Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Shouting songs

May 19, 2022

Continuing a series of recent postings on the music of joy, now specifically joyous praise to God, and even more specifically “shouting songs” from the Sacred Harp tunebook.

This is loud, passionate praise, rooted in the evangelical camp meetings of early 19th-century America (and England and Scotland before that), capable of seizing your body and sliding you towards ecstatic engagement with the message and the music. Somewhat tamed by being captured on the pages of a hymnbook rather than being created live in the fervor of a camp meeting, but still standing out as something special in the Sacred Harp.

(more…)

Turkish earworms of joy

May 4, 2022

More joyous music encountered in the middle of the night, via my Apple Music (formerly iTunes), this time very familiar and beloved music, which has given me a pair of intractable earworms for two days now:

Mozart, Abduction from the Seraglio (Die Entführung aus dem Serail), Act 3 Vaudeville “Nie werd’ ich deine Huld verkennen” — an ensemble song of joyful thanks — and then the joyous triumphal finale of the opera / Singspiel, the Turkish Chorus

I have loved this music since the early 1960s, when I encountered the opera in a Mozart and Haydn course at Princeton (a course I have been pretty much continuously grateful for these past 60 years — even more, since I had to fight the mathematics department to be allowed to take the damn course). But these two short numbers, wonderful though they are, are fiercely sticky. Alas, writing about my mental-music affliction for you is only making it worse.

(more…)

Garden Prince

February 27, 2022

A Vicki Sawyer greeting card (on Sawyer’s animal art, see my 2/5/22 posting “The groundhog and the scallion”) from Ann Burlingham, Troublemaker (that’s what it says on her business card) — written on the 20th, postmarked in Pittsburgh on the 22nd, arrived in Palo Alto on the 26th — with a reproduction of Sawyer’s composition “Garden Prince”:


(#1) The Garden Prince wears a crown of carrots and a royal neckchain of peapods, which together serve both as symbols of his authority and as indicators of his tastes in food (also note the conventional simile like peas and carrots ‘getting along well together, being compatible’)

In #1, Ann “saw something akin to a Renaissance portrait. Crossed with Watership Down?” YES!

(more…)

Name that tune

August 16, 2020

I awoke unusually early today, I think because of what was playng on my iTunes: a set of keyboard variations, some wonderfully showy, that I recognized as familiar, but couldn’t immediately place. It sounded like Beethoven during his early “classical” period (influenced by Haydn and Mozart), through roughy 1802, but it wasn’t any Beethoven I recognized. So: probably Haydn. (Haydn produced the most astonishing amount of music, much of it remarkable, during his lifetime, so it would be easy to lose track of some of it; I mean, compare Haydn’s 102 symphonies with Beethoven’s 9). (It could easily have been Clementi instead, but I know the Clementi catalogue pretty well, having once had a sort of musical love affair with it, roughy 60 years ago.)

And so it turned out to be. My iTunes identified the piece as Haydn’s Arietta No. 2 mit 12 Variationen (in A major), as performed by Christine Schornsheim. Well, that turned out to be a remarkable tangle of music history. Haydn, yes (well, at least mostly), as performed by Schornsheim, unquestionably, but all the rest of it is full of puzzles.

(more…)

With spear, shield, robe, and wreath

May 6, 2020

… Helvetia stands guard over the Matterhorn, and by extension, all of her Swiss domain, in this excellent poster (source still untraced):


(#1) Not only the Matterhorn in the background, but also the shields of the 22 cantons of the time when the poster was published (I point to the Zwicky-Canton, Glarus, with its figure of Fridolin, the patron saint of the canton)

(more…)

Revisiting 36: Lafayette on tour

November 10, 2019

The earlier go-round: my 9/7/19 posting “Big sexy prime birthday gay ice cream”, with a section on the Marquis de Lafayette (among other things, a French hero of the American Revolution), because I share a birthday with him.

And now (note from Joelle Stepien Bailard) the Lafayette Trail organization. Its logo:

(#1)

With, as linguistic added value, the quite rare, but relatively learnèd-transparent N/Adj co-natalist ‘(someone) sharing a birthday with’. God is not my co-pilot, but Lafayette is my co-natalist.

