Richibi’s Weblog

Just another weblog

“Le merle noir” – Olivier Messiaen‏

common blackbird (turdus merula)

common blackbird (turdus merula)


while we’re on the subject of birdsong,
it would be incorrect not to mention
Olivier Messiaen, the composer I think
to be the most representative of the
late XXth-Century, with the addition,
however, of George Crumb only lately,
whom I blush to say I’d never heard
of till then, a lacuna culturala, as
we say in Italian, of the very
greatest proportions

Le merle noir is Messiaen‘s earliest
work specifically devoted to birds,
his later Catalogue d’oiseaux lists
thirteen birds, and lasts nearly
three hours

listen to Le merle noir first, you’ll
even want to watch it for taking place
in the Église du Bon Secours in Paris,
June 7, 2012, flanked by dour,
though highly decorative, clergy

Yvonne Loriod, Messiaen’s wife, plays
the entire Catalogue…“, but behind a
detail from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly
which remains throughout
glumly static

if we think of this as music, which
indeed I do do, where are tempi,
where are tonalities, where even are
identifiable repetitions, how do we
define, then, music

this is not an easy proposition

think about it

good luck


re: songs of some birds

a friend writes

Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2014 21:30:02 -0800
Subject: Re: songs of some birds
From: lynne……
To: richibi……….

The other day on CBC Quirks and Quarks program they played the song of a type of thrush who’s name escapes me at the moment. It sounded like a nice bird song and then they slowed it way down and it sounded a lot like whale sounds but a far more musical with quite discernible notes.

.if I were to break up the sentences
in the foregoing paragraph
in some artistic fashion
would it then be poetry?
(I know, I’m such a cretin)



I think that good grammar is already
a move towards poetry, if not, indeed,
the quintessential ingredient, good
grammar has already in its stipulations
a cadence and an expressive flexibility,
in its declensions and conjugations

we are sloppy grammarians generally

your statement, “The other day on CBC Quirks and Quarks program they played the song of a type of thrush who’s name escapes me at the moment. It sounded like a nice bird song and then they slowed it way down and it sounded a lot like whale sounds but a far more musical with quite discernible notes.“,
corrected for grammatical aberrations,
The other day on [the] CBC Quirks and Quarks program they played the song of a type of thrush who’s name escapes me at the moment. It sounded like a nice bird song and then they slowed it way down and it sounded a lot like whale sounds but [...] far more musical with quite discernible notes.“,
sounds already musical when you
speak it out loud, cadential and
probably properly emotionally
inflected, if you put your intention
into it

a few artful turns could make it
luminous, even a poem

hmmm..” yourself


songs of some birds‏

untitled-1939-1.jpg!BlogPablo Picasso - "Untitled" (1939)

Untitled (1939)

Pablo Picasso


having wondered only recently about
bird song, whale song
, can these be
considered singing when they are
essentially language, we think, and
not codified, technically constricted,
I see pertinently appear a study
suggesting birds follow a pentatonic
scale, our own musical basis,
harmonics between birds and
humans are apparently identical

this suggests that harmonics in
nature are as fundamental as
mathematics, we have somehow,
humans, diverged from what we
think of as singing, left rhythm
and tonality from our conversation
to produce uninflected prose and
monotony, language at the level
of atonal, arhythmic expression,
for better or for worse, corruption,
or refinement, evolution

I wonder, again, if prose is not
bad poetry, or has poetry evolved
into prose

should we feel shame or ingenuity,
do birds have their own divergent
degrees of poetry, do some, most
maybe, veer also towards the less
exacting prose

do some birds not sing, in other
words, or only sometimes maybe,
when mating, for instance,
something like how we croon
when we’re dating, put on our
very best airs


Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) – George Crumb‏




we say that birds sing, despite the
fact that it is their ordinary language,
whales, upon our hearing them, seem
also to be singing

when we sing we alter our voices to
fit pitches and volume and rhythms
intentionally, otherwise we’re talking

what, then, is music, is bird song
music, whale song, is Vox Balaenae“,
a composition by George Crumb, from

if so, what do we mean by music, which
used to be, a long time ago it appears
now, melodic, recurrent and rhythmic

in Vox Balaenae“, where is the music
we used to think of as music, though
harmonious it has the elements rather
of language, communication, instead
of the ordered outlay of composition

it is, however, indeed Classically laid,
with movements and everything, even
a set of variations, though interestingly
attended on either side, these, by, as it
were, book ends, a prologue and an
epilogue, literary terms, to reinforce
the idea of narration, there are three

