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Lewis Saul
Tucson, AZ
Lewis Saul (b. 1952) is a composer who lives in Tucson, AZ. He studied composition at Juilliard and with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.
Interests: Music, Film, Literature, Poetry, Judaism
Recent Activity
Some random thoughts: is one of my favorite sites. I love to randomize all sorts of stuff. "The randomness comes from atmospheric noise, which is better than the pseudo-random number algorithms typically used in computer programs." Nineteen Years Ago Stacey Harwood-Lehman published an essay at entitled The Well-Versed Movie. This well-written comprehensive catalog of poems in films is astonishing! Did I recall "she walks in beauty," from one of my favorite Hitchcocks -- Jamaica Inn (1939)? Have to re-watch it! There is a submission link to which I added the poetry of Arseny Tarkovsky -- used in nearly all of his son's Andrei's great films. [but the link is dead] Although I know most of the films, I realize I have a lot of poems to read ... K-Pop Don't really like most of the contemporary pop music from any country, but discovering this song really impressed me. Eve, Psyche & The Bluebeard's Wife Le Sserafim The title promises something interesting -- female empowerment. The group's name nicely anagrams into I'm Fearless. I'm a mess mess mess mess mess mess mess I'm a mess mess mess mess mess mess mess I'm a mess in distress But we're still the best dressed Fearless say yes We don't dress to impress So many things to like about this. The nice powerful major ninth chords; the 8/4/4 rhythm. What comes next is a mix of Korean and English (unless you're watching the English-language version). There are many versions of this video. Here are my two favorites: X The editors of the New York Times style book must be working overtime. The ambassador posted on X, the social-media platform formerly known as Twitter X, the cesspool once known as Twitter [actually used in an op-ed] X, formerly known as Twitter X, formerly Twitter X [saw that today -- first time I noticed it as a stand-alone] Attention Old People: Things you ought'nt not buy because they're useless: Prevagen, Neuriva, LifeLock, California Psychics and oh so many more ... Now and Then Although the video is heartbreakingly nostalgic and Ringo can still play, the song is a dreary minor-key dirge to something ... is this John telling his mates how much he loves them? Recorded in 1970, I tend to doubt it. Free as a Bird and Real Love are so much more interesting. You decide: Etsy Commercials These ads use Lalo Schifrin's theme from Mission Impossible. Can you name another commercial with music in 5/4? Listening/Analyzing Debussy's awesome Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp: Reading 1) Years ago, I wanted to read Barry Lyndon because of Kubrick. But Vanity Fair sounded good, so I was browsing E-Bay when I saw this 20-volume set, so (being a completist at heart) I bought it for a song. After devouring the above two novels, I moved to Pendennis. And so now I'm tackling the two-volume The Newcomes. Pendennis narrates the history of the family -- particularly young Clive, an old classmate of Pendennis and... Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
I mean to look at five different very small-scale details, and demonstrate the hard-to-beat Pierre Boulez's 1969 recording with the Cleveland Orchestra: : Obviously, recording techniques have evolved a lot since then -- and there are many other great recordings; here's just a few: Monteux/Grand Orchestre Symphonique (1929). He conducted the premiere and was one of the first to record it. Bernstein/NY (1958). A really excellent and thoughtful interp. The Phil was at its best here ... Orozco-Estrada/Frankfurt Radio (2015). Love this guy and this band. Gemma New/Dallas (2023). I highly recommend this version, especially for the video work, which marries the audio perfectly ... I. Stravinsky's subtitle is so descriptive: Fertility of the Earth. This four-bar nibble occurs just a few moments into the piece. For the purpose of this example, I want to draw your attention to the two bass clarinets. There are two other things going on -- a fluttering alto flute and the insistent English horn. II. This cookie is a wonderful taste of courageous orchestration. Stravinsky has a nice steady pulse going on -- the piccolo plays a familiar melody, while the contrabassoons and the fourth French horn (in its lowest register!) plays 1/4 notes on the offbeats in major sevenths. In some recordings, this lovely off-beat rhythm is barely heard ... or worse. III. Stravinsky is building up to this massive climax which culminates in a bar of silence before the Dance of the Earth. This little detail has always fascinated me ... and is not as well-defined by other recordings as in this one. There are four main things going on. We're concerning ourselves only with #3-4! The melody is a clever five-bar phrase, where bar 3 is repeated; These are the tenor and bass "Wagner" tubas (they produce a sound similar to a baritone horn). Long notes, also composed as a five-note phrase; The entrance of the bass drum. Notice that it's in 3/4 (the 1/8th-notes in the timpani help define the beat) -- producing that wonderful two-against-three effect ... but it gets even better! The tam-tam plays one beat between two bass drum beats, creating yet another polyrhythm! All this is clear as a bell in this magical Cleveland recording! IV. Two muted trumpets. Listen to how carefully the Cleveland players match each other's tone! Stravinsky lengthens the duet for a bar or two, and then drops in this beautiful counter-riff: Two violas and two cellos play this spooky little jagged triplet, while the rest of the cellos keep a steady 1/8th-note pulse. The trumpets repeat their somber theme one more time, and Stravinsky sweeps everything up with his great, magical orchestration. Like a floating ghost, the trumpet theme is taken up by a new combination -- clarinets and horn. The only pulse is the pizzicato cello, as the texture thickens with the triplet motif. V. A glissando by the English horn ends on a held G-Sharp against the steady plucked D's (a tritone apart). An alto flute joins in. After... Continue reading
Posted Sep 19, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Beethoven's letters give us an unvarnished canvas upon which we can try to decipher his contradictions: Deafness To Dr. F. Wegeler, Bonn June 29, 1800 "The humming in my ears continues day and night without ceasing. I may truly say that my life is a wretched one. For the last two years I have avoided all society, for it is impossible for me to say to people, 'I am deaf.' Were my profession any other, it would not so much matter, but in my profession it is a terrible thing; and my enemies of whom there are not a few, what would they say to this? ... Often I can scarcely hear any one speaking to me; the tones yes, but not the actual words; yet as soon as any one shouts, it is unbearable ..." To the same November 16, 1801 "My life is again somewhat pleasanter, for I mix in society. You can scarcely imagine what a dreary, sad life I have led during the past two years. My weak hearing seemed always to be haunting me, and I ran away from people, was forced to appear a misanthrope, thought not at all in my character. This change has been brought about by an enchanting maiden, who loves me, and whom I love. Once again, after two years I have had some happy moments, and for the first time I feel that marriage can bring happiness. Unfortunately she is not of my station in life, and now -- for the moment I certainly could not marry -- I must bravely bustle about ..." Bach To the music publishers Breitkopf and