Random Thoughts

Francisco Cribari's random thoughts (i.e., Francisco Cribari's brainstorm) 

You should only go through this page if you have spare time, and nothing else better to do. Read it at your risk. I doubt it contains any interesting material. It only puts together a few random thoughts, things that randomly come to my mind. 

December 25, 2001

Where should I start? Well, I like art. That seems to be a good place to start. More specifically, I like figurative paintings. Yeah, I know, I like Kandinsky, and his paintings are far from figurative. But do I have to be 100% consistent? Guess not. Kandinsky was marvelous. I feel something that I can't explain every time I stare at one of his paintings. It's like I am being invited to "dive" into the painting. Well, I said I couldn't explain, so I won't even bother trying. I also like many other well-known painters, and I would like to mention two of them (they are closely related to each other), namely: Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. When I look at Frida's paintings I can feel her pain. She paints her pain, and I find that amazing and touching.

As you may know, I am from Recife, which is located in the Northeast of Brazil. The thing I like the most about Recife is that it has a large number of excellent writers, poets, painters, musicians, etc. I collect art produced by local artists. Someone once said that the difference between men and boys is the price of their toys, so there you have it. (Kenneth Branagh also said that adults are children with money.) First and foremost, I should mention (I guess) Francisco Brennand. His paintings and sculptures are erotic, and invite us to reflect about sex and reproduction. Carlos Pena Filho, a local poet (who sadly died fairly young) wrote the following poem for Mr Brennand (in Portuguese): 

        A Solidão e Sua Porta (Carlos Pena Filho)  

Quando mais nada resistir que valha
a pena de viver e a dor de amar
E quando nada mais interessar 
(nem o torpor do sono que se espalha)

Quando pelo desuso da navalha 
A barba livremente caminhar
e até Deus em silêncio se afastar
deixando-te sozinho na batalha

Arquitetar na sombra a despedida 
Deste mundo que te foi contraditório
Lembra-te que afinal te resta a vida

Com tudo que é insolvente e provisório
e de que ainda tens uma saída
Entrar no acaso e amar o transitório.
 

(Ariano Suassuna, another local writer and poet, also wrote a poem for Brennand.) Although I am biased, I think he is the foremost sculptor in Brazil nowadays. I like his art because it is intense. The feeling I have is that I am looking directly at his mind and at his emotions when I look at some of his sculptures. Isn't that amazing? I think so.

I should also mention Gilvan Samico, another local artist. His paintings are excellent, but he is well known for his woodcuts. He does one a year, and sells 120 copies of it. They are inspired by popular stories, known as "literatura de cordel." Other talented artists from Recife are Cícero Dias, Ismael Caldas, Jeanine Toledo, João Câmara Filho, Romero de Andrade Lima, Tereza Costa Rêgo, to only list a few. If you stop by Recife and you like art, drop me a note. 

December 26, 2001

 I have just finished reading Urfaust, i.e., the very first draft of Faust that written by Goethe. He wrote it between 1773 and 1775 when he was approximately 25 years old. It is interesting to note that this version does not (explicitly) include the pact between Faust and Mephistopheles (the Devil). 

December 27, 2001

 I am reading A Vida Sexual of Catherine M. ("The Sex Life of Catherine M.") by Catherine Millet, a well-known French art critic who wrote a book about her sex life. It is quite interesting, and helps to push the envelope. But it is not for the faint at heart.

 Blue is my favorite color. A friend told me that blue is a depressing color, a color associated with sadness. It may as well be. Expressions like "I'm felling blue", "I'm blue" and "I've got the blues" come to mind. Carlos Pena Filho wrote the following poem about my favorite color:

          Desmantelo Azul (Carlos Pena Filho)

Então pintei de azul os meus sapatos 
por não poder de azul pintar as ruas
depois vesti meus gestos insensatos 
e colori as minhas mãos e as tuas

Para extinguir de nós o azul ausente
e aprisionar o azul nas coisas gratas
Enfim, nós derramamos simplesmente
azul sobre os vestidos e as gravatas

E afogados em nós nem nos lembramos
que no excesso que havia em nosso espaço
pudesse haver de azul também cansaço

E perdidos no azul nos contemplamos
e vimos que entre nós nascia um sul
vertiginosamente azul: azul.

I like blues. B.B. King, in particular. He recently recorded a CD with Eric Clapton, who started his career playing blues (not everyone is aware of that). That's heaven: B.B. and Clapton playing together. The CD is suggestively entitled "Riding with the King."

December 28, 2001

Bob Geldof (Sir Bob Geldof, actually) was on Tim Sebastian's "Hard Talk" on BBC today. I like his music, especially the CD "The Vegetarians of Love." Unfortunately, he is not well known in Brazil. I like him since when he was with  The Boomtown Rats; I particularly like the song "I Don't Like Mondays." (Who on Earth likes Mondays, anyway?)

December 30, 2001

Has Robert Johnson, the greatest bluesman ever, made a deal with the Devil? Is he the Faust of blues? This question has been on the mind of everyone who likes blues. The People & Arts cable channel aired today a documentary on the early days of blues. Of course, the issue was mentioned.

Today I read Chet Baker's autobiography ("As Though I Had Wings: The Lost Memoir"). It is not exactly an autobiography; it is more like a collection of autobiographical notes. Chet Baker is "the white Miles Davis" of jazz. It was sad to read about the problems he had with drugs throughout his life.

Speaking of music, today I also ordered "Morimur", a recently released Bach CD by The Hilliard Ensemble. It is an amazing piece ("Ciaccona"). (Yes, I have already had the opportunity to listen to the CD.)

"We badly need the soul-comfort albums like Morimur can provide in these anxious times." - Chicago Tribune

 "Welcome inside the head of J.S. Bach. The composer often embedded familiar Lutheran chorales in his music so as to create devout associations in the minds of his listeners. German musicologist Helga Thoene discovered that not only are there hidden chorales in Bach's famous Chaconne for solo violin but that these chorales form a musical epitaph to his late wife, Maria Barbara Bach. Fascinated by Thoene's discoveries, violinist Christoph Poppen took the project to ECM label chief Manfred Eicher, who brought the Hilliard singers on board. The result is an absorbing piece of speculation that lets us hear what might have been running through Bach's mind when he was composing it. ... ECM ... has produced something beautiful and thought-provoking. The performers are expert and the recording, made in a monastery in Austria, suitably resonant but clear. Bach would have been amazed to hear his "subliminal" thoughts revealed in this manner, but I doubt he would have been displeased by the result." --John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune

Here is another review:

 In 1994, explains the booklet that accompanies Morimur, Professor Helga Thoene made the surprising discovery that the monumental "Ciaccona" from Bach's Partita in D minor for solo violin was built around various chorale themes hidden in the music. From the texts of these "secret" chorales and other symbolic musical devices, she deduced that the "Ciaccona" was an epitaph for Bach's wife, Maria Barbara. The revelation might have remained an intriguing (and touching) footnote to Bach scholarship if baroque violinist Christoph Poppen hadn't had the bright idea of taking Professor Thoene's discovery off the library shelves and placing it triumphantly in the concert hall. On this disc, his performance of all five movements of the whole Partita (BWV 1004) is interspersed with the various chorales hidden inside the "Ciaccona," sung with breathtaking precision by the Hilliard Ensemble. The double whammy comes at the end when the "Ciaccona" is performed again, this time with the singers bringing out the secret melodies. Poppen's playing is excellent, both sweet-toned and vibrant, while the Hilliards have never sounded better: the combination of the two is spine-tingling. It is as if Maria Barbara's proper epitaph has finally been realized, and a moving and wonderfully stimulating recording created in the process. --Warwick Thompson (editorial review).

 I read Professor Thoene's paper a couple of months ago. It was indeed quite a discovery she made!

January 1, 2002

The person who got me interested in computers was Kenneth Brown, a classmate of mine when I was a Ph.D. student in the U.S. Ken loved computers and everything that had to do with computers. We then started doing things together. For instance, together we learned TeX (a typesetting system), S (a matrix programming language), Unix (a real man's operating system), among other things. It was with Ken that I wrote my very first Monte Carlo simulation program. We wrote it for LIMDEP (an econometric software), and a few days later rewrote it for SHAZAM (another econometric package). The econometric and statistical software we used at that time were not suited for programming, and that's how we got into S. (Of course, Roger Koenker used S for programming and data analysis, and we all wanted "to be like Roger" back then!)

That brings me to Linux, the operating system I use. (Linux is one of the favors of Unix.) It is not Windows. It is much, much better than Windows. A young Finnish student, Linus Torvalds, developed it at the University of Helsinki. He made it publicly and freely available. Linux is still free; you can even have access to its source code. Linus and a large number of volunteers develop it. I recently read Linus's autobiography, which is entitled Just for Fun: The Story of an Accidental Revolutionary. (One of my favorite Linus's quotes: "Software is like sex, it's better when it's free"; the quote is in the back cover of the book.) He opens the book with a chapter entitled "The meaning of life I". How modest is that? His theory is that everything in life (sex included) progresses in the following order: survival, social order, and entertainment. (Actually, according to him, the two most fundamental questions men always had are: 1) What is the meaning of life? and 2) What can I do with all this pocket change that accumulates at the end of the day? He then answers the first one.) The book is fun. I highly recommend it to everyone who is remotely interested in computers. I learned a number of interesting things about Linus from the book. One of them was that the person who got him interested in computers was his grandfather, who was (surprise, surprise) a statistics professor. But going back to "the meaning of life," the natural progression of things is: survive, socialize, have fun. (By the way, the last chapter in the book is entitled "The meaning of live II.") He may be just right!

There are many Linux distributions, and there is also a "distro war," where people argue over which one is the best. I run a French distribution: Mandrake. (I gave up on Red Hat a while ago.) Last week I upgraded from version 8.0 to 8.1. All went well, except that after the upgrade I was no longer able to mount zip disks. It took me two days to fix that, and now everything seems to be working well.

I truly love Linux, and free software in general. Most software (and compilers) I use are free: Linux, TeX, R, gretl, ghostscript (and variants), Ox (free for academic use), vi(m), Pine, gcc, Gimp, Mozilla, Netscape, xmms, openssh, to list only a few.

