Day 31: Something Wicked

HaydnCD31There’s nothing wicked about this morning’s Haydn selection. It’s somewhat bland. But it’s hardly evil.

No. My title refers to a book, one of my very favorite books. Every year, around this time, I read Ray Bradbury’s superlative Something Wicked This Way Comes.

If you’ve never read it, I encourage you to do so. It’s truly scary. And written with such precision and verve that each word crackles with life. Some of Bradbury’s sentences are so well written that I often re-read them, in awe, savoring every syllable, before moving on to the next one.

Screen Shot 2013-10-31 at 9.13.23 AMOh? You don’t believe me? Try this, the opening paragraphs, on for size:

THE SELLER of lightning rods arrived just ahead of the storm. He came along the street of Green Town, Illinois, in the late cloudy October day, sneaking glances over his shoulder. Somewhere not so far back, vast lightnings stomped the earth. Somewhere, a storm like a great beast with terrible teeth could not be denied.

So the salesman jangled and clanged his huge leather kit in which oversized puzzles of ironmongery lay unseen but which his tongue conjured from door to door until he came at last to a lawn which was cut all wrong.

Bradbury, Ray (2013-04-23). Something Wicked This Way Comes (Greentown) (Kindle Locations 101-105). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

Not good enough? Hmm. Tough crowd. Okay. How about Continue reading

Day 30: Overheard Conversations

HaydnCD30This morning at Panera, as I refilled my mug of Light Roast coffee, I overhead a group of old guys chatting in a little nook area near the front of the restaurant. One man, who looked to be in his mid to late 60s, had his laptop open and he was talking to guys who looked to be 10+ years older than that.

“Are you referring to Internet Explorer?” the man with the laptop asked. “Because I have Google Chrome and Firefox, too.”

I glanced over and looked at the gaggle of retirees and thought, “Really? Twenty years ago, guys of this age would be jawing about being retired – not about web browsers.”

Life is funny, innit?

Symphony No. 96 in D , “The Miracle Symphony,” was composed in 1791 and is part of the London Symphonies. It is called “The Miracle Symphony” because, according to its entry on Wikipedia,

It is so called due to the story that, during its premiere, a chandelier fell from the ceiling of the concert hall in which it was performed. The audience managed to dodge the chandelier successfully as they had all crowded to the front for the post-performance applause, and the symphony got its nickname. More careful and recent research suggests that this event did indeed take place but during the premiere of his Symphony No. 102.

Haydn was 59, when this symphony was composed and first performed.

Symphony No. 97 in C was composed and first performed in Continue reading

Day 29: Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

HaydnCD29This is the time of year that I dread: late October. It’s when my wife takes down all of the flowers that have graced our balcony since late May, early June.

There’s a quote from Sherlock Holmes, from the story titled “The Naval Treaty,” in which he waxes poetic about flowers.

“What a lovely thing a rose is!”
“There is nothing in which deduction is so necessary as religion,” said he, leaning with his back against the shutters. “It can be built up as an exact science by the reasoner. Our highest assurance of the goodness of Providence seems to me to rest in the flowers. All other things, our powers, our desires, our food, are all really necessary for our existence in the first instance. But this rose is an extra. Its smell and its color are an embellishment of life, not a condition of it. It is only goodness which gives extras, and so I say again that we have much to hope from the flowers.”

Even Sherlock Holmes, as cold and detached as he appears to be in print and film, was swayed, albeit momentarily, by the beauty of flowers.

How could I be any less moved by them?

Balcony1What makes this time of year interesting is that change is no longer a theory. It’s a fact, a palpable one at that. Trees turn color, temperatures drop, the wind kicks up. It’s a great time of year to be inside. Yet, not even there can one escape the chill that seeps inside. Winter is coming.

So, listening to Haydn’s music seems the perfect way to pass this season. Haydn will take me nearly up to Spring, 2014. The films of Woody Allen will carry me over the finish line into my second favorite season (after Fall).

