A Very Disney Soliloquey to Grief, Loss, and Confusion

May 15, 2011

Conductor Gustavo Dudamel, aka “The Dude,” delivered on his excellent conduction of Mestophelian Steven Mackey’s “Beautiful Passing.” Alas, Mackay did not. As the story goes, Mackey’s mother was dying; he wanted to create a musical homage to express her beautiful passing. I’m not sure where he was at the time of his mother’s passing or the lead up to same, but he couldn’t have been in the same room. Not to seem rude, but Mackay’s music was so dissonant it was hard to hear. The ears wanted to shut down almost immediately. Were it not for the extraordinary prowesss, beauty, and virtuoso athleticism of violinist Leila Josefowicz, the audience might have all committed suicide then and there. Initially, there was hope that what began like a strangled “West Side Story,” all rough and hewn largely and loudly, would provide even momentary comfort. Only Josepowicz’s ardent violinguisitcs sustained us. This is not to say that Mackey’s composition was all bluster, there were petite hints of life, spirituality, and humankind sprinkled throughout. Alas, poor Mrs. Mackey’s death must have been long, drawn out, and excruciatingly painful.
That not-with-standing, Ms. Josefowicz performs with animation and clear intent. She hearts her material. One wonders if she really wanted to play Mackey’s erratic, ecclectic and burdensom dirge or would rather have played something lovely and life-affirming? Something that might leave audiences wanting more? Buying her versions of musical rendition?
Post intermission, the LA Master Chorale entered with great cememony. Theirs was a well-sung Ode to Brahms — “Requium,” Ein deutsche Requiem, Op. 45.
Not an up evening, no; but in its defense, it was like a slab of intenseness fell all around one. The Euro-Bavarian spiritual, obligatory solemnity, and emotion exposes the grieving soul of human kind. Ultimately, one is forced to listen for the nuances that give us and is life. One is forced to listen to the fluttering of notes, suffering passion, a frayed heart. One hears the spiritual combat within Brahams, his artists, and oneself.
These sounds are large like thunder. They climb. A wretching Agonistes sits first chair. Yet from despair comes Matthias Goerne, the voice of hope. With deep baritone and wonderfully empty hands, he personifies Humankind entirely within itself — grappeling with the impossible. The Chorale spars with Goerne’s extraordinary soul exposed descrying the human condition. Even he, however, bows slightly under the weight of the evening’s song. For heavy is the load we carry to our graves. “Blessed are the dead” the lyric says. I might add, “For they no longer have anything to fear.” They have met God and found him nothing more than euphamism for nothing.
Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the evening?
Kudo’s to the Dude’s wonderfully long baton down at finis, Leila Josefowicz’s stilleto pumps, cheekbones, and enjoyment of her instrument, Schafter’s marvelous voice, Goerne’s exhaltingly bassoon-like exuberance, and the Chorale’s ability to perform to expectation.


To Those of Us Who have Lost Our Mothers This Year…and Before

May 8, 2011

Some of us are stoic; some of us worn down;
Some don’t have the time to dwell, others too much to not.
Some were always too busy to do much more than they were doing;
Some felt they never did enough;
In truth did far more than anyone else in their mother’s life.

Some of us have sisters and brothers who shared our pain;
Some are only children with, hopefully, someone to share our strain.
All of us have had to go through our mother’s things after the fact,
decide what was important to them and is to us.
Where it should go. To whom. Why.
Things no one teaches us in history books.
Things they should have taught us about our herstory.
Things they should have put in books
Things perhaps we should put in books.
All of us learned things about our mothers that changed us.
All of us have learned our mothers were and will always be
THE most important women in our lives.

If your mother is still on earth, tell her how much you love her.
One day she will be gone to a place you can’t hug her except in your mind,
with your heart, your soul. It is not as satisfying.
If your mother has gone to explore the deep particulate physics of our universe,
Reach in to her with your soul on Mother’s Day. Thank her.
For everything you are and ever will be.

Women Get What They Refuse to Demand: Rights.

April 25, 2011

Recently MSNBC ran an interesting article (URL below). We have a good friend (heterosexual male) who refuses to have his male dog fixed. His wife says he takes it too personally. So his dog goes to the dog parks or dog beaches and gets into testosterone-laden fights — trying to hump everything in sight. Suffice to say there are way too many humping/breeding dogs out there.

