Monday, November 2, 2009

The Devil Made Me Do It!

Above photo is of "Mutinus Elegans" or "Devil's Dipstick"

This is not a mushroom I have found around here, but its cousin, "Phallus Impudicus" ("Devil's Stinkhorn") does pop up now and again, especially in gardens. It seems that bizarre or overtly sexual analogues in nature seem to attract the "Devil's" name.
And speaking of the Devil....

Last week John Adams was here in New Haven to give two lectures at the Whitney Humanities Center. The first was a well thought out and handsomely presented exegesis of Thomas Mann's Doctor Faustus, from a composer's point of view. Those familiar with the book will know that it is concerned with the fate of a brilliant composer, Adrian Levrkuhn, who literally sells his soul to the devil in order to attain ultimate acceptance and unparalled artistic achievement.
Besides being the story of a personal tragedy, it is also an allegory about the rise of Germam nationalism and Fascism--heavy stuff.
The second lecture was more about John's music, especially the character of Robert Oppenheimer, or Dr. Atomic in the opera of that name. Oppenheimer's sense of guilt and remorse, mixed with pride and determination (about sucessfully testing the bomb)is powerfully exemplified in the aria "Batter My Heart"A video of Gerald Finley singing the role of Oppenheimer was a crushingly intense musical statement. One almost thought John himself had made a diabolical pact. This is too good!! Does John see some of Dr Faust in himself?
I refer you to John's new blog appropriately called "HellMouth"

And John's latest orchestral essay is fiendishly hot and cool. City Noir Gustavo Dudamel (no, we won't call him "the Dude")whipped the LA Phil into a frenzy with this 30 minute symphony (it has three movements); he also calmed it down for some lovely sentimental moments, but on the whole it's pretty raucous and over the top.PBS broadcast it live and part of that is still on line at the PBS website

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