I believe I inherited the love for Unix from Roger Koenker, back in the early 90s. I was, I believe, the only first year econ graduate student at the University of Illinois who had a Unix account. All other students had VMS accounts, which is what we received by default upon arrival at U of I. I had to go to a minor computer lab in the basement of the English Building, on Wright Street, to apply for a Unix account. (Later on Roger gracefully opened an account for me in his Sun workstation, ysidro, named after Francis Ysidro Edgeworth.) It is also worth mentioning that Unix accounts at that time were internet accounts, whereas VMS accounts were on the bitnet. Nowadays all students admitted to the University of Illinois receive a Unix account.

 On page 57 of Just for Fun Linus writes: "Unix has this reputation for being a magnet for the eccentric fringe of computing. It's a reputation not worth arguing against. It's true. Frankly, there are a lot of fairly crazy people in Unix. Not postal-rage crazy. Not poison-the-neighbor's-dog crazy. Just very alternative-lifestyle people." Hummm...

What is so special about Unix is that it is a clean, simple and elegant operating system. To quote Linus once again: "one of the beauties of Unix is realizing that you don't need to have complex interfaces to build up something complex. You can build up any amount of complexity from interactions of simple things." He makes this point by comparing operating systems to spoken languages. The Windows operating system is like the Chinese language, where there is one letter for every single thing you can imagine. Unix, on the other hand, is like the English language, where you can build up everything from a few simple letters.

I used Unix for quite some time on a dumb terminal; vt100 emulation was as fancy as it got. I remember the first time I used an X terminal (with a very large monitor, by the way), and opened several windows simultaneously. It was quite a feeling.

It was also Roger who introduced me to the World Wide Web. That was in early 1994, if I am not mistaken. Not many people surfed the web back then, and the only available browser was Mosaic, which had been developed at the University of Illinois. (Mosaic later turned into what we know as Internet Explorer, developed and distributed by Microsoft.) I remember that my first stroll through the web was a jaw dropping experience. I then learned the basics of HTML and wrote my first web page, which I found to be quite exciting.

My first Linux machine was a dual boot Windows NT/Linux box. I installed Red Hat Linux on a second hard drive, and in no time I was no longer using NT. Installing Linux back then was not as simple as it is today. We had go through a few minor heart attacks before everything was up and working. That was before KDE and Gnome were available, so we had to manually edit dot files to configure the look-and-feel (windows, desktop, etc.) of the graphical interface. Linux has evolved quite bit from that time. In a way, I miss the excitement of those days...

January 12, 2002

 I like Cole Porter and Gershwin (George + Ira). Cole Porter was born in Peru, Indiana (U.S.A.) in 1891. He died in California in 1964. Throughout his life he wrote marvelous songs. A particularly touching one is "Miss Otis Regrets." I believe he composed it around 1934. Someone proposed the title of the song to Mr Porter and bet he could not write a song to fit the title. In response, he wrote a wonderful song. It goes like this:

Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today, madam.
Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today.
And she's sorry to be delayed,
but last evening down at lover's lane she strayed, madam.
Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today.

When she woke up and found
that her dream of love was gone, madam,
she ran to the man
who had lead her so far astray.
And from under her velvet gown
she drew a gun and shot her lover down, madam.
Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today.

When the mob came and got her
and dragged her from the jail, madam,
they strung her up
on the willow across the way.
And the moment before she died
she lifted up her lovely head and cried, madam.
Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch.
Miss Otis regrets she's unable to lunch today.

How about that for a wager?

Not everyone knows that Mr Porter was involved in a case of alleged plagiarism. The claim was related to the song "Don't Fence me in". He had been hired by Twentieth Century Fox to write a song for a western film. He then bought the rights to the title and some characteristics words and phrases of a song written by his friend Bob Fletcher for the amount of 250 dollars. The published version did not acknowledge Fletcher's contribution, though. Later on Cole Porter gave him credit by signing a portion of the royalties of the song to Fletcher, even though he did not have to. For details, see the discussion in The Complete Lyrics of Cole Porter, edited by Robert Kimball. Here are the lyrics:

Wild Cat Kelly, looking mighty pale,
Was standing by the sherrif's side
And when the sherrif said "I'm sending you to jail,"
Wild Cat raised his head and cried:
Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,
Don't fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love,
Don't fence me in.
Let me be by myself in the evening breeze,
listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees,
Send me off forever, but I ask you, please,
Don't fence me in.
Just turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the Western skies.
On my cayuse, let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise.
I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences
gaze at the moon till I lose my senses,
I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in.
Wild Cat Kelly, back again in town,
was standing by his sweethearts side,
And when his sweetheart said "come on let's settle down,"
Wild Cat raised his head and cried:
Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above,
Don't fence me in.
Let me ride through the wide open country that I love,
Don't fence me in.
Let me be by myself in the evening breeze,
listen to the murmur of the cottonwood trees,
Send me off forever, but I ask you, please,
Don't fence me in.
Just turn me loose, let me straddle my old saddle
Underneath the Western skies.
On my cayuse, let me wander over yonder
Till I see the mountains rise.
I want to ride to the ridge where the West commences
gaze at the moon till I lose my senses,
I can't look at hobbles and I can't stand fences
Don't fence me in.

Ira and George Gershwin were born in New York City in 1896 and 1898, respectively. (Their original names were Israel Gershovitz and Jacob Gershwine; the family name changed over time: Gershovitz, Gershwine, Gershvin, Gershwin.) Ira wrote the lyrics and George the songs. What a duo! Together they composed many masterpieces. One of them was "The Man I Love":

Someday he'll come along, the man I love,
And he'll be big and strong, the man I love,

And when he comes my way, I'll do my best to make him stay.

He'll look at me and smile, I'll understand,
And in a little while, he'll take my hand,

And though it seems absurd,

I know we both won't say a word.

Maybe I shall meet him Sunday, maybe Monday, maybe not,
Still I'm sure to meet him one day,

Maybe Tuesday will be my good news day!

He'll build a little home just meant for two,
From which I'll never roam, who would? Would you?

And so all else above,

I'm waiting for the man I love.

Maybe I shall meet him Sunday, maybe Monday, maybe not,
Still I'm sure to meet him one day,

Maybe Tuesday will be my good news day!

He'll build a home just meant for two,
From which I'll never roam, who would? Would you?
And so all else above,
I'm waiting for the man I love.

It was recorded, among many, by Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald.

February 8, 2002

THE TRUTH ABOUT SANCHO PANZA (by Franz Kafka)

Without making any boast of it Sancho Panza succeeded in the course of years, by devouring a great number of romances of chivalry and adventure in the evening and night hours, in so diverting from him his demon, whom he later called Don Quixote, that his demon thereupon set out in perfect freedom on the maddest exploits, which, however, for the lack of a preordained object, which should have been Sancho Panza himself, harmed nobody. A free man, Sancho Panza philosophically followed Don Quixote on his crusades, perhaps out of a sense of responsibility, and had of them a great and edifying entertainment to the end of his days.

I like this parable. It was written by Franz Kafka and published in Parables and Paradoxes (Franz Kafka, Schocken Books, 1958). Mr. Panza followed Don Quixote on his crusades. And together they had “great and edifying entertainment.” We all fight our crusades, some real, some imaginary, and some that are a bit of both. What would be of life without them? I tend to admire people who fight for their beliefs, even when I disagree with them.

February 9, 2002

The February 26th issue of the British weekly The Economist contains an article entitled “Poetry in translation: finding the words.” They quote Robert Frost, who once defined poetry as follows: poetry is what gets lost in translation. It is indeed very difficult to translate poetry. They quote the following verses from Czeslaw Milosz’s A Treatise on Poetry:

They used to pour millet on graves or poppy seed
To feed the dead who would come disguised as birds.

I put this book here for you, who once lived
So that you should visit us no more.

The article discusses four poetry books, and the pitfalls of translating poetry. It is an interesting piece.

Elizabeth Bishop was born in the U.S. in 1911 (in Massachusetts). She lost her father before turning one year old, and her mother became insane when she was five years old (I believe). She lived in Brazil for many years, and died in 1979. She wrote a particularly touching poem entitled The Imaginary Iceberg:

The Imaginary Iceberg (Elizabeth Bishop) 

We'd rather have the iceberg than the ship,
although it meant the end of travel.
Although it stood stock-still like cloudy rock
and all the sea were moving marble.
We'd rather have the iceberg than the ship;
we'd rather own this breathing plain of snow
though the ship's sails were laid upon the sea
as the snow lies undissolved upon the water.
O solemn, floating field,
are you aware an iceberg takes repose
with you, and when it wakes may pasture on your snows?

This is a scene a sailor'd give his eyes for.
The ship's ignored. The iceberg rises
and sinks again; its glassy pinnacles
correct elliptics in the sky.
This is a scene where he who treads the boards
is artlessly rhetorical. The curtain
is light enough to rise on finest ropes
that airy twists of snow provide.
The wits of these white peaks
spar with the sun. Its weight the iceberg dares
upon a shifting stage and stands and stares.

The iceberg cuts its facets from within.
Like jewelry from a grave
it saves itself perpetually and adorns
only itself, perhaps the snows
which so surprise us lying on the sea.
Good-bye, we say, good-bye, the ship steers off
where waves give in to one another's waves
and clouds run in a warmer sky.
Icebergs behoove the soul
(both being self-made from elements least visible)
to see them so: fleshed, fair, erected indivisible.

Indeed, we would rather have the iceberg than the ship, even when it means the end of travel.

It is not possible to discuss American poetry without mentioning Walt Whitman, the author of Leaves of Grass (published in 1855). He was born in 1819, and died in 1889. The following verses are from Leaves of Grass:

Reversal (Walt Whitman)

Let that which stood in front go behind,
Let that which was behind advance to the front,
Let bigots, fools, unclean persons, offer new propositions,
Let the old propositions be postponed,
Let a man seek pleasure everywhere except in himself,
Let a woman seek happiness everywhere except in herself.

