Thursday, June 24, 2010

Vachel Lindsay (Part 2)

Well, the sudden dearth of posts was caused, I would like to think, solely by my computer being in the shop. (The most recent poetry clip was something I slipped in on a library computer since I happened to be in the right place at the right time.) The good thing about not having my computer handy is, of course, I read immeasurably more from real books. Indeed, while I was at the library havering on about Vachel Lindsay (and mispelling his name in that post too, I see) I was so efficient as to check out a whole book of his poems to see what else he might have come up with. On the whole, he didn't turn out to be much my type, rather Victorian in style, Victorian, in this case being everything from minute, delicate sprites dancing aimlessly, but rhyming prettily, in the moonlight, to flights in mysticism which seemed at times to verge on the once-fashionable occult.

But there was one other poem out of the collection which thoroughly delighted me, so here it is:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Poetic Observations

Vachal Lindsay is a poet whose work is largely unfamiliar to me, but I ran across this last night and quite appreciated it:

The Congo, as you will have gathered, is the book in which the poem originally appeared; I can't tell you whether the rest of it is any good or not, as I found the poem in a high school reader.

Earlier in the week, I ran across another observation on human weakness, though this time from Ogden Nash, who rightly remarked:

Well I have learned that life is something about which you can't conclude anything except that it is full of vicissitudes.
And when you expect logic you only come across eccentricitudes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Bist Du Bei Mir

Among the diverse pieces which have, in the past six months or so, been inextricably embedded in my mind is one which may be a good deal more familiar to most readers than it was to me at a first hearing. That would be Bach's "Bist Du Bei Mir." Or possibly Stölzel's "Bist Du Bei Mir." As deeply fond as I am of Bach's music, I can't help but hope it is Stölzel who should get the credit for this gem (overplayed, perhaps, but a gem, nonetheless) of a tune; otherwise, all the poor fellow really seems to be known for is for not being Bach. . .and can't we all say the same? There is a wonderfully in-depth article which delves into the Bachness or Stölzelness of "Bist Du Bei Mir" here; it also includes a translation of the simple and effective lyrics. Would I see the tune quite the same way had I not run across a translation at work? I would like to think the music is perfect enough to blaze on its own merits, but there is something wistful about the terse words that, once understood, is hard not to taste in subsequent renditions (vocal or not) of the piece. Here, Svetla Protich plays it on the piano:

Saturday, June 12, 2010

St. Valéry

A couple of months back I mentioned the 3/4 march my band is playing this season, P/M Donald MacLean's "Heroes of St. Valéry." The tune was very much on my mind today. It would have been a difficult tune to ignore, since we were competing, and used it to march out after both of our sets, but coincidentally, it was 70 years ago today that the 51st Highland Division was finally faced with surrender at St. Valéry.

There is a very good website-in-progress on the 51st Highland Division here, which includes some information about the events leading to the surrender and subsequent 5-year imprisonment of some 8,000 men. P/M MacLean's tune is not the only one with a title that stands as a memorial to the hardships they endured: there is also a hornpipe by John Wilson, who was, like MacLean and P/M Donald MacLeod, taken prisoner at St.Valéry . The tune, played by the composer, is the first listed on this page.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Latin Strikes Again

Well, I never! I've always thought "nice" was a rather inane adjective for use in describing a person, but based on a definition I ran across on the radio yesterday, it might have once been classed as an out and out insult. "Nice" is from the Latin nescius, "ignorant." Webster's has a disparate collection of meanings for the word, most of them rarely used, but only two of them marked as obsolete: dissolute (obs.), reticent, fastidious, punctillious, precise, trivial (obs.), agreeable, virtuous, and polite. Nice, eh?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Hornpipes, Plural

To get back to subject of modern hornpipes, there's nothing like Gordon Duncan's "Ian Green of Greentrax," and certainly nothing like Gary West's mellow smallpipes to give one a fresh perspective on it.

And here the composer of the tune above does all manner of impossible things to a jig, reel and hornpipe set, including a rendition of his own "The Fourth Floor" at 5:12.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Latest Find

Yesterday's drive to see my piping instructor proved just a little too productive; I was on my way home, my mind sufficiently engaged with proposed improvements for my strathspey,when dusk fell and I started to become aware of the surroundings, including new and different wild lilies. The picture above doesn't capture the light, whispy effect of the flower. Seen in the dusk, they were as ephemeral as wind-combed clouds, the stems seeming more of an afterthought than a necessity.
From the description in Growing California Native Plants, I think this is Chlorogalum pomeridianum (soap plant). If that is correct, perhaps I needn't be so surprised that I only noticed the flowers on my way back from the lesson--according to the Pacific Bulb Society website the delicate, short-lived blossoms only appear in the evening.
And now, about that strathspey. . .

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Latin Trivia

Well, now, did you know that with a good deal of applied concentration (the like of which any Roman would have sensibly forgone) you can make sense of this concise Latin composition? It runs thus:
Malo, malo, malo, malo
The scholars say that this means:
I would rather be
In an apple tree
Than a bad man in
The Latin version of Wikipedia kindly offers an explanation. . .but in Latin, of course, which does me little good. All I ever declined in that language was the opportunity to learn it.