For now, I get to enjoy Haydn, starting with Symphony No. 93.

Symphony No. 93 in D is the first of 12 symphonies dubbed Continue reading

Day 28: No Boiled Car Tires

HaydnCD28What happens when Panera just doesn’t cut it any more, when the thought of another Light Roast coffee or Asiago bagel curls one’s teeth?

D&W to the rescue.

I’m not sure what D&W stands for. I’m sure it’s probably the names of its founders, like Dick and Wally or something. But it’s a grocery story chain in West Michigan that’s been around forever.

This morning, D&W’s bright, airy (and chilly!) cafeteria plays host to a few guys with laptops (including me) who are using it as an office.

DWOctober28I see that a lot these days, people using Wi-Fi hotspots as remote offices. Nothing wrong with that. I do it all the time. It’s just interesting to see people with suits and ties (like the chap sitting directly in front of me in the next booth over) working on spreadsheets in a restaurant.

Ten years ago, a guy like that would have been at home, or at the office, but not in between in the professional equivalent of Purgatory.

In case you can’t see the sign, D&W sells Starbucks coffee, as most places do these days.

I don’t know why. Starbucks tastes like boiled car tires to me.

Granted, I used to like Starbucks. But, lately, that Continue reading

Day 27: Solitude

HaydnCD27Okay. I’ll admit it. One of the reasons why I like initiating these projects is because I love the solitude of being up, out, and about before anyone else is.

In other words, I’m a morning person.

Which would be great if my wife wasn’t a night person. (Actually, she’s neither. She’d rather sleep at both ends of the day.)

So, my semi-nocturnal projects are perfect in that they get me out in my pre-dawn element, while allowing my wife to continue snoozing to her heart’s content.

Today’s symphonies were marvelous. Not up to Paris Symphonies levels. Those six were exquisite. But mighty fine works of art in their own right.

Symphony No. 88 in G was composed in Continue reading

Day 26: The Queen and Me

HaydnCD26Symphony No. 85 in B Flat “La Reine” (The Queen) is familiar to me, especially Movement III (“Menuetto & Trio: Allegretto”). I hear it now and then on the local Classical radio station.

This is a very, very good symphony.

It sounds so much like a symphony from that era that it very well could be the quintessential symphony, Plato’s Symphony — the idealized prototype for all symphonies.

The fourth of the six-part Paris Symphonies, No. 85 was composed in 1785 or 1786. Like the preceding three — and subsequent two — No. 85 sounds rich and full, with a depth and complexity that could only have come from a mature Haydn, one in command of his talents, confident and assured in his gift for composition. He was 53 or 54.

This is another Haydn symphony that I dub “favorite.”

521px-Marie-Antoinette;_koningin_der_FransenWhy is it called The Queen? According to its entry on Wikipedia:

The nickname “La Reine” originated because the work was a favorite of Marie Antoinette, at the time Queen of France. It is the only one of the Paris symphonies whose nickname is of 18th-century origin.

Symphony No. 86 in D is no slouch, though. From the get-go, Movement I (“Adagio – Allegro spiritoso”) stirs my soul and puts a smile on my face. When I think of what a symphony (at least the Continue reading

Day 25: The Bear, the Hen, and the Lord

HaydnCD25We’re into something interesting now.

The first symphony on Haydn CD 25 is Symphony No. 82 in C “L’ours” (The Bear). It is the first of six symphonies often referred to as “The Paris Symphonies.” It was composed in 1786. Haydn was 54.

Symphony No. 83 in G Minor “La Poule” (The Hen) was composed in 1785. Haydn was 53.

Symphony No. 84 in E Flat, also composed in 1786, is sometimes referred to by the subtitle In Nomine Domini (in the name of the Lord).

