I´m building up to an awful hangover

I have this problem
with alcohol:
I drink too little

But I realize that
what this world needs now
is a really awful hangover

(Almost but not quite
in the Dylan Thomas league)

Úgy nem szeretek részeg lenni
But it´s time to drink till you drop

I will enjoy throwing up

It will cleanse me
make me pure and clean

When sober for too long
(a year is too long)
strange things accumulate
in your system

Tonight I will get rid of them

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På låtsas

Jag har nyss mött en dikt, den berättade något om svenskheten.

Ibland när man ser sig själv i spegeln upptäcker man, innan man hunnit möblera och frisera sina anletsdrag, något som inte är så vackert. Man kan då blunda, glömma vad man sett, eller kanske se det som vackert ändå. (Surt sa räven?)

Jag har länge försökt förstå, begripa och “se” landet Sverige, som jag bott så länge i. Alltså se som man ser någon som ligger på soffan framför en, någon som berättar om varför den inte är glad och lycklig över sitt liv.

Jag är ingen psykoanalytiker men spetsar ändå ögon och öron. Och när jag mötte denna lilla dikt från 1800-talet, då skymtade jag något av Sverige på soffan.

“När ingen hör mig, mången gång
Jag stämmer upp min lilla sång
Då låts [sic] jag som jag hade snille
Som om jag kunde vad jag ville

Men kommer någon, då tyst, ack tyst
Men kommer någon, då tyst, tyst, tyst, tyst
Låts om ingenting”

Nej, göm undan huvudet och modet och intellektet bara, det hör till god svensk ton.

ShakeHands trnspDrygt hundra år senare kommer filosofgruppen Just D och gör en genialisk låt på liknande tema. Denna gång med glimten i ögat och efter att ha rest sig från soffan. Allting e bättre på låtsas!

 

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Favorite thinker: Ashleigh Brilliant

Usually when we say “thinker” we mean writer, probably someone who has written books of at least medium if not interminable length. One more example of our blindness for the values of the miniature.

Small might be beautiful, but short is just, well, short.

However, saying things with few words is a higher art than expounding and pounding your readers.

A favorite thinker of mine who manages to say it with 17 words or less is Ashleigh Brilliant. He is known to me for making small postcards with a picture and a sentence. That´s all.

But what sentences! Brilliant has an eye for the human condition and the ear and brains to formulate his observations. This one for example has a decidedly Swedish, Bergmanesque flavor.

go out
Here are some of my Brilliant favorites, but BE WARNED: A maxim is a like an inflatable air-bag; when it makes contact with an open and ready mind it expands remarkably. A few words well chosen can fill us up entirely. However, read many at once and nothing happens. None of them are given a chance to really expand since while one of them starts to swell, another one comes along, then another. This mental crowding will not make you illuminated, just satiated.

That said, I will still give several examples. If you are wise and diet-conscious you will only read one, and return another day for a new one.


I waited and waited, and when no message came, I knew it must be from you.

I happened to see you passing through my life, so I thought I’d love you.

When all else fails, eat!

Why don’t you write, and give me a chance not to reply?

I don’t have any solution, but I certainly admire the problem.

Please don’t tell me to relax – it’s only my tension that’s holding me together.

Your smile is one of the great sights of the world.

Never resist a mad impulse to do something nice for me.

If God had approved of the metric system, he’d have given us ten fingers.

Anybody who thinks I am strange ought to meet you.

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En rekordrecension

Ni vet kanske (inte) att jag recenserar skivor i det eminenta men inte efter förtjänst uppskattade musikmagasinet Opus. Det finns mycket att säga om recensionsyrket, men det tar vi en annan gång. Och kanske på engelska, för det är så jag skriver numera.

Jag vill ändå bjuda den svenskspråkiga publiken på en av min värsta recensioner. Eller bästa, jag vet inte vilket. Den var i alla fall en fröjd att skriva, eller om det ska heta skriva av sig.

Lika mycket fröjd som musiken var en plåga.

Här visar sig en stor fördel med att vara recensent: medan den försvarslösa publiken lider (ibland) av musik kan vi kritiker neutralisera plågan genom att formulera oss om den. Visst är det så, ibland ingår gratis autokatarsis i kritikeryrket.

Gnistan till det här inlägget var sportjournalisten Patrick Ekwalls blogginlägg om hans möte med den (alltför) moderna musiken. Jag är gissningsvis mycket mer van vid den än han, men mår stundtals lika illa.

