Winter. Saturday morning there was no sunrise. There was only a bruised pink smudge in the east. It quickly was clouded over. There was a thin surface of ice everywhere. It was bitter cold. Three days later it was shirt sleeve weather. Spring-like temperatures and mild breezes.
Nonfiction. Bill Bryson, At Home: A Short History of Private Life. It is not as named. It’s a long history (532 pages) of miscellaneous things, related somehow to a room in a house. I am about to start reading the chapter entitled “The Bedroom,” and the Lord knows what I’ll read about. For instance, in the chapter entitled “The Study,” there is writing about mousetraps, mice, rats, microscopic creatures in carpet, bed mites, bedbugs, germs, bats, locusts. Why? Because Bryson caught a mouse in the study of the parsonage in which he was living in England. There is one paragraph in the twenty-page chapter about the uses of a study. I wanted to know its history over the centures. The book annoys me, and I’ll be glad to be finished with it. And I’m disappointed because I have in the past enjoyed Bryson’s work, especially A Walk in the Woods and The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid. I see in the list of works that Bryson has written A Short History of Nearly Everything, a book I will not read.
Listening. For several years I’ve enjoyed listening to jazz after Christmas. I listened to “Peggy Lee Sings the Standards.” A favorite, which jazz pianists like to take for requests, “The Folks Who Live on the Hill” is there. I particularly liked the sexy “Old Devil Moon,” which she pairs with the torch song, “Oh You Crazy Moon,” which should be better known.
The pairing led me to Dawn Upshaw’s “White Moon: Songs to Morpheus.” A number of years ago, a friend who listened to the album with me said, “It’s lullabies for adults.” Yes. The music on the album spans centuries. There are wonderful pieces by Peter Warlock, Handel, Monteverdi, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Joseph Schwantner, John Dowland, Heitor Villa-Lobos, George Crumb, and Henry Purcell.
Ingram Marshall in the program notes: “Enchantment is always Crumb’s aim, and here he works his magic with a small and strange band: banjo, electric cello, an array of percussion, and flute.” It’s a fine piece, written in response to the U.S. moon landing in 1969. The fifteen-minute, four-movement piece, lyrics by Lorca, deserves listening as a separate unit. My favorite is Handel’s “Gentle Morpheus.” If Baroque melisma is performed more competently and lovingly, I want to hear it.
Art. One of the highlights of the week was to visit the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University to view the collection, “Collecting Matisse.” If I visit an exhibition and find one painting or sculpture I love, I consider the visit a success. In this collection I found four: three landscapes and one still life. Being with friends, having lunch at the Refectory in the Divinity School, and taking a walk through Duke Chapel made the spring-like day excellent.
Thank you for reading. I hope you are enjoying winter!