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Category: dramatic monologues

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

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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

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    “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

January 30, 2018

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        Moon Light (1895) 

               Edvard Munch

                    ________

my mom texted me this morning that
the moon would be  “BLOODY RED IN 
COLOUR….because “, she added, “earth
🌏 will be between sun and moon …last
happened 152 years ago ….moon closest
to earth 🌏

I haven’t told her yet that from my 
window I’ll be singing, as the moon  
rises above the mountains in the 
east, Casta Diva“, Norma’s song 
to the moon

chaste Goddess, she appeals, who 
bathes these sacred trees in silvery 
light, bless us with your grace, we
are not not in need of it

maybe you’ll sing along


Norma is a Druidic priestess, 
representing her community, which 
has been overtaken, and is now ruled,
by the Romans, she bears already, 
however, two children of a Roman 
military official, Pollione, who has 
fallen for her maid, Adalgisa, sparks 
fly in every direction, both personal 

and political, Adalgisa ‘ll keep the 
kids eventually, and both Norma and 
Pollione will go the pyre, the very 
height of Romantic fervour, check it
out, it’s extraordinary, with Joan 
Sutherland in this, dare I say, 
classic performance

but first of all, Casta Diva itself, by  
the inimitable Maria Callas 

and may the moon be your guide


R ! chard

on “Song to the Moon” – Antonin Dvořák

rising-moon-1964

   “Rising Moon (1964)

          Hans Hofmann

              __________

the moon was out last night, grand
upon the starlit evening, either 
waxing or waning, I’m not sure, but
not full, a gibbous moon, above the 
buildings that scrape, in my big city 
neighbourhood, in the very Cubist 
manner, the night sky, see above

I’d been listening to Renée Fleming
singing Dvořák‘s Song to the Moon
in my head since I’d seen her do it, 
on television, in a summer evening 
concert at Schönbrunn, Vienna, some
few days ago, sheit, had been utterly, 
sublimely, enchanting, I’m a Cancer, a
moon child, I speak to the moon

to the moon, I said, moon in the dark
heavens, who steal into every home
and hearth at night, find my beloved
and tell him what is in my heart, rapt 
as I was in the spell of my special
planet, my personal orb, and the 
enveloping Dvořákian magic, though 
there’s been no beloved lately, just 
trailings of the latest one who broke, 
of course, my heart, which gives more 
pathos, however, incidentally, to my 
singing, I’ve giddily gathered

at home, I found Renée Fleming doing 
the piece on the Internet, entirely as 
splendidly, earlier, at London’s Royal
Albert Hall, September, 2010

listen

R ! chard

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

“Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave”

hank-williams-1

                        Hank Williams

                              _______

halfway through The Last Picture Show
recently, a celebrated movie from the early 
Seventies I was watching, about the early
Fifties, I was sidetracked by the Hank  
Williams soundtrack till I was out and out 
stopped by its fervent Cold, Cold Heart 

I put the film on pause 

another love before my time, I warbled,
made your heart sad and blue, and so 
my heart is paying now, I wallowed, for 
things didn’t do, in anger unkind words
were said, I rued, that made the teardrops 
start, why can’t I free, your doubtful mind, 
I fretted, and melt your cold, cold heart 

but I wanted to hear Hank Williams do
it too, live if I could, and lo and behold 
got it

but listed as an option among other 
options nearby was also a longer  
feature purporting to be a 
representation of a concert he 
never  gave the night, December 31, 
1952, he died, the movie is called,
not inappropriately, Hank Williams:
The Show He Never Gave

the actor who plays Williams steps
right into his shoes, he’ll break your 
heart, you’ll need a lot of Kleenex

one of he best film biographies I’ve 
ever seen 

watch it

Hank Williams died of a heart attack
on the night of December 31, 1952

he was 29

may he rest in everlasting peace

Richard

up my idiosyncrasies – a bio

marcel-proust.jpg!Large

      “Marcel Proust” 
 
       Richard Lindner
 
          ___________
 
 
for a bio with which I’ve been asked 
to provide an online poetry magazine 
I’ve been encouraged to apply to, I’m 
submitting the following text
 
I thought you might enjoy it
 
 
Richard
 
           ______________
 
 
my name is Richard Bisson, from
which you’ll intuit my French 
Canadian background, though I 
write mostly in English, with no 
trouble however in French, my 
mother tongue is le français  
 
I am thus imbued, undoubtedly,
with that sensibility, my peers 
have been HugoFlaubert, and
most of all Marcel Proust, whom 
I imbibed for 33 years, in French,
page by page, reading each out 
loud as though it were my own, I 
cannot but be replicating now his 
rhythms, his aesthetic, his view 
of the world
 
it didn’t take me as long to read 
Homer, in the thunderous Robert  
Fitzgerald translation, – a mighty
roar resounding still from the 
ninth century before the Christian 
Era – from him I learned to speak 
from the heart, it’s not one’s style  
one has to master, but one’s 
humanity
 
Robert Browning gave me the 
dramatic monologue as a poetic
device, a gift he’d received from
 
Shakespeare himself, of course,
the unbridled freedom of his own 
literary imagination
 
Carl Sandburg‘s Chicago taught 
me to talk about every wo/man, 
about things even my own folks 
were doing
 
Collapsed showed me that even 
apparently inconsequential acts
can be poetry, poetry in the 
apparently humdrum 
 
Mary Oliver is a strong present 
influence
 
the cadence is entirely Beethoven,
with some help, I must admit, from 
the atonalists, SchoenbergBerg,
and Weberncommas are my bar 
lines
 
 
I call what I do prosetry, a word so 
new my computer won’t even let 
me write it, I’m a prosetrist, this 
word either
 
I want to link everyday experience 
with poetry, make poetry in the eye 
of the beholder, where truth and 
beauty lie
 
if people can see what I see, they 
can see that way themselves, it’s 
something one learns, and it’s all 
in the way one entrenches words 
and ideas
 
I eliminated the word “if” from my 
vocabulary once, for being then
too speculative, it changed my life, 
I’ve replaced it since with the word 
“miracle”, that has also changed 
my life
 
I am 67 years old
 
I live in Vancouver, Canada
 
I consider myself to be, at this 
point in my life, bibliosexual, I
sleep with my books, and we’re
all still getting along just fine 
 
may you be so blessed
 
 
Richard
 
psst: also Anaïs Nin, for the 
          intimacy of her diaries
 
          o, and Woody Allen, for
          giving up before his  
          nihilism and just 
          laughing