Sunday, May 30, 2010

Les Morilles du Chacal

This video speaks volumes about the excitement of stalking the elusive morel. Make sure your audio is turned up

I dont know who M. Chacall might be, but if I were in his shoes in that verdant bed of lurking "morilles" I'd be cackling away too . One senses a certain "joie" in "la chasse" that equals if not surpasses that of the actual harvest.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Fungal fantasies May fullfillment

After a long hard winter, my annual Spring time trek up to limestone country was not unsuccessful. After the false promises of the escaped specie (see last post) I had some trepidation regarding the annual morel fruitings. About two weeks ago I was delighted to come across several excellent examples of the noble fungus. I didn't find many but those I did were perfect. Sometimes quality trumps quantity. My yield after a full day in the woods? Only three, but they were all the better for their scarcity. And we enjoyed them with white wine butter sauce on our free range chicken breasts. Each bite was a symphony--although one by Webern, not Mahler-- or maybe Feldman is a better analogy. But their authenticity was beyond question--the real McCoy indeed.

I wonder if morels were ubiquitous we'd love them as much. I hear that in the mid West they harvest them by the bushel and then do outrageous, grievous harm to them in the kitchen; breaded and deep fried!!

I have, in some years, found more than a handful--maybe 20-30--but I can't say we enjoyed them any more for their abundance. On the whole, less is more.
And here come the compositional analogue....but, no, it doesn't need to be said, does it?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Semi-Authentic ?

Walking n East Rock Park the other day, keeping my eyes loosely peeled for morels --they never grow around here, where the soil is very acidic, but you have to keep alert as you never know--I stumbled across a large fruiting of wine red mushrooms in a patch of wood chips under a tall tulip tree. It took me a few minutes to scan through my fungus memory bank, and then I remembered--Stropharia rugosoannulata the so called "King Stropharia"This is an escaped species, believed to be native to Europe but not here. They are widelty cultivated in Europe and maybe here but Ive never seen them for sale
They sprout in the Spring and love woodchips and other garden mulch. Edible and not bad, but not one of the best. Yet they are impressive with their dark wine color and clustered myriads. I consider them to be "semi-authentic." And I know I could make a musical allusion here but I won't-- there's just too many examples of the semi authentic.

But to return to the unalloyed authentic, Louis Andriessen's monumental DE STAAT was resurrected last Monday at Zankel Hall under the guiding hand of John Adams (who also graced us with his own "Son of Chamber Symphony" and Stravinsky's "Concerto for Piano and Winds" -Jeremy Denk was the pianist. It was an amazing concert. I was spell bound, entranced, completely sucked into the glorious brass and woodwind sonorities of Louie's masterpiece. For me, de Staat towers over most music in the latter part of the last century. Its a kind of music that you could say was "invented" as much as it was composed.The enthusiasm of the young musicians of the Carnegie Hall "Academy" (ACJW) was palpable; this is young music and it has finally found its audience and its musicians
Louis is one of the authentic originals of our time.Three cheers to Maestro Adams for his advocacy and skillful rendering of a very subtle piece actually. And please note in the picture of Andriessen above his wielding of a pencil.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Authenticity II-Mondrian's Brush

Last week the iconic Polish composer Penderecki came to Yale and conducted an orchestra concert of his own works, both old and new."Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima for 52 Strings" held me spell bound; I was astonished at the originality of this 50 year old example of "Sonorism," a style that Penderecki literally invented. The other pieces were of more recent vintage and easily fell into the catch all category of Post Modernism. I suppose Threnody must be considered a perfect example of modernism; but wait! --there's more to it than that; its a genuinely heartfelt work of music emanating from within. It's authentic without question.
When you hear it, or just look at the score with all its graphic notation devices and strange symbols, you know its Penderecki. Sure, there have been scads of similar pieces using all those "extended" techniques pumped out by other composers anxious to hop on the bandwagon, but there is something about this piece--it has his touch, it has been painted with his brush.

Morton Feldman tells the story of Mondrian’s brush: Someone suggested to the Dutch artist that since his color fields were solid blocks of pure color, who not use spray paint to save time and energy? So Mondrian did, but the results were unsatisfactory; the paintings weren’t Mondrians. What was missing was the brush. Likewise, Feldman used a pencil for composition and never other means; his pencil is like Mondrian's brush.
Of course the analogue is that much of our digital technology mimics “hand” created scores, so in a way we are using spray paint!
Our anxiety is more abstract, less to do with the mechanics or craft, more to do with one’s identity. It’s so easy now to be an artist, a composer, but the paradox is that it’s actually harder.
We are still at the mercy of technology, but we suffer the illusion that everything is now possible-—we believe it but still we dream of that infinite realm of possibilities just waiting around the corner.
Feldman wrote: “One never has an identity, as an artist, but in a vague way remembers oneself in that role.”
So, one must be immersed in one’s own history to know one’s true identity—it can never be taken for granted. Maybe the word “authenticity” is the key to all this.
One ought to seek the “authentic” in one’s art and, in seeking it, remembers one’s identity.
That’s why Memory in art is so important-—the two are almost synonymous.