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Posts Tagged ‘Art’

Emily Dickinson’s Leopard

Léon de Wailly Grande Panthere 1812.jpg

By way of breaking long silence, RT offers this beguiling missive from Ms. Dickinson:

Civilization — spurns — the Leopard!
Was the Leopard — bold?
Deserts — never rebuked her Satin —
Ethiop — her Gold —
Tawny — her Customs —
She was Conscious —
Spotted — her Dun Gown —
This was the Leopard’s nature — Signor —
Need — a keeper — frown?

Pity — the Pard — that left her Asia —
Memories — of Palm —
Cannot be stifled — with Narcotic —
Nor suppressed — with Balm —

Drawing: Grand Panthere. Leon de Wailly. 1812. Public Domain.

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John Constable: Landscape and Prophecy

October 28, 2014 2 comments

It could be just a fine landscape painted in the colder months in England, but RT feels there’s something prescient or even prophetic about this untitled painting by John Constable. The image, with its loose, impressionistic style, anticipates art that would have been considered avant-garde a half-century after Constable painted it (1811), and its subject is nothing tangible, but rather the mood it creates in the viewer. We see here a movement away from the heroic and romantic concerns of the 18th and 19th centuries towards a direct encounter with nature and experience, the commonplace that is somehow not commonplace. The beauty of humanity and nature are here in balance, a poise we need to encourage in our century.    RT

Painting: Study for or detail of a larger painting? John Constable, 1811. WikiCmns; Victoria and Albert Museum. Public Domain.

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Discoveries

September 6, 2014 Leave a comment

640px-Dust_bowl,_Texas_Panhandle,_TX_fsa.8b27276_edit--WikiPD-2

In his research for his mother’s memoirs and family history in general, RT has run across many amazing images. He offers one such discovery here, Dust Clouds and Car, by American photo-journalist Arthur Rothstein. It’s worth noting that RT’s mom was driven by her adoptive mother three times cross country from New York City to Lake Tahoe, starting in 1937. RT has yet to find an image that captures the dangers and mystery of the 1930s as effectively as this one does.

RT has also managed to watch Grand Hotel, a classic early Hollywood talkie. Another trick-up-his-sleeve: he has run across Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans, one of the great surviving silent movies, and will be watching it in the next few days. Expect reviews of both films in these pages in the next week or so.

The 1930s and 40s are widely understood as an epochal period, and we’re very lucky to be able to experience these years through the best artistic efforts of the time.

Photo: Dust Clouds and Car, Texas Panhandle (1936). Arthur Rothstein, LOC. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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Ah, Madrid!!!

RT never managed to visit Spain while his family was posted in France; the deal was that he got to go to Russia, and his younger brother visited Spain the following year. RT has always been satisfied with the trade-off.

But this marvelous early-modern view of Madrid makes him wonder. The seat of the Spanish government pretty much continuously since 1561, Madrid boasts an impressive inventory of architecture, museums, and Bohemian venues. And then there is the rest of Spain; RT at the moment wouldn’t mind spending a few days in Toledo, Spain’s “City of Three Cultures.”

RT has heard that an intense, spiritual beauty is to be found throughout the Iberian peninsula, in part the gift of a long, complex, and passionate history.

DrawingView of Madrid from the west, facing the Puerta de la Vega (1562). Artist: Anton van den Wyngaerde (called in Spain Antonio de las Viñas). WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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Karnak, Thebes, and the Hedjet

File:Karnakfrieze1.jpg

As May draws to a close, RT offers this photograph of a magnificent frieze at Karnak, the temple district of the ancient Egyptian city of Thebes. Karnak is the largest ancient religious site in the world, and RT is beginning to suspect that Thebes played a primary role in the evolution of ancient Mediterranean religion.

In part, RT’s interest in Thebes is based on its frequent appearance in Greek myth, in part on the fact that the ancient crown of Upper Egypt, the Hedjet, looks remarkably like the crown worn by Baal, the chief god of ancient Phoenicia. Though Thebes was not the capital of pre-dynastic Upper Egypt, it was the administrative center of Upper Egypt under the Pharaohs (and is located not far from Nekhen, which was the capital of p-d Upper Egypt.) How did the epochal unification of Egypt (c. 3000 BC) under Narmer (or Menes), king of UE, affect developing religious beliefs?

