| hi my friends, |
I am writing to let you know that I am finally heading back to NYC after nearly a year away, first paddling/biking down the Mississippi River and then working at a really fine series of artist colonies (Montalvo, the Hermitage, and Ucross.) I'll be starting out tomorrow from northeastern Wyoming, thinking perhaps to head up through Canada a bit and down to Vermont, where I will drop off the kayak and the bike and the car, and then hop onto the Ethan Allen Express down to Penn Station on Saturday. Woo hoo!
One of the pleasures of coming home is that in the first days after getting home, there are gonna be a couple of premieres of my work: definitely an excellent way to get settled in!
On 8 June at Merkin Hall, Mary Rowell is going to premiere a brand new piece I wrote for her, called I'm Worried Now, But I Won't Be Worried Long. (The title comes from a song by Charley Patton.) We'll also be doing my James Tate setting, It Happens Like This, in a new arrangement, and the whole festival looks really wonderful, check it out here:
And on 12 June at the Invisible Dog, the happening guitar quartet, Dither, is doing the first ever live version of The Garden of Cyrus, an electronic piece from 1985. I'm really excited to hear what they do with it live, for sure!
So if you're in New York, I hope I'll be able to see you at one or both of these shows, and if not then, soon!!!
PO Box 1677
Old Chelsea Station
New York, NY 10011
new project: http://evbvd.com/riverblog/
Friday, 28 May 2010
Wednesday, 19 May 2010
Tuesday, 18 May 2010
Monday, 17 May 2010
Whence have you, daughters of Acheloüs, feathers and the feet of birds, since you have the faces of maidens? Is it because, when Proserpine was gathering the flowers of spring, you were mingled in the number of her companions? After you had sought her in vain throughout the whole world, immediately, that the waters might be sensible of your concern, you wished to be able, on the support of your wings, to hover over the waves, and you found the Gods propitious, and saw your limbs grow yellow with feathers suddenly formed. But lest the sweetness of your voice, formed for charming the ear, and so great endowments of speech, should lose the gift of a tongue, your virgin countenance and your human voice still remained.
(Argonautica ll. 885-921) Now when dawn the light-bringer was touching the edge of heaven, then at the coming of the swift west wind they went to their thwarts from the land; and gladly did they draw up the anchors from the deep and made the tackling ready in due order; and above spread the sail, stretching it taut with the sheets from the yard-arm. And a fresh breeze wafted the ship on. And soon they saw a fair island, Anthemoessa, where the clear-voiced Sirens, daughters of Achelous, used to beguile with their sweet songs whoever cast anchor there, and then destroy him. Them lovely Terpsichore, one of the Muses, bare, united with Achelous; and once they tended Demeter's noble daughter still unwed, and sang to her in chorus; and at that time they were fashioned in part like birds and in part like maidens to behold. And ever on the watch from their place of prospect with its fair haven, often from many had they taken away their sweet return, consuming them with wasting desire; and suddenly to the heroes, too, they sent forth from their lips a lily-like voice. And they were already about to cast from the ship the hawsers to the shore, had not Thracian Orpheus, son of Oeagrus, stringing in his hands his Bistonian lyre, rung forth the hasty snatch of a rippling melody so that their ears might be filled with the sound of his twanging; and the lyre overcame the maidens' voice. And the west wind and the sounding wave rushing astern bore the ship on; and the Sirens kept uttering their ceaseless song. But even so the goodly son of Teleon alone of the comrades leapt before them all from the polished bench into the sea, even Butes, his soul melted by the clear ringing voice of the Sirens; and he swam through the dark surge to mount the beach, poor wretch. Quickly would they have robbed him of his return then and there, but the goddess that rules Eryx, Cypris, in pity snatched him away, while yet in the eddies, and graciously meeting him saved him to dwell on the Lilybean height. And the heroes, seized by anguish, left the Sirens, but other perils still worse, destructive to ships, awaited them in the meeting-place of the seas.
(from http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/830)And Orpheus' song convinced Persephone to allow Orpheus to take Euridice out of the underworld. It wasn't a failure of song, but a failure of trust that caused Orpheus to fail to bring Euridice back to life.
GHOST TOWNS RELATE TO OTHER SETTLEMENTS
Reading about Derwent and Ashopton, it struck me that - to understand the history of the communities - you also have to think about the histories of urban centres like Sheffield, Nottingham, Leicester, and Derby. The villages of the Derwent Valley were sacrificed to these rapidly expanding cities and the two histories are plotted into each other inextricably.
