Tag Archives: music

Waiting

This must be one of the most tragic memorials I have witnessed.Studies have shown that the majority of Pompeii’s citizens would have been killed almost instantly from the sudden surges of intense heat that erupted into the Bay of Naples without warning. The flows of volcanic ash and gas moved at speeds of up to 700 kilometres an hour. The ash covered those people, and left us a stark impression of an ancient civilization.  Was this person waiting for inevitable death?

The Daily Post photo challenge

 

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The only philosophy

Poecard

 

From pure sensation to the intuition of beauty, from pleasure and pain to love and the mystical ecstasy and death — all the things that are fundamental, all the things that, to the human spirit, are most profoundly significant, can only be experienced, not expressed. The rest is always and everywhere silence.
After silence that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’…..
………….But the most complete experience of all, the only one superior to music, is silence:
When the inexpressible had to be expressed, Shakespeare laid down his pen and called for music. And if the music should also fail? Well, there was always silence to fall back on. For always, always and everywhere, the rest is silence.”

From Aldous Huxley ‘Music at Night’

When I was seventeen I had my first adult trip to London. That is, I and two friends travelled unescorted from the Midlands to London in order to go to the theatre. The play was Amadeus, about the composer Mozart , and it changed my life. I remember walking out into the landscape of London at dusk with the music still playing within my head, and my heart felt as though it had expanded. I loved my life, I loved the paving stones, I loved my two companions dearer than I had loved them before, I loved the light, the sounds, the very air I was breathing.

I had experienced the transformative powers of listening with an audience to the exquisite sounds first heard by Mozart, then passed on by him to the world for all time.

I was seventeen quite a long time ago. I have lived several lives, some of them have been my own – to paraphrase Stanley Kunitz. I know more and less than then. I know more facts, more detail, more pain, more sorrow, more joy, more excitement – and yet I feel I know less. I am less prepared for life at 55 than I felt at seventeen, when nothing felt improbable, and I felt hungry for experience.

Yet last Sunday I returned to that state of euphoric shared experience when I hear Karl Jenkins conduct his Requiem for Peace ‘The Armed Man’ as well as other scores at TheRoyal Albert Hall to commemorate the Battle of the Somme. Was it Nietszche who said ‘Music is the only philosophy?’ On sharing that concert with how ever many in the auditorium , I felt again the transendence that

music can bring to me. Nature too sometimes moves me to the same level of consciousness, but music can take me there so quickly, so efficently, a motorway route to a temporary bliss. Bliss – what a good word – encompassing sorrow inside it as well as joy, that bittersweet sensation of tasting death and yet steering away.

I wanted to thank Karl Jenkins. This is it. A thank you from the depths of my being for showing me what humanity looks like in its greatest form, a generous, powerful force of love that knows no boundaries. There are no boundaries.

 

Benedictus -The Armed Man -A Mass for Peace

 

 

Reflections on a rolling stone with Dylan, Elvis and T.S Eliot

 

 

Stones Anne CorrI don’t often talk about music, it just is a part of my life I kind of take for granted.  Which isn’t to say I don’t appreciate it because I do, I know how much less rich life would be for my without it.  How at certain times in my life it has created pockets of succour that I view as life saving.  There are times too painful to feel your own pain, when music is able to express for you that which you can’t – likewise with joy.  But like family, it exists, it just is.

Robert Plant writes about his icon Elvis Presley so personally that he showed me both Elvis’s and his own humanity.

There is a difference between people who sing and those who take that voice to another, otherworldly place, who create a euphoria within themselves. It’s transfiguration. I know about that. And having met Elvis, I know he was a transformer.

Musicians on musicians – fascinating and wonderful.  http://www.rollingstone.com/

But what I really want to share with you today is something Bob Dylan produced last year, and I have only just discovered courtesy of  http://jjennajane.com/

This is one of his most iconic songs, one that moved a generation, how great an influence on thinking Dylan has had is unquantifiable.  One man. One young man. One creative dare-devil. Twenty-four years of age when he wrote it, it took a while to get the video right, but he did get it right. It is a brilliant commentary on the constantly blinking perspectives of the world now, seen via multi channels across the globe. Interactive, you can adjust what you see via the up/down keys on your keyboard. You won’t see what I see, but the flavour will stay the same.  You may have to put the link in your browser because I don’ think I can embed video. I swear you won’t be disappointed.

http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/bob-dylan-goes-interactive-in-like-a-rolling-stone-clip-20131119#disqus_thread

Robert Plant again on Elvis:

“When he died, he was 42. I’m 18 years older than that now. But he didn’t have many fresh liaisons to draw on — his old pals weren’t going to bring him the new gospel. I know he wanted to express more. But what he did was he made it possible for me, as a singer, to become otherworldly.”

Bob Dylan on Bob Dylan;

‘My songs are personal music; they’re not communal. I wouldn’t want people singing along with me. It would sound funny. I’m not playing campfire meetings. I don’t remember anyone singing along with Elvis, or Carl Perkins, or Little Richard. The thing you have to do is make people feel their own emotions. A performer, if he’s doing what he’s supposed to do, doesn’t feel any emotion at all. It’s a certain kind of alchemy that a performer has.’

That last quote reminds me of something T.S Eliot spoke of, the surrender of the ego I suppose,

‘What happens is a continual surrender of himself as he is at the moment to something which is more valuable. The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality….

…Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things.’

(excerpt from T.S. Eliot (1888–1965).  The Sacred Wood.  1921.)

