Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Working Vacation

From top to bottom:
Roy Harris, Symphony No. 3 (1937)
Aaron Copland, Symphony No. 3 (1946)
Dmitri Shostakovich, Symphony No. 5 (1937)
Leonard Bernstein, Symphony No. 2 (1949/1965 rev.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008


One of the things I love about Auden's The Age of Anxiety is it that ends with a literal anti-climax. The four characters, who have spent the evening drinking together, have retired to the girl's apartment for drinking and dancing. The two older men sense chemistry between Rosetta and the young naval recruit Emble, and leave them alone. After walking them out, Rosetta returns to find Emble passed out on the bed, and muses aloud:
Blind on the bride-bed, the bridegroom snores,
Too aloof to love. Did you lose your nerve
And cloud your conscience because I wasn’t
Your dish really? You danced so bravely
Till I wished I were. Will you remain
Such a pleasant prince? Probably not.
But you’re handsome, aren’t you? Even now
A kingly corpse. I’ll coffin you up till
You rule again. Rest for us both and
Dream, dear one. I’ll be dressed when you wake
To get coffee. You’ll be glad you didn’t
While your headache lasts, and I won’t shine
In the sobering sun. We’re so apart
When our ways have crossed and our words touched
On Babylon’s banks.

One of the interesting things about Auden at this moment in his career is that he was sleeping with a woman named Rhoda Jaffe. This was a rare occurrence for him, of course, and it didn't last long--one sometimes sensed that he enjoyed the affair mostly because he enjoyed shocking his friends with a brief stint of heterosexuality. But she also left an indelible imprint on The Age of Anxiety. The character of Rosetta is pretty clearly based on her, for one. And although Auden was always obsessed with psychological themes (his father was a psychotherapist, and correspondent of Freud's), Jaffe was obsessed with psychiatry, often doing multiple sessions with different doctors in a week. So the theory is that the specifically Jungian framework of The Age of Anxiety--each character represents one of the four differentiated functions of the Jungian psyche--is probably her influence.

* * * *

In other news, I've started work as a receptionist at my wife's veterinary clinic. On my second day on the job I had to put the body of a seventy pound chocolate lab, much beloved by its family, into a garbage bag and put it in the freezer. I've also learned the list of official vocabulary delineated by the corporate overseers who run the chain of clinics. They are not animals, they are "family members." We do not give shots, we give injections. Invoices, not bills. Medication, not drugs. Team leaders, not bosses. I'm a "Client Service Coordinator," not a receptionist. When answering the phone, physically smile so that the client can hear the smile in your voice. And yes, I wear nurse scrubs printed with cartoons cats and dogs, and white sneakers.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Beautiful Music

Certain sectors of the musicological community have recently been discussing...wait for it....Beauty In Music. I will say, the musicological blog world might be small and unkempt. But at least we don't debate Beauty In Music.

On this blog, there shall be no debate about such things. I shall simply proclaim the truth: there is indeed beauty in music, and it sounds like this:

This performance, featuring the "Cold Song" from Purcell's King Arthur, took place six months before he passed away from AIDS in 1983.
What power art thou, who from below
Hast made me rise unwillingly and slow
From beds of everlasting snow
See'st thou not how stiff and wondrous old

Far unfit to bear the bitter cold,
I can scarcely move or draw my breath
Let me, let me freeze again to death.