For decades, classical DJ Simon Pontin worked in a radio studio with no window. He complained about it. On the air. So the last time WXXI’s radio studios were renovated, he got his window. It looks out onto the parking lot of the Kodak world headquarters.
It’s my privilege to fill in for Simon this week. My alarm goes off at 4:00 a.m. I love feeling ahead of the world, cozy in the dark with very little traffic and the office all to myself.
Word on the street is that Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra clarinetist Robert DiLutis is in North Korea with the New York Philharmonic. He was tapped to sub for someone who couldn’t go.
On Tuesday, the orchestra will play in Pyongyang, the North Korean capital. This is the first visit by an American cultural group to that country since President Bush lumped it into the “axis of evil.” According to the State Department, President Bush is encouraging the visit.
Skitty says, “I like High School Musical, High School Musical 2, and the song 'Ruby Blue' by Roisin Murphy."
Skitty would also like to squash the urban legend that the Cookie Monster (seen on WXXI-TV’s Sesame Street) will evolve into the Veggie Monster. Not true, though sources close to the puppet say Cookie is diversifying his diet to include the occasional broccoli spear. Skitty is not sure what to make of Lindsay Lohan posing as Marilyn Monroe in New York magazine. She’s wholly vegetarian, but not for kids.
Greenwood Books on East Avenue (near the RPO Box office) is slowly selling off about eight thousand books formerly owned by the late composer David Diamond. The books, mostly about music, are on a shelf near the entrance, facing the door. I’ve bought two so far, and the cool thing about them is that Diamond wrote in his books, reacting to what he was reading.
For example, in The State of Music, critic and composer Virgil Thomson writes about the lifestyles of musicians:
I’m no scientist, but the way I understand it, the Earth’s blanket of clouds, mist, precipitation, dust, and volcanic ash will change the moon’s color tonight. It might turn blood red, orange, or dark brown. The exact shade of the moon will reveal something about the Earth's atmosphere in a particular moment. Seeing it, you might feel inspiration or a spark of madness or the hope of attaining the unattainable. You might become a werewolf.
I’m not actually superstitious, but when a new Bridge CD of classical songs by Alexander Zemlinsky landed in my mailbox yesterday, I felt a stab of something weird. You see, many of the songs are about the moon.
“The Queen of the Night vanished into the split rock, the stage lift worked, the prince and the birdcatcher set out on their adventures. The scene changed and in a room in Sarastro’s palace lay Pamina, abandoned and afraid. And here was alchemy again as the quarrelsome, rapacious Raisa became a young girl whose simplicity and seriousness was affirmed in every limpid note.
The Middle of Nowhere is approximately halfway between Rochester and Buffalo on a windswept ridge at the edge of a frozen wildlife refuge. As in New Zealand, where sheep far outnumber humans, Canada geese outnumber people here by about a million to one. Presently it’s so icy that even the geese have fled. On Saturday afternoon, the only sign of life was a twittering flock of snow buntings on summer holiday from the Arctic Circle.
Imagine This American Life condensing 20 hours’ worth of epic Wagnerian operas into 58 minutes and you get the idea. Smart, fast-paced, and slightly droll in the Ira Glassian style, the hour-long show includes interviews with writer Alex Ross and singer Jane Eaglen, who recently performed A Sea Symphony with the RPO and ROS in Eastman Theatre. It also includes an interview with a guy grocery shopping for Ring-related items.
Alma Mahler interests me. One of the great muses of the early twentieth century, she fell in and out of love with composers, artists, an architect, and a writer. She inspired paintings, symphonies, buildings, and poetry. She even wrote her own music, suffocating artistically when her first husband, Gustav Mahler, asked her to stop.
Bruce Beresford’s 2001 movie about Alma, “Bride of the Wind,” takes its name from a painting of the same name by Oskar Kokoschka.
A new book, “Not Quite What I Was Planning," presents some of the best six-word memoirs culled from Smith magazine. You may have heard Neal Conan talking about this book on WXXI/NPR’s Talk of the Nation. Some of these are quite funny.
I made up a few fictitious memoirs.
“Secret to life: wine, women, song.” - Luciano Pavarotti
“Born in Churchville: conquered the world.” – Renee Fleming
“Got kicked out of the Met.” – Kathleen Battle