Haydn by two

Haydn Sonata in C

Reading an interesting piece by pianist Alfred Brendel summing up his decades of making recordings, I noticed that he singled out a Haydn disc as one of his favorites. A particular delight for him was  Haydn’s Sonata in C major, Hob. 16/50. Given that I’m on a Haydn Sonata binge myself (but alas no Brendel), I thought I would check it out, quickly found the score on IMSLP and trotted through it. Brendel finds it funny, for me it’s the endless dazzling invention that engrosses, sometimes just a madcap throw away ornament or gesture.

Here is Brendel’s performance of the first movement, wonderful sleight of hand tricks at every turn, and dapper from first note to last. Overall, evinces such clarity of articulation and expression…something he was superb at and his student Paul Lewis is carrying on as a pianistic ideal.

For a contrast, listen to Sviatoslav Richter (the titan of the piano of my youth, and still a god to most classical pianists). Richter’s take on it is less droll, big sections rather than little detail. If Brendel illuminates Haydn the (merry) classical trickster, Richter gives us a Romantic and ardent Haydn, driving the same notes and (mostly the same) ornaments, a little faster and with more 19th century intensity.

Both are fine performances, and if I prefer Brendel’s (by a hair) that’s maybe because I love a good joke. Also Brendel’s playing has always had a human dimension that an amateur pianist (or at least this amateur pianist) can relate to. Richter, and others at his level, seem to be engaged in a completely different activity!

MOOC Words: Philosophers Respond

A philosophy blog I read, Leiter Reports, has an interesting thread on MOOCs and their discontents. Rebecca Kukla, a Georgetown Prof, and guest blogger, opened the topic as she is doing a MOOC at her institution.

Many familiar issues from other reporting and commentary on MOOCS: IP and editorial control/ownership, equity, future of f2f, pedagogical concerns,, but exceptionally well expressed. One of the comments mentions David Gelerntner predicting a lot of this in 1984–a claim I need to research. Anand Vaidya, among the profs who objected to the distribution of the Michael Sandel Justice course via Harvardx, weighs in too.

The thread is here http://leiterreports.typepad.com/blog/2013/08/ethical-reflections-on-mooc-making.html

Some interesting bits:

Kukla’s prompt:

In short, I think that when it comes to MOOCs we need to be having hard conversations about intellectual property, ownership of the means of production, privacy, and other complicated issues in applied ethics. And I am sure there are other hard conversations to be had as well. Mostly, my sense is that our technological capacity here is outpacing our capacity to establish thoughtful practical norms and ethical constraints on the use of this technology. Thoughts?

Part of Vaidya’s post

One point of our letter (whether or not it was clear) is that faculty with the relevant expertise in an area should have the right to be involved in the conversation and decision over whether using a MOOC at their institution for the purposes of educating the students at their university is in fact a good thing. We were not consulted in an advisory capacity over whether Justice should be taught through a MOOC, nor were we asked to make one as a way of improving education. We are against the idea that university administrators should have the power to override faculty expertise and consultation in determining course content for students. Faculty are charged with the task of debating and deciding what is best for the student population…

One thing that occurs to me is that somehow MOOCS have become a sort of “fetish object” for a range of disparate issues in education, and maybe even society at large. They are interesting in themselves, I admit, but the intensity and volume of discussion seems to me wildly disproportionate. They are vessel into which a bunch of worries, about ethics, the purpose of higher education, ownership, control, access, technology can be poured, most avidly by those who haven’t ever taken or taught an online course and have no intention of ever doing so. I’m guessing Stanley Fish falls into that category, and he added his bleating, amusing if garbled, to the fray in a NYTimes op-ed a few days back.

He closes by railing generally against social media courtesy of a bad 90s film:

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“See how isolating and empty modern life has become is the acidly comic message of the director [of Denise Calls Up]. Isn’t that great and can we please have more of it is the messianic message of Daphne Koller. O brave new world.”

I guess he won’t be accepting my FB effort to friend him any time soon. 😦

Poetic Words: Anthony Hecht

Screen Shot 2013-08-25 at 7.13.11 AMReading a lot of the American poet Anthony Hecht, prompted by a long and engrossing piece on his recently published letters by Colm Tóibín in the LRB, and also an upcoming poetry book group at our neighborhood bookstore, Politics and Prose.

Tóibín puts Hecht in the genealogy of war poets (unlike Jarrell, he saw action in WWII and was deeply affected by it.)

