The work is George Gershwin’s jaunty, jazzy symphonic poem “An American in Paris,” and the effect involves a set of instruments that were decidedly not standard equipment when it was written in 1928: French taxi horns, which honk in several places as the music evokes the urban soundscape that a Yankee tourist experiences while exploring the City of Light.
The question is what notes should those taxi horns play. In something of a musicological bombshell, a coming critical edition of the works of George and Ira Gershwin being prepared at the University of Michigan will argue that the now-standard horn pitches — heard in the classic 1951 movie musical with Gene Kelly, in leading concert halls around the world, and eight times a week on Broadway in Christopher Wheeldon’s acclaimed stage adaptation — are not what Gershwin intended.
Today, Penn Station is more like a polished turd, except it’s not really polished. It’s been called “the worst place in New York City,” “the worst transit experience in the US,” and “the worst place on Earth” — and that’s just from Googling one adjective.
Her new novel, “Innocents and Others,” shares these same themes, and like “Lightning Field,” it features a heroine obsessed with the movies, and a collagelike structure that jump-cuts between her story and the stories of two other main characters. “Innocents” is more ambitious and tendentious than earlier Spiotta novels like “Eat the Document” and “Stone Arabia.” It aims not only to use its characters’ experiences to open a window on American life in the late 20th century, but also to examine how technology has atomized contemporary life and the ways art mediates our relationships with friends and strangers.