Wednesday, November 25, 2015

An Art Form From the Dark Side...

I will avert this time from my dealing  with music in order to relate a little-known incident in another art form; the making of a movie.
The fateful voyage in early 1912 of the Titanic has been  portrayed a number of times by way of the movie; however, the most {arguably} unusual, let alone troubling version was made in Nazi Germany in 1943, at a time when the fortunes of  this monster regime were beginning to turn against it.
The Minister of Propaganda (meaning essentially, the minister of the arts), Dr. Joseph Goebbels, decided to have a movie produced dealing with that fateful one-time voyage. He arranged to have the monies available(at a price of many millions in today's money value) and appointed a young director named Herbert Selpin to bring this epic to the screen.
The movie was indeed produced and distributed to various countries; but, strangely, not to the German audiences, who never got to know of its existence. The theory is that Goebbels, upon mulling the issue over, was fearful of the possibility that there could be a reverse reaction to the saga that could create  a form of depression, what with the German civilian undergoing a reality about the declining state of Nazi Germany as it so recently appeared to them for the first time.
The theme that Goebbels wanted to convey the movie upon was the reality that the English plutocracy  wanted this  giant vessel to reach New York in record time, no matter what safety measures might have to be sacrificed. Actors, many from the military, were hired and evidently gave Selpin a rather difficult time during the course of the production time, mostly from drunkenness and general rowdyism.
Selpin reacted vehemently to the chaotic state of the film's production, and was summarily banished from his position, ending up being jailed by the Gestapo. Soon after, this young director was found hanged in his jail cell - that was the official cause of death.
There are some historians who are looking into the possibility that Goebbels may have ordered Selpin's death, for fear that the truth, as we know it, may eventually become known.
For me perhaps a movie about the movie should be made...


Friday, November 13, 2015

The Illimitable Powers of Music - A Form of Omniprescence Unequaled?

I remember, as a child of about 8 or 9, bouncing along dusty paths and roads, whistling some of the tunes that positively ensnared me, from the legendary 1938  Carnegie Hall concert with Benny Goodman - day after day, as I  made  my way back to the cottage my family occupied each August in Old Forge in the Adirondack mountains, I most distinctly recall my whistling the same tunes, after my daily swims in Old Forge Pond intermingled with games of horseshoes with Mr. Murphy and his friends. My first piano teacher, Mr. Benjamin Falkoff, would have turned purple had he known of my choice of 'tunes to whistle', rather than the pieces, such as he had taught me that year; pieces  such as "Pomponette" and "Bonjour," let alone the lyrical exercises of Concone, Gurlitt and Streabogg.
And how the melodies of George Gershwin in his 1924 history-changing "Rhapsody in Blue" surrounded me during the following months of that same year. And even then, I was beginning to 'sort of ' comprehend the kind of impact that those two concerts had on the path of music - how those concerts had  transmogrified the traditional place of Jazz, as it had applied to "serious" music up until that period of time, even though the two concerts were spaced some fourteen years apart.
And, as I sometimes  look back at my past experiences, especially during childhood; how constant and  redolent with 'Presence' this truly arcane language was - and, of course, is-
Would it be possible to know of a day without music being part of my consciousness? Probably not, save for such traumas as the death of a family member; or having undergone surgery, or heaviness of that content.
There is almost always a tune that passes through my day, when I am not within sight of  a piano, or a radio or CD player or the like.
True; as a musician, I would expect such things to attend each and every day - but for most of us who are not in the field or are not possessed of natural musical gifts - is music not there to be surrounded by? How many of us remember the Walkman strapped to our heads as we walked down a street? How many of us whistle or hum a  tune here and there, veritably daily? How many kids have hordes of tunes downloaded in innumerable electronic devices?  Or adults? How many malls have music going on in their speakers before and after business hours, just for those who are there cleaning these places up? How many elevators give us music, even if it is  for twelve seconds? Was there a more effective way of coalescing the public than using the parade and marching bands, with songs written for particular occasions, than the ways of music Hitler utilized during his twelve years of power?  Another example  has been related by more than one historian  about the power of music that helped  bind the early Christians together during their first fragile years.
And on and on -
I find myself humming, as I walk my ten miles per week...                                


Friday, November 6, 2015

The Barenboim Piano - A Product Of Barenboim's Own Performances?

