Linda Melsted - The Music in the Violin does not emerge alone
Saturday, February 04, 2017
|Linda Melsted, Lauren Stewart - February 4, 2017|
a lot to be said about hosting a virtuoso violinist that is too warm and quiet a
person to be called a diva. Even though in sheer virtuosity she is one.
was the case this Saturday February 4, 2017 when Seattle’s Linda Melsted had
lunch with Rosemary, my granddaughter Lauren, 14 and Portland baroque bassist Curtis Daily and me in our Kitsilano home.
she went up to our piano room to warm up and to practice her part in Joseph
Bologne de Saint-Georges’ (1745-1799) Concerto for 2 violins and strings )Op
13/2 in G mayor that she was going to play (with Pacific Baroque Orchestra concertmaster
and violinist Chloe Myers). The concert was an amalgamation project of the
Seattle Baroque Orchestra, Pacific Baroque Orchestra, Portland Baroque
Orchestra and the Early Music Society of the Islands. The concert held at the
Vancouver Playhouse was sponsored by Early Music Vancouver.
the door of the piano room but her extraordinary violin (a Nicolo Amati) has a presence that
punched through our walls and ceilings and it sounded loud and clear. At one
point I heard her singing. I found this odd and asked Curtis Daily who told me
that I may have noticed that guitarists can sing and play simultaneously but in
some cases cannot play and talk. It seems that all that happens in several
parts of the brain. He further told me that singing while you play (or humming)
can help you master and immerse yourself in the work being practiced or played.
I would have never known except for the pleasure of hosting both a violinist
and a bassist in our little home.
photograph of Melsted with my granddaughter Lauren has the purpose of being a “silent”
impetus to Lauren who by her choice asked her mother to place her in violin
classes six years ago. I picked up Lauren at the Arts Umbrella dance lesson at
noon knowing that the two musicians would be at home (they braved a snow storm
in Bellingham to get to Vancouver Saturday morning).
not communicate verbally all that much but I am sure that the experience of
listening to Melsted and to posing with her might leave a lasting impression.
reading this would wish to ever host a musician for a forthcoming Early Music
Vancouver concert your contact would be Alicia Hansen, Production Manager, EMV firstname.lastname@example.org.
The phone is 604-732-1610 extension 2004
Some might know that I am an Emily Dickinson freak. I have written two previous blogs here and here using Dickinson's poem that mentions the violin:
The Spirit lasts - but in what mode -
Below, the Body speaks,
But as the Spirit furnishes -
Apart, it never talks -
The Music in the Violin
Does not emerge alone
But Arm in Arm with Touch, yet Touch
Alone - is not a Tune -
The Spirit lurks within the Flesh
Like Tides within the Sea
That make the Water live estranged
What would the Either be?
Does that know - now - or does it cease -
That which to this is done,
Resuming at a mutual date
With every future one?
Instinct pursues the Adamant,
Exacting this Reply -
Adversity if it may be, or
The Rumor's Gate was shut so tight
Before my Mind was sown,
Not even a Prognostic's Push
Could make a Dent thereon -
More Emily Dickinson
The Charm invests her face
A sepal, a petal and a thorn
The Savior must have been a docile Gentleman
T were blessed to have seen
There is no frigate like a book
Five On The Balcony
Friday, February 03, 2017
In my photographic life in Vancouver since 1975 I have taken
thousands of photographs and experienced situations where I photographed cops,
hoods, a posible murderer (he was acquitted), actors, directors, dancers (of
the exotic and of the more modern kind), politicians, businessmen (and a few
businesswomen), lawyers, gardeners, authors, relatives and myself (but not too
I will not confess the fact that my interest if not an
obsession has been the female in a mostly undraped environment.
I have told photography students in the past (before I was
deemed too old to teach) that we all go through the same stages when we take photographs.
The difference lies in that these stages
rarely coincide. We do something before someone else or we are too late when we
find someone else has been there.
This is natural. We might
begin shooting in the street and taking photographs of Mexican native women in
markets with beautifully arrange oranges in pyramid piles. Sooner or later we
(or at least this guy) realize that a camera in hand might be pointed at an
undraped person of the sex of our choice. That might begin with our amazement
that the human figure can resemble a sand dune. So we shoot bodyscapes. From
there we up the ante and start including the face. This could be as in boudoir
(ugh!) or in other ways we think are sexy or erotic. Then we get sophisticated
and discover Helmut Newton.
Sooner or later we (not this guy) may diverge into
pornography. But this is so difficult to define. I believe that pornography is
simply anything done in bad taste. Also depending where you live pornography
here might be art elsewhere.