To close the circle, Whitman on books:

Shut not your doors (Walt Whitman) 

Shut not your doors to me proud libraries,
For that which was lacking on all your well-fill'd shelves, yet needed most, I bring,
Forth from the war emerging, a book I have made,
The words of my book nothing, the drift of it every thing,
A book separate, not link'd with the rest nor felt by the intellect,
But you ye untold latencies will thrill to every page.

August 3, 2002

I have just finished reading the book 48 Variations on Bach by Franz Rueb. Johann Sebastian Bach was the best composer ever. He was not appreciated at his time, and composed timeless music that is still with us today. I love Bach. I truly do. Some of my Bach favorites are The Mass in B Minor, St Matthew Passion, The Brandenburg Concertos, The Well Tempered Clavier, The Goldberg Variations, The Art of Fugue, The English Suites, The French Suites, The Italian Concerto, The Suites for Cello, Suites for Orchestra, The Partitas, The Violin Concertos, The Triple Concerto, The Gamba Sonatas, and so on. Some of the cantatas he composed are also beautiful and touching. Bach never fails to amaze me. His music is truly magical. Sometimes I wonder how a single human being was able to compose such pieces. Many consider two of his compositions the greatest of all times: B Minor Mass and St Matthew Passion. It is difficult to decide which one is the best. According to a friend of mine, the best one is whichever you heard last. He may be just right… Mozart and all great composers that followed him studied the music of Bach intensively. Mozart once said that Bach was “the father” and all other composers are “the sons”. To Gunter Ramin, Bach is the beginning and the end of all music. Robert Schumann: “Only one composer continues to be an endless source of inspiration for the work of all others: Johann Sebastian Bach”. Walter Gieseking: “Bach was the greatest and the most universal composer of all times.” Claude Debussy: “Bach is the God of music.” Gioacchino Rossini: “If Beethoven is a miracle of mankind, Bach is a miracle of God.” Gustav Mahler: “I am unable to translate into words what I’ve learnt and continue to learn from Bach”. Chopin: “Bach never gets old”. Hector Berlioz: “Bach is Bach, just like God is God”. Pablo Casals (what a great cello player!): “In the morning, to begin my day, I need Bach more than I need food and water. And it has to be Bach. I need perfection and joy”. I could not agree more.

A painter that touches me is Gustav Klimt. He was born in 1862 and died in 1918. His most influential painting (oil on canvas) was “The Kiss”, painted in 1907/1908. Romero de Andrade Lima, a talented artist who lives here in Recife, has recently paid tribute to it (and to Klimt) by painting a kiss between a man and a woman based on Gustav Klimt’s famous work.

I love art. I wish I were an artist instead of a scientist…

August 6, 2002

“All happy families are alike but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion.” That’s how Anna Karenina starts. This is my favorite book. Tolstoy is one of my favorite authors. He was born 1828, and died in 1910. He wrote Anna Karenina between 1874 and 1876. (His other great novel, War and Peace, was written between 1865 and 1868.) One of my favorite quotes from Anna Karenina is: “Where was I left of? On the reflection that I couldn’t conceive a situation in which life would not be a misery, that we were all created in order to suffer, and that we all know this and try to invent means for deceiving ourselves. But when you see the truth, what are you to do?” A bit pessimistic, but there is something to be said for that… On that note, what come to my mind are the opening verses of the celebrated Fernando Pessoa poem “A Tabacaria”:

Não sou nada. Nunca serei nada.
Não posso querer ser nada.
À parte isso, tenho em mim todos os sonhos do mundo.

And I now suddenly remembered what Roger Koenker once told me on a very pessimistic note: “Life boils down to two things: boredom and fear.” He may be just right.

August 9, 2002

A woman once approached Fats Waller and asked him: “Mr. Waller, what is jazz?,” to which he replied: “Madam, if you have to ask, you will never know.” There is a lesson to be learned here. Think about it.

August 10, 2002

“Madness is something rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, peoples, ages it is the rule.” This quote is from Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche (published in 1866), where the author analyzes how cultures lose their creative drive and become decadent. I was reading parts of this book today, and came across this quote. It is hard to disagree with him. People act in strange (oftentimes dangerous) ways when they do so in a collective fashion. Diversity is the most important word in the vocabulary of any society, in my view. It needs to be praised and defended at all levels. Diversity is, I believe, the engine of modern society. Even more, it is the basis for mankind.

I am a libertarian. 

August 26, 2002

Gustav Mahler composed The Song of the Earth in 1908. It is a great piece of work. In 1920, Arnold Schoenberg started working on a transcription of it for chamber orchestra. He never finished the transcription. Rainer Riehn completed the task after his death. A particularly impressive recording of this version, recommended to me by a friend, is that conducted by Philippe Herreweghe (by Harmonia Mundi). By the way, I am a big fan of Mr Herreweghe.

November 6, 2002

George Stigler once wrote that “dedication to scholarship is an essential ingredient of a great teacher; students are too intelligent to believe preaching that is not practiced.” This quote is from his autobiography (Memoirs of an Unregulated Economist, published in 1988.) I could not agree more with him.

January 5, 2003

I have just finished reading Glenn Gould: A Life and Variations by Otto Friedrich. Glenn Gould was a remarkable Canadian pianist. His recordings are amongst the best selling classical recordings. He recorded Bach’s Goldberg Variations in 1955 and again in 1981; indeed it was his first and his final recording. The two recordings are rather different, and people argue over which is the best one. The 1955 performance was groundbreaking, and is full of life and arrogance; the 1981 performance is generally slower and provides a more inward reading of Bach’s masterpiece. They are both marvelous. One reviewer wrote: “I have listened to the original 1955 recording for 25 years and still consider it as one of the greatest debut recordings. I got the 1981 recording in November 1982 and still consider it the best classical recording of all times.” (B. Johnson)

Mr Gould’s interpretation of Bach’s masterpiece for keyboard is so widely accepted as groundbreaking that the piece is sometimes referred to as The Gouldberg Variations.  

Glenn Gould died just a few days after the release of his second recording of the Goldberg Variations. He died of a stroke in 1982 at the age of 50.  

Sony recently released the two recordings in an album entitled Glenn Gould: A State of Wonder. It also includes a third CD that contains an interview with Tim Page (for which, as we know, Mr Gould wrote both the questions and the answers) and studio outtakes from the 1955 recording session. The album’s title was taken from a quote by Mr Gould: “The purpose of art is not the release of a momentary ejection of adrenaline but rather the gradual, lifelong construction of a state of wonder and serenity.”

Very few played Bach like Glenn Gould. He also loved to play Schoenberg. It is noteworthy that Mr Gould did not like Mozart; he went as far as saying that Mozart did not die too early, he died too late.

See http://www.glenngould.com and http://artscanada.cbc.ca/gould/.

April 4, 2003

Beethoven once  said that  "Bach is the immortal God of harmony."  Bach's compositions are truly amazing. During several years of his life he composed one cantata per week. A famous physicist from the Weizmann Institute of Science (Israel) recently told me over beer a few weeks ago that he would trade the authorship of all papers he wrote and published to date for the authorship of one of Bach's cantatas. Any one! They are truly magic. It is hard to single out one as a favorite, but cantatas BWV 4, 51, 80, 82, 147, 208, 243 (Magnificat) are amongst my favorits.  Not to mention the Coffee Cantata (BWV 211)!

I am often asked what is my favorite Bach piece. Again, it is hard to single out one. But if you press me really hard, I will say that it is the Mass in B Minor.

Bach died over 250 years ago. But he still has a huge impact on so many people (like myself). Is he really dead?

By the time of his death he had just finished the Mass and was working on The Art of Fugue. The last fugue (Fuga a 3 Soggetti) was left unfinished. The Art of Fugue is one the greatest masterpieces of all times!

April 5, 2003

God does play dice with the universe. Things evolve in a random, stochastic way. They may have a pattern, but they also have  large stochastic components. Probability and statistics study and model phenomena that happen in a random fashion. They are thus useful tools for nearly all other sciences.

C.R.Rao: "Life would be unbearable if evets occured at random in a completely unpredictable way and unintesresting, in the other extreme, if everything were deterministic and completely predictable. Each phenomenon is a curious mixture of both, which makes life complicated but not uninteresting."

Thus, probability and statistics are necessary for understanding nearly all phenomena we observe. This led H.G Wells to say that "statistical thinking will one day be as necessary for efficient citizenship as the ability to read and write."

April 10, 2003

A brutal dictatorship has ended. I'll drink to that.

April 17, 2003

Lucian Freud, the grandson of  Sigmund Freud, was born in Berlin in 1922. (He moved to England in 1933 and later acquired British citizenship.)  He is one of the most celebrated painters alive, being oftentimes described as "realist" or even "superrealist" (whatever that means...). (His "realist" style was softened in the later years, especially after 1950 or so, when his handling became considerably broader.) Of all his paintings, one of my favorites is "Girl with a white dog" (oil on canvas), which dates back to early 1950s. It shows a woman (his first wife, by the way) and a dog on a couch; the dog rests on her lap and has a peaceful look. She, on the other hand, looks fragile, tense, almost scared. I can't help but wonder what she feels, what is happening in her life, what is going through her mind...  I am puzzled by that painting. That's good art!

Mr Freud once said: "My work is purely autobiographical (...) It is about myself and my surroundings. I work from people that interest me and that I care about, in rooms that I know... When I look at a body it gives me choice of what to put in a painting, what will suit me and what won't. There is a distinction between fact and truth. Truth has an element of revelation about it. If something is true, it does more than strike one as merely being so.” He also said: "I paint people not because of what they are like, not exactly in spite of what they are like, but how they happen to be."

And that he does just masterfully!

