Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Grey Paint

Among a population, identically produced;
A homogenious mixture of grey paint.
Each mind programmed and trained to know and believe;
And possess predicted reactions.
Each habitual, structured, religious, and syntax.

I am a single leaf on a tree of many;
Trying to find identity as I fall. Laying on the ground ,
Looking up at where I came from and where I am bound.
There is a spark, a light in a room of dark;
A signal to my eye, a sense of change,
An isolated part.

One untouched, unmarked, brandless, purity;
Weightless of preillusions.
You, the soul I speak of, with eyes of depth,
Rather than opaque ornaments of perfected onix.
Uncovered, naked of paint, unbound, unmolded,
Wet clay.

You are figured wind and I watch you as you dance in the rain.
When all run and hide, rather to be entertained inside,
Or ignore their senses which beg them to close their eyes
And imagine a straight line.

When all follow a visual path with eyes open,
Marked by those who traveled there.
You keep yours closed and feel the way.
Independent of the light of day.

The Difference in Righteousness

Where is the line between a sinner and a savior? How does one define righteousness? Is one who is righteous always good? It is human nature to make good and evil black and white. However, very often, justice can become revenge and godliness can become ignorance. Are the circumstances what decipher the difference or is the determining factor in the individual? “Virtue? A Fig! Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus. Our bodies are our gardens, to which our will are gardeners.”
(Iago 1.3.322-324). The theme of jealousy is represented through two contrasting characters, Iago and Othello. Each character possesses this fundamental of human nature but only one is righteous. In Shakespear’s Othello, jealousy is given the ability to contaminate, to control, and to be overcome. The personal motivation to do each makes the difference in righteous.
After he looses the position of lieutenant to a Florentine and is given the less desirable position of ancient, Shakespeare’s Iago is given enough ammunition to reflect his true character; a combination of malice, greed, betrayal, and manipulation. “We can not all be masters nor all masters can be truly followed. You shall mark many a duteous and knee-crooking knave that, dotting on his own obsequious bondage, wears out his time, much like his master’s ass, for naught but provender and, when, he’s old, who, trimmed in forms and visages of duty, keep yet their hearts attending on themselves; and throwing but shows of service on their lords, do well by thrive by them; and when they’ve lined their coats, do themselves homage.” (1.1.40-55). Iago rebels Othello’s superiority. He proves to be remarkably cunning rather than noble. Iago would approach the position he serves, whether it be lieutenant or ancient, with the same ulterior motive. When he speaks of wearing out his time, he considers this an investment in wearing down his master’s suspicion. An investment of time and duty would be the work of false loyalty or “forms and visages,” allowing Iago to collect on the advantages; in other words “line his coat.” This revelation of intention suggests that Iago is a selfish and greedy man. “And he grows angry. Now, whether he kills Casio or Casio him or each do kill the other, every way makes my gain…of gold and jewels that I bobbed from him as gifts to Desdemona.” (5.1.11-17). This is the second reference Iago makes to money suggesting that Iago is greedy of superficial value. His morale is much less than that of Othello, possibly why Shakespeare often refers to animals of lesser class in the dialogue of Othello. (Introduction to William Shakespeare’s Othello). Iago is compared to the voice of Lucifer, often telling others to give in to their selfish wants. “Her eye must be fed; and what delight shall she have to look on the devil?” (2.1.226-227) This comparison to evil can be supported by Shakespeare’s choice to use the name Iago. Iago is a Spanish name. At the time when Shakespeare wrote Othello, Spain was England’s worst enemy. (www.monmouth .com.)
The sacrifice that Iago makes of himself to his emotions demonstrates the ability jealousy has to contaminate. “It could be the intellectual frustration of knowing that others are missing the point. It could be the social irritation of having to tolerate rude behavior. It could be the humiliating insult of not having our expectations fulfilled. But insult it is, and we feel the urge to pick up weapons—whether physical (i.e., guns and bombs) or verbal (i.e., sarcasm and curses)—and turn them on others or turn them on ourselves as a form of unconsciously motivated self-sabotage.” (www.guidetopsychology.com/anger). It is because of Iago’s disappointment in not having his expectations fulfilled and/or feeling unappreciated that he not only acts on his frustration but also sabotages himself to be consumed with hatred; indifferent to the risks he takes (loosing his wife, his position, his trust, his respect, ECT). “Thus do I ever make my fool my purse; for I mine own gained knowledge should profane if I would time expend with such a snipe but for my sport and profit. I hate the more; and it is though abroad that twixt my sheets…Cassio’s a proper man: let me see now: to get his place.” (1.3.382-393). Iago feels immense hatred and a powerful need for revenge. Both Cassio and Othello have succeeded him, making him feel inferior and causing him to lash out. “Many persons blindly follow the path of violence—and in so doing, they “get angry” to avoid feeling the hurt that holds the acknowledgment of their own vulnerability.” (www.guidetopsychology.com/anger). Iago feels no mercy. He is simply a victim to his whims.
