My Sydney visit could not have started better than it has. I actually came up early for a girlfriend’s birthday drinks. That was so fun. While I stayed in the Campari lane (Negroni much as I love it, is too strong for me), I was also introduced to the pretty amazing flavour of an Australian “smoked gin”. Does anyone know about this? I will make efforts to penetrate the local gin distilling scene and report back.
This evening I’ve done one of my favourite things – walking at night. I can’t really walk at night in the country (a) because it is too dark (b) it puts the farm dogs into a frantic (c) walking at night is really a city thing anyway. It’s all about the quiet lights radiating from houses, glimpses of people at home in their rooms with books and paintings or in their kitchens, or watching the tv, still city gardens – intimate landscapes, the harbour, city lights, the racket of occasional flying foxes.
This is a slice of my night walk, coming back over Darling Point, looking through the terraces toward Elizabeth Bay.
The best of all, is coming down the hill to Rushcutters Bay to hear one of my favourite sounds, rope gently thumping against the mast. And once there are a few boats rolling gently it’s like a gamelan orchestra. You never hear them tolling so clearly and gently during daytime.
I made a lovely little clip of the full moon and the gentle sound of rope against mast.
I posted this selfie on Twitter last week. This is my new coat. I had to concede my favourite old pale trench coat was finished. Such a lovely, quality thing I bought in Double Bay ages ago, I had finally worn it out.
All this sentiment reminded me of the improbable scene in La Boheme where the old coat gets serenaded before being pawned to buy medicines for the rapidly declining Mimi, who is flushed with TB. Caruso’s version of the song – The Coat Song:
It’s a little while since I went to the opera. But it’s a much longer while since I bought student rush tickets for $5. In those days the opera theatre was often half empty. The audience always included elegant Hungarian women in mothball furs though. It’s great the opera is so popular now but it’s so sad the days of student rush are over. Those heavily discounted tickets gave impoverished students the incredible privilege of going to the opera several times a week when the season was on – what a life! xx MG
Today is the Summer solstice, a suitably brilliant time of the year for earth and sky worshippers. And it’s almost Christmas eve.
My mother loved Christmas when we were children, especially Christmas Eve. And I have very happy memories of her Christmas delight, which was so attractive to children. She specially loved the music, all music, and it was endless performance and harmonies by me and my sisters singing into the twilight night. My mother died in June this year and the last music she heard was this Christmas Eve music. I was able to play it for her from my trusty Android.
This music is the Latin Christmas church song O Magnum Mysterium, O Great Mystery. This setting is by the American Danish composer Morten Lauridsen and is best listened to while you have your eyes closed I reckon (especially if classical music is not your thing lol).
In this Latin song the best thing is the presence of the animals in the scene. It’s not all lofty churchy stuff, it is warm animals with warm breath and animal noises and animal restlessness and tiredness in the straw. And if you listen to the music I swear at certain points it actually sounds the way animals move about when they are tethered, the same rhythm. There is a gentle pagan vibe about those animals round the infant’s manger. And an entirely utilitarian and plausible one too: it would have been cold that night. The Latin verse seems very simple but it conjures the picture:
O magnum mysterium,
et admirabile sacramentum,
ut animalia viderent Dominum natum,
iacentem in praesepio!
translates (I am assured):
O great mystery,
and wonderful sacrament,
that animals should see the new-born Lord,
lying in a manger!
Animals! They get dress circle and see everything first. Would that we return the respect and treat all animals more lovingly (says a slightly preachy Madame MG :-)). And this is the song itself:
In fact there is another Lauridsen song which I actually think is a more beautiful as a song although not as high art perhaps. It also reminds me of the twinkling Christmas Eves with my mother when we were small, and all the stars and endless enchantment of childhood. But you probably have to be in the mood for classical music and it is entirely forgivable if you are not (even permanently not in the mood is OK too).
Sure on this shining night Of star made shadows round, Kindness must watch for me This side the ground. The late year lies down the north. All is healed, all is health. High summer holds the earth. Hearts all whole. Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand’ring far alone Of shadows on the stars.
It’s a beautiful poem by an Irish poet, set to Lauridsen’s music:
It’s time we had some more music, and since I have already introduced you to the excellent Harry Manx, and just recently, the Sensitive New Age Cowpersons I won’t be holding back this time either ( 🙂 ).