Här är recensionen:

OPUS60 Schnittke Symfoni nr 3

Bilden är möjligen svår att läsa så här följer texten utskriven.

Det värsta jag varit med om

Sit back and enjoy, står det på baksidan av skivans programhäfte. Det är lättare sagt än gjort. Faktiskt helt omöjligt.

Jag har lyssnat på mycket modern musik och har självklart mina favoriter. Till exempel Schnittkes första violinsonat från 1961.

Jag har också antifavoriter, och på den listan ligger numera samma tonsättares tredje symfoni (alltså den här skivan) på en väldigt hög placering. Schnittkes opera “Livet med en idiot” låg där redan tidigare, men frågan är om inte symfonin tar priset som den mest enerverande, mest osympatiska musik jag någonsin hört.

Därmed får Schnittke specialpriset, eftersom han figurerar på både bästa- och värsta-listan.
Hans tredje stråkkvartett, som jag tidigare recenserat i OPUS, var en tålamodsprövande Golgatavandring. Men den kunde jag se som en lapsus, vilket inte går nu.

Det är något högst omänskligt över denna musik. Dissonanser och provokationer biter inte så lätt på mig, men här blir jag faktiskt förskräckt. Det är till och med dags att plocka fram de släggor som gårdagens recensenter var mycket frikostigare med. Utsagor som “Det låter som döende kor, och i fjärran ylar en skadeskjuten schakal.”

Schnittke komponerar “polystilistiskt”, vilket innebär att ibland låter det som döende kor och schakaler, ibland som soundtrack till en idyllisk fransk kostymfilm. Men många stilar är verkligen ingen kvalité i sig.

Programbladet breder ut sig på lärt manér över de otaliga citaten i symfonin. Man skärskådar träden men är blind för skogen. Fast här räcker inte analys och förklaringar, här behövs ursäkter.
Jag ser ingen vits med att gå in på detaljer i verket. Helheten är mycket mindre än detaljerna. Schnittke lär ha skrivit mycket filmmusik och symfonin skulle passa utmärkt till en film med idel våldtäkter och avrättningar.

Jag försöker vara saklig, men nyckelorden som kommer för mig här är “förfärlig, omänsklig, satanistisk”. Stycket skulle kanske kunna fungera som bruksmusik; avvänjningskur för musikälskare som vill fimpa vanan.

Jag hör ingen lek, ingen kärlek, inget upphöjt, inget sant allvar eller ens musikantiskt i stycket. Det är som en raffinerad sadistisk orgie, maskerad bakom lärda “metamusikaliska” slöjor. Jag tror inte på Schnittke ett ögonblick, inte en enda ton känns äkta och ärlig. I sista satsen sitter jag och räknar uppgivet de återstående minuterna. 10, 9, 8, 7…

Ni hör? Det är lika bra att sätta punkt här. Enda anledning till att skivan får en tvåa och inte en etta är att framförandet är lysande. Men som någon påpekade: solen må vara en positiv kraft men när den lyser på en gödselhög blir det ändå bara förruttnelse av saken.

Det här är nu inget frosseri i invektiv., men det känns viktigt att någon gång sätta ner foten ordentligt och faktiskt säga att man, trots sin stora vana vid och stundtals väldigt stora attraktion till modern musik, ibland kan bli illamående av den.

Jag ska också direkt — för de livsviktiga nyansernas skull och för att (suck) man inte återigen ska förväxla mig med en perukstock– tillägga att ett sådant verk som Jörg Vidmanns Mässa för stor orkester, som möjligen hade berört en ovan lyssnare på samma negativa sätt som Lutoslawskis stråkkvartett, gett mig synnerligen stor njutning.

Jag bifogar också den recensionen, denna gång med information om själva skivan.

Jörg Widmann: Elegie
Jörg Widmann, Heinz Holliger, Deutsche Radio Philharmonie
Christoph Poppen dirigent
ECM 2110 476 3309
Betyg: 6 (av 6)

Musik för en öde ö

Jörg Widmann är för mig en ny, och mycket välkommen, bekantskap .

Redan första ackordet på skivan ger mig en intuition om trohet, ärlighet och kvalité. Det som följer bekräftar intrycket. Här finns ingen attraktiv yta, ingen briljans med avsikt att locka fram applådåskor, inga populistiska genvägar utan bara ett stort allvar.

