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.
November 24, 2016 | Permalink
Photo from Death Valley National Park, 2013.
"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.
November 23, 2016 | Permalink
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."
November 22, 2016 | Permalink
Last summer I wrote about the threat of demolition hanging over the Thomas Mann villa in Pacific Palisades, the place where Doctor Faustus was written. At the end of a frightening week, the happy news arrives that the German government has purchased the home. Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's foreign minister, has declared that the house will become a cultural center and meeting place for young writers. “In stormy times like these we need more than ever cultural anchor points with our most important partner outside of Europe,” Steinmeier said. A not inconspicuous irony shadows the announcement. Mann left the United States in 1952 because he felt that the country was going the way of Nazi Germany. "Mann had intimate knowledge of how a civilized society could turn feral in an instant," I wrote in August, with the hateful demagoguery of Donald Trump in mind. The Mann house may be safe, but America is again poised at an ominous fork in the road.
November 18, 2016 | Permalink
November 18, 2016 | Permalink
Nothing seems less relevant at the moment, but I thought I'd offer a few more thoughts and pictures related to the Death Valley article that appeared in last week's issue of The New Yorker — the one that said "Oh, Sweet Jesus, Please God, No" on the cover. The piece is unlike anything I've done in my twenty years at the magazine, and I am intensely grateful to my editors — and to Daniel Zalewski in particular — for letting escape into the desert for a little while.
November 15, 2016 | Permalink
The new-music radio channel Q2 has asked me participate in a series called "Current Obsessions," in which I select one work a week for broadcast. The first is Jürg Frey's String Quartet No. 3, which I wrote about in my Wandelweiser column. It will be heard at 1pm Eastern today and several more times through the week. To come are works by Linda Catlin Smith, Liza Lim, Agata Zubel, Michael Pisaro, Scott Worthington, Ashley Fure, and others — twelve in all, through February.
November 01, 2016 | Permalink