The Unanswered Question Never Asked
Friday, November 15, 2019
|Lauren, Brother Edwin & Rebeca|
The Unanswered Question is a musical work by American
composer Charles Ives. Originally paired with Central Park in the Dark as Two
Contemplations in 1908, The Unanswered Question was revived by Ives in
1930–1935. As with many of Ives' works, it was largely unknown until much later
in his life, and was not performed until 1946.
Against a background of slow, quiet strings representing
"The Silence of the Druids",
a solo trumpet poses "The Perennial
Question of Existence", to which a woodwind quartet of "Fighting Answerers" tries vainly to
provide an answer, growing more frustrated and dissonant until they give up.
The three groups of instruments perform in independent tempos and are placed
separately on the stage—the strings offstage.
I experienced this most interesting work at the Palacio de
Bellas Artes in Mexico City around 1973. While I was and still am an amateur in
relation to anything musical I did notice that this work had two conductors.
One of them directed the strings while the other the woodwinds. The trumpet
player was on his own.
Musing about the Unanswered Question has led me to today’s
My whole life has been one of mystery, of not knowing the
answers to doubts or facts about my existence. In most cases I might have
received the important information that now eludes me. What is my excuse? I was
too stupid to ask or be curious when the people around me were still alive to
I never asked my mother how she met my father. I never asked
how it was that if my father was divorced (not recognized in Argentina at that
time) was she able to marry in Montevideo (not even sure of that) and why when
we traveled my passport listed my surname as Waterhouse-Hayward and hers her
paternal name de Irureta Goyena.
I never dared to ask my father as to why when offered the
job to be editor of the Buenos Aires Herald he threw an inkwell at the
My mother, grandmother and I left Buenos Aires in 1954
abandoning my alcoholic father. My mother made no effort to communicate our
leaving nor was there any contact afterwards.
In 1964 I returned to Buenos
Aires to do my military service (telling my mother I felt patriotic) while my
real intention was to find my father. I did and spent many weekends chatting
with him. I remember nothing and I never asked him what it felt when he found out
we were gone and never heard from us again.
Shortly before my mother died in 1972 she told me that she
had lost her Roman Catholic faith in relation to no longer believing that God
would intercede when she prayed. She now believed in an aloof God. I was quiet.
The rest of my life was full of such incidents in which I
was not curious enough to ask. The last person who might have answered some of
them, my first cousin and godmother Inesita O’Reilly Kuker (she died in 2017)
faked (in my opinion) no knowledge to my persistent questions about my father.
But there is one question that I knew I could never ask. And
I had ample opportunity to ask it.
My dear mentor, saxophone teacher, theology teacher who
clued me to the wonders of photography, Brother Edwin Reggio, C.S.C
. died in
April 2013. This gentle and kind man was always in my life and I would visit
him in Austin, at St. Edward''s University whenever I could. Incredibly both my wife and two granddaughters
were able to meet him a few times.
My granddaughter Rebecca when she was 11, was allowed (in
fact she was the first woman) to have stayed in a room at the all-men brother’s
residence, St. Joseph Hall. I was in another. I have fond memories of breakfast
and of Rebecca sitting at a separate table surrounded by brothers with whom she
chatted. I had visions of Christ as a young boy surrounded by scholars at the
I never dared (nor wanted to) ask Brother Edwin, “Did you
ever have any doubts about your beliefs?” There are some questions that should
never be asked.
That one is for sure.
Pianos & not so pianissimo
Thursday, November 14, 2019
|Filomena de Irureta Goyena |
Because I have written 4885 blogs to date I have no memory
of many of them. This one
on pianos (and see below) suddenly appeared in my memory during a
midnight bout of my usual insomnia. Thinking about it I do know I have written
blogs about ties, beds
. Looking at this one on pianos I rather enjoyed
Just today I located a review of a March 1966 concert by Thelonius Monk
in Geneva by Argentine writer Julio Cortázar. Alas as nice as it is only those who can read Spanish will savour it as I did!
|Corey Hamm - September 4 - 2017 - Roy Barnett Hall UBC School of Music|
The piano as a musical instrument has been in my mind as of
late. Thinking about it I realized I have quite a few photographs of people by
pianos either pianists or simply sitting by one.
