Andrew Norman has won the 2017 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition, for his formidable symphonic piece Play. In an interview with NPR, he has an exceptionally thoughtful reaction to the prize: "Maybe I can use this moment to talk about things that are important to me. Like to call attention to the fact that there are problems. For instance, this award has been given to three women out of its 30-year history. And to me that's kind of an issue. And in all honesty, I'm a white man and I get lots of commissions and there are systemic reasons for that, reasons we should all be talking about. There are so many talented composers out there. Rather than giving me another commission, why aren't we giving those people a commission?" Norman has also been named Musical America's Composer of the Year. I was asked to write a short essay for the occasion.
When I wrote last summer about the uncertain future of the Thomes Mann house, I heard from the composer and new-music stalwart Charles Amirkhanian, who informed me of a similar situation affecting the former home of the great experimental composer Conlon Nancarrow, in Mexico City. His widow, Yoko Sugiura Nancarrow, must sell the property, whose conjoined structures were decorated and in part designed by the Mexican painter and architect Juan O'Gorman. Charles tells me that a buyer on the regular market is likely to tear down the complex and build a modern luxury home. Mrs. Nancarrow hopes to sell the property to a person or institution that will preserve the house, studio, and library as a study center or artist's residency. I have no idea whether posting an item here will do anything to advance that aim, but it's worth a try.
"You know the hottest day ever was in 1890-something, '98," Donald Trump said yesterday in a meeting with the New York Times. He seemed to have in mind the official world-record temperature that was noted at Furnace Creek, Death Valley, on July 10, 1913: 134 degrees Fahrenheit. However, as I noted in my Death Valley article, many meteorologists are inclined to doubt that measurement; no other weather station in the area recorded a temperature above 120, never mind 130, in the same period. A recent post on the Weather Underground blog, by Christopher Burt, makes a persuasive case against the 1913 report. If it were struck down — and no official decision has been made to do so — the highest temperature ever recorded would be 129.2 F, which was observed in Death Valley on June 30, 2013. The same number was recorded in Mitribah, Kuwait in July of last year. In other words, the preponderance of evidence suggests that the "hottest days ever" have occurred in the past few years, and not at the end of the nineteenth century, as Trump erroneously believes.
On Nov. 26, the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I will be part of the multitudinous cavalcade of Wesley Stace's Cabinet of Wonders, at the City Winery in NYC. My contribution will be a short discourse on Sibelius. On Dec. 8, at the Deutsches Haus at Columbia University, I will give a lecture entitled "Gay Wagner: Wagnerism and Homosexuality in Wilhelmine Germany."