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Category: in search of God

“King John” – Shakespeare‏

"The King" - Max Beckmann

The King ( 1934 – 1937)

Max Beckmann

_________

King John, 1166 to 1216, was the brother
of Richard the First, “the Lionheart”, and
of Geoffrey, both sons, as well as John,
of Eleanor of Aquitaine and Henry the
Second

you might remember them all from the
classic The Lion in Winter from the
Sixties

in Shakespeare’s story, John has become
king, both Geoffrey and Richard have
already perished, but Geoffrey has left an
heir, Arthur, Constance’s son, and since
Geoffrey had been the eldest, his own son,
it is contested, should be the rightful heir
to the English throne

John is not in agreement, nor is Eleanor,
his mom, but Constance is backed by the
Duke of Austria and the King of France,
who will go to war to unseat John

meanwhile Arthur is too young to be
anything but ineffectual, innocent

they all meet before Angiers, a town
now in France, but ruled then by
England, where a delightful
confrontation occurs at its gates,
the town representative will let in
the King of England but only when
he knows who, of either, He is

war is however averted when a
marriage is suggested between the
two courts, a niece of John, Blanche
of Castille, will marry the Dauphin,
Louis, son of Philip of France,
joining, however improbably, the
two sparring factions

but thereby Arthur’s claim is lost,
and Constance is fully aware of
the inevitable, and treacherous,
consequences

a legate from the Pope, Cardinal
Pandolf, also steps into the fray,
to stir the political pot, pompously,
predictably, punctiliously and
perniciously, not to mention,
perfidiously, in the end, of course

the language is Shakespeare’s, to
be sure, therefore unavoidably
wrought, but with garlands of
irrepressible poetry that is ever
utterly, and irresistibly, enchanting

“I am not mad:”, says Constance to
Pandolf, who’s accused her of being
in such a state

“Lady, you utter madness, and not sorrow.”

Constance replies

“I am not mad: this hair I pull is mine
My name is Constance; I was Geoffrey’s wife;
Young Arthur is my son, and he is lost:
I am not mad: I would to heaven I were!
For then, ’tis like I should forget myself:
O, if I could, what grief should I forget!
Preach some philosophy to make me mad,
And thou shalt be canonized, cardinal;
For being not mad but sensible of grief,
My reasonable part produces reason
How I may be deliver’d of these woes,
And teaches me to kill or hang myself:
If I were mad, I should forget my son,
Or madly think a babe of clouts were he:
I am not mad; too well, too well I feel
The different plague of each calamity.”

act lll, scene lV

has there ever been such a telling
evocation of agony

Stratford’s version is superb, extraordinary,
unforgettable, don’t miss it, just click

Richard

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October, 2015‏

 "October" - Efim Volkov

October (1883)

Efim Volkov

_____

it’s the 3rd of October already, we’ve
slipped nearly imperceptibly, I’ve found,
into this new month, the days here are
crisp, if not cold, the leaves, not yet
fallen, are nevertheless bristling bright
orange, red, and gold, mustard, crimson,
and deep purple actually, in spotty
patches among the still prevalent greens
holding on determinedly to their extra
share of summer

nothing much more from me about this
otherwise unexceptional month, apart
from the introspection inherent in the
painting above
, offered for your
contemplation

and this wonderful piece from Tchaikovsky’s
The Seasons, its October: Autumn Song,
including this epigraph of Tolstoy from its
first Russian edition

“Autumn, our poor garden is falling down,
the yellowed leaves are flying on the wind.”

for your rapture

listen

Richard

psst:

today our building manager left a
chocolate on each of our doors

 

‏‏String Quartet no 2 in D major – Alexander Borodin‏


 "Russian Music" - James Ensor

Russian Music (1881)

James Ensor

_______

Alexander Borodin’s ravishing String
Quartet no 2 in D major
, from 1881,
was written only a few years after
Smetana’s 1876 From My Life“, and
sounds surprisingly similar, the same
number of movements all in the same
order, fast, a dance step, polka or
waltz, then slow, then fast

their second movements are notably
united by their common use of long
bowing of paired notes from the
violins, to establish, irresistibly,
the rhythm of their individual dances

their eccentric, even strident notes,
stretching towards atonality but
remaining this side of the divide,
thus surprisingly welcome, even
captivating

the change of tempo right in the
middle of every movement to
separate and sharpen contrast
between the exposition and the
development, then the whole
thing all over again, all quirks
of the evolution of the
nevertheless stalwart string
quartet structure, as unassailable,
it would appear, as that of the,
also inveterate, sonnet

