Sunday, February 27

The Knight of the Leopard

But as a second time, in surrounding the chapel, they passed the spot on which he kneeled, one of the white-stoled maidens, as she glided by him, detached from the chaplet which she carried a rosebud, which dropped from her fingers, perhaps unconsciously, on the foot of Sir Kenneth. The knight started as if a dart had suddenly struck his person; for, when the mind is wound up to a high pitch of feeling and expectation, the slightest incident, if unexpected, gives fire to the train which imagination has already laid. But he suppressed his emotion, recollecting how easily an incident so indifferent might have happened, and that it was only the uniform monotony of the movement of the choristers which made the incident in the slightest degree remarkable.

... Short as the space was during which the procession again completed a third perambulation of the chapel, it seemed an eternity to Kenneth. At length the form which he had watched with such devoted attention drew nigh. There was no difference betwixt that shrouded figure and the others, with whom it moved in concert and in unison, until, just as she passed for the third time the kneeling Crusader, a part of a little and well-proportioned hand, so beautifully formed as to give the highest idea of the perfect proportions of the form to which it belonged, stole through the folds of the gauze, like a moonbeam through the fleecy cloud of a summer night, and again a rosebud lay at the feet of the Knight of the Leopard.

-- Sir Walter Scott The Talisman

Saturday, February 26

Like Angels Stopped Upon the Wing by Sound

There I beheld the emblem of a mind
That feeds upon infinity, that broods
Over the dark abyss, intent to hear
Its voices issuing forth to silent light
In one continuous stream; a mind sustained
By recognitions of transcendent power,
In sense conducting to ideal form,
In soul of more than mortal privilege.
One function, above all, of such a mind
Had Nature shadowed there, by putting forth,
'Mid circumstances awful and sublime,
That mutual domination which she loves
To exert upon the face of outward things,
So moulded, joined, abstracted, so endowed
With interchangeable supremacy,
That men, least sensitive, see, hear, perceive,
And cannot choose but feel. The power, which all
Acknowledge when thus moved, which Nature thus
To bodily sense exhibits, is the express
Resemblance of that glorious faculty
That higher minds bear with them as their own.
This is the very spirit in which they deal
With the whole compass of the universe:
They from their native selves can send abroad
Kindred mutations; for themselves create
A like existence; and, whene'er it dawns
Created for them, catch it, or are caught
By its inevitable mastery,
Like angels stopped upon the wing by sound
Of harmony from Heaven's remotest spheres.
Them the enduring and the transient both
Serve to exalt; they build up greatest things
From least suggestions; ever on the watch,
Willing to work and to be wrought upon,
They need not extraordinary calls
To rouse them; in a world of life they live ...

-- William Wordsworth The Prelude

starry night

Those who have never seen them cannot believe what the stars are like in the desert; the complete absence of artificial light, the vastness of the horizon only seem to increase their number and brightness. It is certainly an unforgettable experience. Only the camp fire with the tea water boiling on top and the bread for supper baking underneath, glows with a mellow light against the sparkling heaven.

-- Carlo Carretto Letters from the Desert

Friday, February 25

we all wear many hats

"These hats are driving me mad!" The king's voice rang out through all the palace. "Why waste time with a child's bow and arrow. Fetch me the mightiest bow and arrow in all my realm -- fetch the yeoman of the bowmen!"

"Yeoman of the bowman," echoed all the lords and noblemen of the court.

A gigantic man strode out across the terrace. His bow was as big as the branch of a tree. The arrow was twice as long as Bartholomew, and thicker than his wrist.

"Yeoman of the bowmen," said the king, "shoot off this boy's hat... and make it stay off!"

Bartholomew was trembling so hard that he could scarcely stand straight. The yeoman bent back his mighty bow.

G-r-r-zibb!... Like a mad giant hornet the arrow tore through the air toward Bartholomew Cubbins.

G-r-r-zapp!... The sharp arrowhead bit through his hat and carried it off -- on and on for a full half mile.

G-r-r-zopp!... It plunked to a stop in the heart of an oak tree. Yet there on Bartholomew's head sat another hat.

The face of the yeoman of the bowmen went white as the palace walls. "It's black magic!" he shrieked.

