week49 Claude Debussy: Little French Songs; Maggie Nelson; Pacific Harp Project



Angel Records Recording. Printed in the USA // Claude Debussy (1862-1918)//selections from Pour le piano (1901), Estampes (1903) Images 1&2 

Pianist: Walter Giesenking 

Pour le piano 

  • Prélude 

  • Sarabande 

  • Toccata


  • Pagodes

  • Soirée dans grenade

  • Jardins sous la pluie

Images, 1

  • Reflets dans l’eau

  • Hommage à rameau

  • Mouvement

Images, 2

  • Cloches à travers les feuilles 

  • Et la lune descend…

  • Poissons d’or

There’s no need for music to make people think!...It would be enough if...they felt that for a moment they had been dreaming of an imaginary country. “” claude debussy 

Among the great classical composers Debussy may have been the least cooked by rules and formulas. The result was a new art, one of ambiance and evocation and mystery. At the same time he was among the most fastidious of craftsmen, with the patience, skill, and genius to realize new kinds of creative ambition, which he pursued with moral fervor. “” jan swafford, Language of the Spirit

In his piano music Debussy remade the instrument in the same way and same spirit as Chopin had: new figures, new colors, new kinds of singing on an instrument that inherently resists singing. “” jan swafford, Language of the Spirit

(this other blue thing i found)


i finally got around to finishing maggie nelson’s Bluets, her stream-of-consciousness compilation of some very blue things and inexplicably bluer people, roped along with the afterglows of heartbreak and the consolation of a friend disfigured by a motor accident. it’s a hard book to pin down, partly because she managed to obtain the colour independently of the objects that borrow it. and so the reader begins with that surreal presupposition, that blue is itself a thing, it is upon this that nelson’s castle of blue memories are precariously stratified. precarious not because of a lack of believability--her poetic language and street-level banter thrills and enthralls throughout--but because she avoids, until the very last instance, the conceptual cohesion by which closure is possible. the heartbreaks, quirks and hazards that she sows together with a blue thread do not form a comprehensible tapestry; her only constant is the abundance of her topic: 

155. It does not really bother me that half the adults in the Western world also love blue, or that every dozen years or so someone feels compelled to write a book about it. I feel confident enough of the specificity and strength of my relation to it to share. Besides, it must be admitted that if blue is anything on this earth, it is abundant. “” maggie nelson, Bluets

it is as well a wildly researched book. wild because nothing seems irrelevant to its reach, its curatorial instincts are feral. take for example the otherwise innocent albeit kitschy diamond-halo found often in christian iconography, levitating and glowing just above the head of the chosen one. harmless right? but for nelson, who has often found the sheen of the halo to be a variety of blue, she does not fail to draw that observation into one of her eroctically charged asides, nor does she disappoint:  

164. I do not know the reason for this blue pussy, meant to convey both divine bewilderment and revelation. But I do feel that its color is right. For blue has no mind. It is not wise, nor does it promise any wisdom. It is beautiful, and despite what the poets and philosophers and theologians have said, I think beauty neither obscures truth nor reveals it. Likewise, it leads neither toward justice nor away from it. It is pharmakon. It radiates. “” maggie nelson, Bluets


I do not know the reason for this blue pussy’ is one of the many absolutely brilliant lines she strings together in praise of the ‘female gaze’. her excursions on the topic suffer no discretion, the details are as moist as they are vicious---her appetite is on the other end of the feeding frenzy described by brooklyn-based poet kyle dargan as being “devoured by a gorgeous predator”(Honest Engine). yet in this wild romp of a book--that hops from whether or not isaac newton really did have a lab assistant to the mating rituals of australian bowerbirds--she still finds room for some closure. near the end of the 240 entries that makes her collection, nelson utters what is the equivalent of a direct-address to the camera, as a sort of sly admission to what was, all along, just shy of apparent: 

238. I want you to know, if you ever read this, there was a time when I would rather have had you by my side than any one of these words; I would rather have had you by my side than all the blue in the world.  “” maggie nelson, Bluets 

what a mad thing it is, to be possessed enough by a colour to write a book about it, all the while knowing how insignificant it is compared to the existence of one particular person. that is perhaps true not only of her blue things, but of all the arts, and poems, and philosophies, and theologies...insignificant specks compared to what one person could mean to another. a mountain of insightful quotes pales in comparison to what torontonian novelist andré alexis called ‘the animal thereness’ (Pastoral) of a loved one’s body. 

those aforementioned australian bowerbirds are known to collect blue scraps--plastic, paper, flowers, garbage--to bezzadle their nests in hopes of attracting a mate. it’s the same thing over and over, in birds as in humans.

(elsewhere in music: Un Sospiro -- Pacific Harp Project)

this is a new segment i’m starting to reffflleeect on the latest song i’ve added to my music library..

Un Sospiro, the third of franz liszt’s Three Concert Études, composed between 1845 and 1849, is one of my favourite pieces on the piano. back in october i discovered this rendition by a new jazz/classical ensemble called the Pacific Harp Project. their take is more a recomposition than a cover, they’ve stretched out the piece and remade it their own while keeping the melodic spine that gives Un Sospiro a language of its own.