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Category: me, in B# major

Dmitri Shostakovich – “Symphony No 5” in D minor, opus 47

hi-xvii-congress-of-the-cpsu-b-1934

     “Hi, XVII Congress of the CPSU (B) (1934) 

              Ilya Mashkov

__________

if I thought the Fourth would knock 
your socks of, stockings, the Fifth 
ought to leave you with, dare I say, 
nothing on but your awe, it is 
extraordinary, so settle in, pour 
yourself a glass of wine, or vodka 
if you want to bethnic, for a 
mesmerizing three-quarter hour

days only before the first performance
of Shostakovich’s new symphony, an 
article showed up in a leading Moscow
paper suggesting that it would be
Soviet artist’s creative response to 
justified criticism” in reference, of 
course, to Stalin’s displeasure with 
Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of 
Mtsensk, which had led to the 
cancellation of his Fourth Symphony,
read all about it here

disregard for Stalin’s opinion would
have meant certain execution in an
environment where the leader could
not be contradicted, the ruler wanted
uplifting tunes, the rule was Socialist
Realism, art to celebrate the Party

a similar thing was happening at the
same time in Germany, incidentally, 
with Hitler objecting to entartete 
Kunst“, the degenerate art that 
moderns were producing, Kirchner
KleeDix, for example, who were 
only painting, as Shostakovich was 
only composing, what they heard, 
saw, for which they were all 
persecuted


a few necessary words about the 
Fifth Symphony itself, if 
Shostakovich had been moving

toward dissonance, you’ll find the
Fifth particularly notable for its 
tonal melodies, however sometimes
astringent, more larger intervals, 
sevenths, octaves, than strident 
atonal conjunctions

and since Shostakovich had been 
strictly adhering to the two other
Classical conditions, of tempo and
repetition, this symphony might as
well be a Romantic composition

listen to Beethoven’s Fifth and 
compare, they sound nearly 
identical but for a 130 years
distance, the peremptory opening, 
loud, brash, bracing, followed 
quickly by a lull in intensity, four 
movements eachhorns blare in 
either military salvos, propensity 
toward dance rhythms, short, sweet 
solo moments for several assorted 
instruments, usually contemplative, 
piercingly personal – after a 
comparison, you’ll never see 
Beethoven’s Fifth in the same light 
again

Beethoven, however, though 
forceful, indeed thunderous, is 
more centred on the actual music, 
which is jubilant, celebratory, an
exultation, while Shostakovich by 
contrast, however equally martial, 
sounds the implacability, the 
ruthlessness of the fanfare, the 
parade, you can feel the iron step 
of the guard, their advance 
inexorable, this is unquestionably 
political statement, then again 
Beethoven didn’t live in France

 

it’s to be noted that both works
are products of a recent revolution,
the French, the Russian, and the 
imminence of a Terror, as well of
the return of an autocratic leader,
the Emperor Napoleon in the first 
instance, in the second, of course 
Stalin

it’s helpful to view the bombastic 
portions in Shostakovich, as the 
unassailable positions of the Party, 
the more melting moments and 
single voices as those of the 
oppressed proletariat, people up 
against the stringent requirements 
of an unforgiving state growing up 
all around them 

a return to strict Classical 
conditions, by the way, which is 
to say tunes”, might’ve been 
Shostakovich’s way of placating, 
however risky still, a dictator’s 
fearful edicts regarding 
permissible taste, that’s what 
you can do when you can speak  
the language


incidentally, the symphonies are  
either composer’s Fifth, perhaps 
not incidentally


R ! chard

psst: the applause at the first 
          performance, November 21, 
          1937, lasted over half an hour,
          people were crying, they’d 
          found a prophet  

          
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Dmitri Shostakovich – “Symphony No 4” in C minor, opus 43

portrait-of-joseph-stalin-iosif-vissarionovich-dzhugashvili-1936.jpg!Large

   “Portrait of Joseph Stalin (Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili) (1936)

                   Pavel Filonov

                           _________

if you’ve been waiting for a Shostakovich 
to write home about among his early 
symphonies, here’s the one, his 
Symphony no 4 in C minor, opus 43 will
knock your socks off from its very 
opening gambit, have a seat, settle in, 
and get ready for an explosive hour

the Fourth was written in 1936, some 
years after the death of Lenin, and the 
instalment of Stalin as the supreme, 
and ruthless, authority, after several 
years throughout the Twenties of
maneuvering himself, cold-bloodedly,
into that position 

from Stalin, Death is the solution to 
all problems. No man – no problem.

