An anonymous Schoenberg fan writes, re: the title of yesterday's entry,
P Lunaire! w00t! my favorite is the, ah, schaedelbohrer / echten turkschen tabak one, Gemeinheit I think it's called.
Indeed it is. Schoenberg picked twenty-one poems (in German translation) from Albert Giraud's Pierrot Lunaire sequence to set for soprano and a tiny orchestra. The poems use a set scheme of repeated lines, follow the stock vaudeville figures of Pierrot the clown and his nemesis Cassander, and without exception are delightfully demented. "Gemeinheit!" (which I've seen translated as "Vulgar Horseplay!" and "Mean Trick!") is the sixteenth. In English:
In the gleaming skull of Cassander,
as he shrieks and cries blue murder,
bores Pierrot with hypocritic kindness
and a surgeon's borer.
And then presses with his finger
very genuine Turkish tobacco,
in the gleaming skull of Cassander,
as he shrieks and cries blue murder!
Then screwing a cherry pipestem
firmly in the polished surface,
at his ease he puffs away,
puffs on his genuine Turkish tobacco
in the gleaming skull of Cassander!
The music uses Schoenberg's odd vocal technique of Sprechstimme, halfway between singing and speech, and this combines with the overall dissonance and lack of a key center to make it useful when you would like unwanted guests to leave. But after a few listens it starts to make sense, and it is so good.
Tomorrow morning I am leaving for a long weekend in New York with Lauren and others. I doubt I'll be able to post while I'm there; it is not clear that we will even have blankets to sleep on. The pretext for the trip is this weekend's Magnetic Fields show at Lincoln Center, but more generally it is an excuse to visit a city I have only visited once before, for a couple of days in the eighth grade, and most of that time I was running a fever so I don't remember it well.
I am going into this not expecting to be impressed, so that if I am impressed it will be a pleasant surprise. Although the city is the namesake of the only newspaper and the only magazine I regularly read, I still fail to understand the mystique of New York, or of urban life in general. I certainly can't imagine wanting to live there, unless you work in some specialized industry that requires it. My urban experience is limited to San Francisco, where I lived only briefly, but that was enough to convince me that cities are wrong. It is wrong to be driving on a road with five hundred other human beings, and to see those five hundred people as nothing but obstacles, and to have those five hundred people see you as nothing but an obstacleand in my experience, this is what happens. It poisons your psyche. Everything is expensive and some of the people you pass on the street will judge your hipness based on your pants and other people you pass on the street will want to murder you. And I didn't even have a job or anythingI was sleeping on our bass player's couchso imagine how it would have felt if I had been working.
So far as I can tell, the advantages of cities are 1) proximity to large and important Cultural Institutions, 2) proximity to large and important stores, and 3) one's general sense of "I am urban, I am hip, hear me roar." 1) is made problematic by the fact that one must work like a tool in order to afford urban life, and that even if one can make time to visit a Cultural Institution, all kinds of logistical problems (traffic, parking) interfere, unless one is much wealthier than I or any of my friends. 2) is becoming irrelevant now that the web has made it possible to live in Apache Junction, Arizona, and buy the entire set of Schubert lieder, or whatever. An argument could be made for restaurants, but again, logistics and money. 3) I suspect to be a largely specious media-created fiction. I guess there are people who really do live to go clubbing on the weekends and pay too much for drinks and wear sparkly shirts and jump up and down on the dance floor, thinking "God damn I'm great, I'm in a club!" next to a hundred other people in sparkly shirts who are jumping up and down and completely ignoring you because they're too busy thinking "God damn I'm great," etc. I don't see the appeal, but I swear to God I've become a 35-year-old trapped in a 23-year-old's body, so you may want to ignore me. My prejudices are showing. If you can handle cities, you're more resilient than I, and more power to you. A large part of me would just like to buy a trailer in the desert and be Edward Abbey for an indefinite period. I don't know what to say.
We had talked about visiting ground zero on this trip, but apparently you have to get tickets. They're free and everything, and it makes sense as a way to regulate traffic, but it's still a little too weird to handle.