-- Doctor Seuss The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins

Thursday, February 24


No other member in the whole class of mammals is coloured in so extraordinary a manner as the adult male mandrill (C. mormon). The face at this age becomes of a fine blue, with the ridge and tip of the nose of the most brilliant red. According to some authors, the face is also marked with whitish stripes, and is shaded in parts with black, but the colours appear to be variable. On the forehead there is a crest of hair, and on the chin a yellow beard. "Toutes les parties superiéures de leurs cuisses et le grand espace nu de leurs fesses sont également colorés du rouge le plus vif, avec un mélange de bleu qui ne manque réellement pas d'élégance." When the animal is excited all the naked parts become much more vividly tinted. Several authors have used the strongest expressions in describing these resplendent colours, which they compare with those of the most brilliant birds.

-- Charles Darwin Descent of Man

Wednesday, February 23


We know that under the image revealed there is another which is truer to reality and under this image still another and yet again still another under this last one, right down to the true image of that reality, absolute, mysterious, which no one will ever see or perhaps right down to the decomposition of any image, of any reality.

-- Michelangelo Antonioni


I threw my brushes aside; they were too small for the work at hand. I squeezed out big chunks of pure, moist color and taking my palette knife I laid on blue, green, white and brown in great sweeping strokes. As I worked I saw that it was good and clean and strong. I saw nature springing into life upon my canvas. It was better than nature, for it was vibrating with the thrill of a new creation. Exultantly I painted until the sun sank below the horizon, then I raced around the field like a colt let loose, and literally bellowed for joy.

-- Albert Pinkham Ryder The Spiritual in Art

Tuesday, February 22

what is real

Strictly speaking, time does not exist (except within the limit of the present), yet we have to submit to it. Such is our condition. We are subject to that which does not exist. Whether it is a question of passively borne duration — physical pain, waiting, regret, remorse, fear — or of organized time — order, method, necessity — in both cases, that to which we are subject does not exist. But our submission exists. We are really bound by unreal chains. Time, which is unreal, casts over all things, including ourselves, a veil of unreality ...

What is real in perception and distinguishes it from dreams is not sensations, but the necessity enshrined in these sensations ...

A test of what is real is that it is hard and rough. Joys are found in it, not pleasure. What is pleasant belongs to dreams.

-- Simone Weil Gravity and Grace
Translated by Arthur Wills

Friday, February 18

The Starred Coverlet

A difficult achievement for true lovers
Is to lie mute, without embrace or kiss,
Without a rustle or a smothered sigh,
Basking each in the other's glory.

Let us not undervalue lips or arms
As reassurances of constancy,
Or speech as necessary communication
When troubled hearts go groping through the dusk;

Yet lovers who have learned this last refinement --
To lie apart, yet sleep and dream together
Motionless under their starred coverlet --
Crown love with wreaths of myrtle.

-- Robert Graves


He pressed her hand and released it, and she went back to the candle and sat down again in her former position. Twice she turned and looked at him, and her eyes met his beaming at her. She set herself a task on [knitting] her stocking and resolved not to turn round till it was finished.

Soon he really shut his eyes and fell asleep. He did not sleep long and suddenly awoke with a start and in a cold perspiration.

As he fell asleep he had still been thinking of the subject that now always occupied his mind—about life and death, and chiefly about death. He felt himself nearer to it.

"Love? What is love?" he thought.

"Love hinders death. Love is life. All, everything that I understand, I understand only because I love. Everything is, everything exists, only because I love. Everything is united by it alone. Love is God, and to die means that I, a particle of love, shall return to the general and eternal source." These thoughts seemed to him comforting. But they were only thoughts. Something was lacking in them, they were not clear, they were too one-sidedly personal and brain-spun And there was the former agitation and obscurity. He fell asleep.

