Monday, May 30, 2016

Vaughan Williams' "Dona Nobis Pacem"

The composer and his cat Foxy
On a day when we honor war dead, it's good to turn to a piece of music that pleads for peace. Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote this cantata in 1936, after he had recovered his musical vision following the first world war (in which he had volunteered as an ambulance driver in France) but as the world was hurling toward yet another war. Dona Nobis Pacem ("give us peace") has six sections, described here with the texts: http://www.classical-music.com/feature/world-music/vaughan-williams-dona-nobis-pacem

Please read the section of this article concerning the piece, which begins: "Dona Nobis Pacem, premiered in 1936, opens with a heartrending cry ["give us peace"]. Vaughan Williams’ perspective was no longer bound to the geography of England. His empathy now enfolded a world faced with another war. In setting biblical and poetic text to music, he paid subtle tribute to Verdi’s Requiem, which he admired– for example, the drop of a semitone on the word “dona,” bass drum key-shifts by thirds, and wild brass fanfares. Dona Nobis Pacem also anticipated by 25 years Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem, with its dramatic settings of Latin liturgical text and poetry and its emphasis on reconciliation. Dona Nobis Pacem was performed at countless festivals and concerts in the years leading up to World War II." The author continues with descriptions of the six movements.

A wonderful thing about this cantata is RVW's use to Walt Whitman poems. The composer had used Whitman's poetry in his earlier "Sea Symphony", and now, the texts make for a beautiful piece, both lamenting and hopeful.

Word over all, beautiful as the sky,
Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be utterly lost,
That the hands of the sisters Death and Night incessantly softly wash again
and ever again, this soiled world;
For my enemy is dead, a man divine as myself is dead,
I look where he lies white-faced and still in the coffin - I draw near,
Bend down and touch lightly with my lips the white face in the coffin.

 The last sunbeam
Lightly falls from the finished Sabbath,
On the pavement here, and there beyond it is looking
 Down a new-made double grave.

 Lo, the moon ascending,
Up from the east the silvery round moon,
Beautiful over the house-tops, ghastly, phantom moon,
 Immense and silent moon.

 I see a sad procession,
And I hear the sound of coming full-keyed bugles,
All the channels of the city streets they’re flooding
 As with voices and with tears.

 I hear the great drums pounding,
And the small drums steady whirring,
And every blow of the great convulsive drums
 Strikes me through and through.

 For the son is brought with the father,
In the foremost ranks of the fierce assault they fell,
Two veterans, son and father, dropped together,
   And the double grave awaits them.

As that article indicates, the cantata ends with texts of peace from the prophets, psalms, and Gospels.

Here is one of the several good recordings: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7BFRn-dqlpY


Being Clingy

One of the devotional periodicals that I like, "Living Faith," has a devotion for today entitled, "Being Clingy." Are you ever clingy? I hope I'm not, although I confess to feeling needy sometimes. I think of clingy as a step or two beyond neediness, like the times our cats decide to follow us from room to room, demanding attention.

The scripture for today is Psalm 91:14-15: "Because he clings to me, I will deliver him; I will set him on high because he acknowledges my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in distress..." (NAB).The writer, Claire J. King, says, "God tells us today that if we cling to [God], he will save us. It is as simple as that. Hold on tight to God. Cling to him. There is nothing to fear." How wonderful!

A long time ago I read a book that explained that David was a "man of God's own heart" because David always turned to God when he sinned and failed and also when he succeeded. His basic orientation was toward God, and that quality endeared him to God's heart, so to speak. Even though we might appreciate a person being committed to our well-being, we might grow weary of them if they seemed to have no other purposes for themselves. They'd seem too... well, clingy.

But God wants us to be clingy in our faith! A negative quality in other areas of life becomes very positive.


For All the Saints: Joan of Arc

On the Roman Catholic and Anglican calendars, Joan of Arc (Jeanne d'Arc, 1412-1431) is honored today, the anniversary of her execution for heresy. She is, of course, a great heroine of France for her part in the Lancastrian phase of the Hundred Years' War. Although she was not canonized until 1920, she became an enduringly legendary figure not long after her death and beyond. The American Catholic.org site has this: http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/Saints/saint.aspx?id=1741&calendar=1


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Landscape: Dali

Salvador Dali, "Swans Reflecting Elephants," 1937.


