Friday, March 14, 2014

Akhmadulina's poem, "Along this street of mine," for a friend

Some day, I must attempt to write about a friend.

Behind a cloud of smoke, and a camouflage of abrasive anecdotes, stood a genuine man.

A man from Blagoveschensk, with a soul deeper than the diamond mine at Mirny in Yakutia.

A broken man, who understood me perhaps better than almost anyone else ever has, or ever will.

A man whose personal life consisted of a maze of betrayal, guilt and redemptive work, who taught me by example: this is how you get through, how you balance your accounts. Line by line.

A well-read, well-rounded man with the quirkiest sense of humor, who introduced me to both Vasily Grossman and South Park.

A brilliant, humble, brutally honest man, behind whose facade I glimpsed a boy shivering in the cold.

A gifted interpreter, who bridged worlds with a shrug.

A man who called himself mockingly, "uglier than nuclear war," but whose eyes glowed deepest aquamarine clear across a room.

A friend on whom I turned my back.

In this world, it is too late for me to apologize, so I am posting a version of Bella Akhmadulina's poem (sung by Alla Pugacheva), in hopes that the message might reach further.

For Goroshek. And for Anya, who was faithful to him till the end.

The elevator was never ersatz, Goroshek.







Here is a link to an excellent article on Akhmadulina's poem, by Alexander Anichkin.



Mikhail Khodanov interpreting Vysotsky

It has been proven to me, once again, that truth is stranger and more wondrous than fiction.

Mikhail Khodanov is an interpreter of Vladimir Vysotsky's work, who has just written a book on the spiritual origins and/or influence of Vladimir Vysotsky's creativity. Vysotsky, a  poet-bard, played a large role in the cultural life of Khodanov's generation. As Khodanov puts it: "It is the essence of his songs that matter." And Khodanov believes he has found some of the keys to the essence of Vysotsky's art.

I am holding a copy of Khodanov's book in my hand, because he--a bright personality himself--gave it to me tonight as a gift. A wonderment. If I ever digest it properly, I'll have to blog on Vysotsky.

It has been years since I've spent an evening like this:



By the end of the evening, my friends were singing a Bella Akhmadulina poem-romance in Khodanov's honor, and tears were flowing.

Sublime sigh.

Life, thank you. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sergei Rachmaninov Preludes


If I were forced to choose a Rachmaninov prelude (nearly as difficult as choosing between one's children), it might, in certain lights, be this one. Played by Andrey Ponochevny.



Does anyone else have a "favorite" Rachmaninov prelude? Preludes in C Sharp and G Minor are the super-stars, but this one lurks quietly in the wings, waiting to be discovered.

Now, a few minutes later, this is my favorite prelude: Op.32 No.10, Sviatoslav Richter.

This second one is a bit more subtle. At first. No; this one is truly my most beloved of his preludes. Today.

Tsvetaeva - I'd like to ask the mirrored glass

Remembering what one loves, and immersing one's self in it, can grant a sense of pleasure and healing. I have been engaged in this pastime recently, and recommend it heartily.



Above is one of my favorite Marina Tsvetaeva poems, set to music, from the film, S Legkim Parom (The Irony of Fate.) You might have to click through to YouTube to watch the video.

I've also been thinking about translations of poetry lately, which, to me, it is a daunting task. To translate a medical diagnosis or a legal document is one thing, but to successfully lift intangible images and music from one language to another is a subtle feat, and the results are not always an unqualified success.

Here is a translation of Tsvetaeva's poem by Andrey Kneller, which is one of the better ones I've seen:

I'd like to ask the mirrored glass -
All hazy, mystical and foggy -                  (there should be the sense of a dream)
To show exactly where you'll pass
And where you'll stop for lodging.

I look and see: an old ship's mast.
There, on the deck, you're standing
You, by the clouded train....The vast,     (alternately: "You, in a wisp of smoke from a train...")
Green fields, at night, lamenting,

The evening countryside in dew,
There, ravens soar in flight....
--My dear one, I am blessing you
to go where you decide!
_______________________

There is something missing from the translation of the last line: "to go where you decide" -- the words in Russian are literally, "I am blessing you in all four directions." (Although this is a sense of the idiom.) When I read the words, четыре стороны (four directions), I almost visualize the movement of a mandala. In ancient cultures, one bows in all four directions, ceremoniously, to the earth, on momentous occasions. Here, Tsvetaeva is sending a blessing in four directions.

