother then raised him and his brother on her own while running her own businesses in Indiana and Kansas before she moved to Silver City in the New Mexico Territory.
  • While living in Silver City, the Kid’s mother died of consumption. He was fourteen and was left alone to survive a lawless and violent society. He got into trouble after his mother died and got arrested for stealing from a laundry. He then escaped from his jail cell by crawling up a chimney and heading toward Arizona. He was only fifteen when he left Silver City.
  • In Arizona, he became a horse thief. He also killed his first man in a bar fight, probably in self defense. He then returned to New Mexico and joined a gang of cattle rustlers and thieves. He also changed his name to William H. Bonney. Those who knew him called him "Billy" or "Kid." He wasn’t known as Billy the Kid until the newspapers created that name for him about six months before he died.
  • Within a few weeks after returning to New Mexico, he moved to Lincoln County in the eastern part of the Territory. In Lincoln, he was given an opportunity to make an honest living when an Englishman named John Tunstall gave him a job as a ranch hand.
  • The Kid worked for Tunstall only a few months before Tunstall was assassinated by men working for an organization called the The House. The House was a ruthless group of businessmen who had monopolized almost all business activity in Lincoln County. The House also had the support of a group of powerful businessmen and politicians who ran the entire New Mexico Territory, a group that was known as the Santa Fe Ring. After The House assassinated John Tunstall, the Kid found himself fighting in a war of revenge those who ran Lincoln County and the New Mexico Territory.
  • After the Lincoln County war seemingly ended with the defeat of Tunstall’s forces, the Kid would not give up and kept fighting, making himself a nuisance by rustling livestock from his enemies. In an attempt to put his life on the right side of the law, however, the Kid made a deal with the Governor of New Mexico, agreeing to testify in open court against allies of The House. In return, the governor offered him a pardon for any crimes he had committed. The Kid kept his part of the bargain and testified. Even so, the governor never granted the Kid a pardon.
  • Meanwhile, newspapers, in cahoots with The Santa Fe Ring, began portraying the Kid as the worst of the worst in the New Mexico Territory. The Kid became a scapegoat for everything wrong in New Mexico and a symbol for the lawlessness of the American West.
  • The Kid was eventually arrested and sentenced to hang, making him the only person convicted of a crime for actions committed during the Lincoln County War. However, in a daring escape in which he killed two guards, the Kid left his jail cell in Lincoln only a few days before his execution. He then found refuge among his friends and supporters near Fort Sumner.
  • Three months after he escaped from jail the Kid walked into a dark room at midnight where he was ambushed and shot dead by Sheriff Pat Garrett. The story goes that Billy the Kid was only twenty-one years old when he died, but historians are not certain. He may have been as young as nineteen.
All told, the Kid gave us one heck of a story!

What happened to him has provided novelists, filmmakers, playwrights, and artists of all types with a mythic tale that can take a variety of forms. The Kid can be portrayed as a good boy gone bad or a boy who was born bad — bad to the bone. He can be portrayed as a cowardly punk, a black-hearted villain, a rebel without a cause, or a young hero — the American Robin Hood. His myth works any way you want to tell it, and his myth is as strong today as when he died 132 years ago.


Recently, I have made my living as an education consultant. In short, I train teachers to teach history, and a central theme of my workshops is that history teachers should not only provide students with historical information, they should also help students learn to think historically. It may sound odd, but Billy the Kid has become an essential element in the workshops I lead. The Kid’s story is perfectly designed to help students learn to think historically.

Historical thinking involves much more than I can really explain today, but let me give you an example of a few ways that I use Billy the Kid to teach historical thinking.

First, historical thinking entails the ability to ask questions. All historical research begins with a question of curiosity. History teachers should therefore routinely ask students, “What questions do you have? What do you wish you knew more about?”

And there’s no better way to help students learn to ask questions than to tell them about Billy the Kid. Almost anything you say about Billy the Kid generates more questions than historians can possibly answer. Our knowledge and understanding of the Kid’s life is so incomplete that students quickly learn to understand a standard rule for all historians — you must be able to tolerate uncertainty.

