Thursday, April 17, 2008

He came, he inspected, he said “no”. The building inspector didn’t issue our Certificate of Occupancy on Monday for a variety of relatively small, fairly minor problems. I’m told this is a fairly routine situation; by the end of the day, two of the issues had even been cleared up over the phone.

The rejection of a flush pump on the water softening system (needed to rid our water of high levels of iron and manganese) was made irrelevant when the building inspector told the assistant who’d made the judgment that the inspection wasn’t interested in water softeners. The fireman on the team had to recall his rejection of a fire exit on the second when he learned that the building inspector had pre-approved it with the general contractor during construction.

Beyond that, a roof vent was found to be too close to the cupola, a standard electrical outlet in the mechanical room needs to be exchanged for one that has its own safety circuit breaker—that sort of thing. None of it’s serious; none of it will take a long time to correct. I don’t know when the inspector will come back but we should get the certificate on the second try.

Meanwhile, here is the first of the piers in the great room sheathed in natural New Hampshire stone:


Here are a couple of views from this year’s Japanese Penis Festival. It’s wonderful that there’s a culture on this earth that doesn’t demonize the penis but celebrates it right out there in public.


Although known for shedding clothing on stage at the drop of a conductor’s baton, barihunk Nathan Gunn also performs fully clothed when giving recitals. The art of the solo recital with piano or small ensemble is considered endangered. Listening to a largely still soloist standing next to an immobile piano played by a constantly seated pianist is apparently not enough stimulation for a modern audience. Never mind that the music may be extremely dynamic and that the imagination is being engaged by text and voice (oh, that’s right—kids’ toys do everything by themselves these days. We’re raising a society that doesn’t have imaginations).

So just as orchestras are using video, dancers, semi-staged concert performance of opera and other music, recitals are striving to become more kinetic. Here’s the New York Times review of Nathan Gunn’s approach to the art of recital as a motion and visual experience.

Exploring Solitude, With Help From Others
Published: April 17, 2008

It is not often a baritone and a pianist share billing for a song recital with a dancer and choreographer, a video designer and lighting designers. But on Tuesday night at Zankel Hall the excellent American baritone Nathan Gunn, admired for the honesty and physicality of his portrayals on the opera stage, tried to enhance the dramatic allure and philosophical richness of the song recital format by adding elements of dance, video and lighting.

With his wife, the accomplished pianist Julie Gunn, Mr. Gunn presented a compact 60-minute program with songs by Samuel Barber and Frank Ferko that explored the monastic life and the heightened awareness that can come through contemplation and solitude. Between songs Ms. Gunn gave sensitive performances of three solo piano pieces from Messiaen’s “Vingt Regards sur l’Enfant-Jésus,” music that juxtaposes stillness, mysticism and frenzied ecstasy.

If the experiment was not a revelation, the performance was involving, courageous and touching. The combination of elements worked best when things were kept simple. The program opened with Ms. Gunn playing the first piece from the Messiaen work, “Regard du Père” (“Watch of the Father”), pensive music built from subdued, steady and mystical chords.

As Ms. Gunn played, phrases from the poem settings that were about to be sung — words by Thomas Merton, the Trappist monk and theologian, who died in 1968 — were scrolled slowly along the rear wall of the stage in video projections: “Be still,” “Listen,” “The insupportable knowledge of nothing” and more (the work of Laura Chiaramonte, a video designer and choreographer).

Mr. Gunn, wearing a loose-fitting black suit, maintained a steadfast watch, gazing upward, lost in thought, full of wonder yet a little wary. Then Sonia Warfel, a dancer and choreographer in black tights and top, circled him, enticing him to join her in a dance of simple arm gestures and strolling steps.

Mr. Gunn then performed the first vocal work, “Five Songs on Poems of Thomas Merton” by Mr. Ferko, written for him in 2004. He began aptly with a song, “In Silence,” that evoked Messiaen’s cluster chords. There were humorous episodes in the music and the staging, as in “Reduced to This,” Merton’s exasperated depiction of writer’s block, which Mr. Ferko conveys through fidgety music and sputtering riffs.

The concert concluded with Barber’s affecting “Hermit Songs” (1952-53), settings of 10 poems by medieval Irish monks, written mostly in the margins of holy books they were copying. Mr. Gunn was in his element here, especially in the whimsical works. “I do not know with whom Edan will sleep,” one cagey, sly short song begins, before Mr. Gunn sang the concluding phrase with an insinuating turn: “But I do know that fair Edan will not sleep alone.”

In the plaintive final song, “The Desire for Hermitage,” he conveyed the longing for monastic solitude, in a little cell, far away from the houses of the great. Solitude is not something he has much of in real life: the Gunns are the parents of five young children.

SO close.....after all of this time and waiting waiting waiting. And I remember you guys thought that you may actually have been in before the end of last year. The stone looks absolutely fantastic. Can hardly wait to see the finished product!
So when you say "he came," you mean "he showed up." Clearly you simply weren't creative enough with your bribery. Otherwise, it would have been, "He came, he came, we had a drink, and he gave us a certificate of occupancy." Maybe next time.
imagine the US trying to hold a penis festival!
and I don't count International LEather in Chicago on Memorial Day.
I'm glad you're nearing completion. You must be getting so excited to see a light at the end of the tunnel! Perhaps you should hold your own penis festival to celebrate! ;)
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