The original, and an image of Tsvetaeva in Yelabuga, Tatarstan, a year before she passed from this earth:


Хочу у зеркала, где муть
И сон туманящий,
Я выпытать — куда Вам путь
И где пристанище.

Я вижу: мачта корабля,
И Вы — на палубе...
Вы — в дыме поезда... Поля
В вечерней жалобе —

Вечерние поля в росе,
Над ними — вороны...
— Благословляю Вас на все
Четыре стороны!

-- Марина Цветаева

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stravinsky - Two Firebirds

An electric wind is stirring in the trees today. It puts me in mind of Stravinsky's Firebird.




Andris Liepa and Nina Ananiashvili, now the artistic director of the Georgian State Ballet, 1997.

Here is a second variation. The YouTube link is being very naughty, so I will provide it this way:

Second Firebird.

Ekaterina Kondaurova and Ilya Kuznetsov (Mariinsky Theatre), more recent; not sure of the date.

You decide which one is your favorite Firebird. Mine--will remain my secret.

Palekh, 1980

I will now return to regularly-scheduled programming.

From Valaam to Alaska


Faithful in various churches around the world are now immersed in the season of Lent, designated as a time of contemplation, prayer, fasting and alms-giving.

Above is a video of monks from Valaam Monastery ("the Northern Athos"), on the very edge of Russia, near Finland, chanting the hymn, "Rejoice, O Unwedded Bride." Valaam Monastery is the home of a substantial spiritual lineage.

Abbot Nazarius of Valaam Monastery was responsible for sending the first group of monks to Alaska in 1794. An aside: there is a depiction of St. Seraphim of Sarov in the above video: St. Seraphim was also a friend of Abbot Nazarius. The monks of Valaam, including one now known as St. Herman of Alaska, were appalled at the treatment of the local Native population by the Russian-American Company, and became their protectors and defenders.

St. Herman, never officially ordained, was called "Apa" (father) by the local Aleuts. He settled, eventually, on a small island off Kodiak: Spruce Island, now home to a Native village, and a place of pilgrimage.

An icon of St. Herman of Alaska, written (icons are considered to be "written", instead of painted, images) by a dear friend.



Spruce Island: "Little Valaam."


The prayer of St. Ephraim the Syrian is considered the symbol of Lent by many:

O Lord and Master of my life, take from me the spirit of sloth, despair, lust of power, and idle talk.

But give rather the spirit of chastity, humility, patience, and love to Thy servant.

Yea, O Lord and King, grant me to see my own transgressions, and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages. Amen.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Baba Marta Day; Bulgarian Children's Choir Sings Debussy


I found an unusual rendering of Claire de Lune, sung by a children's choir, during a Debussy binge.

March 1 was Baba Marta Day, or Martenitsa. The tradition--correct me on this, anyone? is that bracelets made with red and white threads are swapped, until everyone sees the first stork, whereupon the trees are festooned with Baba Marta bracelets. I am a bit late in wishing everyone Happy Baba Marta, but Spring is far, far away, up here in the North. We may have to wait till the beginning of May for our Martenitsa.






Sunday, March 09, 2014

Blue Grotto

Now a being of air,
she grasps a stone to dive
into blue-burning fire,
alone in a vast vault.

Awake within a dream,
Ariel, silver foam,
sings in the Room of Names
with the language of sky.

An answer, descending
as a column of light--
her marble prince--displaced
by one of white jasmine.


Windy Corner - Mirabai








An eagle flew directly overhead as we reached the top of a small ridge.




The plums tasted
sweet to the unlettered desert-tribe girl-
but what manners! To chew into each!

She was ungainly, low-caste, ill mannered and dirty,
but the god took the fruit she’d been sucking.

Why? She knew how to love.
She might not distinguish
splendor from filth
but she’d tasted the nectar of passion.

Might not know any Veda,
but a chariot swept her away-
now she frolics in heaven, ecstatically bound
to her god.

The Lord of Fallen Fools, says Mira,
will save anyone who can practice rapture like that-
I myself in a previous birth
was a cowherding girl
at Gokul.

-  Mirabai

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