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Category: me, in C# major

me in C# major – Wonderland

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   “Alice in Wonderland (1977 )

          Salvador Dali

              _______

                        to Soeur Lucie-des-Lys,
                               wherever she now 
                                             may be

the school that we went to, my 
sister and I, was across the street, 
through a wild grass field, which 
we crossed diagonally, especially 
after the Soeurs de l’Assomption,
the Sisters of the Assumption of,
indeed, the Blessed Virgin, had
their convent built directly before
our house, not only the times, but 
also the nuns’ implicit intercession, 
would’ve prevented any harm 
coming to us as we wended our
innocent way across their, surely 
consecrated, ground

then down a slight hill to cross 
the stone bridge that led to the 
other side of the gully, that let  
a rill slithering through it rippl
gingerly between its two mostly
brush-covered embankments,
shrubs and disconsolate,
disoriented, displaced 
apparently, trees

then another trail, in a conversely
diagonal direction – like Alice‘s 
flipped reality in Wonderland
inverted and eventually wondrous
– climbed up the other side of the 
rise, and led across another open 
field, aridly, to our school

I don’t remember my first day, 
but I remember my sister’s, my
parents worked, therefore, 
having done this for already a 
year, I would walk her to school,  
introduce her to her teacher, I 
was seven, she was six, there 
was no kindergarten then, nor, 
by a long shot, children’s day
care centres

but already we were Hansel and
Gretel in my mind, if we became
gingerbread cookies, we’d become
so together, therefore off we went
to encounter this strange new 
world

I knew the principal, an efficient
nun, but not unkind, who later 
even taught me, she would 
introduce my sister to her first 
teacher, Soeur Lucie-des-lys, 
who couldn’t’ve chosen a better 
name, Lucy-of-the-Lilies, and 
was just as modest, utterly
inoffensive, as her adopted 
moniker

but my sister cried, indeed wailed,
she had never seen a nun before,
in their black and white attire, 
stark and ominously disciplinarian

but I had to go to my own class, 
my own new year of exploration, 
I liked school, I knew what it 
could bring, I knew my sister ‘d 
be safe with these new wards of 
our education 

especially with Sister 
Lucy-of-the-Lilies, who could ask 
for a better mystical indication
and an absolute reflection of her 
actual person, a poem in the guise
of a maidento allay, at the time,
any of my residual reservations

then again, I was Hansel, only,
who else could I trust 


later my sister met friends, and a 
whole new world of adventure,
just like Alice did in her own,
legendary, Wonderland


R ! chard

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“Symphony no 6 in B minor, opus 54” – Dmitri Shostakovich

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Great Expectations. USSR pavilion on 1939 New York World’s Fair (1939) 

    Veniamin Kremer

       ____________

 “I hope that these few preparatory words 
can give you an insight that may permit 
you to experience this strangely 
heterogeneous work as a single entity, 
flashpoint in musical history”, says
Leonard Bernstein, somewhat, 
admittedly, grandiloquently, in an indeed
thrilling introduction to Shostakovich’s
Sixth Symphony in B minor, opus 54

that he reiterates several of the points 
that I earlier brought up does me no
disservice, coming especially from a
person of such high quality, pedigree, 
in the musical world, I’m abashed, 
bashful, indeed blushing, that my 
humble insights have been so 
eminently corroborated

but I cannot second his enthusiasm
for Shostakovich’s Sixth Symphony
a failed, to my mind, entity, a long 
introductory lament that lingered 
long after its “best before” date, 
followed by indifferent, though 
perhaps energetic, yet unrelated,
final movements, the instrumentation 
might be, admittedly, brilliant, the 
Shostakovichian precise array of 
sounds, but the sum is less than the 
parts, I think, I took home only 
confusion, as did the crowd, 
apparently, at its first presentation, 
Leningrad, November 21, 1939,
Mravinsky conducting, wow, an
even more convincing argument,
maybe, than Bernstein’s, however 
rousing, interpretation

for your information, I’ve included
Tchaikovsky’s Sixthaccording to
Bernstein intimately related, he 
explains, to Shostakovich’s Sixth

you’ll note how different, however, 
these two symphonies are compared 
to how similar in so many respects 
Beethoven’s and Shostakovich’s 
Fifths are, Tchaikovsky’s Sixth is
manifestly more Romantic than
Revolutionary 

but imagine Tchaikovsky starting and 
ending with an adagio, how audacious, 
daring, though not particularly efficient, 
I think, not especially successful, the 
adagio lamentoso seems to me 
anticlimactic after the vigorous allegro 
molto vivacewhich receives a 
thunderous applause, the last 
movement, the lamentoso, however 
lovely, doesn’t rise to the heights of a 
proper finale for this forerunner’s
contagious ebullience, sounds rather 
like an encore, melodramatic and a bit 
pretentious

or maybe I’m just getting cranky


sooner or later though, the conundrum 
of adagio bookends will be resolved, 
someone inevitably will do it, like
finding the square on the hypotenuse, 
unearthing warped space, discovering 
a way to recapture carbon dioxide and 
make it work for us, as trees would do 
if we let them, someone always exceeds, 
miraculously, our expectations, watch 
for it, dare I say, here