It would not be difficult to conclude that Iago is pulling the strings, leading each character to their own demise. It is the devil, implanted by Iago that leads Othello on a quest of revenge when the need for revenge is out of Othello’s character. The relationship between Iago and Othello represents the ability that jealousy has to control. Iago uses jealousy to weaken Othello, therefore controlling him. “Come, go with me apart: I will withdraw, to furnish me with some swift means of death for the fair devil. Now art though my lieutenant!” (3.3.477-480.) Othello speaks to the devil but directs Iago. At this point, Othello embraces Iago as his leader. Othello embraces the devil. When he says he will withdraw this means he will let down the sword of his values. “The Moore is of free and open nature that thinks men honest that but seem to be so, and will as tenderly be led by th’nose as asses are.” (1.3.399-402). It is hard to believe that a bond as strong as the one between Othello and Desdemona could be so easily broken down and destroyed by a much weaker individual such as Iago. However, Othello is trusting and loyal and in that sense remains ignorant to the trap he is led into. Jealousy is the enabling factor that leads to Othello’s moral demise.
Othello’s character possesses noble qualities of honesty, loyalty, trustfulness, wisdom, friendship, compassion, and most importantly, love. “It gives me wonder great as my content to see you here before me. O my soul’s joy! May the winds blow till they have wakened death! And let the labouring bark climb hills of seas Olympus-high and duck again as low as hell’s from heaven! If it were now to die, ‘twere now to be most happy for I fear my soul hath-her content so absolute that not another comfort like this succeeds in unknown fate.”(2.1.182-192). Othello demonstrates with certainty, the satisfaction of his genuine love for his wife Desdemona. Earlier when Brabantio, Desdemona’s father, places Othello’s love on trial, Othello is loyal to the sincerity of his feelings and has conviction enough to approach Brabantio in humility; trusting that his love with Desdemona will prove itself. “How may the duke be therewith satisfied, whose messengers are here about my side, upon some present business of the state to bring me to him?” (1.3.87-91). In a most memorable speech, Othello explain the means in which he wins the hand of Desdemona. His only argument is the intense bond that they share because of one mutual declaration of loyalty to the other. Desdemona is simply in awe of Othello’s accomplishments and Othello is reliant on her praise. The simplicity of Othello’s argument shows how innocent his intentions are. As superficial as this initial bond is, the explanation of it, to Othello, is conclusive. This is real love fueled by characteristics of limerance*. “My story having done, she gave me for my pains, a world of sighs: she swore in faith ‘twas strange ‘twas passing strange; ‘twas pitiful ‘twas wondrous pitiful, she wished she had not heard it, yet she wished that heaven had made her such a man; she thanked me and bade me, if I had a friend that loved her, I should but teach him how to tell my story, and that would woo her, upon this hint I spake, she loved me for the danger I had passed, and I loved her that she did pity them.” (1.3.160-170). The complexities of love come with thought and tangibility. Without thought, there remains to be intention. Because there is no intention, Othello’s love is purely intuitive; purely feeling. Othello continues with this theme of innocence in his trustfulness of Iago. His unconditional belief in Iago can be interpreted as a strong value in friendship but also a proneness to ignorance. In other words, Othello can be described as being too good for his own good. “Iago is most honest. Michael, goodnight, tomorrow with your earliest let me have speech with you. Come, my dear love, the purchase made, the fruits are to ensure; that profits yet to come ‘tween me and you. Goodnight.” (2.2.6-10)/ In addition, Othello possess an innate trust in abstract ideas such as fate or karma. He continues to be daringly optimistic and trusting in goodness even when the stakes are high and the circumstances are naturally suspicious. Even when the circumstances would expect otherwise, Othello possesses compassion. “What noise is this? – Not dead? Not yet quite dead? I that am cruel am yet merciful; I would not have thee linger in thy pain. So, so.” (5.2.89-92). Othello assumes betrayal and has been manipulated by jealousy to such a debilitating state that he kills the love of his life. His morality is still evident, however. Through rage, Othello still can manage to be compassionate.
Othello represents the theme of jealousy through his ability to overcome it. He was temporarily immersed in jealousy however, his intentions were noble. Othello vowed to kill his love because she was no longer honest. He killed for justice not to inflict pain. He loved his wife, even during her last moments. “An honourable murdere, if you will; for naught did I hate, but all in honour.”(5.2.296-297) Othello never once feels malice. He merely feels the need for justice. Even in taking his own life, Othello attempts to redeem his love by getting justice on that which contaminated it.
The line between a sinner and a savior lies in the intentions of the individual. Righteousness is in accordance with virtue or morality. Those who are righteous are not always good but they are never malicious. Othello lived and died with the belief that honor should take priority over all; even his own life.

