Tuesday, November 30, 2010


From "Braypins: musical and organological questions", the English translation of "Les harpions – questions organologiques et musicales: quel(s) réglage(s) pour quel usage sur les harpes anciennes aujourd’hui?", by Charles Besnainou and Véronique Musson-Gonneaud. This was a presentation delivered at the fifth Conference on Interdisciplinary Musicology, held last year in Paris.

Then tangent brays are very interesting for the interpretation of music which is now played on the harp, all the more so since the harp is one of the rare medieval instruments which can play down to the Gamma Ut.

It's refreshing to see bray in a context that doesn't feature a donkey.

Tonight on New Sounds, in the middle of the show, before we arrived in Spain, John Schaefer said something like, "the kora is the tinkly harp you heard there."

Were koras plucked in Medieval Africa?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Groovy II


I like kinetic art, so this past week at the Museum of Modern Art, when I saw Zilvinas Kempinas' fan installation by the garden windows, I said, "That's cool."

"Yeah, it's groovy,"

my friend said.

I thought: She's right. Groovy is the better word here. There were two industrial fans air-hooping two loops of magnetic tape (one is 20 feet, the other 26). My friend added it was like watching a fire. I added that it would be nice to have in a large loft.

It's called "Double O".

Apparently the museum's art handlers attend to the set piece, watching for malfunctions (such as when the doors to the sculpture garden are held open just long enough to accidentally demonstrate what happens when the tape hits the fan).

I like to think that the ever-vigilant art handlers indulge in a little treat every now and then, in whatever form. On a recent Monday, they were expecting (because they had ordered and paid for) a special delivery of eight dozen oysters brought down by an oysterman from Charlestown, Rhode Island. No doubt they were anticipating the brine, the gelid yum, the New England East Coastiness of it all.

Unfortunately, something happened (what did happen?) on the way to West 53rd Street: most of the oysters wound up at a gathering on the roof of 1000 Fifth Avenue. As told by The New Yorker in the magazine's November 29 issue, the Met's art handlers happily snacked on sixteen dozen bivalves plucked from pearly shells. Five dozen of those, apparently, were MoMA's intendeds.

Three dozen oysters actually landed at MoMA. After finishing an installation at 9 p.m., the Midtown gang consumed their molluscs in a basement break room known as "the mezzanine". The oysters were declared fantastic. The handlers stanched their indignation with champagne and beer.

That week, apparently, the oyster farmer mailed eight dozen oysters (heavy shipping charges included) to MoMA's handlers. They never arrived.

E-said one art handler, "They are probably right now sitting on a shelf in some postal hub, unclaimed — and stinky."

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


When I was very small, Nanette Fabray was on a television commercial of some sort. I remember her enunciation, the way she pronounced her last name.

Too bad I never saw this when I was young.

Monday, November 22, 2010




Meaning: deep sorrow.

This emotion does not appear in I Can Fly! or "Monsters, Inc."

Sunday, November 21, 2010


When the Times Book Review killed my review of Dog on the Cross several years ago, I was irritated mostly because I found the fictional stories of Pentecostals in Oklahoma enlightening. Perhaps the Times took issue with the absence of the term happy-clappy.

About the same time of Dog on the Cross's publication, Mike Davis told me that Pentecostalism was the fastest growing religion in the world. I wondered if the Landmark Forum--the program whose leaders tell participants "hope is for suckers"--counts as a new religion. Happy-clappy, again, did not surface during that time.

This past week at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola, happy-clappy came up during a brief conversation about liturgical music. The speaker was expressing her preference for music that is not happy-clappy, and, thus, for the kind of music regularly performed at Ignatius Loyola.

A recent concert there included a U.S. premiere of Canticum Canticorum (Song of Songs), a cantata by Viktor Kalabis composed in 1986. I missed this part of the concert but could still look over the texts, half of which were in Latin.

Maybe in a play, a woman who believes in almost nothing and a man who has all but given up on the unpixelated world joke around with the Song of Songs, reading to each other:

Behold thou art fair, my beloved, and comely.
Our bed is flourishing.

. . .

Stay me up with flowers, compass me about with apples:
because I languish with love.

. . .

