Friday, April 06, 2012

Memory Studies As A Flourishing Field

I have almost nothing today, and it’s a Friday, so I feel like a worthless slacker. (I’m used to that feeling. I almost always feel that way. I just try to work around it.) But, nonetheless, today I still have almost nothing.

That having been said, however, I do have some stuff.


The little I have today is a kind of two part follow-up or afterward to yesterday’s post.

I really enjoyed writing my Thursday post. I certainly did have an interesting e-mail exchange with a reporter and I wanted to write something about what a modern villain might look like, and I liked the idea of a villain who just was going about his villainy and flat-out, bald-face lying to someone who confronts him. People who flat-out lie with a smile are very strange people. But such people really exist.

“Aren’t the clouds pretty? Are you waiting
for the clouds to play music and sing songs?”

The man looks up. He smiles and he says, “No,
I’m waiting for my date to pick me up.”

That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain.

Hamlet, Act I, Scene v

Remember thee?
Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat
In this distracted globe.

Hamlet, Act I, Scene v
(from just above the smile quote)

So when I wrote my Thursday post I had that quote from Hamlet in mind, “That one my smile, and smile, and be a villain.”

Late last night I flipped open a couple of copies of Hamlet to re-read the context around the quote and I saw that second wonderful quote, about the ghost. And I loved the phrase, “this distracted globe.”

In one of the pop editions of Hamlet around here, there is an annotation after the line reminding the reader that ‘globe’ means ‘head.’ [!]


I knew that ‘globe’ meant ‘head’ even before I read the annotation.

In fact, I figured ‘globe’ meant three things: It meant the globe of Hamlet’s head; and it meant the globe that is planet Earth; and it meant the globe that is the Globe Theater where the play would have been performed and, according to legend, rowdy theater goers distracted by their own fun in the audience often gave the actors a hard time.

If you Google the line, the search results are about all three meanings. In fact, one search result for the quote is a link to a book, and the sales pitch for the book is:

'Remember thee? Ay, thou poor ghost, while memory holds a seat In this distracted globe.' Hamlet's lines pun on the globe as both his skull and the Globe Theatre. But what does memory have to do with Shakespeare and performances past and present? This is the first collection of essays to provide a meeting between the flourishing fields of memory studies and Shakespeare performance studies. The chapters explore a wide range of topics, from the means by which editors of Shakespeare plays try to help their readers remember performance to the ways actors sometimes forget Shakespeare's lines, from the evocative memories instilled in the archives of costumes to the photographing of props that act as memories of performances past. The fifteen contributors are leaders in the field of Shakespeare performance studies and their considerations of the possibilities of the subject open up a rich new vein in Shakespeare studies.

The field of “memory studies” is flourishing these days, according to the sales pitch for the book about Shakespeare studies.

I didn’t know there was a field called “memory studies.” And it’s flourishing. Good for it.

I certainly like to remember things!


That gets me to the second part of today’s post.

I remember Suzanne Ciani.

One of my old posts I like a lot is “I Can’t Sleep In My Kitchen.” I link to it a lot, and I love to go back and re-read the passage about Suzanne Ciani.

What an extraordinary woman she must be!

To be honest, however, I find her as a person to be much more interesting than her music. I’ve listened to a lot of her pieces and to my ears—at least my ears now—I don’t hear them as very entertaining.

But I still find her, as a woman, to be beautiful and interesting and inspiring.

I recently read a new interview with Ciani that is very cool.

She sounds so honest. A kind of counter-point to the notion of someone who lies and engages in villainy.

So I’ve got a link to the whole interview, and then I’m going to end with two quotes from the interview. First a quote in which she explains that she’s no longer directly engaged with electronic music, then a quote where she describes her thoughts about possibly becoming again engaged with electronic music. And when you read the second quote, really, you get the feeling that her heart is still wrapped around her synthesizer, in a good kind of way.

The link to the whole interview is: Modular Love: Suzanne Ciani Interviewed

And here are the two excerpts:

QUIETUS: It has been a couple of decades since you last worked primarily in electronic music. Were you aware of the resurgence of interest in this field of music that’s happened over the last decade? Were you aware of people taking an increased interest in your music and that of the Radiophonic Workshop and people like Sam Spence?

SUZANNE CIANI: You know, I didn’t notice but that’s because I live at the top of a cliff by the side of the ocean in relative isolation. I’m in a different world now. I’m doing concerts on the piano. I was getting inklings of it though through younger folks who worked at my company (Ciani/Musica) in New York, because they were still working avidly in electronic music. Frankly I didn’t understand the interest that much. But what you’re talking about is more of a passion I think. Maybe the same passion that we had back then; this sense of aliveness in the area of electronic music - that there is something new and exciting happening in that field.

QUIETUS: For the last twenty years you’ve been working on piano pieces but you just said you’re in the process of getting a new Buchla.

SUZANNE CIANI: [laughs] You know, this surprises me more than anybody but after 20 years in New York I landed back in the Bay Area and over the years I’ve developed a new relationship with Don Buchla. It’s a different relationship as we’re mostly tennis buddies. We both love tennis and I’ve been out here for 20 years and I never thought about getting back into the Buchla. But he loaned me one for a while and I thought, ‘I don’t know...’ Because the first time round it took over my life completely and I don’t know if you can play it without having it take over your life. So I’m a little scared but also intrigued. I’m a little shy about trying to do it again because I care a lot about it. I’m not just going to go up to it and make some noise. I really want to get to know it. So, we’ll see what happens…

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