Saturday, January 31, 2009

Beat Gloor: from "How Are You?"


5. Do you live in the past, the present, or the future?
14. Do children have the right to expect their parents to have a functioning relationship? Until what age?
23. What unites you with others: similarities or differences?
28. Where and when do you have your best ideas?
32: How do you judge others? By their looks or by the way they move? By what they say, what they have achieved, or by their courage?
34: What are you most afraid of? Are you guided by your fear?
40: If you could clone yourself, how would you divide up your life?
55: How do you feel when you are not telling the truth?
58. Would you be happy if certain people were killed? How many do you have in mind?
62: Can two people remain together for the rest of their lives?
65: Would you like to be able to look into the future? Would you do so?
66: Does solitude make one strong or weak?
67: Are you strong? For what?

Translated byGeoffrey Winthrop-Young

Beat Gloor lives in Baden.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Acte Prealable, or, A Mighty Cold Day, Warmed by Music

It got down to -15 or so last night here, but I was warmed by anticipation--my postman left a note on my door informing me that a package was waiting for me at the post office. I bundled up this morning and walked there, breathing the metal-tasting air.

It was a bundle of CDs from Poland, a lovely New Year's present from Jan Jarnicki, the owner of the wonderful classical music label Acte Prealable. He sent me an email a month or so ago wishing me Holiday greetings and it was very nice of him to send this package along. My aquaintance with the label began back in 2005 with a shipment of review discs and the Elzbieta Sternlicht's wonderful performance of the intriguing piano works of Jozef Koffler and the also criminally under-appreciated piano pieces of Felix Mendelssohn's sister, Fanny.

Of the discs in this new packet, the only one I've had much of a chance to listen to is by not-yet-thirty-year-old Tomasz Kamieniak, who performs a selection of his own piano pieces, one of which was completed only this past year. The pieces are generally quiet and meditative, with elements of Philip Glass and Mompou. His Book of Illusions calls Schumann immediately to mind, in that three of the movements bear the title of "Sphinx," the customarily unplayed sections of Schumann's Carnaval that, spelled out in notes, contain Schumann's name and that of the hometown of his fiancee at the time.

Another of the discs features work by another young composer, Marcin Kopczynski, born in 1973. Many of these are piano pieces, performed by the composer, but we have guitar works, as well as pieces for piano and voice. This music, based on a brief casual listen, has more of an intellectual remove, closer to Mompou than Kamieniak is, but this could only be true of the first two piano pieces on the disc.

I was really glad to see the latest disc of Romuald Twardowski's works to be released by Acte Prealable. Reviewing discs has introduced me to quite a few active composers and Twardowski is among my favorites. His piano concertos have loads of vitality and movement, and his first piano concerto--as well as his concerto for violin--are included here. I've been listening to this disc as I'm typing this and this one is going to be fun to hear more of.

Theodor Leschetizky is a composer I don't know at all, but he was quite famous in his day, especially as a teacher, caving instructed--so the liner notes say--over 1200 pianists, including the handsome and wild-haired Ignacy Paderewski (composer and then Prime Minister of Poland), Artur Schnabel, and famous one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein (before he lost the arm in WWI). In an unusual move, there is a bonus track performed by Leschetizky himself, though he died in 1915--it is a restored recording of the composer reciting his artistic credo, transferred from an Edison cylinder recorded 102 years ago--almost to the day--on January 17, 1907. Speaking of cylinders, there is a wonderful website out there dedicated to the restoration and dissemination of ancient recordings well worth checking out--the Cylinder Preservation and Digitalization Project website--linked here.

Stay warm, everyone!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Has This Sort of Thing...

...ever happened to you?

The students are all coming back to college this week, you know. And I'm sure I'm not the only grad student who's had a student stagger in with the word "ASS-POKE" Sharpie-markered on his forehead.

--"Never be Alone" by Justice.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Arches of Gold, continued

At lunch (McChicken, Diet Coke). I'm working on semester plans--lessons, sequence of readings, which activities to do.
A woman, stringy-haired, 40-ish and not holding it well, pushes a stroller in through the side door, orders her food, finds her seat in a booth halfway across the restaurant. The employee who does the fries, with the shiny Billy Dee Williams/Rick James Jheri-curl, is out wiping tables. He, as he did over the summer, feels compelled to chat up the customers, but talks so quickly, and with such abrupt pauses, that people can't respond to all he says and often don't say much at all.

"Oh hitherewhat abeautifulbabyHiThere!Prettybabyyour Babyis gettinbig!" He says to the greasy-haired woman.

"He's an asshole." the woman says.
"Oh nonono, don'tsay that. He's beautifulbeautiful. Don't say that."
The woman swallows some burger. "Oh yes he is," she says, serious, yet singsong, "A lit-tle ass-hole."
The fry-guy has the rag twisted around both of his hands. "He's such a pretty baby. Don't say that."
"He's definitely a Junior."
"s'That so..."
"An ugly little asshole." The woman is nibbling on a fry, looking sideways at the three-month old in the stroller. The fry-guy, not sure what else to say, moves to other tables to wipe down. The woman, in rather grave baby-tones and with a mouth half filled with fries, leans to the stroller, "Yes, I'm talking about you. Yes I am. And your daddy too." Her voice raises in pitch with each last word: "I'm talking about you."

She turns back to her burger and the baby makes a slight noise. She chews. Rolls her eyes once. The baby makes another chirp. "You gonna cry? You gonna cry?" she says, again with that slight lilt that hints at baby-talk, but all dead serious, "You're workin' on it. All depends on how loud, that's what you're thinkin' of. You're working on it, I know." She doesn't move toward the child, continues to chew at her burger, both elbows against the edge of the table.
A more irritated noise comes from the baby. "Wonderful," she says, still chewing, "just wonderful."

After a bit, she finishes with her food, leans over to pick up the baby. Come ere, little asshole, she says, almost melodically enough to cover the malice. As she dandles the baby at the table, she sings him a sort of song:
Lo-ser. Lo-ser. You're a Lo-ser.
My mommy says 'you're a lo-ser.'
My mommy says. My mommy says,
Mommy says 'let's go see papa.'
Lo-ser. Lo-ser. Lo-ser...

She leaves before I do, by some five minutes. As I'm walking home, I see her about a block or so off, wanting to cross 10th. She does, halfway, then continues on her way for about a half-block, pushing the stroller right down the double yellow line in the middle of afternoon traffic, past two police cars. I see their brake lights and she loops back to the sidewalk, pushing doggedly to the bus stop.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year, Folks!

For all, I wish, in spite of odds, a happy 2009. For Holly, I wish her throat gets better right quick. For Kristen, I wish her ease in dissertation-writing, for my sister I hope for correct usage of toys and various huggy-buggy books in her household, for E&E I wish happiness even though your Thompson guy didn't win, for Mom I wish a great big raise. for Jeff I wish a move soon from the snowy tundra of Seattle to fairer climes for job and pocketbook. To my fellow MFAs, I wish you ease in publication. For my recently-evicted neighbors, I wish you a family reunion sooner than you expected after your Christmas-weekend move. For Michelle and Craig I wish all happiness.

Happy New Year, all, we all have something to learn--and for the CEOs of America's auto industry, I wish you all well behind me in line for a new job.