Riding the bus last night, I was thinking about Rochester’s Early Music Festival and how to make this Friday night’s event sound exciting in the age of Facebook, Avatar, and Tim Horton’s.
Truth is, I realized, I can’t.
People are drawn to music written before the 18th century for the same reason they like home-brewed beer and hand-stitched books. It’s slow to unfold. It’s a walk down a leaf-strewn path for no other reason than in hopes of glimpsing a flash of feathers. It requires time, patience, and the willingness to park on a hard, wooden bench.
About once a year, a recording seizes my hand and pulls me into a labyrinth. Once there, I want to wander around forever. I spent much of 2006 meandering through a CD called Cloudburst by Polyphony, an English choral group.
I played the song 'Sleep' over and over and over.
The evening hangs beneath the moon
A silver thread on darkened dune
With closing eyes and resting head
I know that sleep is coming soon.
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.
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