From Lydia Kavina to crackling in a single weekend

Left five minutes earlier this morning because Beta had to get to work, and traffic was so much lighter we got into town fifteen minutes earlier. I’m generally happy to have the chance to drive her places, because since she’s moved out and only comes home for visits such drives are the only chance we get to hang out.

Which is fine. I hear it’s good for kids to have their own life.

I’ll see her again on the weekend, she’s coming home to visit our new kittens. Our old cats are very huffy at the moment, but they’ll get over it eventually – the kittens are identical to them, only smaller and cuter.

Gamma and I had a very interesting weekend. On Saturday, we drove to Hainburg, near the Slovak border, to visit an exhibition on historical electronic instruments at the Kulturfabrik Hainburg and a concert featuring several interesting instruments, and musicians, including Lydia Kavina (I got to shake her hand, but neglected to have my picture taken, alas – she’s Lev Theremin’s grand-niece) on theremin, and even a string quartet. It is a very nice venue – a remodeled tobacco factory, the exhibition was great and included hands-on exhibits. It was organized by the Institute of Media Archeology, an interesting group who however might want to update their main page, I see.

The main thing I learned from our trip was to always chew your schnitzel well. Gamma had kind of a near-death experience in the restaurant at dinner. We were talking, and then we’re playing charades, with me going, “Necklace? Neck? What?” and her going, “hrck hrg ptooey!”. After a few seconds that felt longer to both of us, I figured out what was going on and was going to grab her and pat her on the back or do the Heimlich maneuver, but she managed to herk the meat back out.

She later said she could have herked it out sooner, but was a nice restaurant so she was a little shy about herking out meat.

As far as the exhibition and concert go, it was nice to be introduced to the concept of media archeology, for one thing – the idea of reviving, or documenting, technology related ideas from the past. They had a trautonium there, for example, and a video about it. The soundtrack to Hitchcock’s “The Birds” was played on a trautonium, after Hitchcock decided regular bird noises weren’t scary enough. It’s a beautiful instrument in the proper hands.

I took a few pictures, including of a vintage theremin, and will eventually upload them if I remember.

There was a very good what… video and music selection available from two monitors. Gamma and I listened to “Switched on Bach” for example, which came out around 1968, when I was younger than she is now. It holds up pretty well.

Gamma was pretty tired by the time the concert started, but I enjoyed it greatly. It’s one thing to read about the instruments, or just to look at them, and another to hear them playing music actually composed for them. Russisan composer Iraida Yusupova was present for the debut performance of her “Beautiful Theremins in Beautiful Ambients” for two theremins, piano, oboe and string quartet.

My biggest disappointment was that I could not attend a theremin workshop presented the following day due to social obligations that involved eating a large dumpling filled with Grammeln, which apparently translates as crackling, meaning the crisp browned skin of roast pork or the residue that remains after animal fat has been rendered, and is one of the most delicious dishes in the world. On sauerkraut.

We were with my in-laws, visiting some friends of theirs. It was a pretty boring Sunday for Gamma, sitting around all these old people; she was probably wishing she was back looking at gramophones and Moog synthesizers, but the older I get, and the older everyone else gets, the easier it is to forgive their shortcomings and so on, because you never know. And it was a lot of fun to hear everyone bicker, and contradict each other while they tried to give my wife, who was driving, directions to the place.

Our host was a retired helicopter pilot, and at one point he showed us an old picture of his group in the military, a graduation picture or something similar, and asked us if we could pick him out of the group and was surprised it was so easy for me, because he had been younger and more slender forty or so years ago. And they reminisced about the other men in the picture, saying things like, “he crashed, and he crashed. And he crashed, and so did he.”