by Lisa Selkirk
I’ve known Alan forever. I first encountered him in the main office at the MIT linguistics department soon after his arrival. A small guy with glasses, longish curly blond hair, and a confident, active, stylistic use of the Latinate vocabulary that I hadn’t run into before. He wrote a wonderful thesis on Biblical Hebrew, and when he applied for a job at UMass, it was clear to me that he was the one we had to hire.
I was just a young faculty member myself when Alan came to UMass. In his first year there, I was still feeling my way into post-student adult life, an important part of which was the acquisition of a stereo. It was the reproduction of sound that was at the tech frontier for young consumers in those days, and after some exploring and listening I’d settled on a stereo system that I liked. I must have told Alan about this. Soon after he gave me a copy of Kind of Blue, by Miles Davis. I was very touched by the gift. And in my memory, it was that record that in some sense christened the launch of that stereo system and the new musical pleasures that accompanied it.
Alan has since moved on to a world of home music reproduction that is doubtless cutting edge and extraordinary—all I know is that the mere sight of the system in his and Jane’s house speaks to a sophistication that’s outside my ken. But I admire the passion and the ability to work at the frontiers that Alan brings to this, as to his linguistic pursuits.
Selkirk, Lisa. 2015. For Alan. In Short ’schrift for Alan Prince, compiled by Eric Baković. https://princeshortschrift.wordpress.com/stories/selkirk/.