week50: shostakovich; khatia buniatishvili; camille thomas

Shostakovitch Symphonie No. 10--Berlin Philharmonic--Conducted By Herbert Von Karajan

Shostakovitch Symphonie No. 10--Berlin Philharmonic--Conducted By Herbert Von Karajan

One composer might stop half way and for all the time preserve the traces of unassimilated influences—the cause of this eclecticism. Another might pass through manifold influences, choose the methods most suitable to himself and weld them into a style of his own. It is this which accounts for the originality and the spirit of innovation of the great artists. Shostakovich, undoubtedly, belongs to the latter group. “” ivan martynov, Shostakovich (1947, pg 165)

part of the exercise of this collection is to practise, with something of a regimental regularity, what i’ve described earlier as a gymnastics of attention—or, to engage as much as possible with such musical experiences that rely entirely on the presupposition of the most attentive appraisal. or, music that relies very little on rhythm and lyric as it’s main vectors…

with shostakovich’s symphony no.10, that attention is being paid has very little to do with wanting to: there is, all throughout its four movements, an unrelenting strain that at a certain volume, becomes unbearably and intimately disorienting.

what is at least one thing i know better after this week’s symphony?—namely that i ought to do much better a job of organizing this catalogue of compositions with more consideration for the extreme quadrants of our canadian weather—i’ve not been much elsewhere, but i can say a priori that vivaldi’s Quattro Stagioni describes precisely and is most suitable for just how distinct our four seasons are from each other—so with this multivariety of seasons and their sentiments, it is of paramount importance that one becomes serious with the task of curating for one’s self what music is most suitable for any particular time year. that i had scheduled shostakovich for the middle of july is telling of my usual awkwardness as relates to timing and pace, the full of scope of which is not entirely relevant here…

the point is, i had better judgement with the first week of june: after of a whole month of mozart (including those god-awful horn concertos) the obvious metabolic trajectory binged towards a faster, more catabolic pace. instead, rachmaninoff’s piano concerto #2 was the perfectly placed composition i was in need of. just at the crucial point when the humidity was at the cusp of balmy, his Prighiera (performed below by the mesmerizing and mesmerized khatia buniatishvili) washed over that entire week like a mirage, with a levitating and liquid quality——

—in contrast, there has been nothing of a levitating quality in regards to the heat waves that abridged the middles of june and july; a step outside and one is immediately arrested by the tufted duvet of air that sits right on top of your nose and forbids anything but the lowest gear on your bicycle

this was no time for the warring strings and militant percussions that has so far described my experience of shostakovich—the second or third week of november is far more suitable timing for this dark and brooding piece (described composer andrey volkonsky as ‘an optimistic tragedy’).


The tentative piccolo tones at the end of the first movement linger like a regretful leave-taking in the memory. With savage violence they are shattered by the entry of the second movement, Allegro, a study in concentrated fury rarely equalled in music. “” christopher norris (ed.), Shostakovich (1982, pg 72)

(“shrill woodwind anguish” and other semantifications of the materia musica)———

Shostakovitch - Christopher Norris

Shostakovitch - Christopher Norris

With effort, cellos and basses claw upwards out of the darkness that precedes the first movement. The string band searches vainly for an identity, pausing ever and again in blind confusion. At last a solo clarinet announces a definite melody that is accepted tentatively by the strings and then built into a strong statement of determination, only to subside as the clarinet again carries the weight of the theme. A second subject now appears: timid, uncertain, on solo flute over pizzicato accompaniment. Quietly growing in confidence, this theme experiences a moment of shrill woodwind anguish before itself calming as it devolves on to violin. “” christopher norris , Shostakovich (1982 pg.72)

yes, of course.

(music in october)———


our dear Nietzsche is known and renowned all over for the more bombastic attitudes of his writing; yet i’ve found the more awesome and clairvoyant moments in his literature are amidst the most subtle and understated observations that belong less to the image of Nietzsche, the philosopher with a hammer and more to the Nietzsche whose work has been for me both a consolation and a precipice: that is, Nietzsche, the nutritionist.

nutritionist?—those occasions when his work is a source of consolation owe to the incredibly low gradient trajectory of his moral arc, on its way to any kind of justice. he would have cringed at any mention of his name in the same sentence as moral arc and justice, but for those of us still on our way to unlearning our formative education founded on those concepts, we can in the meantime augment our shortcomings by way of a drastic reduction in how quickly and efficiently we should expect the actuality of the world our best readon demands.