He dreamed that he was lying in the room he really was in, but that he was quite well and unwounded. Many various, indifferent, and insignificant people appeared before him. He talked to them and discussed something trivial. They were preparing to go away somewhere. Prince Andrew dimly realized that all this was trivial and that he had more important cares, but he continued to speak, surprising them by empty witticisms. Gradually, unnoticed, all these persons began to disappear and a single question, that of the closed door, superseded all else. He rose and went to the door to bolt and lock it. Everything depended on whether he was, or was not, in time to lock it. He went, and tried to hurry, but his legs refused to move and he knew he would not be in time to lock the door though he painfully strained all his powers. He was seized by an agonizing fear. And that fear was the fear of death. It stood behind the door. But just when he was clumsily creeping toward the door, that dreadful something on the other side was already pressing against it and forcing its way in. Something not human—death—was breaking in through that door, and had to be kept out. He seized the door, making a final effort to hold it back—to lock it was no longer possible—but his efforts were weak and clumsy and the door, pushed from behind by that terror, opened and closed again.

Once again it pushed from outside. His last superhuman efforts were vain and both halves of the door noiselessly opened. It entered, and it was death, and Prince Andrew died.

But at the instant he died, Prince Andrew remembered that he was asleep, and at the very instant he died, having made an effort, he awoke.

"Yes, it was death! I died—and woke up. Yes, death is an awakening!" And all at once it grew light in his soul and the veil that had till then concealed the unknown was lifted from his spiritual vision. He felt as if powers till then confined within him had been liberated, and that strange lightness did not again leave him.

-- Leo Tolstoy War and Peace
Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude

Thursday, February 17

A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning

As virtuous men passe mildly away,
And whisper to their soules, to goe,
Whilst some of their sad friends doe say,
The breath goes now, and some say, no:

So let us melt, and make no noise,
No teare-floods, nor sigh-tempests move,
T'were prophanation of our joyes
To tell the layetie our love.

Moving of th'earth brings harmes and feares,
Men reckon what it did and meant,
But trepidation of the spheres,
Though greater farre, is innocent.

Dull sublunary lovers love
(Whose soule is sense) cannot admit
Absence, because it doth remove
Those things which elemented it.

But we by a love, so much refin'd,
That our selves know not what it is,
Inter-assured of the mind,
Care lesse, eyes, lips, and hands to misse.

Our two soules therefore, which are one,
Though I must goe, endure not yet
A breach, but an expansion,
Like gold to ayery thinnesse beate.

If they be two, they are two so
As stiffe twin compasses are two,
Thy soule the fixt foot, makes no show
To move, but doth, if the'other doe.

And though it in the center sit,
Yet when the other far doth rome,
It leanes, and hearkens after it,
And growes erect, as that comes home.

Such wilt thou be to mee, who must
Like th'other foot, obliquely runne;
Thy firmness makes my circle just,
And makes me end, where I begunne.

-- John Donne

Wednesday, February 16

the space between

I discovered that there is an aspect of my nature that is neither spiritual nor worldly, and to be situated in that part of myself meant to experience a sort of suffering that simultaneously was new to me and had a flavor of familiarity, a distinct "my-own-ness." Also, and most important, I had constantly to choose it.

-- Jacob Needleman Lost Christianity


Inspiration is a moment of contact with another reality, the moment when everything at once falls into its proper place, when as it were, the entire structure appears, and every part is seen to be related to the whole. So we cannot deny it exists, nor can we remain indifferent to the experience of this momentary, magical change in our insight. Having had the taste of this other reality (for surely it is not our everyday fare), we yet wait passively for its unpredictable reappearance. We also know that without it we are cut off from the source of our true nourishment, and everything we make is empty, without life, belongs to no organic whole.

-- Ilonka Karasz Design Forecast Vol. I

Tuesday, February 15

Clair de lune

Votre âme est un paysage choisi
Que vont charmants masques et bergamasques,
Jouant du luth, et dansant, et quasi
Tristes sous leurs déguisements fantasques.

Your soul is a chosen landscape
To which maskers and bergamasks bring delight,
Playing the lute and dancing, and almost
Sad beneath their fanciful disguises.

Tout en chantant sur le mode mineur
L'amour vainqueur et la vie opportune,
Ils n'ont pas l'air de croire à leur bonheur,
Et leur chanson se mêle au clair de lune.

While singing in the minor key
Of victorious love and the propitious life,
They do not seem to believe in their happiness
And their song mingles with the moonlight,

Au calme clair de lune triste et beau,
Qui fait rêver les oiseaux dans les arbres
Et sangloter d'extase les jets d'eau,
Les grands jets d'eau sveltes parmi les marbres.

