Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Pierre Boulez

There were many tributes to composer and conductor Pierre Boulez following his death January 5, 2016, at the age of 90. Here is the NYT obituary, and I enjoyed reading the articles in the February  Gramophone magazine. Just last year David Robertson of the St. Louis Symphony wrote an appreciation of Boulez for the same magazine; when we saw Robertson at a social occasion here in town, I was able to tell him the article was interesting and helpful.

When Beth and I were dating, PBS broadcasted the Ring operas conducted by Boulez, something we alluded to for a long time. So it was enjoyable to go back and re-watch Das Rheingold, with the Rhinemaidens loitering around a hydroelectric dam and Loge, as one of the YouTube watchers commented, looking a little like Riff Raff in The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Former Rock Hound

There's a scene in The Shawshank Redemption, where Andy Dufresne introduces himself to Red Redding and asks if Red can smuggle into the prison a rock hammer. Andy wants to be a "rock hound" again, to continue a hobby that he'd enjoyed prior to his conviction.

The scene reminds me of rock collecting, a childhood joy of mine. I had a little souvenir from a Western vacation: stone samples glued into a box and labeled. I think the box contained granite, gypsum, rose quartz, basalt, obsidian, the always popular fool's gold, and others. I also liked to collect bigger rocks on trips.

When I was a kid, my parents went to nearby St. Louis to shop. One Saturday, Dad drove me out from the downtown somewhere to a rock and gem shop. Now that I live in St. Louis, I'm guessing that the shop was in Maplewood, because the business district of that suburb looks like my long-ago memories of the shop. Dad bought me a rock polisher which tumbled rocks for a designated amount of time and made them smooth and shiny. I'd load the cylinder with the gritty polishing material and the rocks themselves, and wait to see how the rocks looked afterward.

I remembered all this, not to make a lame connection between rock polishing and "polishing" one's writing, but because I've driven over to Maplewood more often recently. The St Louis Poetry Center has regular events (see their website), at least two of which happen in this community. As I wrote here, I've been renewing my interest in poetry-writing these past few years and have become involved in the local poetry scene, a wonderful and unexpected direction of my writing career. Though I'll likely never know the location of that geology shop, I did write a poem (under submission at a couple of journals) about a boy whose hobbies including finding and identifying stones and minerals.

A Year's Music: Faure's Requiem and Pavane

Here's are two old favorites, for over thirty years! For a long time I had the Seraphim Records LP, King's College Choir conducted by David Wilcocks. Then my daughter's Ohio choir performed the piece during the 00s, which was wonderful.

The requiem is appealingly gentle and consoling throughout, even the short Dies Irae sequence (incorporated in the Libera Me section) is comparatively peaceful next to the famously scary versions of Mozart, Verdi and others. Faure composed this "lullaby of death" in the 1880s, conducted the premier in 1888, but continued to revised it prior to its 1900 publication. He wanted to emphasize the aspect of rest, and so the requiem gives one a peaceful sense of that aspect of death. It is short, about 35 minutes., with the Kyrie followed by the Offertory, Sanctus, Pie Jesu, Agnus Dei, Libera me, and In Paradisum.

Yesterday (April 30) was the hundredth anniversary of the birth of conductor Robert Shaw, and here is Shaw conducting the Atlanta Symphony and Chorus:

I add the Pavane because, on the Wilcock recording, it filled out Side 2 of the LP, and I like to think of them together. Listening to it for the first time, I had such an experience of knowing this piece, as if it was from a long time ago, although I was only in my early 20s and had no memory of the piece prior to that. Here is that recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTAsztQxd5Y

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

For All the Saints: Robert Hunt

The first Protestant chaplain in the New World is honored today on the Episcopal calendar. Robert Hunt (c. 1568–1608) was a Church of England victor. He had a tumultuous career in England, leaving one parish because of his wife's adultery, and leaving this second parish because of his own adultery.  He was consequently sent to North America with the London Virginia Company and arrived at Chesapeake Bay on April 26, 1607. Circumstances were horrible, as anyone knows who has studied the history of Jamestown. But Hunt found a calling as chaplain, preaching, celebrating the probable first Protestant communion service in the colonies, and helping settle disputes and quarrels among the colonists. God gives us many "second chances"! Hunt is honored with a memorial at Jamestown, and in 2015, remains found in a Jamestown church were identified as Hunt's.

Monday, April 25, 2016

For All the Saints: Mark

Across western and eastern church calendars, Mark the Evangelist is honored today. He is traditional author of the Gospel of Mark and identified with John Mark in the New Testament writings. The Orthodox Saints site has this:

"Mark was an idolater from Cyrene of Pentapolis, which is near Libya. Having come to the Faith of Christ through the Apostle Peter, he followed him to Rome. While there, at the prompting of Peter himself and at the request of the Christians living there, he wrote his Gospel in Greek... Afterwards, travelling in Egypt, he preached the Gospel there and was the first to establish the Church in Alexandria. The idolators, unable to bear his preaching, seized him, bound him with ropes, and dragged him through the streets until he, cut to pieces on rocks, gave up his soul. It is said that he completed his life in martyrdom about the year 68. He is depicted in holy icons with a lion next to him, one of the living creatures mentioned by Ezekiel (1:10), and a symbol of Christ's royal office, as St Irenaeus of Lyons writes." (Great Horologion)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Landscape: Evans

William Evans of Eton, "A Cottage near the Shore with Figures, Connemara, 1838." From: http://www.nationalgallery.ie/en/Collection/Collection_Highlights/Prints_and_Drawings_Collection/Evans_of_Eton.aspx

Landscape: Church

Frederic Edwin Church, "Our Banner in the Sky" (1861).