Giacometti on finding worth

Man Pointing, created by a sculptor Alberto Giacometti, is a free-standing bronze sculpted in 1947, the tail-end of the surrealist movement. The sculpture shows a man gesturing with his left arm and pointing with his right. He is frail with scraped away musculature. Giacometti sought to embody the way one would perceive a figure at a distance; thin, lightweight, and devoid of detail. On the other hand, the man also has an active sense of vitality with his weighty feet, which are solid and grounded. This sculpture, as well as others made by Giacometti during the years leading up to World War two, show flesh which seems to have been “ eaten off by a terrible surrounding emptiness, or which register the air around it as hostile pressure.” (www.moma.org). It has also been described as “charred or corroded.” These interpretations feed off society’s general outlook on life during this time. Many were hopeless, could see no light at the end of the tunnel, were starving or living in fear of nationalist leaders or communism. The drooping eyes of Pointing Man Convey sadness and the grounded ness of the figure may also convey helplessness.
Giacometti was originally considered the premier sculptor of the surrealist movement. His tall, thin figures were mostly influenced by the most prominent philosophies during, and following World War 2. Many of his themes embody sexuality or violence. All of his figures, especially when he arrived at his mature style, are characterized by a sense of grounded ness, which appears to contradict their tenuously thin limbs.
The most prominent and influential philosophy of the time and of Giacometti’s work is that of existentialism. Specifically, existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre, who wrote on Giacometti, describing his work as conveying “despair, futility, and loneliness of the human condition.” For example, the heavy feet of Pointing Man implies confinement to its bronze base and represents permanent separation from others. The absence of the sculpture’s individual features shows inner emptiness. Yet, its strong sense of constancy and stability may counter-balance this negativity with the existentialist idea that one can find worth in an ultimately meaningless life, through taking individual responsibility.

Evolution of Westernization

After reviewing cases of westernization from recent history, I became more and more taken in by the creation of a new culture; a mixture between the culture of non-western countries and that of the United States. Originally, these countries had strong religious doctrines, traditions, food, ideals of beauty and power, and politics unique to themselves; lifestyles that generations were accustomed to. Over time, westernization has gone from an imperial objective to a democratic one. However, the results of either are very much the same. What remains is a codependent nation, which no longer thrives off its unique structure and make-up. Whether it be imperialism or democracy, when the nation is left in ruin, in poverty and hunger, and the general will of the people is not met, then westernization as an evolution has been unsuccessful.
Through all five case studies, the United States has had numerous ulterior motives for occupying other regions. Most motives circle around natural resources, particularly oil, for the purpose of serving the United States. Nations that were promised aid from poverty were only deprived of their resource without pay and left without help.
In Africa of 1994, a horrific AIDS pandemic had broken out, only to be dismissed by President Clinton in order to resist action. Meanwhile, the very same area became occupied by American soldiers for the salvaging of oil. The natives were then beaten and harassed by American soldiers. In Iran, Shah Reza after appointment by the United States, inflicted numerous western policies but through the means of terrorism. History shows, the spread of western ideas, such as democracy, takes precedence over the betterment and well-being of a nation and its people.