For historical thinkers, the Kid’s life is also a good lesson in contextual thinking. Good historians learn to place documents and artifacts from the past in historical context. Historians know that to understand the people of the past they must place them in the context of the world in which they lived. Billy the Kid lived in New Mexico in the 1870s, and it is impossible to understand him without understanding the society in which he lived.

During the Lincoln County War Billy the Kid was only eighteen years old and the men allied against him were the wealthiest and most powerful men in New Mexico. He also lived in New Mexico at a time when it had the highest murder rate of any state or territory in the nation. New Mexico had .2% of the population of the United States and 15% of the murders, and most of those murders were never prosecuted or punished. At least, they were not punished within the law. Billy the Kid certainly killed his share of men, but he also lived in an environment where killing was commonplace.

Another element of learning to think historically is learning to recognize how things change over time. Documents from the past change meanings according to the time in which they are studied. If you read a book from the 1920s about the Civil War, it will reveal more to you more about the 1920s than the Civil War. It will certainly give you a different version of the Civil War than books written in the twenty-first century.

The story we tell about Billy the Kid, like any story from the past, has gone through several transformations. The stories told about the Kid in the 1890s are much different from the stories we tell today. What’s important to keep in mind is that whenever the stories are told they always reflect the time in which they are created.

Let’s take an innocuous historical statement such as “Pat Garrett killed Billy the Kid,” and let’s examine how responses to that statement might have changed over the last 130 years.

If I had made that statement in the 1890s, I probably would have received responses that were variations on one theme: “The Kid got what he deserved.”

In the 1890s, people had been exposed to numerous newspaper reports, dime novels, and books that generally portrayed the Kid as a cold-hearted killer. The Kid represented the old ways of settling problems in the American West with a gun. Many Americans at the end of the nineteenth century were looking forward to an end of the Code of the West and the development of a modern and civilized urban society. Americans wanted nothing to do with people like Billy the Kid who settled their problems through anarchy and violence.

If I had said, “Garrett killed the Kid,” in the late-1920s or 1930s, I would have received a much different response. During that time, the Kid was generally portrayed as a hero. On the jacket of a bestselling book about the Kid, published in 1926, the Kid was described as the “Robin Hood of the Mesas.” In 1930, a movie film about Billy the Kid starring Johnny Mack, an All-American football player was shown to test audiences who were so disturbed by the Kid’s death that the producers were forced to change the ending. In the version released to the public, Pat Garrett fakes the Kid’s death and lets him escape to Mexico with the girl he loves.

The way the Kid’s story was told in the late-1920s and 1930s tells us more about that time in history than it does about Billy the Kid. At a time of gangsterism, financial corruption, and economic depression, the Kid was portrayed as a romantic hero fighting against the corrupt business forces of his time. In short, he was a heroic figure.

If I said, “Garrett killed the Kid” in the 1950s or 1960s, I would probably get a response that provided some version of how the “system” or the “establishment” always wins — some version of how the good die young. During that time, the Kid was portrayed as a rebel without a cause, a James Dean or Marlon Brando of the Old West.

And what happens when I say, “Garrett killed the Kid” in modern times? I have made several presentations and taught classes on Billy the Kid, and the reaction is often the same. It either sets off an argument over whether the Kid was a hero or villain or questions about whether the Kid actually died in 1881. Someone always asks me, “Didn’t Billy the Kid die in Hico, Texas, in the 1950s?” To me, these reactions reflect how polarized we seem to be in modern times over every issue. The reactions also reflect how many people are likely to see conspiracy and coverup in any official story.

As I said before, I find Billy the Kid endlessly fascinating. For those of us who live in this part of the world, he is part of our culture and we cannot escape his presence.

As for where the Kid’s myth goes next, your guess is as good as mine. Wherever it goes, the new myths created from the Kid’s story will certainly reflect the changes in our world.