With the calm moonlight, sad and beautiful,
Which brings dreams to the birds in the trees
And makes the fountains sob with ecstasy,
The tall slender fountains among the marble statues.

Paul Verlaine
Translated by Winifred Radford

mutatis mutandis

In a letter to André Caplet, Debussy says he has "vacillated for three days between two chords." ... And when he answers Proust's questionnaire (yes, Proust's), he declares that his "favourite activity" is: "dreaming while smoking complicated tobaccos." Dreaming, yes, no surprise there: no need to go and hear La mer or Ce qu'a vu le vent d'ouest, it's enough to listen to C'est l'extase langoureuse to have proof of that ... Following Verlaine, Debussy devised new relationships: especially between poetry and music ... His music is never, or hardly ever, wedded to the text. His harmony is not imitative. Debussy asserts himself ... and superimposes his thoughts on the poet's – his atmosphere, his memories, his world ... and Verlaine was not the worst practitioner of rhythm in French literature ... They were made to understand one another, to go together. Even so, in his songs with piano Debussy crosses swords with the text ... The more regular the verse, the more he maltreats it – instinctively.

-- Jacques Drillon "Mozart, Debussy and the law"
Translated by Roger Nichols

Monday, February 14

a love story

He was no sooner in the garden but he discovered where
Madam de Cleves was; he saw a great light in the bower, all the
windows of it were open; upon this, slipping along by the side of
the palisades, he came up close to it, and one may easily judge
what were the emotions of his heart at that instant: he took his
station behind one of the windows, which served him conveniently
to see what Madam de Cleves was doing. He saw she was alone; he
saw her so inimitably beautiful, that he could scarce govern the
transports which that sight gave him: the weather was hot, her
head and neck were uncovered, and her hair hung carelessly about
her. She lay on a couch with a table before her, on which were
several baskets full of ribbons, out of which she chose some, and
he observed she chose those colours which he wore at the
tournament; he saw her make them up into knots for an Indian
cane, which had been his, and which he had given to his sister;
Madam de Cleves took it from her, without seeming to know it had
belonged to the Duke. After she had finished her work with the
sweetest grace imaginable, the sentiments of her heart showing
themselves in her countenance, she took a wax candle and came to
a great table over against the picture of the Siege of Mets, in
which was the portrait of the Duke de Nemours; she sat down and
set herself to look upon that portrait, with an attention and
thoughtfulness which love only can give.

It is impossible to express what Monsieur de Nemours felt at this
moment; to see, at midnight, in the finest place in the world, a
lady he adored, to see her without her knowing that he saw her,
and to find her wholly taken up with things that related to him,
and to the passion which she concealed from him; this is what was
never tasted nor imagined by any other lover. [...]

Never was passion so tender and so violent as that of Monsieur de
Nemours; he walked under the willows, along a little brook which
ran behind the house, where he lay concealed; he kept himself as
much out of the way as possible, that he might not be seen by
anybody; he abandoned himself to the transports of his love, and
his heart was so full of tenderness, that he was forced to let
fall some tears, but those tears were such as grief alone could
not shed; they had a mixture of sweetness and pleasure in them
which is to be found only in love.

-- Madame de Lafayette The Princess of Cleves

Sunday, February 13


But what if man had eyes to see the true beauty -- the divine beauty, I mean, pure and clear and unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the colors and vanities of human life -- thither looking, and holding converse with the true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may. Would that be an ignoble life?

These things, O Phaedrus and all of you, did Diotima say to me, and I was convinced by them. And being thus convinced, I also tried to convince the others that, regarding the attainment of this end, human nature will not easily find a better helper than love.

-- Plato Symposium
Translated by Benjamin Jowett

Saturday, February 12

ex nihilo

Reality is a perpetual growth, a creation pursued without end. Our will already performs this miracle. Every human work in which there is invention, every voluntary act in which there is freedom, every movement of an organism that manifests spontaneity, brings something new into the world.

