Friday, March 31, 2023

Applause at an indictment — and exhaustion

Both "The Late Show with Stephen Colbert" and "The Daily Show" (with guest host John Leguizamo) were recorded early enough yesterday that the hosts could comment on the announcement of the forthcoming indictment of former President Donald Trump in the hush-money case involving porn star Stormy Daniels. When the hosts referred to the indictment, their audiences applauded enthusiastically, with Colbert's audience being shown giving a standing ovation. While I also appreciate that Trump might finally face consequences for one or perhaps soon more of his many criminal actions, the bang of the indictment just makes me whimper with exhaustion from the almost eight years since he announced his candidacy in 2016. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 31 March 2023)

Thursday, March 30, 2023

Moving stories on Facebook, and then Townes Van Zandt’s “Tecumseh Valley"

Earlier this evening, I read a friend's sad and beautiful Facebook post about his memory of a friend he lost about a year ago. He'd just discovered an email he hadn't seen before, written by his friend just before his death. Among the many moving comments on the post, someone shared a similar story. But this time it was an unwatched video that he'd only seen after a friend's death, of the friend singing Townes Van Zandt's "Tecumseh Valley". Along with thse two stories of lost friends, the thought of that beautiful song overwhelmed me: "And her ways were free and it seemed to me / That sunshine walked beside her." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 30 March 2023)

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

My twenty-something students and video stores like the one in Anne Carson’s “Autobiography of Red” (1998)

Regarding the mention of a "video store" in Anne Carson's 1998 verse novel "Autobiography of Red" (which I wrote about two days ago on Monday, 27 March), I asked my students in the Verse Novels seminar this morning who were born in 1998 or later — and that was most of them — whether they'd ever been in a "video store". To my surprise, some of them said they had — but it was back around 2010, when they were still schoolchildren. And to my further surprise, one student mentioned a video store that still exists in Basel, although it is a second-hand video and DVD store where he recently sold some old videos. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 29 March 2023)

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Remembering Lutz Bertram, the blind morning radio host I listened to in Berlin

The other day, I remembered the blind morning radio host I listened to in Berlin in the early 1990s. I couldn't remember his name, but I remembered his story: During the 1970s, he was slowly going blind, and the East German Stasi offered him a visa to have an operation in West Germany that might save his eyesight — but in return, he had to work as an informant. He took the opportunity, and when his work for the Stasi came out in 1995, he lost his morning radio program. A quick search was enough to find his name and the station I listened to again: Lutz Bertram of Ostdeutscher Rundfunk Brandenburg. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 28 March 2023) 

Monday, March 27, 2023

Going to the video store in Anne Carson’s “Autobiography of Red” (1998)

In her 1998 verse novel "Autobiography of Red", Anne Carson sets the ancient Greek myth of Geryon and Herakles in the late twentieth century, as in the opening of the chapter "Memory Burn": "Herakles and Geryon had gone to the video store." From the mythological perspective, the "video store" moves the story forward in time — but from our perspective in 2023, when we have streaming services instead of video stores, the image pushes the story back in time, into a very specific span of time of only two or three decades. Writing the book in the 1990s, Carson surely could not have imagined how imminent the disappearance of video stores was. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 27 March 2023)

Sunday, March 26, 2023

How I learned about American history

For her history class at her Swiss high school, my daughter Sara has a test tomorrow on the American Revolution, so I spent much of the evening going over the details with her. As we discussed the progression from the Declaration of Independence in 1776 to the Constitution in 1789, she wondered whether I remembered all this from high school. While I learned some of the details then, most of them come from two sources: the lecture courses I taught in Saarbrücken in 1994 and 1995 ("A Brief History of Conspiracy in the United States" and "American Revolutions"), and thirty or so years of reading "The New York Review of Books." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 26 March 2023)

Saturday, March 25, 2023

If the states in the United States of America were separate countries

If the states in the United States of America were separate countries, my family would have first moved abroad in 1967, from Michigan to California. By the time I was 27, when I moved to Berlin, Germany, I would also have lived in the countries of Ohio and Pennsylvania. In each of those countries, I would have experienced what I experienced during the year my family lived in England when I was nine, and what I have experienced in Germany and Switzerland: I would have been a foreigner. But in all these states and countries, I have always been able to "pass" as local – as long as I don't say anything. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 25 March 2023)

Friday, March 24, 2023

Epanorthosis in Elizabeth Bishop’s “The Monument”