From the review

Of the many things Jarrell said about the war, the one that seems most true came at the end of his review of Marianne Moore. ‘The real war poets are always war poets, peace or any time.’ This remark applies more perhaps to Anthony Hecht, who was born in 1923 and had published no poems before he went to war, than it does to anyone else. Hecht studied at Bard College then served in the US Army from 1943 to 1946. He saw action in Germany and Czechoslovakia in 1945 and was later stationed in Japan. After the war he studied at Kenyon College with John Crowe Ransom and William Empson (Jarrell had earlier been on the faculty; Lowell had been a student there), and in New York with Allen Tate. In the early 1950s he lived in Italy, where he became friends with Auden; later he taught at Bard College, Smith College, the University of Rochester and Georgetown. His first book of poems, A Summoning of Stones, was published in 1954. In 1968 he won the Pulitzer for his next volume, The Hard Hours. His Collected Earlier Poems were published in 1990; his Collected Later Poems came out in 2003, a year before his death.

Here is Hecht’s “Death the Poet: A Ballade-Lament for the Makers,” a poem that does not, for me at least, fit into a war poetry tradition. Belongs instead to the long list of old poets’ looking back–“laments for makers” being an idea that goes back centuries in poetry. Hecht himself notes John Skelton. The collection it’s in, Flight Among the Tombs, also has a wonderful poem mourning James Merrill.

Death The Poet
A Ballade-Lament for the Makers

Where have they gone, the lordly makers,
Torchlight and fire-folk of our skies,
Those grand authorial earthshakers
Who brought such gladness to the eyes
Of the knowing and unworldly-wise
In damasked language long ago?
Call them and nobody replies.
Et nunc in pulvere dormio.

The softly-spoken verbal Quakers
Who made no fuss and told no lies;
Baroque and intricate risk-takers,
Full of elliptical surprise
From Mother Goose to Paradise
Lost and Regained, where did they go?
This living hand indites, and dies,
Et nunc in pulvere dormio.

Old Masters, thunderous as the breakers
Tennyson’s eloquence defies,
Beneath uncultivated acres
Our great original, Shakespeare, lies
With Grub Street hacks he would despise,
Quelled by the common ratio
That cuts all scribblers down to size,
Et nunc in pulvere dormio.

Archduke of Darkness, who supplies
The deadline governing joy and woe,
Here I put off my flesh disguise
Et nunc in pulvere dormio.

Poetic Words: Richard Siken

Looking for a “poem about copyediting” (don’t ask, I’ll get around to explaining it a few posts from now) rather than information on “copyediting poetry” (a difficult distinction to make clear to the mighty Google), I came across this knife-edged and dazzling piece from a poet named Richard Siken, who was new to me. Sort of a crazy-house ars poetica, and both ingenious and dark.