No wonder mostly “old” white male politicians guarantee that insurers “pay” for only what advantages them. Insurance companies pay either 100% (medically prescribed) or charge only a co-pay for Erectile Dysfunction. Yet, those same Patriarchical Right wingers don’t want to pay for contraceptives, abortion, planned pregnancies, or ED abrasions, yeast infections, etc — and are trying their best to overturn Roe V Wade and gut Planned Parenthood.

One might say that women will get what they refuse to demand. Rights.

I’m having a menopausal day. Oh, that’s not covered either until after the $5,000.deductible. If at all. Black cohash is over-the-counter, cash-up-front. If you don’t demand equal power and demand the right to maintain it, you lose it.

Annie Lenox Redux

December 27, 2010

Annie Lenox Redux
I don’t usually give pop music persons mega-kudos. At least in public. Or find inspiration in a musical homage to religious celebrations of any ilk. However occasionally I do go out of my way to give credit where supreme mega- kudos are due. Besides, we all grew up on many of the same songs now drummed into us with and over the years.

So you must see Annie Lenox perform her holiday album. Thank God (did I say that) to her performance on Ellen DeGeneres’ “Holidays from Washington,” “Good Morning America,” and the other obligatory rounds made.

This is promotion worth taking in. And actually it is more of a riveting feast of celebration. In contrast to her signature head of hair, she wears black well. It is not a sorrowful color. On her, it triangulates form and shadow, highlights her daring, emphasizes her soul, empathizes with the South African Boys Chorus who accompany her, and embodies that which she is now about.

She looks great, powerful, as if embracing the world with her arms, inviting it (and us) along for the jubilation! Such moves, daring, strength, and hope for the world. Her eyes are penetrating — as if she is looking at you through the virtual screen that theoretically separates us. Or does it?

You feel the overwhelming weight she holds in her arms. It may be invisible to many; it was visible to me. She has always been an incredible vocalist, wonderful performer, and dynamic personality.

Clearly, now, she has come into her own. Having found the old soul voice inside her that was always teasing, simmering, resident in her bones, she radiates beauty. As few have done before. She owns her space. Much more than just a stage. She makes you want to give her some of yours. She helps you realize that we are all one.

Repeat after me: “This is potentially revolutionary global village building.”

Powerful, powerful, powerful.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays!

December 22, 2010

Holiday Greeting to you’ns. Consider yourself “carded.” Not over 21; send this back. You’re too young to read it. Saving trese this year by not sending snail mail. So….
Despite all our collective “grumpies” during the years, we have peace in the world (okay, well somewhere, for brief periods of time, sometimes albeit on-again, off-again), peace in the office (perhaps, if you’re lucky enough to have a job, and you don’t have a son-of-a-bitch for an immediate supervisor), access to good coffee, fresh foods available at the local farmers market (oh, alright, Whole Foods or Ralphs), a darling dog or dogs who greet you unconditionally with their love each time you come into their space (which happens to be your home), a sweet loved one who may or may not greet you unconditionally when you come in the door (who may be geographically apart but not by heart, in their/your version of Heaven (or the other place), or merely separated by miles but not by love). You have an abundance of riches: a mother, father, step-mothers/fathers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, step-brothers, step-sisters, sons, daughters, significant others, long former lovers, high school friends, college roomies, business friends ans associates, long deceased high school teachers and every variation of whom is yours and yours alone (no matter what… make of it what you will. Hopefully YOU can turn lemons into lemonade and yellow threads into gold).

Every bit of them has contributed to who you and we are (the good, the bad, the upside-down). Individually and collectively. We have roofs over our many heads to keep us dry (or is it “rooves”), food on the table (we do not go hungry — unless we do not know how to taste the round fullness, colors, and aromas in our mouths and rolled lightly over the tongue before chewing. However a piece of dark chocolate will do too). We have reruns of Elliot and Olivia in “Law & Order SVU” to watch all year long, fond memories of Tim Russert and Elizabeth Edwards to keep us strong, recent memories of Bernadette Peters, Elaine Stritch, Vanessa Redgrave, and James Earl Jones to keep us longing for more and better theater with words and not sound effects and explosive spectacularia, and hope for an ever evolving world to come. :- ) Hopefully this will be a year of magical thinking.
Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy New Year!”
From Usn’s