I was amused — no, I was thrilled — when a student taught me the rhetorical figure of epanorthosis: the correction — no, the emphatic replacement — of a word by another word or phrase that is more precise — as in my uses of the figure in this sentence. The student was discussing the opening of Elizabeth Bishop's "The Monument" (from her 1946 collection "North & South"): "Now can you see the monument?  It is of wood / built somewhat like a box. No. Built / like several boxes in descending sizes / one above the other." In our Bishop course, we had followed Mark Doty in calling this and other constructions "Bishop's characteristic hesitations". (Andrew Shields, #111words, 24 March 2023)

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Birdsong on a spring evening

It's just past six in the evening, the apartment's quiet, the sounds of the city are distant, the sky's lightly overcast, the warm spring afternoon is gradually cooling down, and I hear birds singing. The one nearby is a blackbird, not "in the dead of night" but at this time of day when they usually sing, saying "here I am." Further off, I can dimly make out two or three other distinct birdsongs that I cannot identify. And as I add the sound of typing to the sounds of the evening, I look outside just in time to see two crows fly by, on their way from one place to another. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 23 March 2023) 

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

How I “deeped my ear on the movietone” in a passage from James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” (1939)

While we were looking at our passage from James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" (1939) in our reading group this evening, we came across a parenthetical phrase: "(if you are looking for the bilder deep your ear on the movietone!)" (FW 62.8-9). "Bilder" is the German word for "pictures", and I "deeped my ear" into the recesses of my brain and heard that "Movietone" was the brand of newsreels shown in old movie houses, which we confirmed. It can take reference books, dictionaries, and the minds of several people to "deep your ear on" "Finnegans Wake", but sometimes someone turns out to know something, even, as in this case, to my own surprise. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 22 March 2023)

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

“Primordial” memory in Denise Levertov’s poem “Becca” in “Evening Train” (1992)

I wrote in January about how two of the poems in Denise Levertov's "A Door in the Hive" (1989) make long-lost moments vivid through recollection (of a family story about her grandmother in "Inheritance") and imagination (of a medieval mason in "The Past II"). In Levertov's "Evening Train" (1992), the poem "Becca" does this with a personal memory of herself as a small child running between the clotheslines hung with washing by the family's washerwoman: "Lodged in my head / forever, primordial. Becca. / Known. Unknown." The poem's rendering of this "primordial" memory makes this "unknown" woman "known" to me, reading of her in 2023 (the 100th anniversary of Levertov's birth). (Andrew Shields, #111words, 21 March 2023)


Monday, March 20, 2023

"The context might change my reading”: Quotations from Denise Levertov poems as epigrams

In my daily reading of Denise Levertov's poems (and John Ashbery's before that), I quote a passage from each day's poem. Today's line is from "Letter to a Friend": "It’s against the rules to tell your own fortune." I realize that my practice takes the lines I choose out of context and makes them into epigrams. The context might well change the sense of the epigram — and "Letter to a Friend" is about context: Levertov is replying to a postcard with an image of a woman that her friend identified with: "The image is only / a detail, a fragment of a larger whole. / The context might change my reading." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 20 March 2023) 

Sunday, March 19, 2023

25 Andreas Schärer concerts from August 2012 to March 2023

25 Andreas Schärer concerts: Hildegard Lernt Fliegen (HLF), Willisau, 20120826; HLF, Basel, 20130126; Rom Schärer Eberle (RSE), Baden, 20130316; HLF, Zurich, 20130414; ARTE Quartet and Wolfgang Zwiauer, Basel, 20140227; HLF, Zurich, 20140517; with Lucas Niggli (SN), Zurich, 20141129; HLF, Basel, 20150429; RSE, Basel, 20160317; SN, Basel, 20160428; SN, Strasbourg, 20160430; A Novel of Anomaly (ANOA): Andreas Schärer, Lucas Niggli, Luciano Biondini, Kalle Kalima, Biel, 20170316; HLF with Orchestra (HLFO), Basel, 20170506; HLFO, Lucerne, 20171125; ANOA, Basel, 20180429; HLF, Lörrach, 20180718; with Emile Parisien, Vincent Peirani, Zurich, 20200114; HLF, Freiburg, 20200311; ANOA, Winterthur, 20210703; HLF, Burgdorf, 20210814; HLF, Liestal, 20211106; HLF Zurich, 20211112; Solo, Dornach, 20211125; HLF, Zug, 20230318; HLF, Freiburg, 20230319. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 19 March 2023)

Saturday, March 18, 2023

James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” (1939) and Christoph Irniger’s Pilgrim at the Bird’s Eye in Basel