The proliferation of selfies in social media have levelled the
playing field to my satisfaction. Why?
Because at my ripe age of 74 eroticism is no longer physical
but in my head. I think it is more subtle, more sophisticated, more fun. This
is something that I am pursuing while I can press on the shutter of my camera
and get willing subjects.
But there is one area where care must be taken. I tell my
students that when they are facing an undraped person in a studio that one must
be like a doctor. You look straight into your subject’s eyes. Any other looking
(details of light might be your excuse) you do when you are behind and looking
through your camera. Touching is anathema but I have pointed one single
exception. A bit of hair on your subject’s face might be moved aside (ask or
warn first) with your pinkie. Anything else I always have a hand mirror handy
or a nearby full-length mirror where your subject can check.
In my pursuit of the erotic narrative where I like to place
anywhere from three to five little photographs in a row I have had some
success. But there was one occasion when I found my principles challenged.
I was taking photographs of Salem in her West Vancouver
condo balcony. She told me something like this: “If you want to make the series
work you have to use your foot in this way.” And I was shown.
Inspiration by Unexpected Error
Thursday, February 02, 2017
|Isis Solarized - Accidental turning on darkroom light when print was in developer|
In my long
career as a magazine photographer which I began in Vancouver in 1975 I did my
best not to mess up my assignments. I knew that because of the big competition
any error (and not coming back with a useable photograph for publication) would
mean the end of further jobs for the magazine or newspaper.
that I always took two of everything. I firmly believe in Patterson’s Law of
Photography that states, “Murphy was an
optimist.” If I needed one camera I took two. I had two of my favourite portrait
lenses for my Mamiya RB-67 a 140mm floating element lens. Once while taking
photographs of a very chubby Raymond Burr the main spring of the 140 failed
after the Polaroid test. This meant I had to shoot the rest of my pictures with
a 90mm which did not take kindly to his bulk.
fact is that in photography errors sometimes become discoveries of note. If one
is able to determine where it went wrong (and produced an unexpected delightful
variation) one can repeat the mistake.
|Tanya - acciidental double exposure- Mamiya RB -67 Pro-SD|
RB-67 Pro SD has many devices that prevent an accidental double exposure. But
also the camera permits one to double expose if one wants to. The double
exposure here which I took with the Mamiya was purely accidental. Somehow in
spite of the double exposure prevention protocols I managed to find a way
years ago I photographed for close to a year a lovely Japanese/Canadian woman.
She would call me when she had some idea (always very good ones) for a session.
One of them involved her shiatsu instructor. I took many pictures of the pair
in what I was told were authentic shiatsu finger pressures. Because I was not
only using my Mamiya but also a Nikon FM-2 loaded with Kodak B+W Infrared Film
(it involves using a dark, deep red filter, and focusing at the infra red mark
on the lens) I was too busy to note that my camera was crooked within the
large ring-flash I was using. My subject was much too polite to tell me of the
mishap thinking that I knew what I was doing.
When I saw the results I was
immediately perplexed and then pleasantly surprised. The crooked lens had “read”
the edge of the ring flash. That particular trick is one of many up my sleeve
when I want to suggest the idea of avant-garde in a shot. There is a much better shot than the one that I have placed last so that the folks of social media might not note it and complain This one is perhaps less so.
The most important lesson for me is that in-between jobs (when I got them in those halcyon days of the past century) you had to experiment and test equipment and new methods.
Wednesday, February 01, 2017
At St. Edward’s High School in Austin, Texas in the late 50s, I had a Plane Geometry teacher
called Brother Gregory. He was soft spoken and almost always had a smile on his
face. I learned geometry from this kindly man and to this day I cannot forget
his explanation of the words congruence and congruent. In our classroom and
homework assignments we were to fit one triangle into another and if this
happened without overlap you had congruence.
In my career as a photographer I might have been cubbyholed
as a portrait photographer even though I took my versions of landscapes and
architectural photographs. At the same time I can assert that I did a lot of
experimentation as I never wanted to do one style to the point that I would
have been making the motions of taking the photographs. It always had to be and
must be to this day a challenge.
Perhaps when Helen Yagi and I met and I persuaded her to pose
for me I found a perfect congruence of ideas, style and experimentation. In the
case of the photographs here I used a pinhole body cap on my Mamiya RB-67 Pro
SD instead of a lens. I remember that the exposures were constant flashing of
my studio flash on full power for one minute and 35 seconds. Because the
exposures were so long Helen could move a bit without affecting the sharpness
which was not all that sharp to begin with.