I am also certain that wherever the myth of Billy the Kid goes, it will not go away. Long after all of us in this room are gone, people will still be telling stories about Billy the Kid.

silver+city
Silver City, NM

Debussy, Préludes (1910, 1913)

"Music is the silence between the notes." – Claude Debussy

Claude Debussy, a French composer known for his unconventional use of melody, harmony, and timbre wanted a piano to sound as if it were "floating" and had no hammers. In his
Préludes for solo piano, published as two books in 1910 and 1913, he composed twenty-four pieces that each create a different mood and sound quasi-improvised. I have embedded a recording of the Préludes performed by the pianist Krystian Zimerman, a recording that, for me, perfectly captures the impressionistic spirit of Debussy. (You may need the Spotify web player or app to listen to the Préludes from the embedded playlist.)

As a bonus, I have also embedded an arrangement for five cellos of "The Girl with the Flaxen Hair," the eighth prelude of the first book, and an orchestral version of "Fireworks", the twelfth prelude of the second book.




"The Girl with the Flaxen Hair," SAKURA cello quintet


"Fireworks," Sir Simon Rattle conducting the Berlin Phlharmoniker
Animation by Victor Craven

Billy the Kid in Silver City

Few American lives have more successfully resisted research than that of Billy the Kid. It is almost as if he decided at birth to leave behind as little documentary trace as he could of his entry into, and passage through, the world. – Frederick Nolan, The West of Billy the Kid

By most accounts, Henry McCarty (later known as Billy the Kid) was thirteen years old when he arrived in Silver City, New Mexico, and those who knew him at the time reported that he was no more a problem than any other boy. In fact, he may have been better behaved than most.

By the time he left Silver City in 1875 at age fifteen he was on his way to becoming one of the most famous thieves and killers in U.S. history. My novel
Catherine's Son attempts to explain his transformation in a way that conforms to what I think are the main themes of his life.

And I want to make clear that the story I tell in
Catherine's Son is a work of fiction. Although every significant character in my book is based on a real person in the Kid’s life, I make no claims to unadulterated accuracy in telling their stories.

kidsboyhoodhome
Billy the Kid's Home in Silver City

If more had been known about the two years Henry McCarty lived in Silver City, I could have told his story as nonfiction. But the documented record of his life during those years is sketchy. Only two articles from local newspapers and the recollections of a handful of people who knew him can be used to assemble any narrative at all.

We know from one newspaper, for example, that Henry’s mother died in September 1874. The obituary was short, prompting many questions about her life before coming to Silver City.

"Died in Silver City on Wednesday the 16th. Catherine, wife of William Antrim, aged 45 years. Mrs. Antrim with her husband and family came to Silver City about one year and a half ago, since which time her health has not been good, having suffered from an affection of the lungs, and for the last four months she has been confined to her bed. The funeral occurred from the family residence on Main Street at 2 o’clock on Thursday." – Silver City Mining Life, September 19, 1874

We know from another newspaper that Henry escaped from jail on September 25, 1875, one year and nine days after his mother died.

"Henry McCarty, who was arrested on Thursday and committed to jail to await the action of the grand jury, upon the charge of stealing clothes from Charley Sun and Sam Chung, celestials sans cue, sans joss sticks, escaped from prison yesterday through the chimney. It is believed Henry was simply the tool of “Sombrero Jack” who done the actual stealing whilst Henry done the hiding. Jack has skinned out." – Grant County Herald, September 26, 1875

Almost everything else that is known about Catherine and her son Henry during their Silver City years is based on a few interviews with those who knew them personally, as well as general assumptions about their lives gleaned from the town’s historical record.

Long after Billy the Kid died, several people who had known him in Silver City spoke about what they remembered about him and his mother. The people who offered recollections included the town sheriff (Harvey Whitehill), his teacher (Mary Richards), a good friend of his mother's (Mary Hudson), and several people who were roughly his same age (Wayne and Harry Whitehill, Louis Abraham, Chauncey Truesdell, Charley Stevens, and Anthony Connor). All told, Henry was described by those who knew him as a generally likable, well-mannered, and sometimes mischievous boy.

Only two people who spoke about him offered an indictment of his character. Harvey Whitehill, said he had “a proclivity for breaking the Eighth Commandment,” and Charley Stevens said that he “was a schemer, always trying to figure out some way of putting something over to get money.”

