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Monastic drums

Monday, August 8th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — sounds resounding, Romania and Korea ]
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Romanian Orthodox:

Korean Buddhist:

Sunday surprise: peering digitally around corners 1: Holbein

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a saunter through London’s National Gallery with Holbein’s Ambassadors, a skull and a psalter ]
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Let’s begin with Hans Holbein, The Ambassadors:

Holbein Ambassadors

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First up for consideration is this anamorphic skull detail:

Holbein detail anamorphic skull

The very oddly misshapen object in the foreground is in fact a skull, visible as such from the right position vis-a-vis the painting. It has puzzled countless people for ages, and no doubt considerably increased the painting’s fame in the process. The simplest explanation I’ve found is this one:

It has also been hypothesized that the painting is meant to hang in a stairwell, so that a person walking up the stairs from the painting’s right would be startled by the appearance of the skull. From such an angle, the skull appears in its correct aspect ratio.

Here’s the skull, resolved — to show it as it appears from the correct viewing angle — an angle from which the rest of the painting makes no sense, mark you:

Holbein_Skull

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That’s the most striking detail in the painting, but also of interest is this Psalter detail:

Holbein psalter detail

The psalter is depicted in the painting in the same perspective as the two figures, globe, carpet and so forth, but it’s at an angle to the viewer — and an enterprising fellow therefore decided to work computationnal magic and show us the psalter rectified, as we might see it if we were in the room, went over, and looked down at it:

Ambassadors_Lutherian_Psalms

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All of this reminds me of another brilliant work of art, featuring an analogous shifting of viewpoint: Ridley Scott‘s Blade Runner, which I’ll explore in Part II of this two-part post.

Mark your calendars, mark my words

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — two more dates certain for The End ]
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Tablet DQ 600 dates certain

Maybe we’re living in the End Times — but if so, Time apparently stutters before it stops.

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Tip-o-the-hat to Tim Furnish.

Sources:

  • Fox11, July 29 2016, Time’s up: Prophets of doom say world will end in a few hours
  • Morning Ledger, July 30 2016, End Of The World 2016: Real Dooms Day Is January 2017
  • Oh, and:

    A trumpet voice above Trump’s

    Monday, July 25th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — for those wishing for discourse above the political fray ]
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    Yesterday, Sunday, I was going to post a “Sunday surprise” about a voice that transcends that of Donald Trump — the voice of Alison Balsom, trumpeter extraordinaire. But my thread linking Balsom and Trump was a slender one — Trump and trumpet — and I thought better of it, and deleted my reliminary notes for that post.

    Today, though, I read Humera Afridi‘s Dance of Ecstasy: Bridging the Secular, Sacred, and Profane, and found therein:

    Amjad Sabri, an eminent Pakistani qawwal -— a Sufi devotional musician in the tradition of world-renowned Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, and son of the famous singer Ghulam Fareed Sabri of the Sabri Brothers — had been shot dead in his car in Karachi ten days earlier by the Pakistani Taliban. He’d been praising the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his noble family a little too much for the Taliban’s liking. And so they had their way with him. In a nation inured to violence, Sabri’s death, nevertheless, struck at the communal soul of Pakistan. ..

    Thousands of Pakistanis came out on the streets, united in grief, to protest Sabri’s death. Sabri was a child of Pakistan’s own soil. He belonged to a venerable, centuries-old musical dynasty. His spiritual attunement and the muscular faculty of his voice transported people to ecstasy, raising mere mortals above the denseness of an earthly, mired existence, above differences of class and wealth into a celebration of the Divine. Sabri’s music was a glorification. And it belonged to a distinct tradition of South Asian music, a legacy irrefutably inherent in the DNA of Pakistan, twinned to the devotional practice of Islam and its syncretic cultural roots in the region. Invoking a transcendent joy, Sabri’s qawwali created a milieu of harmony—completely antithetical to the Taliban’s backward, beclouded ideology of hate which thrives on sowing seeds of discord.

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    It’s that second paragraph I’m interested in, because it says so exactly what I was trying to get at in my deleted post about Alison Balsom: that “mere mortals” can be lifted, lofted “above the denseness of an earthly, mired existence, above differences of class and wealth into a celebration of the Divine”.

    Here’s a taste of Amjad Sabri, for those who appreciate the Sufi tradition and the haunting ecstasies of the Qawwals:

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    And here’s Balsom, whose trumpet voice likewise lifts us, for those with ears more attuned to the western classical tradition:

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    — and best of all, though I’ve posted it here before:

    Sunday surprise: Bach BWV 998

    Sunday, July 17th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — with a ramble via his peerless peer, Shakespeare ]
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    What’s a piece of music worth, on paper?

    BWV 998 MS image

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    I had the good fortune some decades ago to be invited to attent Dr Homer Swander‘s seminar at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. Dr Swander is notable among Shakespearean scholars for his insistence that the texts we have of the plays are not themselves works of art, but serve the same function with respect to actual performances that an anrchitect’s blueprints serve with respect to a house, or a musical score to the performance of a work of music. Dr Swander dedicated much of his life to Shakespeare‘s plays, so we should not imagine that he thought little of the First Folio — or indeed of the First Quarto of Hamlet with its truncated soliloqy beginning:

    To be or not to be, ay there’s the point,
    To die, to sleep, is that all? Ay all:

    [for the original spelling, see this facsimile ©The British Library]

    — it’s simply that he saw them as prelimiaries, not the thing itself. This in turn allowed him to “see” aspects of the plays from a director’s standpoint, with intriguing results:

    Swander Caesar
    Hugh Macrae Richmond, Shakespeare’s Theatre: A Dictionary of His Stage Context

    You should have seen Dr Swander stab that point home!

    But to return to Johann Sebastian Bach.. Similarly, we may ask ourselves, what’s the manuscript score of a great work of music worth?

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    Christie’s auction house in London has one answer for us in ther case of Bach’s Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro in E-flat major, BWV 998 — $3.3 million:

    Valuable Bach manuscript goes under the hammer

    The manuscript’s value was originally estimated at between 1.5 and 2.5 million pounds (between 2 and 3.3 million dollars). At the auction on Wednesday (13.07.2016) in London, the final bid came in at the high end of expectations.

    Likely written between 1740 and 1745, the Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E-flat Major (BWV 998) is a favorite among both harpsichords and lutenists. Like many works by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), it can be played on different instruments, which is expressly indicated on this score in the composer’s handwriting: “Prelude pour la Luth ò Cembal” (for lute or keyboard).

    That’s its current cash value as judged by the market.

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    But what’s it worth — to you, to me, to life?

    Nicholas Harnoncourt
    explains:

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    I am grateful as always to my friend Michael Robinson of Ornamental Peasant for pointing me to the sale at Christie’s — and to this remarkable piece.


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