My newly completed novel is The Fall of the Berlin Wall, about what happened to characters from my Hungry Generations fifteen years later; it's about musicians and particularly the intense, irrepressible daughter of the legendary pianist at the center of the previous novel. My 2015 novel, The Ash Tree, was published by West of West Books in conjunction with the April 24, 2015 centenary of the Armenian genocide; it's about an Armenian-American family and the sweep of their history in the twentieth century - particularly from the points of view of two women in the family.
There are three other novels of mine, One is Pathological States, about a physician's family in L.A. in 1962, which is as yet unpublished. Another is Hungry Generations, about a young composer's friendship in L.A. with the family of a virtuoso pianist, published on demand by iUniverse. A Burnt Offering - a fable (a rewriting and expansion of my earlier Acts of Terror and Contrition - a nuclear fable) is my political novella about Israel and its reactions to the possibility of a war with Iran (with the fear that it will be a nuclear war).
[These blog posts are, of course, copyrighted.]

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Literature and Music - Classical and Early Romantic - second in a series of essays

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The movement away from the Baroque in classical music, after the deaths in the 1750s of Bach and Handel, reflected changes in society and culture emerging from the Enlightenment. In England, for example, the shared rule between the Aristocracy and the upper Bourgeoisie (the class of industrialists, owners, and some professionals) was well underway at the start of the eighteenth century, given the authority of Parliament and the increased power of industrialization. What language could help to unify and streamline communication among these contending parts of society? In the music of the new “Classical” era, the answer involved the appeal and usefulness of a more homophonic style, in which lines of music were not generally played against each other as in Baroque polyphony but, rather, placed more singly or together within simpler harmonic structures.

Two new forms were developed in this period. The sonata had existed before, but now it became the name of a new structure for instrumental music, particularly in the first movement; “sonata form” now meant that the melodic material of the initial theme occurred in the tonic, base key, and the second cluster of melody occurred in the dominant key, the nature of which drew it towards in part dramatic resolution in the tonic. In sonata form, the middle portion of the movement developed motifs from the statements of theme, sometimes exploring new combinations and harmonies but always returning to resolution in the tonic statement of the first theme in a recapitulation of the sonata’s beginning. At the core of this “classical” form is the capacity to project and then resolve dramatic tension between related keys and themes.

The second new classical form was the opera as drama. There had, obviously, been earlier operas (and the kindred masques and oratorios), but now the staging of dramatic story became foremost in classical opera, in which the individual voices of soloists fulfilled dramatic roles, clashing with each other and, often, with the community at large.

Both of these new classical developments of older forms emphasize cohesion and integration of the individual into the whole of society. In this way, music served to mirror the new modes of communication needed by the process of negotiation and debate among the contending parties in Enlightenment society. Such music was expressive, coherent, and harmoniously ordered as it both projected and connected individual voices to a communality. In the second half of the eighteenth century, classical musicians were supported – inconsistently, in Mozart’s case – by the stipends, roles, and commissions from aristocratic institutions and the upper Bourgeoisie, and yet partly as a result of its wordless nature or at its best, it was freed from the prosaic or didactic or explicit representation of the social order in the Age of Reason.

Mozart and Haydn were the most gifted composers in this period, and they excelled in different areas. Haydn was wonderfully productive and inventive in developing the new sonata style in over eighty examples of the string quartet, beginning in the mid-1770s, and over one hundred symphonies. His inventiveness involved continual experimental play with phrases, motifs, and conventions – always integrated into the classical mode of drama and resolution. Mozart’s scores of symphonies, concertos, quartets, and sonatas always present the music’s voices as engaged in sustained conversation whether in agreement or in contention, and always harmoniously resolved. While these ‘conversations’ also played with motifs and conventions, Mozart’s particular gift was to cast a light of beneficent acceptance on all he voiced, no matter how dark or disordered.