While reading James Joyce's "Finnegans Wake" (1939), I arrived at a thunder word: "Lukkedoerendunandurraskewdylooshoofermoyportertooryzooysphalnabortansporthaokansakroidverjkapakkapuk" (FW 257.27-28). Just then I heard clapping from the audience; Christoph Irniger and his band Pilgrim were just going on stage at the Bird's Eye in Basel last night. The next word caught my eye: "Byfall" (FW 257.29), an English spelling of the German for "applause" ("Beifall"). And I saw the next word: "Upploud" (FW 257.30). The "upplause" at the end of the first set was indeed loud; the last tune was "Back in the Game", which the next sentence in "Finnegans Wake" also seemed to comment on: "The play thou schouwburgst, Game, here endeth" (FW 257.31). (Andrew Shields, #111words, 18 March 2023)

Friday, March 17, 2023

Little boys chattering in a shopping cart

While I was putting my groceries on the belt, two boys of perhaps four and three were chattering in the shopping cart behind mine. The older boy was telling his father what sounded like a story but kept turning into bursts of sounds; the younger boy was half-scatting and half-beatboxing. I caught their father’s eye and said, “Ah-loo-ba-doo-bah”. He laughed, and I listened to the boys until I had to pay attention to the cashier. — As I put the groceries into the car and then drove off, those boys inspired me to scat and chant and sing and improvise with my voice and mouth until I got to the gas station. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 17 March 2023)

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Gregor Samsa from Franz Kafka’s “Die Verwandlung” (1917) in Bruno Latour’s “Ou suis-je? Leçons du confinement à l'usage des terrestres" (2021)

Gregor Samsa from Franz Kafka's "Die Verwandlung" (1917) runs through Bruno Latour's "Où suis-je? Leçons du confinement à l'usage des terrestres" (2021) as a figure for the pandemic experience of "confinement" (lockdown), from Latour's first introduction of Gregor with a comparison to his own experience ("C'est comme si j'avais subi, moi aussi, une vrai métamorphose") to the book's final lines about people like Gregor today: "Ils s'émancipent enfin. Ils se déconfinent. Ils se métamorphosent." For me, the most beautiful moment in Latour's treatment of the figure of Gregor comes early on when he echoes the conclusion to Albert Camus's "Le Mythe de Sisyphe" (1942): "Il faut imaginer Gregor Samsa heureux ..." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 16 March 2023)

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Sherlock Holmes with Benedict Cumberbatch and Jonny Lee Miller

Preparing for an exam on Arthur Conan Doyle's first two Sherlock Holmes novels ("A Study in Scarlet", 1887; "The Sign of the Four", 1890), the first episode of "Sherlock" (2010, with Benedict Cumberbatch) and the first two episodes of "Elementary" (2012, with Jonny Lee Miller), I confirmed my previous experience: despite great performances from Miller and Lucy Liu, Elementary gets tiresome over time, while the resolution of that first "Sherlock" episode is so disappointing I didn't want to watch any more. Sherlock should have laughed at that taxi driver: "Is that your thing? A narrative cliché? You watched 'The Princess Bride' and thought, 'I can do that.' What an utter letdown." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 15 March 2023)

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

More adventures on my musical quest with Christoph Irniger’s Pilgrim and Andreas Schärer’s Hildegard Lernt Fliegen

This coming weekend I'll continue my quest for musical transformation. On Friday in Basel, saxophonist Christoph Irniger's Pilgrim will be at the Bird's Eye; the band features two musicians I saw last month, pianist Stefan Aeby and drummer Michael Stulz from the Stefan Aeby Trio, as well as bassist Rafaele Bossard (whom I've heard before with Joe Haider) and guitarist Dave Gisler (whom I'm looking forward to hearing for the first time). Then on Saturday in Zug and on Sunday in Freiburg in Breisgau, I'll be "looking for adventure" again with vocalist Andreas Schärer and Hildegard Lernt Fliegen — the thirteenth and fourteenth times I will have seen this extraordinary band live. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 14 March 2023)

Monday, March 13, 2023

Ted Gioia’s “Music to Raise the Dead” and my experience of the transformative power of music with John Scofield, Dave Holland, and The Grateful Dead

From the perspective of Ted Gioia's ongoing serial publication of "Music to Raise the Dead" on his Substack "The Honest Broker", the two concerts I saw last week (Dave Holland and John Scofield) were each a transformative experience. But they also linked with when I saw Holland and Scofield for the first time in the mid-eighties (Scofield even with Miles Davis). After previously discovering The Grateful Dead, only jazz also gave me that same sensation. That link gave Scofield’s concert an extra twist: he played Dead tunes in jazz arrangements that themselves transformed the songs and took them to new places even beyond the many places the Dead had taken them. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 13 March 2023)


