A Luminous Halo

"Life is not a series of gig lamps symmetrically arranged; life is a luminous halo, a semi-transparent envelope surrounding us from the beginning of consciousness to the end." --Virginia Woolf

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Location: Springfield, Massachusetts, United States

Smith ’69, Purdue ’75. Anarchist; agnostic. Writer. Steward of the Pascal Emory house, an 1871 Second-Empire Victorian; of Sylvie, a 1974 Mercedes-Benz 450SL; and of Taz, a purebred Cockador who sets the standard for her breed. Happy enough for the present in Massachusetts, but always looking East.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

I Heart the Internet

When I was a doctoral student at Purdue University in the '70s, I used to like to study sometimes in a certain quiet lounge. The upper floors of the building housed rooms for visiting alums, and this lounge was appropriately fuddy-duddy. It had armchairs and table lamps and a record player with some 33 1/3 rpm records piled near it.

The first day I wandered in, Schubert's Quintet in C Major was playing on the record player. It was a particularly beautiful recording of the piece, and perhaps that's what cemented my attraction for the lounge. I grew to associate it with the music, and would basically go over there to study so I could play the recording.

What I was listening to was Pablo Casals's 1952 Prades Festival version of Schubert's masterpiece. For those that may not know it, this Quintet is a bit unusual in that it has two parts for cello. Isaac Stern is the other cellist here. Pablo Casals and Isaac Stern playing possibly the most beautiful piece of music ever written--never mind my opinion, but it was Artur Rubenstein's favorite,too--wow! All on scratchy vinyl. Memories are made of this.

Eventually, I purchased a nice Musical Heritage Society recording of the piece, but it wasn't Casals and it wasn't the same. In fact, it was so not the same that I couldn't even listen to it. I started haunting record stores, looking for a used copy of the version I craved. Dig, dig, dig. I remember one of the radio stations--WFCR I think it was--used to have an annual record sale on the Amherst town green. Several years running I attended, plowing through hundreds of LPs, just to look for that record. The last year they held the sale, it poured rain. I made my husband and kids wait, double-parked, impatient, while I ran from one tent to another through the mud in a kind of desperation, feeling I'd never find so many records in one place ever again.

Enter the internet. From the moment I realized that, through it, I was hyperlinked to everything and everyone everywhere, I was hooked. I began hunting down everything I'd ever wanted to find or find out, byte by byte. A recipe for Ebinger's chocolate blackout cake. The telephone number of a friend in North Carolina. The translation of a stubborn Latin phrase. One day it occured to me that music stores were starting to put their catalogs online. I typed "Schubert Quintet in C Major Casals Prades" into a search engine, and there it was. A couple of days later, Casals's 1952 concert was pouring out of my speakers.

Others have listened to this music and declared it proof of the existence of God. I'm listening to it right now and thinking, I love the internet. Ted Nelson, Tim Berners-Lee, Paul Baran, Donald Davies, JCR Licklider...you are my heroes.


Anonymous Christopher said...

And through the magic of the internet, I just travelled to the AV Club of The Onion and figured out that there's likely no point in asking you to accompany me to "Dreamgirls."

BTW, I haven't been able to get into blog-city all day. Wonder what's up over there.

2:25 PM  

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