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“Octet in F major”, D803 – Franz Schubert

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     “Schubert At The Piano II (1899) 

              Gustav Klimt

                  _______

there are reasons why an octet, a 
piece for eight performers, would 
be a rare occurrence in our modern
world, the most flagrant being the 
sheer number of players to 
assemble, all with international 
commitments, and all, more 
specifically, working individually, 
or in smaller composites

duos can play any choice of 
instruments, trios as well, but
quartets are usually, which is to 
say traditionally, comprised of 
only strings, first and second 
violins, a viola and a cello, 
these three groupings, duos, 
trios, quartets, are often already 
formed, play or meet together 
regularly

also musical compositions for such 
groupings abound, the canon is 
replete with music written for two, 
three or four instruments

but at five participants, a quintet, 
the combinations are less stable, 
there isn’t enough in the 
repertoire for four strings and 
clarinet, say, to play, so that a
clarinettist must be invited in
for such an occasion, any 
other alternative accompanying 
instrument would be fit in as
incidentally 

with six, of course, and upwards, 
you get egg rolls, anything can 
happen

but at eight, an octet, you need 
friends, people who’ll gather from 
their individual busy schedules to 
perform specifically together out 
of sympathy, much as friends 
would’ve back in the Nineteenth 
Century, before television, when 
the form took shape, to socially 
cut up the rug
 
if indeed it did take shape, cause I 
can think of no other octet, off hand
after Schubert’s glorious one 

Schubert’s Octet, the composition, 
with this particular octet, the group, 
is probably the best you’ll ever hear 
of either ever, Schubert’s D803 in F
major is everything you want 
Schubert to be, and in a generous 
indeed six movements, while
Janine Jansen and her friends, the 
octet performing here, with the 
requisite four strings, plus a horn,  
a bassoon and a clarinet, are 
magisterial, dare I say definitive, 
the standard now to exceed 

octets, incidentally, don’t do 
encores, for obvious reasons

enjoy

Richard

psst: for a comparable congregation 
         of friends, see Roy Orbison’s 
         Black & White Night“, equally
         as improbable, epic

Hesiod on poets, and, for that matter, kings

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The Dance of the Muses at Mount Helicon (1807)  

Bertel Thorvaldsen

________

though Zeus may preside over kings,
none other than Apollo and the Muses
preside over poets, according to
Hesiod

Kalliope, foremost of the nine Muses
who tends specifically to kings, and 
to those being born of kings, in the
company of her sisters, Kleo and 
Euterpe, Thaleia and Melpomene, 
Terpsichore and Erato and Polymnia 
and Ourania, will pour a dew sweeter 
than honey upon such a one’s tongue, 
and his words become soothing, 
palliative, placating

“far shooting Apollo, however, 
presides at the inspiration of poets,
lending the lyrical notes from his 
representative lyre, not to mention 
his lyrics, derivative both terms of 
that etymological “lyre”, incidentally,  
so far has Apollo “shot”, dare I say,  
his spirit into our collective 
unconscious
 
“From the Muses and far-shooting Apollo
are singers and guitar-players across the earth, 
but kings are from Zeus. Blessed is he whom the Muses
love. From his mouth the streams flow sweeter than honey.
If anyone holds sorrow in his spirit from fresh grief and
is dried out in his heart from grieving, the singer,
servant of the Muses, hymns the deeds of men of the past  

and the blessed gods who hold Olympus, and
right away he forgets his troubles and does not remember
a single care. Quickly do the gifts of the goddess divert him.” 
 
                                                    Theogony (lines 94 – 103)
                                                                     Hesiod

therefore poets 

Richard 

psst: a friend has just passed on,
 it is a time for poets

Puccini on poets

cigarette-la-boheme-1879

                   “Cigarette La Bohême (1879) 

