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Category: reflections on love

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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why I believe in music, or “I Was Born For This” – Austin Wintory

joan-of-arc-on-corronation-of-charles-vii-in-the-cathedral-of-reims.jpg!Large

  “Joan of Arc upon Coronation of Charles VII in the Cathedral of Reims (1854) 

        Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres

                ____________________

many years ago, while I was volunteering 
at our hospital’s palliative care unit, nearby, 
recently installed as a response to, among 
other pressing preoccupations, but most 
urgently then, the AIDS crisis, I was asked 
to sit by a lady in profound distress, her 
family, Western Buddhists, would go to 
lunch while I would sit by her to comfort 
her as much as I could

she was dishevelled, of course, completely 
disconcerted, all ajitter, lost, and evidently
confused, in her profound isolation, not to 
mention in the crumpled state of her 
harried bedunable to communicate, or
reason

I found a chair, sat by her with earnest 
concentration, my partner had died 
there, only recently, on that very unit, 
and I was expressing, to all of those 
concerned in his unparalleled care, 
my unlimited appreciation

I lay a hand gently upon her arm, to let
her feel, at least, the safety that my 
touch could allow, to let it settle on 
her, however removed might be her 
remaining consciousness, began to 
sing quietly a chant I’d been intoning   
from a creed I’d turned to for comfort 
in my own personal anguish, at the 
loss of my own friend, a call, an 
invocation, the continuous iteration 
of a line that brought solace, Om Nama
Shivaya, I prayed, over and over again, 
with the greatest intention, whatever
that phrase might’ve, I’ve forgotten, 
meant

she relented, found her space, little by
little she became, as though grace had 
descended upon her, calm, by however  
infinitesimal degrees, while I continued, 
now, my hopeful, helpful, it appeared,
manifestly mystical, intervention

she had become restful, I’d 
accomplished essentially, I gathered, 
my primary mission, though I 
continued, with some sense, perhaps
even a glow, of personal pridemy 
soulful incantation

then in a voice not much louder than a 
whisper, but much less distraught than 
a moan, she began to join in with row, 
row, row your boat, tunefully, over and 
over again, accommodating herself,
though, naturally, exceedingly weakly,   
to my rhythm, I felt I was experiencing,  
right there, and then, through the    
power of cadence, a miracle

when I looked back, upon hearing 
behind me a rustle, standing at the 
door was her family, wrapped in 
equal consternation 


here’s something with someone singing 
in several inscrutable languages for 
most of us, mostly, words from historical 
texts, in Greek, Latin, Olde English, 
Japanese, and French, I Was Born For 
This

that title, of one of the segments of 
longer work, Journey“, by a contemporary 
composer, Austin Wintoryis indeed a 
translation of Joan of Arc‘s words on the 
cross, “Ne me plaignez pas. C’est pour cela 
que je suis née.”, do not pity me, she says, 
I was born for this, Joan of Arc, my own 
personal Jesus

Shostakovich has an entire symphony,
his 14thcomposed of music to 
accompany classic poems, all in a 
variety of foreign, to him, tongues, but
translated back into Russian for his 
purpose in this particular, and not 
uncommon, instance, nevertheless 
pointed reference to music as superior
more direct, communication – note, here, 
the word, communication – it, the 14th,
is profound, extraordinary, read here 
first, then listen


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 

what’s up in Belgrade, Serbia – Pepe Romero

dario-de-regoyos-playing-the-guitar-1882.jpg!Large

   Dario de Regoyos Playing the Guitar (1882) 

          Theo van Rysselberghe

                 ______________

                                                          for Donna

struck by the intimacy, the emotional 
resonance of the guitar, more outward,
more confessional, than introspective, 
like the cello, I wondered at the reasons,
speculated merely, but with, to my mind, 
unobjectionable conclusions finally, just 
this side of actual proof of my, however 
provisional nevertheless, conclusions

the guitar, I thought, when a friend 
wrote about her especial appreciation 
of it, is to both North and South 
Americans a much more integral part
of our history, cowboys carried them 
out on the range, be it American or 
Argentinian

why, I wondered

well, I figured, it doesn’t have, first 
of all, a bow, and it’s easy to carry,
a piano would, of course, be right 
out of the question

and later in the evening, around a 
fire, a cowboy can wrap his very
soul around this metaphor he’s 
holding, and speak of his love and 
his loneliness

you could try the same thing with a
mandolin, maybe, but it has, I think, 
too playful a string to be ever so
meaningful and intimate

