Music Makers


According to William Congreve, music hath powers to soothe the savage breast . The white piano below is soothing savage breasts in the Scottish Arts & Antiques Centre.
Abernyte.
Last  Sunday afternoon.
Chopin.
Nocturne Op 9 No. 2.
According to Chopin’s lover,  Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin (aka George Sand ),  “There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved “.
They went to Mallorca together but alas alas didn’t find the one happiness in life there.
Or anywhere.
Jane Stirling, daughter of the  Laird of Kippendavie, was the other important woman in Chopin’s life.
She supported him emotionally and financially in his last years.
He dedicated a couple of  his Nocturnes to her.

DSCN1960 mnWhat’s a sitar player doing in Sauchiehall Street?
Glaswegians stop to stare; some even stop to listen to this usually 17-stringed instrument although its name comes from the Persian sehtar meaning three-stringed.
After its popularity in the 50s because of the playing and teaching of Ravi Shankar, the sitar was taken up by George Harrison then incorporated in the Beatles range of instruments ( ” Norwegian Wood”, “Within You Without You”, “Tomorrow never knows” ).anna 7  A woman playing the bagpipes! Whatever next?
She was playing a pibroch at the Waverley Station corner in Princes Street, a spot favoured by bagpipers although at Festival time, they can be found (and heard ) in any available doorway.Embra eoilLike this one.
Reminding  passers-by of Scotia’s past glories.
Unlike the lady piper, this piper has gone for the full Highland military regalia – the horsehair sporran, the white hose tops, the buckled belt, the glengarry….
In the First World War, there were 2,500 pipers whose task was to be first over the top, leading their regiment towards the enemy trenches.
1,000 were killed.
The bravest of the brave.

em bAgain at Festival time in Edinburgh you can find street performers like these two – the one-man band and his unadored but adoring assistant.
The servile clown and the narcissitic  performer are a common duo (in life as on the stage): Beckett’s Pozzo & Lucky come to mind;  and Fellini’s Zampano & Gelsomino.
In   La  Strada,  Zampano ( the circus strong man played by Anthony Quinn) is supported by Gelsomino (the circus clown, played by Fellini’s wife, Giuletta Masino). Symbiotic relationships.
Coulrophobia (fear of clowns) is commonly found in children  (Krusty in The Simpsons, isn’t exactly a barrel of laughs).
The white-faced clown originates from the performances of Joseph Grimaldi.
And as for the comic-relief red nose….? Who knows.festttA young blue-shirted quintet in Edinburgh’s High Street find a site with good acoustics outside St. Giles Cathedral to play their mixture of  classical and modern.
They were very good.em 8A musical trio in a Lanzarote bar play quiet Canary music I was hearing for the first time.laz cbv” O when the saints…”
A Portuguese band in Dundee who played lively music  from the 60s and 70s.
They  moved from town to town – Glasgow  to day, Edinburgh tomorrow.
They were good musicians and their music brought a vivid touch of the Mediterranean to  Scotland’s grey city streets and squares.
Note Desperate Dan in the background.

Dundee

 

 The man that hath no music in himself,
nor is not moved with concord of sweet sounds,
is fit for treasons, stratagems and spoils;
the motions of his spirit are dull as night
and his affections dark as Erebus:
Let no such man be trusted. Mark the music

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LORD JIM, SCHETTINO and LEE JOON-SEOK


LORD JIM, SCHETTINO and LEE JOON-SEOK

In ‘Lord Jim’  by Joseph Conrad, Jim, a romantic who had always dreamed of fame and recognition, is an officer on board the PATNA, a ship taking Muslims to Mecca. Out of the blue, his chance to be a hero came…and went:
In the night the ship shuddered – as if  it had hit some submerged object – panic and chaos ensued.
Jim found himself at the rails looking down to see the captain and some of the other officers clambering into a lifeboat. They made signs for him to join them and before he knew what was happening he found himself in the water beside the boat.
He had jumped.
The rest of his life was an attempt to erase, atone for, put behind him this instinctive act of panic/cowardice, this jump from duty, this loss of honour.
In Conrad when a character ‘jumps’ – acts impulsively – it invariably leads to disaster.

It’s a book I’ve read and re-read and found it becoming all too real in the recent  news account of what happened to the cruise liner Costa Concordia off the tiny island of Giglio with characters who might have stepped straight out of Conrad’s pages: – Francesco Schettino, the showboating captain who sailed too close to the island, ran onto rocks then in the confusion that followed abandoned the stricken ship, breaking the moral code that naval officers live by; Gregorio De Falco, the Livorno coastguard, becomes the voice of outraged decency. When Schettino made a belated distress call from the safety of the lifeboat, De Falco showed his contempt for the captain’s betrayal of the moral code that naval officers live by:  “Get back on board for fuck sake! There are already bodies, Schettino. Go!”
And when Schettino said he couldn’t do anything because it was dark and “all the officers are on the rescue boat with me” De Falco asked
Why did you allow them to get off?”
” We abandoned ship, ” Schettino said.
With 100 people still on board you abandoned ship?”  De Falco yelled. “  Vada a bordo, cozzo!