Monday, June 7, 2010

As Threatened--

For the folks at home who might wonder about such things--no, I was not enlivened with a sudden fervour for practicing the guitar. Well, I was, but since my idea of burning inspiration is apparently to get out the guitar for five minutes twice a week and try to muddle past the fourth bar of "Cavatina," I'm not sure that it counts.

What prompted this particular post--I was at work on Saturday when the "Prelude" from Bach's Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major came on the radio. That is a piece I very much enjoy, though, truth be told, I could probably listen to many a more mundane composition being turned out on a rich-sounding cello and still think I was on the borders of heaven. The interesting thing this time around was that the "Prelude" wasn't being played on a cello at all; the airwaves were transporting the clean, woody tones of a guitar. My intelligent reaction to this innovation was: "Who woulda thunk it?"

When I got home and started digging around for recorded proof, however, I discovered that I had been the last to get the memo about playing the aforesaid prelude on the guitar--everybody does it, to all appearances. Here is one of the more popular (in YouTube's estimation), a Norwegian guitarist named Tor Inge, who takes it a good deal more slowly than many other players--exactly where I like to hear it:

It's like comparing apples and oranges (so I am thankfully relieved of any obligation to compare) but I had the fortune to happen upon this steel-string guitar arrangement, which is similarly enthralling. The guitarist here, whose versatility made yesterday's post, has a quality-not-quantity YouTube channel called guitarvangelist:

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Great Stumble-Upon

I was looking for something entirely different (Well, not entirely--guess what, dear readers? It's guitar videos again tomorrow!) when I came upon this neat little set. The guitarist doesn't give his name, but the tunes are "Our Ship It is Ready" and "Butler's Jig." And, yes, the guitar is cross-tuned, but I'm not certain exactly how.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

And Piobaireachd Again

If you're in a mood to brave MySpace, the Wicked Tinkers have their splendid, hearty (and original) rendition of "MacFarlane's Lantern" (or "MacFarlane's Gathering") up on their page. Their arrangement only goes as far as the taorluath variation, but it is plenty enjoyable along the way. The words that are being sung start "Togail nam bo," something about taking the [neighbors'] cows , which was evidently a bit of a passtime for certain clans. "Togail nam Bo," is also the Gaelic title of the tune.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The One that Got Away (and Ancient Art)

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to walk to the bank. The thing I remember most painfully about this decision was the dismissive tone in which I told myself, "No, you don't need to bring the camera. You're going to the bank." Which, as anyone with any sense would ascertain, meant I came upon a nifty beetle on my way home. Despite geographical discrepancies (which I only discovered later) it certainly looked like a Neoclytus acuminatus*. In case you are wondering, I did not jump up and down and say, "Oh look! A Neoclytus acuminatus!" I thought of it, in my scientific fashion, as, "One-of-those-beetles-that-looks-kind-of-like-a-wasp. Subspecies: but-different-from-the-other-one."

I have proof, in pencil and watercolor, that I came across a somewhat similar insect (the-other-one) when I was at school. It would appear that I had no camera at the time, and, I hope, no midterms either. The penciled remarks, meant to supplant the inaccuracies of the depiction, have long since been rubbed into oblivion, but I seem to recall that one of them stated that the beetle was more slender and graceful than the drawing made it appear:

I don't know how closely related it is to the creature I ran into last month, but it had an odd, jerky, and waspish gait to go with the waspish stripes.

*As I understand it, these are an East Coast species, but the pictures on BugGuide certainly resemble the one that got away (it's hard to forget the bright stripes, the reddish cast of the shell, and a beetle with legs quite that long). A quick search for a related West Coast species turned up an animal evidently related, but not at all the one I saw. Suggestions greatly appreciated, as usual.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Belated Birthday

I know. G.K. Chesterton's birthday was last Saturday (he was born May 29th, 1874), but I didn't quite get around to posting anything, what with spending a most pleasant evening with some kin who happened to be in town. Immediately after that I went up to spend Memorial Day with some kith in the mountains, and therefore both pleasantness and lack of posting were extended several days.

But a weekend of inestimably engaging conversation and company, mixed with a heavy dose of high granite mountains, pines, and hints of rain left me so delighted that I, this morning, found the last line of the poem below running through my head. Chesterton gets his due after all.

The Great Minimum

It is something to have wept as we have wept,
It is something to have done as we have done,
It is something to have watched when all men slept,
And seen the stars which never see the sun.

It is something to have smelt the mystic rose,
Although it break and leave the thorny rods,
It is something to have hungered once as those
Must hunger who have ate the bread of gods.

To have seen you and your unforgotten face,
Brave as a blast of trumpets for the fray,
Pure as white lilies in a watery space,
It were something, though you went from me today.

To have known the things that from the weak are furled,
Perilous ancient passions, strange and high;
It is something to be wiser than the world,
It is something to be older than the sky.

In a time of sceptic moths and cynic rusts,
And fattened lives that of their sweetness tire
In a world of flying loves and fading lusts,
It is something to be sure of a desire.

Lo, blessed are our ears for they have heard;
Yea, blessed are our eyes for they have seen:
Let the thunder break on man and beast and bird
And the lightning. It is something to have been.