Medieval authors consistently amaze with their apparent ability to remember everything. How did Boethius compose The Consolation of Philosophy from a prison cell? He fills his work with classical allusions and direct quotations all without his library, Wikipedia, or the internet. Boethius, while brilliant, is by no means an exception. Dante could reportedly recite the entire Aeneid. Yet medievals also had various helps for their memory; one of their greatest was the commonplace book.
My sophomore year at the University of Alabama included my first introduction to Music History. Yes, the first introduction—music appreciation or history was not part of my K-12 education. The first of the college music history classes included the Greeks through the medieval period and on to the Classical period. The overall purpose of music history, as far as I could tell, was to get as quickly as possible to the development of the symphony and beyond, to the instrumental music that is most commonly performed. It’s called the Common Practice Period for a reason.
I. Back when I was single, I would regularly watch three or four hours of television a night. Mostly dating shows with titles like Elimidate or Ship Mates.
I once opened a freezer and found an unopened pint of Godiva ice cream. I ate the whole pint while standing with the freezer door open. With every bite, I was on the verge of putting the carton back. I never put the carton back. Even at the time, the fact that I did not close the freezer door seemed important to me.
I. On Sunday afternoon, I drink a French press and put on Bill Evans or Django Reinhardt while meandering through the forest-clearing, four pound Sunday edition of the New York Times. On the sofa, my wife and I read the paper while our children take a nap, which is an hour if we’re lucky. So far as rest goes, there are few things I value more. When everything about the afternoon falls perfectly into place, I suppose I might submit the moment to the power of an eternal present and simply exist forever inside of it.