15 November 2008

daily and random inspirations

After one of my recent postings on Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, artist Andrea Way e-mailed me and told me she had spent last year doing a painting a day, and during the month of September she had listened to LHL while painting. You can check out the fabulous results here. This project reminded me of Suzan-Lori Parks’s play-a-day-for-a-year, some of which I saw at The Cutting Ball (by the way, you still have a couple of weeks to see their latest production, Ionesco’s Victims of Duty, which I highly recommend and hope to write about, oh, soonish; and The America Play by Parks is next up at Thick House Theater). I find the whole “one artistic product per day for a year” idea fascinating. I’ve thought about doing it with haiku, but that always seems too easy to me – I mean, five-seven-five, it’s not that difficult, people – but I’ve occasionally exchanged haiku with co-workers as if we were Heian aristocrats and not cubicle monkeys, and apparently it’s more difficult than I think, judging from the unnatural elisions and other blunders I would see. Maybe I will do that.

Many years ago I was associated with a high-school science textbook that ended up never being published, and one of the suggested (not by me) student activities was to “illustrate the concept of osmosis by performing an interpretive dance.” I found this absolutely hilarious, partly because the target audience probably knew as much about interpretive dance as about osmosis and partly because I could imagine the high-school students who would do this, what it would look like, and how stunned their captive audience would be. Well, damned if an idea that seems silly can't really work: check out Jolene’s lovely choreographed version of her Ph.D. thesis over at Saturday Matinee. See, it's frequently said that life is like high school, but sometimes instead art, science, and athletics can all come together, instead of sitting at separate tables in the cafeteria.

Seven, They Are Seven

I’ve been meme-tagged twice, first by Susan-being-kept-awake-by-opera and next by the Opera Tattler, so I guess I’d better cowboy up. This meme kind of threw me because you have to come up with seven random or weird facts about yourself, but, you know, you don’t want them to be too random, and definitely not too weird. So first I’m supposed to list the rules:

1) Link to your tagger and list these rules on your blog. Done and doing!

2) Share 7 facts about yourself on your blog - some random, some weird.

3) Tag 7 people at the end of your post by leaving their names as well as links to their blog.

4) Let them know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

5) If you don't have 7 blog friends, or if someone else already took dibs, then tag some unsuspecting strangers.

Shouldn't there be 7 rules? I find this a little strange.

Seven facts, or at least factoids, or at least things I'm not too ashamed to reveal:

1) My first complete sentence was, “Go away.” What a winsome child!

2) I won’t eat spaghetti, beets, mayonnaise (OK, sometimes in a dressing in small amounts), or meat that isn’t well-done. I can’t drink coffee since it upsets my stomach, but I like coffee ice cream. I drink tea copiously, but I have to put milk in it or it upsets my stomach too. I like goat cheese but don’t eat it because, somewhat mysteriously, it gives me terrible migraines.

3) I’ve always thought Pamina and Papageno should get together – Tamino’s kind of a drip, isn’t he?

4) I love doing laundry, but I don’t particularly like ironing. I once heard some guy going on about “buying your first car – that’s freedom, man!” and I thought, uh, no, because if you have a car you need a steady supply of money for gas, insurance, and repairs, not to mention for the places the car might take you, and for a steady supply of money you need a job, which means you have to be at a certain place at a certain time day after day – a car is merely the illusion of freedom. But having your own washer and drier – that is freedom!

5) I don’t drive. I know one pedal makes the car go faster and another makes it stop, but I’m a little vague on which is which. The world is just better without having me behind the wheel. Ms S of DC once pointed out that I get road rage as a pedestrian. I also have fairly poor depth perception which got much worse after my eye surgery (detaching retina) eighteen years ago. I sometimes wonder if that’s why I love Japanese woodblock prints, Matisse, and Russian icons so much: flat decorated surfaces.

6) I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read the complete works of Shakespeare. I always start with Twelfth Night and end with Hamlet, partly because I did it that way the first time and partly because that way I make sure I have something really good at the end: you don’t want the Merry Wives of Windsor just hanging over your head like that.

7) V taught me how to quilt. I’ve completed three and I’ve started the fourth, which I’m making out of old shirts I can’t wear to work any longer because the collars and cuffs are too frayed and the armpits have gotten the way armpits get. I can also chop down (and chop up) a fairly sizable tree. I was kind of surprised how much I liked chopping wood: if I didn't love trees even more, I'd be on a bare lot by now. I like to know how to do these semi-practical things at times. It makes me feel I could survive on the winter prairies, though I probably really couldn't.

Now I’m supposed to tag seven others: well, V, CMB, and MBB. That’s three. Hmmm. Four more? OK, to continue with the random and weird, the Pacifica Quartet because I’m eager to hear them playing all of Elliott Carter’s string quartets in a few weeks.

