Home is where the art is


"Don't say Immanuel can't," sings music PhD student David Bashwiner, "'cause he can." The crowd giggles as Bashwiner strums his guitar and continues the Kantian wordplay: "Don't say Immanuel won't..."

Bashwiner had already played two less silly songs, one on piano and one on guitar, for the 30-plus U of C community members gathered in the living room of married physics professors Sidney Nagel and Young-Kee Kim. For the past year and a half the two have hosted monthly art salons—featuring musical performances, lectures, readings, art installations, and anything else participants are willing to do—in their Hyde Park home.

The salons arose from piano lessons Nagel and Kim took from Majel Connery, AM'04, a musicology PhD student. In her studies Connery, who sings opera, "was always reading about rich women who sat around drinking absinthe and reading poetry," she says. When Nagel and Kim agreed to open their home and supply wine and pizza, Connery set about finding artistic-minded friends and acquaintances to create a modern take on those long-ago sessions. She hasn't been disappointed: "It's been interesting to see there are a lot of really nerdy people in, say, the math department who are also really good guitar players."

This past Saturday's salon is Connery's last for a while. Headed to Berlin to apprentice with opera director Christopher Alden, she hopes to return to Chicago eventually and finish her doctorate. In the meantime, Nagel and Kim plan to continue the events every other month, and they've enlisted some regular attendees—including Fermilab director Piermaria J. Oddone and physics professor/cello player Heinrich Jaeger—to organize them.

At this last Connery-organized salon, the group hears Bashwiner's singer-songwriter set; a reading of New Zealand poets; improv-jazz performances on piano, drums, and soprano sax; and two opera pieces, including one by Connery. At the end Kim presents Connery with a cake to thank her for starting the shows. Nagel gives her a framed photograph—photos of the drops he studies hang in the house. And Oddone hands her with a bottle of wine made at the Sonoma winery he owns. Now beyond poetry and absinthe, the salons may have one-upped Connery's Enlightenment forebears.


Photos: Bashwiner plays his Kantian comedy; Connery thanks the group for sustaining the salons.

Photos by Lloyd DeGrane

January 16, 2008