Musiken är riktigt bister — och det är vackert så. Om man mätte den med något slags originalitetslinjal skulle den få lågt betyg. Men originalitet är möjligen en missförstådd storhet. Vi tror den handlar om att avvika från andra. Kanske handlar den om att vara sig själv fullt ut, vilket är högst ovanligt, och originellt.

Mässa för stor orkester är en ordlös odyssé i den sfär som annars brukar sjungas fram. Rösterna har tystnat. Instrumenten återstår. Stämningen återstår.

Den vanliga dödsmässan ersätts av andligt sökande utan kollektiv sorg och lovsång. Hela stycket andas förändrat medvetandetillstånd, börjar och slutar med Bachkoral i en krossad spegel, dessemellan en ödslig, inre road-trip med skärvor av gamelanmusik.

I de mer ”modernistiskt korrekta” Fem bruksstycken för klarinett och piano — med självaste Heinz Holliger vid pianot — möter vi inte bara tonsättaren utan också musikern (och virtuosen) Widmann. Vänta er ingen vanlig bruksmusik. Detta är inget för kommunala musikskolan, snarare en katalog över klanger, stämningar och affekter som blev över när man lagt de vanligaste känslolägena åt sidan.

Verket skulle kunna bli en ytlig pannkaka, en simpel genomgång av effekter. Men Widmanns allvar, och kunnande, lyser igenom. Jag hör ett andligt tilltal.

Elegi för klarinett och orkester (med tonsättaren återigen som solist) rör sig i samma känslosfär off-off-Broadway. Orkestersatsen låter stundtals som elektronmusik och har samma smått metalliska smak. Även här rör vi oss i farvatten bortom de prosaiska Betavågorna, vi skvalpar bort oss till en öde ö.

Dit kan jag tänka mig att ta med denna skiva av Jörg Widmann. Den skulle få ön att framstå som än mer öde.

Och elegisk.

Slut recension. Så här ser förresten en perukstock ut.

perukstock

Och det här är jag. Hoppas ni ser skillnaden.

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The word “surfing”

Why do certain words stick? It might look like chance, just random reasons. Or maybe it´s Providence trying to convey something deeper to us.

Look at the words surf and surfing. They are now intimately connected with the Internet.

Surfing is a water sport. It is about waves and the skill to “ride” them, almost as a horse.

surfing
You surf on the surface. A skilled surfer stays above water while an amateur crashes deep below. The intention is to stay afloat.

So surfing is a great word for horizontal, outer-oriented movement. The vertical movement on the other hand is typified by diving, diver.

In an interesting article about how we came to “surf the internet” I find this quote.

“Before we surfed the net, folks mined it, navigated it, explored it, used it, or cruised it. “

The first word is thought provoking. What if it had stuck instead? Then our world might have been less superficial. We would be thinking mining, digging, excavating, unearthing when we sit down in front of our computer.

Nowadays we don´t even sit. We just walk, surfing the streets as we surf the Net.

 

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The (Sh)or(l)acle

When shortening with Shorl (“shorlifying”) the URL for my “poem” about Valentine´s Day, this is what Shorl came up with:

shorl.com/tityfridunone

With my interest in oracles I am fascinated by seemingly random letters and toys like this.

magnetic letter wheels2

“Having fun, Guuemfdtm? Fotaleasl!”

In the jumble “tityfridunone” I find the following nuggets of meaning, even Valentine meaning.

Starting from the end: tityfridunone. Yes, loneliness is what that poem was about.

tityfridunone There it comes again, one in another language. Now we have two ones. Less lonely.

tityfridunone Frid = peace in Swedish.

tityfridunone Here things get seemingly naughty, but not really. Tit >> breast >> heart.  Right on, oracle!

Put it together: One plus one make a pair. Peace in the heart.

Or forwards: The heart is at peace when two are united (unone).

The Oracle has spoken. So mote it be!

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If you want peace, prepare for peace

I know, the original say differently. Si vis pacem, para bellum (if you want peace, prepare for war). But that was supposedly taken from a Roman military book. And military men who don´t want war are like pianists who hate Steinways, right?

According to popular wisdom if you want peace you prepare for war. And if you want war you prepare for, I suppose, war. Whatever you do, you prepare for war. Boring!

Boring? After THIS everything is boring...
Boring? Does this look BORING to you…?

