Monday, July 18, 2011

Brucknerian mountains

Sunday afternoon, a hot sweltering day in the City, I sat in the vast expanses of Lincoln Center's Fisher Hall, and I couldn't imagine being in a place more different from where I had been the week before-on the shore of an alpine lake at the base of the Sierra Buttes in the Sierra Nevada
Yet the glacial ebbs and flows, the undulating valleys and peaks of Bruckner's 9th Symphony transformed the hall (in my mind anyhow) into a very montane environment.
Literalists, or objectivists, would downplay the affective power of a Bruckner symphony, pointing out, in contrast, its purely"musical" (ie, "formal") attributes. Maybe it was because I had so recently been in such an environment that my sensors picked up the connection between musical structure, meaning, memory and mountains.
Yes, there are Brucknerian mountains, and they are not all in Austria
And indeed there are Mahlerian mountains, and even Beethovenian mountains (pace LB whose famous essay "Bullsession in the Rockies" from the late fifties warned us from such "meaningful" allusions - and no, there are no "Buxtehudian "mountains.}
Although I don't think Bruckner was much of an "Alpinist"--ie, a mountain climber/hiker--his music has its wildly contrasting peaks and troughs; in fact whole series of climaxes of varying intensities is a perfect way of "reading" a mountain range or massif such as the Buttes.
This begs the question: can we "read" Nature as we do Art? Or do we need to?

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Wholefoods myco harvest

I was extremely optimistic about a late Spring visit to my cabin in the northern Sierras --actually, by the calendar, it was an early summer visit--as the late melting snow from the record breaking winter accumulation promised a bumper crop of morels and possibly boletes. Normally the prime season is the first few weeks in June, the last vestiges of snow having faded by then. But I guess the message didn't get through to the asco's mycelia that it was ok to come out now. Despite several serious sweeps of known areas of fruiting, the forest floor yielded NOTHING! I did, however, find a cluster of boletes growing in a disturbed area that had yielded the tasty mushrooms in the past.But wouldn't you know it-- they were just over the hill, worm ridden to the max.
Actually, there was one good specimen that we were able to eat after carving away the "bad" spots (In fact, I doubt ingesting the small larvae would do any harm)
Upon our return to the lowlands (Berkeley) we were delighted to find in the kitchen for dinner that night a handsome and generous collection of not only boletes but a few morels to boot! All this harvested in the produce aisle of the local Wholefoods by prescient Debby who must have heard of our misadventures. (Actually, the lack of fungi aside, we had a great week in the Sierra Nevada)
My cabin lies not far from the majestic crags called the Sierra Buttes, which are always awe inspiring in any season, but the late Spring's heavy mantle of snow gave them an even grander disposition; I never tire of feasting my eyes upon them, but this year they were positively Brucknerian.