fearing retribution after Stalin had 
criticized his recent opera, Lady 
Macbeth of Mtsensk“, Shostakovich 
cancelled the first performance of 
this new work, due to take place in 
December, ’36, others had already 
suffered internal exile or execution 
who had displeased the tyrant, a 
prelude to the infamous Great Terror

the Symphony was eventually played
in 1961, 25 years later, conducted by
no less than Kirill Kondrashin, who’d
partnered Van Cliburn a few years 
earlier in Cliburn’s conquest of Russia
but along with this time however the 
long-lived Leningrad Philharmonic 
Orchestra 

to a friend, I said, this is the biggest
thing since verily Beethoven, no one 
has so blown me away symphonically 
since then

he looked forward, he replied, to 
hearing it 

the Fourth Symphony has three distinct 
movements, to fit thus appropriately the 
definition of symphony, though the first 
and third have more than one section, 
something Shostakovich would have 
learned from already Beethoven, it gives 
the opportunity of experiencing a variety 
of emotions within one uninterrupted 
context, add several movements and 
you have a poignant, peripatetic musical 
journey, more intricate, psychologically 
complex, than many other even eminent
composers, Schubert, Chopin, 
Mendelssohn, even Brahms, for instance 

it’s helpful to think of film scores, and 
their multiple narrative incidents,
brimming with impassioned moments,   
however disparate, Shostakovich had 
already written several of them

let me point out that Shostakovich’s 
rhythms are entirely Classical, even 
folkloric in their essential aspects, 
everywhere sounds like a march, 
proud and bombastic, if not a 
veritable dance, peasants carousing,
courtiers waltzing, and repetition is
sufficiently present to not not 
recognize the essential music 
according to our most elementary
preconceptions

but the dissonances clash, as though 
somewhere the tune, despite its rigid 
rhythms, falls apart in execution, as 
though the participants had, I think,  
broken limbs, despite the indomitable 
Russian spirit

this is what Shostakovich is all about, 
you’ll hear him as we move along 
objecting, however surreptitiously,
cautiously, to the Soviet system, like 
Pasternak, like Solzhenitsyn, without 
ever, like them, leaving his country 
despite its manifest oppression, and 
despite the lure of Western accolades,
Nobel prizes, for instance, it was their 
home

and there is so much more to tell, but
first of all, listen

R ! chard 

  

the “wall”

study-for-a-sunday-on-la-grande-jatte-1885(1).jpg!Large

    “A Sunday on La Grande Jatte (1884)

           Georges Seurat

                 ________

should you know Vancouver, you’ll
recognize, nearly immediately, the 
Seawall on this video, before even 
a minute has elapsed you spot the 
Westin Bayshore coming at you, 
nearly perilously, before the speeding 
bullet that takes you on the journey 
turns the crucial corner on the paved 
path that wends its way afterwards
around the peninsula

on foot, this takes about three hours,
but here, inspired by the music of Pink 
Floyd, on a deft reinterpretation of the 
title and music from The Wall“, their 
oracular masterpiece, an inspired 
cyclist brings this local trajectory to 
psychedelic life, if you can stand the 
unsettling disjunction between his 
dizzying speed and the grandeur 
of the transcendent, immutable,  
coastlines

you’ll need, I suggest, seatbelt,
but the ride is wild

the journey ends abruptly, both 
geographically and musically, 
just down the street from my place, 
across the road from recently 
favourite restaurant, with a view, 
just as transcendent, however not
at all disappointingly mutable, of 
the Pacific sunset, whenever we, 
family and friends, eat there

R ! chard

on Billy Collins – “Safe Travels”

Photo on 2016-05-24 at 6.31 PM.jpg

          me, May 24, 2016

               __________

I save all the New Yorker poems  
to read after I’ve been through
everything else in the issue, 
like dessert after a meal, icing 
on the cake, sometimes too 
heavy, sometimes too light,
sometimes too rich, sometimes
just right

today, I found my favourite poem,
period, this year, stepped right 
into its shoes, like old slippers, 
the only difference being my 
walls are painted a variety of
contrasting colours, studded 
with memorabilia, treasured 
artefacts, see above

also, no one’s translating my 
poems, though even our metre
is the same, try it, sing us out 
loud, you’ll dance 

R ! chard

_____________

Safe Travels

Every time Gulliver travels
into another chapter of “Gulliver’s Travels” 
I marvel at how well travelled he is
despite his incurable gullibility.

I don’t enjoy travelling anymore
because, for instance,
I still don’t know the difference
between a “bloke” and a “chap.”

