Saturday, September 30

and yet, and yet

Through what quiet continents of your own
Are you now walking, and with whom for a friend?
How often am I forgot when you are alone
Standing upon that ultimate verge of consciousness
Which sheers to death: each is alone at the end
And wearied of all this challengeable world
Ready to droop into oblivion
Like a sleepy child: this, seeing your warm cheek
Pillowed so childlike I fain would bend
To kiss it but pity rebukes me.
Why should I hurry you back from yourself
Out of your own created kingdom:
And yet, and yet, I stoop to your ear and speak
My name in whispers: I who can see
You sleeping serene in your own loneliness
And made aware of myself standing here
Within a loneliness more lone than sleep.

-- William Soutar, from 'The Sleeper'

William Soutar

Friday, September 29

Rohmer on significance

What would a burst of laughter or anxious twitching signify if they did not find their visible echo in the universe?

One might say that art consists of giving each thing a name other than its own.

It is no longer important to sing of things but, rather, to make them sing themselves.

-- Eric Rohmer The Taste For Beauty
Translated by Carol Volk

about Eric Rohmer

Wednesday, September 27

color expresses something by itself

Color expresses something by itself. Let's say that I have to paint an autumn landscape with yellow leaves on the trees. If I see it as a symphony in yellow, does it matter whether the yellow that I use is the same as the yellow of the leaves? No, it doesn't.

-- Vincent Van Gogh, quoted in The Meanings of Modern Art by John Russell

Monday, September 25


Looking across
The water we are
Startled by a star—
It is not dark yet
The sun has just set

Looking across
The water we are
Alone as that star
That startled us,
And as far

-- Samuel Menashe

about Samuel Menashe

Saturday, September 23

the root

Looking off into the forest, I now imagine that the moss and soil have magically become transparent, so I can crawl around like a kid on a frozen pond, peering down into the clear earth. All the imbedded things have become visible—the rotted tree trunk, the stump, and the knitted maze of living roots. Each root is revealed, from its thick beginnings at the base of the mother tree, snaking away and gradually becoming thin, branching and weaving through dozens of other roots like a single strand in an immense, sprawling net. The root becomes slender as a pencil, then a string, and finally a delicate thread with hairs so minute they're too small to see. At these far extremities I can no longer tell where the root ends and the earth begins.

-- Richard Nelson The Island Within

Tuesday, September 19

To Drown in Honey

Now the leaves rush, greening, back. Back now,
the leaves push greenward
.—Some such song, or
close to. I forget the most of it. His voice, and
the words pooling inside it. And the light for once
not sexual, just light. The light, as it should be . . .

You can build for yourself a tower to signal from.
Can become a still life. A slow ruin. You can
walk away. They all say that. Sir, I see no way

out of it. I have put my spade to the black loam
that the mind at one moment lets pass for truth,
at the next, oblivion. I have considered. I know
what's buried there: emptiness and renunciation and
ash, and ash . . . Why, then, so suddenly—overnight
almost—all the leaves again? Why now, rushing back?

-- Carl Phillips

Monday, September 18

Watching the Milk Cows

It's probably vain
we watch them
thinking how much
we're needed, how little
our houses mean when compared
to warm straw and lantern light.
We remember our rural beginnings:
how streets were graveled—not paved
how the errant cow—routed by flood waters—
carries with it into daybreak some secret country
we once called home. How long into the
night we'll dream them, soft and full
of milk, cooing to us, chewing their cuds,
so much trust in their eyes
it makes us squirm.

-- Sandra Adelmund

Saturday, September 16


Those feathers . . . farthest away from their points of attachment will be the most flexible.

-- Leonardo da Vinci The Notebooks of Leonardo do Vinci
Translated by Edward MacCurdy

Repetition makes us feel secure and variation makes us feel free.

-- Robert Hass Twentieth Century Pleasures

Thursday, September 14


First, there is silence. Then we think we hear something, music. It is one note, E above middle C, played by the solo cello alone. This entrance, Ligeti writes, should be inaudible, "as though coming out of nothingness." To make sure, he writes pppppppp, has the cello muted, and directs that there be no vibrato and that the bow be over the fingerboard (sul tasto), which further veils the sound. For nearly two minutes, we hear only this E. Gradually, though, it seems to step forward, to take on flesh: The orchestral strings join in (ppppp at first), then a flute, then a clarinet, then another clarinet. The while, the string color has changed: the players begin to use vibrato, which gradually becomes more intense; the bows move away from the fingerboard toward the bridge (sul ponticello), which produces a creepily glassy, sometimes raspy sound; and the violins, violas, and orchestral cellos start to play dense tremolandos. And even within the confines of this single note, the pitch becomes more complicated: When the cello plays E as a harmonic on the C-string and the bass plays E as a harmonic on the A-string, the two notes are not perfectly in tune with each other, but Ligeti asks that the players not correct the discrepancy, even though those clearly audible vibrations or throbs called "beats" may result.

-- Michael Steinberg, on György Ligeti's Concerto for Cello and Orchestra, in The Concerto

György Ligeti

Cello Concerto (BBC review with RealAudio)

RealAudio is one of many things these days that crashes my ailing computer (it's happening a lot, alas). If you can't listen to BBC's RealAudio, a Windows Media sample is available on Amazon with Siegfried Palm's emerging E.

Other Ligeti samples (mp3s) can be found here.

Wednesday, September 13


In front of this fire which teaches the dreamer the archaic and the intemporal, the soul is no longer stuck in a corner of the world. It is at the center of the world, at the center of its world. The simplest hearth encloses a universe. At least, that expanding movement is one of two metaphysical movements of reverie before fire. There is another which brings us back to ourselves. And thus it is that before the hearth, the dreamer is alternatively soul and body, body and soul.

