Saturday, August 09, 2014

Lec Saulite (LTV), Riga, June 2014

A folk festival in Latvia that brings a smile to my face.

Lec Saulite (Rise, Fair Sun)!


While we peer
through limpid fingers,

the sun-star
bombards us
at the speed of light.

The night may remind
our throbbing cells
of their past lives
as phosphorescent

We throw words
at the spinning,
we name our breath.

We are always
empty cups
being filled
at the intersection
of nothing and something.


The Promise II, Madeline Von Foerster, 2012

From Dreams and Divinities.

W.H. Auden, Metalogue to the Magic Flute

Edson Lopes - Variations on the Magic Flute Op.9 (of W.A. Mozart, 1756-1791) by F. Sor (1778-1839)

Metalogue to The Magic Flute (W.H. Auden)

(Lines composed in commemoration of the Mozart Bicentenary, 1956. To be spoken by the singer playing the role of Sarastro.)

Relax, Maestro, put your baton down;
Only the fogiest of the old will frown
If you the trials of the Prince prorogue
To let Sarastro speak this Metalogue,
A form acceptable to us, although
Unclassed by Aristotle or Boileau.
No modern audience finds it incorrect,
For interruption is what we expect
Since that new god, the Paid Announcer, rose,
Who with his quasi-Ossianic prose
Cuts in upon the lovers, halts the band,
To name a sponsor or to praise a brand.
Not that I have a product to describe
That you could wear or cook with or imbibe;
You cannot hoard or waste a work of art;
I come to praise but not to sell Mozart,
Who came into this world of war and woe
At Salzburg just two centuries ago,
When kings were many and machines were few
And open atheism something new.
(It makes a servantless New Yorker sore
To think sheer Genius had to stand before
A mere Archbishop with uncovered head;
But Mozart never had to make his bed.)
The history of Music as of Man
Will not go cancrizans, and no ear can
Recall what, when the Archduke Francis reigned,
Was heard by ear whose treasure-hoard contained
A Flute already but as yet no Ring;
Each age has its own mode of listening.
We know the Mozart of our fathers’ time
Was gay, rococo, sweet, but not sublime
A Viennese Italian; that is changed
Since music critics learned to feel “estranged”;
Now it’s the Germans he is classed amongst,
A Geist whose music was composed from Angst,
At International Festivals enjoys
An equal status with the Twelve-Tone Boys;
He awes the lovely and the very rich,
And even those Divertimenti which
He wrote to play while bottles were uncorked,
Milord chewed noisily, Milady talked,
Are heard in solemn silence, score on knees,
Like quartets of the deafest of the B‘s.
What next? One can no more imagine how,
In concert halls two hundred years from now,
When the mozartian sound-waves move the air,
The cognoscenti will be moved, then dare
Predict how high orchestral pitch will go,
How many tones will constitute a row,
The tempo at which regimented feet
Will march about the Moon, the form of Suite
For Piano in a Post-Atomic Age,
Prepared by some contemporary Cage.
An opera composer may be vexed
By later umbrage taken at his text:
Even Macaulay‘s schoolboy knows today
What Robert Graves or Margaret Mead would say
About the status of the sexes in this play,
Writ in that era of barbaric dark
‘Twixt Modern Mom and Bronze-Age Matriarch.
Where now the Roman Fathers and their creed?
“Ah where,” sighs Mr. Mitty, “where indeed?”
And glances sideways at his vital spouse
Whose rigid jaw-line and contracted brows
Express her scorn and utter detestation
For Roman views of Female Education.
In Nineteen-Fifty-Six we find the Queen
A highly-paid and most efficient Dean
(Who, as we all know, really runs the College),
Sarastro, tolerated for his knowledge,
Teaching the History of Ancient Myth
At Bryn Mawr, Vassar, Bennington, or Smith;
Pamina may a Time researcher be
To let Pamino take his Ph.D.,
Acquiring manly wisdom as he wishes
While changing diapers and doing dishes;
Sweet Papagena, when she’s time to spare,
Listens to Mozart operas on the air,
Though Papageno, we are sad to feel,
Prefers the juke-box to the glockenspiel,
And how is – what was easy in the past -
A democratic villain to be cast?
Monostatos must make his bad impression
Without a race, religion, or profession.
A work that lasts two hundred years is tough,
And operas, God knows, must stand enough:
What greatness made, small vanities abuse.
What must they not endure? The Diva whose
Fioriture and climactic note
The silly old composer never wrote,
Conductor X, that over-rated bore
Who alters tempi and who cuts the score,
Director Y who with ingenious wit
Places his wretched singers in the pit
While dancers mime their roles, Z the Designer
Who sets the whole thing on an ocean liner,
The girls in shorts, the men in yachting caps;
Yet Genius triumphs over all mishaps,
Survives a greater obstacle than these,
Translation into foreign Operese
(English sopranos are condemned to languish
Because our tenors have to hide their anguish);
It soothes the Frank, it stimulates the Greek:
Genius surpasses all things, even Chic.
We who know nothing – which is just as well -
About the future, can, at least, foretell,
Whether they live in air-borne nylon cubes,
Practise group-marriage or are fed through tubes,
That crowds two centuries from now will press
(Absurd their hair, ridiculous their dress)
And pay in currencies, however weird,
To hear Sarastro booming through his beard,
Sharp connoisseurs approve if it is clean
The F in alt of the Nocturnal Queen,
Some uncouth creature from the Bronx amaze
Park Avenue by knowing all the K‘s.
How seemly, then, to celebrate the birth
Of one who did no harm to our poor earth,
Created masterpieces by the dozen,
Indulged in toilet-humor with his cousin,
And had a pauper’s funeral in the rain,
The like of which we shall not see again:
How comely, also, to forgive; we should,
As Mozart, were he living, surely would,
Remember kindly Salieri's shade,
Accused of murder and his works unplayed,
Nor, while we praise the dead, should we forget,
We have Stravinsky – bless him! – with us yet.
Basta! Maestro, make your minions play!
In all hearts, as in our finale, may
Love be crowned, assume their rightful sway.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Queen of the Night (Diana Damrau)