I’ll focus here  particularly on Mozart. His music contains a wondrous emotional range, from joy and kindness to defiance or lamentation, like that found in his final work, the Requiem’s “Lacrimosa.” It was Mozart’s range of affect that was seen by early Romantic listeners as forecasting the ethos and music of their own period. His early productivity in his twenties included his beautiful violin concertos, a dozen piano concertos, and dozens of symphonies and sonatas. His richest productivity occurred in the decade from just before his marriage in 1782 to his death in 1791 at the age of thirty-six. These most powerful and beneficent compositions took the form of his dozen greatest piano concertos, ten string quartets (six of them dedicated to Haydn, the pioneer in the form), nearly a dozen symphonies, and five operas (conceived and composed in this period which saw the American and French revolutions, though as viewed by the Viennese from the distance of the Hapsburg Empire). “The Marriage of Figaro,” for example, dramatizes the relations of servant to master, of the sexual mores and work conditions within an aristocrat’s household – presenting situations of harassment and exploitation there but avoiding revolutionary rancor by negotiating a comic, humane, harmonious resolution.

It is “Don Giovanni” that most powerfully dramatizes the transition and tensions between the world of the Enlightenment and that of Romanticism. The original Don Juan was the figure of the Renaissance libertine, first appearing in a Molina play from the Spanish Golden Age and then in Baroque dramas and fictions. Now in 1787, Da Ponte, Mozart’s librettist, emphasized the collision between the vulnerable “normal” world (of couples and family, extending from the aristocracy downward, with their mores about women and money) and the world of the unique individual, a figure possessing an intensity, charisma, and energy. The opera’s Don Giovanni invades the ordinary world, affecting its emotions and behavior, investing them with new energy, and leading them to participate in his fiction, in his self-created world of passionate expression. In the Enlightenment, such a figure must be controlled, either integrated into the customary world or expelled from it. From the point of view of Romanticism, he is the figure of the Romantic Genius, inspired and inspiring, living beyond good and evil.

At key moments of the opera, we can see the dynamic tension between these two conceptions played out. In the Overture, there is the slow opening, forecasting the Don’s final fate, with minor-key evocations of danger and terror amidst powerful orchestral exclamations, and this is followed by the conventionally affirmative allegro racing beyond the evocation of danger though driven by a sort of unstoppable energy, partly in reaction to what Don Giovanni has or will bring into the more ordinary world. One of his early arias, “Fin Ch’han dal vino,” projects his insatiable appetite for women, wine, and song with the expectation of adding the names of new conquests from all social classes to his “list” (rather like a diabolical Enlightenment dictionary of his sex life). Soon in Act I there is the sung recitation of Donna Anna, whose father has been murdered by Giovanni upon interrupting the attempted seduction of Anna. At a key moment in the recitative, her singing becomes passionately sensual as she describes “twisting, turning, and bending” as she attempts to resist the seduction. In this way, Don Giovanni intrudes on and stirs the emotional capacities of the human beings around him. In Donna Elvira’s Act II aria, “Ah, taci,” the new seduction shows his ability to invest stock social gestures with lyric force, wit, and compelling energy, seducing her even as he uses his side-kick Leporello as a stand-in.

Leporello is an emissary from the mundane world that the Don invades, and this man of ordinary capacities and expectations is recruited and manipulated in ways that reinforce our sense of how comically vulnerable the ordinary world is to the force of Don Giovanni’s spirit. In the opera’s final movements, the statue of the murdered father, the Commendatore, comes alive to condemn him and send him to the underworld; the dead father’s music of communal judgment and certainty confronts the lyric force of Don Giovanni’s rebellion and the refusal to repent in his repetitions of “No!” as a fiery death descends on him. Such was the end of the opera as staged in the Romantic period, but as produced in its initial years during the late eighteenth century, the sextet of the remaining living characters – including Leporello – returns to the stage to celebrate the restoration of the community.

The Romantic conception and staging of “Don Giovanni” is described in a Tale from 1820 by E.T.A. Hoffmann: “Nature endowed [him] with all the favors she heaps upon her darlings. He received every gift which, tending toward the divine, raises a man above the…workaday world and its uniformly manufactured products…His was a powerful and magnificent body, a personality radiating that spark which kindles the most sublime feelings in the soul, a profound sensibility, a swift and instinctive understanding…Fired by a longing which seethed through the blood in his veins, he was driven to the greedy, restless seizure of all the phenomena of this earthly world.” Such is the figure of the Romantic Genius, with his gifts, his impact, and his driven, costly vision.

Beethoven is sometimes seen as this representative Romantic figure, but the complexity and depth of the composer and his music cannot be so readily pigeon-holed. Born in 1770, he experienced his musical education and early career during the Enlightenment, and the compositions he produced in this period were profoundly shaped by Mozart’s and Haydn’s Classical works; when he moved to Vienna in his twenties, there were competitions in improvisation in which he triumphed through his fierce inventive play with motifs and his extraordinary emotional expressiveness, ranging from the ineffably lyrical to the overwhelmingly powerful. Throughout his career, Beethoven improvised with the essential Classical conventions, and more and more ambitiously, he focused on stripping down their motifs to the essential elements and developing these basic musical germs organically; the idea of development itself was at the core of his music.

