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Category: positions to ponder

“The Afternoon of a Faun” – Debussy / Nijinsky / Nureyev

397px-Faun_merse

      Faun and Nymph (1867)

 

              Pál Szinyei Merse               

 

                      ________

 

 

to take a break, for a moment, from the

travails of Io, a heifer still, though her

father, Inachus, is aware of the situation,

and Hermes, messenger of the gods, is 

out, on the orders of Jove/ Jupiter / Zeus

to save her, and, at the same time, 

inspired by the music Hermes tells Argus

her many-eyed keeper, Pan, god of the

wilds, has been playing, with reeds he’s 

been left with of Syrinx, the nymph he  

would’ve loved had she not been 

transformed into rushes, as imagined by 

Debussy in his evocative Syrinx for solo 

flute, as highlighted in my last instalment

I could not not remember Debussy‘s 

other similarly mythological, and intimately

related, work, his Prelude to the Afternoon 

of a Faun, as modified itself by Vaslav

Nijinsky, legendary dancer and 

choreographer, into an event that verily 

shook the early 20th Century 

 

retitled, L’après-midi d’un faune, The

Afternoon of a Faun in English, the 

performance captures everything one

would gather from Ovid’s myths of its 

primitive, primal, sensibilities

 

the faun, needless to say, is representative 

of Pan, god of the wild, woodlands, a satyr, 

part instinct, part man, see above 

 

watch Rudolf Nureyev, then, his equally 

celebrated successor, take on the role

Nijinsky made famous, without any 

alterations made to the original 1912 

production, however improbably, 

though entirely successfully, we’re in 

Paris, May 29, though transposed,

faithfully and superbly, to New York,

Broadway, 1979 

 

proceed, however, at your own discretion, 

The Afternoon of a Faun is steaming, it’s 

about what happens when a young buck’s 

fancies, implacable and irrepressible, turn 

to love, not for the scrupulous, where does 

love begin, it asks, and lust retire, or is it 

the other way around, where does yin, in 

other words, meet, become, yang

 

these are questions that more and more 

begin to come up, you’ll find, in Greek 

and Roman, and most other ancient, 

for that matter, mythologies, something 

that isn’t at all touched upon in the 

Abrahamic traditions, Christanity, Islam, 

Judaism, monotheistic, though they’re 

at least as old, where nature, the place 

of animals, vegetation, land, water, our

intimate interconnection with them, 

don’t much, for better or for worse, 

come up

 

I miss the wonder of the more 

pantheistic, the pagan, perspective 

 

enjoy

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

“Take care of your link with life” – Buffy Sainte-Marie

blue-sky-1932

   Blue Sky (1932) 

 

         Emily Carr

 

             _____

 


while on the topic of alternate 

mythologieslook what I found, 

a poem of Buffy Sainte-Marie

on our present collective 

crisis

 

the faith is that of our indigenous

brothers and sisters, who’ve

managed to keep their ancient

stories alive despite years of 

intense political and official 

opposition

 

their lore was never ever less effective

than Roman lore was to the Romans,

Sainte-Marie‘s Mother Nature no less

noble and inspirational than Juno,

queen of Rome’s Heaven, nor, for 

that matter, than to Catholics their 

Virgin Mary

 

listen

 


Take care of your link with life

 

         Hold your head up
         Lift the top of your mind
         Put your eyes on the Earth
         Lift your heart to your own home planet
         What do you see?
         What is your attitude
         Are you here to improve or damn it
         Look right now and you will see
         We’re only here by the skin of our teeth as it is

         So take heart and take care of your link with life 
         It ain’t money that makes the world go round
         That’s only temporary confusion
         It ain’t governments that make the people strong
         It’s the opposite illusion
         Look right now and you will see
        They’re only here by the skin of their teeth as it is
        So take heart and take care of your link with Life

 

         Life is beautiful
         If you’ve got the sense to take care of your source of protection
         Mother Nature
         She’s the daughter of God and the source of all protection
         Look right now
         And you will see she’s only here by the skin of her teeth as it is
         So take heart and take care of your link with life

