(I got it from Amy Burton.)

Allow me to recommend to you, and most heartily, this remarkable audio discussion of English history, Welsh poetry, nationalism, tribalism, bilingualism, Verdi, Wagner, and Boulez. It creates an atmosphere in which each subject profits from being aired in the fumes rising from the others. I’d also suggest that you look into the archives of this magnificent program hosted by the highly impressive Andrew Marr.

The distinguished lutenist Joel Cohen, free of literalist ideas, explains why watching a Baroque opera on television can make for a remarkably historically-informed experience.

Debussy and his daughter having a picnic


See what Anne Midgette had to say about it.

The Memory Palace

May 10, 2012

When I was in eighth grade, our civics teacher informed us that we were responsible for memorizing all the departments of the Cabinet of the U.S. President and the names of the then-current holders of each office. We all groaned, at least inwardly, at the news. But then he proceeded to give us a whole series of utterly silly ways of remembering the entire list. My sense of the appropriate revolted at the outrageous images he used. But, to this day, I still remember almost all of that Administration’s secretaries of this or that.

I have been vaguely, but only vaguely, aware of the tradition of the memory palace, whereby what to most moderns appear to be great feats of memory are methodically — and even easily — mastered by use of spacial memory. The celebrated example of the 16th-century Jesuit Matteo Ricci, who used the same method whereby Cicero had memorized his orations to teach the Chinese about Christianity had a certain amount of recent currency because of a popular book published in 1983. But I had never considered pursuing the general methods of memorizing by means of spacial visualization until now.

The reason for my change of mind is this TED Talk, one of the most stimulating of the many I have watched. I highly recommend it.

Their own opening statement tells the remarkable story:

Odradek Records is not just a new record label. Odradek Records is the first wedge of a larger project, proposing a new way to produce and enjoy classical music. We think that the current model undermines the true essence and significance of music. We think that a model centered on just a few big names, the great concert halls, a limited repertoire that is necessarily restricted by the bonds of popularity a model that makes its selection of new young performers from the anti-musical system of competitions, the success of which is often obtained through extravagant histrionics rather than the correctness or subtlety of interpretation and finally, a model that is subject to the exploitation of the marketplace, and which obliges the majority of musicians to pay enormous sums to record CDs, for which the profits then go largely to the record company, thus depriving many very worthy but not wealthy musicians from the possibility of recording is not only a model that is far from art, but is a model that even itself is in crisis. Ideally, music just as other primary goods, should not fall subject to the markets. We know that in a strict sense, this is utopian, but it is precisely this tension towards an unreachable utopia that guides our project.Odradek Records is a non-profit seeking label. Once production and distribution expenses are recuperated, all of our proceeds go directly to the artist.

Odradek Records selects its artists solely through the criterion of utmost quality of the recording and the interest of the proposed program. We don’t want to exclude, but rather include: we are not interested if you have won important competitions or not, neither if you have performed in important halls or signed with major labels. We are not interested in your age or where you come from. The only thing that interests us is whether you play your instrument to a very high and professional level. With us you can record Chopin, but you can also record: Berio, Scelsi, Copland, Carter, Webern, Schönberg, Ligeti, Kurtag, Ives, and many others.

The first four releases flesh out exactly what they mean by all that.

Light Music

May 7, 2012

With the Titanic centenary still resounding, now comes the 75th anniversary of the Hindenburg disaster. Did you know that it was furnished with a piano made of aluminum and pigskin?