It is said that soldiers returning from war have a hard time getting used to everyday life where nothing really exiting ever happens. And so the beat goes on.


When will peace get a chance if we always prepare for war? Well, individual peace need not wait so long. Listen to a master of the inner kind.

“Look at the net and its many contradictions. You do and undo at every step. You want peace, love, happiness, and work hard to create pain, hatred and war. You want longevity and overeat, you want friendship and exploit. See your net as made of such contradictions and remove them — your very seeing them will make them go.”

This is from Nisargadatta. If he had lived today he might have said “matrix”, not net. One could also say: Look at the Net, and all ITS contradictions. All the spam, the virus, the salesmanship and the SEO hunt, all the noble projects, the Hunger site (helping people without having to get up from your chair, a philanthropic wet dream), etc. Well, Internet originally started from a military idea (Arpanet) so we shouldn´t be surprised.

Here a dialogue with a student:

S:  I am familiar with the general sense of what you say. I do not crave for more knowledge. All I want is peace.
N: You can have for the asking all the peace you want.
S:  I am asking.
N: You must ask with an undivided heart and live an integrated life.
S:  How?
N: Detach yourself from all that makes your mind restless. Renounce all that disturbs its peace. If you want peace, deserve it.
S:  Surely everybody deserves peace.
N: Those only deserve it, who don’t disturb it.

One contradiction here is working for outer peace with, or even through, inner war and restlessness (popularly called “passion” and such names).

shake

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Today even a parenthesis looks like a heart

Cruel joke from
the bad old days:

“Goodday. I would like to return
this mobile phone.

-What´s wrong with it?

-It never rings!

-Sir, you need to have friends too”

I usually turn off my mobile nowadays
(it never rings)

Today I turned it on


Rationally speaking, just because some people are single cannot be a reason for those not single not to celebrate their non-singleness. The aggravated loneliness of a few is not reason enough to brake the joy of the many. Still, it´s a pity they cannot coexist: the joy of the single and the pair.


Today I turned it on

The victory of hope
over experience
or
victory of self-pity
over generosity?

(Why don´t you call someone?
Why don´t YOU send a heart?)

What time is it?
Two hours left…
There is still hope.

valentine

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Music and chocolate

[From a lecture held at a school for young rock and jazz musicians]

Good morning. I would like to ask you, what do you like best and what gives you most satisfaction, music or chocolate? Who said chocolate…? Nobody?

Well then, how do you enjoy music? What a silly question! You listen to it, of course. Everybody knows that.

But then, how do you enjoy chocolate? More silly questions, you EAT it of course.

Let me read something for you from a small booklet that I got when I bought some fine chocolate.

The title is promising; “The art of tasting chocolate”.

(BTW when I googled that phrase I got a couple of thousand “hits”. There is even a website called exactly that, “The art of tasting chocolate”. When I googled “The art of tasting music” I got one hit, about John Cage.)

Anyway, this is what the little book says about how to (not eat but) taste chocolate.

csoki
Tasting technique –
[Did your teachers tell you anything about listening technique?] “It is best to be calm and relaxed, but alert and concentrated, and seated in an uncluttered place.”

Hm, that sounds just like a preparation for meditation.

“It is best to taste chocolate on an empty stomach, to the point of feeling hungry.” (Do you listen to music on a full or empty stomach?)

Further, not only you but also the chocolate should be prepared for the experience. It takes two to tango.

“Its ideal temperature lies somewhere between 66 F and 76 F. It is preferable therefore to remove the chocolate from storage at least an hour before tasting.”

There seems to be an awful lot of preparation when it comes to chocolate. How do we prepare ourselves for listening to music? (Another stupid question with no answer?)

So what´s next? Visual and auditory examination. Let´s look at it. “The chocolate should be brilliant, smooth and pure in colour.”

Then, listen to it. “The exterior should break cleanly with a faint, delicate sound.”

[Here I brought out a small piece of chocolate and held to it the microphone. “Let us listen to chocolate” — and I broke it carefully, the whole auditorium listening for the faint, delicate sound…]

Then what? Nothing! Place the chocolate in your mouth and do nothing. Don´t chew it.

“Allow it to sit (!) for a few moments to release the principle flavors and aromas.”

Then, finally, “chew five to ten times to reduce the chocolate to little morsels”.


Enough of my lecture.