                             Théophile Steinlen

                                        ______

with a friend today over lunch I told 
her that we’d watched, my mom and 
I and a mutual friend, La Bohème“,  
an Australian production of it, Baz 
Luhrmann directing, a man we both 
knew, at my place last Sunday, we 
were all wowed by it, I extrapolated 

the only opera I’ve ever seen, she 
said, was La Bohème

where did you see it, I asked, and 
when  

with my first husband, she replied,
in Vienna 

was it wonderful, I inquired  

it was, she answered, I had on a 
long dress, my husband was in 
coat and, essentially, tails, we 
walked up a very long staircase, 
I  remember

coincidentally, the first time I’d 
seen “La Bohème was also in 
Vienna, I can’t remember the 
staircase, couldn’t remember what  
I wore, can’t even remember where 
I was sitting, what I remember, as
though through a telescope, darkly,  
was Mimi and Rodolphe looking for   
the key she’d lost, on their knees   
on the floor, in the dark cause her  
candle ‘d gone out, he’d put his out
surreptitiously too to  join her 

your little hand is so cold, he sings,
when he, unforgettably, finds it 

in this production, Rodolphe has  
found the key but conceals it 
from Mimi until she sees it in his 
eyes, he pretends to return it but 
instead manages to hold her 
hand 

your little hand is so cold, he 
sings, again unforgettably

there’s nothing to fear, he 
continues, the moon is out, let’s
get to know each other

who am I, he asks, to start the 
conversation, I am a poet, he 
declares, and proceeds to tell 
us what it is to be a poet 

you’ll be utterly enchanted

tell me about a world, I ask,  
without poets, tell me about  
a world without poetry 

where would we be without 
dreamers, I wonder, where would 
we be without dreams

watch here, and wonder

Richard

the wall

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   “Colors For A Large Wall (1951)

       Ellsworth Kelly

          __________

talking about walls, isn’t it only a few
years ago we were tearing one down

here is Roger Waters and several
other outstanding guest artists, in 
very Berlin, July 21, 1990, celebrating 
its demise

a little earlier, C***mas, 1989, only
moments after East Germans had 
been allowed to visit West Germany,
essentially giving way to the 
dissolution of the barrier, Leonard
Bernstein conducted Beethoven’s
Ninth Symphony, changing the 
word “joy” from the title of Schiller’s 
poem, appropriated by Beethoven 
for his great fourth choral movement, 
to “freedom”, giving new meaning, 
and new life, and new inspiration,  
to Beethoven’s always resounding 
nevertheless masterpiece

how soon we’ve forgotten

Richard

psst: let’s paint the wall

the judgment of richibi

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        “The Judgment Of Paris (1625) 

                         Peter Paul Rubens

                                       ___________

at the end of a long overdue visit to 
friend’s home the other night, she 
asked me, did you notice their facial
skin, which of us do you think had 
the best complexion, you can be 
honest, she insisted

we had intended to watch the finals
of a voice competition we’d both 
been following, over a glass of 
wine, or two, each, when a friend 
called, from, essentially, the door,
with a second friend in tow on their
way to a concert in the city

the friend of the friend, a lovely,
effervescent woman, from Poland
originally, with a story to tell of
growing up behind the Iron 
Curtain, was also a beautician in 
spa she runs in a nearby resort
city

the first friend, equally effervescent, 
had been telling my own friend of the 
intervening events since last they’d  
met, while I lapped up, more or less  
by default, this other alternate Soviet 
reality, perfumed as it was irresistibly 
throughout with the friend’s  
friend’s mellifluous Polish accent

I hadn’t paid any attention whatsoever
to skin quality apart from accepting  
a spa courtesy card for my mother, who 
would, naturally, be interested 

my dearest dear, I answered, I am  
not going anywhere near that one
look what happened to Paris when
he fell into that trap

what happened, she asked

the Trojan War, I answered  

the Trojan War, she asked

Paris was the son of Priam and Hecuba
king and queen of Troy, explained, he, 
one of its princes, he’d been awarded 
Helenwife of Menelausking of Sparta, 
by Aphroditegoddess of lovehe’d 
chosen Aphrodite to be the most 
beautiful among the goddesses, that 
was her prize

but let me step back a little, I  
interrupted, you need more context

Eris, goddess of discord, had not been 
invited to the marriage of Peleus and 
Thetis, I recounted, he a Greek hero, 
she a sea nymph, parents both later to 
Achilleshero at Troy, slain, incidentally, 
by that very Paris, you can read all about 
it in the Iliad“, I highly recommended

during the festivities, Eris tosses a 
golden apple among the assembled 
divinities, which reads

            “to the fairest” 
 
you can hear the stirrings of the much 
later Sleeping Beautyincidentally, in 
this earliest of tellings, reconfigured 
from the original myth

