A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

Vanitas Vanitatum Omnia Vanitas
Monday, August 04, 2014

Vanitas Naturaleza Muerta - August 1, 2014


Monday I gave a talk at Gessler Hall in the UBC School of Music called The Most Transitory of Things. With the projection of some rose scans I attempted to somehow connect the baroque music being showcased in this year’s 2014 Vancouver Early Music Festival. The last concert of the festival is this August 9 and the title is Vanitas Vanitatum.

A few weeks ago that double Latin would have left me flummoxed. But that is not the case now.



Adriaen van Utrecht (Antwerp, 1599–1652) c. 1642

I was further impelled to write this today Tuesday as in today’s NY Times Science Times (every Tuesday) I read the following introduction and two first paragraphs:

Books – Jascha Hoffman
Working in the Medium of Science
Colliding Worlds
How Cutting- Edge Science is Redefining Contemporary Art
By Arthur I. Miller

An argument that the passion of artists is little different from the quest for data and logic.

Scientists are logical, making observations and running experiments, then building theories that explain the data. Artists are emotional, working in solitude and by intuition. Or so we are told.

In Colliding Worlds, the historian and philosopher Arthur I. Miller argues that artists and scientists have always had the same mission to “fathom the reality beyond appearances, the world invisible to our eyes.” And he argues that after drifting apart during the Enlightenment, the twin branches of understanding have been coming back together over the last century, a reunification that is accelerating in the digital age.

At one time that last paragraph might have confused me or left me cold. That was not the case.

In trying to find a connection between my rose scans which are mostly of complex multi-petalled old or ancient roses and baroque music I thought of the Age of Enlightenment.


This period of history that began somewhere in the middle of the 17th century and saw the light (el siglo de las luces) in the 18th century was brought on by Copernicus, Newton, Leibnitz, Descartes, Voltaire, Hume and a volley of explorers. They believed that reason (the period is sometimes called the Age of Reason) would make a better world.

I found that at odds with the complex baroque music. Some of it was mathematical but a lot of it, particularly the French Baroque was emotional. I thought of Mexican Baroque churches in the Churrigueresque style (named so because Catalan architect José de Churriguera had pioneered this overly elaborate baroque sometimes called Spanish Rococo.)

How could the elaborate and serpentine (particularly Bach’s canons) live side by side with the logical, mathematical and direct?

I found my answer in two quarters. One was to note that the so-called 30 Year’s War (1618-1648) with about 8 million deaths had left what was then what we would call Germany today in shambles along with most of the rest of Europe. The Dutch saw this as a kind of hopelessness. Religion had failed and earthly pursuits were useless. It was almost as these Dutch (many were artists) prefigured Søren Kierkegaard’s proto existentialism by almost 200 years. This movement was called Vanitas. This Latin word means "vanity" and loosely translated corresponds to the meaninglessness of earthly life and the transient nature of all earthly goods and pursuits.

Vanitas art showed still lifes in which death was always present in some sort of decay. It could be a plant and flower or a skull. All put there to remind us of the impermanence of life.

A few days ago I decided to make my own Vanitas using my Fuji b+w Instant film. I threw in some roses, past their prime to represent that decay.

I look forward to being wonderfully depressed and marvelously inspired by the music of the August 9 concert Vanitas Vanitatum.  

The composers will be for me new kids on the block:

Giacomo Carissimi (1605-1674)
Giovanni Girolamo Kapsberger (1580-1651)
Girolamo Frescobaldi (1538-1643) him I know!
Marco Marazzoli (1605-1622)
Luigi Rossi (1597- 1653)
Domenico Mazzocchi (1592-1665)
Biagio Marini (1594-1663) him I know!




     

Previous Posts
Haydn French Style & The Violone Player Got Extra ...

Sequentia - Doom & Gloom With Glee

The Most Transitory Of Things

The Sick Rose

Weimann, Harris, Weiss, Bach, A Ghost & Forty Deuc...

Clyde Umney's Snaps

Emotion & Warmth In The Age Of Enlightenment

Limoges China - The Essence Of Woman

Fuji X-E1 - An Elegant Non Klunker's Shortcomings

The Frogfoot



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5/15/16 - 5/22/16

5/22/16 - 5/29/16

5/29/16 - 6/5/16

6/5/16 - 6/12/16

6/12/16 - 6/19/16

6/19/16 - 6/26/16

6/26/16 - 7/3/16

7/3/16 - 7/10/16

7/10/16 - 7/17/16

7/17/16 - 7/24/16

7/24/16 - 7/31/16

7/31/16 - 8/7/16

8/7/16 - 8/14/16

8/14/16 - 8/21/16

8/21/16 - 8/28/16

8/28/16 - 9/4/16

9/4/16 - 9/11/16

9/11/16 - 9/18/16

9/18/16 - 9/25/16

9/25/16 - 10/2/16

10/2/16 - 10/9/16

10/9/16 - 10/16/16

10/16/16 - 10/23/16

10/23/16 - 10/30/16

10/30/16 - 11/6/16

11/6/16 - 11/13/16

11/13/16 - 11/20/16

11/20/16 - 11/27/16

11/27/16 - 12/4/16

12/4/16 - 12/11/16

12/11/16 - 12/18/16

12/18/16 - 12/25/16

12/25/16 - 1/1/17

1/1/17 - 1/8/17

1/8/17 - 1/15/17

1/15/17 - 1/22/17

1/22/17 - 1/29/17

1/29/17 - 2/5/17

2/5/17 - 2/12/17

2/12/17 - 2/19/17

2/19/17 - 2/26/17

2/26/17 - 3/5/17

3/5/17 - 3/12/17

3/12/17 - 3/19/17

3/19/17 - 3/26/17

3/26/17 - 4/2/17

4/2/17 - 4/9/17

4/9/17 - 4/16/17

4/16/17 - 4/23/17

4/23/17 - 4/30/17