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That Bach Chaconne

Sunday, May 8th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — JS Bach in Palmyra, in the DC Metro, and variously on YouTube ]
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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.”

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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.

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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:

Gene Weingarten‘s description of the event in the Washington Post, Pearls Before Breakfast, won the Pulitzer..

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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.

Sunday surprise: House of Cards meets monks and sexy riot grrls

Sunday, October 11th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — wondering if the same mind (Beau Willimon?) suggested both? ]
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Two very different modes of factual reality found their ways into the fictional world of House of Cards, Season 3, American version, and I found the two choices pretty interesting. I’ve recently found clips relating to both on YouTube, so here they are for your consideration:

Pussy Riot:

and

Tibetan monks:

Taking those two choices together is a bit like juxtaposing Gregorian chant and punk rock — which, come to think of it, is pretty close to what I was getting at in my first ever Riot Grrls post, Pussy Riot, Holy Foolishness and Monk Punk.

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Contemplation and activism — poles apart, or one the mainspring for the other?

An amazing parallelogram of a paragraph

Sunday, May 31st, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — or if not, a single sentence paragraph about politics that Levi-Strauss would have loved to diagram, plus Yikes ]
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Orin Kerr, writing in WaPo today for the Volokh Conspiracy, in a piece titled If I understand the history correctly… wrote:

If I understand the history correctly, in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair, who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair, which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.

Yikes.

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I’ve provided the full text of the piece so you’ll get the links Prof. Kerr included.

What interests me here, though, is the elegant concision of the piece, with its four parallels and various antitheses or oppositions.

Consider:

It begins with a frame:

If I understand the history correctly,

It then offers its prime example of an errant politician:

in the late 1990s, the President was impeached for lying about a sexual affair

followed by its reversal, as the antagonist takes on the protagonist’s role:

by a House of Representatives led by a man who was also then hiding a sexual affair

followed by a third exemplar of political purity, his ascent to power aborted under parallel circumstances:

who was supposed to be replaced by another Congressman who stepped down when forced to reveal that he too was having a sexual affair,

and a fourth, parallel both by succession and similarity of (alleged) conduct:

which led to the election of a new Speaker of the House who now has been indicted for lying about payments covering up his sexual contact with a boy.

— with the frame closing on the one-word paragraph:

Yikes.

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Between the careful formality of “If I understand the history correctly” and the squeal of “Yikes” we see the distance this recital of, yes, historical events has taken our good professor: from mind to emotion, observation to morality, head to heart.

Bravo!

And the (non-partisan) moral of this story is?

Sunday surprise: petals, faces, cities

Sunday, April 12th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — so come on, be honest — which do you prefer, Washington 2015 or Paris 1913? ]
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Admittedly, the text in the upper panel came from a report on yesterday’s suicide on the Capitol west front..

SPEC DQ Paris DC

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I’m not sure whether the most interesting comparison here is between prose and poetry, Washington and Paris, the seat of power and the underground — or the present day and a century or so ago. No matter, text for text and language for language, I’ll take the Pound.

Sources:

  • Politico: Capitol lockdown – shooting – cherry-blossoms festival
  • Poetry magazine: Ezra Pound, In a Station of the Metro
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    Until next time..

    Meanwhile, in a galaxy..

    Thursday, February 19th, 2015

    [ by Charles Cameron — because mention of the Riyadh meeting caught me by surprise ]
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    I have seen far more media attention, mass and social, paid to the White House Countering Violent Extremism confab than I have to the coalition meeting in Riyadh:

    In fact, I had to tweet that myself to get a suitable DoubleTweet to go with this one:

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    Is that because one is about Countering Violent Extremism and the other about Violently Countering Extremism?

    Or is Riyadh just so very far away?

    Which will history view as the more significant of the two?


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