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Saturday, May 28, 2016

For All the Saints: John Calvin

The Protestant reformer John Calvin (1509-1564) is honored today on the Episcopal calendar and yesterday on the Lutheran calendar. Of course, Calvin was the French theologian who established and systematized Reformation theology, in the form later known as Calvinism, that stressed God's absolute sovereignty. He wrote works like his famous Institutes as well as commentaries on the scriptures and many sermons. He led the Protestant community in Geneva, supported refugees, opposed heretics (Michael Servetus being the tragic example), and encouraged the Reformation in Europe. Congregational, Reformed, and Presbyterian denominations trace their histories to Calvin. Here is Calvin's church, St. Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, which my wife Beth and I visited in 2015.


Thursday, May 26, 2016

For All the Saints: Augustine of Canterbury

Another saint associated with England is honored on both Western and Eastern church calendars. Augustine of Canterbury (died May 26, 604) was prior of a Rome mastery when the pope, Gregory the Great, selected him to go to the Kingdom of Kent to try to convert King Æthelberht. Although the lands were dominated by Anglo-Saxon paganism, Æthelberht was already married to a Christian. Landing at Kent in 597, Augustine went to Canterbury and was able to effect the king's conversation. This opened the way for more missionaries to go to England. Augustine established the episcopal see of Canterbury and became the first archbishop there. Much of what we know about his life comes from the writings of Bede, who was honored yesterday. http://www.catholic.org/saints/saint.php?saint_id=25


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

For All the Saints: the Venerable Bede

Bede (c. 672-735) is honored today in the Anglican, LCMS, and Roman Catholic calendars, and on May 27 on the Orthodox calendar. He is also the only native-born British person to be designated a Doctor of the Church. He was an English monk at monasteries in the Northumbrian region. He translated many Greek and Latin theological works for his Anglo-Saxon contemporaries, and wrote many books on the Bible, theology, science, and he also wrote poetry, and history. His Ecclesiastical History of the English People was foundational for English history.


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Landscape: T. C. Steele

T. C. Steele, "Gordon Hill" (1897).  From:  http://www.wikiart.org/en/t-c-steele



Monday, May 23, 2016

Landscape: Remington

Frederic Remington, "Pontiac Club, Canada" (1909). From: https://frederic-remington-art-museum.myshopify.com/products/342


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For All the Saints: Copernicus and Kepler

On the Episcopal calendar, Nicolaus Copernicus and Johannes Kepler are honored today. Copernicus (1473-1543), whose birth name was Mikołaj Kopernik, was of course the astronomer and mathematician who introduced a heliocentric model of the universe, in his book De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres).

Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) was a German astronomer and mathematician who developed the laws of planetary motion which, in turn, set the bases for Newton's gravitational theories. His work in optics and his improvements of the telescope were acknowledged by Galileo.


Thursday, May 19, 2016

Landscape: Sánchez Perrier

Emilio Sánchez Perrier, "Boating on the River" (c. 1890). From: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Emilio_Sánchez-Perrier_Boating_on_the_River.jpg






Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Landscape: Friedrich

Caspar David Friedrich, "Die Lebensstufen" ("The Stages of Life"), 1835. Beth and I have had this painting on a poster for a Nashville, TN art gallery for many years.



Monday, May 16, 2016

For All the Saints: Martyrs of Sudan

The martyrs of Sudan are honored today on the Episcopal calendar. Here is more information about them: http://satucket.com/lectionary/Sudan.htm


Reminder of Kingdomtide

On the church liturgical calendar, we've entered Ordinary Time, or the Season After Pentecost: the weeks between Pentecost (yesterday) and the first Sunday of Advent. During past several years, I've used this blog to help me keep a sense of the year's holidays and seasons, especially in Christianity but in other faiths as well.

