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Category: positions to ponder

at the movies – “Phaedra”

phaedra-and-hippolytus-1802.jpg

     “Phaedra and Hippolytus (1802) 

            Pierre-Narcisse Guérin

                   _____________

Phaedra, according to Greek myth, fell
in love with her stepson, and, of course,
ruined, for everyone, everything 

she’s been represented in music by
composers from, at least, Rameau,
1733, to, here, now, Benjamin Britten,  
1976by way of even Tangerine
Dream, 1973, however peripherally, 
and the hits just keep on coming

in literature, the story goes back to 
Euripides, 480 – 406 BCE, through
Jean Racine, 1639 – 1699, poet at 
the court of Louis XlV, the version 
that I studied in French Literature,
along with, in English, Shakespeare,
who was doing courtiers, rather, 
and royalty there, then, incidentally, 
instead of the Continent’s iconic 
Mediterranean figures – it remains 
my favourite play in my mother 
tongue, next to, for me, its only 
other equal, Cyrano de Bergerac

but I’d never seen a production of 
Phaedra until this searing, 
modern, rendition, set in, relatively 
contemporary, Greece, London, 
and Paris, with the irrepressible, 
the irresistible, Melina Mercouri
torrid temptress, the very goddess 
Herahereand Anthony Perkins
perfect as her suitor, a youth still, 
pulsing with a young man’s 
unbridled intentions

sparks fly, from moment to 
incendiary moment – I had often 
to pause to catch my breath – 
portents of an inescapable, and 
eventually epic, indeed mythic, 
apocalypse

watch, if you dare


R ! chard

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Sonata for Violin and Piano in F minor, BWV 1018 – Bach

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    “Four Devotees of Prints

            Honoré Daumier

                __________

up at the crack of about nine this 
morning, I determined to get the 
ordeal of trying to print 
something out of the way, go 
over to my mom’s, a few blocks 
down the street, to use her  
printer, something I figured  
would probably present obstacles

though we followed the proposed
instructions, nothing would work,
print, pressed, delivered nothing

hoops were required, several of 
which I managed, got closer, and  
more prepped, but when they 
essentially seemed to contract
marriage, I withdrew – though I 
might‘ve inadvertently sworn a 
ring

flummoxed, even irritated, by 
the manufactured distress, I
determinedly decided to go 
back to paper, I am not a robot, 
I ascertain, as they often 
electronically instruct, to, 
mean really, confirm your 
identity


back home, I lit a candle for Collin, 
my friend, who ‘s just had a 
debilitating stroke, and listened to
Bach again, an absolute cradle

listen to how falling into the 
rhythmic pocket, beats landing  
on anticipated beats in a rocking 
motion, lets you slip into surrender, 
and even physical, solace 

hear, however, how the lingering 
notes of the violin transgress bar
lines, much like with Beethoven
in order to tell a more personal
story

Bach gets to look a lot more like
Beethoven every minute, or the 
reverse, I’m finding, like 
grandchildren resembling, atom 
for atom, their grandparents

stay tuned, there’s a lot more
to uncover 


R ! chard

a “Musical Offering” – Bach

bouquet-of-flowers-1946.jpg!Large

    “Bouquet of Flowers (1946) 

            Martiros Sarian

                _________

                                      for Collin

a friend, who lives too far from me 
to visit, but who is too close to my 
heart for me to do nothing, has just 
had a stroke, “His body, smile, motor functions are improving.The most affected area is his speech center. He is filling in the gaps, has surrendered to his situation, but is operating at about 25% comprehension and memory. He has to rebuild his language, and is getting his ideas across with a lot of help in translation. He will be doing a lot of speech therapy. His uncanny resilience will serve him well.“, 
I’ve been advised

should I continue to write to him,
I’ve wondered, maybe just a few 
cheery words a day, does he 
take the time to read his mail, 
can he, does someone do it for 
him, should I call, or when  
I thought, if not anything else, why 
not music, something I can easily 
send, something he can hear, 
surrender to, rather than pay any 
more cerebral attention 

yesterday, I sent him Bach, Bach’s 
Musical Offering“, 1747, Bach is
from a much more serene period
in music than Beethoven, my 
recent area of investigation here
Bach wrote a lot of ecclesiastical 
stuff, cantatas and such, masses, 
was indeed music director for the 
Lutheran churches in Leipzig for 
a time, the combination makes for 
reflective, often even transcendental 
music, Beethoven wouldn’t at all, 
in this case, ‘ve done, with all of
his Sturm und Drang