Death Be Not Proud Today

December 7, 2010

To Elizabeth Edwards: “There are names of famous and not-so famous women who come to mind. Over the years, each faced death with determination, a certainty that Death will win, but not at a self-defined cost of personal dignit…y. “Death be not proud today. You did not will out.” You have taken an angel who walked among us. Whose brave… face before us fills every sinew, crease, muscle with the kind of tensile strength that says no. Not on your terms. On mine. I say when. I control my life up tot he end. Not you. I say when. I say how. Not you. So know that it is I who made the ultimate choice. Now it is I who have begun the process of unterthering my soul from my body. My body from the earth. I will become so many molecules and leptons, quarks and neutrinos, that you will no long no me by my name. However I will know you. Those I had to leave behind. To you I pass the staff. Take up the causes. There are so many. Cancer. Men who run when they hear their wives have been diagnosed with cancer. Nurturing children left behind. Death be not proud today. You have stolen one of us, the brave unstoppable, unflappable, ever-onward, ever-spinning Knowing ones, but you have lost because she leaves behind all of her self, her proton, quark stardust self. It will cover her sisters and we will make cloaks from it. We will wrap ourselves in them. We will be ever more shielded from the cowards, the runners, adulters, the ones who said they would love us, who said they had our backs, who we trusted with out bodies, hearts, souls…our lips, our pride, and dignity itself. We will move on. Like Elizabeth Glaser. Barbara Jordan. Gov. Ann Richards. Anne Frank. Sylvia Plath. Virginia Woolfe. Mary Spottiswood Pou. You do not need to know these specific names. Just know that we all exist or have, and will again. And we will be mighty. And we will be formidable. Thank you, Elizabeth Edwards for everything you have given us.
Your always fellow stardust on the road to ultimate joy and understanding. Thank you, Elizabeth, for making the hard choices so others did not have to make them for you. Thank you, Elizabeth. From all of us in “Net world” who loved you. In peace, my friend. Sleep well. Thank you.” We have a chair for you to join us.

Hindemith and Wagner at Disney Hall

November 27, 2010

The music of German composers Paul Hindemith and Richard Wagner filled Disney Hall with Helsinki-born Esa-Pekka Salonen conducting and the Welsh bass/baritone Bryn Terfel in song. You can read that in any program or Wiki. What you can’t read is that the Symphonic Metamorphosis on Themes by Carl Marta von Webe begins robustly. Heavy. Like a pot of thickened stew. Boisterous comes to mind. Bravado. Potatoes, carrots, and peas.

A portly violinist sits three rows up from Salonen, closer to my ears, moving with great concerted effort. His round belly protrudes over his his belt and makes it look like work, determination, pulling the bow just so to make Hindemith, first violin, and Salonen happy. Silence fills the air. A sauce stirred from the bottom of the pot.

Salonen brings us back with a lighter piece, but not by much. It is still German rye. Trumpets and trombones plunder the air, a cacophonous medley to soothe a burly soul. It feels as if we are all plowing still frozen fields. The notes work their way out the instruments to us. There are the clip-clops of hooves as we plunge through the storm. Cymblas clang. The triangle dings. Softly the flutes moan. Hindemith takes refuge. Perhaps in his lodge. Continued angst. Even inside he is troubled. Mellow. Restrained. He bristles with anger, rages one last time, a soliloquy to life’s strum.

Intermission. We stand and stretch like cats.

Bryn Terfel fills the stage. Beside Salonen, he is a mass of man. Weight, heft. Huge expressive hands which make passionate fists as his lips move out the words. Overhead a drop down screen translates the lyrics for us. They are full of Spring air, birds, and another man of another time who sings with gusto and tenderness.

This night’s music brings four Golden harps stage front. That’s right: four. Harp Number One greets the first evening star. They serenade the death of a fair girl who rises to become an angel. Somewhere. Assuming we still believe in angels and fair girls. Terfel resumes. He reminds us of Wagner’s native tongue with its harsh consonants. Bravo.

Then, the Ride of the Valkyries from “Die Walkure.” Most of us know it as the music from “Apocalypse Now.” What is there to say about greatness?

Except that when Terfel returns for Wotan’s Farewell and Magic Fire Music, he stands erect. Poised. That of a determined bass/baritone to mark his place on the stage this night at Disney Hall. November 25, 2010. Bravo.

Emanuel Ax Dices Chopin at Disney Hall Like a Gourmet!

April 21, 2010

Never let it be said that way down here in the hinterland of Southern California, we don’t appreciate our pianists. Last night at Disney Hall Emanuel Ax gave us all a slice of Chopin and Schumann’s souls. There are so many glorious reasons to make the mid-week drive to the city not the least of which is the ultimate aural treat.

We have seen Ax perform three times now in as many years, each time under the honied woody beams of Disney Hall. Forever on, I shall think of him as “The Ax Man.” The ultimate pianist who should play Steinway’s under a strong spotlight center stage — everywhere.