April 18, 2003

"Philosophy have I digested,
The whole of Law and Medicine,
From each its secrets I have wrested,
Theology, alas, thrown in.
Poor fool, with all this sweated lore,
I stand no wiser than I was before."
--Faust (from Johann Wolfgang Goethe's Faust, Part One)

April 19, 2003

"I do not seek, I find." --Pablo Picasso

April 21, 2003

Gramophone, one of the leading music magazines, has ellected a new recording of Bach's St Matthew Passion (BWV 244) the recording of the month for May 2003. It is interpreted by the Gabrieli Consort and was released by Deutsche Grammophon. Here is what Gramophone (http://www.gramophone.co.uk) has to say about this recording:

"A radical approach to Bach’s great St Matthew Passion by Paul McCreesh, his Gabrieli Players and a superb octet of singers – and that’s the line-up: no chorus! McCreesh follows the scholarship first unveiled on disc by Joshua Rifkin with his one-to-a-part B minor Mass for Nonesuch and since espoused in concert by Andrew Parrott. McCreesh presents a number of arguments for his approach, one of which is the actual size of St Thomas’s in Leipzig where the work was first performed. ‘It’s not a big church at all,’ he comments. ‘Part of the problem is that people look at the 18th-century engravings, which are designed to make it look four times bigger than it is.’ With his modest forces, McCreesh’s performance of the St Matthew Passion has a transparency and grace that can be quite breathtaking. Judge for yourself in the closing chorus."

October 14, 2003

"All good things things como by grace and grace comes by art and art does not come easy." This quote is from a book I read several years ago, namely: A River Runs Through It (by Norman Maclean). Robert Redford later turned it into a movie, but the book, as often happens, is much better than the movie.

What is Art? Actually, this is the title of a famous book by Leo Tolstoy. According to him, "art is that human activity which consists in one man's consciously conveying to others, by certain external signs, the feelings he has experienced, and in others being infected by those feelings and also experiecing them."

November 6, 2003

"In succession, Beethoven wrote the string quartets in A minor, op. 132, in July; in B-flat major, op. 130, and in its original finale, the Grosse Fugue, op. 133, in November; in C-sharp minor, op. 131, in July 1826; in F-major, op. 135, in October; and the new finale for opus 130 that November.

Throughout these works, Beethoven slipped in the thematic cell B-flat, A, C, B-natural. (In the German system, B-flat=B and B-natural=H; thus, this spells B-A-C-H.) He pushed melody and harmony, making use of counterpoint, into regions where not even he himself had ever been--and where he had only Mozart and Bach as companions."

From Beethoven: The Composer as a Hero, by Philippe A. Auxtexier.

Sir Isaac Newton was chosen as the greatest Briton in a BBC poll. I did vote for him, and I am glad with the outcome of the poll. But that leads to ask wh"o were the greatest Frenchman and the greatest German. I would tend to vote for René Descartes (1596-1650) and (surprise! surprise!) Johann Sebastian Bach, respectively. The greatest Brazilian? Oh, boy... Santos Dumont?

December 16, 2003

I have recenty read The Musical Dialog: Thoughts on Monteverdi, Bach and Mozart by Nikolaus Harnoncourt (one of the truly great maestros). Mr Harnoncourt is  one of the most important and influential leaders of the 20th-century revival of Baroque instruments and period performance practice.

December 18, 2003

Lorraine Hunt Lieberson has recently recorded two beautiful and moving Bach cantatas: 82 and 199. The CD was highly praised by Gramophone, by The New York Times and by The New Yorker; here is what The New Yorker had to say about this CD: "Lorraine Hunt Lieberson's new recording of the cantata is beautiful enough to stop a war."  It is indeed a beautiful recording.
 
December 26, 2003

Today I finished reading The Memoirs of Hadrian by Marguerite Yourcenar. What an amazing book!... The book is a journey into what we call "human nature". Ms Yourcernar, I should point out, was the first woman to be admitted into the French Academy.

I reproduce an extract of a text I recently read on a classical music discussion board:

"The music of Bach needs initiation. That is because, I think, his music is so different from what we are conditioned to enjoy and understand. Most music is focused on a central melody, and the typical non-musician will judge a piece of music on how catchy, and hummable a tune is. But Bach's greatest strength is not in melody. In that area I can think of others who are greater, eg. Mozart. This is not to say that Bach couldn't write charming, memorable melodies (eg. Jesus, Joy of Man's Desiring), but just this skill was not what made him head and shoulders above so many others. His strength lies in HARMONY. And it takes practice to recognise complex harmony, and to fully appreciate it. Bach was the master of counterpoint, where two or more melodies are played simultaneously. The skill lies in making them harmonious, and it takes a trained ear to recognise that. To someone who has not been taught how to appreciate counterpoint, it can at first hearing sound chaotic. The ear is conditioned to focus in on one central melody, and none can be found - just lots of melodies sounding at once, often (as on the harpsicord) at the same volume." 

December 27, 2003

Paul Klee was born in Switzerland in 1879 and died in 1940. He is a celebrated painter and graphic artist. His style is a blend of primitive art, surrealism, cubism and children's art. He came from a family of musicians, and he himself played the violin. Ultimately, however, he gave up music to pursue a career as a painter.

I have recently read an essay on Paul Klee written by Günther Regel. He claims that music remained very important to Mr Klee, and that his favorite composer was Bach. Indeed, according to Mr Regel, much of Paul Klee's art was an attempt to transpose music onto paintings, thus exploring the relationship between the two forms of art. Even more: he aimed to transpose Bach's music, in particular The Art of Fugue, to canvas and paper.

There is a local artist here in Recife whose style reminds me of Paul Klee. His name is Rinaldo. See http://www.rinaldo.art.br/ .

Why do men need art? Why do men need music? Why do men need science? Why do men need religion? My view is that life has no meaning, no structure, no sense. As a consequence, we search for meaning, structure and sense in art, music, science, and religion. There we find coherence, and feel safe. We can thus live under the illusion that life has some sort of coherence. But it does not.

No, I do not believe in God. I am an atheist. 

December 29, 2003

Maurício Silva (http://www.mauriciosilva.art.br), a talented artist from Recife, apparently read my "random thoughts" and wrote in his blogger (http://www.astrobelo.blogger.com.br) today that "Rinaldo's style has nothing to do with Paul Klee's". I beg to disagree. The following text was taken from Rinaldo's web page: "É justamente nesse resgate do desenho infantil que irei reestruturar a minha pintura de adulto. Uma influência esperada para o século de Picasso, Miró, Paul Klee, Marc Chagal, Kandinski são os pilares da pintura moderna." (By the way: Maurício, you still owe me an explanation as to whether mankind needs art.)

New year's resolutions? Oh, boy... I work way too much, I should try not to be such a workaholic in 2004. But, realistically, I won't change my lifestyle. Do you know, nonetheless, what comes to my mind?

Filosofia, by Ascenso Ferreira

Hora de comer — comer!
Hora de dormir — dormir!
Hora de vadiar — vadiar!
Hora de trabalhar?
— Pernas pro ar que ninguém é de ferro!

[Ascenso Ferreira was a poet from Pernambuco, my homeland. He was born in 1895 (in Palmares) and died in 1965 (in Recife).]

December 31, 2003

"Not all musicians believe in God, but they all believe in Bach." --Mauricio Kagel, 1985

January 1, 2004

God Song (by Robert Wyatt)

What on Earth are you doing, God?
Is this some sort of joke you're playing?
Is it 'cause we didn't pray?
Well I can't see the point of the words without the action
Are you just hot air, breathing over us and over all?
Is it fun watching us all?
Where's your son? We want him again!

And next time you send your boy down here
Give him a wife and a sexy daughter
Someone we can understand
Who's got some ideas we can use, really relate to
We've all read your rules, tried them
Learnt them in school, then tried them
They're impossible rules, and you've made us look fools
Well done, God, but now please...

Don't hunt me down, for Heaven's sake!
You know that I'm only joking, aren't I?
Pardon me,  I'm very drunk!
But I know what I'm trying to say, and it's nearly night time
And we're still alone, waiting for something unknown, still waiting
So throw down a stone, or something!
Give us a sign, for Christ's sake!

(Alejandro Frery, a dear friend, brought this song to my attention. Thanks, Alejandro.)

 January 3, 2004

Ano-novo (de Ferreira Gullar)

Meia-noite. Fim
de um ano, início
de outro. Olho o céu:
nenhum indício.

Olho o céu:
o abismo vence o
olhar. O mesmo
espantoso silêncio
da Via-Láctea feito
um ectoplasma
sobre a minha cabeça:
nada ali indica
que um ano novo começa.

E não começa
nem no céu nem no chão
do planeta:
começa no coração.

Começa como a esperança
da vida melhor
que entre os astros
não se escuta
nem se vê
nem pode haver:
que isso é coisa de homem
esse bicho
                  estelar
                  que sonha
                  (e luta)


January 10, 2004

Last week's issue of The Economist has a two-page article about the first year of Lula's presidency. The article is suggestively entitled "The year of changing unexpectedly" and sums up what has happened in Brazil last year. It criticizes Lula's foreign policy (or lack thereof), his new energy model (which is highly "statist"), his education policies, his welfare and social programs, and also the lack of competence of some of his ministers. The article reminds us that Brazil remains vulnerable to outside events. "A rise in international interest rates, for example, could suck capital away, forcing up domestic rates and halting recovery. Lula might then be tempted to ditch austerity and dash for growth in time for the 2006 ellection."

January 11, 2004

This week's issue of The New York Times Magazine contains an article signed by Dana Tierney entitled "Coveting Luke's Faith". She writes: "I am unable to believe in God. Most of the other atheists I know seem to feel free or proud of their unbelief, as if they've cleverly refused to be sold snake oil. But over the years, I've come to feel I'm missing out." She then tells us that her four year old son, Luke, prays and believes in God; indeed, he once told her that he has always known that God exists. "For Luke, all things are possible. At the end of his life, he will be reunited in heaven with his heros and loved ones, Mom and Dad and George Washington. (...) Luke's prayers can stretch to infinity and beyond, but I am limited to one: Help thou mine unbelief."

I share her feeling. I too am unable to believe in God, and I am sometimes haunted by despair. I will eventually die, and it will all be over. What's the point, then? "Help thou mine unbelief!"

(I need a beer.)

February 1, 2004

Recent Chinese fortune cookies: 1) "You have an ability to sense and know higher truth." 2) "You are ambitious." 3) "You never hesitate to tackle the most difficult problems." 4) "You have a deep appreciation of the arts and music." Right on... 

February 24, 2004

"Sun of Composers" designed by Augustus Frederick Christopher Kollmann in 1799; see Wolff, C. (2000). Johann Sebastian Bach: the Learned Musician. New York: Norton.

