September. Sometimes September arrives and sits its thirty days, sits and swelters and sweats the last of summer’s heat and humidity. They may be a few cooler days, but we can count on September’s being hot and humid. Thomas Wolfe, writing about Asheville in the high country in 1935 in Of Time and the River, doesn’t count the summer over until October. The last day of August and the first four days of September have been hot, humid, oppressive. There was a dramatic thunderstorm Sunday night (September 2) with both jagged and heat lightning, rumbling close and distant thunder, heavy rain, and wind. I was reading a mystery novel, which described Hurricane Fran hitting eastern NorthCarolina when I was listening to similar sound described in the book going on outside. Good, good. I remember a September afternoon at South Iredell High School, sixth period, in 1973, when I was reading to an eleventh grade English class the ending of “The Fall of the House of Usher,” which was included in the high school anthology. As I read near the ending, when a storm occurred during which noises came from the basement crypt and up the stairs, and the narrator heard noises at the door–the woman having come out of the catatonic state from the tomb– a thunderstorm arose. It was an eerie accompaniment to my reading. One student said a couple of days later, “Yeah, it scared the crap out of us.”
I went out to the front porch to enjoy the storm, but the neighbor’s spotlight across the street and the pole light next door and the city lamp on the corner and now the neighbor-to-the-north’s light on his porch took away most of the light effects. Time to move?
Jazz! A phone ring and an invitation to a jazz concert in Winston-Salem, just past mid-month. A good focus for the month. Jazz with a friend.
More Maron. Storm Track (2000), set at the time of Hurricane Fran. The title refers to the storm, of course, and to a young man’s tracking it as part of a study of hurricanes he is doing in a junior high science class. There is a big storm in his family. He finds out his father is having an affair, and he confronts the woman in the hospital as his mother lies in critical condition. It’s a good scene. And another good book by Maron. And, yes, a source of Southern expressions: (1) “I’m told that Dwight and his sister Nancy Faye take after their dad… (2) “…I wasn’t reared to take a back seat to any body or any thing.” (3) “…butter wouldn’t melt in either mouth these days, both men…” (4) “Built like a brick outhouse.” (5) ‘…neaten up the kitchen” (6) “…the trees and bushes back there are so thick that Sherman’s army could’ve camped for a week without anybody seeing ’em.” (7) “I pounded on the wooden panel, then put my ear close to the door and mashed the doorbell again…” (8) “Something sure smells fit to eat…”
Nonfiction. My nonfiction has been limited to The New Yorker, August 27, 2012. Particularly good are Christian Tetzlaff’s view on playing violin (in Jeremy Eichler’s “String Theorist”) and Oliver Sack’s accounts of his recreational drug use (“Altered States’). Pandora Radio, on my “Quick Mix,” included “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” the morning before I read the article in the afternoon. “The girl with kaleidoscope eyes” fits with images from Sack’s trips. TYN also included a short story by Alice Munro. I’ve read several stories by Munro, and there’s not one I did not like. I taught a book of her short stories to seniors about six years ago, and it was well-received.
Symphony. Symphony No. 31, Mozart. Looking for CDs to cull, I went first to Mozart. I have a recording of the popular Symphony No. 40. I bought the CD to know it before attending of a concert of the Colorado Symphony Orchestra, which programmed it with other things. No. 31, know as “Paris” was included with the recording. “Paris” was written in 1778 in Paris, and according to program notes by Neal Zaslaw, gave Mozart an insight into what kind of music Parisians liked at the time, giving Mozart knowledge about what would sell. I would be in agreement with the Parisians of the time: they liked three movements rather than the usual four, a lot of unison playing, and repetition of thematic materials (if we had a good time once, let’s do it again). Any Mozart piece which is short a movement is good for me! Unison playing does away with the tendency to be fancy in ornamentation, especially in parts. I listened also to Symphony No. 40, and despite the handsome photograph of Christopher Hogwood on the cover (by Christian Steiner), it will go with several other CDs and books to Edward McKay for store credit.
Quaker Worship. Again with the big group in Chapel Hill. Good silence for a long while. Friends and relatives came to mind quickly. Time for silence and emptiness. I noticed that the silence was intense at times. Good, good. One woman spoke about the need for Quakers to be political. Given the history of the church, I was not surprised that the thought arose. Another woman, remember the song “Imagine,” asked what it would be like to live “for the day.” Given Quaker simplicity, appropriate. Then I cringed when a woman stood up and sang “Imagine,” using the words from some kind of high tech device she held in her hand. Quakers are not known for singing, and this were a typical Quaker, I’m glad they’re not. The last comment was from a man, who wondered how life would be “living without greed.” He mentioned that 20% of the popular has 70% of the wealth in the U.S., that 40% have about 0.7% of the wealth. He mentioned that at Forum that morning someone commented that the wealthy wanted the whole hog and to throw others the chittlin and then begrudge them for having the chittlings. TIme for more silence, please.
Piano. I’m beginning to learn three selections from Edward MacDowell’s Woodland Sketches, written between 1896 and 1902: the popular “To a Wild Rose;” my favorite, “At an Old Trysting Place:” and the evocative “In Autumn.” None of the pieces are difficult, but each has its challenges. The common challenge in all three for me is trying to understand what MacDowell wants through his directions. At the beginning of “To a Wild Rose,” he writes, “With simple tenderness.” What is simple tenderness? Is there complex tenderness? How do I play tenderly? If his dynamics and phrasing don’t get the effect (and I’m sure they will), I have no idea what to do. And for “At an Old Trysting Place,” he writes “Somewhat quaintly; not too sentimentally.” What? I don’t even know how to play quaintly, musch less somewhat so. If I can figure out how to play sentimentally, I can’t be too much so, yes. And for “In Autumn,” he writes, “Buoyantly, almost exuberantly.” I don’t want to think of how I might play bouyantly (if the piano were bobbing about in a boat on a pond?) And almost exuberantly? What is that? Once again, I hope exuberance will happen with the phrasing and dynamics. And I’ll have to be careful to make some kind of restraing for the exuberance. “A pox on” your adjectives and adverbs! AAGH! The pieces are beautiful, small gems that I’m enjoying. I contrast them with the more complex pieces in “Forest Scenes” by Robert Schumann (1848). In 1975 I learned all nine of the “Forest Scenes,” memorized each. Not it may take the same amount of time to memorize the three MacDowell pieces as it did to memorize the Schumann. That’s all right. I have the time, and I’m glad for that.
Yard Work. Recent rain, and the grass calls to be mowed. I’d like to wait until it dries out and the heat becomes less oppressive (91-degrees at 7:40 pm on 8-31). When I finish mowing for the seaon I will treat Max (the mower) to a good blade sharpening and engine service. He’s a good mower.
Thank you for reading. I hope your week will be good.