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Lera Auerbach
Hermitdom (fluctuating between loneliness and solitude)
Lost in the labyrinth of words and sounds.
Interests: poetry, prose, poetry., music composition, piano performances
Recent Activity
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I am not sure how this happened - but I am writing a book of aphorisms. To make matters worse - this book will be published soon! And if that was not bad enough - this will be my very first published book in English!!! Originally it was not supposed to be a book of aphorisms, but rather a book of essays. But once I started to edit my essays, I kept on cutting them down until nothing was left but a couple of phrases. At the very least, I did not want to waste too much of the reader’s time. That is how these aphorisms started and once they started I could not stop writing them… And now I am amazed and terrified because not only this is my debut book in English (my second language), but also a debut in a rather rare genre in which I have never worked before. The book will have different sections (on music, on art, on life, on love, on religion etc.) Today I post a second teaser, this time from the section on love and sex. 1. My desires are undesirable. 2. He was so much in love – he never noticed the object of his infatuation. 3. Generally speaking, gay men are better than straight men. They are more sensitive, more fun, more stylish, more creative, better friends, better listeners... Too bad they are gay. 4. Texting is dangerous not only when driving. 5. How to win an erection. 6. Sex: desirable frictions inevitably leading to undesirable frictions. 7. No, this is not lust – I’m just testing if we are still alive. 8. Accessories make access complicated. 9. We notice very little how little we notice. Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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A few aphorisms from my upcoming book: 1. When words are few, each finds its place. It’s easy to get lost in a crowd. 2. Hearing voices is not insanity, writing them down – is. 3. Do not argue with idiots, they will outsmart you. 4. Most memories are forgotten more than once. 5. It's not fully yours until you have shortened it. 6. If you are a big ship, stay away from shallow waters. 7. Some weeds are worth cultivating. © 2014 Lera Auerbach [Fall of a Hero] Continue reading
Posted Jul 26, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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Insomnia © Lera Auerbach 2013 It is undeniable that creativity is one of the most important aspects of any profession. For an artist being creative is a matter of life or death. If you are not creative, you can't be an artist. Music emerges from silence, poetry from a white page, painting from a blank canvas. The artist brings to life ideas, sounds, images, giving form to that which was formless before. Yet that silence, that blank page or canvas - it is not empty, it is full of infinite possibilities. I remember the first time I performed a piano concerto with an orchestra. I was 8 years old and very excited. Standing backstage, I was waiting for the orchestra to finish tuning. The chaotic, wild roar of the symphony orchestra tuning felt miraculous to me; it was my blank canvas as it contained limitless possibilities of music-making. But the world of infinite possibilities can be also frightening, confusing and intimidating. The blank page can glare at you and leave you incapacitated, immobile, shrinking with each passing minute. How can one deal then with limitless freedom when everything appears possible, yet full of invisible walls that stifle your imagination? The craft of an artist (and here I mean any artistic expression, be it a musical composition, literature or visual arts), requires building forms, structures within which a work of art can operate, the frames of space and time which it can inhabit. It involves creating certain restrictions within which the work can be free to emerge, and against which it can rebel, in other words, creating frames which can be altered, but nevertheless allow for creative thought to flourish and realize itself. So, how does one sustain creativity in art when the Muses themselves are known for their disloyalty and fickleness? In my case this involved acting against the advice of my teachers, and following my calling against all odds. I began playing piano and writing music when I was 4 years old. Soon my teachers presented me with a Solomonic dilemma: "Do you want to be a composer or a concert pianist?" I was told that in our age of specialization one cannot be both a virtuoso performer and a serious composer so I had better choose soon and focus." When I was 12, I wrote my first opera, which was staged and toured in Russia. When I mentioned this opera to my piano professor, who was a wonderful teacher by the way, he said rather sternly: "I don't want to hear anything about it. I don't care what you do in your spare time as long as long as it doesn't take away from piano practice." Perhaps as a reaction to this, I started writing poetry and prose. Soon enough, my publishers informed me that I can't be publishing both poetry and fiction, that doing so would only confuse the readers and I would not be taken seriously. At the Juilliard School in New York, the pressures to... Continue reading
Posted Feb 28, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
In memory of Maxine Kumin, here is a short song I wrote on her poem "The Revisionist Dream". This is a performance by Angela Denoke and Roger Vignoles at the Kölner Philharmonie. The Revisionist Dream by Maxine Kumin - Poetry Archive. Continue reading
