I discovered some nice music in a lovely way. I loaned some cds from the library. One evening, I wanted to listen to a short piece of music before going to sleep and put on a cd with some Number Pieces by John Cage. Cage’s Number Pieces date from the last phase of his life, using Cage’s time bracket technique: the score consists of short fragments (frequently just one note, with or without dynamics) and indications, in minutes and seconds, of when the fragment should start and when it should end. The pieces are named after the number of performers involved, and the last number on the disc was One4 for solo percussion. I read in the booklet that the piece is to be performed on “cymbals and/or drums chosen by the drummer.” A piece I had never heard before but that suited my wishes: not too long, a short nightcap from approximately 7 minutes; not too complex I supposed, since it was for one musician; and I was in for some percussion as well.
As the music played for some minutes, I started wondering if this was really solo percussion, but I liked the piece and continued listening. I thought that the musician might have chosen resonating drums… The piece continued to fascinate and I negated the doubts to what exactly I might be listening to. But after the 7 minutes time index, the piece still continued. I started wondering if the booklet had a typo mistake, or if it was a hidden track – even though I never encountered that on classical discs. But then I noticed on the index of my cd-player that there were four more tracks to follow. But I enjoyed the music so much that I did not want to take it out of the player, and continued to listen until the end. Carried away by delicate percussion music with unknown sounds and vibrations.
It was only once the playback ended, that I took out the cd and tried to read the label, that was nearly totally covered with a security tag from the library. My computer was already sleeping, and so should I – and I went to bed, peacefully.
The day after, I put the cd in my computer and discovered that it was a disc by The Antenna Repairmen, called Ghatam. It is a percussion trio that mostly plays on clay instruments, inspired on the ghatam, a traditional South Indian instrument.
The label describes the album as “a performance work for an exotic array of handmade, ceramic percussion instruments designed specifically for the piece by sculptor Stephen Freedman. Besides Ghatam, which in performance can last over an hour, there are 2 free-improvisations as well, performed on bottles, buckets, chairs, cymbals, a ratchet wrench and other junk found in the hall where the recording was produced.”
There is not much information about the group on the net (but a lot of DIY to repair a broken car antenna), but you can find some youtube clips:
Thank you to whoever lended some John Cage and this disc from my local library and mixed the cd’s before bringing them back, you made my day! (but now I am still waiting to hear John Cage’s One4 )
I am giving two lessons about Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes (Werner Herzog, 1972) at the University of Leuven.
Even though I know this film by heart, it remains a wonderful cinematic experience.
Herzog himself told repeatedly that he invented nearly the whole story, but there are more historic sources in this film than he claims. He based the movie upon a short description in a children’s book of two expeditions in search of El Dorado. One is an expedition led by Gonzalo Pizarro in 1541, the other by Pedro de Ursúa in 1560.
Herzog uses a lot of elements out of the diary of the monk Gaspar de Carjaval, who accompanied the expedition of 1541.
The historic figure of Lope de Aguirre was part of the 1960 expedition and elements of his rebellion in the film are based upon the children’s book and some historic letters and declarations by Aguirre.
Next to these elements, Herzog enriches the film with lots of imagination and other references. As such, he creates his own patchwork that still gives a nice impression of expeditions of conquistadores in search of El Dorado.
One of these other references, is the influence of speeches by John Okello on Aguirre’s words in the film. John Okello was an East African revolutionary and the leader of the Zanzibar Revolution in 1964. During his short rebellion, he made furious radio broadcasts with texts like:
We, the army, have the strength of 99 million, 99 thousand … Should anyone be stubborn and disobey orders, then I will take very strong measures, 88 times stronger than at present.
I was a very high ranking person in Kenya in the Mau Mau army which knows how to make weapons. I can easily make not less than 500 guns per day. Undoubtedly, I can make a bomb that can destroy an area of 3 square miles. I can make about 100 grenades in an hour.
(…)I am above the government and cannot die.
