Richibi’s Weblog

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Month: April, 2015

on odes

                          "The Daphnephoria" - Frederic Leighton

The Daphnephoria (c. 1875)

Frederic Leighton


odes, with their suggestion of music
– despite a history of merely words
spoken in the intervening interim,
counting on meaning and rhythm
without music’s attendant tonality –
go back to the Greeks, the Seventh
Century, BCE, Sappho, for instance,
one of history’s most honoured
women poets, surely quite an
achievement for her in an age of
predominant, indeed
disenfranchising, masculinity

the ode was meant to accompany
tributes to people, events, things,
thereby acquiring an element of
acclamation and praise within its
dimensions, Pindar, ca 552 – 442
BCE, wrote odes for heroes of the
original Greek Olympics, for

by the time of Horace, 65 – 8 BCE,
odes had become stylized,
independent of music, here’s one,
not inappropriately in this season’s
vernal context, to spring

odes remained spoken throughout
their resurrection in the wake of the
rediscovery of the Ancient World
during the Renaissance, onwards
through some famous Romantic
ones, Shelley, for instance, Keats,
up to even this one, by Stanislaw
, which I found in the
New Yorker
, April 20th, a gem, I
think, and in the very spirit of our
Age of Irony


O plywood, second best to the real stuff,
believe me, one day I will say “Enough”

to my stooping shoulders, my slouched spine;
my sloped shape and your stiff boards will align,

and you’ll see how my backbone will unbend
and I’ll be standing straight until the end

of my makeshift but rectilinear
prayer, one stiff-backed as a chest of drawers

when we shove heavy furniture around;
I will rise from the dead, though on what ground

and which I, I don’t know; I’ll stand erect,
though my vertebrae’s hierarchic sect

won’t outlive plywood, no, it just can’t win
against that vertical eternity, so thin

and yet so sturdy in its ersatz pride;
as if the moon had shown me its dark side,

I lean, my ear glued to a cupboard’s back,
and I can hear its hollow and exact

hymn to its own cheap immortality;
no, wait, I still can straighten, still can be

square with this upright world (you knew I could),
just as plumb as four planks of real wood.

Stanisław Barańczak

(Translated, from the Polish,
by Clare Cavanagh and the author.)


though you mightn’t’ve caught an “Ode”
in the title, the clue to its essence is in
the initial “O”, an acclamation

and yes, “O, Canada” is therefore also
an ode, as would be most anthems

incidentally Beethoven put the music
back into the form with his incendiary
use of Schiller’s poem for his vocal
triumph in his ninth Symphony, An
die Freude
the Ode to Joy,
incomparable in this rendering for
an improbable 10,000
, yes 10,000, just


Beethoven’s tribute to spring

Sandro Botticelli - "Primavera"

Primavera (1478)

Sandro Botticelli


if there’s a musical work to perform for
spring what Botticelli‘s Primavera
does with painting, celebrate it, that is,
for the ages, it must be Beethoven’s
“Pastorale”, German for “Pastoral”,
Symphony, usually referred to thus,
with the accent on the last “a”

the composition is expressly narrative,
Beethoven even sets the scene for every
movement, five of them

1 Awakening of cheerful feelings upon arrival in the countryside
2 Scene by the brook
3 Merry gathering of country folk
4 Thunderstorm
5 Shepherd’s song; cheerful and thankful feelings after the storm

he is manifestly using music as language,
descriptive language, you can nearly hear
the flowers grow, you can most definitely
imagine them, you bristle at the crack of

the subject isn’t specifically spring, but
the spirit is undeniably so, the spring of,
indeed also, the spirit, the buoyancy of

it’s 1808, Beethoven is at the height of
his euphoria, his admiration, and
celebration, of physical nature, he’s
sowing his wild oats

later he’ll address the metaphysical,
but for now he’s still bursting with
unmitigated life, his spring


psst: see also his “Spring” Sonata, opus 24,
for still more, though less familiar,
vernal, purportedly, magic, Beethoven
didn’t name the sonata, his publisher
did, which is why the “Pastorale”
sounds more springlike
than this other more direct, apparently,

which had never been there, essentially,
Beethoven’s primary, anyway, intention,
however lovely the eponymous, the
titular, work
might have in comparison
proven to be

you be the judge, listen


an April poem‏

 "Red April" - Sam Gilliam

Red April (1970)

Sam Gilliam


as March was a month of music for me,
specifically mostly Beethoven, with pop
but poignant love songs thrown in,
pathos and corresponding agony,
surefire anti-depressants, April is
purportedly the month of poems

here’s one, to itself, the month of
showers, flowers, but also of
ephemerality, evanescence,
regeneration and change, according
to this poem

don’t throw your Aprils away, it
says, tend to them, they’re what,
for better or worse, we have



Song of a Second April

April this year, not otherwise
Than April of a year ago,
Is full of whispers, full of sighs,
Of dazzling mud and dingy snow;
Hepaticas that pleased you so
Are here again, and butterflies.

