Sunday, January 23, 2011

A lonely ski trail

Where, one wonders, does it go?
More snow this week and as it mounts into great piles it remains serene and quietly seductive on fields and meadows and in woods. I was thinking yesterday as I was pushing along on my old skis--gliding actually,the snow being fresh and dry--about an obscure piece by Sibelius, A Lonely Ski Trail (En ensam skidspor) written in his "late" period. Based on a poem by Bertil Grippenberg, it's a charming little "melodrama" with the poem being recited. Charming isn't quite right as it's full of that Nordic tristese and resignation tinged with a kind of loveliness. It's rather dark actually.
But I wondered, as I glided through this crystalline, wintry landscape, did Sibelius go out on skis? I suppose he must have, it being comme il faut in rural Finland. But I bet he dressed to the nines--coat and tie and knickers.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Correction: Not so bleak afterall

This is one of those magical snowfalls that you remember in your dreams

Out on skis this morning along Mill Creek (Eli Whitney's old stomping grounds). About a foot of pristine snow, easy to glide along in.
The prediction of bleakness for today was ill-advised.
Maybe it's me, feeling kind of bleak myself lately. I've been grappling with the last psalm of my Psalmbook, and it keeps turning into a doxology (it is, in fact "Old Hundred"); now its becoming a Halleluia of sorts. The whole idea of the Psalmbook came from Arvo Paert's "Missa Brevis" wherein the vocal ensemble and string quartet are truly minimal and perfectly so--talk about economy of means! But it's turned into something more akin to Steve Reich's "Tehillim".
The anxiety of Influence! That's the trouble. Well, I have often preached that composition is only the art of discovery. Originality is a construction, a "trope." (Thats a foggy notion!)
I've been thinking about Tucson, remembering the pristine natural beauty of the mountains and desert and the souless suburban sprawl that offsets it; why do these violent acts always seem to happen in places where the weather is good?

Thursday, January 6, 2011

In the bleak mid Winter

After the Boxing Day Blizzard two weeks ago, we still have large patches of snow and ice here and there; it's also rather cold. Bleak is a good word for this season.
I love that Christmas carol, written by Gustav Holst, and I love even more the other setting by Harold Darke--it seems., well, bleaker, but also redolent of hope which, I think, is the sub-text of Christmas, isn't it?
Just occurred to me that this is the last day of the Nativity the so called Three Kings Day, so I can report on our Christmas Eve dinner, a beautiful side of Norwegian salmon, garnished-- no, covered-- in chanterelles. Yes, that's right, I broke down and bought them t the local Whole Foods. To my amazement, they were reasonable in price ($15 lb) and in decent condition ( chants are hardy and can maintain their integrity when others mushrooms have rotted away.). I believe their provenance was Oregon. With all the winter rain the PNW has been getting this year there seems to be a bumper crop. We enjoyed more on New Years Eve,when they underscored with their earthy, chewy succulence some gamey lamb shanks..
I suppose it was the utter lack of chanterelle fruitings last summer that gave me"permission" to buy them.
A recent post on my friend JA's blog ("Hellmouth") talks about "Stravinsky's Arm Farts." This is worth checking out. It tuns out, according to John (backed up I imagine, by his old nemesis, R Taruskin) that as a young boy Igor was quite adept at this method of body percussion --he learned it from a local serf on he family estate in the Ukraine--and that it may have been the source of his punchy, off kilter rhythmic machinations heard in Le Sacre etc. Musicologists, take note!
A new snow storm has moved in. It's quite lovely outside now; tomorrow it will be bleak.

Gloucester Cathedral-Holst

Kings College Camb.-Darke