They were due to arrive sometime on Friday night, but the fun started Friday afternoon with . . . Colloquium! Yes, that makes me sound like an incurable geek. And, to be honest, I am an incurable geek. But the colloquium talk was a lot of fun. We had Robert Gjerdingen of Northwestern University, talking about the poetics of 18th-century music. I'd heard him speak before, back in Old Grad School Town, and I'm positive that I wrote about that talk, but for the life of me, I cannot find that LJ entry. So I'll just sum him up again here.
Gjerdingen's main point (in both talks) was to discuss the ways in which 18th-century court musicians used a set vocabulary of melodic/harmonic patterns kind of like Legos to construct and (in some cases) improvise new music for a time and a place that demanded lots of new music in short amounts of time. He described the training of Italian orphans in conservatories, and where the word "conservatory" comes from: nowadays, we use the word to describe a professional music school like Juilliard, but originally, it just meant "orphanage." The things being conserved were the orphans. But so many of them did musical training as a trade that the word came to mean "music school." Anyway, Gjerdingen talked about how, if you train a small child intensely in this kind of pattern manipulation, you can get very small children (like a four-year-old in a video he showed us) to improvise in a lovely galant style.
I think this topic is fascinating, and I love Gjerdingen's speaking style -- relaxed and informal, and super-prepared, which is what lets him be so relaxed and informal. And he tells good jokes, too. One of the best colloquia we've had all year.
After Colloquium, I went down to Pub Night with the music students, stayed there for about an hour and a half, and then went to catch at least the beginning of the U of C's monthly contra dance. I got in two good dances before I left to make sure that I was home by the time the Pony Parents arrived.
The Pony Parents showed up around 10:30, tired from their own day of activities, but happy to see me. What we did after a good night's sleep, I guess I'll save for another post, since this one is getting long.