playing Villa-Lobos’ Prelude – I

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It’s been almost two years since I first picked up a classical guitar after listening to Gerónimo Giménez’  La Boda de Luis Alonso – the marriage of Luis Alonso – played by Pablo Sáinz Villegas. The real motivation behind it was to be able to play that piece some day. I am not good enough to even try it as yet but it’s fair to say that I have come a long way from those early days of frustration, thanks, mostly, to an online forum where a Frechman teaches classical guitar to nobodies like myself.

Today, I’m posting one of Heitor Villa-Lobos’  five Preludes: the first one. It is said that Villa-Lobos composed these Cinq Preludes after he met Andrés Segovia, circa 1930. Segovia was in Motevideo, seeking refuge from the Spanish Civil War, and made many trips to Brazil where he met with Villa-Lobos. Some titles have emerged over time for almost all of these five preludes, so, I’d like to mention – as a matter of scruple – that Prelude No. I was originally titled Homenagem ao Sertanejo Brasileiro – Melodia Lirica (Homage to the dweller of the Brazilian Sertao – Lyrical Melody). There’s a strong element of Chopin’s Romantic lyricism to it, and it follows a tripartite ABA form. It is in the key of E minor.

My interpretation of this piece is based on the arrangement by Frederic Zigante. I do not have a good microphone – something I know I must acquire asp – so I recorded directly on to my PC and therefore ended up with a lot of background noise. I hope you guys won’t mind that!

________________

ps: It’s for you, you know who you are!

writing your name

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I build coliseums:
standing tall, desolate,
pinnacles of fate gone wrong,
stones falling apart in the ruins of time,
death hung in air.

I create illusions:
sun mirrored in the sands,
molten coal tar runways
floating in the distance,
parallaxes beating the senses.

I make those heavenly runs,
maddening chases,
after the dragonflies
beyond the frontiers of desire;
and I hunt golden midges, painted,
with big bulging eyes,
forever pirouetting
above burning candles,
oblivious to the hapless end.

I spoil the canvas with blots:
runic patterns of calligraphy.

Your name my love,
it has the grandeur of coliseums,
the deathly lure of illusions,
charms of desire unfulfilled,
written on canvas, it is my objet d’art.

And still I fail miserably,
because ****,
I write your name with a quill
on papyrus, again and again,
endlessly,
and I can not go beyond !

Of Nabokov

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I’ve been addicted to a daily reading of Lolita ever since I first read it: Nabokov being a sorcerer, a writer of impossible phrases – and Lolita perhaps his finest work. No other writer of prose can coin phrases like: ‘beetle-browed’, ‘seaside-limbs’, ‘fatal-rigidity’, ‘fey grace’ and so on… His ability to put rare and unexpected words together, precisely, in magical combinations is unmatched. And yet, someone said to me the other day that he thought Nabokov’s works were very pretentious and marked by pedantry. They are intimidating, I concede, but pretentious? That’s very cruel, sir, almost blasphemous.

Let me give you an example: One has to read only the opening four paragraphs of Lolita to fall for it.

Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms, she was always Lolita.

Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did. In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, a certain initial girl child. In a princedom by the sea. Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble- winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.

Is not that magic? Do not those lines capture you from the outset? And listen, we are not discussing the subject matter of the book – which, I understand, many of you may find very disturbing: the protagonist is a paedophile. Lolita – the novel – much like any other of his works, is everything you want from reading literature: masterly word play, puns, alliterations, brilliant imagery. It is wild and wonderfully imaginative. I guess it was  John Updike who said that Nabokov wrote prose “the way it should be written, that is, ecstatically”. “Ecstatically” being the key-word here. While other writers might settle for something ordinary, at times, he never did. Any random sampling of his work shows this:

On dit que tu te maries, tu sais que j’en vais mourir and that melody, the pain, the offense, the link between hymen and death evoked by the rhythm, and the voice itself of the dead singer, which accompanied the recollection as the sole owner of the song, gave me no rest for several hours after Nina’s departure and even later arose at increasing intervals like the last flat little waves sent to the beach by a passing ship, lapping ever more infrequently and dreamily, or like the bronze agony of a vibrating belfry after the bell ringer has already re-seated himself… 

(From Spring in Fialta)

Or:

How small the cosmos (a kangaroo’s pouch would hold it), how paltry and puny in comparison to human consciousness, to a single individual recollection, and its expression in words!

(From Speak, Memory)

Or:

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain                                                                   By the false azure in the windowpane;                                                                       I was the smudge of ashen fluff…

(From Pale Fire)

I could go on and on quoting from his works but that isn’t the point. The point is, if you have not read Nabokov already, you must do so pronto!

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

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What then shall we choose”,
queried Kundera, “weight
or lightness?” But I
was cocooned in the duvet
of nescience.

One night,
however, I sat on the doorsill,
outside my house, watching
a polythene bag lying flat
on the cobbled street:
unruffled. Then perhaps
in concert with music
of the spheres – a knelling
of some divine carillon – the wind stirred
itself and the bag billowed
(emplaning a rare moment
of its glory); it chandelled,
spinning tardily like a dervish
pirouetting on his toes. Light,
as the venous wings
of a pierid butterfly, it glided
on and I knew it would land
on a waste yard and the wind
would stop. Happenstance? Uh-uh.