 

 

Breathe.

Original map of Kneesall 1635 with illustration of butterfly by alexander marsal 1600's/

Original map of Kneesall 1635 with illustration of butterfly by alexander marsal 1600’s

Breathe, breathe in the air
Don’t be afraid to care
Leave but don’t leave me
Look around and chose your own ground
For long you live and high you fly
And smiles you’ll give and tears you’ll cry
And all you touch and all you see
Is all your life will ever be

 

From Pink Floyd ‘ Breathe’

Art for Life’s Sake

Untitled-2Do you remember?  When was the last time you felt transported by a work of art?  It could have been a piece of music, or a film,  a sculpture or a pair of boots.  That is the feeling that an artist wants to create in you, in everyone.  It is a defining part of being human, it is the impetus to connect with fellow human beings.Joseph Conrad, who wrote novels such as ‘Heart of Darkness’,and  ‘Secret Agent’ wrote the following;

“..the artist appeals to that part of our being which is not dependent on wisdom; …He speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain; to the latent feeling of fellowship with all creation — and to the subtle but invincible conviction of solidarity that knits together the loneliness of innumerable hearts, to the solidarity in dreams, in joy, in sorrow, in aspirations, in illusions, in hope, in fear, which binds men to each other, which binds together all humanity — the dead to the living and the living to the unborn.”

:–My task which I am trying to achieve is, by the power of the written word to make you hear, to make you feel — it is, before all, to make you see. That — and
no more, and it is everything. If I succeed, you shall find there according to your deserts: encouragement, consolation, fear, charm — all you demand — and,
perhaps, also that glimpse of truth for which you have forgotten to ask.

And that  is why I love it when I see or hear a piece of work which makes me remember to ask the questions.

Art is a means of union among men, joining them together in the same feelings, and indispensable for the life and progress toward well-being of individuals and of humanity.

from Thomas Merton  No man is an Island

Einstein was unequivocal about the power of being moved by art or science, by the mystery in either, and proposed that

“he who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good
as dead: his eyes are closed”

 

 

A Night at the Opera , in downtown Nottingham.

Opera North staged Don Giovanni on Saturdy night in Nottingham, and we were there.  It was a blast. The choreography, the set , the characterisation and the costume brought Mozart in all his libertine music hall ribald self to the fore.  Everything I think I know about Mozart is confirmed in this production.  The sense of throwing everything at life, devil may care, and the subsequent angst and despair about mortality.   Admittedly I am not a music buff, nor an opera goer, so I am giving you a personal account of my own experience.  Others may have dismissed it, who knows?  What I am saying is that the treatment of Mozarts opera made me laugh, think, and enjoy, so what’s not to like?

Some of the performance went small, and was played out using puppets inside a frame , much like Punch and Judy, and it worked.  It made me laugh.  Always good. The costumes combined all sorts of influences from victorian mourning ( Donna Anna) to teddy boy , to Edwardian dandy.  A combination that could confuse but didn’t.  It created atmosphere, pace and a sense of continuity of the human condition.

Don Giovanni is traditionally a seducer;  I got the impression he was a sociopath, a serial rapist and a killer to boot, so how this ends up making me laugh is a tribute to Mozarts understanding of the human condition.  Don Giovanni cares not a fig about anyone, or anything. He cares about the absurdity of life. He plays pranks. He is cruel in his dealings with every one he comes across  and yet,  – he is admired, even loved.  There is something in the human psyche that cannot condone his behaviour, but that admires his style.  Elvira, abominably used and abandoned simultaneously berates him and loves him.  Donna Anna somehow wants to create space between herself and her finace after having been raped and deprived of a father, as though she has experienced something she needs to get over, some sort of compulsion of attraction to her abuser.  His servant continuously tells him he is leaving, but doesn’t, and he manages to remove the bride to be from her wedding day in an attempt to test his powers of attraction.

There is an interplay between classes that Mozart clearly wants his audience to question,  the leisured aristocratic class of which Don Giovanni belongs , has all the earthly possession of good food, good drink, servants it desires.  The peasant class are lowly, and more basic in their idea of how to live.  The music reflects the two different realities.

When Don Giovanni is unrepentant about his crimes, it is not retribution on earth that he receives, but the final recognition that ones mortality is not in ones own control.  He has constantly declaimed that he will use his deathbed to repent of his atrocities, but when he is confronted by the spirit of the dead father of Donna Anna, there is no time for absolution and he is dragged down into Hell.  A timely reminder to all mortals then, that the way you live is what is important, and cannot be bargained against at deaths invitation.  Mozart had his own demons, and he demonstrates the state of all men and women who live, the necessity to understand their connection in the world, that their actions have human consequences, and that we all have to reconcile what we want, with how to live well.  Don Giovanni clearly had no compunction about the damage he caused , because he did not feel it. One of the important aspects of being human is the ability to understand that gratifying our selves may have consequences on others, and therefore may have to be deferred or impulses controlled. It might not make good opera, but then I don’t want to live with Don Giovanni. Mozart has thrilled audiences for generations with this musical narrative,  bringing comedy and tragedy together to entertain and to reflect our own selves.

Honouring

 

Taking some time today to remember all victims of all war ; all families of all victims of all wars.  All sorrow for lives unfinished, but removed;  for all those young souls who never had the chance to fall in love, father a child, further a passion.  For all the parents of those young souls, and the brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents.

For all of us, to remember the sacrifice of others.