These acts are no different from the work of European missionaries in the new America back in the 1400’s. It is true that there is strength in numbers. Therefore, Charles Darwin’s viewpoint of evolution has proven true through trials over hundreds of years. The United States is the most powerful country in the world and is simply asserting its power as a nation, a democracy, as a country founded on a monotheistic religion. Therefore, it is possible to say that the evolution of westernization is successful in the biological sense. The strongest prevail and the weak succumb or die out. Does this mean the death of a myriad of ancient cultures and the prevalence of a democratic world, all allied to the United States of America?
“Democracy” is defined in the United States Pledge of Allegiance as “liberty and justice for all”. It is not difficult to forecast that without the essential living systems in place—food, running water, security, housing, transportation, healthcare, --much of the developing world will not join the “westernizing” globalization party. “The discontented will become the disenfranchised. They will bring down the house. If you have nothing, then you have nothing to lose.” (James Canton, “The Extreme Future”)
Chris Wright, a writer for The New York Observer, states in an article published on March 20, 2006: “maybe Americans will now look more closely at Dubai (Arab-Emirates). Of its many expatriates, the vast majority is from the subcontinent—the overworked and underpaid construction workers, the builders of this miracle who will never get to share in its bounty. These people are joined by the Filipino ashtray-emptiers, the Egyptian cab drivers, the Moroccan floor sweepers. Dubai is an extremely stratified city, not so much a melting pot as a layer cake. And you get a sense that those who occupy the bottom layer harbor a seething, potentially violent resentment toward the rest of us.”
Darwin’s law states “survival of the fittest”. What determines the most fit in our societies today:--the most wealth, the most land, the strongest religious group, or the greatest minds? It must be the power to integrate and balance all of these factors. This is what will make a great society, one that does not divide and conquer, but one that leads so others desire to join.

On Sandro Botticelli's Primavera, 1482 and The Birth of Venus, 1482

Between two worlds
One of tangibility, solid, and ornamented by faith,
The other a mystical dream
Unbounded by natural law and space,
On two mutually exclusive planes.

Botticelli paints Mary behind the eyes of Venus
As ancient Greece plays with static ideals.
Born of a scallop shell, she emerges as a pearl
On her thrown of mount Olympus.

The illusion frees her from the manipulation of dimension
Allowing her proudly to stand in classical majesty.

He paints the world in vibrant color
With the selective sense of a maestro.
Bodies formed by sensuality and inspired to dance
Are in a captured moment, within the repertoire of rapture.

Now in her garden, Venus accompanies
The coming of spring; a birth of flowers
Conceived out of union—love.
Cupid flies above, arrows in hand.

Algea, Eurosyne, and Thalia
Flow in unison with transparency and cheer
Beauty abounds.

He paints the world in vibrant color
With the selective sense of a maestro
Bodies formed by sensuality and inspired to dance
Are in a captured moment, within the repertoire of rapture.

On my History of Learning

I am not ashamed to admit that my high school grades are not awe-inspiring but I can honestly claim that my passion for knowledge is greater than many of those grades succeed average expectations. I have always appreciated the disciplines in the arts because they are limitless in possibility, level of greatness, and territory to discover. Most importantly, if one dedicates oneself to the arts it can only be out of passion because there is no money in it. In addition to the arts, however, I have always loved English, history, science, philosophy, and French. Yet, throughout the years, I had never had much success in enjoying them in school.
Final answers create closed-minded people. One of the reasons why I have not enjoyed my highschool is that it is not a student “body.” It might as well be one student and a teacher, a head and a spine. While the human body requires lungs, and a heart, our highschool student-body had no heart. There was only your typical teen-age will to blend, to have the accepted opinion, the accepted response. During my sophomore year, the English supervisor told me that based on my grades I “was not made for AP English” and refused to grant me placement. I was disgruntled by that neglectful response, however I refused to be confrontational and accepted placement in academic English for junior year. That class consisted of watching videos and filling out crossword puzzles. I often put off busy-work assignments to finish a good book on philosophy, or practice piano. In spring, I was assigned a junior paper, one of the first substantial assignments of the year. The requirement was to focus on the analysis of a poem but I stretched the limits to work on one of Shakespeare’s plays. I read and analyzed all of “Othello” line by line and wrote, focusing on a psychological perspective, with the help of additional sources. I was given a ‘B.” My teacher’s explanation was that I had exceeded the page limit and that “in the real world, I would have to follow the instructions to be successful in my job in the future.” Many others in the class completed the bare minimum and received an A” for following the instructions. Whatever happened to knowledge for the sake of knowledge? I believe that that paper taught me much more about literature than her class ever did. This year, I chose to take three advanced placement classes, in all of which the teacher’s singular concern was the material on the A.P test. I had little concern for the grade; I was there for the knowledge. Often I was told my questions weren’t important because they
were not on the exam.
Highschool has never been about the grade for me, nor has it been about being correct. I value inspiration and asking questions. Sadly, I failed to see the passion in most of my teachers. The shallow expectation to succeed baffles me when there is so little importance placed on inspiration.