Throughout this time of taking photographs, every once in
a while I find that Gregorian congruence. Who knows someone like Helen might
give me a call this year. I will be ready.
A Coup d'etat?
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
|General Juan Carlos Onganía|
The events in the neighbouring country to the south today
Monday, January 29, 2017 bring to mind that while Americans are better than
most of us at just about everything there is one quarter where we Argentines
may have the upper hand.
Argentines are experts with the execution of the military
coup d’etat. They have practiced for years. I recall one in particular. On June 28, 1966 our freely elected civilian president, Arturo
Illía (an inoffensive if slow country doctor) was deposed by a military junta
comprised by the head of the army, the air force and the navy. The former
Commander and Chief of the Army, General Juan Carlos Onganía (he of the walrus
moustache) became the president. As a conscript of the Argentine Navy my companions and I were ordered to surround the seat of government, la Casa Rosada,joined by representatives of the other branches of the armed forces.Through a loudspeaker President Arturo Illía was asked to leave the premises. This he did in a taxi.
One of the first acts of the military junta was to censure
Onganía’s government prohibited the Bélla Bartók ballet
The Miraculous Mandarin, Stravinski’s The Rite of Spring and son after the Buenos
Aires premiere of Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera’s Bomarzo which had
already been premiered in Washington DC. To top that the screening of Michelangelo
Antonioni’s Blowup (based on a short story by Argentine writer Julio Cortázar)
I wonder what would have happened if John Frankenheimer’s
1964 film Seven Days in May had not
been released until 1966.
As an Argentine, my only advice to Mr. Trump is that he
not interfere with the running of his Defense Department by General James (Mad
Dog) Mattis. A four-star general (I have no recollection of any American US
Marine Corps general gaining an extra fifth star) can only rise in his command
should he become the President of the United States.
Turning Point Ensemble - Peaches (cream) & Regalia
Monday, January 30, 2017
Turning Point Ensemble - Frank Zappa & Les Wiseman Muses
|Edgar Varèse, Frank Zappa, John Oswald|
My friends Graham Walker, Ian Bateson and I attended the
Turning Point Ensemble’s Zappa Meets Varèse and Oswald –The Present Day
Composer Refuses to Die on Sunday, January 29 2017 at 3pm. It was at the
sonically powerful Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre at SFU’s Goldcorp
Centre for the Arts.
The opinions you will read below are purely subjective and
keep into consideration that I am not a music critic and my knowledge of music
is a rudimentary ability to read music and an even more rudimentary ability to
play the alto saxophone.
The whole concert can be defined thusly: Peaches (and cream)
It was a totally sweet
delight to the ears and to the eyes.
As a product (me) of the 20th century born in
1942, the idea of contemporary music was all about not understanding the not
quite atonal music of Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, and Anton Webern. It was
also about hating those composers and opting for the lyrical tonality of the
romantics. The latter is what my pianist mother liked to play and to listen.
After many years of that lyrical tonality I began to
feel comfortably bored. I realized this especially some years ago at a
Vancouver Symphony Orchestra concert that featured the lovely cellist Shauna
Rolston playing the Tchaikovsky Cello Concerto no.1 "Andante
The Orpheum was packed with mostly senior citizens. The
program in the second half was a Shostakovich symphony
. There was a mass exodus
before there was even one note. I could not understand this as the people
leaving were abandoning a composer of their generation.
That brings me to the musicians of the Turning Point
Ensemble. If you go to a varied palette of concerts you will note that you
recognize many faces. The reason for this is that most of those musicians play
for other symphonies and groups. You might think that it has to be a mercenary
impulse to make money. That could be part of it. I believe it has to do more
with feeling too comfortable with what one does. I believe it has to do with
realizing that you might not want to play one more Bach double violin concerto
or one more Vivaldi Four Seasons.
I would define this as the challenge to feel unsettled and
to glory at that fact and feeling.
My two prime examples are violinist Marc Destrubé and bassist David Brown
. Destrubé has a curriculum a mile long that ranges from
playing and heading baroque orchestras and a Washington DC based string quartet
to playing Bartok with his Microcosmos Quartet
in Vancouver. And, he is a
member of the Turning Point Ensemble.
|David Brown and Jeremy Berkman|
David Brown has been playing the string bass for the
Vancouver Symphony for years and could comfortably end his career there. And
yet as a member of the Turning Point Ensemble I have seen and heard him play a
6-string bass guitar while surrounding himself with all kinds of black boxes
with lights and pedals.
|David Brown extreme right|
He is happy (I believe) to be restless in what he does.
And that is what you get with the Turning Point Ensemble.
