Dark Matter

A few weeks from now, we can send a cruise missile to retroactively blow up 2016, right? That’s doable? I hope so because, good grief, if there was a single year in the past decade or so that deserves to wiped out of collective human memory 2016 is it. Odd though, because I always thought “2016” sounds good spoken and looks good written. Twenty-sixteen. Should have been a winner but, alas, it wasn’t.

So when I sat down with my laptop to compose this end-of-year blog post, I went back, out of curiosity, to see what I had published as the first Museworthy post of 2016. It was Rough Beasts on January 2nd; a discussion of William Butler Yeats’ poem The Second Coming, with a dash of my own struggle with depression thrown in. Now, at the end of this year, it feels like things have come full circle. And Yeats’ portentous poetical expressions about the centre not holding, darkness dropping, and the falcon not hearing the falconer, carry even more foreboding weight than ever it seems.

Solitude by Jean-Jacques Henner:

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How can we describe 2016? I see it as having been a queasy concoction of harrowing human tragedy with a “bread and circuses” spectacle. From Orlando to Aleppo, Brexit and Brussels, floods and earthquakes, airstrikes and debate stages, cries of war and rebellions, sacred lands and murdered gorillas and divided nations, propaganda and venal bureaucrats, and a disturbing amount of people brazenly, shamelessly lusting for power. Power; the most effective corrupter of souls known to man. Sometimes I think we’re just going through one of the innumerable rough patches that the arc of history inflicts upon us, that feels more dire than it actually is. And that could very well be the case. But then other times I think we’re witnessing the the Book of Revelation coming to life. Or the movie “Idiocracy”. Not sure which one is more terrifying at this point.

But thank god for the Chicago Cubs, yes? Their World Series triumph was a genuine, albeit fleeting, moment of jubilation, not just for their long-suffering fans but for anyone who has a soft spot for underdogs and was receptive to a much-needed bright spot in this difficult year. Well done, Cubbies! You are “lovable losers” no more.

If only heartwarming baseball stories had a lasting effect on our mood and outlook. But they don’t unfortunately. And the undercurrents of anxiety, tension, and uncertainty that are in the air cannot be brushed away.

Weary Moon, Edward Robert Hughes:

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Is 2016 literally the “WORST YEAR EVER!!” as hysterical social media exclamations would have us believe? Well of course not literally in the entire course of human history. That’s just silly. But we are engaged in the present. We are consumed with the present. We are emotionally invested in the present. We assess present circumstances as predictors of our future and our children’s futures.

A Soul Brought to Heaven, 1878, by William-Adolphe Bouguereau:

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For sure, 2016 did take from us many beloved and prominent figures – Prince, Muhammad Ali, Leonard Cohen, Elie Wiesel, Nancy Reagan just to name a few. And for us classical music fans, the passing of Sir Neville Marriner was a great loss. Among this latest spate of deaths in December, which has included George Michael, Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds, was a remarkable and accomplished woman whose passing on Christmas Day at the age of 88 seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle. Vera Rubin was the American astrophysicist whose tireless research confirmed the existence of “dark matter” in the universe. Hey that’s big! Quite an amazing and brilliant woman who took on the dual challenges of making discoveries in the galaxies and confronting obstacles for women in science. She was never awarded the Nobel Prize, which should be baffling but sadly isn’t when we consider that out of 203 Nobels awarded for physics only two in history have gone to women. Still, her enormous contributions remain, as do her wise words: “Don’t shoot for the stars, we already know what’s there. Shoot for the space in between because that’s where the real mystery lies.”

Vera Rubin as an undergraduate at Vassar:

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I’m going to hand over this final Museworthy post of 2016 to the man whose untimely death back in January seems to have set the tone for this crummy year. (An alternate interpretation is that he was really prescient and decided to bail early on 2016 before this shitshow kicked into high gear). Now he’s dancing among the stars and celestial bodies, and escorting Vera Rubin through the dark matter. Neither he nor the song needs any further introduction from me, except to say that it will give you chills.

I’ll see you in 2017, friends. God bless you all ……
Claudia xoxo

Songs of the Season

Well it’s that time of year for Christmas music in every department store, market, and boutique. And by Christmas music, I mean the good, the bad, and everything in between. I think I’ve already heard the Mariah Carey “All I Want For Christmas is You”  about 20 times. And dare I mention Paul McCartney’s vapid “Wonderful Christmastime”? I wonder if he’s aware of how despised that song is. One hears it and asks, how could this be same man who wrote “Yesterday”? But for every McCartney dud there is a Nat King Cole perfection. Anyway, it’s all just a matter of personal taste. I might be in the minority when I say I actually enjoy Bruce Springsteen’s “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”. It’s fun, it’s jocular, and totally ‘Jersey’. In a word, it’s Bruce.