Haertel, Leipzig April 22, 1801 "When I recently visited a good friend of mine, and he showed me the amount which had been collected for the daughter of the immortal god of harmony [Regina Johanna Bach, living alone and in poverty], I was astonished at the small sum which Germany had thought sufficient for the person worthy to me of honour on account of her father ... answer quickly how this can best be brought about so that it may be done before this daughter of Bach dies, before this brook dries up, and we can no longer supply it with water" [Bach means "brook" in German]. It would be several more decades until Mendelssohn succeeded in bringing "Old Bach" to the attention of the world in the middle of the century. The Immortal Beloved ? To Countess Giulietta Guicciardi July 6, 1801 "My angel, my all, my very self, Oh! gaze at nature in all its beauty, and calmly accept the inevitable -- love demands everything, and rightly so. Thus is it for me with thee, for thee with me, only thou so easily forgettest, that I must live for myself and for thee -- were we wholly united thou wouldst feel this painful fact as little as I should ..." To the same July 7, 1801 "Waiting to see whether fate will take pity on us.... Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Yes, lyricists and poets are different species. But for me, Joni has always been both. I like her early albums, but they lack gravitas -- in both the compositions and lyrics. Beginning in 1974, she began to learn from the jazz musicians she hung around with. Tom Scott, Jaco Pastorius and Larry Klein taught her things like rearranging chord roots and changing up rhythmic patterns. Her lyrics/poetry got tighter. Here are seven tunes from her middle period (1974-1985) which I think are extraordinary -- both musically and lyrically: 1. Free Man in Paris from Court and Spark (1974) I was a free man in Paris I felt unfettered and alive There was nobody calling me up for favors And no one's future to decide You know I'd go back there tomorrow But for the work I've taken on Stoking the star making machinery Behind the popular song 2. Harry's House/Centerpiece from The Hissing of Summer Lawns (1975) Heatwaves on the runway As the wheels set down He takes his baggage off the carousel He takes a taxi into town Yellow schools of taxi fishes Jonah in a ticking whale Caught up at the light in the fishnet windows Of Bloomingdale's Watching those high fashion girls Skinny black models with raveen curls Beauty parlor blondes with credit card eyes Looking for the chic and the fancy to buy 3. Talk to Me from Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (1977) We could talk about Martha We could talk about landscapes I'm not above gossip But I'll sit on a secret where honor is at stake Or we could talk about power About Jesus and Hitler and Howard Hughes Or Charlie Chaplin's movies Or Bergman's nordic blues Please just talk to me Any old theme you choose Just come and talk to me My Mystery talk to me 4. Jericho from Don Juan's Reckless Daughter (1977) I'll try to keep myself open up to you That's a promise that I made to love When it was new Just like Jericho I said "Let these walls come tumbling down" I said it like I finally found the way To keep the good feelings alive I said it like it was something to strive for 5. The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines from Mingus (1979) I'm down to a roll of dimes I'm stalking the slot that's hot I keep hearing bells all around me Jingling in the lucky jackpots They keep you tantalized They keep you reaching for your wallet Here in fools' paradise 6. Be Cool from Wild Things Run Fast (1982) If there's one rule to this game Everybody's gonna name It's be cool If you're worried or uncertain If your feelings are hurtin' You're a fool if you can't keep cool Charm 'em Don't alarm 'em Keep things light Keep your worries out of sight And play it cool Play it cool Fifty-fifty Fire and ice 7. The Three Great Stimulants from Dog Eat Dog (1985) I picked the morning paper off... Continue reading
Posted Aug 29, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
A few weeks ago, I discussed filmic punctuation -- specifically that of the three great Japanese directors -- Mizoguchi, Kurosawa and Ozu. Such techniques define the editorial nature of the filmmaker. In 1948, in Rope, Alfred Hitchcock attempted to break free from traditional transitions by using a shot that would fill the screen with black for only a second before changing to a different perspective -- as in this shot where the actor's back serves as a Fade-to-Black. Editing techniques have obviously advanced since 1948. Today, film's like Iñárritu's Birdman, or Mendes's 1917 are stitched together seamlessly to hide cuts -- but they still use Hitchcock's basic idea of hiding the cuts where you can't see them. The obvious purpose of hiding cuts is to give the audience an uninterrupted look at the action without the editorial comment of a cut or other type of punctuation. In a way -- and I think this is what Hitchcock was after -- this turns a film into a forever frozen theatrical production. Of course, the camera itself can travel and we can see angles and action unavailable to theater. But the long take is the basic tool these filmmakers use to emulate the theatrical gaze. Cristian Mungiu Beyond the Hills (2012) The Romanian New Wave movement picked up steam very quickly after the fall of Communism. Mungiu became a leading figure, and his films have reached an international audience. Mingiu's fourth feature-length film perfectly encapsulates the idea of using long, well-rehearsed takes to allow the story to flow, uninterrupted by a director's editing. There is no soundtrack, only diegetic sound accompanying the long takes. The filmmaker is completely non-judgmental in this fictional recreation of a true incident. The viewer is left to ponder the significance of this or that character; of this or that situation -- but never does he interrupt the flow of the story, requiring the viewer to ponder the action -- especially interior motives -- without having the director specifically guiding you towards a viewpoint or attitude. Cosmina Stratan (Voichita) and Cristina Flutur (Alina) shared the Best Actress prize at Cannes, and deservedly so. They both play amazingly authentic, relatable characters -- each with her own intense emotional baggage -- and with Mingiu's guidance, hold the viewer in rapt attention. Valeriu Andriuta (Priest) is equally authentic as the sincere, but misguided, Papa. Dana Tapalagá (Mama Superior) is mesmerizing. Not a false moment in the 152 minutes, which fly by without a frame of tedium. ** The main thematic material for this film focuses on those faithful Orthodox Christians who lived precariously under godless Communism for so many years and the rest of secular society, caught up in the gray uncomfortable position of the country's pseudo-Capitalism and Consumerism -- trying desperately to keep their phones charged, while directing land speculators to a place "beyond the hills." The last shot of the film is a doozy. Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