Beginning in the second period of this work (from 1803 to about 1811), the passages of organic development can grow to overwhelming proportions. This period also saw Beethoven’s increasing deafness, about which he wrote to his brothers in the Heiligenstadt Testament of 1803; it was as if his need for their help and his isolation from the ordinary production of music coincided with his powerful, profound, and freed development of classical art. In the Appassionata sonata of 1805, for example, the development section in the middle of the first movement keeps generating arpeggios of greater and greater power as it moves abruptly from one arpeggiated chord to another, harmony to harmony, creating a destabilizing blaze of dissonance with layer after layer of dramatic, destructive-sounding force. All of this climaxes with a recapitulation of the sonata’s opening, but now accompanied by the agitation of a constantly repeated bass note.

Sonata form has here let loose the force of organic development, central in Romanticism and expanded now to overwhelming proportions, which challenge the listener with its expression of power. In the changing culture in which the sonata was composed, the increasingly empowered Bourgeois audience is shaken as it confronts an expression of individual will and freedom dwarfing the petty accommodations, violences, and self-interest built into the society. In this way, the sonata’s seemingly unbridled power confronts the unexamined faith shaping early nineteenth-century art and life. Of course, the sonata is in truth not unbridled but an extension of classical form, though extreme and unimagined in the eighteenth century. Similarly, Beethoven employed the classical variation form to project an encompassing vision of growth from the most basic elements; in his late period’s Diabelli Variations for piano, for example, a vastly varied structure emerges out of the simplest tune and develops to include allusions to much of the great music which had come before him, with homages toward the end to Bach, Handel, and Mozart. Beethoven invested Baroque-style fugues with his own sense of organic beauty and implacable force, particularly in the last decade of his life, the last period ending in 1827.


Beethoven’s late compositions include his piano sonatas opus 109-111 and his string quartets opus 127 through 135. In them, there is a serene and even abstract acceptance of all musical conventions even as they are radically disassembled and reimagined; reconciliation in his music accompanies his most radical innovations, which challenge the audience’s complacent expectations of conventions. The risk of pursuing his deepest goals is to isolate himself from the world around him. Ironically, it is this last period which gave rise to ageless works of art. Particularly the Ninth Symphony of 1824, this world-encompassing innovative music, has been embraced by human culture generally. Experimental versions of the classical forms can be found throughout the symphony – sonata, variation, fugue, and most radically a chorus and soloists, as if the symphony were an oratorio, though a pantheist and romanticist one. Schiller “Ode to Joy” is the fourth movement’s sung text, and it joyfully proclaims earthly life as the source of transcendent meaning. After one loud climax in the movement, a soft, simple carnival march sounds out; the love and joy Beethoven is voicing here embrace both the lowliest human and the celestial heights and, in this way, establish a bridge to the Romantic Period.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Literature and Music - session two - Mozart and Beethoven

Rise of the Enlightenment after the Baroque: shared rule of the Bourgeoisie and the Aristocracy. For example, in England, Parliament (including the class of industrialists, business owners, professionals) and Monarchy.

What language can help to unify and streamline communication among these contending parties? The Classical era, partly homophonic music: melodies now within simpler harmonic structures.

Invention of Sonata form: themes in tonic & dominant, midpoint development, recapitulation. Invention of the new Opera as drama opening up conflict between individuals and society.

The new Classical Forms emphasize cohesion and integration of the whole as a communality: coherent, harmoniously ordered, testing and connecting the individual’s relationship to society.

Music – though supported by both the aristocratic court and the owning class – is by its wordless nature freed from the prosaic & didactic, from explicit aristocratic or bourgeois social representation.

Mozart (1756-1791)– Don Giovanni (c 1789)


Act 1/15 ‘Fin ch'han dal vino’ (Hvorostovski)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WTT2RkrBsAs

 

 

Mozart’s gift is to cast a light of harmonious and beneficent acceptance on all he composes, no matter how dark or disordered.

