Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I just pledged 10 000 words on InaDWriMo. Of course, I'm not at dissertation writing point yet, but that conference paper I just finished needs to be turned into a publishable piece, and I have a few other bits of writing to pull together by December. I wonder whether I'll be able to stick to it?

P.S. I was asleep about an hour ago, but the Halloween partying is in full swing on the street below, and so I won't be getting much more sleep for a while, at least. There are some disadvantages to living in the village. Not enough to make me want to move, but they're there, nonetheless.

Back from SEM

Another SEM is over, and I'm back in New York, and back in the middle of things. Despite the travel hassles, things were really pretty great. NYU made a very good showing, with lots of really effective papers from students and faculty, and a party that, in the tradition of NYU music department parties at SEM, got shut down. And I was especially happy to get to spend some time with Brett, who is doing wonderful things. T has a great post on the conference, and in particular, what we ate, that is really worth reading, and Gabriel Solis over at People Listen to it, has a post on the keynote lecture which generated some interesting discussion.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

SEM so far

I rushed through my morning yesterday in order to make my flight out of JFK in comfortable time. I needn't have bothered. The flight was canceled, and we were re-routed to LaGuardia. Frantic that we would get caught up in traffic on the rather expensive shuttle ride between the airports, we dashed downstairs to the baggage claim, and waited. And Waited. AND WAITED. Finally, two of us went upstairs to the luggage claim desk to investigate further, only to be told that our bags had been put on a plane that evening to Columbus. Why we were not on that plane with our bags, we could not understand. And why that flight was able to leave, and ours was canceled due to "bad weather", we could not understand. And why we had been told to collect our bags downstairs, when they had been automatically re-routed, we could not understand.
So we rushed outside and on to a shuttle. And waited. And finally offered to pay the driver more to leave with all six of us plus one non-NYU student, and one empty seat, rather than wait for an eighth passenger, so that we would make our new flight.
So off to LaGuardia we rushed, and got through customs just in time to hear that our flight had been delayed. Not a complete tragedy. It was about dinner time, and we were all pretty hungry. Several of us in the group are vegitarians, and several people have food allergies, and so our choices were rather limited. But we ate and talked, and waited together. Finally it got to the time when we should be making our way over to the terminal. We did that little thing just in time to discover that our flight had been canceled! We were booked on a new one in the morning that basically guaranteed that we would miss the first few papers we had all wanted to attend. But at that point, what choice did we have?
Brett, who had begun his journey on Monday evening (he was traveling from South Africa) was about ready to pass out, and so rather than drive all the way out to Manhattan and then back in the early hours of the next morning, we crashed at Allen's place in Brooklyn. Many thanks, Allen and Nicki. Your fold-out couch was very comfortable!
Part the next: On Thursday morning, we all woke up bright and early to get to LaGuardia. This time we actually got onto the plane before the waiting happened. But at long last, we got into the air, and on to Columbus. The airport taxis were unable to carry all six of us at once, so we went in two taxis. And three of us landed up at the wrong Hyatt. Who would have thought Columbus had two Hyatts?
But we finally got there, and got registered, and are now (relatively) comfortably settled at the conference hotel. The hotel, thankfully, did not charge us for the first night that we missed, but they did give away our double room, and so three women and one (tall) man are sleeping in one king-size bed and one cot. Last night the arrangement was less than successful. Tonight, we will have to try something different. Most of the NYU department gave their papers yesterday (and there were some very good ones among them), but Jenny, Brett and Allen all speak today, and I have my paper tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

This I had to blog

I just received an email from one of my students informing me that I missed the point of his recent paper when I was marking it, and requesting a meeting so that he can set me straight! Um, sorry buddy, but if you didn't make the point in the paper, there is a good chance I would have not gotten it. Of course, if you had made an appointment and met with me before the paper was due, as I suggested you should, you may not have been in this situation in the first place....

Columbus, here I come.