I’m lighting a candle a day for my
friend, I’ll also be sending him
internet flowers, till I think of 
what else I can do but pray, for 
his speedy recovery


thanks for dropping by

R ! chard 

Piano Sonata no 17, opus 31, no 2 “The Tempest” – Beethoven

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    “Tempest on the Northern Sea (1865) 

             Ivan Aivazovsky

                  __________

                               for Judy, who “glimpses“, she says,
                                   “a kinder world, that [my] missives
                                          provide” – thank you, Judy                            


just as I was being called on the 
carpet for my constant returns to 
Beethoven, none other than Glenn 
Gould should show up, in my 
cavern of wonders, to absolve me, 
or at least to stand stolidly by my 
side

let him talk

had I written, however, his 
observations, I’m sure you’d’ve  
balkedhe’s a product, after all,  
of the priggish pretensions that  
prevailed in my neck of the woods 
at the time, Southern Ontario, a  
product of British Imperialism  
of which I am myself, I avow,  
incontrovertibly subject, but due  
to the strength of his celebrity,  
one is likely to listen to Gould  
more attentively, I’m not 
sufficiently yetsuspect,  
significant, nor influential
 
he is, one way or the other, I concur,
absolutely right

about his Tempest“, though, I’ll say, 
even object, as Stravinsky and John 
Cage did, according to Gouldabout 
the commanding Beethoven, that 
Gould is dripping in Romantic
sentiment here, his rubato in the 
first movement tests the limits of   
our forbearance, and his second  
movement is so slow as to have 
one fall off the page

but his last movement, the allegretto,
is brilliant

Gould’s idiosyncratic, dare I say, 
eccentric, performance will 
throughout, nevertheless, 
astonish, indeed electrify, even,
I’m sure, inspire, watch, listen

and thanks ever, especially, for 
dropping by 


R ! chard

psst: here’s another version of the 17th,  
          to my mind, less self-indulgent, but 
          you be the judge, don’t think about 
          it, just ask yourself which one  
          would you want to hear a next time,  
          that’ll be your, gloriously personal,   
          reply

          enjoy

Piano Concerto no. 9 – Mozart

clown-with-flowers-1963.jpg!Blog

   “Clown with Flowers (1963)

           Marc Chagall

                _______

                                with the greatest respect for all
                                     who read me, and especially 
                                         for those who are least 
                                             convincedthe way also, 
                                                 I note, to a conscious, 
                                                    and entirely personal,  
                                                          aesthetic


let me once again insist that my 
commentaries here are not at all
the last word on any of what I’ve 
discussed, they’ve been merely 
my opinion, according to my own 
particular aesthetic, my comments 
have been rather to excite curiosity
about, for some, an esoteric topic, 
to awaken interest in a field, to my 
mind, strewn with marvels, and 
never to dictate, art, as I often
remind, is in the eye of the 
beholder

I think of myself as company in 
an art gallery, viewing a 
succession of works, musical 
here, expressing notions, either 
specifically to do with the exhibit
or, personal, but somehow related, 
then moving on, just enough to 
whet the appetite, or, of course, 
not

here’s an instance

I’d been waiting for the sales clerk 
to box some fresh pasta for me I 
was buying at an eatery down the 
street when a line of piped in music 
from their overhead system swept 
me off my disconcerted feet, which 
I recognized to be Mozart, but as
I’d never heard him, ever

can you tell me who’s playing that,
I asked the cashier, many stores 
played their own tapes back then,
some still indeed even do, 
19-eighty, at that time, something

he replied, Mitsuko Uchida
what she’d done was to not stress
the bar line, the natural beat, to, 
in fact, eliminate it, so that a flight
of notes went on like an unfettered 
and iridescent miracle, prompted 
by its own irrepressible momentum,
I was flabbergasted

Beethoven later on would do that
nearly consistently

where Glenn Gould would remove 
his foot from the sustain pedal to 
channel Bach while he played 
Beethoven, an atavism, Mitsuko
Uchida was reversing the process
and using Beethoven‘s own 
unleashing of rhythms to shed 
light on her Classically otherwise 
bound Mozart, a telling 
anachronismI nearly screamed

here, in the event, is the next work 
of musical art in my idiosyncratic 
gallery, the richibi galleri, I call it, 
Mitsuko Uchida herself illuminating 
gloriously, as ever, Mozart, his 
splendid, as she reminds us, Piano
Concerto no 9 

thanks so much for stopping by


ever 

R ! chard

Beethoven / Schubert piano trios

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     Newborn Baby on Hands (1927) 