Posted Feb 7, 2014 at The Best American Poetry
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In my studio, I used to have portraits of my favorite poets hanging on the wall next to my desk. One day, I realized that most of them either committed suicide or subjected themselves to suicide-like circumstances (like Pushkin who was repeatedly trying to subject himself to a duel). How could it be that the most sensitive people who bring so much joy to others through their writings, would give up on life? Suicide is still a taboo theme in our society. Yet, it daily kills more people than disease or war. Looking for answers, I came across the diaries of Sylvia Plath, who killed herself at the age of thirty at the height of her powers as a poet. My String Quartet No. 8 ‘Sylvia’s Diary’ is written in honor of Sylvia Plath. World Premiere Info: 17 November 2013 Rochester (USA) University, Kilbourn Hall, 3 PM World premiere: Lera Auerbach - String Quartet No. 8 “Sylvia’s Diary“ Ying Quartet Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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Another Fall is falling on me. How many are still ahead? God knows... Does it matter? Would I feel any different about this one if I knew it were my last? Would I still practice piano, keep correspondence and answer the rare telephone calls? Would I book a vacation? Spend all days reading? Try to make sense of the pile of unfinished works? Would I, perhaps, attempt to create something new, something important and lasting, placing a bet on its survival’s strength? Would I try to live healthy? Read self-help books? Take herbal remedies? Change climate and diet, keep a daily regiment of pills, sleep and exercise? Spend more time with family and with those who care, and avoid at all cost those who don’t? Would I, perhaps, withdraw all money, raise credit cards’ limits and spend it all on some luxury cruise? And jump off the boat at the end of it, hiding in the night, in the ocean, as if returning to the depth of earth’s womb? Would I cheat death with suicide if I knew the day of departure? As if arriving ahead of schedule to some fancy party? Would I be welcomed or would it upset the plans of the Host? Would I, perhaps, simply go on living with the usual concerns, as if nothing has changed, and this knowledge has no significance or power over my life? After all, we are dying. We are all in the cage of Time: 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 365 days in a year, an average 70+ years of life. This means we have a total of 36,800,000 minutes (that’s all!) to live, to love, to lose, to remember, to create, to search for meanings, to shop, to say niceties, to worry about something soon to be forgotten. 36,800,000 minutes to make a living, to make love, to make something of your life, to read, to re-read, to take action, to contemplate, to stipulate, to populate, to wage wars, to buy peace, to pay taxes, argue over politics... And also to dream, to dream, to forget dreams, to lose dreams, to meet dreams, to play dreams, to dream again and again and again... In the age of global warming life is melting away faster, since you are constantly running and can’t stand still, splitting yourself into a million pieces, broken, yet somehow still whole, with a constant noise all around – not hearing your own voice. By the end of this page – you have 3 minutes less in the bank of your life. Each minute softly melts, singing to you its quick farewell. Living is the art of dying. If you’d know exactly your balance: how many minutes you have – (living is the art of dying, each minute melts away) does it mean you would live them better? Does it mean you could spend them wiser? It’s another September. Wet strands of grass under my dog’s delicate paws make squashing sounds. I... Continue reading
Posted Oct 3, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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Some works have a destiny of their own, independent of the intentions of their authors. They arrive, unannounced, slam the door in your face, take residency in your house, and boss you around. In the summer of 1994 I was a student at the Aspen Music School, taking piano lessons with Joseph Kalichstein and spending every moment I could reading books, which my parents were sending to me all the way from Siberia. Slowly, one parcel at a time, our large library was following me to the U.S. I still remember the smell of the thick, blue volume of Maeterlinck’s plays, that peculiar blend of old paper and print smell, which is forever associated in my memories with my childhood and our home in Russia. The moment I opened The Blind, I had a jolt of recognition. “This is a perfect anti-opera, or perhaps an a cappella opera,” was my first thought. “This is insane. There is no such thing as an a cappella opera, this is just not possible!” was my second thought. And before I knew it, I started sketching the libretto and the thematic material. A few weeks later, by the end of the Aspen Music Festival, I had a complete manuscript. To this day it remains one of the strangest creations in my catalog. It was not commissioned; nobody seemed to want it. So, it went into my desk, where it remained for many years—until 2011, when the Berliner Kammeroper found out about its existence and asked to see the score. Shortly after the Berlin premiere, Moscow’s Stanislavsky Theater presented its own production of The Blind. For the overture I selected an electronic piece, “After the End of Time,” which I composed in 1993. Its post-apocalyptic soundscape set the desired