31 March 2010
I'm listening to Bach's The Art of Fugue, performed by the Emerson String Quartet. In the past I did not like this piece. It had made me feel on edge. Music can do that. But I had felt uncomfortably on edge. Today I am enjoying the way this piece grabs me. I feel connected to it as though after many attempts to understand a math problem, a masterful teacher has just shown me a new method, a new perspective, a way to solve the problem.
Before yesterday I had never heard this piece performed on anything but a keyboard (pipe organ and harpsichord, mainly). To hear the layers of score intertwining in and around each other when defined by violins, viola and cello is clarifying. I read an article once in which Bach was described as "The Architect of Sound." Hearing The Art of Fugue architecturally "deconstucted" by the string quartet makes sense to not only my ear, but my guts.
Musicologists believe that the nature of the scoring may suggest the piece wasn't meant to be played, but rather studied.
The Art of Fugue is a perfect demonstration of the balancing organization, rationality, and building that Bach musically mastered. This is the basis of Contrapunctus. This form is an integral part of Bach's fugue. "Contrapuctus," or counterpoint, was defined by Titus in 1477 as "… a moderate and reasonable concord which arises when one tone is placed opposite another, from which also the term contrapunctus, that is 'note against note', can be derived. Counterpoint is therefore a combination of tones. If this combination or mixture sounds sweetly to the ears, it is called consonance; if, on the other hand, it sounds harsh and unpleasant, it is called dissonance…" This piece is full of these point-counterpoint "balances."
I highly recommend giving Bach's architecture a listen.
30 March 2010
Papa gave two interviews in his life.
Plimpton got one of 'em ...
Is emotional stability necessary to write well? You told me once that you could only write well when you were in love. Could you expound on that a bit more?
What a question. But full marks for trying. You can write any time people will leave you alone and not interrupt you. Or rather you can if you will be ruthless enough about it. But the best writing is certainly when you are in love. If it is all the same to you I would rather not expound on that.
Read the entire transcript here.
Keri Smith's Rebel Manifesto inspired me, made me think ... made me want to think. She says that her list came about as the result a few month's work while reading Derrick Jensen's Walking On Water, a public education treatise.
I have explored the book, it's coming tomorrow. The Revolution On Hold ... in the meantime I've created a "manifesto" of my own. It's a work in progress. I often remind my fifth grade writers to keep the drafts of their work as a trail of their growth. So I will do the same with my list, amending as I grow.
Manifesto ... I have always had an aversion to that word; smacks of politics. I'm reminded of Benjamin Franklin's quest for "moral perfection" and all his personal rules and expectations. They seemed, to me, a fruitless endeavor ... the checklists and scorekeeping a sure-fire method for madness. The enlightened maxims that became the basis for Poor Richard's Almanac , on the other hand, seem to be more the tone.
For now I'll call my list "Reminders."
So, this is my list. I am not presenting this as a sermon to better the world, I have my hand's full with myself right now. But hopefully it inspires you reflect and create as well!
1. Take care of kids.
2. Think before acting and especially before speaking.
3. When unsure of what to do or say, keep listening.
4. Keep learning … ask questions.
5. Teach patiently. Learn patiently.
6. Change perspective.
7. Beware of comfort.
8. Trust instinct.
9. Rather than judge, endeavor to understand.
10. Remember … control is an illusion.
29 March 2010
Molson passed today. He was a great friend. I will miss our hikes, car rides, our daily talks; his companionship.
Molson, you are a good boy.
"If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans"
~ James Herriot
Molson Firchau, July 30, 1996 - March 29, 2010
28 March 2010
This afternoon I began reading Richard Brautigan's, Trout Fishing In America. It's weird, I'm not sure what to think of it yet, but I like it.
I came across him when watching Harrison and McGuane's documentary, Tarpon. He seemed to be the odd ball in that group (which is really saying something). I worked with a guy at Katzinger's would was always telling me that I needed to read it. So, 15 years later, I am.
Early highlights ...
From "KNOCK ON WOOD (PART TWO)"
I left the place and walked down to the different street corner. How beautiful the field looked and the creek that came pouring down in a waterfall off the hill.
But as I got closer to the creek I could see that something was wrong. The creek did not act right. There was a strangeness to it. There was a thing about its motion that was wrong. Finally I got close enough to see what the trouble was.
