CSO Sessions Episode Fifteen: Montgomery & Beethoven

The two pieces featured in CSO Sessions Episode Fifteen are, emotionally and technically, quite different, but they pair together well, frothy effervescence with intricate, emotional excitement. Composer and violinist Jessie Montgomery introduces Strum, written for string quintet—originally for two violins (here Yuan-Qing Yu and Simon Michal, half of the Michal brothers who performed the Chevalier de Saint-Georges for us), one viola (Weijing Wang), and two … Continue reading CSO Sessions Episode Fifteen: Montgomery & Beethoven

Cowboys of California: A Cowboy to Remember

I have never been fond of Stetson-wearing, harness-toting, cowboy covers. I’m not a country girl. I don’t do the boondocks, I do cities. (Dark allies, ritzy penthouses, neighborhood bungalows, walk-ups and elevator buildings and anonymous crowds of people—those are my spaces.) I also don’t do amnesia, because it just isn’t my trope. Give me long-simmering tensions and grudges spanning generations and memories like steel traps. … Continue reading Cowboys of California: A Cowboy to Remember

Sight Lines

though parallel lines touch in the infinite, the infinite is here— line from “Sight Lines” by Arthur Sze Arthur Sze’s Sight Lines is a difficult, layered book, haunting and beautiful and demanding, a text that requires more than one reading. I could not make it through even “Water Calligraphy,” the first time I tried. This time, reading in this second pandemic spring, I read Sight … Continue reading Sight Lines

CSO Sessions Episode Fourteen: Florence Price & Beethoven

CSO Sessions Episode Fourteen is an episode of warmth, of tenderness and beauty, loving and friendly and sometimes slyly funny music performed beautifully into the wilds of unknown homes by musicians longing to be in packed halls once more. Cellist Katinka Kleijn and violist Sunghee Choi open Episode Fourteen with their rendition of Ludwig van Beethoven’s charming Duet with Two Obligato Eyeglasses for Viola and … Continue reading CSO Sessions Episode Fourteen: Florence Price & Beethoven

Walter Isaacson on Jennifer Doudna and The Code Breakers at the Chicago Humanities Festival

Walter Isaacson and Steve Edwards discussed Isaacson’s newest biography The Code Breakers, its charismatic hero, biochemist Jennifer Doudna, the CRISPR technology she and research partner Emmanuelle Charpentier pioneered (and won the Nobel for!), and the possibilities and ethical considerations of gene editing in a conversation for the Chicago Humanities Festival. I covered it for Third Coast Review. It’s got a lot in common with the … Continue reading Walter Isaacson on Jennifer Doudna and The Code Breakers at the Chicago Humanities Festival

i really hate daylight saving time

Daylight Saving Time doesn’t really bring more daylight. The days are no longer. Time is, after all, artificial, a river without banks, a thing transfixed, a societal construction. What is real is the passage of the Earth around the sun, and that is what determines how much sun we have at any given season and at any particular part of the United States. Daylight Saving … Continue reading i really hate daylight saving time

CSO Sessions Episode Thirteen: Coleridge-Taylor & Bach

CSO Sessions Episode Thirteen, like Episode Twelve before it, brings with it two pieces, wildly different and yet, at the same time, both almost defiantly alive. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Clarinet Quintet in F-sharp Minor, Op. 10 starts the program off strong. Clarinet Stephen Williamson, in his introduction, tells us he himself wasn’t familiar with the piece: he’s delighted to bring it to us, and clearly enthusiastic … Continue reading CSO Sessions Episode Thirteen: Coleridge-Taylor & Bach

Wolves, Gods, and Betrayal: Barbarians on Netflix

Sometimes Netflix recommends things that are “soapy and sentimental” to me, and I have no idea why they’d do so. Other times they recommend shows that are violent and gritty and filled with historical battle scenes, and I binge them. The German Netflix show Barbarians, in other words, might as well have been created for me: it’s dark and gritty and violent and filled with … Continue reading Wolves, Gods, and Betrayal: Barbarians on Netflix