This is an actual love song – dry, quirky, tongue in cheek and a bit round about, but it’s a love song nonetheless.
The composer/lyricist and main performer is the remarkable Kate Miller Heidke, a classically trained singer with the hometown of Brisbane.
Here is another lovely song, Oh, Vertigo! – same team. It is also a love song, in a clever way, and it’s totally from the heart.
Earlier this month I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art. I saw a very interesting exhibition of the work of the Japanese artist, Tatsuo Miyajima. It was a major review of his 30 year career.
From a conventional graphic art background he evolved into being a master of quite spectacular installation art. He combines contemporary technology (LED lights), a sparse Buddhist aesthetic, and a preoccupation with the concept of zero (both the origin of the numeral zero and also the philosophical and mystical significance of the numeral zero).
Don’t be alarmed!
It was a great exhibition.
Here is a photo I took of the water installation (and a passing school boy on the right):
It is a lovely Japanese motif of the floating garden. The lights in the water are Miyajima’s LED lights.
On each of the little spheres are the numbers from 1 to 9 in the typical digital format. The LED lights are programmed to count up through 1 to 9 then pause in darkness.
That pause and darkness at the end of a series counting 1 to 9 is, as you might expect, the void, the transcendent nothingness within and without.
The black pause is also what would be “zero” if there was a zero here. And the deliberate feature of Miyajima’s installations is that he does not have a zero, just the pause, the dark.
When you see the blinking digital lights counting through 1 to 9 at different speeds, operating on a large scale, it is impressive.
There was a very large room totally dark but for the blinking blue LED lights, blinking at different rates, pausing at different times (some staying in darkness for many minutes), all counting through 1 to 9. The installation was called Megadeath. The climax, after a long period of time, is the disappearance of every single LED light. I arrived in time for the gradual reawakening of lights in the room, which was quite an unusual experience. This Megadeath installation was made for a Venice Biennale festival. The Hiroshima allusion is inescapable.
In a video of an interview made for the show, Miyajima said of his understanding of the word “zero” that in the Sanskrit the word for zero signified not only nothingness but also fullness, in the sense of ripeness and imminent creation. The paradox of zero!
Here is a photo I took of another one of Miyajima’s smaller LED creations. This one is bollard shaped with the signature LED lights in red. You can make out the digits clearly.
And the same item from further away so you can see the distinctive bollard shape.
Which brings me to purpose of the post. I wanted to draw your collective attention to something I have noticed, something the Miyajima exhibition reminded me about.
It is this bollard shape. Miyajima uses it quite a bit. Anyway I have a few thoughts on the bollard shape and few examples and you are welcome to contribute to the understanding of this puzzle.
There are charming, amusing versions of this shape in popular culture:
There are some graceful, remarkable versions from the natural world:
A technically minded colleague offered these additional examples:
The Snapchat symbol:
And the ghosts in the classic video game Pac Man:
Is there a connecting theme here?
Well if something is very short and squat it is not so threatening.
If something has a bald top perhaps that’s a standing invitation to be petted.
These bollard shaped things seem to epitomise the cute, the playful and perhaps the comic.
So now I have the really formidable version of this shape to offer, which I cannot easily connect to the infantilising versions of the shape which I have outlined above.
This final form is the ancient symbol of Shiva, the phallic symbol of regenerative life:
If I have to have a god, can it be Shiva.
I mean it. He’s a disruptive creative force if ever there was one. And sex is his thing. He was a rebel and an outsider.
I could not do the dope he did though, I would have to draw the line 🙂
There is only one connection I have thought about that might draw together the Shiva phallus (the bollard extraordinaire) and the droll bollard we have in R2D2, the Minions, and the like. It’s the element of humour and clowning. While it’s not patently obvious all the time I think there may be some kind of connection. The joking clowning character is often a cipher used for sex and sexual innuendo. The example that springs to mind is Mozart’s Papageno who was probably the human equivalent of a bollard, if you know what I mean. So I am saying maybe the innocent comic characters we introduce into our films and games can also be part of some other set of meanings. What difference would that make? I don’t know.
Anyway I am sure the Jungian experts would know all about this, it’s yet for me to discover.