 

         And carry it on
         We’re saying
         And carry it on
         And keep playing
         And carry it on
         And keep praying
         And carry it on

 

                                   Buffy Sainte-Marie   


 

R ! chard


 

 

“Metamorphoses” – Ovid, 101

primavera-1478(1).jpg!Blog

   “Primavera (1478) 

 

       Sandro Botticelli

 

             _________

 

 

a friend expressed some interest in Ovid’s

Metamorphoses recently after I’d sung for 

a few moments its praises, had told her I 

was revisiting it after some time with the 

intention of duly, this time, completing it, 

given that, hey, we’ve got lots of time, at 

present, all of us, on our hands, by very 

mandate  

 

it sounds wonderful, she briefed me after 

I’d sent her the appropriate link, but there 

are some parts I don’t understand

 

I’ll help, I said, only too eager to share 

the delights of this inprobable treasure,

a gift nearly two thousand years old, 

with the magic still of very revelation

 

Metamorphoses is a creation story, the 

equivalent of the Bible for those who 

revered the Roman deities, the same 

deities that the Greeks revered, but 

transplanted, renamed, to Roman 

stock, like the Puritans did their  

Christian seed at Plymouth Rock  

 

Ovid, 43 BC to 17/18 AD, was a Roman

poet, paying fealty to Augustus, Emperor

of Rome, 63 BC to 14 AD, therefore his 

Roman goddesses, gods, and his, 

contemporary, Latin

 

which was translated into English early 

in the Renaissance, but found its best

expression, to my mind still, in the 

eminent hands of Sir Samuel Garth,

John DrydenAlexander PopeJoseph

AddisonWilliam Congreve, among 

others in, already, 1717

 

listen 

 

The Creation of the World

 

       Of bodies chang’d to various forms, I sing:
 

Ovid is saying my topic is transformation, very

metamorphoses, plural of metamorphosis


       Ye Gods, from whom these miracles did spring,
       Inspire my numbers with coelestial heat;
       ‘Till I my long laborious work compleat:
       And add perpetual tenour to my rhimes,
       Deduc’d from Nature’s birth, to Caesar’s times. 

 

poets have traditionally called upon their related

muses to inspire them to accomplish their task,

Ovid invokes his Gods, compare Shakespeare’s 

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend / The

brightest heaven of invention, his prologue to 

Henry V   

 

“Ye Gods”, Ovid says, from whom these 

miracles did spring”, those everyday wonders 

that surround us, inspire me, he asks, that I 

might “compleat”, which is to say complete, 

his poem, this long laborious work”

 

his “numbers” are his years, “coelestial”, or

celestial, “heat”, is inspiration

 

“tenour to my rimes” means rhythm, weight, 

to his poetry

 

“Nature’s birth”, or the beginning of time, to

“Caesar’s time”, Ovid‘s own period under

Augustus

 

Ovid asks the Gods to fuel him with the

fire to tell the story of the world from its 

very beginning to his own epoch,

Caesar’s 

 

how’s that for a project

 

 

enough for now

 

but stay tuned for, to follow, the Creation,

capital C, I tell you 

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

from my dictionary

chardenal-dictionary.jpg!Large

       “Chardenal Dictionary (1908) 

 

               Max Weber

 

                   ______

 

a few indiscriminate selections, not 

even in alphabetical order

 

      pity: love, but without the admiration 

      art: the product of deftness applied to an intricacy  

      to conceive:

           a) to think of

           b) to make happen

 

      poetry: the conjunction of Beauty and Truth,

              a bridge between language and music

       courtesy: a prelude to poetry

       prelude: what comes before 

 

      nucleus accumbens: the brain’s pleasure centre

      religion: the institutionalization of faith



R ! chard

 

 

 

 

“Death is nothing at all…” – Henry Scott Holland

St_Paul's_by_Thomas_Hosmer_Shepherd_(early_19th_century)