There rings a hammering all day,
And shingles lie about the doors;
In orchards near and far away
The grey wood-pecker taps and bores;
The men are merry at their chores,
And children earnest at their play.

The larger streams run still and deep,
Noisy and swift the small brooks run
Among the mullein stalks the sheep
Go up the hillside in the sun,
Pensively,—only you are gone,
You that alone I cared to keep.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

septet / schleptet – Beethoven / Schikele‏

"The Swing" ("Les hasards heureux de l'escarpolette") -  Jean Honoré Fragonard

The Swing (“Les hasards heureux de l’escarpolette“) 1767

Jean Honoré Fragonard


though I’ve spent the last forty years
exploring Beethoven, I still haven’t
heard, much less seen performed
all of his music, unexpected gems
pop up still to prick up even my
weathered ears

but a septet this time, who’d ‘a’
thunk it

the opus 20, not unexpectedly, sounds
like Mozart, formal, musically inventive,
but not prompted by Beethoven’s later
transcendental passions, it was 1800,
he was still showing off his Classical
shoes, spinning andante cantabiles
out of minuets, for no less than Maria
Theresa in this instance, the Empress,
its august dedicatee, not yet having
profoundly outgrown them, the tiara,
the shoes, though you’ll find
expressions of his surpassing majesty
already throughout this masterpiece

six movements, for instance, uppity,
impudent, bold, an impertinence
towards imperial time and its
exigencies, unless it’s worth it, of
course, even in the case of my own
more relaxed schedule

but a precursor to his seven-part
C# minor String Quartet, opus 131,
for its breadth, for its ambition, for
the prefiguring of a monument, a
cultural institution, for its
proclamation of the advent of a
veritable sonic Parthenon

you’ll note a peculiarity, he uses
in the Septet‘s third movement
the same air that served him well
in his 20th piano sonata, opus 49,
no 2
, second movement – why not,
it’s his – an earlier composition
despite the later opus number

don’t ask

opus 49, no 2 has only two
movements, incidentally, like his
earlier opus 5, no 1, or his later
incandescent no 111, to shed light
on the chronology of his musical
evolution, his eventual historical

find the movement with variations
in the Septet, your body will tell
you, much like it does slow tempi
from fast ones, you merely listen
with your senses, not just your
ears, your unconsciousness, while,
distractedly, you’re, say, washing
dishes, you’ll say, hey, I’ve just
heard this before, but different,
only this minute

hence the term variation

compare this Schleptet in Eb major,
from Peter Schikele for fun, from
the year 2000, a spoof on Beethoven’s
in the identical key the
better to roast him, but in five
movements this one, in the Classical
style, but where the mood is neither
Classical, nor even Romantic, it’s
ironic, satirical, wry, even cynical,
note the slapstick tempo markings

I. Molto Larghissimo – Allegro Boffo
II. Menuetto con brio ma senza Trio
III. Adagio Saccharino
IV. Yehudi Menuetto
V. Presto Hey Nonny Nonnio

the voice, for better or worse, of our


seizing the iridescent moment

"Hibiscus and Sparrow" - Katsushika Hokusai

Hibiscus and Sparrow

Katsushika Hokusai


standing behind a Japanese man
at the check-out counter the other
day at Safeway’s, thinking their
express line was about as fast
as a slow lane in Manhattan, I
listened to the cashier explaining,
over other transactional
considerations, that their point
cards were no longer in use

with the deference that seems to
me their trademark as a culture,
who else wears white gloves
when they’re driving a taxi, who
else returns your lost trinket to
your hotel room on no less than
a silver platter the following week
when you return – I’d been a flight
attendant, I know, I lived it – o
the Asian man replied

wherein I discovered completely
my patience, Manhattan, for the
moment at least, be damned, I
needed to stop to partake of this
serendipitous nugget, to carpe
this inadvertent and delightful
diem, midst the dross I’d’ve
otherwise, by default, probably

for that matter, what’s dross, I
wondered, isn’t dross itself in
the eye of the beholder

leally and tluly, I surmised, life
is in its details


psst: the attendant at Safeway
was, as usual there, utterly,
and enchantingly, gracious,
despite such as my own,
however in this instance
arrested, individualized
customer stress

winning performances‏

 "The Singer" - Wassily Kandinsky

The Singer (1903)