Litany in Which Certain Things Are Crossed Out

By Richard Siken

Every morning the maple leaves.
                               Every morning another chapter where the hero shifts
            from one foot to the other. Every morning the same big
and little words all spelling out desire, all spelling out
                                             You will be alone always and then you will die.
So maybe I wanted to give you something more than a catalog
         of non-definitive acts,
something other than the desperation.
                   Dear So-and-So, I’m sorry I couldn’t come to your party.
Dear So-and-So, I’m sorry I came to your party
         and seduced you
and left you bruised and ruined, you poor sad thing.
                                                         You want a better story. Who wouldn’t?
A forest, then. Beautiful trees. And a lady singing.
                  Love on the water, love underwater, love, love and so on.
What a sweet lady. Sing lady, sing! Of course, she wakes the dragon.
            Love always wakes the dragon and suddenly
                                                                                               flames everywhere.
I can tell already you think I’m the dragon,
                that would be so like me, but I’m not. I’m not the dragon.
I’m not the princess either.
                           Who am I? I’m just a writer. I write things down.
I walk through your dreams and invent the future. Sure,
               I sink the boat of love, but that comes later. And yes, I swallow
         glass, but that comes later.
                                                            And the part where I push you
flush against the wall and every part of your body rubs against the bricks,
            shut up
I’m getting to it.
                                    For a while I thought I was the dragon.
I guess I can tell you that now. And, for a while, I thought I was
                                                                                                the princess,
cotton candy pink, sitting there in my room, in the tower of the castle,
          young and beautiful and in love and waiting for you with
            but the princess looks into her mirror and only sees the princess,
while I’m out here, slogging through the mud, breathing fire,
                                                               and getting stabbed to death.
                                    Okay, so I’m the dragon. Big deal.
          You still get to be the hero.
You get magic gloves! A fish that talks! You get eyes like flashlights!
                  What more do you want?
I make you pancakes, I take you hunting, I talk to you as if you’re
            really there.
Are you there, sweetheart? Do you know me? Is this microphone live?
                                                       Let me do it right for once,
             for the record, let me make a thing of cream and stars that becomes,
you know the story, simply heaven.
                   Inside your head you hear a phone ringing
                                                               and when you open your eyes
only a clearing with deer in it. Hello deer.
                               Inside your head the sound of glass,
a car crash sound as the trucks roll over and explode in slow motion.
             Hello darling, sorry about that.
                                                       Sorry about the bony elbows, sorry we
lived here, sorry about the scene at the bottom of the stairwell
                                    and how I ruined everything by saying it out loud.
            Especially that, but I should have known.
You see, I take the parts that I remember and stitch them back together
            to make a creature that will do what I say
or love me back.
                  I’m not really sure why I do it, but in this version you are not
feeding yourself to a bad man
                                                   against a black sky prickled with small lights.
            I take it back.
The wooden halls like caskets. These terms from the lower depths.
                                                I take them back.
Here is the repeated image of the lover destroyed.
                                                                                               Crossed out.
            Clumsy hands in a dark room. Crossed out. There is something
underneath the floorboards.
                   Crossed out. And here is the tabernacle
Here is the part where everyone was happy all the time and we were all
even though we didn’t deserve it.
                                                                    Inside your head you hear
a phone ringing, and when you open your eyes you’re washing up
            in a stranger’s bathroom,
standing by the window in a yellow towel, only twenty minutes away
                           from the dirtiest thing you know.
All the rooms of the castle except this one, says someone, and suddenly
                                                                                     suddenly only darkness.
In the living room, in the broken yard,
                                  in the back of the car as the lights go by. In the airport
          bathroom’s gurgle and flush, bathed in a pharmacy of
unnatural light,
             my hands looking weird, my face weird, my feet too far away.
And then the airplane, the window seat over the wing with a view
                                                            of the wing and a little foil bag of peanuts.
I arrived in the city and you met me at the station,
          smiling in a way
                    that made me frightened. Down the alley, around the arcade,
          up the stairs of the building
to the little room with the broken faucets, your drawings, all your things,
                                                I looked out the window and said
                                This doesn’t look that much different from home,
            because it didn’t,
but then I noticed the black sky and all those lights.
                                           We walked through the house to the elevated train.
            All these buildings, all that glass and the shiny beautiful
                                                                                             mechanical wind.
We were inside the train car when I started to cry. You were crying too,
            smiling and crying in a way that made me
even more hysterical. You said I could have anything I wanted, but I
                                                                                      just couldn’t say it out loud.
Actually, you said Love, for you,
                                 is larger than the usual romantic love. It’s like a religion. It’s
                                                                                                 terrifying. No one
                                                                                 will ever want to sleep with you.
Okay, if you’re so great, you do it—
                        here’s the pencil, make it work . . .
If the window is on your right, you are in your own bed. If the window
            is over your heart, and it is painted shut, then we are breathing
river water.
            Build me a city and call it Jerusalem. Build me another and call it
                            We have come back from Jerusalem where we found not
what we sought, so do it over, give me another version,
             a different room, another hallway, the kitchen painted over
and over,
             another bowl of soup.
The entire history of human desire takes about seventy minutes to tell.
             Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time.
                                                                                                 Forget the dragon,
leave the gun on the table, this has nothing to do with happiness.
                                        Let’s jump ahead to the moment of epiphany,
             in gold light, as the camera pans to where
the action is,
             lakeside and backlit, and it all falls into frame, close enough to see
                                                the blue rings of my eyes as I say
                                                                                                   something ugly.
I never liked that ending either. More love streaming out the wrong way,
             and I don’t want to be the kind that says the wrong way.
But it doesn’t work, these erasures, this constant refolding of the pleats.
                                                            There were some nice parts, sure,
all lemondrop and mellonball, laughing in silk pajamas
             and the grains of sugar
                              on the toast, love love or whatever, take a number. I’m sorry
                                                                                  it’s such a lousy story.
Dear Forgiveness, you know that recently
                     we have had our difficulties and there are many things
                                                                                                  I want to ask you.
I tried that one time, high school, second lunch, and then again,
             years later, in the chlorinated pool.
                                      I am still talking to you about help. I still do not have
             these luxuries.
I have told you where I’m coming from, so put it together.
                                                            We clutch our bellies and roll on the floor . . .
             When I say this, it should mean laughter,
not poison.
                  I want more applesauce. I want more seats reserved for heroes.
Dear Forgiveness, I saved a plate for you.
                                                  Quit milling around the yard and come inside.



I love the twists and turns of this, the sense of physical space the poem moves through, including folding up against, erasing, rewriting, coiling up even and then unspooling a bit more while the poet is around the corner getting a smoke.

Many fine lines, but I noted this one in particular:

The entire history of human desire takes about seventy minutes to tell.
             Unfortunately, we don’t have that kind of time.

Brings to mind for me Alberto Giocometti’s sculpture “The Palace a 4 a.m.” Similar themes, but lean, compressed and fragile where the poem is lavish.

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The Palace at 4 A.M.