And this led me back to Minnesota because, when I think about Mallard, I often find myself thinking about Bemidji too. The beginnings of the two towns were not so different, I think, but Bemidji thrived and Mallard died - it is as if Mallard were Bemidji's ailing twin. And, with reference to voices, this reminds me of the reading I did at the Historical Society library in Bemidji, particularly Harold Hagg's book, The Mississippi Headwaters Region: Scenes from the Past (published in 1986). Hagg writes very interestingly about the role of local newspapers in the history of these communities:
Editors were more than newsmen. They were town boosters and prophets of progress. They touted their towns' prospects in the most flowery language they could command. [...] The newspapers kept Headwaters readers informed about the small doings of their neigbors and other local happenings. The syndicated pages provided recreational reading and developed new interests when books and magazines were not readily at hand. The advertisements served the business interests. The newspaper was the voice of the town, an organ of promotion and publicity and a force for developing a sense of community. (Page 100.)This appeals to me because it brings out the sense of competition among towns and the way in which communities vied for recognition and the economic benefits that, for example, the coming of the railway could bring.
And, in Turkey, Kayaköy/Λεβισσι presumably had a relationship with the Turkish settlements that surrounded it and one wonders what the nature of that relationship was.
My point is really just this: because there is something so compelling about ghost towns, it is easy to focus on them as special places, distinct from everything around them. But - actually - their 'ghostliness' is a function of their position in a network of power. They are the weak points - the regions of low pressure - in an overall pattern of forces.
Sunday, 16 May 2010
Saturday, 15 May 2010
There is something quite strange about this parallel, I think. To compare the abandonment of the village to an act of war is quite a provocative thing to do, given that the building of the dam was supposed to be a work of progress. Perhaps I'm over-interpreting...
The last service held in Derwent Church was on 17th March 1943, and was attended by the Bishop of Derby and members of the Water Board. In his final address to the congregation the Bishop said, 'We build churches with the idea that they will endure for ever, but we know in our heart that our buildings will not endure, for we have seen so much destruction during the war that we no longer have the illusion of permanence of the work of human hands.'
Friday, 14 May 2010
I think this evokes the context well: the growth of the industrial cities creating a demand for water, the relocation of a whole rural population (including the dead from the churchyard), the untouched grouse moors (shooting being the sport of the upper classes), and the arrival of the navvies - the stigmatised population of itinerant workers who built this country's industrial infrastructure.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, the largest impact on the Upper Derwent landscape was about to begin and it [...] would be finished within fifty years. By the time it was complete someone born into the family occuping Bridge-End Farm in 1900 was living in a new terrace house just north of Bamford. By then their farmhouse was demolished, fields and carefully maintained dry-stone walls were lost, Derwent Hall was a pile of rubble and the dead who had been buried in Derwent churchyard since the 1870s were settling into the graveyard at Bamford. The heart of the community had moved en masse.
The reason for this was the need for water in the growing cities and towns of South Yorkshire and the East Midlands. Three Acts of Parliament were passed between 1899 and 1904 enabling Sheffield, Derby, Nottingham and Leicester to improve their water supplies by flooding the valleys. Town planners in northern England looked to the valleys of the Pennines and other uplands as potential reservoirs. This flooding of the valleys necessitated the removal of much of the existing dispersed farming population and associated patterns of land-use while leaving the grouse moors relativly undisturbed. For a temporary period, a new society was implanted into the area comprising the navvy dam builders themselves who were housed in the purpose-built village of Birchinlee, also known as Tin Town. By the time the reservoirs were finished the valley landscape was transformed under large bodies of water which covered farms, fields, Derwent Village and Ashopton. For anyone living in the valleys at this time, the impact must have been incredible. (page 142)
Thursday, 13 May 2010
I'm interested in this image of the 'song of Christ', especially the moment where Clement says 'Behold the might of the new song!'