I could go on

the difference is in the intention,
the appropriation of the Viennese
model to express more culturally
expanded varietals of the original
mode, in these two cases, Czech
and Russian, it’s all in each their
homegrown cadence

and that’s how music speaks if
you lend an ear

think of the European Pinot Noir,
for instance, taking root in other,
foreign soil not being necessarily
any longer inferior, sometimes
even superior, downright even
celebrated, you’ll get, essentially,
the big picture

Alexander Borodin’s ravishing
String Quartet no 2 in D major,
note, is such a prize, an utterly
intoxicating wine you wouldn’t
want to eschew, miss

Gesundheit

Richard

 

String Quartet no 1, “From My Life” – Bedřich Smetana‏

"Coucher de soleil sur le lac Léman" - Gustave Courbet

Coucher de soleil sur le lac Léman (1874)

Gustave Courbet

_________

paying attention to tenuti is not as
easy as all that, you’ll have found
probably that the music’s kept on
going and you’re not so sure if
what just went by indeed was a
tenuto, so brief, however stressed,
might’ve been the impression

rubati are easier, it’s hard to miss
them when they come round, for
being spread out through the
musical passage as a
consequence of being at the very
least three notes, usually
considerably more

tenuti happen on one note only,
one fleet fish in an ebullient river
rather than a more noticeable and
synchronous school

interestingly, not many of either,
rubati, tenuti, show up in music
history until the late Romantic
Era, the mid- to late 1800s, they’d
been only theoretically, and here
and there, part of the musical
vocabulary for having had no
purchase in music written for the
harpsichord, an instrument that
had allowed only minimal
resonance, though it laid the
foundations for composition,
and therefore dictated taste
into the very mid-nineteenth
century, a whole hundred years
after the invention of the piano,
by having entrenched the ideal
of strict tempo, the reflection,
note, of an ideal, and belief
then in a scientifically cogent
world

that was the Enlightenment

Romanticism came along to
express the ineffable reality of
the truths of the human heart,
in contrast to merely reason –
“Le coeur a ses raisons que la
raison ne connaît point”,
says
Pascal, “The heart has its own
logic which allows it to
understand what the rational
mind cannot”,
though he in a
somewhat other, much more
theological, context

but the shoe snugly fits, so I’ll
wear it, though with the same
consideration I’d render the
shoes, understand, of my
father

you can tell we’ve reached the
late 1800s when you start
hearing tenuti, ritardandi,
atonality, for that matter, and
also obscure and eccentric
repetitions

this pattern is probably more
evidenced in pictorial art,
where precision gives way to
individualized expression,
and the blurred lines of Early
Impressionism, see above

at the same time, the German
grip on the history of Western
music which it had held for a
hundred and fifty years, from
Bach to Brahms, began to loosen,
along with the idea, incidentally,
of a rationally, even irrationally,
conceived world, you can hear
it in the evolution of the tenuti,
the rubati, like canaries sense
altered conditions in a coal
mine

note however that music itself
is as indifferent to bald facts
as mathematics, it merely
describes, doesn’t comment

listen to Bedřich Smetana, a
Czech composer, his String
Quartet no 1, “From My Life”

follows in the footsteps of
the Germans, but with a
distinctively folkloric air,
there’s even a polka

tend the tenuti, relish the
rubati, if you can identify
them, they’re milestones
to the modern

but, more than anything,
enjoy

Richard

 

what’s happening in Poland

"The Kiss" - Gustav Klimt

The Kiss (1907-08)

Gustav Klimt

_______

last night, most unexpectedly,
someone I know sent me this, I
wondered if it was because of
the music, the message, or the
performance, consequently I
assumed everything

Mateusz Ziółko won the Voice
of Poland
contest in 2013, it’s
fun, despite the language
barrier – the adjudication being
all in Polish – to watch also,
during the evaluation, the judge
in blue fall apart, come entirely
undone, be unabashedly smitten,
from nearly the very first note of
this riveting audition, then spend
the rest of the show trying to get
herself back together again

much as I did, in fact, without
a camera

quiver too, enjoy

Richard

 