Sunday, March 12, 2023

An “old man” playing “somewhere” with “uncle John’s Band”: John Scofield and Yankee Go Home at the Volkshaus Basel, 11 March 2023

Last night at Basel's Volkshaus with Jon Cowherd (piano), Vicente Archer (bass), and Josh Dion (drums), guitarist John Scofield arranged Neil Young's "Old Man" with a brisk tempo. Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim's "Somewhere" showcased Scofield's rich tone, while Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter's "Uncle John's Band" featured a lively duet from Cowherd and Scofield, with a refrain of unison octaves by Archer and Scofield. Dion sang on Garcia-Hunter's "Black Muddy River" and on "Turn On Your Lovelight", with its long, loud, rocking duet from Scofield and Dion. In the encore of Young's ballad "Only Love Can Break Your Heart", Archer and Scofield offered especially beautiful solos to conclude the show. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 12 March 2023)

John Scofield, photo by me

Saturday, March 11, 2023

John Scofield and Yankee Go Home at the Volkshaus Basel tonight – with tunes by The Grateful Dead?

John Scofield is at the Volkshaus Basel tonight with his Yankee Go Home band: Jon Cowherd on piano, Vicente Archer on bass, and Josh Dion on drums. My Facebook memories just reminded me I saw Scofield at the Theater Basel ten years sago today, with Larry Goldings on organ and Gregory Hutchinson on drums. The other day, I wanted to listen to Yankee Go Home, but Scofield hasn't released an album with them yet, so I searched on YouTube and had a pleasant surprise: among the "Yankee" songs they play are several by The Grateful Dead: "Uncle John's Band", "Eyes of the World", and "Black Muddy River" (with Dion on vocals). (Andrew Shields, #111words, 11 March 2023)

Friday, March 10, 2023

Train of thought triggered by a boy singing as he got off the bus

On the bus, I overheard a mother and her son talking English on his way to kindergarten. As they were getting off, he sung the refrain of "Chim Chim Cher-ee" from "Mary Poppins". I thought of John Coltrane's version, and his "My Favorite Things" from "The Sound of Music" — who* wrote that? The Sherman Brothers** wrote "Mary Poppins" — and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (based on Ian Fleming's novel). Have songs from that been done by jazz musicians? There's "Truly Scrumptious", for example. Oh no, now that I have that song in my head, it will keep coming back to me all day. *Rodgers and Hammerstein. **Robert B. and Richard M. Sherman. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 10 March 2023)

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Sun Ra, Octavia E. Butler, and Afrofuturism on the History of Africana Philosophy

"The Space Race: Afrofuturism", the latest episode in the "History of Africana Philosophy" podcast series by Peter Adamson and Chike Jeffers (a subseries of Adamson's podcast on "The History of Philosophy without Any Gaps"), offers the wonderful surprise of a discussion of the philosophy of jazz musician Sun Ra (1914-1993), as well as a lengthy discussion of the ideas of science-fiction novelist Octavia E. Butler (1947-2006), especially her 1979 novel "Kindred". I saw two mesmerizing concerts by Sun Ra and his Arkestra in the 1980s, one in Oakland and one in Philadelphia, and I taught two short stories by Butler, "Near of Kin" and "Speech Sounds", just last semester in Basel. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 9 March 2023)


Wednesday, March 08, 2023

“Walt Meagher” in James Joyce’s “Finnegans Wake” (1939) and “Walter Meagher” in my life

The passage we read in the Basel "Finnegans Wake" reading group this evening concluded with a figure named Meagher (FW 61.13). That's the name of a family my family knew in California around 1970; they moved first to Canada and then to Devon in the United Kingdom as tax exiles who did not want to pay taxes in the United States because of the Vietnam War. But then Joyce's Meagher is given a first name, Walt (FW 61.19) – and the father of that family was Walter Meagher. As is always the case, it's nice to find anachronistic moments in James Joyce's 1939 novel – and even nicer when the association's so personal. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 8 March 2023)

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

Intensity and dynamics: Dave Holland, Eric Harland, and Kevin Eubanks at Moods in Zurich, 6 March 2023

Before the band began playing at Moods in Zurich last night, bassist Dave Holland first introduced drummer Eric Harland and guitarist Kevin Eubanks (with Eubanks introducing Holland) and then announced that they would play straight through without further comments. After a short quiet beginning with Holland and Harland, the band quickly reached a crescendo as Eubanks entered with psychedelic guitar. The band maintained that loud intensity for minutes on end – and maintained a similar intensity even in later, quieter passages, especially in one in which Harland offered a wide range of variations of what a drummer can do when just playing snare, hi-hat, and an occasional touch of toms and cymbals. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 7 March 2023)

