It felt like a bird when I held it: almost weightless…

When I first learned the age of the instrument (1721) I was filled with wonder that a delicate piece of craftsmanship could endure for centuries, that something so small and light could do so much, that an instrument made in the 18th century could have so much to say in the 21st. It felt like a messenger from the past and an emblem of the possible, a relic and a promise…

One evening not long ago, I went to see the San Francisco Symphony’s annual concert with the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir. The symphony musicians sat in a semicircle that began with violins and violas and ended with cellos and bass viols, and, thanks to the time I’d spent contemplating David Harrington’s violin, I saw it as a forest of wooden instruments. The gospel singers stood above them, and at one moment when I could see dozens of bows moving in unison in the dimness, see 50 mouths open in song, it felt like some kind of truce between our species and the trees had been struck.

Maybe that’s the promise David’s violin seemed to hold when I discovered how long it had been playing. At my request, he brought it over to my apartment and took it out of its case. I was a bit overawed and ready to spread a clean cloth to lay it on but he put it on my table without any fuss, and let me pick it up. It felt like a bird when I held it: almost weightless, incredibly powerful and extremely delicate. And then I saw Kronos perform one more time, and there it was, in David’s hands, making music as it had for three centuries, seeming strong enough to go on indefinitely.

— Rebecca Solnit, from “‘A truce with the trees’: Rebecca Solnit on the wonders of a 300-year old violin” (July 7, 2022, The Guardian)

I felt haunted by a monumental sense of failure, of aborted struggle and lost time.

I set out to write an exploration of music and its relation to the science of time. Music itself embodies time, shaping our sense of its passage through patterns of rhythm and harmony, melody and form. We feel that embodiment whenever we witness an orchestra’s collective sway and sigh to the movement of a baton, or measure a long car ride by the playlist of songs we’ve run through; every time we feel moved by music to dance; when we find, as we begin dancing, that we know intuitively how to take the rhythm into our bodies, that we are somehow sure of when and how the next beat will fall. Surely, I thought, there must be a scientific reason behind that innately human sense of embodied time, a way of grounding our musical intuition in physics and biology, if not completely quantifying it. But I also wanted to write about music because it has shaped the time of my own life more than almost anything else. I have played the violin for nearly twenty years, practicing five or six hours a day for most of them, because all I wanted was to become a soloist. When I realized in my early twenties that this never would be—and never had been—a possibility for me, I began to question why I had wasted so much time on music at all. I stopped playing for a while, and though I eventually picked it up again I no longer felt the same fire or ambition. Instead I felt haunted by a monumental sense of failure, of aborted struggle and lost time. Not only had the effort and sacrifice of the past all been for naught, but the future I had planned from that past seemed obliterated, too.

Natalie Hodges, from Prelude in “Uncommon Measure. A Journey Through Music, Performance, and the Science of Time” (Bellevue Literary Press, March 22, 2022)


This, is failure?


NY Times Book Review: The Violinist Natalie Hodges Writes About Her Devotion to Music & 12 Books We Recommend This Week (April 7, 2022)

Think of somebody who you adore, who’s no longer here.

I’m listening (half listening) to this NPR podcast titled How Art Changes Us and half surfing.

I pause when I hear a familiar voice.  It’s Benjamin Zander, the conductor of the Boston Philharmonic.

For the next 10 minutes, he has my full attention.

So here’s the instructions:

  1. Listen to 10 minutes (from 40:22 to 50:40) of this podcast How Art Changes Us and then,
  2. For the next 4 minutes (from 12:35 to 16:45), watch this Ted Talk: “The Transformative Power of Classic Music“.

Or if you don’t have 14 minutes, jump Step 1 and move to Step 2.


And here’s a few excerpts that lead into the punch line:

Q: When can you remember a time when you played music for somebody and it had a profound change on what was going on around them?

Benjamin Zander: It’s hard for me to remember a time when I played music when it didn’t have that effect on people because that’s the given. I consider music to be a transformational experience. Mendelssohn said that music is a much more precise language than words. And when you think how easily we misunderstand words, and God knows there is enough evidence of that at this time. Music speaks directly to the heart. It speaks through the molecules. It is irresistible…

All the emotions that human beings are capable of feeling can be represented in music. It’s the music that generates the emotion that releases the human experience. It doesn’t go through the brain. It goes through the molecules…

It’s one thing to hear it in your earphones alone. It is quite another to hear it in a concert hall with 2000 other people who are all experiencing it together, and whose reaction and spontaneous enthusiasm at the end is part of the experience…

And on a tour, when you go from one town to another, you have the sense that people come out of the concerts with a different feeling about life, with a different perspective and with a different sense of being. And that’s why we do it and keep doing it and keep doing it. And as I approach my 80th birthday I have no intention to stop doing it at any point. It’s my life blood. That’s where I get my joy from. It’s the sense that people’s lives are really transformed.