Arise, make haste, my love, my dove, my beautiful one, and come.
For winter is now past, the rain is over and gone.

dilectus meus mihi et ego illi qui pascitur inter lilia
donec adspiret dies et inclinentur umbrae
revertere similis esto dilecte mi capreae aut
hinulo cervorum super montes Bether

"Shouldn't it be 'mountains of 'spices'?" the man says.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


One local kickball (kickball/drinking) team here in the city called Saved By the Balls.

In a mutant PG non-drinking movie version, the team is called Saved By the Balls but the movie title is "Saved By the Bells". The story: a heartwarming tale of what happens when a man who is a ball-keeper and master kicker meets a woman who is a bell-ringer at a church on Park Avenue. Starring Charlie Hofheimer and a young Debra Winger. No dogs, no Beaujolais. Lots of balls.


Whose fear is more realized at this moment in time, Huxley's or Orwell's?

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


An obsolete form of survey, apparently, from about 200 years before the window tax.

One could think of it as the vey in the expression vey iz mir, but this is not the vey I have in mind. (By the way, some people seem to think that this is what Jewish people say, vey iz mir. I'm afraid I have news for you: Jewish people do not say this as a matter of course, nor do people who consider themselves Jewish necessarily include the word oy in their personal lexicons.)

On another note, today marks the day that this site has registered 1,000 unique visitors.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010


I've often passed over this one and neglected to look it up.

From "Some Notes on the Stolberg Library," by Hilmar H. Weber, Ph.D., in Harvard Alumni Bulletin of 27 April 1934:

After negotiations and repeated treaties in the course of several centuries, the Kings of Prussia, as Margaraves of Brandenburg, finally established their suzerainty, but not their sovereignty.

When I lived in Boston, I had reading privileges at Harvard's libraries. Every now and then, I would daydream about the Harvard Libraries Vacation: a two-week pass with reading privileges to every one of the university's libraries, from Loeb to the botany archives.

Some know Harvard as the Stanford of the East.


As for so many people, Harvard Business School figures into my life. Six Degrees of Harvard Business School, right? ("Oh, you know/dated/are related to/had dinner with somebody who attended/teaches at/works at HBS? How about that? Me, too.") What do they teach there? Well, among other things--such as the place to order flowers from when you are completely clueless about such things and have never been to Eli's Flowers--they teach negotiation.

Ah, negotiation.

Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In, that handy little book, states, The purpose of negotiating is to serve your interests. The chance of that happening increases when you communicate them. . . How do you discuss interests constructively without getting locked into rigid positions?

From the section "Invent Options for Mutual Gain": If the first impediment to creative thinking is premature criticism, the second is premature closure. By looking from the outset for the single best answer, you are likely to short-circuit a wiser decision-making process in which you select from a large number of possible answers. [Ed. note: Nice energy metaphor in there.]

Is this considered wonky? Or hooey (because people are mammals)? Do people in the real world really go around considering themselves problem solvers, as opposed to either friends or adversaries? Do people really separate the people from the problem not just once but over and over until it's a new habit? Not on their own, I don't think. Maybe if they learn negotiation skills at HBS.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


From the reprint edition of A Field Guide to the Birds, by Roger Tory Peterson:

Juvenile Swamp Sparrows are buffy below with fine breast-streakings.

A Bird Book on a New Plan is one of the subtitles.

Peterson's book was published in April of 1934, miles of years before "problems" became "issues". I picked it up at Mast Books last night (after the party, the book shop) along with a little book of Cole Porter lyrics. Somebody really knew how to order the songs: "Begin the Beguine" and "Just One of Those Things" are on facing pages.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Music to read by . . .

From Newspoem's 18 March 1999 Items From Our Catalog (among Hemp Condoms and Rainforest Cigarettes):

Tie-Dyed Cat

The latest in our line of alternative pets. Check out the psychedelic patterns on these groovy kittens.

I arrived at Newspoem via Spineless Books, a subject much on my mind today.

Monday, November 8, 2010


An oak grove.