Wassily Kandinsky


though a new winner was crowned
this year again at Québec’s La voix“,
last year’s winner, who made a guest
appearance at the ceremony, wins
again hands down, I think, Yoan
Garneau incontrovertibly delivers

listen to him sing both “J’entends
siffler le train”
and “Good-Hearted
, wherein I am of course
the good-hearted woman

listen to Peter, Paul and Mary do
“…siffler…” in the original English,
you’ll cry

meanwhile at The Voice UK“, Stevie
McCrorie sings I’ll Stand By You“,
powerfully, and wins despite the
formidable opposition from Lucy
O’Byrne doing No Surprises“,
wherein I am the very air that
bristles around her music


a birthday wish

  "Happy Birthday"- Fernando Botero

Happy Birthday (1971)

Fernando Botero


a friend of mine was eighty today,
she’s gone off to London to celebrate,
she didn’t want anyone to make a fuss

a fuss, I said, it’s your eightieth birthday,
one should make a fuss, she’s gone to
London anyway

from this side of the ocean, and indeed
from this side of the continent, it seemed
nevertheless remiss of me not say

but as in Hallmark cards, sometimes
the message is better in someone
else’s words, in this case Bob Dylan’s
but sung by Joan Baez, just click

May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the light surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
May your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young

Bob Dylan

happy birthday, dear friend, may you
live forever


Beethoven Cello Sonata no 1, opus 5, no 1‏

"La loge de l'opéra"-  Constantin Guys

La loge de l’opéra

Constantin Guys


through the good graces of a friend
of mine, a musicologist, who writes
the programmes for the chamber
music presentations put on by our
city’s recital society, pithy, pungent
pieces to prepare the patrons for
their palpitating performances, I had
the not only unfettered privilege but
also the undiluted glee, yes, glee, of
seeing, hearing, two internationally
acclaimed artists deliver works for
piano and cello of Beethoven, one
of them one of my very favourite
compositions, the opus 5, no 1

unable to find anything by these two
of anything of Beethoven’s, I struck
upon, instead, these two others,
titans in their field, the very two who
defined for me this exuberant sonata
in the eighties, wherein Beethoven
was finding, to my mind, his chops,
nothing before this, of his nevertheless
extraordinary output, had inspired me,
the early piano sonatas still sound to
my ear didactic, like someone putting
together academic theory, where here
Beethoven lets his spirit fly, let’s the
music running through him deliver,
carry unimpeded the fire, the charge
is electric

eccentricities abound, there are only
two movements, the first sports two
tempi, an introductory, hesitant,
segment giving way to the second
unfettered one, the contrast a move
in the direction of drama, I think,
highlighting context, narrative, an
aesthetic inspired, I’m sure, by
opera, and its combative

Beethoven wrote one opera, not at all
the equal of his other productions,
words were to get in the way of his
instrumental, it appears, music, his
more direct, ultimately,

though you’ll not want to miss, from
Fidelio“, his Mir ist so wunderbar,
a vocal quartet of the very highest

mir ist, you’ll say, so wunderbar,


psst: click everything, there are wonders
beneath the above links

“Blue Jasmine” – Woody Allen‏

"Lady in Blue" - Lin Fengmian

Lady in Blue

Lin Fengmian


watch also Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine“,
Cate Blanchett got an Oscar, A Streetcar
Named Desire
for the 21st Century, with
an Oscar performance to match

a moment of silence for Vivien Leigh,
extraordinary in her role, may she ever
rest in peace


“Whatever Works” – Woody Allen

"Clown with Flowers"- Marc Chagall

Clown with Flowers (1963)

Marc Chagall


after Existentialism, Camus, Sartre,
after “God Is Dead”, there was
Woody Allen, to let us know that,
you know, Whatever Works“, you
can either jump out ‘ a window or
make the best of it

I am, of course, Boris Yellnikov,
though my girl from Mississippi
hasn’t shown up yet

nor for that matter has my

maybe I should jump out ‘ a

what do you think