-- Henri Bergson Creative Evolution

Friday, February 11


When I think of you,
fireflies in the marsh rise
like the soul's jewels,
lost to eternal longing
abandoning my body

-- Izumi Shikibu


À quoi bon la merveille de transposer un fait de nature en sa presque disparition vibratoire, cependant; si ce n'est pour qu'en émane, sans le gêne d'un proche ou concret rappel, la notion pure.

Je dis: une fleur ! et, hors de l’oubli où ma voix relègue aucun contour, en tant que quelque chose d’autre que les calices sus, musicalement se lève, idée même et suave, l’absente de tous les bouquets.

What good is the marvel of transposing a fact of nature into its almost complete and vibratory disappearance with the play of the word, however, unless there comes forth from it, without the bother of a nearby or concrete reminder, the pure notion.

I say: a flower ! and outside the oblivion to which my voice relegates any shape, insofar as it is something other than the calyx, there arises musically, as the very idea and delicate, the one absent from every bouquet.

-- Stéphane Mallarmé "Crise de vers [Crisis in Poetry]" Divagations
Translated by Mary Ann Caws

Thursday, February 10


To be surprised, to wonder, is to begin to understand. This is the sport, the luxury, special to the intellectual man. The gesture characteristic of his tribe consists in looking at the world with eyes wide open in wonder. Everything in the world is strange and marvelous to well-open eyes. This faculty of wonder ... is the one which leads the intellectual man through life in the perpetual ecstasy of the visionary. His special attribute is the wonder of the eyes. Hence it was that the ancients gave Minerva [the Goddess of Wisdom] her owl, the bird with ever-dazzled eyes.

-- José Ortega y Gasset The Revolt of the Masses

Great Law of Peace

The Lords of the Confederacy of the Five Nations shall be mentors of the people for all time. The thickness of their skin shall be seven spans -- which is to say that they shall be proof against anger, offensive actions and criticism. Their hearts shall be full of peace and good will and their minds filled with a yearning for the welfare of the people of the Confederacy. With endless patience they shall carry out their duty and their firmness shall be tempered with a tenderness for their people. Neither anger nor fury shall find lodgement in their minds and all their words and actions shall be marked by calm deliberation.

-- The Iroquois Constitution (Fifteenth Century)

Wednesday, February 9

the dance

The afternoon sun leans its rays into the repose of the marshes, when suddenly one of these tremendous floods of life surges over them, sweeping down in the distance like a cloud detached from the sky, an invasion of Valkyrie with all the wild discipline and exultation of speed and none of the menace or terror. The little birds approach over the water in a dense column of perfect order, in a humming volume of a sea-like monotone, accompanied by a soft purr from thousands of throats ... Changing pattern, direction, color and formation with every turn, each individual yet keeps the same distance from his neighbor, the same momentum, and the same angle of the body, as though pulled hither and thither with lightning rapidity from the ends of an infinite number of visible and equidistant threads, all radiating from a common point. Thus they cut one design after another out of the fabric of space -- three thousand leaderless birds, executing intricate movements with the single cohesion of one body, supported upon one pair of wings ...

-- Edward Howe Forbush Game Birds, Wildfowl, and Shorebirds


With thee conversing, I forget all time,
All seasons, and their change; all please alike.
Sweet is the breath of Morn, her rising sweet,
With charm of earliest birds; pleasant the Sun,
When first on this delightful land he spreads
His orient beams, on herb, tree, fruit, and flower,
Glist'ring with dew; fragrant the fertile Earth
After soft showers; and sweet the coming-on
Of grateful Evening mild; then silent Night,
With this her solemn bird, and this fair Moon,
And these the gems of Heaven, her starry train:
But neither breath of Morn, when she ascends
With charm of earliest birds; not rising Sun
On this delightful land; nor herb, fruit, flower,
Glist'ring with dew; nor fragrance after showers:
Nor grateful Evening mild; nor silent Night,
With this her solemn bird; nor walk by moon,
Or glittering starling, without thee is sweet.

