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Category: dramatic monologues

the infinitive in Shakespeare’s “To be, or not to be”

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     Philosophy and Grammar 

 

           Gentile da Fabriano


                  __________

 


when I referred to Shakespeare’s 

perhaps most famous monologue,

To be, or not to be, in my most 

recent transmission, in order to 

shed light on the idea of tempi, 

that it would parallel Beethoven’s

Opus 111 in its philosophical 

significance, however might’ve I 

done so unintentionally, was

nevertheless quite spot on, it is

perhaps his most potent

disquisition, as is Beethoven’s

own masterpiece, on existence

 

but let me extrapolate

 

to be, or not to be, both infinitives,

which is to say that their form, their 

moodrelate to infinity, the infinite, 

etymological correlatives, which 

means that the actions, thus, are 

not localized, not specific, but 

belong to all places at all times and

for all people, the very stuff, let me

point out, of philosophy 

 

whether ’tis nobler in the mind to 

suffer, infinitive, the slings and 

arrows of outrageous fortune, or 

to take, infinitive again, arms 

against a sea of troubles, and by 

opposing end, bare infinitive,

which is to say, without the

preposition to, them  

 

as in  

 

to die, to sleep, infinitives, no more, 

and by a sleep to say, infinitive, we 

end the heartache and the thousand 

natural shocks that flesh is heir to, 

’tis a consummation devoutly to be 

wished, passive infinitive      

 

you’ll find that the rest of the 

soliloquy abounds in infinitives,       

the grammatical home, the 

territory, of philosophy

 

with this speech, incidentally, 

Shakespeare kicks off, in

literature, the Renaissance, much

as Beethoven with his Opus 111

firmly establishes, in music, the

Romantic Period


compare, meanwhile, thou shalt 

not kill, an imperative, the mood

the tenor, the register, is of 

commandments, it differs from 

the infinitive in that, though 

seemingly universal at first, there 

is an exception to its authoritative 

span, and that exception is the 

speaker, all others are called upon 

to abide, this is not philosophy, 

this is power 


 

much as in music, see in that context

my earlier text, one can read an awful 

lot between the lines

 

 

R ! chard

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tempo in Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no 32, Opus 111

charleston-couple.jpg!Large

      Charleston Couple 

                Erte

                   _

 

 

                                     for Lajla, who wondered 

                                        where I’ve been these past 

                                             few weeks

 

 

if music is a communication, as I firmly  

believe it is, even listing it as one of my 

languages on all of my formal   

applications, it should have, much as 

in any other communication, a set of  

rules, a structure, a grammar, which  

indeed it does  

 

where the mood of a verb, for instance,

in English, indicative, I am, conditional, 

if I were, subjunctive, that I be, infinitive,

to be, or, indeed, again infinitive, not to 

be, that is, indicative once more, the 

question

 

whether ’tis, indicative, nobler in the 

mind to suffer, infinitive, the slings 

and arrows of outrageous fortune, 

or to take, infinitive, arms against a 

sea of troubles, and by opposing, 

participle, end, infinitive, them – but 

you get my drift, in music we have 

tempo, adagio, andante, allegro, 

presto, among others, to set, 

indeed, the mood 

 

as chamber music, an entertainment 

for aristocrats, moved from the dance 

rhythms of their salons during the 

Classical Period to the more diverse 

beats, the more varied and evocative 

tempi, especially with Beethoven, 

into the Romantic Era, music began 

to speak, evoke rather than lilt 

 

listen to Beethoven’s 32nd Piano

Sonata, for example, his Opus 111

in two contrasting movements, 

one fast, nearly even frenetic, the 

other slow, resigned, subdued, 

introspective, the first, angry, 

chaotic, frustrated, a burst of 

fulgurating intensity, resolving, 

in the second, into quiescence, 

submission, calm, if ultimately 

miraculous incandescence, one 

the antithesis of the other

 

Beethoven juxtaposes fury, 

tranquility, loud, soft, short, long 

– the serene adagio is twice 

length of the boisterous allegro 

– and by extension, war, peace, 

man, woman, strong, weak, hope,

despair, yin, in other words, yang, 

indissoluble dichotomies, a 

veritable musical existential 

philosophical tract, Beethoven’s 

treatise on existence

 

you can’t dance to it, though, 

don’t ask him

 

but you can thoroughly enjoy,

be inspired

 

 

R ! chard

nocturnes / scherzos, Chopin

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    Scherzo di putti 

 

          Giovanni Battista Piranesi

 

                        ______________

 