AthenaAphrodite and Hera, all assume
they are meant to receive the apple, and 
ask Zeus, father and husband, to decide

you’ll have to get someone else to touch 
that one, he replies, much as I did

and delegates the task, with the help 
of Hermes, the messenger god, to the
the guileless Paris, son of Priam and 
Hecuba, Trojan king and queen, as I 
said, he, Parisprince

Paris was tending sheep on Mount Ida
when, fatefully, by a spring, the nubile 
goddesses appeared vaunting their 
unadorned splendours, stark, flagrant, 
manifest, to the musical accompaniment 
of the Graces, Faith, Hope and Charity, 
also the Horae, the Hoursgoddesses 
of the seasons, maidens all in complicit  
attendance

Paris, mere mortal, would never have 
stood a chance 

but to sweeten, nevertheless, the 
deal, were it not yet sufficiently sweet, 
Hera promises Paris Europe and Asia 
should he choose her, Athena
conquest in war, Aphroditegoddess 
of love, was set to give him the most
beautiful woman in the world

Paris opts for Aphrodite, and is 
awarded Helenthe face that
launched the thousand proverbial 
ships, the wife, not incidentally,  
and completely inconveniently, of 
the King of Sparta, Menelauswho 
attacks thereupon Troy with his 
brother, Agamemnon, and their 
allied legions, to reclaim 
Menelaus’, whether abducted, or 
indeed unfaithful, wife, no one 
has ever conclusively determined
Paris having been Paris

no one won 

no one survived but Odysseus
but that’s another story

I walked home shortly afterwards, 
crossed my own Aegean, ten or
eleven blocks back, red lights, 
nighttime traffic, watched the voice 
competition I’d taped in any case at 
homewhooped it up along with my
favourite contestants, drank to my
narrow miss, had gotten away, I
considered, with the equivalent of 
Europe and Asia, if only in my 
mind

beauty might be in the eye of the 
beholder, I surmised, but it can 
have its thorny indeed 
consequences

Richard

“Medea” – Euripides

medea-1898-jpglarge

       Medea (1898) 

       Alphonse Mucha

          ____________

catching up on my Greek tragedies 
for a course I’m following online, I
happened upon this marvel

Medea, by Euripides, was written 
in 431 BCE, the next significant 
playwright in world history was
Shakespeare, the Dark Ages had
been “Dark” indeed, it took a 
Renaissance, in fact a new 
flowering of Greek and Roman
arts and institutions to get us 
moving forward again, you’ll 
notice how much of Euripides 
there is in Shakespearenot to 
mention in the French Classicists, 
Racine and Corneille

none of these, incidentally, have 
yet been equalled, never mind 
surpassed, except by maybe 
Anton Checkov, the superb 
Russian playwright

Zoe Caldwell won the 1982 Tony 
Award for best actress for her
incarnation of Medea, she was 
up against Katharine Hepburn 
and Geraldine Pageno less, 
among other distinguished 
luminaries, this is, in other 
words, no ordinary performance, 
watch her turn a mere script, 
however incandescent, into 
set of spoken arias worthy of 
the most celebrated divas

everyone else in the play is also
strong, excellent, impeccable

note the application of the three 
unities, of time, place, and action,
there is no set change, everything 
takes place within 24 hours,
according to the dictates of the 
very plot, the action surrounds 
the expulsion from Corinth of 
Medea and her two, and Jason’s, 
sons, the restrictions of the form 
put the tension, the drama, utterly 
in the hands of the poet, the 
success of the work depends not
on stunts, special effects, but on
words, poetry

Aristotle says in his Poetics“, 
section I, part VI, “The Spectacle has, indeed, an
emotional attraction of its own, but, of all the parts,
it is the least artistic, and connected least with the
art of poetry. … Besides, the production of
spectacular effects depends more on the art
of the stage machinist than on that of the poet.”  

the three unities have no room,
therefore, for Spectacle“, their 
product must be reflections of 
the poet’s humanity, heart, 
straight through, if s/he can, 
to ours

Richard

“The Iron Age” – Ovid

 

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                                “The Age Of Iron (1637-1641)

                                          Pietro da Cortona

                                               __________

The Iron Age

Hard steel succeeded then: 
And stubborn as the metal, were the men. 
Truth, modesty, and shame, the world forsook: 
Fraud, avarice, and force, their places took. 
Then sails were spread, to every wind that blew. 
Raw were the sailors, and the depths were new: 
Trees, rudely hollow’d, did the waves sustain; 
E’re ships in triumph plough’d the watry plain.