Q: You play this piece by Chopin, but first you ask everyone to do something.

Zander: Yes. “Would you think of somebody who you adore, who’s no longer there. A beloved grandmother. A lover. Somebody in your life who you love with all your heart. But that person is no longer with you. Bring that person into your mind and at the same time follow that long line from B to E and you’ll hear everything that Chopin had to say.

(Now for the next 4 minutes from 12:35 to 16:45, watch this Ted Talk: “The Transformative Power of Classic Music“)


Photo of Benjamin Zander

Lightly Child, Lightly.

Music— organized by melody, harmony, but sometimes we’re most struck by the mass of sound, the absurd (intellectually speaking) accumulation of noises, the magnificent, physically compelling actualization of the instruments’ power— as sometimes in Bruckner we feel the bows vibrating, the cellos’ heavy hair swimming alongside the bass cry of the trumpets and trombones, sometimes in Wagner, or more recently, in the first movement of Henryk Gorecki’s Third Symphony, when slow as the dawn, the orchestra’s cocoon unfolds— or, a different metaphor, we can imagine the hull of a massive ship emerging, slowly, from the mist. This incredibly sensual, palpable wall of sound stirs our entire body, but remains unseen. And perhaps it’s precisely this contrast— between overwhelming presence and invisibility— that moves us, leads us, momentarily, to another world, another way of being that we can only visit.

~ Adam Zagajewski, Slight Exaggeration: An Essay (April 4, 2017)


Notes:

  • Photo: janae (@janaeture)  (via Your Eyes Blaze Out)
  • Prior “Lightly child, lightly” Posts? Connect here.
  • Post Title & Inspiration: Aldous Huxley: “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.”
  • Related Posts: Adam Zagajewski

 

A Sparrow Alighted Upon Our Shoulder

Jóhann Jóhannsson, 47, was born in Reykjavík, Iceland. He has been composing music for a wide array of media including theatre, dance, TV and films. His stately, slow-building and hauntingly melodic music, frequently combines electronics with classical orchestrations, has been quietly bewitching listeners since he released his first genre defining solo record Englabörn in 2002. (Find him on Facebook and iTunes)

the great bull with its fierce eye, its head raised, its four hooves planted on the summit, at the edge of the abyss

beethoven-1987-andy-warhol

In painting his portrait, I paint that of his stock — our century, our dream, ourselves and our companion with the bleeding feet: Joy. Not the gross joy of the soul that gorges itself in its stable, but the joy of ordeal, of pain, of battle, of suffering overcome, of victory over one’s self, the joy of destiny subdued, espoused, fecundated… And the great bull with its fierce eye, its head raised, its four hooves planted on the summit, at the edge of the abyss, whose roar is heard above the time. […]

If he cannot do this in the world of facts, he wills it in the world of art; everything becomes for him a field on which to deploy the battalions of his thoughts, his desires, his regrets, his furies, his melancholies. […]

The hammer is not all: the anvil also is necessary. Had destiny descended only upon some weakling, or on an imitation great man, and bent his back under this burden, there would have been no tragedy in it, only an everyday affair. But here destiny meets one of its own stature, who “seizes it by the throat,” who is at savage grips with it all the night till the dawn — the last dawn of all — and who, dead at last, lies with his two shoulders touching the earth, but in his death is carried victorious on his shield; one who out of his wretchedness has created a richness, out of his infirmity the magic wand that opens the rock.

~ Romain Rolland, on Beethoven’s struggle with his loss of hearing at 28 in Beethoven the Creator

 


Notes:

Hail Mary


Music video by Yo-Yo Ma and Kathryn Stott performing Ave Maria (J.S. Bach/ Gounod)

Don’t like Classical? Lower form than Animal.


A zoo in Belgium has released amazing footage which seems to show their elephants swaying in time to live classical music.

Árstíðir


Árstíðir (English: Seasons) is an Icelandic indie-folk band with classical, progressive rock and minimalist elements. The band formed in 2008 in Reykjavík.