My motivation

Music is more than a hobby; music is a lifestyle, a religion. All things natural to the human being personify within a combination of twelve pitches. All things limited by words, thrive in a language of notes and phrases—joy through Mozart, elegance through Chopin, suffering through Schumann. To reach the epitome of human emotions, to compete for perfection against my toughest opponent, and to bring the world with me, this is my goal. As poetry is to prose, music is to life; experience opposed to demonstration. I believe I have found my higher power, my path towards infinite possibility. To perform would be to work toward answering all the questions in order to deliver the audience to the truth.

I believe in a connection between the mind and the body, between one’s life and one’s music. To understand and live in a piece of music, one must jump off a cliff, so to speak; have courage. Truly, a performance is the most vulnerable of presentation; one’s entire world, at the risk of being rejected by the audience or even worse, discouraged by one’s self.

As an eighteen year-old girl who has lived in a small town in New Jersey her entire life, I have had a difficult time finding inspiration as well as a medium through which I may flourish. I was lucky enough, throughout the past four years, to have found Mannes College of music. I can honestly say that this godsend gave me an identity, the only one in which I identified myself throughout highschool. My teacher at Mannes gave me the confidence to approach music honestly and the strength to admit that I could only be capable of greatness if I could value the process. She was not only my teacher but also my friend, one of many. Most of them were from the senior chorus, all of which made up more of a family than anyone could ever expect from a group of people that had the history of merely four years. Yet, they taught me much of what I know about life. Mr. Brady stands as an inspirational musician, mentor, and friend. He and my friends at Mannes College will be friends of mine throughout my life. I will always acknowledge them as the foundational building blocks of whom I am now and who I become in the future. Come fall I will be attending a conservatory in Massachusetts, Longy school of music. As excited as I am about this opportunity, going to Massachusetts was a scary change of plans. But Recently, I have told Mr. Brady that this chorus motivated me to share my experiences here with musicians there; most importantly, remind me to open my heart to new things and people. In the mean time, I can only aspire to manifest what I feel as a musician, into a tangible collection of vibrations that enables me to grab hold of the concert halls temporary walls and catch the audience in a gasping breath, just long enough to inspire a feeling, a thought. Keep this in mind for our final concert. Let it truly be an experience-- because what else are we but an organized series of human emotions? I cannot think of a more efficient contribution to humankind.

