Thursday, December 22, 2022

On October 7, 2021, I wrote in a notebook:

I tried to find a Picasso online that's reproduced in b&w in Krauss's Picasso Papers (Daix 685), to see the colors, and couldn't - but everything's online! Presumably it's because the original is in a private collection - which, that (Private Collection) could be a title for my story about the scholar who thinks he's discovered a secret music - are there "private collections" of sheet music that we've never been allowed to hear, live or recorded?

The opening measures of Brahms's 2nd serenade are beautiful, and more so when awkwardly plunked out on piano by two hands one of which is also trying to hold on to the Tovey book where they're reproduced in reduction (b&w?).

Why is Brahms so heavy? It's not orchestration, not too large an orchestra, as I thought - Serenade #2 with its no violins proves that. And it's not any reluctance to be dynamically startling (After Beethoven as one says) because no amount of muddy performance can entirely mask Beethoven's lightness/litheness in comparison - i.e., refuse to recognize his sforzandi, his fp's, etc, and they still struggle through. So it's not that.

What is it? He just doesn't move. Tovey is no help - I thought maybe he'd explain how we're in a different world now from LvB, and maybe tell me why it's good - but no - unless it's his comment on Brahms's "extended paragraphs" that I don't really understand.

Sometimes it's close, especially in the transition in and out of trios - ironically the continuity (of rhythm in the scherzo, of the ba DUH duh up-and-down figure in the quasi minuetto) helps him be lively in the changes.

On the 19th of the same month I wrote:

The finale of Brahms's 2nd symphony moves - like Beethoven moves, made possible by being like Haydn - though now I find I don't respond to it as well as I thought I might. The scherzo is light and lovely.

Two days later I anxiously added:

It's funny how I keep feeling a need to explain that my comments on Brahms don't mean I "don't like" him (though they are why I have a harder time with him, I think). In my own notebook! Of course it's possible I'll mis-remember my own experiences. Anyway I've come, quickly, to really love the 2nd symphony.

I guess this need to apologize, explain, disclaim, is why I'm not a Great Artiste!...?

Moby-Dick p 319, on sharks eating from a whale carcass: "How, at such an apparently unassailable surface, they contrive to gouge out such symmetrical mouthfuls, remains a part of the universal problem of all things."

On the 8th I had written:

I still don't understand atonal music or Perle but I just sat down at the piano to play the opening chords of Berg's Lyric Suite as reproduced in ch. 5 of The Listening Composer and was struck by how much sense the sound made, then read on and saw "I immediately recognized that the first three chords unfold tetrachordal segments of a single statement of the circle of fifths" - I went back and painstakingly worked out that yes, it is in fact that - overwhelmed by a simple realization of that's why it sounds like that.

REMEMBER that Perle, the goofball, suspects (p. 51-52) that Rimsky-Korsakov taught Stravinsky the octatonic (whole-note) scale that he "discovered" - in secret, a secret Stravinsky kept. Very a la Hockney - remember in connection with "private collection".

Two days later I returned to the notebook and wrote:

Kemp, Seen|Unseen p. 324: "this continuity of representational means disposes me to think that the 'conventions' of pictorial illusion work at a very deep level with the perceptual and cognitive structures we have acquired to make sense of what lies 'out there'. I recognize that they work better with appropriate cultural attuning, and will only arise as the result of particular sets of historical imperatives, but I do not think the basic mechanisms and visual potentialities are culturally constructed. There is a difference between cultural construction and cultural realization, and it is the later in which I believe." Relevant to tonality - but how and why exactly??

On September 25th I had written:

Beethoven is one of those miraculous figures like Marx, where given the progress(ion) of history it was inevitable that all these things would happen, get worked out, one way or another, eventually - but for it all to happen at once, in one person??

Nina Allan's tourbillon b/w Chris Marker on Vertigo...

Maelzel also made automated instruments??

On December 18 I would write:

Listening to Bruckner's 4th - first time, really, for me with him. All this emerging out of the haze. And I don't know what it's for, a problem that I only start having - slightly - with Brahms, and more and more after. I keep feeling that it's imploring/enjoining me to do something, I don't know what, but almost certainly something I don't want to do. (But do I only think this because I know how the Nazis loved him, later? Is that his fault, this music's fault? I tend to think probably?)

Nearly two weeks would pass before I would return to the notebook on the last day of 2021 and add:

But Tovey's defense of Bruckner is interesting, even touching ("Listen to it... with the humility you would feel if you overheard a simple old soul talking to a child about sacred things") and it's true that listening to the 4th with his help I came close to liking it. Wand's, too, is better than Chailly's, I think. (Though maybe I should hear Chailly's again before saying that.) I don't think I could love it as I came to with Haydn and Brahms (heard all four of the symphonies today) but I'm at least willing to allow that maybe - maybe - Hitler is not entirely his fault.

(Later: yes, Wand is better than Chailly.)

On the 3rd of that month I had written:

Nicholas Till quotes Goethe: "If you wish to advance into the infinite, explore the finite in all directions." Must find source - he cites it obnoxiously to just a volume of the (German!) complete works.

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