Friday, November 28, 2014
In the autumn of 1621, a group of people who had long inhabited this land sat down with a group of immigrants calling themselves Pilgrims to celebrate a successful harvest. Initially, the native born had been suspicious of the new immigrants. The newcomers had come from across the sea without permission and without any rights over the land they occupied (you might even call them undocumented). They dressed oddly, had a different color skin, spoke a language the native born didn’t understand, and appeared to have few practical skills (they were nearly hopeless at hunting and fishing). Nevertheless, the native born shared their knowledge with the immigrants -- of local crops, planting and harvesting, and navigation – and thereby helped the immigrants survive.
In that first Thanksgiving, three hundred ninety-three years ago, the two groups joined together to express gratitude and mutual respect. It seems fitting that today we honor subsequent generations of hard-working immigrants, as well as the native born who have welcomed and helped them succeed in this bounteous land.
I've been thinking so much about immigration and who comes to what lands under what circumstances during this semester in Paris, and so of course Reich's words resonated with me. They also resonated with me because of the shame of Ferguson, and the sorrow and the rage and the loss of so much. There's little room in there for a "sincere" or "simple" explanation of Thanksgiving, of what we are thankful for. It's complicated; makes more for gladness than exuberance.
Magret de Canard with a red wine orange sauce (here)
Everything else was from the UK edition of Good Housekeeping
Brussel Sprouts with Garlic Butter
Potatoes Roasted in Duck Fat
Ginger-Roasted Root Vegetables
Cranberry Sauce with Candied Ginger and Orange
Apple Marzipan Tart
Orange-Chocolate Panettone Pudding
And so, to wellness and to discussion and to change and to hope and to gathering.
Wednesday, November 12, 2014
Les Bleuets de France, an organization founded by two French women after WWI which raises money for veterans ("ceux qui restent") especially the wounded. In exchange for our donation we were given small, blue pins and Mac and I immediately put ours on. For the rest of the day people asked us where we had gotten our "bleuets" and for the rest of the day we harkened back to the ceremonies at the Arc de Triomphe. The little flower kept pulling us back, even as thoughts were already on Armistice Day and WWI - with Mac's scholarship so deeply involved in the War and with the incredible show that we would see later the same day at the Invalides, Vu du Front, featuring representations of WWI from soldiers in every media possible. The "bleuet" in France and the poppy in England (because of the poem, but also because of the incredible commemorative art project in the moat of the Tower of London) have become emblems for the Great War that defied all scale of loss - they are radically small and ephemeral objects that stand for (oh my goodness and with and against and have withstood) the enormity and presence of war.
Monday, November 10, 2014
itinerary for children that you can download before you go). I'm going to show the entire stele in just a few lines, but here, I wanted to focus on this patterning, this stylization of waves - the crisp new wave to the left in tight interlace, the wave starting to crash upon the shore with its crest coming undone, its interlace in loopy disarray. And the bodies of the waves themselves thick as stone, joined and rearing, barely tempering. Whoever carved this knew their sound.
Saturday, November 1, 2014
|The Critic Happy|
|Truly, an elephant!|
All of which brings me to music.
Specifically, the music of Jacob Handl (1550-1591) and Thomas Tallis (1505-1585) and other searching composers brought into bright, vivid, spellbinding life by my wondrous friend David Stein who knows this music so intimately and chose it for the program of an unforgettable concert at the church of St-Gilles at Malestroit, and directed the choir that made it shine. I remember being stunned when Kant proclaimed music the perfect art (grad school, I think, or when I used to teach art criticism; it's hazy but the temporality of visual art and the transcendence of music were suddenly opposed), but I'm not stunned to think on it when I hear the music that David wills forth. That's Handl in the clip above, the "Duo Seraphim" which splits the choir into two and took the audience's breath away as a second set of voices floated up from we knew not where in the way that medieval architecture has of confusing sound. And by confusing I mean intertwining and enveloping and making the known (the sure contours of architecture you can perceptually trace) the unknown (the fluid trajectory of sound that always eludes stillness and capture). It's hearing early modern music in medieval space that makes me realize the weight (heft, force) of music, the love and effort of the choral director lifting the music and sustaining it in the space as it starts to fill with sound and mercy, wonder, love and loss.
I've always been fascinated with where music exists as art: in the composer's head, in the score, in the voices of the singers, in the director's guidance, in the audience's emotions. In this, I can think on both music and medieval oral tradition (especially meeting in troubadours and secular poetry). In this, I marvel at how spatial music is, how spatially involved it is. In this, I perceive how a space can amplify sound (how David can somehow lift music from the page and into his choir's voices and offer it up to the space all around that receives it and embraces it and nourishes it), and how it can be amplified (how it can shimmer into something so much bigger than what I can see). How the elephant is transformed in its complicity with the wonder of this music. And doesn't Tallis and his "Lamentations of Jeremiah" above somehow make this happen?
Because what is this music, what was this wondrous afternoon, save the resonant oscillation of a most common element (our human voice, modulating sound unceasingly for millennia) with one most rare (the ephemeral alignment of voice, space, sound and all the love and survival that that alignment entails)? I felt this most when David led "Shir Hama'alot" by Salamone Rossi (1570-1630). Was this the first time the elephant had been enveloped by voices tracing Hebrew sounds into the air to be held by the vault in which it was painted? It was, when Salomone Rossi wrote the music, the first time that Jewish liturgical music had been set to the Baroque idiom. It creates, every time, a marvelous commonality between early modern synagogal space and wherever it is heard forever after. It reveals mysteries in their joy.