MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

“Time’s Friction”

faulkner

The last day of the year, the eve of a new start. Not a bad moment to recall a key passage from The Hamlet, the first novel of William Faulkner’s Snopes trilogy: the passage in which Mink Snopes, having murdered the landowner Jack Houston, is searching by night for the corpse he had hidden. Writes Faulkner:

So he [Mink] held himself still for the space of a hundred, trying to orient himself by looking back up the slope… Then he went back … trying to recognize by its shape and position the tree where eh had left the axe, standing in the roar not of silence now but of time’s friction. He thought of starting from some point which he knew was below the tree he sought and searching each tree as he came to it, but the sound of time was too loud.

In his essay “Faulkner’s Augustinian Sense of Time,” Seemee Ali argues that the famously fluid temporality in Faulkner is closer to the interweaving of past, present, and future elucidated by St. Augustine than it is to “Bergsonian” metaphysics:

Beginning with “The Hamlet,” the elasticity of time in Faulkner’s corpus is not simply a matter of personal perception for his characters. Time’s manifold variety is an ontological fact that they are forced to confront. In the “Confessions” Augustine puzzles over this ontological condition….

Faulkner intuits the complexity that Augustine articulates … that the apprehension of history, the attentionto the present, and hope for the future are all the work of the mind. Calling the mind to attention, to expectation, and to remembrance is the ambitious task that Faulkner’s fiction sets for itself at the very moment Mink Snopes murders his enemy and discovers his consioucness stymied by “time’s friction.”

But what about the sounds time is making — the noise of time?

Filed under: aesthetics, American literature

Coming into the Light: Tchaikovsky’s Final Opera

Enjoy your Nutcracker this season, but me, I’d much rather have the other part of the double-bill with which the ballet was first paired in 1892: the one-act fairy-tale opera Iolanta.

I’m currently admiring Peter Sellars’s enlightening interpretation, paired on DVD with Stravinsky’s Perséphone from a production at the Teatro Real.

“It is a very radical opera, it is the start of symbolism in Russia, of modern art, of the search for light,” says Peter Sellars in an interview for El País.

Iolanta was Tchaikovsky’s very last opera and suffered from terrible bowdlerization under Soviet authorities. A new production starring Anna Netrebko — in a double-bill with Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle and directed by Mariusz Trelinski — comes to the Met early in 2015.

Filed under: directors, Metropolitan Opera, Tchaikovsky

Jauchzet, frohlocket, auf, preiset die Tage

J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248

Filed under: Bach

What Is It About Messiah?

Messiah-score

My recent essay on the unusual (if most popular) of Handel’s oratorios:

Handel’s masterpiece has long been at the heart of the repertory, but it marked an unusual departure for the composer

If you could do the time warp and choose a few of the legendary premieres in music history to be teleported back to, what would make your list? Likely contenders might be Beethoven’s Ninth, Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, perhaps Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique and Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, and — surely Messiah?

This list forms the basis for Thomas Forrest Kelly’s lecture series, published as First Nights, which teems with fascinating factoids to help us reimagine what the scenes of said premieres may have been like. Following the public rehearsal of Messiah on April 9, 1742, the official world premiere occurred on April 13, 1742, at the Great Music Hall in Dublin, having been postponed a day to allow for “several persons of distinction” to be able to attend; the “ladies who honour this performance with their presence” were requested to attend “without hoops” so as to make room for others. All told, the Great Music Hall would have accommodated about 700 (hoopless) people — though of course a seat would be reserved for our prospective time-traveler.

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(c)2014 Thomas May. All rights reserved.

Filed under: choral music, essay, Handel, oratorio, sacred music

Solstice Eve

solstice

Filed under: photography

“Ihr Habt Nun Traurigkeit”

Perhaps the most beautiful music Brahms ever composed:

Filed under: Uncategorized

Protected: How City Arts Tried to Hijack a Seattle Symphony Premiere

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Filed under: American music, commissions, journalism, new music, Seattle Symphony

River Walk Renaissance

tobin-center

My feature on the birth of a new company, OPERA San Antonio, appears in the current issue of LISTEN. I can include only the teaser here (the full article is behind a paywall):

In today’s performing arts climate, the launch of a new American opera company is bold enough to seem downright contrarian. But nothing got in the way of OPERA San Antonio’s official inauguration in September with a stylish production of Fantastic Mr. Fox — one of a series of events to ring in the city’s glistening new arts palace on the River Walk, the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. Tobias Picker’s family-friendly opera, based on the beloved story by Roald Dahl, turned out to be a shrewd choice…

Filed under: American opera, essay, opera, opera companies

The Romance of the Ruin

Highline

Filed under: photography

Seattle Symphony’s Dvořák-Fest Begins

In honor of Trifonov’s 2015 Grammy nomination for Best Classical Instrumental Solo (The Carnegie Hall Recital on DG).

MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Daniil Trifonov: (c) Dario Acosta Daniil Trifonov: (c) Dario Acosta

My review of the Seattle Season’s opening concert of the season — including pianist Daniil Trifonov’s spectacular SSO debut — is now live on Bachtrack:

Music by Antonín Dvořák was included on Ludovoc Morlot’s first-ever programme leading the Seattle Symphony, which took place in October 2009. At the time – two years before coming on board as music director – Morlot was a visiting conductor, and he offered the barest sampling of his thoughts on Dvořák (three of the Legends).

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Filed under: Uncategorized

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