A year later, 15 April, 2014, close to Jeju island, the SEWOL, a ferry boat carrying 476 passengers, mostly school children on a 4 day field-trip, capsized and sank with the 69 year old captain in his cabin leaving an inexperienced 25 year old 3rd mate at the helm. The ferryboat  inexplicably made a sudden sharp turn, the cargo shifted and the ship began to tilt. It took 2 hours to sink and for that period the passengers were urged to stay in their cabins. Only 2 0f the 40 lifeboats were deployed. The captain and his crew escaped safely from the sinking ship as did the teachers in charge of the children. Most of the children were not so fortunate.
Later, the captain, under arrest and hidden inside a hooded anorak,  mumbled that he accepted responsibility, that he told passengers to stay put in their cabins because there were no signs of rescue boats and the water was too cold and too full of strong currents for them to survive.
” The conduct of the captain was wholly unfathomable…. it was like an act of murder that cannot and should not be tolerated,” said Ms Park, South Korea’s first woman president
The teacher who organised the trip and who escaped from the sinking ship commited suicide, hanging himself near the school and leaving a note that said  ‘Surviving alone is too painful….I will once again become a teacher in the afterlife for my students whose bodies have not been found.’

The old-fashioned notion was that those in command, in control of our lives and well-being, must be brave in an emergency, cool in a crisis and,  like Captain Smith of the Titanic, willing to sacrifice their own lives in the service of others.

Stein, one of Conrad’s characters in ‘Lord Jim‘ puts forward his (and probably Conrad’s) philosophy on ‘how to be‘:
A man that is born falls into a dream like a man who falls into the sea. If he tries to climb out into the air as inexperienced people endeavour to do, he drowns- nicht wahr?… No! I tell you! The way is to the destructive element submit yourself, and with the exertions of your hands and feet in the water make the deep, deep sea keep you up...”

__________

SHYLOCK


picasso 2

Signior Antonio, many a time and oft
In the Rialto you have rated me
About my moneys and my usances:
Still have I borne it with a patient shrug,
For sufferance is the badge of all our tribe.
You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog,
And spit upon my Jewish gaberdine,
And all for use of that which is mine own.
Well then, it now appears you need my help:
Go to, then; you come to me, and you say
‘Shylock, we would have moneys:’ you say so;
You, that did void your rheum upon my beard
And foot me as you spurn a stranger cur
Over your threshold: moneys is your suit
What should I say to you? Should I not say
‘Hath a dog money? is it possible
A cur can lend three thousand ducats?’ Or
Shall I bend low and in a bondman’s key,
With bated breath and whispering humbleness, Say this;
‘Fair sir, you spit on me on Wednesday last;
You spurn’d me such a day; another time
You call’d me dog; and for these courtesies
I’ll lend you thus much moneys’?

Ten Literary Things I Remember


cardplayersonthebeach Tunisia

(5 mythic card-players on a Tunisian beach)

1) In one of J.D. Salinger’s short stories, this guy who’s just been turned down for military service during the Vietnam war turns from the window and says, ” Ya know who the next war’s gonna be with? The goddam Eskimos. And ya know who’s gonna be conscripted this time? Everyone over sixty. ”

laz cbv

(3 Musicians make music in a sunny Lanzarote bar)

2) One of Jane Austen’s good guys saying quietly, “Badly done, Emma,” after she has publicly humiliated a well-meaning but irritatingly boring family servant.

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( 6 Flappers doing a Shetland version of the Charleston outside the Flattie Bar)

3) The last 2 lines of Macbeth’s soliloquy about the meaning of life:
“‘Tis a tale told by an idiot,
Full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.”
only the actor (not Olivier)  pronounced the last word “noth……thing”.

4) In Albee’s “Virginia Woolf” play,  Martha asks where the telegram is with the terrible news that their son is dead and George says, “ I ate it.”

5) A three line poem but whose I can’t remember:
wherever i go
i go too
and spoil everything. ”

6) ‘Moby Dick’s’ 3-word opening sentence “Call me Ishmael ” but did the other 159,341 words live up to such a striking beginning?

7) ” I can’t remember the first thing I remember.” I can’t remember where this quote came from…

8) Lucky’s  2-page long  rant  in ‘ En Attendant Godot’ – ” Étant donné l’existence telle qu’elle jaillit des récents travaux publics de Poinçon et Wattmann d’un Dieu………..Si Calmes!..Conard!..Inachevés! ” – that is  funny or sad, silly or profound, comic or tragic, or everything altogether all at once.