Cosimo was in the holm oak. The branches spread out--high bridges over the earth. A slight breeze blew; the sun shone. It shone through the leaves, so that we had to shade our eyes with our hands to see Cosimo. From the tree Cosimo looked at the world; everything seen from up there was different, which was fun in itself. The alley took on a new aspect, and so did the flower beds, the hortensias, the camellias, the iron table for coffee in the garden.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Admittedly, I am that person shower-shouting songs from "A Chorus Line" or "My Aim is True" or some other relic. Sometimes I hum a Howard Fishman song I like, or a song Kurt Andersen featured one day on Studio 360.

This week I visited the eye doctor and wanted to play "Faraway Eyes" while my pupils were dilating. Alas, all I had was "Sweet Virginia", "Tumbling Dice" and "Satisfaction"--not even "Loving Cup", although it was too early in the day for "Loving Cup", and, besides, I couldn't dance in the waiting room.

Partly because I do some work for a professional choral music group (it sings Messiah at Carnegie Hall), I am listening for more and more older music forms.

A couple of days ago I stumbled into the y-laden field of old French music.

So, then, from the title of a work by Guillaume Dufay:

Missa Se la face ay pale

A little different from the sea-captain ay.


Before c. 2000, likely pronounced with an emphasis on the second syllable.

When craving the Pleiades or the Majestic Sombrero Galaxy, there is this.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Folly is vocab word #71 in a journal from when I was 16 years old. It's defined as "the quality or state of being foolish or deficient in understanding."

I wrote a fair amount about food, clothes, boys, and nail biting, and was prone to quoting from "Fanny and Alexander", songs, and F. Scott Fitzgerald books. There are also the requisite bad poems and short fictional pieces, diagrams, and lists.

Random jotting: It's so dumb to say Jesus/God is everywhere. Does that mean that he is, at this moment, residing within my tube of Neosporin?

On babies: I love their firm little patties of feet and their cute little detachable noses which dribble though the winter....My kid will probably look like a molded roll of charmin.

On riding home from Macy's without underwear: It was like air-skinnydipping. Nudist camps must be fun once you get over the initial shock.

The beginning of an entry composed while my parents were having a horrible fight: I wish I could just walk out the front door like some selfish rebellious kid, but I can't. I wouldn't. Maybe this is why [a friend] likes drugs so much.

The end of that entry: At least I'm not a giraffe.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


From the Shetland Times website, Tuesday, 02 November 2010 at 10:58:


Windy today, with squally showers and some brighter spells. Strong to gale SW’ly winds veering W’ly.

Radioed weather is very useful, of course, and so is Webbed weather, but there's nothing like the weather ear on a newspaper.

Appropos of nothing, I add only that some people like weather systems, some people are weather systems--and, sometimes (not often) people actually like people who are weather systems. Needless to say, they often get caught in sudden storms and are seldom dressed properly.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Asked in 1949 to design a set of playground equipment for Honolulu’s Ala Moana Park System, Isamu Noguchi (he of the Radio Nurse) delivered designs that were never realized. In the October 1940 issue of Architectural Forum (according to Shaina Devorah Larrivee's 2008 Master's Thesis, "Proposed Space: Isamu Noguchi’s Five Playground Designs For New York City"--the photo is also from her Stony Brook thesis, Fig. 7b), Noguchi described the "learning value" of the pieces:

A multiple length swing teaches that the rate of swing is determined by the length of the pendulum not by its weight or width of arc…The spiral slide will develop instinct regarding the bank necessary to overcome the centrifugal force developed by the rate of the slide. The climbing plaything supplies a variety of climbable forms and textures: upright rungs, corrugated post, a series of rings to climb in and out of, a series of beads like oversize fishnet buoys and a rope with a ball on the end.

Personally, I would head straight for the climbing arrangement, but, metaphorically speaking, the swing set brings to mind a passage from Donald Antrim's The Verificationist--you know, with the pancake suppers.

Relationships are like powerful moods that people share. We can go a little mad in our love relationships. Jane and I have always had what I would call a good love, in that it has been possible to go mad, but never too mad; in other words, we do not, when falling in and out of love, fall too far away from, or too profoundly into, the world.

Typographically speaking, Noguchi's and Antrim's words overtly offer nothing furred or furry, yet, the word--especially as a homophone--seems suited, somehow, to swings sets and chemical affinity.