At a party last year, I posed this question to a rocket scientist from the Rochester Institute of Technology. (He's a physicist with a specialty in rocket technology.) His response was, “I'd be surprised to learn someone's discovered a real fuel alternative to gas and oil. That would truly stun me.”
What news would surprise you?
I'd be surprised to hear we'd been contacted by aliens. Surprised, but not stunned. Carl Sagan imagined such an event in his fantastic novel, Contact.
On a more trivial scale, I saw or heard two things on my recent trip to New York City that surprised me.
My friend Dave Perkins, who teaches at Houghton College, went to Europe this summer. He didn't take a camera. Instead, he took a sketch pad, a paintbrush, and a tiny tube of paint. He came back with a notebook filled with exquisite little watercolors of scenes from England to Italy.
Tomorrow is my last day at the NEA Institute in Classical Music and Opera at Columbia University, and I'm already thinking about what I can bring back that'll help me in my work at WXXI. I have 3 notebooks full of scribbles and sketches. I feel a little overwhelmed.
What have you done after a conference to imprint what you've learned?
Today we heard pianist Jeremy Denk perform Charles Ives' "Concord Sonata," a musical portrait of four famous authors who all lived in Concord, Massachusetts 150 years ago. The concert was given on a barge at the base of the Brooklyn Bridge. Facing the Manhattan skyline, we listed and pitched on the river while the pianist ripped through Ives. Boats chugged by. The sky darkened. Buildings lit up.
Hello from the top of The New York Times!
We got a tour of the new building today from editors and staff. The view is spectacular.
I have much to relate to you. But I'm beyond tired. Walking through the glittering canyon of Times Square completely sucked the life out of me, so I'll keep this short.
I know you've been waiting to hear what Times music critic Anthony Tommasini said about my review of the Mahler symphony.
Your tax dollars are being put to good use.
The NEA Institute is relentless.
I'm still in NYC at the music conference at Columbia University. I've seen three orchestras in three days. Cleveland. The New York Philharmonic. (I was pleased to note that the tenor in last night's concert, Anthony Dean Griffey, is an Eastman grad.) London.
It rained yesterday. Still hot, New York City is officially tropical, and the gloves I bought still sit in my hotel room with the tags on.
The NEA whirlwind continues.
On the subway, we lurched from the Brooklyn Academy of Music to Carnegie Hall to the Met, where we met with Peter Gelb. We got a tour of the Met, stood in the diva's dressing room, and explored the wardrobe, backstage, and costume areas.
You grab your ipod. Get in the car to go to work or drive your child to school. There's music in the car as you're hurtling through time and space at 60 m.p.h.
You're shuffling your ipod. Your taste is kinda eclectic. k.d.lang. J.S. Bach. Dave Matthews. Whatever. As you move along (maybe stopping at Wegmans on your way) you inhabit multiple acoustic spaces in your head. You hear Bach played in a resonant church. Norah Jones in a shoebox-sized studio. A rock band recorded live in a huge stadium.
Tonight, I saw Handel's Agrippina at New York City Opera, and I have to tell you, a desperate 2008 U.S. presidential hopeful would be reassured to have an Agrippina working behind the scenes. Part Karl Rove, part Machiavelli, the real Agrippina manipulated the Roman political scene to gain the throne for her infamous son, Nero. She maneuvers, she plots, and she truly existed.
I absorbed hours and hours of debate about music in classes that spanned topics from the newspaper industry to music theory. There's way too much to cover in a short blog, so I'll skip to my favorite bits.
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