The bringer of [...] spiritual liberation and health must, in the early Christian age, have appeared to possess either divine grace or magical powers. The perplexity of a devout Christian is seen in the writings of Clement of Alexandria, on other Greek myths and cultic heroes as well as the Orpheus story. In his Stromata (Miscellanies) of about 200 AD Clement speaks of 'Orpheus the theologian' as one who (like Plato) 'prepared the way' for the Gospel. Such Greek teachers were at this time declared by Clement to be prophets in direct line of descent from Moses. The status of Orpheus is not the equivalence with Christ which we find many centuries later in the Morte Christi celebrata, but that of 'prefiguration', as a divinely sent forerunner who was to show the nature of the Christ to come. This position was not easily maintained, as Clement's (apparently) later Protrepticon (Exhortation to the Greeks) makes clear. This work was a reply to the attack on Christianity by the Platonist Celsus, also of Alexandria, in which he declared Orpheus more worthy of worship than Jesus Christ. The vehemence of Clement's reply is itself a witness to the continuing potency of the Orphean figura:
"A Thracian, cunning master of his art (he also is the subject of a Hellenic legend) tamed the wild beasts by the mere might of song, and transplanted trees - oaks - by music ... How, let me ask, have you believed vain fables, and supposed animals to be charmed by music, while Truth's shining face alone is looked on with credulous eyes? ... To me that Thracian Orpheus seems to have been a deceiver ... enticing men to idols ... But not such is the song of Christ, which has come to loose the bitter bond of tyrannising demons. It alone has tamed men, the most intractable of animals; the frivolous among them answer to the fowls of the air, deceivers to reptiles, the irascible to lions, the voluptuous to swine, the rapacious to wolves. The silly are stocks and stones ... Behold the might of the new song! It has made men out of stones, men out of beasts. Those that were as dead, not being partakers of the new life, have come to the true life, simply by becoming listeners to this song."
Wednesday, 12 May 2010
Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Friday, 7 May 2010
I suppose this complexity shouldn't be surprising because, in Christianity, Christ is both human and God, both the same as and different from us. What is more, the interaction of Christian and pre-Christian material draws out a kind of exilic dimension in both bodies of narrative. And, as I've said before, there are voices everywhere - the voices of the Sirens, the songs of Orpheus, bodies of narrative moving back and forth across languages and interpretive traditions, narratological layers in both the classical and the Christian texts, a layering of voices that might perhaps be thought of as an archive.
Thursday, 6 May 2010
While this is quite an intriguing object, I've come across suggestions on the web that it is a fake and, at the moment, have no way of knowing whether that's true or not. So... not necessarily authentic but kind of interesting even if it isn't. What would like behind the faking of an artifact like this?
And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.There is a reference to this passage in John 3, 13-14, where the serpent on the pole is identified with Christ on the cross. It is the sequence where Jesus speaks with Nicodemus, the Pharisee:
And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:So the hymn that I quoted alludes to two exilic experiences, one Jewish - the wandering of the Israelites in the wilderness - and one Greek - Eurydice's exile in the underworld. This makes me think of Levinas and Derrida, but let's not go there this morning :o)
That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
Christ crucified is "the true Orpheus" who brought home his bride, mankind, out of the depths of dark Hades; he is Orpheus Bacchicus and is so described on a well-known early Christian representation of the cross upon an iron cylinder.I haven't yet seen anything to suggest that the voyage of the Argonauts was understood in terms of exile and I can't honestly see any reason why it would have been. But, on the other hand, Eurydice's time in the underworld is clearly a kind of exile and is used in this hymn to figure the unredeemed state of humankind. And that, of course, is reminiscent of the material in which Persephone/Proserpina is exiled to the underworld, a story in which, as Despina pointed out, the Sirens are involved. (I'll try to find a good version of that story and post it so that it shows up when we follow the relevant keywords.) So maybe some reasons to think of Odysseus and Orpheus as a pair...
[Note: Cf. Dictionnaire d'archéologie chrétienne, XII, Paris, 1936, col. 2735-55, where also see illustration of the Orpheus cross, Fig. 9249; A. Boulanger, Orphée, Rapports de l'orphisme et du christianisme, Paris, 1925, p. 7.]
The Middle Ages still had an intimation of this and a hymn on the mystery of the cross runs as follows:
Brazen serpent on a pole—
Serpent once did make men whole,
Cured the poisoned sting.
Orpheus of the latter day
Dauntlessly his bride away
Out of Hell did bring.
[Note: Anonymous author (twelfth century) of the Easter sequence, Morte Christi Celebrata. Text in A. Mai, Nova Patrum Bibliotheca, I, 2, Rome, 1852, p. 208.]