As I'm reading some texts by Lyn Hejinian, fragments from her poetical autobiography My Life, her phrase "as for we who 'love to be astonished'" resounds on several levels. I go from remembering my mother to transporting myself back to Carnegie Hall in 2001 when Waltraud Meier and Nadja Michael blasted my brains out with their Tristan and Isolde Wagner performance under Barenboim - well, when you insist on sitting in the front row parkett, this is what happens. My mother had a blasting quality as well. She was a master logician among other things and used to astonish my sister and I on a daily basis. She was good at inventing things. I often think that particularly her language games and scenarios could have been choreographed by Maurice Béjart and set on stage by Cristoph Marthaler. These two plus her are my favourite geniuses in terms of artistic versatility. Mother and Béjart are dead, Marthaler is still around. He blasts me visually, so that I still experience some of the desired astonishment.

Back at Carnegie I was mostly taken with the singers' voices, but there is also another incident which I vividly remember. I was sitting next to a very restless gentleman who was obviously completely infatuated with Michael. I have never experienced sitting next to someone whose body language could speak equally blastingly as a Wagner soprano. He wore expensive red shoes and a striped petroleum color suit. Impeccable attire - no doubt carefully thought about in terms of guessing what Michael was going to wear: a lavish fat silk silver gown. He got it right. Perfect match. When the concert was over, he almost got himself arrested, as he jumped over Barenboim and nearly dragged Michael off the stage. She was taken aback by his violence, but at the same time it was clear that she was also very flattered. And I was very amused.

I'm trying to write my two conference papers for next week, and they have nothing to do with either poets, singers, choreographers, stage directors, or mothers. Embodying their presences, however, and thus astonishing myself, should be a good start. My own performances will form a pay off matrix for the academic games that hopefully can blast our brains.


Waltraud Meier's Liebestod


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