I think my young audience realized that while we listen to music just one sense is involved (hearing), but almost all the senses are involved when we taste chocolate. Eating chocolate is a simpler affair, just involving your mouth, taste buds and nose (since so much of “taste” is actually smell).

All this throws light on the difference between eating and tasting. And also on the rather primitive approach we have to music tasting, if such a thing exists.

Well of course it exists, but not as a known idea or concept. We DO taste music, for example when we go to a record store and sample different tracks from a new CD to decide whether we want to buy it. But that is a mainly utilitarian kind of tasting, with a precise goal; decide to buy or not.

When we take the CD home, are we still tasting it? Yes, maybe the first couple of times. But we might just as well use it as background music right away, degrading it to a soundtrack with a simple, commonplace goal: to create a feel-good mood.

We make mood-music of many a piece that was never meant to be furniture music.

Talking about richness of experience I of course don´t want to claim that listening to a piece of chocolate breaking is comparable to a Chopin Nocturne. But let´s stop right there! I used the words “listening” and “hearing” without thinking about it. There we have those different quantities and qualities again.

Unfortunately we very often hear music without actually listening to it. We hear it, yes, but without those mindfulness-like qualities that manifest when we taste chocolate, wine, cheese and perhaps food in general.

If a small piece of chocolate can give you a rich experience for all your senses, imagine what pleasurable heights we might reach if we applied the same kind of carefulness and mindfulness to tasting music!

Yes, you say, but all this is really quite logical. A physical thing like chocolate, a sandwich or even a pencil, we can touch, taste, smell or break. But how do you chew or break music? You cannot take it into your mouth, you cannot see it, you can only listen to it.

Let us not be so limited. Why did we get our inner senses if not to see, taste, touch or smell music? How can a melody be “sweet” or a sound “fat”? Look at this list of common expressions and tell me that we don´t see, taste, touch or smell music.

  • “metal” (heavy, black, industrial, Celtic (!), etc)
  • fusion
  • swinging
  • “hot” and “cool”
  • acid
  • sweet (dolce)
  • bubblegum
  • soft / warm (harmonies)
  • angular (rhythm)
  • lugubrious (piece by Scriabin)

The list could go on and on. If we look around we can find many examples of the senses overlapping. There is no need to talk of synesthesia, or one could say that we all have it to some degree.

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Names and benefit of doubt

Aspiring young author contacts a critic to whom he has sent his book. Well, what did you think of it? My friend, you can only allow yourself to write this badly when you are famous! (From a Hungarian book of journalistic jokes.)

This captures in a perfect nutshell the dilemma I want to talk about. Of course it is not a dilemma if you are famous, then it is a privilege.

With respect to music, more precisely listening to music, this leads us to the following questions:

  • Does it matter who wrote the piece your are listening to?
  • If you are later told that it wasn´t Beethoven but a nobody, or a computer program, will that change your impression of the piece?

This is turn leads us to the Grand Question: Do we hear what we hear, or what we think {we hear]?

If we listen to music by a Name (Beethoven, Bach, Chopin, Wagner, Stravinsky, Bartók, etc. etc.) we, not necessarily but very probably, listen With Respect.

That is, with something like these thoughts in our head: “This is a great composer and the piece is very probably good music. It MUST be, since Beethoven/ Name / Name wrote it. I will try hard to appreciate or at least “like” it. If I don´t, there is perhaps (shudder…) something wrong with me, and I don´t want people to know THAT.”

We are so famous we don´t even have to say our names!
We are so famous we don´t even have to say our names!

Let it be clear that I view respect as something positive. Respect and tact are fine human qualities. Especially towards other beings, human or otherwise.

I am not sure one should be tactful towards art, though.

I mean, you can´t hurt the feelings of a painting or a poem or a symphony. At least I have never heard about a piano concerto that wept because somebody didn´t like it. The composer perhaps wept, but that is something else. We need not necessarily tell the composer what we think — but it would be sound to at least tell ourselves.

What a Name gets that a so called Nobody (better to say Unknown for now) doesn´t get is automatic respect. So in appreciating, valuing or rating music wee need a yardstick, a talent for being able to differentiate between an Unknown and a Nobody. It is of course difficult, and inconvenient, to do so — and very convenient to simply equate one with the other.