it seems, as well, that you can play 
more than one note at a time on the
guitar, the thumb and at least one 
other finger, to achieve harmonies 
other instruments, including the 
cello, can’t – I could never play two 
notes at a time, for instance, on my 
flute when I was flaying it 

though I recently found out you can 
play two notes together, at a time,
though with great difficulty, on the 
violin, which could shoot all of my 
theories into the water

stay tuned


listen to Pepe Romero, meanwhile,
astound you with first of all Rodrigo’s
“Concierto de Aranjuez” – you’ll melt 
at the adagio – then with Francisco
Tárrega’s “Memories of the Alhambra”
a piece that’s already written deep in 
your bones, I promise you’ll

quiver

enjoy


R ! chard

Cello Suite no 4, in E flat (trans. to C for guitar) – Bach

the-guitar-player-1894.jpg!Large

       The guitar player (1894) 

                Paul Gauguin

                    ________

                                               for Daniel, despite his 
                                                               occasional jabs


transcribed for guitar, Bach’s Cello Suite no 4 
becomes an entirely other experience, listen

less transformationally, the original key, E flat,
is transcribed, altered, to the key of C, you 
won’t even notice 

from an introspective, however lively often,
utterance, I hear here, rather, a serenade, 
before a balcony, before the balustrade of 
blushing señorita, demure beneath her 
modest mantilla, quivering behind a  
fluttering matching fan, at the sincerity,  
and artistry of her courter, his 
unadulterated, and utterly vulnerable 
pursuit, an unmistakable expression of 
his devotion, ability, agility, and eventually, 
his worth, which is, incidentally, what art 
is, when achieved, always irresistible, even 
miraculous

plus who wouldn’t surrender everything 
to this guitarist, apart even from his art


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

me, in C# major – in the beginning

99_9

         “Prieteni

              Alexandru Ciucurencu

                      _______

                                              for my sister

my sister, who is presently recovering,
learning to walk again, up and down, 
apparently, the stairs, after a second, 
especially virulent, sarcoma, the first, 
a year ago, insignificant compared to 
this one, which has left her, this time,
with but two of seven muscles in her 
upper right hind leg, her thigh, was 
surely my first experience of someone 
who could understand my existence, 
she was born a year and a very few 
days later than I was 

two buds on a branch learning to 
weather the weather from the same 
degree, essentially, of inference

she had dark eyes, round, brown,
beautiful, would eventually win 
beauty pageants, her hair was also
brown, beautiful, though all this 
was to her ever irrelevant, until later 
perhaps when she learned to always, 
however humbly, as one should treat 
a gift from heaven, use it, to protect 
her child, to ensure her own ever 
noble existence, through which she 
never, however, stopped being 
beautiful, even radiant

however beautiful might she have 
been, I only ever saw her heart, 
something I’ve done since with 
beautiful people, beyond even 
their vaunted allure 

my sister was not only my sister, 
thus, she was also the other part
of my heart

still is


my parents worked, were gone all 
day, ensuring our physical comfort,
food, clothing, a roof over our 
heads, and they were little by little 
becoming eventually extravagantly
successful, for little people

but it was the ’50s, folks were 
coming out of a culture of log 
cabins and perseverance, aunts 
had survived fires that had burnt
the town down, and who’d saved 
their children, all cowering in the 
nearby river, cloaked in tarpaulins,
while the menfolk had been toiling 
in some other nearby township 
to keep their families going, 
nearly as heroically as the women

but my sister and I had just been 
born in this particular corner of  
infinity, where each child, in its  
own, needs to make its own way

we, blessed as we were, could 
confront this abashing new world
together

and we did

she had been a bud, she became
my anchor, as I, I think, ever for 
her since have also been

if you’ll pardon my inordinate, and
perhaps too gushing, ardour


R ! chard

on “Song to the Moon” – Antonin Dvořák

rising-moon-1964

   “Rising Moon (1964)

          Hans Hofmann

              __________

the moon was out last night, grand
upon the starlit evening, either 
waxing or waning, I’m not sure, but
not full, a gibbous moon, above the 
buildings that scrape, in my big city 
neighbourhood, in the very Cubist 
manner, the night sky, see above