Prologue: Vocalise (…for the beginning of time)

Variations on Sea-Time [Sea Theme]

Epilogue: Sea-Nocturne (…for the end of time)

a blue light in the performance suggests
a marine environment, masks dehumanize,
render everything “[a]rcheozoic”, extended
technique, unusual use of the instruments,
are instructions stated in the score

for a while I’ve been saying that prose is
just bad poetry, for a while I’ve been trying
to make poetry out of prose

how are we doing


“The Belle of Amherst”‏

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson


a couple of my Internet interests intersected
recently to bring me this theatrical gem, this
outright treasure

there’d been a few poems of Emily Dickinson
I’d read in my poetry class, none particularly
affecting, while at the Tonys on another site
Julie Harris was winning the ’77 award for
best actress for her role as that very poet, in
a superb evocation, The Belle of Amherst“,
of Dickinson’s life, available, I, to my delight,
indeed erudition, discovered, elsewhere still
on the Internet, straight from the original
Broadway stage

Julie Harris was the very stuff of Tonys, so
was the production

watch, don’t not watch

you’ll want to run back to your Emily
Dickinsons afterwards, even

here’s one

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickinson


the Tonys, 1976, ’77‏

the Tony Award Medallion

the Tony Award Medallion


the Tonys have become for me what
the Rubinstein Competition was
spring, or was it summer, an addiction

in ’76 “A Chorus Line” essentially won
, the closest thing to it was
“Chicago”, which, if I remember, got
nothing, undeservedly, but how do
you top a titan, A Chorus Line has
never been bested, you came out

it’s ’77 though, now, and Lily Tomlin
gets a special Tony
for a show that
couldn’t be called either a play or a
musical, Appearing Nitely was a

watch Lily Tomlin receive her award,
you’ll see what I mean

just click


another Tony treasure

the Tony Award Medallion

the Tony Award Medallion


from the 1974 Tonys, you’ll want to
watch this skit, Mrs Snodgrass has
had 27 children, Nancy Walker is
Mrs Snodgrass

should the video not come up at the
right position, as it should, find Mr
and Mrs Snodgrass at 1:42:00 on
the time strip




the Tony Award Medallion

the Tony Award Medallion


meanwhile back at the Tonys, 1972,
Phil Silvers wins an award for Best
Actor in a Broadway Musical

surely deservedly, he could’ve won
one right here


Horn Trio in E-flat Major, opus 40 – Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms

Johannes Brahms


if I’ve been away from my perhaps too
abundant, Cornucopian indeed sometimes,
post of late, not as ubiquitous in your
hotmail, it’s because I’ve been following
not six but six and half courses at
Coursera, which have taken up a
considerable amount of my time, all of
them fruitful except for that half, which
apart from some smoke still from its
lingering ashes in the form of belated
comments on what were personally
pertinent fora, forums, I’ve committed to
the cellar of wasted money, despite its
being free, time itself being, according
to my father, hard currency

The Fiction of Relationship
Introduction to Philosophy
Revolutionary Ideas: An Introduction to Legal and Political Philosophy
Søren Kierkegaard – Subjectivity, Irony and the Crisis of Modernity
From the Repertoire: Western Music History through Performance
Philosophy and the Sciences

the half will remain unnamed for its
being, to my mind, inferior, not worth
not only recommending but even
mentioning, or, worth not only not
recommending but neither mentioning,
take your pick

but from “From the Repertoire” we were
offered this week to investigate Brahms’
Horn Trio in E-flat Major, opus 40
, entirely
worth looking into, I thought I’d pass it

it was composed in commemoration of
Brahms’ mother who’d died not much
earlier, a cello could replace the horn,
stipulated Brahms, even a viola for
fear of later horns being too brassy,
incommensurate with the intent of the
dedication however passionate some
of its musical argumentation, much
more abstract than that of Beethoven,
you’ll note, though still nevertheless
ever melodic

he has as well a more heraldic tone,
consequently, by extension
earthbound, rather than Beethoven’s
more transcendental ruminations
both remaining equal, however, ever,
in, in each his realm, their grandeur


the Tonys‏

the Tony Award Medallion

the Tony Award Medallion


this is why I love the Tonys

this is why I love Broadway

this is why I love New York

just click



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