zenpundit.com » mozart

Archive for the ‘mozart’ Category

Knowledge, London cabbies and American sommeliers

Friday, October 26th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — inheritor of yet another form of knowledge]
.

  • NYT, The Knowledge, London’s Legendary Taxi-Driver Test, Puts Up a Fight in the Age of GPS
  • New Yorker, The Cheating Scandal That Has Shaken the World of Master Wine Sommeliers
  • **

    For Bates it came down to a lifetime of knowledge. “While many questions may seem simple taken on their own, it is really about the amount of information needed to correctly answer one question. For example, if a question was asked about the location of a village in Germany, knowing where that one village is located is a very small part of the preparation for that question. To be sure to get that one question correct, I had to learn every major wine producing village in Germany, broken down by region, in order from north to south and west to east, with 2 or 3 of the most important villages in each. In order to be able to recall that information on demand, I had to learn to draw a map from memory of every wine growing region in the country. All that for the sake of be able to answer one or two questions that, out of context, may not have been all that hard.

    McCabe turned east on Coldharbour Lane, wending through the neighborhoods of Peckham and Bermondsey before reaching the tunnel. He emerged on the far side of the Thames in Limehouse, and from there his three-mile-long trip followed a zigzagging path northeast. “I came out of the tunnel and went forward into Yorkshire Road,” he told me. “I went right into Salmon Lane. Left into Rhodeswell Road, right into Turners Road. I went right into St. Paul’s Way, left into Burdett Road, right into Mile End Road. Left Tredegar Square. I went right Morgan Street, left Coborn Road, right into Tredegar Road. That gave me a forward into Wick Lane, a right into Monier Road, right into Smeed Road — and we’re there. Left into Stour Road.”

    **

    In early September, fifty-six nervous sommeliers in pressed suits and shined shoes assembled at the Four Seasons Hotel in St. Louis, Missouri. They were there to attempt the most difficult and prestigious test in their industry: the Master Sommelier Exam, a three-part, application-only ordeal that just two hundred and forty-nine individuals worldwide have passed—fewer than have travelled to space.

    It’s not enough to know every wine region, village and district in the world, candidates also need to know which years were better than others for each region. The blind tasting of six wines requires not only identifying the grape varietal, but the region it came from and the year it was made. That’s merely scratching the testing surface though; during the service portion examinees have to recall facts about sake, spirits, distilling methods, apertifs and of course ideal food pairings.

    Knowledge of cigar production, with special reference to Havanas, will be required.

    **

    When trees leave, they find a spot where the sunlight can get through despite the existing leaves, and put out a leaf there.

    Suggestion: find, on the limb, branch, and in time, twig of the tree of knowledge you feel most passionate about, a space nobody else is occupying, and know it — in the kind of detail a knowledgeable cabbie knows London, or a master sommelier the aperitifs, wines, beers, ciders, liqueurs, brandies, whiskeys and cigars of the world.

    It’s worth a try.

    **

    esto nobis praegustatum
    in mortis examine.

    In the case of such Knowledge as most concerns us, the examen is still to come.

    Sunday surprise, the selfsame song

    Sunday, July 8th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — whether willed by the brain or torn from the heart, the one, same cry for mercy — in chant, by Bach, and by Ray Charles & BB king ]
    .

    A stranger in my Twitter-stream just tweeted a link to a current Australian report on an opening window for rescue operations for the boys trapped in that cave in norther Thailand, two and a half miles under ground:

    [ the video in this tweet is from a continually updated news feed — at time of writing, the rescue op was just beginning ]

    Fate may be fate, prayer may or may not influence events — perhaps prayer may only help us, the watching world ouiside that cave, those circumstances, that peril — the urge to pray is no respecter of particular religions, Christians, Buddhists, Atheists, we all may feel the instinct to pray.

    The prayer is the most basic cry, as we shall see in three versions: the timeless Gregorian chant, the beauty of the Erbarme Dich from Bach‘s Matthew Passion, and that selfsame song as Ray Charles sings it with BB King.

