A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.
Henry James, Charles Dickens & Me (Us) in Venice
Saturday, January 19, 2019
It is a
great pleasure to write the word; but I am not sure there is not a certain
impudence in pretending to add anything to it. Venice has been painted and
described many thousands of times, and of all the cities of the world is the
easiest to visit without going there.
on Italy -1988 by Barrie & Jenkins Ltd – London
floated on, five miles or so, over the dark water, when I heard it rippling, in
my dream, against some obstruction near at hand. Looking out attentively, I saw
through the gloom, a something black and massive – like a shore, but lying
close and flat upon the water, like a raft – which we were gliding past. The
chief of the two rowers said it was a burial-place.
Full of the
interest and wonder which a cemetery lying out there, in the lonely sea,
inspired, I turned to gaze upon it as it should recede in our path, when it was
quickly shut out from my view. Before I knew by what, or how, I found that we
were gliding up a street – a phantom street; the houses rising on both sides,
from the water, and the black boat gliding on beneath their windows. Lights
were shining from some of these casements, plumbing the depth of the black
stream with their reflected rays; but all was profoundly silent. So we advanced
into this ghostly city…
from Italy – Charles Dickens
20 my Rosemary and I will be in Venice. On the next day we will go to an
opening at the San Marco The Room – Contemporary Art Space where amidst the
videos, paintings, sculptures and photographs I will have ten of mine on the
wall for a show called Body Language.
I have a
most pleasing but disconcerting problem brought up by Henry James in his book
which I have had since 1988. I found it a bit hard to read. Writer WilliamGibson gave me this advice, “To read James you must read him out loud.” The
problem is I have read 27 of Donna Leon’s novels set in Venice. I feel I know Commissario
Guido Brunetti rather well and his Venice is in my memory. When I read the next
in a series, the places mentioned seem like places I have been to in the
there is one of the loveliest,saddest,
most melancholy novels about Venice ever written, The Dead Lagoon by Michael Dibdin.
And that is
not all. Gore Vidal who was of Venetian extraction wrote a lovely book Vidal in Venice (which I have and treasure).
What am I
to do if the 2019 Venice will be one that will seem alien and not familiar?
I do know
that I will not steal (it is worth around $350) the Vancouver Public Library’s
Pictures FromItaly by Charles Dickens. My companion in Venice will be Henry
the latest or most advanced stage in the development of something.
"researchers at the cutting edge of molecular biology"
a dynamic or invigorating quality.
"the campaign began to lose its cutting edge"
incisiveness and directness of expression.
"his wit retains its cutting edge"
Last night my graphic designer friend Graham Walker and I
attended a Standing Wave concert at Christ Church Cathedral that was part of
this year's VSO New Music Festival.
I know I photographed Standing Wave before 2002 (the only
pictures in my files). I was struck as I listened to music that I had never
heard before that there was here an obvious dialectic of two words at odds. And
yet I can state that it is not the case. I can remember memorable occasions of
having heard each member (in separate concerts in other solos and orchestras)
of Standing Wave:
Perhaps the most memorable of all was a performance of
Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time with Peggy Lee playing her
I may have to diverge a bit here in an attempt to explain
the magic and exhilaration of listening to a work of music for the first time
that statistically I will probably never ever listen to again. The same happens
in Vancouver with modern dance. You see a performance and as soon as it is over
all that remains is a flicker of memory embedded in my brain that in years
passing fades like some of my badly fixed photographs. I believe this is a
thrill that may explain why I never ever want to listen to another recording of
Bach’s Double Violin Concerto. Bachian Proportions
Perhaps as a musical amateur I may no longer appreciate the
brilliance or nuances of that double violin concerto. But this musical amateur
does find the surprise of the unexpected (any concert of Standing Wave or new
music) a reward. I listen to less recorded music at home (it is in my memory
banks with around 11 versions of Gerry Mulligan playing My Funny Valentine).
And last night’s Standing Wave concert was a surprise (a
smooth predictable one!) of listening to 6 works by living composers (two were
present, Jocelyn Morlock and Marcus Goddard). They had a little of dissonance,
a little of lyrical smoothness and jarring noises (particularly the most
interesting ones by Rebecca Whitling who switched to a viola in Steven Macky’s Indigenous Insruments. The 6
pieces were not long so time passed quickly and when the concert ended I was
satisfied and felt no signs of overindulgence in my stomach.
Jocelyn Morlock’s Stone’s Throw was a piece that I wish I
could hear again. I wonder when I watch the 6 Standing Wave musicians use their
instruments in some unusual way if Morlock has an intimate knowledge on how
instruments work and what the are capable of. When I listen to Morlock’s music I have in my
mind a photograph of Shostakovich with his glasses which alienated me from
listening to his music until a friend plunked on my turntable the Shostakovich
Fifth Symphony and told me, “Now listen to a piano played like the percussion
instrument it is.” Listening to her music after listening to her laugh off her
obvious talent, rewards you with the idea that here is a new music composer who
happily does not need glasses and will not scare your guests at a dinner party
if you happen to play her Juno Award music.
As for that Shostakovich piano there was a good measure
of it by Allen Stiles in Steven Mackey’s Indigenous Instruments and some fine
cello plucking by Lee.
Watching Standing Wave always brings the pleasure of
surprise as to what strange instruments will come into the mix. Christie Reside
in one number played a flute the size of a Parker Pen while Anne Katherine
Coope played on a slide whistle. And Rebecca Whitling's (battered looking viola) was a surprise, too. At one point Vern Griffiths, sitting (uncharacteristically at a drum kit waved what looked like a Technicolor beaver tail that made a whistling sound.
Perhaps the sounds that invited more of the audience to
ask Vern Griffiths to demonstrate, were whale-like sounds (although in the upper
register they nicely imitated the below human hearing low sounds of Blue
Wavesin Jared Miller’s Leviathan.) in
which he used what looked like a cello bow on tiny cymbals placed on the side
of his tympani.
American composer Marcus Goddard’s Pool of Lost Grooves
(a World Premier it was) had everything. It was edgy, lyrical and obsessive.
The latter makes this work what I call “Bridge Crossing Music in a High Speed Car.”
Once many years ago I was driving my Maserati Biturbo ( a terrible car that
only a bassoonist would own) at night through the covered Seattle freeway while
listening to London Calling by the Clash. A little of the edginess was removed
by the presence of young Atlantan Michael Jarrett who relieved Griffiths in
percussion who seemed to be having a very good and easy time. My companion
Walker marvelled at how he held his mallets when he played on the vibraphone.
So Standing Wave is cutting edge music that has been
happening in our city much longer than anyone would have predicted. It seems
that they will be touring Europe soon. It is about time that Vancouver’s
cutting edge and venerable new music group show the world how good we are.