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Footprints on the sands of time?


The hamster not only loves his cage, he’d be lost without it.

The perfect life, the perfect lie, I realised after Christmas, is one which prevents you from doing that which you would ideally have done (painted, say, or written unpublishable poetry) but which, in fact, you have no wish to do. People need to feel they have been thwarted by circumstances from pursuing the life which, had they led it, they would not have wanted; whereas the life they really wanted was precisely a compound of all those thwarting circumstances. It is a very elaborate, extremely simple procedure, arranging this web of self-deceit: contriving to convince yourself that you were prevented from doing what you wanted. Most people don’t want what they want: people want to be prevented, restricted. The hamster not only loves his cage, he’d be lost without it. That’s why children are so convenient: you have children because you’re struggling to get by as an artist - which is actually what being an artists means - or failing to get on with your career. Then you can persuade yourself that your children prevented you from having this career that had never looked like working out. (From Geoff Dyer's 'Out of Sheer Rage') 

"Sometimes, it’s OK or indeed necessary to leave a bit of wrongness in": Brendan Barrington

From Irish Times feature on editors >>>
Brendan, you have a reputation as a brilliant, but brutally honest, editor. Do you tailor your approach to each writer, in the sense that you think some writers can take more criticism than others? Do you ever worry that your work might be too intrusive?
BB: When I was very young, I underestimated the distinctiveness of each text and each author; my editing was a bit one-size-fits-all, a bit overconfident. With experience I think I’ve got better at recognising the relationship between what is wrong with a text and what is good about it: sometimes, it’s OK or indeed necessary to leave a bit of wrongness in. The editor’s job is to help the author make the text as strong as it can be, and there are as many ways of doing that as there are authors – so, yes, you tailor your approach to individual texts and personalities. When editing, I try to avoid anything that comes across as pure criticism, pitting the text against some objective standard. My approach is more one of identifying elements that do not quite fit with the scheme and the implicit rules established by the author himself or herself elsewhere in the text, and trying to point the author towards solutions. This has always, from my perspective anyway, been a very straightforward process with Greg, because (unlike many good writers) he has an excellent editorial mind himself.

The internet blues

These days we watch our music
And scroll through the news
We tweet our philosophies
And 'like' to express our views
 
Yes we've got the internet blues
 
We publish our innermost secrets
Post photos of our stews
We 'chat' with anyone who'll 'friend' us
Strangers make up our crews
 
Yes we've got those internet blues
 
'Sharing' is our caring
Celebrity photos are our truths
Acronyms replace laughter
Colon dash brackets replace the Blues
 
As we pay our internet dues
 
Comment threads are our barricades
Without the crowd, we cannot choose 
Selfies are the art du jour
Virtual reality the booze
 
Tell me are you feeling those internet blues
 
Screens are our companions
We need apps to help us snooze
We constantly seek approval 
Not getting it skews our moods
 
It's real bad case of internet blues
 
Yes, technology is the nirvana
From it all ecstasy spews
Data oils what they give us
We've no privacy left to lose
 
Cause we gave it up to pay our dues

In return for what? The internet blues!

Maxim Vengerov at the National Concert Hall

Ahead of Vengerov's part in the 150th anniversary celebrations of the opening of the winter garden for the great exhibition of 1865 that became the National Concert Hall, I've dug up this oldie from, I think, 1999, written for some cultural magazine in the Irish Times of the day…



At first the mass of publicity that precedes this 25-year old wunderkind of the violin puts one on one’s guard against another over-marketed phenomenon. But very quickly one realises that in this instance the hype is to be believed.

Not only is Maxim Vengerov a dashing young Siberian, with a romantic past, and amiable personality: irresistible to the publicity machine. He is also one of the greatest musicians alive.

Our own Michael D’Arcy, Leader of the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, says of Vengerov: ‘I am always impressed by his wonderful ability to transcend technical demands in order to express the meaning of the music. He excels in all kinds of repertoire and brings the same insight to a three minute encore as he does to the great concertos.’

The essential thing about Vengerov musically seems to be that he is such a master of technique his playing is pure ‘soul’. As one critic has it: ‘The sinful ease with which Mr. Vengerov commands his instrument renders any questions of technique superfluous.’ The violin becomes voice, and the voice sings the soul straight and true. ‘The violin becomes part of your body,’ is how Vengerov himself has put it, ‘an extension of your heart. And you try to sing.’