On this Music Monday, I’d love to hear from my readers their likes/dislikes of holiday season songs. So feel free to share in the comments! It will be our Museworthy ‘Christmas party’ 🙂

And I’ll share a Christmas song recording here. A few years ago I posted Bob Dylan’s “Little Drummer Boy” and let’s just say not everyone was pleased! 😆 But hey he’s a Nobel Prize winner now, so maybe we should reconsider? (Just kidding). Instead, here’s the great, great, great Otis Redding singing “Merry Christmas Baby”:

A Vote for Louis

So I’ve been avoiding like the plague any references to the Presidential election on this blog. “Plague” seems an apt word to describe everything that’s been going on, doesn’t it? Thankfully, my readers don’t come here for that stuff. Also, my readers comprise a diversity of political views and I respect that. Honestly, the whole election process goes on far too long in my opinion. This shit needs to be shortened by at least seven months. I’ve reached the point where I just want this purgatory to end. Tomorrow, mercifully, is the day.

But rather than evade the subject entirely – as I am a voting, tax-paying American citizen after all – I’ll just say that my cynicism and disdain for political personalities, and the whole unethical, dirty business of it, runs deep. Not that I wish ill will on anyone, mind you. But I’m starting to believe that there is something inherently wired in the character of people who devote themselves to pursuing power and high political office. That trait – a certain brand of ambition –  is something that I approach warily. Maybe I’ve just read “Macbeth” too many times. It’s one of my top three favorite Shakespeare plays. This whole election season brings to mind a quote from Act I: “And oftentimes, to win us to our harm, the instruments of darkness tell us truths, win us with honest trifles, to betray’s in deepest consequence.” Where is Banquo when we need him?

While today may be the Monday before Election Day, it’s still Music Monday here on Museworthy. And I think we could all use a reminder that America has produced cultural figures of sublime quality, talents, and inspiration. Politicians should take note.

In what I think is one of the finest jazz musician portraits I’ve ever seen, this is Louis Armstrong in 1956, photographed by the great Bob Willoughby. Look at that smile. The smile of a man who never forgot where he came from; born into poverty in New Orleans, son of a prostitute, grandson of slaves, sent to the Colored Waif’s Home for Boys when he was 11 years old. Grew up to become a virtuoso musician and the most innovative, influential trumpeter in music history. Enjoy the track below. I hope it dances through your head as you go to the polls tomorrow 🙂

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“He was born poor, died rich, and never hurt anyone along the way.”
– Duke Ellington on Louis Armstrong

Happy 9th Birthday Museworthy!!

blog
noun
1. a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.

How do you all feel about that definition? I think it’s a little “meh”, as the kids today would say. So as a blogger for nine years I believe I can expand – perhaps rewrite – that description just a bit. A “blog” is a corner of the internet where an individual can share and communicate their otherwise ignored voice, and be discovered by anyone who might seek out such a voice. A “blog” is an intimate platform where discussion, learning, documenting and diversion work joyfully hand in hand. A “blog” is a place where people from distant places around the globe can connect who would otherwise never have connected. I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

Fred Hatt, photographer extraordinaire and my beautiful, steadfast friend, deserves special commendation this year for calmly persevering through our photo session in which I was, admittedly, difficult. Not *acting like a diva bitch* difficult but *moody and sullen* difficult. Couldn’t find my mojo. Couldn’t clear my head of all my nagging emotional turmoil. But after a few hours (and a couple of glasses of wine) we managed to pull this shot out of many misfires. The body language speaks for itself. Thank you Fred, for your patience and kindness, as always ..

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Now, as I always do in these anniversary posts, I must express my deepest, humblest, sincerest thanks to all my readers; from the die-hard regulars (where would I be without you guys?) to the occasional drop-ins (always great to have you!) to the recent new subscribers (welcome!), ALL of you, thank you for your visits, your comments, your emails … thank you for finding points of interest in my chosen topics, my art modeling profession, my pictures, stories, and even my personal tribulations. Thank you for everything. I extend a heartfelt invitation to each of you to stick around for year ten 🙂

And now it’s song time! My fondness for late 60s blues-inspired British rock remains my default preference, so I’m going full on Jeff Beck Group this year. That’s the young Rod Stewart doing his trademark raunchy, raspy vocals. From Jeff Beck’s debut album Truth, released in 1968 – the year I was born – this is “Let Me Love You”. Enjoy! And again, thank you all …

Your muse,
Claudia
xo

Hail Jupiter

I hadn’t planned to post a Music Monday this week. Right now it’s 10:30 PM New York time and I’ve decided to squeeze one in just under the wire because of a video I came across on Classic fm, a UK-based classical music site I visit from time to time. In the post, “The awe-inspiring counterpoint in Mozart’s final symphony”, musicologist Richard Atkinson provides an analysis of the symphony’s breathtaking and majestic finale. The symphony, No 41, is known as the “Jupiter” symphony, and it was Mozart’s last and longest. The Jupiter is universally adored and held in the highest esteem as one of the greatest symphonic works ever composed. It’s hard to argue with that status, which is probably why nobody ever does.