emotional frame for the opera. The overture was omitted in Berlin and shortened for the Moscow production. Lincoln Center Festival will be the first one to present it in its entirety. When John La Bouchadiére approached me about producing this opera in the dark, I welcomed the idea. Previously, I had the unique experience of attending Dialogues in the Dark in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum. In our modern society we tend to rely on our vision above all other senses, yet we struggle to communicate and to truly “see” and know each other. By allowing other senses to take over, although feeling disoriented and lost at first, we can discover and enrich the understanding of who we truly are. Religious symbolism underlying this opera is amplified by this “unseen” staging. By wearing a blindfold, one surrenders to the unknown, to the vulnerability of uncertainty. The illusion of predictability is stripped off, and one is left alone with questions. Questions often reveal more than answers, and I personally look forward to not seeing this visionary production. THE STRINGS The strings are the veins of music. In the night, inside the piano, They grow silence Until it ripens and calls To the composer, who gathers... Continue reading
Posted Jul 8, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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My father never asks for directions. Even when he’s lost – he looks quite confident. He spends long hours studying his collection of maps. If it’s not in the map – its existence is doubtful. My mother asks everyone for directions, even when she knows well where she’s going, even if she is just two blocks from her house. She looks like a lost child, waiting to be found, not yet panicking, but on the verge of tears. My father likes the smell of his old car, its obedient noises, familiar caprices. He feels it’s the only thing left where he’s still in control, while all else is slipping and moving away. He can’t stand it if someone else is driving. Without his car – life loses its meaning. My mother goes to sleep early, she will sleep soundly until the morning. He watches her curled in the bed, fixes the blanket. He sits in the armchair, a book on his lap, thinking of driving to some unknown sight; traveling there, he is dozing off, his mouth opened and nose looking as if it belonged to someone else – in his sleep he is drawing the map of his dreams. Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
I’ve grown too impatient to read long poems. After a while my eyes start shifting like dancers who’ve missed their entrance cues. I find – I am reading a different poem all together than the one on the page. I close my eyes. The letters are dancing and chewing my eyelids, like tiny caged rodents, sharp teeth protruding, their round eyes almost blind, their whiskers trembling, trying to smell through. This new poem I am reading in my mind is related to the one in the book, but as a distant cousin, the family ties are vaguely remembered, some childhood memories, a gray photograph, taken at some forgotten occasion, but not much else ties them together. The long poem is starting to look like a shopping list. Each item is a new line, the stanzas form departments, where all the words are labeled and neatly packed in rows on parallel shelves. I’m forever lost in its aisles, in the endless labyrinth, where each detail is screaming to be noticed and appreciated. I am taken hostage by the advertisements, the cleverness of its commercials, coupons, attractive packaging, already forgetting what was on my list. What was that I was looking for when I started reading, and feeling – oh, so, so inadequate. The long poem turns into a dark ancient forest and I am a child lost in its meanings, the unfamiliar verbs are howling like owls, announcing the arrival of the twilight time. It is not yet the night, but it’s chilly already and the long arms of the shadows are touching my feet. Alarmed and still hoping for a last minute happy-ending miracle or at least for some understanding or a familiar sight - I rashly turn pages, feeling slightly embarrassed of my impatient flight, and vaguely suspecting that some part of me is still lost in the maze in the complex associations and hidden meaning of that long poem, in its hostile branches and roots of incomprehensible words, and that small part of me may never be rescued from its crowded pages, and I will never know what happens at the end. Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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• Orchestra: democratic dictatorship. • Piccolo flute: ears’ toothpick. • Piccolo’s passages: scraping of the nervous system. • Flute: skeleton of an exotic bird. • Flute in the low register: unheard of. • Alto flute: melted flute. • Bass flute: imaginary friend that makes an occasional imaginary appearance. • Block flute: a child’s toy, requiring a highly specialized professional to perform. • Oboe: permanently out-of-tune instrument, so much so that the rest of the orchestra has to tune to it. • Oboist: a man who always tastes his instrument before playing it. • First clarinet: exhibitionist of circular breathing. • Bass clarinet: unfunny bassoon. • Bassoon: royal jester. • Contrabassoon: grandfather of the royal jester. • Contrabassoon’s staccato: old king’s farts. • French horns: cellos of the brass section with violinists’ ambitions. • Trombones: throw a glissando at them and see what happens. • Bass trombone: Mr. Macho Machissimo, married to Mrs. Tuba. • Tuba: the golden halo of the orchestra. • Mute for the tuba: Wouldn’t you wish to have one for your spouse? • Tuba’s frullato: time for dinner. • Orchestral pianist: percussionist who cannot count. • Percussion section: the brains of the orchestra. • Timpanist: arrogant percussionist. • Harp: amplifier of silence. • Harpist: harpy in disguise. • Harp: undressed piano. • Piano: a coffin for a harp. • Piano: 88 keys for an unlocked door. • Violin: prima donna. • Cello: soul of the orchestra. • Contrabass section: a mythological tortoise on which the world is built. Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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I am in the middle of writing a book – collection of random thoughts, musings, daily fragments. Here are some of them: On self: Wondering wanderer in search of wonder, always lost, never found, profane and profound; round and round circling sounds in the maze of the page, musical sage, child of the times, enchanted by rhymes, seeking connection in all forms of art, forgetting her part in everyday matters (invoices, letters), not knowing left from right, hiding alone in a secluded hut, dying from a papercut. . . . . . . . . On art: If there is consensual love, there must be consensual art, but great art is never consensual – it rips you apart, uses you for its creation, and then leaves you like an empty useless shell. You may resent it, but you can't help loving it all the same. You may deny your lover, but you can't deny your calling. . . . . . . . . On work: I never know what to say when asked about my occupation. It's such a strange word! How can one occupy a profession? And does it imply that you are taking forcefully someone else's space to which you have no right? Suddenly, your job takes the form of a war zone and you stand alone and lost, staring at a hostile blank page. . . . . . . . . On age: Young people are unashamed of big words or concepts. Avoiding them is a sign of maturity; scorning them is a sign of an old age. You are as old as the skeptic within you. . . . . . . . . On books: My grandfather always requested that I wash my hands before touching a book. He worshiped his library. To bend a page was a sacrilege worthy of spanking. “It’s only a book. It’s not going to break,” I would object. “Write your own books. Then see if they are breakable,” he would answer. . . . . . . . . On progress: There is no progress in art. Art denies Darwinism. Stravinsky is not better than Mozart and Mozart is not better than Bach. Picasso is not better than Rembrandt. There is no progress – only linguistic or stylistic changes reflecting the times. Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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If Venice is married to Death - the small island of San Michele is the offspring of this union. It takes an entire day to visit San Michele, the legendary Isle of the Dead. The entire island is a cemetery, which resembles a labyrinth consisting of many contrasting sections, almost like miniature islands within one larger island. One of the most striking and memorable "rooms" of this labyrinth is the children’s section: children’s graves, most of them recent, with photographs, toys, flowers… On marble stones kids’ faces are so painfully alive, smiling, laughing, celebrating the joy of their too fleeting lives. The contrast of their youth and their surrounding is heart-wrenching. We do not associate death with youth, yet children are much closer to that vast non-existence from which we all come from and where we all end up, and the thread which binds them to that "forever beyond" is much shorter than with most adults. A turn in the labyrinth of San Michele – and a 19th century cemetery comes into view, with forgotten graves, some half-decayed, names no longer decipherable… Another turn – and an island of gravestones for nuns appears all neatly organized in rows like brave little soldiers conquering the heavens. A narrow path leads to an open sea of flowers of the most recent graves – after 12 years of temporary residence in San Michele, they will be transported elsewhere. At San Michele, the post-mortem real estate seems to be just as coveted and unattainable as guaranteed indulgences. One more twist of the road - and the foreigners' section is found. The Isle of the Dead is home to many famous artists. Visiting Isola di San Michele in Venice was a sort of pilgrimage for me. The impact of Sergei Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky in music and theater, specifically their collaborations in Le Noce, Le Sacre du Primtemps, Pulcinella and Petruchka, was the most influential in the 20th century. Their legacy is felt by every living composer, choreographer and producer today. In death, they stand as they stood in life: Diaghilev’s overpowering large gravestone and Stravinsky’s modest plate without any overstatement, but at the center of attention by visitors. I am always interested in the offerings the living bring to the dead. Diaghilev's grave is covered with… ballet slippers. Real, worn ballet shoes which dancers bring as offerings of their gratitude to him. On Stravinsky's grave there are also several glued pieces of paper with handwritten music, offerings from composers, perhaps. Next to Stravinsky is the gravestone of his wife, Vera. Her grave is the mirror image of his, yet her stone-plate is covered with leaves, and there are no "gifts" of burning candles, slippers or music pages. Even in afterlife, she is in his shadow. View from Sergei Pavlovich Diaghilev grave - still looking over his company Here lies Igor Stravinsky A musical offering... Stravinsky speaks about the creation of The Rite of Spring and playing it for the first time for Diaghilev in... Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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Arriving home after several months of travel, and while taking some time to recollect experiences by organizing photographs, I came upon images of one of the most memorable trips of last year. It was my first visit to Brazil, where I performed a Mozart piano concerto in the city of Curitiba with a superb orchestra led by Maestro Osvaldo Ferreira. Brazil made an indelible impression on me. After my performances in Curitiba, a modern city with all the 21st century commodities, I spent ten days traveling and learning about this mysterious, vast, multi-cultural country, buzzing with creativity. I took a detour to a part of the world both terrifying in its isolation and achingly beautiful - the last point of civilization before the great expanse of Amazon rainforest between Brazil and Colombia. Twelve hours by fast boat from Manaus lies a small town on the south bank of the portion of the Amazon River known as the Solimões. It is called Tefé, no roads lead to Tefé. It is only reachable by boat or small plane. Lonely Planet describes it: "It’s not that there is anything wrong – it’s a perfectly agreeable place, just not particularly memorable." Yet, it was in Tefé where I found one of the most extraordinary sites in all my travels. The heat and humidity were unreal. As I walked from the port up the hill, I saw hundreds of large black birds circling up in the distance. Soon I realized these were vultures. The image was unsettling yet hauntingly beautiful, so I walked towards the birds. The heat was melting the sole of my sandals. After about half an hour, I reached the gates of the place I was looking for. What I encountered is a memory that will stay with me forever. A cemetery that was a charnel ground, with some of the most chilling (in spite of the heat) yet mesmerizing images of a place for the dead. Here are some of the images: Vultures on top of the cemetery gates. These vultures are very large. Majestic birds, really. Despite their bad reputation, vultures are saving this town, working as a full-time cleaning crew. They do not attack the living, they feast on the dead. I saw them playing with the local dogs and cats. They appear as gigantic awkward chickens in the backyards. The locals seem to ignore them altogether. When something is always present, we stop noticing it. I have always been fascinated by cemeteries and try to visit them wherever I travel. The beautiful ruins of Tefé's cemetery is a feast of colors and shades. Crossed perspective The smudges on this gravestone look like a modern painting. And all these shades of blue... Petals and leaves fall on the gravestones from the branches of the trees. Pink tears. I took over thirty photographs of this grave. This child captured my heart. Wisdom, understanding, strength, mercy, fear of G-d, science are all buried in here. Beautiful ruins and open graves in... Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2013 at The Best American Poetry
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I have to apologize to the readers of BAP for my disappearance. One of the reasons is that I am in the process of completing an orchestral score for the upcoming premiere of my opera Gogol in Vienna. It is a large-scale opera with three acts, full orchestra, two choirs (adult mixed choir and boys), dances and the cast of fifteen characters. Since yesterday was Gogol's birthday, I think it would be appropriate to share with the readers of BAP a short interview I gave last week via email about Gogol. While the actual interview will be published in German, here is the English version of it. GOGOL INTERVIEW 1) Why are you fascinated by Gogol? Gogol, born a Ukrainian cossack, is often considered the father of modern Russian literature. He was a writer with a rich and conflicted inner life, able to bring to light, in the most vivid form, the tragic nature of the human condition. His writings are even more relevant today than they were during his time. 2) Which story is reflected in your opera "Gogol"? Before starting my work on this opera, I reread the complete works of Gogol, as well as over twenty books written about him. For the opera, I wished to create not a historical account of Gogol’s life, but a dreamlike vision of his inner passions, his madness and genius. Opera is above all a drama, the ultimate dramatic expression. Some operas based on historical events and real people, such as Mussorgsky's "Boris Godunov", can also be viewed as tragic fairytales for adults. "Gogol" is ultimately a Russian opera, and Russian history is a nightmarish fairytale from which this country may never awake. 3) Which character is Gogol in your opera? Is he a tragic person or is he funny? Gogol was a deeply troubled man, possessed by fears. He became religiously obsessed and began to believe that he brought real evil into this world through his writings. A priest, whom Gogol trusted, ignited these convictions and encouraged Gogol to burn the 2nd and 3rd volume of the "Dead Souls". Gogol's deep seriousness is what allowed him to become a great satire writer. This opera is ultimately tragic but has dark humorous undertones. As an example, Bes (a demon), who is Gogol's adversary, but also in many ways his alter-ego, often ridicules Gogol. Bes' comments can be grotesque, yet they also ring of truth. In a tragically distorted manner, Bes, whom Gogol passionately fights and fears, also represents Gogol's consciousness. 4) First you wrote a play and then the libretto. Why are words not enough? Why do they need music? Which dimension can you express with the music? The play and the libretto are two separate entities. The play is complete without music. The libretto is an adaptation of the play, specifically crafted to be a partner to the music. Opera is one of the most complete art-forms: music, text, staging, and drama are all part of the whole. As librettist... Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2011 at The Best American Poetry
