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Category: Pink Floyd

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

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an homage to the victims of the Titanic

the-fighting-temeraire-tugged-to-her-last-berth-to-be-broken-up-1839.jpg!Large

  The Fighting Temeraire tugged to her last berth to be broken up (1839) 

          William Turner

                _______

while I’m on the subject of threnodies
which is to say “song[s] of lamentation
for the dead”, as I earlier statedlet me 
bring your attention to this extraordinary 
piece, an homage to the victims of the
Titanic
 
it doesn’t even have a title, much as 
Mozart and Haydn didn’t before music 
went mainstream, into public forums 
rather than merely aristocratic salons, 
and when an identifying moniker 
instead of a number became manifestly 
more practical, especially when the 
emerging Middle Classes were 
becoming the ones who were paying 
the composer’s bills, at the opera 
houses and the other sprouting 
concert venues, when some composers 
had even up to 32 sets of piano sonatas 
to remember, three and four often to 
a single set, opus number, as many as 
there are movements in a very sonata

and that’s not counting the numbered 

symphonies and string quartets of 
theirs, left to similarly calculate, 
decipher, extricate

it doesn’t have a title, I think, because
to my knowledge, it is the first of its
kind, a composition created by 
computer, for computer, an entirely 
self-contained digital work of, 
manifestly, art – I’d been waiting, 
diligently, for one – and like Beethoven, 
after the work was done, the artist(s)
just felt the title best left to the 
wordsmiths, thus – you’re welcome –  
Threnody for the Victims of the 
Titanic

sure, computers have done practical
things before, admirably, but never 
told a story, and certainly never one 
as profound as this one

these are the last moments of the 
Titanic, digitally reproduced, in real 
time, 2 hours and 40 minutes, they
are mesmerizing, you don’t want 
to miss a thing

there are no voices, apart from a 
few radio transmissions at the 
start, spotting the iceberg, calling 
out commands to beware, stop 
the engines

afterwards only silence, and the 
sound of the waves, the churning
of the engines, which have been 
restarted, sounding as rhythmic, 
incidentally, and numbing, as the 
wheels on the railroad tracks of
Steve Reich‘s Different Trains“,
another powerful threnody 

later the flash and crack of flares,
the crunch of the ship sinking  

the pervasive, however disrupted, 
silence and the inexorable passage 
of ever ticking time combine to be, 
thereafter, transfixing, meditative, 
ultimately transcendent, a fitting 
setting for a threnody 

I know of only another work to take
you to that venerable place,
Beethoven’s opus 111

and often enough Pink Floyd, for 
that matter, and the visionary 
Alan Parsons Project, of course, 
discoursing on inexorable Time 

and, now that I think of it, Elgar‘s
The Dream of Gerontius, whose 
character goes from his deathbed 
in the first act, to his afterlife in 
the second, effecting transcendence
for us by, yes, ingenious 
metaphorical proxy

but I digress

what I call Threnody for the Victims 
of the Titanic is a narrative with 
sound, not a movie, not a television
program, it has more commonality 
with a musical production than 
anything else but painting in art 
history, though its means are 
intuitively literary, ship stories go
back to The Odyssey through
Gulliver’s TravelsTreasure 
Island and to one of my very 
favourites, Ship of Fools“,
relatively recently

I could add Mutiny on the Bounty“,
Moby Dick“, “The Caine Mutiny 

in art, a precedent would’ve been set
in our collective consciousness by 
William Turner‘s celebratedThe 
Fighting Temeraire …, but I would 
mention as well Caspar David 
Friedrich‘s The Wanderer above 
the Sea of Fog for its existential
pertinence

a few literary points I’d like to stress
to back up my overt adulation, I find  
it impressive that the Classical rules
of tragedy have been maintained, 
unity of action, time, and place, 
prescriptions going back to 
Aristotle‘s Poetics in our cultural 
history, to profoundly express 
tragedy, iconic, epic, misfortune

not to mention the Classical musical
imperatives of tempo, tonality and 
repetition, none of which can be 
faulted here in this consummate 
composition

there is a no greater leveller of tempo 
than time, larghissimo here*, in the 
largest sense of that word, the 
cosmic, the inexorable pace of 
temporality in our brief heavens

a greater leveller of tonality neither  
is there than the rigorously impartial 
hum of the imperturbable Cosmos 

nor is there greater repetition than 
uniformity, however disrupted by  
however fervent ever human 
intervention, see Sisyphus, or 
Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia
Woolf for iconic disrupters

