"Lorine Niedecker of Lake Koshkonong" was just added in the Writing section.
In it I quote a bit from the WPA's 1941 Wisconsion: a guide to the badger state, but didn't include the description of the town nearest to where LN lived:
Busy Fort Atkinson, 50 m. (794 alt., 5,793 pop.), contrasts sharply with quiet, almost rural Whitewater. Blocky factories stand on the banks of the Rock River near the heart of the city. … in 1844, a Mississippi steamboat, coming up the Rock River with a load of pleasure-seeking passengers from Janesville found its way blocked by a low bridge. An early chronicler writes: ‘since the passengers outnumbered the entire population, they took out a bent, allowing the boat to pass.’
In 1873 William Dempster Hoard, later Governor of Wisconsin (1889-91), who was responsible more than any other man for Wisconsin’s development as a dairying State, began to publish the Jefferson County Union here. The year before Hoard, realizing that the continued planting of soil-depleting grains was destroying land fertility, had organized the Wisconsin State Dairyman’s Association with the aid of six other men. Elected secretary, he toured the State, preaching the virtues of the cow, ‘the foster mother of the human race.’ His success was phenomenal. When Babcock discovered a method of testing butterfat in 1890, Hoard agreed with the creamery owner who declared that ‘this will make the farmers more honest than the Ten Commandments ever did.’ In 1885, still campaigning, he expanded the dairying column of the Jefferson County Union into the Hoard’s Dairyman, which today is read by farmers throughout the country. As Governor, Hoard sponsored anti-oleomargarine legislation.
Hoard's Dairyman, you'll be happy to hear, is thriving, publishing on-line and in English and Spanish.
3/1/08. The L.A. Opera’s first “Recovered Voices” performance, with Viktor Ullmann’s The Broken Jug (1941-2) and Alexander Zemlinksy’s The Dwarf (1922). The Ullmann was a curiosity rather than a very successful work of art. The comedy is very primitive (whatever the Kleist play is like), and the music, while generally lovely and occasionally dramatically effective, feels too lush and heavy for a farce. It says something about how alien German culture was in which a musical farce could sound like this. It was written while he was interned at Terezín, and never performed before his death at Auschwitz in 1944. Even to attempt any kind of comedy, heavy or not, is heroic under those conditions. The staging didn’t help. The sets and costumes seemed to be aping old-fashioned operetta practices, but without any of their efficiencies.
At the interval we spotted Silver Lake’s Walking Guy, in a jacket, sipping a soda and talking with friends, standing still!
The Dwarf was entirely a different matter: it was completely engrossing and ends with a knockout punch. The role of the Dwarf is tricky (Rodrick Dixon was terrific), the Las Meniñas references are tricky, the inside/outside action is tricky, the music is lush, rich, complicated—there are many ways for a production to go wrong, but mostly this one went right. The music is magnificent: it delineates pomposity, frivolity, bustle, romantic longing. It ends with the powerful and lucky enjoying their power and luck, the cruelty, the injustice of beauty, the mis-match between feelings and appearances, etc.
3/8/08. A French program at L.A. Phil. brought the frogs out in force. Ravel’s Le tombeau de Couperin began the program and it ended with his La Valse. The Tombeau started me thinking that Ravel’s reputation as a popular entertainer is partially a misunderstanding. Yes the harmonies are lush and sweet, and the whole has the air of a cocktail that is more delightful than good for you. But there are moments when the whole play of voices and tones seems about to turn into chaos. The tunes, rhythms and the sense of momentum loose their definition, and it becomes for a moment closer to Berio than Charbrier. La Valse is constructed dramatically, so the hints that there is something sinister going on underneath the surface décor becomes paramount. The big surprise and delight of the evening was Poulenc’s Concerto for Two Pianos (1932), a School of Paris collage of Tin Pan Alley, Satie, Stravinsky that never settled into a predictable groove. You never knew what was coming next. Disconcerting, a bit hard-hearted, but completely winning. Both pianists were striking: Frank Braley looked like French Jesus and Eric Le Sage looked like Gilbert of Gilbert & George.
3/10/08. I guess I had never been to a Pianospheres recital. I didn’t understand why, when they let us in, everyone rushed (relatively, since it was a white-haired crowd) to the seats on the far left. Then I realized: “keyboard view.” They had also seated Betty Freeman early, so that she was already manifested, like the Holy Ghost, fittingly.
Mark Robson played the first half solo, and his big thing was Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit. I heard Aimard bring Disney Hall down with Gaspard, but this performance wasn’t to be sniffed at. For ont thing, it opened a window onto the work’s shocking bad taste. It is ravishing, of course, but also high-strung, to the point of being embarrassing. There is also an element of camp, of acting up; it’s outrageously queer, in the sense of gay. The chaos that always seems to lurk beneath the surface of Ravel here seems to come out in exuberant bad taste.
The event of the evening was a performance of Messiaen’s epic Visions de l’Amen (1943) for two pianos, in which Robson was joined by Joanne Martin from the L.A. Phil. I’m learning how to listen to Messaien. He has a carefully plotted-out theological-dramatic purpose for every note, and, as with Wagner, it’s important to ignore all that mythological nonsense and just wallow as mindlessly as possible in the sounds. Visions is bombast and cataclysms and earthquakes, as per usual, but there are also moments when the incense parts and sunlight floods in; there is exhilaration and wit. If you are willing to go along with it, it is stupendous. Poulenc used two pianos to conjure up a world that is familiar, parochial and illusionary, whereas a decade later Messiaen conjured up a world that is alien, vast though perhaps a hallucination.