Richibi’s Weblog

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Month: November, 2014

“Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jésus” – Olivier Messiaen‏

Giotto - "Nativity" (1311-1320)

Nativity (c. 1311)



just in time for C***mas, a sublime
piece on the Nativity of Christ as
profound, dare I say, as any High,
or even Midnight, Mass

Olivier Messiaen, one of, to my mind,
the greatest composers of the XXth
Century, was also a devout Catholic,
the organist at the Église de la Sainte
in Paris, his music is imbued
with Catholic sentiment, the idea of

he seems to me a reincarnation, nearly,
of the great organist at the Augustinian
monastery of Sankt Florian
in Upper
Austria, Anton Bruckner, no other
composers, after Bach, have been so
inspired specifically by their religious

Bruckner builds cathedrals with his
music, notably out of his eleven

Messiaen, a century later, performs,
instead, sacraments, attends to the
intricacies of their consecrations

Vingt regards sur l’Enfant Jésus is
a succession of twenty perspectives
upon the child Jesus, linked by their
intention rather than by a common
musical theme, as would be the case
in a set of variations, the only other
form that would contain so many

it is atonal, arhythmic, and does not
present the evident repetitions that
Classically would have given the
music a sense of structure, it seems
to me to be trying rather to describe
the iridescence of starlight, the
majesty of the enveloping night,
the gathering, and worshipful
confederation, of the host angels



the 20 movements –

1. Regard du Père (“Contemplation of the Father”)
2. Regard de l’étoile (“Contemplation of the star”)
3. L’échange (“The exchange”)
4. Regard de la Vierge (“Contemplation of the Virgin”)
5. Regard du Fils sur le Fils (“Contemplation of the Son upon the Son”)
6. Par Lui tout a été fait (“Through Him everything was made”)
7. Regard de la Croix (“Contemplation of the Cross”)
8. Regard des hauteurs (“Contemplation of the heights”)
9. Regard du temps (“Contemplation of time”)
10. Regard de l’Esprit de joie (“Contemplation of the joyful Spirit”)
11. Première communion de la Vierge (“The Virgin’s first communion”)
12. La parole toute-puissante (“The all-powerful word”)
13. Noël (“Christmas”)
14. Regard des Anges (“Contemplation of the Angels”)
15. Le baiser de l’Enfant-Jésus (“The kiss of the Infant Jesus”)
16. Regard des prophètes, des bergers et des Mages (“Contemplation of the prophets, the shepherds and the Magi”)
17. Regard du silence (“Contemplation of silence”)
18. Regard de l’Onction terrible (“Contemplation of the awesome Anointing”)
19. Je dors, mais mon cœur veille (“I sleep, but my heart keeps watch”)
20. Regard de l’Église d’amour (“Contemplation of the Church of love”)

“Le Jazz Hot” – Henry Mancini‏

  John Cage - "Mozart Mix" (1991)

Mozart Mix (1991)

John Cage


in a movie,“Victor Victoria”, that should’ve
gotten more Oscars than it finally did,
Le Jazz Hot sizzles, Henry Mancini
received one for the music, Lesley Anne
Warren should’ve too for her incandescent

lock the door, she says to Julie Andrews,
in an otherwise compromising moment,
a line one should never forget

in Julie Andrews’ category, who could’ve
taken it away from Meryl Streep for
“Sophie’s Choice”

but jazz here is a misnomer, jazz merely
dolls up in this number an otherwise
entirely Classical structure, the melody
is right out of Mozart, rigid rhythm,
unflinching tonality, and repetition after
repetition, you can sing along just as you
can for Mozart, try doing that with anyone
after him, try to hum along with real jazz

but I’ll entirely agree that this
whatever-it-is is hot, steaming

catch the astounding vocal glissando
at the very end, just before the final
whispered recitative, riveting


“Le merle noir” – Olivier Messiaen‏

common blackbird (turdus merula)

common blackbird (turdus merula)


while we’re on the subject of birdsong,
it would be incorrect not to mention
Olivier Messiaen, the composer I think
to be the most representative of the
late XXth-Century, with the addition,
however, of George Crumb only lately,
whom I blush to say I’d never heard
of till then, a lacuna culturala, as
we say in Italian, of the very
greatest proportions

Le merle noir is Messiaen‘s earliest
work specifically devoted to birds,
his later Catalogue d’oiseaux lists
thirteen birds, and lasts nearly
three hours

listen to Le merle noir first, you’ll
even want to watch it for taking place
in the Église du Bon Secours in Paris,
June 7, 2012, flanked by dour,
though highly decorative, clergy

Yvonne Loriod, Messiaen’s wife, plays
the entire Catalogue…“, but behind a
detail from Bosch’s Garden of Earthly
which remains throughout
glumly static

if we think of this as music, which
indeed I do do, where are tempi,
where are tonalities, where even are
identifiable repetitions, how do we
define, then, music

this is not an easy proposition

think about it

good luck


re: songs of some birds

a friend writes

Date: Sun, 16 Nov 2014 21:30:02 -0800
Subject: Re: songs of some birds
From: lynne……
To: richibi……….

