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Category: in search of truth

rhapsodies – Gershwin / Rachmaninov

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  “Rhapsody (1958) 

 

      Hans Hofmann


          _________

 

if a sonata is a piece of music with more

than one section, by definition a rhapsody

is not a sonata, a rhapsody has only one 

section, only one movement, all that is 

required, therefore, essentially, of a 

rhapsody, is that it be – a subjunctive 

here, incidentally, the mood of aspiration, 

high hopes, ideals – that it be, I reiterate, 

rhapsodic

 

in the spirit of juxtaposition, here are two

rhapsodies, the first, George Gershwin’s 

Rhapsody in Blue“, the other 

Rachmaninov’s, his Rhapsody on a 

Theme of Paganini

 

how are they different, you tell me

 

I’ll just point out that the one seems, to 

my ears, steeped still in the Romantic 

Period, the early 19th Century, despite 

its publishing date, 1934, the other

earlier, composition, 1924, sounds like 

full blown, in comparison, 20th Century

America, the future 

 

Old Europe, in other words, meets the 

New World, however chronologically 

counterintuitively

 

listen, you can hear all of it, both are,

either era, extraordinary, time is what

eventually tells

 


R ! chard

 

Sonata no 14 in C minor, K457 – Mozart

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     Dinner at the Ball (1879) 

 

              Edgar Degas

 

                _________

 

 

a formal dinner among family and friends 

has traditionally consisted of a salad, 

followed by a main course, then by 

dessert, all of this by convention, it is not

forbidden to serve dessert first, just highly

unusual, and noticeably disconcerting

 

these primary courses have since evolved,

in more elegant places, to include an

appetizer, either added, or to replace the

salad, and cheese can do the same for 

dessert, so that five services can now  

outpace the original three

 

different cultural settings may change 

somewhat the above order, some

Europeans, for instance, have their  

salad after the main course, but in  

general, this sequence is fixed

 

you can say the same for the sonata,

and all its derivatives

 

 

a sonata was originally served in three

courses, called movements, the first

sprightly, the second, in contrast, more

somber, contemplative, probing, the last 

jovial again upon imminent farewells, for

the same reasons that applied to formal

dinners, to express opulence, 

magnanimity, and variety of invention,

which is to say, power, and eventually,

cultural influence

 

here’s Mozart’s Sonata no 14 in C minor

K457, in three movements, auditory,

rather than gustatorycourses, where 

our era’s musical parameters, their order 

of presentation, for better or for worse, 

all began 

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

a degustation

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Lemons (1929)

Georges Braque

___________

watching one of my cooking competition
shows on television the other day, the
twelve contestants were called upon in
pairs to create, each couple, one of the
six elements in a degustation menu

a degustation menu – I raised an eyebrow
at that one – is the same as a tasting menu,
but at a finer, it is implied, restaurant

the theme was citrus fruit, each service
had to highlight one of them, a mandarin,
a lemon, an orange, a lime, a tangelo,
a grapefruit, in that order

my goodness, I thought, a set of
variations on edibles, I was delighted,
not to mention synesthetically
titillated, all my senses were alive

the first course was a mandarin-cured
prawn ceviche, with pesto, something
to tease one’s palate, leaving plenty of
room, however, for what was to follow,
the second course, an equally light
lemon-cured salmon with smoked
crème fraîche and decorative
translucent radish slices, in again but
polite allotments

the third service introduces the protein,
duck with the nearly ever requisite
orange, but with beets, in this instance,
on an underlying sheen of all their
accumulated and colourful juices,
bread, I would imagine, would’ve been
gluttonously required

beef then followed, to fill the second
of the more substantial and filling
elements of the meal, with a lime
reduction and beets

for dessert, the fifth service presented
a tangelo cup with a surprise chocolate
truffle meant to burst in one’s mouth
with iced tangelo flavour, refreshing
and unexpectedly delightful, followed
by a grapefruit sorbet with chocolate
ganache and meringue shards as a
finale

not all contestants reached the heights
wished for, but some were memorable,
much as in any set of, even noteworthy,
variations

here’s Glenn Gould playing Beethoven’s
Six Variations in F major, Opus 34, each
variation is comparable to a culinary
experience, but for piano

listen, compare

these are preceded here by a late, and
haunting, Beethoven bagatelle, his
Opus 126, however, after which the
variations themselves are conveniently
spliced in the editing process to help
distinguish each movement from the
other

