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Wednesday, 28 July 2010

My Heroes (28): Isaac Abeniz

Isaac Albeniz 1860 -1909
Isaac Albeniz was a child prodigy having been taught to play the piano by his sister at age of one year! If we are to believe the stories he ran away and travelled extensively in South and North America from Buenes Aries to Uruguay and as far as San Francisco. He was a gifted pianist and composer and his most famous legacy is probably the Iberia Suite, which musically describes many provinces of Spain, from which the beatiful 'Granada' comes. Listen to it here.
Much of Albeniz's work has been very successfully transcribed for the guitar. If you want to hear the guitar version it's here.
Finally, one piece of music that I listen to over and again through the years is his 'Tango in D' opus 165, from the Espanola Suite. It, too, works well for the guitar.
Look at that fabulous photograph - don't try to tell me that Albeniz was not a romantic!
Incidentally there are much better recordings available but they're not on YouTube.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Untitled poem by Paul Smith

I enjoy the tanka and haiku poetry of Paul Smith at Paper Moon. This form of verse is deceptive; it looks easy to write but is, in fact, very difficult. There is great skill in capturing a moment with a limited number of words:
as if it was
the only flower
that ever bloomed
she stoops to touch
a daisy

If you enjoy this there is a lot more at Paper Moon. You might also enjoy the photographs and words of Joanne Rose.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Bruay-La Buisierre, France

I spent last weekend at the home of friend who has owned a house in the north of France for around seven years. Nine of us have just spent several days there staying in the little house in Bruay. We had a non-stop three day barbecue and drank the town dry of champagne.
It's in the so-called 'poorer' part of France; the far North. The countryside is beautiful and the people are charming and very friendly, unlike Paris!
TOP: The Chateau d'Olhain near Bruay - not where we stayed!
ABOVE: The Hotel de Ville (Town Hall/City Hall)

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost

Robert Frost in 1910 (

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Although seemingly a simple poem this is often described as one of the most misunderstood poems of all time. Frost himself described it as "tricky, very tricky".
This is because is can be read in at least two very different ways. When the poet decides to take the path that was 'grassy and wanting wear', he imediately contradicts himself and then tells us that they had both worn 'about the same'!
It will usually be seen as a metaphor about life's choices and everlasting regret or nostalgia for what the other path might have led to.
The final stanza, when read carefully, is a supposition about the future, 'I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence'. The 'sigh' could be seen as either nostalgia or regret but it hasn't happened yet!
In fact Frost wrote with his indecisive friend Edward Thomas, his British walking companion, in mind. Apparently Thomas never recognised himself in the poem.
I have always presumed that M. Scott Peck's multi-million selling self-help book, 'The Road Less Traveled' took it's title from this verse.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Painting of the month (7) July 2010: John Constable

Flarford Mill. John Constable 1816-7

John Constable can be 'difficult' because, although he is now acknowledged as one of the all time great landscape painters, he is sometimes described as 'too chocolate boxy'. I think he was a great painter. Look at the way he achieves depth and distance in the middle distance on the right of the picture.
With a small amount of space he has managed, by the use of sunlight on the grass and careful scaling, to give a real feeling of distance from those trees to the foreground.

He was always extremely jealous of his contemporary, JMW Turner, who, if you read this blog regularly, you will know I rate as a real genius.

But let's not get distracted John Constable is well-worthy of recognition. There was a time when landscape painting was seen as the lowest grade of art. Religious art and history painting were the highest regarded styles. If you consider a painting like Leonardo's Mona Lisa, the landscape, although finely painted, is very much background. Constable and Turner helped turn that attitude around.

Friday, 2 July 2010

Quiz Question (7) : Richard Condon

1) The late American author, Richard Condon (The Manchurian Candidate, Winter Kills, Prizzi's Honor etc.) had a different character in every one of his novels with the same name. although it was a different person. Usually that character would be a minor figure or part of the sub-plot but not necessarily. What was that person's name?

2) In the front of most Richard Condon novels there is a quotation or epigraph from The Keener's Manual, from which the title of the book was often taken. eg;
Minutes trudge,
       Hours run,
Years fly,
       Decades stun.
Spring seduces,
Summer thrills,
       Autumn sates,
Winter kills.
       (Winter Kills 1974)
What is The Keener's Manual?

The answers are now posted in the comments!