Archive for November, 2010

Photo diary: Thanksgiving

November 29, 2010

we had an untraditional Thanksgiving dinner. let's just say it wasn't turkey....

there were a few side effects, but they didn’t last long

Darcy works for Martha Stewart, so she brought the dessert -- a homemade apple crostada

we hired someone from Fleshbot to clean up while we played a board game, Settlers of Catan

it was my first time playing -- and I won!

In this week’s New Yorker

November 28, 2010

Trust Alex Ross to turn me on to some fascinating corner of contemporary classical music previously unbenownst to me. Now I know something about Swiss composer Georg Friedrich Hass, whose Third String Quartet, Ross says, “makes such extreme demands on players and audience alike that at one concert in Pasadena listeners were required to sign a waiver absolving the venue of legal responsibility….”

The work is subtitled “In iij. Noct.,” a reference to the Third Nocturn of the old Roman Catholic Tenebrae service for Holy Week, which marked Christ’s sufferings and death with the gradual extinguishing of candles. Haas, who grew up in Tschaugguns, a Catholic village in the Austrian Alps, asks for total darkness during performances of his quartet, the score specifying that even emergency lights should be covered.
In September I saw, or didn’t see, a performance [by the JACK quartet] at the Austrian Cultural Forum, on East Fifty-second Street. When the blackout began, I initially felt a fear such as I’ve never experienced in a concert hall: it was like being sealed in a tomb. No wonder the members of JACK usually try out a brief spell of darkness with each audience, to see if anyone exhibits signs of distress. (Indeed, one young man sheepishly got up and left.) yet the fear subsides whne the music begins. The perfoemrs who are positione din the corners of the room, seem to map the space with tones, like bats using echolocation to navigate a lightless cave. They have memorized the socre in advance, and it is an unusual document: Haas sets out eighteen musical “situations” — with detailed instructions for improvising on pre-set motifs, chords, and string textures — and a corresponding series of “invitations,” whereby the players signal one another that they are ready to proceed from one passage to the next.
Often, the music borders on noise: the strings emit creaks and groans, clickety swarms of pizzicato, shrill high notes, moaning glissandos. At other times, it attains an otherworldly beauty, as the players spin out glowing overtone harmonies. Toward the end comes a string-quartet arrangement of one of Carlo Gesualdo’s Responsories for the Tenebrae service (“I was like an innocent lamb led to the slaughter…”). That music is four hundred years old, and yet, with its disjointed tonal language, it sounded no less strange than the contemporary score that surrounded it. Weirdness is in the ear of the beholder.

In another direction altogether is “Nutty,” Paul Rudnick’s latest bit of comic ephemera — definitely good for a chuckle.

Quote of the day: HOPE

November 24, 2010


Hope is a memory of the future.

— Gabriel Marcel

Quote of the day: JUKEBOX

November 23, 2010


It was on November 23, 1889, that the Jukebox made its debut at the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco. It consisted of an Edison Class M Electric Phonograph inside an oak cabinet with tubes sticking out, and by depositing a coin you could listen to the recording through the tube. In its first six months of service, the Nickel-in-the-Slot earned more than $1,000. But for a long time, the coin-operated player pianos were more popular, because they had better sound and no static. It wasn’t until 1927 that the Automatic Musical Instruments Company introduced the first jukebox that sounded good enough to entertain an entire room.

The word “jukebox” comes from the word “jook” — meaning disorderly or wicked — which probably came to this country from West Africa. In the years after slavery, African-Americans used the phrase “juke house” or “juke joint” to refer to dancehalls, and when these dancehalls installed coin-operated phonographs, they were called jukeboxes. At a time when many early radio programs refused to play country, blues, or jazz, it was jukeboxes that made that music available in taverns, restaurants, diners, and on Army bases. And music companies realized there was a big audience for different genres of music.

Willie Nelson said, “Ninety-nine percent of the world’s lovers are not with their first choice. That’s what makes the jukebox play.”
The Writer’s Almanac

Photo diary: Christmas windows at Bergdorf Goodman

November 22, 2010

Bergdorf’s has the most beautiful, dense, hallucinatory, creative windows of all stores in New York City. And the windows queens really knock themselves out when it comes to the holiday season. The current theme is “Wish You Were Here.”

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