And I’m embarrassed
whenever I have to hold out a palm
of loose coins to a cashier
as if I were feeding a pigeon in a park.

Like Proust, I see only trouble
in store if I leave my room,
which is not lined with cork,
only sheets of wallpaper

featuring orange flowers
and little green vines.
Of course, anytime I want
I can travel in my imagination

but only as far as Toronto,
where some graduate students
with goatees and snoods
are translating my poems into Canadian.

Billy Collins

__________

psst: I said just recently to a poet 
          acquaintance that what poetry 
          needed in the 21st Century is 
          humour, the only art form not 
          catching up with the rest,
          otherwise it’ll die of, indeed
          succumb to, its own 
          lugubriousness

          thank you again, Billy Collins

a contemporary haiku, on wine

haiku-poet-and-his-poem

     “Haiku Poet and His Poem (?) 

            Yosa Buson

               ________

a glass of wine, I sing,
two, in German,
go figure

R ! chard

“Daffodils” – William Wordsworth (an epitaph)

wild-poppies-near-argenteuil-1873.jpg!Blog

     “Wild Poppies, Near Argenteuil” (1873) 

             Claude Monet

                  ________

                                                  for Pat

a dear friend passed away recently, 
Pat, the mother of my partner, who
passed away himself nearly 30 years 
ago, was already of a certain age at
which death follows closely tripping 
us up with itches and cramps and 
dire debilities as we walk along the 
winding road that isn’t that long any 
longer 

she’d already acquired Alzheimer’s 
though she read stillunderstood, 
even poetry, though she could not 
remember what had happened 
yesterday even, however traumatic, 
that she’d fallen the day before, for 
instance, and bore still corroborative 
angry scratches escaped her, left 
her puzzled, though never rattled,
ever compliant

you can forget all you want, Pat, I’d
said to her earlier in her prognosis,
but don’t ever forget I love you

since, during our regular Internet
encounters, along with her husband
on her end, she’s left the conversation
to him, but wraps her arms around 
herself and tells me she wants to hug
me, we always end our visit with I love 
you’s

when I went to visit her in hospital, 
where she’d ended up following more 
falls, which indicated eventually dire
complications, I brought her a teddy 
bear

here, Pat, I said, I can’t be here always 
to hug you, but you can think of me 
when you hug this bear

she died a few days later, the last 
words we said were, I love you, I
love you, before I flew back home 
to Vancouver from Victoria

I was sad, I lit candles, then a day 
later I thought, how do I get out from
under this somber cloud, I should  
listen for her, I remembered

talk to me, Pat, I’ll hear, I entreated

when my dad died, I’d said, talk to 
me, Dad, I’m your son, I’ll hear, and 
I did

when his sister died, a beloved aunt, 
I’d lit a scented candle inadvertently
in commemoration, when the air 
suddenly filled with the aroma of 
rosemary, which had wafted in on the 
exhalations of the candle to fuse with 
my own reveries in epiphanic, verily 
transcendental, conversation 

adagios, also, always remind me of 
John, Pat’s son

talk to me, Pat, say something, I 
said to the ether, and listened

last Thursday, at the service, turning
to the last page of the programme
which had been provided, I began to
read her favourite poem

I wandered lonely as a cloud, I read
but couldn’t make it through the next
line, tears welling up in my eyes, my 
mom, who was with me, holding my 
hand

thank you, Pat, I said, overcome with 
emotion, this poem would be her 
teddy bear to me

Richard

         ________________

Daffodils

I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o’er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host of golden daffodils,
Beside the lake, beneath the trees
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretch’d in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced, but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: –
A poet could not but be gay
In such a jocund company!
I gazed – and gazed – but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought.

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills
And dances with the daffodils.

                         William Wordsworth

what is a poet

flowers-in-aa-brown-vase.jpg!Large.jpg

                            Flowers In a Brown Vase (1904)

                                            Odilon Redon

                                                 _______

if I imagine myself to be a poetwhat 
is a poet, I have to ask, or, more 
accurately, what do I imagine a poet 
to be

cause this is a two-way street, I am
defined by the word I inhabit, but I 
define the word as well, redefining 
it, essentially, to fit my etymological 
purpose   

my moral purpose I leave to myself,
in a completely other ideological
dimension

if I can

a poet then is one who writes, paints,
composes, manifests, in a word, 
creates, poems

what is a poem

a poem is where beauty and truth 
combine to create harmony, 
coalescence, to the point of one’s
admiration, enchantment, wonder, 
enlightenment, in incremental steps 
leading to very transcendence, the 
feeling that something has moved 
in your heart

just a bouquet of flowers will do it,
for instance

that’s what I think

Richard

on truth

truth-unveiled-by-time3-jpglarge

               “Truth Unveiled By Time (1645-1652)