While my denomination, The United Methodist Church, struggles with topics during their quadrennial General Conference, I realized that my parents and I joined the local UM Church forty years ago this year. I told that story in my book You Gave Me a Wide Place (Upper Room Books, 2006). Remembering my mother, I recall how much she enjoyed the Methodist traditions. For instance, she liked the season of Kingdomtide, which at that time was late summer to Advent. She thought the name was pretty.

It's a former season, now. This site indicates that Kingdomtide was created by the old Federal Council of Churches of Christ in America (now the NCC) during the 1930s. The season was part of a larger plan to help Protestant denominations to have consistency of seasons and lectionaries among them. In this case, the council created a season wherein denominations could focus preaching and worship on the Kingdom of God.

That site also indicates that the proposals caught on, if unevenly, with the Methodists and Presbyterians becoming the main proponents. But it was the energy and inspiration of Vatican II that elicited a desire among more Protestant denominations to adopt a common lectionary among Christian groups With that, the promotion of Kingdomtide was unnecessary, and the United Methodist was the last denomination to hold onto it for a while longer.

Thinking about God's kingdom brings me back to the work of our denomination, struggling now in their legislative session in Portland. Once again, a major topic has been better LGBT inclusion, something which some other mainline denoms have done, and I'm afraid this church will again fail to bring LGBT persons into full fellowship as far as disciplinary criteria are concerned.

But the Kingdom of God is at work! It is already expressed in the faith, love and service of straight, gay, and trans persons around the world. We pray "thy Kingdom come, thy will be done" during the upcoming week.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Landscape: Hokusai

Katsushika Hokusai, "Hodogoya on the Tokaido," part of the series Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, #23 (c. 1830).



Friday, May 13, 2016

Landscape: Macke

August Macke, "Mädchen unter Bäumen" (Girls Under Trees), 1914.





For All the Saints: Frances Perkins

On the Episcopal calendar, Frances Perkins is honored as a prophetic witness.

Her Wikipedia entry begins: "Frances Perkins Wilson (born Fannie Coralie Perkins; April 10, 1880 – May 14, 1965) was the U.S. Secretary of Labor from 1933 to 1945, the longest serving in that position, and the first woman appointed to the U.S. Cabinet. As a loyal supporter of her friend, Franklin D. Roosevelt, she helped pull the labor movement into the New Deal coalition. She and Interior Secretary Harold L. Ickes were the only original members of the Roosevelt cabinet to remain in office for his entire presidency.

"During her term as Secretary of Labor, Perkins executed many aspects of the New Deal, including the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Public Works Administration and its successor the Federal Works Agency, and the labor portion of the National Industrial Recovery Act. With the Social Security Act she established unemployment benefits, pensions for the many uncovered elderly Americans, and welfare for the poorest Americans. She pushed to reduce workplace accidents and helped craft laws against child labor. Through the Fair Labor Standards Act, she established the first minimum wage and overtime laws for American workers, and defined the standard forty-hour work week. She formed governmental policy for working with labor unions and helped to alleviate strikes by way of the United States Conciliation Service. Perkins dealt with many labor questions during World War II, when skilled manpower was vital and women were moving into formerly male jobs."

She is also honored during LGBT History Month: http://www.eriegaynews.com/news/article.php?recordid=201510francesperkins


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Landscape: Lichtenstein

Roy Lichtenstein, "Landscape with Scholar's Rock", 1997. From: https://sparkyfizz.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/lichtenstein-at-the-tate-modern/


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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

A Year's Music: Messiaen's "Livre du Saint-Sacrement"

Every once in a while I like to bring out the 6-CD set of Olivier Messiaen's organ music and listen to the long piece (his last organ work, in fact), entitled "The Book of the Holy Sacrament."