 

Don Juan as a product of the Renaissance:

Tirso da Molina, El Burlador de Sevilla -the trickster of Seville and the stone statue

-a 1630 quasi-tragedy about the exploits & punishment of a Renaissance libertine.

Moliere’s play of Don Juan (1665) exposed the hypocrisy of the aristocracy.

Don Juan became the subject of a 1680 novel about a picaresque rogue.

Mozart’s librettist Da Ponte drew on many sources for his tragi-comic drama: collision between the vulnerable but finally triumphant “normal” world of couples, family, both aristocratic and middle-class mores about women and money

versus the figure of the unique individual sensibility, which can model and define the emotions and spirits of the community, investing them with new power and energy, inviting others to enter a new life, and yet which like Don Quixote can seem foolish and grotesque: this is the figure of the Romantic Genius, an intense force of energy and imagination, beyond good and evil, yet capable of inspiring.

 

Act 1, #10 Renee Fleming as Donna Anna, prelude to “Or sai chi l’onore”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wp8UTemmlq8

At 2:10 – “Silently he approached me and tried to embrace me. I tried to free myself but he seized me all the harder. I screamed, but no one came! With one hand he tried to quiet me, and with the other he seized me so hard that I already thought myself lost….Finally my despair, my horror of the deed so strengthened me that by dint of twisting, turning and bending I freed myself of him.”

 

 

Act 2/2 ‘Ah taci, ingiusto core’ – Donna Elvira (Carlos Alvarez, Anna Antonacci)

Act 2/14Finale: Commendatore (Samuel Ramey, Kurt Moll)

Ending of complete opera (Furtwanger, Salzburg, 1953) at 2:50:00

Requiem – (Peter Schreier - Staatskapelle Dresden)
           “Dies Irae” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARO7ZjsXSkE
           “Lacrimosa” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JE2muDZksP4


Beethoven  (1770-1827) –

Music focused on developing the basic elements of the classical vocabulary - and also focused on projecting the power of the individual - in large upwelling passages displaying emotional force and zeroing in on play with elemental motifs.

Appassionata sonata – Barenboim: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ak_7tTxZrk

Last sonata op. 111 – Trifonov: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcFFxvG8pWg&t=6s

Symphony No. 9, finale (1824) – [text 1785: Ode to Joy, by Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805)]
Anja Harteros, Waltraud Meier, Peter Seiffert, René Pape, National Youth Choir of Great Britain, West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, Daniel Barenboim (Royal Albert Hall, July 2012) [7:30-12:00]



 

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Literature and Music - Renaissance and Baroque - first of a series of essays

