Art

Today! First Concert in India!

Time is flying and today we'll have our first concert here in Delhi, India, at the Piano Man Jazz Club!  Along with that excitement, we've launched a FaceBook Artist page for Syrinx : XXII where you can follow us, and we'll be premiering the fantastic work written for us by Carlos Marecos, "7 Instantes from Rural Portugal" , Op. 92. Also, there is a great article about another of the works on the program written up in Serenade Magazine, which is an online magazine about Western Classical Music in India—and a very fine and interesting magazine it is!

Yesterday we fit in a bit of proper tourism, visiting Humayun's Tomb in Delhi. This preceeds the Taj Mahal by some 80 years, dating to the 16th century, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the first garden-tomb complex, with various buildings and the central tomb; the Mughal style later culminated in the Taj Mahal, which is some five times larger! Yet the scale and proportions and sheer beauty of the layout at Humayun's Tomb were already a delight, and as it was a holiday, there were many locals as well as tourists enjoying the visit in a leisurely manner.  

A few photos here—I especially liked the coexistence of the very modern "selfie" moment, fine dress of a young man, and the beautiful, centuries-old monument in the background of the first photo! 

 

The international gesture of the moment… 

The international gesture of the moment… 

The sarcophagus in the very center

The sarcophagus in the very center

View of the gardens from the tomb

View of the gardens from the tomb

Happy tourists! 

Happy tourists! 

Faune-a-thon!

So we know what a marathon is, and we know what a phone-a-thon is, but what's a "Faune-a-thon"? It's when you play Debussy's "Faune" (Prelude à l'après-midi d'un faune, if you prefer) TWELVE TIMES in the same morning! I should know, because that's what was on the orchestra docket yesterday— luckily for a good cause:

The Portuguese national Youth Music Prizes is celebrating its 30th Edition this year by, among other events, staging its first-ever Competition for Orchestral Conductors, and our orchestra is their "instrument" for the live rounds, three in all. Yesterday was the first live round, with TWELVE candidates, all of whom had to conduct (the first half of) Faune, plus the 4th movement of Beethoven's First Symphony (first half, also). 

I am happy to report that it was actually fun, in part because the pressure was more on the candidates than on the flute soloist (for once). Secondly, as there was no time to talk, the approach in rehearsal to this famous and incredibly beautfily work was fairly existential—what's coming next? And thirdly, it was fun because the conductors were of an excellent level (Faune is a work that poses many difficulties and options for the conductor, too!)—another reflection of the amazing quality of music-making going on here in Portugal! Bravo, maestros!

Leon Bakst's famous program cover for the 1912 premier by the  Ballets Russes , with Nijinsky as the Faune.

Leon Bakst's famous program cover for the 1912 premier by the Ballets Russes, with Nijinsky as the Faune.

Back in the saddle!

I've been enjoying the last gasp of Summer, before things really get rolling next week! Of course practicing anyway, but also had a short trip out of town to catch up with my European cousins and stock up on inspiration!

As we all get "back in the saddle" (Wild-West terminology still in the language!) here's some advice I even hope to follow myself: spend not too much time in the "comfort" zone, nor too much time in the "impossible, panic-inducing" zone, focussing instead on the "learning" zone in between these two extremes, where we push ourselves without causing panic (and extra tensions). Go steady, enjoy even the mistakes, and progress will come!

Here's a little angel to watch over us all, found on my travels:

Bas-relief by Eleonore Blount

Bas-relief by Eleonore Blount

Art, Humanity and Progress

On my excursion to the North of Portugal, I was finally able to visit the Museum of "Arte Rupestre" (Prehistoric Rock Art) of the Valley of Foz Côa. This remarkable archeological site was discovered during excavations for an eventual dam, that luckily was never built, due to the importance of the site, named as World Patrimony in 1998. I remember all this excitement but had never gotten around to visiting.

Well, what a treasure trove of art! Spanning thousands of years during the Palaeolithic ages, dating as far back as 25,000 years B.C. and encompassing an extended area, the drawings (engravings) show changes in style and technique and are notable for their profusion—like a musical fugue: one drawing overlaps with several others. The archaeological work done in the last 20 years is astounding.

In the Museum—a handsome architectural monument—this quote, from a famous French archaeologist resonated: "The history of art and humanity are indissociable". To be artistic is to be human. The drawings to the left of the quote are from Picasso (1946, far left) and from the Foz Côa rock art (c. 22,000 B.C, near left). With all due respect for Picasso…so much for progress in art! 

From the Museum at Foz Côa

From the Museum at Foz Côa

Postcard from Portugal

Since Beethoven if not much earlier, the beauty of nature has been an inspiration for composers and musicians, and here in Portugal there's no lack of natural beauty to take one's breath away! It's always good to occasionally recharge one's batteries, breathe deeply (without exhaling through a flute!), and drink in the beauty that is all around us.

On a short holiday in the northeastern area of the country, between discovering many enchanting villages and churches—photos coming soon—I am finding the landscape to be gently divine, and remarkably pristine. Here's a photo from near Torre de Moncorvo, something to hold in my memory whenever a piece of unspoilt nature is the remedy for urban ills…

Rolling hills, cork and olive trees in the North of Portugal

Rolling hills, cork and olive trees in the North of Portugal

Ancient Multiculturalism

Lately the word "multiculturalism" or globalization gets a lot of exposure. But in fact, multicultural influences have been around for years, centuries, probably millennia.

While enjoying some tourism with my pianist friend Raj Bhimani after a good week of solid rehearsing, we went to the beautiful Monastery of Jeronimos in Belém, Lisbon. It dates from 1601 (after 100 years of construction!) and is in the Manueline Style. It is one of the few buildings in this late Gothic style that survived the catastrophic earthquake of 1755.

The nave is exquisite: lofty and elegant, moving in it's very form and materials. The ribbed vaults are particularly spectacular, and as I was photographing them, I saw how closely their pattern resembles Moorish tile-work, in form and repetition. Considering the dominance of the Moors in Portugal from about 711 to 1249, it shouldn't be too surprising, but somehow, at the very apex of a major cathedral, it IS a surprise … and a reminder that styles and people have always commingled… the melting-pot was not, after all, an American invention!

Jerónimos.jpg

ESART! Scene+Symmetry

While having lunch back in June at ESART, two percussion students set up for an impromptu concert in the bar, and I couldn't resist photographing the beautiful symmetry of the two performers, José Silva and Francisco Viera, and the staircase above echoing their marimbas. 

The music was a delight, energetic but entrancing, and extremely well-played. We all dream of large, important halls, but sometimes the greatest pleasure and impact for the listener is in a more intimate, not to mention unexpected location. We all should remember this power of music, and that it exists any time we play, not just in "big" concerts. A concert is the size we make it!

Impromptu percussion recital at ESART — bravo, José Silva and Francisco Viera!

Impromptu percussion recital at ESART — bravo, José Silva and Francisco Viera!

The Sound of Silence

You might think, if you are not TOO TOO young, that I'm referring to the classic Simon and Garfunkel album, the one I grew up listing to endlessly, putting the needle back into the groove again and again. (This was way before vinyl was "vintage", it was just "a record"). What a fabulous album! Want to know how to balance or pace a program or a CD? Look no further. "Sounds of Silence", technically. 

But no, I'm actually talking about the SILENCE of having my cell phone in the shop!! THIS, folks, is real silence! No calls, no alerts, no beeps, no apps…and… no distractions! It is a drastic measure, and I don't recommend smashing the screen on your phone to experience it, but there's something magic, too! Time that is wider-open. Silence that you can sink into. (In short: I got a lot of tidying up done!).

As musicians, we concentrate on the SOUNDS we make, but the SILENCE in between is always important, too. The silence before a piece begins, the silence after—sometimes big, sometimes tiny. The silence of an empty strong beat (thanks again, Karl Kohn). The silence where the music breathes. Here's a visual representation of lots of silence and the punch of just a little bit of "sound"—

Central Park, New York City

Central Park, New York City