Having now mentioned Papageno though I have to include a link to my favourite Youtube version of Papageno’s duet which he sings with his newly discovered true love Papagena. Even if you have no interest in opera you will enjoy hearing a musical version of the sex act. Yes the music is a depiction of climax. It’s a delight. And this version is very nicely directed (including a peasant-ish form of strip tease). Lovely singers too including Hakan Hakagord whom I never saw in real life but who used to tour Australia.
Edit: Can you believe Youtube has taken the clip down, copyright claims…! So that’s a bit sad.
I have found another clip, a little rough – the Magic Flute somehow became the Manga flute :-), the voices are not accurate, and it’s all in English with subtitles ! All the same, the spirit of it is there.
In the early days of my glamorous aunt I thought I should do a search to see whether anyone else had used that phrase before.
There really wasn’t much in the search results: one or two desultory 1950s photos of a well turned out woman meeting the queen. Right.
There was not much else – except this old photo, which an American woman had posted on the death of her aunt at age 82. Her post described the young woman in this photo as “my glamorous aunt”. You can decide for yourselves.
For me it seemed this woman was totally my glamorous aunt.
She may only have been 19 or 20 but she had the drill.
She smoked that Cuban cigar with style, hamming it up to the delight of her 8 year old nephews (?)
She was wearing a satin outfit in the middle of the day and it worked perfectly well.
Or was it a swim suit? Was she just doing her thing with the cigar and the children in the hot weather for the sake of it – and the water and the swimming were entirely optional?
The scene in the photo feels to me like a joyful slice of West Side story.
There is a Latin expressiveness about this image – the lips, the weight on one hip, the theatricality of shoulders, and the boys lean along a diagonal line just like a Hollywood male chorus from an another era. It’s feels like a moment in a dance musical. It feels like it could be Miami or Cuba or New York – it just feels alive. I really like it.
Which reminds me that I like the Symphonic Dances of West Side Story.
If you are interested, in this clip the great man himself conducts – it’s probably too theatrical conducting for some tastes (but I say so what? if you are the genius who composed it you can do as you choose): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srb2EyvTSGw&list=RDsrb2EyvTSGw#t=303
It may just be the Romeo and Juliet connection (West side Story _is_ Romeo and Juliet), but it’s the dance theme too. So I can’t help connecting Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights (the Montagues and Capulets). It is popular dance music I really adore.
Here is a link:
Well there was such a nice response to my Harry Manx enthusiasms in the last post I am adding a little more, for those who like the material.
The first thing here is a link to a great song called Can’t be Satisfied. The studio versions aren’t so interesting but the live performances with Steve Marriner on harmonica are just great.
The one I like best is on the CD Harry Manx & Friends live at the Glenn Gould Studio. I can’t seem to find that on the net though so I have linked here another live performance.
I do believe the harmonica guy is channeling raw Eros and I love the expressive physicality of the performance. It’s great too that he is built like a baseball player – Dionysus wasn’t exactly ripped himself. Now for those of you who may think passionate playing of a harmonica might be like some other thing, your glamorous aunt may need to have a chat with you first, starting with beards.
If you do listen to this clip enjoy the hockey joke, very Canadian.
Harry Manx is a great exponent of Indian music, famous for his blues ragas.
Here is a link to my favourite Harry Manx East West piece which has an interlude of Indian “percussive” singing in it which seems equivalent to jazz scat singing – but in a whole other dimension to anything I’ve heard in the West. Enough to blast your socks off 🙂 imao.
It’s called At the Point of Purchase. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QuQTGv-aMFg
Great lyrics: Yeah you’re out looking for some real dignity
In all the wrong places that you don’t want to be
At the point of purchase heavens above
All you really need is just a little more love
The title of this post is taken from the title of a song written and performed by the Canadian musician Harry Manx. He is an absolute favourite of mine. He was recently in Australia for quite a long tour and although I did not see him (tickets were prohibitively expensive), I did find a nice video made of him performing this song at The Basement.
Why am I telling you all this? So you will follow the instructions… and don’t forget to miss me 🙂
And this is a link to perhaps my favourite piece in which Manx accompanies himself on his wonderful purpose built instrument which is a cross between sitar and slide guitar. If I get organised to do a slow strip tease for posting to the website then this will be the music I use. It’s called Crazy Love https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rA2Adby5UDI