Despite what Whitehill and Stevens said, many other people offered a much different view of Henry McCarty.

One of Henry’s friends, Louis Abraham, said that Henry came from “an ordinary good American home.” Abraham also said, “Henry was a good boy, maybe a little [more] mischievous at times than the rest of us with a little more nerve.”

Another friend, Chauncey Truesdell, said, “[Henry] was quiet … and never swore or tried to act bad like the other kids.”

Mary Richards, Henry’s teacher, described him as “a scrawny little fellow with delicate hands and an artistic nature … always quite willing to help with the chores around the schoolhouse. He was no more of a problem than any other boy growing up in a mining camp.”

In describing Henry’s mother, Louis Abraham said she was “a jolly Irish lady, full of life and mischief. [She] could dance the Highland Fling as well as the best of the dancers.” Abraham also said she was “as good as she could be. [She] always welcomed the boys with a smile and a joke.” One of Catherine’s friends, Mary Hudson, said, “[She] was a sweet, gentle little lady, as fond of her boys as any mother could be.”

86536fe0586726739775d769d8193ab0
Billy the Kid's mother? (an unconfirmed photo)

My original motivation for writing Catherine’s Son stemmed in large part from testimonials such as these and the fact that the portrait they painted of Henry McCarty did not conform to images of Billy the Kid as a black-hearted villain.

If Billy the Kid deserved the notorious reputation he gained toward the end of his life, one can’t help but wonder what happened to change him. How did a “scrawny little fellow with delicate hands and an artistic nature” end up on the wrong end of Pat Garrett’s gun?

Historian Frederick Nolan may have said it best in
The West of Billy the Kid when he wrote that Henry was “a bright, alert, intelligent boy with an impish sense of humor, thrown early and unprepared upon his own inner resources … doing the best he could in a world that rarely extended a helping hand.”

Anthony Conner, who claimed to have been a boyhood friend of Henry’s, is often quoted in history books describing Henry as a good boy who loved to read. Connor, however, may not have moved to Silver City until after Henry had left the town. For that reason, Conner has not been used as a character in my novel.

Nevertheless, information provided by Connor has been used in my book to help flesh out Henry’s character. To me, much of what Conner said rings true when I look at other descriptions of Henry, and even if Connor didn’t know Henry McCarty personally, he may have been relating what people in Silver City had told him after he moved there.

Jerry Weddle, who wrote
Antrim is My Stepfather’s Name, an excellent book that primarily deals with Henry’s life in Silver City, provides this composite description of the young man who became Billy the Kid.

"Young Billy liked to dress well, and everyone noticed his neat appearance and clean habits. He was unfailingly courteous, especially to the ladies. Like his mother, he was a spirited singer and dancer. He had an alert mind and could come up with a snappy proverb for every occasion. He read well and wrote better than most adults. A taste for sweets resulted in bad teeth, and two of his upper incisors protruded slightly. His rambunctious sense of humor always got a laugh, whether it be on himself or someone else. Because of his small stature, he took a lot of ribbing from those bigger and stronger, but what he lacked in size he made up with tremendous energy and quick reflexes. Anxious to please, eager to impress, willing to take extraordinary risks, Billy would dare anything to prove his worth. The other schoolkids soon realized that he had genuine courage. – Jerry Weddle, Antrim is My Stepfather’s Name

In the end, so little is actually known about Billy the Kid’s short life that readers must forever beware of books claiming to tell the “real” story.

The date and location of the Kid’s birth, for example, is conjecture, even though most writers place his birth in New York City in 1859. The name given to him at birth is also open to debate, even though most say his name was Henry McCarty. Historians know he had a brother named Joseph or “Josie,” but it’s not
known whether Henry and Josie shared the same father. Historians also argue over whether Josie was younger or older than Henry.

The identity of Henry’s father is unknown, and there are numerous questions about Henry’s mother, Catherine, especially her life before moving to Silver City, New Mexico. Historians speculate that she was an Irish immigrant but cannot confirm it. We know that she lived for a time in Indiana before moving to Wichita, Kansas, where she evidently owned and operated a successful laundry. She was also probably involved in Wichita politics and reportedly became the only woman to sign a petition calling for the incorporation of the town.