-- John Milton Paradise Lost

Tuesday, February 8


The second object was even stranger. When Grifalconi extracted it from its padded case, Valène thought at first that it was a large cluster of coral. Grifalconi shook his head. In one of the attics in Château de la Muette he had found the remains of a table. Its oval top, wonderfully inlaid with mother-of-pearl, was exceptionally well preserved; but its base, a massive, spindle-shaped column of grained wood, turned out to be completely worm-eaten. The worms had done their work in covert, subterranean fashion, creating innumerable ducts and microscopic channels now filled with pulverized wood. No sign of this insidious labour showed on the surface. Grifalconi saw that the only way of preserving the original base -- hollowed out as it was, it could no longer support the weight of the top -- was to reinforce it from within; so once he had completely emptied the canals of their wood dust by suction, he set about injecting them with an almost liquid mixture of lead, alum, and asbestos fibre. The operation was successful; but it quickly became apparent that, even thus strengthened, the base was too weak, and Grifalconi had to resign himself to replacing it. It was after he had done this that he thought of dissolving what was left of the original wood so as to disclose the fabulous arborescence within, this exact record of the worms' life inside the wooden mass: a static, mineral accumulation of all the movements that had constituted their blind existence, their undeviating single-mindedness, their obstinate itineraries; the faithful materialisation of all they had eaten and digested as they forced from their dense surroundings the invisible elements needed for their survival, the explicit, visible, immeasurably disturbing image of the endless progressions that had reduced the hardest of woods to an impalpable network of crumbling galleries.

-- Georges Perec Life: A User's Manual
Translated by David Bellos

description of Louis Daguerre's diorama

"A Midnight Mass at Saint-Étienne-du-Mont"

At first it was daylight, the nave full of [empty] chairs; little by little the light waned; at the same time, candles were lit at the back of the choir; then the entire church was illuminated, and the chairs were occupied by the congregation who had arrived, not suddenly as if by scene-shifting, but gradually -- quickly enough to surprise one, yet slowly enough for one not to be too astonished. The midnight mass started, and in the midst of a devotion impossible to describe, organ music was heard echoing from the vaulted roof. Slowly dawn broke, the congregation dispersed, the candles were extinguished, the church and the empty chairs appeared as at the beginning. This was magic.

-- Alison Gernsheim and Helmut Gernsheim L.J.M. Daguerre

Daguerre, a 19th century stage designer and entrepreneur, invented the diorama, a spectacle theater with no actors. This one ran for three years in Paris.

He would go on to invent photography, thereby becoming one of history's most influential figures in the development of the visual arts, creating a popular awareness, appetite and demand for images, and leading to the invention of the cinema and Marshall McLuhan's famous words, "the medium is the message."

Monday, February 7

Qui verra Ve'ra l'ai- mera

Ah, Ideas are living beings! The Count had hollowed out in the air the shape of his love, and necessity demanded that into this void should pour the only being that was homogeneous to it, for otherwise the Universe would have crashed into chaos. And at that instant the impression came, final, simple, absolute, that She must be there, there in the room! Of this he was as calmly certain as of his own existence, and all the objects about him were saturated with this conviction. One saw it there! And now, since nothing was lacking save only Vera herself, outwardly and tangibly there, it was inevitably ordained that there she should be, and that for an instant the great Dream of Life and Death should set its infinite gates ajar! By faith the pathway of resurrection had been driven right to her! Joyfully a clear burst of musical laughter lit up the nuptial bed. The Count turned round. And there, before his eyes, creature of memory and of will, ethereal, an elbow leaning on the lace of the pillow, one hand buried in her thick black hair, her lips deliciously parted in a smile that held a paradise of rare delights, lovely with the beauty that breaks the heart, there at last the Countess Vera was gazing on him, and sleep still lingering within her eyes.

-- Villiers de l'Isle-Adam "Vera"
Translated by Hamish Miles

The Wild Iris

At the end of my suffering
there was a door.

Hear me out: that which you call death
I remember.

Overhead, noises, branches of the pine shifting.
Then nothing. The weak sun
flickered over the dry surface.

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth.

Then it was over: that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak, ending abruptly, the stiff earth
bending a little. And what I took to be
birds darting in low shrubs.

You who do not remember
passage from the other world
I tell you I could speak again: whatever
returns from oblivion returns
to find a voice:

from the center of my life came
a great fountain, deep blue
shadows on azure sea water.

