starlady: (always)
My sister and I went to see Dancing around the Bride at the PMA last Saturday. I hadn't been back to the PMA since they put in the parking garage, and I'm here to tell you: it's pretty nice, and it's got great rates. (If you're thinking, why the hell is she explicitly talking about the parking garage rates, clearly you've never tried to find affordable parking in Philadelphia.)

The exhibit chronicles the friendship and mutual influences of Marcel Duchamp, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauchenberg, and John Cage and Merce Cunningham, who of course were lifelong partners both personally and professionally. I don't care much about Johns or Rauchenberg--Duchamp is my favorite among that set of visual artists--but I was thrilled to see all five of these artists' works set in conversation with each other, which is how they were conceived of and created, and it's the sort of thing that only a large museum can do and that large museums, I think, should do. The exhibition also integrated the multimedia aspects of these artists' works really well--recordings of Cage pieces played throughout the exhibition, and videos of Cunningham performances were available to watch too. I was especially thrilled to see so much of Cage's visual art as well as his original scores, which are just so cool. 

There was also an epic slate of live performances and events. We went because we heard on WHYY's stupid local show that Lee Ranaldo, the guitarist for Sonic Youth, was going to be there playing John Cage compositions as well as his own stuff, and it was really cool to go see the music being performed--at one point he was swinging the guitar around on a pendulum, nearly hitting some of the dancers--because there were former members of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company performing Merce Cunningham pieces at the same time too. I know so little about dance, but it was really cool to see the dancers and the music taking up the same space at the same time--not coincidentally, the performances were timed down to the second--and to think about how they fit together. (Also, the dancers were amazing.) Ranaldo was great, both with the Cage pieces and his own works. He said on WHYY that in his experience this kind of music either grabs you or it doesn't, and my sister and I are definitely people whom it does grab, and it was a really wonderful chance to see this kind of thing up close among people who know and appreciate it. I daresay Cage would have liked all the ambient noise of the gallery, which was especially noticeable during the performance of 4'33".

No props to the PMA museum guards, however, who were hell-bent on hassling us for no actual reason. The PMA: packing 'em in by the thousands like sardines for Cezanne is okay, but 200 people who want to hear John Cage can't be tolerated. 
starlady: ((say it isn't so))
First, some important follow-up posts on #YesGayYA:

Author Marie Brennan has a cogent analysis of posts written over the last few days, as well as of the actual issues involved: Followup on "Say Yes to Gay YA"

[personal profile] cleolinda has a more in-depth hashing-over, What's going on with #yesGayYA, which is a great post through and through.

[personal profile] bookshop's post YA publishing & the de-gaying of books has a quotation from an anonymized agent letter, extracted from comments to the posts in the discussion. I personally don't fully agree with her chosen course of action, but it's a good post regardless.


PSA: Last Call for Delicious Users: Transfer Your Bookmarks by Sept. 23

I opted out of AVOS' TOS and switched to Pinboard, but I didn't have a huge collection of links widely used by other people in fandom. If you do, considering opting into the TOS is worth a few minutes' thought. Migrating your bookmarks somewhere else will also preserve them, though not existing links to them of course.


And finally, if you like contemporary classical music, you will want to download the "Remembering Sept. 11" concert, live from the Temple of Dendur, before the link goes dark on Sept. 18.
starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
So yesterday I went up to New York. I do this a lot these days--at least once a month, usually--but the thing is that I inevitably wind up at most of the same places, so I'm not going to talk about going to Kinokuniya, McNally Jackson, Pret á Manger, Hampton Chutney Co., or Joe the art of coffee. I will say that the new Book-Off is easily twice the size and twice as nice as the old one, and I got $26 for selling back every single last volume of Bleach that I owned. I am free, free at last!

