Sunday, December 26, 2010

Another New Year's Day with the Mummers

Every New Year’s Day, thousands of Philadelphians, mostly men, don elaborate costumes of sequins, spangles, and feathers. They carry banjos, saxophones, and double-basses to march in one of the most unusual events in the world - Philadelphia’s Mummers Parade.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In Search of a Silent Night

© Sans façon.  By kind permission of Sans façon.

The holiday season is upon us, in case the endless Jingle Bell Rock loop at Starbucks hasn’t given it away.
-Jon Stewart

A few chocolates, a glass of mulled wine and a CD by the The Sixteen playing quietly.  Sublime.

Here today we are doing something special, we are stopping and appreciating the space between things, the unintentional sounds that make up our world.
-Dave Hilliard, Cage Against the Machine

Last year, in her post “Do You Hear What I Hear?”, Wide Open Spaces remarked on the auditory invasion of Christmas music at this time of year:
It’s not that I don’t enjoy Christmas music; I do have a nice collection of CDs that I bring up from storage this time of year.  I just don’t understand the need to have it invade all my listening hours.  Last year one radio station started playing Christmas music on November 1st –in effect, they devoted 17% of their annual product to these tunes. (And need I mention that these tunes are associated with a religious holiday that not all people celebrate?)
As she noted, while there is some decent holiday music out there, “not everything is listenable.  For every Bing Crosby or “O Holy Night”, there is Alvin and the Chipmunks or “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas.”  Blech.”

Sunday, December 19, 2010

In Search of Lost Cookies Redux

And suddenly the memory appeared.  That taste was the taste of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray . . . my aunt Léonie would give me after dipping it in her infusion of tea . . .

'Tis the season of the cookie.  With visions of Mom and Grandma baking Christmas cookies dancing in my head, I put out a call for family reminiscences and got this reply:  “No doubt you will make mention of Mrs. Schweer's cookies.”

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Christmas Cake

My husband only asks for one Christmas gift every year without fail - a Christmas Cake baked by me. This tradition started when we came to America, the land that does not know Christmas Cake. Until then, I could stroll into any food store in South Africa (even at the last minute) and buy a perfect Christmas Cake – non-baker that I am. Or, we could go to our mothers’ homes where my husband could get his home-baked fix. But that first Christmas in America, I just could not find the cake. You see, in this country, “Christmas Cake” is plain old fruitcake. Once I figured out that that was what I should be asking for, I was surprised to find that not only was it hard to find a good fruitcake in America (or at least in Florida) the cake was much maligned here – so much so, that there’s actually a Fruitcake Toss festival held in Colorado every year:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Slouching Toward Lachenmann: John Cage, In Silence and in Sound

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches toward Bethlehem to be born?
-William Butler Yeats

I love John's mind, but I don't like what it thinks.
-Pierre Boulez

I remember once, in my college days, going with friends to a posh art gallery in Chicago.  Down the middle of the gallery floor were piles of dirt and stone.  We drifted past, reaching down to touch the piles.  We thought we’d come too early, that the show wasn’t yet up, and the gallery was still under construction.  I’d been to Chicago’s Art Institute many times, so I knew what art looked like, and this gallery had no art.