The All Music writer describes the piece: "The work is inspired by the Communion sacrament and is essentially a programmatic reflection on the sacrament itself and on episodes from the life of Christ, indicated in biblical or philosophical quotations in the score. The music makes use of the unusual scales (known as modes of limited transposition) of Messiaen's later music, of his penchant for birdsong-like music, of his 'communicable language' technique (whereby musical notes spell out words, in this case 'resurrection'), of tone clusters, of quotations of chant, and generally of the composer's familiarity with the capabilities of the organ. These details may reveal themselves to a greater or lesser degree, but the work's scope, religious fervor, and sheer power will be evident to any listener. It's a colorful work in the extreme, and its long passages in the organ's lowest register will rattle anything in the vicinity that can be rattled."

I also found an article from the Journal of Religion by James D. Herbert, "The Eucharist in and beyond Messiaen’s Book of the Holy Sacrament," which discusses the musical and theological aspects of the work: http://faculty.humanities.uci.edu/jherbert/pdfs/Messiaen.pdf The whole article is worth reading for a notion of Messiaen's faith and music.

The sections of "Livre" are:

1. Adoro te (I Adore Thee)
2. La Source de Vie (The Fountain of Life)
3. Le Dieu caché (The Hidden God)
4. Acte de Foi (Act of Faith)
5. Puer natus est nobis (Unto Us a Child is Born)
6. La manne et le Pain de Vie (The Manna and Bread of Life)
7. Les ressuscités et la lumière de Vie (The Risen and the Light of Life)
8. Institution de l'Eucharistie (Institution of the Eucharist)
9. Les ténèbres (The Darkness)
10. La Résurrection du Christ (The Resurrection of Christ)
11. L'apparition du Christ ressescité à Marie-Madeleine (The Appearance of the Risen Christ to Mary)
12. La Transsusbstantiation (The Transubstantiation)
13. Les deux murailles d'eau (The Two Walls of Water)
14. Prière avant la communion (Prayer before Communion)
15. La joie de la grâce (The Joy of Grace)
16. Prière après la communion (Prayer after Communion)
17. La Présence multipliée (The Multiplied Presence)
18. Offrande et Alléluia final (Offering and Final Alleluia)

Here is section 12, which portrays musically the miracle of substantial change in the elements. Links to other sections of the piece are there, as well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PdqcdjnwAQ


For All the Saints: Methodius and Cyril

The Orthodox Saints site has this interesting account of the first Christian teachers to Slavs, who also devised the alphabet for Slavic language.

"Holy Equals-to-the-Apostles Methodius (885) and Cyril (869), first teachers of the Slavs. The two saints were brothers, born in Thessalonica. St Methodius, the elder brother, served as a soldier for ten years before becoming a monk. Cyril was librarian at the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; then he too became a monk.

"Their first missionary work was not among the Slavs: When the king of the Khazars (a Mongol people who then inhabited much of what is now Russia) petitioned the Emperor Michael to sent teachers to instruct his people, the Emperor chose Cyril and Methodius as his emissaries. They converted the Khazar king to the Christian faith, along with many of his nobles and commoners.

"When King Rostislav of Moravia likewise sought teachers of the Christian faith, Cyril and Methodius were again sent forth. This time they devised an alphabet for the Slavic language (based on Greek but adding characters to indicate sounds particular to Slavonic), and used it to translate many of the Greek service books into the language of the people. (In theory, the Orthodox people have always been privileged to hear the Church's services in their own tongue, though often attachment to dead languages has prevented this ideal from becoming reality.) Both brothers were repeatedly attacked by Germanic priests of the region, who opposed the use of the common tongue in the liturgy. At different times, both brothers were forced to appeal for exoneration and protection to the Pope of Rome, who supported them warmly each time.

"After the two Saints reposed, attacks on their work continued, and their disciples were eventually driven from Moravia. The disciples, fleeing southward, found a warmer welcome among the southern Slavic peoples, and their work bore much fruit in Bulgaria (including modern-day Serbia) and other countries. And, of course, the alphabet that they devised, called Cyrillic after St Cyril, remains the standard alphabet of both the Slavonic service books of the Church and the Slavic languages of today."