On Literature and Music – an essay about Renaissance and Baroque music
Why did the art of music experience an unprecedented flowering in the eighteenth century and the first half of the nineteenth in Europe, a musical renaissance which produced the music of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven? Erich Heller argues that artistic expressions of spirituality had previously been shaped by and based on religion, and as a result of the collapse of the Medieval and early Renaissance religious order, of its Church-sanctioned monarchical society, the spiritual power and potential of the other arts diminished. Heller writes that music is the only art which surpassed earlier achievements. Formed from pure sound rather than paint, marble, word or brick, this most ephemeral, immaterial art became the primary mode to convey and embody spiritual experience. Beginning in the eighteenth century Enlightenment – the Age of Reason, science, material progress, and reform – music became the last bastion of spirituality and the primary means to achieve a “speechless triumph of the spirit.”
Was music a marvelous imaginative response to the materiality and objectivity of the Age of Reason, or did it help actively support the “untuning” of the previous order in culture and society? Plato offers, as always, an answer. In The Republic, he opposes the introduction of new music, which is to be “shunned as imperiling the whole state.” Music “insinuates itself” into more and more fundamental parts of society and “ends by overturning everything.” The music of the 1960s in the United States seems to testify to the idea that music is potentially destabilizing, that music can be dangerous and require regulation. Yet, in Plato’s view, training in music is also capable of “imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful.” Rather than a threat, music can become a sublime imaginative creation – “the fairest of sights” – by achieving the “harmonious union” of “nobility of soul” and “beauty of form.” No wonder the Pythian Games in Classical Greece were both athletic and musical competitions.
The art form that Plato most fully censures is Classical Tragedy. The tragic vision is faulted for confronting us with untamed manifestations of feeling and irrational motive, without sufficiently containing their turbulence and violence. It admits disordered struggle and striving onto the stage, into society. Tragedy, of course, also brings music onto the stage in the role of the sung Chorus, which literally voices the community’s response to tragedy’s display of the irrational. Yet a sublimation of the irrational is achieved by tragic form in the plays of Sophocles and Euripides, and their transformation of grief and the irrational creates the profoundest form of sublimity, for they take up and give form to the wildest, most threatening parts of human existence. Despite itself, Plato’s view of tragedy helps us to identify music’s wondrous potential, its capacity not only “to tame the savage beast” but to give a noble, beautiful, and sublime form to the disordered life of feeling and the striving of the spirit.
I’ll turn now to the background of early seventeenth-century Renaissance music before addressing Baroque achievements. First, consider the setting of a Petrarch sonnet in Monteverdi’s madrigal “Zephiro torna, e ‘l bel tempo rimena” (‘The zephyr returns, and the lovely weather stirs’). The rich harmonies and the contrapuntal play of voices celebrate a pastoral vision of spring, its sight and song, in the octave of the first eight lines. This is followed by a three-line tercet of poignant lament (“i piu gravi sospiri” – ‘the saddest sighs’) for the rejection by his beloved; at this turn, the madrigal slows and the minor-key harmonies and interplay of voices deepen. In the twelfth and thirteenth of the fourteen lines, the joyous singing returns, only to be supplanted in the final line by a reprise of the music of grief. Here joy and sorrow are each expressed as separate zones of feeling. The work is in no way static, either as poetry or music, but its formulation of the life of feeling is divided into starkly juxtaposed parts in a sort of paradoxical arrangement, not a process of development. Here, the experience of love is to move between discrete, contradictory states of feeling, and not to experience the process of development revealed, for example, in Shakespeare’s contemporaneous dramas.
In the opening of Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night,” for example, the Duke evokes the power of music as a fluid, dramatically shifting and paradoxical process. His speech is reminiscent of the English sonnets of the period, which packs fluid contradictions into every line. The first line here identifies music as nurturing love, the life of feeling, but the second line embraces overfullness, asking for “excess of it,” and in a dramatic initial turn, the result of the excess – in music as in love – becomes sickness and death; dying as an Elizabethan image for sexual climax is also at work here. The drama of these emotional developments is compressed into the next few lines initially evoking “the sweet sound that breathes,” like a soul’s suspirations on a pastoral scene, and then rejecting the music. The Duke’s speech celebrates the shifting, unstable, changeable nature of emotional expression, which makes music “high fantastical.”
When music becomes one focus of a play – as it does in Shakespeare’s late comedy “Much Ado About Nothing” – music’s range of effects get marvelously manifested. There is the pastoral vision of its potential for grace, in “How still the evening is, / As hushed on purpose to grace harmony!” Then, the awareness of paradox, of the imbalance between flawed humans and the beauty the human can generate, in the musician Balthazar’s lines before he sings “Sigh no more, ladies” – “tax not so bad a voice / To slander music any more than once” and “There’s not a note of mine that’s worth the noting.” The irony of the imperfect human producing sublimity out of his mundane condition is intensified by Don Pedro’s response to that last line: “Why, these are very crotchets that he speaks! / Note notes, forsooth, and nothing!” – in which for Elizabethans ‘nothing’ rhymes and is pronounced as ‘noting.’ The more intense irony is that music is close to nothingness, is ephemeral, can soften into silence, and disappear into nothingness. Finally, in this scene, the music leads into a comedic plot to deceive Benedict about Beatrice, and so it is located in a world of hidden motives, of deceptions and ambiguities in flawed human relationships. Music’s sublimity coexists with this unfolding chaos.
The sense of encroaching chaos is intensified in the late Renaissance and early Enlightenment, with the weakening grip of monarchical rule over society, the collapsing rule of the Catholic Church in the face of Reformation, the rise of scientific thought in the Age of Reason, and the increasing power of the Bourgeoisie, the burgeoning class of business owners and professionals. In this period, the Baroque is a response to these emergencies, to the unhinging or untuning of society, and to the encroaching possibility of chaos and apocalypse. Its response is to be seen in the ambitious church architecture, the enthusiastic literature, and above all in the great musical compositions of the period. It was as if, in the face of the possible collapse of the inherited social order, the arts responded by releasing a great overfullness and outpouring of all that was then conceivable into the yawning morass of an apparently approaching chaos.
Confronting this possibility of chaos, Baroque music reveals just such an outpouring of grandeur, an enthusiastic elaboration of expression, and a thrilling upwelling of energy and power. In order to control the great upwelling of feeling, of change and instability, the imposition of severe, even reactionary formal controls seemed to be necessary. For example, audacious scriptural texts order Bach’s ambitious Passion oratorios and Handel’s Messiah; characteristically they are not Catholic texts but Lutheran or Anglican. Variation form, based in a single ordering melody like that in Bach’s Goldberg Variations or his Chaconne, yields an encompassing, compelling multitude of expressive possibilities. And the fugue establishes the control required in mounting the great contrapuntal edifices of Baroque music, some of them for organ or chorus appropriate for performances in the vastly elaborate churches of the period. Finally, arias are enhanced by brilliantly expressive ornamentation.
An aria from Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion – “Erbarme Dich” – offers one such example of Baroque expressiveness. The contralto sings with understated and all the more piercing sorrow asking God to “have mercy” for “my heart and eyes weep before you bitterly.” The aria’s beautiful expression of pathos, baring such deep grief and vulnerability, is one of the great achievements of Baroque art, and it is shaped by the period of its creation, for it is poignantly full with an awareness that death, chaos, and disintegration are close at hand. The formal qualities both enhance but also control and contain the contralto’s tragic singing, the beauty of her dialogue with the lone violin’s expressively ornamented obbligato and with the lento communal procession of the chamber orchestra’s accompaniment. Recently, an austerely apocalyptic film by Tarkovsky, The Sacrifice, plays Erbarme Dich as part of its score. The sublimity of this ineffable expression of despair in Bach’s aria gives solace before the fateful Baroque dilemma of living in a nuclear period.