 

what is the difference between 

 

        one, a nocturne

         two, a scherzo

you tell me

both by Chopin

 

nocturne, incidentally, is a French 

word for night music

 

scherzo is an Italian word for joke, 

something humorous

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

psst: if you said the pace, the tempo, 

          however comparably, in all the 

          instances, elastic, you’re 

         absolutely right, the rest is

         ever entirely Romantic, which

         is to say, by definition,

         introspective

happy birthday, Joni Mitchell

clouds

  Nuages / Clouds 

 

      Fernand Léger

 

         _________

 

                         for Lajla, and, of course, Joni

 

in my German class in Dresden, I

was asked, since I was from 

Canada, to translate into German

a Canadian song, my teacher

suggested something of Joni 

Mitchell, someone she profoundly,

she said, admired, was I the one

to choose Both Sides Now“, or 

was she, I can’t remember, but 

that was the song I translated


Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way


But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all”

it could be my anthem

 

 

as it happened, Lajla, my teacher, who

who has since become a dear friend, 

in fact, meine beste deutsche Freundin, 

didn’t let me finish reading meinen 

übergesetzten Text for the class, it 

would’ve been too long

 

I still regret the unrecognized work

I did, but mostly I rue the fact that  

the other students never got to 

hear the sublime ending of the

song

 

 

R ! chard

 

“The Man I Love” – the Gershwins

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             Apollon(1937) 

             Charles Despiau

                    _______

flipping through old ruminations 
lately, that I’d left in my out box for 
whatever reason, I came across this 
number that I’d discovered on the 
Internet in order to soothe a trying 
emotional upset, when my heart is 
broken, I learn the words to torch 
songs, and wallow in their misery 
until the poignancy of the poetry 
seduces me and I revel in their 
caress, in their, indeed, excess

Apollo, my own personal deity, and 
I had split after 17 years, and though 
that story is completely different 
from the one in this torrid love song 
the anguish remains utterly the same, 
whether it’s around the man one 
loves, loved, or would love 

watch this wonderful rendition of 
The Man I Love in a version you’ll 
probably never forget, for both its 
originality and its great humanity


R ! chard

“Grand Piano Sonata” in G major, opus 37 – Tchaikovsky

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  “Blossoming Almond Branch in a Glass with a Book (1888)

       Vincent van Gogh

             __________

if Tchaikovsky’s 2nd Piano Sonata hasn’t
remained in the canon, if it isn’t one of 
the pieces you’ve heard if only through
the grapevine, it’s, I suspect, cause it’s 
essentially not an advance on other more 
prescient works in the form, other more 
oracular compositions

Beethoven had paved the way for the 
Romantic Period, nearly invented it,
established incontrovertibly the 
dimensions of the sonata, notably its 
purpose, its structure, Schubert had, 
however belatedly, confirmed it, with 
works equal to his, and even, here 
and there, superior, listen

but having reached the summit of 
what a sonata could say, the form 
little by little withered in its several
Romantic permutations, Tchaikovsky
here, for example, and became mere
elaborations upon a waning theme 
rather than exciting, and revelatory, 
productions 

the sonata would survive, but  
transformed by another era, 
Impressionism, Tchaikovsky would
as well, of course, but not through 
his sonatas

his Second, however, is not not 
worth a listen, would you pass, 
for instance, on a less celebrated
perhaps, van Goghsee above

Tchaikovsky’s, therefore, Second

 
R ! chard

“The Kingdom of Scotland vs the Weird Sisters”

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    “‘Macbeth’, Act I, Scene 3, the Weird Sisters (1783) 

           Henry Fuseli

               _______

if you thought The Kingdom of Denmark 
vs Hamlet was fun, you’ll love The 
Kingdom of Scotland vs the Weird 
Sisters“, U.S. Supreme Court Justice
Ruth Bader Ginsburg presides, with
the assistance of four other eminent
American judges, over the case in 
which the defendants, the witches 
who encounter Macbeth, are accused 
of concocting the murder of Duncan, 
King of Scotland, by that unsuspecting 
Thane of Glamis, soon to be Thane of 
Cawdor, not only predicting itbut 
verily perpetrating it

double, double, toil, indeed, and 
trouble, topical allusions flypithy, 
witty, pungent, delightful late night 
comedy fare, but of a more esoteric,
effete order 

watch, utterly enjoy


R ! chard

the Kingdom of Denmark vs Hamlet

ideal-portrait-of-shakespeare.jpg!Large

  Ideal portrait of Shakespeare (c.1775) 

         Angelica Kauffman

____________

since I’m on the subject of Hamlet
here‘s the most fun production 
I’ve seen since I can remember, 
the trial of said Hamlet before 
the High Court of the Kingdom 
of Denmark vs Himself, for the 
murder of Poloniuschief 
counsellor of the new King, 
Claudius, after the death of 
Hamlet, père, brother to Claudius, 
Greek, nearly, already, tragedy

