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Category: pictures to ponder

what’s up in Amsterdam – Piano Sonata in B flat major, D.960 – Franz Schubert

the-doll-1934-5.jpg!Large

      “The Doll / Die Puppe (1934) 

                 Hans Bellmer

                     ________

should you be concerned about telling 
your Schubert from your Beethoven,
don’t fret, I myself, though considered 
by some in this area to be omniscient, 
however manifestly, as you’ll note here, 
erroneouslyupon watching a film last 
night – the splendid Ex Machina”,  
about a robot in the form of Alicia
Vikanderviscerally commanding in 
neon blue, which is to say, incandescent, 
with stainless steel and wires for body 
parts – arms, legs, stomach – as part of 
her more human, and curvaceous, 
attributes – face, chest, and pelvis – who 
fears she might be disassembled when 
her purpose is served, and a new, and 
better robot might not only take her 
place, but also her very physical and 
metaphysical components, and concocts 
to save her life, if that’s what you’d call it, 
however convincing, sophisticated, might 
be her replication – confused the Schubert
sonata that filtered through the score for 
one of Beethoven’s, though can you 
blame me, when the sci-fi tale had been 
so otherwise gripping 

the D960, Schubert’s 23rd and last piano 
sonata, was written in 1828, shortly before 
he died, it is extraordinary, and entirely 
worthy of being compared to Beethoven,
of being held, indeed, in equal 
consideration

but you be the judge 

you’ll note again Schubert’s reserve, his 
courtesy, he is philosophical, rather than 
combative, his reply to Fate is acquiescent, 
though never subordinate, his response to 
the challenge of Life is to display the 
colours, sounds, and other, however 
humble, ephemeral, perhaps even
inconsequential, attributes of his existence, 
with the grace of a very flower, whose 
essence we still, today, have not ceased
to acknowledge, and to profoundly admire 

this is our only answer, he states, our 
ever so resplendent, however individual, 
humanity, which it is our very salvation 
to recount, to relate 

Beethoven would surely have agreed,  
and applauded

listen


R ! chard

 

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“Something for Everyone” – an intermission

Neuschwanstein_castle

 Neuschwanstein Castle

                   __________

to my mind, the already formidable 
then Angela Lansbury, 1970, 
should’ve been at least nominated 
for an Oscar, not to mention won 
it, for her indelible impression of
Countess von Ornstein, an 
aristocrat if there ever was one,  
in the delightful Something for
Everyone

she has no money left after the 
Second World War, but lives still 
in her castle, which remains, as 
stipulated in the relevant 
documentation, in the family 
into perpetuity

but she has trouble getting the 
strawberries which she feels 
are her right still, among other 
threatened entitlements, out of 
her sheer nobility 

the young Micheal York, as Konrad,
on a bicycle trip through Austria, 
sees the castle – Neuschwanstein,
in actuality, Ludwig ll‘s pied à terre
in Bavaria, standing in for the one 
supposed to be in Austria – and sets
out to transform it into his own 
domain 

there’s yodelling, and dirndls, and 
lederhosen aplenty, not to mention
a great deal of skullduggery, but it’s
a fairy tale, and, as such, leads to a
happy, of sorts, ending 

don’t miss it


R ! chard

on the harmonica – Slim Harpo

SlimHarpoSmoking

 Slim Harpo (1924 – 1970)

          ______

                                           for Barbara

having read my musings on the guitar‘s 
superior practicality, easy portability,  
as a carry-along instrument on the range, 
a friend replied, “how about a cowboy
with a harmonica“, and mentioned Slim
HarpoI told her I’d look into it, how 
could I not, though I’d never at all 
ever heard of Slim Harpo

here’s Slim Harpo, he’s a treat

but a harmonica, finally, is too brash
an instrument to easily fashion out 
of it love songs, so I’ll hold onto my
guitar 

you’ll note that despite the entirely 
different style of music from the 
Classical stuff I’ve been bringing 
up, the three essentials, tonality,
tempo, and reiteration still apply,
this trinity is the foundation of all 
of our Western musical culture,  
the output changes only according
to geographical place and time 
within those European parameters 