All the Names, the self-evident [we Now think!] Masters in art, were also at one time Unknowns, maybe even Nobodies. Back then it was the job of their contemporaries to figure out what they were, potential stars or asteroids. And today it is OUR job to make the same distinctions. Let me guess that we find this more inconvenient than our forefathers. It is just a guess, based on what I see in the zeitgeist.

Anyway, the Name gets the benefit of a doubt. Even if we don´t like or apprecaite his latest work — we might actually hate it, if we are honest with ourselves — we approach it with respect, a respect we don´t grant another work, maybe a masterpiece by an Unknown without a name.

So the Grand Question can often be answered thus: We hear less what we hear, more what we think. (Hans Christian Andersen wrote a very famous tale about this….)

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Which eyes, which ears?

If you have more than one pair of shirts or trousers you can choose: which to put on today?

Sometimes I feel like that with eyes. With which pair eyes should I view this or that picture, or even you?

A propos photography it is easy enough to say: only show your very best pictures. A good advice, but if I don´t know which are the very best, and if they are good from different viewpoints, then the advice doesn´t help much. Then things get confusing — or let´s say thought-provoking. Or, since provocation is not really intended, thought- and reflection-engendering.

I just showed a photo of mine to two friends. One of them has been active in photography since a long time, even wanted to make photography his career. The other friend is a layman when it comes to photography but a master when it comes to things spiritual (those are my words, he would never say such a thing).

The first friend´s verdict: marvelously odd, and therefore good!

The second almost screamed at me: What are you trying to prove here? You are just being pushy and self-assertive. If I saw this photo in a gallery I would think “I never want to see anything more from this guy”.

Thought-engendering indeed.

From the second friend I gather these grains of wisdom: don´t try to be clever or try to force people to see more in a picture than there is. Don´t try, let! Invite people to / into the picture, but don´t force it down their throats. Let it have a life of its own, stand on its legs, without your ego intruding as some kind of party crasher.

Which reminds me of something I myself wrote as criticism against a writer who, as I then put it, subscribed to the sado-masochistic credo vis a vis the audience. Namely: You are an insensitive bunch, therefore I must be violent and scream at you, use obscene words, etc. Less will not wake you from your coma.

Now I find a similar critique directed at me. I would rewrite it a bit, though. It´s not so much a question of being violent but, possibly, too “smart”. Too brainy and calculating. Then again, being brainy and calculating possibly IS a form of violence (intellectual violence).

I am not the only artist that succumbs to calculation, but that is of course no excuse for doing it.

“Smart” photographs, trying to make the viewer think and figure out things, I don´t really know what I think of them. But I DO know that I don´t like the kind of art that is a bit like an invitation to a MENSA club: “If you figure this one out you are very clever and can pat yourself on the back.”

Maybe mescaline is the answer. I am reminded of the reactions to different paintings and musical pieces that Aldous Huxley gave under the influence of mescaline (in “The Doors of perception”).

I am now talking of different ears, not eyes. This is what Huxley said about Alban Bergs Lyric Suite: “Learned Katzenmusik. Who cares what his feelings are? Why can’t he pay attention to something else?”

I suppose there are Katzenphotos as well.

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Just don´t call it poetry

I who have read quite a bit of poetry, much of it of the subtle and exalted kind — have even set it to music — am often dismayed when people today “write poetry”. Writing poetry is one of those things that everybody can do. So they think.

And of course, if there is nothing more to it than putting words after each other on paper, or computer screen, and keeping to the irregular right margin, then everybody can.

But if poetry is something else and something more, they can´t.

Just recently an old friend of mine sent me a video with some “poetry”. And I thought: I would like to read your thoughts if they were just presented as prose, even as prose poems (more doubtful…), but when you call it poetry I must either forget what I know about good poetry or turn my back on your video.

Just don´t call it poetry, and I might read it.

Right now I am holding Steve Taylors “The calm center” in my hand. Much influenced by Eckhart Tolle, the material in this book is very interesting, sometimes stunning. Again I have to say I haven´t read it all. Because, again, this is not poetry. But it could be great prose, or let´s just say great text, words, thoughts.

Isn´t that enough? For some people, no. They want to be Poets, without knowing good poetry. What a pity.

I confess that I also sometimes write a short text with IRM (irregular right margin) or OHM (oregelbunden högermarginal). It can look like poetry, and I hope somewhat that it is poetry, but I wouldn´t call  it poetry.