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BEST WISHES TO ALL AT BAP FOR A HAPPY AND HEALTHY 2011 - from Lera Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That's how the light gets in. -Leonard Cohen Continue reading
Posted Dec 30, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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VARIATIONS ON THE THEME OF TIME I. Time with time shrinks in size, worsens in quality. I search memories, trying to remember one perfect moment from childhood when past was still my future. II. Time exits, tip-toeing. I stand alone in this empty room, erasing my past, harvesting the words, burning them in the silence of music. All that I own has turned into ashes. I open the door and breathe in cold air. III. Time in places becomes so thin, you can see through its fading material. You see the dim valleys, You see strange shapes shifting, changing, blending. Time with time loses its colors – the ancient pyramids are now all-gray. Time likes gray-ness, it can rest for a while, it can cuddle in a cradle of forever beyond. Time also gets tired sometimes. In its sleep Time hears the gray clouds sing. [by Lera Auerbach] Continue reading
Posted Nov 18, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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I opened the windows on a dark orchard. Trees were guarding the movement of branches. And with the bitterness of October rennet apples I opened the windows on a dark orchard. The funeral decay of the orchard lingered, Covering the heart in fallen memories, With autumnal stilling languor, The funeral decay of the orchard lingered. October lingered and languored. Stealthily approached with tiny steps. And we defoliated mysteriously too, While October lingered and languored. The last frame has been brought into focus. Branches draw organ screams in sky. Who knows what will come, what drama When the last frame has been brought into focus. Well it is good that we are still alive; That time ages while years like ink Run down and smudge shoddily, lazily, And it's good that we are still alive. --- Lera Auerbach Continue reading
Posted Oct 28, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
CANARY So yellow as if defending this color was its only quest; as if painted by an artist, obsessed, unaccustomed to shade; as if stitched by mid-summer’s sun; made with delicate silk in the ancient country long gone, the canary swings on its wooden swing, claiming its cage (golden prince in exile). It glances at me through the bars – and sings; sings far better than any sounds I try to capture. As in rapture, some birdly ecstasy, perhaps, its song shimmers, almost visible in the slight rips and tears at the edges of the air in peripherals of the cage. I humbly retreat, leaving crumbs for a treat, my modest offering of shame: I have the freedom to fly and rejoice, but where is my voice? - - Lera Auerbach Continue reading
Posted Sep 3, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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WHAT CAN KILL YOUNo, indifference is not the worst of it, and it doesn’t equate with loneliness. After all you choose your feelings, even though it doesn’t seem like a choice. No, it’s not your sloppy sense of direction, alienating attitudes or unbearable shyness, which is, in fact, bearable, it is something else entirely, like cancer or a car crash and it is somewhere else where you lost it, your crumbling sense of perspective. Continue reading
Posted Aug 25, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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Here is a short poem for all of you who ever doubted that poetry is indeed a very useful pursuit: A poem a day, Keeps psychiatrists at bay. - by Lera Auerbach Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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The mechanism of memory is complex. The Time Machine--a dream of dreamers--was created long ago. It is human memory. And I am certain that we have been granted the power to remember everything; that in the depths of the human brain are preserved imprints of every moment we have lived in past and future lives. The only complication lies in the ability “to find” them in the labyrinths of memory. To find them by secret guiding signs: smells, a familiar place, a certain refraction of light, everyday trifles. To unwind the ball of string as I make my way to my beginnings. I am my memory, the sum total of all the moments I have lived. Moreover, my "I" divides and multiplies: I am an infant, and an elderly person, and an artist, and a thief, and a murderer. All of these possible past incarnations of mine swarm past in my subconscious like phantoms, and when I begin a monologue in my own name (as I see myself at this very moment), I inevitably put it into the mouth of a phantom from my own midst. And that which seemed to me to be sincere and the only true thing when I was writing is only one facet of a thousand and, like the crooked mirror, does not reflect the features, but distorts them. Although who knows, perhaps only crooked mirrors tell us the truth. I see crowds and crowds of people. Among them are artists, captains, artisans and kings, musicians and circus performers, milkmen and murderers. And all of them are me. And every time I begin to wind the thread that leads me out of the labyrinth toward the light, instead of exiting I fall into a new labyrinth. In each of the labyrinths a Minotaur lies in wait--sin that arrives from my former incarnation. And my goal is to kill the Minotaur. Here are several characters from my spectral retinue: Madman Gambler Robber Adventurer Wise Hermit Skeptic Child Artist (Odysseus) His Muse Apollo (Rational Force) Dionysus (Elemental Force) Gaiea (Primordial feminine, fertility, the mystery of birth passed on from mother to daughter) Savage (Mowgli) Nymphette Homeless Wanderer (The Wandering Jew) Martyr Hero (for whatever you like: faith, fatherland, ideas) Clown Whore and Nun Don Quixote Maniac Murderer Joseph, sold into Egypt –Well, who else is there, come out into the light! The characters are wearing masks, one transmutes into another. A mirrored hall, where the mirrors reflect one another, fracturing the reflections. A carnival of phantoms; bifurcation, disorder, division of my self. ...In his own likeness and image... A crowd of mirror werewolves. Welcome to the theater of the absurd. Abel = Cain. And so, ladies and gentleman, let's begin. The theater is a dark pantry full of junk. The hall is a wardrobe. I am an actor--and a spectator. The curtain rises. The stage depicts a wild jungle. Climbing flowers encircle beautiful trees. A damp, sensual mist rises to the sky from the new earth. Two... Continue reading
Posted May 7, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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Here are some of this week's findings, confirming to the idea that life may indeed be worth living: This is a wonderful TED talk on creativity, pressures, self-destructive tendencies that artists are prone to, and possible solutions: Glenn Glould in all his glory at home: One of the greatest living performers: and a clip form Death on Venice, as interpreted by John Neumeier: Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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When one thinks of Rachmaninov, usually what comes to mind is his face, serious and stern, clean-shaven, with a short modern haircut. His expression is distant and cold. He looks like a British gentleman, not easily approachable, always well dressed, with a posture of self-confidence if not arrogance. Then one may remember the endless tales of Rachmaninov’s depression, his legendary gloom, the trademark-able depth of his Russian soul. Yet to me Rachmaninov’s name has always been linked to joy. Back in 1991, at the time of my immigration to America, alone and far from home for the first time, an ocean and an era away, I decided to compile a cassette-tape, which included music that would give me hope. At the first sign of despair, I would play this tape. Rachmaninov’s 2nd Piano Concerto (I believe it was Ashkenazy’s recording) occupied the first half; the second half was shared by Bach, Mozart, and Stravinsky. This antidote to depression must have worked, as I managed to survive my late teens, accompanied by the opening bells of Rachmaninov’s concerto and Bach’s “Ich Habe Genug”. The Second Piano Concerto of Sergei Rachmaninov is one of the most frequently performed works in the world. The generosity of its writing is overwhelming and it is a pure joy to play. I was so excited to perform it for the first time - I still remember the burning feeling of anticipation while standing backstage and waiting for the stage call. His piano writing is truly idiomatic – the texture lends itself to the pianist’s hands – rich, sonorous, passionate. This music is so generous that the most common performance problem is over-involvement or over-interpretation, which may result in sweetening the richly cooked meal and thus spoiling it. Rachmaninov was a modern Western man who traveled the world and even lived for several years in Dresden, long before his decision to leave Russia permanently in the turbulent year of 1917. We tend to forget this, but Rachmaninov was an American composer, an American citizen, who always loved his cultural Russian heritage but was able to embrace his adopted country fully. He lived for 26 years in the United States in New York and in Los Angeles and died in Beverly Hills in 1943. He was known to have a great sense of humor in private circles and was a connoisseur of good food and wine. Sergei Rachmaninov never trusted the Soviet government, which repeatedly tried to entice back famous Russian artists who lived abroad, such as Stravinsky, Prokofiev and Rachmaninov. Only Prokofiev chose to return to the Soviet Union, which was the gravest mistake of his life. But that is another story for another time. In the US, Rachmaninov’s main occupation was as a concert pianist. His piano recitals were legendary. He was adored by the public and critics alike. However, as a composer, he was unfavorably reviewed by the music critics. He was a contemporary of Stravinsky, Debussy and Schoenberg. The pressure of the avant-garde was... Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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From left to right: Marie-Pierre Greve (Royal Danish Ballet), Silvia Azzoni (Hamburg Ballet), Yuan Yuan Tan (San Francisco Ballet) I am currently in San Francisco, where the San Francisco Ballet is preparing the premiere of my ballet The Little Mermaid. Today was my first rehearsal with the orchestra and tomorrow will be the first rehearsal with the dancers and the orchestra. The ballet was originally written for and commissioned by the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen for the anniversary of Hans Christian Andersen and opening of their new opera theater in 2005 (this ballet was the first ballet production done in this new theater). The following year the Hamburg Ballet commissioned me a revised version of this work, premiered in 2007 and since then it became part of their repertoire. The last performance of the San Francisco ballet on March 28th will mark the 70th performance of this ballet world-wide since its original creation in 2005. When John Neumeier sent me the first draft of the libretto in 2004 he added in the letter, which accompanied it, that I should use this libretto very freely -- as a source for inspiration and as a suggestion for the structure -- so that in return the music could inspire the choreography and vice-versa. During the work on the ballet we met many times in New York, Hamburg, Baden-Baden and Copenhagen - and sometimes talked for hours on the telephone, an ocean across from each other, so there was always a mental link between us. Yet we also spent long stretches of time working separately and sometimes our visions of the Mermaid and her world would slightly depart from each other and it would take some effort to adjust each other's perspective. In some ways it is like two parents raising a child, or raising a Mermaid in this case. In fact the work went through so much transformation, as we went along, that the original libretto that I received from John bares little resemblance to the final work. Neither the music nor the choreography of The Little Mermaid suggests the Danish culture of Andersen's time as this would not only be false but it would artificially cage him into a time which he has outgrown. At the same time, it was very important for me, in order to understand Andersen, to gather as much information about Danish culture and his life as I could. John Neumeier and I even studied the score written for one of the Andersen plays called "Agnete og Havmanden" (Agnete und der Meermann) with the music of Neils Gade, which was staged (to complete fiasco) shortly before Andersen wrote The Little Mermaid. One of the peculiar qualities of writing theater music is that you need to find a balance between achieving what you intend to create artistically and make it work organically together with the dramatic requirements of the theater. If music becomes a servant of the dance as has happened with many 19th century ballets then there... Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2010 at The Best American Poetry
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The National Symphony Orchestra in Washington D.C. asked me to write program notes for one of the Kennedy Center's "Focus on Russia" programs this season. One of the works in the program was Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No.4. Tchaikovsky’s 4th symphony was written between 1877 and 1878, during the most turbulent year of Tchaikovsky’s life and is closely associated with two women – one whom he married that year and the other, whom he never met in person. In the tradition of the romantic excesses of his time, his wife cast a demonic shadow over his life, while the other woman remained an angelic presence. In late March of 1877 Antonina Miliukhova wrote Tchaikovsky a letter, confessing her love for him. She was a former student whom he did not remember meeting twelve years earlier when she was 16. Tchaikovsky’s response to her letter was similar to that of Onegin to young Tatiana in Pushkin’s famous novel-in-prose. Tchaikovsky stated clearly that the feeling could not possibly be mutual and that their life together would be a domestic nightmare. To this, Antonina requested he grant her one meeting, just one meeting before she would end her life which would be impossible and meaningless without Pyotr Ilyich. Shortly after receiving Antonina’s first letter, Tchaikovsky started his work on the opera “Eugene Onegin”. Tatiana’s famous letter to Onegin plays a central role in Pushkin’s novel and in the opera. Clearly, both Pushkin and Tchaikovsky sympathized with Tatiana. After receiving Antonina’s first letter Tchaikovsky was shocked by the parallel to Tatiana. “It seems to me as if the power of fate has drawn to me that girl”, Tchaikovsky wrote to Nadezhda von Meck – his patron, his muse, his best friend and confidant, someone he never met face to face, but with whom he exchanged over 1000 letters and to whom Symphony No.4 is dedicated. There was one more reason for marrying. Shortly before Antonia’s letter, Tchaikovsky wrote to his brother, Modest, that he had made a decision to get married soon, although he did not yet know to whom. He felt he needed to acquire the status of a married man in order to stifle the scandalous rumors about his numerous homosexual encounters. Homosexuality was considered a dishonorable crime in the Tsarist Russia and was punished by arrest and exile to Siberia. Tchaikovsky hoped that by marrying Antonina, he would appear “normal” and all talk about his homosexuality would stop. The wedding took place on July 6th and a few weeks later Tchaikovsky ran away to his sister’s estate in Ukraine, where he composed like a madman for six weeks. After returning to Moscow to his eager and bewildered wife, he suffered a panic attack and eleven days later attempted suicide by throwing himself into the river at night. He was hoping to catch pneumonia. He did not even catch a cold. Divorce in Russia was possible to obtain only on the grounds of infidelity. Tchaikovsky was afraid that a trial in court could potentially... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2010 at The Best American Poetry