I was originally planning to see Diane Duane at Books of Wonder, for A Wizard of Mars, but she was stuck in Zurich due to the volcano so I exercised option B and went down to the Lower East Side and The Dream House. (Sidenote: I don't think I will ever not get disoriented coming up out of the subway stations to which I have never been before, not ever. This is why I always carry a map.) The Dream House is a joint art-and-music installation by La Monte Young, the minimalist composer, and his partner Marian Zazeela, the visual artist. For the past 17 years they have installed light sculptures in conjunction with one continuous chord comprised of 32 frequencies within a set interval derived with prime numbers and constantly modulated in real time through a synthesizer. There are magenta gels on the windows, and the whole thing is unlike any other musical experience I know.

The trick is that the chord sounds different--you hear different things--depending on whether you are siting, standing, walking, or lying on the floor, and how you turn your head while you do any of those things. I was the only person in the place and I stayed for 30 or 40 minutes just listening and watching the light sculptures make shadows on the walls. The world sounds thin after you leave.

It's interesting to me that a minimalist composer is the one who came up with this idea, because The Dream House in many ways is the complete opposite of minimalism--even the most thickly orchestrated pieces for chorus and orchestra don't hit so many simultaneous frequencies, for all that they can be louder. But what the listener hears is completely unscripted by the artist; it's the ultimate idiosyncratic experience. I can't recommend checking it out for yourself enough.

I've learned with mass transit to trust the wisdom of crowds. When I got to Hamilton station I saw that people around me in the parking garage were putting on the hustle, so I did the same and found that contrary to my belief the train had not yet arrived, which allowed me to get to New York 40 minutes earlier than I planned (and this was well worth the $5 surcharge for buying one's ticket on the train). When I got to the 2/3 uptown platform in Penn Station I saw that everyone around me was taking the underpass to the 1 uptown, which allowed me to get the next uptown train rather than waiting on the 2/3 platform for a train that would never come, as signs not on the platform immediately informed me.

I read xxxHOLiC 16 and FMA 25 in Union Square while waiting for [livejournal.com profile] atolm (who is awesome, I was so glad to pry him out of the library), and setting the two manga against each other was interesting--both volumes contain characters (Riza and Watanuki) saying 「死にかけても、死なない」which is an interesting declaration to be making. They're both right, of course, in their own personal cases, but both manga are concerned with immortality and its discontents in ways that aren't always immediately apparent. Also in Union Square some kid, middle school maybe, asked me if I was reading FMA and in what language, and I handed him the book, and he thought it was cool, and we shared a fannish moment. I love New York.
starlady: headphones on top of colorful buttons (music (makes the people))
So two weeks ago I went to see a performance of pieces by Philip Glass, Steve Reichs and Gavin Bryars at the Annenberg Center in Philly. I never really grasped that the Annenberg existed until this year, which is too bad, or Orchestra 2001, which joined Relâche and the Philadelphia Singers for the Reichs piece, but they are all pretty cool.

The entire program consisted of premieres--Philadelphia in the cases of the Reichs and the Bryars, and world in the case of the Glass. The Bryars piece consisted of two laude (songs) from his Cycle Lauda Cortonese, for solo female chorus. Let me just say, the ladies of the Philadelphia Singers are really, really good. I went to a college well-known for its music program, which had the side effect of making me a horrible snob about such things as quality of performance and whether the audience knows not to clap between movements and is too undiscerning with standing ovations, but all three of the ensembles were just really good. I particularly liked Relâche, but I thought Orchestra 2001, who only play contemporary music and who all wore a crimson accessory of some kind during their performance, were also great.

Laude Cortonese, You Are (Variations), Persephone )
starlady: the cover from Shaun Tan's The Arrival, showing an aquanaut in suburbia (i'm a stranger here myself)
Awesome
One of my ongoing personal hangups is the fact that the ancient world was not like our modern world (and I'm using "modern" here with extreme intent); subjectivity and the relations between polities were completely different, and our projections back onto the past don't match that past. (This is part of what Prasenjit Duara means when he talks about rescuing history from modernity.) Ancient societies had far more in common with each other than we might think (and they were also far more diverse than we might think); they also had more in common with us than we might think, though in different respects.

So I was delighted to learn that further analysis has revealed that the Ivory Bangle lady of York, a wealthy resident of the Roman town there in the 3rd century, was of North African extraction.