Unfortunately, RT can say little at the moment about the significance of the scene recorded in the frieze, other than that it is located in the precinct of Amun-Re. A date and translation of the inscription would help greatly; there’s more research ahead for RT.

Photograph: Panorama of a frieze at Karnak. Author/Source: Bialonde. WikiCmns; Public Domain.

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Music Covers, Translation, and Perpetuum Jazille

April 23, 2014 1 comment

File:Toto in concert.jpg

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chez RT, the muses have been on self-ordered R&R, the Dragons of Grammar have only been occasionally sighted over distant ocean horizons, and RT himself has been attending to such nitty-gritties as the extermination of bed-bugs (victory seems imminent) and the rearrangement of household furniture after knock-down, drag-out fights with the insect world.

Whew! No wonder RT has recently immersed himself in the world of YouTube, listening to old favs and checking out the impressive poetry offerings to be found on that site. But as always, discovery awaits the explorer.

Now for the details: RT has long been a fan of the pop group Toto, a phenom of the 70s and 80s best known for its ballad-style lyrics and dramatic musical arrangements. Love and corn have been the bailiwick of this group, and more power to them: where would poetry be without love and corn?

As a result of this surfing, RT has discovered the field of musical covers, that is, versions of well-known songs performed by musicians other than those who originally created the song. Is the cover better than the original? You the listener decide. The process can’t help but remind RT of literary translations from language to language (and in particular, poetry translations), and so he has decided to volunteer his critical two cents.

Surely, covers as an endeavor are more precise and accurate than poetry translations. Music is the international language, its notation standardized (for the most part) centuries ago. Western staff notation, as it is known, tells the performer the pitchspeedmeter, and individual rhythms of a particular musical work. To balance out this precision in European classical music, improvisation, the practice of creating spontaneous music during a performance, has developed. Together with musical ornamentation, improvisation allows the musician(s) performing a piece to add his, her, or their individual interpretations, greatly enriching the musical possibilities of a particular performance. 

Needless to say, poetry has a far less precise muse, yet produces its own beauty. What is the difference between poetry translation and musical interpretation?  RT has suggested several times that poetry exists in the tension between meaning and music, between the thought and beauty; it grows out of the roots of the spoken word. He will now suggest that music has a similar set of roots,  not in speech, but in movement. To take the argument further, RT thinks that movement is a primary means of remaining connected to the external world;  spatial coordination, overseen by sight, is music’s basic mental function. On the other hand, speech is deeply internal, arising out of inner silence, the stillness that human meaning arises from.  Speech, in contrast, may be rooted in some kind of crisis.

Does tension between movement and music exist? As far as RT can see, the opposite is the case: movement and motion reinforce each other.

So we are looking at what may be two very different ways of creating beauty.

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Take it on home, RT! A few nights ago, YouTube introduced RT to Perpetuum Jazille‘s cover of Toto’s hit, Africa. RT was impressed by the degree to which PJ reproduced Africa using an entirely different orchestration. RT will venture that PJ’s approach to the song resembles a pointillist painting. He encourages readers to watch the YouTube videos of Toto’s and PJ’s versions of the song (the links to YouTube are below) and asks his readers to pay attention to the very different motions (and number of musicians) associated with each version. Though the two versions are meant to sound the same, do they? Which approach to the musical notation is better?

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1) Toto Africa Link:

2) Perpetuum Jazzile Africa Link:

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Photo: Toto in Concert (Trondheim, Norway, 4 August 2007). Author: Milford. Wikimedia; Public Domain.

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The Monarch Butterfly’s Spring Migration

April 9, 2014 6 comments

File:Monarch Butterfly Danaus plexippus on Echinacea purpurea 2800px.jpg

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The time is approaching for eastern Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) to return to the U.S. east coast from their wintering grounds in Mexico: a more beautiful visitor is hard to imagine. Though the population of the Monarch has declined significantly in recent years, a decline linked to several changes in the butterfly’s environment, the MB is not yet listed as endangered. Fortunately, several organizations are at work trying to protect the butterflies; RT offers links to a couple of them, Monarch Watch and Monarch Butterfly Fund. As is so often the case, the status of the most vulnerable members of a community is a good indicator of the community’s overall health.   RT

Photograph: A Monarch Butterfly on a Purple Coneflower (2007). Author: Derek Ramsey (Ram-Man). WikiCmns; License: GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 only. This image was selected as picture of the day on English Wikipedia, August 27, 2008.

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