Ax makes me think: “What was the first chord?” “Who deemed what sound should mean what? How to connect it to us with some great unseen consciousness. Who first deemed how ardor should be interpreted. Would that I could have been there, the proverbial fly on the wall, in that room at that moment. When that first ivory was fingered and caressed and played.

Ax appears to be a modest and bashful man. This is his way of making love to that which he can never possess. Chopin’s sound. The resonance in his head. To play joyfully is but to slow life’s sorrows. How lucky he is and we are to reach all the way back to Schumann or Chopin through Emanuel Ax, to touch their collective souls in all their glory to their depths. Do we need to know the “original” story in order to add to that our own? Our note-able goulash, cuisine appropriate for Disney Hall. Is that what makes our heart resonate? And do the feel what Ax feels, what Chopin and Schumman felt? Does it matter? Why is this replication of an historical sound important to the lot of us in our soft deometrically patterned seats? It strikes me as important to know who rendered the first note. Is the music lovelier for what we bring to it or is Ax a solid filter and conduit to the clear old sounds of love and whimsy, illness and what we might now call mental illness? Schumman’s, of course. Unless we are all bound by invisible piano wire. Willing listeners who have come great distances to hear Chopin, Schumman, and Ax. His interpretation: life’s raw slivers deserve to be heard. A magician in piano man’s garb. Why did he summon us there with promises of sounds that would break us to our knees? Perhaps to see what he sees, the magic he conjures, the sheer beauty of the heart and all the rest we cannot see but palpably know is there.

To feel you must first look, then see inside.

To live, you must feed the soul.

From Huntington Beach, that’s me, Adrienne Parks signing off. Think outside our little boxes, outside our individual universes, let you overlap me and me you.

Yo-Yo Ma, cello; Emanuel Ax, Steinway

February 8, 2010

Wed. Jan. 27, 2010. Beauty takes many forms in Schumann’s Adagio and Allergro, Op. 70. Not the least of which is a sole note singing large under the wood at Disney Hall, LA. There is clarity in a single note. Cello. Piano. And the bow. Schumann. Lieberson: Remembering Schumann. Chopin’s Polonaise brilliante. Op. 3, and Sonata in G minor, Op. 65. How excusiste to be able to hear the mull of a single pull of the bow over Ma’s Seventeeth Century wood. Every note so distinguishable from the next even when lapped and trilled, run, and paced. As I sit and listen, I hear five instruments: the hall, cellist, pianist, the cello and piano) and one instigating source. So much energy equal to mass times movement with mass equal to infinite mass and motion equal to infinte motion. It’s all physics. As are we. Complicated notes.

Michael Jackson: “This is It”

November 1, 2009

From whatever bright star Michael Jackson is now astride, he can hold his head high. The consummate Michael film, it is also about the kind of fame that causes you to burn ever more brilliantly until there is nothing left.

It is as much about us: those who danced to Michael’s songs, sang his lyrics, watched the boy fame build, become the man he never wanted to be. We see glimmers of him in adult life. This is the first legitimate film made about who he was and is, and, should always be to us. The Peter Pan in all of us which just hides more than with Michael.

Mere words will have to suffice here. No words will ever capture the immersive experience in which you find yourself. No comparison can ever do this homage justice. It carries the dignity of “Chorus Line,” the youth of “FAME,” and the best of the “Making Of” documentaries. The film glistens with interviews of youth, hope, exuberance, pure joy and everything that must have been learned by working with Michael. The best dancers of the world were personally chosen to share Michael’s stage. The best choreographers, lighting designers, costumers, musicians. From frame one, you know this is it: Michael’s world.

Everything in this respectful ode is bigger than life. Everyone is extraordinarily respectful to the King of Pop and rightfully so. His being burns so brightly that he is the stage, audience, lighting, costumes, special effects. Immediately the audience is taken with the sense that Michael is actually the energy of a rising star somehow contained within a single human form, trapped in mere bones and skin.

As Michael says about a movement, “It’s got to sizzle.” In “I’ll Be There,” we see atoms dancing, spinning about their electrons. MJ simmers and explodes. We get a sense of the ephemeral and effervescent being pulled to infinity.

Perhaps no one really was allowed to know who this phantom was his fans came to expect in lieu of the little boy we first met. Which is why when we see him totally in control, fully, supremely in command of this “other” world from the first moment the edit cuts to Michael to the last, we know him best or at least as close as we will ever come.