Handel’s setting of Dryden’s “A Song for St. Cecilia’s Day” can serve as our final example of another facet of the Baroque, its upwelling of energy and invention. The outpouring is achieved within the stringent order of the Oratorio’s sections, which produce invention after invention featuring a cello, then trumpets, a flute, violins, and an organ. The proximity of life to death is a recurrent motif in each section, and the music’s counterpoint embodies the implacable connection between Creation and the Last Judgement: “Arise ye more than dead.” The music of the orchestra, soloists, and chorus produces a fullness – even overfullness – of creative invention confronting and overcoming the specter of chaos and death “in a heap / Of jarring atomes” (which is the fate the Enlightenment, and not only the Last Judgment, may bring). The control over this outpouring of harmonic and contrapuntal richness parallels the order imposed by the poem’s mesh of rhymes and artifice. The final fugue here is the oratorio’s greatest musical expression of the Baroque control imposed on our “crumbling Pageant” – setting the poem’s last lines: “The Dead shall live, the Living die, / And Musick shall untune the sky.” The music of this period triumphs over the proximity of chaos by means of its strict, inexhaustible formal elaborations generating a creative fecundity unique to the Baroque.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Literature and Music - session one - introduction; Renaissance and Baroque

The first session of this course for Siegel Senior Learning at CWRU establishes some backgrounds, including Renaissance links and texts, and offers the following excerpts:
Plato's view of music – from The Republic, Books 2 and 3 (circa 380 BC):
The introduction of a new kind of music must be shunned as imperiling the whole state, since styles of music are never disturbed without affecting the most important political institutions The new style, gradually gaining a lodgment, quietly insinuates itself into manners and customs; and from these it issues in greater force, making its way into mutual compacts; and from compacts it goes on to attack laws and constitutions, displaying the utmost impudence, until it ends by overturning everything, both in public and in private.       
[Later, from Book 3:] And therefore, Glaucon, musical training is a more potent instrument than any other, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the sound, on which they mightily fasten, imparting grace, and making the soul of him who is rightly educated graceful – or [making the soul] of him who is ill-educated ungraceful… 
Even so, as I maintain, neither we nor the guardians, whom we say that we have to [train in music], can ever become musical until we and they know the essential forms of temperance, courage, liberality, magnanimity, and their kindred, as well as the contrary forms, in all their combinations, and can recognize them and their images wherever they are found, not slighting them either in small things or great, but believing them all to be within the sphere of one art and study And when nobility of soul is observed in harmonious union with beauty of form, and both are cast from the same mould, that will be the fairest of sights to him who has an eye to see it.

