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08 December 2019

* EXTRA * appreciating Linda Shaver-Gleason

In the summer of 2016, just as I was launching Settling Scores, I saw a post on the Facebook page of the North American British Music Studies Association (NABMSA) from Linda Shaver-Gleason, a Mendelssohn scholar just finishing up her doctorate at the University of CaliforniaSanta Barbara, about the upcoming NABMSA conference at Syracuse University.  Somewhere in the responses to the post someone mentioned Linda's blog, Not Another Music History Cliché!  She, too, had just started bloggingbut she started with a bang:  thirteen substantial posts in the first two months.  Intimidating!  She was covering an astoundingly wide range of topics, with a surpassing understanding of historiography [how history has been written], and a winsome tone.  Moreover, she demonstrated that the blog was a good medium not just for musicological commentary, but for real scholarship.  As I read, I thought My students need to be reading this.... Actually, virtually everyone I know needs to be reading this.  She was clearly getting a wide readership, judging from the comments to each post.  Linda was already a genuine public musicologist, still in graduate school.

I was a little nervous about meeting her:  Linda knew what she was doing.  My first post would come out a few days before the conference, and I could hardly introduce myself as a fellow social-media musicologist.  I was impressed that she already had her own voice, while I was only (ten and more years after my doctorate) just beginning to realize I had a voice at all.  But then, at a coffee break on the last morning of the conference, I summoned up the courage to speak with her.  She was gracious, encouraging, and enthusiastic.  In fact, she was exactly the person I should have expected after reading her blog:  genuine, curious, irreverent, serious, funny....  Id like to recall that she friended me on Facebook after the meeting, but I think it was the other way around.

Shortly after that meetingwhere she clearly acquired a number of new Facebook friends from the NABMSA crowd, she posted this:
Source:  cropped screenshot from Facebook (taken 5 Dec. 2019).   Yes, that is Alex Trebek on the left:  Linda was a contestant on Jeopardy! in 2017.
Once again I was humbled.  How did she have it altogether, while at the same time battlingand winningagainst cancer?  And she also has a young son, who is about the age of my youngest.  As so often in my career, I feel honored just to know such people.

Early in 2017, Linda announced that the cancer had returned and had metastasized to her brain.  It seemed pretty grim then, but she has fought, enduredflourished, evenover the last two and half years.  She was working on transforming her blog into a book.  Tonight, from her hospice bed, she announced that she wont continue with that project.  Much as I would have valued that book, I suspect it could never have given her the readership that the blog already has, and I hope will, in perpetuity.

A few days ago as I started this post, I feared it would be titled In Memoriam.  I dont want another one of those.  And so why not honor Linda now?

She has been a voracious reader, and always looking for suggestions.  At the beginning of 2019 I sent her a copy of Josephine Teys mystery novel The Daughter of Time (1951).  It is an odd example of the genre, and it took Linda a little while to warm to it.  Teys regular detective, Alan Grant, is flat on his back in a hospital bed, but his active mind desperately seeks a problem to solve.  He ends up considering the case of Richard III and the princes in the tower, going through piles of library books that all tell the same old story.  Actually, Ill let Linda describe it:  click here for her review.

At the end of her review, Linda came back to the title, puzzling over what she must have missed.  Who/what is the daughter of time?  I realized then that the used copy I had ordered from abebooks.com must have been missing the epigram page, which Tey presents thus:

TRUTH IS THE DAUGHTER OF TIME.
Old Proverb

(I would gloss this as the stories as they are told and retold acquire the power of truth, even if they didn't really happen.”  That has been the substance of her pathbreaking blog.)

It occurs to me now that this situationthe missing page, which would be the key to the puzzleis very much how I see Lindas work.  In her blog, she explains those pages missing from the way music history has been told; when those pages are presented, the whole picture can look very different.

With Linda's inevitable retirement from the field, suddenly, again, it was if a page has been ripped out.  We have to remember that the source is incomplete, that there is more to be toldand that others may have explained away those missing pages so that they no longer seem necessary.  I am reminded of Mozarts fragmentary Rondo for Horn and Orchestra, K 371.  The work is fragmentary in two ways:  1) Mozart never completed the orchestration, and 2) the autograph lost a few leaves at some point, only rediscovered in 1990.  The absence of these leaves was not clear to the editors of either the old or the new complete works, despite a bizarre moment at the juncture of the two sections where the 60-bar passage is absent.
Source:  scan of K. 371 as in Wolfgang Amadeus Mozarts Werke, XXIV/1 (1882) from IMSLP #88078, but the reading of the NMA is essentially the same.  This system begins with bar 19; after b. 26 should have followed sixty more bars in the missing leaves discovered by Marie Rolf in 1990.
With Lindas death, we will have lost a pagenay, countless pages.

... and yet, as history always has still to be written, I should not despair:  Linda has shaped the way so many have approached their work as musicologistsand the testaments on her Facebook page now demonstrate this.  Rather than thinking of missing pages, I expect shed rather us be looking at the blank pages (and blog posts) of that history waiting to be filled.  Filled honestly, unflinchingly, and with whatever grace we can muster.

Thanks, Linda.  You encouraged me to be myself, and it was probably the most important lesson of my career.

UPDATE  15 January 2020

Linda was assassinated by cancer on 14 January 2020.  There have been a number of tributes in recent weeks, and Im sure more will follow.  But here are two:
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/2019/12/31/linda-shaver-gleason-exit-interview-with-a-public-musicologist/
and
https://datebook.sfchronicle.com/music/myth-busting-music-blogger-honored-mourned-online-in-her-final-days