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.



18 thoughts on “Short Takes: Walking, Mid-April

  1. David N

    Oh, you are still a month or two behind us this year springwise. But so many riches still to come. All bar the beeches and the London planes are in full glory now – much more like mid May than mid April. But if the turtles are poking up their heads (took me a few seconds to work out that picture) then the sun must be warm enough.

    Treasuring Reich and Adams all the more as I broke my vow never to hear another Glasswork and barely endured his ‘Plutonian Ode’ (so called symphony) in Basel. That’s IT. I give it up, as Henry James would say.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      David: I remember my first time in England in March, so far ahead of spring at home that it felt as if we time-traveled backwards on return to the States. Funny about the turtles–I almost labeled that photograph, but then thought, oh, everyone will know they’re turtles! Yes, that day they were sunning . . . the next day, it snowed! Caused a mess, but it didn’t last. Plutonian Ode? Where did he come up with THAT one?!

  2. Jane and Lance Hattatt

    Hello Susan,

    Spring does seem to have been very slow in coming to your part of the world this year. But, nonetheless, it is so inspiring to see signs of new life all around. This is such a joyful time of year and we do hope that you had a wonderful Eastertide!

    Strange that you should write of the music of Steve Reich whom we only discovered recently whilst preparing for our art tour last week. One of the artists, Tamas Jovanovics, is deeply inspired by his music, even to the point of saying that some of his works are a visual interpretation of Reich’s music. You might find it of interest to look this artist up and see if you feel that the art and the music resonate with each other. We certainly felt that this was the case.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Jane and Lance: I have looked up Jovanovics and absolutely see the relationship! Thank you for noting his work. I’m putting the link here so others can look, too: I learned not long ago that another artist inspired by Reich’s work was Larry Poons: These connections across art forms are wonderful, aren’t they? (As is the case for The Desert Music, too, using text, as it does, from William Carlos Williams.)

  3. Mark Kerstetter

    How pleasant to spend a few moments with the Desert Music and your lovely photos. Even the common street pigeons are beautiful today. Awake and listening — that is the way to be.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Mark: This may mark the one and only time I’ve photographed pigeons, too. Everything was a delight those days, even the cardboard boxes! This time around, I made a point, too, to pick up a book of WCW’s poems that contained the poems from which Reich drew his text. Looking forward to reading those. I think this may be my way in to WCW, at long last. Certainly hope so!

      1. David N

        When we come to love pigeons we know we’re getting to the ‘all is one’ stage of enlightenment. I too found myself surprised to be looking fondly at one of those flying rats the other day. So rats are next on the list, though I can’t feel that I’ll get there…

      2. Mark Kerstetter

        “Be patient that I address you in a poem, / there is no other / fit medium. / The mind / lives there.”

        Those turtles are so easy to love. But I think Williams would appreciate your pigeons. What I appreciate about him is his desire to keep his senses open and receptive to everything. His poetry will carry on about a flower just as soon as it will an unpleasant odor — and maybe within a single poem. I’m almost afraid to make a suggestion, but perhaps you could try his ‘ Paterson’, if this current collection appeals to you.

        Thanks also for putting up with my glut of poems, especially this month.

        1. Susan Scheid Post author

          Mark: Love that quote! Yes, WCW would certainly appreciate the pigeons, wouldn’t he? You know, when I started my peruse of The Desert Music, Paterson did occur to me as one to try. Now, as for your “glut of poems,” well, of course, I can’t keep up, but I’ve spotted many a keeper there, and I’ve been enjoying delicious glimpses into your creative process, like this:

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Bente: Yes, even summer dresses! First time I’ve seen them. But you know, while I thought I could not stand to look at snow ever again (I know, such a wimp!), I so loved your simply skiing scenes that I’ve come back to them again and again. I’m putting the link here, so others can look, too: Also, while in the City, I went to a concert that included a piece based on a Norwegian Table Prayer and thought of you and of your beautiful photographs of Norway.

  4. friko

    Both turtles and pigeons are discussing the strangeness of humans. Neither set of animals can fathom their motives for doing what they’re doing, but feel generous enough to allow them space in their (real) world.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Friko: And now I’m laughing at the end of the day, too! Yes, it all depends on your point of view, doesn’t it? And as we humans often can’t fathom our motives for doing what we’re doing, why should a pigeon or a turtle know or care what the devil we’re about?

  5. shoreacres

    Even the sleepy turtles seem to have awakened. How lovely they are. The same day I captured my little tree frog on his reed, there were turtles galore, most of them covered in a quite springlike duckweed.

    Your slideshow contains some lovely memories, too. I had dear friends who lived in Morningside Gardens – Broadway and 121st – but I never had the pleasure of visiting there in spring. It’s obviously quite lovely.

    And I’m glad to add William Carlos Williams to my personal awake/asleep meme, too. I may dip into that collection now, just to see what it’s about. And having detoured into a good online biography, I see that my favorite of his poems, “Landscape with the Fall of Icarus,” not only came at the end of his life, but was published as part of a collection titled Pictures From Brueghel. So much to learn, so little time!

  6. angela

    Sorry to have missed all these wonderful posts, Sue! I am catching up…very much enjoying your glimpse of NYC spring. I shall revisit this to listen to Reich, but right now I am on my third listen of Adams, merci beaucoup ~

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      angela: Delighted that you’re enjoying the John Luther Adams–it did, as I wrote over your way, put me in mind of other pieces you’ve liked as I listened.

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