The waterfall was just a flight of white wooden stairs leading up to a house in the trees.
I stood there for a long time, looking up and down, following the stairs with my eyes, having trouble believing.
Then I knocked on my creek and heard the sound of wood.
I ended up by being my own trout and eating the slice of bread myself.
I was delighted by the change in perspective, though I'm certain the narrator was not ...
There was nothing I could do. I couldn't change a flight of stairs into a creek.
From "KOOL-AID WINO"
You were supposed to make only two quarts of Kool-Aid from a package, but he always made a gallon, so his Kool-Aid was a mere shadow of its desired potency. And you're supposed to add a cup of sugar to every package of Kool-Aid, but never put any sugar in his Kool-Aid because there wasn't any sugar to put in it.
He created his own Kool-Aids reality and was able to illuminate himself by it.
"... and was able to illuminate himself by it."
Fritz Perls said, "I am not in this world to live up to other people's expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine.”
Lesson learned through the Kool-Aid Ritual.
By the way ... "the dishes can wait."
Last night I went north with my buddy, Frazier, to see a bluegrass show at the Hayesville Opera House.
The drive was beautiful ... north through Mount Vernon (some of Ohio's most scenic landscape ... 100% rural), continuing along 13 through Bellville, Mansfield (our dinner of steamed mussels, striped bass, wild mushrooms over morel linguine was magnificent), and then over to Hayesville.
The Opera House was beautiful. Simple, low lighting. Hand-painted sylvan setting on the backdrop of the stage. Comfortable, wooden seats set in spacious rows, grinning fans aged eight to 80.
We missed the first band, but were fortunate to hear the second group, Copus Hill, perform a rousing set. Lively music played with virtuosity and heart. Their guitar player, a young man with a shaved head and a beard that would make a general of the Civil War envious, sang with such honesty and soul.
Here is a sample of his talent ...
The headliners, a group called Faces Made For Radio, were outstanding ... their bass player made it to the show despite being in a a car accident on the way!
One of the aspects of these traditional performances that I really enjoy is the choreography that must employed in order to share the single microphone the bands use. Some of the performers really get into their spins away from the mic as their band mate steps up, always in the center, to pick away!
There really is no way to fully appreciate the sound of acoustic instruments without hearing them in person. Last night was a wonderful time hearing amazing music in a beautiful space with a great friend. Thanks, Frazier!
One more from Copus Hill ...
27 March 2010
26 March 2010
It's 3:55 a.m., I just woke up, wide awake.
Reaching to my right to flick on the lamp, I noticed the stereo is still on, thankfully playing Bach's B minor Mass.
As I focused on the bookcase across the room, a book of Frost's poetry caught my eye.
Today is his birthday (1874).
One of my favorite pieces is one that he recited from memory for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy.
It begins ...
"Something we were withholding made us weak.
Until we found out that it was ourselves
We were withholding from our land of living,
And forthwith found salvation in surrender..."
A dear friend recently made the bold move to share her art with the world in the form a blog she created (see it here). Her intent is to share her love of writing with her friends and family and in doing so create dialog. She is a brave poet.
Kelly taught me about living in the moment, surrendering to the pleasant surprise of each day, looking, listening, ... being.
Her most recent post dealt with the very subject of noticing and appreciating the struggles of the day.
Surrendering to life, not running away from it. Longing, but living in the meantime.
This is the quality that draws me to Frost. The quality of understanding that only comes after the act of surrender. "Withholding from the land of living" ... the ugly, soulless, illusion of control. No ...
Kelly's view ...
So for me to pause for a moment and to notice that I feel the rain is, to me, a form of appreciation for what's real. And is it always beautiful? Maybe not. Or maybe mostly so. Actually, maybe largely so. Because it's so honest. I can appreciate the rain more when I'm not trying to run from it. When I take a breath, notice it, spend even a second being curious about it, about the world, about how I'm feeling in relation to it all. Even a moment being appreciative of what's happening and what's beautiful about that. What's beautiful is that I love my children. That I learn to see and not to mask. That I take a cup of hot tea with me in my car. Because I still have to drive somewhere. But I can take my curious nature with me. Even the rain glistens, as Alice Walker says, 'from the light of being seen and loved for simply being there."
Happy Birthday, Frost.