a city of sound


This past Friday evening at a party, I was talking to someone about Northern Organ building and mentioned Buxtehude. This prompted my listener to lean over and recite these words:

Where BUXTEHUDE as we played
One of his passacaglias made
Our minds a civitas of sound

I came home and looked it up. It’s from New Year Letter (January 1, 1940) by Auden.

It continues this way:

Where nothing but assent was found,
For art had set in order sense
And feeling and intelligence,
And from its ideal order grew
Our local understanding too.

This piece is described as a “long philosophical poem” in Auden’s wikipedia entry. I put it on my daily morning reading list and am most of the way through it.

I like Auden’s mind. 

I enjoy reading his poetry and essays, but have neglected him of late. Since I have read all of Eliot, maybe now is the time to dip more into Auden’s work in a systematic manner.

I like his description of how Buxtehude’s wonderful music can make a listener’s mind a city of sound.

Order is definitely part of what I find satisfying in some music especially baroque and especially Bach. Initially I was attracted to the idea of fugue in Bach as a wonderful puzzle-like contraption that defied human contrivance.

Now I understand fugue a bit better and am less impressed with fugue for its own sake, but am very drawn to fugues that have beautiful or interesting melodies in them.

Yesterday morning found me going over passages in the Handel concerto scheduled silently on my electric piano before work. My Friday road trip made a dent in my daily practice. I did use the Handel as tryout pieces on the instruments I played. But I have been rigorously rehearsing my organ pieces with lots of repetition. I didn’t do this Friday. Saturday I practiced but was very tired.  I thought it might be a good idea to rehearse the keyboard parts before church.

I think this made a bit of difference in how well I played. There was a lot of disturbance near the organ bench yesterday during the prelude. This was a challenge to my concentration I wasn’t expecting.

Handel is a different experience for me than Bach. His ideas are a bit more succinct. Their attraction is in their loveliness and grandeur. Since some of Handel is overly familiar (Messiah et al) it makes sense that a listener is drawn to him in this way.

I remember running across Samuel Butler’s take on Handel. It may have been this quote I googled this morning:

“Handel is great and so simple that no one but a professional musician is unable to understand him.”

At any rate, I associate the great author of The Way of All Flesh with the creator of Messiah and other fascinating works.

1. Glen Gould on Earbox

I haven’t been putting up links so I thought I would do a few today. Thanks to Rhonda Edgington for pointing out this blog post on Glen Gould. It’s from 2010 and is on John Adams’ extremely sporadic blog (which apparently is ghost written at times). I have it bookmarked to read.

2.The Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt, 1725-1798. Complete by Casanova – Free Ebook

The entire journals of Casanova online in an English translation. I got this link from Blog of a Bookslut a reader’s blog I check pretty regularly. The blogger (whom I quite admire) had this to say about it: “Even as dirty as it is, things were euphemized and skipped. The newer, Willard Trask translation, is a marvel. Beautiful and filthy, nuanced and dignified, just like its original writer.”

3. Justice at the Opera – NYTimes.com

Justice Ginzberg sees herself as a soprano in her fantasies. Also sees the Supreme Court as operatic. Recommended article.

4. Designated Cheering Spectators Thrive at the Bolshoi Theater – NYTimes.com

I started out admiring this band of Russian ballet enthusiasts who exchange their planted applause for free tickets. I ended up a bit disgusted with the way they took revenge if you crossed them. Anyway, who knew about this? Not me.

5.Accidental Mysteries, 08.04.13: The Collection de l’Art Brut: Observatory: Design Observer
l’Art Brut is some of my favorite art.

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