Árstíðir became known to a wider internet audience in 2013 when a viral YouTube video showed them performing impromptu, Heyr himna smiður (“Hear, Smith of heavens”, a 13th-century Icelandic hymn) at a train station in Wuppertal, Germany. Don’t miss this Youtube video (with ~ 4,000,000 views) here: Heyr himna smiður

Find the band’s website here: arstidir.com

This tune will be found on the band’s new album to be released in March, 2015: Hvel


Background Source: Wiki

Sunday Morning: People are religious or not, but


Lisa Batiashvili, the 35-year-old Georgian violinist who is this season’s artist in residence with the New York Philharmonic and will perform Barber’s Violin Concerto with that orchestra this week, is an eloquent musician. In concert and on award-winning recordings, she has captivated critics and audiences with her natural elegance, silky sound and the meticulous grace of her articulation. There is a laserlike directness to her playing that enables her to transmit concentrated emotions without a trace of affectation or theatrics: the musical equivalent to laparoscopic surgery.

In conversation, Ms. Batiashvili exhibits many of the same qualities. Soft-spoken but determined, she speaks as openly about the political responsibilities of an artist as she does about her personal relationship to Bach’s music — the subject of her latest recording and of coming performances with the Philharmonic — and the unhealthy obsession of the violin world with the instruments of Antonio Stradivari…

Ms. Batiashvili said it took time and experimentation for her to feel ready to record Bach. When she did, she said, “something spiritual happened to me — people are religious or not, but Bach makes you believe in something for sure.

~ Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim on Lisa Batiashvili on Violins, Ukraine and Valery Gergiev


Lisa Batiashvili, 35, is a Georgian violinist, the daughter of a violinist father and a pianist mother. Her father was her first teacher from age 4. In 1995, she was a prize winner in the International Jean Sibelius Violin Competition. Batiashvili and her oboist husband François Leleux, reside in France with their two children. She plays the 1709 Engleman Stradivarius on loan from the Nippon Music Foundation.

Riding Metro North. With Massenet.

42nd-new-york-city

I’m on the first train. I’m with my commuters deep into the morning papers. The silence is broken for three short intervals – the conductor collecting tickets and two stops on the Express. Otherwise, a library. 55 minutes of heaven.

Yet, the silence is thundering.

EBOLA. Mid-term elections. School shootings. Shooting rampage in the Canadian Parliament. Ukraine. Work-budget-goals. Man attacks NYC cops with a hatchet. Markets tumbling. Afghanistan. Iraq. Syria. Hong Kong protesters. Millions of air bag recalls. Stepfather Charged After 3-Year-Old Girl Beaten to Death at Brooklyn Shelter. OMG. Turn the page. Turn the page. Turn the page. Unable to find something Good, I put away the news, close my eyes, lean my head against the window and drift into Grand Central.

I twist in my ear buds, first right and then left. I exit the train to 42nd street with hundreds of early morning commuters.

Zibby introduces Jesse to classical music in Liberal Arts; DK had no such Muse. Yet, the impact is no less Divine. The biting winds of darkness and doubt whistling through the skull are placed on Pause. My 12-minute cross-town walk is filled with ethereal beauty, a peace, a calmness, a lightness. The delivery trucks. The yellow cabs, honey bees buzzing in and out. The shop owner opening the gate. A construction worker taking a long pull on his cigarette. A student sipping coffee in an empty Diner. The leaves on a lonely tree rustling from the gust of a passing bus. All of it, a symphony. [Read more…]

Saturday Morning Coffee


Topology is quintet from Australia formed in 1997. They perform throughout Australia and abroad and have to date released four albums. Find their album on iTunes here: Difference Engine


Árstíðir

Árstíðir (English: Seasons) is an Icelandic indie-folk band with classical, progressive rock and minimalist elements. This tune is titled “Ljóð í sand” (Poetry In The Sand). Árstíðir became known to a wider internet audience in 2013 when a Youtube video went viral (3,000,000+ hits) showed them performing impromptu, Heyr himna smiður (“Hear, Smith of heavens”, a 13th century Icelandic hymn) at a train station in Germany. The video was shot by their PR manager after they had played a concert the venue inside the train station. The a capella was noted for improvising with the vaulted acoustics of the train station to effect the echo chambers of a monastic chapel.

Find the Icelandic Hymn that went viral on Youtube here.