Asia has its own, indeed several, 
distinct musical idioms 

Slim‘s is manifestly the American  
Deepest South

enjoy


R ! chard

Symphony no 13 in B-flat minor, opus 113, “Babi Yar” – Dmitri Shostakovich

Babi_Jar_ravijn

             the ravine at Baby Yar 

                     ___________

Shostakovich’s Symphony no 13
“Babi Yar”, to me is not a symphony, 
it’s a cantata, a text with accompanying 
orchestra, which is what we have here

does it matter, perhaps not that much, 
but it’s like going to a restaurant where 
you’re looking to enjoy what they’ve 
posted on their website but when you 
get there they tell you they’re out, you 
can only have what they’re serving 

unless it’s sensational, you’re put out 

Shostakovich’s Symphony no 13
“Babi Yar”, is not sensational, not only 
too mired in local history, no matter
how horrid, how very horrid, but too, 
musically, not inspired 

note that with voice to concentrate the
composition, the orchestra becomes
just backdrop, no more of 
Shostakovich’s signature obbligatos, 
that gave distinction and significance 
to individual orchestral players’ lone,
often poignant, complaints

the choice of a bass to anchor the 
enterprise is especially, I think,
unfortunate, like putting all your eggs 
in one basket, that basket lugubrious
and forbidding – I thought of Taras 
Bulba, or Alberich, the gnome in
Wagner’s “Ring”, singing – the jokes in 
the second movement, “Humour”,  
go flat, people wouldn’t laugh, but 
tremble rather before the domineering 
patriarch, oligarch, the composition
needs the grace, the lightness, the 
breath, of a female figure, voice


Bach is famous for cantatas, but what
came up for me was Carl Orff‘s 
incomparable Carmina Burana“,
written in, coincidentally, 1937, from 
medieval texts the composer had 
found, in Latin, describing, in lurid 
lyrics, the spirit of cloistered monks
during the Medieval Era 

you’ll enjoy the translation of the 
Latin into English here, something I 
hadn’t experienced before, giving 
a whole new meaning to the word
“monastery”


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

“Hank Williams: The Show He Never Gave”

hank-williams-1

                        Hank Williams

                              _______

halfway through The Last Picture Show
recently, a celebrated movie from the early 
Seventies I was watching, about the early
Fifties, I was sidetracked by the Hank  
Williams soundtrack till I was out and out 
stopped by its fervent Cold, Cold Heart 

I put the film on pause 

another love before my time, I warbled,
made your heart sad and blue, and so 
my heart is paying now, I wallowed, for 
things didn’t do, in anger unkind words
were said, I rued, that made the teardrops 
start, why can’t I free, your doubtful mind, 
I fretted, and melt your cold, cold heart 

but I wanted to hear Hank Williams do
it too, live if I could, and lo and behold 
got it

but listed as an option among other 
options nearby was also a longer  
feature purporting to be a 
representation of a concert he 
never  gave the night, December 31, 
1952, he died, the movie is called,
not inappropriately, Hank Williams:
The Show He Never Gave

the actor who plays Williams steps
right into his shoes, he’ll break your 
heart, you’ll need a lot of Kleenex

one of he best film biographies I’ve 
ever seen 

watch it

Hank Williams died of a heart attack
on the night of December 31, 1952

he was 29

may he rest in everlasting peace

Richard

me in the key of B major – 60 Jubilee East, the bathroom‏

Numériser 3
me, at 54 Jubilee East, by the woodpile
___________

réveillez-vous,
 les enfants, my mother
would call, wake up children, it’s time 
to get ready for school
 
we’d scuttle down the stairs from our 
the vent that crouched between the 
toilet and the wall that enclosed, at 
a ninety degree angle to the toilet, 
the tub 
 
the vent allowed hot air to come up 
from the oil furnace my dad ‘d only
recently put up in the basement, the
foundation for the house he would 
slide the old chicken coop from the 
back of the property onto, to build  
our new home
 
where the bathroom would be, there’d 
been a wood stove, we children would 
dress there, beside the hot oven, then,
while my mom got ready for work, the 
lady up front, in the only house that
had been there at the start of all this, 
54 Jubilee East, now rented from my 
folks, and took care of us while both 
my parents were working
 
