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Month: August, 2012

Chopin Preludes, opus 28‏

you will remember surely preludes from Bach’s
Well-Tempered Clavier, but as indeed an
introduction to, there, fugues  
 
it might be interesting to note that preludes
were originally ditties instrumentalists cooked up,
spontaneously and improvisationally, to warm up
and tune their muse, one would expect the form
then to be short, sweet and pithy
 
and, by definition, unfinished, which is why Bach
added the fugue  
 
Chopin in 1839 gets them to stand alone, they 
have become by then of course entirely stylized,
less improvisational than formal  
 
Chopin gives them their rightful eminence by simply
validating their claim to the role, they have no trouble
at all standing forthrightly in the footlights, and are
even still individually commanding, unblemished yet
by the infelicities of most lacerating time   
 
like Bach they are still an intellectual exercise, there’s
a prelude for every key, all 24 of them, major and minor, 
like the “Études”, they are technical challenges to the
pianist, an Everest to climb, the work of an eminently
able nevertheless practitioner who didn’t shirk at 
challenging himself heroically, though surely goaded
by the most magnanimous, if unrelenting, of gods
 
others of course took up the contest for the sake of
both the prestidigitational Olympics his compositions 
represented as well as for itself the rapturous music, 
works for the deftest of fingers as well as for the
newly stranded, existentially unfettered and
hungering, 19th-Century soul   
 
you’ll note the humanity that didn’t appear in Mozart,
the intensely emotional appeal of both a more ardent
fury, a tip of the hat here to Beethoven, and a more
melting, sentimental tone  
 
 
incidentally I find Chopin infinitely more aristocratic
than Mozart ever, despite being the epitome of the
more democratic Romanticism, whereas it had been 
the more unruly Mozart who’d written for the
“Classical” courts 
 
Haydn is temperamentally the only other so courtly
composer, appropriately and most efficiently fitting
in his case his own Classical mold, even up until now,
no others have had that distinct personal pedigree 
 
 
allow me to submit my prose therefore to your most
good and gentle graces, as well as the illustrious
music contained therein
 
 
yours
 
Richard 
 
psst: here‘s a version played in a castle, noteworthy
         for its aristocratic allusions not to mention its
         accomplished artistry   
 
 
 
 
 
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“King Lear” – William Shakespeare

 

forget about any other version, this is the only King Lear” 

 
Richard
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

“Lear’s Wife” – W.S. Merwin‏

King Lear” is one of my favourite Shakespearean plays,
its only inspiring rendering however has been Kurosawa’s
Ran“, a Japanese rendition, with some inspired literary
adjustments, that tells the tale better nevertheless than
I’ve seen anywhere before
 
but this 2008 production with Sir Ian McKellen seems at
very first glance a worthy contender, I’ll have to watch
 
 
I was reminded by this poem that Lear had never been
given a wife
 
here she finally is 
 
 
Richard
 
                      _______________ 
 
 
 
If he had ever asked me
I could have told him

If he had listened to me
it would have been
another story

I knew them before
they were born

with Goneril at my breast
I looked at the world
and saw blood in darkness
and tried to wake

with Regan at my breast
I looked at the world
and covered my mouth

with Cordelia in my arms
at my breast
I wanted to call out to her
in love and helplessness
and I wept

as for him
he had forgotten me
even before they did

only Cordelia
did not forget
anything
but when asked she said
nothing

 
 
                  W. S. Merwin  
 
 
 
 
 

XX. Beloved, my beloved, when I think – Elizabeth Barrett Browning‏

from Sonnets from the Portuguese

XX. Beloved, my beloved, when I think

Beloved, my Beloved, when I think
That thou wast in the world a year ago,
What time I sat alone here in the snow
And saw no footprint, heard the silence sink
No moment at thy voice, but, link by link,
Went counting all my chains as if that so
They never could fall off at any blow
Struck by thy possible hand, – why, thus I drink
Of life’s great cup of wonder! Wonderful,
Never to feel thee thrill the day or night
With personal act or speech, – nor ever cull
Some prescience of thee with the blossoms white
Thou sawest growing! Atheists are as dull,
Who cannot guess God’s presence out of sight.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

__________________________

even at her twentieth poem already about her love
Elizabeth doesn’t become insipid, mawkish, no longer
inspiring, but delivers a conclusion of substance and
insight and relevance, though the answer to her
question remains a question

despite having been hopeless in her earlier “silence …,
… counting all [her] chains”,
never even having imagined
his “voice”, nor the possibility of those punishing irons
“fall[ing] off at any blow / Struck by [his] possible hand”,
never having ever had an inkling of him before his now
evident presence, she sees the flaw in the argument of
“Atheists”, who affirm the absence of light having only
known darkness, the absence of God or, it would
appear as in her own experience, the quite comparable
absence of love

it’s hard to resist such a persuasive argument, with its
shades of Plato‘s chained prisoners in his allegory of
the cave
, where they can’t imagine the sun, standing
in for Knowledge, for never having been made aware
of it, beings with glimpses only of a perhaps
incandescent environment that some, including Plato
and now the appropriately anointed Elizabeth, would
have as the more searching Truth

