olivier messiaen

2019.21

            Our internet has been unreliable for the past two days, which I would assume would make me happier considering how much dissatisfaction with the modern age that I ascribe to it, but I find myself irritated. I was re-watching Stranger Things to get ready for season 3. I was in a good work rhythm with that on in the background and nonstop 80s hits beamed into my house. The Boomers had “oldies” stations in their middle age years. For a while it was 50s and 60s. Then it was 60s and 70s. I waited patiently for an 80s radio station. Instead, we get “the best of the 70s, 80s, 90s, and 00s.” So, like nonrepresentational office art, everyone is equally dissatisfied rather than just irritating a portion of the audience. The internet was picking up the slack recently. I had plans to make playlists for each year of the 80s- each year’s list would have every song that cracked the top 40. Then I realized that could mean 10 playlists, each with 500 songs. Maybe I’ll just do the top 20. Or maybe I’ll just keep streaming the 80s station that I found. Some stuff slips through the cracks though. I’ve been listening for a couple of weeks and no one’s dialed up Timex Social Club’s “Rumors” yet. 

            The Nashville Symphony performed Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalîla Symphony this weekend. It was the first symphony performance that I have attended where they explained it from the stage before they performed it. It wasn’t necessary, but it was appreciated. You could always read about it in the program they give you, but it was nice to hear from the performers. Pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet had been able to seek advice about the symphony from Messiaen and his wife (pianist) Yvonne Loriod while he studied in Paris. He had Loriod’s marked score for the symphony in his collection. She was, in some ways, the inspiration for the piece so it felt like, at least for the piano, this was as close as someone could get to the source for a performance. Thibaudet’s comments on Friday were semi-off-the-cuff and touching. Conductor Giancarlo Guerrero (please don’t ever leave Nashville, Giancarlo) talked about his hesitancy to take on such a complex piece and left you with the impression that, hey, you came for a live spectacle…who knows what’s getting ready to happen. It was great though. It’s a beast of a symphony. 10 movements. 75-80 minutes. 100-110 musicians onstage. Guerrero appeared to look to the Thibaudet right before the 10th movement with a look on his face that read, “I think we’re going to pull this off.”  

            We took a 2-week trip to Utah 10 years ago to wind through the national parks in the southern end of the state. Our flight home was out of Las Vegas. It was a jarring re-entry into the world of people. I can’t call Las Vegas “civilization”. There are a lot of buildings and people. That’s as far as I want to take it. Being surrounded for two weeks by the variety and majesty of creation (coincidentally, the same area that inspired Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux étoiles) and then plopped down into the hellscape of Las Vegas was a reminder of just how awful people are when left to pursue whatever they want, free from restriction. Stepping out of the Schermerhorn Symphony Center on a Friday night was a pocket-sized version of it. I went from Messiaenic grandeur to e-scooters, pedal taverns and bachelorettes in the span of 5 seconds. The reprieve was nice while it lasted, I suppose. Two symphony musicians were behind us on the way back to the parking garage. I was still trying to mull over what I’d just seen but that was colliding with the musicians talking about Hilton Head. It was a lot of gear-shifting for my brain to deal with in such a short amount of time. Ultimately though, I’m grateful. I never thought I’d get to see the Turangalîla performed and never expected to only have to travel 7 miles to do it.

            Other than that, I started a couple of new still life drawings. I feel like drawing for the summer and setting aside painting. I had a skull/vanitas theme in the most recent drawing so my first thought was that I shouldn’t put a skull in the next one. My second thought was that I should put a skull in ALL of them. If you’re miserably out of step with the market, keep dancing. I also started experimenting with cyanotypes. There is a lot of trial and error ahead.

            I tried to go to an art event, but parking was in serious overflow mode, so I had to go home. That’s a good problem to have for an art show.

            I started re-reading some Mark Sayers books in anticipation of his new book coming out in the late summer/early fall. Between re-reading those and re-watching Stranger Things, I guess I’m setting myself up for a letdown. Not really. I’m almost 45 years old. I don’t set my clock by album, book or movie releases like I did when I was 14...or 20. Ugh. I still remember going to a midnight madness sale for R.E.M.’s Monster album, getting back to my dorm room at 1AM, putting on the disc, listening and thinking, “All of that for this?” That might have been my last midnight sale.

Currently reading:

The Book of John

Revelation

Psalms

St. Augustine: City of God

Facing Leviathan- Mark Sayers

Quote for the week:

“All the things that God would have us do are hard for us to do -- remember that -- and hence, he oftener commands us than endeavors to persuade. And if we obey God, we must disobey ourselves; and it is in this disobeying ourselves, wherein the hardness of obeying God consists.”

Herman Melville, Moby Dick