             Otto Dix

             _________

once I learned to read music, which  
is to say, to pay attention when I was 
listening – the line of the melody, its
development, the counter melody,
its development, the recapitulation,
of either, or both, the changes in 
volume, tonality, the changes in 
pace, rhythm – the grammar of 
composition began to make itself
evident, felt, like the work of verbs, 
nouns, adjectives in sentences

the particularities of the composer 
then, much like the colours on a 
painter’s palette, made themselves 
manifest, the trick is there are no 
words in either of these arts, one  
must understand them with the
senses

two stories

I’d had an aneurysm, my sister 
was there each day to hold my 
hand, as I lay silently, patiently, 
recovering, any noise was 
painful, even excruciating

years later, all I could do, she said, 
was hold your hand

all you could do, I retorted, 
utterly confounded, there was 
everything in your hand, your 
love, your prayers, your attention
and devotion, all of those things,
I said, are what kept me alive

later, extrapolated that that must 
be how a newborn baby understands,  
through the senses, like we do music 
and paintings 

another

when many years later I was 
volunteering at the local palliative 
care unit, I was asked to sit with 
a mother whose family would 
meanwhile take their lunch
together, the mother, incoherent 
and distraught, was all ajitter
in her bed

I sat by her, put a hand on her 
arm, gently, and began to chant 
a mantra I’d recently taken up in 
meditation, something repetitive 
and calming

little by little her tremors slowed,
stopped, and then she began to
sing, to mumble, to murmur, to 
intonerow, row, row your boat, 
over and over again, in a 
corroborating rhythm
acknowledging, mystically, 
magically, our transcendent 
connection

here’s some Beethoven

here’s some Schubert

try to tell them apart


R ! chard

pension protest, à la Russe

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  Miriam dances (1931) 

       Marc Chagall

             ______

a couple of retired Russian ladies spoofed 
a video that student airline pilots had 
performed, that shocked their academy,
who wanted the boys expelled

in protest, other Russians started sending
in their own versions of the dance, but these
two ladies, nothing at all like Tina Turner
turned out to be the Internet sensation

read all about it here, click on each of the
videos there, the girls’ and the boys’, you’ll
love ‘em


R ! chard

String Quartet, opus 77, no 1 – Joseph Haydn

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      The Red Cape (Madame Monet) (c.1870) 

              Claude Monet

                    _______

                                              for my mom

that’s a lot of Haydn, I said to my mom, 
when I saw the list of my transmittals in
her hotmail, hm, I wondered, maybe it’s 
too much

then I said, but it’s like when we’ve 
toured, for instance, our European 
art galleries, me propounding on 
the paintings, as I am wont, however 
incorrigibly, to do, but now, note, you 
can tell the difference between your 
Monets and your Klimts, however 
similar their perspectives

or like your tour guide taking you
recently through Argentina, 
highlighting spots, in the space of 
a month only, the same amount of 
time I’ve spent for the music of 
Haydn

pronounced, incidentally, I specified, 
like “hidin'” in English, not “maiden”, 
just sayin’

I gathered that she’d ‘ve sensed by 
now, if she’d been listening, which she 
said she had, mornings over her 
coffee, what a string quartet is, four
movements, different tempos, fast
at first, a joyful introduction, 
followed by a lament, then a spirited 
third movement, for countereffect, 
then a big fourth movement finish

also, the internal structure of each 
movement would’ve been internalized,
theme, a counter theme, a 
recapitulation of both, or either, all of 
it, probably unconsciously, which is 
how art fundamentally works till you
meticulously deconstruct it

the string quartet is the work of Haydn, 
the house that Haydn built, from 
peripheral aristocratic entertainment, 
like modern day artists sporting their 
wares in noisy restaurants, to the 
glamour of taking on, in concert halls, 
Europe, Brunelleschi did a similar, 
sleight-of-hand thing with his dome 
in Florence for its oracular Cathedral

remember that the string quartet lives 
on as a form, where no longer does 
the minuet, for instance, nor the 
polonaise, nor even the waltz, not to 
mention that concertos, and  
symphonies have become now  
significantly subservient to movies, 
secondary players


watch the instrumentalists here live 
out, in Haydn’s Opus 77, no 1, their 
appropriately Romantic ardour,
something not at all promoted in 
Haydn’s earlier Esterházy phase, to 
raise their bow in triumph, as they 
do at the end of most movements
is already an indicationnot at all 
appropriate for the earlier princely 
salons, that times have changed