Monday, March 06, 2023

Emily Dickinson’s house from outside (Michael Longley) and inside (me)

During his reading at the University of Basel in late 1995 or early 1996, Irish poet Michael Longley told the story of how he ended up not having time to visit Emily Dickinson's house during a visit to Amherst, Massachusetts. But he did drive by it at night, and a light shining in a window made him imagine Dickinson up late writing a poem. I told him during the discussion that his experience of Dickinson's house was better than mine: I actually went into it one summer a few years before that reading, but the items on view there were not Dickinson's original things, which were all at Harvard University instead. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 6 March 2023)

Sunday, March 05, 2023

Writing a text in my head and then forgetting it completely

While working out on the cross trainer at the gym today, I listened to another Dave Holland record, "Aziza" (2016) with Chris Potter on saxophone, Lionel Loueke on guitar, and Eric Harland on drums (Harland and Kevin Eubanks will be with Holland in Zurich tomorrow). I wasn't going to write about the album this time; in fact, while listening, I was writing another text in my head, which I figured I'd be able to type up a version of later. I remember smiling about what a nice text it was going to be – but by the time I got home, I had even forgotten what the topic of the text was. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 5 March 2023)

Saturday, March 04, 2023

Listening to Dave Holland, enjoying Alex Sipiagin on trumpet and flugelhorn, and remembering hearing him in the 1990s

Continuing my anticipation of the Dave Holland concert at Moods in Zurich on Monday with Kevin Eubanks and Eric Harland, I listened today to Holland's 2010 octet album "Pathways", which was recorded live at Birdland in New York City in Janaury 2009. In an album full of beautiful arrangements, wonderful solos, and nonstop interplay, I especially enjoyed Alex Sipiagin's trumpet and flugelhorn solos. I saw Sipiagin once at the Atlantis in Basel in the late 1990s with the Gil Evans Orchestra, where he also stood out with one gorgeous solo after another. (Gil Evans died in 1988; the band I saw, led by Gil's son Miles Evans, was playing his arrangements.) (Andrew Shields, #111words, 4 March 2023)

Friday, March 03, 2023

Listening to Dave Holland and discovering he’ll be at Moods in Zurich on 6 March 2023

Listening to Dave Holland's two big-band albums, "What Goes Around" (2002) and "Overtime" (2005), made me wonder if Holland is on the road in Europe – and he's playing at Moods in Zurich this coming Monday, 6 March, with Kevin Eubanks on guitar and Eric Harland on drums. Holland's most recent album, "Another Land" (2021), is also a trio with Eubanks and Obed Calvaire on drums. Yesterday, I listened to an old favorite with Holland, "Gateway" (1976), with John Abercrombie on guitar and Jack DeJohnette on drums – and I wondered if Holland might play any of his tunes from earlier albums with the current band, as he did with the Big Band. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 3 March 2023)

Thursday, March 02, 2023

A moment from “Juju”, by Wayne Shorter (1933-2023)

On 3 August 1964, Wayne Shorter (1933-2023) took his tenor saxophone to Van Gelder Studios in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, not far from his hometown of Newark. There, he recorded six of his compositions with pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Reggie Workman, and drummer Elvin Jones. One way to pay homage to his long career as a composer and improviser (on his own albums, with Miles Davis, and with Weather Report, among many other things) is to listen to "Juju", the title cut of the album they recorded that day, and hear the explosiveness of Shorter's return to the main melody at the 6:15 point, at the end of Jones's drum solo. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 2 March 2023)


Wednesday, March 01, 2023

The secrecy of the young in Charles Dickens’s “Great Expectations” (1861) and Carol Shields’s “Larry’s Party” (1998)

When Pip in Charles Dickens's "Great Expectations" (1861) is bullied by an escaped convict to steal food for him, he reflects on his youthful feelings: "Since that time, which is far enough away now, I have often thought that few people know what secrecy there is in the young under terror." While this reminded me of the depiction of the Terror during the French Revolution in Dickens's "A Tale of Two Cities" (1859), I also thought of Carol Shields's "Larry's Party" (1997), when Larry recalling what his parents knew about the bullying he experienced: "[...] they didn't have an inkling, and [...] it takes a thousand inklings to make a clue." (Andrew Shields, #111words, 1 March 2023)