"Since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be?"

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Gertrude Stein

Today, I found a new appreciation for Gertrude Stein. Listen to how she tastes her words! Read them aloud yourself a chew them slowly. In a lecture today, I learned she was intimately influenced by Picasso's art. She said she was alone in understanding him because she was trying to do the same thing in her writing that he was trying to do in visual media. She asks you to accept writing which is barely about something. Think about what individual words can do.

If I told him would he like it. Would he like it if I told him./
Would he like it would Napoleon would Napoleon would would he like it./
If Napoleon if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it if I told him if I told him if Napoleon. Would he like it if Napoleon if/
Napoleon if I told him. If I told him if Napoleon if Napoleon if I told him. If I told him would he like it would he like it if I told him. 

Sunday, February 26, 2012


“You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
like thickened wine: summer's blood was in it
leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
picking” -- “Blackberry Picking” by Seamus Heaney

The warm, evening sun cast long shadows on the grass and I could feel the rays literally seeping into my skin. The sun had become orange from its long day spent warming the earth, and chilly wind was beginning to blow through my light jacket. A dying sun. I was reminded of that scene from The Magician’s Nephew when Lewis describes the sun in Jadis’ realm as large, red, and cold, not like the bright, yellow, warm sun from Digory’s world. Jadis explains that this is because Digory’s world is young, and her own is old, breathing its last breath before destruction. This sun felt as old as the sun from Jadis’ world, but not quite as sad. There is always a sadness to death, but this sun felt resigned to her end. Ready for it. As though she was finally falling asleep at the close of a life well-lived. She had warmed the young girl, Earth, and imparted to her some knowledge of love. Also, something of forgiveness. Not atonement, or justification. Just forgiveness, and love. Always love. She wouldn’t be the sun if she didn’t love with all of her being. The dying star bled on my toes, and juice from a ripe orange slice slipped down my lips, and guitar music lulled me to half-sleep. Staring up at the sky so blue, like water. The warm Mediterranean ocean must have fed into sky at the horizon somehow. A plane swimming through the current and leaving white foam in its wake. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Lang Lang

Yesterday, Shannon and I went to see Lang Lang give a piano, master class at the Sheldonian Theatre, which we had bought tickets for back when we had first arrived in Oxford. Sixth week finally rolled around today and we sat with excited anticipation in Blackwell’s cafe, enjoying hot chocolate and cramming in a little study time in before queuing up to get our tickets outside the theatre. 
We walked in Door A, and up a set of winding stairs which led us to the balcony of the theatre. I skipped around to the center of the theatre, which was oddly shaped-- kind of like an oval, with one flat wall, which we were facing. On that wall was a large, ornate, silver organ. In the center of the floor was one grande piano and chairs surrounded it on all sides. The range of ages in the audience was surprising. Elderly people, students, and very young kids in little suits, fidgeting in their seats, awaited the beginning of the class.
As Shannon and I sat down, we couldn’t help but admire the sheer splendor of the place. The ceiling was painted with a heavenly scene of angels, gods and goddesses sprawled out on rose-colored clouds. Probably patrons gods of music, I would assume. A plump, baby angel above my head seemed to be wrestling with another baby, and simultaneously trying to shoot someone with one of the arrows in his quiver-- an arrow of love maybe? Long portraits of Victorian-looking men hung on either side of the straight-backed theatre, their eyes looking down at the performers from their perch. The windows on every side let in a good deal of light, so the theatre attained an even more ethereal, airy feel. 
The audience hushed as Lang Lang stood and welcomed the crowd. He then had three Oxford pianists come forward, one at a time, and play a piece, then he would critique their performance. As the first player began, I slipped out a bag of starbursts from my purple backpack, trying to hide the candy from the hawk-eyes of the balcony attendant, and we quietly munched on the fruit-flavored candy as music began to swell and fill up the theatre with its presence.
I thought the first player was pretty talented. A young man, quiet and somewhat shy, who seemed to play fairly flawlessly. When he was finished, Lang Lang said he had a nice touch, but there were certain things he could improve on regarding the emotions he brought to the piece. He could play this bit with more gentleness, this bob with sharper ferocity. When he demonstrated how bits should be played, my mouth almost dropped open. He was magnifacent. His fingers stroked the keys, coaxing a sound out of the instrument that I almost didn’t know it was capable of producing. His fingers were delicate, like a dancer’s foot rolling through a tondue, into a ron de jambe, with such strong grace. One thing that interested me was the way he explained how the pianist should play by telling him, with language. He said at one point,  playing strongly, “And then this is another world”, and he paused and began to play with a caressing, soft touch. We were in awe. The last player was also phenomenal. Shannon was unsettled, calling the piece “sneaky”, but as he finished I let out a relieved exhale-- finding that I had been holding my breath the entire time. This piece was just that powerful.
For those few hours, I wondered if these exact feelings had been experienced by people scores, or even hundreds of years before me. I could imagine the audience in Edwardian or Victorian dress, fanning themselves and discussing Darwin’s new theories in the wings. For that instant, I sensed history coagulating in my mind, and couldn’t help but feel delighted.