Haydn was a prophet, but also an
elder, with an instrument to connect 
the oncoming, and turbulent, century 
to the impregnable bond of his 
period’s systems, the legitimacy of 
the autocratic, clockwork, world, 
Classicism, the Age of Reason, the 
Enlightenment, for better or for 
worse

we are left with its, however ever 
ebullient, consequences

enjoy


R ! chard

String Quartet in C major, opus 76, no 3, “Emperor” – Joseph Haydn

Ludwig_Streitenfeld_001.jpg

    Francis II as Holy Roman Emperor (1874)

          Ludwig Streitenfeld

               _____________

Haydn’s String Quartet, opus 76, no 3
is nicknamed the Emperor cause the 
second movement, the poco adagio;
cantabile, is a recapitulation of an 
anthem Haydn had earlier written for 
Francis ll, the Holy Roman Emperor
– not, incidentally, for Napoleon, the 
Emperor of the moment, who was to 
defeat Francis lleventually, at the 
Battle of Austerlitz, December 2, 1805, 
thereby dissolving that Holy Roman 
Empire, which had been established 
by Leo, the very Pope, lll when, on 
December 25th, 800, which is to say 
preceding Austerlitz by a thousand 
years, he crowned Charlemagne its 
Emperor 

Haydn must’ve been a monarchist


you’ll recognize that second movement
as the present day anthem of Germany

but listen to how Haydn makes it glisten, 
explicitly, with articulations and filigree 
that render it utterly irresistible

the adagio is usually the moment that
remains immutable, if the composer
is doing hir stuff, it’s the one you walk 
home singing, the faster movements,
however histrionic, are nearly a dime 
a dozen, though ever nevertheless 
often dazzling 

this adagio is utterly Romantic, though
I’m sure Haydn didn’t know what he 
was doing, cause despite their push
against the democratic surge, even 
monarchists, princes, dukes, dutiful 
composers, were finding, and voicing, 
their personal, and individual, which 
is to say, their democratic, opinions, 
however aristocratic their pedigree

artists had done a similar thing when 
their personalities began to single 
themselves out as especially gifted 
when the Renaissance was 
happening, it was now music’s hour, 
individual voices were staking their 
claim, Haydn’s manifestly superior 
based on talent and, after widespread 
economic affluence, audience appeal, 
Haydn’s commercial boots were made 
for walking, and he filled them both
magnificently and incontrovertibly

the poco adagio; cantabile is not 
courtly music, it reaches for not
merely elegance, but the heart,
we’ve entered another 
transformational generation, 
something like the revolution 
that triggered change in the 
cultural upheaval of the1960s 

our first step then was the Beatles, 
theirs was Haydn, or rather Elvis
Presley shoring up the Beatles, 
Beethoven was more aptly John,
Paul, George and Ringo 


but watch the rapture on the players’ 
faces, Francis ll would’ve been 
appalled, much like parents in my 
generation facing the pill, drugs, 
unorthodox sexual couplings, and, 
of course, raucous and unruly rock 

music

today, under the spell of the 
Romantic Period, and encouraged
by that very Sexual Revolution, the
Calidore String Quartet’s Elysium
their evident blissemotionally 
manifest, and utterly arresting, sells 
tickets, for better orhopefully not, 
for worse

but you call the shots, to decorum or 
not to decorum, that is the question

watch, wonder, listen 


R ! chard

merry C***mas

don-quixote-1955.jpg!Large

       Don Quixote (1955) 

             Pablo Picasso

                 _________

last year, my mom and I spent C***mas 
in Munich, attended mass at the
Heiliggeistkirche there, the Church of 
the Holy Spirit, a blessed event, this 
year, we’re spending it here in Vancouver,
she’s just down the street from where I
live, has just come back from three weeks  
in Argentina, with back to back stopovers 
in Montreal to visit the rest of our family 
there, me, I’m happy with my sedentary 
life, in this enchanted placeputzing and
writing poems

but this year, rather than shopping for 
gifts, I’ve determined to look for good
actions, volunteering is out, but little
acts of kindness, everywhere, are in
even big ones

a friend who’d been considering 
coming over for C***mas, from 
Victoria on nearby Vancouver 
Island, alone now after the demise 
of his wife last winter, compounded 
by the death of his only two kids, 
twins, many years ago, is now ill,  
my mom and I ‘ve determined to
visit him there should he not 
make it here

this seems to me to be more 
important, significant, than 
gifts


the moneylenders have now taken 
over the temple, it’s time to take 
back, put the C***mas back into, 
C***mas

find someone to be good to


and all the very, very best

R ! chard

psst: Don Quixote, see above, was 
          perhaps a dreamer, attacking 
          windmills he thought were 
          maleficent, but his vision, his 
          however impossible dream,  
          has lasted as an inspiration  
          for over 500 years  

           it’s never not time to pursue 
           one’s noble ideas