Landscape: Ruscha

Ed Ruscha, "Pay Nothing Until April" (2003).
From: http://www.tate.org.uk/artist-rooms/learning/resources/ed-ruscha/artist-rooms-ed-ruscha-landscapes


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Sunday, May 8, 2016

For All the Saints: Julian of Norwich

from https://citydesert.wordpress.com/
2014/05/08/julian-of-norwich-english-anchoress/
The first woman writer in the English language lived from about 1343 until about 1416. She was an anchoress in Norwich who became seriously ill but, during that time, she began to receive visions of Christ and his mother. The subsequent book of her visions was Showings (or Revelations) of Divine Love. As this site indicates, "Juliana pondered the deepest mysteries of the Christian faith:  both the knowledge of God and the knowledge of self, which she believed were inseparable.  She summed up her doctrine of God in these words: ‘And I saw full surely that ere God made us He loved us; which love was never slacked, nor ever shall be. And in this love He hath done all His works; and in this love He hath made all things profitable to us; and in this love our life is everlasting.’" Very little is known of her life, even her actual name. She is honored today in the Anglican and Lutheran traditions; although she has not been beatified or canonized in the Roman Catholic Church, she is honored there on May 13.

See also this site: https://www.christianhistoryinstitute.org/incontext/article/julian/



Mother's Day

From Reconciling Ministries Network's
Facebook page

A nice Mother's Day today, beginning with a Skype conversation with our daughter in Japan. She had a few days off and was relieved for that. While she was doing errands this week, one little girl stared at her until the mother realized and apologized. She lives in a part of Tokyo that has a student population but isn't a tourist destination, so the little girl may have never seen a Westerner. Our two cats woke up when they heard Emily's voice and began to circle the laptop, sniffing each other's butts along the way...

When I was away at school, years ago, my mother asked me to send her my daily schedule, so she'd know what I was doing during the day. She meant this in a sweet way--she took joy and pride in my activities--but it still gives me the creeps to think about. I stopped doing that after a semester or two and she was disappointed. If I suggested that Emily do such a thing, she'd rightly laugh at me. Mom and I had a good relationship but there were codependent aspects that we worked on.

Mom has been gone three-and-a-half years now. Facebook has exploded today and yesterday with friends' pictures of their mothers, living and deceased, and a few sadder statuses about estranged relationships.

Beth and I went to church, where our pastor thoughtfully offered a caveat about the more painful aspects of the day while also affirming the mothers and other caregivers of the congregation. Afterward, we went to a favorite Indian restaurant that we hadn't gone to for a long time. That was her request for Mother's Day, and then we came home, relaxed and smelling of spices. It's also the end of the school year, which comes with other kinds of relaxing and happy aspects. Beth is making summer travel arrangements even as we speak.


Saturday, May 7, 2016

Landscape: Jamie Wyeth

Jamie Wyeth, "Runaway Pig," 1979. From: http://www.wikiart.org/en/jamie-wyeth/the-runaway-pig-1979?utm_source=returned&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=referral

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Landscape: Gauguin

Paul Gauguin, "Pere Jean's Path" (1885). From: http://www.wikiart.org/en/paul-gauguin/pere-jean-s-path-1885


Landscape: Picasso

Pablo Picasso, "Landscape with Dead Tree" (1919).


Friday, May 6, 2016

Graduation

At many schools this weekend including ours, it's graduation weekend! (My wife Beth is president of Webster University, where I also teach; nearby Eden Seminary, where I teach as well, has its ceremony next week.) Students and their families celebrate the conclusion of those years of work; students say goodbye to friends, although with Facebook, those goodbyes are less lonely than for those millions of us who hoped to stay in touch with friends by postal mail and an occasional phone call.

I have three degrees: a BA, Mdiv, and PhD. My favorite degree program was the Mdiv, but that was the least satisfying graduation, since it rained that year, and after the ceremony, everyone scattered with discouraging quickness. My significant other of that time warned it would be that way but I'd hoped otherwise. I liked college, although I was socially lonely there (partly my own fault). The courses and certain professors truly focused me upon my life's work and also my faith. But the graduation was way too long: well over two hours of ceremony on an unseasonably hot day, with tearful students' testimonies how much college meant to them, and I think a sermon, too, plus of course the conferral of diplomas. Did I mention the day was unseasonably hot? I just wanted to get out of that dark gown and get this over with. Doctoral work was painful and distressing, and perhaps for that reason, though the degree work isn't nostalgic, the graduation ceremony was rather thrilling and my favorite of the three. I almost skipped it and was so happy Beth talked me into it.