Design: One Second on the Internet

Nice graphic about what one second on the Internet looks like.

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Info graphic on what’s happening in one second on the Internet.

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Too bad Facebook doesn’t  have the “Billions and Billions Served” motto that McDonald’s used to flaunt.






Somebody ought to do a “Powers of Ten” orders of magnitude graphic about the Internet that has the elegance of that wonderful Eames movie. (Although I remember a black and white one from my youth, with a mosquito…)

Beautiful Music: Haydn Andante

Listening to a lot of Haydn, and even playing some.  Have gotten a bit of a crush on an Andante from the D major Sonata #30 (XV:19). It winds and unwinds so winningly, a small amount of material from which he makes such a finely drawn musical drama.

Below is Rudolf Buchbinder, in somewhat weird sound, but you can get the sense of the characters stealing on and off the scene so craftily. His “notey” version of the last movement doesn’t do it for me, lacks the required lightness and humor. (Save your pomposity for Liszt and Brahms, as Artur Rubenstein coached.)  But still, the skill of the composer comes through.

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Philanthropic Biz Opportunity?

The Times reports today on tech gazillionaires’ “helping hand” towards print media. Sort of the journalism equivalent of underwriting a hospital for sick children, I guess. Except these children are not going to get any better.

From the story:

“So ironic,” Les Hinton, a former publisher of The Wall Street Journal, wrote in a Twitter post last week about Mr. Bezos, that The Washington Post “should be consumed by a pioneer of the industry that almost destroyed it.”

The same story has a quote so audacious from Craig’s list founder Craig Newmark, I had to read it twice:

Mr. Newmark declined to comment on why newspaper officials blamed him. He said he supported journalism initiatives — media ethics and fact-checking are two pet causes — because he valued news he could trust. He said he was not even convinced that Craigslist had hurt newspaper classified advertising.

“I’m still waiting to see any hard evidence for cause-and-effect,” Mr. Newmark said. “I’ve been paying attention for a long time.”

Maybe Craiglist advertising (and web advertising in general) didn’t kill the cash cow that was newspaper classifieds;  if so, it would certainly seem to be one of Mark Twain’s “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” I have a hard time imagining a different scenario, although Phil Weiss in New York magazine makes this provocative point,

From a business standpoint, this may be the most revolutionary aspect of the Craigslist model: It took what had long been defined as a profitable industry—classifieds—and demonstrated that it is not much of a business at all, but is rather what open-source advocates call “a commons,” a public service where people can find one another with minimal intervention from their minders. Even so, the revenues from the tiny portion of ads Craigslist charges for are so considerable that Microsoft and Google and eBay have all come up with competitors or have announced plans to do so.

Sort of interesting considering the inflection point as a discovery that something really isn’t a business “after all,” or at least “any more.” What else is on that conveyor belt?

Today’s Times also has a piece on bookstores turning to donations to survive.

Crowdfunding is sweeping through the bookstore business, the latest tactic for survival in a market that is dominated by Amazon, with its rock-bottom prices, and Barnes & Noble, with its dizzying in-store selection. It’s hardly a sustainable business model; but it buys some time, and gives customers a feeling of helping a favorite cause and even preserving a civic treasure.

So you can’t buy WaPo, maybe you can underwrite a shelf at Politics and Prose?

Surely some consultant (perhaps the guy who got canned from NPR?) could work up a service organizing this market, putting millionaires or small fry in touch with their favorite (needy) purveyors of print. Getting your very own printing press sure beats a tote bag, right?

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Printing press for the Boston Globe. Definitely space for an elegant “name plate”–“The operation of this press underwritten by Dandelion and Albrecht Goldenrod of Newton, MA.” Or maybe just skip that step, turn it off, and make it a museum!

Two Ingemisco performances

Title page of Verdi’s Requiem

Lots of opera promo work recently (one of my many freelance gigs), and, of course, digging up YouTube videos of great opera performances hardly counts as work for me.

Two for your delectation–in particular, for my fellow operavore, Andrea.

This is the tenor solo from Verdi’s Requiem, short, but as demanding as many of his arias in range, expression, and the notorious Verdi “climb,” in which the singer has to move up the staff to reach a climatic note (either loud or soft) in a way that requires phenomenal control over breath and dynamics.

The first YouTube clip is Jussi Bjorling. A performance from 1939…and so masterly that it was still the one I grew up listening to 40 years later.

(Sorry for the pedantic German comments. Although insightful, they take an unnecessary swipe at Gigli and his “sobs”).

And from earlier this year, New Jersey tenor, Michael Fabiano.

This 29-year-old knows what he is doing–and certainly refutes the idea that there is nobody with the instrument or the style around for this kind of music. If he is coming to your neighborhood (he’ll be in DC in September) go hear him sing!

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