My first introduction to the piano came at age 8 when my
parents took me to the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires for a concert featuring
My mother did not own a piano but my grandmother did. We
would often go in Tram 35 to my Abuelita’s flat and my mother would first
accompany my her (she was a coloratura soprano) and my Uncle Tony who was a
fine tenor. They would sing American musical songs. Then my mother would play
(she read very well) Chopin and in particular I have a fond memory of Beethoven’s
|Jane Coop at Cecil Green, UBC My inspiration for the Corey Hamm portrait|
My mother did not have access to a piano until she began to
teach at the ALCOA Aluminio School in Veracruz, Mexico in the late 50s. The few
students who attended the school did so at my mother’s home so a piano was
bought. When I visited her she would play at my request the US Marine Corps
In the late 60s she bought an upright piano a black
Bechstein. When she moved to live with us (Rosemary, Alexandra and Hilary) we
were having money problems so she sold the piano. I was heartbroken at her
decision. I have never forgotten her sacrifice.
|Filomena de Irureta Goyena (my mother) at the piano sometime in the late 30s in Manila|
Around 1998 our neighbour across the street on Athlone
Street (she was in her 80s) told us that she was looking for a home for her
Chickering baby grand. Her grandmother had given it to her when she was a
little girl. She offered it to us for $500. I was easily transported from her
living room to ours.
after we obtained the Chickering I decided to give a summer party
featuring alto saxophonist Gavin Walker and pianist Eric Vaughn. It was a
beautifully warm summer evening and I remember sitting at the front
entrance smoking a Montecristo accompanied by Malcolm Parry.
My eldest daughter Ale who plays the classical guitar can
handle a piano nicely and she likes to play with my youngest granddaughter,
Lauren, 15, music for four hands.
Because of my mother’s sacrifice in selling her piano and my
deep guilt, a year and a half ago we had the piano restored by Mike Storey and
soon it will be tuned. The piano sits in what we call the piano room. We have
old lawyer’s stacking bookcases and my vermillion upholstered psychiatric couch
(the piano bench is also upholstered in the same material which also matches
the brand new red piano felts.
|Olena with Curtis Daily's baroque bass in our piano room|
Some reading this (and this is long) might notice some
photographs that have harpsichords.
For many years I was not impressed by the instrument. In
large baroque orchestras I could never hear it. Solo harpsichord playing left me cold.
All that changed when Alexander Weimann landed in Vancouver
to be the Artistic Director of the Pacific Baroque Orchestra. He explained how
in many instances nothing he played as a continuo performer for a baroque
orchestra was written and he had to improvise. With the connection between the
harpsichord and my love for jazz my ears suddenly opened to the charms of the
Finally on taking photographs of pianists. This is really a
cliché. I discovered that all has been done before and the one exception was
the Stravinsky portrait by Arnold Newman. I ripped off the idea for a Globe&Mail
article on Vancouver artist Rodney Graham.
|Igor Stravinsky - Arnold Newman|
Some years ago I was asked by Vancouver Pianist Jane Coop
to take her portraits. I found a way which I liked (and so did she). It was
that method that I used a few days ago on Corey Hamm
. Another time I had to
photograph noted local pianist Robert Silverman who had recorded Beethoven’s 32
Piano Sonatas. I decided to skip the piano on that occasion.
Revisiting Kate Davitt & George Hurrell
Tuesday, November 12, 2019
Quite a few people were impressed by this recent re-blog and this one. I will attempt to explain the reason, which may have to do something that this sort of photography is not seen much anymore.
designer/illustrator, artist Ian Bateson whom I have known since 1977 has been
a sort of sounding board for what I do. More often than not when I would show
him a photograph that I had taken recently and was proud of he would say, “It’s
been done before.” This irked me for many years until one day like Paul on the
way to Damascus I saw the light but unlike the saint I was not temporarily made
blind, I told (I think I shouted it out) Bateson, “But I haven’t done it yet!”
takes that all back and is a tad apologetic. We both understand that there is
nothing new. Every piece of art has a model/precursor of it from a distant or recent pass.
Perhaps the cave dwellers who carved those amusing little statues of fat naked
women were the only truly originals.
past century without Google or the internet, reference to art or anything human
was to be found in libraries or in bookstores. This meant that many of us (or
at least this one) amassed a huge collection of photography and art books. Two
of my most treasured are the photographs of Philippe Halsman (the most famous
Latvian photographer) and those of Hollywood-large-camera-man, George Hurrell.
The later inspired me to look for the works of other Hollywood photographers.
inspiration led me to in the mid 80s to shoot magazine portraits using the
complex lighting of those mostly Californian masters. Central to any of those
photographs were three elements. One of them was a focusing spotlight. I was able to buy a
cheap one from Angy at Beau Photo. He came up to me one day and showed me the
device and asked me if I would want it. With some modifications I was able to
fit it to my studio flash lights.
but very important element was an overhead boom light that would point
downwards. Particularly if your subject was a woman you wanted a hard shadow
underneath the nose that was close but never touched her lips.
that light resulted in no catch lights in their eyes a small (and low power)
light right next to my camera (on a tripod) and at eyelevel would produce those
catch lights that would bring life to the portrait.
photographs for Vancouver Magazine were almost my last hurrah. For the
photographs of Carla Temple it involved massive manhandling of cardboard and wood
Greek columns I borrowed from the CBC.
seem to me that in this century that kind of photography is going the way of
good daily newspapers.