Note Bach at the center!

 

March 5, 2004 

"The purpose of art is to remind us that there are an infinite number of options that we haven't even considered yet." --Richard Powers

(The quote is from an article on Powers that was published yesterday in the Tribune Cultural Critic.)

April 10, 2004

"You can only carry a fardeau and do something with your hands at the same time if the fardeau is tied on your back: and that's marriage. I discovered that when I married. I suddently had my hands free. But if you drag that fardeau about with you without marriage, your hands will be so full that you can do nothing." --Leo Tolstoy, in Anna Karenina

April 26, 2004

The Other (by Octavio Paz)

He invented a face for himself.
Behind it,
he lived, died, and was resurrected
many times.
His face now
has the wrinkles from that face.
His wrinkles have no face.

July 18, 2004

I have just finished reading Oracle Night: a Novel by Paul Auster. It is a very good book. I strongly recommend it.

I have also just read Terra de Ninguém, a collection of essays by Contardo Calligaris. Excellent!

"My old music teacher told me that if you are ever ill then listening to Bach will put you in touch with the structure of the universe and will make you feel better." --Peter Charleton

July 22, 2004

I am reading The Cambridge Companion to Bach, a collection of essays about the life and music of Johann Sebastian Bach edited by John Butt, a music professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

September 2, 2004

FAZIL SAY: "When I play Bach, I have just one aim: to go beyond the wall. Paradise is over there."

INTEVIEWER: "What is this wall?"

FAZIL SAY: "The note..."

(Fazil Say is a young Turkish pianist.)

September 14, 2004

Today I finished reading Por Um Fio, a book by the celebrated Brazilian physician Drauzio Varela. The book describes his experiences in dealing with pacients that are dying of cancer.

December 24, 2004

Certainty (by Octavio Paz)

If it is real the white
light from the lamp, real
the writing hand, are they
real, the eyes looking at what I write?

From one word to the other
what I say vanishes.
I know that I am alive
between two parentheses.


December 26, 2004

I have been very impressed by a young Polish pianist: Piotr Anderszewski. He holds the potential to become the next Glenn Gould. He is very, very talented and does not avoid the most demanding pieces, like most young pianists tend to do. Fo one of his first performances, in 1990, he chose Beethoven's Diabelli Variations, a monumental piece. And he has good taste: for his first recording (with Harmonia Mundi) he chose Bach. Not many young pianists would have the guts to choose Bach for a first recording. Gleen Gould did that in 1958 (with The Goldberg Variations); Mr. Anderszewski did the same many years later.

He has a predilection for highly structured works by Bach, Beethoven and Webern. Here is what the BBC Music Magazine had to say about him: "His performances of the most complex Bach and Beethoven have a white-hot conviction...Among younger pianists he seems most likely to join the greats."

January 3, 2005  

"I take a viewpoint that all music comes from the same place. For me, one of the greatest jazz artists of all time was Johann Sebastian Bach. He took German chorales and improvised on them. The harmonic theory that went into his works, I feel comfortable comparing to the things [jazz saxophonist] John Coltrane did." --Eric Dickey

January 17, 2005

"Durmo com a mesma razão que acordo
E é no intervalo que existo."   --Fernando Pessoa

February 8, 2005

I have just seen an excellent movie: Sideways. Here is what Manohla Dargis of the New York Times had to say about it:

"The specter of a disappointed life hangs over Alexander Payne's new film "Sideways," casting shadows so deep and so dark it's a wonder that the story's nearly broken hero hasn't drowned in them. But Miles, beautifully played by Paul Giamatti, hasn't yet been broken by his divorce, unpublished novels and the accumulation of everyday indignities that have helped make him the man he is. And therein lies the great cosmic joke of this heart-piercing film: without struggle and pain, Miles wouldn't be half the good and decent man he is, though he certainly might complain a little less, venture a little more.

Directed by Mr. Payne, who adapted the screenplay with his longtime writing partner, Jim Taylor, from the book by Rex Pickett, "Sideways," which brings the New York Film Festival to a triumphant close on Sunday night, is about a man on the verge of saying uncle to life. The film opens with Miles taking off with his longtime friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) to the central California coast for an orchestrated week of wine, golf and camaraderie.

Afterward, the two will motor back to reality, where Jack, a B-list actor and pretty boy fast on the fade, will marry for the first time. For Miles, eagerly waiting word on the fate of yet another manuscript, the week promises a much-needed respite from his day-to-day; for Jack, it's an excuse to beat a quick if temporary retreat from the future.

That the two men may end up running in opposite directions is suggested as soon as they slam the car doors on the way toward their adventure. Eyes wild with excitement, Jack grabs a bottle of warm sparkling wine, pops the cork and in a single gesture turns a rarefied pleasure into a party-animal's aperitif. Although horror washes across him, Miles endures Jack's guzzling for a reason.

A writer by vocation, a schoolteacher by profession, Miles maintains the posture of an initiate when it comes to wine. But there's an aspect of a grand passion underneath his tasting notes about color, smell and rim versus core, and it's clear that Miles, who shares Apollo's sense of order and reason, also secretly admires the wildness and chaos embodied by the Dionysus riding shotgun in his car.

The friends finally settle into a dumpy hotel in the faux-Danish tourist trap known as Solvang. There, amid trips to local wineries, they hook up with a sad-eyed waitress, Maya (Virginia Madsen), with whom Miles has a vague acquaintance, and a lusty wine pourer, Stephanie (Sandra Oh), whom Jack picks up along with some cases of wine.

While Jack and Stephanie unceremoniously dispatch their clothes, Miles and Maya begin a slow, tentative dance. Miles leads by explaining his love of pinot noir, a notoriously difficult grape to cultivate that can nonetheless yield sublime delights; it's a delicate and rather precarious metaphor that Maya answers by looking deep into Miles's eyes, taking hold of one of his hands and baring herself to him completely.

A small masterpiece, this exquisitely shaped scene shows just how far Mr. Payne has come as a director, especially of actors. It took courage to cast Mr. Giamatti in the central role, not because he isn't up to the challenge, but because he's neither pretty nor a star, two no-no's in the contemporary film industry. (It took similar daring to cast Mr. Church and Ms. Madsen, who each repay Mr. Payne's gift wonderfully.) But it takes more than courage to push actors to their limits of their talents, which Mr. Payne does here. You need to understand that the truth of both a human being and a screen performance doesn't exist only in grace and beauty, but in small fissures and cracks, in the tiny vein on Miles's forehead that throbs out the rhythm of his anguish.

American movies are filled with actors who loudly beat their chests on their way to the Academy Awards. Although Miles throws a few tantrums, including an encounter with Jack in a dusty vineyard that begins with a comic flourish then pivots into sorrow, Mr. Giamatti doesn't indulge in the usual screen histrionics in "Sideways."

Like the film itself, the performance is deeply controlled, played with restraint and with microscopic attention to detail. Mr. Giamatti's dancing eyebrows, which rumbaed throughout much of "American Splendor," only really start jumping during a late-act, hilariously ribald scene that Mr. Payne deploys to bring the film back from the brink of pathos. Among other things, this scene, which involves some queasy sex, President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld, indicates that Mr. Payne hasn't lost his edge.

It's good to know. In the past, Mr. Payne's critics have accused him of treating his characters with condescension, a puzzling assessment in light of the love he expresses for the comically blighted souls in "Election" and "About Schmidt." It's hard to understand the genesis of this discomfort; only that, like "Sideways," these films cut close to the emotional bone and even movie critics can get squirmy when the screen turns into a mirror.

The larger problem, I think, is that since the late 1970's we have been under the spell of the blockbuster imperative, with its infallible heroes and comic-book morality, a spell that independent film has done little to break. In this light, the emergence of Mr. Payne into the front ranks of American filmmakers isn't just cause for celebration; it's a reason for hope."

February 16, 2005

An interview with João Carlos Martins, an excellent Brazilian pianist, is available at http://www.opovo.com.br/opovo/vidaearte/381228.html. This is what he says about Bach:

OP
- Sua relação com Bach é um capítulo central na sua história de músico...
João Carlos - Comecei a estudar Bach com nove anos. Pra você ter uma idéia, eu tinha toda a obra de Bach de memória. Se hoje, por exemplo, às oito horas da manhã eu sentasse no piano e começasse a tocar, ia acabar a obra de Bach amanhã, às oito horas da noite. São milhões de notas e tudo isso eu sempre tive totalmente memorizado, enquanto era pianista. E, agora, comecei minha vida na regência, então, estou começando tudo de novo, estou correndo atrás do prejuízo, já que nunca regi na vida. Mas estou encontrando uma reação muito positiva com os músicos.

OP - O que Bach tem de especial que justifique essa sua dedicação?
João Carlos - Bach fez a síntese de tudo o que aconteceu na música antes dele e fez a profecia de tudo o que veio a acontecer depois dele. Ele foi o pai da globalização. Essa é a razão por que, agora, estou gravando 12 CDs (dois em cada continente) para mostrar o Bach global. No Brasil, Villa-Lobos pôde fazer as Bachianas Brasileiras; jamais poderia fazer as ''mozartianas brasileiras'', não dava o link. Então, Bach é o pai da obra clássica, romântica, impressionista, moderna, do jazz, de tudo, entende? Tudo, na música, veio por causa de Bach. Ele é a catedral e os outros são as grandes igrejas. Até fiz uma brincadeira, no meu documentário: o Pelé foi lá em casa e nós tivemos um papo. Eu falei: ''Pelé, você sempre fala nas entrevistas que Deus criou Beethoven pra música e Pelé pro futebol. Da próxima vez, você pode falar que Deus criou Bach pra música e Pelé pro futebol porque Beethoven é um Maradona. É um grande compositor, mas é um Maradona!'.
OP - E há uma maneira ''correta'' de se tocar Bach?
João Carlos - Não. Bach é o compositor que dá liberdade para que você possa colocar sua individualidade mais do que outros compositores. Então, você encontra diversas propostas para a obra de Bach. Por exemplo: a minha é muito pessoal. Se você analisar, o meu Bach tem uma influência de quem nasceu no Brasil. Bach é aquele compositor que obriga você a respeitar a personalidade dele, mas que permite que você possa colocar a sua individualidade.

