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imagining things means

I was the world in which I walked, and what I saw
Or heard or felt came not but from myself;
And there I found myself more truly and more strange.
-Wallace Stevens

On Agnes Martin

I remember that her work posed a lot of questions. I went to her studio eventually and bought a drawing. I remember asking myself what the difference was between graph paper and Agnes’s grids. Eventually I decided that it had to do with the difference between the loved line and the unloved line. – Richard Tuttle

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an ocean

There’s an ocean of consciousness inside each of us, and it’s an ocean of solutions. When you dive into that ocean, that consciousness, you enliven it.  You don’t dive for specific solutions; you dive to enliven that ocean of consciousness. Then your intuition knows and you have a way of solving those problems –  David Lynch

Response

I got an email, and it was so lovely I wanted to share it. Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve been discovering classical music, really for the first time in my life, since I realized last fall how cheap the KWS student all-season passes are. A few concerts during the fall proved to me that classical music can be, for me, more emotionally touching and intellectually tickling than I had realized. This motivated a surge of interest, and I started listening before hand to the pieces that the KWS was to play, to get more out of the concerts. Being a Finn, not really for nationalistic reasons but simply because there was more context for me to grab hold of, the Sibelius concert especially drew my attention.

After a few listen-throughs, the [Sibelius] 7th symphony started to grow on me, and has kept doing so. I constantly feel that I don’t quite know what it is saying to me, not explicitly, but on some level I understand, and it has come to take on an only vaguely describable but in fact quite precise, personal meaning to me. (A meaning that I would guess partially overlaps with how Sibelius felt about it, although I could be wrong.) In other words, it has become the first classical composition that for me holds the kind of power artistic creations can at their best hold.

risk

This week’s concerts were full of adventure and risk. I went in with that intention, sharing one of my favorite Nikolaus Harnoncourt quotes in rehearsal:

“To be beautiful, music must operate on the outer fringes of catastrophe.”

It was fortuitous that Ben Beilman joined us this week with the same agenda. His clear priority, above all, was to express something dark, deep, and transcendent. It’s rare to feel that kind of daring in a concerto performance.

That sense of risk, adventure, is what makes all the difference.

 

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art begins

We know that humans began making art about 50,000 years ago. Bones and tusks were made into carvings, with no practical purpose.  Something happened in the development of the human brain that compelled us to do this.

But what? What compelled us to carve what we saw into a mammoth tusk? Were we now conscious, needing to find our place in the world? Did we feel a sense of separation and loss from the natural world surrounding us? Is all art the result of leaving the Garden of Eden?

 

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In twenty minutes, this symphony holds up a mirror to us, shows us how our life will unfold, because we, too, are creatures of nature, and cannot escape its plans for us. The silence after the last moment of music, and what it portends, is as significant as the symphony itself. Sibelius drops us into silence almost without warning, and forces us to look directly into the darkness. It’s a moment of terrifying beauty.

dark don

I wondered this week about a dark Don Quixote: someone whose mind is muddled, whose head is swirling not with books of chivalry and heroism, but rather with endless, rapid flow of cable news; someone who charges ahead on an undefined quest, driven by the illusion of who knows what; someone who flies through the air, and wears a distorted costume of industry and virility, the uniform of “a man who gets things done.” He tilts at windmills, but in this story the windmills are real giants, real armies.

kinds of expanses

These days, I dive deeper into Wallace Stevens every morning. This morning it’s “The Poet of Geneva,” an old professor who stands at foot of the Pacific and is rattled by its “long-rolling opulent cataracts.” They create an “unburgherly apocalypse” in his mind.

I wonder how Schoenberg, Stravinsky, Mann, and other professors from Europe, newly arrived in Los Angeles, felt looking out onto the same expanse.

Lake Geneva seemed calm and majestic. It was heavenly, when I stood before it for the first time last summer: the perfect marriage of sky, earth, and water.

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But the Pacific is everything to me –  wild, cold, rough, beautiful, dangerous. And it stretches to infinity.

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Steve Martland

Overwhelmed after rehearsing the late Steve Martland’s Crossing the Border this afternoon with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. This is work of righteous anger by a composer too little known in the United States.

His music is, in his own words, “a weapon against despair.”

To perform Crossing the Border is like going to battle as a member of a spiritual army. It has the fervor and ecstatic quality of William Blake, the artist he reveres. Like Blake, Martland’s music marries Heaven and Hell. It is as work of sublime beatific violence, mercilessly slaying the ugly, the petty, the illiberal, the myopic, the ungenerous.

Have a listen. Learn more about him.