October 20th, 2003



Sometimes it amazes me how a small change in the way we sing makes such a big difference. Tom is terrific at bringing about these changes. Because we all know the notes of Messiah, he is really focusing on bringing the music out in the most detailed way. I love hearing the differences that sometimes come from one simple change.

Work on this piece has been as hard, almost, as it was on more difficult music, notewise. I don't always remember to do the phrasing exactly right, the articulation, and some things are just plain difficult, at least for me, to accomplish. Not as hard as some things we had to learn in Bach's B-minor mass, but that was a different kind of difficulty.


I am reading Elegy for Iris, by Iris Murdoch's husband, John Bayley. I found it remaindered at the book store at the outlet center yesterday, wanted it because I saw the movie, thought it was one of the most touching and beautiful films ever.

Iris was a really unusual person. She didn't seem to have a thought about how she looked or appeared to others. She enjoyed life and wanted others to like it as well. She gave herself to her friends and to her fans, pouring herself into letters to fans, for example. It did not wear her out or cause her distress. She was warm and kind.

She was not a conventionally pretty woman, did nothing to enhance her looks. When her husband first saw her he imagined that he was the only one who could be attracted to her, but soon realized how wrong he was. She did not pay attention to her hair or makeup, threw together her outfits, paid little attention to the way things hung or if they were even especially neat or clean, it seemed.

Nevertheless he was taken by her from the first time he really noticed her, when she rode by his room on her bicycle. Her expression was serious, and he read something in it that drew her to him.

He was later to learn that she had many lovers. She would go to their homes and give herself to them physically just as she soaked up their aura - for they were gods to her, most of the men she adored. They were giants intellectually, creatively. They were of all sizes and ages and nationalities, and they liked, it seemed, to have her, this young vibrant English woman, free with herself and free of any need to own them.

Oddly, in his elegy, Bayley mentions almost off-handedly that for Iris sex was not important and she spent no time trying to improve her "technique" or to achieve anything in particular. She was happy enough with what she had, what she could do. Another man mentioned to John one time something about women who were not particularly good in bed, and John realized he was referring obliquely to Iris.

So it remains to me to figure out what attracted these men to her and what they got from her. It seems like they liked to touch her and she had no problem with that, and she let them have her in all ways, and perhaps that was enough, many times, given the lack of control or commitment that she demanded. I should say given that she did not demand control or commitment.

I would love to have some of her easy acceptance of who she was, what she was, in all ways.