Robert was on-again off-again in his professions of
faith until the very end, a not unRomantic position,
God had been irreversibly unsettled by then by
Science, during the earlier pre-Revolutionary days,
Humpty Dumpty had been, as it were, irrevocably
unseated from his once unimpeachable wall, never
to be so impregnable again

this poem is probably a bit of a playful connubial
dig by a nevertheless ardent still Christian

go girl

Richard

Chopin “Études”, opus 25‏

if the Debussy, was a bit too fast a move from Chopin’s
Romanticism, his enchanting melodies wrought with
pressing and intent emotion to tug at your most
unresisting aural senses, into a 20th Century of
cynicism and machinery, speed, neurosis, world war,
it was probably too fast for those who actually lived
it as well, just as we think of our own world as out of
control, ultimately the swoons of Chopin would no
longer cut it alone as mileposts towards so unmoored
a future, a heretofore beyond mere private emotions,
other voices would come up responding to further
calamities, inconsistencies in the cultural argument,
where the poet no longer could stand prophetically
alone, there were others also to tend to, and nations
and even new ideologies burgeoning, social, sometimes
sinister even, experiments, Romanticism would have no
choice but to cede to the imperatives of a new, often
inclement, order

but that nevertheless choice still imprint is nowhere
near as definitive as Chopin before all that happened,
as people were still all celebrating and expressing
their newfound personal validity, freedom, worth,
fruit of the revolution not only of the political world
but of the cultural one as well

Elizabeth Barrett Browning is to my mind his only
literary equivalent, compare their equal ardour
and the likeness of their compelling muse

Daniil Trifonov, playing Chopin’s other set of
“Études”, opus 25, not only lives them, he’s
utterly possessed, he’s in Tel Aviv, it’s May, 2011

Richard

psst: the first Étude is called the “Aeolian Harp”,
the ninth the “Butterfly”, the second to last,
or eleventh, the “Winter Winds”, all of which
you might try to make out in passing, they are
not that difficult to identify, all the others are
named for their key

“The Tulip Folly” – Jean-Léon Gérôme‏

The Tulip Folly - Jean-Leon Gerome           
                            
                                                    The Tulip Folly” (1882)
 
                                                         Jean-Léon Gérôme
 
                                                          _______________ 
 
 
between the twin authorities of steeple and sworded 
supervisor bristles a field of obedient but effervescent  
flowers, transcending in their full and radiant bloom
their even regimented quadrangles with poetry and
multicolored enchantment in the very face of
overwhelming but presumptuous power, pointing to
the supremely existential act of just artfully being 
 
I am as well a flower
 
 
Richard
 
 
                   _______________________________
 
 
 
the dutch were so into tulips there was a depression caused when the value of tulips fell and they were developing the black tulip and all the breeding bulb secrets were highly guarded thus the importance of having guards literally doing the picking of the flowers so no bulbs could be snatched by others..good find Richard
Neil
 
 

 

 
 

Debussy’s “Études”

 Man with a Guitar - Georges Braque
 
                    Man with a Guitar (1914)
 
                               Georges Braque 
 
                                       ______
 
 
while we’re on the subject of études, listening to 
hundred years later, 1830s to 1915, would prove
instructive, I deemed 
 
picture me deeming, August 3, 2012, my brow
just slightly pensively constricting 
 
 
if the basis of music as defined by the Classical
period depended on beat, tonality, and the repetition
of the tune, usually of both musical statements, these
apparently essential components of course would be
the first places to bear the scrutiny of probing musical
minds, seeking to find, seeking to set more expansive,
more profound dimensions to the areas of their quest,
that’s what artists do 
 
and this of course is exactly what happened starting
with Beethoven, by the time of Chopin music had
relaxed its stricter Classical rhythmic precision,
allowing great expansive gestures in the more
malleable tempi, tempos, producing the effect of
more compassion and soulful examination than
the earlier less indulgent, more disciplined code
 
the fact of having musical tapestries, sound patches,
take the place of melody, narrative, in the musical
presentation of Chopin also suggests a more
diversified, dare I say prismatic, telling, than the 
linear account of for instance Mozart‘s solitary
tuneful wanderer
 
it also evokes incidentally the vagaries of the
inconstant heart rather than its unflinching
condemnation, a repudiation of atavistic
Christian ecclesiastical intolerance 
 
 
by the time the old order was about to be extinguished,
in 1915, at the onset of the First World War, Debussy’s
Études, like Chopin 12 of them per set, had seen
social injustice – see Charles Dickens, see Émile Zola,
see Karl Marx – the improbable discoveries of science –
Darwin, Freud, Einstein – the car, the airplane,
photography were changing everything, the old
paradigms no longer applied, were irrelevant, even
harmful, in this new context, the First World War 
would prove all that 
 
in the language of music, tempo, melody, repetition
would be inevitably subverted
 
Debussy produces erratic tempi, foregoes melody for
harmonic exploration, combining incidentally the
musical patches of Chopin with the intellectually
driven investigations of Beethoven for a more
cerebral understanding of music, a music for the
head, with expert displays of pianistic skill, indeed
prestidigitation, for, along with the intellectual
rigour, spectacle  
 
is this then still music 
 
is Post-Impressionist painting still art  
 
what would 1915 have said
 
 
above is Georges Braque‘s nearly contemporary, 1914,  
 
man with a guitar, who’d a thunk it
 
 
Richard
 
 
 
 
 

“La Forêt de Paimpont” – René Magritte‏

Forest of Paimpont - Rene Magritte      
 
 
                                          La Forêt de Paimpont(1963)
 
                                                             René Magritte   
 
                                                                   _________ 
 
 
                                                        for Jami, my ekphrasis teacher,
                                                             who opened my ears to my
                                                                   eyes and both consequently
                                                                          to my heart 
 
 
 
this painting, my latest desktop, is for me about
childhood and fairy tales, the sunrise is about the
possibility of wisdom, not only adventure, the trees
are the poetry, their slight shiver, shimmer, tremor
in any cool, bracing breeze, they are also my spears,
potential weapons, to either aid or threaten me, as
I wander towards the horizon, pink with my fantasies, 
no less vivid for me than for Don Quixote his windmills, 
I am aware, but beautiful nevertheless in the colors
of those dreams, which I would have no other 
 
I am of course the knight riding towards the
undifferentiated sunset or sunrise, and I have
no clock      
 
 
Richard