--Gaston Bachelard The Poetics of Reverie

Tuesday, September 12

transcending limitations

St. Thomas Aquinas says that art does not require rectitude of the appetite, that it is wholly concerned with the good of that which is made. He says that a work of art is a good in itself, and this is a truth that the modern world has largely forgotten. We are not content to stay within our limitations and make something that is simply a good in and by itself. Now we want to make something that will have some utilitarian value. Yet what is good in itself glorifies God because it reflects God. The artist has his hands full and does his duty if he attends to his art. He can safely leave evangelizing to the evangelists. He must first of all be aware of his limitations as an artist—for art transcends its limitations only by staying within them.

-- Flannery O'Connor Mystery and Manners

Saturday, September 9


Night comes, an angel stands
Measuring out the time of stars,
Still are the winds, and still the hours.

It would be peace to lie
Still in the still hours at the angel's feet,
Upon a star hung in a starry sky,
But hearts another measure beat.

Each body, wingless as it lies,
Sends out its butterfly of night
With delicate wings and jewelled eyes.

And some upon day's shores are cast,
And some in darkness lost
In waves beyond the world, where float
Somewhere the islands of the blest.

-- Kathleen Raine

Wednesday, September 6

pop art

What's great about this country is that America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you can know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking.

-- Andy Warhol The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (1975)

Andy Warhol's Green Coca-Cola Bottles

I use naïve imitation. This is not because I have no imagination or because I wish to say something about the everyday world. I imitate 1. objects and 2. created objects, for example, signs, objects made without the intention of making 'art' and which naïvely contain a functional contemporary magic. I try to carry these even further through my own naïveté, which is not artificial.

-- Claes Oldenburg, in "Claes Oldenburg, or the things of this world" Art International 7:9 (1963)

Claes Oldenburg's 7-Up Sign

Everybody has called Pop Art "American " painting, but it's actually industrial painting. America was hit by industrialism and capitalism harder and sooner and its values seem more askew . . . . I think the meaning of my work is that it's industrial, it's what all the world will soon become. Europe will be the same way, soon, so it won't be American; it will be universal.

-- Roy Lichtenstein, in "What is Pop Art? Interviews with Eight Painters" Art News 62:7 (1963)

The Roy Lichtenstein Foundation

Tuesday, September 5

waiting for the train

A station platform at night, the 'Underground-Overground' Steam Railway.
Housman, aged twenty-three, and Jackson, aged twenty-four, dressed as for 'the office', are waiting for the train. Housman has a
Journal of Philology, Jackson an evening paper.

Jackson Wasn't it magnificent? A landmark, Hous!

Housman I thought it was . . . quite jolly . . .

Jackson Quite jolly? It was a watershed! D'Oyly Carte has made the theatre modern.

Housman (surprised) You mean Gilbert and Sullivan?

Jackson What? No. No, the theatre.

Housman (Oh, I see.)

Jackson The first theatre lit entirely by electricity!

Housman Dear old Mo . . .

Jackson D'Oyly Carte's new Savoy is a triumph.

Housman . . . you're the only London theatre critic worthy of the name. 'The new electrified Savoy is a triumph. The contemptible flickering gas-lit St James's –"

Jackson (overlapping) Oh, I know you're ragging me . . .

Housman '. . . the murky malodorous Haymarket . . . the unscientific Adelphi . . .'

Jackson But it was exciting, wasn't it, Hous? Every age thinks it's the modern age, but this one really is.
Electricity is going to change everything. Everything! We had an electric corset sent in today.

Housman One that lights up?

Jackson I've never thought of it before, but in a way the Patent Office is the gatekeeper of the new age.

Housman An Examiner of Electrical Specifications may be, but it's not the same with us toiling down in Trade Marks. I had sore throat lozenges today, an application to register a wonderfully woebegone giraffe – raised rather a subtle point in Trade Marks regulation, actually: it seems there is already a giraffe at large, wearing twelve styles of celluloid collar, but, and here's the nub, a happy giraffe, in fact a preening self-satisfied giraffe. The question arises – is the registered giraffe Platonic?, are all God's giraffes in esse et in posse to be rendered unto the Houndsditch Novelty Collar Company?

Jackson It's true, then – a classical education fits a fellow for anything.

Housman Well, I consulted my colleague Chamberlain – he's compiling the new Index – I don't think he's altogether sound, Chamberlain, he put John the Baptist under Mythological characters –

Jackson Do you know what someone said?

Housman – and a monk holding a tankard under Biblical Subjects.

Jackson Will you tell me what happened?

Housman Oh, we found for the lozenges.

Jackson Someone said you ploughed yourself on purpose.

Housman Pollard?

Jackson No. But they had him in to ask about you.

Housman I saw Pollard in the Reading Room.

Jackson What did he have to say?

Housman Nothing. It was the Reading Room. We adjusted our expressions briefly.

-- Tom Stoppard, from The Invention of Love

about Tom Stoppard

Friday, September 1

 another story

There's nothing out there but light,
                                                            the would-be artist said,
As usual just half right:
There's also a touch of darkness, everyone knows, on both sides of both horizons,
Prescribed and unpaintable,
Touching our fingertips whichever way we decide to jump.
His small palette, however, won't hold that color,
                                            though some have, and some still do.

The two plum trees know nothing of that,
Having come to their green grief,
                                                    their terrestrial touch-and-go,
Out of grace and radiance,
Their altered bodies alteration transmogrified.
Mine is a brief voice, a still, brief voice
Unsubject to change or the will to change—
                                            might it be restrung and rearranged.

But that is another story.

-- Charles Wright, from 'Lives of the Artists'

Charles Wright