Some of you may have read my blog last spring announcing the creation of a newly designed piano by the celebrated virtuoso Daniel  Barenboim. As I stated in that blog, if this instrument is accepted by other leading pianists, it could ultimately lead to a  re-examining of the interpretive views of masterpieces of the past; especially, perhaps, the piano music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
I had, since writing that blog, been pondering the issue of  the emergence of a new direction of  thinking about the works of, say, Mozart or Schubert, by way of a correspondingly new reaction to their music because of the characteristics of this new piano.
Is this thought on my part due to my reactions to Barenboim's playing  of their music(especially Mozart's) on the present piano?
I say this because of the recordings of Barenboim's Mozart during the past few years.
For me, Barenboim is, at this point in time, the greatest living Mozart performer.  He is the first pianist to have  created  a need for me to want to  possess  an edition of nothing but the slow movements of Mozart's sonatas, and plumb these notes I have known for so many years. To my ears, Barenboim has reached an uncanny level of further discovery of Mozart's language without sullying.
Did Barenboim's ongoing journey in this period of music create the need for him to look into the piano itself?
Could this be the reason for the Barenboim Piano?
I wonder, at times...


Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Extirpation of Man's Art? Not Really...

When I think of the great works of art that Man has created; and continues to do,  my memory serves up a number of examples of the utter indestructibility  of this particular human attainment:
Mozart's disdain  and  general dislike of  the Royal family at its unfavorable view, for example, of the brash young composer's stance on language choice in Opera.
Beethoven's stance on Authority- his statement "it is they who should bow to us" is, in actuality, a rather prescient example of the ultimate victory that man's art promulgates veritably every time. For example, Napoleon is a memory, but the "Eroica" symphony, which as we know was, for a brief period, dedicated to the tyrant,  can be heard or performed at any time.
Franco is a distant reminder of the Spanish agony. But Picasso's "Guernica" can be seen on any given day.
The obscene exhibit staged by Hitler in 1937 he named 'Entartete Kunst' (degenerate art) is, I believe, still the most largely attended art exhibit of all time (millions went to the 'museum' it was housed in)  - this exhibit had paintings and sculpture of many of history's great artists; some deliberately hung upside down, was, for me, one of the strongest examples of the elemental fear(which Hatred so often is begotten from) that Adolf Hitler had for The Artist; simply because the imagery  of  illimitable power of  Message that the great artist possesses cannot be altered;  no matter what form of tyranny surrounds it. This power of message  cannot be extirpated, except by the elimination of that artist. We know that Hitler was in constant search to eliminate the art AND the artist who did not conform to his brand of reality concerning existential reality. That's why such heroes as Varian Fry, who saved great numbers of artists and writers from Hitlerism, constitute such an important part of human history.
And there other examples, of course; but, enough for now...


Friday, September 25, 2015

Only When Great Music and the Great Performer Are One...

I sometimes  grapple with and  wonder about  Time and Space when I am witness to the fusion of great performer and  great music.
When I hear, for example, the Arietta by Grieg; or "Chopin" by Schumann, either of which amounts to one page of manuscript, I  am the bearer of precisely the same kinds of reactions and sense of presence as I do when I hear, again for example, the "Hammerklavier"  Sonata by Beethoven or the Second Piano Concerto by Brahms, either of which consumes the  greater part of an hour.
The nature of impact of connection and spiritual/emotive gravitation seem to result in the same kind of reality, it seems to me, that sleep gives; namely,  upon falling asleep and awakening, which could be a period of three minutes, or six hours -  there seems to be a sense of  NO time, as we normally  encounter time measurement  - by the second, minute, or hour.
When Andsnes plays Arietta, or Serkin plays "Hammerklavier,"  I undergo the same  kind of immersion, seemingly, of "no time" - whether it be a minute or 45 minutes.
Great Music without the attendant Great Artist; or, vice versa -  none of the above would or could exist...


Friday, September 18, 2015

"The Art Of -" How Words Can Be Their Own Music...

I've shared the world of Imagery with you, primarily by way of  music, in these blogs. And as you know, I often delve into other forms of human creativity as well.
Why not touch upon  the blend of words, rather than music this time around?
Here are some of my favorite examples of  creative giants among us:

"True terror is upon awakening, and realizing that the country is being run by your high school class."
Kurt Vonnegut

"Every old person has a young person inside who wonders what happened."
Terry Pratchett

"Karl Marx was right. Socialism does work. It's just that he chose the wrong species."
Edward  O. Wilson, naturalist. One of the world's authorities on the social network of  ant colonies.

