Dec. 10

Pianist Milbauer spices

the classics with novelty

Novelty is never absent when classical pianist John Milbauer is at the keyboard.

And when the University of Arizona music faculty member returns to Academy Village’s Arizona Senior Academy for a solo recital Tuesday at 11:30 a.m., novelty wears both period and contemporary costumes.

As is typical for Milbauer, the program spans centuries.

“I find that by playing older music with new repertoire, both repertoires benefit,” Milbauer said. “And audiences enjoy this.”

And so, in the “something old” category, Milbauer has chosen the exuberant Mozart Piano Sonata in D Major, K. 311; and in the “old but renewed” category, the Bach-Busoni “Chaconne.”

A late-19th and early 20th century composer and pianist, Busoni was so identified with his transcriptions of Bach’s Baroque-period music that someone allegedly once introduced his wife as “Mrs. Bach-Busoni.” The chaconne is transcribed from a suite for violin.

In the genuinely new category, Milbauer offers Dutch composer Jacob Ter Veldhuis’s “The Body of Your Dreams,” a piece for piano and tape based on an American infomercial for an abdomen-slimming device.

“I heard it in New York this summer,” said Milbauer, who is on the faculty of the summer program at Chautauqua, “and I absolutely had to learn it.”

What so struck him was the humor of the piece. But it’s not the only fun on his program. We may think chance procedures in music (or dance) are 20th and 21st century stuff, the methods of a John Cage or Merce Cunningham. Milbauer sets the record straight when he inserts a “dice-game” minuet – by Mozart! – into the Mozart sonata he’ll play. A roll of the dice determines which of 12 possible variants he plays for each of the work’s 16 measures.

“They all sound decent, if not brilliant,” he said.

And who gets to roll the dice? “Whoever looks friendly,” he said. Wear your best smile and come join the fun.

Susan Isaacs Nisbett

Dec. 11

Academy to get a taste

of UA’s Poetry Center

Poetry lovers normally must drive downtown to enjoy one of the UA Poetry Center’s “Shop Talk” programs, where docents at the center lead conversations designed to orient audiences on a poet’s work.

But on Wednesday, the Poetry Center will stage an abbreviated Shop Talk in the Arizona Senior Academy’s Great Room. Audiences will also get to meet and hear from Tyler Meier, the center’s new executive director.

Even the title of Meier’s talk sounds poetic. He calls it “All Things Counter, Original, Spare, Strange: On the Poetry Center at the University of Arizona.” The center is the nation’s only university-affiliated building dedicated to poetry.

Meier will fill in some of the history of the center and discuss its role at the university. He sees its mission as “promoting poetic literacy and a diverse literary culture both regionally in Tucson and Southern Arizona and in the literary community at large.”

The talk will cover topics such as the center’s budget and upcoming programs.

Docent Whitney Vale will conclude the hourlong presentation by leading attendees in an abbreviated version of a typical Poetry Center Shop Talk, this one featuring the work of poet and activist Muriel Rukeyser.

The program, free and open to the public, begins at 3:30 p.m.

Meier joined the Poetry Center staff as executive director in August 2013. Before that worked as the managing editor of The Kenyon Review.

Vale volunteers as a docent for the Poetry Center, leading tours, hosting Shop Talks and serving on the Speaker’s Bureau.

Beverley Robertson

Dec. 12

Are holes in the ground a puzzle? Here’s help

Ever wonder what creatures made the various holes you see in the ground around your yard or when hiking in the desert?

Pinau Merlin, a prominent Tucson-area naturalist and author of several books and articles about the Sonoran Desert, will provide some answers during a lecture at the Arizona Senior Academy next Thursday.

Open to the public free of charge, the lecture will begin at 2:30 p.m. in the Great Room of the Arizona Senior Academy Building.

After the lecture Merlin will lead a “walkabout” on one of the Academy Village trails to point out some of the desert holes she describes in her talk.

A naturalist for more than 30 years, Merlin has lived and camped in the wilderness for extended periods of time, exploring and observing wildlife.

“I’ve had many wonderful encounters and interactions with them — studying bird and animal language. If we listen, they’ll always tell us what’s going on in an area, what predators are moving, et cetera.”

A popular speaker, Merlin has presented natural history programs for the Smithsonian Institution, National Wildlife Federation, American Birding Association, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Phoenix Desert Botanical Gardens, Saguaro National Park, Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Audubon Society and Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo.

Merlin’s books include “The Field Guide to Desert Holes,” “A Guide to Southern Arizona Bird Nests and Eggs,” “Hummingbirds of the West” and “Raptors and Soaring Birds of the West.”

She has taught natural history at the University of Arizona and has consulted with film crews on nature documentaries. She was the natural history expert for the Smithsonian’s “CultureFest!” held in Phoenix.

H. Deon Holt