Bill Gates on Climate Change at the Chicago Humanities Festival

I covered Bill Gates’ discussion with Dax Shepard and Monica Padman at the Chicago Humanities Festival for Third Coast Review. It’s a bit out of my wheelhouse—I don’t usually write about wealthy philanthropists talking about climate change—but it was an interesting presentation, and, believe it or not, quite enjoyable as well. Gates is a pretty optimistic guy, which is always interesting for someone like me—I’m … Continue reading Bill Gates on Climate Change at the Chicago Humanities Festival

CSO Sessions Episode Twelve: Mozart & Brahmas

Episode Twelve is a little different than the bulk of the prior eleven CSO Sessions episodes: it’s got only two pieces, rather than an assortment, and both are warhorses of the classical music repertoire. Mozart’s Serenade for Winds in C Minor, K. 388 starts our program off, played exquisitely by eight members of the CSO’s justly-famed wind and brass sections: William Welter and Lora Schaefer … Continue reading CSO Sessions Episode Twelve: Mozart & Brahmas

a good vaccine rollout doesn’t require tech skills

There’s a lot of talk, of late, about vaccine rollouts, and whether or not the U.S. is doing a good job. Some folks think it’s an unmitigated disaster; others point out that rolling out a large-scale vaccine campaign isn’t easy (although they always manage to forget that, in Ye Olden Days, we somehow managed large-scale vaccine campaigns and did it faster than we’re doing it … Continue reading a good vaccine rollout doesn’t require tech skills

Friday Night at the 61st Annual U of C (Virtual) Folk Fest

One of the last things I did last year, back when we could still do things, was attend the 60th annual University of Chicago Folk Festival. It was fantastic, the musicians were incredible, and then COVID came along less than a month later, and everything went to shit. The Folk Festival has been a pretty big part of my life for more or less all … Continue reading Friday Night at the 61st Annual U of C (Virtual) Folk Fest

CSO Sessions Episode Eleven: Gounod, Mozart, & Ravel

CSO Sessions Episode Eleven was, for me, interrupted by poor internet and was marked by cold seeping up through the floor, but its delicacy and vibrancy shone bright anyway. Charles Gounod’s Petit Symphonie for Wind Instruments begins the program. It is, as flutist Emma Gerstein tells us, scored for nine players: two oboes, two bassoons, two clarinets, two horns, and one flute. It was performed, … Continue reading CSO Sessions Episode Eleven: Gounod, Mozart, & Ravel

why I really hate those we don’t deserve librarians memes

In the same week as the SLJ cover that centered whiteness1 during Black History Month, a meme—or, rather, a screenshot of a tweet—has been going the rounds again, positing that “we don’t deserve librarians.” The tweeter meant well, and the people sharing the meme mean well, and the thing being shared is, at its heart, pretty funny. But oh my God, people, let me tell … Continue reading why I really hate those we don’t deserve librarians memes

Reluctant Royals: A Princess in Theory

It’s an interesting time to read a romance novel about a grad student in public health who investigates a potential plague of unknown origins while coping with governmental slashing of science budgets, which means that I maybe cried a little more than usual while reading the first book in Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series, A Princess in Theory. Cole does an incredible job of playing … Continue reading Reluctant Royals: A Princess in Theory

Symphony Center Presents: Jorge Federico Osorio

There is, I think, a touch of grief in performing to a virtual audience, no matter how joyous the musicians may be to perform. Certainly Chicago’s own Jorge Federico Osorio felt that grief, as he discusses putting together a program that emphasizes hope for tomorrow—and an audience full of people—in this time of plague. Osorio starts the program with the Spanish Golden Age in the … Continue reading Symphony Center Presents: Jorge Federico Osorio

so about the Founding Fathers

So it’s Martin Luther King Day 2021, and our despot in chief—I refuse to call a guy who incites insurrection a president, sorry—and our fascist crew released a paean to white supremacy otherwise known as the 1776 Commission report. It is my fervent hope that this document will go to the depths of hell where it belongs when Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are inaugurated … Continue reading so about the Founding Fathers

on re-reading Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series

I first stumbled across Elizabeth Hoyt’s romances back in grad school. I’m pretty sure I started with The Ice Princess, as I was locked in the cage match of a library school job hunt; I moved from there to the rest of the books in the Princes series, and then on to Maiden Lane. I have those fogged grad school memories of lying awake in … Continue reading on re-reading Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series