R ! chard

*   Shostakovich had asked the 
     Beethoven Quartet to play the first 
     movement of his 15th String Quartet,
     “Elegy: Adagio“, so that flies 
     drop dead in mid-air, and the 
     audience start leaving the hall from 
     sheer boredom  

     well this inspired elucidation is even  
     slower than that

the wall

colors-for-a-large-wall-1951.jpg

   “Colors For A Large Wall (1951)

       Ellsworth Kelly

          __________

talking about walls, isn’t it only a few
years ago we were tearing one down

here is Roger Waters and several
other outstanding guest artists, in 
very Berlin, July 21, 1990, celebrating 
its demise

a little earlier, C***mas, 1989, only
moments after East Germans had 
been allowed to visit West Germany,
essentially giving way to the 
dissolution of the barrier, Leonard
Bernstein conducted Beethoven’s
Ninth Symphony, changing the 
word “joy” from the title of Schiller’s 
poem, appropriated by Beethoven 
for his great fourth choral movement, 
to “freedom”, giving new meaning, 
and new life, and new inspiration,  
to Beethoven’s always resounding 
nevertheless masterpiece

how soon we’ve forgotten

Richard

psst: let’s paint the wall

at the XVth International Tchaikovsky Competition – Bach‏

"J.S. Bach, Wohltemp. Klav. Bd. I, No. IV. (Extrait) / (Duo de Tristesse)" -  Robert Strûbin

“J.S. Bach, Wohltemp. Klav. Bd. I, No. IV. (Extrait) / (Duo de Tristesse)” (1957)

Robert Strûbin

________

if I’ve been getting on their backs
about their Bachs at the Tchaikovsky
Competition
, it’s that they’re playing
Bach as though he were mediocre
Beethoven, it’s like asking Duke
Ellington to be Pink Floyd, it’s just
a completely different generation,
era

Bach wrote for the harpsichord, a
precursor to the piano, it could not
control the volume, nor the length
of a note, the pianoforte came
along to resolve both issues

therefore before Beethoven, who
made full use of the new invention
and worked hard the pianissimos
and the fortissimos, to degrees that
often became either inappropriate
or too authoritative, indelicate or
obnoxious if you’re not in the mood
– I remember wanting to play his so
solemn 111 at my father’s funeral,
but realized late that the first
movement was not especially in
that situation warranted, nor even
parts of the transcendental, but not
always not obstreperous, adagio –
and thumbed thus his nose at the
aristocracy, who earlier, before
the citoyens had demanded their
rights and when the world had
been considered to be of a
rational, logical order, a clock,
and as regular, would never have
tolerated such impudence

Bach and Mozart do not sway
much from strict rhythm, neither
do they alter volume much at all

so that the constant display of
heartfelt Bach and passionate
Mozart becomes cloying, and
not at all what these Classical
and Baroque masters would
have approved of

nor Beethoven, nor Chopin, for
that matter, whose strict tempo
markings didn’t include much
rubato, ritardandos, which you
could think of as milking a note,
putting velvet on your canvas,
it doesn’t work, the composition
itself unaided by bathos, pathos,
delivers, check out, of course,
Glenn Gould

Andrei Korobeinikov sat me right
down the other night with his
arresting BWV868, thrilling,
followed by more dazzling
pyrotechnics, though he fizzled,
and fractured his Beethoven, the
very 111 I care so much for, I
couldn’t even finish, you don’t
need a velvet canvas behind the
111, neither cloying ritardandos,
just skill, nor tangles of notes,
for that matter

Richard

Canadian surrealism

"Capture of bear in the woods" - Klavdy Lebedev

Capture of bear in the woods (1907)

Klavdy Lebedev

_______

if Pink Floyd pigs can fly, as well as
Michael Sowa penguins, watch what
bears can do
in Canada in January,
surely even in February

amazing, just click

Richard

Freedom

Alexandru Ciucurencu - "May Day in Freedom" (1958)

May Day in Freedom (1958)

