It has been an interesting week around here. There was a tornado warning Wednesday night, which meant that I spent about 45 minutes curled up in the bathtub reading a book about the early republic. (There was no water in the tub. It was just me, in pajamas, with the bathmat for comfort, and my book and my phone and a flashlight in case the power went out. If you live, as I do, in a house without a basement, the safest place to be in a tornado is an interior room, like a bathroom – and tubs are good because the shell of the tub/shower can protect you from debris.) It was quite a howling storm – one of those evenings where it’s weirdly warm beforehand, and the air is moving in big gusts with pockets of stillness in between, so you know that something is up, meteorologically speaking – and pretty soon it is clear what that something is. A great big shingle-ripping rainstorm that threatens to get mean and swirly. (Opera moment, sort of: my other half, who is up on Long Island, was watching the weather on the internet for me, since my internet always goes out in storms, and was telling me over the phone that there was this thing on the map called a “meso-cyclone” which apparently is a sort of proto-tornado. Except I was hearing “mezzo-cyclone” and thinking “a half-cyclone? what the hell is that?” And then I got laughed at.)
Then there was the business with the water main. There is a lot of construction on campus at the moment, mostly student dorms, and the other day they hit a water main by mistake, so we have been forbidden to drink the tapwater on campus for the past several days. There was much discussion as to whether the coffee was safe – we had been told that water is ok to drink if boiled, but it was unclear whether the coffee maker was actually boiling the water adequately or not. Have you ever been in a room full of historians attempting to work out a fairly specific technical question armed only with a few things some people remember about waterborne diseases? We were doing what we do best (working with incomplete information and reasoning/inference) but the conclusion was that we needed to obtain the technical specifications for the coffee maker in order to actually answer the question. But we had fun trying!
Amid all this, I have been amusing myself listening to Andrew Manze and Richard Egarr play Schubert. I know what you’re thinking: how can that be? Andrew Manze plays only sonatas by baroque composers the rest of us only pretend to have heard of! But it’s true. And he and Egarr are very good at it. (The recording is on HM and pretty easy to find.) I had been listening to Gidon Kremer and Valery Afanassiev playing some of the same material, and when I put on Manze and Egarr, the warmth and resonance of the recording really leapt out at me. And Manze, as usual, is both precise and expressive. He’s one of my favorite violinists.