Find their album on iTunes here: Svefns Og Voku Skil (Sleep & Waking Returns)


Rodrigo y Gabriela


Rodrigo y Gabriela are a Mexican guitar duo (Rodrigo Sanchez and Gabriela Quintero) whose music spans a number of genres including nuevo flamenco, rock, and heavy metal. The duo’s discography consists largely of unaccompanied duets on the classical guitar. The musicians gained a reputation by playing on the streets of Dublin, Ireland and gained a cult following. They regularly dismiss being classified in a particular genre of music, preferring to say they play a fusion of many influences.

Loved this? Check out Orion and The Soundmaker.

Find their new 2014 album on iTunes: 9 Dead Alive.  Find their official website here: rodgab.com

Sunday Morning: Pärt and Soul


Stuart Isacoff in wsj.com titled Pärt and Soul:

“You may not know the name, but you’ve heard his music. Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s alluring, hypnotic “tintinnabuli” (“bell-like”) style has resonated with listeners world-wide—the database Bachtrack reports that Mr. Pärt is now the most performed living classical composer. The haunting music in the trailer for the film “Gravity”—a perfect complement to the image of astronauts adrift, its piano pattern suggesting a cosmic clock as floating violin tones and spacious pauses convey a sense of human frailty—is his 1978 work, “Spiegel Im Spiegel” (Mirror in the Mirror).

…”The thing that struck me when I first heard this music at age 18,” remembers Mr. Reeves, “is that I should not be sitting—I should be standing. I cried. It’s not like a Beethoven sonata, where you are on a journey, watching how a theme develops. With Pärt, it is the opposite—you are emptying everything out, accessing a space that may be cluttered because people are always talking over it.” [Read more…]

Vedrai Carino


Tara Rose Davison, performs Mozart’s “Vedrai, Carino” (“You shall see my dear“) which is from Act II, Scene I of the Italian opera Don Giovanni which premiered in 1787, 226 years ago.  (Mozart was 31 years old at the time.  Man was Genius.)

Davison is a soprano and classical guitarist. She began her career as an opera singer. By the age of 21, she was the youngest finalist in the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions.  During graduate school, Tara’s passion for the classical guitar sparked a shift in her musical career. She realized that her true passion lay in the under-recognized genre of art songs with classical guitar accompaniment.  Tara has since made it her mission to un-earth, perform and record the hundreds of “lost songs” in the repertoire.  She dedicated her master’s thesis to compiling a complete bibliography of works for voice and classical guitar and ended up accompanying herself for both of her graduate voice recitals. Tara currently performs music for classical guitar and voice around Southern California; teaches voice, classical guitar and piano; and studies classical guitar. Most recently, Tara was selected to perform at the 2014 Guitar Foundation of America National Convention. (See full bio here.)

Find her album on ITunes: Love Songs & Lullabies.


Video Source: Thank you Mme Scherzo


Sun Will Set


See Bio and related post for Zoë Keating here.


Sunday Morning: Amstel Quartet


The Amstel Quartet is a classical saxophone quartet from Amsterdam, the Netherlands.  They play old music, new music, popular music, world music.  This has earned the foursome a host of admirers all over the world. The Amstel Quartet wins awards regularly and has international recognition. The four men continue to express their love for the saxophone and the unique versatility of the saxophone quartet as a perfect unity, with original CDs, a scintillating series in the Amsterdam Felix Meritis, performances in beautiful halls such as the Concertgebouw Amsterdam, the Philharmonie in Luxemburg, Carnegie Hall in New York and extensive tours through Europe, Russia, the Middle East, China, Japan and the United States. (Source: Amstelquartet)

Find their album on iTunes here.


Near Light


Ólafur Arnalds, 26, is a multi-instrumentalist and producer from Mosfellsbær, Iceland. Ólafur Arnalds mixes strings and piano with loops and edgy beats crossing-over from ambient/electronic to pop.

  • His official web site can be found here.
  • This song can be found on iTunes on his 2011 Album titled “Living Room Songs.
  • His 2013 album “For Now I Am Winter” can be found on iTunes here.

Leron Zamir Forte


“Leron Zamir Forte is a rising cellist who hails from Dallas, TX. He was the recipient of the Holy Cross BachFest Scholarship, Nashville Symphony Orchestra League Thor Johnson Scholarship Finalist, and was invited to the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. He has performed masterclasses with teachers such as Natalia Koma, YeonJin Kim, Julia Tanner, Eric Kutz, Peter Sheppard, and Yo-Yo Ma. He is currently pursuing a Master of Music degree under Gregory Sauer at the Florida State University.”

Find more about Leron and his music @ his Website, on Facebook, on Twitter.


Related Cello Post: Zoë Keating


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