Although an understanding of Catherine’s life in Wichita comes from some documentation, no records exist of Henry or his brother before March 1, 1873. On that date, they served as a witnesses in Santa Fe to the marriage of their mother and a man named Bill Antrim. Within a few weeks after the wedding, Catherine and Bill then moved with Henry and Josie to Silver City in the southwestern corner of the New Mexico Territory.

Henry’s years in Silver City provide many false stories to feed the myth of Billy the Kid. One famous story said that he committed his first murder in Silver City, killing a man for insulting his mother. It’s also been said that he slit the throat of a Chinaman in Silver City. According to those who knew him in Silver City, those stories were simply not true. Legend has even proclaimed that while he lived in Silver City he used a knife to decapitate a neighbor’s kitten. If so, there’s no mention of that event or anything like it in any of the interviews with the people who knew him at the time.

Any writer trying to tell the story of Henry’s life in Silver City must resort to speculation and guesswork to fill the gaps in his story. Much of the myth surrounding Billy the Kid is no doubt a result of the insufficiency of the historical record, and few characters in American history are surrounded by as much mythology as Billy the Kid.

As the author of
Catherine’s Son, I plead guilty to using speculation and guesswork to tell the Kid’s story. I simply hope that my version of how Henry McCarty became an outlaw is plausible enough to be entertaining and thought provoking. The book, after all, is a work of fiction.

Billy the Kid is a controversial character, to say the least. For some, the Kid was a symbol of rebellious youth standing up to the overwhelming force of New Mexico’s political and financial power structure. For others, he was no more than a murderous thug.

Regardless of the position one takes, this much seems true: Billy the Kid was a charismatic young man with a pleasant disposition and an instinctive ability to escape from trouble. In so many words, even Pat Garrett, the sheriff who killed him, described him in those terms.

In the final analysis, Billy the Kid was an outlaw and thief who killed at least four men and was ultimately sentenced to die for killing an officer of the law. The degree to which someone wants to believe he was justified in his actions and should have been pardoned for his crimes is open to debate. The argument will always be contentious and emotional.

So much has been written about the last four years of the Kid’s life—his participation in the Lincoln County War, his capture and sentencing, his escape from jail, and his death at the hands of Pat Garrett—that I had no desire to add another book to that part of his story. Instead, what I wanted to explore was a narrative of his life during the years before he became an outlaw, the time he lived in Silver City with his mother and the time he was learning how to survive without her after she died.

I might have approached his life during those years much differently, developing the theme that his criminal nature was evident from the beginning. If so,
Catherine’s Son would have told the story of delinquent child, a wild boy causing his mother much concern and distress before her premature death. I have no doubts that a version of the Kid’s life based on that theme would have made a good story. But that’s not the story I wanted to tell.

For me, the historical record, although unreliable, paints a different picture. In a book titled
Antrim is My Stepfather’s Name, Jerry Weddle wrote about reconciling “the difference between a hostile press, politically motivated by the Lincoln County War, with the warmer perceptions of those who actually knew him.”

In the end, I wrote Catherine’s Son in the spirit of reconciling that difference. If anything, I hope I have provided readers with a story worth reading.

"Like fairy tales or folk songs, all versions are true. The more versions there are, the truer it is."

– Phil Lesh, bassist for the Grateful Dead when asked which version of a song
that the Dead never played the same way twice was the “true” version



Mahler’s First Symphony: Victory and Paradise

Gustav Mahler’s symphonies rank among the most challenging and rewarding pieces of music ever composed. If you listen to them often enough and gain the familiarity that comes with repeated hearings, you should gain a deeper understanding of the unique emotional power of Mahler’s music. Mahler, quite simply, composed some of the most inspirational and spiritually satisfying music you will find.

I especially enjoy the accessibility of Mahler's First Symphony (1888) and its relatively easy-to-follow musical narrative. It has always served me well as an introductory work for humanities students before progressing to more difficult pieces of music, whether those pieces are written by Mahler or other composers.