I have learnt, regrettably,
I can
not choose either weight
or lightness. ‘Being’
being a spectre, a presage
of dissolution: devolving eyes,
lips, limbs, hearts –
clay devouring clay. We are
all flying dutchmen
seafaring the troubled waters.

Insentience

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Livid silver rakes the figures prostrated
in transit. Frozen aluminium glints beneath
pallid flaccidity of flesh. The smell is chlorhexidine.
Two dieners enter this quiesced little vacancy
(one’s swinging a keychain). They look
at me, how ugly,
stop, ours is such a dirty job.

The butchers peel the ugly lamb. Two immortal
wounds – stray bullets, of course. A camera pops out.
Smile, little fella, say bleeeed.
I can not blee… anymore, bastards. A brassy
flash ! stuns me ! Finish him up and let’s run; it’s
late already.
 Two hands in white gloves fix
my jaw in haste – a gauze bandage round my
head and under the chin. Another two ‘finish me
up’ and off they go. I await deliverance.

Nobody comes. Last year a friend had lost
his brother and father, both, in a carnage –
we’re mere marionettes dancing to the angels.
I’d wanted to make a condolence call but couldn’t. I was
busy, just too busy, basking in the riviera.

Outside, the traffic. The clamour
of a collective ecstasy: people shouting,
laughing, wading through shadows, trampling
upon others’ shadows. The shadowy horde
rushes forward like a drove of bovids
barging across an african void
when chased by a predator.
Forward, forward, until it
stuns itself…one day,
perhaps yesterday, I
had belonged to that horde.

_________________

ps: written sometime around Dec 2009.

Of the Poseurs

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I remember Milan Kundera referring to the phrase a culture of excess (coined by Salman Rushdie) in Testaments Betrayed – An Essay in Nine Parts, and then going on to say how beautifully Rushdie had encapsulated a whole phenomenon in just four words. I agree. It is precisely what rules our society at the moment. Among other things, the term applies to all kinds of immoderate and uncompromising behaviours we are used to experiencing around us: the religious fanatics, the misguided pluralists, the feminists who equate feminism to misandry, the men suffering from sexist prejudices, and the moral police, etc. We have too much of everything bar some sanity and tolerance. We live in a world living at the margins of rationality.

Of all the aforementioned categories of people, it is the moral police that I find the most unbearable and hypocritical. Lets refer to them as poseurs for convenience and brevity. If you ever come across someone actively publicizing how they prevented something bad from happening, followed by an exaggerated account of the extent of evil that was in the offing, you should know you’ve found one of our poseurs. If you’ve never come across one already, you can find them fraternizing in gregarious bien pensant exhibitionism that social networking sites are becoming: you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours, and we can both experience the ecstasy of a boy seeing a naked woman for the first time! The ritualized and theatrical advertizing of one’s moral excellence while committing offences oneself, intolerance for everything that is not in tandem with one’s own ideas and beliefs, that’s how it goes. The idea is to get acknowledgement for one’s (non-existent) goodness and a general reproval of others. And a lot of it has got to do with ego coming into play.

Now let me tell you a little story: X was involved in an event where a kid was beating a dog with a nailed rod. X saved that dog, slapping the kid in the process with the kid falling over. This led to the parents of that kid coming to X‘s home to complain. As per X‘s own account, he/she defended her act of slapping the kid. Afterwards, X posted on a social networking site telling in minute detail how badly the dog had been injured and how sad he/she had felt about it’s imminent death. X then reflected on the degenerate morals of the kids family (re: how the parents had failed in their upbringing of that kid) – all on that social networking site!

Well, I think it was very unfortunate that a poor old dog was beaten to death, and I admire X for trying to save that dog’s life but I also think X went over the board when he/she slapped the kid. So, I let X know that it’d have been wiser not to slap the kid but to make him understand that what he was doing was downright cruel, much to the displeasure of X. I knew instantly that it might turn into pointless arguments so I resigned myself. Someone else also made the mistake that I did and ended up annoying our very dear X. It was then that I realized that it was a case of conspicuous behaviour aimed at attracting attention alone. Because if it wasn’t, I’ve a question for you: how do you think you’ve stopped a kid – not your own kid, remember! – from doing something violent by slapping him/her? Surely, you have only incited further violent behaviour from that kid, eh? Because I think most of the kids are reactionary. But that is not important. Getting support from your internet friends (slating those who seem to disagree with you in the process) is important, and saying thank you’s for their support is even more important. So much for spreading the good.

In my opinion, one of the ideas behind moral policing is to promote oneself as a proper, nonpareil, saintly being. Another is to make everyone conform to your views. Yet another might be pursuit of power – no matter how little of it you can have, it always makes you feel godlike. And social networking sites help us achieve just that with little and no effort. We can make friends with like-minded people even if everyone detests us in our real life because of our idiotic behaviour, promote ridiculous causes, and compete for a little glory in some abstract way. Everything aimed at disindividualizing the world, sadly.