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Category: people to ponder

Piano Concerto no 1, opus 15 – Beethoven

Jolson_black

      Al Jolson, in “The Jazz Singer” (1927)


              _________________

 


in order to abate my discomfort, my

consternation, after meeting up with

one of the candidates I considered

favouring in the upcoming election,

I put on Beethoven’s Firstwhich,

incontrovertibly, from the first few 

notes, did the trick, took me out of 

politics and the uncomfortable 

present, into metaphysical 

pertinence, and magic

 

I’d referred to the issue of blackface,

a searing issue at present in the 

media, I said, what about Laurence 

Olivier doing Othello, Placido 

Domingo doing the very same Moor,

not to mention Al Jolson doing,

unforgettably, My Mammy 

 

but picked up that neither the

candidate, nor his mentor, standing 

by his side, had any idea what I was 

talking about 

 

Placido Domingo, I said, one of The

Three Tenors, remember them

 

the aspiring representative indicated 

a dim recollection, his accompanist 

admitted to having nebulously heard

of him, them, somewhere

 

OMGess, I reared, I’m talking to the 

next generation, maybe even the 

generation after that, who have no

recollection, no understanding of

where I come from, it was, to say

the least,  unsettling, discomfitting, 

sobering 

 

there was no one at home with whom 

to commiserate when I arrived, 

answering machines only at the end 

of every line, I resorted, therefore, 

not unwisely as it turned out, to the

said Beethoven, who was, as usual, 

lifesaver

 

listen

 


R ! chard

 

 

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the infinitive in Shakespeare’s “To be, or not to be”

philosophy-and-grammar.jpg!Large

     Philosophy and Grammar 

 

           Gentile da Fabriano


                  __________

 


when I referred to Shakespeare’s 

perhaps most famous monologue,

To be, or not to be, in my most 

recent transmission, in order to 

shed light on the idea of tempi, 

that it would parallel Beethoven’s

Opus 111 in its philosophical 

significance, however might’ve I 

done so unintentionally, was

nevertheless quite spot on, it is

perhaps his most potent

disquisition, as is Beethoven’s

own masterpiece, on existence

 

but let me extrapolate

 

to be, or not to be, both infinitives,

which is to say that their form, their 

moodrelate to infinity, the infinite, 

etymological correlatives, which 

means that the actions, thus, are 

not localized, not specific, but 

belong to all places at all times and

for all people, the very stuff, let me

point out, of philosophy 

 

whether ’tis nobler in the mind to 

suffer, infinitive, the slings and 

arrows of outrageous fortune, or 

to take, infinitive again, arms 

against a sea of troubles, and by 

opposing end, bare infinitive,

which is to say, without the

preposition to, them  

 

as in  

 

to die, to sleep, infinitives, no more, 

and by a sleep to say, infinitive, we 

end the heartache and the thousand 

natural shocks that flesh is heir to, 

’tis a consummation devoutly to be 

wished, passive infinitive      

 

you’ll find that the rest of the 

soliloquy abounds in infinitives,       

the grammatical home, the 

territory, of philosophy

 

with this speech, incidentally, 

Shakespeare kicks off, in

literature, the Renaissance, much

as Beethoven with his Opus 111

firmly establishes, in music, the

Romantic Period


compare, meanwhile, thou shalt 

not kill, an imperative, the mood

the tenor, the register, is of 

commandments, it differs from 

the infinitive in that, though 

seemingly universal at first, there 

is an exception to its authoritative 

span, and that exception is the 

speaker, all others are called upon 

to abide, this is not philosophy, 

this is power 


 

much as in music, see in that context

my earlier text, one can read an awful 

lot between the lines

 

 

R ! chard

tempo in Beethoven’s Piano Sonata no 32, Opus 111

charleston-couple.jpg!Large

      Charleston Couple 

                Erte

                   _

 

 

                                     for Lajla, who wondered 

                                        where I’ve been these past 

                                             few weeks

 

 

if music is a communication, as I firmly  

believe it is, even listing it as one of my 

languages on all of my formal   

applications, it should have, much as 

in any other communication, a set of  

rules, a structure, a grammar, which  

indeed it does  

 

where the mood of a verb, for instance,

in English, indicative, I am, conditional, 

if I were, subjunctive, that I be, infinitive,

to be, or, indeed, again infinitive, not to 

be, that is, indicative once more, the 

question

 

whether ’tis, indicative, nobler in the 

mind to suffer, infinitive, the slings 

and arrows of outrageous fortune, 

or to take, infinitive, arms against a 

sea of troubles, and by opposing, 

participle, end, infinitive, them – but 

you get my drift, in music we have 

tempo, adagio, andante, allegro, 

presto, among others, to set, 

indeed, the mood 

 

as chamber music, an entertainment 

for aristocrats, moved from the dance 

rhythms of their salons during the 

Classical Period to the more diverse 

beats, the more varied and evocative 

tempi, especially with Beethoven, 

into the Romantic Era, music began 

to speak, evoke rather than lilt 

 

listen to Beethoven’s 32nd Piano

Sonata, for example, his Opus 111

in two contrasting movements, 

one fast, nearly even frenetic, the 

other slow, resigned, subdued, 

introspective, the first, angry, 

chaotic, frustrated, a burst of 

fulgurating intensity, resolving, 

in the second, into quiescence, 

submission, calm, if ultimately 

miraculous incandescence, one 

the antithesis of the other

 

