Friday, July 30

door in the wall

But the man who comes back through the Door in the Wall will never be quite the same as the man who went out. He will be wiser but less cocksure, happier but less self- satisfied, humbler in acknowledging his ignorance yet better equipped to understand the relationship of words to things, of systematic reasoning to the unfathomable Mystery which it tries, forever vainly, to comprehend.

-- Aldous Huxley The Doors of Perception

the wild duck

GREGERS. Roughly, when do you think the invention will be ready?

HJALMAR. Good Lord, you mustn't ask me about details like dates. An invention is something you can never be completely master of. It's largely a matter of inspiration . . . of intuition . . . and it's pretty nearly impossible to predict when that will come.

GREGERS. But it's making good progress?

HJALMAR. Certainly it's making good progress. Not a day goes by but what I do something on the invention; I'm absorbed in it. Every day after dinner I shut myself up in the living room, where I can concentrate in peace. But it's no good people trying to rush me, that's no good. Relling says the same.

GREGERS. And you don't feel all these things going on in the loft take you away from your work . . . distract you too much?

HJALMAR. No, no. On the contrary. You mustn't get that idea at all. I can't always go on poring over the same old exhausting problems. I've got to have something else as well to keep me occupied. Inspiration, revelation, you know --- when it comes, it comes, that's all.

GREGERS. My dear Hjalmar, I almost believe you've a bit of the wild duck about you.

HJALMAR. The wild duck? How do you make that out?

GREGERS. You have gone plunging down and bitten fast to the weeds.

-- Henrik Ibsen The Wild Duck

good and evil

... Then there came a great light which dazzled and yet did not dazzle, a giant light sun of ravishing sweetness and enamouring virtue -- purifying by a fire that did not burn; and in this moment or moments, for it may have been seconds or hours, the "struggle between good and evil" became an absolutely meaningless phrase -- there was only goodness, and of such irresistible attraction that even the slightest resistance or temptation to resistance was inconceivable ...

-- Victor White Good and Evil

Thursday, July 29


Dancers work with movement the way poets work with words or a sculptor works with clay: They have to learn the basic vocabulary first. But once they learn the language, the whole secret is in the way they present the words. Most dancers try to give the movement language a kind of accent, an affectation, turning the words into a particular jargon, something idiosyncratic or solipsistic.

The word itself is impersonal but a person can infuse it with almost anything.

-- Lincoln Kirstein

Monday, July 26


We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half heard, in the stillness
Between the two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always--
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of things shall be well
When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

-- T.S. Eliot, from "Little Gidding"

Saturday, July 10

Artur Pizarro talks about Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 31 in A flat, Op. 110 on BBC Radio 3

Listen to the interview and the performance here on Real Player.

BBC: So on now to Beethoven's penultimate piano sonata Opus 110 in A Flat Major. Like the work we've just heard it's in three movements and once more there are certain surprises in terms of overall design with the last movement giving the impression of a slow movement and fugueal finale combined. Another surprise is the expression mark that Beethoven gives to the first movement, con amabilità, "with love." I spoke to Artur Pizarro during the break in his rehearsal today and asked him to explain his response to that unusual music direction.

Pizarro: It very much puts the key signature into perspective with that A flat major, it's wonderful ... It brings out the incredibly lyrical element of this movement and you know sort of blows the theory that a lot of people have that Beethoven wasn't very good at melodies ... ha ha blows that theory sky high. It's such a human sonata, it's so much about human condition, it's so much about love and struggle and death and rebirth that to have "with love" from the beginning really to me very importantly puts me in the right mood.

It is a very very loving, very nurturing, very generous piece musically, technically, actually, believe it or not, everything feels very good in the hands and above all I think, philosophically, it's very motherly in the sense of love and tenderness and worrying about what happens, in this case, to Man with a capital M.

BBC: So would you say this is one sonata that does take quite a lot of maturity to approach successfully?

Pizarro: Yeah, maturity not so much in the sense of chronological age, but in the sense of you have to have lived and loved and sometimes lost rather badly to get this sonata.

BBC: Well the scherzo also seems very characteristic of Beethoven with this rather brusque question and answer type of theme. Is that quite exciting to play?

Pizarro: Very. Very. Because it's very much not a ha- ha scherzo, it's scherzo with a bite even when you get to the second or third page and you have the slightly more playful side of it. It's still very pointy. And it's still very driven. It's an "I'm gonna scherzo if it kills me" kind of scherzo, ha ha yeah, and it reinvigorates you after the first movement. It sort of brings the blood to a slight boil so you can handle the scope of what's going to come next

BBC: And it's what happens next when things become quite structurally interesting because the finale feels like two movements rolled into one. Can you just guide us through what happens?

Pizarro: Well, you have the first arioso which is very interesting, being a very tearful melody which seems to come to a conclusion, and it's very much a lament all the way from the gut of the human being, and you think you've gotten to the end of it and this amazing, mind boggling, fugue begins.

When you get to the place where the fugue would invert, back comes this arioso, which ... if you make up your own story, if you have your own program, basically you confront death. What's interesting about the arioso the second time, is where the first time you had long phrases, and you have long slurs, the second time everything is broken up ...

And he puts "with pain and dying," so to me, having saying "pain and dying" and mentioning death, and having little rests everywhere, and the slurs are never more than 2 or 3 notes long, and it feels, literally, physically, like last gasps, then you have this amazing fugue coming back inverted, which to me, implies this path of physical decay has now come to an end, with the fugue and the arioso where you die, and you are then slowly being taken towards rebirth ...