Gregorian Chant – Salve Regina (circa 1050)

Hail, holy Queen, Mother of mercy, hail, our life, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve: to thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears. Turn then, most gracious Advocate, thine eyes of mercy toward us, and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, O merciful, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CAmydVsNMqM

 

 

Summer is a coming in – Reading rota, attributed to Wycombe (c 1260)

Sumer is icumen in, Spring has arrived, Lhude sing, cuccu; loudly sing, cuckoo! Groweth sed The seed is growing and bloweth med, And the meadow is blooming, And springth the wode nu; And the wood is coming into leaf now, Sing, cuccu! Sing, cuckoo! Awe bleteth after lomb, The ewe is bleating after her lamb, Lhouth after calue cu; The cow is lowing after her calf; Bulluc sterteth, The bullock is prancing, Bucke uerteth, The billy-goat farting, Murie sing, cuccu! Sing merrily, cuckoo! Cuccu, cuccu, Cuckoo, cuckoo, Wel singes thu, cuccu; You sing well, cuckoo, Ne swic thu naver nu. Never stop now. Sing, cuccu, nu; sing, cuccu; Sing, cuckoo, now; sing, cuckoo; Sing, cuccu; sing, cuccu, nu! Sing, cuckoo; sing, cuckoo, now!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2Tk1JseYkU

 

 

 

Palestrina - Jesu, rex admirabilis – Gardiner (c 1580)

Latin text: Jesu, rex admirabilis et triumphator nobilis, dulcedo ineffabilis, totus desiderabilis, mane nobiscum, Domine, et nos illustra lumine, pulsa mentis caligine, mundum reple ducedine.

English translation: Jesus, wondrous king and noble conqueror, ineffable delight, wholly to be desired, remain with us, Lord, dispel the darkness of our minds and enlighten us with your light, fill the world with your sweetness.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BXQuOQccCWA

 

 Petrarch (1304-1374), Sonnet - text of Madrigal by Monteverdi (1567-1655):

The zephr returns and the lovely weather stirs
the flowers and all the grassy family;
the swallows warble and the nightingale sings
and spring is clean and bright.
The fields smile and sky is serene.
Jove happily looks upon his child.
The air, water, and the land are full of love.
Every animal in love is reconfirmed.
But for weary me only the saddest sighs return
Which she -who took the keys to heaven with her-
Wrings from the deepest part or my heart
And the birds sing and the countryside flourishes
And when with a beautiful woman, such gentle honest acts 
Become a harsh, wild and uncultivated desert.
Italian text
Zephiro torna, e 'i bel tempo rimena,
e i fiori et I
'erbe, sua dolce famiglia,
et garrir Progne et pianger Philomena,
et primavera candida et vermig
lia.
Ridono i prati, e 'I ciel si rasserena;
Giove s'allegra di mirar sua figlia;
I'aria et I'acqua et la terra e d'amor piena;
ogni animal d'amar si riconsiglia.
Ma per me, lasso, tornano i pili gravi
sospir
i, che del cor profondo tragge
quella ch'al ciel se ne porte Ie chiavi;
et cantar augelletti, et fiorir piagge,
e 'n be
lle donne honeste atti soavi
sono un deserto, et fere aspre et selvagge.
Canzoniere 310c

Monteverdi - Zefiro torna, e 'l bel tempo rimena (VI libro dei Madrigali) - Les Arts Florissants (c 1614)





Shakespeare – Branagh’s “Much Ado About Nothing” - Act 2, Scene 3 (c 1612)

Twelfth Night (1602):
—opening of Act I, Scene i – the Duke speaks.
If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
That strain again - it had a dying fall.
0, it came o'er my ear, like the sweet sound
That breathes upon a bank of violets,
Stealing and giving odour. Enough, no more,
T’is not so sweet now, as it was before.
o spirit of love, how quick and fresh art thou,
That, notwithstanding thy capacity
Receiveth as the sea, naught enters there,
Of what validity and pitch soe'er,
But falls into abatement, and low price,
Even in a minute; so full of shapes is fancy,
That it alone is high fantastical. 