R ! chard

me, in C# major – in the beginning

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         “Prieteni

              Alexandru Ciucurencu

                      _______

                                              for my sister

my sister, who is presently recovering,
learning to walk again, up and down, 
apparently, the stairs, after a second, 
especially virulent, sarcoma, the first, 
a year ago, insignificant compared to 
this one, which has left her, this time,
with but two of seven muscles in her 
upper right hind leg, her thigh, was 
surely my first experience of someone 
who could understand my existence, 
she was born a year and a very few 
days later than I was 

two buds on a branch learning to 
weather the weather from the same 
degree, essentially, of inference

she had dark eyes, round, brown,
beautiful, would eventually win 
beauty pageants, her hair was also
brown, beautiful, though all this 
was to her ever irrelevant, until later 
perhaps when she learned to always, 
however humbly, as one should treat 
a gift from heaven, use it, to protect 
her child, to ensure her own ever 
noble existence, through which she 
never, however, stopped being 
beautiful, even radiant

however beautiful might she have 
been, I only ever saw her heart, 
something I’ve done since with 
beautiful people, beyond even 
their vaunted allure 

my sister was not only my sister, 
thus, she was also the other part
of my heart

still is


my parents worked, were gone all 
day, ensuring our physical comfort,
food, clothing, a roof over our 
heads, and they were little by little 
becoming eventually extravagantly
successful, for little people

but it was the ’50s, folks were 
coming out of a culture of log 
cabins and perseverance, aunts 
had survived fires that had burnt
the town down, and who’d saved 
their children, all cowering in the 
nearby river, cloaked in tarpaulins,
while the menfolk had been toiling 
in some other nearby township 
to keep their families going, 
nearly as heroically as the women

but my sister and I had just been 
born in this particular corner of  
infinity, where each child, in its  
own, needs to make its own way

we, blessed as we were, could 
confront this abashing new world
together

and we did

she had been a bud, she became
my anchor, as I, I think, ever for 
her since have also been

if you’ll pardon my inordinate, and
perhaps too gushing, ardour


R ! chard

me, in C# major – program notes

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         “The Journey of the Stone Unicorn (2005) 

               Stefan Caltia

                     ______

                                     for my Uncle Al, who put 
                                     me up to this challenge


an uncle of mine recently, who’d only 
undertaken, just as recently, his own 

“memoir”, he called it, urged me to 
write my own autobiography on the 
strength of what he perceived to be 
my writing ability, I knew that would 
be a daunting venture, one that he’d 
shown me already in several internet 
correspondences how daunting it 
had been for his own eventually 
abandoned effort, it had been 
chronological, a death blow since at 
least Proust, Joyceand the advent 
of stream of consciousnesstime is 
no longer considered linear, watch 
any program on television

indeed I tried at one point, a few 
months back to start from the 
beginning, it was a disaster, where
I was born, when, in a manger, for
your information, for there was no 
room at the inn, but from there it 
was perfunctory, like watching the
hands on a clock turn

in the meantime, I thought I’d try 
something else, a recent inspiration,
just sit by the fire and tell your story,
my story, which is not at all, I think, 
as I would, of course, uninteresting,
but you’ll be the gauge of that, 
should you keep on reading  

and I think I can do that


R ! chard

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

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     “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  

          

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

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   “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 

  

“Is Art Truth?”

paradise-jpglarge

  “Paradise” 

        Hieronymus Bosch

                   __________

Is Art Truth?“, a friend asks after speaking of 
its benefits, “Art accepts and tells the truth-Is
that it ?“, she inquires, wonders

art, like truth itself and beauty, is in the eye 
of the beholder, I submit, and therefore my 
definition is, once again, entirely personal, 
though I’ve rigorously plumbed it

it requires background

art died for a thousand years, it was 
essentially unrecorded, dormant from 
the fall of Rome to the Renaissance, nor 
promoted but for Catholic purposes, 
hence the majestic cathedrals and the 
magisterial altarpieces, works produced 
by, however, communities until eventually 
certain artisans were recognized as more 
inspired than others, and given autonomy

enter Duccio, for instance

in time these new, necessarily idiosyncratic
perspectives – see Hieronymus BoschDante
Alighieri – dominated, veering in their search 
for truth in their art and beauty – selling points,
incidentally – towards less strictly orthodox 
utterances

see above

art, and its contemporary science, were 
chipping away at ecclesiastical dogma

till God died, and artists continued their 
prescient march forward, shaping our 
zeitgeist, our spirit of the times, with 
their pronouncements for lack of any 
other guides

but the voices grew personal, see Mozart
often profound and prophetic, see 
Beethoven, till the confluence of disparate 
realities gave us secularism, each soul for 
itself as a tenet, a credo, a belief, a truth

what did they have in common

I believe it was their quest for beauty 
through truth, their quest for truth 
through beauty, with a nod here to 
the salient Keats 

art is prayer, a search for, as well as a 
manifestation of, one’s personal 
identification with the sacred

it is not truth, it is not beauty, it is the 
fervent intention itself, linked with a 
correspondent workmanship, craft, 
which inspires 

see for instance van Gogh for this, who, 
remember, nevertheless shot himself, 
artists are mortal, merely, messengers, 
ever, therefore, fallible, unsure, fearful 
even, often, of their, perhaps 
Promethean, fire

for consolation, or even maybe 
transcendence, see again,
pertinently here, Beethoven  

listen

Richard

psst: thanks, Joan

true love – an insight

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                          “Love’s Secrets (1896) 

                    William-Adolphe Bouguereau

                                     _________

the only way you can hate someone 
you’ve loved is if your love was selfish,
true love can never not love, ever

Richard