March 19, 2005

I am reading the book Evening in the Palace of Reason: Bach Meets Frederick the Great in the Age of Enlightenment by James Gaines. It was published a couple of months ago, and tells the story of the famous meeting between "Old Bach" and Frederick the Great three years before Bach's death. He composed The Musical Offering in the fortnight after the meeting.

April 7, 2005

I hate clichés. And I find those who live by them completely uninteresting.

April 17, 2005

The New York Times published today a review of Evening in the Palace of Reason. The reviewer (Edmund Morris) writes: "The story he tells is a reminder that there was once a time when heads of state valued high culture as much as high finance, and when artists won fame through mastery rather than media manipulation." The world has changed quite a bit since 1747.

April 21, 2005

Things have been hectic lately. Bach has been my most loyal companion.

April 30, 2005

Bradley Lehman published articles in the scholar journal Early Music (February and May issues of 2005) reporting an important discovery regarding a drawing by Bach on the cover page of "The Well-Tempered Clavier". When turned upside down and read backward, the drawing provides a schematic for how Bach tuned his organs, its loops indicating the degree of separation he used between notes.

May 7, 2005

"Mozart  (...) was the ultimate composer for the Enlightenment. A good way to break up a dinner party is to claim Bach's superiority to Mozart, but there it is: Spend any serious amount of time listening to Bach, and most of Mozart's work, however wantonly gorgeous, will seem to be ... missing something. One measure of his genius is that he could write masterpieces even in a time of such limited expectations for music, but lightweight music was beginning to lose its appeal even in his youth, and he drew himself away from it part by studying Bach, whose influence can be heard especially in such late works as the Requiem." James Gaines, Evening at the Palace of Reason.

May 8, 2005

"Whether in the thrilling exuberance of his polyphonic Credo or in the single voice of an unaccompanied cello, Bach's music makes no argument that the world is more than a ticking clock, yet leaves no doubt of it." And that's how James Gaines concludes his book, Evening at the Palace of Reason. I truly enjoyed reading it.

May 12, 2005

Today's issue of the British newspaper The Guardian includes an article on Fibonacci sequences entitled "As easy as 1, 1, 2, 3...". It discusses how artists have used Fibonacci numbers in the past. This how the author, Jonathan Jones, opens the text:

"The music starts simply: clearly defined, pure, then very rapidly starts to complicate, to elaborate - turning on itself, twisting around its central theme, almost, you imagine, like a spiral staircase ascending in circles, or like a seashell ...

I can only try to describe the first statement, Contrapunctus 1, of Johann Sebastian Bach's The Art of Fugue in this vague way, because I don't read or play music. But there is a better way. You can see it as numbers. 

In 1964, an article in a journal called the Fibonacci Quarterly demonstrated that The Art of Fugue has a mathematical perfection - that in this composition, Bach exploits, in a final reach for the complex harmony that fascinated him all his life, a sequence of numbers that recurs again and again in the natural world and which has come to possess an almost mystical fascination not just for maths professors but for musicians, artists and architects." The article ends with the following paragraph:

"Bach's obituary, co-written by his son, praised him for discovering "the most hidden secrets of harmony". Listening to The Art of Fugue I can't hear numbers, let alone identify the Fibonacci series. But I can feel, as can everyone, the deep, flowing baroque curve of the universe."

(Full text: http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,1481787,00.html.)

May 22, 2005

I am reading an excellent novel: Black Box by Amos Oz.

May 27, 2005

"Death, the inevitable end of everything, confronted him for the first time with irresistible force. And death, which was here in this beloved brother..., was not so remote as hitherto seemed to him. He felt it in himself too. If not to-day, then to-morrow; if not to-morrow, then in thirty years time - wasn't it all the same? Here am I working, wanting to accomplish something, and completely forgetting it must all end - that there is such thing as death. ...But the more mental effort he made, the clearer it became to him that it was indubitably so, that in looking upon life he had indeed forgotten one little fact - that death comes and puts and end to everything, that nothing was even worth beginning and that there was no help for it. Yes, it was awful, but it was so." --Tolstoy (from Anna Karenina)

Anna Karenina is my favorite novel. I was browsing through it today, and stumbled across this quote. And that reminded me of an article by Dana Tierney in The New York Times Maganize that I read in January 2004 (see the January 11, 2004 random thought).

May 30, 2005

I went to the movies last night. I saw Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda, an ingenious movie about about the tragic and comic elements of life. (I believe he once said that comedy is tragedy plus time; there you have it.) It was a pleasure to hear the music of Johann Sebastian Bach in a Woody Allen film. From the Miami Herald (movie review by Chris Hewitt): "Woody Allen likes two kinds of music: Gershwin and Bach. So, when a Barry White song shows up in Allen's "Melinda and Melinda," it's as shocking as a sign of the apocalypse."

June 1, 2005

On May 7, 2005 The Financial Times published an excellent article by Trevor Butterworth on the revival of fountain pens. I have just reread it. It is a very well written piece of text. Especially for those who enjoy writing with fountain pens, like myself. 

June 8, 2005

Very exciting news: a piece for soprano and harpishord by Johann Sebastian Bach, composed in 1713, has just been  discovered. It was most likely written as an aria for a cantata. It was hidden in an old shoebox for nearly three centuries. Christoph Wolff (Harvard University) analyzed the manuscript and said it is genuine. John Eliot Gardiner will sonn record it. 

June 18, 2005

The Black Box (by Amos Oz) is an excellent book. I have enjoyed reading it. I am not affraid to say that it is one of the best books I have ever read. I am now reading Wondrous Strange: The Life and Art of Gleen Gould by Kevin Bazzana (Oxford University Press, 2004), a recently published biography of the celebrated Canadian pianist. 

June 25, 2005

I am currently running three different Linux distributions, namely: Fedora Core 4 (desktop at home), Ubuntu 5.04 (desktop at work) and Kurumin 4.2 (notebook). I use GNOME on the desktops and KDE on the notebook.

June 28, 2005

I like Henry Purcell's (1659-1696) Dido and Aeneas, his only true opera. It never tires me, no matter how many times I listen to it.

July 2, 2005

"I wasn't much attracted to multi-voiced things until I was a teenager. I was definitely homophonically inclined until the age of about 10, and then I suddently got the message. Bach began to emerge into my world then and has never altogether left it. It was one of the greatest moments of my life." --Glenn Gould, one of the best pianists that has ever lived.

September 13, 2005

Cântico Negro (José Régio)

"Vem por aqui" — dizem-me alguns com os olhos doces
Estendendo-me os braços, e seguros
De que seria bom que eu os ouvisse
Quando me dizem: "vem por aqui!"
Eu olho-os com olhos lassos,
(Há, nos olhos meus, ironias e cansaços)
E cruzo os braços,
E nunca vou por ali...
A minha glória é esta:
Criar desumanidades!
Não acompanhar ninguém.
— Que eu vivo com o mesmo sem-vontade
Com que rasguei o ventre à minha mãe
Não, não vou por aí! Só vou por onde
Me levam meus próprios passos...
Se ao que busco saber nenhum de vós responde
Por que me repetis: "vem por aqui!"?

Prefiro escorregar nos becos lamacentos,
Redemoinhar aos ventos,
Como farrapos, arrastar os pés sangrentos,
A ir por aí...
Se vim ao mundo, foi
Só para desflorar florestas virgens,
E desenhar meus próprios pés na areia inexplorada!
O mais que faço não vale nada.

Como, pois, sereis vós
Que me dareis impulsos, ferramentas e coragem
Para eu derrubar os meus obstáculos?...
Corre, nas vossas veias, sangue velho dos avós,
E vós amais o que é fácil!
Eu amo o Longe e a Miragem,
Amo os abismos, as torrentes, os desertos...

Ide! Tendes estradas,
Tendes jardins, tendes canteiros,
Tendes pátria, tendes tetos,
E tendes regras, e tratados, e filósofos, e sábios...
Eu tenho a minha Loucura !
Levanto-a, como um facho, a arder na noite escura,
E sinto espuma, e sangue, e cânticos nos lábios...
Deus e o Diabo é que guiam, mais ninguém!
Todos tiveram pai, todos tiveram mãe;
Mas eu, que nunca principio nem acabo,
Nasci do amor que há entre Deus e o Diabo.

Ah, que ninguém me dê piedosas intenções,
Ninguém me peça definições!
Ninguém me diga: "vem por aqui"!
A minha vida é um vendaval que se soltou,
É uma onda que se alevantou,
É um átomo a mais que se animou...
Não sei por onde vou,
Não sei para onde vou
Sei que não vou por aí!

September 17, 2005

Topologia (by Carlos Vogt)

Quantas vezes fomos
juntos
para lugar nenhum
sempre regressamos separados
com algum
sentimento do lugar
que fomos
para lugar nenhum

September 18, 2005

Today's edition of The New York Times has an article on Richard Binder (a famous nibmeister) and on the fascinating world of fountain pens (here).  It is suggestively entitled "Inky-Fingered Fanatics". Mr. Binder has fine-tuned some of my fountain pens. My favorite quote by Richard: "So many pens, so little time..."

September 23, 2005

The Road Not Taken (by Robert Frost)

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,   
And sorry I could not travel both   
And be one traveler, long I stood   
And looked down one as far as I could   
To where it bent in the undergrowth;            
 
Then took the other, as just as fair,   
And having perhaps the better claim,   
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;   
Though as for that the passing there   
Had worn them really about the same,           
 
And both that morning equally lay   
In leaves no step had trodden black.   
Oh, I kept the first for another day!   
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,   
I doubted if I should ever come back.           
 
I shall be telling this with a sigh   
Somewhere ages and ages hence:   
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—   
I took the one less traveled by,   
And that has made all the difference.

September 24, 2005

Yesterday's on-line edition of The Herald Sun has an article entitled "Bach bites in therapy". Here is an extract:

"Wendy-Louise Walker, a former lecturer in clinical psychology at the University of New South Wales, said the work of Johann Sebastian Bach was particularly useful when hypnotising people.

