I’ve had an interesting week battling something like writer’s block and keeping an impending migraine at bay. Hints of the writer’s block accompanied the candy fumes of last week, but I wasn’t prepared for how awful it would make me feel when it actually arrived!
Hours of staring at blank screens, often with a cat perched on my shoulder (and stealing my pretzels,) while trying to write something has meant about the same number of hours of listening to music, searching for ideas, inspiration… something! I’ve been through so many favorites this week. Johnny Clegg as a solo artist, along with Juluka and Savuka were on my lists for the first time in quite a while.
My playlists would confuse whatever algorithm is being used to make suggestions this week. I’ve cycled through so many different things. I went back to some things that had been favorites since junior high when I put on REM, went into some high school and college favorites with Pink Floyd, and flitted about with a lot of recent things like Vampire Weekend, Florence and the Machine, of Monsters and Men.
Harpsichord music seems to always make me feel better, too, and so I’ve been listening to that. I’ve referred to my never ending quest to get Adam to listen to viola music without complaining (while I gracefully tolerate his viola insults,) and shared with him one of the Brandenburg Concertos. He surprised me by exploring more and responded back with the comment that this particular one involved “epic harpsichord.” He’s right, and it’s a favorite so I went back to it this week.
Halloween wouldn’t be complete without a viewing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. While there are uncomfortable things about consent and trans stuff that can’t be ignored, the influence it had on so many queer people of a certain age also can’t be ignored…and I’m one of those people.
In addition to that, the new season of Big Mouth premiered this morning on Netflix, and while I’ve watched a little of the new season, I did spend part of this week re-watching the previous four seasons in preparation for the new one. The nerdy side of me has been fascinated by Baking Impossible, which I watched the last two episodes of. Of course right now, my week wouldn’t be complete without the most recent episode of The Great British Baking Show, too. Some of the nicest things I’ve watched this week have been YouTube videos about life in the arctic, in particular in Svalbard, Norway. I’ve dreamed of seeing Aurora Borealis since I was a kid, and this video is rather lovely.
And what better way to try and combat writer’s block than reading? While it’s not the only thing I read this week, it was a lot of technical stuff about working with WordPress, and when I wasn’t reading that, a lot of what I did read was depressing or anger-inducing. Things about Liberty University mishandling sexual assault, or about the culture of academic hiring and how it allows professors to engage in various kinds of sexual misconduct and rugsweep it as they go through job searching. And I’ve also been reading about how the NHL and the Chicago Blackhawks have mishandled what happened with Kyle Beach, too. Not exactly cheerful topics, so here’s a much better story. Earlier this week, I was exchanging messages with Adam to arrange time to work together on something later and said to him “I’m either going to be reading Ben Jonson or writing about writer’s block like you suggested.” We went our separate ways and reconvened a few hours later, at which point I mentioned Ben Jonson again and was met with a surprised “I didn’t know you were serious.” (While I read a great deal of poetry, probably more than most people, it’s usually modern or contemporary poetry, and not seventeenth century poetry–Adam, on the other hand, wrote a dissertation about it.) We worked, we chatted, eventually we parted company, Adam went to bed, I made another phone call, and then went to bed myself, but not before leaving a message with a final thought about the poem for Adam–that the particular poem I’d been reading is one of the earliest uses of the word tribadism in English texts. I woke up, did a few things, and then dozed off again, only to be awakened by the “ding” of a message coming in…and snapped from my light doze into analyzing the lesbianic tone of the text… women, orgasms, demons… what better way to begin your day, right? It’s a shame I’m still not over my writer’s block though.
Trust Erika to write like 800 words about having writer’s block. Anyway.
I’ve been listening to Bach this week because if I didn’t I’m not sure it would qualify as a week. It’s interesting to me that I had such a break in my life where I didn’t listen to Bach. Like any kid who grew up around a piano, I played some Bach here and there–a minuet, a gavotte, a prelude. I don’t think I ever actually made it all the way through one of his fugues, though I definitely sight-read a few. And one of the foundational moments of my life, in some ways, was singing a tenor solo in Bach’s Mass in college. But I never really listened to Bach just to listen; it was always because I was studying one of his works and wanted to hear how the experts interpreted it.
Now it’s different. I still listen to it as a musician–how could I not when Bach puts the composition of his music so far to the front? So many of his pieces you can tell right away are in a certain dance-stye; or written as a fugue, a canon, etc. Until this year I didn’t appreciate Bach’s emotional range. He’s one of the few composers who has pieces that make you want to cry, but also pieces that make you want to jump up and dance.
Anyway it’s been a hard week. And when it’s a hard week, the Bach comes out. And when it’s not such a hard week, the Bach comes out, too. Not to give the impression I only listen to classical music, but my biggest departure from Bach this week has been into the territory of Beethoven. I sat down with my Mom and Stepdad and we listened to Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto on period instruments.
Interestingly, Beethoven doesn’t ordinarily get performed on period instruments. And so I was trying to hear how different it might sound. The modern orchestra gives a fuller sound, certainly. The piano is bigger and bolder. There are more instruments in the orchestra, including those bass clarinets and contrabassoons that increase the richness of the sound. But what is lost thereby? The 19th century-style piano is more delicate, and you need that delicacy sometimes.
I have also been reading Dune. Yup. Jumping on the bandwagon. Hadn’t read it since age 14 or so. It’s excellent. It rereads really well. I’ve been really connecting with it as a neuro-atypical person because those shades of meaning that the Mentats and Bene Gesserit obsess over during conversations… that feels a lot like how I process conversation, too.