The Russian Element

Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, Balakirev, and Borodin: are unique, similar to the artists that performed them on the night of Thursday, October 27, 2005. At the finale of a yearlong festival by Mannes college, The Late Romantic’s Festival: program thirteen, presented itself at the consulate general of the Russian Federation in New York. This program began at 6:30PM with an introduction by Pavlina Dokovska, the artistic director of Mannes College. Dokovska explained the one similarity behind these great composers: the Russian element; a quality identified by passion, expression, energy, and lightness. Her exit was accompanied by applause as the audience became attentive. I anticipated the character that Pavlina had described and looked to the stage to discover who would be performing it first that night.
Playing Rachmaninoff, from preludes: opus 23, was Ilya Yakushev. Yakushev’s musical career at Mannes began under the study of Arkady Aronov while receiving his bachelor of music degree in 2003. In 2005, he received his masters of music degree as a student of world renown, Vladimir Feltsman, whom he studies with currently. He continues to work under a scholarship while striving for his professional studies diploma. Yakushev began his program with Rachmaninoff’s G Minor prelude. I felt that his first prelude was the least “in character” After seeing him perform a number of times; I have come to expect his performances to be creative and original in interpretation. However, the G minor prelude took on a mood that, I felt, did not fit the piece. The beginning measures were significantly expeditious and the dynamics were extreme to the point of choppiness. This quality took away any sense of fluidity and communication between phrases. There was a lack of growth. On a positive note, the middle voicing was strong and clear. In addition, I felt that the balance between the voices was very distinct. Following the G minor prelude, Yakushev continued with Rachmaninoff’s D Major Prelude. This prelude took a comfortable pace and had much of the same successful qualities as as the G minor prelude. The connections between the middle voices kept together nicely. I felt that Ilya demonstrated an excellent use of rise and fall dynamics. The soprano voice sang clearly, yet it had tendencies to be overly harsh. On the other hand, I was disappointed to hear the sound drop out at the end of the piece. Yakushev concluded his program with the B flat major prelude. This performance, in particular, stood out for its excellent contrast between sharp, accurate rhythm and expressive rabato. It possessed a vivid sense of color but I would have preferred a little bit more contrast in phrasing. The end of the piece was rushed however the acceleration of speed added to the dramatic performance. In general, Ilya’s performance on Thursday night was technically accurate, sensitive, and exciting. His ability to capture the composer was evident. Most importantly, Ilya Yakushev is alluring to watch and captures a provocative style that is all his own.
Soprano Maria Evdokimova, began the next portion of the presentation with works by Tchaikovsky. Her voice had a very pure tone that carried throughout all three songs. She sang (English translation) “Can it be day?” in its original Russian form. Immediately I noticed her holding back. Occasionally, she scurried off-pitch. However, she did demonstrate an excellent sense of phrasing and dynamic. Her consonants were clear and accurate. “Cradle song”, Maria’s next piece, also represented an excellent use of dynamics. I found myself thoroughly impressed with her control, shown specifically through her use of decrescendo. However, breaths often broke her phrases. I noticed the same excellent use of dynamics as I had noticed in her second piece, throughout her third, “At the Ball”. Overall, aside from her lacking transitions and fluidity, Maria is a significantly passionate and sensitive vocalist.
Next, already living a successful and professional career with multiple concerts throughout the United States and Europe is 18-year-old Natasha Paremski. She is working on a bachelor of music degree under Pavlina Dokovska at Mannes College. Her first piece was one that was absent from the program: Rachmaninoff’s Elegy. Her Introduction was well balanced, incorporated good balance, and wonderful phrasing and dynamics. The theme change was slightly awkward and abrupt but there was excellent contrast into pianissimo section. I was impressed with her technical ability, especially in scale passages. However, Elogy was not as smooth as it should have been. I think this piece was a bit above her ability. The fact that transitions suffered, and specific sections were awkward and seemed tedious, made for merely an above average performance. I give her credit for an attempt at a very difficult work. The anticipated Balakirev followed. She played Islamey: An Oriental Fantasy. I was not thrilled with this piece. The pace was slow and dragging. The phrasing needed more contrast. The scale passages were nice and light but it lacked the fluidity and movement that was expected of a piece of this nature.
The last performance of the night was that of the Borodin String Quartet, performed by violinist Yifan Yang, violinist Joanna Becker, violist Chin-yuan Cehn, and Troy Chang. Yifan Yang received his master of music degree from Manhattan school of music in 2005, where he studied with Lucie Robert and currently is a master of music degree candidate and scholarship recipient at Mannes College. Joanna Becker has a bachelor’s degree of the arts and a bachelor’s degree of music, both from Yale University. She also studies at Mannes, currently working on her master of music degree, with teachings by Ann Setzer. Ching-Yuan Cehn earned her bachelors degree from the Taiwan National University, and her Master of music degree from Mannes College in 2005. Presently, she studies under Hsin-Yun Huang as a Professional Study Diploma candidate and scholarship recipient. Troy Chang received his master degree at Manhattan school of music and currently studies with Fred Sherry at Mannes College. In the Borodin String Quartet performed by these four, Yifan Yang played the first violin and Joanna Becker played the second violin. The start of the first movement was accurately together. They demonstrated good balance from the start that remained clean. There were points were the violins were not in tune with each other. As the piece unraveled, I felt that they should have grown in sound more together than they had been. The Cellist kept a wonderful, smooth, tonal foundation. It served as an excellent backbone for the whole of the movement. The second violin showed beautiful soprano voicing with excellent phrasing, including accurate rests. The second movement of the quartet was increasingly together and balanced. The harmonic blend was clear and focused. Finally, in the third movement I saw the violist come out. Her phrasing was delicate and clear and her rhythm was very articulate. Overall, this group’s best quality was cuing. They had excellent instincts. I believe that the first violinist showed the best sense of artistry and the cellist showed the best sense of phrasing in comparison to each other. This was an excellent finale choice to a well-directed and well-performed concert. Above all, each of these performances delivered a unique energy and style as well as an underlying element; one of passion, anticipation, expression, and energy.