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Only vampires see it that way

No, Mr. Vampire
is not sad, depressed or heartbroken

He is just hungry

All there is is hunger:
the good old
primitive
antediluvian
craving

It might look like sensitivity
existential agony
or romantic suffering

Mr. Vampire might resemble
a “tortured soul”
afflicted by the Dark Night

But he is just hungry

Give him food, some fresh blood
and he will not be happy or joyous
or delighted or blissful

Just full

Hunger is not unhappiness
and being sated is not happiness

Only vampires see it that way.

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Let go of your darlings

There is no need for our usual, macho / martial use of language. No need to KILL our darlings. Just discard them, or “delete” as my camera says.

I notice with myself — and suspect I am not alone in this — how hard it can be to part even from pictures I never would call “darling”. The reasoning in the bestseller “Clear your clutter” by Karen Kingston — namely: If the thing does not make you happy when you look at it, it lowers your energy, so get rid of it — can be applied to photographs as well.

When I ask myself “Why have you kept thousands of non-successful pictures of birds?” I don´t know what to say. It´s not like there was a reason for it. It just happened that way. I kept them in some naive hope that they might come in handy some day (the same reason we hold on to books, CD-s and hundreds of other unnecessary, energy-lowering things in our homes).

Last year I took a crash-course in throwing away things. The reason I have not applied this to photos is that they take so little space. But when hard disks fill up you realize that even photos take space.

Just as noise competes with and steals from signal, the poor or mediocre pictures steal from the stunning ones. Besides, it is an almost dangerous sentimentality that makes you (at least me) hold on to things quite obviously imperfect, if not downright lousy.

Let go of them and save only the very best. The REAL darlings.

More Photography and Images

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Tuning

[An older text from my first attempts to get to grips with the “music of man”, Musica humana. This text reflects on Musica instrumentalis and its connection to M. humana; from the one we can better embrace the other. See footnote for reference to Boethius, from whom these terms originate.]

Imagine that you are listening to a violin-piano recital. Think about all the things that take place before the duo actually starts to play.

The musicians enter on stage. Applause. The pianist strikes middle “A”, thereby establishing the Standard (probably 440 Hz). The violinist tunes his “A” string in accord with the piano. Thereupon he tunes the other strings to this now common standard. The concert can begin!

In this simple, commonplace situation we see a world of meaning. The theme here is tuning, being in tune, and it is not without interesting variations. Witness the different levels in operation.

1) Violinist tunes his “A” according to the piano
2) Violinist tunes his other strings to that “A”

1) means that there is accord within the group, in this case a group of two. 2) means that there is internal accord (harmony) within the solitary instrument.

Actually, this tuning business starts much earlier. For example, the piano has to be tuned before the concert. In this simple act we can see an example of a beautiful guiding principle in music. If we had the same prosaic, quantitative thinking (focusing of efficiency and saving time) in music as we generally have in society, the piano tuner would approach the pianist before the concert, and ask: “Tell me, which keys are you going to play on tonight? No use tuning strings that aren’t used….”

That would be a bad joke. Of course every string is tuned. Not only because it would be disrespectful to do otherwise, but also because the unstruck strings contribute to the overall sound. Overtones, undertones — every string matters.

There are more aspects to consider. The two musicians not only have to tune their instruments, they also have to be in tune as musicians. One cannot play in a wildly romantic manner while the other goes for dry objectivity; they have to find a mean.

Of course, many musicians play together exactly because they have similar musical temperaments. But you cannot always choose your partner. You might have to play with somebody who has a totally different view of the music. The tuning process then becomes more difficult; one or both sides will have to compromise, or at least meet on the bridge.

tungingfork
But it is not just you and the other musician(s) who have to harmonize. You also have to tune yourself to the music, and the composer. You and your partner may form a wonderful team playing a hideous Beethoven; in tune with each other but not with Ludvig.

Or the other way round. There are rock groups and even string quartets where the members don’t speak to each other, even travel in separate cars. They are obviously not in tune as persons, but during the concert they nevertheless play the same piece – in the same tempo – in the same key! Even people who are not on speaking terms regard music as a common, almost sacred zone. Cease fire!

Then we have the room. You have to take acoustics into consideration, too. That’s one more tuning process. You don’t play the same way in an intimate salon as in Carnegie Hall.

