Saturday, September 09, 2006

End of the first week of the academic year at MIT! It's always hectic, always filled with meetings (at least they have very good food), always involved with long days--and always fun to be back with the students.

What hasn't been fun is trying to teach, hold meetings, even trying to maintain a conversation with the noise coming through our south wall as they finish demolition of the adjoining building. With everything gone but the parts that actually cling to our wall, this was the time that I was told was for "hand work." Well hand work turns out to mean "work done by hands holding jack hammers. "

There are two cherry pickers working different areas of the wall, each with two construction workers in the basket blasting away at the brickwork, and particularly at the poured, reinforced concrete columns that were molded right to our wall when the wrecked building was constructed. A couple of times I was sure they were coming right through the wall, and they obviously thought so, too. Regularly during the day the foreman (a big, strapping slab of a man—quite a sight to see, actually) and an assistant would come in to make sure they hadn't broken through. It looks like we're going to have the better part of a week more of this because the big pillars are tough going. The jack hammers are set on the slowest speed because of the delicacy of the operation and the pillars--all seven of them--are big and quite solid.

Today's a mixed bag. I'll be working around the house and property all morning. On my way up to Fritz's, I'll be making two stops. One is at MIT to finish up word processing and printing my continuity narration for the concert tomorrow (I currently don't have a working printer at home). The other is to a Body Electric reunion in Wakefield which is just off the highway between Boston and Fritz's place. The two Body Electric weekends each year that we host at the Center frequently make long-term friends among the guys who participate. One of them from one has invited everyone involved, including Fritz and me, to a pool party this afternoon.

My beloved is teaching all day for the Lesley University Masters Degree program but I'm planning on interrupting my trip for a couple of hours, especially since there are hints in the correspondence with this guy that his property has enough privacy to allow skinny dipping. The weather is supposed to be perfect and on the warm side. I haven't actually been swimming yet this summer. On the Cape in July the water was so cold that you only got in as far as it took to completely numb your calves and feet before retreating. And this has been the second year in a row that I didn't make it down to Martha's Vineyard to the nude beach at Aquinnah. I'm overdue for a little naked splashing around.

The concert's tomorrow. A local soprano who's nothing if not daring has planned a recital to be given at St. Paul's Church in Brookline, reputed to have superb acoustics. She's planned five serious challenges: Leonore's big first act aria from Beethoven's "Fidelio," Isolde's Narrative and Curse and the Liebestod from Wagner's "Tristan und Isolde," the opening monolog from Richard Strauss's "Elektra," and she's finishing with Brunnhilde's Immolation Scene from Wagner's "Gotterdammerung." I can't help wondering if she's invited people from New York for this in the hope of making the leap from Boston.

Each of the selections is a real voice cruncher by itself. In the operas in which they appear, there's some space around each where the character doesn't sing in order to soften the strain. Well, that's where I come in--she requested the concert organizer, the Wagner Society of Boston, to give her a good five minutes between selections, perhaps with some continuity commentary somehow linking the selections thematically. Above and beyond mentioning all evening that the program's a real ball-buster, that is. The Society asked if I'd be interested. Always one to rise to a challenge, I’ve written a series of short essays, each of which begins with a comment from either a music critic or a performer at the time of the work's premiere; to bring a little humor into the proceedings, most of these comments are decidedly negative opinions of works now recognized as established masterpieces. My very favorite is from the Viennese music Edward Hanslick about Wagner's "Tristan":

"The prelude to Wagner's TRISTAN UND ISOLDE reminds me of the Italian painting of the martyr whose intestines are slowly being unwound from his body on a reel."

Oh, how I’d LOVE to have written something like that!

break a leg on the concert! would love to see a copy of your commentary as you are such a wonderful writer!

hope you got some swimming in... it was a nice warm day here in the Hudson Valley.
Mark Twain once said
"Wagner's music is better than it sounds". I wish I knew what it means but it always gives me a chuckle.
Thank you for stopping by my blog and giving some comfort for the cat.
Your commentary for the concert sounds very entertaining - a fun idea! Hope both that you get some peace and quiet at work soon and that you were able to do some naked swimming this weekend!
I've never been skinny dipping! I can't think of a more incredible place than Martha's Vinyard however.

all summer and no swim??? how can that be???

i was lucky enough to make it down to mv three times this summer--though the first time was memorial day weekend and i had an awful stiff neck and the water was freezing. but the other two times were glorious. last year i swam there in november, so i'm hoping on getting down at least once more in september or october if it's warm enough. maybe i'll run into you!
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