Summer into Spring

Began entry Monday, June 10, 9:30 pm

If I am not teaching summer school, classroom preparation usually takes a back seat to my research projects until crunch time comes for the new semester in early August. One would expect that to be even more the case this summer in advance of a sabbatical year in which I won’t be teaching again until the 2015 Fall Semester. But Emma Rose and I have much to do, both singly and together, in preparing for the Dickinson and Moby-Dick exhibitions, catalogs, and related events during the Spring Semester before I leave for the whale ship adventure two weeks from today. I will also have to continue making plans for the art exhibitions I hope to bring bring to Cincinnati as supplements to Heggie and Scheer’s Moby-Dick opera in June 2016.

Screenshot of 78 of 202 Moby images

Screenshot of 78 of the 202 images that Emily Wiethorn took for Moby catalog

Last week Emma Rose and I were excited to hear form Emily Wiethorn that she had edited all of the Dickinson and Moby-Dick photos she had taken for us and was now ready to transfer them to our computers. It took a while to get together because Emily was beginning a full-time job last Monday, but we were all able to meet after work last Thursday night to see and receive the images. They are beautifully done and they will enable us to make wonderful catalogs. There are so many high-density files averaging about 10 MB apiece that the only way to make the transfer was from Emily’s computer to our portable hard drives. I did not until now have one, so I bought a Toshiba with a lot of memory–and with a label saying it works both for a PC (which I have) and for Mac (which Emily has). What I did not know until Thursday night is that if my portable hard drive had first been installed on a PC (which I had made sure to do a few days before) it cannot receive files from a Mac. Fortunately, Emma Rose has a Mac, so she was able to transfer all of Emily’s files through a cable to her portable drive, and then relay them via CDs via my desk computer to my portable drive the next day.

Emma Rose Thompson presenting her final project in the Spring 2013 Moby class

Emma Rose Thompson presenting her final project in the Spring 2013 Moby class

Now that we have nearly all of the images for the art works we plan to feature in each catalog, our next priority is to design the layout and prepare all the texts and other supporting materials we will need for the Moby catalog. Emma Rose is primarily responsible for the design.  Right now we are planning to reproduce all of the images against a black background (because the color will look better) and print most of the text in dark ink within blocks of white. Each student artist will have a two-page spread, with a short bio, extracts from the artist statement, and supplemental photographs on the left side, facing Emily’s photographs of the art works themselves on the right.  After having consolidated my binders, I now have a catalog entry, a classroom presentation photo, and an artist statement for each student artist, so this week I have been making copies of these materials for Emma Rose so that she will have plenty to work with while I am away for the voyage. We have decided to structure the Moby-Dick catalog according to the chronological sequence of classes in which the art work was made, beginning with Fred North’s class in 1994.  This is working out extremely well so far in the material I have been assembling and generating for Emma Rose. I am posting here the photo I took of Emma Rose when she presented her final project to the Moby class at the end of the 2013 Spring Semester. Then she was proposing an imaginary Moby-Dick art exhibition. Now she is designing a real one.

Kimberly Gelbwasser, soprano

Kimberly Gelbwasser, soprano

Today was a great day for the planning of our Valentine’s weekend for Emily Dickinson next February. I met Kimberly Gelbwasser, who will be the soprano for our Dickinson song recital, for the first time. She is joining our faculty in August after teaching for several years at East New Mexico University. She was in town for one day, so we had lunch together and discussed plans for the Dickinson Festival in general as well as the kind of music she might like to perform with pianist Ingrid Keller in the recital itself. Kimberly has sung opera, but she loves art song best, and I can already feel that she and Ingrid will be an exceptional performing team. Kimberly is already familiar with Dickinson songs by Aaron Copland and subsequent composers, but she is not yet deeply familiar with Dickinson’s life and writing, so she was eager to borrow for the summer pretty much everything I had put on reserve for last semester’s class: the complete poems, selected letters, biographies by Richard Sewall and Martha Nell Smith, books on Dickinson and music by Larry Starr and Carolyn Cooley, and scores and recordings of Dickinson poems set to music by Copland, Jake Heggie, George Getty, and others. What a treat it will be for me and my students next February, in the midst of the Marathon Reading of Dickinson’s poems in the exhibition space, to walk across the plaza to Greaves Concert Hall to hear Kimberly and Ingrid perform a complete recital of Dickinson songs.

Cover of libretto for  Moby Dick Oratorio

Cover of libretto for Moby Dick Oratorio

I had another fine musical development last week when Molly Herron sent me a CD of the Moby-Dick Oratorio that she and three other composers, all in their thirties, premiered in Brooklyn in February of this year. Each of the four composers created three songs for various combinations of the five vocal soloists and nineteen instrumentalists who performed the premiere. I had been very interested in the way the four composers had gone about composing the pieces and structuring the concert, and the musical result, based on the CD, was everything I could have hoped. Molly had also sent me the program and the libretto in addition to the CD. She and her colleagues are nearly ready to post a video of the premiere performance; as soon as they do that, I will be sharing it with various musical forces in the Greater Cincinnati area, as it would be a brilliant supplement to the local premiere of the opera itself.

Poster for Denton premiere of Heggie's Ahab Symphony

Poster for Denton premiere of Heggie’s Ahab Symphony

In early May I met Robert Porco, director of Cincinnati’s May Festival Chorus, on a downtown street as Joan and I were walking to the restaurant at which we celebrated our 35th wedding anniversary. I had been extremely impressed with the way his chorus sang the two Dickinson songs in John Adams’s Harmonium a few days earlier, and he was interested in what I tlld him about Heggie’s Ahab Symphony for tenor and chous, which had premiered in at the University of North Texas in Denton in April 2013.  He invited me to send him a score and recording.  I would love to hear his chorus perform the Ahab Symphony in May 2016, one month before the Moby opera comes to town.


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