Glenn Gould doesn’t hit a note wrong,
but I think Beethoven’s introductory
aria, upon which the variations are
built, and which is repeated at the end
after a coda, or final interpolated wave,
is slow, a more engaging opening
would’ve been, to my mind, more
effective

I also would’ve, however peripherally,
degusted especially the lime beef

R ! chard

psst: incidentally, all Bach’s Cello Suites
are in six segments, their common
theme is dance, each one is a
scintillating Baroque example

who’s afraid of the subjunctive

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Impression, Sunrise” (1873)

Claude Monet

________

who’s afraid of the subjunctive

much like Elizabeth Taylor as Martha
in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”,
my answer is, I am, George, I am

the subjunctive is an esoteric mood,
even more abstruse in English than
in other languages, where the verb’s
conjugation highlights its presence,
in English, it’s nearly identical to the
indicative, the mood everybody
instinctively speaks in, facts

the subjunctive is about aspiration,
like the conditional, abstract, not
real, but its intention, rather than
the conditional’s inherent
impediment, a condition, shoots
for the stars, isn’t introspective,
but adamant, imperative

it is necessary that one be, it is
urgent that one have, it is
important that one effect, a
particular thing or event, all
subjunctives after the
doorkeeper word, “that”

one finds the subjunctive in
Shakespeare, master of grammar,
perhaps unparalleled in English,
a lot – O, that this too solid flesh
would melt, / Thaw and resolve
itself into a dew!
– and follows
with Elizabeth Barrett Browning –
Pardon, o pardon that my soul
should make, / Of all that strong
divineness which I know / For
thine and thee …,
for instance,
who is so profoundly indebted to
Shakespeare for her aesthetics

one wondrous day, I realized that
Proust’s entire À la recherche du
temps perdu
, his “In Search of
Lost Time
“, my Bible, was set in
the, French however, subjunctive,
the mood, there as well, of
possibility, therefore rather than
the definitive recreation of an
earlier time, Proust was
describing a sensibility, a personal
interpretation of a previous reality,
however bolstered by intimate and
apparently precise recollection of
shimmeringly imprecise, though
personally accurate, impressions

note here the similar preoccupations
of Proust’s contemporaries, the, aptly
named, Impressionists

everything, Proust was saying, as
were also the Impressionists, is in
the eye of the beholder

the subjunctive is the mood that
sets this instinct in motion

R ! chard

psst: Somerset Maugham I remember
being noteworthy as well for his
immaculate use, in his South
Pacific tales, of the subjunctive,
extremely elegant in its refined
construction, even with its
English austerities, like making
lace out of mere cloth, impressive
despite its impracticality, or
perhaps even because of it

Concerto for Keyboard / Violin, BWV 1052 – Bach

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     “The Nightwatch (1642) 

 

                  Rembrandt

 

                       _____

 

 

                                for Barbara, who dutifully 

                                      kicked me in the psyche

 

 

there is apparent discussion about whether

the BWV 1052 of Bach was first a keyboard 

or a violin, concerto, I’ve only known it as a 

keyboard concerto till now, when looking 

for it for a friend, I happened upon this 

recently published rendering of an event 

that took place at the Rijksmuseum in 

Amsterdam in front of the very 

Nightwatch” of Rembrandt, historical  

epochs coming iconically together  

 

which is why, incidentally, I love Europe,

Disneyland for adults, where epochal

periods come together like fantasies,

tossing back at us their manifest, their

multifarious, and mythic glories  

 

 

what do you think, which came first, the

chicken or the egg,  the keyboard or the

violin

 

I think, however prejudicially, the 

keyboardbut what do I know  

 

enjoy either, they’re both riveting 

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: note how the painted faces and the real

          faces in the violin version look alike,

          Rembrandt‘s genius 

 

 

 

 
 

 

grammmar in action, verb moods

philosophy-and-grammar.jpg!Large

 

     Philosophy and Grammar 

   

            Gentile da Fabriano

 

                    __________

 

reach, imperative, I always say, indicative, 

for a star, you might, conditional, get the 

moon, but you might also, conditional, 

get a star

 

such is the power of mood in verb 

structure, and an expression of how 

words through grammatical stipulations

become inspiration, poetry

 

think about it 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

 

on ego, in particular, mine

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       “Luncheon in the Studio (1868)

 

                 Édouard Manet

 