Handel – Dryden’s Ode for St Cecilia's Day HWV 76 Les Arts Florissants (c 1739)


Bach – St Matthew’s Passion – Erbarme Dich – 39 Aria – BWV 244 (c 1727).  Delphine Galou, contralto; François-Marie Drieux, solo violin; Les Siècles, conducted by François-Xavier Roth; 2008.
Erbarme dich,
Have mercy,
Mein Gott, um meiner Zähren willen!
My God, for the sake of my tears!
Schaue hier,
Look here,
Herz und Auge weint vor dir
My heart and eyes weep before you
Bitterlich
.
Bitterly.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

"The Fall of the Berlin Wall - a novel" now completed - with the hope of finding an agent

My now completed novel “The Fall of the Berlin Wall” is about the musicians who appeared in my earlier novel “Hungry Generations” plus their families and friends – but now more than a decade and a half later. (In fact, the later - from iUniverse in 2004 - could logically and easily be published with "The Fall" as an 'origin story' or prequel.) Jack Weinstein is now a successful composer, known for the symphonic “Hostage Music” commemorating the 1980 Iran hostage crisis. He is married to Sarah, the intense and irrepressible daughter of the late legendary Alexander Petrov. It is 1989 in Cleveland, where Jack is a college professor, and in late November, the couple’s marriage is collapsing. Jack and Sarah are visited during Thanksgiving week by her brother, Joseph Petrov, who is Jack’s closest friend and the hugely talented pianist son of Alexander. The week’s events are told by this trio of characters, and much of the novel revolves around Sarah – her suffering, her stinging repartee, and the friendships she forms and betrays.

Friendship itself is a force in the lives of these characters, its potential success or failure for her and Jack, for the two brothers-in-law, and for the group surrounding the three characters. Also, there is the surprising bonus of the magnificent music played and imagined here, including Jack’s plans for a work responding to the fall of the Berlin Wall. The idea that long-standing barriers can collapse infuses the partly Dostoyevskyan novel, its vision of politics, of music, and of the human beings brought to life in this poignant, tragicomic work. At the end of the short novel are six ‘origin’ stories evoking what has been at stake in the rich and startling past of many of the characters.

 Here's a synopsis of the work:

The Fall of the Berlin Wall – a novel with stories
Daniel Melnick (216-378-9302; danielcmelnick@gmail.com)

Two events in November 1989 mark the lives of the novel’s characters. One is the death of a woman discovered naked in the snow during a massive storm buffeting Cleveland on Thanksgiving. The other is the fall, two weeks earlier, of the Berlin Wall, and that upturning of the old order corresponds to a desire completely to change their lives for the characters.

Jack Weinstein wants to save his marriage to Sarah, the intense daughter of the late legendary pianist Alexander Petrov. He tries to confront her dissatisfaction and her shifting allegiances – whether to him, to her lover Dima, to her brother Joseph, or to her own unstable self. Sarah and Jack are in their forties and have a nearly sixteen-year-old daughter, Sue, who struggles in her own right.

Sarah’s brother, Joseph, is visiting this Thanksgiving week. He finds himself in the middle of the couple’s conflicts, and his role is made more difficult by the deep allegiance he feels to both his sister and his brother-in-law. The week’s events are told by this trio of characters. Joseph and Jack are musicians. Joseph Petrov is, like his late father, a brilliant piano virtuoso, and Jack is a classical composer; one of his compositions has just been nominated for a Grammy in contemporary classical music.

The Weinsteins’ friends have their own turbulence. And friendship – both healing and broken – becomes an issue in their lives. The Blacks, who live around the corner, are about to declare bankruptcy, for Jacob has been denied tenure and become a ‘freeway professor,’ teaching one class here, another there. The Sinclairs are mutual friends, and especially Robert Sinclair becomes the target of Jacob’s bitterness about his life.

One of the Weinsteins’ best friends is an artist and a bohemian of sorts, Tom Mubar, who is divorced and shares custody of his seventeen-year-old son, Paul. When Sarah’s affair with Dima collapses, she is drawn to Tom, who will understand – she believes – what a disaster her life has become. He has his hands full with his own urgent problems, and does not reciprocate her feelings.

Everything comes to a head when the Weinsteins celebrate Thanksgiving with their friends and Joseph. At dinner, disastrous confrontations erupt from the tensions brewing all week, and Sarah, already depressed and disoriented, plummets into potentially suicidal despair.

“The Fall of the Berlin Wall” is a poignant, tragicomic portrait of a marriage in trouble, of confusions in love and friendship, and of what may endure our collisions – whether it be love, art and music, or simply the flux and welter of our conflicting passions and needs. The short novel is followed by six stories evoking the rich and startling past of several of these characters.

(Altogether, the work is 174 pages, about 51,000 words.)