I offer prayers for students: that they'll continue into satisfying jobs or degree programs, that their memories of their graduation are happy, and that they can stay in touch with these friends for many years, as I have with mine.


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

For All the Saints: Monica

Anyone who has read all or portions of Augustine's Confessions are quite familiar with the story of his mother Monica, known for her sorrowful and prayerful devotion to his spiritual well-being. She may have been a Berber, married to a Roman name named Patricius, and had three children who survived infancy. She died in about 387 and was buried at Ostia, though her remains were later moved to the Basilica of Sant'Agostino, Rome. Namesake of Santa Monica, CA and many churches, she is honored today on the Orthodox and Anglican calendars and on August 27 on Roman Catholic calendars. http://www.americancatholic.org/features/saints/saint.aspx?id=1120 http://www.antiochian.org/node/18343


A Year's Music: Mendelssohn's "Lobgesang"

Early in our marriage, Beth and I took a driving trip along the east coast. One of our stops was Frederick, Maryland, where we discovered a wonderful book store with a large selection of LPs. I purchased two 2-LP sets, one of Mendelssohn's first and second symphonies conducted by Karajan, and the other was Mendelssohn's third, fourth, and fifth symphonies conducted by Bernstein. I don't remember why I gravitated to this particular composer that day, but ever after, Mendelssohn's music has reminded me of Maryland and the Chesapeake region, and of being happy and newly married!

Mendelssohn's second symphony lasts over an hour (three sides of that Karajan LP set) and is less popular today than the Scottish or Italian, but I've always enjoyed it. Entitled Lobgesang (Hymn of Praise), it is a symphony and cantata, written and premiered seven years after the symphony now numbered 4.

The All Music site has a description by John Palmer, which reads in part: "After the 'Italian' symphony, Mendelssohn waited seven years before returning to the genre, composing the Symphony No. 2 in B flat major, Op. 52, for the celebrations in Leipzig of the 400th anniversary of the invention of the printing press. ... Mendelssohn entitled his second symphony 'Lobgesang' (Song of Praise) and described it as a 'symphony-cantata.' After its first performance, on June 25, 1840, in Leipzig, the 'Lobgesang' became very popular; today it is rarely performed...

"Four of the symphony's five movements share material. The main theme of the first movement appears in the trio of the ensuing scherzo, and is present in the first and last sections of the choral Finale... The first section of the cantata is based on the first theme of the opening movement. Highlights from the movement include the invigorating chorus 'Let all men praise the Lord.' Quite touching is the tenor solo, 'The sorrows of death,' with its chromatic inflections, followed by 'Watchman, will the night soon pass?' Throughout these two numbers Mendelssohn creates strong dramatic tension. Much of what follows, however, is anti-climactic. The close of the cantata begins with a choral fugue and moves to 'All that has life and breath, sing to the Lord,' a choral development of the first-movement theme...."

The seconds of the fourth movement are:
"Sinfonia
All men, all things, all that have life and breath (Chorus)
Praise thou the Lord, O ye Spirit (Soprano Solo and Semi-Chorus)
Sing ye Praise (Tenor Recitative and Aria)
All ye that cried unto the Lord (Chorus)
I waited for the Lord (Soprano Duet and Chorus)
The sorrows of Death (Tenor Air)
The Night is Departing (Soprano Solo and Chorus)
Let all men praise the Lord (Chorale of Now Thank We All Our God)
My song shall be always Thy Mercy (Soprano and Tenor Duet)
Ye nations, offer to the Lord (Chorus)"

Good ol' Wikipedia provides these divisions, as well as the words: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobgesang
 
Here is a lovely performance conducted by Mark Elder. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GBlsQnWpalw


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:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UnilUPXmipM

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