The word apocalypse properly refers the vision John, the seer of Patmos, had, tearing away of the veil which so often hides the divine glory from mortal eyes: the Greek word apokalypsis is appropriately translated revelation, and the first verse of the book called The Apocalypse by Catholics and The Revelation of John in the King James Version runs as follows:
The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John.
Consider the beauty — and the otherworldiness — of this image from Albrecht Durer. illustrating the “woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars” of Revelation 12.1
The imagery of this final book of the Bible does not show us the usual world of our senses, but a realm of great symbolic beauty, far beyond the reach of unaided eye or camera — as the great literary critic Northrop Frye notes, when he calls the book “a fairy tale about a damsel in distress, a hero killing dragons, a wicked witch, and a wonderful city glittering with jewels” in his Anatomy of Criticism, p 108.
Like the works of the English visionary William Blake, Revelation is more poetic than literal, visionary in the best sense — and it is hardly surprising that Blake is among its foremost illustrators:
Blake, Four and Twenty Elders Casting their Crowns before the Divine Throne, The Tate Gallery
Brexit simply cannot match the darkness of Revelation’s Babylon in its final throes, nor the “new heaven and new earth” that succeed it — “for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away”.
[ by Charles Cameron — JS Bach in Palmyra, in the DC Metro, and variously on YouTube ]
I have to applaud Putin and the Russians for bringing the full orchestra of the Mariinsky Theater from St Petersburg to Palmyra now that the Islamic State has departed, with added kudos for choosing Bach‘s towering Chaconne from his Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004 as one of three works to be played there — by the Tchaikovsky Competition winning soloist Pavel Milyukov:
As I say, I applaud the gesture. OTOH, British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, according to Breitbart, called the event “a tasteless attempt to distract attention from the continued suffering of millions of Syrians” and said it “shows that there are no depths to which the regime will not sink.”
This may not be the greatest performance of that work musically, but the work itself is extraordinary. Johannes Brahms said of it:
On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind.
It was famously this Chaconne that violinist Joshua Bell played — twice — with his violin case open to receive tips, in DC’s L’Enfant Plaza metro station, during a 45 minute anonymous session in which he netted $32. $32 and change, for a man whose upcoming performance with the National Symphony Orchestra at DC’s Kennedy Center (February 11, 2017) is ticketed at $216 or $223, depending on how well seated you wish to be…
Here’s the poorly recorded, hidden videocam account of the second of those performances, which starts at about the 30’15” mark:
For the fullest musical appreciation, here is that same Joshua Bell playing the Chaconne in 2014 in the DeLaMar Theater, Amsterdam:
Hillary Hahn, also superb:
The no less beautiful Hélène Grimaud, playing the Busoni transcription for piano:
And last, violinist Christoph Poppen plays the Chaconne, with added chorale motifs as reconstructed by violinist turned musicologist Helga Thoene sung by the Hilliard Ensemble — the culmination of the group’s celebrated album, Morimur:
Post-modern adaptation, or quintessential Bach? Either way, I find the entire project enthralling.
Though widely separated chronologically, all four poets use the Anglican and Roman Catholic doctrine of eucharistic Real Presence (the literal embodiment of Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion) as model for their own poetry. Each poet seeks to charge his words with a dual physical/spiritual meaning that abolishes the gap between word and referent and so creates an immediate presence that parallels Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist.
That pasage, in turn, reminds me of some words John Eliot Gardiner spoke on the topic of Bach and grace,
on the DVD of a rehearsal of Bach’s cantata Christen, ätzet diesen Tag (BWV 63) right after Sara Mingardo sings O Selger Tag. Gardiner first quotes Bach, then translates him:
Nota bene: Bei einer andächtigen Musik ist allezeit Gott mit seiner Gnaden Gegenwart.” Now I find that very, very significant. That he’s saying wherever there is devotional music, God with his grace is present.
How close is that to the poets McNees talks about, creating with their poems “an immediate presence that parallels Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist”?
And then he comments —
Which, from a strict theological point of view is probably heresy, heretical, because it’s saying that music has an equivalent potency to the word of God.
1374 The mode of Christ’s presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as “the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.” In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist “the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.” “This presence is called ‘real’ – by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be ‘real’ too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.”
Whether in the performance and hearing of Bach, Christ can be said to be “wholly and entirely” or “devotionally and musicially” present is a delicate question, one part ontological and absolute, I’d suppose, and one part epistemological and subjective.. but I find myself in warm agreement with Gardiner’s elaboration of his theme..
And I think that in essence is why Bach is so attractive to us today because he is saying that the very act of music-making and of coming together is, in a sense, an act which invokes the latency, the potency, the potentiality of God’s grace, however you like to define God’s grace; but of a benediction that comes even in a dreadful, overheated studio like Abbey Road where far too many microphones and there’s much too much stuff here in the studio itself, that if one, as a musician, puts oneself in the right frame of mind, then God’s grace can actually come and direct and influence the way we perform his music.
[ by Charles Cameron — executive summaries — aren’t they just babyfood for thought? ]
I have nothing against Alicia Silverstone, that’s the first thing:
What interests me more, though, is the necessity for executives to be fed (readers?) digests on matters of national security.
If I recall correctly, Jerome Ravetz once made the point that the chief executive charged with the oversight of dozens of nuclear power plants may well have to make multi-million dollar decisions very rapidly, after brief briefings, and with full confidence that his orders will be obeyed without question.. which is not a situation that encourages nuanced discussion.
Brevity may be the soul of executive decision-making, I can see that. I don’t have to like it.
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.