Blog Archives

Read an Excerpt from “Nightingales in Berlin: Searching for the Perfect Sound”

May 23, 2019
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Philosopher and musician David Rothenberg is an expert in interspecies music. He has a long history of making live music with the sounds of nature, including birds, whales, and bugs. Now, with a new book and CD, Rothenberg turns his attention to the elusive figure of the nightingale. Rather than try to capture a sound not made for humans to understand, Rothenberg seeks these musical creatures out, clarinet in tow, and makes a new sound with them. He takes us to the urban landscape of Berlin—longtime home to nightingale colonies where the birds sing ever louder in order to be heard—and invites us to listen in on their remarkable collaboration as birds and instruments riff off of each other’s sounds. Rothenberg has released two albums that chronicle his music-making with the nightingales. Listen along while you read for the ultimate moment of zen. Are you surprised there are nightingales in Berlin? They have flown thousands of miles to get here, up from Africa and over the sea like refugees of the air. They sing from wells of silence, their voices piercing the urban noise. Each has his chosen perch to come back to each year. We know they will return, . . .

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Six Questions for Hollis Clayson, author of Illuminated Paris

May 18, 2019
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Six Questions for Hollis Clayson, author of Illuminated Paris

To celebrate International Museum Day on May 18th, we sent professor of art history and the Bergen Evans Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern University, Hollis Clayson, a handful of questions about art and the city of light. Let’s start at the beginning: what sparked your interest in the nighttime illumination of Paris? Was there an artwork, or a trip to the city, that started your research? The book grew out of my interest in the topic of Americans especially artists in Paris which of course grew out of my experiences (from wonderful to terrible) as an American in Paris, an American billing herself as an “expert” on French culture. At the beginning of the enterprise, I was initially focused exclusively on Mary Cassatt (who figures prominently in the book and in other essays of mine), but the light angle only really dawned when I saw a painting in storage at the old Terra Foundation Museum of American Art on Michigan Ave., which is on the cover of the book: Charles Courtney Curran, Paris at Night, 1889.   It made me start asking questions about the American imagination of the Paris night and how it differed from the conception of the modernity . . .

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5 Questions for Connie Voisine, Poet and Author of The Bower

April 25, 2019
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In honor of National Poetry Month, we sent Phoenix Poet Connie Voisine a few questions to delve into her writing and reading life and her thoughts on poetry today. Describe your ideal reader. My ideal reader never changes (ideal is ideal), but the person I write to is quite specific and variable. My old mentor, James McMichael, recommended directing a poem to a specific person, to make it rhetorically focused, urgent. I have some writer friends who represent the best of poetry with their rigor, intelligence, wit, and devotion to craft, and to each I have addressed poems and whole books to. My last book, however, was for the reader my daughter will be some day . . . to thank her. Do you see poetry as having a “moment” right now? And if so, why? I can’t answer that question. Probably. But I am more curious about what the moment produces than what generated it. I used to teach a group of women writers whose average age was perhaps 80. Those women could really read poems because they had done it all their lives. I could throw anything at them—language poetry, conceptual poetry, spoken word, as well as John . . .

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