    **

    Gregorian chant:

    Kyrie XI [ Lord, Have mercy ] from the choir of St Pierre de Solesmes, my favorite haunt when I was seventeen, with the greatest chant scholars and choir in the world:

    That floating, swooping melody is characteristic of the chant.

    **

    Erbarme dich, mein Gott [ “Have mercy Lord, My God, for the sake of my tears” ] by JS Bach

    If we lose have mercy, Lord from our conceptual vocabulary, we lose a higher octave of hope, of the necessity of surrender.

    Erbarme Dich may be the single sweetest moment in Bach‘s The Matthew Passion, itself arguably the greatest piece of church music ever written — a monumental, gloriously beautiful, grief-stricken work.

    **

    Pure blues: Sinner’s prayer, Ray Charles and BB King:

    If neither Bach nor the chant speak to you, perhaps the blues will — and if all three touch you, how wonderful the variety of expressions of the one prayer:

    Lord please have mercy .. have mercy if you please..

    **

    Footnote: Other unforgettable versions:

  • JS Bach, Kyrie from the B Minor Mass
  • WA Mozart, Kyrie from the Requiem Mass
  • **

    Lord have mercy on the boys in the cave — knowing that the rescue task will be arduous, we ask mercy with hope and a readiness to surrender, to greet whatever outcome with our hearts flung open to grief or joy as the case may be.

    An Invitation to the Church of the Open Question

    Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — announcing a new blog for matters quasi-religious, poetical ]
    .

    The Church of the Open Question is the name of my church.

    I have held this domain name, churchoftheopenquestion.com, for some years now, and a blog-church by that name should be coming online shortly — this is its first announcement.

    My church bears that name because it expressly questions dogmatic formulations, while encourageing depthful exploration of the possible resonances of dogma that might go missing if all such formulations are dismissed out of hand.

    Push open a question, leave it open, and what you have is possibilities.

    The marvelous, beautiful, well-spoken Elizabeth Mattis Namgyel has titled her book on Tibetan Madhyamaka philosophy, The Power of an Open Question: The Buddha’s Path to Freedom, and I find myself to have come by a natural unfolding to a position very sympathetic to that which she has attained by the disciplined enterprise of Madhyamaka Buddhism under the tutelage of her husband, Lama Dzigar Kongtrül — a delightful homecoming for me.

    I view my church — and the swing-doors that are its central feature — as offering a place where, for instance, Catholics who are leaving Catholicism may find certain doctrines illuminated as imaginative or poetic vehicles for wonder, which they can then carrry with them as spiritual values in an overwhelmingly secular and monteized societty, while those approaching the Church from outside it may find means of delighting in poetic or imaginative readings of texts that, stated in plain prose as definitive beliefs, are difficult indeed to swallow.

    **

    As an example, here’s a poem I wrote in this spirit, exploring the central symbolism of thr Christmas story..

    Christmas for Buddhists

    Suppose the full radiance inhabiting all things,
    on the specific occasion we now celebrate,
    finding itself as fond of narrative as of symmetry,
    of emptiness as of fullness, decided
    for the sake of teaching its selves a thing
    or eight, to take on a newborn form,
    while letting its nature shine forth visible
    to its mum, sundry animals, three visiting kings

    and an assortment of invisible winged beings —
    what better place than the animal stall
    outside an inn, where no room was available
    for a pregnant visitor to give birth, could
    that master of story, Original Face, choose,
    to tell humanity: humility is the necessary virtue?

    or it’s close cousin, exploring the Mass:

    To suppose the Eucharist

    Suppose the hypothetical all of everything
    in unspooling itself chose to exhibit itself in
    one human, suppose further all the sun’s
    light were caught in wheat and baked into
    bread, all the world’s pains and passions
    crushed like grapes into wine, suppose the
    one person took loaf and cup and with
    word and gesture raised them blood, body

    of his own self to be supped and sipped,
    thus woven into his one flesh, blood, mind —
    just when his flesh is torn, blood spills —
    suppose then that his mind to love were to
    entrain this new body of many bodies to
    heal with all radiance each instance of pain..

    That one certainly owes something to Teilhard de Chardin, as the first may to Thomas Merton — this, then, will be above all a gathering or congregation of friends..