I am headed for Columbus, Ohio, tomorrow, for SEM. I can't believe Hawaii was nearly a year ago! I'm excited, and a little nervous, but mostly just looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues again. I always enjoy conferences, even without the beaches and warm weather. My paper is on Saturday morning, fairly early, but hopefully there will be a few die-hard attendees who aren't completely wiped out by then, and who will have some useful feedback. I don't know what internet access I'll have, but as we are in the conference hotel, I'm sure there will be something, so I'll blog as I have the opportunity.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Happy days

I had yet another amazing weekend. Is one person really allowed so much happiness? Saturday was full of particular high points, as NYChoirgirl and I hiked from Walhalla (!) to Pleasantville (!!) via an incredibly beautiful reservoir. The leaves have turned just enough that everything looked beautifully autumnal, and yet the weather was comfortably warm, with only the slightest hint of rain that never quite caught up with us. It was the perfect way to spend a beautiful day. And the day ended on a particularly high note with South Africa winning the Rugby World Cup!!!! Well done Bokke. You make us proud.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Lucky Dube was shot and killed by hijackers yesterday

This is such a tragedy. South Africa has lost yet another music legend. Thank you, dad, for passing the article on.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mostly Mozart at the Lincoln Center

Last night, NYChoirgirl took me to the Lincoln Center to hear the London Symphony Orchestra under Sir Colin Davis perform Mozart's Requiem. It was a completely wonderful evening from beginning to end, and not just because of the music. But the music is what I'm going to write about here.
The program began with Mozart's piano concerto no. 27, with Imogen Cooper as the soloist. The orchestra was sparkling, and made up for some rather disappointing shortcomings on the part of the soloist. Mozart hardly requires the muscular strength of a Beethoven or Rachmaninoff, but I found myself wishing she would put a little more muscle behind the potentially really dramatic music, particularly during the final movement. In general, her take on the whole work was surprisingly romantic, slow and rubato, and while I think that this concerto in particular is often rushed, and lacking the emotional depth the music suggests to me, this rendition became a little tiresome. Her lack of clarity in her left hand also tended to mask her more virtuosic right hand articulation, and the lack of movement in the whole work drew attention to this imbalance.
The second half, however, more than made up for the shortcomings of the first. We had come mainly to hear the Requiem, which NYChoirgirl sang recently, and I hope to sing one day.
It was absolutely spectacular. The choir, which was pretty substantial, sounded like it consisted of twice the voices it did, and yet not one ounce of clarity was lost. The sound was clean, full, and periodically amazingly, expressively, soft yet penetrating. I was overwhelmed. The balance between choir and orchestra was amazing, and the conductor was a treat to watch.
Can you tell I had a good time?
It is still periodically amazing to me to find myself in this city, surrounded by so much .... so much of everything. And so wonderfully happy.

UPDATE: The New York Times review of Wednesday's performance is much more thorough than mine. Thank you, NYChoirgirl, for forwarding this to me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Singing politics

The Mail and Guardian reported on the ANC Youth League's comments on Mosiuoa Lekota's suggestion that the singing of struggle songs outside parliment and court is a bad idea. While I have a huge problem with the vindictive and immature way that the ANCYL comments were made, I must admit to agreeing with their stance. People have a right to be heard, and singing is a wonderful way of getting a message out, as I keep telling my students. There is something very visceral and positive about expressing political will through singing. I may disagree fundamentally with the message of the song in question "uMshini Wami", and with the cause that it is in support of, but sensorship is not an option in a democracy, and especially not in South Africa, where singing has played such a critical role in our long-term social and political engagement. Singing politics is what South Africa is known for!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Former classmates going places

My former classmate, Dillon Davie, has had a review published on ZA@Play, an online source linked to the Mail and Guardian. Well done Dillon! His writing is really good, and the performance he is reviewing sounds really special. I hope it comes to New York eventually.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fall, and the bokke

Fall is finally here. The temperature has dropped into the chilly range, and while it isn't quite winter coat time, it was time for me to put a duvet on the bed, and get my warm jerseys out. I really love this time of year, partly because the trees are so breathtakingly beautiful (or will become so, now that the weather has cooled), and partly just because it feels good. It isn't so cold as to be umpleasant yet, but it is distinctly different from a balmy South African fall, and I am still enjoying the novelty.

Oh, and just because I'm excited about this..... GO BOKKE! South Africa is playing England in the Rugby World Cup Final next Sunday.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

A long day

If I wasn't teaching, I never would have realized how much time students who leave seeking necessary information about assignments to the last minute take up. I have spent a huge amound of time today meeting with students and answering emails relating to the assignments that are due tomorrow. I really do love meeting with students, and so in general this is a pleasure, but the occasional meetings that consist almost entirely of the student telling me why they have absolutely no interest in the course topic, and don't want to write the essay, get a little tiring. I am so ready for bed right now.
When the first email in my inbox in the morning is a thank you note from one of the students I helped out yesterday, that makes it all better. And the fact that she has an interesting project is even better.