     “St Paul’s Cathedral 

 

           Thomas Hosmer Shepherd


                          _____________

 

upon learning of the recent demise 

of my younger sister, my only sibling,

a friend sent me the following passage

 


    “Death is nothing at all. It does not count. I have only slipped away 

     into the next room. Nothing has happened. Everything remains 

     exactly as it was. I am I, and you are you, and the old life that we 

     lived so fondly together is untouched, unchanged. Whatever we 

     were to each other, that we are still. Call me by the old familiar 

     name. Speak of me in the easy way which you always used. Put 

     no difference into your tone. Wear no forced air of solemnity or 

     sorrow. Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes that we 

     enjoyed together. Play, smile, think of me, pray for me. Let my 

     name be ever the household word that it always was. Let it be 

     spoken without an effort, without the ghost of a shadow upon it. 

     Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. 

     There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death 

     but a negligible accident? Why should I be out of mind because 

     I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, 

     somewhere very near, just round the corner. All is well. Nothing 

     is hurt; nothing is lost. One brief moment and all will be as it was 

     before. How we shall laugh at the trouble of parting when we 

     meet again!”


 

it is usually presented as a poem, but 

was part of a sermon, rather, given by 

Henry Scott Holland, the very pastor 

who composed it, at St Paul’s 

Cathedral, in London, after the death 

of Edward Vll

 

listen

 


it expresses well the experience I’ve

had with others of my beloved 

departed

 

intimations of my sister are already 

popping up in my reality, soon, I told 

another friend, I’ll be talking to her 

more often than when she was not 

gone

 

much as is the case with my father, 

for instance, away some 30 years 

now, but an abiding presence, 

however mystical, still, and, 

it appears, forever

 

I consider myself profoundly 

blessed

 


R ! chard

 

 

 

Piano Concerto no 2, opus 19 – Beethoven

allegro-con-brio-bourke-st-west-1890.jpg!Large.jpg

     Allegro con brio, Bourke St. West (1890) 

 

                Tom Roberts

 

                    ________

 

 

a concerto is a movie, but for the ears,

one listens, rather than looks, for one’s 

information

 

quite specifically, Beethoven introduces

drama into his inventions, where earlier 

there’d been merely an invitation to the 

dance, minuets, for instance, gigues, or 

disparate, disorganized, appeals, 

otherwise, to our more interior, whether 

secular or mystical, emotions, see in 

this context, for instance, early adagios, 

heart-wrenching, melting often, odes

 

these, or the even slower largos, fit 

neatly, however, into Beethoven’s 

compositional scheme of things,  

between the introductory allegros,

often con brio, and the closing, 

and equally spirited rondos, by 

becoming the pivotal element in 

his intended musical evening, the 

core of his narrative presentation, 

the plangent centre of his three 

part play, film 

 

here’s his Second

 

listen

 


R ! chard

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

“The Seven Last Words of Our Saviour on the Cross” – Joseph Haydn

lord-s-crucifixion-1990.jpg!Large.jpg

     Lord´s Crucifixion (1990) 

 

           George Stefanescu

 

               ____________

 

 

my sister is not well, her situation, 

though blessed throughout with 

grace, is dire, in such moments I 

turn to music for consolation, for 

courage, and for a serene 

acquiescence to whatever might 

be the outcome, the hour that I 

spend thus with her becomes in

that light a meditation, a mass,

private prayer

 

I’ve lit a trinity of candles in her

honour, one nearby for our dad,

gone these already thirty years, 

on something of an altar I’ve 

fashioned, however all the while 

unconsciously, about my 

fireplace, by their flickering 

silence, I find a place for 

solemn contemplation 

 

The Seven Last Words of Our

Saviour on the Cross is to my 

mind Haydn’s greatest 

masterpiece, its subject is

self-explanatory, but you might

want to read again here what I 

wrote about it earlier for 

greater context 

 

it is sung in the Oratorio de la

Santa Cueva, the Oratory of 

the Holy Cave, in Cádiz, Spain

for which it had been originally

composed

 

it is transcendent

 

