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Tag: “Of Human Bondage” – Somerset Maugham

Symphony no 9 in E flat major, Op. 70 – Dmitri Shostakovich

great-expectations-ussr-pavilion-on-1939-new-york-world-s-fair-1947.jpg!Large 

Great Expectations. USSR pavilion at 1939 New York World’s Fair (1947) 

       Veniamin Kremer

             ________

it’s become evident that Shostakovich’s 
symphonies require context, a backstory, 
it’s otherwise like listening to a film score
without the movie, though often even 
pleasant, it lacks the poignancy that a 
story would deliver to the music 
accompanying it

not that that’s impossible, John Williams  
has delivered, irrespective of if you’ve 
seen the relevant film, his Shindler’s
List for example, listen 

and I used to fall asleep to Alex North‘s
soundtrack for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia
Woolf”a film that changed, or rather 
defined, my life, much as Somerset 
Maugham’s Of Human Bondage“, the
book, had done a decade earlier,
these 
would be, I’d intuited,
my destiny  

but for specifically political reasons, 
the symphonies of Shostakovich
apart from a few exceptions, the 
Fifth, the Eighth, though only 
somewhat that one, for instance, 
without the accompanying history, 
don’t hold, the emotional connection 
is too abstruse, foreign, to catch


the Ninth was written in 1945, World
War ll had been won, by the Soviet 
Union as well as the Western Allies

Stalin was still in command, Russians 
were returning to their oppressive, 
indeed murderous, regime 

Shostakovich had been expected to 
bring glory to the Soviet system, he 
delivered instead a joke, in musical
terms, a scherzo, if you can listen to 
the language, a wry joke, instead of 
a paean to the glory of Stalin, he
delivered not at all a full on hour-long
special as he’d been doing before,
but a short, his shortest, symphony, 
full of exaggerated, which is to say,
hypocritical, fanfare

piccolos and flutes cheer, mimicking
flags and banners, trombones boast 
an only uncertain victory, deflating 
even, in the third movement 
decisively, though, I found, 
prolongedly, with winds sounding 
exhausted, but not succumbing to 
standing down, while violins portray 
the population in a frenzy, their 
military industrial complex having 
whipped them into feverish 
servitude

Stalin was not amused, the piece 
was banned until after the autocrat’s 
demise, for its “ideological weakness”

nor was the world then, for that matter,
impressed, who thought the Soviet
superstar’s response to victory was 
unusually trivial

but Shostakovich had been unable 
to applaud the tyrant, a politically 
required duty, if not even officially
commissioned, he could only put 
up surreptitiously pantomime, if  
he was to remain true to his 
principles

which he did

his work was a call to arms for the 
beleaguered denizens of his 
oppressed society, spoken in a
locally decipherable musicacode

as such it is a historical document 


listen to Leonard Bernstein give 
further invaluable information on
the subject


R ! chard 

on art, its purpose

poet-with-flower-2008-jpgblog

                                Poet With Flower (2008)

                                          Stefan Caltia

                                                 _____

wherefore art, I’ve long and often wondered,
with only a wink to Juliet’s Romeo, for my
question dug deeper, why, indeed, itself art

we build our souls on the stories we’ve 
heard, the impressions we’ve received
from voices that spoke directly to our 
senses, painters with paint, musicians
with music, writers with words, poets 
with poems

it started with fairy tales, which told of
right and wrong, good and bad, courage,
kindness, responsibility, and dire 
consequences for discord

Biblical stories also took up a lot of my own
childhood, Jesus, Adam and Eve, Moses
and the Ten Commandments, this last 
reinforced by Cecil B. DeMille’s epic

but soon enough it was Oliver TwistLittle
Nell, and by an inescapable authorial leap, 
since these were all by an irresistible 
Charles Dickens for a guy my age, Sydney
Carton, who valiantly stands in for his
friend, Charles Darnay, at the guillotine, a 
quantum, even existential, leap from 
Peter Pan and Mary Poppins 

though I had the good fortune to learn to 
read and write music as a boy, play music, 
learn about Bach, Brahms and Beethoven, 
it didn’t take anyone else much more than
their enthusiasm to see what the Beatles
were similarly doing, the Rolling Stones, 
the Supremes, they were not only singing, 
but making history, shaping it, and us, we 
followed the questions they rose, their 
responses, the effects upon ourselves
for nothing is considered until it’s 
mentioned, spoken, made clear, and they
were those prophets

the same goes for art, we see as we see
cause Monet, Picasso, Warhol showed 
us how to see, what to look at

and of course poets, Shakespeare, 
RostandDanteGoethe, to inform, each,
their individual language, and culture