I have blogged about Mozart previously. That post touched upon a particular aspect of his genius. The video below illustrates the actual complex workmanship that Mozart employed. Atkinson uses the language of music theory to show us precisely how Mozart achieved the brilliant musical effects he did, with a nuts-and-bolts breakdown. He also uses color coding to highlight the recurrent themes and motifs which I found helpful. Back in my piano studying days my teacher would give me worksheets in music theory, and the more advanced they became the more confused I got! Challenging for mere mortals like me, but simple oxygen for Mozart. But I do love the vocabulary of music theory: counterpoint, intervals, triads.

The Jupiter symphony is a piece that, when you listen to it, you want to shout, “Go Wolfgang, go!! Yeah!!“. Pure joy. Pure uplift. The gleaming musical diamond atop the canon of Western civilization.

I know my fellow classical music geeks will appreciate this. And I also think everyone can enjoy the feeling of underachieving slackerdom and inferiority that comes when exposed to Mozart’s genius. Just kidding! I kid 😉

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For those less inclined to classical music deconstruction, something else from Classic fm – a doodle by Mozart on his music sheet. The lovely lady was his pupil, Barbara Ployer. I wonder if Mozart taught her any counterpoint?

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Rocking the Stairway

“There’s only so many notes on a f*cking guitar!”. Those are the eloquent words of one Ozzy Osbourne, when asked his opinion about the recent legal victory for Led Zeppelin. As you may have heard, Jimmy Page and Robert Plant were hauled into a Los Angeles courtroom for a plagiarism suit brought by the estate of Randy Wolfe of the American band Spirit. The suit alleged that Led Zeppelin stole from Wolfe the iconic opening guitar chords of Zep’s famous epic song “Stairway to Heaven”As many people predicted, Led Zeppelin was exonerated.

If you crave more of Ozzy’s assessment of this matter go to this Rolling Stone article to read the rest of his profanity-laced interview 😆

Also, I blogged about this topic – Led Zeppelin and their copyright infringement issues – in a Museworthy post from 2014 for anyone who might be interested.

A reminder to everyone that submissions are open for the Museworthy Portraits and Pets art show. I haven’t set a date for the show yet so of course you still have time. But do feel free to send your piece whenever you’re ready. Everyone is welcome to participate! I’m still working on mine 🙂

I’ll be back very soon with another blog post. In the meantime, here is Led Zeppelin, in their prime, performing “Stairway to Heaven” live. Robert Plant is in full “golden god” glory, and Jimmy Page is pure rock and roll. Around 9:52 is my favorite part. For Music Monday:

Sing for Hope

For two weeks in the spring, the five boroughs of New York City are treated to a delightful public art project sponsored by Sing for Hope, a non-profit organization committed to bringing the arts to the public, particularly to those segments most in need. Arts education in public schools is a cause near and dear to my heart, having been raised in a family of artists and musicians. The Sing for Hope Pianos installation places fifty one-of-a-kind pianos all painted by local artists, in a communal space -usually a park or plaza – for the public to freely enjoy. After the two weeks, the pianos are then placed in permanent homes in schools, healthcare facilities, and community centers around the city. Absolutely wonderful. Sing for Hope was conceived and founded by arts advocates Monica Yunus and Camille Zamora, both opera singers and alumni of New York’s renowned Julliard School.

So when I drove over to the Queens County Farm last week to check out the early seasonal pickings from the farm stand, I checked out its Sing for Hope piano, which looked lovely against the historic farmhouse. This piano, called “The Wayside Rose”, was created by Brooklyn-based artist/printmaker Jamie Wilen, and I share my photo here for Music Monday:

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The piano was also just a few feet away from the farm’s herb garden, which is already thriving! (Too early for tomatoes, but they’re worth the wait.)

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I’ve gained quite a few new blog followers over the past few weeks. To all of you, thank you and welcome! I’d like to share two older posts that relate somewhat to this one: a Music Monday that I dedicated to my childhood piano teacher and a post from last summer inspired by the Queens Farm.

It’s unlikely that any of the passersby sat down and performed concert soloist-level virtuosity on the Sing for Hope pianos on their lunch breaks … but hey, you never know! We’ll conclude our Music Monday with the mind-blowing excellence of my favorite pianist, Vladimir Ashkenazy. This is him playing the third movement of Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No: 23 “Appassionata”. Folks, it’s insane. I don’t know what Beethoven was thinking apart from his usual genius self, but this is something that for anyone other than a professional concert pianist is pretty much unplayable. Ashkenazy sounds like he has two sets of hands. A sublimely gifted and expressive musician. The final two minutes of this is simply riveting. Enjoy, and have a great week everyone! 🙂