that, in my current analysis, is the most potent use of what Nietzsche and the intellectual lineage which he astrides has to teach us—namely, the ability to maintain a tremendous and effective sense of mission, of purpose, indeed of world historical purpose, and the same time, be true and honest to the only method by which any lasting change of that variety is achieved: that is, the daily occasions, a regimental observance of a diet in every category of cultivation, and constant trial and error, the results of which are measured in terms of generations, of pedigree. altogether one comes to learn of the paramount importance of so constant ab intake of energy, stimulation, inspiration, hope, joys and all other kinds of raw materials for the intensities of our emotional life——that is what i mean by Nietzsche, the nutritionist.

one of the blessings of talking and thinking about nutrition is that one never has to speak metaphorically: the word nutrition itself is more a method than a substance—thereby astriding both the tangible and intangible. one merely has to apply this method to any chosen substance. the most obvious, most necessary choice is that of the food we eat—but no one today needs to be educated on the importance of cultivating a fanatical devotion to that kind of a diet, vegans are philosophers of the first rate in this biological philosophy.

yet, much less attention is paid to another kind of a diet just as important (perhaps even more important if you’re one of those that believes in any kind of mind over matter) and as consequential as the food we eat: im speaking of course of a musical diet, and of the seriousness involved in cultivating a regimen that is in concert with our many winding moods, sentiments, psyches that manipulate the disorienting span of a human life. (this is yet another interpretation of what i think he was nodding at when Nietzsche said Without music life would be unbearable).

there are of course many kinds of calibrations in the organization of a musical diet—in this case i’ve utilized a 52 week cycle—but the most important factor is the intensity of attention that one pays to the aforementioned moods, sentiments and psyches…

again, had i been paying better attention i wouldn’t have placed shostakovich in the middle of july, thereby avoiding the overstimulation that results from having both weather and music combined at such a fever pitch. these are of course still sophomore attempts at the kind of attention to nutrition that one must pay if one is to maintain the marathonian pace that i hinted at earlier. thankfully Nietzsche’s investigations in that direction have both a depth and breadth that is, for any of his serious readers, a call to action. he is a genius in regards to the intractable subtlety that is required to articulate that combination of nutrition and exertion, and few philosophers have taken as seriously as he has the importance of the right kind of music at the right time…

There has never been a philosopher who has been in essence a musician to such an extent as I am… “” Friedrich Nietzsche, 1887

one of the most jaw-dropping articulation of this relationship between music and weather was in his book Ecce Homo (under the braggadociously titled section ‘Why I am So Clever’ ), in it he also flicks his usual flippant fuck you to his german contemporaries, which in my opinion is the best case against any complacency on his part with the usage of his writings for third reich propaganda:

I will say another word for the choicest ears : what I really want from music. That it be cheerful and profound, like an afternoon in October. That it be distinctive, exuberant, and tender, a sweet little female, full of grace and dirty tricks. . .I will never admit that a German could know what music is. “” Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo

good authors have the talent of perhaps telling you something new; great ones have a consistent skill of saying something you already wordlessly know, but in that new new unprecedented way—i need not have to say which category our dear Nietzsche belongs to. for example, i’ve since felt that the release of bon iver’s 22 A Million at the very end of september 2016, thereby dominating the month of october,  is yet another proof of how completely justin vernon’s musicality is saturated by a singular autumnal aesthetic, the image of which is the formation or final thaw of hoarfrost on a windshield, on either side of winter. october is simply the best month for music. at the moment i’ve scheduled four compositions by sibelius for that month—and if i’m lucky some other such cherished artist might as well drop another impromptu gem for the fall season. thereafter, the air is colder, crisper and one suffers less humidity for the same amount exertion—it’ll be november and i might give this tenth symphony another go.

(camille thomas headbanging to shostakovich)———

 a previous generation had and celebrated the likes of jacqueline du pre, perhaps this generation might come around to doing the same for the sensational talent and instinct for performance of cellist camille thomas, whose performance of an excerpt from the first movement of shostakovich’s first cello concerto is exemplary both of her photogenic appassionata and the composer’s sharp and disorienting contrasts, symptomatic of the tumultuous internal strain of artists that persevered under stalin’s regime. this 10th symphony was his first after the death of stalin in the spring of 1953 and artists in russia were immediately encouraged, like in the newspaper Pravda, to once again strive for “independence, courage and experimentation.” perhaps they should have added play and ease to that list…

July 2017 “I'm starting to think that Camille Thomas playing Shostakovich is my sexual identity“

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