Beethoven juxtaposes fury, 

tranquility, loud, soft, short, long 

– the serene adagio is twice 

length of the boisterous allegro 

– and by extension, war, peace, 

man, woman, strong, weak, hope,

despair, yin, in other words, yang, 

indissoluble dichotomies, a 

veritable musical existential 

philosophical tract, Beethoven’s 

treatise on existence

 

you can’t dance to it, though, 

don’t ask him

 

but you can thoroughly enjoy,

be inspired

 

 

R ! chard

“Années de pèlerinage”, 2nd Year – Liszt

petrarch.jpg!Large

     “Petrarch (c.1450) 

 

           Andrea del Castagno


                     ___________

 

 

                                    for John, who would’ve 

                                                       been 60 today

 


though the suite might’ve started with

Bach’s string of dance pieces in the 

early 18th Centuryit becomes evident 

during the 19th Century, after a lapse 

of nearly 100 years, while it fell into 

disfavour, that its resurrection as a 

valid musical form might’ve kept the 

original structure, which is to say its 

several separate parts to make up a 

whole, its movements, but that it 

now was serving different purpose 

 

where music had, through to the early

Romantic Period, followed dance 

rhythms, or variations of tempo,

adagio, andante, allegro, and the like,

it now presented itself as a background

for settings, be it ballets, as in

Tchaikovsky’s, plays, as in Edvard

Grieg’s celebrated , Peer Gynt Suite“,

after Ibsen‘s eponymous play,

specific locations, as in Debussy’s

Children’s Corner“, or more  

expansively, both geographically

and in its compositional length,

these very “Années de pèlerinage” 

of Liszt

 

this is in keeping with the exploration

of consciousness of that era, which 

would lead to not only Impressionism, 

but to Freud, and the others, and the 

development of psychoanalysis

 

you’ll note that music seems much 

more improvisational in Liszt than in

Chopin, or Beethoven, prefiguring

already even jazz, more evocative,

less emotional, more personal, not

generalized, idiosyncratic, a direct

development of the newly acquired

concept of democracy, one man, at

the time, one vote, one, indeed, 

voice, however individual, however 

even controversial 

 

listen, for instance, to Liszt’s “Années

de pèlerinage”, 2nd Year, Italy 

 

   1. Sposalizio

   2. Il penseroso

   3. Canzonetta del Salvator Rosa 

   4. Sonetto 47 del Petrarca 

   5. Sonetto 104 del Petrarca 

   6. Sonetto 123 del Petrarca 

   7. Après une lecture de Dante: Fantasia Quasi Sonata 

 

 

today you can listen to suites 

from famous films, for instance 

Blade Runner“, the beat, in 

other words, goes on

 

but note the renovations, find them, 

dare you, you’ll be surprised at 

your unsuspected perspicacity

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard  

two suites – Debussy

clair-de-lune.jpg

     “Clair de lune” 

 

      Jean Cocteau

 

        __________

 

 

two suites 

 

      Debussy’s Suite bergamasque

 

      his “Children’s Corner

 

how are they similar

how are they different

 

you tell me

 

a couple o’ clues

 

      “Suite bergamasque

 

             Prélude

             Menuet

             Clair de lune

             Passepied

 

      Children’s Corner

 

             Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum

             Jimbo’s Lullaby

             Serenade for the Doll

             The Snow is Dancing

             The Little Shepherd

             Golliwog’s Cakewalk

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: if you said, there are no dance

          pieces in Children’s Corner“,

          and only three of the four 

          movements in “Suite

          bergamasque” are dances, 

          you’d be right, the others all

          have evocative titles, nothing 

          to do with the cadence, the 

          step

 

          but that begs the question, 

          what happened to the traditional

          suite, a string of dances preceded

          by a prelude

 

          well, time, and the vagaries of

          language, intentions, essentially, 

          Debussy did to the suite what

          Chopin had done to the prelude

      changed its meaning, took away

          its original purpose, for better or

          for worse, a suite is now, in a

          similar transformation, a piece

          of music, merely, any kind of music,

          with several segments, without

          even, necessarily, gasp, a

          prelude

 

          you can never step into the same

          river twice, in other words, the

          current just keeps on inexorably

           moving, even immutable,

           apparently, concepts fall by the

           wayside, see democracy, at

           present, for  instance

Études – Chopin /Debussy

edgar-degas-the-ballet-class.jpg!Large.jpg

   “The Ballet Class (1871 – 1874) 

 

          Edgar Degas

 

             ________

 