Woah
I'm sure most people have heard by now of the magnitude 8.8 earthquake that occurred off the coast of Chile early this morning. Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy has some striking geological analysis and visual tsunami projections. I hope for the best in Chile, and that people around the Pacific, particularly in Hawai'i, are able to heed the warnings in time.

WTF
Actually this might go in the category "speaking ill of the dead," which is something to which I don't have intrinsic objections, especially for public figures. [livejournal.com profile] doonesburyc has a darkly funny roundup of classic cartoons related to the late Alexander Haig.

I'm surprised that the Lower Merion school webcam fracas hasn't been getting more press in the media. [personal profile] naraht has a post quoting some bloggers here; local public radio station WHYY has the best coverage I've heard/seen in the area. Essentially, the Lower Merion school district (allegedly) used the webcams installed on the laptops it distributed to students to spy on them in their homes and then attempted to use the pictures it obtained to discipline students in school. As I said to [personal profile] naraht, I can't decide whether the part that boggles me most is the parents who aren't concerned or the parents who are concerned--that the lawsuits being brought against the school district will cost them money in taxes.

And finally, on a musical note, the Philadelphia Orchestra musicians have accepted a pay cut and a hiring freeze. I was headed off at the pass, as it were, at the start of my "Philadelphia Orchestra & its woes" rant to [personal profile] naraht by the subway schedule last Sunday, and I'm only slowly converting it into a post, but suffice it to say that this is potentially both good and bad. And if it doesn't bring in the $$ it will be very, very, bad.

Do I need a history tag?  
starlady: (run)
I went to Philly today to see my old orchestra, Philadelphia Sinfonia, play its Bon Voyage concert of the season--they are off to tour Argentina on Tuesday. The concert was (of course) quite good; it included two classical pieces I hadn't heard before, Mozart's Overture to "The Abduction from the Seraglio" and Beethoven's First. I'd never heard the First before, and it is appealingly stuck between classicism and romanticism musically (classicism in the "Mozart was the first Romantic" sense, I should say). I was shanghaied into helping put back the chairs after the concert--Reverend Flood is still unbelievably OCD about their proper arrangement ten years after I first met him. It's good to know some things never change.

Then I had Capogiro gelato, La Colombe coffee, and Maoz falafels. It is impossible to bear the world a grudge when the sun is shining and one is eating these things.

I was reading Fullmetal Alchemist vol. 8, on the train (Wizard World escapees making noise on the way back), and let me just say, for the record, I love Arakawa Hiromu. FMA is just so good. Her pacing, her plotting, her knack for expressions/physical comedy...it might be my favorite manga, ever.

It's the solstice. There is rioting in Tehran and self-rule in Greenland.

starlady: (truth)
First off, the lovely and talented elisem is having a sale! If you like jewelry, rocks, and/or jewelry with rocks, you should really check out her work. This time around she's also auctioning tektites, I note specifically for any geologists reading this.

I went with my old friend kwviola (seriously, I think we've known each other nine years at this point. that's actually the shortest amount of time I've known any of my friends in this part of the country) to see the festival concert of our alma mater youth orchestra, the Philadelphia Sinfonia, at the Perelman Hall in the Kimmel Center. Sinfonia is huge now, huge--eight stands each of firsts and seconds, seven each of violas and cellos, seven basses! And that's just in the strings! But Gary White, our conductor, is equal to the task of marshalling all that raw sound, and the concert was excellent--I especially thought the ensemble was well suited to the Prokofiev "Romeo & Juliet" suite. They played the Lalo cello concerto with Jeffrey Solow; it's the first time I've heard that piece with a really nice cello, and I was struck by how different--less strident--the solo parts sounded. Very interesting. Also really intense emotionally, at least for me--my mom was a Sinfonia volunteer, and I was in Sinfonia in high school, so I felt a very dense nostalgia on top of my emotions being stirred by the music. We at Raw 1225, the sushi place, which is still so good (except for the miso: the kelp was tough), and had gelato at Capogiro too. Delicious. We also snuck backstage to say hi to the few remaining Sinfonia people we know. It's sad that for both of us, though we've since played in other ensembles, Sinfonia remains the height of our orchestral careers. If I'm still around here next year, I'm definitely going to see about joining a regional orchestra, just because I like playing in them so much. Also, Gary & Sinfonia were cited by Mayor Nutter at the beginning of the concert. His emissary couldn't pronounce "baton" correctly.