Then land-marks limited to each his right: 
For all before was common as the light. 
Nor was the ground alone requir’d to bear 
Her annual income to the crooked share, 
But greedy mortals, rummaging her store, 
Digg’d from her entrails first the precious ore; 
Which next to Hell, the prudent Gods had laid; 
And that alluring ill, to sight display’d. 
Thus cursed steel, and more accursed gold, 
Gave mischief birth, and made that mischief bold: 
And double death did wretched Man invade, 
By steel assaulted, and by gold betray’d, 
Now (brandish’d weapons glittering in their hands) 
Mankind is broken loose from moral bands; 
No rights of hospitality remain: 
The guest, by him who harbour’d him, is slain, 
The son-in-law pursues the father’s life; 
The wife her husband murders, he the wife. 
The step-dame poyson for the son prepares; 
The son inquires into his father’s years. 
Faith flies, and piety in exile mourns; 
And justice, here opprest, to Heav’n returns.

                                        Metamorphoses – Ovid

just saying

Richard

 

 

 

  

what is poetry

the-poetess

     “The Poetess (1940)

           Joan Miró

                 _____

when Aristotle proceeds to declare the 
parameters of “Poetry” for the ages“, his
definitions of the various poetic 
manner[s] or mode[s] of imitation” 
have already been established, his 
categorizations are not unlike Darwin’s 
categorizations of the species during
a much later age, Aristotle was a natural 
scientist much more than he was our 
notion of an abstract philosopher, he 
traded in facts rather than in the 
esoteric musings that Platofor 
instance, pursued, Virtue, Justice, 
the Good, his conclusions were more 
verifiable

Kant, incidentally, is also famous for 
following a similar form of investigation
as he attempted, nearly, for most, 
inscrutably, to categorize the elements 
of our faculty of understanding

a side story

Kant had stated that at birth we already 
have within our perceptual framework 
implicit understanding of space and 
time, these are not learned through 
experience but are already 
incorporated within us, he said

many years ago, coming out of a 
week-long coma, not knowing where
I was but alone, at that point even
just my consciousness, cause my 
body, were it there, would’ve been 
under the immaculate white sheets 
I could see that would’ve been 
shielding my legs

I looked around, could gather motes 
upon rays of light that were entering 
from what appeared to be a window 
on the right, behind sheer white 
curtains stirred by a soft breeze,  
whirling the shimmering particles 
alive in the light before me like 
miniature spinning galaxies moving 
at the pace of their own infinity

there was no sound

white walls around me stood utterly
still in the purview of my perception,
a door, also white, stood opposite 
me on the opposite wall

where am I, I wondered, could this 
be heaven, an afterlife, I might’ve 
died, I thought, marvelling, no fear, 
regret, nothing other than curiosity, 
absorption, fascination

I tried to answer my question, where 
am I, two dimensions, I figured
after having watched Terence Stamp 
exiled by Marlon Brando to a flat 
intergalactic window pane in 
Superman“, I hadn’t excluded this 
eventualityhowever ingloriously 
transcendental, as a possible 
outcome, I might be in a world with 
only two dimensions, height and 
width, no depth yet without more 
investigation, experience 

ergo, Kant, I concluded, was wrong, 
our knowledge of space is not inborn 
but a product of time and thought like 
everything else 

later, the white door on the far wall
opened, and a nurse walked in, also, 
incidentally, in incandescent white,  
and understood I was alive

Aristotle suggested that our original 
double instincts towards poetry were 
our propensity to imitate, children 
imitating their parents’ even 
idiosyncratic mannerisms, for
instance

and rhythm, repetition, preludes to 
order, coherence

those two

poetry, I read, is expression
reflecting the heartbeat, essentially,
in all its myriad representations

Richard  

“To One Who Loved Not Poetry” – Sappho

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  “In The Days Of Sappho (1904) 