When I was first introduced to Schoenberg, I was unable to feel it. All I could appreciate was a series of numerical patterns. It did not register as music. Even so, Schoenberg’s genius revealed itself in his organization. I became curious; tempted to peel away the layers, striving to comprehend what Schoenberg was trying to say.
To begin to contemplate serialism, one must understand what music is, definitively. Levi-Strauss maintains that music must be based on two levels of articulation; the first, a general structure that allows for the diversity of the individual under narrow limits and the second, a culturally determined interpretation of the individual. Levi-Strauss claims that serialism is based only on the first level of articulation. Yet Schoenberg considered himself a student of Mozart. How could a composer whose music only fulfills a general structure be the offspring of one of the most musical souls in history? To answer this question, one must first understand the man.
Schoenberg grew up during a time of war. The times hardened the hearts of the people. Considered a man that was unable to laugh at himself, Schoenberg was caught between two worlds; the romantic age and the modern consciousness of concentration camps and world wars. Throughout these troubling times, he began to struggle to regain his roots in Judaism. He was a “God-obsessed man of his time who had to keep music alive and pure, metaphorically uncontaminated by the lewd, daring, and sensual abandon evoked by the worship of Golden Calf, of Baal.” (The aesthetics of survival, Rochberg). Schoenberg’s ambivalence to tonality is a parallel to the spiritual starvation of his time. He intended art for the sake of art, separate from any subjectivity of the composer.
As often as Schoenberg is preferred for the elaborate and theoretical aspect of his music, he actually considered himself quite expressionistic. His rhythmus are often “demonic, fraught with tension, and often exacerbated.” Schoenberg believed and was successful in proving that the musical phrase does not owe its articulation to tonality, nor does the association between melody and accompaniment. His task was to punctuate musical statements with articulation and/or inflection in order to clarify an arrival or departure. Yet at the same time, he intended to equalize all harmonic values. Charles Rose states, “Every composer before serialism played with the shapes of his themes, abstracting them from the exact pitches; only during the first three decades of twelve-toe music did pitch exert so absolute a tyranny that it deprived shape of its importance.” This was Schoenberg’s search for a new standard, a new security, and above all “simply acquiescence.” Serialism was presented to European society after the romantic era and was not accepted until after World War II. Schoenberg believed his music was a necessary extension of the past. The connection between the past and the direction of Schoenberg’s future was evident, yet so much of what secured his music, he abandoned. His search for a new construction, left tonality as a frivolous crutch. Still, so much is said in his music. Like the people of the time, Schoenberg’s music reflects nothing personal and inevitably, he was satisfied. Some would refer to his music as forgettable and truly, that was his interpretation. Music is art of the human soul and Schoenberg was successful in finding the means to express something that could, in no other way, be expressed.