(more…)

OUTiL: a historical note

October 23, 2019

For LGBT History Month, some notes on a little piece of that history in linguistics, in the loose network of academic acquaintanceship that formed at the Linguistic Institute at UC Santa Cruz in the summer of 1991: OUT in Linguistics, OUTiL, OUTIL (the abbreviation pronounced /áwtǝl/, through some wags joked about its being French outil /uti/ ‘tool’, with the expected sexual slang use). A notice went out on the Institute mailing list for an informal social gathering of the new group, with a characterization that then varied, from occasion to occasion, in its list of invitees; a version from several years later:

The group is open to lesbian, gay, bisexual, dyke, queer, homosexual, trans, etc. linguists and their friends. The only requirement is that you be willing to be out to everyone on the list as lgbt(-friendly); it’s sort of like wearing a pink triangle.

This was at a Linguistic Institute, so no one was fussy about who counted as a linguist; if you wanted to hang out with rest of us for the summer, you were welcome. Just so with OUTiL; if you wanted to hang out with the rest of us for an hour or two, you were welcome. OUTiL, however, was primarily social, and that was an excellent thing, especially at the time.

(more…)

Big sexy prime birthday gay ice cream

September 7, 2019

(References to gay male life, men’s bodies, and mansex, so not suitable for kids or the sexually modest.)

Yesterday was my birthday, my 79th, 79 being, as I noted in a 8/29 posting for the day, a sexy prime. 8/29 is also, every year, National Coffee Ice Cream Day, and coffee is my favorite ice cream flavor. Put all this together and you get this birthday present, delivered by Kim Darnell yesterday:


(#1) Coffee ice cream, plus a selection of Big Gay Ice Cream flavors for Big Gay Arnold

This will take us to the pornstars of the end of summer, to Greenwich Village, and to South Park, with a final side trip to visit with the Marquis de Lafayette.

(more…)

More dream linguistics

September 2, 2019

Every so often I have a spectacularly vivid dream in which the solution to some linguistic puzzle that’s been deviling me explodes in my mind. All I have to do is save it, in my mental cloud storage, until I can enter it into my computer. The idea is not only good and true, it is also very beautiful. Unfortunately, when I shake myself fully awake, I see that it is in fact crackpot crap.

So it was yesteday morning, after a sleep primed by a moving performance of Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times, Come Around No More” on my iTunes. The conviction that yes, that was it, that song was the answer to everything, persisted through three hazy toilet breaks, until I actually woke up and faced the hard truth that I didn’t even know what the question was. But, having had Anonymous 4 and Bruce Molsky take me to 1865 and into the world of the song, I was deeply sorrowful: hard times would surely come around again, and my linguistics was helpless against that bleak future.

I ended up spending the morning with Foster’s “Hard Times”, specifically mourning the tragedy of American chattel slavery, disasters of the 1850s, the Civil War, the Great Depression, and the poverty of Appalachia and the Ozarks, but then dissolving into free-floating anxiety over everything from the Babylonian captivity to the madness of our king (and there’s an awful lot to weep over in between).

All this driven by the music.

(more…)

Melon eaters of 1937

August 13, 2019

In the NYT on the 11th (in print on the 12th), the entire editorial page given over to an opinion piece by Brent Staples, “The Radical Blackness of Ebony Magazine: The publication was revolutionary for its depiction of middle-class African-American life”, in the middle of which comes an astonishing observation:

As a close student of Life [magazine], [Ebony founder John H.] Johnson would no doubt have seen the dehumanizing images of African-Americans that appeared in the infamous 1937 issue of the magazine whose cover caption read “Watermelons to Market.” The cover photograph showed an unnamed black man — shirtless and well muscled — sitting with his back to the camera atop a wagonload of melons [on a dirt road alongside a cotton field]. The inside photos offered what Ms. Greer describes as a hierarchy of watermelon eaters, with white bathing beauties at the top and pigs at the bottom; in between was an image of a black woman holding a slice of melon to her face with one hand and nursing a baby with the other. The equating of blackness with sub-humanity is unmistakable in the photographs. The photo caption drives home the point:

“Nothing makes a Negro’s mouth water like a luscious, fresh-picked melon,” it reads. “Any colored ‘mammy’ can hold a huge slice in one hand while holding her offspring in the other. … What melons the Negroes do not consume will find favor with the pigs.”

You will say that things have changed, and to some extent that’s true: these days you wouldn’t find such flat-out unthinking racism in a publication aimed at a large audience primarily of the middle class. But the attitudes and images lie just below the surface today, to bubble up in barely coded form for mass audiences (as well as in undiluted form on flagrantly white-nationalist sites).

(more…)