                      _________

            

you think I’ve got a big ego, I asked
friend who’d just told me I had one,
not confrontationally 
but as a matter
of fact, I wasn’t offended, just curious,
I think I’m so humble, I answered,
usually, so deferential

she wouldn’t cede to my, to her,

manifestly improbable, argument 

 

what do you call ego, I asked

 

what the definition is in the dictionary,

she answered, and pulled out her cell

phone to prove it

 

sure, I said, I know what the dictionary 

says, but how does that apply to me

 

well, just what it says, she said

 

my mother reads in the paper that it’s

going to rain today, I said, then it 

doesn’t, and I retort that only the 

weather essentially knows about the 

weather, but she still keeps to the

prognostications

 

one night I said, look, mom, the moon 

is full, no, she answered, it’s a quarter 

moon, it said so on the calendar, look, 

I said again, it’s full, it’s a full moon, 

but she wouldn’t believe me, it turned 

out she’d been reading the previous 

year’s almanac 

 

print gives us Platonic ideals, standards

that we think definitive, I asserted, but 

everything is in the eye of the beholder, 

words are just approximations, nothing 

but meeting places where we toss around

disparate ideas no firmer, nor distinct,  

nor assured than conversations among

different languagesmiscommunication 

can be that wide 

 

my friend tells me just talking like that

is proof of my big ego, but I still don’t 

get it, I think I’m so courteous, 

fundamentally, so congenial and, you

know, nice, otherwise 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

the conditional

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    “If Once You Have Slept on an Island (1996) 

 

           Jamie Wyeth


               ________

 

the conditional mood is easy, it always

follows if 

 

     if I had a hammer, for instance

 

or

 

     if I were a rich man

 

it is not a real event, as Classical 

representation would be in art, were I

to make that synesthetic juxtaposition,

which is to say, were I to replace the 

visual sense with that of letters, but

rather like Surrealismfor instance, 

in that other context, a superimposed

idealization

 

here’s a poem you’ve probably 

already heard, or heard of, through 

its final, and epochal, verse, Kipling’s

If“, a towering instance of moral 

suasion on our culture

 

       If you can keep your head when all about you

           Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,   

       If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,   

            But make allowance for their doubting too;  

       If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

          Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

       Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

           And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

 

        If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;   

            If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;   

        If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

           And treat those two impostors just the same;   

        If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

          Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

        Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

           And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

 

      If you can make one heap of all your winnings

            And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

      And lose, and start again at your beginnings

           And never breathe a word about your loss;

        If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

          To serve your turn long after they are gone,   

       And so hold on when there is nothing in you

          Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

 

        If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,   

           Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch, 

        If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

            If all men count with you, but none too much;

        If you can fill the unforgiving minute

           With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,   

        Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,   

           And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

   

in the spirit of juxtaposition, compare 

that to Polonius’ admonition to his son,

Laertes, upon that young colt’s imminent 

return to France, where he had earlier

been, reputedly, carousing

 

       Yet here, Laertes! aboard, aboard, for shame!

       The wind sits in the shoulder of your sail,

       And you are stay’d for. There; my blessing with thee!

       And these few precepts in thy memory

       See thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue,

       Nor any unproportioned thought his act.

       Be thou familiar, but by no means vulgar.

       Those friends thou hast, and their adoption tried,

       Grapple them to thy soul with hoops of steel;

        But do not dull thy palm with entertainment

        Of each new-hatch’d, unfledged comrade. Beware

        Of entrance to a quarrel, but being in,

        Bear’t that the opposed may beware of thee.

        Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;

         Take each man’s censure, but reserve thy judgment.

         Costly thy habit as thy purse can buy,

         But not express’d in fancy; rich, not gaudy;

         For the apparel oft proclaims the man,

         And they in France of the best rank and station

         Are of a most select and generous chief in that.

         Neither a borrower nor a lender be;

         For loan oft loses both itself and friend,

         And borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.

         This above all: to thine ownself be true,

         And it must follow, as the night the day,

         Thou canst not then be false to any man.



from Shakespeare’s “Hamlet”act 1, scene 3,

all, incidentally, in the imperative, the mood

of command, authority, however consequential

there, or not

 

 

 a film called “If…” is also worth visiting 

in this context, from the 1970s, with an 

iconic soundtrack that gripped the

generation then that heard it, listen,

watch, the Missa Luba, be gripped

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

a juxtaposition of verb moods

 

       the-wanderer-above-the-sea-of-fog.jpg!Blog.jpg

           The Wanderer above a Sea of Fog (1818) 


                   Caspar David Friedrich

 

                         _______________

 

 

a cardinal rule, the juxtaposition of two 

things of the same sort will exponentially

increase the information gleaned of either

 

therefore the following

 

The Impossible Dream“, listen 

 