BOULEZ, Pierre (1925-2016) Third Piano Sonata (1955-57/63- ) 1. Formant I -- Antiphonie (unpublished) 2. Formant II -- Trope 3. Formant III -- Constellation/Constellation-miroir 4. Formant IV -- Strophe (unpublished) 5. Formant V -- Séquence (unpublished) 6. Sigle Pierre Boulez, piano (25:26) "I have often compared this work with the plan of a city. One does not change its design, one perceives exactly what it is, and there are different ways of going through it. One can choose one's own way through it, but there are certain traffic regulations." - PB Boulez always referred to the Third Sonata as a "work in progress." Since his death, it is now officially "unfinished." Nevertheless, this 1958 recording with the composer at the piano, might contain at least snippets of the original, unpublished music. His primary inspirations were Mallarmé and Joyce -- Finnegans Wake, in particular. From his old Darmstadt friendship with Stockhausen, Boulez revisits the idea of a score with no fixed entry point -- but a cyclical form nonetheless -- like FW and Stockhausen's Zyklus (Cycle) ... In fact, Formant II -- Trope is bound in a spiral, exactly like Zyklus. "Music is a labyrinth with no beginning and no end, full of new paths to discover, where mystery remains eternal." -- PB Critic Peggy Glanville-Hicks figured it out: " ... organized, stabilized chaos ... not everyone's ear conducts the same arbitration, and Boulez is the perfect example of the humorous caveat, 'you'll like it if you're the type who likes that sort of thing.'" Continue reading
Posted Aug 15, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
BEN SIDRAN (1943- ) Life's a Lesson (1993) I first discovered Sidran when he was hosting a late-night program on VH1 called New Visions. It was amazing -- he played the few jazz videos that would never get airplay on sister MTV (stuff like Donald Fagen's New Frontier; Pat Metheny's Are You Going With Me? and Weather Report's Procession). And he did a lot of live stuff. I taped the program as often as I could -- I still marvel at the impromptu 15-minute jam with just Dizzy Gillespie and Joe Williams. He showcased some of the best talent in jazz on the show. ** Sidran went to the Univ. of Wisconsin, earning a degree in English lit in 1966. He had been in a band with Steve Miller and Boz Scaggs, and when they set off for Hollywood, Sidran stayed behind to get his PhD in Sussex, England. When he had a bit of free time, he sessioned with the likes of Clapton, the Stones, and Frampton. He then joined Miller for good, playing keyboards and writing songs, including the hit song Space Cowboy (1969). In the meantime, Sidran became a successful producer and performer, returning to Madison, where he taught and hosted an award-winning NPR series Jazz Alive. ** In 1993, a long, difficult journey culminated in Life's a Lesson. "After six years, hundreds of phone calls, maybe more than one hundred thousand miles of travel, and many hours of work, fun and occasional moments of rapture, this album is the result." -- BS Ben recruited 20 of the best Jewish musicians in the industry. You'll hear some of them in the videos below, but here's the complete list: Bob Berg Randy Brecker Eddie Daniels Debra Dobkin Gil Goldstein Danny Gottlieb Steve Khan Carole King Lee Konitz Howard Levy David Liebman Mike Mainieri Bob Mintzer Andy Narrell Josh Redman Mike Richmond David Rivkin Haim Sharum Lou Soloff Jeremy Steig "Singing has always played a large part in Jewish experience. Virtually all of the Hebrew text is traditionally chanted, and the importance of song harkens back to the days of the Exodus, when the people of Israel wandered with no possessions except their history and their teachings. It's likely that some of the melodies we sing today have their roots in these earliest times. What I find so moving about this music is its sense of hope; it recognizes our weaknesses but still insists that we work for peace and justice ... for me, the music reaches back to the days when I stood as a young boy and listened to the old men chanting. I felt that this music could unlock the mysteries of emotion and understanding." -- BS Here are four tracks from this 15-track album: ELIYAHU OSEH SHALOM ANI MA'AMIN ELI ELI Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
A director edits a film from the start Where to place the camera; what kind of lens to use; shot composition (master, close-up, telephoto), etc. Editorial decisions are why all serious filmmakers are auteurs. The hundreds (or thousands) of individuals who work for the director make indispensable individual contributions to the final product, but it is the director who makes all the final decisions (hopefully). Filmic punctuation is about inserting post-production (editing) optical effects into a film to achieve some kind of transition. This excellent article details them all, but for today's purposes, I'll put them into four categories: The straight cut. The most common form of punctuation. The last frame of one scene is replaced with frame one from a new scene. The viewer shouldn't even notice it. The dissolve. The shot changes gradually, letting the first image on the screen bleed slowly into the next. The Fade to Black (FTB). The wipe. A vertical or horizontal "bar" pushes the first image off the screen (left-to-right, right-to-left, top-to-bottom; or bottom-to-top). The Big Three (of Japanese cinema's "golden age") -- Kurosawa, Ozu, and Mizoguchi. Kurosawa was fond of the wipe. He watched a lot of American serials (1930s) as a kid and discovered it there. Seven Samurai, for example, contains 1,467 punctuation marks. 1,399 are straight cuts; 15 FTBs; 45 wipes; and eight dissolves. That means that only about 3% are wipes -- but you will notice them! Ozu -- perhaps one of the least editorial auteurs -- disdains any effect other than the straight cut. Many of these cuts, however, might qualify as jump cuts -- startling the viewer into unfamiliar territory. He also rarely moves the camera from its very low position at tatami eye-level, and almost never uses anything other than a 50mm lens. Ozu's true originality stems from his story elision. A girl is getting married and Ozu concentrates on the aspect of the story involving the preparations; the emotional state of the characters -- but we never see the actual wedding ceremony. Mizoguchi loved the dissolve, giving his films have a dreamy quality. Ugetsu (1953) 97 minutes Black & White Monaural in Japanese 1:33:1 aspect ratio Criterion Release 2005 Original story by Akinari Ueda. Screenplay by Matsutarô Kawaguchi and Yoshikata Yoda. Kenji Mizoguchi was 55 when he directed Ugetsu. Mizoguchi’s reputation as a “woman’s director” may stem from the fact that the strong influences in his early life were female. His father basically sold his sister, Suzu, into geishadom, and his mother died when he was 17. Suzu took care of young Kenji, and later helped him find work. In the early ‘20s, a prostitute he was living with slashed him on his back with a razor. Almost all of his early films from the ‘20s and ‘30s are lost. Two films in 1936 helped to secure his reputation as a creative force in the industry: Osaka Elegy and Sisters of the Gion. Both films concern the problems facing women. During the war, he was... Continue reading
Posted Aug 1, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
