D. K. Hamlin and Hyperion Knight: “The Manuscript”

Clark Johnsen (who recently died; I am preparing a memorial post) was an optical physicist whose career included working on the Apollo Moon Mapper, the Viking Mars-Lander camera, and the Orbiting Astronomical Observatory. Clark also worked on a Rube-Goldberg-ish ultra-secret project that launched an earth-orbit satellite with a huge analog-film camera. That project took on added importance after the 1960 U-2 incident in which the Soviet Union shot down a US CIA spy plane. (The analog-film satellite project went by the now-timely name of Project Corona.) The Rube Goldberg aspect was that the spy satellite would eject a “lifeboat” re-entry capsule of exposed film. Which of course had to be recovered.

Clark’s passion, however, was classical music. First as a disc jockey on Harvard University’s radio station WHRB, and later as a high-end audio dealer, but always as a record collector. I have yet to meet a musician, engineer, or musicologist who had Clark’s depth of knowledge of the history of recorded classical music. His collection included more than 20,000 78 rpm records, which he actually would listen to. And perhaps 30,000 LPs.

Clark once told me that he had five favorite Beethoven “Waldstein” piano-sonata recordings, and that one of them was Hyperion Knight’s debut recording on Wilson Audio LPs. (Now available as hi-res downloads.) Dave Wilson recorded that LP in 1983, when Hyperion was a newly-minted Doctor of Musical Arts. And, no surprise, Hyperion’s DMA dissertation was on the Waldstein Sonata. That LP earned a place on Harry Pearson’s The Absolute Sound “Super LP” list.

Not content to rest on such laurels, Hyperion (and his significant other) have just published a novel in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. (Available printed or for Kindle, here.) The jacket image and publisher’s blurb are after the jump, as well as the first part of the Waldstein sonata from that Wilson Audio LP of long ago. Continue Reading →

Sappho: A New Translation by Mary Barnard (1958)

Sappho cover

Sappho: A New Translation by Mary Barnard
(University of California Press, Berkeley, 1958)

Kenneth Rexroth is one of my favorite poets. I think that the omission of his poetry from the standard teaching anthologies is unfortunate. Although not a “Beat,” Rexroth was hugely influential upon that generation. Rexroth’s masterpiece of 1944, “When We With Sappho,” keys off a four-line fragment that was all that was known at that time of that particular hymn to Aphrodite of Sappho (died circa 570 BCE). Rexroth’s poem is well worth reading; but parts of it are borderline NSFW. The story is told that in the question period following one of his readings, a lady asked Rexroth whether he had ever tried making love indoors… .

The recommended translation is magnificently translucent–you really get a sense of the person behind Sappho’s poems, middle-aged foibles and all. The 1986 reissue appears to be out of print, but goes for peanuts (offers start at 35 cents plus shipping) on Amazon (link above). Snippets of poetry after the jump. Just buy a few copies of this as impulse presents for friends, plus a copy for the bathroom and a copy for the guest bedroom. (Be sure to read the introduction and the translator’s afterword.)

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