Anthony M. KennedyAssociate 
Justice of the Supreme Court of 
the United States, presides, 
Abbe Lowell, counsel for both 
Jared Kushner, and Ivanka Trump
recently in the matter of Russian
interference, argues for the 
defense, while Jessie K. LiuU.S. 
Attorney for the District of 
Columbia, is the prosecution

the stakes are high, not only for
Hamlet

the participants put on quite 
show, however erudite, they 
all deliver in utter spades

you’ll relish the surprisingly 
multifarious quotations you 
might not, you thought, ‘ve 
got, of Shakespeare, you’ll be 
amazed to find that you’re not 
that much out of touch with 
these not so daunting, after 
all, considerations

much art, in other words, is only 
as far away as one’s curiosity, 
one’s acknowledgement, much 
of it is already in our system, in  
our cultural DNA, all that’s   
needed to take it in is our 
attention

watch


R ! chard

how to read music – Cello Sonata in D major, opus 102, no 2 – Beethoven

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     “Head in Black and Green (1913) 

            Alexej von Jawlensky

                    ___________

the line of music, the essential melody, 
is not resolved in Beethoven until several 
bars from the beginning in his Fifth Cello
Sonata, one note follows another without 
any specific reference to what preceded it 
but the tempo, and the voice, which is to 
say, its tonality

there is ever, however, though perhaps 
sometimes eccentric, a harmony, a 
convincing argument, we are speaking 
the same language

as in reading, one follows the musical 
line for those several bars, hanging 
onto each note for meaning, spotting 
even commas, semi-colons, periods, 
however unconsciously, until one 
reaches the end of the paragraph,
made evident by the recapitulation

therefore music
 
which doesn’t only, however, 
recapitulate, here, but elaborates, 
adding depth, dimension, local 
colour, to the already intricate 
story

Beethoven is challenging the very 
idea of music in this composition
much as later the Impressionists 
did, for instance, when they 
upended the entrenched idea of 
merely representational art – 
process I saw reverberating in my 
very own 1950’s, ’60’s, when even 
Monet, people objected, could’ve 
been managed by their children

Picasso, of course, was, at the time, 
nothing less than a joke, not to 
mention any of the Surrealists, or – 
gasp – the Expressionists, see
above


I prefer the very early cello sonatas  
of Beethoven, for their verve, their 
energy, the second movement, the 
Adagio con molto sentimento 
d’affetto” in this late oneoverdoes 
it, I think, a little, it’s like sitting with 
someone you can’t leavewhose 
sorrow is immense, and which you 
can barely handle, but must, out of,
if nothing else, chivalry, or common,
and insuperable, one hopes, human
compassion
consider, and duly, 
thus, proffer, ideally, grace

who hasn’t been there


R ! chard

String Quartet in F minor, opus 95, “Serioso” – Beethoven

napoleon-bonaparte-in-his-study-at-the-tuileries-1812.jpg!Large

Napoleon Bonaparte in his Study at the Tuileries (1812) 

      Jacques-Louis David

              __________

first of all, let me resolve an issue I’d 
brought up recently, can there be music 
without repetition, recapitulation, of an 
initial musical idea 

no, I emphatically now state, otherwise 
one has a sentence, prose, thus 
reiteration must define as we 
understand it, music

until, of course, I’m made to eat my 
words

secondly, and to the present point
Beethoven’s 11th String Quartet, was 
nicknamed Serioso“, imagine how 
far that label would get one nowadays
but it was a different era, where fun,
levity, wasn’t, creatively, an essential 
component, that only began to happen, 
modestly, in the mid-19th Century, then 
full on in the 20th, after the First World 
War, see the Charlestonfor instance, 
Charlie ChaplinFred Astaire and
Ginger Rogers  

the 11th is the last string quartet of 
Beethoven’s Middle Period – and if 
you think this one is serious, wait
till you hear his Late ones

but don’t let me scare you, they are 
transcendental, very epiphanies,
you’ll verily leave the planet 

note that the music you’re listening 
to in the Serioso is not initially 
cadenced, a line of notes deliver, 
rather, a sentence, which is later 
restated, there are more than the 
four Classical tempi, also, to divide 
the movements, but several, which 
display, nearly indiscriminately, 
much like in literature, or movies, 
variety of emotions, here
however, without the words, one, 
even, specifically called serioso”,
delivered, expressed, spoken, in 
the language of, however, music

listen

I hope you’ll enjoy  


R ! 
chard

psst: note that there are no words in
          the Charlie Chaplin either, but 
          the information is transmitted 
          through the eyes, not the ears