                               Gian Lorenzo Bernini

                                           _______

a cousin once said to me about 
his father, that he was as honest 
as the day is long

though I didn’t say a word, this 
was emphatically not my opinion

but I concluded nevertheless that, 
once again, truth is in the eye of 
the beholder, not, of course, truth 
truth, the one we all would like to 
believe must exist, but the one 
which is the only one that we can 
work with, our own 

but what is true

no one knows but for personal 
intimations, truth must be, in other 
words, our individual constructions, 
a kind of existential prosetry,  
consistent story we tell ourselves, 
a walking shadowa tale / told by 
an idiotaccording to Macbethfull 
of sound and fury, / signifying 
nothing 

I imagine I am a poet

imagine 

Richard

psst: prosetry is poetry written in prose,
          see “up my idiosyncracies – a bio

up my idiosyncrasies – Plato‏

school-of-athens-detail-from-right-hand-side-showing-diogenes-on-the-steps-and-euclid-1511.jpg!Large

      “The School Of Athens (1510-1511)
 
                   Raphael
 
                       _____
 
 
he sounds just like you, my friend said,
who’d bought me the works of Plato
for C***mas maybe, or my birthday, or 
maybe just because he knew I’d very
much appreciate them
 
we were reading him together, as is 
always my inclination, his Meno 
according to my calculations, 
Socrates was doing most of the 
talking, with Meno, a Sophist 
acolyte, a school of philosophy then, 
the Sophists, which claimed it could 
prove anything by using the right 
arguments 
 
lawyers, of course, ensued, politicians
 
and rhetoric, the art of proving anything 
by using the right arguments 
 
philosophy had reached a structural,
indeed an existential, impasse, why, 
they therefore wondered, philosophy
 
wherein it entered a phase of moral 
speculation, StoicismEpicureanism,
ScepticismCynicism, and can you 
blame them, theories about the 
stars, the moon, the world, even 
matter itself, had become so 
questionable, was it fire, air, water, 
atoms, at its source, who knew
 
 
I thought so too, I said, and told 
him that Plato’s were the first   
texts studied in philosophy when 
entered university, that’s where I 
learned to talk like that, philosophy 
from the scratch, as my German 
teacher would’ve said, which is to 
say, from its very beginnings, 
whence I could view, I figured, the 
evolution of received wisdom in 
Western culture
 
I was young then, the young have 
such dreams 
 
 
my father had been agnostic, ever
asking questions, though we were 
being raised Catholic, my sister 
and I, on account of our mother 
tongue, our entire community, 
having been historically linked 
with that religion, and cause my 
parents wanted us to be educated 
in French
 
an existentialist crisis would
eventually follow, I intuited, as
indeed it did, so I majored in 
philosophy
 
 
Socrates taught me to ask 
questions, that no one had  
all the answers
 
Plato, usurping his master’s voice, 
created the paradigm for our present 
version of a Divinity, and Its Paradise
 
there is an ideal version of any 
item we might consider, he spouted,
an ideal table, for instance, exists
of which every material table is an
imperfect example
 
to virtue, love, beauty, truth, he 
applied the same principle, which
early erudite Catholics, Augustine
Thomas Aquinas, for instance, and
others, despite rejecting all of the 
other Greek cultural achievements
appropriated in order to bolster their 
impression of God, the ideal of the 
Ideal
 
this lasted uncontested for just
over a thousand years
 
for a thousand years our salvation
had been extraterrestrial, 
supranatural, this, our very, 
perhaps only, existence, an 
imperfect reflection of somewhere
else an ideal, a mere simulacrum,  
we were, a metaphor
 
Socrates had only asked questions,
what is virtue, what is justice, what
is beauty, truth
 
Plato presumed to have known the 
answers
 
 
Aristotle is making a comeback,
whose method, in opposition to 
his contemporaneous forebear,  
was much more like Charles 
Darwin‘s, working from the facts, 
which proved then, and are 
proving still now, to be multifarious, 
diverse, astonishing, and nearly 
enough to make you believe in 
God/dess again, this time, however, 
through the back door 
 
or in a multiplicity, a panoply, a 
very pavilion, even, of natural 
deities, otherwise known as 
angels, for better or for worse
 
God/dess bless, or angels
 
 
Richard