Calvino, The Cloven Viscount (1952), I
J.S. Bach, Fantasia in G major, BWV 572 (c. 1712)
Peter Hurford, organ
Etching (from The Roman Antiquities), Piranesi
Janáček, Glagolitic Mass (1927): Agneče Božij (Agnus Dei)
Felicity Palmer, soprano
Ameral Gunson, mezzo
John Mitchinson, tenor
Malcolm King, bass
Jane Parker-Smith, organ
City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra & Chorus • Simon Rattle (1981)
Jean Richafort, Requiem in memoriam Josquin des Prez, for 6 voices (1532): Introitus
Huelgas Ensemble • Paul Van Nevel
Haven’t taken a photo — of anything — in ten months, so here’s one.
(Ignore the semi-darkness here and dishevelment. Couldn’t find a good, glareless light in the room.)
'Talking Heads' / Gadające glowy (1980), a short film done documentary-style by the Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski
The premise is so simple that any less-talented imitator would botch the job. Each person interviewed is asked two questions by the director (who, as it happens, said he made the film after realizing that he himself couldn’t answer them): Who are you? & What do you want from life?
'That great wit is allied to madness.' — So far from this being true, the greatest wits will ever be found to be the sanest writers. It is impossible for the mind to conceive of a mad Shakspeare. The greatness of wit, by which the poetic talent is here chiefly to be understood, manifests itself in the admirable balance of all the faculties. Madness is the disproportionate straining or excess of any one of them. 'So strong a wit,' says Cowley, speaking of a poetical friend,
—did Nature to him frame,
As all things but his judgment overcame;
His judgment, like the heavenly moon did show,
Tempering, that mighty sea below.
The ground of the fallacy is, that men, finding in the raptures of the higher poetry a condition of exaltation, to which they have no parallel in their own experience, besides the spurious resemblance of it in dreams and fevers, impute a state of dreaminess and fever to the poet. But the true poet dreams being awake. He is not possessed by his subject, but has dominion over it. In the groves of Eden he walks familiar as in his native paths. He ascends the empyrean heaven, and is not intoxicated. He treads the burning marl without dismay; he wins his flight without self-loss through realms of chaos ‘and old night.’ Or if, abandoning himself to that severer chaos of a ‘human mind untuned,’ he is content awhile to be mad with Lear, or to hate mankind (a sort of madness) with Timon, neither is that madness, nor this misanthropy, so unchecked, but that, — never letting the reins of reason wholly go, while most he seems to do so, — he has his better genius still whispering at his ear, with the good servant Kent suggesting saner counsels, or with the honest steward Flavius recommending kindlier resolutions. Where he seems most to recede from humanity, he will be found the truest to it.
Charles Lamb, “The Sanity of True Genius” (New Monthly Magazine, May 1826) [x]
Also Chesterton: [x]
It is very curious how, for the last year or two, I perpetually come across in my reading just what I have been thinking about, curious I mean, of course, because my reading is so haphazard. It reminds me of Wm. in old days when his eyes were bad and I used to begin and tell him something which I thought of interest from whatever book I might be reading, when he would invariably say, ‘I glanced into the book yesterday and read that.’ I wonder what determines the selection of memory, why does one childish experience or impression stand out so luminous and solid against the, for the most part, vague and misty background? The things we remember have a firsttimeness about them which suggests that that may be the reason of their survival. I must ask Wm. some day if there is any theory on the subject, or better, whether ‘tis worth a theory.
I remember so distinctly the first time I was conscious of a purely intellectual process. It was the summer of ‘56 which we spent in Boulogne and the parents of Mlle. Marie Boningue our governess had a campagne on the outskirts and invited us to spend the day, perhaps Marie’s fête-day. A large and shabby calèche came for us into which we were packed, save Wm.; all I can remember of the drive was a never-ending ribbon of dust stretching in front and the anguish greater even than usual of Wilky’s and Bob’s heels grinding into my shins. Marie told us that her father had a scar upon his face caused by a bad scald in his youth and we must be sure and not look at him as he was very sensitive. How I remember the painful conflict between sympathy and the desire to look and the fear that my baseness should be discovered by the good man as he sat at the head of the table in charge of a big frosted-cake sprinkled over with those pink and white worms in which lurk the caraway seed. How easy it would be to picture one’s youth as a perpetual escape from that abhorred object!—I wonder if it is a blight upon children still?—But to arrive at the first flowering of me Intellect! We were turned into the garden to play, a sandy or rather dusty expanse with nothing in it, as I remember, but two or three scrubby apple-trees, from one of which hung a swing. As time went on Wilky and Bob disappeared, not to my grief, and the Boningues. Harry stayed and was sitting in the swing and I came up and stood near by as the sun began to slant over the desolate expanse, as the dready hours, with that endlessness which they have for infancy, passed, when Harry suddenly exclaimed: ‘This might certainly be called pleasure under difficulties!’ The stir of my whole being in response to the substance and exquisite, original form of this remark almost makes my heart beat now with the sisterly pride which was then awakened and it came to me in a flash, the higher nature of this appeal to the mind, as compared to the rudimentary solicitations which usually produced my childish explosions of laughter; and I can also feel distinctly the sense of self-satisfaction in that I could not only perceive, but appreciate this subtlety, as if I had acquired then a new sense, a sense whereby to measure intellectual things, wit as distinguished from giggling, for example.
|—||Alice James, Diaries, 16 June 1889|
Mozart, Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K. 310 (1778): 1. Allegro maestoso
Alicia de Larrocha (1979)
Strange to say, this is the only recording of K. 310 that makes total musical sense to me. One gets too caught up in the story of his mother’s death, the autumn in Paris coming on, the tragedy and heartache.
But what I can remember, listening to Larrocha, is that lengthy, almost diffident letter he wrote to his father, breaking the news about his mother’s death. He mentions it happened, in a short paragraph at the beginning — and then rambles on and on for pages about Cannabich and the Mannheim orchestra, the old tenor Anton Raaff, the follies of certain organists and impresarios, and his talentless student in Paris, who couldn’t write the littlest minuet, even after hours of prodding and prompting. And behind the letter you can imagine him wandering from room to room, circling around these ridiculous things, pointlessly holding to a sort of tact or studied grace — only occasionally returning to the one thing that’s keeping him from standing still.
Larrocha does the second movement even better, in the legato middle section. There’s no desperation here, only a sort of duty to keep going on. Not for anything (there’s nothing out there), but because of something else.
|—||Ned Rorem, New York Diary, Autumn 1958|