Cassini's Swan Dive & Cassini the Swan
Saturday, April 22, 2017
|Sandrine Cassini - iPhone 3-G Photograph|
Giovanni Domenico Cassini (8 June 1625 – 14 September
1712) was an Italian mathematician, astronomer, astrologer and engineer.
Cassini was born in Perinaldo, near Imperia, at that time in the County of
Nice, part of the Duchy of Savoy. Cassini is known for his work in the fields
of astronomy and engineering. Cassini discovered four satellites of the planet
Saturn and noted the division of the rings of Saturn; the Cassini Division was
named after him. Giovanni Domenico Cassini was also the first of his family to
begin work on the project of creating a topographic map of France. The Cassini spaceprobe, launched in 1997, was named after
him and became the fourth to visit Saturn and the first to orbit the planet.
In September it will make its swan dive
A few days ago I received a postcard, a 1929 vintage view
of Nice from my friend ballerina/choreographer Sandrine Cassini. That Sandrine
happens to be called Cassini and is originally from Nice is no coincidence as
she is indeed a descendant of Giovanni Domenico Cassini.
Little Dancer - aged 14
La Modestine Stands Up & Sits Down
Friday, April 21, 2017
|Sketches by Graham Walker & Lauren Stewart|
|La Modestine - April 20 - Seymour Art Gallery |
It is impossible for me to ever go up to Deep Cove via the
much newer Mt. Seymour Parkway. I prefer to go the longer and more winding root
of Dollarton Highway. It passes by Cates Park. When I do I remember my friend
John Lekich’s words:
Lowry lived here – Errol Flynn died here.
Yesterday Thursday, April 20 I was on my way to meet up with
my friend Ian Bateson for a concert of La Modestine at the Seymour Art Gallery
in Deep Cove.
The concert called "German Spring" was held in an intimately small gallery that had
a startlingly crisp almost loud sound.
We sat in the front row as we always do so that I could
listen to violinist Marc Destrubé breathe. I sit in the front row of dance performaces for the same reason.
Going to small concerts of Early Music Vancouver
or of La Modestine
puts me in situations where I feel I am royalty. The four members of
La Modestine are violinists Marc Destrubé and Seattle luminary Linda Melsted,
viola da gamba player Natalie Mackie and harpsichordist Michael Jarvis (who
also might be heard playing the organ).
Those four members, in a small room, make me feel like I may
be Alexandre Von Humboldtberger of renowned blue German blood and they are there to play just for me.
There are no announcements (or the very least, least) and
the atmosphere is informal. You know these renowned musicians (they are as they
are not only famous at home but abroad) put on their pants one foot at a time.
But there is one factor that puts you at odds with them. They
can read music like President John Kennedy speed read and they are virtuosi of
You need to know that the two violinists have two playing
positions. They sit or they stand. When they stand, they play seriously
difficult music by the likes (not your household known composer) of Heinrich
Ignaz Franz von Biber. When they sit they play evocatively melodious music by
that other un-household known name Johann Heinrich Schmelzer.
This particular concert had besides those two composers, a
solo performance on the harpsichord (Michael Jarvis) playing Johann Rosenmüller’s
Sonata Sonata Sesta a 3
(no siesta it was, we were on our toes) and a most
unique duo by gambist Mackie and harpsichordist Jarvis playing a composer
discovered by Mackie a mere few weeks before called Jacob Reihmann.
But the best was at the very end. Standing up the violinists
and company played a von Biber Partita that included a final passacaglia (I
love chaconnes and passacaglias are almost that).
|Graham Walker |
The evening was brilliantly fun but there was one sad moment
for me. My friend, designer Graham Walker and my granddaughter Lauren, 14 could
not make it. These two collaborate in sketching their impressions of La
Modestine and other concerts. They work on the same pages and you can scarcely
figure out who did what. I am placing here the sketches they did from the last
La Modestine concert, held at Hodson Manor on February 25. I was soon to go to
Austin for a school reunion and to Buenos Aires for spring break so I never did
get to write my impression of that French and Italian music concert.
|Linda Melsted and Lauren Stewart|
In all cases La Modestine specializes in the lesser known
baroque composers of the 17th
century. Since you are not inclined to
hear this stuff anywhere else you could say that this is 17 century avant-garde
new music. In the case of von Biber this is a precise description of music that
in that century was called fantastic. Composers took chances and pushed
boundaries. Von Biber tinkered (most successfully) with variant tunings of the
violin. The most famous of his compositions are his 16 Rosary Sonatas. This
alternate tuning is called scordatura.
By my reckoning if some violinist (accompanied
by a continuo player, a continuo can be a harpsichord or a string instrument
like a viola da gamba) were to attempt to play all 16 in one sitting and since
the process of re-tuning that violin can take time, it would be necessary to have
at least 14 violins handy!
