Still reading

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My weekend stack, which includes recent acquisitions.

I’ve finished twelve books since my last post, for a total of 190; my goal of 208 for the year is within reach.

Seven Guitars (August Wilson; 1995. Drama.) ATY
King Hedley II (August Wilson; 1999. Drama.) ATY
Jitney (August Wilson; 1982. Drama.)
Gem of the Ocean (August Wilson; 2003. Drama.)
Joe Turner’s Come and Gone (August Wilson; 1984. Drama.)
The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson (Sandra G. Shannon; 1995. Non-fiction.)
As I mentioned in my last post, Court Theatre’s 2020/21 season includes “Theatre & Thought,” four series of lectures by University of Chicago faculty and other scholars. The first four-week series, “The World of August Wilson and the Black Creative Voice,” concluded this week.

The Bacchae (Euripides; 405 B.C. Trans. Nicholas Rudall; 1996. Drama.)
The second four-week series, “Euripides’ The Bacchae and Contemporary Adaptation,” begins next week.

The Walking Dead: The Alien (Brian K. Vaughan; 2020. Graphic fiction.)
He had a brother?

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents (Isabel Wilkerson; 2020. Non-fiction.)
Review here.
p. 223
This was the thievery of caste, stealing the time and psychic resources of the marginalized, draining energy in an already uphill competition. They were not, like me, frozen and disoriented, trying to make sense of a public violation that seemed all the more menacing now that I could see it in full. The quiet mundanity of that terror has never left me, the scars out living the cut.

We are told over and over again in our society not to judge a book by its cover, not to assume what is inside before we have had a chance to read it. Yet humans size up and make assumptions about other humans based on what they look like many times a day. We prejudge complicated breathing beings in ways that we are told never to judge inanimate objects.

Monogamy (Sue Miller; 2020. Fiction.)
Review here. A satisfying way to pass a Sunday afternoon.

Level 7 (Mordecai Roshwald; 1959. Fiction.)
What an odd time to rediscover this fictional diary of a nameless, button-pushing soldier.

Dear Edward (Ann Napolitano; 2020. Fiction.)
Earlier this summer, a friend asked if I had read this. We don’t necessarily read in the same ways or for the same reasons, but when I reached for a simple book earlier this week, I didn’t put it down. Sad without being (too) sentimental, true without being (too) didactic, it’s also filled with quiet humor. The main character may be a bit precocious, but then again, he was homeschooled.

What I’ve been reading

Current stack.

With more than three months remaining in the year, a goal of 208 books seemed reachable, so I readjusted my Goodreads challenge (for the third time); I’m currently at 178.

The New Wilderness (Diane Cook; 2020. Fiction.)
This caught my eye when it was long-listed for the Booker Prize. (It made the short list.) Review here. I wasn’t “dazzled,” but I was riveted.

The River at Night (Erica Ferencik; 2017. Fiction.)
The Truth about Harry Quebert Affair (Joël Dicker; 2014. Fiction.)
Every once in a while, I peruse the shelves, stop on a book, and think, “Hmmm. How did this get here?” So it was with these two. River, was mildly entertaining; Affair, however, was dreadful.

Sentient (Jeff Lemire; 2019. Graphic fiction.)
We Stand on Guard (Brian K. Vaughan; 2016. Graphic fiction.)
Both are solid stand-alone volumes.

The Piano Lesson (August Wilson; 1987. Drama.)
Fences (August Wilson; 1985. Drama.)
Two Trains Running (August Wilson; 1993. Drama.)
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (August Wilson; 1982. Drama.)
Radio Golf (August Wilson; 2005. Drama.)
Court Theatre’s 2020/21 season includes “Theatre & Thought,” four series of lectures by University of Chicago faculty and other scholars. For the first four-week series, “The World of August Wilson and the Black Creative Voice,” I’m making my way through the entire American Century Cycle.

From Radio Golf, Wilson’s last play:

If it don’t take all the quarters you fix it. Anybody with common sense will agree to that. What they don’t agree on is how to fix it. Some people say you got to tear it down to fix it. Some people say you got to build it up to fix it. Some people say they don’t know how to fix it. Some people say they don’t want to be bothered with fixing it. You mix them all in a pot and stir it up and you got America. That’s what makes this country great.

Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster (Svetlana Alexievich; 2005 (1997). Non-fiction.)
Read as a companion to Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster (2019). Haunting.

p. 107
I’ve felt something like this when someone close to me died. The sun is out, and the birds are flying, and the swallows, it starts raining — but he’s dead. Do you understand? I want to explain this whole other dimension in a few words, explain how it was for me then.

Further flute adventures

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Currently working through the second study in Köhler, Op. 33, Book 1.

The last in-person rehearsal of the band I joined in January was March 5. The director cancelled our March 10 and 12 meetings, and, of course, by the end of the following week, well….

For the seven weeks I participated, though, I thoroughly enjoyed it. Developmentally, it was exactly where I needed to be, and the flute teacher who led the sectionals not only was as credentialed as my private lessons teacher but had also performed with her.

In April and May, the band director gathered us via Zoom once a week. Although the meetings were strictly social in function, many of us did contribute to at least one of those collage performances that became ubiquitous in the early weeks of the shutdown. The quality of both our playing and the videos was dubious, at best, and eventually, participation waned. But, to my delight, flute sectionals continued. Rather than meeting as a group in Zoom, though, the sectionals teacher delivered individual lessons via FaceTime, a process my regular teacher and I had mastered by week two of the shutdown. Throughout the spring, then, tedious Zoom meetings were the small price I paid for excellent and unexpectedly abundant additional private instruction.

In late April, I also worked on a video performance of the first movement of Handel’s Flute Sonata in G major (HWV 363b)), my contribution to the annual recital my teacher hosted in mid-May.

Weekly band meetings continued into the summer, but despite the addition of stretching, warm-ups, and some playing, they remained, for me, simply a pathway to sectionals. In June, I suggested to the other flute players that we work on something as a section, and we eventually landed on the lovely “Sarabande” by Claude Debussy, with the goal that the director would dovetail the videos of our individual performances as he had for the collage performances of the band. The deceptively simple Debussy piece and tone and scale work were the focus of my remaining sectionals.

In my private lessons, we have continued to focus on P. Bona’s rhythmical articulation studies; Robert Cavally’s Melodious and Progressive Studies from Andersen, Gariboldi, Koehler, and Terschak for Flute; my new solo, “Morceau de Concours” by Gabriel Fauré; and a weekly duet. You probably already know that it is impossible to play or sing together in Zoom or FaceTime. Well, each week, my teacher randomly selects a piece from the Rubank collections, notes the metronome setting, and within two days forwards me a recording of her playing the second part. During an in-person lesson, she readily adapts to my tempo issues, reading errors, etc., but a recording is a merciless duet partner, which is an unanticipated  benefit of virtual lessons: I have vastly improved my duet work.

I hope to bring that improvement to my recording of “Sarabande,” which the flute section has rescheduled for the spring semester. In late July, I indicated that I would not return to band until then. Although there have been murmurs about in-person but socially distanced rehearsals later this fall, it seems unlikely: All but two band members are over fifty; more than half are in their sixties and seventies. Much as I have adored the additional private instruction, I am through with Zoom “rehearsals” until January at the earliest.

My current daily practice schedule remains much as it was in early January, then:

— 20 minutes: long tones and scales
— 20 minutes: Melodious and Progressive Studies
— 20 minutes: duet
— 15 to 20 minutes: rhythmical articulation
— 15 to 20 minutes: solo

In July, the music program with which my teacher is affiliated sponsored a series of free, multi-week seminars, and the one she led featured the scales and études high school musicians must prepare to audition for regional and state ensembles. She invited me to attend as either a participant or a viewer, and I chose the latter, which was both wise (those students are terrific and didn’t need this old woman slowing them down) and edifying (the scale work alone has added a new dimension to my practice). They also spent time working through “Dr. Sánchez’s Epic Flute Warm-up.” My teacher had introduced me to this a while back, but in the seminar, she reviewed every bar, and the benefits became more readily apparent to me. Now, once a week, I substitute the warm-up for long tones and scales.

Another change I’ve made to my practice is punctuating each of my first four practice sections with five minutes on a stationary bike — nothing overly exerting, just a bit of movement before carrying on with next bit. I’m not the sort who can abide exercise equipment as home decor, but we scored an incredible deal on a sturdy, folding model that I put away after practicing.

Studying music has ameliorated some of the isolating effects of this pandemic. I remain so thankful to be able to continue.