Thursday, January 27, 2011

Coffee and Courtesy

Life is not so short but that there is always time for courtesy.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

For years we have been hearing about the decline of civility - in schools, offices, even our government. That good manners are vanishing due to (take your pick) increased reliance on technology, poor parenting, cable TV, or Facebook. And I must admit that I do see evidence of this everywhere, much to my dismay.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Winter à la Sarasota

I have written before about our looong Floridian summers. About how we try so hard to live the outdoor life, faced with a seemingly endless parade of photo-opportunity days that give the lie to what is really a swamp-like climate. But the truth is that we spend all summer hiding out indoors in a sort of hibernating state. We go about our daily lives, moving sluggishly from air-conditioned homes to cars with matching temperatures and tinted windows - into shops, offices, malls and all manner of buildings with piped-in icy air where we take shelter from the invisible onslaught. Even then, the heat and humidity leave us damp before we can get from car to building. The only difference between night and day here is that the sun disappears. The temperature and humidity levels hardly change - it’s impossible to sleep without the air turned really low. Forget about cracking a window.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sailing Alone From Song to Song

I was going wherever I happened to go,
giving myself over to whatever I met,
-Su Tung-P'o

How easy he has made it for me to enter here,
to sit down in a corner;
cross my legs like his, and listen.
-Billy Collins

One evening, in the manner of Su Tung-P'o, I followed the path of composer Missy Mazzoli to New Amsterdam Records, where a new CD of her music was on offer.  From there I spotted a trio called janus, with a first CD just out.  The trio intrigued me because of its instrumentation:  flute, viola, and harp.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

January Blue

The first day of 2011 found Wide Open Spaces in downtown Philadelphia in the immediate aftermath of the Mummer's New Year's Day parade. As we parked the car, we watched a few straggler Mummers making their way back home, still in full make-up and costume. We left the garage and exited onto Broad Street and into the largest sea of crushed beer cans I have ever seen in my life. It was impossible to take a step without landing on a can - Coors Light seemed to be the beverage of choice for the New Year's Day revelers.

Friday, January 7, 2011

A Voice Made for Radio

A mother and her middle-aged son were reunited yesterday, after many years of estrangement. A mother myself, my heart went out to Julia Williams as she sat on the set of the "Today Show" this morning. Seated beside her was her only child, 53 year old Ted Williams. Although her son had just been catapulted into the limelight and was clearly thrilled and overwhelmed by turns, this mother was holding onto what was obviously a hard-earned habit of skepticism. She told him not to hang around with the wrong people and not to disappoint her. After all, just last week he was a homeless man holding a cardboard sign.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Slouching Toward Lachenmann: Björk’s Abyss

What Weill said in the twenties held true again:  "Once musicians obtained everything they had imagined in their most daring dreams, they started again from scratch.”
Alex Ross

It was like heaven itself had opened up to me and shown me not a vision of the future at all, but better than that, the beginning of the road to the future.  I had come into the world at the end of an old, complex, overweighted style groaning with European modernist baggage, and history offered me a chance to step onto the ground floor of a bold new enterprise.  I didn't even try to resist.
Kyle Gann

Alex Ross, that indispensable source for all things musical, reported that Björk once said, “Minimalism is my abyss!”  This came to me as something of a shock, as Björk had narrated a series for the BBC on that very thing.