    **

    I’m encouraged by Dr Jordan Peterson‘s claim that he “wanted to establish a church .. in which he would deliver sermons every Sunday” — although in my own case, every now and then will have to substitute for every Sunday.

    I have a first sermon lined up, too, in which I want to ask “What did Mozart see as Christ‘s life” when chosing the words “Ave verum corpus natum” to set to some of his most wondrous music? The answer’s a bit surprising, and suggestive of the many devotional moods the contemplation of that life can give rise to..

    Coming shortly.. Clapton, too. And Anthony Bourdain.

    How to process grief — lessons from an earlier age

    Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

    [ by Charles Cameron — fifty years later, two kennedy deaths remembered ]
    .

    I had a couple of other posts in the works, but the one that was closest had a mean tinge to it so I set it on one side, sorry to have nothing to offer you this last Sunday, and consoling myself with music.

    And so it was that I recalled one work of music, and searching it out on the web, came across another. Here Erich Leinsdorf announces the assassination of President John F Kennedy, and then, as though it’s the most natural thing in the world, turns to Beethoven, to the Eroica, and plays the Funeral March as a lens through which to process the most immediate, intimately Bostonian, grief:

    As NPR testifies:

    But what is most remarkable to me as as listener, hearing the Boston broadcast from Symphony Hall on that Friday afternoon, is the sense of how those people in that time and place — performer and audience member alike — process this shocking event collectively, in a way that is totally unimaginable to us 50 years later, as we learn each minute’s news within the weirdly solitary glow of our screens. First, we hear the gasps and shushes after BSO music director Erich Leinsdorf utters the words: “The president of the United States has been the victim of an assassination.” Second, a wave of groans and sighs after Leinsdorf continues, “We will play the funeral march from Beethoven’s Third Symphony” — as if the crowd’s shared response is that they couldn’t possibly have heard the first part right, but that then the orchestra’s change in repertoire confirms the awful, unimaginable truth. And then, for the next 14 minutes … utter silence, save for the incomparably somber music.

    If we could filter our lives through such music..

    **

    And then as Cardinal Cushing celebrates a Pontifical Mass of Requiem for JFK, it is again Leinsdorf who conducts the music for that celebration — Mozart‘s glorious Requiem, from which extraordinary ceremonial this is the Dies Irae (turn down your volume control, this was recorded at a much louder volume range than the Beethoven IMO):

    and, literally and emotionally, movingly tearful, the Lacrimosa:

    Dona eis requiem..

    If you wish to reach as deep as deep grief and process it, and Boston‘s response to the death of its favorite son President is anything to go by, Leinsdorf is your man, Beethoven the most immediate lens to hand, and the sacramental celebration with Cardinal Cushing as a no less impressive backup..

    **

    I would be remiss, however, were I to write only of high cultural music (no matter how popular) and high ceremonial religion here — of equal passion as I have been reminded recently was the spontaneous outpouring of love and reverence shown on the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, JFK‘s brother, as the train carrying his body passed from New York to DC for burial (a high ceremonial of the military variety) in Arlington National Cemetery. The crowds who turned out, in ones and twos, in clusters, both black and white, perhaps a million or two oin all, were captured by the extraordinary photographer and friend of the family Paul Fusco in close to a thousand images, of which these are but a few:

    The train has been much in the news recently, with exhibits such as The Train: RFK’s Last Journey at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, reviewed in The train was moving mournful slow’: Exhibit shows haunting photos of Bobby Kennedy’s final journey and also described with selected images at Robert F. Kennedy’s Funeral Train, Fifty Years Later, along with the DVD One Thousand Pictures: RFK’s Last Journey drawn from Fusco’s work on that train, the publication of Chris Matthews‘ biography, Bobby Kennedy: A Raging Spirit, and MSNBC’s Headliners docu tribute to RFK.

    Even the most unexpected moment, infused with love and grief, can ignite a spontaneous, informal ceremony of great power

    Sub umbra alarum tuarum..

    **

    [ It has taken me several days to formulate this post, and I’m on fairly strong pain meds for my foot wound, so please blame them for any excessive typos or lack of coherence — I’m sure the general message comes through… ]


    Switch to our mobile site