Alexandru Ciucurencu

__________

two events took place after the fall
of the Berlin Wall, which have
remained cultural landmarks since,
nothing much comes close to their
historical significance, music to
declare a new world order

on December 25, 1989, Leonard
Bernstein conducts Beethoven’s
Ninth Symphony at the
Schauspielhaus in the former
East Berlin, it is remembered as
the “Freedom Concert” for having
replaced the word “Joy” in
Schiller’s poem during the “Ode
to Joy”,
the vocal novelty of the
Ninth, also its triumph, with the
word “Freedom”, a whim of the
conductor, not inappropriately

on July 21, 1990, Roger Waters
puts on The Wall“, Pink Floyd’s
20th-Century counterpart for the
Beethoven, the clarion call to do
away with barriers, fences, it’s
hard to dismiss its prescience
when the piece had been written
eight years earlier, seven years
before the fall of the Wall, as
though Pink Floyd had been
prophetic

like Beethoven had been, not
at all coincidentally here
, in
his own day

both concerts are beyond
description, extraordinary

just click

watch for unexpected guest
appearances in either of,
everywhere, the very highest
quality

Richard

 

February, 2015

 "February" - Michael Sowa

February

Michael Sowa

_______

rather than a pictorial representation of
February, more snow over a picturesque
village, February in February is a
February of the mind, the mood, the
cocoon, the armchair, the paper, the cat
at the window watching penguins fly

or, extrapolating, watching pigs fly,
maybe

happy February

Richard

from Beethoven to Pink Floyd


in juxtaposing inadvertently recently
Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”
with Beethoven’s String Quartet no 14
in C# minor, opus 131
, I was once again
struck by how one resembled implicitly
the other, both had achieved structurally
an operatic concert, an original musical
form for each their epoch, a piece of
instrumental music – with, even with
Beethoven eventually, voice – see his
9th Symphony for that – in the form of
opera

stay with me

songs started off as ditties, see, for
instance, in our time, She Loves You“,
the Beatles, in Classical music that’s
the equivalent of a Mozart sonata,
quick, easy to hum along with, and
spirited

then MacArthur Park came along, in
1968, with a song twice the length,
seven minutes and some, of anything
heard before, check out Jimmy Webb,
Richard Harris, and the process

that sounds a lot like Beethoven, I
thought, throw in extrapolations of
symphonic proportions and that
sounds a lot like Beethoven too,
saying, this is not just pretty, people,
it’s potentially momentous, listen

Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club
Band
then put several compositions
together, without breaks, to give us
the first concept album, an
uninterrupted flow of various musical
ideas held together by an, however
inexplicit, theme

or MacArthur Park“, in other words,
amplified

in 1826, it had been Beethoven’s 14th,
where all this started out, no one had
ever done this sort of thing before,
confounded so intimately contrasting
musical forms, but he’d got it from
the Christian Mass

thus Beethoven, a secular prophet

and thus, in his eminent footsteps,
Pink Floyd, solely, among
contemporary artists, addressing
God

it all seems nearly inevitable today,
but it was 1968 then, a time of, if
you’ll recall, revolution

and all of these had been, for better
or worse, once again, our rallying
cries, anthems, towards a better
world

Richard

Beethoven’s piano sonata no 29, “Hammerklavier”, revisited, as promised

upon listening to Beethoven’s 29th sonata
one doesn’t imagine its originality, having
been showered for centuries now with its
miracles and majesties, nothing would’ve
been heard like it before, so great a project,
a work of not only temporal magnitude, an
astonishing fifty minutes, but evidently of
more than just mere entertainment, a work
of philosophical, even, amplitude

Beethoven is not just trying to delight, he’s
trying to engage here, bring together, stir,
more profound human responses, evoke
thought, responsibility, compassion, a
spiritual complicity in the new
post-Revolutionary secular order, he is
establishing new metaphysical ground

the subject is existential, the audience
no longer merely aristocratic, masses
now were talking, an affluent bourgeoisie,
artists were responding to a new Romantic
Age, about rights, and what it means to be
human, both men and women, incidentally
– and I stress that newly pertinent at the time
conjunction – above and beyond those of
God, for each couldn’t both hold the
supreme, the earlier Classical, pinnacle,
the rights of Gods and, by extension,
Kings, Queens if you lived in England,
Russia

secularism was needing new oracles

see Elizabeth Barrett Browning, for
instance, for the emergence of
women

see also, of course, otherwise,
Beethoven

the difference with Beethoven is that
he achieved, ultimately, profound
wisdom, I can think of no other
comparable poet, save, of course,
Marcel Proust, both of whom proved
to be, in the same breath, philosophers,
able to stake that exalted claim, certainly
no painter, a difficult medium through
which to philosophize admittedly, to
bring logical and existential constructions
together to enunciate a transcendental
vision

then again, before Proust and Beethoven,
who’d ‘a’ thunk one could’ve transformed
words or music into very grace, mystically
transubstantiated gold, notwithstanding
the misguided alchemists

