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Category: dramatic monologues

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

 

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“The Man I Love” – the Gershwins

apollon-1937.jpg!Large.jpg

             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

blossoming-almond-branch-in-a-glass-with-a-book-1888(1).jpg!Large.jpg

  “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”

macbeth-act-i-scene-3-the-weird-sisters-1783(1).jpg!Large

    “‘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

head-in-black-and-green-1913.jpg!Large

     “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

at the movies – “Phaedra”

phaedra-and-hippolytus-1802.jpg

     “Phaedra and Hippolytus (1802) 

            Pierre-Narcisse Guérin

                   _____________

Phaedra, according to Greek myth, fell
in love with her stepson, and, of course,
ruined, for everyone, everything 

she’s been represented in music by
composers from, at least, Rameau,
1733, to, here, now, Benjamin Britten,  
1976by way of even Tangerine
Dream, 1973, however peripherally, 
and the hits just keep on coming

in literature, the story goes back to 
Euripides, 480 – 406 BCE, through
Jean Racine, 1639 – 1699, poet at 
the court of Louis XlV, the version 
that I studied in French Literature,
along with, in English, Shakespeare,
who was doing courtiers, rather, 
and royalty there, then, incidentally, 
instead of the Continent’s iconic 
Mediterranean figures – it remains 
my favourite play in my mother 
tongue, next to, for me, its only 
other equal, Cyrano de Bergerac

but I’d never seen a production of 
Phaedra until this searing, 
modern, rendition, set in, relatively 
contemporary, Greece, London, 
and Paris, with the irrepressible, 
the irresistible, Melina Mercouri
torrid temptress, the very goddess 
Herahereand Anthony Perkins
perfect as her suitor, a youth still, 
pulsing with a young man’s 
unbridled intentions

sparks fly, from moment to 
incendiary moment – I had often 
to pause to catch my breath – 
portents of an inescapable, and 
eventually epic, indeed mythic, 
apocalypse

watch, if you dare


R ! chard

Piano Sonata no 17, opus 31, no 2 “The Tempest” – Beethoven

tempest-on-the-northern-sea-1865.jpg!Large

    “Tempest on the Northern Sea (1865) 

             Ivan Aivazovsky

                  __________

                               for Judy, who “glimpses“, she says,
                                   “a kinder world, that [my] missives
                                          provide” – thank you, Judy                            


just as I was being called on the 
carpet for my constant returns to 
Beethoven, none other than Glenn 
Gould should show up, in my 
cavern of wonders, to absolve me, 
or at least to stand stolidly by my 
side

let him talk

had I written, however, his 
observations, I’m sure you’d’ve  
balkedhe’s a product, after all,  
of the priggish pretensions that  
prevailed in my neck of the woods 
at the time, Southern Ontario, a  
product of British Imperialism  
of which I am myself, I avow,  
incontrovertibly subject, but due  
to the strength of his celebrity,  
one is likely to listen to Gould  
more attentively, I’m not 
sufficiently yetsuspect,  
significant, nor influential
 
he is, one way or the other, I concur,
absolutely right

about his Tempest“, though, I’ll say, 
even object, as Stravinsky and John 
Cage did, according to Gouldabout 
the commanding Beethoven, that 
Gould is dripping in Romantic
sentiment here, his rubato in the 
first movement tests the limits of   
our forbearance, and his second  
movement is so slow as to have 
one fall off the page

but his last movement, the allegretto,
is brilliant

Gould’s idiosyncratic, dare I say, 
eccentric, performance will 
throughout, nevertheless, 
astonish, indeed electrify, even,
I’m sure, inspire, watch, listen

and thanks ever, especially, for 
dropping by 


R ! chard

psst: here’s another version of the 17th,  
          to my mind, less self-indulgent, but 
          you be the judge, don’t think about 
          it, just ask yourself which one  
          would you want to hear a next time,  
          that’ll be your, gloriously personal,   
          reply

          enjoy

twice upon a dirge – Beethoven / Chopin

owl-on-a-grave-1837.jpg!Large

   Owl on a Grave” / “Eule am Grab (c.1836 – c.1837) 

          Caspar David Friedrich

                   _______

following my nose rather than 
my intellect in my exploration 
of musical treasures, like a very 
Aladdin uncovering at the click 
of my password a cave full of 
priceless wonders, I might find 
stuff out of sequence, but gems
nevertheless, and I can’t just 
whisk by without acknowledging 
them, however peripheral to my 
main task  

it’s like heading towards the Eiffel
Tower in Paris, and not stopping 
at the Arche de Triomphe

though I’d debated so soon 
presenting these two pieces, 
not because of their chronology 
especially, though also that, but 
mostly because of their dour 
content, I’ll point out that the 
move from Classicism to 
Romanticism is the transition 
from dance music, delightful 
music, to drama, passion, 
powerful emotions, dirges, 
therefore, are not out of place, 
however mournful

thus the two most famous 
funeral marches, Beethoven’s,
Chopin’s, the third movement 
in either of their home sonatas

the clincher for me was the 
immaculate performance of 
the Chopin herea revelatory 
moment, though the Beethoven
significantly earlier, the tune, 
1801, 1837, is nevertheless 
unimpeachable, however still 
underdeveloped – four variations 
only in the first movement, for 
instance, and all of them 
elementary – the caterpillar had 
not yet become the butterfly, the 
apple blossom the apple

note that each movement in the 
Chopin, apart from the last, has
two distinct tempi, executed 
effortlessly and nearly 
imperceptibly, a total of six, you 
can’t see, you can’t hear, the 
seams as you listen, which, with 
its virtual therefore episodes, 
conflicting and tortuous 
emotions, constitute collectively 
a drama, a narrative, music has 
become literature

the last movement of the Chopin
moves beyond even tempo – 
Beethoven’s also, incidentally, 
nearly – creating therefore 
very challenge to it, both trying 
to transcend tempi, an area to 
closely watch

Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no 12

Chopin’s Piano Sonata no 2

take your pick

both are supremely, mark, 
instructive


R ! chard