Place: At my main computer, trying to keep my hands warm as I type.
Consuming: Coffee. Hot, fortunately, as it’s gotten all the way up to 4 degrees outside.
Reading: It has been a bit of a slog recently. A few days ago I completed John Burdett’s Bangkok 8. I’m making further progress in Roger Lipsey’s very interesting The Spiritual in Twentieth-Century Art, and may be able to finish that this week and report on it in this blog soon. For a little inspiration I’ve also been slowly making my way through Why We Write: 20 Acclaimed Authors on How and Why They Do What They Do.
Watching: As in so many areas of my life, there isn’t much new and interesting to report here. The only film I’ve watched in the last week was, fortunately, one that I absolutely loved: Frances Ha (2013), directed by Noah Baumbach to a script by Baumbach and the film’s star Greta Gerwig. Having seen the trailer, I had a feeling I would like this film (the mere fact that it’s in black-and-white was one attraction). But this smart and funny and charming film, residing somewhere halfway between the French Nouvelle Vague and Woody Allen, proved to be a total delight. While much of the film is actually rather melancholy – one of its main themes is the difficulty of connecting, and staying connected, with people – the experience of watching it was much more exhilarating than depressing, due, among other reasons, to the excellence and charisma of all the actors and the visual beauty of the film (it was shot digitally, and how those color images were meticulously turned into the glowing black-and-white seen here is the subject of one of the extra features included on the Blu-ray). I have not until now seen any of Baumbach’s films, although I’ve certainly heard of and read about much-praised films like The Squid and the Whale (2005) and Margot at the Wedding (2007). Now I must seek these out. More on this film, specifically its music, below.
Listening: While the stack of newly purchased CDs continues to grow (the most recent purchases being eighth blackbird’s meanwhile and Hilary Hahn’s new collection of encores she has commissioned, In 27 Pieces), most of my meager listening has been associated with program notes I’ve had to write for the Reno Chamber Orchestra and Reno Philharmonic.
Pondering: How I really need to start making more lists in order to accomplish something in my life. Accumulating check marks on a list carries a certain satisfaction.
Blogging: I’m here today, aren’t I?
Anticipating: Twelve concerts in six days at the Reno Chamber Orchestra’s Nevada Chamber Music Festival, December 26-31. The musicians will be working much harder than I will, but it’s still going to be a stretch of long and stressful days.
Gratuitous Video of the Week: One of the attractions of Frances Ha was the canny selection of music. Most people that see the film will probably remember its effective use of David Bowie’s “Modern Love” and Hot Chocolate’s “Every 1’s a Winner.” But I was especially impressed with the selection of bits of scores from classic films from the French New Wave. I’ve had this odd conceit recently of imagining how my mostly lonely and tedious life might be enhanced if it were accompanied by a music score. Readers of this blog might remember that this first occurred to me a few weeks ago in watching Hirokazu Koreeda’s television series Going My Home. The delicate, pretty acoustic guitar music that comprised its score puts the viewer in a very attractive space. But after watching Frances Ha, I’m turning my imaginings to the scores of French comedies and New Wave films of the 1950s and 1960s. How could one’s life not be better when accompanied by the music found in, say, Jacques Tati’s Mon Oncle? For one of the main themes of Frances Ha, Baumbach turned to the great Georges Delerue, re-purposing, one might say, Delerue’s “Theme de Camille” originally written for François Truffaut’s Une belle fille comme moi. That jolly, carefree banjo melody (as Steve Martin wisely observed, it’s impossible to play sad music on a banjo) might become mildly obnoxious were it not for the warm string chords that accompany it. As I was writing this Salon, I decided to spend a few minutes creating a video of stills from Frances Ha accompanied by the “Theme de Camille.” I’m not saying that my life would be a worthy partner to this tune. But I would like it to be.