The Personification of the Romantic Soul

Romantic Music cannot simply be defined by creative combination of the circle of fifths, nor can it be defined by elements of surprising and prestigious virtuosity. Romantic music distinguishes itself through an element interpreted by the soul, rabid emotions, and abstract thought. The general works of a composer or often an individual piece can intoxicate the listener with an overdose of emotions, leaving the ear fascinated and tender. Any open-minded listener can relate those delivered captions to their own lives but the only real understanding of the music comes from the source. Robert Schumann, a German composer and musician at heart, took his music directly from his own life. After living a life of struggle, passion, and despair, he stood as a perfect candidate for creation. The most symmetric parallel between Schumann and his music is his kreisleriana opus 16. This work represents the pinnacle of Robert Schumann’s achievement. Physical debilitation and family pressure kept him from his music. Society and asylum kept him from his love. The kriesleriana captures these fundamentals in Schumann’s self, allowing him to hold on to, however briefly, his sanity.
He Longed to be a virtuoso a la Liszt (derailed by a hand injury); he longed to be the preeminent critic (Berlioz held that mantle); he longed to continue the tradition of Bach, and of Beethoven (his symphonic output was mercilessly criticized); and the one longing that was truly fulfilled was Clara (it ended tragically in their separation due to his insanity).” It is true; Schumann was a man of eternal longing that labeled his life an eternal struggle. His mother intended for him to become a lawyer and he pursued that goal as if it was his own, constantly escaping, however to the piano. He came to resent the profession, with “chilling jurisprudence” and “ice-cold definitions”. He created a mechanical finger device, intended to promote finger independence and tragically debilitated his hand, ending his career. Out of mourning for his music, he drove himself to insanity. This started with a constant drone on one note and progressed to the singing of a melody by angels. Schumann constantly heard music. At one point, he claimed that devils were telling him he was a sinner and that they would cast him into hell. He screamed in agony, became hysterical, and luckily was able to be controlled by two doctors. Schumann believed he was haunted by Schubert who begged him to finish the ‘unfinished symphony’ and imagined that Beethoven was trying to communicate to him through knocks on a table. These were the beginning symptoms of what we know today to be manic depression or multiple-personality disorder: a defense mechanism resulting when the stresses and depression in ones life are two over-bearing. The individual then creates different people in his or her mind in order to escape the reality of one’s life. This could be seen through Schumann’s creation of Florestan and Eusabius; two opposite figures, Florestan being impulsive, passionate, humorless, and Eusabius being dreamy and reflective. These two exclusive personalities were used to categorize emotional facets and allot ownership to each. His sanity diminished further with the absence of his love Clara. She created much of his inspiration and was his savior for most of his life. Even his love was a struggle. Clara’s father refused to see the two married and after Schumann was placed in an asylum, he was no longer permitted to see her. When he was finally permitted to see her, he died in her arms.
Author, jurist, and composer E.T.A Hoffman wrote about a character called Kapellmeister Johannes Kreisler. Kreisler served as a symbol for the misunderstood musician, painting him as a clown. Schumann concluded that Kreisler is a clown only because society did not take him seriously. Eventually his seriousness drives him mad. This is Schumann’s main inspiration for his Kreisleriana Opus 16, a composition of eight pieces called the eight facets of Johannes Kreisler’s madness. Two characters can be seen as Florestan and Eusabius. “Even though in this work there are no names or initials, the restlessly searching G minor numbers belong to Florestan as clearly as the idyllilc B flat major ones do to Eusabius.” A third theme might be Schumann’s love Clara, either a theme written by her or one symbolizing her in his mind. “Clara, I’m overflowing with music and beautiful melodies now—imagines, since my last letter I’ve finished another whole notebook of new pieces. I intend to call it Kreisleriana. You and one of your ideas play the main role in it, and I want to dedicate it to you—yes to you and nobody else—and then you will smile so sweetly when you discover yourself in it.” The Kreisleriana are nostalgic and unearthly. They are intellectual Nirvana. The story of Kresiler is personified in the texture of this work. Many times the harmonies carry a heavy mood with shifting and complicated rythums while the vibrant melody is simple and pure. Each piece presents a theme, first depicted in a struggled yet powerful expression and then is incorporated into a flowing and effortless excerpt. The struggled and powerful beginning of each represents immense passion but also the longing that Schumann was so familiar with during his life. It is not until the theme is taken into its own realm of purity that Schumann is finally able to flourish. Schumann is “freed from the shackles of society by the ‘madness’ of music”. These abrupt changes in mood are intentional. The pieces intend to personify life. Ambiguity and awkwardness both play a vital part. Yet, when Schumann begins to display Clara, the certainty and brilliance come out equally as well. It is the inspiration behind this work that makes it so magnificent.
Demands the Silence to Speak

Traffic of thought,
Interrupted by immediate silence.
The doors close behind me-
My heals on the shiny wooden-floor
Is the only thing heard after the silence before.
Then I sit and wait for my breathing
To catch up with the rate of my heartbeat.
It is my element, and I feel I am home at last.
The piano sings with my lover’s voice;
Light and lyrical; lingering sound.
A smooth haze of fog branches from his fingers,
Intertwining with the bodies of those who listen and watch.
A woman in the front row begins to sway.
Her head follows with the fall of the climax note, down;
Into the very base of the instrument.
I can feel the piece run through my viens;
Circulating within my body.
Then finally, setting free through a tear down my face.
The last note faintly rings
Throughout the accustics of the hall.
Almost too faint to linger any longer
Yet it still demands the silence to speak its last word.
It parts with him and his hands.
Still, the audience refuses its departure
And cries for its return.