The "Story" within Mahler's First Symphony

Mahler’s First begins with an awakening of Nature and the anticipation of a new day. This awakening is followed by a section in which we meet the symphony's hero, a wayfarer who finds much beauty in the world. We learn in the third movement, however, that the hero must confront the darkness. We also learn in the third movement how the hero gains wisdom and peace of mind sitting under a linden tree next to a grave. During the fourth and final movement, the hero is thrust into The Inferno. Life is not easy and the struggles that life brings might easily crush the hero's spirit. We learn through the
Victory Motif in the trumpets and the Paradise Motif in the French horns that the hero's spirit (a metaphor for the human spirit) will endure. Even in death, the hero finds victory.

What to Listen for in Mahler’s First

1. Mahler quotes himself liberally. Understanding Mahler’s First requires us to know other pieces of music Mahler has composed. In the First Symphony, for example, the main theme of the first movement (4:18 on the video below) comes from a song Mahler wrote titled "Over the Fields I Went This Morning.” The theme represents the joy of being alive, especially when living in harmony with Nature. ("I love this world so much," sings the Wayfarer.) In the third movement Mahler quotes a song he composed titled "The Two Blue Eyes of My Beloved” (30:37-32:08 on the video below). The song is about the tranquility that a tired traveler finds under a linden tree. (This section of music serves as a great example of how Mahler can break your heart.)

2. Anticipation of music to come. Mahler often uses themes and motifs to foreshadow what will come later in a symphony. An astute listener of his First Symphony should therefore not be surprised by the sudden and shocking trip into the Inferno that begins the fourth movement. Mahler foreshadowed this trip during the first movement (13:21-14:30 on the video below).

3. The Undertow. No matter how much joy or peace of mind Mahler provides with his music, we are often reminded of the "undertow" that threatens all of us. In the midst of an idyllic awakening of Nature at the beginning of the First Symphony, Mahler uses a terrifying chromatic bass motif (3:30 on the video below) to remind us of the pain that life can bring. (Mahler certainly understood life's pain – eight of his siblings died in infancy, two more died as young adults, and his daughter died at age four.)

4. The Breakthroughs! Mahler is a master at providing extended sections of stress and tension followed by musical "breakthroughs." In short, Mahler provides many goose bump moments that will thrill and inspire his audiences. (Start at 44:00 on the video below. Listen for the breakthrough at 44:47 followed by the Victory Motif in the trumpets at 45:04 and the Paradise Motif in the French horns at 45:17.)

Movement 1 – 00:44
Movement 2 – 16:20
Movement 3 – 25:07
Movement 4 – 35:40

Leonard Bernstein conducting the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra


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To commemorate the 100th anniversary of Mahler’s death in 1911, Deutsche Grammophon conducted an internet poll to select the greatest recordings of Mahler’s Symphonies. The results of the poll led to a 13-disk collection of Mahler's nine symphonies gathered together in a set titled Mahler: The People’s Edition. Buy the set and listen to legendary recordings at a reasonable price. The recording selected for Symphony No. 1 is performed by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Rafael Kubelik.

Oscar Peterson's Master Class

The distinguished Oscar Peterson (1925-2007) was a Canadian jazz pianist who was trained in the European classical tradition. This short video of Mr. Peterson explaining styles of jazz piano is a gem. All told, the video provides six examples of jazz piano.
  • Stride (Art Tatum)
  • Two-Fingered Percussiveness (Nat King Cole)
  • Lyric Octaves (Errol Garner)
  • Relaxed Block Chords (George Shearing)
  • Double Octave Melody Lines
  • Tonality-Based


As for Peterson's own style, here's how it's described in
A Natural History of the Piano by Stuart Isacoff:

“The Peterson style was always characterized by rapid, graceful, blues-tinged melody lines unfurled in long, weaving phrases with the inexorable logic of an epic narrative; and, equally important, a visceral sense of rhythm, transmitted with fire and snap. Those qualities for which he was renowned — effortless fluidity and clockwork precision — were not merely aspects of his playing; they were the very foundation on which his artistic expression rested. And pulling them off required the highest level of athletic prowess.”