With A Song In My Heart


The first blog called The Ambler began in November 2002. It was designed by me and Dave Stevens (in glorious Microsoft FrontPage) and ran sporadically for several years. The entire archive (or thereabouts) can be accessed via the Wayback Machine. (I shall likely disinter some posts from it and publish them in this space.) This new iteration is in WordPress and would not have been possible without the assistance of my friend Kevin Steel (who is in no wise responsible for any of its contents.)

Why is this site called The Ambler? As I wrote 12 years ago

Several reasons, many of them negative. KevinGrace.com was taken. KevinMichaelGrace.com was too long. Every other descriptive URL (and every conceivable variant) I could think of was already taken. The Ambler refers to a personal attribute (I don’t own a car) and sums up my character rather nicely (I’ve done a great deal to no great end). It also describes a way of seeing: from ground level at a human pace. (I had thought of The Pedestrian, but there was the obvious comeback, “Pedestrian in name, pedestrian in nature.”)

Every enterprise should have a theme song, don’t you think? Mine is Fußreise, music by Hugo Wolf, from the poem by Eduard Mörike. The version above is sung by Stephan Loges, accompanied by Sholto Kynoch. (You can buy it here.) The literal meaning of the title is “foot travel,” but I have chosen to translate it as “Ambling.” (A full translation, from Emily Ezust’s admirable Lied, Art Song and Choral Texts Archive, can be seen here.)

The song is an expression of the physical joy of being alive. Mörike compares himself to the first man, Adam, and gives thanks to God, his “beloved Creator and Preserver,” for this great gift. Despite the copious evidence, general and particular, to the contrary, it is great to be alive, and this song is posted here both as a token of my own gratitude and as a memento mori.

Poor Hugo Wolf did not enjoy a long life by modern standards: incapacitated at 37, dead at 42. Nevertheless, he left us about 300 songs, dozens of which represent the pinnacle of the Kunstlied. He also wrote an opera, a string quartet, a few symphonic pieces and the popular Italian Serenade. Readers wishing to learn more about him are directed to Frank Walker’s fine biography. Those wishing to further explore his musical genius in song are directed to the YouTube page on my blogroll, to the collection by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Daniel Barenboim on Deutsche Grammophon and to the more complete survey (which includes the Italian and Spanish Songbooks) on Warner Classics. Both sets are gratifyingly inexpensive. Barenboim conducts his complete symphonic output here, and special mention should be made of the 24 songs Wolf arranged for voice and orchestra, sung by Juliane Banse and Dietrich Henschel and conducted by Kent Nagano.