More Sally Thomason, and Anne Cutler too

A follow-up to yesterday’s posting “The lost penguin art”, about Sally Thomason’s delightful creature-doodle art, with an excursus on Sally herself:

Sally is not just a good friend of very long standing, and an exceptionally talented creator of these creature doodles, but she is also an enormously distinguished colleague. I will now embarrass her by quoting excerpts from her Wikipedia page

… I stand in awe, while noting that she is one of the world’s nicest people, and very funny, but with a quite direct and penetrating manner that crushes foolishness and fuzziness.

As predicted, all this did indeed embarrass Sally, but I pressed my reasons for praising her this way, reasons that took me back to my appreciation of Anne Cutler, another “one of the world’s nicest people, and very funny, but with a quite direct and penetrating manner that crushes foolishness and fuzziness” (an appreciation that somehow never made it into a posting on this blog).

The program from here on: my (e-mail) exchange with Sally on embarrassment; an interlude on the  American folk song “Give Me The Roses (While I Live)”, directly related to the Sacred Harp song Odem (Second); and then a bit of affectionate appreciation of Anne Cutler (who died, suddenly, last year).

Sally’s embarrassment. Sally wrote:

You’re right, Arnold, I’m embarrassed!  You are kind to say those nice things, though.

I replied:

Some time ago I had occasion to say a pile of similar very nice things about Anne Cutler, but it was with great sorrow on the occasion of her sudden death. I vowed then to praise the praiseworthy wherever possible, while they still lived (there’s a fine Sacred Harp song about doing just that). I was not being kind, though; that was just the facts, ma’am.

Before I pass on to the Sacred Harp (and — surprise! — the Carter Family), a photo of Sally, in one of her natural settings:

(#1) Sally out of doors; Sally and Rich (with their dog Yaskay) enjoy summers in Montana, engaging with the fabulous settings while working on their research and writing

Give me the roses while I live. From The Sacred Harp, 1991 Denson revision: SH340 Odem (Second), with the chorus:

Give me the roses while I live,
Something to cheer me on;
Useless the flowers you may give,
After the soul is gone.

The text is attributed to James Rowe, 1915; the tune setting is by T. J. Denson, 1935. The Give me the roses while I live line might be from earlier folksong; but in fact the text has entered American folksong / country music through the Carter Family, and they seem to have gotten it from the shapenote songs in the Sacred Harp.

Consider the track “Give Me The Roses (While I Live)” from Meeting in the Air – Songs of the Carter Family (Flying Fish records,1980), by Jim Watson, Mike Craver, and Tommy Thompson. Where the chorus is almost as in SH —

Give me the roses while I live
Trying to cheer me on
Useless are flowers that you give
After the soul has gone

while verse 1 is a variant of SH’s verse 1, but the remaining 3 verses diverge from SH’s sole other verse.

On the Carter Family (from Wikipedia) — note boldfaced bit:

Carter Family was a traditional American folk music group that recorded between 1927 and 1956. Their music had a profound impact on bluegrass, country, Southern Gospel, pop and rock music as well as on the U.S. folk revival of the 1960s.

They were the first vocal group to become country music stars, and were among the first groups to record commercially produced country music.

… The original group consisted of Sara Carter, her husband A.P. Carter, and her sister-in-law Maybelle Carter. … All three were born and raised in southwest Virginia, where they were immersed in the tight harmonies of mountain gospel music and shape note singing.

Throughout the group’s career, Sara Carter sang lead vocals and played rhythm guitar or autoharp, and Maybelle sang harmony and played lead guitar. On some songs A.P. did not perform at all; on some songs he sang harmony and background vocals and occasionally he sang lead. Maybelle’s distinctive guitar-playing style became a hallmark of the group

Anne Cutler. From my 4/9/23 posting “Ed Koren”, a death notice for the great cartoonist:

He has died in the fullness of time, but nevertheless we experience his death as a great loss; he was one of those rare people I feel should have been granted a special dispensation to live forever (as I have written of psycholinguist Anne Cutler — a good friend of mine for 50 years — and chamber musician Geoff Nuttall — an acquaintance from his years in the St. Lawrence String Quartet in residence at Stanford; Koren I never met, but knew only through his work and through the deep regard of his colleagues).

A wonderful photo of Anne:

(#2) A smiling Anne in 2015

From her Wikipedia entry:

Elizabeth Anne Cutler FRS FBA FASSA (17 January 1945 – 7 June 2022) was an Australian psycholinguist, who served as director emeritus of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics. A pioneer in her field, Cutler’s work focused on human listeners’ recognition and decoding of spoken language. Following her retirement from the Max Planck Institute in 2012, she took a professorship at the MARCS Institute for Brain, Behaviour and Development, Western Sydney University

… Her research, summarised in the book Native Listening, centres on human listeners’ recognition of spoken language, and in particular on how the brain’s processes of decoding speech are shaped by language-specific listening experience.

Absolutely brilliant stuff. She was also an able academic administrator and a mentor to a great many psycholinguists. (And, unlike many of her Australian colleagues who left for the US or the UK, she did minimal trimming to her Australian accent.) Throughout all of this she was forever playful. Well, blunt too, but enormously funny.

We became friends when she had a postdoctoral research fellowship at the University of Sussex (in Christopher Longuet-Higgins’s lab), and I was in the lab on a Fulbright grant. More than 50 years ago.


One Response to “More Sally Thomason, and Anne Cutler too”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics.

    This took me aback, as I don’t generally associate the name Max Planck with linguistics, psycho- or otherwise, but a little googling led me to the Max Planck Society, which made the name of the institute somewhat less surprising.

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