Recent links of note:
Frank Freeman, Dublin Review of Books
It can be tempting to consider Vincent van Gogh as something of an “outsider” artist, as he had impulses towards seclusion, asceticism, and misanthropy. Think of van Gogh and it is likely the peasant-like image from his self-portraits that will come to mind: the straw hat, the humble artist’s smock, the austere surroundings. But van Gogh was in fact worldly, well-traveled, and well-educated: He lived for several years in London, spoke French, English, and Dutch, received a fair bit of academic training, and read widely and voraciously. Frank Freeman reviews a new volume for the Dublin Review of Books about van Gogh and the writers who inspired him most.
“The beauty of the ampersand and other keyboard symbols”
Tom Hodgkinson, The Spectator
Strange how symbols can lose their meanings. When was the last time you clicked a desktop folder and thought of its manila precursor, or opened an email and thought of the postal service? Even these examples are dating quickly, and, in a matter of decades, might be all but incomprehensible to our successors. Take typographical symbols. The ampersand is really a ligature of the Latin word et (and), for example, and the semicolon was adapted from musical notation by an enterprising Venetian printer in 1494. Tom Hodgkinson shares more in a review of a new book on the history of keyboard symbols for The Spectator.
“Take a leaf out of sport’s book”
Norman Lebrecht, The Critic
In the era before recorded sound, concertgoing used to be not too different from modern sporting events: libations, milling about, and the thrill of not knowing what to expect from the spectacle at hand. In a meditation on the priorities of culture in the coronavirus age, Norman Lebrecht wonders if a certain predictability and circumscription haven’t killed the fun of the concert experience. Bring back the spontaneity from the days of Beethoven and Mozart, he argues. I’m with him in spirit, but I also know there’s a time and place for both the Apollonian and Dionysian in classical music. Having a soirée at a Mozart opera sounds grand, but I’d also like the fellow behind me to stop jabbering over the quiet bits. Can we have our cake and eat it too?
“Music for a While #42: From a toast to a prayer.”
Jay Nordlinger, The New Criterion’s music critic, talks music—but, more important, plays music.
“Father Riggs of Yale,” by Stephen Schmalhofer. On the chaplain to the Yale community & college friend of Cole Porter.