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This spring, Sotheby’s will put one of the finest Strads in existence up for auction: a viola believed to have been built between 1700 and 1720. It is expected to go for nearly $45 million, according to the New York Times. The instrument is one of only 10 in existence. So what does it sound…

What a $45 Million Viola Sounds Like

This spring, Sotheby’s will put one of the finest Strads in existence up for auction: a viola believed to have been built between 1700 and 1720. It is expected to go for nearly $45 million, according to the New York Times. The instrument is one of only 10 in existence. So what does it sound like? Filmed by The New York Times, the clip below features violinist David Aaron Carpenter playing Suite No. 3 in C by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Posted by Joel on March 26 2014 • Multimedia

The Greatest Novel You Never Heard Of

imageI recently came across a mention of a novel that sounded very interesting. It’s called Stoner. Written by John Williams and first published in 1965, the novel received some kind words from critics, sold roughly 2,000 copies and then was quickly forgotten. But something rather unique has happened; it was published again by the New York Review Books in 2006 and has recently become a “must-read” book in Europe. Booker-award winning Julian Barnes writes in the UK’s Guardian about how a novel he never heard of had become his novel of the year. “In the decade up to 2012, it sold 4,863 copies, and by the end of last year was trundling along in print-on-demand. This year, up to the end of November, it has sold 164,000 copies, with the vast majority – 144,000 of them – coming since June,” writes Barnes. “It was the novel’s sudden success in France in 2011 that alerted other publishers to its possibilities; since then it has sold 200,000 copies in Holland and 80,000 in Italy. It has been a bestseller in Israel, and is just beginning to take off in Germany.”

Late last year, the New Yorker even published a piece about the book titled The Greatest Novel You Never Heard Of. The story is rather straightforward; it’s about a young man who grows up in rural Missouri, William Stoner. He goes to the University of Missour and there is life begins to change Instead of finishing coursework in agriculture and returning to the family farm, he discovers literature and he changes his major and the course of his life. Here’s the publisher’s description:

“William Stoner is born at the end of the nineteenth century into a dirt-poor Missouri farming family. Sent to the state university to study agronomy, he instead falls in love with English literature and embraces a scholar’s life, so different from the hardscrabble existence he has known. And yet as the years pass, Stoner encounters a succession of disappointments: marriage into a “proper” family estranges him from his parents; his career is stymied; his wife and daughter turn coldly away from him; a transforming experience of new love ends under threat of scandal. Driven ever deeper within himself, Stoner rediscovers the stoic silence of his forebears and confronts an essential solitude.

“John Williams’s luminous and deeply moving novel is a work of quiet perfection. William Stoner emerges from it not only as an archetypal American, but as an unlikely existential hero, standing, like a figure in a painting by Edward Hopper, in stark relief against an unforgiving world.”

Listen to the report from NPR about the book and its recent “re-discovery.”

Posted by Joel on March 23 2014 • Books

Pat Metheny: Kin

Ever since I first saw Pat Metheny in concert more than 20 years ago, I don’t think I’ve missed a chance to see him when he’s played in a nearby town. To date, Pat Metheny’s show for his multi-award-winning CD Secret Story is the best performance I’ve ever seen. He has a new CD out: Kin. And he is in town on Sunday night, playing at the Fitzgerald, and I can’t wait. Some say it’s his best work in years. I’m going to wait to play his new work until after I see him live. Here is a taste of that tour for Secret Story, That work is so hard to explain. Many fans call it a soundtrack for your life. Others claim it tells the story, without words, of a relationship that is good and then is torn apart. The music itself is so unique; it includes collaborations with the Pinpeat Orchestra of the Royal Ballet (of Cambodia), the London Symphony Orchestra, the Choir of the Cambodian Royal Palace, the amazing Toots Thielemans on harmonica, and of course, Lyle Mays and the other early members of Metheny’s group. It’s such a complex album that many I suppose assumed he wouldn’t tour, keeping it a studio creation only. But, Metheny took it on the road with great success. This video features a personal favorite: The Truth Will Always Be. And for a slower tempo song from that same show, watch Always and Forever. Amazing.

Posted by Joel on March 11 2014 • Multimedia

Stop Defending the Humanities

Simon During makes an interesting argument about defending the humanities in his essay in Public Books. Our debate about STEM versus the humanities may have it all wrong. In attempting to argue for the humanities value to society, we are instead missing the point entirely. One point that me makes later in his essay is that the “humanities” is a category that is too broad to represent any one discipline, let alone a particular point of view.

“I would suggest that it leads us to picture the humanities as something like a form of life, or better, because vaguer still, as something like a world, an institutionalized world. A world that contains smaller worlds. A simultaneously beleaguered and privileged world whose members typically belong to other, somewhat ontologically similar worlds, too.

“The main reason to think in such terms is to avoid betraying what is central to the humanities: that they cannot be properly defined in terms of their parts, in terms, for instance, of their instrumentalities or avoidance of instrumentality; or of the dispositions they nurture; or of the interests they nourish and serve; or of the knowledge and techniques they produce; or of the professional/bureaucratic protocols they enact; or of the ethics perhaps still installed within them. They cannot be limited to their constitutive rules or methods or personae or models or “values.” Those who join them can find their own paths through them and the rule-bound institutions they are based in, outside of essences and definitions, making their own connections and alliances, as in a world. And they don’t share a single project, if indeed they have projects at all.”

Posted by Joel on March 08 2014 • Current Affairs

United States GDP

Ian Sefferman shared this interesting map on Twitter--50 percent of the country’s GDP comes from the blue areas and 50 percent from the orange.

Posted by Joel on March 06 2014 • Current Affairs

Why Every Tech Company Needs an English Major

Matt Asay is exactly right. Let’s here it for the English major. Every tech company needs one. “Why? Because as important as the technology is that powers our lives, businesses also depend on humanities-oriented communicators to articulate why the technology matters.”

English majors can tell the story, and that’s no easy task. Engineering is available virtually everywhere now, Asay argues; the problem is not developing new technology. “For every company that can develop an incredible hardware or software product, there are more companies who fail in the attempt to get someone interested in buying that product.”

So the next time you look to find a storyteller, don’t look for someone well versed in the technology of the day, instructs Asay. “I care far less about familiarity with Eloqua or other marketing automation programs and far more about the ability to construct an interesting thesis and synthesize it in a few hundred words. With so much textual communication, and so much riding on the ability to distinguish one’s product through that communication, the ideal marketing candidate may look more like a technology journalist or blogger and not at all like an engineer.”

Posted by Joel on March 06 2014 • Current Affairs