Apt Numbers, or, Sense Variously Drawn Out

Monday I was honored to deliver the keynote address for the 2007 Kemp Symposium here at the University of Mary Washington. The event is named for Bill Kemp, a Shakespearean who taught at UMW for over 30 years, and it showcases work done by students in English, Linguistics, and Speech courses.

A few notes about the talk. I wanted to do something unusual. I wanted to honor Bill, a colleague with whom I’ve had many fruitful collaborations over the years. I wanted to thank my department for their support. I wanted to speak some word of hope to us all at the end of a difficult few weeks. And I wanted to do all of that by exploring the connections between lyric poetry and popular music.

I structured the talk around six audio events, the last of which included video. Four of these are recordings under copyright, so for the podcast I’ve included only beginnings and endings, and hereby claim fair use. One of the recordings is my beloved English teacher Dr. Elizabeth Phillips reciting “What Are Years,” and I’ve included that in full. I hope that the snippets convey the flavor of the talk. I also hope they send you out to buy Tommy (The Who), Rain Dogs (Tom Waits), Hejira (Joni Mitchell), Welcome Interstate Managers (Fountains of Wayne), and The Last Waltz right away, if you don’t have these albums already.


23 thoughts on “Apt Numbers, or, Sense Variously Drawn Out

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  2. The tears were this close to coming with Tom Waits. I’m sorry I wasn’t there to see this, but I thank you for posting it.

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  4. Inspirational! No one else I know can meld the Who and Milton as you can–though I don’t know of anyone else who dares try. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Touched by your genius and your amazing heart, I am longing to be in your caravan. The journey is so much more lonely and impoverished without one…

  6. I *really* wish I could have been at the live version of this, but in the absence of that, thank you for making this available.

    It’s just wonderful.

  7. Glad you posted this podcast, which felt like traveling back in time to the basement of Linley House in Bath in 2003. Thank you, and I wish I could have been there in person!

  8. I finally got a half hour together where I could listen properly.

    A few of the people above said things I wanted to say. But let me add:

    * The concept of “the last lecture” — maybe a bit too heavy for me to honestly contemplate. But what a gift to hear the first draft of yours.
    * That opening, rattling off shows you’ve seen was truly inspired, maybe the best introduction to a talk I’ve ever heard.
    * “quest to have a comprehensive experience of every nuanced sonic possibility in the music I love most” – I gasped.
    * The weaving of song lyrics, poetry fragments and your own eloquence weave together brilliantly. I am certain this element will reward future listening — it is so rich.
    * I remember you once talking about the music of the spheres, and wanting to hear more.
    * I feel all the more privileged to have had the chance to share our common musical loves, and to argue about our divergences.
    * It felt as if someone hypnotised me, found out what I most hungered to hear and learn more about, and then delivered something that took my cravings to places I never imagined.

    You are truly something special.

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  10. Now that’s what I call a keynote!!

    Thank you, Gardner. I feel like dancing in tattered clothes…

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  16. What a wonderful lecture. Thanks for posting it. And thanks also for the pleasure of hearing MY beloved English professor Elizabeth Phillips read Marianne Moore.

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  18. what can I say, but ‘thank you’? i’m in a public library in London, and still the tears came streaming down. Thank you, Dr.C, for that brilliance. Thank you, for reminding me that I am a part of the caravan, even from so far away. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    (And for the record, Joni cracks my top 5 “songs that changed my life” twice, and van morrison makes it once…!)

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  20. Hi Gardner:

    I was getting ready to take a listen to this (your talk having been recc’d to me, and my incoming first year to college son by many in the twitterverse), and to my despair, the audio file is not accessible anymore. Help! Where can I find it?


  21. @Barbara Thanks to you and the twitterverse for your interest in the talk. Why it went missing is a long story, but it’s back again. I hope it rewards the listening. My best to you and your son. I hope Real School is on the way.

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