The influence on this speech by Aguirre (Klaus Kinski) at the near end of the movie is striking:
I am the great traitor. There must be no other. Anyone who even thinks about deserting this mission will be cut up into 198 pieces. Those pieces will be stamped on until what is left can be used only to paint walls. Whoever takes one grain of corn or one drop of water… more than his ration, will be locked up for 155 years. If I, Aguirre, want the birds to drop dead from the trees… then the birds will drop dead from the trees. I am the wrath of god. The earth I pass will see me and tremble. But whoever follows me and the river, will win untold riches. But whoever deserts…
I visited my most beloved second hand bookstore in Brussels, Het Ivoren Aapje (the ivory monkey, named after a book by Herman Teirlinck). The bookstore not only is situated on a very intimate and somewhat hidden beautiful place in the centre of the city, the bookstore houses a very rich collection of second hand books, and the owner is very kind, attentive and a silent smiler. The shop, the books, the owner make you feel at home. Years ago, I went there more regularly, but lost the good habit because of the arrival of the very fine bookshop Passa Porta (new books), concentrating on personal projects and buying books online…
Once again, as almost everytime I went in before, I left the shop with some new literature. Second hand books that have already been taken care of, that have already provided their previous owner pleasure, smiles, thoughts.
And once again, I left with a surprise – a book I already had searched but seemed out of press: the collected poems of Paul van Ostaijen (1896-1928). I did not want to buy a ‘best of’ that is easily available, because I like to make selections myself, and my waiting has been rewarded!
Some info on the Belgian poet, copied from http://www.poetryinternationalweb.net/pi/site/poet/item/6636/28/Paul-van-Ostaijen
Yesterday, I was browsing through some poetry and read the beautiful poem ‘Digging’ by Seamus Heaney.
Today he died.
‘Digging’ is a beautiful poem to say farewell to its author. May his poems echo a long time…
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests; snug as a gun.
Under my window, a clean rasping sound
When the spade sinks into gravelly ground:
My father, digging. I look down
Till his straining rump among the flowerbeds
Bends low, comes up twenty years away
Stooping in rhythm through potato drills
Where he was digging.
The coarse boot nestled on the lug, the shaft
Against the inside knee was levered firmly.
He rooted out tall tops, buried the bright edge deep
To scatter new potatoes that we picked,
Loving their cool hardness in our hands.
By God, the old man could handle a spade.
Just like his old man.
My grandfather cut more turf in a day
Than any other man on Toner’s bog.
Once I carried him milk in a bottle
Corked sloppily with paper. He straightened up
To drink it, then fell to right away
Nicking and slicing neatly, heaving sods
Over his shoulder, going down and down
For the good turf. Digging.
The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.
Between my finger and my thumb
The squat pen rests.
I’ll dig with it.
More poems by Heaney can be found here
In 1930, the architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe designed a club house for the Krefeld Golf Club. Due to the Great Depression however, the house was never built. This summer, the model was built on the designed place close to Krefeld, as a walkable architecture model at a scale of 1:1.
It creates a fascinating and poetic experience, sharing space, inside and outside, outer and inner room.
More info on the project can be found at Project Mik : http://www.projektmik.com/
It is open until the October 27, afterwards the agricultural area will be restored as if nothing ever happened…
Some pictures. The last ones with my Nikon D7000 before some *%£ stole it. He’d better put it to good use. But that won’t keep me from taking pictures
Listening to Mozart’s Concerto for 2 pianos No. 10 in E-flat major (K365), it hit me again how the oboe is a wonderful instrument, almost always swinging back and forth between melancholy and hope, between sorrow and happiness. A perfect illustration of the expression “every cloud has a silver lining”.
In the second movement of the concerto, the andante, the oboe repeatedly beautifully dances in between the pianos.
It made me look back to some other remarkable oboe fragments.
The famous oboe concerto by the Italian baroque composer Alessandro Marcello, for example. It must have been the first piece where the oboe hit me so dramatically.
This recording by Il Gardellino & Marcel Ponseele sounds very nice. On my ‘wish list’!
Bach transcribed it into a keyboard concerto (BWV 974):
A performance focussed on contrast by Alexandre Tharaud. I was looking for a version on harpsichord, but did not find any satisfying on the web yet. Trevor Pinnock would have rocked on this one, but he never recorded it.
And let’s skip the evident Vivaldi or Mozart oboe concertos and jump to the 20th century. Not the famous intro to Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake, I prefer Stravinsky‘s Firebird
See also this midi-version, a beautiful demonstration of the fascinating ‘Musical Animation Machine’ – more info on http://www.musanim.com/index.html
Yusef Lateef, the jazz giant, was one of the first and rare to use the oboe as a solo instrument in jazz
After this bluesy stuff, we’re ready for an ‘encore’: early Tindersticks
enjoy and embrace the oboe!