Because these symphonies are part of something bigger — somewhat like a story arc in a TV series — I won’t comment on each one at length. One, however, Continue reading

Day 24: In Narnia

HaydnCD24When I arrived at the Panera near my office this morning, I had to park so far from the back door that it reminded me of the scene from C.S. Lewis’ classic book The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Lucy felt a little frightened, but she felt very inquisitive and excited as well. She looked back over her shoulder and there, between the dark tree-trunks, she could still see the open doorway of the wardrobe and even catch a glimpse of the empty room from which she had set out. (She had, of course, left the door open, for she knew that it is a very silly thing to shut oneself into a wardrobe.) It seemed to be still daylight there. “I can always get back if anything goes wrong,” thought Lucy.

NarniaDoor2Lewis, C. S. (2008-10-29). The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe: The Chronicles of Narnia (Kindle Locations 95-98). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

All I could see was the dot of the door, beckoning to me.

It’s a good thing it wasn’t the dead of winter,  otherwise the scene from Narnia would have been complete.

Only without Mr. Tumnus to guide me through the woods.

Symphony No. 79 in F, composed in 1784, is the first of another trio of symphonies that includes Symphony No. 80 in D Minor and Symphony No. 81 in G. Haydn was 52.

The first of the trio opens with a bold Continue reading

Day 23: Ennui

HaydnCD23It was bound to happen sooner or later.

I just feel blah today.

Out of sorts.

Maybe it’s the weather. It’s getting colder here, feeling more like late November than late October.

Our trees are almost at peak for color and, in fact, are already starting to lose their leaves. That, plus a temperature only in the upper 30s tells me winter is on its way.

RiversideParkIf that’s not enough to bring on a case of ennui, I don’t know what is.

Symphony No. 76 in E Flat, composed in 1782. Haydn was 50. According to its entry on Wiki:

In 1782, almost a decade before Haydn composed the first of his famous London symphonies, he composed a trio of symphonies – 76, 77, 78 – for a trip to London which fell through. Haydn wrote the following to his Paris music publisher Boyer on 15 July 1783:

Last year I composed 3 beautiful, magnificent and by no means over-lengthy Symphonies, scored for 2 violins, viola, basso, 2 horns, 2 oboes, 1 flute and 1 bassoon – but they are all very easy, and without too much concertante – for the English gentlemen, and I intended to bring them over myself and produce them there: but a certain circumstance hindered that plan, and so I am willing to hand over these 3 Symphonies.

Symphony No. 77 in B Flat was also composed in 1782.

Symphony No. 78 in C Minor was also composed in 1782.

All three of these symphonies — which I listened to for over two hours — sound about the same to me. None stood out. None was spectacular.

And none was able to drag me from my ennui.

Day 22: Wabi-Sabi

HaydnCD22I dropped the Haydn box on the floor this morning.

It fell from the narrow ledge on which I’d perched it as I rifled through to select the next 5-6 CDs to rip into iTunes.

The CDs and CD sleeves are fine. But the box itself now has two tears in it — one structural (to the lower left corner) that renders it far less stable as a container, and another cosmetic (on the top left) that affects its appearance.

At first, I was really depressed. After all, this was not an inexpensive purchase. If I recall correctly, it was around $150 on Amazon.

Now, I bemoaned, its value has been reduced to just the music.

When the ridiculousness of that thought set in, I laughed.

“Just the music.”

Like Haydn’s music is secondary to the box in which it came.

Facepalm.

What about Wabi-sabi? I asked myself — albeit an hour or two later, as I sat down to listen to today’s CD.

According to its entry on Wikipedia, Wabi-sabi,

represents a comprehensive Japanese world view or aesthetic centered on the acceptance of transience and imperfection. The aesthetic is sometimes described as one of beauty that is “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”. It is a concept derived from the Buddhist teaching of the three marks of existence, specifically impermanence, the other two being suffering and emptiness or absence of self-nature.

After all, wasn’t this morning’s butter-fingered escapade a reminder of impermanence? And the beauty therein, I might add. I mean, seriously, a Continue reading