The Corner


The Play of Memory

A concert by the Pretenders at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Nooshig Varjabedian)

Today’s Impromptus, I open with the Saudis: Can’t live with ’em, can’t live without ’em? A necessary, nasty ally? The issue, a perennial, has come up again, because an important 9/11 anniversary is approaching: and that means the question of declassification. Should the United States declassify information concerning the Saudis and 9/11, as President Biden appears ready to do, at least in part? (I would say yes, but the question is interesting, and not black-and-white.)

I then get into Republican politics, as exemplified by the Senate primary in Ohio. William F. Buckley Jr. labored for 50 or more years to create an intelligent and persuasive — even inspiring and stylish — conservative politics. How’s it going?

Anyway, much to chew on in this column today.

My latest Q&A podcast is with a singer: Regula Mühlemann, a Swiss soprano. Sparkling young woman. I have also done a post called “The Past Returns: On hearing a recording of a concert you attended long ago . . .” I thought you might like to tell me of your own experiences — whether with music or something else.

Let me quote my first paragraph:

“Misty water-colored memories” is a famous lyric. Many of us have memories of concerts, early on, that were important to us. Same with books, movies — people, even. What if we heard them again? What if we read them, saw them, met them again? That might be dangerous, right? What if our memories turned out to be — wrong? Even embarrassing?

Recently, I had the experience of hearing a pirate recording of a concert I attended in 1980. Yowza. Shortly before that, I heard a recording of a concert I attended in 1976. So interesting, on so many levels.

Terry Teachout shared with me a piece he wrote in 2005: “An Encore for Nancy LaMott.” He heard a recording of her final public performance — a performance that he attended. A marvelous and moving piece.

(Nancy LaMott was a great cabaret singer. How do I know this? Because Terry calls her “the best cabaret singer I ever heard.”)

Readers have sent me a variety of missives. One of them goes, “Different thing, but: Once in L.A. I stopped in a brewpub — had the best beer of my life, a ‘smoked Scottish ale.’ Went back years later, pub was gone. The memory lives on!”

Related, for sure. Anyway, I find this a terribly interesting subject — relates to stages of life, changing and unchanging perceptions, etc. I think I’ll write on this again. If you’d like to share some experiences — please feel free: Talk to you soon.


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Colin Powell, R.I.P.

Colin Powell, R.I.P.

We had substantial disagreements but recognize that he will be remembered for a long, consequential career of service to a country that he loved.