(with apologies to Walt Whitman) I HEAR America singing, the varied carols I hear;
Those of mechanics—each one singing his, as it should be, blithe and strong;
The tubas, the timpani, the sea of clarinets.
The gymnasiums awash with sweaty sixth-graders,
Parents lolling like walruses on the beach.
The toddlers squirming,
The sibling—thumbing his PSP, distracted and intent, the body electric.
The delicious singing of the mothers,
The dutiful clapping of the fathers,
Teachers, glazed and spent--swimming in an ocean of fatigue.
The day what belongs to the day—At night, the party of students, robust, friendly,
Singing, with open mouths, their strong melodious songs.
I finally finished Alex Ross’s book, The Rest is Noise, and it’s got me fired up for 20th century music. Ross traces the threads of music woven into the fabric of politics, technology, history, and society. It’s an absorbing, brilliant book, densely packed with lively writing, vivid anecdotes, and sharp insights.
“The painter’s whole morality consists of keeping his brushes clean and getting up in the morning. He wakes up with the light, tosses till the sun is overhead, then gets up and starts moving around. He works moving around. Drawing, engraving, and water-color sketching can be done seated. But oil painting must be done on foot, walking back and forth. It entails no inconsiderable amount of mild physical exercise and that among turpentine fumes, which keeps the lungs open. Hence your painter is on the whole a healthy and cheerful man. His besetting maladies are digestive, due to poverty, irregular meals, and undernourishment. He requires a lot of food. In middle and later life he sometimes has rheumatism. But he is seldom too ill to paint.
Skitty has cabin fever. She's been pulling her fur out. The vet recommended she wear an "Elizabethan collar" for a few days.
Skitty says, "This stinks."
She confesses she's very curious as to the contents of the classical music CD Eliot Spitzer allegedly wanted to use to set the mood in his hotel room on February 13th. What was he thinking of? Samson and Delilah? Inquiring minds want to know.
In less than four months, I’m flying off to China to sing in the Pre-Olympic International Choral Festival with the Rochester Oratorio Society. My group will be first U.S. choir in history to perform in Beijing’s Great Hall of People, a venue usually reserved for political events.
To get ready for the trip, I’m learning new music and reading Fodor’s latest travel guide. But nothing captures the spirit of a place like a novel or movie.
A faithful, sharp-eyed reader of this blog pointed out that in my recent post about singing, I never translated the Latin phrase from Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna, “Tu devicto mortis aculeo.” This bugged her.
So here it is. It means “having blunted the sting of death.”
In the middle of the concert, I suddenly realized I had no idea what I was singing. “Tu devicto mortis aculeo.” Activate dimly-remembered high school Latin. “Mortis.” That’s death. OK. That’s sad. But what if it’s victory over death or something? I study the conductor for clues. Normally leaning forward with a look of hawkish concentration, he’s tilted back on his heels, torso curved, mouth open, eyes half-closed. He looks enraptured, like the sound is a glittery syrup filling his spinal column. Arms swirl. No clues there. I slice a look to the tenors for help. Andy and Dennis are leaning forward, singing intently, expressions neutral. I reset my features and turn the page of Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna. I’m blanking out.
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