 

R ! chard

 

 

 

who’s afraid of the subjunctive

impression-sunrise.jpg!Large

Impression, Sunrise” (1873)

Claude Monet

________

who’s afraid of the subjunctive

much like Elizabeth Taylor as Martha
in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”,
my answer is, I am, George, I am

the subjunctive is an esoteric mood,
even more abstruse in English than
in other languages, where the verb’s
conjugation highlights its presence,
in English, it’s nearly identical to the
indicative, the mood everybody
instinctively speaks in, facts

the subjunctive is about aspiration,
like the conditional, abstract, not
real, but its intention, rather than
the conditional’s inherent
impediment, a condition, shoots
for the stars, isn’t introspective,
but adamant, imperative

it is necessary that one be, it is
urgent that one have, it is
important that one effect, a
particular thing or event, all
subjunctives after the
doorkeeper word, “that”

one finds the subjunctive in
Shakespeare, master of grammar,
perhaps unparalleled in English,
a lot – O, that this too solid flesh
would melt, / Thaw and resolve
itself into a dew!
– and follows
with Elizabeth Barrett Browning –
Pardon, o pardon that my soul
should make, / Of all that strong
divineness which I know / For
thine and thee …,
for instance,
who is so profoundly indebted to
Shakespeare for her aesthetics

one wondrous day, I realized that
Proust’s entire À la recherche du
temps perdu
, his “In Search of
Lost Time
“, my Bible, was set in
the, French however, subjunctive,
the mood, there as well, of
possibility, therefore rather than
the definitive recreation of an
earlier time, Proust was
describing a sensibility, a personal
interpretation of a previous reality,
however bolstered by intimate and
apparently precise recollection of
shimmeringly imprecise, though
personally accurate, impressions

note here the similar preoccupations
of Proust’s contemporaries, the, aptly
named, Impressionists

everything, Proust was saying, as
were also the Impressionists, is in
the eye of the beholder

the subjunctive is the mood that
sets this instinct in motion

R ! chard

psst: Somerset Maugham I remember
being noteworthy as well for his
immaculate use, in his South
Pacific tales, of the subjunctive,
extremely elegant in its refined
construction, even with its
English austerities, like making
lace out of mere cloth, impressive
despite its impracticality, or
perhaps even because of it

on ego, in particular, mine

luncheon-in-the-studio-1868.jpg!Large

       “Luncheon in the Studio (1868)

 

                 Édouard Manet

 

                      _________

            

you think I’ve got a big ego, I asked
friend who’d just told me I had one,
not confrontationally 
but as a matter
of fact, I wasn’t offended, just curious,
I think I’m so humble, I answered,
usually, so deferential

she wouldn’t cede to my, to her,

manifestly improbable, argument 

 

what do you call ego, I asked

 

what the definition is in the dictionary,

she answered, and pulled out her cell

phone to prove it

 

sure, I said, I know what the dictionary 

says, but how does that apply to me

 

well, just what it says, she said

 

my mother reads in the paper that it’s

going to rain today, I said, then it 

doesn’t, and I retort that only the 

weather essentially knows about the 

weather, but she still keeps to the

prognostications

 

one night I said, look, mom, the moon 

is full, no, she answered, it’s a quarter 

moon, it said so on the calendar, look, 

I said again, it’s full, it’s a full moon, 

but she wouldn’t believe me, it turned 

out she’d been reading the previous 

year’s almanac 

 

print gives us Platonic ideals, standards

that we think definitive, I asserted, but 

everything is in the eye of the beholder, 

words are just approximations, nothing 

but meeting places where we toss around

disparate ideas no firmer, nor distinct,  

nor assured than conversations among

different languagesmiscommunication 

can be that wide 

 

my friend tells me just talking like that

is proof of my big ego, but I still don’t 

get it, I think I’m so courteous, 

fundamentally, so congenial and, you

know, nice, otherwise 

 

 

R ! chard