03 November 2008

silent, upon a peak in Darien

I had been dimly aware of Meredith Monk for years, but only as an occasional comet I would read about streaking through distant avant-garde skies. I had never heard a note of her music until last March, when I heard her live. I had been following with interest the intrepid musical explorations of M. C- as part of the M6 ensemble, dedicated to preserving a performance tradition of her music, so I was curious to hear her.

The concert was at a Unitarian church and sponsored by some sort of holistic healing institute that seemed such an unlikely patron for this sort of thing that when I started getting postcards and e-mails from them several weeks afterwards it took me a while to realize they'd gotten my home and e-mail addresses from me and not from one of the many weird mailing lists I'm on. The Unitarian Church was packed that evening (surely an opening that would pique anyone's interest! I offer it gratis to any writers of thrillers out there). sfmike posted on the concert with the speed of which he is justifiably proud. I'd provide a link but there's a picture of me making a goofy face in there so I'll forego the pleasure. I'd be nice about the audience if they were a nice audience, but given the excessive whispering, especially in the second half, I feel free to vent some of my free-flowing rage on them. Most of the crowd looked like rejects from a roadside company chorus for Il Trovatore – bangles, amulets, shawls, string upon string of glittering necklaces wherever I looked, and lots and lots of overacting. And there were a few sturdy and drab souls who looked like – well, they looked like people who would be at a Unitarian Church on just about any Friday night.

Nonetheless I was dazzled by Monk's performance and vocal agility and imagination. There's a children's story – it's probably someplace obvious like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but you can supply the research if you wish – that describes a type of hard candy that changes flavors from minute to minute. Her music changed colors like that. I finally listened last night to the CD I bought back then and I ended up playing it three times in a row. I think what has struck me the most in the months since, as I've thought about that concert, is just gratitude to Monk for presenting a certain type of Americanness that has seem crushed out of the country, especially in the past eight years – the sense of someone who felt free and brave and open enough to strike out on her own path, and generously welcomed the rest of us to follow along if we wished. It might be eccentricity, it might be self-indulgent or weird, or it might be something that feeds your soul and speaks to you in a way nothing else has, and there's room for all that. It’s been an encouraging thing over the last few depressing months to see that there is still an alternative. I was very grateful to M. C- not only for bringing me to an artist I hadn’t known, but also for getting her to sign my CD, which she inscribed “with deepest thanks,” which sort of abashed me – ah, no, Meredith – thank you.

02 November 2008

that I should love a bright particular star

Astonishingly, it was only by a chance visit to ArkivMusic.com, and only because they happened to feature it on their home page when I visited, that I discovered that a Lorraine Hunt Lieberson recital new to CD was coming out in about a week. Such is the shifting-sands nature of home pages that there was no trace of it when I went back, and I had to hunt through their user-unfriendly search system to make sure that I hadn’t dreamed it. You’d think there might be a little more publicity at this point, but perhaps the explanation is just that it’s from Wigmore Hall Live, which is a new and high-quality but I assume fairly small label, rather than a major recording company, if any of those are still around. You can find it here, as you no doubt will want to, since this is self-recommending.

It’s a different recital from the one Wigmore released earlier, which itself had been released even earlier by the BBC. The Wigmore release includes Hunt Lieberson’s spoken introduction to the aria from Ashoka’s Dream, and has an attractive picture of her on the booklet cover and more extensive documentation inside, including the astonishing information that she once sang Deep River in the party scene of Die Fledermaus at the Met on New Year’s Eve. I have heard that it’s usual during this scene for celebrity guests to do a number, though I don’t think that happened during the San Francisco Opera performance a couple of years ago. I think I would have remembered it if anyone had sung about anything at all besides how much they all loved champagne.

Normally I would discourage anything that might make Fledermaus even longer than it already is, but obviously I’d make an exception here. Imagine the Met party crowd on New Year’s Eve hearing this woman step out and sing Deep River. That would sure burn a hole in the evening, and I mean that in the best way possible. But there’s the history of opera as an art form right there: on the one hand, frivolity, luxury, and wealth; and on the other, a capsizing moment of burning truth and beauty.

01 November 2008


You will notice a little different look here. I switched to a glam new template, and one unintended result was that I lost the former blogroll. I have re-created it as best I could, but feel free to send me your blog address if you want me to add it; omissions are accidents. I couldn't find some of the URLs when I decided I'd already spent too much time redecorating the blog rather than actually posting in it. Though I have no doubt I will play with the fonts some more, since I like that sort of thing.

And I disclaim any responsibility for blogger's use of begining articles in alphabetizing. If anyone knows how to get around that, please let me know.