Pink Floyd did some of that in the Seventies
but retreated into historic and more personal,
less oracular, reminiscences, philosophizing
isn’t easy, see the punishment of Prometheus,
or, for that matter, John Lennon

Beethoven was completely deaf by the time
he composed the Hammerklavier“, lost in
his own isolation, like Homer, blind to,
though obviously not unaware of, his art

not lost, not unaware either, more like
having been given extrasensory, outright
extraordinary, manifestly, perception

to our utter and everlasting, both of them,
benefit

Richard

Beethoven: Sonata no. 21 in C major, op. 53 (Waldstein)‏

the “Waldstein” Sonata, no. 21 in C major, opus 53, is
one of the few compositions that Beethoven named
himself, which is to say that he dedicated it to a
friend and patron, Count Ferdinand Ernst Gabriel
von Waldstein
, if you can call that naming it

the ones with descriptive titles, the Moonlight, the
Pastorale“, The Hunt“, for instance, were mostly so
labeled by his publisher for ease of identification in
the growing market place, a more affluent merchant
class eager to take on the refinements of the nobles,
see such an instance of social mobility, however
lampooned, updated and upended, in again the
engaging and not at all unperceptive The Beverly
Hillbillies

this means that the suggestive names we’ve come
to associate with his sonatas, Moonlight”, Pastorale“,
The Hunt“, were never conceived as such by
Beethoven, his compositions were ever purely musical
inventions, or more accurately inspirations, prophetic
pronouncements of a much more oracular order,
like Prometheus Beethoven was delivering nothing
short of fire

to match music to specific visual, or even emotive,
cues, incidentally, Pictures at an Exhibition“,
The Carnival of the Animals“, for example, came
later, already a nod to Beethoven’s even indirect
propositions

that titles were given to music, rather than the more
clinical and mnemonically difficult numbers, which
is to say, not easy to remember, isn’t very different
from the evolution of popular music in the early
1960′s

the Beatles, you’ll remember, had cuts on albums
that had nothing more than their group name in
the titles, or the title of one of the album’s cuts,
“Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” came
along to change all that, we saw the birth of the
concept album, where the whole extended affair
becomes a musical metaphysics, this is no
different from the move from the music of Mozart
to that of the more expansive Beethoven, music
is no longer a ditty but an extended technical
and philosophical text, listen to Pink Floyd take
on this mantle superbly in the Seventies, the only
other body since ever to effectively challenge
Beethoven in that especially rarefied field, with
the probable exception of the sublimely expressive
Schubert perhaps, who died much too young for us
to tell, for him to have decisively dialectically proven
himself beside these erudite peers, all having,
however, found ways to have us touch beyond the
sky, the very infinite, and into the no less infinite
confines of our more private and secret selves

what they state is that creation itself, absent any
other meaning, remains potent, perhaps even
ultimately redemptive

creation as a bold and noble response to eternity,
art as affirmation

you’ll note here that the structure of this sonata
is entirely Classical, unity of tone, unity of pace,
and the eventual return of the initial melody,
essential Classical components, what has
changed is the personal bravura of the composer,
Beethoven is not playing for the aristocratic court,
but for a wider, an infinite, audience, he is
pronouncing his and, by extension, our own place
and validity in the universe, by our ability as humans
to create, to respond creatively, and even sublimely,
out of only our otherwise flailing and indeterminate
existence

it is the Romantic response to the waning belief
in God, and incidentally a profound spur to,
argument for, our present notion of inalienable
individual rights

the personal soul has taken over from the earlier
unchallenged deity, the wavering concept of God
has had a seismic fall, and all the king’s horses
and all the king’s men will never be able to put it
together undiminished again

Beethoven is showing us that future

Richard

psst: Helena Bonham Carter plays excerpts from the
Waldstein“, incidentally, in A Room with A View“,
a movie entirely worth a revisit