hugh laurie

Hugh Laurie. British. Hilarious. Serious. Musical. After watching Jeeves and Wooster, I don’t think I would have imagined Mr. Laurie to really be as good a musician as he is.

I’m not sorry to be proven wrong though.

He can sing, play piano and guitar and who knows what else. If you watch him live, he has that persona fit for a lounge club. A very, very upscale lounge club.

AE

symphonic transcendence

Coming from basement level, we walked up the stairs into the lobby, the lush carpeting and low lights giving us an air of deserved luxury. We strode in two pairs of heels and one of shining leather. Bedecked in glittering jewels, velvet vests and folds of lace, we belonged to another world; one of sophistication and culture, of intense artistic appreciation, and the ability to afford spending time on pure enjoyment. Sitting in stark admiration of a single man’s achievement, expressed in the combined genius of a multitude of performers, we were spellbound.

It’s a borrowed world for us. Living as poor(ish) college students swamped with work, homework and a semblance of social life, making a trip ad hoc to see a symphony seems out of character. Perhaps. But we shared a desire to see greatness, and we did.

It was I, my friend, and her brother, playing dress up in our finery and acting like we belonged. Not that we don’t. I am not so self-abasing that I think culture is reserved for the select few. Rather that it’s not our habit, and those environs not our usual ones.

Preceding the performance was a prelude, where a speaker gave a brief lecture on Mendelssohn and explained the pieces we would be hearing. The program included his “Hebrides Overture,” Concertro No. 1 and Symphony No. 3 (“Scottish”). Conducted by Jaap van Zweden with Alessio Bax on piano, it was two hours of pure sensory delight. Yes, hearing a piece from a CD can be invigorating, inspiring, even illuminating, but to be able to see the vitality, the passion, the physical strain, energy, and concentration of the players and their conductor adds another element to the experience. I find myself reacting physically to the pieces, becoming involved. Even though I don’t move, I lose my place in reality for a moment. I can shake myself as though from a dream, and realize I’m still staring at the conductor’s baton as it whirls and sweeps.

What joy, what talent, what inspiration can man divine! A collaboration of years of combined labor, a symphony requires perfect harmony to display a work of a master. What words can describe it? Do you think me sentimental? Exaggerating? A good performance of good art can transcend space and time. I saw the waves crashing madly against the rocks, I saw the sweeping hills and lonely moors and the pride of the Scots. It achieved in me what it was meant to. Mendelssohn composed well.

AE

first day of autumn

“With what a glory comes and goes the year!
The buds of spring, those beautiful harbingers
Of sunny skies and cloudless times, enjoy
Life’s newness, and earth’s garniture spread out.
And when the silver habit of the clouds
Comes down upon the autumn sun, and with
A sober gladness the old year takes up
His bright inheritance of golden fruits,
A pomp and pageant fill the splendid scene.

There is a beautiful spirit breathing now
Its mellow richness on the clustered trees,
And, from a beaker full of richest dyes,
Pouring new glory on the autumn woods,
And dipping in warm light the pillared clouds.
Morn on the mountain, like a summer bird,
Lifts up her purple wing, and in the vales
The gentle wind, a sweet and passionate wooer,
Kisses the blushing leaf, and stirs up life
Within the solemn woods of ash deep-crimsoned,
And silver beech, and maple yellow-leaved,
Where Autumn, like a faint old man, sits down
By the wayside a-weary.Through the trees
The golden robin moves.The purple finch,
That on wild cherry and red cedar feeds,
A winter bird, comes with its plaintive whistle,
And pecks by the witch-hazel, whilst aloud
From cottage roofs the warbling blue-bird sings,
And merrily, with oft-repeated stroke,
Sounds from the threshing-floor the busy flail.

O what a glory doth this world put on
For him who, with a fervent heart, goes forth
Under the bright and glorious sky, and looks
On duties well performed, and days well spent!
For him the wind, ay, and the yellow leaves,
Shall have a voice, and give him eloquent teachings.
He shall so hear the solemn hymn, that Death
Has lifted up for all, that he shall go
To his long resting-place without a tear.”

~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

short story: nuage

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a cloud. Every day she would pass over beautiful towns and landscapes and sigh in wonder and longing at the sights below. She was sad often, for she always saw people going about on the lands, moving and laughing, living interesting lives, and having many adventures.

She was sad because she could only sit on her cloud and fly by the lovely scenes, never staying to look long. Wind, her friend (though she didn’t always like him) would be blowing her off just when she was enjoying herself.

Occasionally, a kite would climb high to meet her, and she would stretch as far she could and try to catch it. Or sometimes a stray balloon would drift lazily by, and though she could reach them, they were too slippery to hold. Or perhaps it were her fingers that wouldn’t close.

One day, as she was passing over a very brown land, she saw many people standing below, looking up at the sky. They looked wistful and many were crying. The little cloud girl became so sad that a few tears pooled in her eyes and dripped off her nose. The drops began to fall, and though she tried to catch them, they fell to the people below. Her tears fell fast and heavy to the ground, until she was able to stem the flood. When she peered blearily down again, expecting to see the people all hiding, she was shocked to see them dancing and hugging each other. Wind blew some of their words up to her, and though she couldn’t understand them, she caught the tone. They were happy, joyful words of relief. Wind rustled happily, blowing cool air over the little cloud girl’s face. She smiled slowly. The smile spread over her face and broke into a rainbow, to the further delight of the people below.

Then she shed a few more tears, in joy this time, and waved to the people, even if they couldn’t see her. She laughed, and the sun burst through her cloud and shone down. Then Wind gently blew her away to a new land.

nuage

AE (illustration by the author)

5 Browns

I’ve long loved the 5 Browns. I once heard them live, (five grand pianos on stage: it was breath-taking) and I can never get over the intensity of sound they produce.

The above clip is a recording, so the quality isn’t outstanding, and apparently it was an impromptu performance, so one of the pianos is out of tune. Still, positively invigorating.

Classical music is supposedly good for the brain. I don’t doubt it, but it certainly goes against the old adage of, “if it’s good for you, it’s awful.”

AE