SHOSTAKOVICH, Dmitri (1906-1975) Six Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva, Op. 143a (1973) 1. My poems (3:26) 2. Such tenderness (3:53) 3. Hamlet's dialogue with his conscience (3:23) 4. The Poet and the Tsar (1:40) 5. No, the drum beat (3:28) 6. To Anna Akhmatova (6:09) Ortrun Wenkel, contralto Concertgebouw Orchestra Bernard Haitink, cond. Marina Tsvetaeva Of course, DS could never have composed such a work during the Stalin years. Tsvetaeva -- born in 1892 -- lived a life of such intense tragedy, that her poems provide Shostakovich with a built-in template for his greatest theme -- suffering. She lived through the Revolution and the subsequent famine, but placed her daughter in a state orphanage in 1919, where the girl starved to death. She left Russia in '22, moving about Europe; Paris-Berlin-Prague until moving back to Moscow in '39. Then her husband and daughter were arrested on espionage charges; her husband was executed. Two years later, Tsvetaeva committed suicide. ** 1. My Poems To my poems, written so early that I didn't even know then that I was a poet; that took flight, like spray from a fountain, like sparks from a rocket; that burst in, like little devils, into a temple filled with sleep and incense . . . to my poems of youth and death -- unread poems! -- carelessly scattered in the dust of shops (where no one has ever bought them!) . . . To my poems, as to previous wines, their time will come! 2. Such tenderness Where does such tenderness come from? These are not the first curls I have stroked, and lips I have known that were darker than yours. Stars have shone and dimmed again (where does this tenderness come from?) eyes have shone and dimmed again so close to my own eyes. Songs that were greater than this have I heard in the darkness of the night (where does this tenderness come from?) on the very breast of the singer. Where does this tenderness come from? And what to do with it, sly boy, passing stranger, with those eyelashes (how long they are!)? 3. Hamlet's dialogue with his conscience She's at the bottom in the mud and weeds . . . She sought sleep there, but there's no sleep there either! But I loved her; forty thousand brothers could not make up my sum! Hamlet! She's at the bottom, in the mud: the mud! . . . And the last wreath has floated up past the logs on the river bank . . . But I loved her; forty thousand brothers . . . Less, though, than a single lover. She's at the bottom, in the mud. But I loved her . . . 4. The Poet and the Tsar In the unearthly, hall of the Tsars: who's this proud one carved in marble? So magnificent, adorned with gold? The wretched gendarme Of Pushkin's glory. He harrassed the writer, clipped the manuscript. The land of Poland he butchered like an animal. Take a... Continue reading
Posted Jul 25, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
VARIOUS ARTISTS But Not For Me Ten versions The Gershwins' musical -- Girl Crazy -- opened in 1930, starring Ethel Merman and Ginger Rogers (overnight stardom). It takes place in Custerville, Arizona. (As an Arizonan, I can guarantee you there is no such place.) The 1943 film starred Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland. A standard 16-bar form, but notice how George uses diminished seventh chords, creating a short uncertainty: Some take it slow Some take it fast But all this music's From a glorious past 1. Judy Garland (1943) (2:26) 2. Chet Baker (1954) CB, trumpet, vocal Russ Freeman, piano, celesta Carson Smith, bass James Bond, bass Bab Neel, drums Lawrence Marable, drums Peter Littman, drums (3:04) 3. Modern Jazz Quartet (1956) Milt Jackson, vibraphone John Lewis, piano Percy Heath, bass Kenny Clarke, drums (3:43) 4. Red Garland (1957) RG, piano Paul Chambers, bass Arthur Taylor, drums (5:51) 5. Miles Davis (1957) MD, trumpet Sonny Rollins, tenor saxophone Horace Silver, piano Percy Heath, bass Kenny Clarke, drums (5:43) 6. Ella Fitzgerald (1959) EF, vocal Strings (3:34) 7. John Coltrane (1961) JC, tenor saxophone McCoy Tyner, piano Steve Davis, bass Elvin Jones, drums (9:36) 8. Frank Sinatra (1980) (3:52) 9. Linda Ronstadt (1986) LR, vocals Don Grolnick, piano Plas Johnson, tenor saxophone Bob Mann, guitar Bob Magnusson, bass John Guerin, drums (5:27) 10. Diana Krall (2018) DK, vocals Bill Charlap, piano Peter Washington, bass Kenny Washington, drums (3:07) Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Gawd, I detest fit-me-into-a-shoebox musical terminology. Baroque. If it's not baroque, don't fix it. Classical. Classical music. But from 1750-1830, when forms such as the symphony, concerto and sonata were developed, someone decided it needed a name. Stalin would have called it formalism. People were executed for practicing it. Romantic. Generally thought of as everything after 1804 -- when Beethoven's Third Symphony ("Eroica") came into our universe. Late Romantic. Schmaltz (Except for Mahler) ... 20th century. Richard Strauss died in 1949. Show me some of his "20th century music"! ** Of course, I know we need words to describe things -- but music is universal and often refuses to shoehorn into labels. Wikipedia: Minimal music (also called minimalism) is a form of art music or other compositional practice that employs limited or minimal musical materials. Prominent features of minimalist music include repetitive patterns or pulses, steady drones, consonant harmony, and reiteration of musical phrases or smaller units. It may include features such as phase shifting, resulting in what is termed phase music, or process techniques that follow strict rules, usually described as process music. The approach is marked by a non-narrative, non-teleological, and non-representational approach, and calls attention to the activity of listening by focusing on the internal processes of the music. employs limited or minimal musical materials In the first movement Beethoven's Fifth, he breaks down that famous four-note theme (or motif) into a single note. Minimalism. repetitive patterns or pulses, steady drones, consonant harmony, and reiteration of musical phrases or smaller units Beethoven again -- apparently a minimalist. process techniques What the hell does that mean? All music involves "processing technique." ** So, today let's listen to two very different works by the composer Terry Riley (b. 1935) -- each written between 1968 and 1969. In C (1968) Technically, in the key of C, Riley adds a foreign F-Sharp (#14) and B-Flat (#35). A pulse is activated by playing the highest octave of C's on a piano. Any group of instruments, then begins playing each numbered phrase -- maintaining the rhythm of the pulse. It is up to each player to decide when to move on to the next section. This result is an amazing mélange of aleatoric glorious sound. A Rainbow in Curved Air (1969) In this piece, Riley uses tape-loops to overlay different phrases on an organ and soprano saxophone. The result is a hypnotic work of almost indescribable beauty. The back of the LP contained a poem Riley wrote which you should read before listening: And then all wars ended Arms of every kind were outlawed and the masses gladly contributed them to giant foundries in which they were melted down and the metal poured back into the earth The Pentagon was turned on its side and painted purple, yellow & green All boundaries were dissolved The slaughter of animals was forbidden The whole of Lower Manhattan became a meadow in which unfortunates from the Bowery were allowed to live out their fantasies in the... Continue reading
Posted Jul 10, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Béla Viktor János Bartók was born in the Banatian town of Nagyszentmiklós in the Kingdom of Hungary (present-day Sânnicolau Mare, Romania) on March 25, 1881. By age four, he was able to play the piano fairly well. In 1888 -- he was seven -- his father died suddenly. Mom took Béla and his sister, Erzsébet, to live in Nagyszőkős (present-day Vynohradiv, Ukraine) then Pressburg (Pozsony, present-day Bratislava, Slovakia). There -- age 11 -- he gave his first public recital, playing a short composition entitled The Course of the Danube. He began serious piano study at the Royal Academy of Music in Budapest with István Thomán, a former student of Liszt. There he met Zoltán Kodály, who became his lifelong friend and colleague. In 1903 -- after hearing Strauss's Also Sprach Zarathustra and Ein Heldenleben -- he composed his own tone poem, Kossuth -- a magnificent work from the 22-year-old composer: Ethnomusicology In 1908, he and Kodály traveled into the countryside to collect, research and record old Magyar folk melodies. Muzsikás has recorded many of these folk tunes. This one is a Chassid wedding song: He began incorporating these discoveries into