Specially trained psychologists, dentists and some doctors use hypnosis for a range of conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder, helping people quit smoking and alleviating pain.

Dr Walker, who has recently retired, said people who were easily hypnotised tended to be attracted to classical music, regardless of what other music they liked.

She said Bach seemed to be particularly gifted at composing music that affected the brain's limbic system, involved in emotional responses."

 September 25, 2005

"O ser humano mendiga esperança e sonega franqueza." --Daniel Piza, O Estado de São Paulo, 25/09/2005.

October 9, 2005

"Escrever não se ensina, só se aprende." --Daniel Piza, O Estado de São Paulo, 09/10/2005.

October 22, 2005

    Poema de sete faces (by Carlos Drummond de Andrade)

    Quando nasci, um anjo torto
    desses que vivem na sombra
    disse: Vai, Carlos! ser gauche na vida.

    As casas espiam os homens
    que correm atrás de mulheres.
    A tarde talvez fosse azul,
    não houvesse tantos desejos.

    O bonde passa cheio de pernas:
    pernas brancas pretas amarelas.
    Para que tanta perna, meu Deus, pergunta meu coração.
    Porém meus olhos
    não perguntam nada.

    O homem atrás do bigode
    é sério, simples e forte.
    Quase não conversa.
    Tem poucos, raros amigos
    o homem atrás dos óculos e do bigode.

    Meu Deus, por que me abandonaste
    se sabias que eu não era Deus,
    se sabias que eu era fraco.

    Mundo mundo vasto mundo
    se eu me chamasse Raimundo
    seria uma rima, não seria uma solução.
    Mundo mundo vasto mundo,
    mais vasto é meu coração.

    Eu não devia te dizer
    mas essa lua
    mas esse conhaque
    botam a gente comovido como o diabo.

 October 23, 2005

 "Assim é a vida", "C'est la vie", "That's life", "Das ist das Leben", "É la vita": a expressão existe em todas as línguas que conheço e, em todas elas, pode ser usada num amplo leque de tonalidades, que vai do sarcasmo ressentido e cínico (...) até a euforia quase maníaca (...). No meio desse leque há um tom médio, que é o que eu prefiro, mas que é raro: ele concilia, misteriosamente, as dores e as penas da existência com a possibilidade de aceitá-la e mesmo de amá-la, sem entusiasmo deascabido. Uma grande psicanalista, Heinz Kohut, descreveu assim a sabedoria à qual podemos aspirar e que corresponde talvez ao tom que tento definir: é a sensação de "um tranquilo triunfo interior com uma mistura de melancolia reconhecida".  -- Contardo Calligaris, Folha de São Paulo, 20/10/2005

December 13, 2005

Alain de Botton (Philosopher):

"Most contemporary music is about love between two people. What makes Bach's music particularly striking is that it's about the love of God. This should present a hurdle to someone who, like me, doesn't believe in God - but it doesn't. What I appreciate in Bach is his ability to suggest to me what a belief in God feels like. His music seems to me to be about devotion to a perfect ideal - something purer, better, higher ..."

Germaine Greer (Writer):

"'So what's so good about Bach?' you ask, and to me it's as if you asked, 'What's so good about music?' Musicians may go far out and in deep but they can never get very far away from the chromaticism of Bach. As they grow older they usually return deliberately as well as unconsciously to him, so that the essence of western music can drip into their veins, easing their pain, stilling their longing and floating them over the bar. You can well understand why Beethoven built his last quartets out of Bachian building blocks, till they stood perfectly balanced, free and clear. Bach showed him how to make heard the cries of his passionate soul above the noise of romantic super-heroism. I love Bach's sobriety, his industry, and his humility. I also love his desperate yearning after a god, that immediate wrench of the heart that so often twists the music, cracking the form wide open. Bach gives faith a dynamic physical form. The marriage of his music with the marching songs of Luther realises the moment when Protestantism was revolutionary and heroic, when God was a physical presence in the lives of believers, and salvation was just around the corner."

(Quotes taken from the article "So what's so good about Bach, then?" published in The Guardian on December 12, 2005; see http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/bach/story/0,16895,1665204,00.html.)

December 28, 2005

One Art (by Elizabeth Bishop) 

The art of losing isn't hard to master;
so many things seem filled with the intent
to be lost that their loss is no disaster.

Lose something everyday. Accept the fluster
of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
places, and names, and where it was you meant
to travel. None of these things will bring disaster.

I lost my mother's watch. And look! my last, or
next-to-last, of three loved houses went.
The art of losing isn't hard to master.

I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
I miss them, but it wasn't a disaster.

-Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
I love) I shan't have lied. It's evident
the art of losing's not too hard to master
though it may look like (Write it!) like disaster.

February 2, 2006

Life is good, but it is not fair.

February 8, 2006

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.”  Søren Kierkegaard

March 21, 2006

Johann Sebastian Bach was born on March 21, 1685, that is, 321 years ago. Happy birthday, Mr Bach. 

March 23, 2006

"What Newton was as philosopher, Sebastian Bach was as musician." --C.F. Daniel Schubart, 1785

April 30, 2006

What is the essence of baroque music? Baroque music expresses order, the fundamental order of the universe. Yet it is always lively and tuneful. Music reflects the mood of the times, then as now as always. (...) The English word baroque is derived from the Italian barocco, meaning bizarre, though probably exuberant would be a better translation more accurately reflecting the sense. The usage of this term originated in the 1860s to describe the highly decorated style of 17th and 18th century religious and public buildings in Italy, Germany and Austria, as typified by the very baroque angelic organist adorning the Gottfried Silbermann organ completed in 1714 for the Cathedral in Freiberg, Saxony (...). Later, during the early-to-mid 1900s, the term baroque was applied by association to music of the 17th and early 18th century, and today the term baroque has come to refer to a very clearly definable type or genre of music which originated, broadly speaking, around 1600 and came to fruition between 1700 and 1750. (...) Music which is melodious yet so constructed as to reflect the "perfect order" of the universe: that is the essence of the baroque.  In the words of baroque composer and theorist Johann Joseph Fux: "A composition meets the demands of good taste if it is well constructed, avoids trivialities as well as willful eccentricities, aims at the sublime, but moves in a natural ordered way, combining brilliant ideas with perfect workmanship." These days more and more people are seeking a return to music for the mind, music combining beauty with the order of an underlying architecture and structure. So we are witnessing a resurgence of interest in the baroque, and those who are fortunate enough to be as yet unfamiliar with it have a wonderful experience awaiting them.

(Taken from http://www.baroquemusic.org.)

May 11, 2006

I received today John Eliot Gardiner's recoding of Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn'ihn (BWV1127), a birthday ode for Duke Wilhelm Ernst written by Johann Sebastian Bach in 1713 and discovered in the Duchess Amalia Library in June 2005. It is an impressive piece. Truly so. The recording is superb. It was released by Soli Deo Gloria, a label created by Gardiner (see http://www.solideogloria.co.uk) with the chief goal of releasing the recordings he produced during his Bach cantata pilgrimage, which took place in 2000, the year that marked the 250th anniversary of Bach's death. I highly recommend this recording.

"Bach is probably the only composer whose musical output is so rich,
so challenging to the performers and so spiritually uplifting
to both performer and listener alike, that one would
gladly spend a year in his exclusive company."  --Sir John Eliot Gardiner

July 8, 2006

Julia Fischer chose Johann Sebastian Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin for her first CD (Pentatone Classics, 2005), at the age of 21. Her words: "I have played Bach's music on my violin more or less on a daily basis since I was nine. (...) As far as I am concerned, his works represent the fountainhead of music and the basis for all musicians. My day has to begin with Bach, and I find it very difficult to concentrate on the music of another composer before cleansed myself, as it were, with Bach."

July 15, 2006

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emil_Cioran

Regarding God, Cioran has noted "without Bach, God would be complete second rate figure" and "Bach's music is the only argument proving the creation of the Universe can not be regarded a complete failure". (interview to Benjamin Ivry, in Newsweek, December 4, 1989, p 42).

(Roger Koenker emailed me these quotes. Thanks, Roger!)  

July 18, 2006

"Mozart is the simplest music there is. It's also the hardest. If I could explain that, I wouldn't be sitting here talking to you. I'd be rich as God. God, by the way, is Johann Sebastian Bach. He is the greatest. He saw everything that was happening before him and brought it all together and said, 'This will now be the basis of music for the next thousand years.' Without Bach, there is no western traditional music. None." --William Eddins, conductor of the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra  

August 9, 2006  

 "A beleza do andante do concerto para violino de Johann Sebastian Bach é tamanha que ficamos realmente sem saber em que posição sentar e como nos comportarmos para ser dignos de ouvir o que estamos ouvindo."    --Claude Debussy

August 22, 2006

I am in Heaven! I am listening to Richard Egarr's recent recording of Bach's Goldberg Variations (Harmonia Mundi, 2006). It is historically informed, it includes the 14 canons discoved in 1974 and the harpsichord was tuned according to the tuning system uncoved by Bradley Lehman in the papers he published in the journal Early Music last year (see my April 30, 2005 entry).

September 10, 2006

This is from Wikipedia.org:

"Membra Jesu Nostri (English: The Limbs of our Lord Jesus), BuxWV 75, is a cycle of seven cantatas composed by Dieterich Buxtehude in 1680, and dedicated to Gustaf Düben. The text, Salve mundi salutare—also known as the Rhythmica oratio—is a poem written by Medieval poet Arnulf of Louvain (d. 1250). It is divided into seven parts, each addressed to a different part of Christ's crucified body: feet, knees, hands, side, chest, heart, and head.

Each cantata in Membra Jesu Nostri is divided into six sections; an instrumental introduction; a concerto for instruments and five voices (SSATB), with the exception of the fifth and sixth cantatas where only three voices are used; three arias for one or three voices, each followed by an instrumental ritornello; and an exact reprise of the concerto. The last cantata of the cycle, Ad faciem, is the only one that deviates from this pattern, with a final Amen chorus substituting for the reprise.