I very vaguely remember this, but I 
remember well heading towards the 
heat, putting on my socks, 
underclothes, there, until the chill 
fell out of the morning
 
often my sister got there first, but I did
so also often, there was never any 
dissension, we were two consensual 
peas in a pod, each the other’s keeper
 
 
my mother had had to chop wood, she 
told me, and haul water, during the winter
my dad had gone north to work, up near 
James and Hudson Bays
 
she’d heat the water on the stove, there 
was no electricity, nor power tools, my 
aunt, her sister, had had to chop the 
wood cause my mother couldn’t 
manage, the axe ‘d bounce off the 
block she’d be trying to chop
 
my dad ‘d set up timber against our
meagre living quarters, what I’d later 
callsardonically, our manger, to 
supply my mom for the winter he’d 
be gone
 
my mother couldn’t’ve been more than 
twenty years old, then, her sister a few 
years younger, my own sister had barely 
been born, would’ve been not one 
 
this could explain why my mother cried 
 
I would’ve
 
 
Richard

me in B major – 60 Jubilee East, the attic‏

IMG_7745.jpg

I’m the one on the right

____________

been a door originally, from which 
they would’ve swept out hay, I’d
think, where chickens might’ve 
roosted, but my dad had built a 
couple of bedrooms for us there, 
my sister and I, one at either end 
of what would’ve been that attic
 
much of this is conjecture, I don’t 
remember living in the chicken
coop, though I remember living
in the garage, there’d been an
outhouse behind it, and men
would come over to clean it out
every so often
 
there was also a milkman, who led
horse and milk wagon, and for 
whom we’d clean out and return 
the bottles
 
also in summer, a man with a pony
for kids took pictures, I still have
ours imprinted on a cup
 
 
between our bedrooms, my dad had
built a closet, where we could both 
hang all our clothes, and beside it,
on either side, a row of shelves we
could individually use adjoining our 
separate bedrooms, hers was pink, 
mine was blue, baby blue, this was 
probably already more than most 
other kids had, though I would’ve 
been too young to be aware of it  
 
behind the closet, there was a door 
into a confined area under the roof,
with beams and an itchy brush that
served as insulation, we were 
curious but ever too afraid to go in 
there, where confinement lurked, 
nor had I wanted to get into the dryer 
down in the basement for the same 
reason, I might, I told myself, lock 
myself in
 
a short staircase towards the back of 
the house led onto a landing, where
a window looked out onto our back 
yard, if I remember well, and beyond 
that to the brush that preceded the 
forest, and a rocky elevation
 
a longer staircase in the other direction
took us downstairs, into the main living 
areas
 
 
my sister and I were only a year apart,
I was older, protective, she was younger,
trusting, this has never changed
 
 
Richard

Mendelssohn – Opus 13, String Quartet no 2 in A minor‏

           "Caricature of Felix Mendelssohn" -  Aubrey Beardsley

Caricature of Felix Mendelssohn

Aubrey Beardsley

____________

my music teacher on the Internet,
a woman of impeccable credentials,
said about Mendelssohn that his
music was “instantaneously
recognized”

I raised a quizzical eyebrow, and
thought, not to me, honey, despite
my erudition I’d never even heard
of Mendelssohn’s Opus 13, String
Quartet no 2 in A minor

it was full of atonalities, you could
be forgiven, I thought, for thinking
it might be even after Brahms, by
you I mean, of course, me

but an incontrovertible tenderness
and courtesy runs like blood through
it, enough to anchor it to the very
engines, entrails, gut, if you’ll permit
me, of Romanticism, it was 1827

but there wasn’t a single tune I’d
ever heard, in contradiction to my
nevertheless highly respected
teacher, however ever pleasant,
however ever amazing the
number

I was surprised, I’d expected some
Proustian, which is to say, inchoate,
reminiscence, encounter

Mendelssohn was 18 when he wrote
this, sowing his oats, some oats

Richard