his own compositions. The Romanian Folk Dances for violin and piano is a good example: After some disasters, like the rejection of his only opera -- Bluebeard's Castle (1911) -- and the ballet The Miraculous Mandarin (1918- ), not performed until 1926 because of its sexual content -- by the late 20's, Bartók really come into his own. Tackling the thorny string quartet milieu, 1927-28 ushered in a great development in the history of music. Not since the late Beethoven quartets, had the form seen such radical innovations. Using unusual string techniques -- sul ponticello, a new type of pizzicato ("snap"), massive glissandi -- sometimes going in all four instruments -- the Third, Fourth and Fifth string quartets are unqualified masterpieces. He also developed a new kind of form -- the arch. In the Fourth Quartet, the first and fifth movements, and the second and fourth, have similar relationships; while the middle movement can be roughly divided in two, thus creating a kind of arch form when viewing the work as a whole. The first movement revolves around a six-note chromatic motif that is chased around by the four players, a whirling dance which will come to its ultimate fruition in the parallel fifth movement. All four strings are muted, and in a bat-out-of-hell tempo, the music dances and flutters madly. This is extremely difficult music. The pace comes to a near standstill. First the cello, and then (at the approximate half-way point) the violin play a jittery motif on top of held chords. Like the second, this movement is certainly unusual. The players put down their bows, because the entire movement is played pizzicato. A rugged Hungarian dance, which erupts with passion and energy. This is the Leonkoro Quartet playing the Fourth: During the Nazi era, he stuck around as long as he dared. First sending his manuscripts out... Continue reading
Posted Jul 3, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
For is tolerance weirdness what your? Alphabet do like the you? If you don't have a headache from my scrambled sentences, maybe you're ready for something a little stiffer. ** Of Oz The Wizard In 2001, Matt Bucy was challenged by a friend to agree that nothing original was possible. (Sheesh, my head hurts already.) Matt disagreed and the idea of Of Oz The Wizard was born. "Basically it was edited in Excel." What makes Of Oz particularly special in my opinion is Bucy's editing; as soon a word is said or sung, the scene continues until the next word. Thus, words like and, is, of, and the -- which are obviously plentiful, but are followed by a new repetition of the word in fractions of a second -- resulting in a dazzling Stockhausen-like blur of pure sound. (The words are all sorted in the film's chronological order). On the other hand, if a word is said or sung -- and there is no more dialogue for awhile -- the pace reverts to "normal" mode; for instance, after Dorothy takes shelter in the farmhouse and says, Oh to Toto, we get to watch Dorothy open the door to Munchkinland and observe a beautiful lateral traveling shot. Thank you, Ted, for introducing this wonderful weirdness to me. [Someone applied the same concept for Star Wars, less successful, imo.] ** Zorns Lemma (1970) Hollis Frampton (1936-1984) was an avant-garde filmmaker, who was friends with poet Ezra Pound, painter Frank Stella, and sculptor Carl Andre. Zorns Lemma is a significant piece of experimental cinema. It is in three parts: Joyce Wieland reads a Bay State Primer, a puritan work for children to learn the alphabet. ("In Adam's fall, we sinned all") ... A twenty-four letter alphabet (I and U are omitted) is used; Frampton photographed all different types of signage to represent the letters -- they flash on the screen for exactly one second, and then loop back ... gradually, the word stills are replaced by an active film shot, such as washing hands, or peeling a tangerine, until their are only moving images. It is a hypnotic experience ... A couple is walking across a snowy meadow. Six women are reading one word at a time from Theory of Light. Some interpret Zorns as a comment on life's stages -- the Primer being childhood, the long alphabet section representing maturation and interaction with the world, and the third section representing old age and death. Continue reading
Posted Jun 26, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
I was 11 or 12 and my quality time with my father was Sunday afternoons at the Pittsburgh Symphony with William Steinberg in the old Syria Mosque: I was already deep into classical music, and I can still remember the intense joy I felt in communing with Dad about the only thing that mattered to me at that time. One concert, Dad was perusing the program and stopped at the symphony roster and pointed to a name under Percussion -- Eddie Myers -- and said that he was a cousin. As the orchestra prepared to play something with a lot of percussion (it might have been Rimsky-Korsakov's Scheherazade), he pointed him out to me -- he was playing the triangle. At Intermission, we would go into the smoking lounge and he'd order a scotch and I'd have a Coke. We were discussing the music, and Dad said something like: "Gee, that Eddie sure has it easy. He gets paid just to bang on that little triangle ... anyone could do that!" Now I didn't normally "talk back" to my father -- but with a trace of outrage in my voice, I told him that percussionists were great musicians, who studied just as hard as a violinist ... he seemed unpersuaded, so by the time we got home, I had a plan: I was really into Stockhausen (whom I wrote about here recently) and I pulled out my score and record to Zyklus (I wish we had had YouTube back then): He was amazed (and had such a wonderful open mind about new music) ... we talked about how percussionists have to learn more than just one instrument -- they must master dozens or even hundreds of different types of drums, cymbals -- not to mention all the mallet instruments (xylophone, marimba, glockenspiel). Ultimately, he complimented me for teaching him a lesson about glibness! ** Fast-forward to me being a dad. My violinist daughter married a percussionist -- and he is as badass a musician as I've ever known! We talk music together and our conversations are always magically inspirational! So speaking of solo percussion pieces, I recently came across a young composer -- Rebecca Saunders -- who wrote this piece for solo percussion called Dust. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. Performed by Rebecca Lloyd-Jones: Continue reading
Posted Jun 19, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Today, I'm here to talk about my favorite Bach ensemble -- The Netherlands Bach Society and their "All of Bach" project -- particularly Bach's long-form works. The St. Matthew Passion (2:44:31) is at the top of the list for me. 164 minutes may seem like a long time, but the music is so sublime, the time just flies by. At the bottom of the above link is another link that says "into the weeds with me," which will take you to my first post here -- 13 years ago -- where I compare and contrast five different recordings of the Passion. Equally demanding is the great Mass in B Minor (1:48:42). ** Less demanding are the 250 cantatas (index). They average 20-30 minutes in length, and demonstrate Bach's consistently fabulous part-writing. The first 200 or so are sacred, and the rest secular (wedding, hunting -- even tax collectors [#212]). But today, I'll speak of the magnificent Magnificat from 1733, a mere 28 minutes long. Click on the Luke links to see the English translation of each movement. Magnificat, BWV 243 (1733) 1. Magnificat anima mea Dominum 2. Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari mea 3. Quia respexit humilitatem ancillae suae ecce enim ex hoc beatam me dicent 4. omnes generationes 5. Quia fecit mihi magna qui potens est et sanctum nomen ejus 6. Et misericordia ejus a progenie in progenies timentibus eum 7. Fecit potentiam in brachio suo dispersit superbos mente cordis sui 8. Deposuit potentes de sede et exaltavit humiles 9. Esurientes implevit bonis et divites dimisit inanes 10. Suscepit Israel puerum suum recordatus misericordiae suae 11. Sicut locutus est ad patres nostros Abraham et semini ejus in saecula 12. Gloria Patri, et Filio et Spiritui Sancto. Sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper et in saecula saeculorum. Amen. Netherlands Bach Society Jos van Veldhoven, cond. (28:29) In 1723, after taking up his post as Thomaskantor in Leipzig, Bach set this text in 12 movements for Christmas in the key of E-Flat Major. A decade later, Bach revised the work, dropping the Christmas hymns, altering or expanding some instrumentation, and changing the key to D Major for the trumpets -- their natural key. The probable date for the first performance of this version was July 2, 1733, for the feast day of Visitation (although some scholars believe it wasn't until the following Christmas). That year there had been a period of mourning (February to June) after the death of Augustus the Strong, during which no concerted music was allowed in the churches. The choir is in five voices: SSATB. The arch symmetry is magical: Mvmnts 1/2 & 11/12 in tonic Mvmnts 3 & 10 in relative minor Mvmnts 5 & 9 in major keys other than D Mvmnts 6 & 8 minor key Mvmnt 7 tonic 1. Magnificat anima mea Dominum Luke 1:46 2. Et exultavit spiritus meus in Deo salutari mea Luke 1:47 All arias are non-da capo. This is sung by Soprano II, with string... Continue reading
Posted Jun 5, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
On August 2 1994, in North London, Suzie Collier -- a violinist, conductor, and professor at the Royal Academy of Music -- gave birth to a boy, Jacob. To compare this genius of the 21st century to Bach or Beethoven might seem like a fanboy exaggeration or even blasphemy -- but I do so without hesitation. Suzie gave her son a room in their home, where he was given free rein to develop his talent. In 2011 -- aged 16 -- Jacob recorded himself in multiples, doing a cover of Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka: Two years later came this cover of Stevie Wonder's Don't You Worry 'Bout a Thing: Here you can see that this teenager has taught himself to play many different instruments with astonishing fluency. In 2016, he released his debut album, In My Room. Here's the Flintstones: In an imaginative idea, JC encouraged fans to send in short clips of them singing something -- which he then would harmonize/orchestrate. This is Volume I (20 songs) of his "IHarmU" series ... In 2018, JC announced a sprawling project of 50 new songs, divided into four volumes, titled Djesse. To date, he has completed three volumes: Djesse Vol. 1 -- a Lionel Richie cover All Night Long: Djesse Vol. 2 -- Lua. Look for his mother, playing second violin! And Moon River. The video begins with JC admirers (did you spot David Crosby?) singing notes which form an F dominant seventh chord, which will finally resolve to the opening key of B-Flat Major. Notice there are no instruments other than Jacob's voice (look for a JC holding a guitar, but putting it aside) ... There is a good reason for this -- Jacob is using microtonal harmonies and just intonation throughout. This transcription by June Lee, shows where he modulates to microtonal keys. And this guy explains it to you: Finally, from Djesse Vol. 3 -- Sleeping On My Dreams: Continue reading
Posted May 29, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Four Czech New Wave films Invention for Destruction (1958) Karel Zeman (1910-1989). A master of stop-motion animation, he based the film on the Jules Verne patriotic novel Facing the Flag. Using miniature effects and matte paintings, his real-life actors had to act in an unusual stylized manner to match the animation. Loves of a Blonde (1965) You probably know Miloš Forman (1932-2018) from his Hollywood work, including One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus. This is his second major film [after Black Peter (1964)]. The Communists were not pleased, but since it won a top prize at a film festival, they allowed him more freedom, and this film explores subject matter that must have made a few heads explode (the Communists don't come off well) ... Closely Watched Trains (1966) Jiří Menzel (1938-2020) had the gift of portraying startling humanism with a bit of satire and cutting-edge cinematography. This film is funny and sad, beautiful and dark -- but always keeps your attention. The Hollywood Code wouldn't have permitted the medical problem of the male lead, Milos (Václav Neckár) whose object of desire is the beautiful Mása (Jitka Skoffin). Marketa Lazarová (1967) František Vláčil (1924-1999) spent six years making Marketa. Set in the 13th century, the outer framework of the film concerns the friction between paganism and Christianity. The plot is extremely difficult to grasp in one viewing, and therefore repeating viewings are satisfying (Marketa was voted the best Czech film of all time in a 1998 poll). Magda Vásáryová is extraordinary in a severely demanding role. This film will confuse you, which is a good thing. P.S. American, but so Czech-related: Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
2017 My big sister, Lynn, passed away in 2019. I think about her every day. She was a lawyer, but gave it up to become a poet. This one's about our great-aunt, Annie. I Am Trying to Understand (1997) I am trying to understand a woman who chose handmade lingerie over America who returned to her husband to a place where their son would be shot Whose hand sewed the yellow star onto her coat? I am trying to understand how, four years after they returned from the camp a man and a woman are smiling at the lake they are there with her cousin and their friends Seven people enjoying their vacation What have the healing waters at Héviz been able to wash away? I am trying to understand what a woman who has lost her son can think when she plants four-o-clocks and daisies in her garden where they once sat, reading I am trying to understand how a woman like that can plant any garden at all how she could tend her grapevines The Communists allowed them one room in their house that had been a wedding present from their father the house confiscated in 1944 "Jewish owner: title cleared" Which room did they receive? Had anyone kept the lace cloths, the crocheted bedspread? I am trying to understand -- Did she want them back? I am trying to understand how they told her that her son was dead Did it happen at his school? Were they taken to the camps the same day, or the next? I am trying to understand why I am standing in Annie's courtyard Why I bend down to smell the tarragon and chervil growing among rocks Why I photograph bunches of fat grapes Why I think this could be mine -- Lynn Saul Continue reading
