Radio silence


You might have noticed that dia[loge]s has been rather quiet lately. For that, I apologize. I’ve had some major life changes that I feel obligated to share here.

Last month, my stepfather—a kind, deeply devout man who was part of my life for ten years—chose to end his own life. (I mentioned his death in passing here, but couldn’t bring myself to write more at the time.) The news was a shock, and the grieving process has been messy. It suffices to say that my life has changed in ways I’ve yet to begin to comprehend or process, and many things—even the things I once loved to do—seem trivial at the moment.

Oddly enough, I’ve found that the only work I can readily bring myself to do after his death is at the Chicago Maroon, the student paper of the University of Chicago. The new calendar year ushered in a new stage of my involvement with the paper, too, when I became a full editor for the Arts column. It means more editing/organizational work and less writing, but I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It feels like catharsis, or something like it.

In the meantime, though, other writings have since been scaled back and will remain so for the time being—my work for Larry Johnson’s superb Chicago Classical Review, for one, and this blog. (On the contrary, I have gotten more vocal on Twitter recently—call it the cult of convenience.)

Looking ahead, I’ll be spending only a few more months in Chicago this year: I’ll stick around until June to close out the school year, at the very least to take a course co-taught by Lyric General Director Anthony Freud next quarter (which I couldn’t be more excited about). After that, there’s a chance dia[loges] will be California-based all summer, when I go home to the Bay Area and MJ (potentially) works in LA; in autumn, I’ll be in Vienna studying abroad and will probably use dia[loge]s for writings, pictures, and other mementos.

But that’s all in the future. For now, I’m taking things one day at a time.


A dinner with death: Mahler’s existential Ninth with the SFS

Michael Tilson Thomas and the SFS’s 2005 CD.

Some recent November—I don’t remember if it was the last, or the one before—my best friend and I compared our Thanksgiving dinners. I relayed a family member’s latest off-color remark with something of an inward groan. He told me, with a small smile, that he and his family had listened to Mahler’s titanic Symphony No. 9 as they carved the turkey.

Our exchange still sticks with me, and still baffles me. Mahler’s Ninth? At Thanksgiving? The Ninth, a haunting, sonic rumination on human mortality, is anything but background music. Call me over-sentimental, call me pretentious, but whenever I listen to Mahler’s last completed symphony, I need to both brace and pace myself emotionally, and moreover, I need to be able to listen to it in uninterrupted peace. Sometimes I go months at a time without listening to it, terrified that constant re-listenings will strip it of its power. (Not that that’s wholly feasible.)

Okay, so I guess it’s true: I’m obviously over-sentimental when it comes to this piece. But some of my reasons for this are extra-musical. Let me explain.

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