The structure of Membra is dictated by its text. Buxtehude selected biblical verses for the concertos, and three strophes from each part of the poem Salve mundi salutare for the arias in each cantata. The metre of the poetry itself unifies the cantatas' rhythmic patterns."

Membra Jesu Nostri is an amazing piece of music. Truly amazing. The labels Harmonia Mundi and Channel Classics recently released recordings of this Baroque set of cantatas. (Indeed, both CDs were released on the same day.) I have the Channel Classics recording (SACD) and also an earlier recording by John Eliot Gardiner. I have ordered the Harmonia Mundi CD, and I am anxious to receive it. 

Buxtehude strongly influenced the young Bach, and it is easy to see why when we listen to Membra Jesu Nostri.

September 11, 2006

The aria Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen from Johann Sebastian Bach's Cantata 82 is, most likely, the most beautiful piece of music I have ever listened to. Ever! And yes, that includes Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.

October 21, 2006

"Escrever é fácil: você começa com uma letra maiúscula e termina com um ponto final. No meio você coloca idéias."  --Pablo Neruda 

October 30, 2006

The Johns Hopkins Gazette published today an article entitled "A ticket to Hell and Bach". The autor, Greg Rienzi, writes:

Felix Hell was 7 years old when he first heard the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Prelude in C major from Well-Tempered Clavier, played by his father on the piano during a holiday gathering. The chords and notes he heard that day instantly captivated the young Hell, like a sailor called by a siren.

"I was just absolutely fascinated by its sound, never having heard classical music before. I heard this piece, having no idea it was Bach, and I was just blown away," said Hell."I said, 'Hey, Dad, I would like to learn how to play it.' He told me, 'You are going to have to take lessons, learn all the notes, and maybe one of these days you'll be able to play it.' I said, 'That would take way too long. I'd like to play it right now.'"

During the course of three days, the determined Hell taught himself to play the song down to the last note. A career was born.

Fourteen years later, the German-born Hell's love of Bach has not waned. In fact, you might say it's insatiable.

November 9, 2006 

Interview with Blaine Thunder, from the Canadian rock group The New Pornographers, published today in The Phoenix:

(...) 

MB: One final question. If you could only listen to one band or artist for the rest of your life, who would it be?

BT: Johann Sebastian Bach. That was an easy one.

November 24, 2006

I have just finished watching Bruno Monsaingeon's recent documentary: Glenn Gould Hereafter. I am moved. Truly. A quote from Mr Gould: "Bach was the reason why I became a musician." 

November 30, 2006 

"The final, unfinished fugue from The Art of Fugue is the greatest piece of music ever composed." --Glenn Gould

December 10, 2006

Gen. August Pinochet, the former Chilean dictator, died today. Soon Sadam Hussein and Fidel Castro will be dead as well. The world will be a better place without those chaps around. I truly dislike dictators. 

December 24, 2006

"Mozart is the superstore wallpaper of classical music, the composer who pleases most and offends least. Lively, melodic, dissonance free: what's not to like? The music is not just charming, it's full of good vibes. (...) The hard-knocks son of a cynical court musician, Mozart was taught from first principles to ingratiate himself musically with people of wealth and power. The boy, on tour from age five, hopped into the laps of queens and played limpid consolations to ruthless monarchs. Recognising that his music was better than most, he took pleasure in humiliating court rivals and crudely abused them in letters back home. (...) The key test of any composer's importance is the extent to which he reshaped the art. Mozart, it is safe to say, failed to take music one step forward. Unlike Bach and Handel who inherited a dying legacy and vitalised it beyond recognition, unlike Haydn who invented the sonata form without which music would never have acquired its classical dimension, Mozart merely filled the space between staves with chords that he knew would gratify a pampered audience. He was a provider of easy listening. (...) He lacked the rage of justice that pushed Beethoven into isolation, or any urge to change the world. Mozart wrote a little night music for the ancien regime. He was not so much reactionary as regressive, a composer content to keep music in a state of servility so long as it kept him well supplied with frilled cuffs and fancy quills. (...) Where ten days of Bach on BBC Radio 3 will flush out the world's ears and open minds to limitless vistas, the coming year of Mozart feels like a term at Guantanamo Bay without the sunshine. There will be no refuge from neatly resolved chords, no escaping that ingratiating musical grin. (...) Mozart is a menace to musical progress, a relic of rituals that were losing relevance in his own time and are meaningless to ours. Beyond a superficial beauty and structural certainty, Mozart has nothing to give to mind or spirit in the 21st century. Let him rest. Ignore the commercial onslaught. Play the Leningrad Symphony. Listen to music that matters." --Norman Lebrecht, Too Much Mozart Makes You Sick

December 29, 2006

"Bach esgotou por completo todas as possibilidades que, até então, a música oferecia em seus aspectos formais, harmônicos, expressivos e melódicos; realizou isso de modo tão rico e incomensurável, que se tornou o pilar sobre o qual se assentou todo o posterior desenvolvimento da música ocidental." --Nikolaus Harnoncourt (O Diálogo Musical: Monteverdi, Bach e Mozart, 1985, Jorge Zahar Editor, p. 45) 

December 30, 2006

A brutal dictator was executed today in Iraq. He was symbol of cruelty.

January 12, 2007

"I believe in God -- Bach's God."   --Glenn Gould

February 18, 2007

I downloaded and tried a new Linux distribution: Dreamlinux (http://www.dreamlinux.com.br), version 2.2. It's Debian-based and quite impressive. It comes with java and multimidia ready for use, and everything seems to be well polished. The only drawbach was that it did not recognize the wireless card of my notebook. I may give it a second try a few months down the road.

February 19, 2007

A few weeks ago I read A Saga das Mãos, João Carlos Martins's autobiography. João Carlos Martins is a Brazilian pianist who is no longer able to play the piano due to physical problems; he is now a conductor. Some viewed him as one of the leading Bach interpreters on the piano. His web site:  http://www.joaocarlosmartins.com.br. I also recommend two documentaries that describe his life, his passion for Bach's music and his health problems: Martins Passion (made in Germany) and Rêverie (made in Belgium).

February 20, 2007

John Marks published an article entitled The Fifth Element #40 in the February issue of Stereophile that mostly deals with Bradley Lehman's recent discovery of the keyboard tuning system used by Bach. For more details, see Lehman's web site: http://www.larips.com. (See my April 30, 2005 entry.) 

February 24, 2007

"Why waste money on psychotherapy when you can listen to the B Minor Mass?"  --Michael Torke

March 20, 2007

Here are my answers to Barnard Pivot's famous questionnaire:

1: What is your favorite word? A: Life.

2: What is your least favorite word? A: Death.

3: What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? A: Music.

4: What turns you off? A: Noise.

5: What sound or noise do you love? A: Bach's music.

6: What sound or noise do you hate? A: A baby crying.

7: What is your favorite curse word? A: F***.

8: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? A: Painting.

9: What profession would you not like to do? A: Medicine.

10: If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? A: Let me introduce you to Mr Bach.

March 21, 2007

Happy birthday, Mr Bach!

March 22, 2007

When eminent biologist and author Lewis Thomas was asked what message he would choose to send from Earth into outer space in the Voyager spacecraft, he answered, "I would send the complete works of Johann Sebastian Bach." After a pause, he added, "But that would be boasting."

(From the BBC documentary on Johann Sebastian Bach.)

"Study Bach. There you will find everything." --Johannes Brahms 

"Bach is thus a terminal point. Nothing comes from him; everything merely leads to him." --Albert Schweitzer

April 15, 2007

Today I saw (on DVD) the director's cut version of my all time favorite movie: Cinema Paradiso (by Giuseppe Tornatore). This version runs over 50 minutes longer than the standard version, which won the Academy Award as best foreign film in 1990. It's a wonderful movie, no doubt. Both versions are.

April 16, 2007

"Bach opens a vista to the universe. After experiencing him, people feel there is meaning to life after all." --Helmut Walcha (German organist, 1907-1991)

April 17, 2007

I recently finished reading Wondrous Strange: the Life and Art of Glenn Gould by Kevin Bazzana (Oxford University Press, 2004). This was hands off the best biography of Glenn Gould that I have read. I strongly recommend it to those, like myself, who have interest in the life of this amazing pianist.

A citation from the book (p. 293): "Gould's Bach is sparse, abstract, yet mysterious. It is never pretty, certainly not sensous. It is a northern Bach, piercing the listener like the cold." (Citation to David Dubal.)

April 18, 2007

A nice account of Book 1 o Johann Sebastian Bach's Well Tempered Clavier is available at http://www.mu.qub.ac.uk/~tomita/essay/wtc1.htm.

April 27, 2007

"If you play Bach every day, you are not so alone." --Pablo Casals

May 17, 2007 

Today I finished reading Travels in the Scriptorium, the latest Paul Auster novel. I have to say I liked Oracle Night better. 

June 1, 2007

"It seems that Bach may have been that most potent of combinations: god and man." --Lindsay Kemp

June 25, 2007 

"God listens to Bach while the angels listen to Mozart." --Karl Barth

July 3, 2007

"A capacidade intelectual de um homem está na razão inversa de sua capacidade de tolerar ruído." --Arthur Schopenhauer

Viva Bach!

September 18, 2007

I highly recommend the site The New Commandments. In short, these are the new ten commandments: 

First Commandment: Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you.

Second Commandment: In all things, strive to cause no harm.

Third Commandment: Treat your fellow human beings, your fellow living things, and the world in general with love, honesty, faithfulness and respect.

Fourth Commandment: Do not overlook evil or shrink from administering justice, but always be ready to forgive wrongdoing freely admitted and honestly regretted.

Fifth Commandment: Live life with a sense of joy and wonder.

Sixth Commandment: Always seek to be learning something new.

Seventh Commandment: Test all things; always check your ideas against the facts, and be ready to discard even a cherished belief if it does not conform to them.

Eighth Commandment: Never seek to censor or cut yourself off from dissent; always respect the right of others to disagree with you.

Ninth Commandment: Form independent opinions on the basis of your own reason and experience; do not allow yourself to be led blindly by others.

Tenth Commandment: Question everything.

I also strongly recommend Richard Dawkins's latest book: The God Delusion. (Richard Dawkins is a Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Oxford.)