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New Year Day’s reading and listening

January 1, 2012

Joyce’s “The Dead”

One of the contender’s for “Best story ever about New Year’s” is James Joyce’s 1914 “The Dead,” the final story in his collection Dubliners.  (The story is set at a New Year’s dinner dance – perhaps on the Epiphany, January 6.)

You can read a nice hypertext-annotated version online here.  A high-quality production value really wonderful podcast series on the story from University College Dublin can be downloaded here.  Rene Auberjonois, Fionnula Flanagan and Isaiah Sheffer (who are among the participants in a major Bloomsday production each year) have produced a two part reading for the Public Radio International show Selected ShortsPart 1 has already been posted and Part 2 should be posted next week.

David Day’s Alice as church politics

Canadian poet and fantasy author David Day has developed a theory of Alice in Wonderland as a complex commentary on Anglican politics of his era which he explains to ABC radio (transcript , audio).  Here are some quotes:

David Day: I think the breakthrough for me was when I realised that he was working on multiple levels. The breakthrough for me was with the Cheshire cat, and I sort of realised that he was working on…the ultimate puzzle is what kind of cat can smile? That’s the riddle. And I was getting closer to identifying the Cheshire cat historically as his sponsor at the university.

He got in through one of the canons of Christ Church College, the Rev Edward Pusey, and then I realised of course when Alice refers to it as, ‘Puss-cat,’ Pusey was the character. But it wasn’t just as simple as that. Dodgson was a mathematician, Lewis Carroll, and he approached it in multiple layers.

The Cheshire cat; what kind of cat can smile? In mathematical terms a catenary, as in a catenary bridge or a suspension bridge…there’s a shape which is like a curve, like a smile. It turned out that also the canon of Christ Church, this Rev Pusey, was known as a patristic catenary, which means that the chain of the fathers, and he was the expert on the fathers of the church.

Rachael Kohn: Right, the apostolic succession.

David Day: Yes. It’s not a term we use very frequently now, but at that time he was famously known as a patristic catenary.

Rachael Kohn: Yes, and so you get that arc that just hangs in the air.

David Day: And he disappears bit by bit until there is nothing left but a smile, and she says, ‘I can imagine cat without a smile but not a smile without a cat.’ And what are you left with? You’re left with a catenary.

Day also talks about his theories about Carroll’s interactions with theosophists and with the famous translator Max Müller

Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony

Oh friends, not these sounds, rather let us sing more pleasant ones, and more full of joy.

New Year’s celebrations are particularly noted for being involved with music:  whether it be New Year’s Rockin’ Eve from Times Square or the Vienna Strauss Concert or the Lincoln Center concert (this year focusing on Bernstein and Gershwin) or Vivaldi or dance music or jazz music or polka music or one of a thousand different genres. 

In Japan, there is a particularly endearing custom to listen to Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony around New Year’s Eve.  My attempts last night to embed a 1956 live recording of the Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Otto Klemperer into a posting ended up a huge mess (because of some restrictions on, but the recording is easily accessible from

I was fortunate enough to hear attend a live performance of Beethoven a few days ago, and now to celebrate the New Year, I am going to have a marathon listening listening session to one of my favorite recordings of the Beethoven symphonies, Mackerras’s live recordings from the Edinburgh Festival (here is a review of the CDs; but please don’t pay list price for this – you can find this for around $25 which is a fair price.)  I love the fact that these are live recordings:  here is the original review of the live performance of the 9th symphony.

Mackerras died in 2010, and in May 2011, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (which frequently worked with him) had a memorial concert.  Last month, the OAE finally got around to posting their pre-concert talk about Mackerras here.

One thing I really like about Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony is the inclusion of Schiller’s “An die Freude” (“Ode to Joy”) – the language is especially uplifting on New Year’s Day:

Seid umschlungen, Millionen!
Diesen Kuß der ganzen Welt!
Brüder, überm Sternenzelt
Muß ein lieber Vater wohnen!
Be embraced, millions!
This kiss to the entire world!
Brothers and sisters, above the starry canopy
Must a loving Guardian reside.

(Source, modified translation)

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Suzanne McCarthy permalink*
    January 1, 2012 6:17 pm

    Great! Love all of it.

  2. January 1, 2012 10:57 pm

    Beethoven and Schiller… two Romantic greats. Definitely a good way to start off the new year.

  3. January 2, 2012 3:40 pm

    Suzanne & Kris, thanks for the encouragement. I wish both of you a particularly good New Year!


  1. Happy Bloomsday! « BLT

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