I finished Patricia A. McKillip's The Book of Atrix Wolfe (another victim of Borders' "let's sell the roof out from over our heads!" sale) on the train. McKillip is writes gorgeous prose, and while I liked Atrix Wolfe quite a lot I have to say that in some ways I actually liked The Bell at Sealey Head, her most recent book, which I read last week, more. The Bell is in some ways less highfalutin--most of the characters are middle class, with money worries and marriage worries--and in some ways I preferred that to the setting of Atrix Wolfe, which features princes, kings, mages, Queens and princesses. For all that half of it takes place in the palace kitchen, it's not as grounded as The Bell.
starlady: A typewriter.  (tool of the trade)
Long division is the Devil's work, and don't let anyone tell you otherwise! As soon as good children but do some simple 'rithmetic in their minds, they are transmuted into bad children, who shall go to their richly deserved Reward hereafter.

Also, Spike is of the opinion that our house sprite may be cracking under the pressure and transmuting into a poltergeist and/or possession of the house. Given that the bathroom ceiling dripped blood on her this morning, her hypothesis seems plausible to me. The beansidhe in the dining room window doesn't help matters, either.

I went with [livejournal.com profile] sparowhawk and my friend Stacey to hear Verdi's "Requiem" and a new piece by Jennifer Higdon, a setting of a funeral sermon by John Donne, on Sunday night. Of Verdi, it can only be said that he juxtaposed some truly affecting passages with his own drama king tendencies. I quite liked the Higdon, and the text she chose to set to it. I can see why she's popular, too; she's contemporary without being off-putting.

I just finished Victory of Eagles by [livejournal.com profile] naominovik; as always, it was an excellent book, though sort of low at the end, albeit in an uplifted way. I spent most of the book comparing Novik's depiction of the Duke of Wellington with Susanna Clarke's; Novik has him as brilliant and ruthlessly pragmatic (and Conservative to the bone), while Clarke portrays him with more gentle amusement. I'm not sure which I prefer--both portraits are of a piece with their authors, and the authors' books, but the comparison is illuminating. The portrayal of Nelson (some men are evidently just meant to die for England) is also of a piece with Novik's moral positions in the novel. I like Nelson a good deal less than I did before I started the Temeraire series, I must admit.

starlady: (compass)
I just finished reading Alex Ross' monumental survey of the twentieth century through its music, The Rest Is Noise. Ross received a MacArthur "genius grant" last fall, in part because of this book, and it's obvious from the first pages of TRIN how richly deserved the award was. I can't say how the book reads to someone completely lacking in musical background, because I have a decent base knowledge of musical theory and a long history in performance--I've played some of the more normalized twentieth-century repertoire, which gave me a thrill while reading--but Ross makes music legible and comprehensible to the average reader, and I've never read anyone who has a better gift for describing sound. It's necessarily synaesthetic to an extent, but I don't think that's an undesirable thing. Aside from the writing about music itself, Ross credibly follows all the political, sexual and ideological undercurrents and conflicts of the twentieth century to ground, but he never loses his twenty-first century perspective, if that's possible. For me I think the central issue of the book (and of the twentieth century itself) is the issue of fascism and democracy, since fascism of course was spawned from democracy by modernity, and as Harry Harootunian says elsewhere, fascism lurks within modern democracy still, and will until things change radically--perhaps through the intellectual fusion Ross envisions. But to say that is to valorize music beyond its capacity, which Ross demonstrates is the cardinal sin of totalitarianism vis-a-vis culture. At any rate, anyone who likes contemporary music, or who likes non-contemporary classical music and wants to understand contemporary fare, will find this book essential.

I went to a funeral yesterday. I find it disturbing when people say they're jealous of the deceased because the deceased is in heaven with the Lord. I think they're missing the point, not of death but of life--or at least the point as I understand it.

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