Anakana Schofield – Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

May 24, 2010

Today we remembered a life that was lived fully and bravely, but ended too soon. The small man offered Jean Sibelius on violin to the remembering. A duo of him and Grandma talking about her good friend Anna. Ah music, sometimes it cannot be toppled. And he so solid, so strong, such a whole sound so redolent of that whole life lived I began with.

Conversations with good people full of love and sadness. In a small community. In a remote place. Dear Land of Home.

April 16, 2007

A wandering with The Met

So there I was a wandering along the street with this opera broadcast in my ear  — in an attempt to block out the din of the traffic more than any true operatic appreciation — when I made the astonishing discovery. Football and opera: nothing in between them.

The CBC radio 2 have this rather useful broadcast each weekend Live from the Met in New York. Seemingly it broadcasts to dozens of countries and that’s why it takes so long to hook up. There’s a lengthy preamble, according to the website it’s a man called Howard, but it was a husky voiced woman in my ear. The reason I was so acutely aware of the preamble was because I was desperately awaiting the orchestra to strike up a note. Anything.. the tap of a baton would do, but no instead much speculation about the Italian opera whose name was mentioned 24 times and I have subsequently forgotten, followed by resident experts (a young sounding bloke perhaps) commenting on its origins, its intentions blah blah. Exactly like they do before a football match. You know Johnny’s knee injury set him back last season, watch Jimmy carefully who learned to play in the back alley kicking around an old can except obviously the comments were a bit more sophisticated. “In the second act …. this composer likes a lot of bodies on the stage … he was very influenced by the colour red … his mother forced him to sew curtains endlessly thus this opera really is a hommage to a hem ..”  But it provokes the same frustration. Would you ever get on with it? Blast that trumpet, raise that curtain because I can still hear the darn traffic and I only want some music to get myself across 12 streets and I’ve now crossed ten of them and no one has sung a note and I am refusing to push the button on the player for fear I might crash unexpectedly into some country tune about widows needing cars.

Finally a note did arrive. A note that sounded out of tune but is likely not out of tune it’s my hearing that’s out of tune with opera. I feel like opera is something a mature ear has to confront, so my ears have been signed up for confrontation.

January 28, 2007

Dvorak

Here’s a quote from a piece John Berger wrote in Le Monde diplomatique back in 2003. The whole piece Written in the night: the pain of living in the present world can be read here:

http://www.hartford-hwp.com/archives/27a/113.html

It is a little more than a century ago that Dvorak composed his Symphony From the New World. He wrote it whilst directing a conservatory of music in New York, and the writing of it inspired him to compose, 18 months later, still in New York, his sublime Cello Concerto. In the symphony the horizons and rolling hills of his native Bohemia become the promises of the New World. Not grandiloquent but loud and continuing, for they correspond to the longings of those without power, of those who are wrongly called simple, of those the US Constitution addressed in 1787.

I know of no other work of art which expresses so directly and yet so toughly (Dvorak was the son of a peasant and his father dreamt of his becoming a butcher) the beliefs which inspired generation after generation of migrants who became US citizens.

For Dvorak the force of these beliefs was inseparable from a kind of tenderness, a respect for life such as can be found intimately among the governed (as distinct from governors) everywhere. And it was in this spirit that the symphony was publicly received when it was first performed at Carnegie Hall (16 December 1893).

Dvorak was asked what he thought about the future of American music and he recommended that US composers listen to the music of the Indians and blacks. The Symphony From the New World expressed a hopefulness without frontiers which, paradoxically, is welcoming because centred on an idea of home. A utopian paradox.

Today the power of the same country which inspired such hopes has fallen into the hands of a coterie of fanatical (wanting to limit everything except the power of capital), ignorant (recognising only the reality of their own fire-power), hypo critical (two measures for all ethical judgments, one for us and another for them) and ruthless B52 plotters.

Here’s the sublime cello concerto that he refers to, coincidentally the one I felt encapsulated the narrative of human despair a few posts ago.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJcEbYfJ6XU

Part two

http://youtube.com/watch?v=3o8bVwPXLUw

Part three

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nkNQYqVEQk

There’s nothing like consensus, what? I shall restrain myself from a string of compliments about Mr Berger’s work and simply say reading his books is like the experience of jumping between rocks as a child. Each one you land on another small victory, a reminder of all the possibilities that exist, of voices missing from literature. What will we do if he dies? Learn to jump backwards, or add a half twist between stones, or hope for new outcrops.

January 19, 2007

Reading the score

For a while I’ve been musing on which piece of classical music perfectly replicates/interprets the narrative of human despair.  Now obviously that’s some indication of the cheery types of things I think about, but every time I hear certain pieces of music I hear the elements of the novel. Or perhaps more accurately I hear the elements that are missing from my own novel. It may seem absurd to try reduce human despair to one single narrative, but heck I have to start somewhere, so I’m settling on one for now.