Posted May 15, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Alexander Mackendrick Sidney Falco (Tony Curtis), a press agent, is pissed. J. J. Hunsecker (Burt Lancaster) has been shutting his gossip out of his famous newspaper column for days now — all because Falco has somehow failed to break up a relationship between Hunsecker’s sister, Susan (Susan Harrison) and a guitar player in Chico Hamilton’s quintet, Steve Dallas (Martin Milner). Falco’s secretary, Sally (Jeff Donnell) is trying to be sympathetic to her boss’s problems: SALLY Why does Mr. Hunsecker want to squeeze your livelihood away? What do you stand for that kind of treatment for? SIDNEY He’s punishing me. His kid sister’s having a romance with some guitar player. He asked me to break it up. I thought I did, but maybe I didn’t. Now I gotta go find out. And Hunsecker’s the golden ladder to the places I wanna get. SALLY Sidney, you make a living. Where do you want to get? SIDNEY Way up high, Sam, where it’s always balmy. Where no one snaps his fingers and says, “Hey, shrimp, rack the balls” ... or “Hey, mouse, go out and buy me a pack of butts.” I don’t want tips from the kitty. I’m in the big game with the big players. My experience I can give you in a nutshell ... and I didn’t dream it in a dream either: Dog eat dog. In brief, from now on the best of everything is good enough for me. This early example of the film’s crackling dialogue is typical. Later, Falco and Hunsecker have a conversation after things have turned upside down with the saga of Susie and Steve: SIDNEY I got that boy coming over here today. J. J. If I can trust my eyes — and I think I can — Susie knows all about your dirty work. SIDNEY Can’t hurt. J. J. Can’t hurt? I had to get that boy his job back. SIDNEY Look, J.J. ... we can tie this off into one neat bundle; address it to the dumps, to oblivion. We’re doing great, but please do it my way. I’ve cased this kid. I know his ins and outs. He’s full of juice and vinegar, just waiting for a big shot like you to put on the squeeze. You got the boy his job back — okay. But he’s not gonna accept your favor. The manager, yeah, but not that boy. J. J. What has this boy got that Susie likes? SIDNEY Integrity. Acute, like indigestion. J. J. What does this mean, “integrity?” SIDNEY A pocketful of firecrackers waitin’ for a match. You know, it’s a new wrinkle. To tell you the truth, I never thought I’d make a killing on some guy’s integrity. J. J. I’d hate to take a bite out of you. You’re a cookie full of arsenic. At 1:04:30, a scene between five people (Frank D’Angelo [Sam Levene], Steve, Susie, J. J. and Falco); cinematographer James Wong Howe is magnificent here; everyone is perfectly blocked and framed and at... Continue reading
Posted May 9, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
SHOSTAKOVICH, Dmitri (1906-1975) Tahiti Trot (1928) Staatsoper Berlin Daniel Barenboim, cond. (4:08) Vincent Youmans composed Tea for Two for his musical No, No, Nanette in 1927. Shostakovich and his friend, the conductor Nicolai Malko, recalled hearing the tune in '27 at the Meyerhold Theatre in Moscow in a play called Roar, China. In one of the scenes some Americans on a ship are dancing to the tune, which Malko recalled as being named Tahiti Trot. (It was -- of course -- Tea for Two.) At some point before October, Malko jokingly suggested to Shostakovich that he should orchestrate Tea for Two and proposed a bet: "If you, Mitenka, are as brilliant as they all say, then please go into the next room, write that song down from memory, orchestrate it, and I will play it. I will give you an hour to do this." It only took Dmitri 45 minutes, and he dedicated the score to Malko as a "token of his best feelings." The premiere at the Moscow Conservatory was on November 25, 1928. Then came the problems. The Central Committee of the CPSU, People's Commissar of Education Anatol Lunacharsky said that no task was more urgent for Soviet culture than to rebuke the "aggressive, jazzy syncopations of the foxtrot." "The bourgeoisie would like man to live not so much by his head as by his sexual organs. The fundamental element of the foxtrot derives from mechanization, suppressed eroticism, and a desire to deaden feeling through drugs. We do not need that kind of music." Just-Say-No Anatol By 1930, Shostakovich was furiously spinning his wheels repudiating the stupid thing. Letting Malko perform it had been a "political mistake." He had meant it as a movement for The Golden Age (1930, not likely) -- a satirical take on such music (it was censored anyways), and he kinda blamed Malko for the fiasco. [Nobody ever said Dmitri was perfect!] The score was withdrawn and quickly forgotten until Gennady Rozhdestvensky reconstructed it in 1984. Continue reading
Posted May 1, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Musical plagiarism was an accepted practice in the 17th and 18th centuries. In fact, is was considered more of an homage. When discovering the works of Vivaldi, Bach went to work on rewriting them in his own style. No lawsuits were filed. Here's a great example. Joseph Haydn wrote these very unique eight notes to begin the menuet of his 21st symphony, 1764: A full 23 years later (1787), Mozart felt no compunction about lifting them whole cloth for his minuet in his famous Eine Kleine Nachtmusik: ** Now let's skip ahead to our litigious age where George Harrison's My Sweet Lord and many other accusations of copyright violations were settled in court. I only provide two examples here, though they differ in the basic intricacies of copyright law. In this first example, Keith Jarrett laid down a funky little riff based on only two chords (Long As You Know You're Living Yours), but listen to the similarity in the rhythm: Now listen to Steely Dan's Gaucho from 1980: After Jarrett filied suit, Fagen & Becker settled by adding his name to the "composed by" credit. Jarrett’s clip is YouTube Premium only. So see this: [] The following case is much different. Bill Evans's Peace Piece consists of only two chords (CMaj7 / Gsus9): Lady Blackbird copied this for her song Fix It in 2021. The copyright law wouldn't prohibit this, presumably because the chord progression is simple and any composer might think of such a chordal movement: Continue reading
Posted Apr 24, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
HILDGARD OF BINGEN (1098-1179) A woman who was born 925 years ago has had a lot of ink spilled over the centuries for us to know so much about her life. She was a Benedictine abbess and polymath -- a writer, composer, philosopher, mystic, visionary, and a medical writer and practitioner during the High Middle Ages. She described her spiritual awareness as umbra viventis lucis, the reflection of the living Light. Late in life, she tried to describe her experience of this light: "From my early childhood, before my bones, nerves, and veins were fully strengthened, I have always seen this vision in my soul, even to the present time when I am more than seventy years old. In this vision my soul, as God would have it, rises up high into the vault of heaven and into the changing sky and spreads itself out among different peoples, although they are far away from me in distant lands and places. And because I see them this way in my soul, I observe them in accord with the shifting of clouds and other created things. I do not hear them with my outward ears, nor do I perceive them by the thoughts of my own heart or by any combination of my five senses, but in my soul alone, while my outward eyes are open. So I have never fallen prey to ecstasy in the visions, but I see them wide awake, day and night. And I am constantly fettered by sickness, and often in the grip of pain so intense that it threatens to kill me, but God has sustained me until now. The light which I see thus is not spatial, but it is far, far brighter than a cloud which carries the sun. I can measure neither height, nor length, nor breadth in it; and I call it 'the reflection of the living Light.' And as the sun, the moon, and the stars appear in water, so writings, sermons, virtues, and certain human actions take form for me and gleam." Her parents sent her to the Disibodenberg monastery when she was still a child, where she met Jutta, the daughter of Count Stephan II of Sponheim. Theology Her three great volumes of theology, journals of her visions are: Scivias ("Know the Ways" 1142-1151) Liber Vitae Meritorum ("Book of Life's Merits" 1158-1163); and Liber DIvinorum Operum ("Book of Divine Works" 1163-1172) Music Veni creator spiritus (Anonymous 4) Ordo Virtutum (Play of the Virtues). This morality play consists of 82 songs, an allegory of the Christian story of sin, confession, repentance, and forgiveness. Notably, it is the female Virtues who restore the fallen to the community of the faithful, and not the male Patriarchs or Prophets. The group Sequentia recorded much of the rest of her music here: O quam mirabilis est O pulchare facies O virga ac diadema purpurae regis Instrumental piece I O clarrisima mater Instrumental piece II Spiritui Sancto honor sit O virtus sapientiae O lucidissima Apostolorum... Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