His intense manner of playing, by the confidence of its musical logic, gives the listener a sense of inevitability about his interpretations. He makes connoisseurs of everyone, is how one enthusiast has put it.

It wasn’t always this way. Vengerov was born into a musical family in 1974 in Siberia. Indeed, he quickly developed into a musical prodigy. (‘I lost two years of childhood in one sense, but in the end I know it was so right.’) In 1985 he won first prize at the Polish Junior Wieniawski Competition, Lublin, and in 1990 first prize at the Carl Flesch International Violin Competition, London.

But when he moved to Israel in 1990 he admits that he wasn’t very flexible in his musical thinking, and needed a bit of loosening up. ‘I was raised in a quite conservative way [musically],’ Vengerov recalls. Then there was his interpretation. When he was invited in 1992 to play with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra the conductor, Daniel Barenboim, told him the night before the performance that his playing of the Sibelius Violin Concerto lacked character, didn’t connect with the heart of the piece - without telling him the solution. Vengerov spent the whole night, violin put aside, reading the score as a work of art.

Of the resulting performance one critic wrote: ‘Behold the cosmic talent called Maxim Vengerov. I heard this 18-year-old Russian with the Chicago Symphony, and I came away shaken...I'm pretty sure I never heard a more glorious performance of the Sibelius live - and, over the course of 25 years as a critic, that covers every big artist.’ Vengerov the virtuoso had arrived.

Since then, he has recorded with every major orchestra in the world and worked with all the great conductors. He continues to give much credit for his success to colleagues, teachers and particularly the conductors he has worked with who have helped him develop more sophisticated interpretations of each work.

In 1996 he received two Grammy nominations for Classical Album of the Year and Instrumental Soloist with Orchestra. His recording Prokofiev and Shostakovich Violin Concertos No. 1 won him Gramaphone Magazine’s Record of the Year.

The musical wisdom of Maxim Vengerov

On technique: The trick is never having to think about how to achieve something, but rather being able to call it up at the precise moment you need it.

On challenges: ‘The most difficult thing for me to achieve is bringing out the sound I hear inside my head. Sometimes, I am conscious of my disappointment at what comes out.’

On religion: ‘Playing the violin for me is like praying because I believe in it so strongly; it’s religion… music is unique because you can speak and everyone can understand, since the message is delivered spiritually.’

On the benefits of playing an instrument generally: ‘When you play, you learn how to think better, you learn strategy [when] figuring how to play something hard.’

On the purpose of music: ‘.. to make ourselves better, to be free, to feel wonderful.’



That bridge



Based on the words of John Lewis in an interview with RTÉ Washing Correspondent, Caitríona Perry, on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the Selma March.

Because of what happened, we made a decision to march.
And so, after kneeling and joining together in prayer,
We left the little church in an orderly line, to cross the River.

We thought we might be arrested and put in jail. But we knew nothing.
(I had two books. I wanted to have something to read.
I had one apple and one orange. I wanted to have something to eat.
I had a toothbrush and toothpaste. I wanted to be able to brush my teeth.)

From the highest point on the Bridge, we saw a sea of white ahead.
When we came within earshot, the captain declared:
“This is an unlawful march and will not be allowed to continue.”

A young man walking beside me, leading the march with me, asked,
“Captain, give us a moment to pray. Let us say a prayer together.”
But the captain didn't give us a moment, he did not want to pray.
He turned away from us, and gave his men the order to advance.

And we saw the men advance. And we saw them putting on their gas masks
And we saw them lifting weapons. We saw them beating us with bullwhips,
We saw them trampling us with horses, and saw the gas being released.

I was struck on the head with a nightstick. My legs went from under me.
I suffered a concussion at the Bridge. I thought I saw Death at the Bridge.
I spent three days in the Good Samaritan Hospital with a fractured skull.
I do not know how I made it back across the Bridge. But I heard my friend say

“We are going to walk non-violently and peacefully,
To let the nation and the world know we are tired now…
We have waited a long time for freedom.”

And we walked non-violently and peacefully.
And we let the nation and the world know.
And we are tired. And we have waited,
Waited a long time, and still wait, and still march.

I could not reconcile in my mind, I cannot reconcile in my mind,
How they could treat a group of fellow citizens that way. But
That march was a holy march. That march was righteous and pure.

And we crossed that River. We crossed that Bridge.