"What we have learned from history is that we have not learned from history."
Benjamin Disraeli

"Heaven goes by favor. If it went by merit, you'd stay out and your dog would go in."
Mark  Twain

"T.V. is very educational. The moment someone turns it on, I go to the library and read a good book."
Groucho Marx

"There is nothing to be learned from the second kick of a mule."
Mark Twain

And  what about some examples of pure humor, without any philosophical weight attached?
The great comedian, Stan Laurel, of the immortal Laurel and Hardy  team attaining world-wide fame during  the second and third decades of the 20th century, first had become a protege of Charlie Chaplin before he came to America, and was, in actuality, the genius behind the famous series this culture knew so well some eighty years ago. His unique sense of color in the form  of humor was so pure that his statements were inculcated into most  of the scripts  surrounding that pristine form of  his utterance. For instance:
In one of the films, he is a kind of detective looking for a young lady by the name of Mary Roberts. Well into the story, his frustration is measured by his approaching a  lass he had never before seen, demanding an answer to " I want to know why you are not Mary Roberts!"
In another movie, he had just met a person he had not seen in twenty years, and ejaculated "do you remember how dumb I used to be? Well, I'm better now."
His most poignant statement came after an assiduously deep conversation with his partner Oliver Hardy about the mysteries of Life. After a pregnant pause, Stan Laurel  fastens his bleary, vacant  eyes directly onto the camera, emits a deep but gentle sigh and informs us that "life isn't short enough."
Just a few of my favorites concerning another creative form that human genius can and does  drop into our hands...


Friday, September 11, 2015

A Compendium of Lesser Known Facets of Powerful Figures in Human History

I thought that it might be fun, as  a form of digression from the usual blog format, to glue together a number of  lesser known aspects of some the figures of the past millennium   that I have written about during the past seven or eight years:
Dwight D. Eisenhower -The General chosen by President Roosevelt to lead  the 20th century's most important  military operation called Overlord, which history has named  "D" Day, the beginning of the liberation of  Occupied Europe. Also, the bearer of a speech(his farewell as President)warning of a  military/industrial complex, which was the first  prescient forewarning of a new and dangerous time we are the inhabitants of.
Eisenhower  loved to paint, and did so to assuage so many pressures created simply by being a rung on the ladder of history. He was really quite good at painting - take a look. There is, I believe, a permanent collection at Eisenhower College. And there are other paintings hanging elsewhere.
Wolfgang Mozart - how many composers could work on as  many as a half dozen works simultaneously?
Not many - imagine the beginning and completion of  his last three symphonies in one summer (1788), which includes his longest symphony (the "Jupiter"),  his final work in the symphony form, whereas it took
Johannes Brahms - about 21 years to begin and end his first symphony.
I am NOT comparing; simply noting- a gentle reminder that each of us is a fingerprint. Brahms was and is one of the greats.
Reinhard Heydrich - a  member of the Hitler Hierarchy , and, arguably, the most efficient incarnation of pure evil outside of Hitler himself. I have always felt that had he not been assassinated in 1942, he would very well have become Hitler's successor upon the tyrant's suicide in 1945.
This monster's father had founded the Halle Conservatory of Music in Germany, and was himself an accomplished violinist, who could have followed his father's footsteps -sadly, Fate led him down a different road. If you want to know pure evil, read about  this man.
Frank Sinatra - One of America's best remembered pop vocalists, especially in mid-20th century. His recordings continue to be heard around the world today.
Ever see his paintings? There are  many hanging today. I think that you will be happily surprised at his gifts as a painter; especially if you happen to be a fan of his.
Ernst "Putzi" Hanfstaengl -The only person in history to work for both Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Adolf Hitler - really! Imagine being called, in the 1920's, "Hitler's Pianist."  Look him up - truth can indeed be stranger than fiction. 
Muzio Clementi - When Beethoven died, the authorities who entered his home to list the possessions of the great composer found that in his personal music library, Beethoven had more of Clementi's piano music than Mozart's. Why? This builder of pianos was a composer as well, as you know. But do be reminded that Clementi may well be considered the first of the "modern" composers of the piano - the first true 'romantic?'
Adolf Hitler - If  the young Hitler been able to effectively paint the human figure into his watercolors, would the Academy of Fine Art in Vienna, which had twice rejected him, have allowed him entrance?
The twentieth century would then almost assuredly have taken on a totally different form.
There are many more examples of multi- talented figures - George Gershwin and Tony Bennett, for instance, and THEIR painting abilities -and so on and so on...