Criterion's FELLINI box 14 films, lovingly restored Criterion put together this gorgeous box set in 2020, in honor of Fellini's 100th birthday. I hear you, you've seen 'em all. Or most of 'em ... Maybe you saw La Strada years ago in a semi-mutilated print with emulsion scratches, projector noise, and gate jitter. Here's your chance to rewatch these restored masterpieces (mostly). ** My ratings in the 80's indicate a very good film, worth watching. The 90's are must-watch films, worthy of repeat viewings ... 1. Variety Lights (1950) Co-directed with Alberto Lattuada, this tale of the variety acts -- hired by theater owners anxious to draw in customers, which preceded the advertised film to be shown -- was a short-lived phenomena in the war and postwar years of the 40's and early 50's. The director of this zany troupe of entertainers is Checco (Peppino De Filippo) and his eternal fiancée, Melina (Giulietta Masina, Fellini's wife). A curvaceous newcomer -- Liliana (Carla Del Poggio, Lattuada's wife) talks her way into the act, and of course Checco falls hard for her. The vaudeville is dated, but extremely entertaining. 89 2. The White Sheik (1952) Fellini's solo directing debut came about because Rossellini didn't want to direct Fellini's script. Anxious to get paid, FF pleaded with the producer, until the money men asked him to direct it himself. The nervous young (31) Federico didn't dare refuse. "Rome!" the straight-laced provincial Ivan (Leopoldo Trieste) exclaims as the train enters the station. His mousy wife, Wanda (Brunella Bovo) trails behind him. The plot hinges on the duality of the couple -- Ivan has big-shot relatives who plan to take the newlyweds to meet the Pope the next day. Wanda has other plans. Consumed by the fotoromanzi (which was a staple divertissement of the middle and lower classes) she hid from her husband, she leaves the hotel in search of "The White Sheik" -- Fernando (Alberto Sordi) -- and ends up being cast as a harem girl in the production. [The confounded director (Ernesto Almirante) is a stand-in for future Fellini). Masina has a cameo as the prostitute, Cabiria. It would be five more years before Fellini fleshed out the character in an early masterpiece. 89 3. I Vitelloni (1953) vitellóne, noun: Year-old calf, held to fatten in the stable,meat of the slaughtered animal; fig. idle young person of the provinces, often an eternal student IRL, Fellini's youthful gang was just a trio -- but he expanded it to a quintet for this first of his many "I remember" films. Moraldo (Franco Interlenghi -- the Fellini stand-in, as he is the first to leave the town for Rome), Alberto (Sordi), Fausto (Franco Fabrizi), Leopoldo (Trieste), and Riccardo (Fellini's brother) make up these five unforgettable goofballs. Fellini's genius is apparent in his careful delineation of each of them, with unique cinematic tricks that the viewer catches through dialogue and visuals. As the old neorealism gave way to a more fanciful style, Fellini seemed to have touched... Continue reading
Posted Apr 10, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
MESSIAEN, Olivier (1908-1992) Des canyons aux étoiles (From the Canyons to the Stars) (1974) Part 1: 1. Le Désert (The desert) 2. Les orioles (The orioles) 3. Ce qui est écrit sur les étoiles (What is written in the stars) 4. Le Cossyphe d'Hueglin (The white-browed robin-chat) 5. Cedar Breaks et le don de crainte (Cedar Breaks and the gift of awe) Part 2: 6. Appel interstellaire (Interstellar call) 7. Bryce Canyon et les rochers rouge-orange (Bryce Canyon and the red-orange rocks) Part 3: 8. Les Ressuscités et le chant de l'étoile Aldebaran (The resurrected and the song of the star Aldebaran) 9. Le Moqueur polyglotte (The mockingbird) 10. La Grive des bois (The wood thrush) 11. Omao, leiothrix, elepaio, shama 12. Zion Park et la cité céleste (Zion Park and the celestial city) ANAM Orchestra Jacob Abela, piano Kaylie Melville, xylorimba Peter Neville, glockenspiel Ben Jacks, French Horn Fabian Russell, cond. (1:37:01) The three most important aspects of Messiaen's music are: His theory of modes of limited transposition; and His synaeshtesia. His use of bird-song. (Well-explained in these Wikipedia articles.) ** Canyons was commissioned by Alice Tully for the 1976 bicentennial. The work is in three parts, written with 12 symmetrically-spaced movements (5/2/5) ... Part 1 1. The Desert. He who is to be found is vast: one must discard everything in order to take the first steps towards him." A slow chant in the solo French Horn begins and ends the movement, with the wind machine, cries from a Sahara bird, with a whistling melody that passes from bowed crotales to piccolo to violin harmoncs. 2. The Orioles. 3. What is written in the stars ... MENE TEKEL UPHARSIN (from Daniel 5 -- reading the writing on the wall) ... The message is written in the stars and the clefts of the canyons. The rock-music is followed by the sound of the earth which is represented by a percussion instrument of Messiaen's own invention -- the geophone -- then the sound of the Canyon Wren: The music is palindromic, and reverses. 4. The White-Browed Robin. Moving from Utah to the universe, an African bird is introduced. Repeated phrases become bird-song, and again, the movement is roughly palindromic. 5. Cedar Breaks and the Gift of Awe. "a vast amphitheatre, dropping to a deep gorge, whose rocks -- orange, yellow, brown, red -- rise in curtain walls, columns, towers, turrets and keeps." Weird sounds -- the trumpet blows into the mouthpiece alone, plays with a wa-wa mute doubled by the glockenspiel and bells. Awe is the American Robin: Part 2 6. Interstellar Call. Written earlier (1971) as a memorial to his young pupil Jean-Pierre Guézec. 7. Bryce Canyon and the Red-Orange Rocks. "a gigantic circle of rocks -- red, orange, violet -- in fantastic shapes, castles, square towers, round towers, natural windows, bridges, statues, columns, whole cities, with here and there a deep black hole." Blue-and-black Steller's Jay: (brass and percussion near the start) The landscape suggests the Celestial City... Continue reading
Posted Apr 4, 2023 at The Best American Poetry
REICH, Steve (1936- ) The Cave (1993) The Steve Reich Ensemble Paul Hillier, cond. (1:43:29) The Cave is a multimedia opera in three acts with a libretto by Reich's wife, Beryl Korot. The Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron This is a sacred place where Muslims, Jews and Christians pray. The music and libretto is derived from, and includes spoken responses from Israeli, Palestinian and American interviewees who were asked questions about the story of Abraham. The sound track also includes readings from the religious texts that detail the story of Abraham, and a recording of the ambient sound that is found in the ancient building that surrounds the sacred site. Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2023 at The Best American Poetry