And the room is filled, hopefully, with listeners, people. Another factor to harmonize with, acoustically and psychologically. The audience can be seen as, and treated as, an instrument; a many-headed, many-stringed lyre. Especially in rock and jazz music there is much playing on this instrument. (Shall we call it “Audie-phone”?) Sometimes even more than on the regular instruments…

So now we have a whole series of “strings” to tune. The musician, the instrument, the instruments together, the musicians together, the music, the room, the audience. Out of this increasingly complex model I want to single out three factors. Let us call them the Individual (1), the Group (2), and the Whole (3).

In terms of Musica instrumentalis this could mean (1) one instrument, (2) all instruments, and (3) the room. Or (1) musician, (2) all musicians and (3) all musicians and the audience.

Seen on the level of Musica humana (the music of Man) this could mean (1) a single human being, (2) a group (small or large; a couple, a family, circle of friends, nation, etc.) and (3) the Earth (a classical Whole). (3) could also be the solar system.

Footnote: Boethius says there are three kinds of music: Musica instrumentalis (what we nowadays term music: playing, singing, sounds, CD-s. etc. This is all we have nowadays.), Musica humana (the music of man, not very clearly explained as I remember, the subject of my studies), and Musica mundana (the music of the world, what we call the “music of the spheres”, something very abstract and probably meaningless for most of us.).

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Repertoire

[An older text from my first attempts to get to grips with the “music of man”, Musica humana. See footnote for reference to Boethius, from whom the term Musica humana stems.]

This is a basic factor representing BREADTH, the opposite of narrowness or monomania. Staying on the level of Musica instrumentalis*, I want to point out three kinds of breadth.

1) The ability to play just about every note on your instrument. Your hands must no be too small. A pianist needs to be able to strike the highest and lowest keys of his instrument simultaneously. Child prodigies cannot do this, nor handicapped people. Not everybody allows this to be a handicap, however. Remember Paul Wittgenstein, for whom both Ravel and Prokofiev wrote piano concerti for the left hand.

2) The ability to play in different styles, at least from Bach to Bartók. Saying about a musician: “Everything he plays sounds like Beethoven” is not a compliment. It points to a lack of stylistic breadth.

3) The ability to strike different emotions in one and the same piece. To go from poetic calmness to wild passion in no time, with minimal take-off run. Just as you need to be able to play piano pianissimo (ppp) after forte fortissimo (fff), or a very high note after a very low one, you also need to be quick and mobile when it comes to the emotional keyboard. This is a talent that instrumental musicians share with the actor.

So, a musician needs to be broad and not narrow. (I realize that this is in part dictated by the current state of the music world. Every musician has his temperament, his fortes (and also his pianos, so to say). Formerly an opera singer could tour with very limited repertoire. He only sang what he knew best. In those times his profession was close to that of the circus artist.)

He has to know himself as a musician: know which strings his instrument has, which styles he can play well and less well, which emotions he can express easily and with more difficulty.

Most of this, and so much else, are taken for granted in music.

MOVING ON TO MUSICA HUMANA

So, what can we learn from the musician´s basic relationship with his instrument? What are the consequences for Musica humana?

First of all, a violinist must know that his instrument has four strings. The guitar has six, the piano eighty-eight. How many strings do we have as human beings? Do we adjust our out-of-tune strings, or even notice them?

We can observe interesting differences between different kinds of “out of tune strings”. When a violin string is out of tune, the musician adjusts it immediately, possibly even replaces it. When an accompanist tells a singer that (s)he sings out of key, the singer replaces the pianist… And if somebody dares to point out our weaknesses to us… watch out!

A string is a tone that is often played. Transposing this to our inner life, a thought only once thought, an emotion only once felt, is not a string.

We can picture ourselves as a large keyboard with broken and missing keys.

Harmonium1

Standardization is impossible; no two people have identical keyboards. Nevertheless, each of us stand in a certain relation to the Ideal Keyboard We Could Be. Usually we do not know ourselves as we know our violins and pianos. We do not know our repertoire, which keys we possess and which we are missing. We don’t know when we are out of tune. We also lack a standard, the 440 Hz of human normality.

Footnote: * Boethius says there are three kinds of music: Musica instrumentalis (what we nowadays term music: playing, singing, sounds, CD-s. etc. This is all we have nowadays.), Musica humana (the music of man, not very clearly explained as I remember, the subject of my studies), and Musica mundana (the music of the world, what we call the “music of the spheres”, something very abstract and probably meaningless for most of us.).

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