I’d been listening to Renée Fleming
singing Dvořák‘s Song to the Moon
in my head since I’d seen her do it, 
on television, in a summer evening 
concert at Schönbrunn, Vienna, some
few days ago, sheit, had been utterly, 
sublimely, enchanting, I’m a Cancer, a
moon child, I speak to the moon

to the moon, I said, moon in the dark
heavens, who steal into every home
and hearth at night, find my beloved
and tell him what is in my heart, rapt 
as I was in the spell of my special
planet, my personal orb, and the 
enveloping Dvořákian magic, though 
there’s been no beloved lately, just 
trailings of the latest one who broke, 
of course, my heart, which gives more 
pathos, however, incidentally, to my 
singing, I’ve giddily gathered

at home, I found Renée Fleming doing 
the piece on the Internet, entirely as 
splendidly, earlier, at London’s Royal
Albert Hall, September, 2010

listen

R ! chard

patience

community

      Community 

             Vicente Manansala

                         _________

in the regular line at the market today, 
not the express line, the man ahead of 
me turned towards me and looked at 
my basket quizzically

are you after my crackers, I said,
jovially, I’ve been stocking up on 
a favourite brand on sale 

no, he said, but you could be in 
the express line with your only 
five articles

I don’t mind the wait, I replied, and I 
didn’t take the time to count

I hate waiting in line, he said, I want 
to get out of here as quickly as 
possible

I’ve slowed everything down to a 
snail’s pace, I said, it makes you, 
I think, a nicer person, plus you 
get to smell the basil and the 
raspberries

I guess I’m not a nice person, he 
countered, not at all, I replied, you 
are evidently friendly, you addressed 
me, you were concerned, put forth a 
desire to help

he glistened, blushed, was manifestly 
nonplussed, speechless, then his turn 
came up at the check-out counter

at the cash he glowered at some
empty baskets that had been left
there unattended, discombobulating 
his station, I refrained from  
instinctively moving them myself, 
since I would’ve lost my place in line 
in the process, and though I might 
sometimes be gracious, I am mostly 
not subservient, though that’s up still 
for some metaphysical consideration

I made it home with my five items,
the sky was blue, but again there’s 
smoke above the mountains 
shrouding the eastern horizon, 
from forest fires burning inexorably 
in our Interior

the sky is falling, we need to take 
care of each other, ourselves

R ! chard

“Cairo Time”

street-in-cairo.jpg!Large

     “Street In Cairo (1873)  

             Konstantin Makovsky

                         ____________

many years ago, when I was in my 
skittish twenties, and the world had 
opened up to me as I’d started work 
at an international airline, I opted 
to go to Tunisia, less harried than 
Morocco, I thought, and probably
less expensive 

a friend had asked to come along,
who worked for the same company 

Judy was my age, honey blond, lithe,
curvaceous, voluptuous, though
ever entirely unassuming, we made  
a lovely pair

but soon the locals had our number,
understood that I was merely her
friend, no challenger for her 
affections, somehow

from our seaside hotel in nearby
Hammamet, a coastal resort, we set 
out our first day for the nearby capital, 
Tunis, a dusty town, I remember, a 
cowtown, or a camel town, north of 
the Sahara Desert, with shoddy 
buildings and not much else, I was 
young

we found ourselves on the Boulevard 
Habib Bourguiba, the name of the first
President of the Republic of Tunisia,
not paved then, or with what we used  
to call soft shoulders, when the 
pavement doesn’t reach the sidewalks, 
where we looked for a restaurant or a 
coffee house to get our bearings 

inside a nondescript place we found
for lack of anything else, we sat down,
had a coffee, looked around

it didn’t take long for us to realize that
Judy was the only girl in the place, so
we finished our fare and took off

when all the men in the place followed

we found a cab to take us back to the 
hotel and didn’t return to Tunis apart  
from accompanied 

but that’s another story

it’s seemed so hard for me to explain
this to people who haven’t experienced 
this discomfort cause this kind of
indignity is so foreign to us, offensive
and hard to imagine

but a film I just saw about Cairo, 
Cairo Time“, gives a good impression 
of the differences in our cultures

were it only for this insight, I wouldn’t
suggest this movie, but because it is
a wonderful travelogue through this
remarkable city, with views of bazaars,
pyramids in the distance, and all of it 
in splendid cinemascope and colour, 
the film is a marvel 

Patricia Clarkson, an actress I greatly
admire, plays the role Katharine 
Hepburn played in Summertime“, 
one of my all-time favourite movies,
of a woman alone in a city, needing
to trust in the kindness of strangers 

Clarkson‘s kind stranger is no slouch 
either

watch

Richard