 

ballet dancers will attach weights 

to their ankles during exercises 

to add lift to their legs when they 

are on stage, such is the point of 

études for a piano player, a 

workout for the fingers before 

public performance 

 

Chopin, however, made them, by

themselves, works of great art,

followed by, among others,

Debussy

 

here’s Chopin, his Opus 25

 

here’s Debussy, his own Études

pour piano, Livre 1“, or Book 1

 

how are they different

 

you tell me

 

listen

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: this is an easy one, Chopin is

          Romantic, Debussy, manifestly,

          is not, Debussy is Impressionistic,

          it is a new perspective, you can 

          hear it, it’s textural rather than 

          emotional, indeed, it’s even

          abstract

 

          but nearly a century has gone by,   

          and Impressionism is the new  

          aesthetic, the new preoccupation

  

          which belongs to not only the  

          painters, let me point out, but to  

          all the arts, for better, once again, 

          or for worse

Études, Opus 10 – Chopin

studies-for-the-apotheosis-of-homer-1827.jpg

Études pour l’Apothéose d’Homère” /

             

                “Studies for The Apotheosis of Homer (1826 – 1827) 

 

      Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

 

             ____________________

 

 

what’s an étude

 

 you tell me

 

 here are 12, all by Chopin, his first

 set of two, his Opus 10

 

in English, étude is a study

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard

 

 psst: if you said they’re technical 

          pieces, warm-up exercises, 

          in preparation for more 

          substantial stuff, you’re on

 

          it should be noted that Chopin,

          after the more rudimentary

          undertakings of the earlier 

          Czernyfor instance, or Clementi

          say, added the required substance,
          the missing transcendental
          element, turning his otherwise
          mere digital pyrotechnics into
          utter poetry, into prestidigitatorial
          magic

          listen

       

andante / polonaise, Chopin

Kwiatkowski-chopin

   “Chopin’s Polonaise – a Ball in Hôtel Lambert in Paris (1859) 

 

          Teofil Kwiatkowski

 

                ___________

 

what’s the difference between 

 

       one, an andante spianato

 

       two, a polonaise

 

you tell me

 

both, of course, by Chopin

 

 

“andante” is a pace, a tempo, a little faster 

than adagio, slower than allegro, spianato” 

is an Italian word for “smooth”, “even”

 

“et” is “and” in French

 

“polonaise” is a French adjective for 

“Polish”, as a noun it means a Polish 

dance

 

 

R ! chard

 

psst: if you said intention, you’re again

          right, everything else is, of course,

          Chopin, two different perspectives

          on a related issue

 

           think of two distinct elements 

           coming together, formally 

           conjoined, as in a mariage, 

           for better, ever, or for worse   

         

           or as in this Andante Spianato et

           Grande Polonaise Brillante, a

           conjunction which has lasted,  

           indeed brilliantly, for nearly two 

           hundred years, despite individual, 

           sometimes divergent, even

           conflicting, outlooks

 

           enjoy

       

nocturnes / scherzos, Chopin

joke-of-putti.jpg!Large

    Scherzo di putti 

 

          Giovanni Battista Piranesi

 

                        ______________

 

 

what is the difference between 

 

        one, a nocturne

         two, a scherzo

you tell me

both by Chopin

 

nocturne, incidentally, is a French 

word for night music

 

scherzo is an Italian word for joke, 

something humorous

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

psst: if you said the pace, the tempo, 

          however comparably, in all the 

          instances, elastic, you’re 

         absolutely right, the rest is

         ever entirely Romantic, which

         is to say, by definition,

         introspective

happy birthday, Joni Mitchell

clouds

  Nuages / Clouds 

 

      Fernand Léger

 

         _________

 

                         for Lajla, and, of course, Joni

 

in my German class in Dresden, I

was asked, since I was from 

Canada, to translate into German

a Canadian song, my teacher

suggested something of Joni 

Mitchell, someone she profoundly,

she said, admired, was I the one

to choose Both Sides Now“, or 

was she, I can’t remember, but 

that was the song I translated


Rows and floes of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I’ve looked at clouds that way


But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way

I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down, and still somehow
It’s cloud illusions I recall
I really don’t know clouds at all

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels
The dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real
I’ve looked at love that way

But now it’s just another show
You leave ’em laughing when you go
And if you care, don’t let them know
Don’t give yourself away

I’ve looked at love from both sides now
From give and take, and still somehow
It’s love’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know love at all

Tears and fears and feeling proud
To say “I love you” right out loud
Dreams and schemes and circus crowds
I’ve looked at life that way

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost, but something’s gained
In living every day

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From win and lose and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all

I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions I recall
I really don’t know life at all”

it could be my anthem

 

 

as it happened, Lajla, my teacher, who

who has since become a dear friend, 

in fact, meine beste deutsche Freundin, 

didn’t let me finish reading meinen 

übergesetzten Text for the class, it 

would’ve been too long

 

I still regret the unrecognized work

I did, but mostly I rue the fact that  

the other students never got to 

hear the sublime ending of the

song

 

 

R ! chard