October Was a Blur

28 10 2006

It’s been too long since I posted, but I have been busy. Some of the highlights:

1.) Having decided a few weeks ago that I wanted to get through James Joyce’s Ulysses this year, I did something about it. I signed up for a local museum’s year-long(!) reading group, led by a Joyce scholar. We’re set to finish the book a few days before Bloomsday 2007. The course has met only once so far, but I certainly enjoyed the people—and I absolutely appreciated having someone help me figure out what the hell was going on in the early chapters. I’ve already made it further in the book than I have in 20 years of trying. I think a support group was exactly what I needed….

2.) Last weekend, a friend and I attended a performance by violinist Jennifer Koh and pianist Reiko Uchida of some avant-garde pieces. When we got to the Kimmel Center, I was excited to be sitting in the same row as Jennifer Higdon, the Philadelphia-based contemporary composer whose String Poetic was receiving its world premiere. Unfortunately, at least on first hearing, I wasn’t as taken with String Poetic as the local newspaper’s music critic. (I’d say I particularly enjoyed two of the piece’s five songs, the more percussive “Jagged Climb” and “Climb Jagged.”)

I was completely taken, though, with Grand Duo, a Lou Harrison piece that I’d never heard. It required Uchida, the pianist, to do lots of string-plucking and to use something called an octave bar—which the program notes described as “a device that depresses all the notes spanning an octave, but which is contoured so that the framing notes of the octave sound louder than the interior notes.” The result was awfully cool, as all those keys being pressed at once yielded a sort of rhythmic, noisy backdrop for Koh’s playing.

It looks like Koh’s new album will have Grand Duo on it. I can’t wait to hear it.

3.) For the first time since I turned 40, I had to check a 40+ box on a survey (40-44, actually). Egad! Please, survey-makers, it’s so much nicer to be lumped in with the 35-and-over crowd. Hee.

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