30 July 2014

Highclere or bust

Driving home from Rochester along Route 15 almost to East Avon, probably under the influence of Downton Abbey, I noticed this drive leading to a break in the trees and presumably leading to a French château or English country house:
Or not. It was just a McMansion:

25 July 2014

but with more precision, dear sir, do not go too fast

Sunday, 2 March [1919]
Dine with Princess Soutzo at the Ritz -- a swell affair ... Marcel Proust and Abel Bonnard ... there as well. Proust is white, unshaven, grubby, slip-faced. He puts his fur coat on afterwards and sits hunched there in white kid gloves. Two cups of black coffee he has, with chunks of sugar. yet in his talk there is no affectation. He asks no questions. Will I please tell him how the committees work? I say: 'Well, we generally meet at 10.0, there are secretaries behind ...' 'Mais non, mais non, you are going too fast. Start anew. You take a car to the delegation. You get out at the Quai d'Orsay. You walk up the steps. You enter the Great Hall. And then? With more precision, dear sir, more precision.' So I tell him everything. The sham cordiality of it all: the handshakes: the maps: the rustle of paper: the tea in the next room: the macaroons. He listens enthralled, interrupting from time to time. 'But with more precision, dear sir, do not go too fast.'

This is part of Harold Nicolson's diary from the negotiations at Versailles at the end of World War I, quoted in In Europe: travels through the twentieth century by Geert Mak (page 127). Nicolson's recounting of his diplomatic experience is heartbreaking, especially in light of the futility of war. He continues with talk of the inevitability of more conflict because of the terms forced upon the Germans.

As horrible as the thoughts are of the futility of the war and negotiations, I cannot help but be thrilled by the precision that Proust wants, the same care that goes into descriptions in In search of lost time.

11 July 2014


Don't want to get boring but the MostArts Festival just gets more wonderful every day. Today's lunchtime concert included the Poulenc Sextet for Piano and Wind Quintet (opus 100, for 100% fine!). New music to me, excitingly played. Tomorrow, as well as the evening gala concert, there's a Roman glass demonstration at the studio of Angus Powers, up the hill, just past the farm. And raku demonstration too.

If you happened to land on this post first, the previous post here was an introduction to the MostArts Festival happening this week in Alfred.

10 July 2014


This week has been the inaugural MostArts Festival: summer music & art. There have been evening concerts and noontime hour-long "Sound Bites" all week. I don't think I realized how much I'd been missing hearing live music. Today's noontime "Sound Bite" included Piano Trio Number 2 by Dimitri Shostakovich. I have a recording of piano trios 1 and 2 by the Oslo Trio and it's one of my favorite CDs but I don't think I've ever heard Number 2 live. I was thrilled.

As the trio (piano, violin, cello) progressed, I noticed that a student with whom I've had a number of interesting conversations got up and left. I ran into him as I walked home and he said he was viscerally disturbed by the music and had to leave. Each to his own, and I just responded that the visceral reaction showed he was alive.

The noontime chamber concerts have been my favorite part of the festival, with a few works each day by a variety of composers. The musicians are from around North America and vary quite a bit in age. There's a clarinetist -- Camila Barrientos Ossio -- that I love. She plays beautifully and it is interesting to watch her move to the music. She was part of an ensemble that played the Mozart Clarinet Quintet in yesterday's Sound Bite.

Also as I was walking home, one of the pianists that is judging the young pianist competition (Anthony Pattin) was remarking to a local couple that he's been pleased with the festival so far and that chamber music festivals of this quality are not common. He predicted that they'd be lining up next year. I sure hope that Lisa Lantz, the responsible music professor at Alfred University, can pull it off again.

02 July 2014

left and right, peace and justice

When we were kids, my grandmother was married to a great man, her second husband after my birth grandfather had died the same year my dad was born. Ahva J.C. Bond was the dean of the Seventh-Day Baptist School of Theology at Alfred University. He had six daughters with his first wife and they and their families just seemed way too wonderful for words. My sisters, brother, and I always felt we were a little normal for such a fine clan. Though I've never met some of those step-cousins and haven't seen many of them in recent years, I still hold them collectively in high esteem and some are Facebook friends. The Facebook feed of one of them just indicated that he'd commented on a Conservative Tribune post that was captioned:

A powerful congressman just came out and said that ALL Americans need to unite against Obama, no matter what party. This needs to be spread everywhere, because he's absolutely right. It's about defending liberty from Obama. Period.

And another that was captioned:

BREAKING: This is fantastic... American citizens are rising up against Obama, turning back buses filled with the illegals he's deliberately shipping all over the country. Good. We the People will NOT be silent while Obama destroys our border and our sovereignty. We support these patriots 100%. Do you support citizens defending the border?

Me, I just don't get it. I'd open the borders. I have no problem with Executive Orders on matters that the Congress won't even talk about in a reasonable, legislative way. And this morning, I watched President Obama's video of his meeting with LGBT folks for Gay Pride Month. He was smart, personable. I still cannot quite believe that we have a smart president who is a man of color.

Perhaps the screed from the Conservative Tribune turns my stomach and makes me weep like the stuff from Impeach Bush Now or Hillary in 2016 does for folks who follow and agree with the Conservative Tribune material. I don't always agree with President Obama but I'm fundamentally proud of him as our president.