       To dream the impossible dream

       To fight the unbeatable foe

       To bear with unbearable sorrow

       To run where the brave dare not go

 

       To right the unrightable wrong

       To love pure and chaste from afar

       To try when your arms are too weary

       To reach the unreachable star

 

       This is my quest, to follow that star

       No matter how hopeless, no matter how far

       To fight for the right

       Without question or pause

       To be willing to march

       Into hell for a heavenly cause

 

        And I know if I’ll only be true

       To this glorious quest

        That my heart will lay peaceful and calm

        When I’m laid to my rest

 

        And the world will be better for this

        That one man scorned and covered with scars

         Still strove  with his last ounce of courage

         To fight the unbeatable foe

         To reach the unreachable star

 

and Climb Every Mountain, listen again

 

        Climb every mountain

        Search high and low

        Follow every byway

        Every path you know

 

        Climb every mountain

        Ford every stream

        Follow every rainbow

        ‘Till you find your dream

 

        A dream that will need  

        All the love you can give

        Every day of your life

        For as long as you live

 

        Climb every mountain

        Ford every stream

        Follow every rainbow

        ‘Till you find your dream

 

        Climb every mountain

        Ford every stream

        Follow every rainbow

        ‘Till you find your dream

 

 

an initial similarity, they are both

inspirational

 

an initial divergence, the former is 

in the infinitive mood, which is to 

say that the lesson is for all time

in all places and for all people, 

while the second is an imperative,

in other words, an exhortation,

something only pertaining to the 

future, though the other conditions,

of place, and of person, can still 

apply  

 

note that the verse, in either, is in 

the indicative, in keeping with, in

each, the altered air, the second,

and contrasting melody, which in

both, note, personalizes, makes

the recommendation actual, no

longer merely idealized, the

indicative is the only mood which

deals in facts, the other moods

are all imagined, dreamed

 

let me point out that in comparison

with songs in the indicative, love

songs and the like, the show tunes

above find their source in medieval

religious music, hymns, liturgical

stuff, and more recently,

comparatively, specifically in

England after the Protestant

Reformation with Handel’s both

church and ceremonial music

 

in which England went on to

specialize, incidentally, while other

forms of music there, the racier,

secular European stuff, had been

demonized, deemed sinful, and

thus proscribed

 

England would only get its mojo back

in the 1960s with the Beatles

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

       

the indicative

grammar.jpg!Large

        Grammar 

 

              Gentile da Fabriano


                          ____________

 


since I’d only recently vaunted both the 

infinitive and the imperative moods of 

verbs in this venue, you might’ve 

expected that the indicative would 

soon follow

 

and here it is, the indicative, the mood 

of narratives, storytelling, the default 

mode, essentially, where most of our 

communication takes place, be it

oral or written

 

famous first lines of novels will attest

to that, lines you’ve probably heard 

before, however only incidentally, if 

not actually read

 

        It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,

 

from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities


and the rest is so good, I can’t, in all 

consciousness, exclude it

 

        it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was 

        the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the 

        season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the 

        spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. 

 

or

 

        Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again. 

 

from Daphne du Maurier’s eerily Gothic 

Rebecca“, heiress to not only Charlotte 

Brontë’s Jane Eyre“, but also to her 

sister Emily’s, to my mind, much more 

accomplished work, Wuthering“, and 

indeed wonderful, Heights“, whereupon 

I’ll refrain from continuing to follow the

sentences, however compelling, for 

lack of space and time

 

but

 

        I had a farm in Africa, at the foot of the Ngong Hills.

 

from Out of Africa“, Karen Blixen’s

unforgettable novel, however brilliantly

translated to film, must take its place

here among towering introductory

sallies 

 

       Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure. 

 

Proust’s answer to Homer, his “À la 

recherche du temps perdu“, his

Remembrance of Things Past  

 

      For a long time, I’d go to bed early.

 

which, as I read on, no less than

changed my life 

 

but that’s another story, however

totally engrossing

 


everywhere above, let me point out, 

the mood has been indicative, to a 

very verb, so unobtrusive you 

probably didn’t even notice 

 

in music, a counterpart for the 

indicative would be the allegro, 

the baseline, not too fast, not 

too slow, the tempo listeners 

would most easily respond to

 

but more about that only later, after

a traipse through the speculative 

conditional, then  the aspirational 

subjunctive

 

meanwhile, check this out, The

Heart of the Matter“, the Eagles, a

ballad, mostly indicatives, but with

here and there an infinitive, and a

peppering of conditionals, however

might these be signal, to utterly break 

your heart

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard