20 April, 2010

from Vinkensport.

Tick, Tick, Tick, Tally-tick.

19 April, 2010

A Kickstart from Hell

I am about as far behind on my blog-reading as I am on my blog-writing, so this morning I thought I'd try to get caught up on at least the reading part, starting with the wonderfully-written and frequently updated Hell Mouth blog by John Adams. Part of my reason for starting there was also, to be honest, to kick my blog-writing back into action after too-long of a hiatus. (Every time I complain about being too tired to blog, I have a good friend who puts me in my place by reminding me that John Adams posts thoughtful and substantial posts every three-to-four days. And he's John Adams; a busy guy. I inevitably grumble but concede.)

The post that first caught my attention was this one, about one of my favorite places on earth--Père-Lachaise Cemetery in Paris. I love old cemeteries, and for me, Père-Lachaise is second only to San Michelle's in Venice, which wins out simply because it's literally an island of the dead, and that's pretty creepy. And though San Michelle can boast Diaghilev, Stravinsky, Nono and Ezra Pound among its residents, Père-Lachaise certainly wins out in terms of composer VIPs: Bellini, Bizet, Chausson, Cherubini, Chopin, Dukas, Françaix, Poulenc, and more. And of course there's also Balzac, Proust, and The Lizard King. (Though it should be mentioned that Vienna's Zentralfriedhof, probably wins out in terms of the quality of its VIPs--Beethoven, Brahms, Ligeti, Mozart, Schoenberg, Schubert, and others. Still, it doesn't have the creepy, magical feeling of the other two, and so falls to third place.)

Adams's description of the cemetery is really wonderful, but the moment that really struck me was the following passage:

We don’t do the pilgrimage to Jim Morrison, but we note with some pleasure that of all the tens of thousands of graves, the one that it is by far and away the most adored, the most visited and the most heaped with flowers and demonstrations of affection is that of a composer, “Fred. Chopin” (as the inscription reads). For all the politicians and wealthy businessmen and puffed up egos that take up room in this seemingly endless cemetery, the ones people gravitate to are those of the artists, and of those, it’s the ones who gave us beauty and a singular awareness of our humanity that receive the most visits. Thus, on this unremarkable weekday afternoon in March with tourist season months away, there is nonethelss a clutch of people clustered around Chopin’s grave, and there is a fresh pile of flowers beneath it.

I first visited Père-Lachaise when I was 16 years old. I had just decided that I wanted to become a composer, though still had no idea what that really meant, or how I was going to do it. I remember that, in the moment when I first saw Chopin's grave, I was similarly moved. That there must be some deep truth that this man understood, and could share with people; " beauty and a singular awareness of our humanity," as Adams puts it. I think that somewhere in my subconscious this re-affirmed my uninformed teenage decision to be a composer, and that the resonance of this moment has kept me going through times of doubt, fear, writers-block, etc. in the years since.