        John William Godward

                    _________

if I digressed towards “Tragedy” in my
most recent chat about poetry, I perhaps
blurred the fact that there were several 
kinds of poetry Aristotle was speaking   
about, but that all had the essential 
elements of both rhythm and 
representation, the idea that a poem 
was a reproduction of something 
that was not itself, a retelling

some of these rhythmic utterances 
were tragedies“, others were mere,  
indeed, verses without much of an 
agenda other than being the replication 
of something with rhythm the poet
wanted to promote

o, what a beautiful morning, two dactyls
and a trochee, for instance, the poetic 
meters that describe – ta da da, ta da da, 
dah dah – the natural music of that 
exclamation

and that can be a poem

here’s one of Sappho‘s, who lived 
sometime between 630 and 612 BCE
to around 570 of the same, of course,
era, famous for being from the island  
of Lesbos, yes, Lesbos 

it is To One Who Loved Not Poetry

    Thou liest dead, and there will be no memory left behind
     Of thee or thine in all the earth, for never didst thou bind
     The roses of Pierian streams upon thy brow; thy doom
     Is now to flit with unknown ghosts in cold and nameless gloom.”

so there, she says, I think, and all in iambic 
octameter, eight times ta dah

I preferred not to use one of her more
flirtatious, therefore controversial,
utterances, for fear of skewing to  
another, however compelling,
discussion

maybe next time

Richard

psst: the Pierian Spring was a spring in 
          Macedonia sacred to the Muses,
          the source of inspiration for 
          science, then, as well as the arts

Aristotle on poetry

aristotle-jpglarge

      Aristotle” (1653)

        Luca Giordano

          ___________

so what’s a poem

in an attempt to get a clearer picture 
of what a poem should be, rather 
than trust only my own, however 
informed perhaps, opinion – though 
it must be added that we all bring 
something to that word’s definition, 
mine no less worthy than yours, 
yours no less worthy than mine – 
thought I’d go back to authoritative 
sources to see what they might 
have said

and it doesn’t get any earlier and 
authoritative than Aristotlewriting 
in 350 B.C.E., at the height of 
Ancient Greek preeminence, 
dissecting the term in his 
penetrating and perspicacious, 
ahem, Poetics” 

I propose to treat of Poetry in itself and of its various kinds,
noting the essential quality of each, to inquire into the
structure of the plot as requisite to a good poem; into the
number and nature of the parts of which a poem is
composed; and similarly into whatever else falls within
the same inquiry.“, he says in Part 1 of his 
magisterial treatise

and proceeds to declare the parameters 
of “Poetry” for the ages  

Poetry in general seems to have sprung from two causes“, 
he proceeds, imitation and rhythm 

by imitation I think it best to think of 
representation, which is another way, 
anyway, of saying imitation, but 
much more evocative in this instance,
more attuned to our sense of his word 

a poem is a representation then, a 
reproduction of something other than 
itself 

while its rhythm is what George
Gershwin‘s got, and by extension, as  
you can see from this videoGene Kelly

and yes, that means that “Epic poetry and Tragedy, Comedy also
and Dithyrambic poetry, and the music of the flute and of the lyre in
most of their forms, are all in their general conception modes of
imitation.” 

so, according to Aristotle, is dance 

all, therefore, poems

an interesting elaboration about “Tragedy” 
states that it should have the three unities 
that I grew up with during my French 
Canadian upbringing, the unity of time, of
space, and of action the famous French 
Classical dramatists, Racine and Corneille,
applied under the aegis of Louis XlV

not to mention Tragedy’s use of iambic 
pentameter, Shakespeare’s ubiquitous 
beat, a beat that persevered into the very 
Nineteenth Century, in France with 
Rostand‘s Cyrano de Bergerac“, for 
instance, and into the Twentieth Century 
with Eliot‘s Murder in the Cathedral“, 
about the assassination of Archbishop
Thomas Becket at Canterbury in 1170 
under Henry the Second‘s own aegis,
all written as poetry 

the most famous play to follow the 
three unities in the modern era is 
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?“,
the play which I think defines the 
Twentieth Century, which takes 
place overnight somewhere in 
New England college town, mid-
century, at George and Martha’s 

though followed closely by O’Neill‘s 
Long Day’s Journey int Night“, 
which transpires from morning, one 
day in August, 1912, till midnight, at 
the home ofunity of space, note, 
the dysfunctional Tyrones

so it appears not much has changed
about poetry, Aristotle got a lot of 
mileage out of his early definition, 
nearly 2500 years 

makes you wonder  why so much 
attention was paid instead to 
Platohis contemporary, the 
mystic, who would’ve banned
poetry, he thought it was 
subversive
 
Richard

psst: for a modern day application
          of the three unities, watch 
          In Treatment“, a television
          series, which takes place 
          in a psychotherapist’s office,
          each episode a session,