 My present contender is the Dvorak – Cello Concerto in B minor Op. 104 – II. Adagio ma non troppo played by Jacqueline du pre in the recording I have.

 In an effort to explore this duality I find between music and narrative I got this barmy idea to try to read musical scores, which, given that my knowledge of the treble clef is v limited and all early experiences with violin were severely detrimental, was a little optimistic.

 The other day at the library negotiating the difficulty of a man hogging the shelfs of the section I was trying to reach I was excited to see the Bach cello suites. Ha, I think, I’ll start there because I can throw on Pablo Casals CD and try to follow him as a first step.

Naturally forgot about it til the small Puffin chanced upon  it.. what’s this? Starts singing out the numbers above the notes. So I tell him my plan about reading it with music on.  Sling on the CD, dart to sofa. It’s suite 1 playing, and suite one open on the knees. Think I am fathoming it, point out to Puffin looks it going up, he rightly asserts it’s going down on the CD. Perplexed hit track one again. Repeat dart to sofa. Five further attempts. Dismal failure. Declare to Puffin reading music is impossible task. Turn off Pablo. Return to sofa defeated. Close musical score. Catch sight of words: double bass on inside cover. It’s bloody double bass music we’re looking at.

We turn to something we really can understand Pippi Longstocking in relief.

It was an excellent exercise in knocking on the head another barmy notion from the increasing list of barmy notions. Actually I’d like to know which part of the brain is responsible for barmy notions because that might explain why a I, who cannot follow an omlette recipe, thought my chances might be higher trying to read a cello concerto.

December 11, 2006

Brains and surrendering on attention

So at the symphony on Friday — with the small Puffin making his debut in the back row, supported by a stack of bubble gum, cough sweets, and finally chewy mints — the teenage virtuoso (Ryu Goto) is interviewed before he takes to the stage. 18 yrs old, he casually describes how he’s studying physics and maths at Harvard. Ah, ha. I take his neurological measure from seat 148. Section 14. Music, maths, and physics yahoy. All nestling in the same neurological sun lounger. Je comprends.

Later I read that when musicians are playing they actually have brain activity in the language centre of their brains. I feel immediately cheated. So Mr Virtuoso has been bestowed the sun lounger in one lobe and gets to pole vault into the other lobe, as soon as he starts bowing. And while he’s bowing does he also have the instant ability to speak fluent Arabic or Amharic simultaneously? Not fair. Neurology = very unfair business.

I have observed there is a mini publishing industry dedicated to Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It now occurs to me that it indicates we are actually not cut out for paying attention. Or perhaps we are creatures of selective attention paying and should release ourselves from this blessed hell of paying attention to so many multiple things and everyone just chose one or two each, with room for a bit of doubling up here and there. If it was evenly distributed it would work out very fairly. I feel confident that I could commit to pay attention to the act of hoovering and folding clothes after they are dry in the domestic realm, but nothing else. Never is one made more aware of this when one is parent to a small Puffin. The world decrees the Puffin must just learn how to do x, x and x. X usually involves dreary task like sitting on uncomfortable carpet, while taller person describes sides of a triangle. Under my system small Puffins would state two things they are willing to pay attention to and we’d just not worry too much about the rest. I cannot find much support for this thinking on an average Monday in rainy playground.

Finally, I have discovered two camps of brain books. The first are people who know the technicals on the brain, but if they veer into the direction of a simile force instant closing of reader’s eyes or closure of book  to prevent dizzy spell. Then there are the poetic types, whose similes do not jar the thorax quite so violently, but so dense is the waxing poetics, it’s really hard to find the lobe or cortex or neuron information through these mosquito nets of vervy description. Neither camp is exactly satisfying.

I did gather from one that anxiety and motivation may reside in the same part of the brain I cannot remember the name of and could face a bit of inter neuron argy bargy because anxiety could cancel your motivation. I wondered about athletes, if say you were anxious about next Saturday’s race would that then cancel your urge to get up this morning and run like a rabbit to prepare for it. Or does the general abundance of endorphins take care of it?

My next reading on the brain has the word endorphins in capitals in the title. I also realise my earlier assertion of the brain as heavy as a frozen chicken would cause plenty neck problems. Should be a frozen chicken in a state of thaw. A very petite poulet.

If you want a happy brain moment there are some excellent docs on youtube about Jacqueline du Pre. One is a collaboration on the Trout quintet. The other is a film from the 1960’s about her relationship with the Elgar concerto. London looks precisely like the picture on the front of JM Coetzee’s book Youth or rather London looks precisely as it did look to those trotting about in the Sixties. Like East Berlin or Czech looked in 1988 to those of us who weren’t.

du Pre and Elgar

http://youtube.com/watch?v=PToFY-Upaw0 (there are 8 parts to this documentary they should pop up by the side of the first one once you watch it)

Trout Quintet.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=sKbK5inlHlU&mode=related&search= (There are at least 4-5 parts to this)