I have been Philip CareyScarlett O’Hara, 
Blanche DuboisGary Cooper in High
Noon“, both Martha and George in 
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf“, lately 
I’ve been even Hank Williams

as Babette would say, a French doll who 
gets abducted in Raggedy Ann and Andy:
A Musical Misadventure“, an animated 
movie from the Seventies, – oo aahrr yoo 

Richard

psst: all of them have been me too,
      incidentally

“Diet Mountain Dew” – Timothy Donnelly

dew-drenched-furze.jpg!Blog

                  Dew Drenched Furze (1890)
 
                            John Everett Millais
 
                                 _____________
 
 
I have been, perhaps still am, 
grasshopper, which is why I 
react so strongly to this poem
 
at twelve already, after having
read Somerset Maugham’s 
Of Human Bondage“, I knew 
such would be my own fate, 
love wouldn’t be kind to me 
 
it hasn’t, it ain’t easy being 
green
 
 
Richard
 
                  ____________
 
 
 
I have built my ship of death
and when a wind kicks up
I’ll cut it loose to do its thing
across an unnamed lake of you,
a firefly sent pulsing through
the non-stop estivation of
the verses of our South, who in
its larval phase would feast
on bitter worms and snails, who
emerges from its mud chamber
our planet’s most efficient
luminescence, who turns
chemical energy into radiant
energy shedding very little heat,
so will I sail the compass of
you pleased with my cold light.
 
I have built my ship of death
aglow in sturdy chemicals
and powered up at night like
American Express, I’m all
customer service only minus
the customer, no service to speak
of other than death, you will
know my logo by its absence
and slogan from the past
ad for the sugared style of you
on TV in my youth, it goes
like this: “When my thirst
is at its worst . . .” and then I
let it trail off into the unsayable
or is it just unsaid because
my mouth is full of you again.
 
A green like no other green
in the dale, indelicate green or
green indecent, surpassing
the fern and sprout and April’s
optimistic leaflet some stop
to admire in nature, they take
photographs noncognizant
of other vehicles, you are too
green for pasture, you are
my green oncoming vehicle,
usurper of green, assassin
to the grasshopper and its plan,
I put me in your path which is
the path a planet takes when it
means to destroy another I think
you know I’m O.K. with that.
 
A green like no other green
resplending in production since
1940 when brothers Barney
and Ally Hartman cooked it up
in Tennessee qua private
mixer named after moonshine,
its formula then revised by
Bill Bridgforth of the Tri-City
Beverage Corp. in 1958, year
Linwood Burton, chemically
inclined entrepreneur and ship
cleaning service owner, sold
his formula for a relatively safe
maritime solvent to Procter
& Gamble of Ohio, who went on
to market it under the name
 
of Mr. Clean, whose green
approaches yours then at the
last second swerves into
a joke yellow plays on green
to make blue jealous till it
blows up in its face but I can’t
not love the smell of it, citrus
reimagined by an extra-
terrestrial lizard which is to say
inhuman in the way you say
inhuman to me, a compliment
unravelled in the drawl: “Hey
you, over there, you look
so unaccustomed to temporality
I would’ve sworn you were
inhuman,” and time for it after
 
time I fall, further evidence
of my humanity: I am at heart
no less susceptible to rot
than the felt hat on the head
of the rifle-toting barefoot
hillbilly, your mascot until he
disappeared in 1969. Instinct
says he must have shot his
self in the woods in the mouth
one sunrise when a frost
was at hand and the apples
fell thick and he was way
too awake when he did so not to
think there would be another
waiting like a can of you in
the 12-pack in my refrigerator.
 
I have built my ship of death
and enough already, every
toxic sip of you preparing for
the journey to bloviation:
I leave to return and return
to depart again the stronger
for a satisfaction being bound
to no port has afforded me:
I have built my ship of death
so that even when I crawl
back down into the hold of it
alive as what unnaturalness
in you can keep me, it’s only
to emerge from the other
end of it intact, and perfectly
prepared to be your grasshopper.
 
                       Timothy Donnelly