CSO Sessions Episode Ten: Home for the Holidays

Today, in a break from my ongoing discussions of that ongoing coup attempt here in my country, I bring you not-quite-a-review of CSO Sessions Episode Ten: Home for the Holidays! Because why do holiday music until they’re all over with, am I right? The program starts with Arcangelo Corelli’s Christmas Concerto, so named because, as Robert Chen notes, there’s an inscription on the manuscript saying … Continue reading CSO Sessions Episode Ten: Home for the Holidays

yes, Virginia, history does change

I don’t know what the hell to write, what to say, and so, for this moment, I’m going to write a little about collection development, and reading history, and the importance of understanding—or trying to understand—what came before. We mythologize the hell out of the past, you see. We lie to ourselves, about our families’ pasts, about what made us who we are, about what … Continue reading yes, Virginia, history does change

nor riot nor protest nor demonstration but treason

There is a danger to false-naming, to false information, to coddling, to bothersiderism. I think we knew that already, long before armed terrorists incited by sedition committed insurrection and treason in my country’s capitol yesterday, and attempted (and failed) at the same in state capitols across our land. But we’re still seeing it in newspapers, aren’t we? And hearing it on the news? They are … Continue reading nor riot nor protest nor demonstration but treason

CSO Sessions Episode Nine: A Little Night Music with Dvořák, Mazzoli, & Mozart

I listened to CSO Sessions Episode Nine with a kitten alternately jumping and combing my hair with little kitten claws, which may perhaps have something to do with its striking vitality. Our program starts with Antonín Dvořák’s vibrant Serenade for Winds in D Minor, Op. 44, introduced by principal horn David Cooper. He tells his listeners that this is one of his favorite pieces, and, … Continue reading CSO Sessions Episode Nine: A Little Night Music with Dvořák, Mazzoli, & Mozart

hey so Gatsby isn’t exactly celebratory

January 1 is Public Domain Day, and this year we got rather a windfall of books published in 1925, including F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Now, I really love The Great Gatsby. (Actually, I’ve loved nearly everything Fitzgerald wrote—he was an alcoholic asshole, but he sure could write.) I love The Great Gatsby, and I have very strong opinions about The Great Gatsby—and so, … Continue reading hey so Gatsby isn’t exactly celebratory

2020: Taking Stock of a Year of Plague

How does one even take stock of a year like this? Is it in deaths? My neighbor, who was a loving grandfather to the neighborhood, and one of our first losses to COVID? My sweet Siamese, my mother’s baby, claimed too soon by cancer? The hundred or so of my mother’s colleagues who lost their lives to COVID? The coworkers of mine whose lives were … Continue reading 2020: Taking Stock of a Year of Plague

CSO Sessions Episode Eight: Tower, Walker, Milhaud, & Tchaikovsky

CSO Sessions Episode Eight, available through tomorrow, starts with a triumphal blast and moves into a series of pieces both tender and vivacious, a lovely way to end this troubled year. My only complaint about Joan Towers’ tiny but monumental Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman is that it’s awfully short: I’d have liked more, please. In her introduction, percussionist Patricia Dash tells us it’s a … Continue reading CSO Sessions Episode Eight: Tower, Walker, Milhaud, & Tchaikovsky

CSO Sessions Episode Seven: Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale

The titular soldier of Igor Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale (aka L’Histoire du Soldat), performed for us by James Earl Jones II as the narrator, the Devil, the soldier, and other assorted characters and by seven remarkable musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under the precise baton of Erina Yashima, is, in the immortal words of that Shrek song, not the sharpest tool in the shed, … Continue reading CSO Sessions Episode Seven: Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale

CSO Sessions Episode Six: Prestini, Perkinson, & Mendelssohn

This weekend has been awful, here. Unremittingly awful, dripping with loss. It made CSO Sessions Episode Six even more special, in its way: a reminder of the beauty to be found around us, as it were, an invigorating mix of music old and new. The program starts with Paola Prestini’s G-Force, for Mickey. It’s for string quartet and vibraphone, and, as in Caroline Shaw’s Boris … Continue reading CSO Sessions Episode Six: Prestini, Perkinson, & Mendelssohn