September, 2015‏

 "A September Day" - George Henry

A September Day (1935)

George Henry

_______

September is a melancholy month, it
suggests fall in all of its connotations,
the array of burning colours lighting
up the leaves, purple, amber, magenta,
the steady decline into winter, of the
year and, by metaphorical extension,
of the years we have to come

it’s a month for philosophy, I think,
and introspection, therefore,
incidentally, I am

listen

Richard

“Let’s Face the Music and Dance”‏

"Hot Jazz" - Frank Kline

Hot Jazz (1940)

Frank Kline

_______

having watched a superb interpretation
of this classic Nat King Cole number on
“So You Think You Can Dance” recently,
a show I havent missed since it started,
I went looking for a performance of the
song I could sink my teeth into, and
Fred and Ginger, however wonderful,
could not give me the immediacy I was
intent on discovering, I needed words,
not action, “Let’s Face the Music and
Dance”
from the heart

though I’d heard of Diana Krall, I hadn’t
anywhere yet identified her, if ever I’d
even heard her

she took my breath away, knocked my
socks off, I want to go to Rio, where
she sang this song, just click

once I’d heard this piece on free Internet
video, I ran, didn’t just walk, albeit on the
comfort of my own sofa, to iTunes and
bought the whole show for what turned
out to be essentially a song, $4.99
Canadian, wow

turned out I could’ve got it for free as
well right there by running instead to
Google, had I not been so impetuous,
smitten

Live in Rio is a revelation, and I don’t
even like jazz, but I liked this show
enough to make me want to fly to Rio,
make my own Bossa Nova, maybe even
meet my own Ipaneman

though Diana Krall, incidentally lives
right here in Vancouver, she says

note, in passing, the connections to
Classical music, you’ll want to count
tenuti, for instance, and rubati,
accelerandi
and rallentandi, while
you’re at it

note also the Classical imperatives,
tonality, tempo, and repetition, which,
you’ll find, haven’t much changed in
the 21st Century, though rhythm is a
lot more fluid, flexible, now, not so
rigid

the group is a variation on the string
quartet, now comprising double bass,
guitar, percussion, and piano, with
voice thrown in

an orchestral back up makes us ready
for a concerto, where here we have a
set of independent pieces held
together, however solidly, by mere
mood

and, of course, Diana Krall’s vocal
and interpretive magic

listen, be smitten

Richard

 

“Il Silenzio” – Nini Rosso‏

the Yser Memorial - Nieuwpoort, Holland

the Yser Memorial

Nieuwpoort, Holland

___________

the year before last when my mom and I
were in Belgium, we stayed at a wonderful
bed and breakfast, Ter Brugge, in a place
called Jabbeke, a village near Bruges, our
intended sightseeing destination, cause
I’d read in the prospectus that they served
fresh eggs from their very own chickens in
the morning, and where there turned out to
be fresh fruit also from their very own
orchards

not to mention the hearty, convivial
welcome in the manner of the countryside –
the restaurant across the street, five stars
nevertheless, however improbable in so
nestled and remote an area, even let us
bring back cash instead of the unaccepted
credit card we were proffering, and wouldn’t
accept a compensatory tip when the next
day I returned to oblige

try that in your own urban back yard

more companionable still were our hosts,
Staf and Annemie, who’d faultlessly drive
us several kilometres away to the bus stop
every morning to the city, and pick us up
across the street there every night, so
we could spend, without impracticality,
each day in Bruges

and every morning we’d meet up with a
couple from England as we waited, who
were staying in a trailer park nearby,
and who’d trek to Ypres by bus to honour
their countrymen who’d died there

somehow we never thought, my mom
and I, of going to either Ypres or
Passchendaele, despite our, especially
her, particular interest

we learned from them that every day,
every day, however improbably, since
the end of the First World War, there is
a commemoration to honour the fallen
soldiers

today I learned that in a cemetery near
Maastricht in Holland, every single fallen
soldier there has been adopted by a family
who’ve been minding their graves ever
since

makes one wonder about our own
beloved

on Liberation Day each year, May 5th,
throughout Holland, there is a formal
commemoration at the end of which,
since 1965 when it was commissioned,
someone plays Il Silenzio

listen

Richard

 

Fantasie in C Major, D. 760 (“Wanderer”) – Franz Schubert‏

 "The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog" - Caspar David Friedrich

