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  • Writer's pictureScott M Williamson

Semper dolens, semper Dowland...

Updated: Feb 21, 2022

"Always, sad, always Dowland." Feb 20 is John Dowland's Yahrzeit (1563-1626). His melancholy Elizabethan-era lute songs are the OG emo-music, the prototypical anti-valentine. Below is a facsimile of a page of a Lute song. The "Cantus" page on the left is for a soloist and lute; the parts on right are for a 4-part version, showing one possibility of a standing arrangement for a small ensemble; in this case gathered around a podium or lectern, reading from a part-book such as this.

As I have tended toward the introverted online ghost across much of the pandemic, here's a (relatively) quick update. One of the things which has helped keep me happy since last fall has been teaching in the classroom again. My music history class just reached Dowland and other Renaissance humanist figures. Here, where literally, "all the world is a stage," and the intersections of life, work, temperaments and interests collide, merge and transform...

What a strange emo world it has been! I have been experiencing variations of "be careful what you wish for" ever since COVID upended the world in early 2020. First it was in that "down time" I'd been craving, and was just getting a glimpse of in Romania, where I was living and working in the Fall of 2019.

(Flashback a couple years: I was literally having the time of my life teaching and performing as a Fulbright scholar in Timisoara at University of the West.

(Bust of Romania's national musical hero, George Enescu, Bucharest, 2019).

...Things were just starting to get busy in late February, 2020, as the Fulbright center in Bucharest held a meeting to welcome new teaching scholars to the country. I was also curating an international film festival and premiering to premiere a monodrama...)

Anyway, I was enjoying a week of r&r before the fast-paced schedule resumed when COVID hit. The Fulbright program was cancelled in mid-March (2020), we teachers went home ASAP, and in a matter of days one of the most meaningful and rarified experiences of one's life has been shut down. And then you are quarantined back home with that long-wished for time and space. And time and space. More time. More... Space.

(statue of Bela Bartok in "Heroes Park" in the center of Timisoara, Romania, 2020)

And then, one by one, you begin losing most of your work at home in the US. Your love of quarantine's breathing-room space collapses like a soggy ice cream cone: your sweet idea of lasting enjoyment drips, messy, sticky, terribly inconvenient on your new house slippers.

(Joan Eardley's "Catterline in Winter" oil on canvas)

And you spiral into a 15-month depression. You realize this is serious and you seek assistance.

Your experience parallels so many in this surreal and cruel-space continuum we live in. All things considered, you've had an OK year. Illnesses aside (and hopefully behind), you've felt better since the end of 2021...

Wins: You loved teaching music history again; even if the majority of '20-'21 was virtual, the Zoom-room is better than no classroom. And it's so good to be back in the classroom now.

It's particularly good when your classroom is a museum.

(E.V. Day's exhibition, "Divas Ascending" at the Taubman Museum of Art, where museum studies students sketch while I sing excerpts from the operas whose dresses comprise the installation.)

Today is Feb. 19, 2022, and I give thanks for the longest stretch of good health I've had in the last two years. These past three months have been just the opposite of having too much time and space.

In addition to teaching college, I've also had the good fortune of leading HS museum studies (Taubman museum), and performing on stage (And in a new opera by a friend!) Last November through this January were particularly challenging. And while exhausted, I'm glad to be busy again.

I've had a little bit of free creative space in 2022. Below are a pair of new paintings:

("Albemarle Sun," acrylic on canvas, 18' x 24'

for Alice, An Operatic Wonderland, Jan 2022. SMW)

(Amy Scurria's opera, Alice: An Operatic Wonderland, Jan. 2022, Elizabeth City, NC.

L-R: Jim Demler, King; Sandra Krueger, Queen; SMW, White Rabbit;

Kelly Balmaceda, Alice (also co-librettist with Zane Corriher)

(Below is a brand new painting called "Bermudas," inspired in part

by the Albemarle Sound and the inlet "harbor of hospitality," Elizabeth City):

("Bermudas," acrylic, eggshells, stickers on canvas, 24' x 36.' SMW, 2022.)

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