NEA Institute Day 9: Thanks to Ruth Phinney et. al.

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.


If you've never heard the Concord Sonata, I'd recommend it. It works well with Beethoven's 5th symphony, since Ives quotes Beethoven through the whole piece.

On the way to the concert, I happened to pause in front of a brick building to adjust my backpack. I looked up, and my eyes fell on a brass plaque marking the site of the Brooklyn Eagle, the most popular afternoon paper in the United States at one point. Walt Whitman, the inscription said, was its editor for two years.

It occurred to me that I was being haunted by Walt Whitman.

You may remember that his face popped up through the glass table at me in a pub a few days ago.

He's everywhere.

Maybe it's Gerry's fault. My colleague Gerry Szymanski made a movie supposing that Whitman spent a year in Rochester before he wrote Leaves of Grass. It's an indie film called Summer Longings, and it was filmed in The Flower City.

Allow me to express my gratitude to Ruth Phinney and Peter Iglinski at WXXI and Eric Resnyack at City newspaper and the NEA for supporting my trip. It's been wonderful.

I can hardly wait to show you some items from my sketchbook!