(From The Magic Flute, W.A. Mozart)

Truth is a Stranger (Alisa in Wonder-Land)

We waltz in on a sweltering afternoon,
and linger in the nine cave-like sanctuaries
that rise as flames at the edge of Red Square,
in the cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed.

I buy my aquamarine-eyed daughter a ring,
soft silver inscribed with an ancient text:
spasi i sokhrani,* the very same hung
on the chests of soldier-boys in August, 1914.

We meet a girl on a playground swing.
Alisa, to and fro, in a perfect blue pinafore;
before we knew it, she's slipped off the ring,
and it's on her finger. I tell her, Give it back.

Alisa owns an Ayn Rand gaze, fixed on the
silver bullet of a first-class ticket on a jet plane
into slavery to a capitalist capo. This is the
culmination of Socialist Realism.

Four wars later, we'll meet behind
the door of a women's shelter,
holding flasks filled with our own tears,
each marked with an urgent message:


*save and protect

Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Mariam Elieshvili (a Georgian song)

If one stumbles upon a spare moment in one's day, why not use it to celebrate an exceptional musician and artist?

Mariam Elieshvili's smile and voice inspire me to hum tunes, and tap my feet.

Within Georgia can be found an unparalleled, absolutely unique tradition of vocal harmonies. Here is an interesting blog post I found on the subject of Georgian music/culture.

A spilled tear

Polina Agureeva's voice. 

Lyrics by Joseph Brodsky

From the future, I'll bring you
A spilled tear
And set it into a ring.
When you are walking alone,
Take it, and wear it, on
Your ring finger, of course.

Oh, the others have husbands,
Rings of red gold,
Earrings of pearl.
And I have a tear
Of liquid turquoise,
And it dries up by morning.

Wear this ring, while it still
Can be seen from afar.
Later, another will appear.
If you get tired of wearing it,
You will have something to drop
To the bottom of the well at night.

Oh, the others have husbands,
Rings of red gold,
Earrings of pearl.
And I have a tear
Of liquid turquoise,
And it dries up by morning.

From the future, I'll bring you
A spilled tear
And set it into a ring.
When you are walking alone,
Take it, and wear it, on
Your ring finger, of course.

(My translation, adapted partly from a translation by Elena Garrett)

"Пролитую слезу
из будущего привезу,
вставлю ее в колечко.
Будешь глядеть одна,
надевай его на
безымянный, конечно".

"Ах, у других мужья,
перстеньки из рыжья,
серьги из перламутра.
А у меня - слеза,
жидкая бирюза,
просыхает под утро".

"Носи перстенек, пока
виден издалека;
потом другой подберется.
А надоест хранить,
будет что уронить
ночью на дно колодца".

Monday, August 04, 2014

tree time

I flew above the mountains where these trees live earlier today, and passed through nearby cities via train. A few young redwood trees hovered above my dinner. If we were truly able to listen to the voice of the trees, what would we hear?

One thing we might notice: tree time is different than our time.

Sunday, August 03, 2014

a renegade angel

If only there were a renegade angel
whose task it were to gather lists
of love letters un-sent, kisses un-spent,
wisps of longing tightly spooled,

who'd transcribe onto his sleeve
in fluorescent calligraphy
a calculation of human heart-ache,
until, utterly forlorn, be compelled

to reconcile these heavy accounts,

to swoop unseen over a people provoked,
and sprinkle snowflakes of quiet comfort,
to transform armaments into bread,
and turn rows of ready-made coffins into beds,

undoing the deeds of one with another's intent,
I'd hold vigil at my window until he passed by,
and beg him to relieve me of my burdens,
letting his celestial caprice be my sole delight.

In absence of angel, I turn to this page.

the song of a shell sapphire melting inside jade a color unnamed Ofra Haza's version of this song defies categoriz...

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