9) “Yes, I remember Adlestrop —
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June……”

Because of ‘doing’ Edward Thomas’s  poem in school, I once cycled from somewhere to Adlestrop but  (thanks to Dr. Beeching) there was no station anymore to remember, just this this small, forgettable village (80 inhabitants) and  this wonderfully bright, light  poem to immortalise that chance, unforgotten moment in the summer of 1914.

10) “Life and Other Punctures” – a light-hearted, very English novel about a bicycle trip in France by Eleanor Bron that still makes me smile. And makes me think (hard) about memorable titles – “Lucky Jim”, “Lord Jim”, “Lord of the Flies”, ” Catch 22 “, ” Catcher in the Rye”, “Brief Encounter”, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, “My Family and Other Animals”, “Look Back in Anger”, “Travels with a Donkey”……

Exotic Love


Gthes 6

Since my wife’s return from India, my life has been changed utterly. Even our conversations are totally different. When I say ” How are you this morning? ” Lydia laughs and says,” Why are you this morning?”

Then there is the chanting and dancing bit. She brought a CD  back with her and seated in what she tells me is the lotus position she chants along with it. I occasionally chant along with her so that she doesn’t feel I am being a negative presence although, unlike her, I feel pretty self-conscious about it all. What if one of my clients happened to peek in the window?

Then there is her dance routine. She starts by shaking herself all over and snuffling through her nose then her chanting becomes louder, she leaps about from foot to foot then throwing her arms into the air jumps and lands with a jarring thud on her heels. The heels, she tells me, are the font of sexuality. Then she whirls around and screams and shouts. This, she says, releases and drives out all her false selves, her bad spirits.

The one time I tried to join in, two policemen alerted by neighbours came to the door and refused to go till they saw for themselves that she was alive and unharmed and heard her rather too full explanation. I have a feeling they could hardly wait till they got back to the station to share the joke with the lads.

First Impressions


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I’m a shallow sort of guy and  generally go by first impressions. I  know whether I’m going to like/dislike someone within seconds of our first meeting, partly from what he/she says, partly from how he/she says it. Similarly the opening sentence of a novel/short story either grabs me or loses me, likewise the first minute of a film .
Here are some opening sentences that grabbed me:

Stately, plump Buck Mulligan came from the stairhead, bearing a bowl of lather on which a mirror and a razor lay crossed. –James Joyce, Ulysses (1922)

I like the sound and the rhythm of the first 4 words, how ‘stately’ is deflated by  ‘plump’, the concise exactness of ‘bearing’, the cleverness of the mass parody, the intelligence and humour and control that layers the writing.

Call me Ishmael. —Herman Melville, Moby-Dick (1851)

Three words and I’m the wedding guest immediately under the spell of this ancient mariner

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice(1813)

What a wicked sense of humour this lovable lady had!

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. —Gabriel García Márquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude (1967; trans. Gregory Rabassa)

Time telescoped.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. —Vladimir Nabokov, Lolita (1955)

All these ells – you can hear Humbert Humbert’s crazy love and lust for the 12-year-old in the rhythms and sounds.

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. —Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina (1877; trans. Constance Garnett)

Now there’s a thought that sends men in white coats running across fields.

riverrun, past Eve and Adam’s, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs. —James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)

English me that you Trinity scholar!

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. —Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (1859)

When you read this, your voice goes up, your voice goes down, up, down, up,  down,  up,  down, up,  down…..and you are swept off  into Dicken’s schizoid tale of two cities

Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested. —Franz Kafka, The Trial (1925; trans. Breon Mitchell)

The vague, slanderous ‘someone’,  the partially anonymous ‘Joseph K’ , the vagueness of his ‘crime’, the suddenness of ‘one morning’ all create this uncertain world where bad stuff can happen,  unannounced,  to anyone.

You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino’s new novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler. —Italo Calvino, If on a winter’s night a traveler (1979; trans. William Weaver)

A bit like those Russian Matryoshka nesting dolls that fit into each other.

If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth. —J. D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye (1951)

There’s the authentic teenage voice of the 1950s when most things were crap and most people phonies.

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo. —James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916)

The playfully distinctive voice of James Augustine Aloysius Joyce

Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. —Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway (1925)

Poor Mrs Dalloway, worried in case something would spoil her party, in case someone would let her down.

For a long time, I went to bed early. —Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way (1913; trans. Lydia Davis)’

” Longtemps, je me suis couché de bonne heure.”  Also translated as “For a long time I used to go to bed early.”
Is the abruptness of Lydia Davis’ translation  truer to Proust’s way with time?

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.  —L. P. Hartley,The Go-Between (1953)

Like standing up in the cinema at the end of a film to  God Save The Queen…..There’s a metaphor for you – it sounds very wise and convincing. Why didn’t Hartley write “they did things differently there”?