They are a bunch of restless musicians eager to try new territory with a smile
on their faces. That they do so while playing in our presence, is what makes
the music that they play not only more accessible but also enjoyable. It is one
thing to listen to a bit of music you have never heard without seeing the
musicians. That can be alienating and confusing. But seeing these musicians
play and to notice instruments you may have never experienced before is part of
the surprise. Because I see these musicians all over the place I can safely say that many are now my friends. They patietly answer my questions. At Turning Point Ensemble concerts they are not up on a stage. They are right there. You just stand up and go to them and ask them whatever you want. Even the chap with the muted (!) tuba, Drew Dumas puts on his pants one leg at a time.
The concert we heard had some funny moments and a few
difficult ones. But every time you hear a difficult piece of music (that is all
new not because it is new but because you have never heard it) as was Edgard
which was composed
in 1923 the next bit of music will be just a tad easier to digest. Music,
unless it’s pop music, has to be listened to and digested.
|Owen Underhill's bow tie|
My first experience at a Subhumans’
concert around 1980 was
sheer horror. I soon learned the thrill of loud music and the rapid but minimal
playing of an electric guitar. Now “Slave
to My Dick
” almost sounds like a nursery rhyme. And all the notes played by
Thelonious Monk sound not like the right wrong notes but like the right,
|Sharman King's bass trombone|
Where in Vancouver can one listen (live) the symphonic music
of Duke Ellington
, a Stravinsky tango or many a contemporary Canadian composer
such as last afternoon’s John Oswald? Only in two places. One is the Turning
Point Ensemble and the other in the Vancouver Symphony’s yearly New Music
Festival (about to end as I write this).
What is new Music?
This service by restless musicians to a restless or to a
perhaps too comfortable audience is something that is special in our city
sometimes seen (and are they wrong!) cultural backwater.
As I am no music critic I can only say that the Zappa was
special and the Varèse was interesting. Both were made more than the sum of
their parts by the video projected designed by Vanessa Goodman and Dayna Szyndrowski
aided by the production designer Julie-anne Saroyan.
|David Brown's bass|
Music in Varèse’s time seemed to be about modernity, electricity,
progress, the building of bridges and an unstoppable humanity. The design team
chose appropriate videos that seemed to mimic the intention of the music that
was trying to blow apart the musical boundaries of their time.
As soon as the first half of the concert was over I told my
companions that I expected the worst from John Oswald. After all he was a
living Canadian composer. He could not possibly by lyrical and more accessible
as my ever popular and favourite local composer Jocelyn Morlock. Of course I
was an ignorant idiot. From the first notes of Oswald’s piece Refuse (a world
premiere!) we all smiled in unison with the musicians. There is a new word in
my vocabulary coined by the composer himself “plunderphonics”. Bits of 60s themes from the Pink Panther, James
Bond and the Beatles shared the stage with music that challenged me ever so
Is new music with a sense of humour at odds? Certainly not!
And finally I must mention that sitting centre front row at a
Turning Point Ensemble Concert brings in one more delight. In most symphony
concerts you see, always the musical director from about the shoulders up. This
is not the case at these concerts. You see the Artistic Director (otherwise
called the conductor by we the masses) Owen Underhill from head to toe. And
this is special. Underhill conducts his orchestra using Argentine Tango
movements. I am an expert at this (but a lousy tango dancer) as I am an
Argentine. Besides his swaying hips you cannot but note what he does with his
shoes. It was so arresting that last night his shoes competed with cellist
Marina Hasselberg’s avant-garde leg wear and short shorts (I could not discern
if they were shorts or a skirt).
|Marina Hasselberg's cello|
Mr. Underhill oozes calmness and sweetness. Even without a
tux (but he did wear a bow tie, a first, I understand) there is also an
|Marguerite Witvoet & Owen Underhill (whose directing? That's an unanswered question.) Adrian Verdejo, extreme left in a pinch could be a rock star with his electric guitar. Have people forgotten that Zappa began as a guitarist? |
It is my belief that the Turning Point Ensemble serves us
well with this man at their helm. If there is no Order of Canada forthcoming
for him then there is no musical justice
in this world.
My friend Graham Walker is a graphic designer of note, an enthusiast of baroque and challenging music who likes to bring his sketchbook to concerts. Of the Octandre sketch he tells me (and perhaps some of you might discern it , I could not) that on the left of the drawaing each bar spells one of the letters of Zappa.
|Jeremy Berkman, Ellen Marple, Sharman King & Drew Dumas|
Dancers Anya Saugstad and Diego Romero, choreography by Rob Kitsos. Dance performed for Zappa's G-Spot Tornado