-- Louise Glück

Sunday, February 6

presenting memory

We are all writers of our own stories, which are in a constant state of revision. The composer Maurice Ravel's thoughts about inspiration and originality are particularly interesting in this context. Ravel commented that if a composer has nothing to say, he would "do well to repeat what has been well said." He added that if a composer does have something to say, it will emerge from his "unwitting infidelity to the model." In other words, "originality" in music (or any art) is like the fiction of memory that results when we attempt to reconstruct an exact replica. We can't help being creative: that is how our minds work. The challenge is to recognize our particular fictions, to capture them as best we can and to present them clearly, like dreams told well.

-- Bruce Adolphe Of Mozart, Parrots and Cherry Blossoms in the Wind


Themes don't come to me when I'm not thinking about composing, but rhythms do. Sometimes I get a funny rhythmic idea because of trying to walk down the street in New York; the traffic patterns have given me ideas. And I've gotten ideas for many pieces from looking outside a train window and seeing things rush by, and then looking inside the train -- the relativity of things. I have a lot of pieces where there are two simultaneous tempos.

-- Bruce Adolphe

Saturday, February 5


[Will-o'-the wisps appear.]

ARKADINA [in a low voice]: There's something decadent about this.

TREPLEV [reproachfully imploring her]: Mother!

NINA: I am all alone. Once in a hundred years I open my mouth to speak, my voice echoes dolefully in this void, and no one hears it .... And you, pale lights, you do not hear me .... The stagnant marsh begets you before dawn, you drift till daybreak without thought, without will, without the throb of life. Fearing lest life should spring up in you, the devil, father of eternal matter, at every instant produces in you a continual interchange of atoms, as in stones and in water, and you are ceaselessly being changed. Within the universe, spirit alone remains constant and unaltered, [Pause] Like a prisoner cast into a deep and empty well, I know not where I am or what awaits me. One thing only is not hidden from me: in the cruel, persistent struggle with the devil, the principle of the forces of matter, I am destined to be victorious, then matter and spirit shall merge in glorious harmony, and the kingdom of universal will shall be at hand. But this will come only little by little, after a long, long succession of millennia, when the moon, bright Sirius, and the earth have turned to dust .... Until then .... horror, horror .... [Pause; in the background two red spots appear over the lake.] Behold, my powerful enemy, the devil, approaches. I see his awful, blood-red eyes ....

ARKADINA: There's a smell of sulfur. Is that necessary?


ARKADINA [laughs]: Oh, it's a stage effect!

TREPLEV: Mother!

NINA: He yearns for man ....

POLINA ANDREYEVNA [to DORN]: You've taken off your hat. Put it on or you'll catch cold.

ARKADINA: The doctor has taken off his hat to the devil, the father of eternal matter.

TREPLEV [flaring up, loudly]: The play is over! That's enough! Curtain!

ARKADINA: Why are you angry?

TREPLEV: Enough! Curtain! Bring down the curtain! [Stamping his foot] Curtain! [The curtain falls.] You must forgive me. I overlooked the fact that only the chosen few can write plays and act in them. I have infringed on a monopoly! To me .... I .... [Tries to continue, then, with a gesture of resignation, goes out left.]

ARKADINA: What's the matter with him?

SORIN: Irina, my dear, you shouldn't wound a young man's pride like that.

ARKADINA: But what have I said to him?

SORIN: You've hurt his feelings.

ARKADINA: He told us himself it was going to be a joke, so I treated it as a joke.

SORIN: All the same ....

-- Anton Chekhov The Sea Gull
Translated by Ann Dunnigan

Friday, February 4

East of Broken Top

Sunset reaches out, earth rolls free
yet clings hard to what passes.
Light pours unstinting, though darkness
cuts the horizon and leaps for the sky.
Beyond, in a shadow vast as the world,
a silent upland springs blue where it stands
morning and evening. Its own being,
it never changes while the light plays over it.

We could go there and live, have a place,
a shoulder of earth, watch days
find their way onward in their serious march
where nothing happens but each one is gone.
Some people build cities and live there;
they hurry and shout. We lie on the earth;
to keep from falling into the stars we reach
as wide as we can and hold onto the grass.