You might spot a couple of donkeys in the sketches. The
reason is that La Modestine was Robert Louis Stevenson’s donkey when the writer
traveled in Europe.
For anybody who might be curious about other famous donkeys,
there is Rucio (the dappled one) which was Sancho Panza’s steed of choice.
The evening did end very well. In the gallery I spotted
this delightful mono print by artist Liane McLaren Varnam. My Lauren loves cats
and has one of her own. I am sure she will be delighted by “The Seagull and the
|Detail from Natali Mackie's viola de gamba|
|Marc Destrubé & his new glasses|
Equisetum - Clarinets & Logarithms
Thursday, April 20, 2017
|Equisetum from our Kitsilano garden|
As I get older, I am now 74, I find it hard to step on
slugs or to pull weeds even though I know that neither of them are good for my
garden. I am not a Buddhist but somehow I am reluctant to kill a living thing no
matter how low on the ladder of life.
To Rosemary’s shock we found in the part of our garden
bordering the back lane 8 horsetails sprouting up. Most who garden know this is
a noxious weed. If you pull it (the roots underneath may go for metres) it becomes
worse. A horsetail has been growing on the lane and obviously our use of pig
manure, and good earth in our garden has been a culinary attraction for it.
I cut them off with my rose clippers and I have scanned
them for digital posterity.
Some years ago I used to go to noon concerts at the
Vancouver Art Gallery. The concerts were organized by Gene Ramsbottom
the clarinet and after having been in several leading Vancouver orchestras he
is currently a teacher and lecturer at the School of Music of the University of British Columbia. Somehow I must
have had a chat with him at the VAG because the subject of making clarinet (and
other reed instruments) reeds came up. Ramsbottom told me that reed makers use
a powder made from a version of Equisetum, called Equisetum hyemale
horsetail, snake grass, puzzlegrass) is the only living genus in Equisetaceae,
a family of vascular plants that reproduce by spores rather than seeds.
Equisetum is a
"living fossil" as it is the only living genus of the entire class
Equisetopsida, which for over one hundred million years was much more diverse
and dominated the understory of late Paleozoic forests. Some Equisetopsida were
large trees reaching to 30 meters tall. The genus Calamites of the family
Calamitaceae, for example, is abundant in coal deposits from the Carboniferous
similar but entirely unrelated flowering plant genus, mare's tail (Hippuris),
is occasionally referred to as "horsetail", and adding to confusion,
the name mare's tail is sometimes applied to Equisetum .
The pattern of
spacing of nodes in horsetails, wherein those toward the apex of the shoot are
increasingly close together, inspired John Napier to discover logarithms.
commonly known as rough horsetail, scouring rush, scouringrush horsetail and
in South Africa as snake grass, is a perennial herb in the fern Division
Pteridophyta. It is a native plant throughout the Holarctic Kingdom, found
in North America, Europe, and northern Asia.
Vertical Influences - Patín del Diablo
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
|Le Patin Libre - Britannia Ice Rink - April 18 2017|
Performances until April 30.
Watching the Vancouver East Cultural presentation of Le
Patin Libre’s (Montreal) Vertical Influences,
last night at the Britannia Ice
Rink, made me think of dancer Shay Kuebler
. I photographed him and watched him
perform 10 years ago.
Kuebler somehow combined hip-hop with modern dance (and a
touch of tap) to create what to me was something completely new. It is rare in
this age to find something that is breathtakingly new that is not sidelined by
something newer that takes its place.
Such was Le Patin Libre. Five performers (different shapes
and ages) Alexandre Hamel, Pascale Jodoin (so sweet that when
she fell my heart stopped) , Jasmin Boivin, Samory Ba and Taylor Dilley dazzled us with
straight ice skating with no tu-tus, or schmaltzy music.
The performance reminded me that nobody can ever do the same
thing for a long time. When I visited Toller Cranston in San Miguel Allende
some years ago I was pleasantly shocked to find that his paintings had an air
of the avante-garde.
|Toller Cranston - San Miguel Allende|
I see Vertical Influences as a work-in-progress in which I
am sure the company of five will expand to more stuff that will keep being
edgy, modern and, yes, challenging.
I must state here that I despise Olympic Figure
Skating as much as I do the yearly Vancouver fireworks display. Both challenge
my idea of what good music is. Can either of those “sport/art forms” survive
without Carmina Burana? As a possible statement that Le Patin Libre has no Capades in its past or present they use standard hockey skates.
I believe that Vertical Influences might put what Patin
Libre does as a possible new (truly) Olympic sport.
In last night’s performance I had a great time using a
technique I learned while taking photographs of
Vancouver’s Arts Umbrella Dance Company
dancers. It is a simple technique
where I set my camera to a ¼ second shutter.
In my Spanish mother tongue to skate is to patinar
. Strangely one of those push scooters that children like are called patín del diablo.
I can find no better definition of what we witnessed last night - the devil's skates.