The Wanderer above the Sea of Fog (1818)

Caspar David Friedrich

____________

a great way of learning to speak music,
approfondir, we say in French, to plumb
the intellectual depths of, is to count the
tenuti, as I quasi-humorously suggested
in my last piece one should, a tenuto, of
course, holds, caresses, one note, or one
chord, only, before proceeding any
further

music is a language, like French, English,
indeed I even include it as a language I
speak as professional qualification, people
find it amusing who don’t speak it

but you need to start somewhere, and
tenuti are as good a place as any, they’re
like an exclamation mark, denote intensified
intention, these give direction, and structure
to the statement, separating the units of
what’s being said

pauses between words, when you’re learning
a language, for learners is a godsend, and
thank goodness for them at least at the end
of sentences

tenuti do the same, count the tenuti, you’ll
discover an enchanted world of music,
right there between the lines

surprisingly you’ll find, rubati, tenuti,
rallentandi, accelerandi
don’t occur much
in Romantic music, where you’d expect
the grand passions to swoop and sway
and swoon, but gripped still by the
rigours of Classicism, and its own roots
in the harpsichord, its beats were rigid
still, mostly, right through to Schubert,
Chopin, whereupon more lachrymose
composers began to use these devices
nearly indiscriminately

count the tenuti in this wonderful
Fantasie in C Major, D. 760 of Schubert,
his Wanderer” Fantasy, you won’t find
that many, nor rubati, rallentandi,
accelerandi,
for that matter, and that’s like
someone not crying on your shoulder,
Schubert gives it to you straight, whether
emphatic, earning empathy, or making
magic

Richard

psst:

the Wanderer” Fantasy, incidentally,
is, again, programmatic music, it is
based on Schubert‘s own lied, song,
to Georg Philipp Schmidt von
Lûbeck
‘s The Wanderer

“Three Movements from Petroushka” – Igor Stravinsky‏

"Ballets Russes" - August Macke

Ballets Russes (1912)

August Macke

__________

Donald, I said to my friend, the
musicologist, what’s the plural
of tenuto

I’d been lining up what I call my
“articles of pace”, the musical
notations that indicate tempo,
tempi

rubato, of course, for time stretched,
the bottom of a dip when your partner
pauses at the end of your arm where
you steal a private moment during
otherwise waltz time, or tango

rubato must be in the middle of a
bar cause a stolen moment needs
space to return to its more natural
rhythm, equilibrium

a ritardando, or rallentando, slows
down but at the end of a bar, or
musical statement, often at the very
end of a piece, for an introspective,
say, ending

an accelerando is its opposite,
speeding up the beat, and will
continue till it reaches its apogee,
climax, as it were

a tenuto holds, caresses, one note,
or one chord, only, before proceeding
any further

all of these words, incidentally, are
adverbs, not nouns, but through
usage have assimilated the idioms
of nouns, therefore singulars and
plurals, articles and adjectives
apply

what’s the plural of tenuto, I’d
asked

Donald, always a sport, answered
tersely, tenuti, grinning

you’re kidding me, I replied, boy,
will I have fun with that

two tenuti, three tenuti, four tenuti,
five, six tenuti, seven tenuti, eight
tenuti, jive, I continued, racking up
immediate levity, not to mention
momentum, and cadence

count the tenuti in this masterpiece,
Stravinsky‘s Three Movements
from Petroushka
“,
a programmatic
piece, Petroushka is a puppet in love
with a ballerina, but she’s in love
with a Moor, more about Moors later,
maybe, it could get controversial

Petroushka, distressed, challenges
the Moor, but the Moor kills him

Petroushka returns as a ghost, but
ineffectually, cause he’s really only,
finally, a puppet

Vaslav Nijinsky played Pertroushka
in the original production with
Diaghilev‘s Ballets Russes, June 13,
1911, in Paris, the rest is history

in 1921 Stravinsky wrote an arrangement
for virtuosic, he specified, piano, using
three scenes only from the ballet as
pivot

1 – Danse russe (Russian Dance)
2 – Chez Pétrouchka (Petroushka’s Room)
3 – La semaine graisse (The Shrovetide Fair)

they’re fast, very fast, prestississimo,
you’ll miss the breaks if you blink,
where you’d be likely to find, if any,
tenuti

good luck

Richard