Le Petit Avant-Garde - La Modestine & a Donkey (& one more)
Saturday, December 03, 2022
|Craig Tomlinson's lovely harpsichord
For years our Vancouver has had an inferiority complex about
not being “world class”. The city is going to pump lots of money to build a “Guggenheim-type”
of gallery. They think that this will put it on the map. I believe that we are better. We are Vancouver Class and we should be proud of that.
The intimate La Modestine concert I attended yesterday at the Bruce Wright residence made it that much more evident to me.
When I first went to a performance of the Pacific Baroque
Orchestra in 1991, directed by Marc Destrubé, New York City did not have an
equivalent group that played with period instruments and baroque strings. John Eliot Gardiner, as musical director of the CBC Vancouver Radio Orchestra, introduced at the Orpheum the sound of baroque stringed instruments. I was there with my two daughters and some brown bags.
John Eliot Gardiner & a Little Lunch Music
Few Vancouverites know that we have the
Turning Point Ensemble headed by Owen Underhill. Many of the musicians of the group, tthat performs in the basement (cell phones do not work there!) of Simon Fraser University's downtown campus, are
professionals in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. They understand that
there are composers of the 20th and 21st that we seldom
hear or know about. In one of their past concerts they played Duke Ellington’s
symphonic compositions and it was in another concert where I first heard
Stravinski’s Tango played by the formidable Jane Hayes who understands that a
piano is a percussive instrument.
Turning Point Ensemble
I have written about what I call the Petit Avant-Garde
Petit Avant-Garde 1
Petit Avant-Garde 2
At last night’s concert by the trio La Modestine in the home
of Bruce Wright, who had just returned from Victoria, where he was awarded the
Order of BC for his promotion of the arts, we were surrounded by arts books,
architecture books and works of art on every wall.
The concert itself featured baroque composers I had never
heard of with the exception of Dietrich Buxtehude. Had I not had four snow tires
on my Chevrolet Cruze I would have happily walked from my home in Kitsilano to
the concert near Granville and Broadway.
Both Marc Destrubé and Natalie Mackie explained why these
composers were unknown. It seems that some had not worked in the royal courts, or had
bad press agents and their compositions had been consumed by fire.
My Spanish grandmother would have said of those composers,, "En su casa los conocen," that translates to, "Their families know who they are."
The Italian harpsichordist Marco Vitale played a composition
by Buxtehude that was in a style called Stylus Fantasticus. Somehow the
acoustics of the room rendered his harpsichord (beautifully built by our local
treasure of a man, Craig Tomlinson) in a lively sound. I noticed, in
particular, that the lower register of Destrube’s violin almost resembled the
bass notes of a lute. I must add here that Vitale and I compared notes (not musical ones) on Andrea Camilleri's Inspetore Montalbano.
I cannot leave this without explaining that Modestine was a
fine donkey that was ridden by Robert Louis Stevenson in his Travels with a
Donkey in the Cévennes (1879). It seems that Modestine was a stubborn and
manipulative donkey Stevenson was never able to master.
There was another famous donkey, the one Sancho Panza rode
in Don Quixote de la Mancha. This donkey
was more noble. After being asked by many of my friends to identify the donkey’s
name I had to re-read Don Quixote (in my native Spanish) to find
out that the donkey had no name and was simply described as “el rucio” or the
I can state here that Marc Destrubé, like the donkey Modestine, will
be stubbornly going with his Modestine players in directions that will always surprise
us in fantastic performances.
Baroque concerts featuring composers I have never heard of represent for me the idea that it is new music - very old avant-garde, perhaps?
What is new Music?
It was at a performance of Messiaen's The Quartet For the End of Time,
in 2008 with Marc Destrubé that I first heard this magical work and I
can happily report that I have gone to three more performances in the
last few years. This is a work that in many ways addresses all the turmoil of of present times.
Quartet For the End of Time
Quartet For the End of Time II
Joan Didion's Vortex & Me
Wednesday, November 30, 2022
isolation and fading friendships I have written here:
As the days
get darker earlier I find myself lying on the bed with my two cats and in spite
of their wonderful and affectionate company I am left wanting.
I have a
nephew, Georgito O’Reilly in Buenos Aires I can WhatsApp anytime and I will
find a man who smiles at me. I have known him since 1950.
Vancouver it has become a task to call anyone. Most don’t answer and the
protocol seems to warn them through texting that that you want to converse. And there is a new feature of Amazon scams. I get three to four a day. They have a 604 Vancouver number. I decided to call back. The person who answered was my friend Charles Campbell. Can Telus deal with his situation?
I miss Argentine
artist Juan Manuel Sánchez when he was living in Vancouver. I could call him
after midnight and he would even invite me to sip a mate with him. Now you have to phone people in the middle of the day for any possible success. Forget anytime 9pm.
All that is
I have two daughters and two granddaughters. The latter “no me dan bola”
which is an Argentine expression that means I am out of their equation. The
former I now think I can no longer convey my sense of existential angst and my
feeling that while I am not yet suicidal my will to live is a tad diminished. I will no longer tell them how I feel.
found someone with whom I can converse. It is one-sided, as Joan Didion is dead.
I object to the popular term “she passed”. That implies from here to there and
you must believe that there is a there there. My Rosemary and I both believed
in a total oblivion.
The Year of Magical Thinking was written (she began the book, a kind of diary)
two days after her husband John Gregory Dunne died.
this book (2004), in which Didion writes everything that has been in my head since
December 9 2020 and still there, is like sitting with someone at a coffee shop who
is making sense as she talks to me. I can understand all her points. One of
them is about a visit to LA where she avoided going to places where she had
gone with her husband. She circumvented their old home. But when some place
would pop up she writes about what she calls a vortex that consumes her. It is
grief and melancholy. I am hit by a vortex.
writes about “Others describe not a visible apparition but just a “very strong
presence” She adds, “Yet on each occasion these pleas for his presence serve only to reinforce
my awareness of the final silence that separated us. Any answer he gave would exist
only in my imagination, my edit. We imagined we knew everything the other
thought, even when we did not necessarily want to know it, but in fact, I have
come to see, we knew not the smallest fraction there was to know.”
My copy of
her book (purchased from Don Stewart at MacLeod Books) has 30 plastic “stickums”
but I have not finished the book yet.
get to bed these dark nights the book by my side is a welcome sight even though
reading it takes me to Didion’s vortex.
Sean eternos los laureles
Tuesday, November 29, 2022
|28 November 2022
C showed up this last Monday in the afternoon
for a session in my small studio. I had seen some photographs of Kate Blanchet
in the NYTimes Sunday Magazine. For some years I have been taking slow exposure
photographs of dancers but I had never thought of using the technique for
portraits. For the pictures below I used a slow shutter (Fuji X-E3 and my fave iPhone3G) and jiggled
or panned the camera right to left, left
to right and up to down.
by virtue of being on a bed with two pleasant cats, but sifting in my mind
through the latest chapter of Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking, I had
a strange thought related to lyrics of the Argentine National Anthem.
eternos los laureles
de gloria vivamos
juremos con gloria morir.
to be eternal
knew how to obtain
in glory we shall live
shall swear to die with glory.
connection to the above is my disdain for that overused term for photographers and writers,
award-winning (which awards?). I received many in my photographic past but like
a 19th century American gunfighter you are only as good as your last. And
so the implied lyrics of that anthem “and not resting in one’s glories” resolved
for me that this morning I would write this and post some of C’s photographs
that would not offend the community standards of social media.
And I will not use this now other overused word "stunning" to describe my latest efforts.