Short Takes: Walking, Mid-April

Great Egret with Jogger, Central Park

Great Egret with Jogger, Central Park

I am wide/awake. The mind/is listening.”
William Carlos Williams

The photographs were taken mid-April on walks in Riverside Park and Central Park.

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Listening List

Steve Reich’s The Desert Music

On Spotify

On YouTube

The Desert Music takes its title and sets text from William Carlos Williams’ book of collected poems, The Desert Music. Reich wrote,

From this collection I chose parts of The Orchestra and Theocritus: Idyl I – A version from the Greek. From another collection I chose a small part of Asphodel, That Greeny Flower. There are no complete poems used and the arrangement of parts is my own.

The text Reich set, along with the quotation above, may be found here.

David Nice wrote:

The Desert Music certainly isn’t for trance states; as Reich says in an interview on the original LP, ‘I actually prefer the music to be heard by somebody who’s totally wide awake, hearing more than he or she usually does, rather than by someone who’s just spaced out and receiving a lot of ephemeral impressions.’ As the poetry of William Carlos Williams, a real revelation to me, has it as set in the fourth movement, ‘I am wide/awake. The mind/is listening.’

Listen to Stephen Johnson’s excellent Discovering Music episode on The Desert Music here. To hear Sibelius’s Sixth Symphony and Roy Harris’s Third Symphony, each of which Johnson mentions, click here.

Turtles 2 IMG_0173_edited-2


Credits: Quotations may be found at the links indicated in the text. As always on the blog unless otherwise indicated, all photographs are mine.



Adventures in New Music: The New Juilliard Ensemble at Alice Tully Hall

Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, photograph by Robert Mintzes

Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, photograph by Robert Mintzes

Composer Dylan Mattingly once said, “Part of the excitement to me of hearing something completely new is that you have no idea what it’s going to be. Nothing has proved it not the best thing in the world.” Mattingly’s statement has become my mantra when hearing brand new works, and I’ve discovered many a “best thing” as a result. Continue reading

Seeking Shostakovich: Listening to the Tenth Symphony (Part 2 of 2)

Dmitri Shostakovich, undated

Dmitri Shostakovich, undated

In 1975, Arnold Schoenberg wrote of both Sibelius and Shostakovich, “I feel they have the breath of symphonists.” [Fanning 1]  That “symphonic breath,” as I perceive it when I listen to Shostakovich’s symphonies, is built out of the simplest of elements: small cells of notes that, together with subtle shifts in rhythm, timbre, harmony, dynamics, and controlled mastery of orchestration, create resonant contrasts in mood and, in the best of his symphonies, including the Tenth, a compelling—and thoroughly human—whole. Continue reading

Seeking Shostakovich: Thinking About The Tenth Symphony (Part 1 of 2)

Dmitri Shostakovich, undated

Dmitri Shostakovich, undated

Shostakovich usually composed at white-hot speed, and the Tenth Symphony was no exception. While he may have started mulling over ideas that became part of the Tenth Symphony some years before [Wilson 302], “the preponderance of both external and internal evidence” indicates that he started work on it in June, 1953—three months after Stalin died—and completed it in October of the same year [Fay 2673]. Continue reading