The other day on CBC Quirks and Quarks program they played the song of a type of thrush who’s name escapes me at the moment. It sounded like a nice bird song and then they slowed it way down and it sounded a lot like whale sounds but a far more musical with quite discernible notes.

.if I were to break up the sentences
in the foregoing paragraph
in some artistic fashion
would it then be poetry?
(I know, I’m such a cretin)



I think that good grammar is already
a move towards poetry, if not, indeed,
the quintessential ingredient, good
grammar has already in its stipulations
a cadence and an expressive flexibility,
in its declensions and conjugations

we are sloppy grammarians generally

your statement, “The other day on CBC Quirks and Quarks program they played the song of a type of thrush who’s name escapes me at the moment. It sounded like a nice bird song and then they slowed it way down and it sounded a lot like whale sounds but a far more musical with quite discernible notes.“,
corrected for grammatical aberrations,
The other day on [the] CBC Quirks and Quarks program they played the song of a type of thrush who’s name escapes me at the moment. It sounded like a nice bird song and then they slowed it way down and it sounded a lot like whale sounds but […] far more musical with quite discernible notes.“,
sounds already musical when you
speak it out loud, cadential and
probably properly emotionally
inflected, if you put your intention
into it

a few artful turns could make it
luminous, even a poem

hmmm..” yourself


songs of some birds‏

untitled-1939-1.jpg!BlogPablo Picasso - "Untitled" (1939)

Untitled (1939)

Pablo Picasso


having wondered only recently about
bird song, whale song
, can these be
considered singing when they are
essentially language, we think, and
not codified, technically constricted,
I see pertinently appear a study
suggesting birds follow a pentatonic
scale, our own musical basis,
harmonics between birds and
humans are apparently identical

this suggests that harmonics in
nature are as fundamental as
mathematics, we have somehow,
humans, diverged from what we
think of as singing, left rhythm
and tonality from our conversation
to produce uninflected prose and
monotony, language at the level
of atonal, arhythmic expression,
for better or for worse, corruption,
or refinement, evolution

I wonder, again, if prose is not
bad poetry, or has poetry evolved
into prose

should we feel shame or ingenuity,
do birds have their own divergent
degrees of poetry, do some, most
maybe, veer also towards the less
exacting prose

do some birds not sing, in other
words, or only sometimes maybe,
when mating, for instance,
something like how we croon
when we’re dating, put on our
very best airs


Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale) – George Crumb‏




we say that birds sing, despite the
fact that it is their ordinary language,
whales, upon our hearing them, seem
also to be singing

when we sing we alter our voices to
fit pitches and volume and rhythms
intentionally, otherwise we’re talking

what, then, is music, is bird song
music, whale song, is Vox Balaenae“,
a composition by George Crumb, from

if so, what do we mean by music, which
used to be, a long time ago it appears
now, melodic, recurrent and rhythmic

in Vox Balaenae“, where is the music
we used to think of as music, though
harmonious it has the elements rather
of language, communication, instead
of the ordered outlay of composition

it is, however, indeed Classically laid,
with movements and everything, even
a set of variations, though interestingly
attended on either side, these, by, as it
were, book ends, a prologue and an
epilogue, literary terms, to reinforce
the idea of narration, there are three

Prologue: Vocalise (…for the beginning of time)

Variations on Sea-Time [Sea Theme]

Epilogue: Sea-Nocturne (…for the end of time)

a blue light in the performance suggests
a marine environment, masks dehumanize,
render everything “[a]rcheozoic”, extended
technique, unusual use of the instruments,
are instructions stated in the score

for a while I’ve been saying that prose is
just bad poetry, for a while I’ve been trying
to make poetry out of prose

how are we doing


“The Belle of Amherst”‏

Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson


a couple of my Internet interests intersected
recently to bring me this theatrical gem, this
outright treasure

there’d been a few poems of Emily Dickinson
I’d read in my poetry class, none particularly
affecting, while at the Tonys on another site
Julie Harris was winning the ’77 award for
best actress for her role as that very poet, in
a superb evocation, The Belle of Amherst“,
of Dickinson’s life, available, I, to my delight,
indeed erudition, discovered, elsewhere still
on the Internet, straight from the original
Broadway stage

Julie Harris was the very stuff of Tonys, so
was the production

watch, don’t not watch

you’ll want to run back to your Emily
Dickinsons afterwards, even

here’s one

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Emily Dickinson


the Tonys, 1976, ’77‏

the Tony Award Medallion

the Tony Award Medallion


the Tonys have become for me what
the Rubinstein Competition was
spring, or was it summer, an addiction

in ’76 “A Chorus Line” essentially won
, the closest thing to it was
“Chicago”, which, if I remember, got
nothing, undeservedly, but how do
you top a titan, A Chorus Line has
never been bested, you came out

it’s ’77 though, now, and Lily Tomlin
gets a special Tony
for a show that
couldn’t be called either a play or a
musical, Appearing Nitely was a

watch Lily Tomlin receive her award,
you’ll see what I mean

just click