-- William Stafford

the wind

The night was velvety and liquid. It lapped gently against the cheeks like cloth, then it receded with a sigh and could be heard swaying in the trees. Stars filled the sky. They were no longer the stars of winter, separate, brilliant. They were like fish spawn. There was no longer any form in the world, not even of adolescent things. Nothing but milk: milky buds, milky seeds in the earth, the sowing of creatures, and star milk in the sky. The trees had the strong odour of the time when they are in love ... The wind was speaking. It was a milky wind like the rest. It was full of shapes, full of images, of gleams, of lights, of flames that did not illumine a centimeter of the earth but lit up the whole interior of one's being.

-- Jean Giono Joy of Man's Desiring
Translated by Katherine Allen Clarke

Thursday, February 3


The purpose of art is not to reproduce what is already given (which would be superfluous), nor to create something in the pure play of subjective fancy (which can only be transitory and must necessarily be a matter of complete indifference to other people), but to press forward into the whole of the external world and the soul, to see and communicate those objective realities within it which rule and convention have hitherto concealed.

-- Max Scheler The Nature of Sympathy
Translated by Peter Heath


As for the adoration of Rossini, which had recently become the latest thing for fashionable Parisians, it made me furious. My anger was increased by the entire manner of the new movement, which was totally in opposition to that of Gluck and Spontini. I could imagine nothing more exquisitely beautiful and genuine than the compositions of these great masters. In contrast, Rossini's cynical approach to melody, his contempt for dramatic expression and good sense, his interminable repetition of one kind of cadence, his endless childish crescendo and crude bass drum, irritated me so much that I was blinded to the brilliant aspects of his genius, even in his exquisitely scored masterpiece, The Barber of Seville. I frequently agonized over the possibility of putting a mine under the Théâtre-Italien and blowing it up, together with its assembly of Rossinians ... I entirely agree with Ingres when he describes certain of Rossini's works as "the music of a charlatan."

-- Hector Belioz Memoirs

Wednesday, February 2


Chiamavi 'l cielo e 'ntorno vi si gira,
mostrandovi le sue bellezze etterne,
e l'occhio vostro pur a terra mira.

Heaven calls you and revolves around you, showing you its timeless beauties, and your eye looks only at the earth.

-- Dante Purgatorio

Passage to India

O my brave soul!
O farther farther sail!
O daring joy, but safe! are they not all the seas of God?
O farther, farther, farther sail!

-- Walt Whitman

Tuesday, February 1


... I run to it fast as I can go and dodge people à la Columbia halfback and cut into track fast as off-tackle where you carry the ball with you to the left and feint with neck and head and push of ball as tho you're gonna throw yourself all out to fly around that left end and everybody psychologically chuffs with you that way and suddenly you contract and you like whiff of smoke are buried in the hole in tackle, cutback play, you're flying into the hole almost before you yourself know it, flying into the track I am and there's the train about 30 yards away even as I look picking up tremendously momentum the kind of momentum I would have been able to catch if I'd a looked a second earlier — but I run, I know I can catch it ... But suddenly I get embarrassed thinking what are all the people of the world gonna say to see a man running so devilishly fast with all his might sprinting thru life like Jesse Owens just to just to catch a goddam train and all of them with their hysteria wondering if I'll get killed when I catch the back platform and Blam, I fall down and go boom and lay supine across the crossing, so the old flagman when the train has flowed by will see that everything lies on the earth in the same stew, all of us angels will die and we dont ever know how or our own diamond, O heaven will enlighten us and open our eyes — open our eyes, open our eyes. — I know I wont get hurt, I trust my shoes, hand grip, feet, solidity of yipe and cripe of gripe and grip and strength and need no mystic strength to measure the musculature in my rib back -- but damn it all it's a social embarrassment to be caught sprinting like a maniac after a train especially with two men gaping at me from rear of train and shaking their heads and yelling I cant make it even as I half-heartedly sprint after them with open eyes trying to communicate that I can and not for them to get hysterical or laugh, but I realize it's all too much for me, not the run, not the speed of the train which anyway two seconds after I gave up the complicated chase did indeed slow down at the crossing in the airtest before chugging up again for good and Bayshore. So I was late for work, and old Sherman hated me and was about to hate me more.

-- Jack Kerouac The Railroad Earth

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