And that happens towards the end of that fugue where you're back in the key of A flat major, and you're growing, and you're moving forward, and you end in the apotheosis of the big huge coda after the big huge arpeggio ... So it's about the most sort of cosmic, spiritual, religious, philosophical sonata that's readily graspable. I mean, it's so powerful at all levels ...

Tuesday, July 6

situationists in song

This is why the most fruitful source so far has been what the singers call country and western, actually city-billy, derived from the traditional melodies of the ancient English and Scottish ballads and Irish folk song. This is as true of Leonard Cohen as it is of Johnny Cash. It’s not a question of copying. The rhythms of a people’s folk song are so permanent you might almost believe they came with the DNA.

-- Kenneth Rexroth 1969 Subversive Aspects of Popular Songs

The Two Trees

Beloved, gaze in thine own heart,
The holy tree is growing there;
From joy the holy branches start,
And all the trembling flowers they bear.
The changing colours of its fruit
Have dowered the stars with merry light;
The surety of its hidden root
Has planted quiet in the night;
The shaking of its leafy head
Has given the waves their melody,
And made my lips and music wed,
Murmuring a wizard song for thee.
There the Loves a circle go,
The flaming circle of our days,
Gyring, spiring to and fro
In those great ignorant leafy ways;
Remembering all that shaken hair
And how the wingèd sandals dart,
Thine eyes grow full of tender care:
Beloved, gaze in thine own heart.

-- William Butler Yeats

Monday, July 5

Bread stays on the table for the next course of a hand-count of cheeses on a board:  buttery Gorgonzola, Camembert 'more running than standing,' impeccable Gruyeres, Cheddar with a bite and crumbling to it, and double-cream as soothing as a baby's fingertip.

-- M.F.K. Fisher Alphabet for Gourmets

Sunday, July 4


In the last glimmer of late afternoon,
burnished by the sun's oblique farewell,
a mirror shines, across an empty room,

a shimmering patch of light. A subtle fume
of brightness creeps along the dusty shelves
in the last glimmer of late afternoon;

immersed in shadow, rows of books are strewn
with dazzling motes. Like circles in a well,
a mirror shines across an empty room,

reaching from pen to letter knife to spoon
and cup—as though reflection might dispel,
in the last glimmer of late afternoon,

oncoming night. Unhurried, like the moon's
ascent, or honey tipped from gleaming cells,
a mirror shines across an empty room,

a paperweight of myriad flowers blooms,
a softness flares within a whorled shell.
In the last glimmer of late afternoon
a mirror shines across an empty room.

-- Jared Carter

Saturday, July 3


Whenever Beauty looks,
Love is also there;
Whenever beauty shows a rosy cheek
Love lights Her fire from that flame.
When beauty dwells in the dark folds of night
Love comes and finds a heart
entangled in tresses.
Beauty and Love are as body and soul.
Beauty is the mine, Love is the diamond.

-- Rumi

11 August

In Délia's library I found La Jeune Parque, a critical study by Octave Nadal. I've learned that Paul Valéry kept all the outlines, rough drafts, copies, all the papers or scraps of paper on which he wrote dates, words, ideas, on which he sketched or figured, etc., etc., "about eight hundred pieces of various sizes, the major part in separate sheets and the rest comprised of seventy bound pages of a large notebook" (p. 155). He kept everything. But why? Indifference or, on the contrary, the mania of the collector and archivist? Curiosity about the gestation and maturation of his own work? Or the feeling that, by keeping everything, at least some of the mysterious processes of poetic creation could be understood?

-- Mircea Eliade Journal 1963

Friday, July 2


It is to my grandfather's "stereopticon" that I probably owe my Weltanschauung, my way of perceiving the world. The antique contrivance consisted of twin lenses set in a leather-covered housing lined with red velvet. From this housing a kind of wooden slide rule jutted forward, with a device at its end in which you placed twin photographs. Then, pressing the velvet edge to your face, you saw through the lenses an oak tree, not flat, as in a picture, but all in the round; a living presence. For hours I could sit and watch the miraculous three-dimensionality of cows in a meadow, of lovers dallying under lilac bushes full of white doves, of Princess Julianne of the Netherlands riding her piebald pony.

And so it came about that sometimes, when I got tired, and fields and hedges began to look listlessly flat, two-dimensional, I found I could command my eyes: "Now, look as if thorough the stereopticon!" And suddenly every blade of grass sprang to life again and stood there in a space all its own; clumps of trees broke up into individual living beings, each one rising from its own roots deep in the earth. People, when observed through my virtual stereopticon, underwent an extraordinary metamorphosis: they too became impressively unique, mysterious beings. What looked at as just a waiter, a sumac, or a cow became a poignant living presence when seen stereoptically.

I found this discovery of seeing; a precious secret that I never mentioned it to anyone, but practice it I did, as often as I could -- [I began to understand] that everyone's everyday eye can become an awakened eye, an eye that can do infinitely more than merely look at things, recognize, classify and label them. This awakened eye could see the Ten Thousand Things as they are, in themselves, each in its own truth. When all appears as déjà vu or dull, one has only to command one's eye to see stereoptically to awaken it from its habitual slumber to fully conscious perception.

There are drawbacks to this awakened eye: you can't cut down that sumac that is in the way and that is "only a sumac"; the waiter is waiter no longer once you see the tremor in that hand; the cow is no more "cattle," when you have drawn those eyes. Stereoptic seeing may make you relatively harmless; it also makes you vulnerable.

There is for me no legitimate reason for drawing, painting, sculpting, other than in this intensified awareness of the eye awakened from half-sleep.

-- Frederick Franck